The Changing of the Rosenguard

While we were in Malmö the day before the meeting in Copenhagen, a member of our safari took the opportunity to interview some of the police who stood watch at the Shell station at the entrance to Herrgården, just as the shift was changing.

Thanks to Tundra Tabloids and Vlad Tepes for this video production:

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Notice how assiduously the police avoid any characterization of the “youths” who set fire to dumpsters and tires. They are obviously under instructions not to refer to immigrants or Muslims. Each officer knows that he would face discipline and possibly lose his job if he strays very far from the well-marked pathways of political correctness.

The police maintain that some of the criminal “youths” are Swedish. But how many? What proportion of the miscreants consists of “persons of Swedish background”?

No official statistics are available, but one must assume their numbers are vanishingly small.

Bruce Bawer’s Latest Book is “Foaming-at-the-Mouth Racist Scribbling”

At least that’s what the Stalinists who run the Norwegian media would have you believe.

This just came in from Fjordman:

Bruce Bawer’s latest book Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom is “foaming-at-the-mouth racist scribbling,” according to one hard-Leftist journalist, as reported by Bruce Bawer:

In yesterday’s Aftenposten , that paper’s culture and opinion editor, Knut Olav Åmås, ventured to say a couple of reasonably respectful things about me and my book Surrender. In today’s Dagbladet he gets a good drubbing for this from Marte Michelet, who describes my work as “foaming-at-the-mouth racist scribbling” and gives Åmås hell for even daring to write about it.

As Hans Rustad observes, Michelet’s piece — which is breathtaking in its wholesale misrepresentation of me — is a prime example of “good old-fashioned Stalinism.” But what else, after all, can one expect from her? She was head of Red Youth (Rød Ungdom), the junior division of Norway’s Communist Party, the Rød Valgallianse, from 1996 to 1998, and from 2002 to 2003 worked for RadiOrakel, a radio station operating out of the headquarters of a violent radical group called Blitz. Her father, Jon Michelet, is a novelist who has served as a board member of the Rød Valgallianse and as editor-in-chief of the Communist newspaper Klassekampen.

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That a woman with such a background is now a major voice in Norway’s mainstream media goes a long way toward telling you all you need to know about Norway’s mainstream media. In the world of Dagbladet and NRK (the Norwegian State Broadcasting Service, by which Michelet has also been employed), Communists are welcomed with open arms as members of the intellectual mainstream; critics of multiculturalism, however — even if they’re gay and liberal and have a quarter-century-long track record of standing up for freedom and equal rights — are reflexively anathematized as right-wing extremists, virulent racists, and haters of Muslims. Apparently Åmås didn’t get the memo.

Update from Fjordman: I have actually mentioned this particular journalist in my book Defeating Eurabia. Here is what I wrote:

On the International Women’s Day, March 8 2008, the columnist Marte Michelet in left-wing Multicultural Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet attacked “brown” Feminists. And no, by that she did not mean Feminists with a dark skin, but those championing “Fascist,” racist and Islamophobic forces, which she took to mean virtually the same thing. One of them would be Hege Storhaug from the organization Human Rights Service, who has worked for the rights of immigrant women. After Ms. Michelet got many angry responses from readers who are fed-up with Islam, she wrote another article arguing that “Islamophobia is the most dangerous ideology of our time” and referred to Expo’s work in Sweden. According to her, “The amateur historian Bat Ye’or [is] the author of the Islamophobic Bible, the book Eurabia, which warns of a Muslim conspiracy against Europe. The book is probably as trustworthy as the anti-Semitic idea of the Jewish conspiracy ZOG.”

Columnist Marte Michelet is the daughter of the Communist writer Jon Michelet and was until 1998 the leader of the Red Youth, the country’s “revolutionary youth league.” For my part, I find it very interesting how many Marxist Feminists, who have for generations worked to break down Christianity and the nuclear family in the West, now passionately embrace Islam, the most repressive religion on earth. Marxists do not care about “women’s liberty.” They do not care about anybody’s liberty. They support anything that can destabilize the West. The fact that a newspaper that has been at the forefront of radical Feminism for generations now suddenly warns against “Islamophobia” and “prejudice” against the world’s most anti-female religion is highly revealing.

The Sin of Smoking

HookahWe’re all used to the customary Muslim objections to alcohol — the young Arab men whipped for consuming it, the cabbies in Minneapolis who refuse passengers carrying it, the Muslim shop clerks who decline to sell it — but the idea that tobacco is haram comes as a surprise.

Smoking is an established institution in much of the Arab Middle East, especially in Turkey and North Africa. The hookah with its payload of maassel, jurâk, shisha, or kif — what would the Levant be without it? And will there no longer be anything known as “Turkish tobacco”?

If one particularly austere Islamic sect has its way, there will be no more smoking among Muslims:

Algeria: Salafites Target Tobacconists, Smoking is Sin

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 28 — Several tobacconists located in the more popular neighbourhoods of Algiers are allegedly ready to change their field of work because of the effect the Salafite movement is having on the population.

According to this movement, one of the most radical in all of Islam, smoking is a sin, just as much as drinking alcohol. According to the Algerian newspaper Liberté, which printed the report, many tobacconists, especially those located in more popular areas of the city such as Kouba and Hussein Dey, have been driven to close shop.

A cigarette salesman stated that “I have no intention of going against Islamic precepts. The Imam came over several times to tell me that the sale of cigarettes is a sin. I was not threatened. I will close my shop because of what I believe in”.

– – – – – – – –

But there may be monetary issues behind this decision. Sales of cigarettes in the areas mentioned and in tobacconists located next to mosques apparently crumbled in recent months. Another salesman stated that “nobody wants to be seen buying cigarettes. People no longer buy them in their neighbourhood, they buy them away from home”.

Liberté sees this as a sign of the grip these hardliners have over Algerian society: the population is in the hands of bearded men, and the people who experienced the birth of radical Islamic movements at the end of the 1980s are well aware of what this means.

The population is in the hands of bearded men.

Now there’s a formulation to send a chill up the spine, and give new meaning to the idea that smoking is bad for your health.

Hat tip: Insubria.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/28/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/28/2009There are a number of news stories tonight about immigration. Italy is taking the lead with its new policy of repatriating boatloads of illegal immigrants without ever processing them, while ignoring the complaints of human rights NGOs.

In other news, further evidence has emerged that Chrysler dealerships targeted for closure by the Obama administration disproportionately supported Republicans in the last election. Also, the president’s pick for the Supreme Court is revealed to have been a member of La Raza.

Thanks to Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, Fausta, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, The Frozen North, Tuan Jim, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Moroccans Abroad Remit 15% Less in 2009
Singapore: ‘Intolerance’ is a Threat
Chrysler’s ‘Hit List’ Targets GOP Donors
Couple: County Trying to Stop Home Bible Studies
Episcopal Church Fires 61 Central Valley Priests
FCC’s Warrantless Household Searches Alarm Experts
Hamas Backers Jailed in Texas
New Book Offers Survival Guide for Conservatives in Blue States
School District to Consider Muslim Holidays
Sonia Sotomayor ‘La Raza Member’
US Muslim Women: NY Synagogue Bomb Plan Was FBI Plot
Europe and the EU
Amnesty Criticises Denmark
Austria: Security Increased at Sikh Sites After Deadly Conflict
Barbaric European Food Practices, Part I: The Snail
Berlusconi Says Dirty Rome Looks More African Than European
Finland: Government Moves to Soften Finnish Aliens Act
FT Editorial Stirs Comment in Italy
Italy: Cleric Speaks Out About Berlusconi
Netherlands: Euroscepticism and Populism Are Not a Bad Thing Per Se
Stasi Stole West German Identities for Sabotage Ops
Sweden: Knife Man Gets Reduced Sentence After Dog Bite to Testicles
Switzerland: A Home for the Family; a Church for the Parish Priest
UK: Philip Pullman Helps Understanding of Theology, Says Archbishop of Canterbury
UK: Police Sirens ‘Can Make Areas Seem Dangerous’ Says Scotland Yard Chief
UK: When All Else Fails, Bash the BNP
Kosovo: Non-Serb Minorities Fleeing Country, NGO Report
Serbia-France: Education Ministers Met in Paris
North Africa
Algeria: Seminar on Human Rights for Journalists Prohibited
Israel and the Palestinians
Abbas to Meet With Obama Today, Wants Assurances
Netanyahu to Honour Deals Signed With Palestinians
PNA: Abu Ala, Israeli Settlements Allowed in Palestine
The Death of Israel
West Bank: Two Outposts Destroyed
Middle East
If There’s a War, the Military Protects Everyone But NDP MPs
Indonesia: Ship Sinks Off Indonesia Coast
Please Uncover Your Face. It’s Our Custom
Saudi Arabia: Religious Police Want Cameras to Monitor Youth
UAE: Burj Al Arab Hotel Escapes Crisis by Discounting
UK: Extremist Preacher Abu Hamza’s Three Sons Jailed for Luxury Car Scam
South Asia
India: Gracias: Religious Freedom Has Won. Now Attention to the Poor and Dalits
Indonesia: Headscarves ‘Help Top Yudhoyono Presidential Rival’
Indonesia: Muslim Edict Issued Against Facebook
Singapore: Couple Guilty of Sedition
‘Tartan Taleban’ James McLintock Released From Pakistan Prison
Uzbekistan: Making Cotton as Homework for Uzbek Children
Far East
China: Nancy Pelosi Disappoints: Dialogue on Climate, Not Human Rights
Australia — Pacific
Canberra Missed in US Diplomatic Mix
Asylum Seekers to be Extradited Back to Greece
Captain Receives Award for Saving 650 Migrants
EU Prepares Common Reaction to Emergency
Finland: Finnish Police to Discontinue Age Testing of Asylum-Seekers
Finland: Muslims Often Face Discrimination in Finland
Holland Ready to Help Cyprus
Italy: School Leaving Exam: Gelmini, Tax Code a Left-Wing Set-Up
New Immigration Policy Effective Deterrent, Maroni Says
Spain: Ruta Iberica; Journey for Cultural Tolerance
Switzerland: New Blow to Rejected Tamil Asylum Seekers
Switzerland: Speak the Language, Then Get Swiss Passport
Amil Imani: Is Democracy the Killer of Liberty?
U.N. Red and U.S. “Progressives” Plan Socialist World Government

Financial Crisis

Moroccans Abroad Remit 15% Less in 2009

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MAY 27 — Because of the international financial crisis, remittances by the 3.2 million Moroccans who reside abroad are expected to drop by 15% in 2009, approximately 45 billion dirham in total (some four billion euros). This is the estimate offered by Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar during question time at session of the Assembly of Councillors (the upper chamber in the Moroccan parliament). The minister stated that “during the first quarter there has already been a 15.5% contraction in remittances because of the unfavourable economic conditions in EU countries”, adding that these figures, which are an important part of the State budget, “are still positive compared to the average of previous years”. In February, the government in Morocco set up a board to monitor the repercussions of the crisis on the country’s economy. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Singapore: ‘Intolerance’ is a Threat

That poses the biggest threat to S’pore, says Prof Koo in apparent reference to Aware saga

INTOLERANCE, not the economic crisis, poses the biggest threat to Singapore, Associate Professor Koo Tsai Kee (Tanjong Pagar GRC) warned in Parliament on Wednesday.

While the economic slump will pass, religious and racial bigotry could bring about Singapore’s downfall, he said during the debate on the President’s Address at the opening of the new session of Parliament.

‘This economic crisis cannot set us back permanently. It is a passing thunderstorm,’ he said.

‘But if we fall prey to religious and racial bigotry, then it will be a growing cancer in society.’

Although he did not state it explicitly, it was apparent that Prof Koo was referring in part to the recent leadership tussle at the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware). The controversy sparked a divisive debate on issues such as religion and homosexuality.

‘I see an increasing number of Singaporeans identifying themselves with race and religion. That in itself is nothing wrong if seen in the right perspective,’ he said. ‘But I see small groups becoming self-righteous and becoming intolerant of diversity. This intolerance may be our downfall.’

Singapore has succeeded so far as it has a system of tolerance and meritocracy, one which embraces diversity and inclusiveness, he said.

Still, he warned that the country was not in the clear yet: ‘We are still a young country. In the history of nations, we are still a long way from proving that our success in peaceful co-existence can withstand the test of time.’

The Minister of State for Defence used the examples of Sri Lanka and the former Yugoslavia to show how multi-racial, multi-religious societies had fractured. He contrasted this against cities like New York and London which embraced diversity and tolerance ‘in huge doses’.

‘While we focus our energies on solving this economic crisis, we should never lose sight of the long-term challenge of building a tolerant, diverse and inclusive infrastructure where everybody has a private space within the bigger common space,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Chrysler’s ‘Hit List’ Targets GOP Donors

Dealers who give to Republicans much more likely to be shuttered

As part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Chrysler is terminating one-fourth of its franchises — but some say its catalog of doomed dealerships looks more like a hit list that specifically seeks to put Republican donors out of business.


The first dealership on Chrysler’s list of facilities marked for termination by June 9 is located in Venice, Fla., and belongs to Republican Rep. Vernon G. Buchanan.

Buchanan gave $2,300 to John McCain in 2008 and has contributed nearly $150,000 to GOP candidates and organizations since 2007. He discovered that his location was scheduled for closure when he crossed paths with Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich.

According to the Associated Press, Miller told Buchanan, “I heard you’re going to lose your Dodge franchise.”

“Oh, really?” Buchanan said in a state of surprise.

The dealership’s operating partner, Shelby Curtsinger, said he was astonished by Chrysler’s decision because the location has been profitable — selling more than twice the stock of an average Chrysler dealership every year.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Couple: County Trying to Stop Home Bible Studies

SAN DIEGO — A local pastor and his wife claim they were interrogated by a San Diego County official, who then threatened them with escalating fines if they continued to hold bible studies in their home, 10News reported.

Attorney Dean Broyles of The Western Center For Law & Policy was shocked with what happened to the pastor and his wife.

Broyles said, “The county asked, ‘Do you have a regular meeting in your home?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say amen?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you pray?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Do you say praise the Lord?’ ‘Yes.’“

The county employee notified the couple that the small bible study, with an average of 15 people attending, was in violation of county regulations, according to Broyles.

Broyles said a few days later the couple received a written warning that listed “unlawful use of land” and told them to “stop religious assembly or apply for a major use permit” — a process that could cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“For churches and religious assemblies there’s big parking concerns, there’s environmental impact concerns when you have hundreds or thousands of people gathering. But this is a different situation, and we believe that the application of the religious assembly principles to this bible study is certainly misplaced,” said Broyles.

News of the case has rapidly spread across Internet blogs and has spurred various reactions.

Broyles said his clients have asked to stay anonymous until they give the county a demand letter that states by enforcing this regulation the county is violating their First Amendment right to freely exercise their religion.

Broyles also said this case has broader implications.

“If the county thinks they can shut down groups of 10 or 15 Christians meeting in a home, what about people who meet regularly at home for poker night? What about people who meet for Tupperware parties? What about people who are meeting to watch baseball games on a regular basis and support the Chargers?” said Broyles.

Broyles and his clients plant to give the county their demand letter this week.

If the county refuses to release the pastor and his wife from obtaining the permit, they will consider a lawsuit in federal court.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Episcopal Church Fires 61 Central Valley Priests

The Episcopal Church has fired, or in its words “deposed,” 61 priests and deacons in the Central Valley who followed former Bishop John David Schofield when he rebuked the national church and aligned with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, a conservative group based in South America.

He and the various priests and deacons objected to the Episcopal Church’s ordination of gays to the priesthood among other things, “refusing to recognize the authority of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church and of the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church,” as the church puts it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

FCC’s Warrantless Household Searches Alarm Experts

You may not know it, but if you have a wireless router, a cordless phone, remote car-door opener, baby monitor or cellphone in your house, the FCC claims the right to enter your home without a warrant at any time of the day or night in order to inspect it.

That’s the upshot of the rules the agency has followed for years to monitor licensed television and radio stations, and to crack down on pirate radio broadcasters. And the commission maintains the same policy applies to any licensed or unlicensed radio-frequency device.

“Anything using RF energy — we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference,” says FCC spokesman David Fiske. That includes devices like Wi-Fi routers that use unlicensed spectrum, Fiske says.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Hamas Backers Jailed in Texas

Two founder members of what was once the biggest Muslim charity in the US have each been jailed for 65 years.

Shukri Abu Baker, 50, and Ghassan Elashi, 55, were convicted of channelling funds to the Palestinian militant group, Hamas.

Three other members of the Holy Land Foundation were jailed for between 15 and 20 years by a Dallas court.

The charity was found guilty last year of sending $12m (£7.4m) to fund social programmes controlled by Hamas.

The five men were convicted in November on charges ranging from money laundering to supporting terrorism.

Hamas was designated a terrorist organisation by the US government 14 years ago, making it illegal to give the group money or other support.

I did it because I cared, not at the behest of Hamas Defendant Shukri Abu Baker

The defendants said they were only interested in helping the needy.

Their supporters said no money had been used to fund violence, and the case was a by-product of what it called the anti-Islamic sentiment following the 11 September attacks of 2001.

Shukri Abu Baker told the judge in Dallas on Wednesday: “I did it because I cared, not at the behest of Hamas.”

But prosecutors argued that the humanitarian aid sent by the charity allowed Hamas to divert money to militant activities.


Jurors had reached their guilty verdict last year after eight days of deliberations following a retrial of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

It was the largest terrorism financing trial since the 9/11 attacks.

The indictment against the group said it sponsored Palestinian orphans and families in the West Bank and Gaza whose relatives had died or been imprisoned as a result of Hamas attacks on Israel.

The charity was shut down and had its assets frozen in 2001.

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

New Book Offers Survival Guide for Conservatives in Blue States

Author Harry Stein has prepared a primer for people who are locked in political exile in their very own homes in his new book, “I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican.”

If you’ve been booed, hissed, heckled or hollered at … scathed, scapegoated, scanted or screamed at … if you’re the bane of blue states and a gall to all the Greens … you may be feeling lonely, but you’re certainly not alone. Author Harry Stein has written a book for the elephant in the room. It’s called “I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican,” and he calls it “a survival guide for conservatives marooned among the angry, smug, and terminally self-righteous.”

Which is to say: liberals.

“You deal with a lot of people who pretty much hate your guts” simply because you disagree with them, says Stein, who lives in a suburban liberal enclave a few miles north of Manhattan, which generally shades a deeper blue than the rivers that surround it

Stein, a lifelong New Yorker, traveled the country talking to other conservatives about their woes and prepared a primer for people who are locked in political exile in their very own homes. That ranges from parents worried about the education their kids are getting in elementary school (“always the Indians, everything the Indians”) to professors struggling to make it in the ivory tower.

The trouble can put relationships on the chopping block too. Stein, who details his own rocky relationship with his father in the book, found he wasn’t the only one suffering. “I sat down with a bunch of conservatives in San Francisco, (including) a gay man who was talking about what it was like being a gay conservative in San Francisco. “He said it’s a lot harder being conservative than it is to be gay,” Stein told “His friends all turned on him.”

To avoid that kind of reception, some secret right-wingers take the extra step of pretending to be in lock-step with those around them. One studio executive he interviewed posted Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama signs around his office, depending won which way the political winds were blowing during the presidential campaign. Advertising his actual beliefs would have been deadly, Stein says. “People out there understand that those positions are really dangerous — they jeopardize your livelihood.”

Stein, who has very harsh words for the left-wingers he calls narrow-minded and provincial, says he grew up inside the church of liberalism and knows it from the inside out. “Growing up liberal is kind of a birthright. You come of age with that, and everyone in your family feels the same way and everyone you know feels the same way — and to break apart from that is like leaving behind a religion.”

But a funny thing happened on the way to the ashram — Stein says he met a few conservatives and came to like them for their politeness and their personal values. “As a person on the left I never ran into people on the right. It was really a revelation, it was an eye-opener when I actually started getting to know conservatives, that they weren’t monsters.”

Stein’s survival guide is set to come out June 22, but the release party might have to be a little bit subdued. “We’ll see if I survive the book,” he told “My car was keyed once already during the campaign (because of a bumper sticker), so we have contingency plans for hiding it over the next few months.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

School District to Consider Muslim Holidays

A Connecticut school district is considering a proposal to close schools on two Muslim holidays. The Region 16 Board of Education is expected to take up the Student Council’s proposal this week. The board represents the towns of Prospect and Beacon Falls, Conn. The resolution asks the board not to hold classes on the day that marks the end of the fasting period of Ramadan and on the day that concludes the annual observance of the pilgrimage to Mecca.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sonia Sotomayor ‘La Raza Member’

American Bar Association lists Obama choice as part of group

As President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee comes under heavy fire for allegedly being a “racist,” Judge Sonia Sotomayor is listed as a member of the National Council of La Raza, a group that’s promoted driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, amnesty programs, and no immigration law enforcement by local and state police.

According the American Bar Association, Sotomayor is a member of the NCLR, which bills itself as the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S.

Meaning “the Race,” La Raza also has connections to groups that advocate the separation of several southwestern states from the rest of America.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

US Muslim Women: NY Synagogue Bomb Plan Was FBI Plot

The National Association of Muslim American Women (NAMAW) has charged the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) with entrapping four New York City Muslims arrested for planning to bomb a synagogue.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Amnesty Criticises Denmark

Amnesty International’s annual report for 2008 criticises Denmark on several issues.

Amnesty International ‘s annual report on the state of human rights in 157 countries, criticises Denmark on several issues and calls for a global deal for human rights.

In its Denmark report, Amnesty questions the Danish government’s attempt to expel foreign nationals on the basis of ‘diplomatic guarantees’ from countries in which those in question would be in danger of torture.

“States such as Denmark, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, were prepared to allow unenforceable “diplomatic assurances” as a justification to deport terrorism suspects to countries where there was a real risk of torture and other ill-treatment,” Amnesty says.

In particular Amnesty points to the forced repatriation of Iraqis as well as the so-called ‘Tunisian case’ in which those involved have faced an uncertain future if they were returned to their country of origin.

Obligations The report calls on Denmark to make greater efforts to abide by and restore its respect for human rights.

“The serious violations of human rights and the killing of civilians in Iraq, Gaza, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have caused hundreds of thousands to flee. But it appears that the most important thing for the Danish government is to close its borders to refugees, forcibly repatriate 282 Iraqi asylum seekers to an insecure future and expel terrorism suspects to countries that use torture — without giving them a fair trial,” says Amnesty International Denmark Secretary-General Lars Normann Jørgensen.

Residency The Amnesty report also addresses the issue of tolerated residency in Denmark, under which those who cannot be deported must live in an asylum centre and report to police each day.

“This includes people whose return to their country of origin has been ruled to be unsafe by the Refugee Appeals Board. In November there were believed to be 18 people with a “tolerated residency” status,” Amnesty says adding that at least 11 Iraqis were forcibly returned to Iraq, contrary to the recommendations of the United Nations Hich Commission for Refugees.

“Some asylum-seekers who had been subjected to torture or other ill-treatment did not receive adequate medical treatment in Denmark,” Amnesty says.

Police The report also points to the Danish system of complaints about the police, suggesting it is inadequate.

“The system for resolving complaints against the police failed to ensure an effective remedy for allegations of ill-treatment. Very few complaints — between five and eight out of every 1,000 — were upheld by regional public prosecutors, and even fewer resulted in criminal charges being brought against the police,” the report says.

Rape It also said that there was a lack of legal protection and redress for survivors of rape.

“Only one in five rapes reported to the police resulted in a conviction. Sixty per cent of cases where charges were brought did not reach court due to lack of evidence,” the Annual Report added.

Global issues At the global level, Amnesty says that the world is in the middle of a human rights crisis.

“We are sitting on a social, political and economic time-bomb that will explode if human rights concerns are not addressed. Billions of people are suffering from insecurity, injustice and indignity around the world and while many aspects of this crisis pre-date the economic ‘downturn’, it is clear that the global financial situation is making the human rights crisis far worse,” Amnesty says.

It says that in the Middle East and North Africa, the financial crisis and rising food prices have affected those who are already in poverty and that in Europe, the gap between rich and poor remains ‘vast’.

“In Latin America and the Caribbean — where more than 70 million people are living on less than US$1 a day — poverty, inequality and discrimination have increased the numbers of Indigenous People denied their rights to health care, education, clean water and adequate housing,” Amnesty says.

Global deal It adds that a coordinated global response is needed based on human rights and the Rule of Law.

“World leaders must invest in human rights as purposefully as it invests in economic growth. It is incumbent on those sitting at the world’s table to set an example through their own behaviour. And it is incumbent on us, as citizens, as rights holders, to bring pressure to bear on our political leaders,” the human rights organisation says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Austria: Security Increased at Sikh Sites After Deadly Conflict

Vienna, 26 May (AKI) — The Austrian government has increased security at Sikh temples and other sites in the Austrian capital, Vienna, after the violent attack that resulted in the death of a Sikh guru on Sunday. Foreign ministry spokesman, Peter Launsky, told Adnkronos International (AKI) on Tuesday that police were working to ensure there was no repetition of the violent conflict between two Sikh groups.

Austrian foreign minister Michael Spindelegger on Monday telephoned India’s external affairs minister SM Krishna to express his condolences about the death of Sant Rama Nan, the guru who died from his injuries in a Vienna hospital on Monday.

“It is a very sad incident for Vienna,” Launsky said. “Vienna is recognised as an international place for peaceful dialogue.”

Launsky said the foreign minister had assured his Indian counterpart that police and other officials would fully investigate the incident and work to ensure that the violence does not happen again.

“Everyone is trying to do his or her best to make sure that it does not happen again,” he said.

Launsky, who lives in India for eight years, said the Austrian embassy in New Delhi had received a memorandum from India’s Sikh community thanking the Austrian government for its response.

Meanwhile a second guru, 68-year-old Sant Niranjan Dass, has reportedly improved after surgery in Vienna.

Dass underwent surgery after Sunday’s attack at the Rudolsheim temple where Sant Rama Nan was killed.

Six people were arrested in connection with the attack on Sunday in Vienna’s 15th district. Police said six bearded, knife and gun wielding attackers entered the temple, shot the two visiting gurus and attacked worshippers.

Four of the wounded were suspects, two of them in a serious condition, according to police.

About 150 people were in the temple when the violence took place, police said. Authorities are investigating what triggered the attacks.

S.M. Krishna said on Monday that the Indian government would take all necessary steps to bring the culprits of the Vienna violence to justice.

The Indian embassy in Vienna was in close contact with the Austrian foreign ministry, the Viennese police and the Austrian authorities, he said.

“There is no excuse whatever for the violation of the sacred premises of the gurudwara (temple) to sub serve narrow sectarian interests and other purposes,” Krishna said.

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

Barbaric European Food Practices, Part I: The Snail

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Reference to EU ban on seal products, etc.]

Photo: Terrified European snail flees heartless German snail-killers bent on ripping its life away. If you look closely, you can see the snail is crying.

The European Union is close to banning all Canadian seal products, and a grassroots campaign to boycott Canadian fish and seafood is gaining momentum. But what of Europe’s own barbaric culinary practices? In response, Full Commnet will call attention to European hypocrisy and demand an immediate end to the brutal slaughter of helpless creatures. Today’s poor victim of continental cruelty: snails.

To be a snail born in the EU is a very poor fate indeed. The terrestrial land snail, found throughout Western and Central Europe, is a harmless creature. Subsisting on a diet of algae and plant life, they pose no threat to anyone, and are certainly not hunters.

Practically defenceless, they rely entirely on their hard shell for protection from predators. When confronted by a hungry animal, all they can do is pull themselves into their armour, hunker down, and cower in terror, hoping for the best.

These helpless creatures’ defences have proven no match for the cruelty of man. For thousands of years, they have been hunted and subjected to bizarre tortures before being consumed as a delicacy by heartless and out-of-touch Europeans. Starting in Roman Times, this barbaric consumption of adorable snails has spread throughout the Eurozone, and is now concentrated most famously in France, where the French word for snail has become synonymous with the cruel preparation for the high-and-mighty — escargot.

To make proper escargot, the snails are first killed, then pried from their shells and gutted. Their remains are then cooked in butter, and — in a truly despicable step — are then poured back into their own hollowed-out shells, to be served with garlic and thyme. In order to avoid any toxicity, farm-bred snails are often starved several days before their slaughter, to purge their digestive tracts of anything which might be harmful or even unpalatable to humans. Prior to their culling, they’re often put on a diet of nothing more than ground cereal, to fatten them up and avoid impacting on their taste.

The torture and abuse of these blameless mollusks for the culinary pleasure of the European upper-crush must be stopped. The National Post calls on all Canadians to boycott not just snails, but all European appetizers, until such time that the European Union takes action to stop this barbaric practice.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Berlusconi Says Dirty Rome Looks More African Than European

Advice to Alemanno. Mayor replies that prime minister is mistaken and in any case was referring to the legacy of the Left

The Far East, especially Japan, is his model of urban cleanliness. And the model is even more appealing when contrasted with the “filth in the streets” of Italy’s cities, which look “more African than European”. In an interview with Radio Radio, Silvio Berlusconi reiterated his admiration for Japan, its capital Tokyo, and the cleanliness of towns over there.

“TOKYO AND BEIJING” — The Italian prime minister explained: “I’m not long back from Tokyo and Beijing, where you won’t find a cigarette end, a piece of plastic or a scrap of paper, nor will you see any graffiti. In fact there was a law, amended a few months ago, that used to prescribe strokes of the cane for anyone disfiguring the streets. I don’t want to go that far but we have to do something”. Mr Berlusconi pointed out that “our criminal code decrees imprisonment for those who disfigure buildings in historic town centres with graffiti or otherwise. But the article is no longer applied. We need to bring it back and start to make a few examples. It’s heart-breaking to see graffiti on the walls and filth in the streets of Italian cities like Naples, Rome and Palermo. They look more like cities in Africa than Europe”. Mr Berlusconi had some advice for Gianni Alemanno: “Take more care of green spaces and cleanliness. Takes steps to prevent graffiti on walls”.

ALEMANNO — “I have already spoken to Silvio Berlusconi and his words have been widely misinterpreted. He’ll soon be issuing a clarification”, said Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno. “Clearly, the prime minister’s accusation is directed at the legacy of the Left, which is difficult to sort out in one year”. Mr Alemanno went on to say: “We still have a lot of work to do, but the situation on the cleanliness front is already changing”. Referring to graffiti, Mr Alemanno said that “a national law is needed because a municipal by-law is not possible. We have already tried that”.

SASSOLI — “Berlusconi is papering over the cracks but he can’t conceal the blunder of his attack on the municipal administration”, said the Democratic Party (PD) European election list leader for central Italy, David Sassoli. “In practical terms, the city’s liveability has deteriorated in the past year. No progress has been made on cleanliness, transport, security or quality of life, despite the 500 million euros the government has given this administration”.

English translation by Giles Watson

Article in Italian

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Finland: Government Moves to Soften Finnish Aliens Act

The government has put forward a proposal to ease some restrictions under the Finnish Aliens Act. If approved, the bill will make family reunifications easier.

The amended law would make it easier for family members from a third country to join their family in Finland. The government is looking to align the Finnish Aliens Act more closely with rules of freedom of movement within the EU.

Under current law, a one-year residence permit is normally issued for family members, but the new bill would allow a five-year permit to be issued. The bill also raises thresholds for deportation.

A Parliament hearing is due to consider the proposal.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

FT Editorial Stirs Comment in Italy

Ministers defend premier, opposition compares him to Nero

(ANSA) — Rome, May 27 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi will probably laugh off an editorial by the Financial Times which accused the Italian right-wing leader of being a “danger to Italy and a malign example” to all, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said on Wednesday.

Maroni said he usually laughs at criticism and carries on with his life and Berlusconi “will do the same”.

Foreign minister Franco Frattini said the editorial was an example of a “bad” and “dishonest” press.

“The result of the Italian government’s work is in front of everyone,” referring to Italy’s diplomatic efforts as president of the Group of Eight this year. In an editorial published Wednesday entitled the Baleful Influence of Burlesque Cronies, the Financial Times said Berlusconi could not be called a fascist or compared to dictator Benito Mussolini.

“He has squads of starlets, not of Blackshirts,” said the London daily, referring to the media reports that Berlusconi had attempted to field television starlets for the upcoming European elections prior to a messy divorce spat with his wife Veronica Lario, who has accused him of consorting with teenagers.

“ The real dangers lie elsewhere,” said the daily.

“ Over the 15 years of his political career — always as prime minister, or as leader of the opposition — he has had a largely untrammelled opportunity to shift the national mood rightwards,” said the Financial Times.

“ This he has done not by crude propaganda but by a steady concentration on glitz, glitter and girls and a hyperbolic style of media-geared rhetoric that sees all opposition as communist and himself as a victim,” said the editorial.

The Italian premier has shown “belligerence towards magistrates”, calling them left-wing activists and has said that parliament is “useless”, saying it “should be drastically reduced to 100 members, while his powers increase”.

“That he is so dominant is partly the fault of a faltering left; of weak and sometimes politicised institutions; of journalism which has too often accepted a subaltern status. Most of all it is the fault of a very wealthy, very powerful and increasingly ruthless man. No fascist, but a danger, in the first place to Italy, and a malign example to all”.

Berlusconi’s office did not issue a comment on the editorial but the premier’s lawyer, MP Niccolo’ Ghedini, said it was “not so much an offense against Berlusconi but to Italians”.

“Berlusconi is certainly not dangerous, otherwise one would have to claim that the 20 million Italians who voted for him are completely insane”.

But Antonio Di Pietro, a former graft-busting magistrate and leader of the opposition Italy of Values party, compared Berlusconi to the ancient Roman emperor Nero who reportedly played the fiddle while Rome burned.

‘We’ve got a home-spun Nero who enjoys seeing our country burn economically, socially and at an institutional level”.

Di Pietro, whose party is attempting to file a no confidence motion against Berlusconi, urged other MPs to sign the document so that it can be debated in parliament.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Cleric Speaks Out About Berlusconi

Rome, 26 May (AKI) — A senior Italian cleric on Tuesday weighed into the controversy surrounding the Italian prime minister Silvio Berluconi’s embattled personal life and his business affairs. “We need to avoid hasty judgements,” the secretary-general of the Italian bishops conference, Mariano Crociata, said.

Crociata was responding to journalists’ questions about Berlusconi’s relationship with aspiring 18-year-old model and actress, Noemi Letizia, who calls him “Daddy”, and whose birthday party he attended outside Naples at the end of April.

Journalists also asked Crociata to comment on an Italian court finding that the prime minister bribed British lawyer David Mills to perjure himself in two separate trials to protect Berlusconi’s business empire.

“I don’t like oversimplifications of complex situations,” said Crociata. “There are many moral questions. We need to keep them all in mind and avoid hasty judgements,” he continued.

“Everyone has a conscience and the ability to make judgements,” he added.

The Catholic church previously urged more sober behaviour from Berlusconi after his wife Veronica Lario said she was filing for divorce over the “shameless rubbish” he had exposed her to by his connection to Letizia.

Lario also objected to him fielding several attractive showgirls as candidates for his conservative People of Freedom party in next month’s European Parliament elections.

Lario expressed anger that Berlusconi attended Letizia’s birthday party, saying he had never attended the 18th birthday parties of any of their three children.

She also implied that Letizia had a relationship with Berlusconi, and said: “I cannot stay with a man who consorts with minors.”

The premier has claimed he has nothing to hide and will clarify his affairs before the Italian parliament.

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

Netherlands: Euroscepticism and Populism Are Not a Bad Thing Per Se

The less-educated had lost their political representation, but now their concerns are being voiced by populist parties.”Highly-educated people can hire a Polish housepainter while the less-educated have to compete for jobs with those painters.”

Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam Party for Freedom is a healthy correction to the Dutch political system, says professor of public administration Mark Bovens. It appeals to an important part of the electorate, mostly the less-educated, that had lost its political representation in the past decades.

Mark Bovens doesn’t beat about the bush. Parties like Geert Wilders’ PVV, nationalist group Trots op Nederland (Proud of the Netherlands), or their forerunner the LPF party of Pim Fortuyn, who was assassinated in 2002, are often brushed aside as being “populist”, meaning: manipulative, simplistic, looking to score. “When you’ve categorised these parties as reprehensible, you don’t have to think about the underlying causes [of their success] anymore,” says Bovens about the political situation in the Netherlands.

Bovens sees a new divide emerge in the campaign for the European parliament elections next week — and not just in the Netherlands. Added to the traditional dividing lines between left and right, or labour and capital, and between religious and secular, is a new, cultural rift between what Bovens likes to call ‘cosmopolitans’ and ‘nationalists’.

Across traditional political lines

“On the one hand you have the cosmopolitan parties and citizens,” Bovens says. “They are in favour of globalisation and European unification and they support or accept immigration and the multicultural society. On the other hand you have the nationalist parties. They feel globalisation and European unification have gone too far too fast, and they emphasise national values and national identity.”

This new line cuts straight across the traditional political lines, Bovens says. “In the debate about Europe, you can see that the PVV has a lot in common with the [eurosceptic] Socialist party. They both have a more nationalist approach.”

The establishment’s suggestion that the voters of the PVV and the Socialist party simply “haven’t understood” the benefits that Europe offers, is too simplistic, says Bovens.

“After [the Dutch voted against] the referendum on Europe [in 2005], many people said: ‘We should have explained it better.’ This is underestimating what’s at stake here. To highly-educated people European unification is a blessing. They speak several languages, their job market now stretches across Europe, their kids can study anywhere in the EU without losing their scholarships.

“To less-educated people — especially those preforming manual labour and working in the services industry — European unification presents no advantages at all. What they see is increased competition in the job market. Highly-educated people can hire a Polish housepainter to redo their house; less-educated people find themselves living next to a pension for Polish migrant workers, or they have to compete with the Polish housepainter for the same job. Much of the industry in which they were employed has moved to low-wage countries in Eastern Europe or Asia. So it is no wonder that they object. That’s democracy.”

Electorate tossed out

Bovens sees parties like the PVV and the SP as the new mass parties. “They are populist in that they have charismatic leaders and there is an emphasis on the opposition between the elite and the people.”

The traditional parties — Labour, Christian democrats, liberals — increasingly came to represent only the well-educated. They tended to dismiss the concerns of the less-educated over issues such as European unification, immigration and globalisation as “xenophobic, racist, backward”. The mainstream parties were able to neglect what once were their traditional grassroots supporters because, for a long time, there was simply no competition on the political market. “So the concerns of 30 to 40 percent of the electorate were simply tossed out,” says Bovens.

But isn’t it a good idea to have well-educated people at the helm? “It’s always better to have a captain who knows what he’s doing,” says Bovens, “but everybody needs to have their say about where the ship is headed. Look at the way Europe has taken shape in the past forty years: it has been defined exclusively by academics — lawyers, professors, experts in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg. So it is only logical that Europe has headed in the direction that best suited the well-educated.”

In that respect, the 2005 referendum about the European constitution was a milestone, says Bovens. “Europe has become politicised; it is no longer the exclusive domain of lawyers and economists. That’s why I think the success of the PVV is not necessarily a negative thing. In the debate about Europe, the vote of the expert in European law now carries the same weight as the vote of the labourer who is competing with the Polish housepainter.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Stasi Stole West German Identities for Sabotage Ops

The feared East German Stasi secret police misused the identities of innocent Western German citizens as covers for secret agents, daily Berliner Zeitung reported on Wednesday.

Dozens of so-called “lone fighters” for the Stasi took on the identities of unsuspecting westerners for sabotage missions in West Germany that included murder, kidnapping, and robbery, the paper reported, citing evidence in files at the BtSU Stasi archive.

These doppelganger agents held passports under the names of their living West German counterparts, most of whom still have no idea that their identities were used in such a way.

The BtSU, also known as the Birthler Office after archive head Marianne Birthler, told the paper that files revealing this information are hard to come by because they are often hidden as loose collections of paper among records of other Stasi activities.

That means that even those who have inquired after whether they have Stasi records may falsely believe none exist.

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

Sweden: Knife Man Gets Reduced Sentence After Dog Bite to Testicles

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Great comments on this one again. Makes perfect sense that a criminal’s pain and suffering resulting in the course of a crime would be grounds for a reduced sentence…and no penalties at all for animal cruelty?]

A 32-year-old man in southern Sweden found guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend has been granted a lower than usual sentence because of the suffering caused when he was bitten in the testicles by the woman’s Rottweiler.

Helsingborg District Court sentenced the man to one and a half years in jail for aggravated assault after finding him guilty of stabbing his ex-girlfriend twice from behind with a knife. The court said he would have received a longer sentence had he not been severely bitten in course of the melee.

The attack took place on March 31st at an apartment in the southern Swedish city. According to the woman’s version of events, her Rottweiler snapped into action after her assailant had begun wielding a knife, local newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad reports.

During the attack the dog was stabbed twice in the throat, but not before it had succeeded in inflicting serious damage on the 32-year-old’s scrotum.

The man in his turn claimed that his ex-girlfriend had set her dog on him and that he had acted in self-defence when he chose to stab the animal. He also denied stabbing his former girlfriend.

The court rejected both the self-defence claim and the assertion that he had not attacked the woman with a knife.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: A Home for the Family; a Church for the Parish Priest

Ticino emigrants made their mark in foreign lands — and when they returned home.

Many buildings were erected and changes introduced to Italian-speaking Switzerland by those who made their fortunes and returned home as men of wealth. Like in Someo.

Even now, people in the Valle Maggia village are reluctant to discuss certain things: family disputes that go back a hundred years, controversies over religion and secular matters.

According to one elderly woman I meet in front of the church, some of the villagers who emigrated to California returned to Ticino with pots of money.

Having seen the imposing tombs in American cemeteries, they wanted to build themselves big memorials in the modest cemetery at Someo. Delusions of grandeur that the simple peasant farmers of the valley found distasteful.

“My mother did not want my sister, who had returned from America, to erect a mausoleum among the family headstones. But you could hardly go to court over a cemetery!”, continued the sprightly 80-year-old.

“And this is partly why we now have two cemeteries: one for the poor and one for the wealthy, or the “Americans”, as we say in these parts…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Philip Pullman Helps Understanding of Theology, Says Archbishop of Canterbury

Reading Philip Pullman can help people to understand theology, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, despite criticism of the atheist author’s novels as a veiled attack on Christianity.

Citing Pullman as one of his favourite modern writers, Dr Rowan Williams said he liked his work because it took the church “seriously” at a time when theology was “drifting out” of mainstream thought.

Pullman has been castigated by parts of the Roman Catholic church, particularly in North America, as many consider the trilogy His Dark Materials to be a veiled attack on it.

But, speaking at the Hay Festival in Wales, Dr Williams defended Pullman.

He said: “First of all he takes the Christian myth, or a version of it, seriously enough to want to disagree passionately with it.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Seriously, what’s Williams smoking? His pronouncements are getting more ridiculous by the day.]

“It’s not just dull or remote, it’s dangerous. You’ve got to tussle with it. It’s still alive.”

Although he stressed he disagreed with Pullman’s atheistic view, he commended his “search for some way of talking about human value, human depth and three-dimensionality, that doesn’t depend on God.”

Merely to ask the question was important, he said.

He agreed with the thrust of Pullman’s novels that religious authorities must not silence the “demons” that people carry with them — the essential “internal conversation” between good and evil.

He said: “The threat in Pullman’s novels is the Authority — people like me in his imagination — which wants to divide the human spirit and cut off and silence that demonic voice, that voice of the imagination.

“And so you end up with these unforgettably poignant pictures of children who have had their demons taken away, who are just lifeless automata.

“And that’s evil, that’s the essence of evil.”

He concluded: “I feel that that awareness of the inner conversation, the inner dialogue, that has to be part of a sensible, credible modern dialogue about the soul.”

In 2007 Roman Catholic groups called for a boycott of the film The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, which was based on Northern Lights, the first book in the trilogy.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League in the United States, described the books as “atheism for kids”.

Chris Weitz, the film’s director, responded by saying: “I think Philip Pullman takes issue with dogma. He is not anti-Catholic or anti-religion.”

Dr Williams made his comments about Pullman after telling the Hay audience that he thought theology had become less relevant to the “intellectual mainstream” since the 19th century.

Asked by the writer AN Wilson whether modern literature had “come adrift” from the worlds of philosophy and theology, Dr Williams admitted: “Theology has itself in some ways drifted out of the intellectual mainstream. On the whole theology doesn’t figure

[ends strangely…incomplete?]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Police Sirens ‘Can Make Areas Seem Dangerous’ Says Scotland Yard Chief

Police sirens should be used only when “absolutely necessary” because the sound can make areas seem “more dangerous”, according to Sir Paul Stephenson, the chief of the Metropolitan Police.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Never mind the reality…]

Sir Paul told members of the Metropolitan Police Authority that strict policies are in place on the use of warning sirens.

Speaking at City Hall, he said: “I do think that noise in London as a city can actually add to the whole perception that this is a violent and dangerous place. I discussed it a couple of months ago.

“The policy is we use sirens only when absolutely necessary. At all other times they should be turned off.

“I have nothing to tell me that is not complied with but we constantly go back to check and brief officers accordingly.

“We are not the only people who use sirens in the city and the total noise in London is a combination of factors. All we can do is put controls on our own people.

“Is there something we can do to reduce our contribution to the cacophony of noise in London? Because I do live in London and listen at night to all the sirens.”

He also said paramedics and firefighters must also bear responsibility for their contribution to the “cacophony”.

Sir Paul was speaking in response to criticism of the force’s use of helicopters and the disturbance they cause.

Julie Lawrence, who lives in central London, said there has been a marked increase in the number of circling helicopters.

She said: “I believe the operational considerations of the Met should be balanced against the considerable disruption caused to local people when deciding on the use of the helicopter.”

The meeting was told helicopters are used in searches for missing people and suspects, monitoring public order events and following vehicles.

Catherine Crawford, chief executive of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said these tasks are undertaken more effectively and more safely from the air.

Sir Paul said: “We have got three helicopters and we have seen they are a massively valuable operational tool and we want to maximise its use for the reason they were bought for.

“I almost want them to be used to the maximum but for the things that bring the most benefits to Londoners and perhaps noise is the price we pay for it.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: When All Else Fails, Bash the BNP

In its phoney moral crusade to stop the British National Party, the elite has replaced politics with emotional blackmail.

Sometimes it seems that if the British National Party (BNP) did not exist, the political class might have to invent it.

Reactions to the expenses scandal have exposed mainstream politics at its lowest ebb. A New Labour government many thought had already reached rock bottom has got out its pickaxe and started digging down through the rock to unexplored depths. Yet the ‘new’ Conservative opposition is also in turmoil, standing embarrassed before the media ‘moats and all’. Self-flagellation is the political style du jour, as a New Labour cabinet minister endorses electoral reforms that would stop his party getting into government again while Conservative leader David Cameron assures us that we no longer need be a Tory or even interested in politics to stand as an MP for his party.

Faced with the growing cult of the ‘independent’ MP, spineless professional politicians can now be cowed by the spectre of the ridiculous Esther Rantzen considering standing against them, while the cry from the media goes up to make Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous prime minister by popular acclaim.

