Fjordman: Britain, From Parliament to Police State

Fjordman’s latest essay, “Britain: From Parliament to Police State”, has been published at Democracy Reform. Some excerpts are below.

I am aware of the fact that some British people speak of Europe as “somewhere else,” to which they do not belong. In my opinion, Britain is very much a part of European civilization whether they want to admit so or not, but I am willing to grant them a special place within the European tradition. There is a reason why English became the first global lingua franca. While I focus mainly on the history of science in my essays these days, let us have a brief look at some of the political ideas and concepts championed by the British in the modern era.

England was by the seventeenth century emerging as a great power whose influence increasingly stretched far beyond Europe. It was also one of the most intellectually creative regions in the world. After Isaac Newton had published his Principia in 1687, probably the single most influential text in the history of science, the English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704), a friend of Newton, in 1690 published his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, proclaiming the doctrine eventually known as the tabula rasa, where humans come into the world as blank slates. This was perfect for a world in which reason ruled and everything was possible. Human nature itself could be improved by applying reason, and history could take the direction of eternal progress. Locke published his Second Treatise of Government, stating that government is the servant of men, not the other way around, and that men possess natural rights, expanding on Thomas Hobbes’ concept of the social contract.

– – – – – – – –

In the early 1700s, England’s combination of economic prosperity, social stability and civil liberties had no equivalent anywhere in Continental Europe, at least not among the larger states; smaller states such as Switzerland is a different matter. The French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) lived in England for several years in the 1720s and knew the English language well. He preferred British constitutional monarchy to French absolute monarchy. Voltaire praised England’s virtues in Letters on the English from 1734 when he returned to Paris. This caused great excitement among French intellectuals for the ideas of Newton and Locke and the plays of Shakespeare, but their own philosophies went in a different direction.

The sad part when writing this is that while Britain was once admired for its political system and was rightfully hailed as a beacon of liberty, today Britain is one of the most politically repressive countries in the Western world, which is saying a lot given how bad Politically Correct censorship is in the entire Western world these days. Britain today is a Multicultural police state where sharia, Islamic law, is quite literally treated as the law of the land. I suppose there is a strange sort of symmetry in this: Britain was one of the first countries in the West to embrace political liberty and is now among the first to leave political liberty behind.

Read the rest at Democracy Reform.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/14/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/14/2009The big news tonight comes from Iran. Ahmadinejad has been declared the winner, but a large number of Iranians are protesting a rigged election. Opposition leaders have been arrested, and there is violence in the streets. It’s still too early to venture an opinion about how this will turn out.

In other news, Brazil, Russia, India, and China (now known as the BRIC group) have decided not to try to establish a new reserve currency, at least for the time being.

Thanks to Amil Imani, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, Jewish Odysseus, KGS, Rolf Krake, Zenster, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
BRICs Won’t Mull New Reserve Currencies: Kremlin
Spain: 600 Intellectuals Say No to Labour Market Reform
Spain: More Than 600,000 New Homes Unsold
 
USA
Barack H. Obama: Administrator
CIA Chief Believes Cheney Almost Wants U.S. Attacked
Just Make Stuff Up
Obama Fires Watchdog Who Barked at His Crony
Supervolcano Brewing Beneath Mount St Helens?
 
Europe and the EU
Another Year of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism in Norway
Culture: ‘Turkey Season’ in France Could be Postponed, Erdogan
Dutch Divided Over Geert Wilders as Radical MP Eyes Premiership
EU Woos Ireland Ahead of Lisbon
Finland: $17m Ransom: Kidnap Victim Freed
Gaddafi Fails to Show Up at Top-Level Meeting in Rome
Italy: Anti-Trust Body Says ENI Should Sell Assets
Italy: Centre-Right Wins Administrative Elections
Italy: PDL Fails to Make Inroads as PD Falters
UK: An Audience With a Racist
UK: Gordon Brown to Announce Iraq War Inquiry — But Faces Backlash if It’s Behind Closed Doors
UK: Ken Clarke: We Won’t Tear Up the Lisbon Treaty if Ireland Votes Yes Before Election
UK: Put a Stop to These Insensitive Ambulances
 
Balkans
Serbia-France: French Ambassador, New Beginning in Relations
 
North Africa
Morocco: Women Arrested at Outlawed Islamist Group Meeting
 
Israel and the Palestinians
PA Blames Israel for Wild Boars
PM Lays Down Conditions for Peace in Foreign Policy Address
Survey: 56% of Israelis Against Block on Settlements
U.S.-Trained Officer Caught Helping Terrorists
West Bank: Italy Opens Breast Cancer Prevention Center
 
Middle East
Barry Rubin: Iran’s Stolen Election Should Change Western Policies
EU’s Solana Meets Hezbollah in Beirut
Iran Opposition Seeks Fatwa Against Ahmadinejad
Kurds Lay Claim to Oil Riches in Iraq as Old Hatreds Flare
Turkey: Ergenekon; Military to Weaken AK Party, Newspaper
Unrest in Iran Deepens as Leading Critics Are Detained
Yemen ‘Arrests Senior Al-Qaeda Man’
 
Russia
Russia: Gazprom’s Leading Role as an Energy Giant in Crisis
 
South Asia
India: Church in Kerala Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Anti-Communist Liberation Struggle
Pakistan: Mutilated Body Sparks Religious Torture Charge
President Obama in Cairo: Islam and End-Time Prophecy?
Suu Kyi: Is There Still Purpose in Her Struggle?
 
Australia — Pacific
NAB to Introduce Muslim-Friendly Loans
 
Latin America
Air France Crash Jet ‘Split in 2 at High Altitude’
Air France Crash: Messages Sent From Plane on Rudder Problem
 
Immigration
Gaddafi: Sapienza, Immigrants Threatened by Libyan Services
 
Culture Wars
Kids Attend Prom From ‘Sexual Hell’
 
General
Amil Imani: Liberty vs. Demagogues
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Financial Crisis


BRICs Won’t Mull New Reserve Currencies: Kremlin

MOSCOW (Reuters) — Leaders of Russia, China, India and Brazil do not intend to discuss new global reserve currencies at their first summit in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on Monday, a top Kremlin aide said on Sunday.

“We will hardly be discussing the new reserve currencies,” Sergei Prikhodko told reporters. “As far as practical issues are concerned, we will speak more about the possible ways to reform international financial institutions.”

Brazil, Russia, India and China are trying to strengthen their clout as the producers of 15 percent of global output by building up their BRIC grouping into a powerful world player.

Russia, holder of the world’s third largest foreign exchange reserves, has called for the world to become less dependent on the dollar and suggested that the yuan and the rouble could become reserve currencies in the future.

Concerns that dollar’s role as the dominant reserve currency has contributed to global financial instability has been discussed by BRIC’s top security officials, who met in Moscow last month to prepare the summit.

Brazilian Strategic Affairs Minister Roberto Mangabeira Unger told Reuters last month the summit was due to discuss the role of the U.S. dollar, strengthening the G20 group, reshaping the world trade regime and reform of the United Nations.

“We don’t want a European-style central bank made global. We don’t want a global Brussels,” he said, adding that the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights were an option as long as the issuer’s powers were limited.

Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Saturday the dollar’s role as the world’s main reserve currency was unlikely to change in the near future

“It is hard to say that in the next few years this system will change significantly,” Kudrin told reporters after a meeting of finance minister of the G8 (Group of Eight) leading economies in Italy.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Spain: 600 Intellectuals Say No to Labour Market Reform

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 12 — Tensions are high in Spain over planned labour market reforms requested by the country’s main industrialists’ association, COEOE, and the Partido Popolare (PP), but opposed by the Zapatero government. Now, around 600 left-leaning intellectuals, economists and employment law professors have drawn up an essentially neo-Keynesian manifesto, which will be presented on June 19 by the Chancellor of Madrid’s Complutense University, Carlos Berzosa, reports today’s La Vanguardia newspaper. The manifesto, brought to fruition through the May 1 Foundation led by Rodolfo Benito, the president of Spain’s trade union federation (Comisiones Obreras), is very close in spirit to the model proposed by Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Zapatero. It is also seen as a response to a manifesto issued a few days ago by a hundred economists, including the Secretary of State for the Economy, Juan Manuel Campa, which demanded labour market reform including the introduction of a standardised, single contract. The single contract has been the object of the industrialists’ association’s proposals and also coincides — albeit to a lesser extent — with PP policies. The manifesto outlines the signatories’ opposition to anti-crisis measures which hide labour market reform of the type proposed by the industrialists, which include a cut in contractual guarantees and make it easier for employers to fire workers. The signatories also highlight the origins of the crisis and the inability of the economic authorities to control Spain’s excessive growth. The manifesto calls for greater state regulation and whilst highlighting the decent regulation of the banking sector in Spain also point out the lack of control over the housing market. Among the recommendations contained in the document is the extension of unemployment subsidies to all those without work and increasing the amount of time that this subsidy can be claimed. It also calls for a contained increase in public spending to give consumption and investment a kick-start, as well as reviving the market and helping SMEs and the country’s most dynamic sectors. The intellectuals also propose a change to the country’s economic model, saying that it should be based on innovation and high-quality labour, including changes in industrial, energy, education and environmental policy and better training for workers. That the workers should pay the biggest price for the crisis is, according to the signatories, “politically indecent”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: More Than 600,000 New Homes Unsold

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 12 — The number of new homes in Spain which remained unsold by December 31, 2008, reached 613,512 units, 45% of which concentrated on the Mediterranean coast — according to the first report published by the Housing Ministry on new housing stocks. An estimated 70% of the unsold homes were intended to be primary residences, while the remaining homes were to be vacation residences. By province, Barcelona holds the record with 55,315 lodgings; followed by Madrid (51,034); Alicante (46,366); Valencia (30,038); Murcia (27,279) and Malaga (21,092). The average for unsold houses stands at 13.3 for every one thousand inhabitants. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

USA


Barack H. Obama: Administrator

Barack H. Obama will forever be known as the first black president of the United States. This fact will likely be the least impressive item about him in tomorrow’s history books. The first four months of his administration strongly suggest that he will most likely be known as the president who transformed America’s system of government.

The U.S. Constitution provides for a system of representative government with a degree of checks and balances. This system has been tested, twisted and tormented over the years, but has always survived the abuses inflicted upon it. Obama brings a new threat, in a new era, to a new generation.

Obama is creating a system of government that is beginning to look much like an “Administrator” form of government that will ultimately have no checks and balances, and little need for legislators.

This form of government was the fantasy of Col. Edward Mandell House, the “alter-ego” of President Woodrow Wilson, a designer of the League of Nations, and author of “Philip Dru: Administrator.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



CIA Chief Believes Cheney Almost Wants U.S. Attacked

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — CIA director Leon Panetta says it’s almost as if former vice president Dick Cheney would like to see another attack on the United States to prove he is right in criticizing President Barack Obama for abandoning the “harsh interrogation” of terrorism suspects.

“I think he smells some blood in the water on the national security issue,” Panetta said in an interview published in The New Yorker magazine’s June 22 issue.

“It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point.”

Cheney, who was a key advocate in the Bush administration of controversial interrogation methods such as waterboarding, has become as a leading Republican critic of Obama’s ban on harsh interrogations and his plan to shut the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In a blistering May 21 speech, Cheney said Obama’s reversal of Bush-era policies were “unwise in the extreme” that would make the American people less safe.

Panetta called Cheney’s actions “dangerous politics.”

He told The New Yorker he had favored the creation of an independent truth commission to look into the detainee polices of former President George W. Bush. But the idea died in April when Obama decided such a panel could be seen as politically vindictive.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Just Make Stuff Up

President Obama’s war on the truth.

In the first six months of the Obama administration, we have witnessed an assault on the truth of a magnitude not seen since the Nixon Watergate years. The prevarication is ironic given the Obama campaign’s accusations that the Bush years were not transparent and that Hillary Clinton, like her husband, was a chronic fabricator. Remember Obama’s own assertions that he was a “student of history” and that “words mean something.. You can’t just make stuff up.”

Yet Obama’s war against veracity is multifaceted.

Trotskyization. Sometimes the past is simply airbrushed away. Barack Obama has a disturbing habit of contradicting his past declarations as if spoken words did not mean much at all. The problem is not just that once-memorable statements about everything from NAFTA to public campaign financing were contradicted by his subsequent actions. Rather, these pronouncements simply were ignored to the point of making it seem they were never really uttered at all.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama Fires Watchdog Who Barked at His Crony

Rush Limbaugh calls action illegal, ‘bigger’ than Alberto Gonzales fray

Former Inspector General Gerald Walpin filed two reports exposing gross misappropriation of federal AmeriCorps funds by a prominent Barack Obama supporter and was shortly thereafter fired by the White House, circumstances he told WND are likely linked and others have called an outright illegal action by the administration.

“I think you have to look at the facts and the circumstances and reach your conclusions,” Walpin said in a WND interview. “I will tell you that [my firing] came only after we had issued those two reports to Congress, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

Further, Walpin said, “I am convinced that I and my office are not guilty of any impropriety. In essence, I was fired for doing my job.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Supervolcano Brewing Beneath Mount St Helens?

‘It seems likely that there’s some partial melt down there’

IS A supervolcano brewing beneath Mount St Helens? Peering under the volcano has revealed what may be an extraordinarily large zone of semi-molten rock, which would be capable of feeding a giant eruption.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Another Year of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism in Norway

by Manfred Gerstenfeld

  • Again over this past year there were significant anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incidents in Norway. Among these were anti-Semitic television satire programs, an act of the Nazification of Israel by a Norwegian diplomat, physical attacks on a pro-Israeli demonstration, death threats against Jews and a desecration of a Jewish cemetery.
  • Publications by NGO Monitor reveal that the Labor-dominated Norwegian government is indirectly giving financial support to NGOs that demonize Israel. This Norwegian government’s attitude toward Israel is among the most negative in Europe.
  • A number of Norwegian Jews have said in various media that anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism are on the rise in the country.
  • There are increasing indications that the number of extreme and sometimes violent anti-Semites among Muslim Norwegians may approach or even exceed the membership of the local Jewish community. Some of these Muslims participated in the largest riots in many years in Oslo in January 2009.

There are an estimated 1,300 Jews in Norway.[1] This means that for every ten thousand Norwegians, there are three Jews. The Jewish community constitutes a tiny fraction of West European Jewry. Norway’s overall population makes up slightly more than 1 percent of that of Western Europe.

The book Behind the Humanitarian Mask: The Nordic Countries, Israel and the Jews, which I edited, was published in August 2008.[2] (As it sold out rapidly, it is now available for free on the Jerusalem Center’s website.[3]) It analyzes anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli attitudes at various levels in the Nordic countries. The book also indicates why Norway’s place in any history of postwar anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in Western Europe should be “disproportionately” larger than its population size or number of Jews seems to warrant.

The book also gives examples of some pioneering impacts of Jew- and/or Israel-hatred emanating from Norway. Proof keeps surfacing of the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli attitudes mainly among parts of Norway’s elite and immigrant populations.

The future of the Jews worldwide as well as the state of Israel is threatened by a variety of forces. In increasingly uncertain times, details of the ongoing global anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli defamation and hostility should be documented. As events unfold, this will make it more difficult in future for those promoting hatred, their accomplices, and the bystanders to deny their role in the process of demonizing Israel and the Jews. Even in a country with a small population such as Norway there is a significant number of these.

In the new century there have been a number of physical, and verbal, anti-Semitic attacks against Jews in Norway. Norwegians often stress that much of this aggression is committed by Muslim immigrants who hold Norwegian citizenship, and that one should not hold Norwegian society responsible. This attitude has an underlying racist implication, as if some Muslims are second-class citizens whose personal responsibility for their acts is different from that of “real,” that is, ethnic Norwegians…

           — Hat tip: Rolf Krake [Return to headlines]



Culture: ‘Turkey Season’ in France Could be Postponed, Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 12 — The ‘Turkey Season” cultural event in France could be postponed because of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s strong opposition to Ankara’s bid for full membership in the EU, daily Hurriyet reported quoting Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan also said he might not travel to France for the event. “Mr. Sarkozy will regret what he has been doing sooner or later”, the prime minister told private channel NTV, adding that “we had contacts with former French President Jacques Chirac for a long time, but we have not seen such an approach from him”. It was not clear whether Erdogan meant to postpone his trip to France or call off the entire Turkey Season event. President Abdullah Gul and Sarkozy were expected to launch the event which aims to introduce Turkish culture to France through 400 activities in 40 different French cities on 1 July. The “season” is scheduled to continue through March 2010. Gul recently said he would travel to France to kick off the events with the French leader. Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, is also set to travel to France to participate in one or two activities, his spokesman said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Dutch Divided Over Geert Wilders as Radical MP Eyes Premiership

Until last week, the Bernard family had the normal concerns of any middle-class Dutch family — putting their teenage children through university, living a greener life, and paying the mortgage.