In these dark days, what is the one thing that politicians can try to use as a crutch to help them hobble upwards, if not exactly on to the moral high ground, then at least from the drain to the gutter? Bring on the BNP! By warning that the political crisis could lead to the rise of this small far-right party in the coming European and local elections, and calling on virtuous voters to support democracy against the ‘threat’ of neo-fascism, they hope to make themselves appear decent by comparison. It looks like the political equivalent of the morality of the jailhouse, which distinguishes between ordinary decent criminals and sex offenders: ‘However bad you might think we are, at least we are not like them.’ …

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


Kosovo: Non-Serb Minorities Fleeing Country, NGO Report

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, MAY 27 — Various non-Serb minorities who live in Kosovo are abandoning the fledgeling country because they feel discriminated against by the ethnic Albanian majority, the London-based International Minority Rights Group (MGI), says in a report published today. The report blames the ethnic Albanian Kosovar leadership for the exodus through lack of will to guarantee minority rights. Suffering from the discrimination are the Bosniacs, ethnic Turks, the Rom, the Ashkalis (a group of Egyptian origin resident for centuries in the southern Balkans), and the Gorans (ethnic Slavs who are Muslims), who together make up 5 % of the population of Kosovo. Many members of these groups, says the report, have long since left Kosovo. “The Albanian majority lacks political will and substantial investment in favour of minority rights. If one adds the bad condition of the economy, it means that many members of those communities must now leave the new state of Kosovo.” Says the report. The genesis of the discrimination is the impression that the minorities were allied to the Serb-dominated Yugoslav regime in the 1990s or did little to oppose it, the report adds. The report criticises the international community, accusing it of having devoted excessive time to relations between the Serbs and the ethnic Albanians while ignoring the other groups. “The international community should make it a priority to guarantee that there is some kind of international mechanism favouring the human rights of minorities in Kosovo,” the MGI’s director, Marco Lattimer, said in an interview. Protecting the minorities would help Kosovo move forward on its path toward joining the European Union, Lattimer said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Serbia-France: Education Ministers Met in Paris

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MAY 26 — Serbian Education Minister Zarko Obradovic met his French counterpart Xavier Darcos within his official visit to France with the aim of establishing stronger cooperation in the area of culture and education, reports Tanjug news agency. This visit is a part of a broader policy of connecting the two countries, said Obradovic, the first Serbian Education Minister who came to a bilateral visit to France in the past twenty years. Darcos underscored that France is particularly interested in opening a French-Serbian lycee in Belgrade, and commended the initiative of the Serbian government which is committed to finding a site and funds for its construction. The ministers also discussed the harmonization of educational systems, particularly in higher education.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Seminar on Human Rights for Journalists Prohibited

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 27 — Algerian authorities have prohibited a seminar on human rights for Algerian journalists. According to the Algerian League for Human Rights (LADDH) in a statement entitled ‘Human Rights Repressed’, the event — scheduled for May 26-28 in Zeralda (Algiers) — has been banned by the prefect’s office of Algiers. “The decision to prohibit this training session for Algerian journalists,” continued a statement published today by the Algerian press, “is an attack on the freedom of assembly guaranteed by the Constitution and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Abbas to Meet With Obama Today, Wants Assurances

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON, MAY 28 — U.S. president Barack Obama will be meeting with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas today at the White House for talks bound to focus on the need for Palestinians to receive reassurances on the U.S. commitment to the “two-state” solution, and the pressure on Israel to stop its enlargement of settlements in the West Bank. The talks will inevitably be influenced by the negative outcome of the meeting at the White House a few days ago between Obama and Israeli premier Benyamin Netanyahu, which highlighted the differences of opinion between the two leaders on the direction to be taken to resume peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. On the eve of his meeting with Obama, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas reiterated that premier Netanyahu must agree to the principle of a Palestinian state before peace talks can resume. One of Abbas’s spokesmen has said that the Palestinian president intends to stress to Obama the need to “to move from speaking to acting” as concerns Tel Aviv’s promises to block the expansion of settlements. U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton reiterated yesterday that the Obama administration has asked Israelis to freeze their settlements in the West Bank “without any exceptions”. However, within the Palestinian delegation there is much scepticism over the ability of the United States to effectively intervene in the new Israeli government, which seems to have set aside for the time being the commitment made in Annapolis (by the previous government) to move in the direction of a two-state solution, one Israeli and one Palestinian, as the only way to peace.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netanyahu to Honour Deals Signed With Palestinians

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MAY 27 — Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu said today that his government will honour all agreements signed in the past with the Palestinians, but that he will insist at the same time on the “reciprocity” principle in future peace negotiations with the Palestinians. In a speech to the Knesset the premier said that he is “eager to include the Arab states in the peace talks”. US President Barack Obama agrees on this goal, Netanyahu added. The Israeli prime minister said that the two have reached in agreement on key issues for Israel’s safety, like the Iranian nuclear programme. The premier also said that he is certain that his government’s peace policy, unlike previous policies, “will lead to quicker results” promoting economic initiatives for farming in the Palestinian territories and attracting investments from all the world to re-launch the Palestinian economy. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

PNA: Abu Ala, Israeli Settlements Allowed in Palestine

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — As part of a peace agreement with Israel, the inhabitants of the major Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including Ariel and Maale’ Adumim, will continue “to stay in their homes under Palestinian sovereignty and laws,” said the head of the Palestinian negotiating group Abu Ala (Ahmed Qrea) in an interview appearing in Haaretz today. Abu Ala also said that a clear agreement on Israel’s borders with a Palestinian state “will resolve no less than 70% of the entire conflict in the region”. “We will not resume negotiations (with Israel),” he added, “without a complete stop to the (Jewish) settlements including what you call natural growth”. In Abu Ala’s view “the creation of a national unity government including Fatah and Hamas is a preliminary condition for peace with Israel. Much progress has been made in negotiations (between Fatah and Hamas) in Egypt”. There is already an agreement between the two rival Palestinian organisations, according to Abu Ala, on the PLO as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians and on its reform. They also agreed that Palestinian presidential and legislative elections will be held on January 25 2010, even if there are disagreements on the electoral system. There are also disagreements about Hamas’ refusal to respect previous agreements with Israel. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Death of Israel

From Caroline Glick, deputy editor and op-ed writer for the Jerusalem Post, comes alarming news. An expert on Arab-Israeli relations with excellent sources deep inside Netanyahu’s government, she reports that CIA chief Leon Panetta recently took time out from his day job (feuding with Nancy Pelosi) to travel to Israel to “read the riot act” to the government warning against an attack on Iran.

More ominously, Glick reports (likely from sources high up in the Israeli government) that the Obama administration has all but accepted as irreversible and unavoidable fact that Iran will soon develop nuclear weapons. She writes, “…we have learned that the [Obama] administration has made its peace with Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Senior administration officials acknowledge as much in off-record briefings. It is true, they say, that Iran may exploit its future talks with the US to run down the clock before they test a nuclear weapon. But, they add, if that happens, the U.S. will simply have to live with a nuclear-armed mullocracy.”

She goes on to write that the Obama administration is desperate to stop Israel from attacking Iran writing that “as far as the [Obama] administration is concerned, if Israel could just leave Iran’s nuclear installations alone, Iran would behave itself.” She notes that American officials would regard any harm to American interests that flowed from an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities as Israel’s doing, not Iran’s.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

West Bank: Two Outposts Destroyed

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — The Israeli Army and police demolished two illegal Israeli outposts in the West Bank this morning. The two outposts were not on the list of 26 outposts to be pulled down, and another, Maoz Ester, was destroyed about a week ago. At Givat 18 (Hill 18), the first outpost and close the urban settlement of Kiriat Arba near Hebron, soldiers demolished two shacks in the presence of six young settlers who did not put up any resistance. At the second outpost, Havat Federman (Federman Farm), a tent filled with supplies was removed. On the same site last year four large homes had been destroyed. Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak appear determined to remove the illegal outposts erected after March 2001, in compliance with a specific commitment made to the United States as well as to avoid pressure from the Obama administration, which would like to see goodwill gestures towards Palestinians. The destruction of the two outposts has led to harsh attack from the far right on Benyamin Netanyahu, whose government “has been called more dangerous than the previous one”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

If There’s a War, the Military Protects Everyone But NDP MPs

A bill that has been introduced over and over again since it first appeared in 1983, has been proposed by Burnaby-Douglas New Democrat MP Bill Siksay in British Columbia. The private member’s bill, which hasn’t a Toronto Maple Leafs hope of winning the Stanley Cup chance of passing, would see income tax paid by Canadians who “oppose war” be put into a special account that cannot be used by our military:

Burnaby-Douglas New Democrat MP Bill Siksay said he wants conscientious objectors to be able to register with the Canada Revenue Agency so their taxes can be diverted to a special peace tax account.

If Bill C-390 passes, the government would be able to access the account for anything except military spending.

“The reality is this would be a symbolic measure because the government still collects tax dollars from everybody and the government will still decide how they are spent,” Siksay said.

“But it makes a point about some people who believe that the government shouldn’t be spending money on making war or buying armament.”

I love it. Perhaps I can get a private members bill passed that says the government would be able to access the account for anything except giving it to the NDP. In fact it’s really a kind of Pandora’s Box of self-serving interests, isn’t it? If we began to pass bills which allowed taxpayers to reserve the right not to have their taxes go toward things they don’t like, we’d probably never have enough money for anything. Because let’s be honest here: how much of what the government spends your money on, do you actually approve of? Right about now I’d say they’re batting a Michael Jordan attempt to play Triple-A baseball.

You know, it’s times like this that I wonder if we shouldn’t instate mandatory military service so that people actually understand just what the hell it is that our soldiers do out there. If there were enough Bill Siksay’s out there, we’d be sitting on the world’s second largest land mass, with perhaps the largest untapped oil and mineral reserves, water, forestry, and nobody to defend any of it.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Ship Sinks Off Indonesia Coast

JAKARTA — A SHIP packed with Afghan migrants sank off Indonesia’s western coast early on Thursday, killing at least five people and leaving 17 others missing, the navy said. Al Muhfid, a second lieutenant, said fisherman rescued more than a dozen people from the water.

The men, including several who were badly hurt, told authorities they wanted to seek political asylum in Indonesia because of the security situation in their homeland, he said.

It was not immediately clear where the boat was headed.

Indonesia is increasingly being used as a transit point for illegal migrants from war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. They typically continue on to Australia aboard cramped, barely seaworthy ships.

The vast seas surrounding the archipelago are treacherous, particularly during high tides in the tropical rainy season.

Lt Muhfid said the five bodies recovered from the Malacca Strait were Afghans.

The 17 missing included two Indonesian crewmen, he said. — AP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Please Uncover Your Face. It’s Our Custom

Why are women’s faces concealed in East London but not in Damascus?

By Matthew Parris

Funny to return from Lebanon, Syria and Turkey — where women go unveiled — and return to Britain, the land of the full hijab. I see more women with their faces covered in Tower Hamlets than I did in Damascus.

I used to think that covering the whole face except for the eyes was the normal Islamic custom (in a week in Afghanistan I hardly saw a woman’s face) and so was surprised to find that even in Syria, the most culturally conservative of the Middle Eastern countries I’ve just visited, not a tenth of the women seem to cover their faces. Most (by no means all) cover their heads, but you don’t get that closed, turning-away feeling you sense along the Whitechapel Road in the East End of London. In the Damascus streets, women in all-women groups, and women with men, chat and laugh; and I saw to be true (what some Muslims have already told me) that the full hijab cannot be considered a religious duty, but is simply a cultural feature of some societies that are Muslim, but not others.

If so, how far should we tolerate it? Spitting is a cultural feature in China but we discourage it here. In Syria I took my shoes off to enter mosques, though that is not in my culture; and wouldn’t have worn clothing like skimpy shorts or vests, or drunk alcohol in the streets: practices offensive not to me but to the mainstream culture where I was.

Knowingly to disturb people’s feelings is to be offensive. In Western European society, to go out in public with your face masked is (unless done for comic effect) disturbing. Hiding the face is felt to be threatening, and slightly scary, and subliminally this goes way back, and quite deep I think: it certainly frightens children…

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Religious Police Want Cameras to Monitor Youth

Riyadh, 27 May (AKI) — Saudi Arabia’s religious police want to install surveillance cameras in shopping centres throughout the country in order to watch young people. “We will place surveillance cameras in all shopping centres and public places to monitor the behaviour of young people,” said General Abdel Aziz al-Hamin, chief of the committee for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice, quoted by Saudi daily Okaz on Wednesday.

“Our objective is to correct the mistakes made by some youths, in order to protect their moral integrity,” said al-Hamin.

However, Saudi Arabia’s religious police have been accused by many Saudis of violating young people’s privacy by providing the media with the names of those who are caught engaging in behaviour considered in breach of Islamic Sharia law.

Their names are then published in Saudi newspapers.

Al-Hamin, however, has denied the claims and said he never handed over the names of anyone to the media.

In a separate incident, a court in the holy city of Medina on Tuesday acquitted two religious police.

They were accused of having caused the death of four young people, two men and two women, who died in a car accident while they tried to escape from the religious police after being caught together.

Sharia law prohibits unmarried and unrelated men and women to travel together in a car.

The religious police or committee for the promotion of virtue and the prevention of vice is a government bureaucracy in charge of enforcing Sharia law. It has more than 3,500 members, as well as volunteers.

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

UAE: Burj Al Arab Hotel Escapes Crisis by Discounting

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MAY 27 — Dubai’s Burj Al Arab Hotel — billed as the first seven-star hotel in the world — has escaped a room-discounting move by owner the Jumeirah Group to shore up demand during the global downturn, Middle East online reports. As a result, occupancy in the imposing 321-meter (1,053-foot) high building is “less than last year but within our expectations,” Jumeirah chief executive Gerald Lawless said Saturday on the sidelines of a world tourism conference in Brazil. He declined to give occupancy rates. But he said for the rest of Jumeirah’s properties, steep price cuts were being offered to maintain demand. “At the end of November, bookings were slowing down, so we started offering healthy discounts up to 30 percent for our source markets in the UK, Germany and Russia to stimulate demand,” he said. Despite the crisis, the group was maintaining client numbers from those three key markets, he said, though he noted that reservations were increasingly coming later in a bid to secure cheaper prices. He said: “The luxury sector is certainly resilient to the crisis but this is also motivated by promotions and prices.” Two of the group’s properties in Dubai, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Madinat Jumeirah, are keeping occupancy high, with 90 to 95% of the rooms filled between February and April at an average price of 570 dollars per night, Lawless said. The group, which owns 11 hotels, in Dubai, Britain and the United States, plans to forge on with ambitious expansion plans that will see it running 60 properties by 2012. “Despite the global economic downturn we maintain our objectives,” Lawless said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Extremist Preacher Abu Hamza’s Three Sons Jailed for Luxury Car Scam

Three sons of the extremist Muslim preacher Abu Hamza have been jailed for their part in a £1m luxury car scam.

The gang targeted makes including Mercedes, BMW and Range Rover which had been left in long-stay car parks.

They wrote to the DVLA to change their address and re-register the vehicles and when new log books were sent out they obtained a new set of keys from dealerships.

The cars were then sold on to unwitting third parties or used as collateral for loans.

Abu Hamza’s sons Hamza Kamel, 22, and Mohamed Mostafa, 27, helped run the two-year fraud with the hook handed cleric’s stepson Mohssin Ghailam, 28.

Martyn Bowyer, prosecuting, called the operation a “sophisticated, well-planned and professionally executed enterprise” that involved 32 vehicles which together were valued at more than £1m.

The court heard that Kamel admitted five counts of handling stolen cars and of laundering more than £14,000 of criminal money in relation to the scam was sentenced to two and a half years..

Mostafa, who lives with his brother in Acton West London, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by using false French passport to secure a £12,000 loan and to obtain keys for a BMW and was sentenced to two years.

Ghailan, from Shepherd’s Bush, West London, described as a “key player”, admitted conspiracy to defraud and was jailed for four years.

Mostafa served a three-year sentence in Yemen ten years ago for involvement with a terrorist group but Ben Brandon, for Mostafa, said there was no suggestion proceeds of the car scam were to be used for any terrorist group or activity.

He was said to have been taken to North Africa and Pakistan by his father and did not return to Britain until his early teens.

His lawyers said he suffered from psychological problems and his attempts to hold down cleaning and labouring jobs had failed.

He hit the headlines in 2006 for singing the praises of Middle East terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas with his rap group Lionz Of Da Dezert and created further upset by gaining a job on the London Underground soon afterwards.

Lawyers for Ghilam asked the judge to consider him as a “special case” who had suffered as a result of “dreadful adversity” thought to include his time spent in Yemen for the same offence as his half-brother.

Kamel, who has six GCSEs and three A levels, was described as a “bright young man” who hoped to go on to study computer science.

Mohammed Chiadmi, 31, another “key player”, received four years, his brother Abdul Chiadmi, 22, said to have played an “important role” received four years, Khalid Jebari, 22, the operation’s driver, received two years on handling counts plus two years for possession of Class A drugs with intent to supply, making a total of four years, and Hamza Mrimou, 27, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, got three and a half years.

Hamza, 51, the former imam at Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, was jailed for seven years in 2004 for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred.

He is fighting extradition to the US for allegedly setting up a terrorist training camp.

Last year another of his seven sons, Yasser Mostafa Kamel, 18, narrowly escaped jail after admitting burglary.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Gracias: Religious Freedom Has Won. Now Attention to the Poor and Dalits

The Archbishop of Mumbai is “proud” of the election results which reflect the “heart of the common people”. He asks the future government to “avoid populist measures” and to “fulfil their promises”. Most urgent needs: long term policies for the poor, women and minorities.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — “I am proud of my country”. That is how the Archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Indian Bishops Conference (Ccbi), Oswald Gracias, comments the election results which are emerging from India.

The Mumbai prelate says the vote “is a clear mandate for religious freedom and India can only gain and prosper if the freedom of religion as enshrined by our founding fathers in the constitution is upheld and ensured”. It reflects “The common person in India has a heart, which naturally respects all religions and earnestly seeks to live in peace and harmony and unity”.

The archbishop of the Indian metropolis is satisfied that the elections “were conducted in a peaceful manner” and that “the people have shown a sense of responsibility”. The prelate sees the victory of the United Progressive Alliance “a certain degree of satisfaction in the governance of the incumbent government”, but immediately adds “this is now an opportunity for the government to fulfil their unfinished promises to the people of India”.

He expects renewed commitment from the incoming executive on issues such as “inclusiveness of all peoples, the minorities, the majorities, the tribal’s and dalits. All peoples add to the wealth and richness of our beloved motherland”.

“I strongly desire that the Government will now be able to take bolder initiatives and even implement programmes which may at first seem unpopular, but will be for the common good and for the nation”. The Cardinal is speaking of “urgent measure” that the government should focus on. “Basic primary health care and education for women, female children and the poor” Gracias considers priorities for the first five years of governance. “The government — stresses the cardinal — should refrain from populist measures but rather implement long term pro-poor policies which will benefit our common people and elevate poverty from our nation”.

“Our rural poor, our girl child, our women, our tribals and our dalits need basic primary health care and education”, says the Archbishop. “This government should initiate a social devolution” which would help India make great strides on the International Stage”.

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

Indonesia: Headscarves ‘Help Top Yudhoyono Presidential Rival’

Jakarta, 26 May (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian presidential candidate Jusuf Kalla and his running mate former general Wiranto have gained ground against the current favourites president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his running-mate in July’s electoral race. This is due in part to their persistence in luring Muslim voters, thanks to their headscarf-sporting wives, according to pollsters.

Predominantly Muslim Indonesia holds its direct presidential election on 8 July.

An executive of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), one of the 23 parties committed to supporting Yudhoyono’s re-election in July, expressed his concern about the rising electability of the Kalla-Wiranto ticket

Kalla, Indonesia’s current vice-president, heads the Golkar Party, while Wiranto leads the National Conscience Party (Hanura).

“Despite our official allegiance to the (ruling) Democratic Party to support President SBY and his running mate Boediono during the election, our internal party survey shows the popularity of the Kalla-Wiranto duet has been increasing due to their wives wearing the jilbab,” PKS deputy secretary general Zulkieflimansyah said Monday, referring to the headscarf many Muslims believe is mandatory for women.

“Our party’s top brass are definitely loyal to our coalition deal with the Democratic Party, but we cannot fully control the hearts of our grass roots constituents. Therefore, we will do everything we can to help them understand the jilbab is not a big issue,” he added.

Kalla’s wife Mufidah and Wiranto’s wife Rugaya have always appeared in public wearing head-scarves, unlike First Lady Kristiani Herawati and former Bank Indonesia governor Boediono’s wife Herawati.

Zulkieflimansyah said the most recent internal survey the Muslim-based PKS condshowed although SBY had taken lead, Kalla was moving closer, with the other presidential candidate Megawati Soekarnoputri trailing a distant third.

Prior to the candidates’ official bids, a pollster predicted Yudhoyono’s unstoppable re-election.

Director of Indo Barometer survey institute Muhammad Qodari acknowledged Kalla and Wiranto appealed more to Muslim voters than the other candidates.

“Kalla is actively involved in Nahdlatul Ulama (the country’s largest Islamic organisation) and that can be used as a major drawing card for Muslim voters,” Qodari said.

“Symbolically, the jilbab is visually very attractive for conventional Muslim women. The clothes will do all the talking without Kalla and Wiranto needing to utter a single word.”

Qodari said had Yudhoyono chosen a more “Islamic” running mate, the jilbab would remain a non-issue.

“SBY should have picked Hatta Rajasa, who represents Muslim voters because of his background with the Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association (ICMI), he said.

Yudhoyono’s coalition bloc, which includes of a number of Islamic-based parties, had lashed out at his decision to name Boediono, an apolitical figure, as his running mate.

Kalla has visited a number of influential Muslim clerics across the central Indonesian province of Java recently, as well as top leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah — the country’s mainstream Islamic organisations.

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

Indonesia: Muslim Edict Issued Against Facebook

Jakarta, 27 May (AKI) — Around 700 ulama or Islamic religious leaders have issued an edict to limit use of the popular Internet networking site Facebook in Indonesia. However, it seems that many people from the country, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, use Facebook often and it is growing in popularity.

This is the case for Abdurrahman ‘Gus Dur’ Wahid, Hidayat Nur Wahid, Din Syamsuddin and Hasyim Muzadi.

Gus Dur, a former president of Indonesia and moderate voice of Islam, has 3,923 ‘virtual friends’, while Hidayat, leader of the largest Islamic party in the country, the Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS) has 5,000.

Din Syamsuddin, leader of Mahamadiyah and Hasyim Muzadi, head of Nahdlatul Ulama — the two largest moderate Muslim organisations in the country with 30 to 40 million members — update their pages often.

Facebook has now become an important work and social tool for some religious leaders. Irrespective of the religious edict, Facebook has become the most visited website in Indonesia.

In 2008 the site registered a 645 percent increase in use, higher than China and India. According to, a site that monitors Internet traffic, there are around 830,000 Indonesians who have a profile on Facebook.

Iran’s official labour news agency ILNA said on Tuesday the country’s hardline authorities had restored access to Facebook’s website after it was blocked on 23 May.

ILNA claimed Facebook was disabled in a bid to prevent moderate presidential candidate and former prime minister Mir-Hossein Moussavi from using it to boost his electoral campaign. He is president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s main rival in the presidential election next month.

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

Singapore: Couple Guilty of Sedition

A CHRISTIAN couple have been found guilty in Singapore’s first sedition trial for distributing seditious and undesirable publications as well as possession. SingTel technical officer Ong Kian Cheong, 50, and his wife, UBS associate director Dorothy Chan Hien Leng, 46, were convicted on Thursday of four charges after an 11-day trial.

They were convicted of distributing seditious or an undesirable publication, The Little Bride, to two Muslims in October and March 2007; and sending out another seditious booklet, Who is Allah?, to another Muslim in December that year.

These two publications had the tendency to to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between Christians and Muslims.

The Little Bride was deemed objectionable as it dealt with matters of religion in such a manner likely to cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between the two religious groups.

On the day of the Protestant couple’s arrest on Jan 30 last year, police seized an assortment of items from their Maplewoods condominium, including 11 titles consisting of 439 copies of comic tracts which were seditious.

Their defence that they had no knowledge of the contents of the tracts they sent out was rejected by the court.

Judge Roy Neighbour also disbelieved Chan’s defence that her husband had no knoweledge about her tract orders and purchases.

‘I do not believe that the first accused (Ong) was merely the ‘postman’ in the distribution of the tracts having no knowledge of what was being distributed to members of the public,” he added.

The case was adjourned to June 4 for Deputy Public Prosecutor Anandan Bala to address the court on sentence. Mitigation will be presented by their lawyer Selva K. Naidu then.

The couple can be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed for up to three years on each of the two Sedition Act charges.

For distributing an objectionable publication, they can be fined up to $5,000 and/or jailed for up to 12 months.

The possesssion charge is punishable with a fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 18 months in jail.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

‘Tartan Taleban’ James McLintock Released From Pakistan Prison

A Scottish charity worker dubbed the Tartan Taleban has been released from a Pakistani prison where he has apparently been held without charge for three months.

James McLintock, who is known by his Muslim name Yakub Mohammed, was freed on Friday and has since returned to his wife and family in Pakistan.

No reason has been given for his arrest, although it has been reported that he was believed to have Al-Qaeda links.

Dundee-born Mr McLintock, 44, was arrested in Peshawar at the end of February. A former pupil of Lawside Academy in Dundee, he converted to Islam after dropping out of university. In the late 1980s he attended a training camp in Pakistan and later claimed in interviews to have fought as a jihadist.

It is the second time in a decade that Mr McLintock has been imprisoned in such circumstances. He was arrested on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border on Christmas Eve 2001 but released less than a month later, again without charge. That incident led to his Tartan Taleban nickname.

He has reportedly fought with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and with the Serbian forces in the Bosnian war. In the 1990s, he moved to Bradford, where he met and married his wife, and worked for an Islamic charity.

His mother, Margaret, has always protested his innocence, insisting that he has been working with a legitimate aid agency.

From her home in Arbroath she said today she was glad he was safe but insisted that no one knew why he had been captured or by whom. She said: “I am pleased. He is safe at home in Pakistan. He has been grilled for 12 weeks so I’m not going to question him for another week or so.”

Mike Weir, the SNP MP for Angus, called on the Foreign Office to investigate the case. “They have had to be prodded all along over this matter,” he said. “I appreciate the situation in Pakistan is not fantastic at the moment but there are a lot of unanswered questions. He has been released without any charge against him.”

He said that, following his release, Mr McLintock was “apparently in reasonable spirits and had lost some weight”. However, he said, the family were “none the wiser as to why he was arrested three months ago. There was no explanation”.

And he said that the Tartan Taleban tag was “extremely unfair” as there was no evidence Mr McLintock had anything to do with the terrorist cell.

Mr Weir, who was contacted by Mr McLintock’s family and asked to pursue his case for them, added: “The real problem here was lack of any information and there was no official confirmation that he was being held, where he was being held and what, if any, charge he was held on.”

The Foreign Office confirmed that Mr McLintock had been released and reunited with his family. A spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that a British national has been released from custody in Pakistan and is back at home with his wife and children. Consular officials have been in touch with the British national since his release and we will consider any request for further action that the individual may ask of us.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Uzbekistan: Making Cotton as Homework for Uzbek Children

Students in Fergana province have to make 200 paper funnels each in which to plant cotton seeds. Uzbek authorities allow child exploitation in the country’s largest export earning industry.

Tashkent (AsiaNews/Agencies) — In Fergana province Uzbek children have odd school homework to do. Teachers recently gave them the assignment of making at least 200 paper funnels each, add soil and plant cotton seeds inside.

This is the latest experiment in cotton farming introduced by the government in a country where cotton is the main export product.

In fact schools and universities are closed from September to December, when cotton is picked, and students sent to the fields.

Last year some major Western retail store chains like Marks & Spencer and Wal-Mart boycotted products containing Uzbek cotton to protest the use of child labour in Uzbek cotton plantations.

But with pressure on farmers mounting as a result of unfavourable weather during the planting season, rights activists say kids will be back at work in the fields this year.

Uzbek bans child labour, but the cotton industry, which is owned by the government, is labour intensive and minors are cheaper than adults who are paid on average US$ 6-7 a day.

Karim Bozorboev, a human-rights campaigner in Uzbekistan’s Sirdaryo Province, said that even though the authorities has reassured the international community that it is opposed to child labour, the reality is that has done precious little, except perhaps to encourage it.

“During the 2008 cotton-harvest season, we had information that the deputy of the provincial governor, who is in charge of agricultural issues, told people that if you don’t send your children to cotton fields, you will be declared enemies of the nation,” he said.

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

Far East

China: Nancy Pelosi Disappoints: Dialogue on Climate, Not Human Rights

Chinese demonstrators ask her not to forget human rights. Beijing leaders want a relationship with the US based on “harmony in diversity”. 3 protesters arrested.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Nancy Pelosi, once known as the “tiger” in defence of human rights, leaves Beijing today after a 4 day visit to the Chinese capital where she sought China’s collaboration on climate change and energy issues.

Speaking at the U.S.-China Clean Energy Forum, the Speaker of the House told her counterparts that collaboration on climate change “is an opportunity we cannot miss”.

The Chinese President Hu Jintao told Pelosi that “China is willing, along with the United States, to forge a positive, co-operative and comprehensive relationship” and premier Wen Jiabao asked the US to set the relationship on a footing of “harmony in diversity”.

Pelosi’s accommodating behaviour during the visit has shocked many. In past years she was one of the liveliest critics of human rights violations. In 1991, Pelosi unfurled a banner in Tiananmen Square to honour those who died for democracy in China. She opposed normal trade relations with China in the 1990s, and last year urged President George W. Bush to consider boycotting the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, after the bloody rioting in Tibet. She also met the Dalai Lama and called on the world to pressure China.

Pelosi clarified that issues linked to climate change are also part of human rights. But this has disappointed many in Beijing who had taken advantage of her presence to ask her to bring up the issue of human rights. Yesterday some of the protesters succeeded in spray-painting red slogans on the main gate of the State Council Information Office reading “Pelosi we love you,” “Warmly welcome Pelosi, pay attention to human rights” and “Down with corruption”. Police dispersed the crowd that had gathered outside the offices and arrested three demonstrators.

The current economic crisis is forcing the US and European Union to put aside its controversies surrounding Human Rights to focus on how to resolve the global financial meltdown, by seeking help from China and its gigantic deposits in foreign currency.

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

Australia — Pacific

Canberra Missed in US Diplomatic Mix

THE Rudd Government’s hopes for a special relationship with Barack Obama have got off to a not-so-special start, with Australia missing out on getting an American ambassador, despite a global round of new nominations.

The US President yesterday announced a swath of new ambassadors, from Iceland to India.

Despite not having had a US ambassador in Canberra since Mr Obama’s inauguration on January 20, Australia did not figure in the 12 new US ambassadors nominated yesterday.

These included nominations to key posts such as Britain, France, India and Japan, as well as lesser posts such as Iceland, the Holy See and Kosovo. The US embassy in Canberra last night insisted the President’s actions, or lack of them, were not a snub.

“We’ve got a close relationship so the administration is looking to appoint someone who has the best fit as soon as possible,” an embassy spokeswoman said.

“The order in which nominations come out does not reflect which country is more important. Dozens of other posts around the world have not yet been filled.”

The spokeswomen said the US was “hopeful that a new ambassador would be appointed to Australia in a few months”.

Long gaps between US ambassadors in Canberra is becoming an uncomfortable trend with Australia’s closest ally. The post was left vacant for almost 18 months in 2005 and 2006 before former US president George W.Bush’s friend Robert McCallum took up the post.

The post was only filled after Washington realised the issue threatened to overshadow a planned visit to Australia by then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.

Since Mr McCallum left in January, the role has been handed to the US embassy’s charge d’affaires, Dan Clune.

Diplomatic sources last night warned against reading too much into Canberra’s exclusion from the latest round of US diplomatic appointments.

They said it was unlikely to be related to the controversy last year over claims that Kevin Rudd said Mr Bush did not know what the G20 was. The Prime Minister denied the claims, but Australia’s ambassador in Washington, Dennis Richardson, was reportedly called in to the US State Department to explain.

Sources said last night the delay could be largely administrative, reflecting the laborious US selection process for ambassadors.

Another said the US might be searching for an appropriate political appointment, which often takes longer than appointing a career diplomat.

The previous ambassador, Mr McCallum, said late last year it was important to the US-Australia alliance that the ambassador have a close relationship with the president.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Minister Stephen Smith did not return The Australian’s calls last night.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Asylum Seekers to be Extradited Back to Greece

The Netherlands will resume the extradition of asylum seekers who entered the European Union via Greece. In the coming months 1,100 people will be returned to Greece, following a Council of State decision that doing so is legal, Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak told Dutch reporters in Rome.

Earlier this week, Ms Albayrak was on a visit to Athens where she said that the Netherlands will be helping Greece with its refugee problem. The deputy minister says that helping countries on Europe’s southern border cope with the influx of refugees is a prerequisite for solving the Netherlands’ own migration issues.

Refugees from Northern Africa regularly cross the Mediterranean on rickety vessels to land in European coastal countries like Italy and Greece. Because of the EU’s open border policies, refugees can travel on from their landing spot to other EU member states.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Captain Receives Award for Saving 650 Migrants

(ANSAmed) — MESSINA, MAY 26 — Pietro Russo, the captain of ‘Ghibli 1’, a fishing boat, which on November 28, 2008 with three other crew members from Mazara del Vallo and men from the harbour office of the port of Lampedusa, saved the lives of 650 migrants, will receive the ‘premio intercultura’ (intercultural award) tomorrow in Messina. “For a Sicily on the frontier of peace, people, and culture” is the slogan that the Messina chapter of the CISL labour union and the ANOLF, an association of unions protecting immigration and encouraging integration, chose for the third edition of the event. The director of the migrants office of the Diocese of Mazara del Vallo, Don Vito Calandrino, the provincial councilman for immigration, Pio Amadeo, the town councilman for immigration, Dario Caroniti, the Secretary General of the Messina chapter of the CISL union, Torino Genovese, and the President of ANOLF-CISL, Dino Calderone will all be present at the awards ceremony. On November 28 2008, Russo and the others involved in the rescue had to deal with storm conditions, wind gusts of up to 30 knots, and 10-metre high waves, putting their own lives at stake to save the 650 people who were trying to reach Sicily onboard two boats. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU Prepares Common Reaction to Emergency

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 26 — Immigration is affecting five countries in the Mediterranean in particular: Italy, Spain, Malta, Cyprus and Greece, and their management systems are under “exceptional” strain, and the EU must give a long-term response to this phenomenon with a “structural” reaction. This was the statement made in the working document which ANSA has seen a preview of. The document will be presented tomorrow on the EU commissioners’ table, ahead of next week’s Internal Council. In particular the Commission is proposing, apart from an optimal use of the various EU funds, an initiative to promote a coordinated “voluntary” effort of solidarity with the EU States which are most exposed to redistribute the people who have obtained international protection and is focused especially on relations with the southern Mediterranean countries, especially Libya. Brussels is proposing working with Tripoli on a programme of cooperation and promoting relations with the High Commission for Refugees to develop a reception system for people requesting asylum in line with “the highest international standards”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Finland: Finnish Police to Discontinue Age Testing of Asylum-Seekers

The police has interrupted almost entirely the medical tests to ascertain the true ages of asylum-seekers who claim to be minors, reports the Finnish Broadcasting Company, YLE.

According to Deputy Ombudsman Jukka Lindstedt, such medical age determination tests could violate the fundamental rights of asylum-seekers.

At the beginning of the year, the use of age tests was increased when it turned out that many asylum-seekers had lied about their ages, claiming to be underage while they were actually adults.

“Such a test violates a person’s integrity and right to privacy. There are no regulations stating who is entitled to conduct such tests and what kind of methods are allowed. Some regulations are really needed”, outlines the Deputy Ombudsman in his decision.

Minister of Migration Astrid Thors (Swedish People’s Party) has taken the view that such tests do not violate the fundamental rights of asylum-seekers, if they are carried out with the applicant’s consent, reports YLE.

According to the minister, legislation on the age tests is to be drafted already by the autumn.

In early May, Thors said to Helsingin Sanomat that news about age tests has already begun to spread, which may have reduced the number of asylum-seekers arriving in Finland.

Moreover, the processing times of asylum applications have lengthened, and the fact that the use of age testing has come to a halt could lead to even longer handling times. At the same time, the refugee reception centres are likely to become over-crowded.

In 2008, the number of young asylum-seekers arriving in Finland was 706 — the highest on record.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Finland: Muslims Often Face Discrimination in Finland

Nearly half of Muslims living in Finland say they’ve experienced discrimination in the past year, according to an EU-wide survey. Foreign Muslims in Finland say their religious and ethnic backgrounds trigger discriminatory behaviour.

While respondents said they have been met with discrimination in matters related to housing, healthcare and access to services, they rarely report racist incidents because of a lack of trust in authorities.

Some 25 percent of Muslims in France say they have experienced discrimination. In neighbouring Sweden just over a third of those questioned said they had been met with discrimination.

The study is part of a broader research project, which investigates discrimination and racially motivated crimes in the EU’s 27 member states. The project is the first-ever EU-wide survey charting discrimination in the daily lives of immigrants in the union.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Holland Ready to Help Cyprus

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, MAY 27 — The State Secretary for Justice of the Netherlands, Nebahat Albayrak, has expressed her readiness to help Cyprus to deal with illegal immigration and political asylum issues, daily Famagusta Gazette reported. After a meeting with Minister of Interior, Neoklis Sylikiotis, Albayrak said that Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Italy have the highest influx of immigrants. After Cyprus she will visit the remaining three countries to discuss ways to help resolve problems relating to illegal migration. According to Albayrak “Holland is one of the countries which has gained some experience with refugees seeking and getting protection. The applications for political asylum in Holland in 2008 reached 14,500”. The Dutch official referred to two strategies — the implementation of the legislation agreed in the EU and the cooperation in a more practical way — “not only to implement the laws that we pass but also to bring up the practical standards we have in all European countries”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: School Leaving Exam: Gelmini, Tax Code a Left-Wing Set-Up

(AGI) — Rome, 27 May — “A new left-wing set-up,” is how the Education Minister, Mariastella Gelmini, described controversy over reports that students will have to produce their tax registration codes before being allowed to do their school-leaving examinations. The opposition parties had described the measure as a way to keep tabs on and discriminate against immigrant students without residence permits. But Gelmini, speaking on the fringes of a presentation of an agreement between her ministry and the farmers’ cooperative Coldiretti, commented that “what the left claims is false. This is a norm that already existed in the past and there is no discrimination or wish to take a census of students who are not regular immigrants. It is just another set-up by the left. The school system in reality is committed to integration.” The root cause of the controversy, she said, is “a different concept of integration — ours is very different to that of the left. For us integration does not mean giving up our identity, our culture and our roots. The theme of integration is an educational problem for us and I find it silly to turn it into a subject for controversy.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

New Immigration Policy Effective Deterrent, Maroni Says

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 25 — Italy’s new immigration policy of returning to Libya migrants rescued or intercepted at sea is an effective deterrent to illegal migration in the Mediterranean, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told the Senate on Monday. Under the controversial initiative, which sees a key part of a landmark accord with Libya implemented for the first time, migrants are rescued in international waters and taken back to Libya where humanitarian organisations can vet their asylum claims. Providing figures on the so-called ‘push-back’ policy, Maroni said 471 migrants had been sent back to Libya from May 6 to 10, after the launch of the policy. The initiative has been contested by the centre-left opposition, the Catholic Church, humanitarian organisations and the United Nations. Boat migrations in the Mediterranean “have pratically come to halt,” Maroni said. The minister said Italy would persist with the initiative “without wavering” because “it is saving many lives at sea and is producing a drastic decline in arrivals” on its southern shores. Maroni also rebutted criticism, arguing that the initiative is “in line with existing legislation”. However, the UN refugee agency UNHCR says the initiative undermines access to asylum in the European Union and carries with it the risk of violating the fundamental principles enshrined in the 1951 (Geneva) Convention on refugees and other instruments of international human rights law. Non-refoulement is a principle in international law, specifically refugee law, that concerns the protection of refugees from being taken back to countries where their lives or freedom could be threatened. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Ruta Iberica; Journey for Cultural Tolerance

(di Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 27 — Echoes of the expulsion of the Moors from Spain on April 9 1609 continue to reverberate in Spanish tradition, particularly in the areas which were largely populated by Islamic turned Christian communities like come Valencia, Granada, Murcia or Aragon. King Phillip III’s edict led to the expulsion of around 300,000 ‘Moorish’ descendants, who had lived in Spanish territory for about 900 years. Many left their cities but tried to remain in the country clandestinely, without undergoing forced conversion to Christianity, by moving from Aragon to Castilla, or from Andalucia to the Algarve across the border in Portugal. Mostly though, the Moors left Spain in a dramatic exodus which saw them head to north Africa and put down roots in the mountainous region of Rif. Four centuries later, the “Ruta Iberica” expedition — which includes 155 Spanish between 16 and 17 years old from Spain, Portugal and Morocco — are to pay remembrance to the expulsion, by following in the footsteps of the ancient Moors. The expedition — which is organised by Caja Duero as part of the Ruta Iberica programme (which aims to strengthen ties between the peninsula’s towns) and has the backing of King Juan Carlos of Spain and President Silva of Portugal — will set out on the ‘Rumbo a las montañas del Rif’, the Rif mountain trail. The aim of the initiative is to give participants the chance to see the area that the Moors settled into in Morocco four centuries ago — the essence of their culture and traditions. The group will also visit the places which keep the long Muslim presence in Spain alive, so as to explore a shared history which is today renewed in new bonds of friendship and cooperation. Other than the sheer experience of the trip, the youngsters will also take lessons from experts in Islamic culture in general and on the period of history relating to the Ruta Iberica 2009 as they travel on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar. The organisers hope that the communal life, cultural exchange and learning about their common histories will help the participants to erase common misconceptions and ease the tensions often caused by migration from Morocco to the Iberian peninsula. In the two previous times that the Ruta Iberica has been held, it only included Portugal and Spain, with themed expeditions on ‘A Portuguese-Spanish Cartographic Adventure: 1507-2007’ and ‘Iberian Rivers: water’s journey in the peninsulà, in 2008. However, apart from the expedition, Spain is marking the fourth centenary of the expulsion of the Moors with a real flood of events. In the last few weeks in Granada, an international conference involving more than 80 European, North American and Southern Mediterranean specialists, took a deeper look at the ‘Moorish Question’: the history of a minority, symbol of ideological plurality, historiography and geography which the tri-level culture of Spain still holds in its syncretistic DNA, despite the Catholic kings’ banishment of the Moors and the Jews. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: New Blow to Rejected Tamil Asylum Seekers

Switzerland should keep sending rejected Tamil asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka, the House of Representatives decided on Thursday. The House agreed with the Senate, which voted on the issue earlier this week. Both have followed the view of Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf that halting repatriation would send the wrong signal.

The 26-year conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers rebel group seeking independence for the north came to an end earlier this month.

Switzerland, which already has a large Tamil community, is expecting more refugees. According to Widmer-Schlumpf, by mid-May there had already been 662 new asylum requests.

The minister said that all cases were considered carefully by the migration authorities. So far one quarter of applicants had not fulfilled the criteria for acceptance. But she said no one would be repatriated to the troubled northern and eastern areas.

The foreign affairs committees of both chambers of parliament had come out in favour of halting repatriation. Hans-Jürg Fehr, chairman of the House’s foreign affairs committee, said that although the civil war was over, any Tamil who was sent back risked being the target of revenge attacks and even assassination.

A number of international humanitarian organisations, including the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross, have called on the Sri Lankan authorities to grant them full access to Tamils displaced from their homes by the fighting and now living in government-controlled camps.

However, a motion by European countries demanding that Sri Lanka investigate reports of human rights abuses committed by government forces was defeated at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Speak the Language, Then Get Swiss Passport

The government is facing calls by parliament to make knowledge of one of the four national languages a prerequisite for obtaining a Swiss passport. The House of Representatives on Thursday approved a motion demanding applicants for citizenship speak German, French, Italian or Romansh fluently.

Speakers said it was key for integration into society for foreigners to be fluent in a national idiom.

The proposal, which still has to be discussed by the Senate, stops short of supporting a call by the rightwing People’s Party that written skills should also be tested.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said the government would include the latest proposal in a legal amendment next year.

In a related move, the House of Representatives backed a crackdown on marriages of convenience.

Despite opposition by the centre-left, it decided to extend from five to eight years the period in which marriages entered into for social or economic benefit can be declared invalid.

Supporters argued the current statute was too short and was often undermined by lengthy legal procedures.

The Federal Migration Office investigates about 500 suspected marriages of convenience every year.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Amil Imani: Is Democracy the Killer of Liberty?

I repeat: Is democracy the killer of liberty? The dictionary defines democracy as the rule of the people. Even at its best, “democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest,” according to Winston Churchill.

Is democracy a very bad form of government? Does it hold the threat of destroying humanity’s most precious right — liberty? Here are some things to think about.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani [Return to headlines]

U.N. Red and U.S. “Progressives” Plan Socialist World Government

While meaningless United Nations hand-wringing over the North Korean nuclear weapons program garners the headlines, the world body is moving ahead with a global conference to lay the groundwork for world government financed by global taxes. The communist head of the U.N. General Assembly is leading the effort, but he is getting crucial support from “progressive” economists who advise the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party….

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Celebrating Diversity for Profit

San Francisco comedian Will Franken gives advice to small businesses on how to profit by celebrating diversity (apologies for the abrupt ending):

This video came from the future Baron, who included two more (not entirely PG-13) in his email:

And below the jump is a humorous CV that the fB picked up off Will Franken’s Facebook profile:
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Lofretta Blipboom is the first African-American woman. Despite her Hispanic/Latina heritage, she is proud to be a lesbian working hard for the equality of Filipinos. Last year, she was awarded the Asian-American Medal of The Pink Ribbon in honor of her achievements in the Islamic community of Northern Ireland. In addition to her efforts at removing guns from the hands of inner-city streets, she continues to work within the homosexually-gay Native American population of Pakistan through such programs as T.H.R.U.S.T. and P.E.E. in order to further the knowledge of abortions and the education of condoms.

Lofretta lives alone in Femur, OK with her three children: Dot, Feather, and Scalp. She divides her time between sleeping and waking, often confusing the two in a literary lucidity which she uses to great advantage in works such as Morgan’s Wheel: How Freeman Redeemed Shawshank (1995) and the The Brown Escalator: Civil Rights in the age of Multi-Floored Malls (1987)

Affirmative Hope is Lofretta’s nineteenth book on the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. Her relentlessness in chronicling the minute-by-minute activities which led up to the capturing, by camera 3, a few seconds before 10:17 a.m., on the morning of January 20th, 2009, of our 44th president’s famous half-smile and head-tilt have earned her the moniker “The Chocolate James Joyce”.

Lofretta is also a trustee of “The Leni Riefenstahl Girls”, a non-profit, female-run, racially-empowered, diversity-driven, multiculturally-fueled, rainbow-generated, Fortune 500 company — dedicated to the conversion of black-and-white movies to black. Between books, she volunteers at the Po’ Center, silkscreening Che Guevara images on camouflage T-shirts for disenfranchised rich white girls. On Tuesday afternoons, she hosts the popular NPR radio programme, Sanctimony Live.

In her spare time, Lofretta is a black nationalist, a black panther, an illegal immigrant, an employer of illegal immigrants, a highly-paid diversity seminar leader, a tenured race and gender-obsessed literature professor, a college girl in a keffiyeh, an exploding Palestinian, a Marxist, a death-row inmate, a militant dyke couple, and a writer and performer of numerous poems she’s written about her [female and male sexual organs].

I’m looking forward to more material from Will Franken.

Europeans As Victims of Colonialism

The Fjordman Report

The noted blogger Fjordman is filing this report via Gates of Vienna.
For a complete Fjordman blogography, see The Fjordman Files. There is also a multi-index listing here.

JihadIn my book Defeating Eurabia I have included a chapter entitled Fourteen Centuries of War Against European Civilization, which deals with Islamic colonization of and attacks on the European continent since the seventh century AD. This part of history, when Europeans were victims of colonialism and slave raids, deserves much more emphasis than it currently receives, when the focus is almost exclusively on the briefer European colonial period.

In 2008, demands were made that France must make reparations for its colonial past in Algeria. I’m not an expert on French colonial history, but if I recall correctly, the French were at least partly motivated for establishing themselves in Algeria due to the Barbary pirates, who continued their evil activities well into the nineteenth century. The period of French rule is the only period of civilization Algeria has experienced since the Romans. Muslims have been raiding Europe, especially the southern regions but sometimes even north of the Alps, since the seventh century. In fact, the only period during more than 1300 years when they haven’t done this was during the time of European colonialism. Moreover, there are now more North Africans in France than there ever were Frenchmen in North Africa. If non-Europeans can resist colonization and expel intruders, why can’t Europeans do the same thing?

Even among countries in Western Europe, only a minority have a significant colonial history, and several of them like Spain and Portugal had themselves been colonized before. Spain, which did have an extensive colonial empire, was herself a victim of colonialism significantly longer than she was a colonizer. As Ibn Warraq says in his book Defending the West :

“Where the French presence lasted fewer than four years before they were ignominiously expelled by the British and Turks, the Ottomans had been the masters of Egypt since 1517, a total of 280 years. Even if we count the later British and French protectorates, Egypt was under Western control for sixty-seven years, Syria for twenty-one years, and Iraq for only fifteen — and, of course, Saudi Arabia was never under Western control. Contrast this with southern Spain, which was under the Muslim yoke for 781 years, Greece for 381 years, and the splendid new Christian capital that eclipsed Rome — Byzantium — which is still in Muslim hands. But no Spanish or Greek politics of victimhood apparently exist.”

Jihad in the WestPaul Fregosi in his book Jihad in the West: Muslim Conquests from the 7th to the 21st Centuries calls Islamic Jihad “the most unrecorded and disregarded major event of history. It has, in fact, been largely ignored,” although it has been a fact of life in Europe, Asia and Africa for almost 1400 years. As Fregosi says, “Western colonization of nearby Muslim lands lasted 130 years, from the 1830s to the 1960s. Muslim colonization of nearby European lands lasted 1300 years, from the 600s to the mid-1960s. Yet, strangely, it is the Muslims…who are the most bitter about colonialism and the humiliations to which they have been subjected; and it is the Europeans who harbor the shame and the guilt. It should be the other way around.”

Islamic Jihad raids started in the Mediterranean in the seventh century AD. A proto-typical Muslim naval razzia occurred in 846 when a fleet of Arab Jihadists arrived at the mouth of the Tiber, made their way to Rome, sacked the city, and carried away from the basilica of St. Peter all of the gold and silver it contained. The reason why the Vatican became a “city within the city” in Rome with fortifications was due to repeated attacks by Muslims (Saracens). Here is a quote from the book Rome: Art & Architecture, edited by Marco Bussagli:

Leo IV’s major building project is generally considered to be the fortification of the Vatican area. After the devastation wrought by the Saracens in St. Peter’s, profoundly shocking to the Christian world, it was decided to fortify the area around St. Peter’s tomb. Leo III had already made this decision, but little had been done because of the theft of the materials set aside for the job. Leo IV, who had already undertaken the repair of the Aurelian walls, gates, and towers, organized the work in such a way that within four years he saw it complete. On June 27, 852 the ceremony of consecration of the walls was performed, in the presence of the pope and clergy, who, barefoot and with heads smeared with ashes, processed round the entire circuit of the fortifications, sprinkling them with holy water and at every gate calling on divine protection against the enemy that threatened the inhabitants. The enclosed area was to take on the status of a city in its own right, which was both separate and distinct from the Urbe of Rome, despite its proximity to it.

Such attacks were the rule in many regions of Eurasia, not just in Europe. Indian historian K. S. Lal states that wherever Jihadists conquered a territory, “there developed a system of slavery peculiar to the clime, terrain, and populace of the place.” When Muslim armies invaded India, “its people began to be enslaved in droves to be sold in foreign lands or employed in various capacities on menial and not-so-menial jobs within the country.”

While the Arabs dominated during the early centuries of the Islamic era, the Turks soon converted and surpassed them as a force. As they steadily conquered more and more of Anatolia, the Turks reduced many Greeks and other non-Muslims there to slave status: “They enslaved men, women, and children from all major urban centers and from the countryside.” Turkish attacks on nearby European lands lasted well into the modern era.
– – – – – – – –
The Legacy of JihadDr. Andrew G. Bostom, author of the excellent book The Legacy of Jihad, has written about what he calls “ America’s First War on Terror.” Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, then serving as American ambassadors to France and Britain, met in 1786 in London with the Tripolitan Ambassador to Britain, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja. These future American presidents were attempting to negotiate a peace treaty which would spare the United States the ravages of Jihad piracy — murder and enslavement emanating from the so-called Barbary States of North Africa, corresponding to modern Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Bostom notes that “By June/July 1815 the ably commanded U.S. naval forces had dealt their Barbary jihadist adversaries a quick series of crushing defeats. This success ignited the imagination of the Old World powers to rise up against the Barbary pirates.”

Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, has developed new methodical enumeration which indicates that perhaps one and one-quarter million white European Christians were enslaved by Barbary Muslims just from 1530 through 1780 — a far greater number than had been estimated before:

Enslavement was a very real possibility for anyone who traveled in the Mediterranean, or who lived along the shores in places like Italy, France, Spain and Portugal, and even as far north as England and Iceland. Much of what has been written gives the impression that there were not many slaves and minimizes the impact that slavery had on Europe,” Davis said. “Most accounts only look at slavery in one place, or only for a short period of time. But when you take a broader, longer view, the massive scope of this slavery and its powerful impact become clear.

Jihad piracy and slave raids were a fact of life in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions for the better part of a thousand years, if not more, occasionally with Christian retaliations. Italy was politically fragmented and therefore had weak territorial defenses. As late as the seventeenth century along the Adriatic coast, a zone said to be “continually infested by Turks,” even a well-defended town such as Rimini could offer little by way of protection for the local fishermen and coastal farmers. Robert C. Davis explains in Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, the Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800:

Italy was among the most thoroughly ravaged areas in the Mediterranean basin. Lying as it did on the frontline of the two battling empires, Italy was known as ‘the Eye of Christendom’…Especially in areas close to some of the main corsair bases (western Sicily is just 200 kilometers from Tunis) slave taking rapidly burgeoned into a full-scale industry, with a disastrous impact that was apparent at the time and for centuries to come. Those who worked on coastal farms, even 10 or 20 miles from the sea, were unsafe from the raiders — harvesters, vine tenders, and olive growers were all regularly surprised while at their labors and carried off. Workers in the salt pans were often at risk, as were woodcutters and any others of the unprotected poor who traveled or worked along the coasts: indigents like Rosa Antonia Monte, who called herself ‘the poorest of the poor in the city of Barletta [in Puglia],’ and who was surprised together with 42 others, including her two daughters, while out gleaning after the harvest, 4 miles outside of town. Monasteries close to the shore also made easy targets for the corsairs.

A Barbary Corsair

Fishermen were especially at peril. During a period in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Muslim pirates set up semi-permanent bases for themselves at the mouth of the Bay of Naples, attacking small ships. Surrounded by hostile seas on all sides,

the seventeenth century represented a dark period out of which Spanish and Italian societies emerged as mere shadows of what they had been in their earlier, golden ages. For individuals themselves, we can see that the psychological traces of this trauma lasted beyond the time that the larger societies had rebuilt themselves as modern states, long after ‘even the idea ha[d] been lost of these dogs that had brought so much terror.’ It continued just below the surface of the coastal culture of the European Mediterranean even into the first years of the twentieth century, when, as one Sicilian woman put it, ‘The oldest [still] tell of a time in which the Turks arrived in Sicily every day. They came down in the thousands from their galleys and you can imagine what happened! They seized unmarried girls and children, grabbed things and money and in an instant they were [back] aboard their galleys, set sail and disappeared….The next day it was the same thing, and there was always the bitter song, as you could not hear other than the lamentations and invocations of the mothers and the tears that ran like rivers through all the houses.’

Corsairs from cities in North Africa — Tunis, Algiers etc. — would raid ships in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, as well as seaside villages to capture men, women and children. The impact was devastating — France, England and Spain each lost thousands of ships, and long stretches of the Spanish and Italian coasts were almost abandoned by their inhabitants.

At its peak, the destruction and depopulation of some areas probably exceeded what European slavers would later inflict on the African interior. The lives of European slaves were often no better than the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, which later tapped into the preestablished Islamic slave trade in Africa. “As far as daily living conditions, the Mediterranean slaves certainly didn’t have it better,” Davis says. While African slaves did grueling labor on sugar and cotton plantations in the Americas, European slaves were often worked just as hard and as lethally — in quarries, in heavy construction, and above all rowing the corsair galleys.

Young Englishmen risked being surprised by a fleet of Muslim pirates showing up at their village, or being kidnapped while fishing at sea. Thomas Pellow was enslaved in Morocco for twenty-three years after being captured by Barbary pirates as a cabin boy on a small English vessel in 1716. He was tortured until he accepted Islam. For weeks he was beaten and starved, and finally gave in after his torturer resorted to “burning my flesh off my bones by fire, which the tyrant did, by frequent repetitions, after a most cruel manner.”

Throughout most of the seventeenth century, the English alone lost at least 400 sailors a year to the slavers. One American slave reported that 130 American seamen had been enslaved by the Algerians in the Mediterranean and Atlantic just between 1785 and 1793 (which prompted the eventual military response from the Americans mentioned above). In his book White Gold , Giles Milton describes how regular Jihad razzias in Europe extended as far north as distant Iceland in the middle of the North Atlantic, where some local villagers in well-documented attacks in the seventeenth century were kidnapped and dragged off to North Africa as slaves.

As Murray Gordon writes in his book Slavery in the Arab World , the sexual aspects of slavery were disproportionate important in the Islamic world. “Eunuchs commanded the highest prices among slaves, followed by young and pretty white women.” Usually, the high cost of white female slaves made them a luxury which only rich Muslims could afford:

“White women were almost always in greater demand than Africans, and Arabs were prepared to pay much higher prices for Circassian and Georgian women from the Caucasus and from Circassian colonies in Asia Minor. After the Russians seized Georgia and Circassia in the early part of the nineteenth century and, as a result of the Treaty of Adrianople in 1829 under which they obtained the fortresses dominating the road into Turkey from Circassia, the traffic in Circassian women came to a virtual halt. This caused the price of Circassian women to shoot up in the slave markets of Constantinople and Cairo. The situation was almost completely reversed in the early 1840s when the Russians, in exchange for a Turkish pledge to cease their attacks on their forts on the eastern side of the Black Sea, quietly agreed not to interfere in the slave traffic. This unrestricted trade brought on a glut in the Constantinople and Cairo markets, where prices for Circassian women brought them in reach of many ordinary Turks and Egyptians.”

After whites, Abyssinian (Ethiopian) girls were considered the “second best” alternative. Depending on lightness of skin, attractiveness and skills, they cost anywhere from a tenth to a third of the price of a Circassian or Georgian woman. As long as Circassian, Slavic, Greek and other white women were available at affordable prices, Arabs always preferred them to blacks. It is interesting to notice that this pattern was established long before the European colonial period. These days when everything bad in the world is attributed to Europeans, it is common to say that “racism” is a legacy of the European colonial period. In fact, there is a virtually universal preference for light skin, especially for women, in the Middle East, in Asia and in Africa itself, which was present long before European colonial rule in these countries.

According to Murray Gordon, “For a better part of the Middle Ages, Europe served as a valuable source of slaves who were prized in the Muslim world as soldiers, concubines, and eunuchs. It would not long compete with Africa in this trade if only because Christian Europe, with few exceptions, rejected the notion that its people could be enslaved, particularly for the despised Muslim world. In the greatest part of black Africa, by contrast, there were few governments or chiefs that could interpose their authority against the merchants who arrived by caravan and ship in quest of slaves. Lamentably, many African chiefs often became middlemen in the trade by rounding up inhabitants of nearby villages and exchanging them for an assortment of manufactured wares.”

ByzantiumThere are examples where some Europeans sold other Europeans as slaves. This could be done by Vikings or Slavs, but especially by certain Italians, above all the Venetians. Some shipowners from Venice loaded up with Russian and Georgian slaves in the Black Sea and sold them to the Turks or to Venetian sugar plantations in Crete and Cyprus. These kinds of activities, which were harshly condemned by both the Roman Catholic and the Byzantine Churches, should be mentioned for the sake of historical accuracy, but this was clearly of secondary importance compared to the extensive Islamic raids in Europe for many centuries.

Slavery never faced as powerful opposition in Muslim societies as it sometimes did in Christian ones. Toward end of the nineteenth century, questions about slavery were finally raised, but only due to Western influence and military pressure. Murray Gordon writes:

That slavery persisted as long as it did in the Muslim world — it was only abolished in Saudi Arabia in 1962 and as late as 1981 in Mauritania — owed much to the fact that it was deeply anchored in Islamic law. By legitimizing slavery and, by extension, the sordid traffic in slaves (for which there was no legal sanction), Islam elevated these practices to an unassailable moral plan. As a result, in no part of the Muslim world was an ideological challenge ever mounted against slavery. The political structure and social system in Muslim society would have taken a dim view of such a challenge. The sultan of the Ottoman Empire and the potentates who ruled in other Muslim lands owed their thrones as much as to their being religious as well as secular leaders and were therefore duty bound to uphold the faith. Part of this obligation was to assure the normal functioning of the slave system which was an integral part of Islamic society that is embellished in the Koran.

Barbary PiratesUnlike the West, there never was a Muslim abolitionist movement since slavery is permitted according to sharia, Islamic religious law, and remains so to this day. When the open practice of slavery was finally abolished in most of the Islamic world, this was only due to external Western pressure, ranging from the American war against the Barbary pirates to the naval power of the British Empire. Slavery was taken for granted throughout Islamic history and lasted longer than did the Western slave trade. Robert Spencer elaborates in his book A Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t:

Nor was there a Muslim abolitionist movement, no Clarkson, Wilberforce, or Garrison. When the slave trade ended, it was ended not through Muslim efforts but through British military force. Even so, there is evidence that slavery continues beneath the surface in some Muslim countries — notably Saudi Arabia, which only abolished slavery in 1962; Yemen and Oman, both of which ended legal slavery in 1970; and Niger, which didn’t abolish slavery until 2004. In Niger, the ban is widely ignored, and as many as one million people remain in bondage. Slaves are bred, often raped, and generally treated like animals. There are even slavery cases involving Muslims in the United States. A Saudi named Homaidan al-Turki was sentenced in September 2006 to twenty-seven years to life in prison for keeping a woman as a slave in his Colorado home. For his part, al-Turki claimed that he was a victim of anti-Muslim bias.

Slavery involving peoples of all races, Germans, Saxons, Celts and some black Africans, was widely practiced in the Greco-Roman world. The most famous slave rebellion during the Roman era was led by Spartacus, a gladiator-slave from the Thracian people who dominated Bulgaria and the Balkan region close to the Black Sea in early historic times. His rebellion was crushed in 71 BC, and thousands of slaves were crucified alongside the road to Rome as a warning to others. The retreat of slavery in Europe followed the spread of Christianity.

All the way back to the Old Kingdom in ancient Egypt, slavery was an important component of Africa’s trade to other continents. However, according to Robert O. Collins and James M. Burns in A History of Sub-Saharan Africa , “The advent of the Islamic age coincided with a sharp increase in the African slave trade.” The expansion of the trans-Saharan slave trade associated with the Sahelian empire of Ghana was a response to the demand in the markets of Muslim North Africa:

“The moral justification for the enslavement of Africans south of the Sahara by Muslims was accepted by the fact they were ‘unbelievers’ (kafirin) practicing their traditional religions with many gods, not the one God of Islam. The need for slaves, whether acquired by violence or by commercial exchange, revived the ancient but somnolent trans-Saharan trade, which became a major supplier of slaves for North Africa and Islamic Spain. The earliest Muslim account of slaves crossing the Sahara from the Fezzan in southern Libya to Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast was written in the seventh century, but from the ninth century to the nineteenth there are a multitude of accounts of the pillage by military states of the Sahel, known to North African Muslims as bilad al-sudan, (‘land of the blacks’), of pagan Africans who were sold to Muslim merchants and marched across the desert as a most profitable commodity in their elaborate commercial networks. By the tenth century there was a steady stream of slaves taken from the kingdoms of the Western Sudan and the Chad Basin crossing the Sahara. Many died on the way, but the survivors fetched a great profit in the vibrant markets of Sijilmasa, Tripoli, and Cairo.”

The spread of Islam with Arab contacts did bring literacy to sub-Saharan West Africa, but otherwise Muslims stimulated the slave trade from East Africa to the Indian Ocean, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, and some African slaves were shipped as far as Central Asia and India. When Europeans began to arrive in force in sub-Saharan Africa.

Africa north of the Sahara and the Red Sea coast was known to the ancient Mediterranean world, but sub-Saharan Africa was not. The Portuguese made planned expeditions along West Africa in the fifteenth century, which required decades of improvements in navigation and shipbuilding before they could round the Cape of Good Hope and reach the Indian Ocean.

AbyssiniaWhile the extensive Portuguese participation in the transatlantic slave trade is widely known, not everybody knows that Cristóvão da Gama (1516-1542), son of the great Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama (ca. 1460-1524), fought in Ethiopia in support of local Christians in the early 1540s, and died there. The Ethiopians were the only literate African nation not under Islamic rule; they had been Christianized via the Egyptian Copts already in the fourth and fifth centuries AD, but had been virtually cut off from direct contact with the Mediterranean Christian world after the Islamic conquests. Portuguese mercenaries arrived to prevent the Ethiopian kingdom from being overwhelmed by Muslims from the plains of Somalia. Robert O. Collins and James M. Burns explain in A History of Sub-Saharan Africa:

Its monarchy had captured the last Muslim stronghold in Portugal in 1249 and in 1385 had initiated a stable political system under the new dynasty, the house of Avis, isolated on the western coast of Europe with a powerful and suspicious Spain as its neighbor to the east. The gold of Africa would provide the resources to defend the kingdom and finance Portuguese expeditions around Africa to the Indian Ocean and Asia in order to reap the wealth from the spice trade. Moreover, beyond the Sahara Desert lived the non-Muslim peoples of West Africa who perhaps could be converted to Christianity and enlisted in the crusade against the Muslims….And then there was the compelling legend of Prester John, which ignited the desire of medieval European monarchs to succor this beleaguered Christian king surrounded by Muslim enemies somewhere in the East. By the fifteenth century the legend of Prester John had come to be associated with Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in northeast Africa; his Christian subjects were said to be defending the faith against the jihad (holy war) of Islam. No Portuguese king, noble, or peasant could neglect their Christian responsibility to come to the aid of Prester John and his people.

Moreover, what was to become in ensuing centuries a worldwide European expansion and exploration of the seas started in Portugal in the fifteenth century with the initiatives of Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460). Incidentally, the exploration of the African coasts began with the Portuguese in 1415 capturing the North African port of Ceuta, which had been used as a base for Muslim Barbary pirates in their attacks on the coasts of Portugal, capturing the locals as slaves and depopulation several regions because of repeated attacks.

One of the most important reasons for this early European overseas expansion was the desire to get away from the iron grip Muslims had enjoyed over the European continent for so long. Norman Davies in his massive book Europe: A History elaborates:

Islam’s impact on the Christian world cannot be exaggerated. Islam’s conquests turned Europe into Christianity’s main base. At the same time the great swathe of Muslim territory cut the Christians off from virtually all direct contact with other religions and civilizations. The barrier of militant Islam turned the [European] Peninsula in on itself, severing or transforming many of the earlier lines of commercial, intellectual and political intercourse. In the field of religious conflict, it left Christendom with two tasks — to fight Islam and to convert the remaining pagans. It forced the Byzantine Empire to give lasting priority to the defence of its Eastern borders, and hence to neglect its imperial mission in the West. It created the conditions where the other, more distant Christian states had to fend for themselves, and increasingly to adopt measures for local autonomy and economic self-sufficiency. In other words, it gave a major stimulus to feudalism. Above all, by commandeering the Mediterranean Sea, it destroyed the supremacy which the Mediterranean lands had hitherto exercised over the rest of the Peninsula.

No European peoples suffered more from Islamic colonialism than those in the Balkans. Sir Jadunath Sarkar, the pre-eminent historian of Mughal India, wrote this about dhimmitude, the humiliating apartheid system imposed upon non-Muslims under Islamic rule: “The conversion of the entire population to Islam and the extinction of every form of dissent is the ideal of the Muslim State. If any infidel is suffered to exist in the community, it is as a necessary evil, and for a transitional period only.…A non-Muslim therefore cannot be a citizen of the State; he is a member of a depressed class; his status is a modified form of slavery. He lives under a contract (dhimma) with the State.…In short, his continued existence in the State after the conquest of his country by the Muslims is conditional upon his person and property made subservient to the cause of Islam.”

Map of the Balkans

This “modified form of slavery” is now frequently referred to as the pinnacle of “tolerance.” If the semi-slaves rebel against this system and desire equal rights and self-determination, Jihad resumes. This happened with the Christian subjects of the Ottoman Empire, who were repressed with massacres, culminating in the genocide by Turkish and Kurdish Muslims against Armenians in the 20th century.

The Balkans, with its close connections to Byzantium, was a reasonably sophisticated region in medieval times, until the Ottomans Turks devastated much of the area. One of the most appalling aspects of this was the practice of devshirme, the collecting of boys among the Christians who were forcibly converted to Islam and taught to hate their own kin. Andrew G. Bostom quotes the work of scholar Vasiliki Papoulia, who highlights the continuous desperate struggle of the Christian populations against this forcefully imposed Ottoman levy:

It is obvious that the population strongly resented…this measure [and the levy] could be carried out only by force. Those who refused to surrender their sons— the healthiest, the handsomest and the most intelligent — were on the spot put to death by hanging. Nevertheless we have examples of armed resistance. In 1565 a revolt took place in Epirus and Albania. The inhabitants killed the recruiting officers and the revolt was put down only after the sultan sent five hundred janissaries in support of the local sanjak-bey. We are better informed, thanks to the historic archives of Yerroia, about the uprising in Naousa in 1705 where the inhabitants killed the Silahdar Ahmed Celebi and his assistants and fled to the mountains as rebels. Some of them were later arrested and put to death.

The Christian subjects tried for centuries to combat this evil practice:

Since there was no possibility of escaping [the levy] the population resorted to several subterfuges. Some left their villages and fled to certain cities which enjoyed exemption from the child levy or migrated to Venetian—held territories. The result was a depopulation of the countryside. Others had their children marry at an early age…Nicephorus Angelus…states that at times the children ran away on their own initiative, but when they heard that the authorities had arrested their parents and were torturing them to death, returned and gave themselves up. La Giulletiere cites the case of a young Athenian who returned from hiding in order to save his father’s life and then chose to die himself rather than abjure his faith. According to the evidence in Turkish sources, some parents even succeeded in abducting their children after they had been recruited. The most successful way of escaping recruitment was through bribery. That the latter was very widespread is evident from the large amounts of money confiscated by the sultan from corrupt…officials.

Lee Harris in his book The Suicide of Reason describes how this practice of devshirme, the process of culling the best, brightest and fittest “alpha boys,” targeted the non-Muslim subject populations:

The bodyguard of Janissaries ‘had the task of protecting the sovereign from internal and external enemies,’ writes scholar Vasiliki Papoulia. ‘In order to fulfill this task it was subjected to very rigorous and special training, the janissary education famous in Ottoman society. This training made possible the spiritual transformation of Christian children into ardent fighters for the glory of the sultan and their newly acquired Islamic faith.’ Because the Christian boys had to be transformed into single-minded fanatics, it was not enough that they simply inherit their position. They had to be brainwashed into it, as we would say today, and this could be done most effectively with boys who had been completely cut off from all family ties. By taking the boys from their homes, and transporting them to virtually another world, devçirme assured that there would be no conflict of loyalties between family and duty to the empire. All loyalty would be focused on the group itself and on the sultan.

This practice drained the strength of the Christian populations. Harris again:

The culling of these alpha boys had two effects, both of them good for the Ottoman Empire, both bad for the subject population. By filling the critical posts in the Ottoman Empire with boys who had been selected on the basis of their intrinsic merit, and not on their family connection, the Empire was automatically creating a meritocracy — if a boy was tough, courageous, intelligent, and fanatically loyal, he was able to work his way up the Ottoman hierarchy; indeed, as we have seen, he become a member of the ruling elite, despite having the formal title of being the sultan’s slave. The Ottoman Empire was both strengthening itself through acquiring these alpha boys, and weakening its subject population by taking their best and brightest. Thanks to the institution of devçirme, the more ‘fit’ Christian boys who would be most likely to be the agents of rebellion against the Empire become the fanatical Muslim warriors who were used to suppress whatever troubles the less ‘fit’ Christian boys left behind were able to cause.

The most enduring legacy of the centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule in the Balkans is the presence of large indigenous Muslim communities. Srdja Trifkovic explains in Kosovo: The Score 1999-2009, a book dedicated to the anniversary of the NATO bombing of Serbia, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Christian Serbs by predominantly Muslim Albanians:

The Balkan Peninsula is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse regions in the world, especially considering its relatively small area (just over 200,000 square miles) and population (around 55 million). Of that number, Eastern Orthodox Christians — mainly Greeks, Bulgars, Serbs and Slavic Macedonians — have the slim majority of around 53 percent; Sunni Muslims (11 million Turks in European Turkey and a similar number of Albanians, Slavic Muslims and ethnic Turks elsewhere) make up 40 percent; and Roman Catholics (mainly Croats) are at around 5 percent. Those communities do not live in multicultural harmony. Their mutual lack of trust that occasionally turns into violence is a lasting fruit of the Turkish rule. Four salient features of the Ottoman state were institutionalized, religiously justified discrimination of non-Muslims; personal insecurity; tenuous coexistence of ethnicities and creeds without intermixing; and the absence of a unifying state ideology or supra-denominational source of loyalty. It was a Hobbesian world, and it bred a befitting mindset; the zero-sum game approach to politics, in which one side’s gain is perceived as another’s loss. That mindset has not changed, almost a century since the disintegration of the Empire.

Trifkovic warns that “The Christian communities all over the Balkans are in a steep, long-term demographic decline. Fertility rate is below replacement level in every majority-Christian country in the region. The Muslims, by contrast, have the highest birth rates in Europe, with the Albanians topping the chart. On current form it is likely that Muslims will reach a simple majority in the Balkans within a generation.”

The wars in the Balkans are a direct result of the legacy of Turkish Muslim colonialism. So why does nobody demand that the Turks should pay reparations to their former subjects, starting with the Armenians, who suffered a Jihad genocide less than a century ago, and continuing with the Serbs, the Bulgarians, the Greeks, the Croatians and others who have suffered hundreds of years of abuse and exploitation at their hands?

There is a persistent myth that the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions happened only because Europeans “plundered” other continents. This is easily disproved since there is little correlation between which countries had extensive colonial empires and which developed sophisticated scientific-industrial economies. Portugal had several colonies and was an active participant in the transatlantic slave trade, yet it is one of the poorest countries in Western Europe, in sharp contrast to Sweden, Switzerland or Finland which have no colonial histories.

The Spanish brought much silver and gold back from their colonies in Latin America, which had sometimes been extracted under very harsh conditions. Yet the Spanish never developed a leading role in European science and technology. The Italians were much more prominent in European science then the Spanish despite the fact that they had no colonial history, if for no other reason than because “Italy” as a state did not exist before the second half of the nineteenth century. The same can be said even more about Germany. The Germans outperformed the French and sometimes even the British at the dawn of the twentieth century in science and technology, despite the fact that the two latter had global colonial empires whereas the Germans held only a few, rather marginal colonies.

If we look at the post-Roman period as a whole, a picture emerges where Europe was under siege by hostile aliens for most of the time, yet succeeded against all odds. Already before AD 1300, Europeans had created a rapidly expanding network of universities, an institution which had no real equivalent anywhere else, and had invented mechanical clocks and eyeglasses. It is easy to underestimate the importance of this, but the ability to make accurate measurements of natural phenomena was of vital importance during the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions. The manufacture of eyeglasses led indirectly to the development of microscopes and telescopes, and thus to modern medicine and astronomy. The network of universities facilitated the spread of information and debate and served as an incubator for many later scientific advances. All of these innovations were made centuries before European colonialism had begun, indeed at a time when Europe itself was a victim of colonialism and had been so for a very long time. Parts of Spain were still under Islamic occupation, an aggressive Jihad was being waged by the Turks in the remaining Byzantine lands, and the coasts from France via Italy to Russia had suffered centuries of Islamic raids.

Update on that Offensive American Flag

The Stars and Stripes

Takuan Seiyo sends the following information:

Here are the contacts for the hospital, should you care to let them know what you think about their kowtowing to people who are “offended” by the American flag.

What a disgraceful bunch of cowards.

Mansfield Hospital Administrator Rhonda Williams: 817-473-6101

Mansfield Health Care:

President & CEO Paul Diaz:

Executive VP & CFO Richard Lechleiter:

You can also reach him at 502-596-7734.

[Post ends here]

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/27/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/27/2009North Korea, sensing a foreign policy vacuum at the highest levels of the United States government, is becoming increasingly bellicose. After testing a nuclear device and a short-range missile, it has repudiated the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War, and says that any interference with its global arm sales constitutes an act of war.

In other news, 2008 was a record year for wine in Morocco, which produced of 33 million bottles of the delightful but extremely haram beverage.

Thanks to Andy Bostom, C. Cantoni, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JCPA, KGS, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
China Warns Federal Reserve Over ‘Printing Money’
China Still Buying Record Amounts of U.S. Bonds: Report
Russian Economic Slide Worsening
Andrew Bostom: Stop Ignoring Islam’s Antisemitic Doctrine
Obama, Another Jimmy Carter?
Ralph Peters: Instant Justice: Gitmo? No, Kill Thugs on Spot
Those Who Make Us Say ‘Oh!’
Governor-General’s Hearty Seal Meal ‘Proper Etiquette’
Greyhound Killer’s Fate Will Not be Divulged
Europe and the EU
Ann Woolner: Newspapers Must Control Internet ‘Parasite’
Austria: Wounded Sikh Guru Rallies in Hospital
Brussels: On Regional Elections
Copenhagen: Police Drop Case Against Anti-Jewish Chanter
Denmark: Climate Conference Sex Boom
Denmark: Christiania Loses Court Case
Hungary: Holocaust Train Vandalised
Italy: Requests for ‘Debaptisms’ Soar in Milan
Italy: Berlusconi Renews Attack on Judiciary
Italy: Fans Stabbed in Rome Conquest
Netherlands: Surprise at “All Part of the Job” Court Ruling
Netherlands: Impunity for Dutch Massacre in Indonesia Was Given 60 Years Ago
Netherlands: Raising Carlos: Making the Case for Sterilising Drug-Addicted Mothers
Opel Bid a Lottery, Fiat Chief Says
Spain: Two Moroccan Women Crushed to Death on Ceuta Border
Telegraph Columnist May Run Against Tarnished MP
Top British Diplomat Reaffirms His Country’s Support to Turkey’s EU Bid
UK: Chief Constable Takes Government to Court Over ‘Irrational’ Budget Row
UK: Girl Left to Die in Blazing Car After Driver Boyfriend Told Fire Crews No One Was Inside
UK: Marlowe’s Koran-Burning Hero is Censored to Avoid Muslim Anger
UK: Puma Upgrade in Romania is Stalled ‘Over Fears for Votes’
UK: Senior Judge Blames Slow Police Response Times for Britain’s ‘Vigilante Culture’
Walesa Will Urge Irish to Support Lisbon
Croatia: Public Sector Wages to Increase by 77% by 2016
EU, Visa Liberalisation is a Concrete Prospect
North Africa
Morocco: Agreement With Holland to Cooperate Against Crime
Wine: Morocco; Record Production in 2008, 33mln Bottles
Israel and the Palestinians
Lieberman for Ratification Road Map, Livni Attacks
Netanyahu Willing to ‘Give Up Outposts’
Protecting the Contiguity of Israel: The E-1 Area and the Link Between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim
The American Mistake
Middle East
Iran: Tehran Looking to Strengthen Ties With Paraguay
Jordan Jails Thousands Without Trials, HRW Report Says
Lebanon: Colonel Accused of Spying for Israel
Obama to Visit Saudi Arabia to Discuss Peace, Iran
Report: Lebanon Colonel Held for Spying for Israel
Tourism: Israeli Employee Committees Boycott Turkey, Survey
Woman ‘Keeps Mother’s Body in Freezer for 20 Years’
South Asia
Bombs, Fires Rock Thai South
Held in Malaysia for 2 Years
India: Curfew Imposed in Punjab After Sikh Riots
The Euphoria of the Indian Economy After the Results of the Elections
US for Smaller India Role in Kabul
Far East
China Says Being Demonized Over Fake Drugs
N. Korea ‘Told U.S., China of Impending Nuke Test’
N. Korea Throws Nuclear Rattle Out of Pram
North Korea Threatens to Attack South if Ships Searched
North Korea Issues Heated Warning to South
Philippines: 10 Dead in Muslim Clash
S. Korea: Let Roh’s Death End Discord
S.Korea May Need Its Own Deterrent
Australia — Pacific
Cabbie Rapist ‘Honest and Caring’
Visa Changes an Invitation to Smugglers: Opposition
Sub-Saharan Africa
MP Calls for HIV Positive Citizens to be Branded on the Buttocks
Latin America
Bolivia Denies Supplying Iran With Uranium
Alleged People Smuggler Arrested After Arriving in Perth
Denmark: Iraqi Asylum Seekers ‘Will be Sent Home’
Finland: Processing Times of Asylum Applications Drawn Out
Germany is Losing the Cream of Its Workforce to Other Countries
Guantanamo: Tunis Prepared to Welcome Its Citizens, Minister
Italy: Forced Returns Avoid Tragedies, Berlusconi Says
Italy: ‘More European Help’ Needed on Illegal Immigration, Frattini
Italy: Minister Vows Govt to Keep Turning Back Migrant Boats
Libya: 400 Traffickers and Illegals Arrested
Netherlands to Help Greece With Asylum Seekers
Sweden: UN Slams Sweden for Child Rights Failure
UK: Immigrants Choose England Over Scotland
UN to Deter Refugees in Calais From Heading to Britain

Financial Crisis

China Warns Federal Reserve Over ‘Printing Money’

China has warned a top member of the US Federal Reserve that it is increasingly disturbed by the Fed’s direct purchase of US Treasury bonds.

Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, said: “Senior officials of the Chinese government grilled me about whether or not we are going to monetise the actions of our legislature.”

“I must have been asked about that a hundred times in China.. I was asked at every single meeting about our purchases of Treasuries. That seemed to be the principal preoccupation of those that were invested with their surpluses mostly in the United States,” he told the Wall Street Journal.

His recent trip to the Far East appears to have been a stark reminder that Asia’s “Confucian” culture of right action does not look kindly on the insouciant policy of printing money by Anglo-Saxons.

Mr Fisher, the Fed’s leading hawk, was a fierce opponent of the original decision to buy Treasury debt, fearing that it would lead to a blurring of the line between fiscal and monetary policy — and could all too easily degenerate into Argentine-style financing of uncontrolled spending.

However, he agreed that the Fed was forced to take emergency action after the financial system “literally fell apart”.

Nor, he added was there much risk of inflation taking off yet. The Dallas Fed uses a “trim mean” method based on 180 prices that excludes extreme moves and is widely admired for accuracy.

“You’ve got some mild deflation here,” he said.

The Oxford-educated Mr Fisher, an outspoken free-marketer and believer in the Schumpeterian process of “creative destruction”, has been running a fervent campaign to alert Americans to the “very big hole” in unfunded pension and health-care liabilities built up by a careless political class over the years.

“We at the Dallas Fed believe the total is over $99 trillion,” he said in February.

“This situation is of your own creation. When you berate your representatives or senators or presidents for the mess we are in, you are really berating yourself. You elect them,” he said.

His warning comes amid growing fears that America could lose its AAA sovereign rating.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

China Still Buying Record Amounts of U.S. Bonds: Report

TOKYO (Reuters) — China’s official foreign exchange manager is still buying record amounts of U.S. government bonds, in spite of Beijing’s increasingly vocal fear of a dollar collapse, the Financial Times reported..

In a story on its website, the FT quoted Chinese and western officials in Beijing as saying China was caught in a “dollar trap.”

The newspaper said China had little choice but to keep pouring the bulk of its growing reserves into U.S. Treasuries, which remains the only market big enough and liquid enough to support its huge purchases.

The FT’s story lent support to U.S. Treasury futures in Asian trading on Monday, analysts said.

“The FT article probably helped boost the confidence of Treasuries holders who were anxious about potential selling by other players amid worries of a possible U.S. downgrade,” said Yasutoshi Nagai, chief economist at Daiwa Securities SMBC.

Lead T-note futures were 3/32 lower from late U.S. trading on Friday at 119-2.5/32, but off a six-month low of 118-30.5/32 hit earlier on Monday.

The dollar index (.DXY), which measures the dollar’s value against a basket of six major currencies, hit a five-month low late last week, hurt by concerns that U.S. government debt may lose its AAA rating.

China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (Safe) has not fundamentally changed its strategy of allocating the bulk of its burgeoning foreign exchange reserves to U.S. Treasury securities, the FT quoted a western adviser familiar with Safe thinking as saying.

The FT quoted the adviser as saying Safe traders were “very negative” on sterling because of expectations of renewed weakness of the UK currency but Safe was neutral on the euro and bullish on the Australian dollar.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Russian Economic Slide Worsening

Russia’s economy contracted sharply in April — shrinking by 10.5% from the same month a year ago — Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach has said.

The data came as officials were quoted as saying Russia would have a budget deficit equivalent to 9% of GDP in 2009, from an earlier 7.4% prediction.

Russia’s economy had been growing thanks to high oil prices, which peaked at about $147 a barrel last summer.

But since then, the price of oil, a key export, has fallen by more than half.

The sharp drop in the economy in April came after Federal State Statistics figures showed that, on a year-on-year basis, output dropped 9.5% in the first three months of the year.

‘Tough regime’

Industrial output has slowed in the wake of the global economic slowdown, and investors have withdrawn from Russia.

There are fears that poverty levels are rising — with Russian churches reporting a rise in the number of people seeking free meals as a result of the global financial crisis

On Monday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev gave downbeat comments on the country’s economy — though he avoided giving precise statistics on how bad it had become.

However, he called for sharp cutbacks in government spending in a “shift to a regime of tough economising of budget funds”.

Mr Medvedev also hit out at corrupt officials for “sucking” away state funds.

Russia’s regions should be less reliant on Moscow and be prepared to fend more for themselves, he added.

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


Andrew Bostom: Stop Ignoring Islam’s Antisemitic Doctrine

Bronx bomb plot reminds us of a core religious problem

Special to

“These were people who were eager to bring death to the Jews and the Jewish community.” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder provided this apt characterization of the four converts to Islam whose plans to bomb a Bronx synagogue and a Jewish community center were thwarted.

Richard Williams, uncle of the arrested plotter Onta “Hamza” Williams, lamented that his nephew, a Baptist who converted to Islam, “…wasn’t raised this way. All this happened when he became a Muslim in prison.” Indeed, Warith Deen Umar, a Muslim chaplain who worked for 25 years in the New York State prisons and was considered a highly influential cleric, reportedly boasted that this vast incarceration system was, “…the perfect recruitment and training ground for radicalism and the Islamic religion.” During his chaplaincy, Umar also repeatedly gave sermons fomenting Jew hatred, witnessed by prison staff.

But beyond all this, the obvious question persists — although dutifully avoided by our learned religious, media and political elites in this sorry age of Islamic correctness: What Islamic teachings might these American Muslim converts have learned, whether in prison, or elsewhere, which caused them to target their American Jewish neighbors, specifically, for mass killing? Simply put, it is impossible to comprehend this ugly phenomenon without understanding the core, mainstream Islamic theology — still unreformed and unrepentant — which has inspired hatred of Jews since the advent of Islam?

For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, has served as the academic shrine — much as Mecca is the religious shrine — of the global Muslim community. Al Azhar University and its mosque represent the pinnacle of Islamic religious education.

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom [Return to headlines]

Obama, Another Jimmy Carter?

Jimmy Carter took a little over three years to create the image of the US as a confused and soft power. Obama is bidding fair to create that image even in his first year in office. The North Korean defiance is the first result of this perceived soft image.

During the US Presidential primaries last year, I had expressed my misgivings that Barack Obama might turn out to be another Jimmy Carter, whose confused thinking and soft image paved the way for the success of the Islamic Revolution in Iran .The subsequent Iranian defiance of the US and his inability to deal effectively with the incident in which some Iranian students raided the US Embassy in Teheran and held a number of US diplomats hostage led to the disillusionment of sections of the US electorate with him and his failure to get re-elected in 1980. The strong line taken by him against the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet troops towards the end of 1979 did not help him in wiping out the image of a soft and confused President.

The defiant action of North Korea in testing a long-range missile with military applications last month and its latest act of defiance in reportedly carrying out an underground nuclear test on May 25, 2009, can be attributed—at least partly, if not fully— to its conviction that it will have nothing to fear from the Obama Administration for its acts of defiance. It is true that even when George Bush was the President, North Korea had carried out its first underground nuclear test in October 2006. The supposedly strong policy of the Bush Administration did not deter it from carrying out its first test.

After Obama assumed office on January 20, 2009, whatever hesitation was there in North Korea’s policy-making circles regarding the likely response of the Obama Administration has disappeared and its leadership now feels it can defy the US and the international community with impunity.

A series of actions taken by the Obama Administration have created an impression in Iran, the Af-Pak region, China and North Korea that Obama does not have the political will to retaliate decisively if they act in a manner detrimental to US interests and to international peace and security. Among such actions, one could cite the soft policy towards Iran, the reluctance to articulate strongly the US determination to support the security interests of Israel, the ambivalent attitude towards Pakistan despite its continued support to anti-India terrorist groups and its ineffective action against the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistani territory, its silence on the question of the violation of the human rights of the Burmese people and the continued illegal detention of Aung San Suu Kyi by the military regime in Myanmar, and its silence on the Tibetan issue. Its over-keenness to court Beijing in order to seek China’s support for dealing with the economic crisis and its anxiety to ensure the continued flow of Chinese money into the US for investment in the US Treasury Bonds have also added to the soft image of the US.

President Obama cannot blame the problem states of the world such as Iran, Pakistan, Myanmar and North Korea if they have come to the conclusion that they can take liberties with the present Administration in Washington DC without having to fear any adverse consequences. North Korea’s defiance is only the beginning. One has every reason to apprehend that Iran might be the next to follow.

Israel and India have been the most affected by the perceived soft policies of the Obama Administration. Israel is legitimately concerned over the likely impact of this soft policy on the behaviour of Iran. South Korea and Japan, which would have been concerned over the implications of the soft policy of the Obama Administration, had no national option because they had no independent means of acting against North Korea. Israel will not stand and watch helplessly if it concludes that Iran might follow the example of North Korea. I have said it in the past and I say it again that Israel will not hesitate to act unilaterally against Iran if it apprehends that it is on the verge of acquiring a military nuclear capability.

It will prefer to act with the understanding of the US, but if there is no change in the soft policy of the Obama Administration, it will not hesitate to act even without prior consultation with the US.

India too has been noting with concern the total confusion which seems to prevail in the corridors of the Obama Administration over its Af-Pak policy. Some of the recent comments of Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, about alleged past incoherence in the US policy towards Pakistan and about the part-responsibility of the US for the state of affairs in the Af-Pak region have given comfort to the military-intelligence establishment and the political leaders in Pakistan. Obama’s new over-generosity to the Pakistani Armed forces and his reluctance to hold them accountable for their sins of commission and omission in the war against terrorism have convinced the Pakistani leaders that they have no adverse consequences to fear from the Obama Administration. India would be the first to feel the adverse consequences of this newly-found confidence in Islamabad vis-à-vis its relations with the US.

India also has reasons to be concerned over the definite down-grading by the Obama Administration of the importance of the USA’s strategic relationship with India. This down-grading has given satisfaction to Pakistan as well as China.

Jimmy Carter took a little over three years to create the image of the US as a confused and soft power. Obama is bidding fair to create that image even in his first year in office. The North Korean defiance is the first result of this perceived soft image. There will be more surprises for the US and the international community to follow if Obama and his aides do not embark on corrective actions before it is too late.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Ralph Peters: Instant Justice: Gitmo? No, Kill Thugs on Spot

WE made one great mistake regarding Guantanamo: No terrorist should have made it that far. All but a handful of those grotesquely romanticized prisoners should have been killed on the battlefield.

The few kept alive for their intelligence value should have been interrogated secretly, then executed.

Terrorists don’t have legal rights or human rights. By committing or abetting acts of terror against the innocent, they place themselves outside of humanity’s borders. They must be hunted as man-killing animals.

And, as a side benefit, dead terrorists don’t pose legal quandaries.

Captured terrorists, on the other hand, are always a liability. Last week, President Obama revealed his utter failure to comprehend these butchers when he characterized Guantanamo as a terrorist recruiting tool.

Gitmo wasn’t any such thing. Not the real Gitmo. The Guantanamo Obama believes in is a fiction of the global media. With rare, brief exceptions, Gitmo inmates have been treated far better than US citizens in our federal prisons.

But the reality of Gitmo was irrelevant — the left needed us to be evil, to “reveal” ourselves as the moral equivalent of the terrorists. So they made up their Gitmo myths.

Now we’re stuck with sub-human creatures who should be decomposing in unmarked graves in a distant desert. Before reality smacked him between the eyes, Obama made blithe campaign promises and quick-draw presidential pronouncements he’s now unable to fulfill.

Everything’s easier when you’re campaigning and criticizing, but the Oval Office view is a different matter. And suddenly your old allies, who rhapsodized about the evils of Gitmo, no longer have your back.

Odious senators, such as John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, damned Gitmo to hell. But they don’t want to damn the prisoners to Massachusetts (given that few al Qaeda members can swim, Cape Cod seems a splendid place for a prison). Don’t the icons of ethics want to solve the problem?

Or should we send the Gitmo Gang to California’s Eighth Congressional District, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s constituents could guarantee an end to waterboarding? The good voters of San Francisco could put up their new guests in a grand Nob Hill hotel and stage teach-ins to explain why America’s so nasty.

Another option — which would save taxpayers millions — would be to encourage a coalition of, Code Pink and ACORN to sponsor an “Adopt a Terrorist” program.

The only requirement would be that the terrorist has to live full-time with the sponsor’s family so he’d always get plenty of hugs.

On a serious note, it’s not just voter NIMBY-ism that makes this problem so difficult. The practical catches came home to me when last I visited Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.

The grounds of a massive federal penitentiary adjoin that venerable Army post. One Washington-isn’t-thinking proposal would park the terrorists right there in the Big House. But here’s the catch: Ft. Leavenworth’s home to the Army’s Command and General Staff College, attended each year by hundreds of elite foreign officers.

At CGSC, our officers build international relationships that benefit our country for decades to come, while allies and partners learn how to work together. But with Islamist terrorists confined next door — hardly a mile as the crow flies from the Staff College — Muslim countries would withdraw their students from the program under pressure from Islamist factions at home — who’d claim that Ft. Leavenworth was the new Gitmo.

Do we really want to sacrifice our chance to educate officers from the troubled Muslim world? Do we want to destroy an educational program that’s been of tremendous benefit? One that’s advanced the rule of law and human rights?

Other proposed prison locations have their own challenges (although Cape Cod still looks pretty good to me). Meanwhile, our foreign “friends” who shuddered at the imaginary horrors of Gitmo are unwilling to share the burden.

Which brings us back to this column’s opening credo: Terrorists are anathema to civilization and the human race. By their own choice, they’ve set themselves beyond the human collective. Better to eliminate them where you find them than to let them live to become a lunatic cause.

Telling them that we’ll just lock them up and treat them really nice is a better terrorist recruiting tool than Gitmo ever was. Why not become a terrorist, if the punishment’s three hots and a cot, along with better medical care than you’ve ever had in your life?

Plus, you get your own fan club.

Those who worry about the rights of terrorists ensure that these beasts will continue to slaughter the innocent. In your back yard.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Those Who Make Us Say ‘Oh!’

A tribute to America’s war heroes, past and present

More than most nations, America has been, from its start, a hero-loving place. Maybe part of the reason is that at our founding we were a Protestant nation and not a Catholic one, and so we made “saints” of civil and political figures. George Washington was our first national hero, known everywhere, famous to children. When he died, we had our first true national mourning, with cities and states re-enacting his funeral. There was the genius cluster that surrounded him, and invented us-Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Hamilton. Through much of the 20th century our famous heroes were in sports (Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, the Babe, Joltin’ Joe) the arts (Clark Gable, Robert Frost) business and philanthropy (from Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates) and religion (Billy Graham). Nobody does fame like America, and they were famous.

The category of military hero-warrior-fell off a bit, in part because of the bad reputation of war. Some emerged of heroic size-Gens. Pershing and Patton, Eisenhower and Marshall. But somewhere in the 1960s I think we decided, or the makers of our culture decided, that to celebrate great warriors was to encourage war. And we always have too much of that. So they made a lot of movies depicting soldiers as victims and officers as brutish. This was especially true in the Vietnam era and the years that followed. Maybe a correction was in order: It’s good to remember war is hell. But when we removed the warrior, we removed something intensely human, something ancestral and stirring, something celebrated naturally throughout the long history of man. Also it was ungrateful: They put themselves in harm’s way for us.

For Memorial Day, then, three warriors, two previously celebrated but not so known now by the young.

Alvin York was born in 1887 into a Tennessee farming family that didn’t have much, but nobody else did, so it wasn’t so bad. He was the third of 11 children and had an average life for that time and place. Then World War I came. He experienced a crisis of conscience over whether to fight. His mother’s Evangelical church tugged him toward more or less pacifist thinking, but he got a draft notice in 1917, joined the Army, went overseas, read and reread his Bible, and concluded that warfare was sometimes justified.

In the battle of the Argonne in October 1918, the allies were attempting to break German lines when York and his men came upon well-hidden machine guns on high ground. As he later put it, “The Germans got us, and they got us right smart . . . and I’m telling you they were shooting straight.” American soldiers “just went down like the long grass before the mowing machine at home.”

But Cpl. York and his men went behind the German lines, overran a unit, and captured the enemy. Suddenly there was new machine-gun fire from a ridge, and six Americans went down. York was in command, exposed but cool, and he began to shoot. “All I could do was touch the Germans off just as fast as I could. I was sharp shooting. . . . All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to.” A German officer tried to empty his gun into York while York fired. He failed but York succeeded, the Germans surrendered, and York and his small band marched 132 German prisoners back to the American lines.

His Medal of Honor citation called him fearless, daring and heroic.

Warriors are funny people. They’re often naturally peaceable, and often do great good when they return. York went home to Tennessee, married, founded an agricultural institute (it’s still operating as an award-winning public high school) and a Bible school. They made a movie about him in 1941, the great Howard Hawks film “Sergeant York.” If you are in Manhattan this week, you may walk down York Avenue on the Upper East Side. It was named for him. He died in Nashville in 1964 at 77.

Once, 25 years ago, my father (U.S. Army, replacement troops, Italy, 1945) visited Washington, a town he’d never been to. There was a lot to see: the White House, the Lincoln Memorial. But he just wanted to see one thing, Audie Murphy’s grave.

Audie Leon Murphy was born in 1924 or 1926 (more on that in a moment) the sixth of 12 children of a Texas sharecropper. It was all hardscrabble for him: father left, mother died, no education, working in the fields from adolescence on. He was good with a hunting rifle: he said that when he wasn’t, his family didn’t eat, so yeah, he had to be good. He tried to join the Army after Pearl Harbor, was turned away as underage, came back the next year claiming to be 18 (he was probably 16) and went on to a busy war, seeing action as an infantryman in Sicily, Salerno and Anzio. Then came southern France, where the Germans made the mistake of shooting Audie Murphy’s best friend, Lattie Tipton. Murphy wiped out the machine gun crew that did it.

On Jan. 26, 1945, Lt. Murphy was engaged in a battle in which his unit took heavy fire and he was wounded. He ordered his men back. From his Medal of Honor citation: “Behind him . . . one of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire, which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machine gun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from three sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back.”

Murphy returned to Texas a legend. He was also 5-foot-7, having grown two inches while away. He became an actor (44 films, mostly Westerns) and businessman. He died in a plane crash in 1971 and was buried with full honors at Arlington, but he did a warrior-like thing. He asked that the gold leaf normally put on the gravestone of a Medal of Honor recipient not be used. He wanted a plain GI headstone. Some worried this might make his grave harder to find. My father found it, and he was not alone. Audie Murphy’s grave is the most visited site at Arlington with the exception of John F. Kennedy’s eternal flame.

I thought of these two men the other night after I introduced at a dinner a retired Air Force general named Chuck Boyd. He runs Business Executives for National Security, a group whose members devote time and treasure to helping the government work through various 21st-century challenges. I mentioned that Chuck had been shot down over Vietnam on his 105th mission in April 1966 and was a POW for 2,488 days. He’s the only former POW of the era to go on to become a four-star general.

When I said “2,488 days,” a number of people in the audience went “Oh!” I heard it up on the podium. They didn’t know because he doesn’t talk about it, and when asked to, he treats it like nothing, a long night at a bad inn. Warriors always do that. They all deserve the “Oh!”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Governor-General’s Hearty Seal Meal ‘Proper Etiquette’

The thought of Canada’s regal representative wrist-deep in the carcass of a freshly slaughtered seal, skinning a layer of blubber and slicing off a piece of heart to consume may evoke the same charges of savagery as the contentious seal hunt itself, but Governor-General Michaëlle Jean was actually following dining etiquette to the letter.

“She went there to show solidarity, and if that is part of the custom, then it is part of the whole thing. You either do it 100% or you don’t do it,” said professional etiquette consultant Diane Craig. “It was the proper etiquette.”

Ms. Jean joined a community feast in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, on Monday, the first day of a week-long Arctic tour. Using a traditional carving knife to gut and feed from a seal, she kneeled next to a community elder and asked questions about the meal they were about to share.

Ms. Jean reportedly told her daughter, Marie-Eden, the seal tasted like sushi.

A spokeswoman travelling with the Governor-General said Ms. Jean was “warmly received” when she joined the celebration, alongside over one hundred Inuit.

“This celebration involved the serving of raw meat, as is the tradition during community feasts in the North. [Monday] night, raw caribou, arctic char, seal were among the meats served as part of the festivities along with soup and the traditional bread bannock. Everyone was invited to try the different meats including the Governor General,” Marthe Blouin wrote in a statement.