But that has all changed since the European election — and the triumph by Geert Wilders, the right-wing populist and outspoken critic of Islam who in February was banned from entering Britain as a threat to “community harmony”.

To many abroad Mr Wilders, a Dutch MP, appears an old-fashioned racist whose views put him on a par with other far-Right politicians elsewhere in Europe.

Yet in its first ever test of national electoral support among the normally tolerant Dutch, his anti-immigration Party for Freedom which he founded in 2006 won 17 per cent of the votes — making it the second biggest party. That has shaken the country to its core — opening up the real possibility that, through the Dutch coalition system, Mr Wilders could win power at the next general election.

Now, like many others in the Netherlands, the Bernards are desperately worried. “This has the feeling of what happened to Germany in the 1930s,” said Alfred Bernard, 52, a lawyer. “Wilders blames foreigners for everything. People are disoriented because of the economic crisis. Everywhere there is dissatisfaction with mainstream politicians.

“After this I really believe that Wilders could become prime minister in the 2011 parliamentary elections, or at least set the political agenda.”

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Wilders, 45, was frank about that ambition. Asked about the prospect of taking power in two years’ time, he said: “That is our biggest job. We had an enormous success last week and our biggest task is to keep up momentum. I am very confident that we will have an excellent result.

“If my party becomes the biggest party, I would be honoured to be prime minister.”

Sitting in his office in the Dutch parliament building in The Hague, protected from the threat of assassination by 10 armed secret service bodyguards, he summed up his antipathy to the religion of many immigrants to the Netherlands.

“Islam wants to dominate our society,” he said in fluent and only slightly accented English. “It’s in opposition to freedom.

“If people are offended, that’s not my aim. I don’t talk about Muslims but about Islam. Everything I say is against the fascist Islamic ideology.”

To the charge that to many his views appeared to be racist, he responded: “If that was true, we would never have been the second biggest party in the European elections.”

Why, then, did Moroccans and Turks living in the Netherlands so fear him? “As long as they don’t commit crimes, it’s a baseless fear,” he said. “If you adhere to our laws, if you act according to our values, you are free to stay. We will help you to integrate.

“But if you cross the red line, if you start committing crimes, if you want to do jihad or impose sharia, we want you to be sent out of the Netherlands and we will get rid of your permits to stay.”

An admirer of Churchill and Lady Thatcher, he is charismatic as well as combative. Holland’s conventional politicians — mostly dull men in suits — have no idea how to counter his politically incorrect taunts, which outrage the parliamentary chamber but delight his supporters.

He has come a long way since the days when he could be lightly dismissed as an eccentric fringe politician with an extraordinary blond quiff, known mainly for baiting Muslims.

“Half of Holland loves me and half of Holland hates me. There is no in-between,” Mr Wilders said. “This is a new politics, and I think it would have a great chance of success in other European countries. We are democrats. On economic and social issues we are centrist. We want tougher laws on crime and we want to stop Holland paying so much money to the European Union.

“We would stop immigration from Muslim countries and close Islamic schools. We want to be more proud of our identity.”

He admitted that he is frustrated at his image abroad, especially in Britain, a country which he admires. He claimed to believe in freedom above all else and pointed out that he is despised by Holland’s Neo-Nazis, who dubbed him the “blond Zionist” because of his links to Israel — a country which he has often visited and where he counts politicians among his friends.

He is still angered at being banned from entering Britain, where he had been invited to show his controversial 17-minute film linking the Koran with the September 11 terror attacks. Muslim groups were among those who campaigned against his admission, and he dismissed the Home Office ruling as an attempt at “appeasement” of Islam.

Dutch liberals groaned when the British Government refused entry, because they knew Mr Wilders would milk the decision to generate massive publicity at home. He is also being prosecuted in Holland for promoting hate crimes, a case which is thought unlikely to succeed but which has allowed him to pose as a martyr.

In the European Parliament his four MEPs will not ally with the British National party, he said, claiming he had never met a BNP Member. “I understand they talk a lot about blacks and whites. This is disgusting,” he said.

Then a dreamy look of a man convinced of his own destiny came into his eyes as he launched into a fresh tirade about the threat to Western civilisation from Islam. “Samuel Huntingdon was being too positive when he talked about a clash of civilisations,” Mr Wilders said. “It is civilisation against barbarity.”

His conviction explains why families like the Bernards, who know what happened next door in Germany during the 1930s, find Mr Wilders so unsettling.

In the past, the Bernards always had confidence in the post-war Dutch dream of equality and tolerance. But now Mr Bernard and his librarian wife Marjina, also 52, have been forced to ask whether their country is fundamentally changing.

The day after the results were announced, Mrs Bernard joined a mainstream political party for the first time in her life because she thinks that if Mr Wilders is to be opposed, ordinary politics must first be revived.

“It is getting scary,” she said. “He is becoming more extreme. He has made it respectable to speak out against Muslims.”

They live in an airy ground-floor flat in a neat suburb of Rotterdam, Europe’s biggest port with a population of 580,000, about four out 10 of whom are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. On current birth rates, the city is expected to become Europe’s first with a Muslim majority in about 2020. That has put it firmly at the centre of Holland’s anguished debate about race, immigration and Islam — a debate which is apparently being won by Mr Wilders.

The young watch his irreverent attacks on YouTube, relishing the novelty of a politician who can make them laugh. His older supporters are fiercely loyal to a leader who is bold enough to voice what they think, but for years dared not say.

“I voted for him because immigration isn’t working here in Holland any more,” said Ben De Reus, a 40-year-old bus driver from Rotterdam.

“He wants to get rid of the Turks and they don’t belong here,” said an elderly woman supporter in a prosperous southern suburb — wrongly, since Mr Wilders says he would “encourage” repatriation but wants the expulsion only of immigrants convicted of crimes.

Some 15 per cent of the Dutch population of 16.5 million are from ethnic minorities — many from Morocco and Turkey.

Most of the Party for Freedom’s 17 per cent of the vote was cast in Holland’s four big cities, where the immigrants live and where white voters grumble about high crime rates, chaotic foreigners who don’t understand orderly Dutch ways, and Muslim families who refuse to learn the language and fit in.

But it did well in parts of rural Holland too. It polled highest — 39.8 per cent — in Volderdam, a picturesque, overwhelmingly white town surrounded by windmills and tulip fields, where there are no burkhas but tourists queue up to take photos of women in clogs.

His rhetoric has delighted many voters, the ones who fear that their beloved Dutch values are under attack from an alien way of life.

Dutch tolerance has shaped the Party of Freedom to be quite unlike most European Right-wing movements: its election campaigning championed the victims of gay-bashing gangs of Moroccan youths, and Mr Wilders talks often about the threat from Islam to women’s rights.

His success is a sign of how the political landscape has changed. Even Dutch left-wingers now have to admit that there is a problem with Moroccan street gangs are a problem, and liberals wring their hands about the failure of immigrants to integrate since the first were admitted during the 1960s and 70s — many from Morocco and Turkey.

“Everybody assumed that immigrants would go home once they had finished their work here. But instead they stayed and brought their families,” said Rita Van Der Linde, a spokeswoman for the Rotterdam municipality.

The city’s large Moroccan population have found jobs harder to come by in recent years. Unemployed, and often feeling unwelcome, they have become more Islamic and retreated to the security of the mosques in their communities, in the older, scruffier parts of the city where they are isolated from mainstream Dutch life.

“This development has made white Dutch people nervous of them, especially since September 11th 2001,” Ms Van Der Linde said.

Hopes for harmony on the streets have been invested in a new mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, a member of the Dutch Labour Party whose parents came from Morocco.