Imagery of the Governor-General wearing a black track suit and kneeling over a seal carcass caused a stir Tuesday. The gesture of solidarity with the country’s beleaguered seal hunters was viewed by many to be an unwelcome break from tradition and an affront to animal rights.

Opinions posted online on Ms. Jean’s participation varied from describing it as “hardcore” and “leadership by example” to “embarrassing” and “shameful.”

Gawker, an American media blog, wrote a column comparing Ms. Jean to Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, notorious for hunting wolves from a helicopter, declaring the Queen’s representative in Canada “clearly the more badass of the two.”

Earlier this month, the European Union voted to impose a ban on seal products to protest commercial hunting methods used in Canada’s seal hunt. The ban is to take effect in 2010.

The Canadian government supports the hunt as crucial for some 6,000 North Atlantic fishermen. While northern Aboriginals are exempt from the ban, they fear the stigma will put an end to their way of life.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals described the incident as a revolting, predictable publicity stunt to save “a dying industry.” Bruce Friedrich, PETA’s vice-president for policy, said the Governor-General was giving Canada even more of a “neanderthal image than it already had.”

“The seal hunt is Canada’s shame, and in 10 years, Canadians will be horrified, saddened, and ashamed that their government defended it for so long. The Governor-General will come to understand her disgusting stunt as the most immoral and stupid thing she has ever done in public life,” Mr. Friedrich said.

Ms. Craig, president of Corporate Class Inc., a Toronto image consulting firm, says politics aside, Ms. Jean was absolutely correct to join her hosts in the centuries-old tradition.

“She was a guest … and you are supposed to eat what the host offers up. In a situation like this, because of the symbolism, it was the right etiquette to do that,” she said. “I’m sure she didn’t have two plates of it.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Greyhound Killer’s Fate Will Not be Divulged

The public may never learn whether a man who decapitated a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus en route to Winnipeg last summer is hospitalized or released.

Manitoba’s criminal code review board meets on Monday to decide whether Vince Li, who was found not criminally responsible for killing Tim McLean last July, should be institutionalized or given a conditional or absolute discharge.

“Our current practice has been to treat the decisions as being private and only available to the parties involved and to the treatment team,” said John Stefaniuk, the chairman of the review board. “However, we are aware that information in other jurisdictions is readily made available, particularly in Ontario and British Columbia.”

Li said the voice of God told him to stab, behead and cannibalize Mr. McLean’s body because the victim was an evil, supernatural demon who would kill him.

Two doctors testified that Li was suffering from a major mental illness, but agreed that despite committing one of the most gruesome crimes in Canadian history, he could one day be rehabilitated and returned to society.

Mr. Stefaniuk said releasing the board’s decision could violate Li’s rights as a patient.

“We have received some advice that the board is subject to provincial privacy legislation. So, of course, if we have advice to that effect, we’re certainly going to comply with that,” he said. “But we’re looking to see to what extent that restricts our ability to release decisions or release reasons for decisions.”

An ethics expert at the University of British Columbia says while the case raises difficult ethical issues, there is a compelling public interest “in what happens to a person like this.”

Michael McDonald, professor at UBC’s W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics, said members of the public will understandably want information on where and when Li may be released, and whether he is safe to be back among the broader community.

“One of the things we would really want to know is what measures have been taken; has the person had adequate treatment that they feel comfortable to release him, and is anyone going to be monitoring the situation,” Mr. McDonald said, noting it would be difficult for the public to gain those assurances if no information on Li’s fate is released.

Mr. McDonald acknowledged there could be a concern about excessive publicity interfering with Li’s road to rehabilitation, but said given the fairly short period of time between the court decision and the determination of his fate, “I would err more on the side of the public’s right to know.”

Bev Scharikow, a spokeswoman for the review board, said decisions are automatically released to “designated parties,” including the Crown, the treatment team, the designated hospital, the patient and his counsel.

“The family are not designated parties,” Ms. Scharikow said, but added that it is “being looked into at this point.”

Ensuring Li’s privacy in the event he is released could also pose challenges. In the Internet age, where photos of Li are readily available, anyone who recognized him in the community could spread information on his whereabouts within seconds, Mr. McDonald noted.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Ann Woolner: Newspapers Must Control Internet ‘Parasite’

There was a time, not long ago, when whoever wanted to use a news story for commercial purposes would actually ask the newspaper’s permission. They might even pay for the privilege.

As outlandish to the Google generation as typewriters, the idea was that newspapers owned their content. And why shouldn’t they?

They pay reporters, photographers and editors to produce news stories. They spend huge sums to send journalists into the world’s danger zones. Then there is the real estate, the buildings, the equipment needed. None of it is cheap.

And yet when I sat at my desk in Atlanta and Googled for the latest news on Obama and Guantanamo Bay, up came links and snippets of stories produced by the Kansas City Star, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Miami Herald and other news organisations. I didn’t pay for the stories. And, for the most part, neither did Google.

You wouldn’t expect General Motors to give away its cars to Toyota. But we have come to expect all the news in the world at the touch of our fingertips, brought to us mostly by search engines and aggregators that gobble up the product often without paying the producers a penny.

Thanks in part to a steady diet of free food, Google has grown into a worldwide giant while newspapers have had their guts hollowed out.

That isn’t the only reason, not even the main reason, newspapers totter on the brink of extinction. To some degree they have cut out their own guts.

Profit-hungry publishers kept trimming staffs, downgrading the product and shrinking circulation areas long before the internet started sucking away ads or sucking in content. At the same time, publishers ignored the potential the internet offered for a cleaner, cheaper, quicker news delivery and cost-efficient want-ads.

But that still doesn’t mean newspapers should have to continue giving search engines and news aggregators a free ride. It is in no one’s interest for news organisations to collapse. Who would cover the news? The blogger next door?

If you eliminate straight news from journalists backed by newspapers or broadcast organisations, the internet has very little professionally produced, straight news reporting.

The internet has commentary and analysis, search engines and aggregators.

This sort of thing “leeches that reporting from mainstream news publications,” as former Baltimore Sun reporter David Simon put it this month before a Senate subcommittee.

“The parasite is slowly killing the host,” testified Simon, author and writer of the HBO series The Wire.

While journalists and entrepreneurs look, belatedly, for a way to make journalism work online, newspapers are going bankrupt, their staffs shrinking.

Without the host, what will happen to the parasite?

“You have to have some kind of compensation for the use of content that amounts to journalism, or otherwise you’re not going to have journalism,” says Bruce Sanford, a media lawyer in Washington with Baker Hostetler.

News organisations already have it within their power to force a sea change by claiming ownership over that which is already theirs.

Search engines and news aggregators are probably within the law in offering headlines, snippets and links to news stories. That is, no doubt, fair use and permissible under copyright law.

When they want to display more, as Google does with Associated Press stories, for example, they get licensing agreements and pay.

But even to offer those snippets, Google electronically scoops up all the content on every website around and stores it on a database. That isn’t fair use, even though Google doesn’t show the data to others.

Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker says all that newspapers have to do to prevent Google from copying their websites is to opt out, either wholesale or on a story-by-story basis.

Some do. Most don’t.

But if all of them opted out, the search engines, the aggregators and their readers might realise that news is worth paying for. It could help save a critically ill and critically important industry.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Austria: Wounded Sikh Guru Rallies in Hospital

Vienna, 26 May (AKI) — The health of a Sikh guru who was attacked at a temple in the Austrian capital Vienna at the weekend has improved considerably, the Indian embassy said on Tuesday. According to a report by the Austria News Agency citing the embassy, 68-year-old guru, Sant Niranjan Dass, has improved after he had surgery.

Dass underwent surgery after Sunday’s attack at the Rudolsheim temple where another guru 57-year-old Sant Rama Nan was killed.

“Sant Niranjan Dass is doing well,” the embassy said. “He could soon be released from the hospital.”

Dass’s deputy, Sant Rama Nan, succumbed to his injuries and died in a Vienna hospital on Monday.

Six people were arrested in connection with the attack on Sunday in Vienna’s 15th district. Police said six bearded, knife and gun wielding attackers entered the temple, shot the two visiting gurus and attacked worshippers.

Four of the wounded were suspects, two of them in a serious condition, according to police.

About 150 people were in the temple when the violence took place, police said. Authorities are investigating what triggered the attacks.

Austrian interior minister Maria Fekter said Austria’s community of around 3,000 Sikhs have lived there “exceptionally peacefully”.

India’s external affairs minister S.M. Krishna said on Monday that the Indian government would take all necessary steps to bring the culprits of the Vienna violence to justice.

“We are receiving the cooperation of the Austrian authorities and are determined to ensure the perpetrators of this completely mindless and wanton attack are brought to justice,” he said.

The Indian embassy in Vienna was in close contact with the Austrian foreign ministry, the Viennese police and the Austrian authorities, he said.

“There is no excuse whatever for the violation of the sacred premises of the gurudwara (temple) to sub serve narrow sectarian interests and other purposes,” Krishna said.

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

Brussels: On Regional Elections

Samira at Hungarian-language blog a fátyol alatt reports (in French) that election posters in the Brussels Region for the regional Belgian elections, particularly in Molenbeek and Ixelles (Elsene), feature many North African and Turkish names.

The posters in these areas belong mostly to the Francophone Reformist Movement (RM), Humanist Democratic Party (cdH), and Socialist party (PS).

In 2007 Muslims were estimated to be 7.5% of the French Community and 11.8% in Brussels, and on the increase. This electorate is potentially more imporatnt, since youth make up 32%, compared with 23% elsewhere.

Muslims are voting Left — in recent elections the Socialists got 43% and the CdH 18.7%, which between 2004 and 2007 got an infusion fo votes from MR. Today the Socialists get most of the Muslim votes, despite having an atheist ideology, while traditional ethical values play a fundmanetal role in voting for CdH, whch was founded on religious identity.

Just a third of the Muslim electorate of 2007 attended a mosque regularly. Two thirds said they were not practicing.

Samira says that Musilms vote for the Left for socio-demographic causes. Muslims belong to the disadvantaged group: workers, employed and unemployed, and women, who make up just 6.6% of the Muslim electorate, tend to vote Left.

Dutch language blog In Flanders Field looked at the Socialist Party and published a list of the apparently Muslim candidates. 26 of the 72 PS candidates (36%) are Muslim.

Meanwhile, the Francophone Humanist Democratic Party tried to hide (1, 2 NL) the Muslim headscarf of one of their canddiates — Mahinur Ozdemir, number 21 on the list…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Copenhagen: Police Drop Case Against Anti-Jewish Chanter

The video was posted online by Ted Ekeroth, who quotes the man, who led the crowd in Danish and Arabic chants, as saying “we want to kill all the Jews, all they Jews should be slain, they have no right to exist!” (h/t Dan Ritto)

The same man is also seen giving the Nazi salute while shouting “Down, down Israel, viva, viva Palestina.”

“We will kill the Jews all over the world” and “All Jews will be butchered” were chants shouted during a demonstration in front of the Copenhagen city hall in January and the man doing so can be both seen and heard on video tape. And yet, the statements will not have any immediate consequences. Copenhagen Police has decided to drop the case on transgression of article 266b of the penal code, also called the ‘racism paragraph’.

The reason for the decision is that police couldn’t find out the perpetrator’s identity.

“There exists only one video clip in the case, where the perpetrator can be seen and the statements can be heard, and this hasn’t been sufficient to find out the perpetrator’s identity,” according to the decision.

This surprises the Documentation Centre Racism and Discrimination (DRC), since the video clip shows that the police stood by and could have intervened.

DRC head Niels-Erik Hansen says that they could have certainly arrested and charged him. But they didn’t do so and didn’t ask for his identity either. This means, he says, that we have rules, but they aren’t maintained.

Two demonstrations were held in front of city hall on Saturday, January 10. One in support of Israel and a counter-demonstration, which supported the Palestinians, and the atmosphere was strained..

Source: TV 2 (Danish)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Climate Conference Sex Boom

Copenhagen’s sex trade did brisk business during the recent business climate conference.

The global climate challenge may have been on the daytime agenda during the recent World Business Summit climate conference in Copenhagen, but in the evenings many businessmen, politicians and civil servants are reported to have availed themselves of the capital’s prostitutes.

“We’ve been extremely busy. Politicians also need to relax after a long day,” says ‘Miss Dina’, herself a prostitute.

Good for the economy Nyhedsbrevet 3F called various escort agencies and prostitutes to hear whether they had been busier than normal during the climate conference — and all agreed; summits in Copenhagen are good for the economy.

Dorit Otzen, who leads Reden International says that major events in Copenhagen attract more sex workers.

“A lot of men in one place means more work for prostitutes. At the same time we have a government that will not ban prostitution, so in fact we invite visitors to avail themselves of prostitutes,” Otzen says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Christiania Loses Court Case

The Danish State has won a court case on its rights to the Christiania area of Copenhagen.

Denmark’s Eastern High Court has ruled that the State has the right of use of the Christiania area of Copenhagen and that changes to the law on Christiania in 2004 were legally safe.

The Christiania community had maintained during the case that it had an irrevocable tenure to use the Christiania area and that a change in the Christiania law in 2004, which removed the community’s inherent right of use, was invalid, or should have been introduced over a longer period.

But the High Court rejected both contentions, as well as a claim by 700 individual inhabitants of the area that the termination was not binding on them, and claims by others that they had won prescriptive title.

Dispute The High Court decision ostensibly puts an end to 38 years of disagreement, which started in 1971 when squatters took over an area of disused barracks and transformed it into a seemingly autonomous alternative society. A government decision in 1973 termed the area a social experiment.

After several years of court cases on rights to the area, the Supreme Court decided in 1978 that Christiania could be cleared, although a parliamentary majority decided that inhabitants of Christiania could remain where they were.

Much of the argumentation in the case has centred around how long Christiania could remain unchanged.

Supreme Court Counsel for Christiania says he is pleased with the judgment, despite the fact that his clients lost.

“This was a good judgment. We won 49 percent and lost 51 percent. I am satisfied with the legal arguments and they should lead to us appealing to the Supreme Court,” Knud Foldschack told

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Hungary: Holocaust Train Vandalised

Vandals spray-painted the words “gulag”, “Gaza” and “intifada” on a train carriage, which is the home of a travelling Holocaust exhibition organised by the March of the Living Foundation. Police launched an investigation into the matter, which happened in the early hours of last Thursday. The exhibition has been travelling the country since March 2007 and focuses on the Hungarian aspect of the Holocaust.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Italy: Requests for ‘Debaptisms’ Soar in Milan

Milan, 20 May (AKI) — The northern Italian city of Milan is experiencing a boom in the number of people who want to renounce their baptism and leave the Catholic church. A report in the Italian daily ‘Il Giornale’ said the diocese had received over 200 requests in the first five months of 2009, equalling the total number received in 2008.

“As a pastor, I worry and suffer every time I have to sign, as I did this morning, when I signed five or six of these requests,” said Luigi Manganini, the priest who presides over the discipline of the sacraments of the Milan diocese quoted by Italian daily ‘Il Giornale’.

Manganini said this upwards trend of so-called ‘debaptisms’ is “worrying” because the majority of the cases are of people between the age of 40 and 50. In his view, baptism is irreversible.

“It is out of the question to speak of ‘debaptism’, since baptism is an irreversible sacrament for he who believes, and cannot be erased in any way. In the case of an explicit request of someone wanting a certificate to abandon the Catholic faith, the church limits itself to writing this in the registries where the act of baptism was recorded.”

The procedure can be time consuming, as a request form has to be filled out and handed to a local priest, who will then send the request to the administration office of the discipline of the sacraments.

Then, according to Manganini, the priest is encouraged to speak with the person requesting the cancellation, and if he or she insists, the office will attempt to contact the person and encourage them to reverse their decision.

But Manganini said people almost never show up to this meeting.

The act of ‘debaptism’ amounts to apostasy and the applicant is thus automatically excommunicated and prohibited from taking sacraments or having a funeral in a church.

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

Italy: Berlusconi Renews Attack on Judiciary

Rome, 21 May (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has renewed his attacks on the country’s judiciary and reaffirmed his commitment to strengthen the power of the premier over the parliament. The move follows a decision by a judge earlier this week who ruled that his former corporate lawyer David Mills perjured himself to protect Berlusconi’s business empire.

Berlusconi told the annual meeting of Confindustria, Italy’s largest private employer body, that certain judges were not impartial and were “leftist extremists”. Berlusconi was himself removed from the trial under a new immunity law.

“This morning the newspapers say that you cannot criticise judges. Instead, I believe that is the right of every citizen to criticise judges,” he told the employers’ meeting in Rome.

“With regard to facts concerning me, I cannot remain silent because there are too many doubts that arise from reading the newspapers about the behaviour of the prime minister when I was an entrepreneur.”

He then turned his attention to the sentence handed down on Tuesday by judge Nicoletta Gandus.

“I have called this sentence scandalous because it is completely contrary to the truth,” Berlusconi said.

“Give me two minutes, I cannot tell you. I do not remember ever meeting the lawyer Mills.”

Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party claimed Gandus had issued her ruling — an explanation of why in February she handed British lawyer David Mills a four-and-a-half-year sentence for taking a 440,000 euros bribe from Berlusconi — to damage the premier’s popularity ahead of upcoming local and European Parliament elections.

In her 400-page reasoning, Gandus said she and her colleagues had concluded that Mills was guilty because the evidence showed that he had lied in court in two trials in 1997 and 1998 to shield Berlusconi and his Fininvest company from charges relating to the purchase of US film rights, and to “protect Berlusconi’s economic interests”.

The reasoning said Mills had accepted the bribe to act “as a false witness” and “to allow Silvio Berlusconi and his Fininvest group impunity from the charges or, at least, to keep their huge profits”.

Berlusconi on Thursday also reaffimed his commitment to proceed with reform of Italy’s judical system.

“We will not stop until we have separated the role of the magistrates from the role of prosectors,” he said.

But Berlusconi also stressed the need for parliamentary reform.

“They need young people to guarantee 98 percent of their attendance. There are deputies (MPs) whom you never see because they have more important things to do than to stay there and vote.

“But how do they vote? They look at the head of their group who lifts his thumb to say yes, extends his hand for an abstention or makes a sign with his thumb to say no.

“Now they are saying that I offend the parliament but this is the real truth — the assemblies are absolutely useless and counter productive,” he said.

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

Italy: Fans Stabbed in Rome Conquest

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Now some of the articles make this sound like a fairly routine occurrence during international soccer matches in Italy — I’m curious about that — the translated Italian piece I read earlier today (forget the source) gave initials for the 4 attackers (listed as “Italian”…but that doesn’t mean too much these days) — who virtually hit the US guy right in front of the federal cops (all 4 were arrested on the spot — during the attack). Apparently they thought he was English because he was talking to someone else in English — but I would expect most of them could tell the difference between and American and English accent.]

The lead-up to the Champions League final has been marred by stabbings and arrests as violence flared up in Italy. On a day that was supposed to be a celebration football there were two stabbings, several injuries and four arrests as police struggled to control attacks by the notorious Roma Ultras on Manchester United supporters.

An American was stabbed this afternoon near Rome after he was mistaken for a Manchester United supporter.

He was attacked by four Roma Ultras after being mistaken in the seaside town of Ostia, 20 miles from the city.

Police say he was knifed in the leg after leaving a pub by the group of Italians who were aged between 20 and 22 years old and they were all arrested.

It followed the stabbing of Greg Wheldon, 34, a United fan who suffered a knife wound to his left leg after being set upon as he walked to his hotel near the Vatican in the early hours of this morning.

In another incident in Pisa 200 miles away Manchester United fans who had flown there intending to take public transport to Rome were involved in clashes with locals and three needed treatment for minor injuries.

And in a separate incident, police said three fans from Barcelona were held after a search of their car at the ferry port north of Rome at Civitavecchia uncovered a javelin and batons.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Surprise at “All Part of the Job” Court Ruling

The Christian Democrats have also called for stiffer sentences for people who attack police officers. The party is astonished with Tuesday’s court ruling that violence against the police was “all part of the job”. The response of the Christian Democrats is in line with the Council of the Dutch Superintendents of Police. The council says it is disappointed that judges did not hand out double sentences to people found guilty of acts of aggression against police officers. The announcement followed the results of Tuesday’s ‘theme session’ in an Amsterdam court, which included 17 cases of violence against people who serve in public functions.

The superintendents object to the fact that those who committed acts of aggression against civil servants such as ambulance attendants received a double sentence, whilst assaults against police officers and street coaches were punished with sentences that were — on average — 70 percent higher. The judges say the sentences were more lenient because dealing with violence is an integral part of a police officer’s job.

Next Wednesday, Amsterdam’s Public Prosecutor’s Office will again hold a special mass trial of people charged with extreme acts of aggression against police officers, bus drivers and ambulance attendants.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Impunity for Dutch Massacre in Indonesia Was Given 60 Years Ago

The Dutch state does not want to pay compensation to the victims of a 1947 massacre in an Indonesian village, but it also stopped the prosecution of the army officer who was held responsible right after the attrocity, the Dutch current affairs television programme Netwerk revealed on Monday.

The story of the Rawagede village was back in the limelight last year when relatives and survivors of the massacre demanded an apology and compensation from the Dutch state.

On the TV show on Monday, Jeffrey Pondaag of the Committee for Dutch Honours of Debt showed an exchange of letters from 1948 that reveals the decision not to prosecute major Alphons Wijnen for the atrocity was taken straight after the tragedy, in spite of a recommendation by the Dutch chief of staff Simon Spoor to the procurator general to institute proceedings.

On 9 December 1947, Dutch troops attacked the village of Rawagede and, according to the villagers, killed all the men — 431 in total. A 1969 investigation by the Dutch government into war crimes in Indonesia says 150 were killed in Rawagede (since renamed Balongsari).

Indonesia was granted sovereignty from the Netherlands in 1949 after five years of armed struggle against the Dutch army.

Pondaag and his committee are now seeking compensation and apologies for nine widows and one man who survived the bloodbath as a boy. Pondaag said he found the exchange of letters in the files given to him by the lawyer representing the government in the case.

The Dutch attorney general has rejected the civil claim put forward last September because the case is too old.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Raising Carlos: Making the Case for Sterilising Drug-Addicted Mothers

Some mothers — drug addicts among them — are incapable of taking care of their unborn children. Should they be interned in the interest of the children? Or should they even be allowed to have kids?

A chubby infant plays with a book in his crib. He doesn’t cry or coo, but his raspy breathing can be heard across the room. Unlike most nine-months-old babies, Carlos can’t sit up or roll over yet. But lately he has been smiling and he is eating well, his foster mother Wilma Aarts says. And he no longer needs artificial respiration. Carlos is the fifth child of a cocaine-addicted mother who is currently expecting her sixth.

Carlos’ case has stirred a debate among ethicists, psychiatrists and legal experts: how far should society go in protecting an unborn child from its own mother? The Dutch government has been running a campaign for the past year calling on women to adopt a healthy lifestyle as early as a year before conception. But is it enough?

Some experts are saying the government should intervene in the mother’s lifestyle, for example by forcibly interning pregnant women who are addicted to hard drugs or alcohol, as ethicists Guido de Wert and Ron Berghmans recently proposed in an opinion article in NRC Handelsblad. De Wert and Berghmans want forced internment of pregnant women to be made part of a new law proposal on compulsory mental health care, and they want the state to intervene well before the 24th week of pregnancy, when the fetus is at its most vulnerable.

One question is on everybody’s mind: can a fetus of less than 24-weeks-old be considered a person, or does it become a person only when it is a viable baby? The distinction is important because the first definition would make abortion, which is allowed until the 24th week of pregnancy in the Netherlands, equal to murder.

Forced sterilisation

In Wilma Aarts’ living room in Amsterdam, two-year-old Jeffrey points to the crib and says: “Brother, brother.” Carlos doesn’t react. Neither does he cry. He makes no use of what is a baby’s main means of communication. Carlos spent the first five months of his life in three hospitals and in the care of dozens of medical workers. For the first two months and a half he fought for his life in an incubator. Wilma and her husband visited with him every day; his own mother stopped visiting eight days after the birth.

In Amsterdam alone some twenty addicted women give birth to a living or stillborn child every year. It was what prompted Amsterdam juvenile judges Anne Martien van der Does and Toos Enkelaar last year to plead for a system of guardianship of unborn children. This would allow a guardian to monitor the lifestyle of the addicted mother.

Wilma Aarts and her husband discuss the issue regularly. They think compulsory internment or guardianship are not enough: addicted mothers should not be allowed to have children at all, they say. “For years now there has been a debate about forced sterilisation of some mentally handicapped women. Why not include addicted women?” Aarts says.

An emotional appeal

And yet, once a baby from an addicted mother is born, Wilma and her husband embrace it. They love Jeffrey who has been with them for two years. He’s developing well despite being a premature baby and having been exposed to cocaine in his mother’s womb. They are getting attached to Carlos as well. As far as they are concerned, the boys can stay with them for as long as they need to.

But someone has to convince — or force — the mother not to have any more children, the couple pleads. Aarts: “A child only gets one chance to develop its lungs and that’s in the womb. These children are all born prematurely, with underdeveloped lungs.”

Once she tried an emotional appeal to Jeffrey and Carlos’ mother. “I wrote her a letter begging her not to have more children.” Aarts never got a reply from the mother she describes as a charming woman whom she sees every couple of months.

But the mother refuses to use birth control. She lives with a man who partly bankrolls her addiction. He is the father of the three youngest children and says he too is incapable of caring for them. The mother occasionally spends time in jail. A third child lives with the man’s mother; the oldest two children are in foster care.

Wilma Aarts: “Soon the sixth child will be fighting for its life in an incubator. And we won’t be able to give it a home. Somebody else will have to do it.”

Temporary compulsory contraception

But is forced sterilisation the answer or is it going too far? Member of parliament Marjo van Dijken (Labour) is in favour, she has written a draft law making forced sterilisation possible a long time ago. “I want every parent who has had custody taken away by a judge to be temporarily forbidden from having more children,” she says.

But what if the child was wrongly removed from its home? Van Dijken: “I’m not working under that assumption. And in any case: as soon as the judges restores custody the compulsory contraception will be ended. This is not about IQ but about bad parenting.”

Others think the mother should be given a chance. “Medical workers have to first try to convince the mother to live a healthy life,” says Froukje Bos of the foundation for psychiatric patients, Pandora. Only in extreme situations should state guardianship of an unborn child be considered.

Bos thinks a law to forcibly intern mothers who ‘inflict damage on the fetus’ is going too far. “The law is for everybody. You can’t make a generic law based on a few extreme cases. Where is the line? Should women who smoke while they’re pregnant also be interned then?”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Opel Bid a Lottery, Fiat Chief Says

Preliminary decision expected Wednesday

(ANSA) — Berlin, May 26 — Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne met here on Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to illustrate Fiat’s revised offer for a controlling stake in German automaker Opel.

“We had a constructive talk. We illustrated our plan and the German government is seriously committed to resolve this problem,” Marchionne told the Bloomberg agency after meeting with Merkel.

When asked about Fiat’s chances of success, Marchionne said “it’s a lottery now, that’s all I can say. Except that we’re seriously engaged in striking an accord”.

Marchionne is expected to meet with the chancellor again later in the day.

Meanwhile, German Economy Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg confirmed that the government will make a preliminary decision on Opel’s future partner on Wednesday.

Although Opel is privately owned by GM, the German government is involved in the negotiations because of the huge loans federal and regional governments will have to guarantee to allow the automaker to survive during the restructuring process. The other two Opel bidders, Fiat’s main rival, the Austrian-Canadian auto parts maker Magna International and RHJ International, a European arm of the American private equity fund Ripplewood, have also revised their offers and will meet with Merkel.

Fiat’s offer centers on integrating Opel into a global automaker with the operations of Fiat and Detroit No.3 Chrysler, which Fiat is set to take control over.

Magna’s bid is being backed by Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, and is reported to be preferred by leading federal and regional government officials because it is said to include a greater capital injection and aims at keeping the German automaker independent. GM has to sell at least a stake in Opel to respect its radical restructuring plan and thus quality for further US federal bail-out funds.

TREMONTI SEES OPEL AS A ‘GAME BETWEEN GOVERNMENTS’ In a related development, Italian Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti said in Rome on Tuesday that Opel’s future “at this point is a game between governments”.

“It’s like we’ve gone back to a state-controlled economy because the game is between the German government, the regional German governments, the Russian government and the American government,” he explained.

“This is a very complex game and it’s too soon to say what will happen,” Tremonti added.

Germany’s federal and regional governments are involved because they must guarantee Opel’s bridging loans, while the Russian government is in play because Magna International is allied not only with Sberbank but also Russian automaker GAZ. The American government is important because it must determine by May 31 whether the GM’s restructuring plan, which includes finding a partner for Opel, is sufficient to qualify the Detroit No.1 for further US bail-out funds.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Two Moroccan Women Crushed to Death on Ceuta Border

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MAY 25 — Two Moroccan women who were transporting smuggled merchandise died this morning as they attempted to cross the border at El Biutz in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, in Morocco. According to sources from the local prefecture, quoted by daily paper El Pais, the two women were trampled by the crowd of street vendors which gathers every day at the border crossing. The two victims were treated by personnel from the Spanish medical services, but died of suffocation. Last week a number of people were injured in another “human avalanche” at the Ceuta crossing, and a woman died of suffocation in 2008 at the border with Melilla, the other Spanish enclave in Morocco. Around 10,000 Moroccans arrive in Ceuta every day to buy Spanish merchandise which they then sell in Morocco, or to sell Moroccan goods in the Spanish territory. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Telegraph Columnist May Run Against Tarnished MP

LONDON (AFP) — The scandal over MPs’ expenses took a new twist on Tuesday when the associate editor of The Daily Telegraph, which broke the story, said he might run against one of the exposed MPs at the next election.

Telegraph columnist Simon Heffer, which has revealed how MPs put everything from moat cleaning to toilet paper on expenses, said he would stand against Alan Haselhurst unless he repaid thousands of pounds he had claimed.

Haselhurst, a senior Conservative MP, reportedly used his parliamentary allowances to pay for 12,000 pounds worth of gardening at his country house.

In his column to appear in Wednesday’s Telegraph, Heffer gives Haselhurst, his local MP and a deputy speaker of the House of Commons, an ultimatum.

“If he does not, between now and the opening of nominations for the general election, admit error, apologise, pay back the 12,000 pounds and promise to behave, I shall stand against him as an independent,” Heffer wrote.

“If Sir Alan thinks I am joking, I warn him I am not. I have backers and volunteers.

“I say this more in anger than in sorrow: we are all angry. Doesn?t he get it?”

Haselhurst told his local newspaper on Tuesday that he would repay the money.

“In terms of total expense claims I currently rank 582nd out of 646 MPs. However, my claim for gardening help has caused concern. Out of respect to my constituents I am this week repaying the sum of 12,000 pounds,” he said.

“I deeply regret the public anger which the expenses revelations have understandably generated.”

Heffer is one of a number of high-profile independent figures who have said they will consider standing at the next election, due by the middle of next year, following public outrage over MPs’ lavish spending habits.

The expenses row has so far prompted nine MPs to announce they will leave parliament, including the speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin.

Broadcaster Esther Rantzen confirmed earlier on Tuesday that she would stand for election in Luton if the current incumbent, Labour MP Margaret Moran, did not step down.

Moran was revealed in the Telegraph to have claimed 22,500 pounds for treating dry rot for a house that was neither in her constituency nor near parliament in London. Labour officials are currently reviewing her case.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Top British Diplomat Reaffirms His Country’s Support to Turkey’s EU Bid

ISTANBUL — British Foreign Secretary David Miliband reaffirmed late Tuesday his country’s support for Turkey’s bid to join the EU, saying Ankara’s full membership would bring economic dynamism into the bloc, help solve its energy security problems and build closer ties between the West and the Muslim world.

“Britain is more convinced than it has ever been that the strategic decision to support Turkey’s accession to the European Union is the right one,” Miliband, who is currently in Ankara on an official visit, told Reuters.

“It is good for Europe as well as for Turkey,” he added.

Turkey began EU membership negotiations in 2005, but progress has since largely ground to a halt because of strong opposition in some member countries like France, Germany and Austria, and disagreements over the divided island of Cyprus.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier this month reiterated their opposition to Ankara joining the EU. The pair insisted that the 27-member bloc offer Turkey a “privileged partnership” instead, a move analysts described as an indicator of short-time calculations to achieve political advantage ahead of the European Parliament elections set for next month.

Miliband said the bloc should adopt a more “open outlook” and embrace the long-term benefits of Turkey’s membership provided it meets all entry criteria.

“Turkey is a particular place that would benefit Europe’s energy future. That would not have been given the priority and prominence it deserves five years ago,” he said.

Opening the doors of the EU to Turkey would be a “significant bridge to the Islamic world”, Miliband said.

“Turkey has a combination of a Muslim majority population and a proud democratic heritage. I think you can balance those things,” he added.


Miliband, however, said Turkey needed to speed up its EU reforms. “Everyone wants to see Turkey making strides towards reforms,” he said.

“But equally we want to see a European Union that has got the right orientation and outlook, an open EU, that is something we have to work on specially at a time of economic downturn.”

“There have been significant changes if you look at the last 30 years. I think there is a new Turkey being built. I think that the direction is clear,” he said.

Miliband said another strong selling point of Turkey’s EU entry is its vibrant market economy. Economic activity is seen contracting by five percent this year due to the effects of the global economic crisis, compared to average growth of 7 percent between 2002 and 2007. The economy is expected to expand in 2010.

“Turkey will bring significant economic dynamism into the bloc. I think the debate of the Turkish economy will change in the next few years,” he said.

Miliband, who arrived Tuesday in the Turkish capital of Ankara to hold talks focused on the country’s European Union membership bid, met with Turkey’s Chief Negotiator for EU talks Egemen Bagis.

He met Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutolgu on Wednesday, and is also scheduled to meet Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan later in the day.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Chief Constable Takes Government to Court Over ‘Irrational’ Budget Row

A chief constable is the first in Britain to take legal action against the Government over an “irrational and unreasonable” budget row which will force him to sack nearly 200 staff and officers in a year.

Mark Rowley, the head of Surrey police, said he would fight local government ministers in the High Court over a decision which means he will have to slash £1.6 million from the force’s budget and will “erode” his ability to protect the public.

It also means new bills will have to be sent to every council taxpayer in the county at a cost of £1.2 million — eating up virtually all of the planned saving.

Mr Rowley, who has pioneered the fightback against the Home Office target culture in policing, has written to ministers saying: “To any impartial observer, at a time of recession, this will be seen as a total waste of public money.”

The police force has instructed lawyers to challenge the decision by calling for a judicial review.

Ministers say the cap is necessary to protect Surrey residents from an excessive increase in the policing precept, that makes up part of their annual council tax levy.

The move equates to just six pence a week being taken off the council tax of the average householder in Surrey.

It is the second time the budget of the force — one of the top performing in the country — has been capped. Mr Rowley said he has already had to cut 144 police staff this year and will have to lose 50 more frontline operational posts including major crime investigators, Special Branch officers and staff in the forensic department.

He said that the situation was “of grave concern” and added: “The impact for the public overall will be a less capable police service.”

“If you are a criminal you might be tempted to come to Surrey, where the policing resources are less,” Mr Rowley added.

The chief is backed by Peter Williams, the chairman of the Surrey Police Authority, who said the force was the victim of “centralised foolhardiness.”

Mr Williams said that Surrey was one of two forces whose budgets had been capped by Government this year — the other being Derbyshire — but the only one to be told to rebill.

Half of Surrey’s crime originates in London, the force claims, but Government funding makes no allowance for that.

The Department for Communities and Local Government wanted average council tax increases below five per cent but Surrey set its council tax precept to seven per cent.

It had set a budget of £198.7 million in February for 2009/10, an increase of 4.8 per cent, but this has been capped and reduced by £1.6 million.

Mr Williams said that when he asked John Healey, the Minister of State for Local Government, about how capping decisions were made they were told: “It is not Government policy to discuss how it collectively arrives at a decision.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said the Government had been “very careful” to strike the right balance in its funding and said it “should not impact on frontline policing.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Girl Left to Die in Blazing Car After Driver Boyfriend Told Fire Crews No One Was Inside

A man left his girlfriend to burn to death in a car after he crashed into a tree, a court heard yesterday.

Waqas Arshad, 24, told emergency services there was nobody inside, despite knowing 17-year-old Emily Brady was trapped in the burning wreckage.

It was only as firefighters tackled the blaze that they realised the teenager was in the car, still strapped into the passenger seat.

Arshad, of Luton, pleaded guilty yesterday to causing death by careless driving while over the alcohol limit, and causing death by driving while uninsured.

Natalie Carter, prosecuting at Luton Crown Court, told the court Arshad lost control and crashed into a tree in Eversholt, Bedfordshire, at 3am on November 2 last year. But instead of calling for help, he got out of the car and did nothing.

Mrs Carter said: ‘After the collision it’s plain that Emily Brady was in the passenger seat; the defendant in the driver’s seat.

‘She did not die as a result of the injuries received in the collision, which included two broken vertebrae, but she died as a result of carbonisation.’

Miss Brady’s mother Patricia said after the hearing: ‘It was despicable behaviour to make no attempt to try and pull her out of the car.’

The court — packed with relatives of Miss Brady, who lived in Dunstable — heard how firefighters answering a call from a witness asked Arshad if there was anyone in the car. He told them ‘no’.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Marlowe’s Koran-Burning Hero is Censored to Avoid Muslim Anger

IT WAS the surprise hit of the autumn season, selling out for its entire run and inspiring rave reviews. But now the producers of Tamburlaine the Great have come under fire for censoring Christopher Marlowe’s 1580s masterpiece to avoid upsetting Muslims.

Audiences at the Barbican in London did not see the Koran being burnt, as Marlowe intended, because David Farr, who directed and adapted the classic play, feared that it would inflame passions in the light of the London bombings.

Simon Reade, artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic, said that if they had not altered the original it “would have unnecessarily raised the hackles of a significant proportion of one of the world’s great religions”.

The burning of the Koran was “smoothed over”, he said, so that it became just the destruction of “a load of books” relating to any culture or religion. That made it more powerful, they claimed.

Members of the audience also reported that key references to Muhammad had been dropped, particularly in the passage where Tamburlaine says that he is “not worthy to be worshipped”. In the original Marlowe writes that Muhammad “remains in hell”.

The censorship aroused condemnation yesterday from senior figures in the theatre and scholars, as well as religious leaders. Terry Hands, who directed Tamburlaine for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1992, said: “I don’t believe you should interfere with any classic for reasons of religious or political correctness.”

Charles Nicholl, the author of The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe, said it was wrong to tamper with Marlowe because he asked “uncomfortable and confrontational questions — particularly aimed at those that held dogmatic, religious views”. He added: “Why should Islam be protected from the questioning gaze of Marlowe? Marlowe stands for provocative questions. This is a bit of an insult to him.”

Marlowe rivalled Shakespeare as the most powerful dramatist of the Elizabethan period. He died aged 29 in a brawl over a tavern bill. Tamburlaine the Great was written not later than 1587. It tells the story of a shepherd-robber who defeats the king of Persia, the emperor of Turkey and, seeing himself as the “scourge of God”, burns the Koran.

Mr Farr reworked the text after the July 7 attacks. The production closed last week. Mr Farr said in a statement: “The choices I made in the adaptation were personal about the focus I wanted to put on the main character and had nothing to do with modern politics.”

But Mr Reade said that Mr Farr felt that burning the Koran “would have been unnecessarily inflammatory”. The play needed to be seen in a 21stcentury context, he believed.He said: “Marlowe was not challenging Muslims, he was attacking theism, saying, ‘I’m God, there isn’t a God’. If he had been in a Christian country, a Judaic country or a Hindu country, it would be their gods he’d be attacking.” He said more people would be insulted by broadening the attack.

Inayat Bunglawala, the media secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, disagreed, saying: “In the context of a fictional play, I don’t think it will have offended many people.”

Park Honan, Emeritus Professor at the School of English, University of Leeds, and author of Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy, said: “It is wrong to tamper with the play, wrong to shorten it and wrong to leave out the burning of the Koran because that is involved with the exposition of Tamburlaine’s character. He’s a false prophet. This is meant to horrify the audience.”

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

UK: Puma Upgrade in Romania is Stalled ‘Over Fears for Votes’

A plan to award Romania a £400 million contract to upgrade Royal Air Force helicopters has been delayed amid fears of a voter backlash.

Senior military officers have told The Times that the Government is holding up the contract to overhaul the RAF Pumas for political reasons.

The work on the 33 Puma transport helicopters is expected to be done in Romania by Eurocopter, but Labour MPs are worried about the reaction of voters amid rising unemployment in Britain. The Government is said to favour switching the £250 million to £400 million contract from Eurocopter to AgustaWestland, which would upgrade the Royal Navy’s Sea Kings instead of the Pumas. The work would be done in Yeovil and could create hundreds of jobs.

However, this is not an option that the Armed Forces favour because the Pumas are better suited to “hot and high” work in Afghanistan. A senior military officer said: “The Puma decision is all about politics. We need the aircraft, but it is not politically acceptable to be sending work to Romania.”

Another source said that ministers had twice rejected the request to upgrade the Pumas. An MoD spokesman confirmed that the Puma upgrade had not been approved but declined to say why.

The military has repeatedly complained that it is critically short of helicopters in Afghanistan and the Government has considered leasing old Soviet helicopters to fill the gap.

Amicus, the union, has met defence ministers to press for the helicopter work to be done in the UK. Bernie Hamilton, the union’s national organiser, said: “I have made representations to ministers and our view is that it would be better to upgrade the Sea Kings because there would be more UK work content. This contract would enable Westland to take on more people and would also be a benefit to Rolls-Royce, which makes the engine.”

It is understood that Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, has waded into the helicopter debate on Eurocopter’s side. He is said to be pushing for the Puma upgrade even if it means doing it in Romania because he hopes to guarantee future British work from Airbus, the aircraft maker owned by the same company as Eurocopter.

The Pumas were designed and built by Aerospatiale of French in the 1960s and 1970s. Eurocopter, which was formed from Aerospatiale, will upgrade the Pumas if a contract is awarded.

They entered service in 1971 and many are now nearly 40 years old. The project will enable them to continue to operate until about 2022.

“The best option is for a new fleet but no money exists for that,” a defence source said.

EADS, which owns Eurocopter, said: “The MoD has asked for the best-value-for-money solution. All options will be examined.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Senior Judge Blames Slow Police Response Times for Britain’s ‘Vigilante Culture’

A senior judge has warned of a rise in vigilante crimes caused by slow police response times. Richard Bray said citizens were increasingly taking matters into their own hands because of lack of confidence in the forces of law and order. He was speaking as he sentenced a father and his sons for attacking a man they thought had vandalised their car. Mr Bray, a circuit judge at Northampton Crown Court, said: ‘Nobody bothers to phone the police any more. They go round and sort it out themselves — and I know why. It is because the police do not actually come round so people go out themselves and deal with it.’ A police pledge, to which all 43 forces in the country have signed up, promises that in urban areas police will arrive within 15 minutes and in rural areas in 20 minutes. But Judge Bray’s scathing comments make clear he feels they are falling short of those commitments.

The attack which prompted his outburst occurred last year when Henry Smith, 48, and his sons Ian, 23, and Jamie, 19, decided to take revenge for damage to their car. The men, from Kettering, went to a nearby house and punched a man to the ground. Ian Smith and his brother then punched and kicked him on the floor, leaving him with injuries to his face, teeth and mouth. Both admitted grievous bodily harm at a previous hearing. Ian Smith was given a suspended jail sentence of 50 weeks and ordered to pay £1,000 to the victim. Jamie Smith received a 40-week suspended sentence and ordered to pay £1,500 compensation. Their father had pleaded guilty to affray and was ordered to pay costs.

They were ordered to complete 390 hours of unpaid work between them. Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘It is refreshing to hear a judge accept the extent to which ordinary people are being forced to fend for themselves thanks to the failure of the criminal justice system. ‘This will continue so long as the police are forced to respond to the priorities of politicians rather than ordinary people. They’ll spend their time trying to meet arbitrary and distorting targets rather than trying to catch serious criminals.’ A spokesman for the Home Office said it did not keep figures on how quickly officers responded to callout times, despite its pledge. The spokesman added that it was not possible to keep specific figures on vigilante crime. A Northamptonshire Police spokesman said: ‘The judge is entitled to his opinion but it is one we do not share. In the case he refers to, the incident in question was not reported to us so we were not in a position to respond. ‘We invest heavily in officers, staff, training and technology to ensure members of the public can be confident of receiving a good service from Northamptonshire Police.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Walesa Will Urge Irish to Support Lisbon

LIBERTAS INVITATION: FORMER POLISH president Lech Walesa will urge Irish voters to support the Lisbon Treaty in a second referendum during his upcoming trip to to the country, which is at the invitation of Libertas.

Mr Walesa has spoken at events in Madrid and Rome organised by Libertas, which rejects the treaty.

However, the co-founder of the Solidarity trade union said his readiness to listen to Libertas positions should not be mistaken for agreement.

“I don’t agree with Libertas. I’m just giving them my point of view,” he said. “I’m ready to go to Ireland, speaking out alone or alongside Ganley, to say ‘My dear Irish people, back this treaty’.”

As one of a panel of EU “wise men”, he said it was his duty to listen to all positions in a “democratic confrontation”.

Some political commentators in Poland suggested Libertas was courting Mr Walesa to boost the profile and chances of their newly-formed Polish sister party in the upcoming European elections.

Mr Walesa has dismissed speculation about those intentions and restated that, despite its perceived faults, he is a supporter of the Lisbon Treaty.

“It’s crucial to have an imperfect driver than no driver at all.

“And we’re going to make this treaty better,” he said, adding that he hoped to “convince Mr Ganley to change his mind” about the Lisbon Treaty.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the former president had explained his priority for his Irish trip was to back the Lisbon Treaty.

“I spoke to Mr Walesa and I can say officially that he will be urging the Irish on the eve of the European elections to support the Lisbon Treaty, which Libertas opposed,” said Mr Tusk.

“That’s Lech Walesa all over, he will play a prank on them and the balance, as he says, will be positive for us.”

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


Croatia: Public Sector Wages to Increase by 77% by 2016

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 26 — According to the agreement signed between unions and the Croatian government public sector wages could increase by as much as 77% by 2016 compared to current retributions. According to data processed by unions and reported to the Italian Trade Commission in Zagreb, a newly hired person with a degree who today earns 6,386 kunas (gross, equal to approximately 875 euro) will earn 11,201 kuna (gross, equal to approximately 1,534 euro) in 2016. In any event this prediction already takes into account the fact that the economy should revive as of the first semester of 2010. The agreement guarantees an increase in wages no matter how the economy is going. As of 1 January 2010 the increase will be equal to the six-month inflation rate, whereas from 1 october 2010 it will be equal to the yearly inflation rate.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

EU, Visa Liberalisation is a Concrete Prospect

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MAY 25 — The European Commission is convinced that visa-free travel in the Schengen Area for citizens from Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo will soon be possible. The Commission in Brussels announced that it had today delivered to the 27 member states its assessments on how the five Balkan states were proceeding on the implementation of the required measures. “I am very satisfied by the efforts made by countries in the region to implement the stages of the roadmap and their excellent cooperation,” said Commission Vice President Jacques Barrot and commissioner ad interim for Justice. “I am confident that visa-free travel for all western Balkan states is a concrete prospect”. During the first quarter of 2009, the Commission carried out 15 missions, three in each country in which experts from member states participated, and four meetings, one for each key area (document security, border management, public order and security, external relations and fundamental rights). As for the contents, the Commission will publish information between June 4 and 5, on the occasion of the next Justice and Internal Affairs Ministerial Council which will take place in Luxembourg, explained a press officer from the EU Council. According to a document published on the European Stability Initiative website, which anticipates the contents of the Commission’s report, only Macedonia will result as meeting the benchmarks, Serbia and Montenegro will meet most of the benchmarks, Albania and Bosnia Herzegovina will be lagging behind and Kosovo will not be classified. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Morocco: Agreement With Holland to Cooperate Against Crime

(ANSA) — RABAT, MAY 26 — Morocco and Holland will work together against organised crime. The two countries signed an agreement to encourage cooperation between police forces and prosecutors in both countries. Announcing the accord was Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin of the Christian Democratic Party, speaking to Dutch Radio, after discussing the agreement with Moroccan counterpart Abdelwahad Radi. The agreement calls for Dutch criminals in Morocco to serve their sentences in Holland and vice-versa. In the past 15 months, Moroccan has asked Holland for help for 152 time with justice-related issues, and on each occasion it was necessary to made a special agreement. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Wine: Morocco; Record Production in 2008, 33mln Bottles

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, MAY 26 — In 2008 Morocco produced about 35 million bottles of wine with an increase of 9% compared to the year before, wrote the Arab language newspaper, Al Massae. The paper specified that the wine sector has annual sales of over 1 billion dirham (90 million euros) and employs some 10,000 people. The capital of Moroccan wine is the region of Meknes in the north-east of the country, which with five producers represents 85% of total production, between 300,000 and 400,000 hectolitres. For 2009 another increase is expected thanks to the excellent rains that fell between October 2008 and February 2009. “No rain has been seen like this in Morocco for the last 50 years,” declared the secretary of state in charge of water management, Abdelkebir Zahoud, “which affected all of the regions of the country, including the deserts in the south.” “The reservoirs have reached 80% of their capacity, something that has not happened since 1963,” he added; “the rains refilled the water table, with 12.8 billion cubic metres of water in the reservoirs which gives us autonomous water resources for the next 3 years. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Lieberman for Ratification Road Map, Livni Attacks

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MAY 26 — Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the radical rightwing, confirmed today that he is in favour of the Road Map (the road towards peace stipulated by international mediators to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). He said that he is convinced the present government should renew the Road Map’s ratification. An apparently conciliating viewpoint, but it has immediately lead to polemic reactions from his predecessor. Today the leader of the centrist opposition, Tzipi Livni, said the call for the Road Map remains a stratagem, which doesn’t guarantee that negotiations will be resumed, if Lieberman at the same time continues to deny the successive bilateral agreements signed in 2007 in Annapolis with American mediation. “Of all international initiatives on the table, the Road Map is the option which is most in line with our interests” Lieberman said this morning in an interview with Military Radio. According to Livni his words hide his intentions to postpone concrete negotiations indefinitely. Because — he said later on the same radio station — the Road Map includes “a final decision (on the status of the Palestinian territories) only in a third stage”, while Annapolis imposes the immediate continuation of talks between the parties, also during the transitory stages. The truth, Livni concluded, is “that this government doesn’t want to negotiate, it is digging in its heals in an attempt to stop any re-launch of contact with the Palestinians. Even though refusing to talk only means creating a situation in which we won’t have any more partners to negotiate with”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netanyahu Willing to ‘Give Up Outposts’

JERUSALEM (AFP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to tear down settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank in return for US backing on its stance on arch-foe Iran, local media reported on Tuesday.

Netanyahu told his right-wing Likud faction on Monday that Israel would have to dismantle what it considers illegal outposts, as demanded by Washington, since the issue of Iran was more important, newspaper reports said.

“I identify the danger and that’s why I am willing to take unpopular steps such as evacuating outposts. The Iranian threat is above everything,” the mass-selling Yediot Aharonot quoted Netanyahu as saying.

“There are things on which you have to compromise.”

Since returning to the prime minister’s post on March 31, Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Iran’s controversial nuclear drive posed the biggest threat to Israel since its creation in 1948.

At his first meeting with Barack Obama in Washington last week, Netanyahu sought to win support for his stance from the new US president, who has said he is open to dialogue with the Islamic republic.

Obama assured Netanyahu that his diplomatic efforts over Iran’s nuclear drive were not open-ended and told him that “settlements must stop” so that the stalled Middle East process could move forward.

Settlement outposts in the West Bank, which Israel seized from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, are those built without Israeli government approval. However, the international community considers all Jewish settlements on occupied land illegal.

“Soon we will have to take down outposts,” Yediot quoted Netanyahu as telling the Likud MPs, most of whom oppose dismantling any settlements in the West Bank, which they consider part of biblical Israel.

“Our relations with the United States are important and we must preserve them,” he said. “The situation today is not like the situation back in 1996 and 1999 (during his first term as premier). We mustn’t waste time.

“In this reality, we have to make decisions. We are going to have to subordinate our priorities to existential needs and reach as broad a national unity as possible to repel the danger,” he said.

Netanyahu dispatched a delegation headed by Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor to London on Tuesday for talks with US officials on creating joint teams to discuss the Iranian nuclear programme and settlement outposts, a senior official told AFP.

Israel and Western powers fear Iran’s nuclear drive is a cover for efforts to built atomic weapons, claims repeatedly denied by Tehran which has vowed to press on with its activities.

Israel itself is widely believed to be the only nuclear armed state in the Middle East but adopts a policy of neither confirming nor denying whether it has a nuclear arsenal.

Both Israel’s defence minister and army chief said this week that they thought chances were low that US dialogue would succeed in halting Iran’s controversial nuclear activities.

Under the 2003 international “roadmap” peace plan, Israel committed to dismantling outposts erected since March 2001 and a government commission later determined there were 26 such structures in the West Bank.

Watchdog groups say the actual number of such outposts is more than 50.

Although most members of his government fiercely oppose freezing settlement activity, Netanyahu became convinced during his Washington visit that he must press ahead with the policy, media reports said.

“The penny has dropped for Netanyahu,” wrote Yediot. “He now knows that the Obama administration isn’t willing to concede the linkage… between Iran and the settlements,” it said.

“If Israel wants Washington to help it stop Iran’s nuclear armament, it is going to have to hold up its end of the bargain… to stop expanding its settlements… and to remove the illegal settlement outposts.”

Israel has repeatedly said it was not ruling out a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, but US officials have warned against such action.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Protecting the Contiguity of Israel: The E-1 Area and the Link Between Jerusalem and Maale Adumim

by Nadav Shragai

  • The E-1 area is a part of the Israeli city of Maale Adumim, located immediately adjacent to Jerusalem.
  • The main threat to Israel’s future contiguity comes from encroachments on E-1 made by illegal Palestinian construction. Israeli and Palestinian construction in the West Bank has been governed by the legal terms of the Oslo II Interim Agreement from September 28, 1995. The area around E-1 is within Area C, where, according to Oslo II, Israel retained the powers of zoning and planning.
  • As a result, much of the recently completed Palestinian construction there is illegal.
  • In contrast, none of the Oslo Agreements prohibited Israeli settlement activity, though Israel undertook unilateral limitations upon itself in this area in recent years.
  • Contrary to reports, the completion of E-1 would not cut the West Bank in half and undermine Palestinian contiguity. Israel has planned a new road that would allow Palestinian traffic coming from the south to pass eastward of Maale Adumim and continue northward to connect with the cities in the northern West Bank. This Palestinian bypass road would actually reduce the time for Palestinian drivers traveling in a north-south direction who would encounter no Israeli roadblocks.
  • Israeli construction of E-1 will not undermine Palestinian contiguity, but were Israel to lose control of E-1, the contiguity of Israel would be severely compromised…

           — Hat tip: JCPA [Return to headlines]

The American Mistake

US administration’s view on conflict based on seven false assumptions

For some weeks now, commentators have been telling us that if only Israel agrees to accept the US position regarding the two-state solution, it would be possible to progress quickly and secure a final-status agreement.

This hypothesis is premised on seven assumptions, all of which are false. Had the US administration undertaken a real assessment and examined the fundamental assumptions underlining the solution, it may have reached different conclusions.

So what are the seven false assumptions?

1. “Establishing a Palestinian state in line with the 1967 borders is the essence of the Palestinians’ national aspiration.” It is true that the Palestinians wish to get rid of the Israeli occupation, yet a small and divided state whose establishment would force them to agree to end the conflict and their demands is the Palestinians’ nightmare, rather than their national aspiration. They could have secured such state three times in the past (in 1937, 1947, and 2000,) yet three times they rejected the offer with horror. What is the basis for assuming that the Palestinian ethos, which is premised on a “desire for justice,” need for revenge,” recognition of their victimhood, and mostly the “right of return” has changed all of a sudden?

2. “The gap between the Israeli and Palestinian positions is bridgeable.” Reality is different. The maximum an Israeli government (any Israeli government) can offer the Palestinians and still survive politically is far from the minimum that a Palestinian government (any Palestinian government) would be able to accept and survive politically.

3. “Egypt and Jordan want to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved, and therefore they will be a contributing factor.” Reality is the different: Both Egypt and Jordan prefer the status quo to continue, whereby the conflict continues and they can continue to blame Israel. As long as the conflict exists, Egypt has the ultimate excuse for all domestic and regional troubles. Meanwhile, for the Jordanians, a neighboring Palestinian state — likely under Hamas’ rule — would mark the end of the Hashemite Kingdom.

4. “A final-status agreement would bring stability and security to the region.” The exact opposite is true. There is no chance that the small and divided Palestinian state would be viable. The frustration to be created by such situation (certainly in Gaza,) with Israel being stripped of “defensible borders, is an obvious foundation for instability.

5. “At this time we have an opportunity that must not be missed.” If we compare the situation that prevails today to the situation that prevailed in 2000, we reach the clear conclusion that the chance of securing an agreement back then was much greater than it is currently, yet it didn’t happen. Is it possible at this time to reach an agreement in Judea and Samaria, not to mention Gaza, when Hamas is the dominant Palestinian movement.

6. Progress on the Palestinian front is vital in order to enlist the support of Arab states against Iran.” How are these two issues related? Arab states (such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia) have a supreme interest in curbing Iran, irrespective of the Palestinian issue.

7. “There’s only one solution to the conflict.” What is this assumption based on? When was a thorough examination that looked into the range of possibilities been undertaken last, here or in the US? Alternate solutions, whereby the Palestinian are no longer under Israel’s control, can be presented easily.

Regrettably, and irrespective of the manner in which the American assessment was undertaken, the Obama administration’s conclusions are clear-cut. The chances of securing a final-status agreement on the basis of the two-state formula and implementing it successfully are not much greater than the prospects in 1993 (Oslo,) 2000 (Camp David,) and 2007 (Annapolis.)

We should hope that the almost assured failure would not have negative ramifications on other fronts, such as the effort to curb Iran or Israel-US ties.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran: Tehran Looking to Strengthen Ties With Paraguay

Asuncion, 26 May (AKI) — Paraguay’s foreign minister Hector Lacognata has told Iran that it is committed to building stronger economic ties with Tehran, according to Iran’s state-run media. The move appears to be part of a strategy by Iran to expand its influence in Latin America.

Paraguay’s foreign minister Hector Lacognata made the remarks in a meeting with Iran’s non-resident ambassador to Paraguay Morteza Tafreshi, Iranian state media, Irna and Fars, said on Tuesday.

Lacognata referred to Iran as “the cradle of civilisation” and underscored the need for participation by Iranian companies in various economic and trade projects in Paraguay.

Last week Tafreshi said Iran was very interested in importing soy and meat from Paraguay. He made the remarks in a meeting with the country’s agriculture minister.

“We are hoping that we can reach an agreement with the government of Paraguay so we can purchase all the food products that we need,” said Tafreshi, quoted by Paraguayan media.

Soy and meat are staple products in Paraguay, and both are among the country’s largest exports.

“In Iran, we have major agricultural research centres, therefore, taking into consideration that Paraguay is also an agricultural country, I believe we can also establish cooperation between agricultural research centres in both countries,” said Tafreshi.

Tafreshi was accompanied by Iranian investors, who are interested in developing farming and real estate projects.

Paraguay, which is one of Latin America’s poorest countries and one of the most corrupt in the world, recently elected leftist leader Fernando Lugo, a former Catholic bishop, to the presidency after 61 years’ rule by the conservative Colorado party.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (photo) was one of the first to congratulate Lugo on his victory.

Iranian media praised Lugo by calling him “a man of God and an enemy of the Great Satan,” said a report the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a US-based think-tank.

Iran has recently sought to expand its interests and make new allies in the Latin American region, specifically with Bolivia and Venezuela, both considered ‘hostile’ by the United States.

Paraguay does not produce any oil and relies solely on foreign imports.

The CIA’s World Factbook says the country imports up to 27,410 barrels a day. COHA’s report said Ahmadinejad could use Iran’s oil and investments as a bargaining tool with the Lugo administration.

Paraguay — unlike Bolivia and Venezuela — has a sizeable Muslim population in the so-called tri-border region, where Argentina, Brasil and Paraguay meet.

According to COHA, the Muslim population aided Lugo’s campaign through fund-raising drives that have been supported by Iran and Venezuela.

Economic and political cooperation between Venezuela and Bolivia has grown tremendously in the past three years.

Recently, Iran and Venezuela created a joint 2 billion dollar fund to finance investments in friendly third countries and has financed seven projects in Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has expressed explicit support for Iran’s controversial uranium enrichment programme, which the US and other powers fear is aimed at building nuclear weapons.

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

Jordan Jails Thousands Without Trials, HRW Report Says

(by Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MAY 26 — Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Jordan to end administrative detention that allows authorities to put suspects behind bars indefinitely without trial, insisting such practice is widespread and often used for personal vendetta by police authorities. In a report under the title: ‘Guests of the Governor: Administrative Detention Undermines Rule of Law in Jordan,’ the London based agency said the practice is used against crime victims, personal enemies and people freed by the courts “Governors and other high officials shouldn’t be able to lock people up on vague suspicions of improper behavior,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This is an invitation to abuse,” he said in a statement distributed during a press conference in Amman, noting that there are at least 10,000 new cases of administrative detention each year. Among every five inmates there is at least one administrative detainee. The group urged the government to cancel ‘The Crime Prevention Law’, which grants governors the authority to detain persons who are “a danger to the people,” insisting the term is an excessively vague term that opens the door to routine abuse. “Governors frequently issue such orders against prisoners whose sentences have expired, persons arrested on suspicion of a crime but to whom judges have granted bail, and persons who may have prior criminal convictions,” added the group. “Governors should not be able to overrule the courts by jailing people who judges have said can safely remain free,” Stork said. According to the report governors have jailed victims of crimes instead of the perpetrators. Some women threatened with family violence have spent over ten years in administrative detention, allegedly for their own “protection.” Governors have similarly detained victims of threats of tribal revenge. Street vendors, usually men, are also susceptible to administrative detention. In several cases, governors or their assistants abused their powers of detention by arresting persons against whom they had a personal grudge, said the report. “The government has ignored calls over the past four years by Jordanian rights activists, including the National Center for Human Rights, to review the practice of administrative detention,” added Stork, who also blasted prison guards for helping the injustice prevail. He aded administrative detainees commonly go on hunger strike to try to seek a review of their cases, but prison wardens often deny hunger strikers access to water, in violation of international prison standards, in order to shorten the duration of the strikes. “The cries for release from administrative detainees on hunger strikes are the human face of the breakdown of independent judicial oversight over governors’ powers to detain persons almost at will,” said Stork. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Colonel Accused of Spying for Israel

Lebanon and neighbouring Syria remain technically at war with the Jewish state.

Beirut, 26 May (AKI) — A Lebanese army colonel was arrested on suspicion of having spied on behalf of Israel, a country considered Lebanon’s enemy, Arab media reports said on Tuesday. The colonel’s arrest took place after an anonymous tip was given to the armed forces warning them of “the necessity to monitor the movements of the colonel, because his activities were considered to be very dangerous,” said a report by Qatar-based Arab TV network Al-Jazeera.

In recent weeks, a total of 15 suspects have been arrested in Lebanon on suspicion of spying for Israel.

However, Lebanon is holding up to 30 suspects, 21 of whom have already been charged.

Several others have confessed to have worked for the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.

Three of those were charged on Tuesday.

Officials have already shown sophisticated spying devices and other gadgets that were found in the houses or offices of some of the suspects.

News of the arrest surfaced less than two weeks before crucial elections on 7 June.

Israel has not commented on any of the arrests. Lebanese media reports claimed at least two alleged spies fled to Israel last week and demanded the Jewish state return them.

Hassan Nasrallah, chief of the Iranian and Syrian-backed militant Shia movement Hezbollah, called for the death penalty for all suspects convicted of spying for Israel.

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

Obama to Visit Saudi Arabia to Discuss Peace, Iran

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — U.S. President Barack Obama will meet Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah in Riyadh next week to seek his support over the nuclear standoff with Iran and reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Obama will visit Riyadh on June 3 in a surprise addition to his scheduled three-day trip to Egypt, Germany and France, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is a staunch U.S. ally in the region and potentially a key player in the drive for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, which Obama has declared a top foreign policy priority.

The Obama administration has embraced the 2002 Arab peace initiative, a proposal authored by Saudi Arabia that offered Israel normal ties with all Arab states in return for a full withdrawal from the lands it seized in the 1967 Middle East war, creation of a Palestinian state and a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.

Gibbs dismissed the idea the Saudi stop was added to persuade Arab states to make conciliatory gestures to Israel.

“The president believes it’s an important opportunity to discuss important business, like Middle East peace, but it’s not born out of anything specific,” he said.

Gibbs last week scotched speculation that Obama would use his much-anticipated speech to Muslims, which he is due to deliver in Egypt on June 4, to unveil a new Middle East peace initiative.

Obama has held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks as part of efforts to jumpstart stalled Palestinian-Israeli peace moves and will meet Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas at the White House on Thursday.


The visit to Saudi Arabia comes as Obama is seeking to build an alliance of moderate Muslim nations to put pressure on Iran to halt its uranium enrichment program, which Washington fears is a cover to build a nuclear bomb.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal called in March for Arabs to agree on how to tackle Iran’s nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for electricity generation.

Obama’s administration has been at pains to reassure Saudi Arabia that Washington’s efforts to reach out diplomatically to Iran will not affect bilateral relations.

Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as the leader of mainstream Sunni Islam, fears the growing regional power of non-Arab, Shi’ite Iran, which backs Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamist factions such as Hamas and has considerable influence in neighboring Iraq.

The United States has raised the idea of sending Yemeni terrorism detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, which Obama has said he will close by next January, to Saudi Arabia, as Riyadh has a program to rehabilitate militants.

Saudi Arabia is among the United States’ top 15 trading partners. Last year, two-way trade was $67.3 billion, which equaled about 2 percent of total U.S. exports and imports.

Saudi Arabia exported $54.8 billion worth of oil and a few other products to the United States in 2008 and imported $12.5 billion of U.S. goods.

(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer in Washington and Ulf Laessing in Riyadh; Editing by John O’Callaghan)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Report: Lebanon Colonel Held for Spying for Israel

Source says Lebanese colonel detained last week, questioned about links to Israeli spy agencies. Lebanon holding up to 30 suspects in espionage investigation

A Lebanese army colonel has been detained on suspicion of spying for Israel, security sources said on Tuesday.

The sources said the colonel was arrested last week and was being questioned about links to Israeli spy agencies.

Lebanon is holding up to 30 suspects in what security sources say is a widening investigation into espionage for Israel.

At least 21 suspects have already been charged, some in absentia, and several have confessed, the authorities say. Israel has not commented on the arrests.

Lebanese officials have displayed what they say is sophisticated communications equipment and other gadgets found in the homes or offices of some of the suspects.

Lebanon says at least two spies fled to Israel last week and has demanded Israel hand them back.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Lebanese Islamist group Hizbullah, last week called for the death penalty for all suspects convicted of spying for Israel.

Senior Lebanese security officials say the arrests have dealt a major blow to Israel’s spying networks in Lebanon.

They say many of the suspects played key roles in identifying Hizbullah targets that were bombed during a 34-day war between Israel and the Shiite group in 2006.

Other suspects have been charged with monitoring senior Hezbollah officials and at least one is alleged to have played a role in the 2004 assassination of a commander of the group.

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

Tourism: Israeli Employee Committees Boycott Turkey, Survey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 26 — A new survey found that 72% of Israel’s employee committees’ have decided to continue boycotting Turkey’s vacation spots, following the tensions in diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Ankara, daily Hurriyet reported quoting the Israeli Internet-based news site The poll was conducted by the Veadim Group, which centralizes information regarding the employee committees’ financial activities. The survey was held ahead of Israel’s annual tourism fair, scheduled to take place in July. Employee committees’ are a significant part of the tourism industry, marketing special vacation deals, both in Israel and abroad, to their members. Among the organizations which will not include Turkey in their travel packages are the First International Bank of Israel, El-Al, Egged, the Agricultural Research Organization, ECI, Elektra, Israel Refineries LTD., The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, the Israeli Technological Institute, Haifa Port and the Israel Aerospace Industries, or IAI, to name a few. At the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos late January this year, Erdogan participated in a panel with Israeli President Shimon Peres and dramatically walked out of the session in a move to protest both Peres and the panel’s moderator. Erdogan’s outburst gained a lot of sympathy among Islamic countries but caused worries in Western countries. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Woman ‘Keeps Mother’s Body in Freezer for 20 Years’

Neighbours believe that Daulat Irani, 83, was worried authorities would discover her mother had been living in Britain illegally if she made her death public.

Instead of holding a funeral, Mrs Irani is thought to have wrapped the body up in a black bin bag and then put in a chest freezer in the garage.

It is thought that Mrs Irani confided the secret to a friend who then tipped off the police. Officers questioned Mrs Irani under caution but said they are not treating the death as suspicious.

Alex Bennett, 24, a neighbour, told The Daily Mirror: “She’s a lovely old lady and always sends a Christmas card to us.

“She used to look after a white-haired gentleman known as ‘the doctor’ when he became poorly. But I think he passed away a couple of years ago. I’ve lived here all my life and I never saw her mum.”

Ray Dyson, 77, another neighbour of Mrs Irani’s in Sidcup, South East London, added: “The first we knew was when two police cares and an officer in a full forensic bodysuit turned up.

“They taped-off the garage and have now put a padlock on it. It was obviously more serious than a burglary so I asked if she was OK and the police said she was fine.”

A Metropolitan police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm we went to a residential address in Sidcup.

“Officers found the body of a woman. We believe we know the identity but await formal identification. The death is being treated as unexplained. An 83-year-old woman has been interviewed under caution but there have been no arrests.”

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

South Asia

Bombs, Fires Rock Thai South

YALA — SUSPECTED separatist militants in Thailand’s troubled south set off an apparently coordinated series of bombs, grenades and fires early on Wednesday, police said.

The first bomb exploded at around 4.00am (2100 GMT, 5am Singapore time) in front of a hotel in the centre of the town of Yala, but only parked cars and windows were damaged by the small device, they said.

Two grenades were thrown and exploded nearby, one hitting a cash machine and another damaging a billboard pole in front of a car showroom.

Police said suspected Muslim separatists also started fires at two warehouses, containing construction materials and consumer products, and a furniture shop in the town.

No one was injured in any of the incidents, they said.

More than 3,600 people have been killed and thousands more wounded in five years of separatist violence across the three Muslim-majority provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat.

Twin bombs exploded in Narathiwat in November, killing one person and injuring 70 in one of the biggest attacks on civilians since the insurgency erupted in January 2004.

Buddhist-majority Thailand annexed the ethnic Malay area in 1902, sparking decades of tension. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Held in Malaysia for 2 Years

KUALA LUMPUR — A SINGAPOREAN Islamic terror suspect recaptured in Malaysia last month will not be extradited to the city state for at least two years, Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Wednesday. Mas Selamat Kastari, who was arrested in Skudai, a small town in Johor on April 1, is being held under the Internal Security Act for two years ‘because we need to know more information,’ Mr Najib told reporters.

The Internal Security Act allows detention without trial for varying periods determined by the government. The detention periods can be extended indefinitely.

Mr Najib called Mas Selamat, the Singapore commander of the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group, a ‘threat to national security’.

Asked if Malaysia had informed Singapore that it won’t be handing over Mas Selamat, Mr Najib said authorities in the two countries were in touch.

Mas Selamat was detained under Singapore’s Internal Security Law, which is virtually identical to Malaysia’s, when he escaped from a high-security prison on Feb 27 last year by wriggling out of a toilet window. He evaded a massive manhunt and slipped into Malaysia by swimming across the narrow Johor Strait that separates the two countries.

He lived undetected in a Malaysian village of about 100 people, rarely going out or mixing with other residents. He was recaptured by Malaysian commandos with the help of Singaporean and Indonesian intelligence agencies.

Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama quoted unidentified sources as saying that authorities would discuss the handing over Mas Selamat to the Singaporean authorities toward the end of his two-year detention period.

While in detention, Mas Selamat will undergo a rehabilitation programme that includes debating with religious experts on Islam, Bernama quoted the sources as saying. There is no extradition treaty between the two countries.

Mas Selamat, a Singaporean citizen of Indonesian origin, is the mastermind behind a plot to hijack a plane and fly it into Singapore Changi international airport. He was caught by the Indonesian police in 2006 and handed over to Singapore. — AP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

India: Curfew Imposed in Punjab After Sikh Riots

Jalandhar, 26 May (AKI) — Indian security forces imposed a curfew in the northern state of Punjab on Tuesday after two people died in riots sparked by the killing of a Sikh preacher in Austria. Indian army and police patrolled towns, highways and train stations in the state after street protests turned violent.

The violence also spilled over into neighbouring Haranya state, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Most shops in areas hit by Monday’s protests remained closed for a second day, even though authorities began to slowly relax the curfew in some areas.

The riots caused US retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc to postpone the opening of its first store in India. It had been scheduled to open in Punjab on Tuesday.

Two demonstrators were killed by police on Monday amid angry protests in Punjab’s Jalandhar city that began late Sunday after the attack by Sikh hardliners at a Vienna temple against two visiting Sikh gurus.

There are reportedly fewer than 3,000 Sikhs in Austria.

The protests snowballed into violent rioting in all major cities and towns across Punjab upon news on Monday that one of the gurus, Sant Rama Nand, had died of his injuries the Asian Age newspaper reported.

Another more senior guru, 68-year-old Sant Niranjan Dass, had to undergo surgery after the armed attack by six fundamentalists. At least 16 people were hurt in the attack.

Nand was a follower the of the liberal Shri Guri Ravidas Sabha movement, which has a large following in India among lower caste Sikhs and Hindus. The fundamentalist Sikhs who attacked the preachers were reportedly from a higher caste and believed the gurus were disrespectful of the Sikh holy book.

All major highways in the state and both the main rail routes to Jammu and Amritsar were blocked, forcing the complete suspension of traffic.

As many as 25 companies of paramilitary soldiers flew to the area from Delhi, and 40 companies of Punjab police were deployed in the curfew-bound areas.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh on Monday expressed his deep distress over the violent clashes in Punjab and appealed to the people of Punjab to “stay calm” and “show restraint”.

Meanwhile, Punjab’s chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and deputy chief minister Sukhbir Badal issued a joint appeal for calm.

They disclosed that police officers on the ground had been authorised to “shoot on sight if the situation warrants such action”.

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

The Euphoria of the Indian Economy After the Results of the Elections

The Indian stock market rose by 18 points in two days, a sign of trust in the Congress and in Singh. There is anticipation for the liberalization of direct foreign investments and a political system that is able to eradicate the poverty in the slums and rural area.

The Indian economy is highly euphoric after the victory of the congress. Even though the Bombay stock exchange lost 200 points today, it has risen by 18% since the 18th of May, the first working day after the elections, demonstrating the fact that the Indian population voted with the hope for a stable government and the economic development of the country.

If the stock exchange is taken as a thermometer or as a sign of the public opinion, in this case, there could not have been a better demonstration of the hope that the people put in the fore coming government.

This sudden rise of 17.3% in just one trading day (18th of May) is also a world record. For similar results we need to go back 76 years, to the of 15 March1933, when the Dow Jones in New York registered a jump of 15.3% in just one day.

The trend was also confirmed the successive day with a further rise of 318 points.

The confidence that the Indian market is putting on the coming government of Manmohan Singh will help India to raise funds abroad on the world markets. Let’s hope that the government of the Congress without the encumbrance of the left parties, as it was in the previous legislature, will be able to introduce reforms for a quick and better development. The experts suggest that the India should be furthermore liberalized so as to encourage direct foreign investments.

India, that faced an economic slowdown due to the global recession, requires farsighted leadership in order to rise once again. The market exuberance is surely a sign of confidence in Manmohan Singh who returns to power without the hindrance of the Left. He was the man behind the first economic reforms during the 90’s, he is an economist and a cool-headed decision maker. It was his determined leadership that help us make the civil nuclear deal with the USA.

A strong economic rise is need to bring the millions of people in the rural areas and 60% of those living in the villages above the poverty line.

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

US for Smaller India Role in Kabul

Pakistan pressure to prune consulate footprint in Afghanistan

New Delhi, May 26: The US administration is nudging India to scale down its presence in Afghanistan — including pruning or closing down its consulates — in line with Islamabad’s demands, sources said.

This stand goes against US policy of the past eight years, when Washington wanted India to send troops to Afghanistan.

The US is now hunting new allies to “stabilise” Pakistan and Afghanistan, such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran that have leverage with Islamabad, as President Obama’s Afpak policy takes off.

Delhi’s role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan, including infrastructure projects and integrated development projects, has not gone down well with Pakistan, which sees India’s strategic interest in its presence.

Islamabad, which is the epicentre of America’s fight against terror in the region, is pressuring Washington to prevail upon New Delhi to reduce its presence in Afghanistan.

The matter was hinted at in talks with India when Richard Holbrooke, the US administration’s special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, was in Delhi recently. The sources said the US would like India to prune or shut down consulates in Herat and Jalalabad.

Other than the embassy in Kabul, India has four missions in Afghanistan — in Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and Jalalabad.

Herat and Jalalabad are in regions where the Taliban are active, and Islamabad accuses India of using its consulates there to whip up anti-Pakistan sentiments. While Herat borders Iran, Jalalabad is close to Pakistan.

The Obama administration is leaning towards Pakistan’s friends China and Saudi Arabia as the fight against the Taliban in the country becomes increasingly tenuous. Holbrooke visited China on April 16 and the US has sounded out Beijing on helping Pakistan fight the insurgents, the sources added.

China has an immediate interest in this, having made huge investments in Pakistan, where some 10,000 of its engineers and technicians work. Besides, Pakistani training camps are blamed for the insurgency in the Xinjiang region of China. With Iran too coming into the picture in US policy on Afghanistan, Washington would be keener on shifting its focus on countries that have greater influence on Islamabad than New Delhi.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Far East

China Says Being Demonized Over Fake Drugs

BEIJING (Reuters) — A senior Chinese health official complained on Tuesday that his country was being unfairly demonized as a center of fake drug production and defended the government’s regulatory steps as sufficiently strong. China has been battling a string of tainted and counterfeit food and pharmaceutical cases over recent years and has vowed to get tough..

While many of these scandals have only had a domestic impact, others have affected consumers abroad. At least 100 people in Panama are thought to have died in 2006 after consuming toxic, mislabeled drugs in cough syrup from China.

But Bian Zhenjia, deputy head of the State Food and Drug Administration, said China was being unfairly blamed for the problem, especially by foreign media which claim the country is a major exporter of fake drugs.

“I do not agree with what the foreign media say. The Chinese government has always paid a lot of attention to cracking down on fake drugs,” Bian told a news conference.

The problem was that sometimes overseas companies ignored Chinese regulations and did business with unregistered firms, he said.

“We hope that we can work hard together with the rest of the world and crack down on fake drugs, not hype up the problem and launch attacks,” he said, adding some reports on fake drugs from China were simply false.

“If the international community can give us information on fake drugs, we will resolutely investigate. There is no ambiguity about this,” Bian added.

China frequently complains it is misrepresented by overseas media on everything from product quality to its rule of Tibet, and says the journalists ignore China’s side of the story or intentionally seek to blacken its name.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

N. Korea ‘Told U.S., China of Impending Nuke Test’

North Korea notified China and the United States of its plan for the second nuclear test on Monday, a senior government official told reporters Monday. “As far as we know, North Korea informed the United States of its impending second nuclear test just before it was carried out. It seems the test took place immediately afterwards so that the U.S. did not have time to notify us,” the official said. A diplomatic source said the North informed China as well.

But when exactly North Korea told the two countries of its plan is unclear. In the first nuclear test in October 2006, North Korea notified China just an hour before the test, causing subtle tension between the two countries.

The North’s decision seems to be motivated by a strategic judgment, in expectations of pressure by the international community to slap sanctions on North Korea. When the North reported the launch of a long-distance rocket last month to relevant international organizations, it emphasized that the U.S. and China had been notified in advance and the launch was therefore legal. But a South Korean official said, “Giving advance notice will not lessen sanctions that will be imposed on North Korea.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

N. Korea Throws Nuclear Rattle Out of Pram

Whatever else you may say about Kim Jong-il, his sense of timing is exquisite. The first time his regime tested a nuclear device, in October 2006, the underground blast coincided almost exactly with the touchdown on (South) Korean soil of Shinzo Abe, a hardline critic of Pyongyang and then Japan’s prime minister. Mr Abe duly pushed for tougher United Nations sanctions against the North. But, within weeks, plans were set in motion to bring Pyongyang back to a negotiating table where it was offered further goodies to reverse its nuclear ambitions.

This time, reports that North Korea has tested a second bomb come as South Korea is reeling from a homegrown crisis, the suicide of Roh Moo-hyun, president until last year. Roh, who jumped off a cliff on Saturday, was an advocate of the so-called Sunshine Policy of engagement with the North, a strategy that was torn to shreds by Pyongyang’s 2006 nuclear blast.

Roh’s successor, Lee Myung-bak, has pursued a much tougher line against the North, refusing even to send it food aid unless Pyongyang specifically requests it. Arguments over which strategy is right still rage in South Korea: the suicide of Roh, who was being investigated over bribery allegations, will only add fuel to the fire.

What South Korea does may not matter. Whether in sunshine or in rain, North Korea seems determined to press on with its nuclear programme regardless. Monday’s test may have been designed to prove — to itself and to the world — that Pyongyang has improved its capabilities since the 2006 blast, which some military experts suggested might have been something of a damp squib.

North Korea’s official announcement of Monday’s test, which was accompanied for good measure by the firing of a short-range missile, made a point of saying that it had ironed out technical problems. It is too early to know whether this is true.

The likelihood is that North Korea is throwing its radioactive rattle from its pram in an effort to grab the attention of Barack Obama. The new US president has put Pyongyang fairly low down a list of priorities dominated by efforts to get the domestic economy going and to tackle terrorist threats brewing in Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East. His administration has taken the view that it will talk to Pyongyang when the time comes, but that there is no rush.

There is, of course, only one thing worse than being talked about. And that is not being talked about. Mr Kim is suitably piqued. Since April, his regime has fired a long-range missile that is technically capable of hitting Alaska — presumably Sarah Palin was keeping an eye out — and restarted a plutonium programme. Now it has tested a bomb. Mr Obama noticed this one. He duly sent out a statement in the wee hours condemning North Korea for “recklessly challenging the international community”.

The US president’s rebuke went on to say that North Korea would not achieve “international acceptance” unless it abandoned its nuclear weapons programme. But the worrying possibility is that Pyongyang may not care.

The growing feeling in Seoul, where even the unification minister struggles to explain the purpose of his ministry, is that North Korea may be trying to dash across the nuclear finishing line. Until recent months, the widespread assumption has been that Mr Kim’s regime has used the nuclear threat as a bargaining chip to press for various concessions: food, oil, cash and direct contact, preferably bilateral talks with Washington.

Now some senior officials speculate that North Korea may have come to the conclusion that the best bargaining chip of all is a certified nuclear bomb capable of being mounted on a warhead. That would certainly grab Mr Obama’s full attention

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

North Korea Threatens to Attack South if Ships Searched

SEOUL (Reuters) — North Korea, facing international censure for this week’s nuclear test, threatened on Wednesday to attack the South after it joined a U.S.-led plan to check vessels suspected of carrying equipment for weapons of mass destruction.

In Moscow, news agencies quoted an official as saying that Russia is taking precautionary security measures because it fears mounting tensions over the test could escalate to war.

Adding to mounting tension in the region, South Korean media reported that Pyongyang had restarted a plant that makes plutonium that can be used in nuclear bombs.

North Korea’s latest threat came after Seoul announced, following the North’s nuclear test on Monday, it was joining the U.S.-led Proliferation Security Initiative, launched under the George W. Bush administration as a part of its “war on terror.”

“Any hostile act against our peaceful vessels including search and seizure will be considered an unpardonable infringement on our sovereignty and we will immediately respond with a powerful military strike,” a North Korean army spokesman was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency.

He reiterated that the North was no longer bound by an armistice signed at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War because Washington had ignored its responsibility as a signatory by drawing Seoul into the anti-proliferation effort.

The U.N. Security Council is discussing ways to punish Pyongyang for Monday’s test, widely denounced as a major threat to regional stability and which brings the reclusive North closer to having a reliable nuclear bomb.

Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed security source as saying a stand-off triggered by Pyongyang’s nuclear test on Monday could affect the security of Russia’s far eastern regions, which border North Korea.

“We are not talking about stepping up military efforts but rather about measures in case a military conflict, perhaps with the use of nuclear weapons, flares up on the Korean Peninsula,” the source said.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who called him on Wednesday, that Russia would work with Seoul on a new U.N. Security Council resolution and to revive international talks on the North Korean nuclear issue.


Seoul shares closed lower with traders saying the latest rumblings underscored the risks for investors stemming from troubles along the Cold War’s last frontier. The main index has fallen 3 percent this week. The won currency was also down.

The nuclear test has raised concern about Pyongyang spreading weapons to other countries or groups. Washington has accused it of trying try to sell nuclear know-how to Syria and others.

The rival Koreas fought two deadly naval clashes in 1999 and 2002 near a disputed maritime border off their west coast and the North has threatened in the past year to strike South Korean vessels in those Yellow Sea waters.

Analysts say Pyongyang’s military grandstanding is partly aimed at tightening leader Kim Jong-il’s grip on power to better engineer his succession and divert attention from a weak economy, which has fallen into near ruin since he took over in 1994.

Many speculate Kim’s suspected stroke in August raised concerns about succession and he wants his third son to be the next leader of Asia’s only communist dynasty.

North Korea has been punished for years by sanctions and is so poor it relies on aid to feed its 23 million people, but that has not deterred it from provocations.

A U.S. Treasury Department official said it was weighing possible action to isolate the North financially. A 2005 U.S. clampdown on a Macau bank suspected of laundering money for Pyongyang effectively cut the country off from the international banking system.

The secretive North appears to have made good on a threat issued in April of restarting a facility at its Yongbyon nuclear plant that extracts plutonium, South Korea’s largest newspaper, Chosun Ilbo, reported.

“There are various indications that reprocessing facilities in Yongbyon resumed operation (and) have been detected by U.S. surveillance satellite, and these include steam coming out of the facility,” it quoted an unnamed government source as saying.

The Soviet-era Yongbyon plant was being taken apart under a six-country disarmament-for-aid deal. The surveillance had yet to detect any signs that the North, which conducted its only prior nuclear test in October 2006, was again separating plutonium.


North Korea’s meager supply of fissile material is likely down to enough for five to seven bombs after Monday’s test, experts have said. It could probably extract enough plutonium from spent rods cooling at the plant for another bomb’s worth of plutonium by the end of this year.

Japan’s upper house of parliament denounced the test and said in a resolution the government should step up its sanctions.

North Koreans celebrated, with a rally in the capital of top cadres and military brass, KCNA said.

“The nuclear test was a grand undertaking to protect the supreme interests of the DPRK (North Korea) and defend the dignity and sovereignty of the country and nation,” it quoted a communist party official as saying.

The North’s next step may to be resume operations at all of Yongbyon, with experts saying it could take the North up to a year to reverse disablement steps. Once running, it can produce enough plutonium to make one bomb a year.

The hermit state has also threatened to launch a long-range ballistic missile if the Security Council does not apologize for tightening sanctions to punish it for an April launch widely seen as a missile test that violated U.N. measures.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

North Korea Issues Heated Warning to South

TOKYO, May 27 — North Korea announced Wednesday that it is no longer bound by the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War, the latest and most profound diplomatic aftershock from the country’s latest nuclear test two days earlier.

North Korea also warned that it would respond “with a powerful military strike” should its ships be stopped by international forces trying to stop the export of missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

The twin declarations, delivered by the country’s state news agency, followed South Korea’s announcement Tuesday that it would join the navies that will stop and inspect suspicious ships at sea. North Korea has repeatedly said that such participation would be a “declaration of war.”

They followed other developments in North Korea that have added to the sense of jangled nerves across northeast Asia since Monday’s underground nuclear test.

The North fired three more short-range missiles off its east coast on Tuesday, said Yonhap, the South Korean news agency. North Korea had fired two missiles into the same waters on Monday.

And U.S. spy satellites have detected signs that North Korea has restarted its nuclear plant, a South Korean newspaper reported Wednesday. Chosun Ilbo cited an unnamed South Korean government source as saying that steam has been detected from a reprocessing facility at North Korea’s Yongbyon plant.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke Tuesday to her Russian counterpart as part of an effort to seek a united response with “consequences” for North Korea. But U.S. officials also stressed that they are still eager for North Korea to return to multilateral disarmament talks and are not ready to declare the multi-year effort to end North Korea’s nuclear program a failure.

“We feel the door does still remain open, that we’re ready to engage,” said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly. He described the Obama administration’s effort now as trying to “bring international pressure to bear to get them to reverse their course.”

In Tokyo, a former defense minister and ruling party lawmaker said Japan should consider developing the ability to conduct preemptive strikes against North Korea, even though Japan’s constitution prohibits it from taking offensive military action.

South Korea had long resisted U.S. pressure to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which was created in 2003 by President George W. Bush and includes more than 90 countries that have agreed to stop and inspect suspicious cargo on sea and land.

Seoul was reluctant to rile North Korea, but North Korea’s second nuclear test nudged Seoul Korea to change its policy.

North Korea has long been suspected of shipping or flying missiles to customers in the Middle East and South Asia.

As a member of the security initiative, South Korea is likely to receive intelligence information from the United States, Japan and other countries about ships leaving North Korean ports that may be carrying such goods, a government official said in Tokyo.

Joining the international interdiction effort “is a natural obligation for a mature country,” said South Korea’s foreign minister, Yu Myung-hwan. Even before Monday’s nuclear test, peaceful coexistence on the Korean Peninsula had been sorely tested this spring. The North launched a long-range missile, detained a South Korean citizen, kicked out U.N. nuclear inspectors, restarted a plutonium factory and halted the six-nation negotiations on its nuclear program.

“Inter-Korean relations have hit rock bottom,” said Yun Duk-min, professor of international politics at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security, a government think tank in Seoul. “So it is the right thing to join PSI, even if North Korea reacts with resistance.”

“The current U.S. leadership . . . has drawn the puppets [South Korea] into the PSI,” North Korea’s military complained Wednesday in a statement.

North Korea is thought to possess more than 200 mid-range Nodong missiles that can strike nearly any part of Japan. The Japanese government, which has invested billions of dollars in a U.S.-made antimissile defense system, is concerned that the North is making progress in designing nuclear warheads that could fit atop its missiles.

“We must look at active missile defense such as attacking an enemy’s territory and bases,” the former defense minister, Gen Nakatani, said at a meeting of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

In China, where condemnation of the North’s nuclear test was surprisingly swift and unambiguous, the state media on Tuesday printed strong reprimands of North Korea from other countries. The shower of criticism was far different from the reaction to North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, when the Chinese media blamed the United States for provoking Pyongyang by cutting off aid.

“This may well be a reflection of Beijing’s frustrations for not being able to assert control and influence over North Korea,” said Wenran Jiang, research chair of the China Institute at the University of Alberta.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Philippines: 10 Dead in Muslim Clash

MANILA — TEN Muslim extremists were killed on Wednesday in a fierce firefight with government troops on the southern Philippine island of Basilan, the military said.

The death toll could be higher as troops continue to hunt down members of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group who were behind the kidnapping of three local school teachers four months ago, said Captain Neil Estrella.

The group released the teachers on Tuesday, possibly after a ransom was paid.

Mr Estrella said once the safety of the schoolteachers was assured, Marines began ‘stalking the perpetrators.’ They encountered the main body of about 50 Abu Sayyaf members before dawn Wednesday, leading to an intense firefight, he said.

The bodies of 10 Abu Sayyaf members were recovered with no casualties on the government side.

While the fighting has subsided, pursuit of the extremists is continuing, said Mr Estrella.

The Abu Sayyaf are known for kidnapping Christians and foreigners for large ransom payments and have killed their hostages when their demands have not been met.

Earlier this month, the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan beheaded a retired Christian carpenter abducted two months earlier after his family failed to pay a ransom.

Another group of Abu Sayyaf militants continue to hold Italian Red Cross worker Eugenio Vagni on the island of Jolo, where they kidnapped him in January. Two other Red Cross workers abducted with Vagni have since been freed.

The Abu Sayyaf was founded in the 1990s, ostensibly to fight for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines. Intelligence agencies say they have links to the Al-Qaeda terror network.

The United States on Tuesday offered up to 2.5 million dollars in rewards for tips leading to the capture of three senior Abu Sayyaf members. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

S. Korea: Let Roh’s Death End Discord

I could comprehend his decision as an individual to take his own life, but it was wrong of him to make such a choice as a leader of the nation.

Last Saturday after former President Roh Moo-hyun died, his supporters trying to set up a mourning altar in front of Seoul City Hall scuffled with police. Mourners with chrysanthemums were lining up to pay tribute, and the police encircled the crowd.

One of the organizers was distributing black ribbons that read “Condolences.” As he approached and offered me a ribbon, I was beset by complicated thoughts.

How should I interpret the death of President Roh? Should I be wearing the ribbon of condolence?

I was touched with compassion and was heartbroken by his death. I felt I understood his pain.

But was he right to choose death?

Even if I could comprehend his decision as an individual to take his own life, it was wrong of him to make such a choice as a leader of the nation.

I turned down the ribbon.

The Roh supporter looked at me with reproachful eyes and asked, “Are you a member of the New Right?” Sadly, it seems Roh’s death is again picking on old scabs.

The death of any man is a sad and pitiful event. Roh’s tragic fate must have been especially heartbreaking to those who supported him. Many young men in black suits visited the mourning altar.

No one has the right to obstruct their grief. The police cannot and should not stop the tears of the mourners. The overly prickly response of the police to the mourning altar on the day of Roh’s death has backfired.

I hope the mourners would be able to cry their full and clear their minds. I wish the tears will wash clean their hearts and bring peace to the country.

Although I understand how Roh had felt, I don’t think his decision was right.

We all experience dead ends in our life. We might be tempted to escape all the suffering by choosing death.

However, we usually say, “I cannot die even if I want to.” We suppress the temptation because of our parents, spouse, children, the job, responsibility or even love.

As a national leader he should have considered the effect of his suicide.

You might argue that a man ready to kill himself cannot afford to think further. However, during his presidency, such spontaneity had been his weakness.

Why did he not think of how solemn it is to be a president and what he represented?

What if he had written, “I end my life because I cannot keep the presidential honor but I hope the nation will transcend division and go a new way with my death?”

Korea already has the disgraceful record of the highest suicide rate in the world. When even someone who had been the president of the country ends his life this way, the impact is bound to be tremendous.

While death to an individual ends everything, his death as a former president should be interpreted differently. It is tragic and heartbreaking, but as a public figure, his act was not appropriate. The funeral procedure should reflect this point.

The prosecutors rebuked him as a criminal [suspect] during his investigation, but immediately after his death, all investigations were closed. While the jurisdiction is no longer valid with the death of the concerned party, it does not change the crime [he is accused of].

I am not suggesting harassing the late president.

We need to find out the truth and make sure whether the prosecutors were not unreasonable. The prosecutors virtually admitted how political they are, making an excuse of struggling politically, and swayed by public sentiment.

The presidential guards should have anticipated the possibility and should have used all appropriate security measures. It is a shame that we are living in a country where a retired president is not guarded properly. It was indeed a tragic event, but it is a separate matter that a country has to defend its position as a nation.

The late President Roh had admired Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln was reelected in the last days of the American Civil War, which left the United States completely devastated.

On April 14, 1865, only six weeks after his second inauguration, he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater near the White House. All Americans, both in the Union and the Confederacy, mourned his death.

In his reelection address, one of his most celebrated speeches, he called for forgiveness and tolerance. He said:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation¡¯s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan — to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

When President Lincoln was killed, people pondered the meaning of the address and thought that he might have anticipated his fate and left his last words to Americans.

The meaning of death depends on how those left behind accept the death, not the one who died.

The death of President Roh will have different meanings depending on us.

I would like to propose that his death mean the end of Korea’s division.

It is time to get over the hatred.

His death puts an end to discord that lasted for ten years. Those who loved him, especially, have a duty to make his death meaningful.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

S.Korea May Need Its Own Deterrent

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Following the welcome news that Japan might finally start pulling their weight on their defense and modifying their constitution…]

North Korea said Monday it “successfully” conducted another underground nuclear test. Despite warnings and efforts by the international community to dissuade it, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006 and a second test now. It also launched three short-range missiles. The same day, the state-run news agencies reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il had sent a telegram of condolence to former South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun’s family.

The U.S. and South Korean governments sensed an artificial seismic wave measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale at around 9:45 a.m. on Monday in Kilju, North Hamgyong Province. The first nuclear test in 2006 created a seismic wave measuring 3.6. The one-point difference on the Richter scale signifies at least a 10-fold increase in the intensity of explosion. North Korea’s nuclear test created a seismic wave around 0.9 points stronger than the original test. U.S. officials say the size of the first nuclear test was equivalent to 1 kt of dynamite, while the second test is estimated equivalent to more than 2 to 3 kt. The power of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan just before the end of World War II in 1945 was around 15 kt and 22 kt.

The long-range rocket North Korea launched on April 5 flew 3,200 km. The effective range had almost doubled compared to the first missile launched in 1998, which flew a distance of 1,620 km. This year, in other words, North Korea has succeeded in more than doubling the power of its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. It is still too early to conclude that the nuclear weapon and long-range missile capabilities are in their final stage of completion. The power of its nuclear weapon lags far behind the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima 64 years ago, while in three separate tests, its long-range missile fell far short of the 7,000 km to 8,000 km range considered the standard for intercontinental ballistic missiles. But if North Korea continues its tests without any limitations, we will soon face a country that has a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile.

It would then be in a completely different class from South Korea. It would want to be treated as a nuclear power by the international community, and U.S. treatment would also change. North Korea has already demanded to be treated as a nuclear state during the six-party talks and through other channels. If it was, it would no longer try to recognize South Korea as an equal and would attempt to alter the fate of the South by touting its superiority on the Korean Peninsula.

U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement accusing North Korea of “directly and recklessly challenging the international community.” The South Korean government said the nuclear test was an “intolerable act of provocation.” The U.S. and South Korean governments, along with Japan, plan to pursue a new resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea. The nuclear test is a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718, which bars the North from conducting further tests, necessitating new measures from the council.

But UN sanctions so far have not been effective, and North Korea has scoffed at them. China, which holds the key to deciding on the intensity of sanctions, was angry about the first nuclear test, calling it a “reckless” act. But following the second nuclear test, the Chinese government in foreign ministerial talks in Hanoi, Vietnam said it would “objectively monitor the situation.” North Korea is believed to have given the U.S. and Chinese governments advance notice of its nuclear test. This means that North Korea is considering the resumption of talks with Washington by playing a strategic game.

South Korea faces the most pressing threat due to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ICBMs, but has its hands tied behind its back and is incapable of a substantial response due to its commitment to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Missile Technology Control Regime signed with the U.S. government. North Korea claims its rationale for having nuclear weapons is to defend itself. South Korea too now requires a deterrent. If the day comes when the republic and the lives of its citizens are threatened, we must take on the problems posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ICBMs by realizing that we can no longer accept the limitations of international treaties.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Cabbie Rapist ‘Honest and Caring’

A Sydney cabbie who raped three female passengers is an “honest, caring person who would not harm a soul”, a judge has been told.