He has broken with multiculturalism by urging immigrants to learn the language and fit in, or get on a plane out. He has also pledged to crack down on Moroccan criminals, using language which Right-wingers say would get them branded as racists if they used it.

But in office he has tried to remain aloof from the fray, leaving the field almost clear for Mr Wilders to argue against immigration, which in reality has slowed to a trickle.

Not everyone believes there is enough substance to the Party of Freedom for it to have a chance of achieving real power.

In a little café in Rotterdam which proudly serves only traditional Dutch dishes, owner Martin Voltuees, 46, said of Mr Wilders: “He has a lot of good one-liners but no solutions. We have always been a culture of immigrants ever since the Jews arrived. The difference is that in the past people brought their skills, but now we have immigrants who just bring their poverty.

“Twenty years ago there were plenty of jobs in Rotterdam in the shipyards, and we needed them. That’s gone now. But you see in Holland black and white, Muslims and Christians, intermarrying, so perhaps these problems are solving themselves.”

Others are less sanguine — not least the Dutch citizens who feel themselves to be under fire.

Omar Kirac, 19, an engineering student at a Rotterdam university whose Turkish parents moved to the Netherlands before he was born, said: “Wilders hates people like me, and of course I hate him. I voted against him — it was the blond people who voted for him.

“We think he could become the prime minister and that would be dangerous for us, and dangerous for the Netherlands.

“Politicians need to focus on the economic crisis, not blame Muslims for everything.”

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



EU Woos Ireland Ahead of Lisbon

Employment commissioner plans visit to win over trade unions on treaty

VLADIMIR SPIDLA, the EU commissioner for employment, is to visit Ireland as part of a charm offensive to secure the support of the trade union movement for the Lisbon treaty, writes Mark Tighe.

Spidla’s visit forms part of a plan by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to convince trade unions that did not support last year’s Lisbon referendum that ratification will not have a negative effect on labour standards. A number of unions opposed Lisbon following a series of European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings, such as the Laval and Viking cases on the right to strike.

The government has proposed a “solemn declaration on workers’ rights” which would reaffirm the commitment of all member states to the “high importance of workers’ conditions”. This, together with other guarantees proposed by the government, will be discussed at a European Council meeting this week.

According to briefing documents on the second referendum released under the Freedom of Information Act, the Department of Enterprise believes there is “an emerging consensus” among EU governments despite “strident trade union arguments” that the solution to the problem of workers’ rights does not require a revision of the Lisbon treaty.

Instead, according to the department, countries are agreed that an existing 1996 directive on the Posting of Workers can be “substantially improved” by member states. Further implementation of this directive would eliminate “some of the kind of problems that prompted the kind of cases to be referred to the ECJ”.

Unions said they would welcome further legislation that would clarify the employment standards of employees of non-Irish companies based here.

Spidla will visit Ireland next month. The commission is carrying out an analysis on work mobility in Europe in the aftermath of the ECJ rulings to develop “concrete initiatives”.

Spidla’s spokeswoman said the commission was “well aware” of the concerns of Irish unions. “We don’t agree that the Lisbon treaty would weaken workers’ rights,” she said. “On the contrary, it marks a real improvement, in particular because it enshrines the social charter. Negotiations around the so-called ‘Irish guarantees’, including workers’ rights, are ongoing.”

Jimmy Kelly, the regional secretary of Unite, which told members to reject the treaty, said he had heard nothing to change his union’s stance.

As Irish unemployment has doubled since the referendum, he believes a second Lisbon vote is more likely to be passed. “People are fearful and believe we should firm up our EU membership with Lisbon II, as having the euro means we don’t face as much difficulty as countries like Iceland,” he said.

[Return to headlines]



Finland: $17m Ransom: Kidnap Victim Freed

The daughter of a Finnish industrialist was released this weekend following a two-and-a-half-week kidnapping ordeal after payment of a 10 million euro ($17.23 million) ransom, police reported on Sunday.

Minna Nurminen, 26, was released in a forest near the city of Turku on Saturday after the payment. Police said she was in good health. She had been reported missing on May 27.

She is a daughter of Hanna Nurminen, an heir to the Herlin family and owner of elevator manufacturer Kone. The mother is considered to be Finland’s richest woman.

Minna Nurminen’s parents had cooperated with police in their contacts with the kidnappers, including on the decision to pay the ransom.

Shortly after the payment, one of the alleged kidnappers lost several thousand of the euro notes, which were picked up by a passer-by and returned to police. Officers later arrested a 44-year-old female suspect in the kidnapping.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Gaddafi: Libya an Example Not to Live Under Missile Threat

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 11 — “We cannot accept living under the threat of intercontinental missiles and nuclear weapons and this is why we decided to change our course”. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, speaking in Rome at Palazzo Giustiniani, defended his country’s choice to give up its power as a nuclear country and accused those that have not made the same choice, like North Korea. “We would have wanted Libya to set an example for other countries”, said the Colonel. “We had the chance to develop nuclear weapons and instead we made this decision, but the world did not reward us for it”. Being reintegrated into international institutions such as the United Nations and the fact that Libya has regained its status as a player on the world stage is not enough, according to Colonel Gaddafi. “We would have wanted Libya to set an example for other countries”, he repeated once again. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaddafi Fails to Show Up at Top-Level Meeting in Rome

Rome, 12 June (AKI) — The speaker of Italy’s lower house cancelled a top-level conference in honour of Muammar Gaddafi in Rome on Friday after the Libyan leader failed to arrive.

“The conference with Gaddafi has not been held due to the delay by Libyan (leader) Gaddafi,” said Gianfranco Fini, a senior ally of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. “The two-hour delay is not justified.”

Gaddafi was scheduled to meet Fini late Friday and take part in a conference with the speaker and former Italian foreign minister Massimo D’Alema.

Gaddafi had failed to arrive two hours after the agreed time and at 6.30 p.m. in Rome Fini called off the meeting.

Earlier on Friday Gaddafi pledged to give greater priority to Italian companies doing business in his country, but warned business leaders against “corrupting” the Libyan people.

“Italian companies will have priority in Libya,” said Gaddafi in a speech to 600 Italian business leaders organised by Confindustria, Italy’s largest private employer body. “Libya will not favour other countries at Italy’s expense.”

Libya has earmarked spending of 11.8 billion euros to attract foreign investment to the North African country.

But Gaddafi also warned that any company which took advantage of the Libyan people would have to leave the country.

“There are companies that are wrong, thinking they can work by buying (or taking advantage) of the Libyan people. But if we discover this practice, these companies will have to leave the country,” said Gaddafi.

“The company which succeeds will be the one which benefits the Libyan people. Do not say you didn’t know about it, I have warned you.”

“We carried out a revolution not just against colonialism, but also against corruption. We are very sensitive to this issue,” Gaddafi said.

In regard to Italy’s energy needs, Libya said Italy would have preferential treatment.

“Libya will not favour other countries at the expense of Italy, said Gaddafi.

“More than 75 percent of Italy’s energy needs comes from abroad, and most of it from Libya. If Libya sent gas and oil to other countries, it would cause serious damage to Italy. Libya should not do such a thing.”

The controversial leader launched an attack against Italy’s centre-left and praised prime minister Silvio Berlusconi for providing greater business opportunities.

“If the left was heading the government in Italy, the profits of the companies would be lower. As long as Berlusconi governs Italy, the opportunities for companies will be higher.”

On Friday Italy’s farmers’ association, Coldiretti, reported that the export of Italian agricultural products to Libya rose by 51 percent to total a record 105 million euros in 2008.

Gaddafi and his 200-member entourage have been given a warm welcome by Berlusconi and other senior government officials on his first visit to Rome.

But on Thursday students at Rome University staged a noisy protest against the Libyan leader.

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



Italy: Anti-Trust Body Says ENI Should Sell Assets

Rome, 4 June (AKI) — Italy’s oil and gas giant Eni should sell some of its storage sites to other companies to promote competition, according to the country’s energy watchdog and the anti-trust body. The Italian Anti-Trust Authority (AGCM) and the Italian Authority for Electric Energy and Gas (AEEG) said that Eni’s upgrade of gas storage had been “totally marginal” and insufficient to guarantee Italy’s energy security.