Fatima Kazan also said her brother-in-law, Hassan Nagi, was “very, very sorry” for his offences.

She was giving evidence in the Downing Centre District Court on Wednesday at the sentencing hearing of Nagi, 37, of Bexley.

Nagi has pleaded guilty to raping three women, aged 31, 23, and 27, in 2003, 2006 and 2007.

Ms Kazan said she had known Nagi for 10 years and had been shocked to learn of his crimes, adding, “This was out of his character, this is not him.”

She saw her brother-in-law daily. “He is always crying, he is always depressed,” she said.

His lawyer handed up to Judge James Bennett a bundle of material, including “confidential submissions”..

The hearing is continuing.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Visa Changes an Invitation to Smugglers: Opposition

The Federal Opposition says a proposed overhaul of the bridging visa system would further soften Australia’s border protection policies, sending the wrong message to people smugglers.

A Parliamentary inquiry says there need to be changes to how the system works, including offering applicants increased assistance to health care, legal services and accommodation.

The Greens say the changes do not go far enough, the Opposition’s immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone says the recommendations would allow people into the community before they have had their identity and security status checked.

“That is just another message right now that I think is very unhelpful as the people smugglers literally get bigger and bigger boats, and become more and more active in what is a very dangerous and inhumane trade,” she said.

“The message says, ‘Look, we’re not even going to complete all of your identity checks before we pass you into Perth or Adelaide or some other community where you can work, where you’ll be given unemployment benefits if you can’t get a job, where we’ll find you decent accommodation’.”

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

MP Calls for HIV Positive Citizens to be Branded on the Buttocks

Swazi residents were asked on Tuesday to debate a politician’s call for HIV positive citizens to be branded on the buttocks, which has sparked an uproar in the small mountain kingdom.

The Times of Swaziland asked for feedback on best ways to combat HIV and rights to freedom of speech after Timothy Myeni told fellow politicians that all Swazis should be tested for HIV and their backsides marked if infected.

“I have a solution to this virus. The solution will come from a law that will make it compulsory to test for HIV. Once you test positive, you should be branded on the buttocks,” the member of Parliament said last week.

“Before having sex with anyone, people will then check the buttocks of their partners before proceeding with their mission,” the newspaper reported him saying.

Landlocked Swaziland is one of the world’s poorest nations with the highest HIV prevalence in the world under the rule of Africa’s last absolute monarch King Mswati III.

Miyeni, who leads a popular gospel group, has stuck to his call for compulsory HIV testing but apologised for the buttocks branding suggestion.

“I am very sorry for saying HIV positive people should be branded, I did not know it would turn out like this. I have seen that the suggestion was very offensive and many think I was discriminating, so I withdraw my statement,” he said last week.

Reader responses will be published in the Times of Swaziland next Tuesday, the newspaper said in its online edition.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Bolivia Denies Supplying Iran With Uranium

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivia on Tuesday denied supplying uranium to Iran, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dismissed Israeli allegations that the two countries have been aiding Tehran’s nuclear program.

Bolivian Mining Minister Luis Alberto Echazu said his country doesn’t even produce the radioactive metallic element, though he acknowledged that officials believe the country has some untapped uranium deposits.

“There isn’t even a precise geological study of uranium deposits, and much less can there be talk of export” to another country, he said.

A secret Israeli Foreign Ministry report, obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, cites previous Israeli intelligence assessments saying “there are reports that Venezuela supplies Iran with uranium for its nuclear program” and that “Bolivia also supplies uranium to Iran.”

Chavez said during a visit to Brazil that it’s one more in a list of accusations his government must fight off, including that “we’re a paradise for drug trafficking, that we protect terrorists.”

“They accuse us of anything,” Chavez said. “I saw in the press yesterday… a supposed official document of the Israeli government where it says Venezuela is supporting Iran in the construction of the atomic bomb.”

Chavez didn’t directly deny the Israeli report’s assertion, but he has often joked that critics want to make it appear Venezuela and Iran are producing an “atomic bicycle” together. Iran is helping to produce bicycles and tractors in the South American country among various joint projects.

Bolivian Presidential Minister Juan Ramon Quintana described Israel’s intelligence agency as a bunch of incompetent “clowns,” and Echazu said the Bolivian Foreign Ministry plans to issue a formal response to the report’s assertion.

Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales have built close ties with Iran and have fiercely opposed Israeli and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Both Venezuela and Bolivia broke off ties with Israel in January to protest its offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Chavez has backed Iran’s assertion that its nuclear program is purely to produce energy, despite Israel’s contention that Iran is building atomic weapons.

Israel’s three-page report about Iranian activities in Latin America was prepared before a visit to the region by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who plans to attend a meeting of the Organization of American States in Honduras next week. The report did not specify where the uranium allegedly supplied by the two countries originated.

The U.S. State Department declined to comment, referring questions to Israeli officials. It did say that the U.S. is watching closely for any violations of U.N. resolutions that bar countries from selling sensitive material to Iran.

“All U.N. members are obligated to implement existing U.N. Security Council resolutions and sanctions on Iran,” State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said. “We are certainly monitoring for any indication or any actions that might be in breach.”

Some analysts doubt that Iran currently is receiving uranium from other countries.

“Iran does not need to import uranium from abroad” at this time, said Farideh Farhi, a researcher at the University of Hawaii who is an expert on Iran’s foreign policy. “Iran has uranium deposits itself. There is a real issue about Iran’s deposits being large enough to sustain the ambitious enrichment program Iran is envisioning in the future, but at this point this is not an issue.”

While defending Iran, Chavez has also expressed interest in starting a nuclear energy program in Venezuela — and Russia has agreed to help under an agreement signed during a November visit by President Dmitry Medvedev.

According to the agreement, published earlier this month in Venezuela’s Official Gazette, Russia plans to help Venezuela in the “exploration and exploitation of fields of uranium and thorium, to be used for peaceful purposes.”

Russian nuclear agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko said through an interpreter during Medvedev’s visit that “we are ready to teach students in nuclear physics and nuclear engineering.” He also referred to geological studies and “looking for uranium” in Venezuela. It’s unclear when that could begin.

Chavez said during a visit to Tehran last month that his government and Iran have been discussing plans for a joint mining company. He said “Iran has helped us a lot in making a map of Venezuelan mining” — apparently showing known deposits of gold, diamonds and other minerals. He didn’t elaborate on which minerals Iran would be involved in mining.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Alleged People Smuggler Arrested After Arriving in Perth

Alleged people smuggler Hadi Ahmadi has been arrested by Australian Federal Police in Perth following his extradition from Indonesia.

The dual Iraqi-Iranian citizen had been in custody in Jakarta since Indonesian police arrested him last June, at Australia’s request.

He was arrested and taken into custody by Australian authorities after arriving at Perth Airport last night.

Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus welcomed the news, saying Ahmadi would face 21 people-smuggling charges relating to four boat arrivals in 2001.

“Australia is grateful to Indonesia for its bilateral co-operation,” Mr Debus said in statement late last night.

Following the arrest, Immigration Minister Chris Evans said Australia would continue to work with its neighbours to crack down on people smugglers.

“The Government has renewed efforts to work closely with regional countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to prevent and deter people from attempting to enter Australia unlawfully,” Senator Evans said.

Ahmadi is accused of smuggling more than 900 asylum seekers to Australia in four separate sea voyages from April to August 2001.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last month approved Ahmadi’s extradition.

At the time of his arrest, authorities described Ahmadi — who has allegedly used more than a dozen aliases — as a “big fish” in people smuggling.

Ahmadi denies the allegations.

“That’s a big lie. I swear to God that’s a big lie,” he told the Nine Network.

“They’re just scapegoating me.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Iraqi Asylum Seekers ‘Will be Sent Home’

Taking shelter in a church will not have an effect on the government’s decision to expel refugees whose request for asylum has been denied

Immigration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech left no doubt yesterday that 60 Iraqi asylum seekers taking refuge in a Copenhagen church would have no influence on the government’s decision to return all 282 rejected Iraqi asylum seekers living in Denmark to their home country.

‘They will be sent home, no matter where they are,’ Hornbech said during consultation with members of parliament on Tuesday. ‘I hope that they head home on their own as soon as they read the writing on the wall.’

The Iraqis currently being granted shelter by Broroson Church in Nørrebro sought protection after a deal was reached with the Iraqi government clearing the way for the return of refugees whose applications for asylum have been rejected. Some have been living in Denmark for up to ten years, and some of the children have lived only in Denmark. Although some of the Iraqis are Christians, Hornbech has criticised the group for seeking protection in a church, instead of a mosque. During the consultation, however, she rejected criticism of that position.

The asylum seekers refuse to return to Iraq out of fear that their lives would be at risk if they returned home or because they have remained in Denmark so long that they no longer have ties to the country. The opposition called for the creation of residency status to accommodate their situation.

‘I can’t just give 282 people residency because the opposition wants a new immigration policy. That’s rebellious, distasteful, and disgusting.’

Although the Brorson Church parish council is allowing the Iraqis to live in its basement until at least August, should the state issue an order for the Iraqis to return home, the police are permitted to remove them forcibly.

The first Iraqis are expected to be sent home next month.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Finland: Processing Times of Asylum Applications Drawn Out

Nearly 1,200 waiting for interviews with Immigration Service

Asylum seekers are waiting up to 200 days before getting into an interview with the Finnish Immigration Service. The waiting times have nearly doubled from last year, when interviews took place inside just over three months.

Nearly 1,200 people are waiting to be interviewed to assess their eligibility for a residence permit in Finland. A sharp increase in the number of asylum applicants since August last year has had a major effect on the lengthening of application times.

Last autumn and winter, an average 500 asylum seekers came to Finland every month. In the spring, the pace had declined somewhat.

“In addition to the backlogged interview situation, another bottleneck is that the police are having difficulties in delivering the protocols of the interviews to the Immigration Service, because of a shortage of resources”, says Marjo Mäkelä, an official at the Finnish Immigration Service.

“Now we are interviewing those who applied for asylum in September 2008, and longer handling times are expected.”

Asylum applications, or applications for international protection, are handled either as normal or expedited procedure.

Bringing down the average processing time is the expedited procedure, in which the average is just over 100 days. Nearly half of all applications fall into this category.

The faster processing is for applicants coming from countries generally considered safe, and for applications which appear to be without foundation. Also, cases falling under the Dublin Convention, in which the applicant’s case is the responsibility of another EU country (and also Norway, Iceland, or Switzerland), are also processed more quickly.

Nearly half of all applications are “Dublin cases”.

The backlog has been anticipated, and more personnel has been hired to deal with the surge. On Monday, 30 new civil servants started work at the Immigration Service, focusing on interviews.

The new employees were given two-year contracts, and are located in Helsinki, Oulu, and Imatra.

The Finnish Immigration Service is expecting up to EUR 6,000 people to seek asylum in Finland this year. By the beginning of May there were slightly fewer applicants than had been anticipated — about 2,000.

Most asylum applicants still come from Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Germany is Losing the Cream of Its Workforce to Other Countries

A new migration study says an alarming number of highly qualified Germans are packing their skills and certificates and heading for foreign shores, the majority of them on a one-way ticket.

Researchers at the independent Council of Experts on Integration and Migration have found that some 180,000 Germans have left their country in the past five years. And that, says Council chairman Klaus J. Bade, presents a national-scale “personnel problem.”

He says it’s time for politicians to wake up and realize that those who are leaving are better qualified than those coming in from elsewhere. One field where the personnel pinch is being acutely felt is medicine.

The Council’s latest report shows that more than 3,000 medical staff, most of whom were trained in Germany, left the country in 2008. That brings the total number of German doctors working abroad to 19,000. Meanwhile, Bade points out, there are places in the eastern part of the country, the former GDR, where the lack of medical practitioners is reaching crisis proportions.

In order for the situation to change, Bade says it’s crucial to take a new look at immigration laws. He suggests a system which would give priority to people who could offer Germany needed skills.

The migration researcher also said Germany should do more to attract international talent. “We don’t operate a welcome culture,” he said, adding it was high time Germany implemented a national policy for easier recognition of foreign qualifications and that there should be active encouragement for foreign students to stay in Germany after graduation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Guantanamo: Tunis Prepared to Welcome Its Citizens, Minister

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MAY 26 — Tunisia is prepared to welcome all its citizens held in the US prison in Guantanamo, said Justice and Human Rights Minister Bechir Tekkari. “We are willing to take in all Tunisian prisoners” said the minister “and to examine their situation following criminal procedures and presuming their innocence”. The United States has asked Italy to receive two Tunisian prisoners from Guantanamo: Riadh Nasri (alias Riagh Bil MohammedNasseri) and Moez Fezzani. In 2007 the Milanese magistracy issued a warrant for the arrest of the two men, charged with criminal association, aiding and abetting immigration and logistic support to a cell of the Salafite Group for Preaching and Combat. Regarding the requests made by Washington to Italy and other European countries, the Tunisian justice minister said that “the problem concerns the United States and Europe”. “Tunisia” he confirmed “is ready to take in all its citizens”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Forced Returns Avoid Tragedies, Berlusconi Says

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Forced returns avoid “tragedies at sea”, said Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in an interview on ‘Radio Radio’. The premier said that, in Italy, “10% of citizens are foreigners — most of whom are well-integrated, respect the law and contribute to our economy though their labour. I don’t believe we should open our borders to everyone. People who come here without work end up in the hands of crime, as shown by the percentage of immigrants in our prisons. We must open our doors to those who come here legally, according to the established quota. Our doors should stay firmly closed to mass immigration, which instead was a recurring theme of the previous government”. “Forced returns,” Berlusconi stressed, “avoid tragedies at sea. If the boats reach our territorial waters, we’ll welcome them. But if they are intercepted outside our waters we’ll assist them and bring them back to the safety of the Libyan coast. There is a UN agency in Libya they can turn to, which verifies any asylum requests. If the conditions are met we will welcome them.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: ‘More European Help’ Needed on Illegal Immigration, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MAY 26 — Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Tuesday reiterated an appeal for European Union assistance on illegal immigration to help lift the pressure off southern European countries bearing the brunt of the influx. Speaking after a meeting with his Maltese counterpart Tonio Borg, Frattini said Italy and Malta would try to avoid the repeat of an incident in April which saw a four-day stand-off between the two countries on rescuing a Turkish freighter, the Pinar, carrying 140 migrants and the dead body of a pregnant woman. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi eventually ordered the migrants to be rescued on humanitarian grounds. Frattini said Italy and Malta would collaborate to prevent similar events via patrols near the Libyan coasts, “from which 95% of immigrants set off”. Last week Frattini welcomed European Commission President José Manuel Barroso’s decision to include the immigration issue on the agenda of the June EU leaders’ summit. At a meeting with European Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot on April 24, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and his Maltese counterpart Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici received assurances that the rest of the EU would give them more help in dealing with illegal immigration. Barrot said the EC was ready to offer financial help to the two countries, which bear the brunt of immigrants leaving the North African coast for Europe, and would also propose measures that would mean other member states would share the burden of illegal immigration. He said that sooner or later other EU countries would have to cope with immigrants who arrive on the Italian and Maltese coasts arriving on their territory. Maroni meanwhile called on the EU to reinforce the role of its border agency Frontex, suggesting that it should be made responsible for the creation and management of “EU repatriation centres”. If Europe shared the burden of arrivals in this way, “the problem would resolve itself” and cases like that of the 140 stranded migrants “would never happen”, he said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Minister Vows Govt to Keep Turning Back Migrant Boats

Roma, 22 May (AKI) — The Italian government will continue to intercept illegal immigrant boats in international waters in the Mediterranean and return them before they have a chance to claim asylum in Italy, interior minister Roberto Maroni said on Monday.

The practice, which is part of the government’s hardline approach to illegal immigration, has drawn criticism from the United Nations, the Catholic church and the Italian opposition.

“The policy is extremely effective in fighting illegal immigration and we will continue with it unhesitatingly,” said Maroni, addressing the Italian Senate.

Maroni also claimed that the policy of actively patrolling international waters for illegal immigrants and returning them does not breach international law and added that so far it has caused a drastic fall in the number of migrants reaching the Italian coast.

“It is a very effective deterrent , it save lives lost at sea and is causing a drastic fall in the number illegal immigrants reaching Italy by boat,” Maroni said.

The policy stems from a deal signed between Italy and Libya last year. Under the deal, Italian and Libyan vessels began joint patrols of the Mediterranean this month.

The government argues that the United Nations refugee should assess would-be immigrants’ requests for asylum at camps in Libya and other North African countries before they are admitted to Italy or other European countries.

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

Libya: 400 Traffickers and Illegals Arrested

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, MAY 26 — During the night between last Friday and Saturday (the news was reported today) the Libyan Interior Ministry arrested about 400 people in an operation to fight illegal immigration. The operation involved the arrest of human traffickers, almost all of whom were Libyan, and illegal immigrants. The latter were found in a makeshift tent in an area that was not reported, where they were waiting to depart. In addition to ground-based activities, sea-based activities were employed beginning yesterday morning, including three motorboats from the Guardia di Finanza that were given to Libya May 14, and that are now based in Zuwarah, the port of departure for most of the small boats headed for Europe. The report for the first day of patrols, according to local sources, spoke of “normal service”. “The 3 vessels patrolled the coast off of Zuwarah,” the source confirmed, “and are ready to intervene whenever necessary when notified by other units.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netherlands to Help Greece With Asylum Seekers

The Minister for Alien Affairs and Integration, Nebahat Albayrak, has offered to help Greece with its asylum policy. Dutch press agency ANP reports that a mission of asylum experts will travel to the southern European country from the Netherlands to share their knowledge on the matter and to see if the Greeks need any practical support.

Following a meeting in Athens with Greek officials involved in monitoring the border, the minister said it is important for European countries to work together to combat illegal immigration. She told Dutch public broadcaster NOS “If we do not invest in cooperation with countries on the southern European border, we will never solve our own migration problem.”

The Greek authorities are planning to use a cruise ship to pick up asylum seekers who arrive on the Greek islands in small boats. The idea is that the ship will sail to wherever the asylum seekers are and that procedures begin on board. According to Ms Albayrak the key issue is to determine whether an asylum seeker is entitled to protection or whether the person is an economic migrant.

The mission is made up of experts from the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Department (IND), the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) and the Repatriation Service. The minister will visit a detention centre on the Greek island of Samos on Wednesday before she leaves for Malta where she will also discuss the problem of illegal migration on Thursday and Friday.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sweden: UN Slams Sweden for Child Rights Failure

Sweden continues to shirk United Nations-mandated obligations guaranteeing children the right to education, prompting the international body to call government officials to testify as to why many refugee children in hiding do not attend school in Sweden.

As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC), Sweden must guarantee children a number of human rights to ensure they can “develop to their full potential”, including the right to primary education.

But the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has criticized Sweden several times for failing to provide education to all children living in Sweden, according to the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

At issue is the status of children in Sweden who have had their refugee status claims rejected and are due to be deported.

While the government examined the matter in a 2007 report, many child advocacy groups criticized the report for a lack of comprehensiveness.

The groups, which include Save the Children, the Swedish Church, and the Swedish Paediatric Society (Svenska barnläkarföreningen), are also upset with what they see as the government’s failure to prioritize the issue at the same time as children continue to suffer.

“Now the same question is up for the third time in front of the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child,” said Henry Ascher, chair of the paediatric association’s working group for refugee children, to DN.

“We paediatricians who deal with asylum seekers and children in hiding see what an enormous difference there is between children who go to school and those who live in dark apartments with curtains drawn together with parents who aren’t doing well.”

In a response to the latest inquiry from the UN, the Swedish government said it plans to review and update the 2007 report and on Wednesday, Karin Johansson, a state secretary under social affairs minister Göran Hägglund, will testify before the UN’s children’s committee.

While the previous report included a number of proposed changes to Swedish law, it failed to address the issue education access for “paperless” children, who often times go into hiding with their families to avoid being deported, or who have not applied for residence permits because their parents also reside in Sweden without proper permits.

While Sweden doesn’t prohibit “paperless” children from attending school or preschool, a lack of clear regulations usually result in individual teachers or principals deciding which children are accepted.

Another issue is that schools aren’t considered safe zones, which means children in hiding or their parents could be taken by police while on school grounds.

While police rarely take advantage of the situation, it can happen, according to Save the Children’s Sanna Vestin.

“Just the knowledge that police have the right to do it means that certain parents don’t dare let their children attend school,” she told the newspaper

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Immigrants Choose England Over Scotland

Scotland’s perception of itself as an increasingly multi-ethnic and diverse country will be challenged today by official figures that show almost all of the net international immigration to Britain since 1991 has gone to England.

Between 1991 and the 2007 a net 2.14million migrants came to England. But in Scotland for the same period net foreign migration was a paltry 105,000.

In effect, the statistics mean that England absorbed 20 times more international migrants than Scotland even though the population is only 10 times larger. England also took 11 times more migrants than Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland combined, even though its population is only 5 times larger than these three parts of the UK put together.

Balanced Migration, a cross-party group of MPs that includes Labour’s Frank Field and the Conservative Party’s Nicholas Soames, said: “This research shows that immigration is overwhelmingly an issue for England rather than other parts of the UK.”England can expect a population increase of nearly 10million people in the next 20 years or so, of which 7million will be thanks to new immigration. The political establishment is in denial on immigration — even though it is of concern to nearly 80 per cent of the population.”

The migration figures suggest that recent efforts by Scotland to attract more skilled foreign workers to the country have not given it any significant advantage.

The Fresh Talent initiative, introduced by the Scottish Executive in 2005, gave foreign students graduating in Scotland the opportunity to stay and work in the country for two years, one year more than if they graduated in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Nick Bailey, a senior lecturer in urban studies at the University of Glasgow, said: “Scotland has long sought to increase its population or stem the decline through net out-migration. Recent actions have included Glasgow taking one of the highest concentrations of asylum-seekers outside London. But people tend to drift back to the South East [of England] because that is where they see the economic opportunities and that is where the main established communities of recent migrants are.”

Scotland’s image of itself as a multi- ethnic country was recently underlined by Holyrood’s £2.4million campaign to combat racism — “One Scotland. Many Cultures.”

David Martin, who is number one on Labour’s Scottish list of candidates for the European parliamentary elections next week, said that statistics proved that the claims of the British National Party were baseless.

“Scotland is and always has been enriched by other nations and cultures. With a declining population in Scotland, we need to attract people of talent to lend their skills to Scotland. That is why Labour’s new points-based immigration system is fair and robust,” he said.

Murdo Fraser, the deputy leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said that geography played a major part in where foreign migrants settled because their main point of entry to the UK was in London or the South East.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said that the Balanced Migration data showed why the Fresh Talent initiative was needed. “We believe that there is an opportunity to attract talented and motivated individuals to live, work and study in Scotland, which we must continue to publicise and promote,” she said.

“Moreover, this data makes it clear that a ‘one size fits all’ immigration system does not work.

“Scotland has distinct population challenges — common sense, detailed research, the experience of Fresh Talent in action, and international best practice all demonstrate the need to develop a policy based on Scottish circumstances. That is why ministers and officials continue to press the Home Office for Scottish flexibilities within the points-based system, which would help disperse migrant workers from the south of England.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UN to Deter Refugees in Calais From Heading to Britain

The United Nations refugee agency is to set up an office in the French port of Calais to encourage some of the hundreds of migrants sheltering there not to try to get to Britain, it said on Tuesday.

Among other assistance, the undocumented immigrants — most of whom are in France illegally and plan to sneak into Britain — will be told that if they wish, they can attempt to claim refugee status in France instead.

“It’s not about trying to convince people to seek asylum in France, but simply to give them the information they need to make an informed decision,” said Francisco Galindo, representative for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The agency said it would bring refugee assistance groups from Britain to Calais to try to explain the reality of life there to would-be refugees who have travelled thousands of kilometres dreaming of a better future.

The constant stream of illegal immigrants arriving in Calais, most of the from Southwest Asia and Africa, has been a source of tension between London and Paris and has stirred anger in the French Channel port itself.

Mr Galindo said the office would open on June 3 after lengthy negotiations with French authorities.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

A Candidate for the EU Parliament

Regular readers are familiar with Henrik Ræder Clausen, who runs the English-language side of Europe News, and frequently contributes comments and guest-posts to Gates of Vienna.

Henrik is now running for the European Parliament as a candidate for Dansk Folkeparti (the Danish People’s Party), and, since we have a lot of Danish readers, he presents his candidacy here in his own words.

Why I am running for the European Parliament

Henrik Ræder ClausenRunning for the European Parliament is no small task, and during the process I sometimes come to wonder why I do this at all. Isn’t there a more convenient way to live, is this really necessary? This essay is an explanation of what drives me to do this, and what does not.

The quest for political power?

Nope. Political power is overrated, and not a worthwhile pursuit in itself. The ultimate goal of government should be to enable citizens to rule their own lives, as freely as possible, without infringing on the right of other citizens to do likewise. Political power should be a means to that end, not a goal unto itself.

Making a living?

With all the (relevant) talk of high salaries and undeserved perks for EP members, I guess I need to address this one: Not this, either. I have a well-paying job, good colleagues and flexible working hours. If things in Europe were fine and dandy, I would make a fortune writing more amazing computer code or advising how to optimize processes by means of Lean methodology. The pay for a parliamentarian is high, for sure, but so are the expenses, as you have lots of travels, hotels and dinners to pay for.

Actually, being a parliamentarian is not good for your health, your waistline nor your family life. If I thought everything was fine and dandy in Europe, that the future of my child and those of others was secure, I would be settling down to have more children and enjoy raising them. But things are not fine, and we need to take care of that. Relaxation and comfort will have to wait for later.


I’m fine without it. Thank you.

What then?

What really matters here is the state of Europe. The problems with immigration and radical Islam are well known, and are being tackled with less-than-desirable skill by our governments. Private initiatives, like the bloggers and the International Free Press Society, are faring much better — and at a significantly lower cost, too. That is a hot issue, but it is being tackled by a lot of courageous and highly skilled people.

Behind this lies a different problem, of much more subtle nature, and visible only to those who have a keen eye for what democracy is and how it works. The European Union really isn’t a democratic system. This could be all fine and dandy — NATO, to compare with something, isn’t a democratic system either, and has worked well for decades in defending the democracies. NATO is a joint organisation based on sovereign nation-states, and it respects the sovereignty of the member states just fine. For instance, NATO doesn’t interfere with the somewhat suspicious state of democracy in Turkey, and even abstained from objecting to the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, in spite of it being at odds with article 8 of the North Atlantic Treaty.
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The European Union, on the other hand, has the appearances of being a democracy. There is a parliament, an executive (the Commission) and a court (ECJ), which in combination make it look like the European Union has the division of power typical of true democracies. However, the actual division of responsibilities differs in significant ways from that of a normal democracy, rendering the Commission and its staff unduly powerful in the system. It can’t be dismissed like a government in a parliamentarian system, either. Worst of all, the three branches do not constitute a system of ‘checks and balances’, where each branch would be seeking to limit the amount of power held by the other branches. Further institutions like the council of ministers complicate the system, but the aggregate problem becomes this: The institutions of the European Union work in consort to consolidate more power among themselves, dismantling the sovereignty of the nation-states in the process.

Does dismantling the nation-states constitute a problem?

It sure as H*** does! Democracy works well in nation-states that have a reasonable uniformity in culture and a tradition of mutual trust and respect. Nation-states have national newspapers and radio/television stations, where news and opinions can be exchanged, followed and reacted upon, by the citizen as well as by the politician. The European Union has no comparable pan-European press used by the average citizen. Language and local differences preclude such press from being a rational business endeavour in the first place.

Further, the European Union is large. By population, it is smaller only than China and India, and larger than the United States of America. Running governments in states this large is very complex, as you have to take into account a wealth of details that do not lend themselves easily to uniform regulation. None of these states are in a healthy democratic state. I’ll discuss only the European Union here.

I found out about the structural problems of the European Union by reading The Great Deception by Booker & North. This book traces the origins of the Union, the hidden agenda, and elaborates on the problematic idea of creating a European constitution to replace the national ones. At 600 pages, it isn’t exactly lean, but it sure is a page-turner. That audacious book was introduced to me by good friends of mine (Hi E!), and made a difference. I had been noticing for a while that the Union was making bad decisions, like inviting Turkey for membership, and through the work of Booker & North understood some core problems leading to this.

I like democracy

I like the notion that the citizens of any given state have the ultimate power to decide how their state is run. That’s democracy, literally translated ‘Rule by the people’, and it’s good. Given a sufficiently level of education, no better system of government has been devised yet. One may distinguish between ‘Democracy’ and ‘Republic’, the latter defined by having a strong constitution to limit the power of politicians, but that is somewhat immaterial in context.

The European Union is a legally binding cooperation among states. The ‘legally binding’ aspect means that any state has an unconditional obligation to follow the decisions made by the Union, effectively rendering the EU a superstate with the power to decide pretty much anything it desires in its member states. Decisions can be taken by majority voting, where a state does not have the right to veto any particular decision, or by a procedure that has this option. Recent treaties move large areas of competence into majority voting, effectively cancelling the right of any state to have the final word in those areas.

The European Court of Justice is a noteworthy player in this field. It has a special role in interpreting legislation, in particular vague legislation, and it routinely does so in a fashion that grants more power to the Union. There is no method for the member states to challenge rulings from the European Court of Justice. This is a problem for the reason that the ECJ is not only interpreting current law, it is also introducing radical reinterpretations, effectively creating new law based on court rulings, not parliamentary decisions.

A compounding problem is the lack of options for citizens who want to influence the decisions being made. Sure, we get to vote. And that’s it. For ordinary citizens to make a difference, contacting the Commission, the MEPs, or other institutions is not particular rewarding. Usually — and I’ve tried this personally — one gets an explanation of how the Commission has already considered every relevant aspect of a problem, that things are being watched closely, and that there is no need for citizens to be worried about the process.

That’s arrogance, and it’s demotivating. The most lucid example came from the OneSeat ( campaign that made the very simple request that the European Parliament should save the trouble and expense of having two seats to move between, one in Brussels and one in Strasbourg. That request is backed by more than 1,250,000 signatures, but was nonetheless dismissed by the EU system. Which should, in order to demonstrate respect for the citizen, have grabbed the opportunity and fixed the legal problems.

EU is a law-machine

The above is but one example of the ‘democratic deficit’ of the Union. This deficit used to attract some attention, but that attention waned without any real reforms being implemented. The Union is basically being run by civil servants, who make sure that everything issued from the Union is based on law (or at least the EU interpretation of the law), The direct opinion of citizens is of secondary concern to the Union, and the Commission in particular, as it is not directly responsible to voters.

What the European Union produces is legislation. Directives, regulations, recommendations, and framework decisions. This legislation will in turn be transformed into national legislation, to render it equivalent to national legislation and enforced by national courts.

In an interesting procedure known as ‘pre-judicial cooperation’, the national courts routinely ask the European Court of Justice for ‘advice’ concerning how to rule in cases related to Union law. The ECJ then tells the national court what to decide, and the result is presented as a national court decision, even though it originates from the European Court. This is a system informally known as ‘Engranage’, where the European Union discreetly directs the work and decisions of national institutions, while the latter still appear to be purely national, and are funded by national budgets as well.

Now, the European Union routinely produces more laws, and the national parliaments are obliged to implement them. Some 80+ percent (Germany: 84 percent) of the laws presented in national parliaments originate from the European Union. These laws keep regulating the lives of citizens, and they keep stacking up, rarely or never being abolished.

One particularly objectionable piece of regulation is the “Framework Decision on Combatting Racism and Xenophobia”, which obliges member states to implement strict laws against the expression of opinions in these categories. This decision limits the rights granted by the Danish Constitution, and are as such simply not constitutional in Denmark. It will be interesting to see how this plays out — will our parliament stand for our Constitution, or will it give in to the demands of the Union?

We need a leaner — much leaner — European Union

There is a plethora of ridiculous regulation from the Union. Exporting duck eggs, for one, is subject to a directive of 26,000 words, all in the name of the Inner Market. This is not really a free market, it is an intensely regulated market, where products can be traded freely only if they adhere to very detailed EU standards. This over-regulation may be good for the larger manufacturers, but it causes a lot of burdens for smaller ones and start-ups.

Agricultural subsidies should never have been implemented. They were initiated in the late 60’s to replace national subsidy systems, but that was a mistake right from the outset, channeling perfectly useful money from worthy purposes such as research and technology into surplus production of grain, butter and wine, usually of poor quality. This system has also led to extreme overpricing of soil and farms, creating a huge exposure to the financial markets, interest rates and so on. The system is unhealthy and should be abolished.

This is not possible at the moment

The problem here is that the reforms are not coming. Instead, ever-increasing amounts of political power is being transferred to the Union, to the point that there is basically no subject where that it is clearly barred from deciding over the member countries. This trend continues with the Lisbon Treaty, while the problems of the ‘democratic deficit’ remain unresolved.

The obvious issues, like subsidies and the two seats of parliament, should be easy to resolve, were the opinion of European citizens taken seriously and acted upon. The fact that this does not happen points to a deeper problem:

The need for structural reforms

This is the crux of the matter. When the EU institutions have developed this tradition for not respecting the opinion of the citizen, the institutions themselves are in need of deep reform. Reforms that would turn the Union into a true democracy, not merely a nominal one. Legitimacy is ultimately derived from citizens, not from creative interpretations of the law. The current situation leans much too much on complex legal issues, and does not — by a long shot — take the concerns and opinions of the citizens seriously.

We need a reformed EU, which has obvious public legitimacy. The Lisbon Treaty is a killer move against this legitimacy and needs to be abolished. Instead, we need true reforms. Reforms designed by people who understand the nature of democracy, the way the makers of our constitutions (the Danish is a good one) created lean, understandable and workable constitutions.

This is the reason I run for EP

Being critical of the European Union is relatively easy, once the fundamental problems are identified. Exposing undeserved perks and downright fraud is part of the work, but not at the heart of it. What really matters is identifying a way to reform the system, so that it will respect the honest opinions of the citizens, rather than try to change opinions to adhere to what the system wants. One way to do this is to return a significant amount of political power to the national parliaments, which are more transparent and part of active democratic processes than is the EU system.

Devising a strategy for reform is my ultimate goal in running for the European Parliament. One needs to understand the system properly in order to devise relevant reforms. Standing on the outside looking in simply isn’t good enough.

On a related note, we need allies for such a reform. The other member states have the same problems, and some fine people are aware of the problems and motivated to work on them. Forming alliances with friends in other countries is vital to initiating a genuine reform process.

Finally, we need to make the workings, and the need for reform, clear to the general public. Writing home, showing the faults of the system and proposing improvements, would be one of my most important activities from the parliament. We need public support in any democracy, and we need public support to change the state of things, to turn the Union into a democratic system.

Failing that, Denmark should consider a withdrawal from the Union. In the lack of reforms, the member states will probably start revolting over time, when vital national interests are challenged. First in small ways, but if the Union reacts inappropriately, such as with repression, the revolts are sure to grow, and might eventually threaten the stability of the entire system, should it prove sufficiently resistant to reform and to the needs of member states.

With me so far?

Even a short article about the European Union tends to become quite long. If you are with me still, chances are you understand the problems and appreciate the need for reforms. Since only Danish voters are eligible to vote for me on June 7th, the remaining paragraphs will be in Danish.

En kritisk stemme d. 7. juni

Hvis du vil høre mere om de demokratiske problemer i EU, være med til at udvirke reformer, og gøre EU til et sandt og levende demokrati, vil jeg opfordre dig til at stemme på mig ved valget d. 7. juni. Det vil være en stemme for et slankere og mere åbent EU. En stemme for at få reformeret systemet radikalt, så borgerne -og især danskerne — igen kan føle, at de har magten og det sidste ord om, hvad der bliver vedtaget og hvordan deres lande styres.

En vigtig del af det er at forstå, hvad der foregår. Derfor, og fordi demokratiske reformer skal have bred folkelig forståelse og opbakning, er mit vigtigste valgløfte simpelt: Jeg lover at skrive hjem.

Jeg vil opfordre til at møde frem og stemme ved valget d. 7. juni. Og jeg vil opfordre til at sætte krydset ved Dansk Folkeparti, der sikrer at vi forbliver i eget hus. Bliver jeg valgt, er mit løfte at skrive hjem på forståeligt dansk, så alle kan følge med i, hvad der sker. Hvad der bør ske er simpelt, omend ikke nemt:

Vi skal reformere EU til at fungere efter demokratiske principper.

Med venlig hilsen

Henrik Ræder Clausen
Kandidat til Europa-Parlamentet (DF)

Those Offensive Stars and Stripes

I’m used to seeing this kind of flap about the Swedish flag, or about the Union Jack and the Cross of St. George in Britain.

But this is America, and these are the broad stripes and bright stars that o’er the ramparts we watched so gallantly streaming.

The Stars and Stripes

Now they are offensive to “New Americans”.

And this incident didn’t take place in Cambridge, Ann Arbor, or Berkeley — this was in Texas!

Read it and weep:

Supervisor Asks Woman to Take Down American Flag

Is it okay to show your patriotism at the office?

For one Arlington woman, the answer was “no” after she hung an American flag in her office just before the Memorial Day weekend.

Debbie McLucas is one of four hospital supervisors at Kindred Hospital in Mansfield. Last week, she hung a three-by-five foot American flag in the office she shares with the other supervisors.

When McLucas came to work Friday, her boss told her another supervisor had found her flag offensive. “I was just totally speechless. I was like, ‘You’re kidding me,’“ McLucas said.

McLucas’ husband and sons are former military men. Her daughter is currently serving in Iraq as a combat medic.

Stifling a cry, McLucas said, “I just wonder if all those young men and women over there are really doing this for nothing.”

– – – – – – – –

McLucas said the supervisor who complained has been in the United States for 14 years and is formerly from Africa. McLucas said that supervisor took down the flag herself.

“The flag and the pole had been placed on the floor,” McLucas said. But McLucas also said hospital higher-ups had told her some patients’ families and visitors had also complained.

“I was told it wouldn’t matter if it was only one person,” she said. “It would have to come down.”

McLucas said hospital bosses told her as far as patriotism was concerned, the flag flying outside the hospital building would have to suffice.

“I find it very frightening because if I can’t display my flag,” McLucas asked, “what other freedoms will I lose before all is said and done?”

Kindred Healthcare’s corporate headquarters are located in Kentucky. We called them for comment when we were first working on this story Tuesday, but they did not return our calls.

But a lot of people complained about what happened. The hospital was not immune to pressure, and it backed down:

Wednesday morning, however, our story received nationwide attention. We have received hundreds of emails and comments from people who had something to say about it. Several dozen people protested outside the Mansfield hospital Wednesday. And a receptionist at Kindred’s headquarters told us they received many phone calls.

Then, late Wednesday morning, Kindred posted on its website a statement about the incident. It reads, in part: “The disagreement was over the size of the flag and not what it symbolized. We have invited the employee to put the flag back up.”

We talked to McLucas Wednesday afternoon. She says the hospital’s local CEO called and apologized. And McLucas says the woman did tell her she could put the flag back up, which she has done.

But she says when she was first told the flag had to go, nobody mentioned anything about its size.

“At no point was I afforded the opportunity — [no one said,] ‘Hey Deb, could you get a one and a half by three and a half and hang it instead of hanging this three by five?’“ McLucas said.

Even so, McLucas says she’s happy people have spoken out about the issue. “It’s just restored my faith in the American people,” she said.

This is an example of the Europeanization of America, which is happening much more rapidly than I expected. Perhaps the election of an ethnic Messiah of ambiguous nationality has hastened the process.

Nations, after all, are artificial constructs. They are tools used by the Patriarchy to oppress and demoralize workers, minorities, women, the handicapped, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered. Removing the symbols of a nationalistic false consciousness is one the first tasks of the Revolution.

So my advice to my fellow Americans — especially those who live in California, Vermont, or Massachusetts — is to fly the flag early and often.

And buy ammo, while you still can.

Hat tip: Paul Green.

More on the Hitler Myth

Adolf Hitler Pamela has posted an amazing spread of color photos of Hitler and the Nazis drawn from Life Magazine’s archives. Most of us are used to imagining the period in grainy black-and-white, so these color photos bring the Nazi era to life with disturbing immediacy.

They’re also a reminder of Hitler’s taste for vast, grand, and vulgar theatricals. Presumably all that kitsch Nazi bric-a-brac and garish eagle-and-swastika architecture seemed just as tacky to well-educated people in the 1930s as they do to us now.

Go over to Atlas Shrugs and see the rest — it’s a huge collection.

[Post ends here]

And Now… The Bacon Cheese Burka!

Move over, Piss Christ: you’re no longer at the cutting edge of the Religion-Insulting Art Movement!

Vlad Tepes (with the assistance of KGS) has thrown down the gauntlet for the world’s avant-garde artists:

Bacon Cheese BurkaHey artists out there who have enough track record that a gallery will actually take you seriously. Yes I know how it works in the art world, it has [nothing]* to do with how good you are but how much street cred you have because you offended the ‘right’ people. Yes by that I mean offended the ones who won’t do anything to harm you and represent anyone who has actually accomplished something on this earth. So long as you have offended them while promoting the most base and counter civilized impulses you probably can get tons of government money from various art galleries.

So let’s see if you have any real [necessary equipment]*.

Let’s see if you will make something like this: The Bacon Cheese Burka. Why not actually do an art piece offensive to the one religion which really does subjugate women to second class status? more accurately to non person status altogether actually.

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Why not show us how brave and counterculture you are by making a sculpture of a twice life size women in full Bacon cover with a cheese veil demonstrating the utter horror that is life in the Islamic world.

Will the brave artists of Paris, London, and New York rise to the challenge?

Who will dare to transgress this last boundary?


[crickets chirping]

Read the rest at Vlad’s place.

* Redacted by Dymphna. This is a PG-13 blog! Very funny image, though.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/26/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/26/2009For some reason there are a lot of Latin American news stories tonight, particularly from Brazil. Two extraditions have been approved, one of a drug lord to the United States, another of an accused rabbi to Israel. Brazilian police foiled a plot to smuggle cell phones into a maximum-security prison using a toy remote-controlled helicopter. And an Al Qaeda leader was arrested in Brazil, but apparently later released.

See Fausta’s blog for the latest Latin American news.

In other news, two separate people-smuggling plots have been uncovered in Australia. Both of them involved Muslims operating out of Indonesia.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, CSP, Fausta, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, Lexington, Nilk, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
European Stocks Drop on Grim Economic Outlook
Defense of Self Government
Frank Gaffney: Obama’s Shrinking Deterrent
Guess Who’s Calling? Prison Cell-Phone Use a Growing Problem
Obama Set to Create a Cybersecurity Czar With Broad Mandate
Pelosi’s Marxist Connections
Europe and the EU
Austria: Indian Sikh Dies After Vienna Attack
France: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Guantanamo: Berlusconi, We’ll Help USA in Agreement With EU
Holland: Muslim-Only Rest Home on Its Way
New Portal to Translate EU Dailies Into 10 Languages
UK: Cameron Agrees to Cross-Party Talks on Constitutional Reform
North Africa
Counterfeit Cars: 13,000 Parts Impounded in Algeria in 2008
Western Sahara: RASD-TV Breaks Moroccan Media Embargo
Israel and the Palestinians
Anger Over Palestinian Nakba Ban Proposal
Israel: Right-Wing Party Wants “Oath” to State
Israel Drops Warning Pamphlets Over Gaza
Israel: Muslims Vandalize Christian Graves
U.N. Fabricated Crisis Like Gun to Israel’s Back
Middle East
Arab Fury Over Push to Ban Mourning Day
EU: Swedish Foreign Minister, Europe Needs Turkey
French President Sarkozy Opens UAE Base
Iran Sends Six Warships to International Waters
Iran Arrests 104 “Devil Worshippers”: Report
Iran: Imminent Execution for Teen Offender
Jordan Jails Thousands Without Trials, HRW Report Says
June is the Cruelest Month
OPEC to Keep Current Oil Quotas: Saudi Minister
Saudi Arabia: King Says ‘Fair’ Oil Price Between 75-80 Dollars
Turkey: Erdogan Attacks the Past, Labels Kemalist Ethnic Cleansing Fascist
UAE: Abu Dhabi Mulls 100% Foreign-Owned Property
Back Into the Cold
Russia Signs Uranium Contract With US Companies
South Asia
Bangladesh: The First Time in History: A Woman is Chief Officer of Police
Punjab Riots After Vienna Killing
The Taliban Advances
Far East
China’s Communist Party Increasingly Powerless to Tackle Corruption
Japan Panel Wants “First Strikes” Against Enemies: Report
Japan to Relax Arms Export Ban: Report
Sub-Saharan Africa
Girl Receives Damages for Genital Mutilation
Latin America
Brazil OKs Extradition of Drug Lord to US
Brazil OKs Extradition of Rabbi Accused in Israel
Brazil Arrests High Ranking Qaeda Operative — Report
Caribbean States Assail U.S. Over Deportations
Chavez: Venezuela Could Leave OAS, Join Cuba
Ecuador Says Mining, Oil Must be in State Hands
Israel: Venezuela and Bolivia Providing Iran With Uranium
Jailbirds Turn to Toy Helicopter to Smuggle Phones
Venezuela Sends Uranium to Iran
Australia: ‘People Smuggler’ to Face Aussie Charges
Australia: Man Charged Over People Smuggling Plot
Australia: Two People Smugglers Reap $115,000
Bishops Blast Italy Over Immigrants
Italy: Maroni Pleased With Result
Italy: Berlusconi Urges US Immigration Model
Libya: Attempted Departure Stopped
An Anti-Semite for UNESCO?
Taliban Law is Not the Quranic Law

Financial Crisis

European Stocks Drop on Grim Economic Outlook

LONDON (AFP) — Europe’s main stock markets fell Tuesday as London traders returned to their desks and digested the bleak global economic outlook amid jitters over North Korea’s nuclear test.

The British capital’s FTSE 100 index of leading shares shed 0.72 percent to 4,333.72 points in late morning trade on Tuesday. The market was closed Monday for a public holiday.

Frankfurt’s DAX 30 reversed 1.44 percent to 4,847.39 points and in Paris the CAC 40 lost 1.46 percent to 3,188.85.

The DJ Euro Stoxx 50 index of leading eurozone shares was down 1.34 percent to 2,407.53 points.

The European single currency stood at 1.3887 dollars.

Frankfurt was dented by confirmation that the German economy — the biggest in the eurozone — was mired in its deepest recession since World War II.

German gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 3.8 percent in the first three months of the year compared to the last three months of 2008 the Destatis statistics office said, confirming preliminary data.

The contraction — the fourth in a row — was due mainly to a plunge in exports of nearly 10 percent and was the worst decline in modern German history.

“As we move on towards the end of May, the pressures remain tipped on the downside as the fundamentals still point towards economies in distress,” warned CMC Markets dealer Matt Buckland in London.

He added: “The fact remains that the outlook in the medium term is still a difficult one.”

Both the French and German stock markets were little changed in thin trading on Monday, while Wall Street was also shut for a public holiday.

In Asia on Tuesday, Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei-225 index fell 0.39 percent to 9,310.81 points, and Hong Kong’s key Hang Seng Index closed down 0.76 percent.

Tokyo shares slid as a stronger yen weighed on exporters and investors waited for fresh leads from Wall Street when it reopens after a holiday weekend.

Markets remained wary about North Korea’s announcement the previous day that it had carried out an underground nuclear test, dealers said.

The focus is now expected to turn to upcoming economic data including a US housing market survey due out later in the day and Japanese trade data scheduled for release on Wednesday.

North Korea reportedly fired two short-range missiles on Tuesday in a move set to heighten tensions after its latest nuclear weapons test drew global condemnation.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting to consider the options after Pyongyang’s test of a nuclear device on Monday.

The Council called the test a “clear violation” of international law and immediately began working on a resolution that could impose new sanctions on the secretive North, which has now tested two nuclear bombs in three years.

Asian and European foreign ministers on Tuesday jointly condemned the test and called on the reclusive state to return to six-nation disarmament talks.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Defense of Self Government

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, the question is not what backs the money — gold, silver or nothing — it’s who controls its quantity. Even if you mandate government controlling the quantity of gold-backed money — as Article 1, Section 8 puts it, “… regulate the Value thereof …” — history has shown that once you strap the money supply to gold, the plutocrats will simply manipulate the quantity of gold and thereby have defacto control in no time flat. This has happened time and time again in history.

Issuing money and controlling its quantity (“…regulating the Value thereof…”) is THE most important role of a sovereign nation. Without that power vested in the closest federally elected representatives of the people, government quickly becomes a sham — a cover for plutocracy.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: Obama’s Shrinking Deterrent

North Korea celebrated Memorial Day with an underground test of a nuclear weapon reportedly the size of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. When combined with a series of missile launches that day and subsequently, the regime in Pyongyang has sent an unmistakable signal: The Hermit Kingdom has nothing but contempt for the so-called “international community” and the empty rhetoric and diplomatic posturing that usually precedes new rewards for the North’s bad behavior.

The seismic waves precipitated by the latest detonation seem likely to rattle more than the windows and members of the UN Security Council. Even as that body huffs and puffs about Kim Jong-il’s belligerence, Japan and South Korea are coming to grips with an unhappy reality: They are increasingly on their own in contending with a nuclear-armed North Korea.

Until now, both countries have nestled under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. This posture has been made possible by what is known in the national security community as “extended deterrence.” Thanks to the credibility of U.S. security guarantees backed by America’s massive arsenal, both countries have been able safely to forego the option their respective nuclear power programs long afforded them, namely becoming nuclear weapon states in their own right.

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Guess Who’s Calling? Prison Cell-Phone Use a Growing Problem

Drugs and weapons aren’t the only contraband in prisons these days. The latest underground currency among inmates is an item most of us consider harmless: the cell phone. And so far, prison officials are fighting a losing battle to keep inmates from obtaining cell phones and using them to communicate with people both inside and outside prison walls. (See TIME’s photo-essay on “Boxing Out of Poverty and Prison in Thailand.”)

In California, home to the country’s largest state prison system, more than 2,800 cell phones were confiscated from inmates last year, double the number seized in 2007. But the problem isn’t limited to California. State and federal prisons across the country are grappling with what officials say is an epidemic of cell-phone use among inmates. (See TIME’s photo-essay on the long odyssey of the cell phone.)

“The problem has quickly gotten out of control nationwide,” says Republican Congressman Kevin Brady of Texas, who in January introduced a House bill that would permit the jamming of cell-phone signals within prison walls. “Criminals are using cell phones even from death row to threaten victims and harass lawmakers. Inmates are making literally thousands of calls from prison.”

In Texas, prison officials seized 549 cell phones from inmates in the first four months of this year alone. In California, a prison staff member admitted to earning more than $100,000 last year by selling cell phones to inmates. Prisons in Maryland, Virginia, California and Pennsylvania are using specially trained dogs to sniff out phones hidden inside cells and squirreled away in common areas. Florida and Maryland have instituted tougher penalties for anyone who provides a cell phone to an inmate, and other states are planning to follow suit.

In many prisons, cell phones have become as valuable as drugs, if not more so. In a recent sting operation in Texas, an undercover officer was offered $200 by a prisoner for a cell phone and only $50 for heroin. California officials say inmates currently fork over between $100 and $400 to obtain a smuggled cell phone. It’s easy to understand why cell phones command such a premium. Unlike the one-time sale of drugs, an inmate can rent out the same phone dozens of times to fellow inmates.

Inmates sometimes use cell phones to keep in touch with friends and family on the outside — collect calls made from inside prison facilities are notoriously expensive. But officials say inevitably cell phones are also being used to orchestrate crimes, harass witnesses, organize retaliation against other inmates and even order hits. A Baltimore man is accused of using a cell phone from prison to order an accomplice to murder a witness. (In March, the accused man’s cell was raided and guards found another phone.)

Prisoners plotting escapes have found that a cell phone can be just as valuable as a pair of bolt cutters. “I had an inmate escape from one of my prisons just this week, and guess what he used to get his ride — a cell phone,” says Richard Subia, assistant director for California’s Division of Adult Institutions. “According to our investigation so far, he contacted a girlfriend by cell phone and had her pick him up in one of the local towns. We’re still out searching for him.”

ITT’s Intelligence and Information Warfare division is currently hawking a system called Cell Hound that detects all active cell phones within a prison facility and then displays the location on a computer monitor. The monitoring device can also be used to gather intelligence on other illegal activity among inmates. Last month, a Maryland investigation that included wiretaps on prison cell phones resulted in drug and weapons charges for two dozen people, including four state prison officers.

But many prison officials believe the only surefire way to combat the problem is to jam cell-phone signals within prison walls. Yet any jammer for the slammer would run afoul of the Communications Act of 1934, which prohibits intentional interference with radio signals. Brady’s proposed bill (and a companion bill in the Senate) would amend the act to permit targeted interference of mobile-phone service within prisons, while ensuring that emergency calls or other commercial signals near the prison aren’t affected. Brady says he hopes Congress will pass the bill by the end of the year.

“I really identify personally with this problem,” says Brady. “My father was an attorney in a small town and was shot to death in a courtroom when I was 12. Just the thought of someone like Dad’s killer being able to harass a family on a cell phone seems outrageous.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Obama Set to Create a Cybersecurity Czar With Broad Mandate

Shielding Public, Private Networks Is Goal

President Obama is expected to announce late this week that he will create a “cyber czar,” a senior White House official who will have broad authority to develop strategy to protect the nation’s government-run and private computer networks, according to people who have been briefed on the plan.

The adviser will have the most comprehensive mandate granted to such an official to date and will probably be a member of the National Security Council but will report to the national security adviser as well as the senior White House economic adviser, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are not final.

The announcement will coincide with the long-anticipated release of a 40-page report that evaluates the government’s cybersecurity initiatives and policies. The report is intended to outline a “strategic vision” and the range of issues the new adviser must handle, but it will not delve into details, administration officials told reporters last month.

Cybersecurity “is vitally important, and the government needs to be coordinated on this,” a White House official said Friday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The report give conclusions and next steps. It’s trying to steer us in the right direction.”

The document will not resolve the politically charged issue of what role the National Security Agency, the premier electronic surveillance agency, will have in protecting private-sector networks. The issue is a key concern in policy circles, and experts say it requires a full and open debate over legal authorities and the protection of citizens’ e-mails and phone calls. The Bush administration’s secrecy in handling its Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, most of which was classified, hindered such a debate, privacy advocates have said.

The White House’s role will be to oversee the process, formulate policy and coordinate agencies’ roles, and will not be operational, administration officials have said…

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Pelosi’s Marxist Connections

Like the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not have to go through a background investigation in order to get a security clearance. This loophole in the law enables the president and members of Congress to automatically qualify for security clearances, even if they have controversial backgrounds and associations, by virtue of the fact that they get elected to high office in Washington, D.C.

In the case of Speaker Pelosi, who is second in the line of succession to the presidency after the vice president, there is increasing concern about whether she can be trusted with national security secrets. But the concern not only involves her unsubstantiated charges against the CIA over what officials told her about the treatment of terrorists, but her close personal relationship with pro-Castro Rep. Barbara Lee and the “progressive” Hallinan family of San Francisco, once under scrutiny by the California Senate Fact-finding Subcommittee on Un-American Activities for their pro-Soviet propaganda efforts.


Lee, who calls Pelosi “a magnificent woman” and “one of California’s greatest representatives,” began her career in the California state legislature as a secret member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a spin-off from the Communist Party. As a member of the staff of Rep. Ron Dellums, Lee was shown to have been collaborating with communist officials on the island of Grenada, according to documents captured after the liberation of that island nation. These revelations have not hurt Lee’s standing with Pelosi and other “progressives.” Indeed, Lee also served as the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

But even more interesting than the Barbara Lee connection is Pelosi’s long-time friendship and association with Vincent and Vivian Hallinan, one of the most radical left-wing families in San Francisco over the course of five decades.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austria: Indian Sikh Dies After Vienna Attack

Vienna, 25 May (AKI) — An Indian Sikh guru has died in Vienna after an armed attack involving rival Sikh groups at a temple in Austria. Police said on Monday the 57-year-old guru, Sant Rama Anandin, died of injuries he allegedly received in an attack by six men armed with knives and a pistol during a religious ceremony on Sunday.

A second guru, Sant Niranjan Dass, aged 68, was reported to be stable after undergoing emergency surgery, doctors said.

At least 16 people were injured in the clashes, according to the Austrian APA news agency. APA said .

The brutal attack, carried out by bearded and turbaned men, triggered panic among the temple’s congregation of at least 150 people, and immediately provoked riots between rival Sikh groups in cities and towns across the Indian state of Punjab.

Indian police said protesters in the Punjabi city of Jalandhar set fire to vehicles, damaged government buildings and put up roadblocks.

Thousands of protesters poured out into the streets in protests that erupted late on Sunday and a curfew was imposed across Jalandhar, reports said.

It was a dramatic reaction to the Vienna attack which reportedly began when fundamentalist Sikhs from a higher caste attacked the preachers, who, they believed, were disrespectful of the Sikh holy book.

During the mayhem, members of the congregation pounced upon the attackers and overpowered them, severely injuring them, police said.

Police spokesman, Michael Takacs, was quoted as saying the scene was “like a battlefield”.

The visiting gurus Anandin and Dass had previously been guests at the temple, located in Vienna-Rudolfsheim, in the 15th district of the capital.

The Rudolfsheim temple is run by devotees of Shri Guru Ravidas, who founded a Sikh sect called Dera Sach Khand.

Anandin and Dass, both followers of the Shri Guru Ravidas movement, were rejected by a rival Vienna Sikh community.

Police believe the conflict was based on doctrinal differences between the two groups. It is estimated that fewer than 3,000 Sikhs live in Austria.

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

France: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

NANTES, France (Reuters) — Close to 200 prisoners will cycle around France next month, watched by scores of guards on bicycles, in the first penal version of the Tour de France, authorities said Monday.

The 196 prisoners will cycle in a pack and breakaway sprints will not be allowed. They will be accompanied by 124 guards and prison sports instructors. There will be no ranking, the idea being to foster values like teamwork and effort.

“It’s a kind of escape for us, a chance to break away from the daily reality of prison,” said Daniel, a 48-year-old prisoner in the western city of Nantes, at the official launch of the event. His last name was not given.

“If we behave well, we might be able to get released earlier, on probation,” he told reporters.

The prisoners’ Tour de France will take them 2,300 km (1,400 miles) around the country, starting in the northern city of Lille on June 4 and stopping in 17 towns, each of which has a prison. However, participants will sleep in hotels.

The finish line will be in Paris, following Tour de France tradition.

“This project aims to help these men reintegrate into society by fostering values like effort, teamwork and self-esteem,” said Sylvie Marion of the prison authorities.

“We want to show them that with some training, you can achieve your goals and start a new life,” she said.

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

Guantanamo: Berlusconi, We’ll Help USA in Agreement With EU

(AGI) — Rome, 25 May — “Italy will do what the other European countries do” regarding the request of the United States to accept the prisoners of Guantanamo. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, interviewed by CNN International, explained that Italy will give the USA a hand in line with the agreements with the EU. “We’ll see what the majority of European countries do.

If we can do the American people and government a favour we will certainly do so. We will see based on the laws we have and on the behaviour of the other European countries”. How many will you accept? “I don’t know” the premier responded “we haven’t discussed the question in government yet. We want to do all we can to give the USA a hand. We can’t let them fight for all of us. Terrorism is a phenomenon that regards all. I would like our choices to be in line with the other European countries”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Holland: Muslim-Only Rest Home on Its Way

(ANSAmed) — AMSTERDAM, MAY 25 — Retirement homes with separate common rooms — women on one side, men on the other — and an area for prayer. A wing for elderly Moroccan residents is to be opened at the Rosendael retirement home in Utrecht. The Aveant Nursing Home and insurance company Agis are behind the initiative, according to Dutch press. The elderly people who cannot manage to integrate even at an advanced age come from Turkey, Morocco and Suriname. They do not speak Dutch well, and they feel lost in traditional retirement homes, where residents play cards and eat typical Dutch dishes. “Elderly Muslims often shut themselves in their room and spend their time alone”, said Fatima Benaya from the De Kastanjehof retirement home in Amsterdam, where there is a multicultural common room. According to Agis 500 places will shortly be available, although they do not specify when. Each elderly resident will have a room to themself with a bathroom, and communal areas with other guests. “We are trying to recreate a safe environment where elderly Moroccans can live their own faith and culture”, explained head of the project for Aveant, Rosan van der Aa. Meanwhile, in Utrecht, the initiative is a success: people of Moroccan origin have already begun to ask for places, while more than two hundred people have already replied to the advertisement for staff. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

New Portal to Translate EU Dailies Into 10 Languages

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — A new website launched Tuesday (26 May) aims to get EU citizens across the 27 member states talking and reading about the same issues, something that to date has been hindered by language barriers.

With €3 million of European Commission funds a year and a team of 10 journalists, is part of the EU’s drive to create a “European public sphere.”

The portal aims to monitor around 250 titles both within and outside Europe, including all of the big national dailies, such as France’s Le Figaro, Spain’s El Pais and the UK’s Financial Times, and put a selection of articles concerning Europe from these papers on the site.

The site will be available in 10 languages with all 23 of the EU’s official languages expected to be onboard within five year’s time.

The set-up is led by Courrier International, along with Internazionale in Italy, Forum Polityka in Poland and Courrier Internacional in Portugal.

Courrier International chief Philippe Thureau-Dangin said the aim of the site “is not to keep pace with the whole of current affairs in Europe but to bring Europe alive.”

EU communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom, who promised the site will be editorially independent, said it will “broaden, enrich and expand coverage of European affairs.”

“It has nothing to do with whether we like what the media writes or not,” she said in response to a question concerning the motives of the commission for the portal, but rather aims to “prolong the life” of quality articles.

Mr Thureau-Dangin said that the voices of eurosceptics will also feature.

“For news and entertainment, these 500 million Europeans watch satellite TV, listen to the radio via internet, read newspapers in print and online versions. But wherever they are on the continent, most turn to media in their own language, or in one or two others,” says an editorial piece on the site.

Its organisers are hoping to have 1.5 million visitors a month across the ten sites by the end of 2010.

The EU set up a similar platform for radio in 2007 and will launch a TV version next year.

The moves come after the commission has for years spoken about wanting to move political discourse away from being purely national in tone to take on a more European hue.

Newspapers’ correspondents in Brussels normally report on EU news through national eyes — one of the first questions in the press conference launching the site saw a Slovene journalist ask when the language of her country would be covered by the site and which of the national newspapers would be used by the

The same drive to get a European perspective that crosses borders regardless of language and culture recently saw the setting up of European political parties — although they still tend to run on national theme in the individual member states — as well as European political foundations, both funded by EU money.

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

UK: Cameron Agrees to Cross-Party Talks on Constitutional Reform

Tory leader responds to offer from the justice secretary, Jack Straw, to discuss how to change the way parliament works

David Cameron said today that he would take part in cross-party talks with Labour to develop plans to boost the power of parliament.

The Conservative leader was responding to an offer from Jack Straw, the justice secretary, who wants the talks to start soon and to come up with plans for parliamentary reform before the summer recess.

Straw announced the talks following Cameron’s decision to use an article in the Guardian to outline sweeping plans for constitutional reform. The Conservative leader reiterated his message today in a speech in Milton Keynes.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World at One, Straw said the controversy about MPs’ expenses had created “an opportunity for consensus that was not there before”. He said that he was particularly interested in proposals that would give the House of Commons greater power over the executive.

Last week, Gordon Brown told MPs at prime minister’s questions that the government would soon publish plans to make parliament more accountable to the people. He asked Straw and Harriet Harman, the leader of the Commons, to produce a package of reforms.

According to a source close to Straw, the decision to convene cross-party talks was taken some days ago, although Straw did not announce it publicly until after the publication of Cameron’s article today.

Straw welcomed Cameron’s article as a contribution to the debate. The government does not agree with everything the Tory leader said, but Straw believes that the cross-party talks could reach agreement on some aspects of parliamentary reform within the next few months, such as:

* Strengthening Commons select committees. Cameron said the whips should lose the power to choose the members and chairs of select committees. Straw believes there is scope for reform in this area.

* Petitions. Cameron said that if the organisers of a petition collected enough support, they should be able to get their idea debated in the Commons. Straw looked into this idea when he was leader of the Commons and he is interested in taking it forward.

* Scrutinising legislation. Cameron criticised the way every bill is “guillotined”, meaning the time set aside for debate is limited in advance. Straw believes that the creation of a Commons business committee could give the Commons more say over timetabling issues.

Straw is also interested in changing the procedure for private members’ bills. Under the current arrangements, private members’ bills almost never become law unless they have explicit government backing.

One of Cameron’s most radical proposals involved fixed-term parliaments. He said a Tory government would give “serious consideration” to the proposals.

Straw told Sky News that he thought there were “advantages” to having fixed-term parliaments as the “default setting”, but that he thought there would have to be a procedure to cope with cases of a government losing its majority.

He also stressed that he did not support all Cameron’s ideas. He said that giving more power to parents over school selection, as the Tories propose, would not deal with the problem of schools being oversubscribed.

Straw also said that he was interested in looking at the idea of whether voters should be given the power to trigger byelections when MPs commit serious misconduct — an idea promoted by the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg.

The government will soon publish its constitutional renewal bill and, if the cross-party talks produce proposals for legislative change, it is thought they could be included in the bill as it goes through parliament.

Responding to Straw’s offer of cross-party talks, Cameron said: “I am very happy to take part in any cross-party talks. I am always very happy to do that. I think we have set out a very clear agenda today of what we want to change, and what needs to happen.

But I think the most important set of talks are those between the electorate and politicians, and not between politicians.”

The Liberal Democrats said they had not received any formal invitation to cross-party talks.

Straw responded to Cameron as the Daily Telegraph published further details of expense claims made by MPs. Today the paper focused on claims made by members of the shadow cabinet relating to office expenses.

The shadow leader of the Commons, Alan Duncan, paid £42,000 to the Rutland and Melton Conservative Association, while Michael Gove, the shadow children’s secretary, paid £27,000 to the Surrey Heath Conservative Association, the Daily Telegraph said.

The shadow health secretary, Liam Fox, also pays £9,000 a year to the Woodspring Conservative Association in Bristol, the paper added.

And the Tories’ international development spokesman, Andrew Mitchell, is said to have paid Sutton Coldfield Conservative Association an annual sum of around £8,000 for the last four years.

The MPs have justified the amounts as paying for costs such as rent, office space and telephone services provided by the associations.

Mitchell told the Telegraph: “The rent I pay is below market rate and has been carefully set as a percentage of the cost of the office which reflects the use I make of it.”

Fox added: “They arrange my surgeries, they do some of my casework, and they do a huge amount of secretarial work which probably represents an underpayment for the amount of work they do.”

The Telegraph also revealed that Christopher Fraser, the Tory MP for South West Norfolk, claimed more than £1,800 to buy 215 trees and fencing to mark the boundary of his constituency home. He said that he needed them because his property did not have a natural boundary and they were required to provide security and privacy.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Counterfeit Cars: 13,000 Parts Impounded in Algeria in 2008

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 25 — More than 13,000 counterfeited car parts were impounded in Algeria in 2008. The parts had a value of 5.6 million dollars, around a fifth of the total value of imported spare parts for cars (over 29 million euros) last year. The Algerian press reported that the news had been announced by Hassiba Barkina, technical inspections officer of the Trade Ministry. Barkina specified that 81% of the spare parts had come arrived from China, France, Italy, South Korea or Germany. Counterfeited products, 1.6 million last year, “continue to flood the Algerian market”, admitted Trade Minister El Hachemi Djaaboub. The minister announced that by 2010 a laboratory would be created to analyse and assess imported goods. “ The quality of all products must be certified by our head office,” added Djaaboub. “With the help of producers, car dealers and associations, we hope to be able to make the population aware” of the problem, “and to fight the phenomenon.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Western Sahara: RASD-TV Breaks Moroccan Media Embargo

(by Laura De Santi) (ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 25 — The Polisario Front, which for over 30 years has continued to fight for independence for the Sahrawi people in the Western Sahara has not showed any signs of surrender. While they have not ruled out a return to arms if negotiations fail yet again, they have now launched a media battle with the first Sahrawi TV station, RASD-TV. The new station aims “to break the media embargo imposed by Morocco” and “show the suffering of the Sahrawi people to the world”. Inaugurated by the self-proclaimed President of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (RASD), Mohamed Abdelaziz, RASD-TV broadcasts from Chahid El Hafed. The station’s headquarters has just been completed in one of the five refugee camps in Tindouf in the Algerian Sahara, where about 150,000 Sahrawi people have lived since 1975, after fleeing during the occupation of the former Spanish colony by Morocco. RASD TV “can be seen in the Maghreb, including Morocco, and throughout Africa, as well as in Western Europe and the Middle East,” said the station’s manager, Mohamed Salem Ahmed Laabeid, to ANSAmed. After press agency SPS, “this new means of information aims to demonstrate the Sahrawi cause to the world,” added Laabeid, “to break the media embargo imposed by Morocco and to provide a realistic view of the serious ongoing situation in the occupied territories.” News, reports on life in refugee camps, interviews, and historical documentaries will be broadcast daily via satellite and digital cable. An archive of past videos will also be on the Internet, including the self-proclamation of the RASD on February 27 1976, and commercials in favour of the Sahrawi people’s cause, with appearances by celebrities such as Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Pedro Almodovar, and Manu Chao. This new “media weapon will defend the just cause of the Sahrawi people until the inalienable rights of self-determination and independence are obtained,” underlined the RASD President. The RASD is a member of the African Union (of which only Morocco is not a member) and is currently recognised by almost 90 countries, but by no Western states. In the view of the UN, which has been in the region since 1991 with MINURSO (United Nations Mission for the Referendum in the Western Sahara) to monitor the ceasefire with Rabat, the Western Sahara is “not an autonomous territory”. Numerous UN resolutions have reiterated the right of the Sahrawi people’s independence, but there have been few tangible developments due to Morocco’s close Western allies, most notably France and the United States. Negotiations led by the UN, at a standstill since March 2008, should resume in the coming month in an attempt to resolve an issue that continues to divide the Maghreb. Rabat is willing to grant broad autonomy to the Sahrawi people, but only while remaining under its sovereignty. The Polisario Front, which is backed by Algeria, continues to call for a referendum of independence. If the fifth round of negotiations fails, Sahrawi authorities have already announced that “we will have no other alternative than to resume the war”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Anger Over Palestinian Nakba Ban Proposal

Israeli campaigners and left-wing lawmakers have condemned moves to ban Israeli Arabs from marking the Nakba — the Palestinian “catastrophe” of 1948.

On Sunday an Israeli government panel backed putting the bill, proposed by the party of far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, before parliament.

A Labour minister opposed it; Hadash, a mainly Arab party, called it “racist”.

Some 700,000 Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in 1948-49 as Israel claimed its independence.

About 20% of Israel’s population are descended from Arab citizens of British Mandate Palestine who remained on the territory that became Israel.

Strengthening unity

Under the proposed legislation, people caught marking the Nakba could be jailed for up to three years.

Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu, says the bill is “intended to strengthen unity in the state of Israel”.

The Hadash MK Hanna Swaid called it “racist and immoral” and “a fierce insult on democratic and political rights”.

Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, said it “could impair freedom of expression and freedom of protest and achieve the opposite goal — increasing alienation and strengthening extremists”.

He is a member of the Labour party, which is part of the right-leaning governing coalition, together with Yisrael Beiteinu party and led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Legitimate right

Correspondents say that although there have been unsuccessful attempts to introduce similar bills in the past, the right-wing make-up of the current government gives this one more chance of passing — although it has many hurdles to clear yet.

An Israeli rights organisation, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, (Acri) said the committee’s initial approval of the bill was “a sign of a democracy losing its bearings”.

“Marking the Nakba does not threaten the safety of the State of Israel, but is rather a legitimate and fundamental human right of any person, group or people, expressing grief at the face of a disaster they experienced,” said Acri president Sammi Michael.

Mr Lieberman’s party also wants to introduce a loyalty pledge, which would demand that Israeli-Arabs swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish, Zionist and democratic” state, before they can be issued with their ID papers.

Israel Beiteinu spokesman Tal Nahum said the measure would be discussed by the cabinet on Sunday and the first parliamentary vote would be the following Wednesday.

raised concerns during Israeli military operations in Gaza in January and December that some Israeli-Arabs were openly expressing sympathy with Hamas — which controls Gaza and which launches militant attacks on Israel and which, in its charter, is sworn to the state’s destruction.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Israel: Right-Wing Party Wants “Oath” to State

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, MAY 25 — The Israeli extreme-right party Israel Beitenu (IB), led by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has proposed a law which would require all the country’s inhabitants to take an oath of loyalty to the Israeli state. The draft law will be voted on by the government next week before being presented to the Knesset. In addition to the oath, the draft law will require signers to declare their loyalty “to the State of Israel as a Jewish, Democratic and Zionist State, to its symbols and values,” and to “serve the country according to the latter’s needs, including military or civil service, in accordance with the law.” If the law passes, it will allow the interior minister to refuse to issue such things as identity cards or passports to those who have not signed the statement, and even the right to revoke their citizenship. The law, bound to give rise to controversy, will affect a million and a half Arabs, at least some of whom do not agree with the Jewish nature of the state. It will also affect ultra-orthodox Jews who oppose the Israeli State due to its being a secular creation and not the work of the Messiah. The Israeli Association for Civil Rights has called the law “clearly fascist”, and said that it violates democracy and fundamental human rights. In order to become law, the bill will have to be approved by the Knesset in three readings and the likelihood of its getting through the entire legislative procedure is held to be low. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel Drops Warning Pamphlets Over Gaza

Palestinians told to stay away from border; box of leaflets hits, injures boy

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli aircraft have scattered pamphlets over the Gaza Strip warning residents to stay away from the border.

The heavily guarded border is the scene of sporadic fighting between militants and Israeli troops. Israeli forces killed two Palestinian fighters in a clash on Friday.

The Arabic pamphlets warn Gazans to stay out of areas 300 meters to 500 meters (yards) from the border fence, saying they risk being shot.

The Israeli military had no comment. The military has scattered similar warning pamphlets in the past.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says a 10-year-old boy was struck by a box of leaflets and moderately hurt during Monday’s airdrop.

Violence has largely subsided in Gaza following an Israeli offensive last January.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Israel: Muslims Vandalize Christian Graves

Crosses smashed: ‘We don’t feel safe anymore’

JERUSALEM — Palestinian Christians in a normally quiet village are reeling from a series of grave desecrations this week that they say are indicative of intimidation tactics from the town’s growing Muslim population. “Christians don’t feel free anymore.

“Our way of life is changing while the Muslim population grows,” a local Christian told WND. The Christian would only give his first name, Anis, for fear of Muslim retaliation if he speaks out. He pointed out there are several other Anis’s in his village, Jisna, which is located near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

This week, 70 Christian grave sites in Jisna were vandalized, with the crosses on top of the graves found smashed off, local Christians told WND.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

U.N. Fabricated Crisis Like Gun to Israel’s Back

International body exposed in blockbuster new book

JERUSALEM — The United Nations is perpetuating a fabricated “refugee” crisis with the aim of destroying Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, charges a recently released blockbuster book.

In “The Late Great State of Israel,” author and WND Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein documents how the U.N. created a separate, massive agency to sustain and fuel a self-generated Palestinian “refugee” crisis, and how, Klein argues, the issue is pointed like a gun at Israel’s back.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab Fury Over Push to Ban Mourning Day

ARAB members of the Israeli parliament have reacted angrily to the introduction of legislation that would make it illegal for Palestinians to mark Israel’s Independence Day as a day of mourning, or Nakba Day.

The private members bill was introduced by Alex Miller, a member of the Israel Our Home party of the controversial Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

The bill would prohibit anyone from holding events or activities that aimed to mark Independence Day as a time of mourning or sorrow, with punishment of up to three years’ imprisonment.

The Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, who was Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2002 to 2006, strongly backed the legislation. “Any other country in the world would not stand by while its celebrations of independence are turned into a memorial service.”

The bill faces strong opposition from the left and from some members of the Likud party of the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The chairman of the Labor Party, Ehud Barak, refused to say whether he would oppose it.

Arab MP Afo Agbaria criticised the anti-Nakba legislation as “no less severe than the laws enacted by the Third Reich”. “Israel is gradually becoming an apartheid state. I won’t be surprised if in the future the Netanyahu-Lieberman Government imposes additional restrictions on Arab citizens, including the use of Arabic language,” he said.

Another Arab MP, Jamal Zahalka, described the proposed legislation as a “crazy bill by a crazy government”.

The 1948 Israeli-Arab war, which ended in a comprehensive Jewish victory, is called the War of Independence by Israelis and al-Nakba, the catastrophe, by Palestinians, hundreds of thousands of whom fled or were driven from their homes by the war.

With more legislation in the wings requiring all citizens of Israel to perform a loyalty oath, or face expulsion from the country, many Jewish MPs have criticised the proposed legislation as divisive and warned that it could it provoke violent confrontation between the country’s Jewish and Arab population.

The proposed laws regarding the loyalty oath makes the receipt of a national identification card for all people born in Israel conditional on signing a statement and taking a loyalty oath.

The law would then give the interior minister the power to revoke the citizenship of any person who fails to fulfil their commitment to serve in the Israel Defence Forces or perform alternative national service.

Labor MP Yuli Tamir said the “string of proposals brought forth by Israel Our Home is intended to cause unrest within the Israeli-Arab community and will lead Israel into a confrontation that will see waves of hate and violence that Israel Our Home thrives on”.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, said he would make Israeli refusal to halt the growth of Jewish settlements in the West Bank the focus of his talks with the US President, Barack Obama, when they meet in the Oval Office tomorrow.

On Monday, Mr Netanyahu indicated that dealing with Iran was more important than dealing with illegal settlement outposts, but conceded that making concessions to the Palestinians would make it easier to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

The Israeli daily newspaper Maariv reported yesterday that Mr Netanyahu was struggling to balance the pressure being exerted by the US for peace with the Palestinians against pressure coming from the right of his party that is steadfastly opposed to a two-state solution.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

EU: Swedish Foreign Minister, Europe Needs Turkey

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, 25 MAY — Europe “has an important strategic interest for Turkey to be oriented towards it. If Europe closes the door on Turkey, we would be encouraging nationalist tendencies in the other direction and we would send a very negative signal to the rest of the world,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country will step in as rotating EU president on July 1. In an interview with Le Figaro, Bildt said that he understands that the entrance of a country that will have the highest population and therefore will have a substantial economic weight into the Union “could cause worries. “All EU enlargement has created fear and opposition and each enlargement has been a success. Europe has transformed with each enlargement and today it is more efficient than ever as a whole,” said Bildt. This is why over the next decades “we will need the economic and demographic energy of Turkey. Furthermore, with Turkey, Europe could play a significant role in reconciliation with the Muslim world. If we consider Cyprus to be a part of Europe, which is an island off the coast of Syria, it is difficult to say that Turkey is not in Europe.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

French President Sarkozy Opens UAE Base

President Nicolas Sarkozy has formally opened a French military base in the United Arab Emirates, France’s first permanent base in the Gulf.

The flags of France and the UAE were raised at a ceremony at the so-called “Peace Camp” in the Abu Dhabi emirate.

France is a leading military supplier to the Gulf state, and signed a nuclear co-operation agreement last year.

Its new base will host up to 500 French troops and include a navy base, air base, and training camp.

The BBC’s Stephanie Hancock in Abu Dhabi says the new military base, France’s first outside its own territory for many years, comes on the back of strengthening diplomatic and military ties between France and the United Arab Emirates.

The 500 troops will be there on a support and training capacity, rather than taking part in actual military operations.

But our correspondent says the base will provide all-important reassurance to the Emirates, which, along with many of its Arab neighbours, is concerned about the nuclear threat posed by Iran.

“Be assured that France is on your side in the event your security is at risk,” Mr Sarkozy said in an interview with the UAE’s official news agency.

“Through this base — the first in the Middle East — France is ready to shoulder its responsibilities to ensure stability in this strategic region.”

An aide to Mr Sarkozy is quoted by AFP news agency linking the base to an alleged Iranian threat: “We are deliberately taking a deterrent stance. If Iran were to attack, we would effectively be attacked also.”

Correspondents say the base has drawn some criticism in French political circles for just that reason, with centrist politician Francois Bayrou warning that France risked being dragged into a regional war.

Business partnership

Mr Sarkozy flew to Abu Dhabi on Monday with four ministers and a delegation of senior businesspeople.

He opened the visit by dining with Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed al-Nahyan.

Officials said talks are continuing over the possible sale of 60 new Rafale jets to the UAE in a deal worth up to eight billion euros ($11bn).

The multi-role Rafale — which has yet to find a foreign buyer — could replace the Emirates’ fleet of French Mirage 2000 combat planes.

In addition to the inauguration of Peace Camp, Nicolas Sarkozy will visit the site of a Louvre Museum branch which France is opening in the United Arab Emirates.

The US maintains the predominant foreign military presence in the Gulf, with key air bases and logistics operations, and its Fifth Fleet housed in Bahrain.

However, Peace Camp gives France a strategic position on the vital Gulf shipping corridor, which carries about 40% of the world’s petroleum supplies.

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

Iran Sends Six Warships to International Waters

Iran has sent six warships to international waters, including the Gulf of Aden, to show its ability to confront any foreign threats, its naval commander said on Monday.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Iran Arrests 104 “Devil Worshippers”: Report

TEHRAN (Reuters) — Iranian security forces have arrested 104 “devil worshippers” and seized drugs and alcohol during a party in a southern city, a semi-official news agency reported Monday.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Iran: Imminent Execution for Teen Offender

Tehran, 25 May (AKI) — An Iranian youth alleged to have committed murder when he was 15 years old is to be hanged on Wednesday, rights group Iran Human Rights said on their website. Mohammedreza Haddadi, now 20 years-old, is due to be executed on 27 May at the Adelabad prison in the southwestern city of Shiraz, said his lawyer Mohammad Mostafei.

Mostafei said he had not been informed of the execution and only learned about it through his client’s family.

Mostafaei says Haddadi (photo) is innocent and that his client confessed to the murder because of his poverty and young age.

On 9 October 2008, a previous order of execution was halted after an order from the head of the Iranian judiciary.

According to IHR, three minor offenders have been executed in Iran since the beginning of 2009.

Iran has ratified international treaties including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which forbids capital punishment for underage youths who commit crimes.

In Iran young men are considered to be adults from the age of 14 and young women from the age of eight and a half, and therefore responsible for any crimes that they commit.

Iran has one of the highest rates of capital punishment in the world. The government insists that it is a deterrence for crime.

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

Jordan Jails Thousands Without Trials, HRW Report Says

(by Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MAY 26 — Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Jordan to end administrative detention that allows authorities to put suspects behind bars indefinitely without trial, insisting such practice is widespread and often used for personal vendetta by police authorities. In a report under the title: ‘Guests of the Governor: Administrative Detention Undermines Rule of Law in Jordan,’ the London based agency said the practice is used against crime victims, personal enemies and people freed by the courts “Governors and other high officials shouldn’t be able to lock people up on vague suspicions of improper behavior,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “This is an invitation to abuse,” he said in a statement distributed during a press conference in Amman, noting that there are at least 10,000 new cases of administrative detention each year. Among every five inmates there is at least one administrative detainee. The group urged the government to cancel ‘The Crime Prevention Law’, which grants governors the authority to detain persons who are “a danger to the people,” insisting the term is an excessively vague term that opens the door to routine abuse. “Governors frequently issue such orders against prisoners whose sentences have expired, persons arrested on suspicion of a crime but to whom judges have granted bail, and persons who may have prior criminal convictions,” added the group. “Governors should not be able to overrule the courts by jailing people who judges have said can safely remain free,” Stork said. According to the report governors have jailed victims of crimes instead of the perpetrators. Some women threatened with family violence have spent over ten years in administrative detention, allegedly for their own “protection.” Governors have similarly detained victims of threats of tribal revenge. Street vendors, usually men, are also susceptible to administrative detention. In several cases, governors or their assistants abused their powers of detention by arresting persons against whom they had a personal grudge, said the report. “The government has ignored calls over the past four years by Jordanian rights activists, including the National Center for Human Rights, to review the practice of administrative detention,” added Stork, who also blasted prison guards for helping the injustice prevail. He aded administrative detainees commonly go on hunger strike to try to seek a review of their cases, but prison wardens often deny hunger strikers access to water, in violation of international prison standards, in order to shorten the duration of the strikes. “The cries for release from administrative detainees on hunger strikes are the human face of the breakdown of independent judicial oversight over governors’ powers to detain persons almost at will,” said Stork. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

June is the Cruelest Month

by Barry Rubin

April, wrote T.S. Elliott, is the cruelest month of all. But for hopes of peace, freedom, and moderation in the Middle East, June will play that role this year.

In Iran, Ahmadinejad backed by the spiritual guide is about to be reelected. In Lebanon, a regime backed by Iran and Syria is about to be installed.

It shouldn’t be that way. Remember the famous sign in the Clinton for President Headquarters back in 1992, which said, “It’s the economy, stupid,” as the main issue? Well, in the Middle East the equivalent sign would say, “It’s the Islamist revolutions, stupid.”

And yet instead we see strategies based on a desire to believe or do anything to avoid confronting this great challenge, this uninvited battle that is sure to take up the rest of our lifetimes and very possibly much of this century’s first half.

The head are very deep in the sand. For to fit into the mainstream of Western analysis and strategy about the Middle East, you must:

Pretend that a two-state solution is possible with a mostly radical Palestinian Authority and a far more extreme Hamas running Gaza, neither having done any preparation for real compromise and a lasting peace.

Pretend that this solution-which isn’t going to happen—will solve all other problems, as if personal and state ambition, ethnic conflict, ideological battles, and all sorts of disputes didn’t exist in the region which have nothing to do with this. Not to mention that fact that any compromise peace would actually enrage large elements of opinion and galvanize the Islamists into even more violence.

Pretend that Iran’s regime will be talked out of having nuclear weapons by either the charm of Western leaders or relatively limited sanctions when Tehran already knows everything is a big bluff.

Pretend that Islamists can be moderated when they think they’re winning, believe themselves to be following the will of the deity, and see daily proof that their rivals are eager to make concessions.

Pretend that Syria can be wooed into changing course when it is so dependent on its alliance with the Iranian regime, thinks that it’s on the winning side, and tightening its control over Lebanon.

Pretend that Hizballah and Hamas will settle down into moderation disciplined by the task of governing, the same theory discredited by the behavior of the PLO, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority over the last 16 years…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

OPEC to Keep Current Oil Quotas: Saudi Minister

The OPEC oil cartel is likely to maintain current production quotas at its meeting in Vienna this week, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Nuaimi said Tuesday on his arrival in the Austrian capital.

“We will stay the course,” the minister, whose country is OPEC’s biggest oil producer, told journalists as he arrived at his hotel ahead of Thursday’s meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Asked if there was a consensus on this position among members of the group, Nuaimi replied: “We will know that on Thursday when we meet.”

He also said that oil prices should rise to 75 US dollars per barrel, “we hope between the third and fourth quarter” of this year.

OPEC, which pumps some 40 percent of global oil supply, has steadily cut production since late last year in a bid to steady prices which have tumbled from record highs above 147 US dollars per barrel in July 2008.

Asked if he was worried about rising oil stocks, al-Nuaimi admitted Tuesday: “Yes, always.”

Industrialised nations in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development had 62 days’ worth of stocks, which he said was too high.

“We would like it to be 53 days,” al-Nuaimi said, noting that this would happen “over time.”

On Sunday, Algerian Energy Minister Chakib Khelil predicted that the OPEC ministers would maintain current production quotas.

“We need the world economy to pick up again and I think maintaining the status quo goes in that direction,” he said on the margins of a meeting of G8 energy ministers in Rome.

“Maintaining the status quo, given that prices are rising, is a wise solution. Why… break the cycle of growth that we are already seeing on the horizon?” he added, noting that a consensus was building among OPEC members.

The price of oil must eventually reach “between 70 and 90 US dollars,” he also said.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was similarly optimistic about the future of oil market in an interview with Kuwaiti daily Assiyassa published Tuesday.

“Oil prices dropped for well-known reasons which could never happen again in the future,” he said, referring to the global economic meltdown.

“We are currently seeing a fast recovery for the global economy and are seeing indications of a higher demand for oil,” he added.

In its last monthly report, OPEC had noted “the persistent contraction in demand” and again reduced its forecast for world crude demand.

Late Tuesday, oil prices rose again above 60 US dollars after early weakness, as traders took direction from better-than-expected positive US consumer confidence data.

New York’s main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in July, rose three cents to 61.70 US dollars a barrel, having earlier fallen as low as 59.53 US dollars.

London’s Brent North Sea crude for July added 50 cents to 60.71 US dollars.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: King Says ‘Fair’ Oil Price Between 75-80 Dollars

Riyadh, 26 May (AKI) — Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud said on Tuesday that a fair price of oil was between 75 and 80 dollars a barrel. “We still believe that a fair price is 75 dollars and perhaps 80 dollars a barrel, especially now,” said the king in an interview with Kuwaiti daily al-Siyassa.

“The issue of fluctuating prices is governed by developments and conditions of the world markets. These (prices) are bound to stabilise at a higher price for oil in the future,” said Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and producer, has been hard hit by plunging oil prices, which last summer reached a peak of 147 dollars per barreal.

The price of crude oil was trading at just below 60 dollars on the global market early Tuesday.

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

Turkey: Erdogan Attacks the Past, Labels Kemalist Ethnic Cleansing Fascist

In a clear reference to the Greek and Armenian minorities, the premier attacks blind nationalism that does not want to question the past. Appreciation for Erdogan’s words from the Greeks, Armenians and western diplomats. Now everyone wants facts to follow words.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) —Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyp Erdogan has dealt what is being described as a “historic” blow to the kemalist establishment describing their “cleansing of minorities” during Turkey’s foundation as “fascist”. Currently there is a law in act in the country that forbids any attack on the Nation, rendering all historic verification into the Greek and Armenian genocide no-go areas.

On May 23rd last, during a party congress in Düzce, western turkey, the premier reacted to criticism from opposition parties about an Israeli tender for a mine clearing operation along the Turkey-Syria border.

“This is the Fascist mentality and behaviour of the past” said Erdogan, underlining the importance of foreign investment in Turkey. “It is easy to say — he added — that we are loosing our Turkish identity, because the foreign investment in our country involves nations which profess a different religion to ours”.

“For many years — he continued — various facts took place in this country to the detriment of ethnic minorities who lived here. They were ethnically cleansed because they had a different ethnic cultural identity. The time has arrived for us to question ourselves about why this happened and what we have learned from all of this. There has been no analysis of this right up until now”.

“In reality — he concluded — this behaviour is the result of a fascist conception. We have also fallen into this grave error”.

Erdogan’s declaration follows six months after those by Defence Minister Mehmet Vecdi Gonul. On November 10th last, the anniversary of the death of Atatürk, he underlined that Turkey’s foundation came at the cost of the systematic persecution of minorities and the subsequent expropriation of their economic resources, from which the current Turkish business class was born. Gonul also added: “Of course, with a large Greek and Armenian presence across Turkish territory, Turkey would not have its current national identity”.

This last sentence provoked strong indignation among minorities and the International community.

What remains a fact however is that with Erdogan’s declaration, press in Turkey is beginning to talk about “historical self-criticism”.

The newspaper Apogevmatini, of Istanbul’s Greek minority — also a victim of ethnic cleansing — Mihalis Vassilaidis writes “it is a day of celebration for all of us”.

Ridvan Akar, of Vatan, has often written about the methods of persecution used on Christian minorities during the foundation of modern Turkey in 1923. He comments: “Minority rights as well as those of religious foundations are a structural problem within the Turkish state. Of course Erdogan has taken a step forward with this declaration. But the sincerity of his words will depend on facts to back them up such as the restitution of rights to those who have been expelled, the return of confiscated properties, or compensation”.

Not even Patriarch Bartholomew I misses the opportunity to remind those who will listen: “Finally it must be understood that we are not a minority, but citizens of this nation and as such we must be treated”.

Lakis Vigas, a member of the community representative assembly at the General Directorate for Foundations told AsiaNews: “We hope that this important declaration by the prime minister is also taken on board by the public administration”.

Erdogan’s declaration has also reawakened the interest of diplomatic circles who hope for a real break through in drawing Ankara closer to the EU. But this too will have to wait for facts to back up the words.

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

UAE: Abu Dhabi Mulls 100% Foreign-Owned Property

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI — Abu Dhabi is taking into consideration the possibility of allowing foreigners to hold full ownership of some future projects as well as ones currently being built in the United Arab Emirates, Nasser al Hamad al Suwaidi (chairman of the Department for Economic Development) was quoted as saying to the daily paper Emirates Business. Al Suwadi said that the general feeling was towards “guaranteeing total ownership to foreign investors in several industries, as well as a number of projects,” while at the same time stressing that “ownership would concern the projects themselves and not the land on which they are built.” Dubai has already successfully brought in the same strategy for its construction sector with the creation of “freehold zones”, selected residential areas where foreigners can not only hold full ownership of the buildings but also that of the land.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Back Into the Cold

by Mark Hackard

The United States and Russia appear to be gearing up for a second round of the Cold War. Washington still hopes to extend its reach deep into Moscow’s zone of interests, and the Russians intend to resist. Most of the action will be characterized by espionage and covert operations, but the clash is more than just a grudge match over territory and pipelines. Like the previous conflict, Cold War II will be defined by ideology…


Beyond geopolitics, the antagonism between Washington and Moscow has experienced a reversal of roles in the arena of ideology.. From the 1917 October Revolution, Soviet Russia embodied the most radical force bent on transforming the world. Communism at once attracted factory workers and track layers, Western intellectuals and colonial liberationists. The commissars in the Kremlin declared the ideas of Marx and Lenin as scientific teachings delineating mankind’s path to a radiant future.

How times have changed! When Russia today opposes Kosovo independence or articulates its regional role in terms of history, culture, and ethnic solidarity, it looks downright counterrevolutionary.

Russia’s secret services also provide an example of shifts in ideology. Soviet intelligence once composed the vanguard of atheistic socialism. The Cheka and its successors knew no equal in ruthlessness or professional skill. Through the recruitment of agents in the West and various means of subversion, Moscow’s spies were charged with ensuring the eventual triumph of World Revolution. By the reasoning of dialectical materialism, any method, fair or foul, could be justified to advance the Communist cause. The Bolshevik sack of Heaven would be preceded by secret police infiltration.

Today Russia’s counterintelligence service, the FSB, maintains an Orthodox Church on the grounds of its headquarters at Lubyanka Square. It is nonetheless remarkable to see one of the Soviet Union’s top cold warriors profess Orthodox Christianity and call for the rebirth of tradition in Russian society. Nikolai Leonov wasn’t just any KGB officer; he was Moscow’s original point man for contacts with Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the Castro brothers before the Cuban Revolution. He would later run the KGB’s analysis directorate and become deputy chief of foreign intelligence. In possession of accurate information on the state of affairs in the USSR, Leonov knew in the 1970s that the outlook was grim. By the time of the Soviet collapse, Marxism-Leninism had been the organizing principle in Russia for three quarters of a century and the results were in.


In the U.S.-Soviet competition, the Bolshevik ideology was more radical than liberalism, but only in a relative sense. Both systems affirm only material realities and lead man to spiritual desolation. With the defeat of Communism, Washington could attend to the enforcement of its own transnational vision. U.S. foreign policy has functioned as an instrument of revolution, from the “humanitarian” bombing of Serbia to attempts to reform Muslim societies and Islam itself.

Living up to its revolutionary nature, liberal internationalism shares a series of practices with its vanquished Soviet rival. Most noteworthy is a heavy reliance on covert action. Institutes such as Freedom House and the National Endowment for Democracy act as vehicles for regime change, just as Western labor unions and political parties were once manipulated by the Comintern.

The 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia and the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine, as well as other uprisings, were not as spontaneous as portrayed. Both ideologies also have a record of using armed intervention as a means of social engineering. The invasion of a foreign state such as Afghanistan or Iraq is widely hailed as liberation, while counterinsurgency is a sure way to bring the grateful natives into the fold of progressive humanity.

U.S. foreign policy is carried out under the banner of progress, not only for rhetorical purposes, but because American leadership in “expanding the frontiers of freedom” is taken as a matter of faith. A radiant future for humanity is the promise of all modern ideology, though it varies in its forms. What is constant is a materialist reductionism that divorces man from the realm of the spirit. In this way individuals and entire peoples are deprived of uniqueness, traditions, and their place in the Cosmos. Global democratic capitalism, administered by our enlightened elites, corrodes faith, family and culture just as surely as Soviet state socialism. Marx’s appeal to the proletariat has given way to the equally soulless and inane “Consumers of the world unite!”

A discussion of man’s place in the Universe might seem far afield from talk of a second Cold War, but it is intimately connected. Beneath the dynamics of US-Russian strategic rivalry is an underlying battle of ideas. However inadvertently, the conversions of former KGB men can remind us of our own religious tradition, obscured by modernity but not yet lost. The secular parody of universal brotherhood, dedicated to accumulation and enjoyment, only leaves us isolated from each other and the source of life itself. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn asks a decadent West:

“Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man’s life and society’s activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?”

We are haunted by the specter of another Cold War, but such a standoff is not inevitable. Russia is not a foreordained enemy, and it has no vital security interests that clash with those of the United States. In order to avoid the danger of renewed conflict, it’s time to reevaluate both the “lifestyle choices” and policies we have long celebrated. At the present moment, the revolutionary fantasies of unlimited consumption and world empire are leading America from one disaster to the next.

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

Russia Signs Uranium Contract With US Companies

MOSCOW — Russia’s uranium export company signed a groundbreaking $1 billion package of contracts Tuesday to supply three U.S. utilities with enriched fuel for nuclear power plants, Russian atomic industry officials said.

State-run Tekhsnabexport, or Tenex, will supply U.S. markets with nuclear fuel enriched from raw uranium for the first time, Tekhsnabexport marketing executive Vadim Mikerin told The Associated Press.

Tenex signed contracts to provide enriched uranium fuel to San Francisco, California-based Pacific Gas & Electric Company; St. Louis, Missouri-based AmerenUE; and Dallas, Texas-based Luminant, said Sergei Novikov, spokesman for the state nuclear agency Rosatom.

The companies are part of a group called Fuelco, he said.

Tenex will supply fuel to the U.S. utilities from 2014 through 2020 under the contracts, which provide the option for renewal, Novikov told the AP. He said the deals will help each company supply electricity to 5 million households.

“It is very significant because it begins new relations between Tenex and American companies operating nuclear power plants,” Novikov said.

“Until this very moment we did not have direct contracts for enrichment services supplies,” he added.

Fuel previously supplied by Russia had been extracted from old nuclear weapons and diluted for commercial use, under a deal aimed at keeping Russian nuclear materials off black markets. That agreement, known as “Megatons for Megawatts,” expires in 2013.

Russia is already the biggest single supplier of uranium fuel to U.S. nuclear plants, but it has been barred from expanding those supplies because of protectionist measures imposed by Washington after the Soviet collapse.

Tenex director Alexei Grigoryev said the deals would enable the company to increase its share of fuel supplies for U.S. nuclear power plants from 23 percent now to as much as 30 percent, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Some U.S. power companies have been pushing for broader access to enriched uranium from Russia for years, saying they need more diverse supplies. Russia is seeking to further expand its role at all levels of the global nuclear power industry, from uranium mining to power-plant construction.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Bangladesh: The First Time in History: A Woman is Chief Officer of Police

Her name is Hosne Ara Begum and she has been in the police force since 1981. Human rights activist Khushi Kabir: A very important fact for a chauvinist and Islamic society such as Bangladesh.