Eni should sell to third parties part of its assets to encourage rivals to enter the market and to reduce its dominance of the sector, the regulators said.

The two bodies said the oil and gas sector was of “critical relevance” and there was a need for a “significant reinforcement of storage capacity, essential to reinforce the level of security”.

Eni’s Italian gas storage capacity is held by Stogit SpA. Earlier this year, Eni agreed to sell Stogit to Snam Rete Gas SpA (SRG.MI), Italy’s biggest gas transmission network by pipes. Eni controls Snam Rete Gas.

Eni, which controls 97 percent of stocks through its Stogit unit, has made “absolutely marginal” improvements to guarantee greater security to the system and increase competition, the authorities said.

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



Italy: Centre-Right Wins Administrative Elections

Second rounds in Florence and Bologna

PDL and Northern League wrest 15 provinces from Centre-left. Democratic Party (PD) hangs on in Emilia and Tuscany but loses ground in Umbria and Marche MILAN — The Centre-right has emerged victorious from the administrative elections. The People of Freedom (PDL) and Northern League forged ahead, winning a number of Centre-left strongholds. Voting for 4,281 municipal and 62 provincial authorities reflects the wider picture in Italy. Fifteen provinces switched from the Centre-left to the Centre-right but there were no shifts in the opposite direction. The Democratic Party (PD) did reasonably well, if not brilliantly, in its traditional strongholds but had to suffer the indignity of dropping to second place in Umbria and Marche. In the municipal elections, the Centre-right was equally successful. The Centre-left lost six administrations, almost all in the north of Italy, and a further seven up and down the country will go to a second ballot. The key battles are in Florence and Bologna, where a second round will be needed to elect the new mayors. In Florence, the Centre-left’s Matteo Renzi failed to see off Giovanni Galli in the first ballot, partly because of the good result obtained by the leftwing list supporting Valdo Spini. In Bologna, the Centre-left’s Flavio Delbono failed by a whisker to reach the 50% threshold so the contest with Alfredo Cazzola will be resumed on 21 June. The provincial election in Milan will also go to a second round. The Centre-right’s Guido Podestà could manage only 48.8% while the outgoing president, Filippo Penati, garnered 38.8%. But the PDL took Naples, where Luigi Cesaro picked up 53% against Luigi Nicolais’ 35%. Second rounds will also be needed in Bari and Padua for the municipal elections and in the polls for the provinces of Venice and Turin. In the Piedmontese capital, the Centre-left’s Antonino Saitta obtained 44.33% against 41.5% for the Centre-right’s challenger, Claudia Porchietto. A dramatic result in the Venice provincial election leaves the Centre-left’s outgoing president Davide Zoggia facing a second ballot against the Northern League’s Francesca Zaccariotto.

LOMBARDY — The advance of the Centre-right looks to have been brought to a temporary halt by the second ballot for the province of Milan but provincial authorities changed hands at Lecco, Lodi and Sondrio. The newly created province of Monza and Brianza went to the PDL’s Dario Allevi, who beat the Centre-left’s Pietro Luigi Ponti. Pietro Pirovano is the new president of the province of Bergamo, having won 58.99% of the vote. Pirovano, who was backed by the PDL, Northern League, Pensioners’ Party (PP) and others, defeated Francesco Cornolti. The municipality passed to the Centre-right. Franco Tentorio was elected as mayor with 51.44% against the 42.35% received by his opponent Roberto Bruni. Sondrio, too, saw a clear victory for the Centre-right. Massimo Sertori scooped up more than 60% of the vote in the first ballot, leaving the Centre-left’s Giacomo Ciapponi struggling in his wake. Daniele Nava is the new president of the province of Lecco, where he won 54.31% of the vote, defeating the outgoing president, Virginio Brivio. In Brescia, the Centre-right’s Daniele Molgora outdistanced Diego Peli, the contender from the Centre-right. The Centre-right’s Massimiliano Salini saw off Giuseppe Torchio in Cremona but the province of Lodi went to the Centre-right for the first time. In the first round, the Northern League candidate, lawyer Pietro Foroni, 33, made sure of the presidency. Foroni won 54.2% of the vote against the 38.2% picked up by the Centre-left candidate, the outgoing president Lino Osvaldo Felissari. The municipal authority of Pavia also went to the Centre-right, Alessandro Cattaneo finishing ahead of the Centre-left’s Andrea Albergati.

PIEDMONT — The second round in Turin will, as we said, pit the PD’s Antonio Saitta against Claudia Porchietto (PDL) but change is in the air elsewhere in Piedmont at Novara, where the Centre-right’s Diego Sozzani won the provincial presidency, and Cuneo, where Gianna Gancia secured the provincial authority for the Centre-right with 54.1%. The provincial and municipal elections in Biella, and the elections in the province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossio, saw the Centre-right take over from the Centre-left. The Centre-right’s Massimo Nobili won the provincial election with 57.5% against the 39.5% of the Centre-left’s Paolo Ravaioli. The municipal authority of Verbania passed to the Centre-right, Marco Zacchero becoming mayor with 54.1% against the 45.9% of the Centre-left candidate, Claudio Zanotti.

VENETO — Attention here focused on the Northern League, although there will be a second round to decide the provincial presidency in Belluno. The PDL continues to be the leading party, as the provincial elections confirmed. Barbara Degani emerged victorious in the poll for the province of Padua and it was a similar story in the province of Verona, where Giovanni Miozzi (PDL-Northern League) triumphed. The provincial election in Rovigo goes to a second round between Antonello Contiero (PDL-Northern League) and the Centre-left’s Tiziana Virgili, as does Belluno, where Gian Paolo Bottacin (PDL) and Sergio Reolon (PD) are the contenders for the provincial presidency.

FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA — The Centre-right emerged victorious from the provincial elections at Pordenone.

EMILIA ROMAGNA — Up to now, no province in the region had ever been led by the Centre-right but last weekend’s vote saw the PDL and Northern League take the province of Piacenza. The Centre-left’s Beatrice Draghetti overcame the PDL-backed candidate, Enzo Raisi, in the battle for the province of Bologna. Emilio Sabattini’s victory in the ballot for the province of Modena was less emphatic. The Centre-left took Reggio Emilia, where Sonia Masini ended ahead of the Centre-right’s Giuseppe Pagliani, but both provincial and municipal elections will go to a second round at Ferrara.

TUSCANY — The wind of political change was also blowing in Florence. The Centre-left’s candidate in the provincial ballot, Andrea Barducci, held off the Centre-right’s Samuele Baldini and at Pisa, Andrea Pieroni won 53.1% of the vote to fend off challengers for his provincial presidency. That pattern was confirmed by Simone Bezzini’s victory in the province of Siena, where the Centre-right’s Donatella Santinelli lagged behind. But there is still everything to play for in the province of Arezzo, which goes to a second round. Against all the forecasts, there will be another ballot in the province of Prato but at Pistoia, Federica Fratoni’s 51.3% for the Centre-left was enough to see off the Centre-right’s Ettore Severi.

UMBRIA — In Umbria, the municipality and province of Perugia, and the province of Terni, went to PD candidates.

MARCHE — Ancona will choose its next mayor in the second ballot on 21 June, as will the municipality of Fermo and the province of Ascoli Piceno, but the PD’s Luca Ceriscioli took the municipality of Pesaro for the PD in the first round of voting.

ABRUZZO — The Centre-right’s star was shining bright in Abruzzo, where the PDL clinched the provinces of Pescara, Teramo and Chieti, and the municipalities of Pescara and Teramo.

MOLISE — Campobasso was another municipality that went over to the Centre-right. Outgoing mayor Giuseppe Di Fabio had resigned on two occasions only to withdraw his resignation because of internal problems in the Centre-left majority. Gino Di Bartolomeo, a former president of the Molise regional authority, cruised to a first-round victory with 56.72%.

CAMPANIA — Campania, too, saw power changes hands in the provinces of Naples, Salerno and Avellino, which passed into Centre-right control. There will be a second ballot for the municipality of Avellino between the PD’s Pino Galasso and challenger Massimo Preziosi, who is supported by the PDL and UDC.