Dhaka (Asia News) — For the first time in the history of Bangladesh a woman is chief of a police division. Hosne Ara Begum has been appointed chief officer to a division in the capital Dhaka, as of May 18th. She started her career with the Bangladesh police in 1981 and has worked in many regions of Bangladesh, in different police jurisdictions and departments, including the Intelligence Branch of the Bangladesh police.

Women first entered the country’s police force in 1974. Then there were only 14, now there are 1,937, and among them 1,331 police constables. Contacted by AsiaNews, Begun said she is “really lucky to be the first female Office-in-Charge and to be a positive part of history in Bangladesh. I have been given the chance to prove my commitment to the nation once more”.

For Khushi Kabir, a prominent human rights activist, Begun’s appointment is an important sign for discrimination against women. “We have experienced in the past that, under police custody, women were being raped by police officers themselves” states Kabir, affirming that even among the police there is “impunity after violating the law or human rights”, particularly the rights of women.

A report of the local human rights organization Odhikar says that 5,816 women and children were raped between 2001 and 2007. Among the victims, 636 women were killed and 69 committed suicide after being raped. Also, 1,024 women were victims of acid burns and 1,884 were subjected to dowry-related violence. Of those, 1,241 were killed, 479 were tortured, 61 sustained acid injuries, and 95 committed suicide.

Kabir says “the appointment of the first female OC in the Bangladesh police force is a good sign of positive change for a chauvinist and Islamic society such as Bangladesh”. The human rights activist adds that “the government should take the initiative to adequately educate the population on the rights of citizens and the responsibilities of the police through media and all other available means”.

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

Punjab Riots After Vienna Killing

Riots have broken out across the Indian state of Punjab after a preacher from an Indian sect was killed by a rival Sikh group in Austria.

Within hours of the incident in Vienna, thousands of Sikhs took to the streets, clashing with police and setting fire to buildings, vehicles and a train.

At least two men were killed when the security forces opened fire on crowds near the city of Jalandhar, police say.

The army has marched through the city, where a curfew is in force.

However thousands of protesters carrying swords, steel rods and sticks defied the curfew on Monday.

Major highways were blocked by bonfires of tyres and sticks. Trains were attacked in several places.

Police said they had fired at rioting mobs in Jalandhar after coming under attack. At least four people were wounded.

One man was shot dead as police dispersed a crowd in the nearby town of Lambran. Police say they arrested six people for arson.

In the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, police fired tear gas after protesters burned dozens of buses.

The Delhi-Lahore bus was stopped near the town of Ludhiana as a precautionary measure.

Violent demonstrations have also been reported in the towns of Patiala, Ferozepur, Bathinda and Nawanshahr.

Appeal for calm

Chief Minister of Punjab Prakash Singh Badal has called an all-party meeting on Tuesday and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has appealed for calm.

“I am deeply distressed by the outbreak of violence in Punjab following certain incidents in Vienna, Austria,” Mr Singh, himself a Sikh, said in a statement

“Whatever the provocation, it is important to maintain peace and harmony among different sections of the people.”

The disturbances were triggered by the death of preacher Sant Rama Nand during a religious ceremony in Vienna on Sunday.

He was attacked by six men armed with knives and a pistol and succumbed to his wounds in hospital early on Monday.

Another preacher, Sant Nirajnan Dass, who was among 15 other people injured, is said to be stable.

Both the preachers were from a breakaway sect which has a large following in parts of Punjab and had travelled to Vienna to conduct a special service.

The BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder, in Delhi, says several Sikh groups had apparently opposed his presence and threatened violence.

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

The Taliban Advances

‘If We Now Kill Schoolgirls, You Shouldn’t Be Surprised’

Responding to threats from the Taliban, at least 10 girls’ schools have shut down near Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Visiting the schools is a dangerous proposition — a trip leading directly into the heart of Islamist territory.

When the deputy director of Aqtash High School talks of the government, he isn’t referring to Hamid Karzai’s central government in Kabul. Nor does he refer to the provincial administration in Kunduz. “The Taliban are our government,” Bashir says. “They have taken over our region, their commanders give the orders here.”…

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

Far East

China’s Communist Party Increasingly Powerless to Tackle Corruption

Corruption spreads at every level despite great efforts trying to rein it in. officials in 13 cities steal 120 billion yuan earmarked for sea clean up. Criticism is growing in the population.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — A growing number of Communist Party officials at different levels are involved in corruption scandals despite attempts by the central leadership to crackdown on the problem. For this reason the Central Committee of the Politburo of the Communist Party has recently adopted a new, more stringent accountability policy for officials. Tighter controls will apply to the officials’ work but also their sense of responsibility and collective interests.

Scandals however are breaking out in large numbers, proof that corruption has become an endemic problem. The latest case involves a low-level official in Badong, Hubei, who was killed by a pedicurist, 21, after he allegedly tried to force her to provide “special services”, a euphemism for sex.

Internet has become a venue where many average Chinese are venting their frustration at the state of affairs, expressing views in support of a crackdown on official corruption and immorality.

Sometimes embezzlement cases can reach gigantic proportions before they are revealed.

Last Friday the National Audit Office reported that the State Oceanic Administration and 13 city administrations had stolen 120 billion yuan (US$ 17 billion) which had been set aside to clean up the Bohai Gulf.

As a result of the massive theft only half of the planned 230 water treatment plants were actually built and many substandard.

Despite all this State Oceanic Administration officials in Beijing have continued to approve large coastal construction projects that have a huge impact on the marine environment.

In some provinces probes have shown that corruption is not an isolated problem involving a few rogue officials, but goes to the heart of the system of power.

In Shanghai last year, scandal swept the Communist Party to its core, causing the fall of local party chief Chen Liangyu (pictured) who was sentenced to 18 years in prison for bribery and abuse of power in relation to embezzled pension funds.

Dozens of party officials of all levels were also sacked or tried for their role in the scandal.

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

Japan Panel Wants “First Strikes” Against Enemies: Report

TOKYO (Reuters) — A Japanese ruling party panel is to propose that pre-emptive strikes against enemy bases be allowed despite the country’s pacifist constitution, Kyodo news agency said on Monday, weeks after a North Korean missile launch.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile in April that flew over northern Japan after warning that it planned to launch a satellite, prompting the government to deploy missile interceptors to the area .

“Japan should have the ability to strike enemy bases within the scope of its defense-oriented policy, in order not to sit and wait for death,” Kyodo quoted the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) committee as saying in its proposal.

The committee also plans to call for Japan to develop early-warning satellites to detect the launch of missiles toward the country, Kyodo said.. Japan currently depends on information from a U.S. early-warning satellite, the agency said.

While some lawmakers have called for strike capability, Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada is among those are cautious about the prospect, though the government’s stance is that such strikes should be allowed if an attack were certain to take place.

The panel’s plans are set to be submitted for consideration ahead of the compilation of a five-year government Defense program by the end of the year, Kyodo said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Japan to Relax Arms Export Ban: Report

TOKYO (AFP) — Japan has decided to relax its self-imposed ban on arms exports to allow more joint development and production of weapons with other nations, a report said Sunday.

The new measure would “enable shipments to countries with which Japan co-develops arms,” said the Nikkei newspaper without citing sources.

“The move is aimed at reducing procurement costs and stimulating the domestic defence industry by promoting joint development and production of key arms, such as next-generation fighter jets, with the US and Europe,” it said.

By taking a more active role in US or European military development programmes, Japan hopes to reduce the purchasing cost of major equipment such as jets, the Nikkei said.

Tokyo however would continue to prohibit arms exports to nations that are state sponsors of terrorism, violate the human rights of their citizens or lack sufficient controls over arms sales, the Nikkei said.

Japan currently bans almost all weapons exports, except for special cases such as those relating to the joint development of a missile defence system with the United States.

The report came as the world’s second-largest economy is increasingly scaling up its military power and seeking a greater role on global and regional security issues.

Tokyo, which sees itself as a top target for nuclear-armed North Korea, has spent some 700 billion yen (7.1 billion dollars) on its own missile defence system, developed with the United States.

Japan deployed the system last month as a preventive measure after North Korea launched what Pyongyang called “a satellite”. The United States, Seoul and Tokyo said it staged a disguised ballistic missile test.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Girl Receives Damages for Genital Mutilation

A 19-year-old girl in Gothenburg has been awarded compensation after having been subjected to genital mutilation in Somalia as an 11-year-old.

The girl was awarded 390,000 kronor ($52,000) in damages for abuse and gross violation of integrity (grov fridskränkning), the Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority (Brottsoffermyndigheten) has announced.

Then 11-years-old, the girl was taken on holiday to Somalia in 2001. While there she was subjected to genital mutilation.

She was held down by her mother and two other women while her clitoris and inner labia were removed by a man in return for payment.

The girl’s vagina was then sewn up down to the opening of her urethra. The whole procedure was conducted without anaesthetic.

For several years after the violation the girl was subjected to repeated examinations by her mother who forced her fingers into her vagina to check that her virginity remained intact.

She also repeatedly assaulted her daughter with various implements including books, a curtain rail and a belt.

The girl’s mother later explained in her court trial that the girl was taken to Somalia to be “cleansed”.

The mother was later convicted for the violation in the Court of Appeal (Hovrätten) and ordered to pay her daughter 450,000 kronor in compensation.

In its decision to award the damages to the 19-year-old the Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority wrote that the “genital mutilation resembled torture and was intended to limit her possibilities to have a normal sex life.”

For the “exceptionally serious violation of her personal integrity” and the subsequent abuse, the girl was awarded a total of 390,000 kronor.

The authority will also later consider whether the girl is entitled to further damages for pain and suffering.

           — Hat tip: Lexington [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Brazil OKs Extradition of Drug Lord to US

BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s Supreme Court approved the extradition to the United States of a Colombian-born drug lord accused of running one of the world’s largest drug smuggling operations, the court said Friday.

Pablo Rayo Montano was accused by the United States of being one of the world’s 10 most powerful drug traffickers, allegedly responsible for smuggling 15 tons of cocaine a month to the U.S. and Europe from the 1990s until his arrest in Brazil in 2006. At the time, U.S. officials compared his organization’s scope to that of late drug lord Pablo Escobar.

The Brazilian court was looking into another extradition request from Panama, but late Thursday it decided to grant the one made by the United States because it arrived earlier.

The American request included an international drug trafficking conspiracy charge and a money laundering conspiracy charge, but Supreme Court Justice Marco Aurelio Mello said the court did not consider them because Brazilian law requires three or more people to be part of a conspiracy. Montano allegedly had just one partner..

The ruling is expected to be ratified by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Montano and 31 members of his alleged organization were indicted in 2006 on various drug charges in the United States.

He allegedly had control of three islands in Panama and owned fishing boats, artwork, real estate holdings, yachts and millions in cash.

Colombian police have said he began trafficking drugs in the early 1990s from the Pacific port of Buenaventura and quickly rose to prominence within the now-defunct Cali cartel. He inherited routes with the arrest of top traffickers.

Montano’s organization was dismantled when he was arrested in Sao Paulo as part of the Twin Oceans operation, which was coordinated by U.S. anti-drug forces and involved police in Brazil and eight other countries.

Montano, who had been on the run for a decade, allegedly set up a number of companies in Brazil to launder proceeds from the monthly sale of cocaine to the United States and Europe.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Brazil OKs Extradition of Rabbi Accused in Israel

BRASILIA, Brazil — The Brazilian government can extradite a fugitive rabbi to Israel where he is accused of burning and cutting toddlers as part of a purification ritual, the Supreme Court said Friday.

Elior Noam Hen and several followers allegedly used knives, hammers and other instruments to abuse children 3 and 4 years old. He faces charges of child abuse, violence against minors and conspiracy.

The Court found there was cause for Hen to stand trial for allegedly subjecting eight children to “intense physical and mental suffering because they were supposedly possessed by the devil.”

It voted unanimously late Thursday to grant the Brazilian government’s request for his extradition, which is expected to be approved by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Attorneys for Hen could not immediately be reached. But the Court rejected defense arguments that Israeli courts do not have jurisdiction since the alleged crimes took place in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit in February and March 2008.

Judge Carlos Ayres Britto said Israel has jurisdiction under current treaties between Israel and the Palestine Authority.

Hen’s lawyers argued the treaties have expired and their client should not be handed to Israeli authorities.

Hen, who allegedly acted with four other people, was arrested in Brazil in June 2008 after a 45-day manhunt. Police did not say how or when he and his family arrived in the country.

The rabbi allegedly hit the children in the head and face and burned their hands, the court said.. One child sustained permanent brain damage and is in a vegetative state.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Brazil Arrests High Ranking Qaeda Operative — Report

SAO PAULO (Reuters) — Brazil’s federal police have arrested a high-ranking al Qaeda operative in Sao Paulo and are keeping him under tight security, a local newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The suspect is allegedly a chief of international communications for al Qaeda, according to the report in Folha de S.Paulo, Brazil’s largest daily newspaper.

The report did not give the suspect’s name or say when he was taken into custody, nor did it provide a source for the information.

The arrest was surrounded by secrecy with the federal police disguising it as part of an investigation into neo-Nazi groups in the country, Folha said. The report also said U.S. authorities were notified of the arrest.

A federal police spokesman in Sao Paulo declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman at the Justice Ministry in Brasilia, the capital.

Brazil is home to one of the largest Arab populations outside the Middle East, with most residing in Sao Paulo and Foz do Iguacu, a bustling commercial hub on the border with Argentina and Paraguay.

The U.S. government has claimed on several occasions in recent years that Arabs in the so-called tri-border around Foz do Iguacu raise money for militant groups in the Middle East. Brazil has repeatedly denied the accusation, calling it unfounded.

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

Caribbean States Assail U.S. Over Deportations

BRIDGETOWN (Reuters) — The United States should review its policy on deporting West Indian criminals back to their home countries, Caribbean nations told U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Saturday.

The issue is a major irritant between Caribbean states and their larger neighbor. Others include the regulation of tax havens and the use by criminal networks of the West Indies as a staging post for illicit drugs bound for U.S. consumers.

Large numbers of people migrate from the West Indies to the United States each year seeking education and employment.

But under a 1996 U.S. law, criminals convicted of offences ranging from murder to shoplifting as well as low-level drug infractions can face deportation from the United States.

“That vexed issue of repatriation of offenders from the United States of America” dominated a meeting between Holder and West Indian attorneys general in the Barbados capital Bridgetown, according to Barbados’ Attorney General Freundel Stuart.

Holder stressed the need for a mutual diplomatic relationship, comments aimed at soothing West Indian governments who seek give-and-take in their relations with the United States.

“We recognize that the attorneys general represented here today are all essential partners and we are committed to being good partners in return,” Holder said.

“We are all committed to improving security, to strengthening our borders and to combating the plague of gangs and drugs and to reducing recidivism,” he said, adding that Washington was giving an additional $30 million for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative.

The Caribbean Community, a body that groups West Indian nations, says the 1996 act has helped trigger a rise in violent crime within its borders because criminals have been sent back often with little connection to their home countries.

“A number of these people that are being sent back to the Caribbean have never been part of the Caribbean at all,” having left young, Stuart said.

Precise figures for the numbers deported were not immediately available.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Chavez: Venezuela Could Leave OAS, Join Cuba

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez says Venezuela could eventually withdraw from the Organization of American States and seek Cuba’s help to create an alternative regional group.

Chavez claims the OAS serves the interests of the United States. The Venezuelan leader has repeatedly criticized Cuba’s expulsion from the organization in 1962 on grounds that its communist government went against the hemispheric body’s principles.

Chavez said Monday that “Venezuela would love to join Cuba” as a nonmember.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez chimed in, saying Latin American and Caribbean nations should create an organization that “serves our people rather than the Empire,” a reference to the United States.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Ecuador Says Mining, Oil Must be in State Hands

QUITO (Reuters) — Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa said on Saturday that key sectors of the economy, including oil and mines, must be in government hands.

During his first two years in office Correa has taken a tough stand with mining and oil companies, pushing for new contracts more favorable to the state, but has so far shied away from nationalizing any firms.

“We will fulfill the goal of having strategic sectors in government hands,” Correa said.

The U.S.-educated economist has recently said he will not nationalize foreign oil companies, but will push for more state control in the key industry via new contracts.

During a joint news conference with his Ecuadorean counterpart, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said his drive to nationalize strategic sectors of his own country’s economy would continue.

Many sectors of Venezuela’s economy, including energy and telecommunications, have passed into state hands since Chavez took office 10 years ago. In recent weeks he has nationalized oil service companies and iron producers.

Chavez also said that Venezuela and Brazil were in talks to create a joint fund worth billions of dollars. It is likely it would be for infrastructure investment.

“One of the subjects we will discuss is the creation of a joint strategic fund … worth billions of dollars,” said Chavez, adding the fund will have funds from the Brazilian Development Bank, BNDES. He said he will meet with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva next week.

He said earlier his country and Ecuador had signed a deal for a joint fund for investment in energy projects.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Israel: Venezuela and Bolivia Providing Iran With Uranium

Last December Italian daily La Stampa reported that Iran is using Venezuela do duck UN sanctions by using aircraft from Venezuelan airline Conviasa to transport computers and engine components to Syria for use in missiles.

Today an official report from the Israeli Foreign Ministry further details Venezuela’s extensive ties with Iran, including providing Iran with uranium for its nuclear program. YNet has a copy of the report, which was prepared in advance of Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon visit to South America this week. The information is based on intelligence gathered by Israeli and international agencies.

The Associated Press also has a copy of the report, which states that Bolivia is also providing Iran with uranium…

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

Jailbirds Turn to Toy Helicopter to Smuggle Phones

SAO PAULO — A plot to smuggle cellular phones into a prison yard using a remote-control model helicopter has been foiled after Brazilian police discovered the high-tech toy in the trunk of a car outside a maximum-security lockup.

Police announced Monday they had confiscated the 1 yard-long (1-meter-long) chopper near the Presidente Venceslau penitentiary in Sao Paulo state and arrested four people riding in the car.

Attached to the helicopter’s base was a basket-like container with nine cell phones wrapped in a disposable diaper, a police statement said. Another five cell phones were found inside the car trunk.

“The cell phones were obviously for jailed gang leaders who would use them to coordinate bank robberies and kidnappings and set up drug deals,” police Sgt. Ricardo Jock told the Globo TV network.

In March, police thwarted an attempt at using carrier pigeons to fly cell phones into a prison near the southeastern city of Sorocaba.

In that case, guards spotted a pigeon resting on an electric wire with a small cloth bag tied to one of its legs. Luring the bird down with food, they discovered components of a small cell phone inside the bag.

Police said one of the suspects arrested on Sunday acknowledged receiving 10,000 reals ($5,000) to buy and prepare the helicopter, and that he would have received the same amount again for successfully landing it inside the prison.

Imprisoned Brazilian gangsters use cell phones to coordinate criminal activity outside and inside an overcrowded prison system where torture, killings and gang violence are routine.

In 2006, Sao Paulo’s notorious First Capital Command gang — whose leaders are based in prison — used cell phones to launch a wave of assaults on police, banks and buses that left more than 200 people dead in South America’s largest city.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Venezuela Sends Uranium to Iran

Venezuela and Bolivia are supplying Iran with uranium for its nuclear program, according to a secret Israeli government report obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The two South American countries are known to have close ties with Iran, but this is the first allegation that they are involved in the development of Iran’s nuclear program, considered a strategic threat by Israel.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Australia: ‘People Smuggler’ to Face Aussie Charges

A Middle Eastern man accused of leading a major people-smuggling operation in Indonesia has been extradited to Australia to face charges.

Dual Iraqi-Iranian citizen Hadi Ahmadi has been in custody in Jakarta since Indonesian police arrested him last June, at Australia’s request.

He is accused of smuggling more than 900 asylum seekers to Australia in four separate sea voyages from April to August 2001.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last month approved Ahmadi’s extradition.

An Indonesian immigration department spokesman confirmed Ahmadi was due to fly out of Jakarta on Tuesday afternoon, local time.

It’s understood Ahmadi was to be flown to Perth, where he would be officially charged by Australian Federal Police.

At the time of his arrest, authorities described Ahmadi — who has allegedly used more than a dozen aliases — as a “big fish” in people smuggling.

Ahmadi denies the allegations.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Australia: Man Charged Over People Smuggling Plot

A 21-year-old man has been charged over a plan to smuggle a group of Afghans into Australia.

Rahmatullah Bostan, 21, and his father, 64-year-old Qambarali Bostan, were arrested by Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers at their home in Shepparton this morning.

Rahmatullah Bostan faced court this afternoon, charged with people smuggling, money laundering and drugs offences.

He is accused of organising for a group of 68 Afghans to illegally enter Australia.

The group was caught in Indonesia last month.

Rahmatullah Bostan was remanded in custody and will face court tomorrow morning.

The AFP were granted more time to question Qambarali Bostan and he is expected to be charged tonight

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Australia: Two People Smugglers Reap $115,000

More than $110,000 flowed into the bank accounts of a father and son accused of masterminding the illegal passage of Afghani asylum seekers to Australia, a court heard.

Qambali Bostan, 64, travelled to Indonesia to co-ordinate the movements of illegal immigrants while his 22-year-old son Rahmutullah Bostan remained in Australia to collect payments from their families, Australian Federal Police (AFP) agent Josh Born told Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

“Rahmutullah was in charge of the financial side and his father the actual movement of people,” Mr Born told the court.

Federal police swooped on the Bostan family home in Shepparton, in northern Victoria, early on Tuesday, arresting them in relation to the detention of 68 Afghan asylum seekers in Indonesia on April 16.

Both have been charged with two counts of people smuggling and two counts of money laundering.

The son also faces one charge of drug possession.

Mr Born told the court a series of telephone intercepts revealed that while Qambali Bostan was the principal of the plot, his son played an active role.

“Rahmutullah has been in contact with numerous overseas persons in relation to obtaining funds we suspect to be for people-smuggling,” he said.

“He’s been in regular contact with persons in Indonesia organising the accommodation and movement of people.

“He has been in contact with people detained in Indonesia and people in Australia who have paid for their relatives to come here illegally.

“There were numerous conversations in which he received threats over family members being detained.”

In Rahmutullah Bostan’s bail application hearing on Wednesday, Commonwealth prosecutor Fiona Thompson sought $20,000 surety, saying there was a real risk of him fleeing Australia.

Mr Born told the court Rahmutullah Bostan had a brother living in Indonesia and could easily access the funds to escape the country.

He said more than $40,000 was transferred into his bank account during a three-day period in March and there had been a previous deposit of $75,000 made.

“Due to the amount of funds that have passed through his account, Rahmutullah does have connections where large amounts of funds are accessible,” he said.

However, the Commonwealth withdrew its bid for surety when Magistrate Len Brear indicated he would impose daily reporting conditions and a curfew, along with the surrender of his passport.

Mr Brear said Bostan’s age, ties to the Shepparton area, family support and lack of prior convictions did not necessitate a financial surety, after granting him bail.

His father was granted bail late Tuesday night but was remanded in custody on Wednesday after being unable to raise a $20,000 surety.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Bishops Blast Italy Over Immigrants

‘International cooperation’ required to stem migrant flow

(ANSA) — Vatican City, May 25 — The Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) on Monday reiterated criticism of Italy’s immigration policy, calling for a “wider and more articulate strategy”.

Inaugurating the 58th general assembly of bishops, CEI Chairman Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, said the “irrepressible value of every human life, its dignity and its inalienable rights” should be the “fundamental criteria” with which to evaluate the arrival of illegal immigrants.

The central point of the Italy’s strategy should be international cooperation, he said, adding that trying to cope with the phenomenon through “single measures” was “fatally inadequate”.

“There is nobody who doesn’t see that only by improving the economic and social conditions of the countries of origin of our immigrants can one stop the disruptive burden of the migratory phenomenon,” he said.

Cardinal Bagnasco also questioned whether Italy was doing enough for immigrant integration, stressing that a job and a “minimally decent place to live” were “not sufficient”.

“It’s a mistake to undervalue the alarm signs that have been registered here and there in our country,” he said. “Immigration is a chaotic reality: if it isn’t governed, it is suffered”.

The CEI chairman also stressed that it was necessary to “avoid the formation of ethnic enclaves” leading to a supposedly multicultural society that “in reality is just a juxtaposition of ethnicities who don’t speak to each other”.

Italy this month launched a controversial new policy of turning back boats of would-be immigrants and possible asylum seekers trying to reach the country’s southernmost island of Lampedusa despite criticism from the United Nations, the Catholic Church and humanitarian organisations.

Also this month, CEI sharply criticised a new government security bill which makes illegal immigration a criminal offense, extends to six months the period immigrants and would-be asylum seekers can be kept in detention centers, authorises civilian patrols — which critics have likened to vigilante groups — and sets a maximum three-year jail term for landlords who rent to illegal aliens.


Meanwhile Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told the Senate Monday that the new immigration policy is proving an effective deterrent to illegal migration.

Under the policy, which sees a key part of a landmark accord with Libya implemented for the first time, migrants are rescued in international waters and taken back to Libya where humanitarian organisations can vet their asylum claims.

Providing figures on the so-called ‘push-back’ policy, Maroni said 471 migrants had been sent back to Libya from May 6 to 10, after the launch of the policy.

Boat migrations in the Mediterranean “have pratically come to halt,” Maroni said. The minister said Italy would persist with the initiative “without wavering” because “it is saving many lives at sea and is producing a drastic decline in arrivals” on its southern shores.

Maroni also rebutted criticism, arguing that the initiative is “in line with existing legislation”. However, the UN refugee agency UNHCR says the initiative undermines access to asylum in the European Union and carries with it the risk of violating the fundamental principles enshrined in the 1951 (Geneva) Convention on refugees and other instruments of international human rights law.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Maroni Pleased With Result

(ANSAmed) — BUSTO ARSIZIO (VARESE), MAY 25 — The government, through its policy of forced returns, has obtained “an excellent result in full compliance with regulations”, said Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni at the Italian Confederation of Italian Industry (Confindustria) assembly in Varese. According to Maroni, “since the start of forced returns on May 7, no boat has reached Italy”. Regarding the reactions of the opposition, Maroni explained that “we have sent back 500 illegal immigrants and they are protesting. Spain sends back 10,000 and that’s ok because the country is led by a socialist government”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Urges US Immigration Model

Rome, 25 May (AKI) — Italy’s conservative prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has sought to deflect criticism of Italy’s harsh immigration policies by stressing potential migrants are welcome in his country. In an interview posted to the US television network CNN’s website on Monday, he said immigrants who qualified to come to Italy should be allowed to work and create a better life for themselves and their families.

“We welcome those (immigrants) who have the right to come here. This is what the United States and all normal countries do,” Berlusconi told CNN.

“We are absolutely open to those who come to our country with the wish to integrate and to work… we keep an open door to all who are eligible to come to work in Italy or request asylum,” Berlusconi said.

He rebutted criticism directed at his government by the Italian opposition, the United Nations and the Catholic church over its hardline immigration policies that were part of its electoral pledge to clamp down on illegal immigration.

These policies have included turning back boatloads of migrants to North Africa before they enter Italian coastal waters, under an accord signed between the Italian and Libyan governments last year.

“Does it seem humane to you to transfer these people to (Italian) holding centres and detain them for months, only to then send them back to where they came from?” he asked rhetorically.

“I think it is kinder to return them to the country from which they set sail and hand them over to the United Nations refugee agency which can assess any asylum claims there.”

If illegal immigrants enter Italian waters, however, authorities assess their claims for asylum or protection, and whether they come from situations where they are in danger or face oppression, Berlusconi said.

“The Italian model is one that is totally in line with the behaviour of all western states and with European Union directives,” he said.

Italy welcomes immigrants, and has always provided them with medical care and schooling for their children, Berluconi said.

He blamed the previous centre-left government for having “spread the word” in North African and Asian countries that Italy’s borders were “open to all”.

Italy had to shut its doors “to the great majority of those who are brought here, many of whom are reduced to conditions of slavery by the criminal organisations who profit from them,” Berlusconi concluded.

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

Libya: Attempted Departure Stopped

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, MAY 25 — Following a long period of calm after Italy sent around 500 migrants back to Tripoli just over ten days ago, Libyan police managed to prevent a boat carrying 100 people from making out to sea last Thursday. The boat had just left the coast of Zliten, 170 km east of Tripoli, when Libyan police, who had been investigating the departure for four days, stopped the craft from leaving. The immigrants on board were almost all Nigerians. After the three departures from the coast of Tunisia in recent days, this is the first unsuccessful attempt at a mass departure from Libya in the last two weeks. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


An Anti-Semite for UNESCO?

Egypt’s Culture Minister Farouk Hosni is a leading candidate to take over UNESCO in the fall. An alliance of intellectuals and Jewish groups from France, Germany and Israel are up in arms over the possibility due to remarks made by him perceived to be anti-Israeli.

It’ll soon be time for a new boss at UNESCO, the world’s pre-eminent cultural preservation organization. But German cultural and Jewish groups are worried about the candidate currently favored to win the top spot: Egyptian Minister of Culture Farouk Hosni.

In a statement released on Monday, the German Culture Council — an umbrella organization of cultural organizations in Germany — expressed concern over Hosni’s candidacy due to his history of anti-Semitic statements.

“Choosing Farouk Hosni as the new director of UNESCO would be a mistake,” said Olaf Zimmermann, head of the Culture Council. UNESCO is on the verge of putting into practice the Convention on Cultural Diversity. A responsibility like that shouldn’t be trusted to someone who hasn’t fully internalized the ideals of UNESCO.”

Hosni, an artist by trade, has been Egypt’s Culture Minister since 1987. He is known for being a liberal voice in Egyptian politics, opposing the veil for Egyptian women for example. But he has also made anti-Israeli statements in the past. Last year, he said he would “burn Israeli books in Egyptian libraries.”

Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in an interview on German radio that due to his “clearly anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli statements” Hosni should be “disqualified” for the position.

With the decision coming up in October, Hosni’s candidacy has become a hot issue in France, Germany and Israel. Last Friday, three Jewish intellectuals — including Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel — wrote an open letter questioning Hosni’s suitability for the position. “We must, without delay, appeal to everyone’s conscience to keep UNESCO from falling into the hands of a man who, when he hears the word ‘culture,’ responds with a book burning,” the letter read.

According to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, the issue got more complicated after news leaked that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to support Hosni’s candidacy in a secret deal with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

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

Taliban Law is Not the Quranic Law

Nasr Abu-Zayd

Compared to the legal discourse of early pioneers of Islamic law, this reclaimed Sharia is very distant from the obvious meaning of the foundational sources of Islam. Muhammad of the Sura never raised his voice to any of his wives. The Qur’an bears witness to this. He was a loving husband and compassionate father to his daughters. Marriage is presented in the Qur’an in terms of tranquillity and mutual love; the husband is his wife’s own dress and she is his. They contain each other. Sharia, after all, is a historical human understanding of the Qur’an according to medieval norms, which the Qur’an itself opposes.

This backward decision taken by the Afghan government under pressure from radical groups, whoever they are, is a return to the Middle Ages. The Sharia espoused by those radical groups, and even by other groups who like to present themselves as moderates, is nothing but the legal articulation of similar groups in medieval Islam, based on their own understanding and interpretation of the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition. Compared with the legal discourse of the early pioneers of Islamic law, this reclaimed Sharia is very distant from the obvious meaning of the foundational sources of Islam.

Before I present the Qur’an’s position concerning the issues related to Women, allow me to analyse the prophetic legacy. I refer to the Prophet Mohammed’s behaviour with his wives, daughters and female relatives. Here, I analyse the person of Muhammad rather than the sayings which were later collected, attributed to him, and canonized, because these sayings are full of statements which contradict the manner and behaviour of the person as presented in his biography (Sura). Muhammad of the Sura never raised his voice at any of his wives. The Qur’an bears witness to this. His wives caused him problems due to their conflicts with each other, to the extent that Muhammad intervened threatening them with divorce if they continued bothering and annoying him. He was a loving husband and a compassionate father to his daughters. All the wives he married after his first wife, Khadija, including his most beloved one Aisha, did not cause him to forget her. Aisha was once very angry because Muhammad always remembered Khadija, and she could not help expressing her jealousy of the dead women. Muhammad became very angry with Aisha. He said of Khadija, “she believed me when all my tribe did not; she gave to me when I was in need.” It is well known that he never had another wife during Khadija’s lifetime…

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

The Hitler Myth

This is a series of recent articles on the Hitler Myth by Duns Ouray, as published at Het Vrije Volk in the first week of May. It was translated into English by our Flemish correspondent VH, who added some notes and illustrations.

The Hitler myth

By Duns Ouray

One day you just do not believe it anymore.

Hitler: Man of the Year 1938“Hitler was a unpredictable idiot. A dictator who ruled Germany with an iron fist. He had a special gift: with his speeches he was hypnotizing his audience.

“The industrialists financed the Nazis to make profits from the German rearmament. Hitler was nothing more than a sock puppet of the capitalists. Hence the fierce struggle of the Nazis against the Social Democrats and the Communists.

“The Holocaust was anti-Semitic madness. But without the German law-abiding culture, the Holocaust could not have happened. “Befehl ist Befehl” [An order is an order] was the motto.

“The followers of Hitler were socially frustrated. The middle class were hoping to climb the social ladder with a membership in the NSDAP.

“With the military defeat in 1945, Nazism was consigned to the dungheap of history.”

That was roughly the image of Nazism I grew up with. The image that was presented to you in history class, in films, and in the newspaper. This image we might call “the Hitler myth”.

It is not the first time that myth has won out over reality. Perhaps Plato’s myth about the death of Socrates is the oldest example. Another historical myth is the idea that the Indians had a high culture, a pacifist mentality, and lived in harmony with nature, and that they were exterminated by white settlers.

This poses the following question: when does a myth win out over the reality? My answer: when all parties that benefit prefer the myth over the unwelcome reality. The Indians have an interest in their role as victim. And from the side of Westerners, history is written by left-wing pseudo-intellectuals: they want to paint capitalist society, and Christian America, in as bad a light as possible.

Back to the Hitler myth. At some point in time I started doubting. Just as children start having doubts about Santa Claus. It simply cannot be true. In this I was struggling with the following questions:

  • If Hitler was a madman, how could he come to power?
  • Can anyone really hypnotize his audience with a speech?
  • If Nazism only attracted losers, how could they suddenly grab power?
  • The Holocaust is a major operation and a historically unique. Would the motive for this have only been anti-Semitism? For anti-Semitism is (literally) as old as the way to Rome.
  • If Hitler was a sock puppet of the major capitalists, why did he call himself a national socialist?
  • This was the first speech of Hitler as Chancellor… a strange little man that is just screaming anything. Do you feel the spell of his hypnotic power come over you?
  • Via a “health care fund” the Dutch State pays the cost of health care of the below average income segment of our people. This fund is hailed as “a pinnacle of civilization”. However, it was established by the Nazis on November 1, 1941 [during the occupation of the Netherlands].
  • In 2006, the PvdA (Socialists) blocked the loosening of Dutch employment protection. The labor unions even called this employment protection “holy”. However, this measure was also introduced by the Nazis.
  • The dependent child allowance, one of the shrines of the Christian Democrats, was introduced by the Nazis in 1941.
  • After a long leftist life, Jacques van Doorn wrote German Socialism. In this book he demonstrated that historians traditionally portray the conservatives, the Reichswehr, the nobility and industrialists as the trailblazers to Hitler. However, the NSDAP was one of the few political parties in the German Weimar Republic that was not funded by these groups.
  • Did the massive support for Nazism really suddenly evaporate in 1945?

With so many contradictions, our image of Hitler cannot possibly be based on reality. There is a Hitler myth, but how could that occur?

Part II

Where did the Hitler myth come from? And why would you believe it?

In Part I demonstrated that a Hitler-myth exists. Our image of Hitler and Nazism is a fantasy. This fantasy was created by some special interest groups, who together wrote history. This section deals with these stakeholders:
– – – – – – – –

1.   The pre-war political establishment, which was restored after 1945.
2.   The baby-boom generation, which took over power in the 1960’s.
3.   The Germans who survived the war.

What special interest did they have?

1. The pre-war establishment had to explain why they did not stop Hitler and the Holocaust. They also, after 1945, had to channel popular support for Nazism to their aid. The following components of the Hitler myth were in their interest:

Hitler myth versus the interest:

  • “Hitler was a unpredictable madman.”
    — The political establishment had been unable to predict the Second World War or the Holocaust.
  • “The followers of Hitler were mainly socially frustrated.”
    — Hitler’s followers were standing outside the establishment. Hitler was hated by the establishment.
  • “With the military defeat in 1945, Nazism was consigned to the dungheap of history.”
    — The political establishment is responsible for the cleaning up the remnants of Nazism.

2. The baby boom generation were the first “children of the welfare state”. They pinched the power of the establishment. In this struggle, the leveling of the “fascism-reproach” proved to be a strong weapon: anyone who stands in the way of the baby boomers is called “a fascist”.

Hitler myth versus the interest:

  • “Hitler was financed by the great industrialists.”
    — The baby boomers saw capitalism as an obstacle on their way to power. Therefore capitalism had to be portrayed as the breeding ground of Hitler and Nazism.
  • “The Nazis disputed social democrats and communists.”
    — The baby boomers identified themselves as socialists and/or communists. Now they also could delude themselves as the “victims of Hitler”.
  • “The Holocaust was enabled by the German law-abiding culture.”
    — If a law-abiding culture had led to the Holocaust, then the fight against the authority simply had to be justified. And the baby boomers fought against authority in the 1960s.
  • “The followers of Hitler were the middle class that grabbed the chance to improve their situation through he Nazis.”
    — The baby boomers view themselves as real intellectuals. They detest the middle class.

3. Germans who survived the war had to find ways to justify their participation. Therefore the reality was modified:

Hitler myth versus the interest:

  • “Hitler ruled Germany with an iron fist. And with his speeches Hitler hypnotized his audience.”
    — The Germans themselves were also victims of Hitler.
  • “Hitler was financed by the great industrialists.”
    — Against this financial force majeure the Germans stood no chance.
  • “With the military defeat in 1945, Nazism was consigned to the dung heap of history.”
    — Nazism is a black page in history, but fortunately we left that behind us.

As you can see, the Hitler myth has something in it for everyone. But can we still find out how it really stuck together?

Part III

To me, the book by Sebastian Haffner (Anmerkungen zu Hitler and Geschichte eines Deutschen) was a real eye-opener. Haffner describes the bizarre everyday life in the Weimar Republic. Nevertheless, Hitler in general was regarded as a distasteful little man, cherishing weird ideas.

But when he came to power in 1933, Hitler proved to be hugely successful: unemployment was resolved, prices became stable, Germany hosted the Olympic Games, and regained international respect. Haffner summarized this as follows: if Hitler had lost his life in 1938, he would be have been remembered as the greatest German statesman of all time. Therefore you had to be very confident in the 1930’s to abhor Hitler. [1]

Another eye-opener is the book Hitler’s Beneficiaries by Götz Aly. It describes how the Germans progressed financially under Hitler. You can even question whether Hitler might be called a dictator. Firstly, Hitler came to power after a resounding election victory. Secondly, the popularity of Hitler rose enormously between 1933 and 1938.

Thirdly, a widespread repression was not necessary at all for Hitler to keep power: the Gestapo in 1937 had only 7,000 men in service, which includes office workers and supporting staff. That is probably proportional to the security personnel that currently keeps the Netherlands on track. And compare that to the DDR (only 25% of the size of Hitler’s Germany). They had 190,000 “observers” in service.

In other words, the Nazis could count on the support of a large majority of the German population. That was not so strange since Socialism had been for generations the Political Hope for the people. But the Nazis were the first to successfully bring socialism into practice.

Götz Aly cites these examples:

  • The Nazis brought the automobile within reach of the people.
  • They doubled the number of holidays for workers.
  • They introduced agricultural subsidies for farmers to protect them against the risks of weather and a fickle world market.
  • Prices of food were set by the government.
  • The Nazis introduced the progressive income tax (still a “sacred” item for the leftist parties).
  • The Nazis were not just leftists, they were green as well: they were the first to make care for the environment a government responsibility.
  • Landlords were required to charge their tenants affordable rents.
  • The legal position of tenants was strengthened.
  • Child benefits were introduced.
  • Pensions were increased.
  • The cost of health care was paid for by the government. [2]
  • The only tax increase that hurt “the common man” was a 50% increase on the duty on tobacco and alcohol.
  • And in the war a “special social benefit” was introduced: benefits for the cost of rent, insurance, coal, potatoes and other essential goods.

And the great industrialists? How did they do under Hitler? Companies had to pay 98% tax under Hitler. In some cases even 104% of profits had to be paid. And the weapons industry? The Nazis seized all “war-related” profits. Or, in the words of Hitler himself: “As long as there are soldiers fighting at the front, nobody will be allowed to make profits from the war.”

Investors had to hand in all dividends above 6% to the State. In 1941 this was followed by a special profit tax. In that year homeowners suddenly had to pay property tax in advance over the years ahead. An increase of residential rents was not allowed.

How socialist was Hitler? Let us look at the government contributions to social security between 1938 and 1943 (in millions of Reichsmarks)

1938   640    
1939   749   +16%
1940   940   +26%
1941   1395   +48%
1942   963   -31%
1943   1119   +16%

This is how socialist Hitler was. He commanded a solidarity and social justice policy the current Social Democrats can only dream about.

The question is: how could Hitler pay for this all? Well, the 31% decline in spending on social security in 1942 reveals it. In that year, the expropriation of the rights of Jews to social security was processed in the accounts.

Hitler’s welfare was paid by the theft of Jewish property and wealth. First in Germany and later in the lands under German occupation. Six million people were first robbed and then forced to work without payment. Only when Hitler’s Socialists couldn’t make any money on them anymore were they murdered.

There was nothing irrational about the Holocaust. It was the only way Hitler could finance his social security. And that very same social security was the reason that the Germans got carried away with him, despite the hardships of war. They gained: the companies and houses of Jews were available for “nothing”. Jewish household goods and clothing went to those who lost their homes in the bombings. Money, jewels, and gold went to the state.

Götz Aly explains the explicit link between the welfare state and the Holocaust: “Significantly, the will to achieve social reform was strongest among those leaders within the Nazi Party who were also the most actively involved in pushing forward the agenda of ethnic genocide.”

It seems unlikely that Hitler’s followers were amongst the wealthy, or even amongst the small firms and traders. They lost out. But if you were earning a below-average income, you gained substantially.

The Social Democrats and the Communists shared their constituencies with the Nazis, and were therefore also the biggest political threat. That is probably the reason why leftist political leaders were terrorized by the Sturm Abteilung [SA].

Besides workers, also young people were attracted to the Nazis. Jonah Goldberg points out in his superb book Liberal Fascism that fascism was a youth movement. For example, what were the ages of the Nazi leaders? When they came to power in 1933, Joseph Goebbels was 35, Reinhard Heydrich was 28, Albert Speer was 27, Adolf Eichmann was 26, Joseph Mengele was 21, and Heinrich Himmler and Hans Frank were both 26. Hermann Göring was 40 years and a real granddad amongst Hitler’s socialists.

Jonah Goldberg claims that Nazism was an egalitarian youth movement with free sex. No “Befehl is Befehl”, but a precursor of the hippies. Regarding Frei Körper Kultur there has to be no doubt that it did exist. But in Intelligence in War John Keegan adds a salient example:

The Germans developed their secret weapons in Peenemünde. The intellectual achievements, especially in V2 [rocket] design, were formidable. This was made possible by the egalitarian, free atmosphere in Peenemünde. Everyone could talk to about anything. Nobody cared for rank and status. But Peenemünde was as leaky as a sieve: the British were well aware of everything.

The contrast with the British intelligence center, Bletchley, is substantial. Ten thousand men worked there on a strict need-to-know basis. The Germans never knew of the existence of Bletchley.

Keegan does not mention Los Alamos, but it was the same there. Under very strict military rules the atomic bomb was developed. Richard Feynman was able to tell excellent stories about that. And again, the Japanese and the Germans were ignorant of its existence (although the Soviet Union did have a spy in Los Alamos).

Part IV

How Hitler won the war: Socialism and Democracy

The inherent problem of democracy is “the dictatorship of the majority”. In order to come to power, the politicians have to forge a majority coalition. This majority will only vote for them when there is something to gain. But where should that money come from? That can only be taken away from the minority.

In they era before Hitler, Socialism was seen as weird, intellectual, and unsuccessful. Hitler made two innovations that were crucial for the practical success. And finally Hitler succeeded in transferring money from a minority to a majority.

1. The Pincer

Hitler went to work as a pincer. At the top the NSDAP took part in democracy as a legitimate party. At the bottom “the activists” terrorized his opponents. Hitler maintained sufficient distance from his activists to prevent legal and public-relations trouble.

Moreover, Hitler himself was (in Mein Kampf) rather generous. He gave the Social Democrats all the credits. Hitler supposedly learned the Pincer from the social-democratic activists in Vienna. But who will say whether this is just propaganda?

2. The Coalition of the Profiteers

Hitler welded a coalition of people who benefited from his policies. That was “the common man” and “the youth”. They were favored. The bill was paid by wealthy people and especially by the Jews. Since those who gained from Nazism were more numerous than its victims, Hitler had no need for widespread repression to stay in power.

Modern social democracy

While he is not awarded the honor, Hitler is the founder of modern social democracy. Both tactical innovations, the Pincer and the Coalition of Profiteers, were embraced by leftist parties after the war (and of course Hitler’s welfare state was expanded further).

In this matter we recognize the Dutch squatters’ movement, environmental activists, and other (professional) demonstrators. It is their duty to eliminate social opponents outside the parliament. Officially, the leftist parties keep themselves well-distanced from this terror. But there are many links between them.

  • Firstly, the puppets are often the same. Many leftist politicians have a history in activism.
  • Secondly, the living costs of the activists are paid for by leftist parties, through benefits and grants.
  • With regard to housing we must congratulate the leftist politicians on their inventiveness. Hitler arranged “affordable rent” by law. But by squatting, our present politicians arrange for rent-free housing for their activists. It is no coincidence that the losing parties, the property owners, are not supporters of the leftist parties.

The power of the Left is still formed by the Coalition of Profiteers. But there have also been some changes in it. Because of technological progress, labor productivity rose substantially. Therefore you can grab enough from the minority through taxes keep the majority happy.

Moreover, high taxes are much more elegant than a holocaust:

  • Firstly, you can only rob and murder someone one time. However, higher and higher taxes can be demanded each year. [4]
  • Secondly, the Holocaust was a publicity nightmare for Hitler’s Socialists. But high taxes can be justified with beautiful concepts such as “solidarity”, “social justice” and “redistribution of wealth”.

Because changes in society happen quickly, the composition of the Coalition of Profiteers has to be adjusted as well. The “Fortuyn-period” [2001-2002] was such a landslide: the classical worker nowadays faces more drawbacks than benefits from the welfare state. He is the main victim of crime and lack of civil order, while the Santa of increased prices tiptoed past his little rented house [late nineties]. And therefore the Left can no longer rely on “the people in the old neighborhoods”.

(If you remove the social housing associations, and the offer the houses at a reduced price to the tenant, the Right will finally be able to score a large election victory.)

Hitler had it much easier. He could work with a majority of workers, but the workers nowadays are threatened with extinction. They have been replaced by an army of managers and bureaucrats.

It is not difficult to point out the new Coalition of Profiteers. Just follow the money. The media, universities, NGOs, the immigrants, the beneficiaries, officials, the semi-officials and care sector. They all gain from the welfare state.

The leftist policy is the art of a balancing act: one must over and over again forge a Coalition of Profiteers. And when this is successful, the left owns the future!


[1]   One of the first measures of Hitler when he was in power was to make May 1 not only the official workers’ day, but also a holiday: “Der 1. Mai ist der Feiertag der nationalen Arbeit; signed: Adolf Hitler; Frick; Dr. Goebbels” [The first of May is the feast day of the national workers; Berlin, April 10, 1933]
[2]   Already in 1933 the National Socialists had organized the welfare state through the “family welfare security,” the NS-Volkswohlfahrt. In their advertising they showed the wealthy capitalists with their private security on one side and on the other a happy National Socialist family looking down upon them.

Capitalists and Nazis
[3]   Appeal by The Reich Leader of the German Labor Front, published in the Völkischer Beobachter (November 20, 1939)

In the following excerpt from the [National Socialist] party newspaper Völkischer Beobachter, Dr. Robert Ley, the leader of the German Labor Front [Deutsche Arbeitsfront or DAF], addresses the German workforce, highlighting the regime’s success in prosecuting the war and emphasizing that conditions for workers had improved since the first weeks of hostilities. […] Ley interpreted the forced improvements as proof of the socialist character of the German Reich, which had to assert itself in the face of threats by capitalist England.

[4]   It is not well known that the Turks tried an in-between strategy during WWII with the Wealth Tax. After the death of Kemal Atatürk in 1938, the ruling elite slowly fell back into usual Islamic behavior. After an agreement with Nazi Germany in 1941, the Turks rounded up Jewish, Armenian and Greek males between the ages of 18 and 35. They were sent to labor camps. But to displace later fears onto the minorities, the Turkish government placed the blame for he financial crisis on the non-Muslim businessmen and implemented the “Varlik” tax (1942). A wealth tax of sometimes far over 100% of the total value of property and savings. Those who were unable to pay within two weeks lost everything to the State and were sent to labor camps. This included family members and even children. Tax “assessment” was estimated and in three categories: M for Muslims (ca 0%-15%), G for non-Muslims (Gayrimüslim), E for foreigners (Ecnebi) and D for Dönmde, members of the Jewish clan who chose to convert in stead of being murdered. Category G for instance (Greek Christians and Jews), was taxed from 50%-100%+. This led not only to a horrible persecution of non-Muslims but also a continuing crisis in the economy till long after the war.

Dutch Nazi party (NSB) posters from How leftist was the National Socialist Alliance (NSB)?: “Our Socialism, Your future”

Our Socialism

and “Together with Germany AGAINST Capitalism”:

Tegen Kapitalisme

A German NSDAP poster form 1932: “Work and Bread, through list 1”:

Work and Bread