PUGLIA — It’s a two-horse race between Michele Emiliano and Simeone Di Cagno Abbrescia for the Bari municipal authority while Enrico Santaniello, backed by civic lists, is ahead at Foggia. Provincial elections at Taranto and Lecce will go to a second poll while the province of Bari was secured by Francesco Schittulli for the PDL.

BASILICATA — The Centre-left ran out winners at the elections for the provinces of Potenza and Matera, where Piero Lacorazza and Francesco Stella held off their respective challengers from the PDL. At Potenza, the PD’s outgoing mayor Vito Santasiero is ahead of Giuseppe Molinari, formerly of the Daisy Alliance, who has the support of the PDL. The UDC’s Emilio Libutti is in third place.

CALABRIA — There will be a second ballot for the presidency of the province of Cosenza, despite the substantial advantage the Centre-left’s Mario Oliviero has over his Centre-right opponent, Pino Gentile. The destiny of the Crotone provincial authority will also go to a second vote.

SICILY — Another ballot will be needed to decide whether Fiorella Falci of the Centre-left or the Centre-right’s Michele Campisi will be installed in the municipality of Caltanissetta.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: PDL Fails to Make Inroads as PD Falters

IDV and Northern League forge ahead. UDC on 6.5%. Radical left shut out of European parliament. Overall turnout 65% (7% abroad)

MILAN — The People of Freedom (PDL) made gains over the previous European elections but failed to reach the benchmark 40% it was hoping for before the poll, losing ground with respect to the last general election. The Democratic Party (PD) lost votes but managed to stay in sight of the psychologically important threshold of 27%. The Northern League and Italy of Values (IDV) made clear gains, as did the Christian Democrat UDC. The radical left was squeezed out of the European parliament, having already disappeared from Italy’s Chamber of Deputies and Senate after last year’s general election. With returns from about 900 polling stations still to come in (results are in from 63,442 out of the 64,348 stations in Italy plus the stations abroad), the PDL is on 35.24%, the PD has 26.14%, the Northern League has 10.25%, IDV 7.98% and the UDC 6.51%. The European Left-Communist Refoundation (PRC)-Italian Communist Party (PDCI) coalition took 3.37% with the Left and Freedom-Green alliance picking up only 3.11%. Neither radical left grouping reached the 4% threshold that would have secured a seat at Strasbourg and Brussels. The same fate befell the Radicals, who scraped only 2.42%, as well as the PDA Autonomists with the Pensioners Party and The Right, on 2.21%. None of the other parties obtained more than 1%. On the basis of these figures, the PDL should have 29 MEPs and the PD would have 22. The Northern League would have eight MEPs with seven for IDV and five for the UDC.

REACTIONS — As they wait for the final figures, the political groups have started to give their evaluations of the results, obviously with all due caution. The PDL is striving to play down the significance of a poorer than expected performance, pointing out that the PD’s percentage drop was higher and blaming the poor turnout. Among the opposition parties, the IDV’s exultant reaction to the poll is particularly striking. The Northern League is very happy, ascribing the vote mainly to efforts made to combat illegal immigration. The UDC’s Pierferdinando Casini sees in the result the electorate’s rejection of the two-party system. The divided parties of the left are out of Europe. PRC secretary Paolo Ferrero talked about “one split too many”. The Radicals also complained about their effective exclusion from publicly owned TV current affairs programmes, engaging in a spat on air with presenter Bruno Vespa during the special edition of the Porta a Porta talk show.

TURNOUT — One point to have emerged already is the significant fall in turnout. Overall in Europe, a lowest-ever turnout of 43.02% was recorded. In 2004, the comparable figure was 45.47%. Numbers in Italy were more encouraging but voter interest also fell in the Bel Paese, where 65.04% of the electorate cast a vote (66.46% in Italy and only 7.1% abroad), compared with 73.9% in the 2004 European poll. This is a drop of 8.87%: top of the class if we look at the average turnout in Europe but the worst-ever figure for voting habits in Italy. The poll “confirmed the higher turnout in constituencies in the north west, with 72.75%, the north east with 71.89% and central Italy with 72.13%”, said the minister of the interior, Roberto Maroni, commenting on figures that were still provisional at the time. Mr Maroni continued, saying that “turnout was lowest in southern Italy (64.21) and very, very low in the islands (47.33% compared with 64.75% in the last European elections)”. He then pointed out that “this year for the first time, all the figures are online and updated in real time, including those relating to the turnout. They can be consulted by anyone”.ADMINISTRATIVE ELECTIONS — In contrast, turnout for the election of new municipal administrations was 76.70%, in comparison with 79.33% in the preceding poll. Final figures from the ministry of the interior put the fall in voter numbers at -2.63%.

EVERYTHING SMOOTH — “The poll went smoothly. There were no significant incidents of any kind”, said the interior minister, Roberto Maroni. “Counting is also proceeding without problems”, he added. Stations were open from 7 am (voting on Saturday took place from 3 pm to 10 pm) as Italians went to the polls to choose the the country’s 72 MEPs, the presidents and councils of 62 provincial administrations and the mayors and councils of 4,281 municipalities, including 30 provincial capitals. More than 49 million electors were eligible vote in Italy at the European election whereas fewer than 33.5 million voters were involved in the administrative polls.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: An Audience With a Racist

Peter Victor meets the newly elected MEP Nick Griffin — and asks why the British National Party wants to throw him out of the country

Nick Griffin: MEP elect, BNP mouthpiece, convicted Holocaust-denier and would-be deporter of black people invites me into the back seat of his car. He jokes that there is no egg on his jacket as I move it and climb in: last Tuesday he was pelted with eggs as he tried to give a victory press conference after Sunday’s election results.

On Thursday morning, a sunny day in Shrewsbury, Griffin makes small talk as we drive in his Mondeo estate to a garden centre: “Normally we’d do this in a pub but it’s too early for that.” From the moment we meet, there is an unspoken compact: he has never met me before but does not flinch or blanch when he does. I refuse to be shocked or angered, regardless of how sweeping or wild his claims about race.

At Dobbie’s Garden Centre, less than five minutes’ drive out of Shrewsbury, the BNP leader and I share a table. I sip black coffee, he swigs from a bottle of James White’s apple juice. We talk about the BNP’s election to two seats — North-West England for him and Yorkshire and Humberside for Andrew Brons — in the European Parliament; about being pelted with eggs; racism; whether his party deserves to be ignored because its views are abhorrent, or whether non-supporters should be told what he stands for and make up their own minds.

Is he a racist? The denial is out of his mouth before I finish the question. Does he have a problem personally with me because I am black? “None at all.” So why does he want to give me £50,000 to leave Britain? “This country is the most overcrowded in Europe.”

He argues that by paying non-whites to go away he is actually working to preserve racial diversity. So, why are people throwing eggs at him? He laughs, nervously…

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Gordon Brown to Announce Iraq War Inquiry — But Faces Backlash if It’s Behind Closed Doors

Gordon Brown was facing an angry backlash last night over the Government’s long-awaited inquiry into the Iraq War.

Families of soldiers who died in the conflict and MPs from all main parties warned the Prime Minister it would be ‘completely unacceptable’ to hold the probe largely in private.

There was also widespread concern that the findings appear unlikely to be published until after the General Election, which is expected to next May.

The Prime Minister will attempt to reassert his battered authority and win over Labour MPs and voters who have deserted the party this week by giving the go-ahead to an inquiry. An announcement is expected as soon as today.

Mr Brown’s political fightback is being hampered by continuing ructions over the failed coup attempt to oust him from Downing Street last week.

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott launched a savage attack on Foreign Secretary David Miliband for revealing he considered joining a ministerial exodus from the Government in an attempt to topple Mr Brown.

And Schools Secretary Ed Balls, one of the Prime Minister’s closest allies, was forced to dismiss claims that he had told MPs he would wield the knife against Mr Brown if Labour’s position does not improve by the autumn as ‘ridiculous and completely true’.

A poll suggested more than half of voters — 51 per cent — think Mr Brown staying on as Prime Minister is harming Britain..

The YouGov poll for the Sunday Times also found 74 per cent said Mr Brown was doing badly as Prime Minister and 60 per cent said he should step down now or before the next general election.

After surviving the attempt to oust him from Downing Street, Mr Brown hopes the Iraq inquiry announcement will help draw a line under the most controversial decision of 12 years of Labour government.

For years, ministers have resisted demands for an inquiry, insisting it must wait until all British troops have left Iraq.

Now the process of withdrawal is almost complete, Mr Brown will announce a probe with a ‘similar but not identical’ structure to the Franks inquiry into the 1982 Falklands War, according to Government sources.

That raises the prospect of the Iraq investigation being conducted by a group of Privy Councillors, with many hearings held behind closed doors.

While there may be some opportunity for the public and media to hear discussions, this is expected to be strictly limited.

It falls far short of the full-scale public inquiry which families and campaigners have demanded.

Relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq said they would march on Downing Street if any of its deliberations are kept secret.

Rose Gentle, whose teenage son, Gordon, was killed in Iraq in 2004, said: ‘What is the point of an inquiry behind closed doors? No family would be happy with that.

‘We already feel that we have been lied to by the government. We don’t want any more lies. We would be prepared to go to Downing Street if the inquiry is not transparent.’

The Conservatives accused Mr Brown, who as Chancellor supported and finances the conflict, of dragging his heels in order to ensure that critical findings are delayed until after the next election.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said: ‘An announcement of an inquiry is long overdue.

‘The Government has dragged its feet on this for months to try to ensure that an inquiry will only be concluded after the latest date for the general election.

‘Given that many key decisions and events were back in 2002 and 2003 it is vital that an inquiry starts work with all possible speed.

‘If this inquiry is to have the confidence of the public at the moment, it is vital that it holds sessions in public when possible.

‘It is crucial that it has access to all government papers, and that it is able to report on what went wrong with the planning and co-ordination of the occupation of Iraq as well as the decisions about the war itself.’

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said his party would not cooperate with the inquiry unless it reported within months and had the power to summon witnesses under oath.

‘If it does not have this kind of remit, my party will not back it or participate,’ Mr Clegg said.

‘We are talking about the biggest foreign policy mistake since Suez. To lock a bunch of grandees behind closed doors in secret and wait for them to come up with a puff of smoke, like the election of the Pope, would be an insult.

‘This inquiry is an acid test for all of Gordon Brown’s talk of reforming British politics.’

Labour MP Alan Simpson, chair of the campaign group Labour Against the War, said Mr Brown’s attempt to rebuild his authority with the announcement risked backfiring spectacularly.

‘If it is done secretively, it could be the final nail in his coffin,’ Mr Simpson said.

‘We need no less rigorous an examination on this than we had on the far less important issue of MPs’ expenses. A secret examination would be worthless.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: Ken Clarke: We Won’t Tear Up the Lisbon Treaty if Ireland Votes Yes Before Election

The revised EU constitution will not be torn up if it has been implemented by the time the Tories win power, Kenneth Clarke declared yesterday.

The Conservative business spokesman angered Eurosceptics in his party by insisting that the Lisbon Treaty would survive if all 27 member states succeed in forcing it into law before the next election.

The intervention of Mr Clarke, who has always been fervently supportive of the EU, appeared to rule out categorically the possibility of a referendum on the treaty if it has already been ratified when the Tories win power.

The party has pledged to hold one if the ratification process is not complete across all 27 member states, but been deliberately vague about what it would do if it is concluded.

Mr Clarke’s remarks enraged Eurosceptics who believe Mr Cameron should go ahead with a vote and then tear up the treaty even if it means having to leave the EU.

Gordon Brown has ditched Labour’s manifesto promise from the last election to hold a referendum seeking public approval. He insists that the constitutional element of the treaty has been abandoned, making a vote unnecessary.

But most other EU leaders admit that it is virtually the same as the original version, which was rejected by voters in France and Holland in 2005.. Ireland voted against the latest version last year.

The blueprint will create the first full-time EU president and foreign affairs chief, give the EU its own legal personality like a nation state, and do away with Britain’s right to reject EU proposals in more than 40 policy areas.

It appears increasingly likely the Lisbon Treaty will be implemented before the next election, with the Irish expected to vote ‘yes’ in a rerun referendum this autumn.

Yesterday Mr Clarke told BBC1’s The Politics Show: ‘If the Irish referendum endorses the treaty and ratification comes into effect, then our settled policy is quite clear that the treaty will not be reopened.’

But he added: ‘I think we will want to open negotiations with the EU about a return of some responsibilities, particularly in employment law, to individual nation states.’

Mr Clarke pointedly said he did not think ‘anybody in Europe, including me, is in the mood for any more tedious debates about treaties, which have gone on for far too long’.

But Eurosceptic Tory MP Bill Cash said: ‘It appears Kenneth Clarke has reinvented unilaterally Conservative Party policy on Europe. It is essential we have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty irrespective of the Irish vote, and this is supported by a very substantial number of Conservative MPs.’

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said: ‘Ken Clarke has let the cat out of the bag. The Conservatives have no intention of holding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.’

A Tory spokesman said: ‘There is no change to Conservative policy. As Ken Clarke explained, if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified and in force across the EU by the time of the election of a Conservative government, we have always made clear that we would not let matters rest there.

‘We would regard political integration as having gone too far. We have consistently made clear, for example, that the return of social and employment legislation to UK control would be a major goal for a Conservative government.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: Put a Stop to These Insensitive Ambulances

After news that a Labour MP wants to ban the Red Cross, because the symbolism is offensive to the Middle East, Michael Deacon wonders if we shouldn’t go further.

By Michael Deacon

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP for the Rhondda, told the Commons last week that the Red Cross should become the Red Some Other Symbol. The charity’s logo might cause offence in the Middle East, he said, because the cross was “a reference to the Crusades”.

It would be easy for cynics to scoff at this valiant man. They could point out that the Red Cross has nothing to do with the Crusades, that it’s merely the Swiss flag with the colours flipped. They could observe that it isn’t the shape of a Christian cross, in which the vertical beam, if that’s the word, is longer than the horizontal. They could even remark that, upon the arrival of an ambulance, the first thought of a person bleeding to death is unlikely to be revulsion at the logo emblazoned on the vehicle.

Ambulance drivers told to forget sat nav and use maps insteadWell, let the cynics sneer to their shrivelled hearts’ content. For I am right behind Mr Bryant in his heroic campaign (not crusade, of course, let’s be clear about that) to avoid upsetting people thousands of miles away who, in order to take offence at the logo of selfless humanitarians, would have to be thunderingly unintelligent. Indeed, I call on Mr Bryant to dedicate his energies to the eradication of all possible references to the symbol of a religious conflict that ended several centuries ago.

We must, at the very least, ban the following:

+ The flags of England, Northern Ireland, Georgia and Tonga. All brazenly feature a red cross on a white ground. It’s not known why Tonga, a tiny Pacific archipelago, feels the need to taunt the Middle East about the Crusades, but it must be stopped, if necessary by force.

+ Batteries. These ostensibly innocent power sources are adorned near their tips with a small cross, clearly in tribute to that murderous Christian tyrant, Richard the Lionheart.

+ Addition. Multiplication, subtraction and division are blameless mathematical functions. Addition, however, requires the use of a symbol that is unmistakably reminiscent of the Crusaders. Adding numbers to other numbers should be prohibited in all schools.

On top of these measures, all books of crossword puzzles exported to the Middle East should be renamed “Empty Boxes Word Challenge”. Only then can we hope for the rift between Christian and Islamic cultures to close.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Serbia-France: French Ambassador, New Beginning in Relations

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JUNE 12 — French Ambassador to Serbia Jean Francois Terral said that the general impression of all the members of the French business delegation which had recently visited Serbia was that the visit was very successful and that it represented a new beginning in the relations between Serbia and France, reports Tanjug news agency. He assessed that all conditions had been provided for Serbia to make significant progress on its European pathway. Summing up the impressions at the end of the visit of the high-ranking French MEDEF (Movement of the French Enerprises) delegation, Terral told a news conference that the image of Serbia had been changed significantly, especially after the last parliamentary and presidential elections. Head of the MEDEF delegation, Charles Paradis, said that Serbia’s European orientation, as expressed by Serbian President Boris Tadic, as well as the announcement of important infrastructural and other projects in the country, represented a guarantee of future investments and the engagement of French businessmen in Serbia. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Morocco: Women Arrested at Outlawed Islamist Group Meeting

Rabat, 12 June Ibadi and others at the meeting were arrested by police and charged with organising a public event without the necessary permits, the newspaper said.

Police raided the home on Wednesday and the women were detained for six hours and interrogated before they were released.

It was not clear whether the group had convened to discuss administrative elections being held in Morocco on Friday. The outlawed group is not allowed to participate in elections.

Police have reportedly been following members of the group for three years.

According to Al-Masa, police have reportedly detained 5,733 members of the group, of which 899 were women.

Al-Adl Wal Ihsan is committed to the creation of an Islamic state that follows a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law and the replacement of the monarchy in Morocco.

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

Israel and the Palestinians


PA Blames Israel for Wild Boars

(IsraelNN.com) Palestinian Authority media outlets continue to blame Israel for problems caused by wild boars in Samaria, despite Israeli efforts to cull the animals. On Thursday, PA farmers near Ariel complained that “Israeli settlers” had engineered a wild boar attack that destroyed agricultural produce.

The farmers’ claims were repeated by the head of the regional PA farmers’ union, who accused Israelis living in Ariel and nearby towns of planning the attacks. The union head did not explain how Israelis allegedly trained the pigs to destroy only Arab crops.

Arab residents of Samaria have made several similar claims over the past three years. The claims have been backed up by PA armed forces, whose officers have been quoted as confirming to PA media that Israel is behind wild boar attacks.

Media outlets have also lent credence to the claims, with the PA-based Ma’an news agency stating, “The wild boars are being released by Israeli settlers in order to destroy the plants and crops of Palestinians.”

The claims of malicious Israeli control of the wild animals have continued this year despite Israel’s efforts to cull the wild boar population in areas under its control. The Nature and Parks Authority has worked to control the boars since May of this year, due to damage caused by boars in the Haifa district.

Israel is unable to cull the boar population in Arab villages in Samaria, as those areas are entirely under PA control.

           — Hat tip: Jewish Odysseus [Return to headlines]



PM Lays Down Conditions for Peace in Foreign Policy Address

In a much-anticipated foreign policy address Sunday night Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called for the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel, but only if the Palestinians recognize Israel’s nature as a Jewish state.

Netanyahu said that he embraced President Barack Obama’s vision, adding, however, that the Holocaust was not the reason for the establishment of the Jewish state.

The prime minister said that the descendants of the Palestinian refugees must not be resettled within Israel borders and that Jerusalem must remain united. Israel, he said, would not build any new settlements or expropriate new land for existing settlements.

“Peace has always been our objective,” Netanyahu began. “Our prophets always envisioned peace; we bless each other with Shalom; our prayers end in peace.”

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



Survey: 56% of Israelis Against Block on Settlements

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JUNE 12 — 56% of Israelis are against the total freeze on building in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians, the Obama Administration in the US and the international community support fervently. These were the results that came out of a survey from the Maagar Mohot Polling Institute quoted today on the newspaper Haartez’s website. According to the majority of those interviewed, Premier Benyamin Netanyahu should not back down on this point, in particular on the building projects justified due to “natural growth” in the population of the settlements, during the speech that is set to take place in Tel Aviv Sunday June 14 in response to Obama on the issue of peace and security. Just 37% were favourable to a total and immediate stop. Moreover, according to the survey, 36% of Israelis declared themselves contrary to retreat from the settlements (considered illegal by the international community) even in the case of a definitive peace agreement with the Palestinians, while 30% would accept only a partial clearing out and relocation. A recent survey, from another institute, also credited a hostile majority (52%) to extended defence of the settlements in the long term. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



U.S.-Trained Officer Caught Helping Terrorists

Issue highlights jihadist infiltration of American-backed forces

JERUSALEM — An officer in a U.S.-trained militia of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization was arrested yesterday after he was caught training militants from the rival Hamas terrorist group, according to information obtained by WND.

The officer, from Fatah’s national guard units, was arrested when he was caught training a Hamas cell in the northern West Bank city of Qalqiliya, Palestinian security sources said. Five Hamas members, all in their early 20s, were arrested along with the officer, who lives in the West Bank city of Jenin, the security sources said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



West Bank: Italy Opens Breast Cancer Prevention Center

(ANSAmed) — BEIT JALA — The first Palestinian breast cancer prevention centre, funded by ‘Cooperazione italiana’ (Italian Cooperation) with 500,000 euros, was opened this morning in Beit Jala (Bethlehem), in the West Bank. The centre has been operational since January and is equipped with a breast screening machine, an ultrasound scanner and X-ray material. It will be used by people living in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jericho and Hebron, practically the whole southern area of the West Bank. “So far patients had to go to Israel for this kind of breast screening, with all the related problems of going there. That’s why people here are grateful for this project” said Nida Khalil, one of the centre’s X-ray technicians. The centre has been visited by 615 since January; breast cancer was found in seven cases. “Cancer is the second cause of death among Palestinians, after cardiovascular diseases, and breast cancer is much more widespread than in Europe” explained Angelo Stefanini, head of the health programme of the Italian Cooperation Office in Jerusalem. “But the most worrying figure” he added “is the age at which women get breast cancer: in Italy the average age is 49, here it is 39. Yesterday a 25-year-old girl was diagnosed with the disease. That’s why” he concluded “prevention is crucial”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Barry Rubin: Iran’s Stolen Election Should Change Western Policies

Many Western analysts and journalists are treating the stolen election in Iran as something of no international significance. After all, they say, it is only an internal matter. Why should it affect Western attempts to engage with the Islamist regime?

If we hadn’t been previously conditioned by so many crazy ways to view Middle East politics this alone would be a shocker. True, in international affairs one has to deal with many dictatorships and national interests sometimes require putting aside one’s repugnance at repression.

(Though, by the way, are we now going to see efforts at academic boycotts and nonstop human rights’ denunciations of Iran in the manner apparently reserved for democratic Israel?).

Let me put it this way. I certainly expected Ahmadinjad to win but figured the regime would play out the game. He’d either genuinely gain victory in the second round or they’d change just enough votes to ensure his victory. What no one expected is that the regime would tear up the whole process like this. Their brazen way of doing so—if you don’t like it you can go to hell, we’re going to do whatever we want, and we don’t care what anyone thinks—signals to me that this ruling group is even more risk-taking and irresponsible than it previously appeared.

This is the key point: the problem with Iran’s regime isn’t just that it is a dictatorship, it’s that it is such an extremist, aggressive dictatorship.

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



EU’s Solana Meets Hezbollah in Beirut

A senior EU official has for the first time held talks with a politician from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana met Hezbollah official Hussein Hajj Hassan at the Lebanese parliament building in Beirut.

Mr Hajj Hassan is one of Hezbollah’s 11 members of parliament, following recent elections which were won by a rival Western-backed alliance.

Hezbollah is regarded by the United States as a terrorist group.

The EU has previously rejected public contacts with Hezbollah, which also controls Lebanon’s most powerful military force.

But Mr Solana said: “Hezbollah is part of political life in Lebanon and is represented in the Lebanese parliament.”

Mr Hajj Hassan described the meeting with Mr Solana as a “goodwill gesture from the European Union towards Hezbollah.”

He said it was an attempt by the EU to “get to know” Hezbollah.

Britain said earlier this year it favoured re-establishing links with Hezbollah’s political wing.

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



Iran Opposition Seeks Fatwa Against Ahmadinejad

Mousavi Spokesman Says President’s Re-Election Is ‘Coup D’Etat’

A spokesman for Iranian presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi says his camp will keep pushing to change the results of Friday’s election that gave incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad a landslide win.

“We are going to stay in the streets and ask the mullahs to give fatwas that Ahmedinejad is not our president. We are going to ask the Leader, through the will of the people, to change his mind,” said Mostafa Makhmalbaf, who is speaking to the foreign press on Mousavi’s behalf from his home in Paris.

“I don’t think we can do a total Revolution in Iran but we can make some change,” he told ABC News, describing what would be an unprecedented reversal for the Islamic Republic.

Mousavi’s campaign claims the announced outcome, which gave Ahmedinejad 63 percent of the vote, was fraudulent.

Iran Opposition Says People ‘Feel Betrayed’

Mousavi, a former prime minister of Iran during the 1980s, ran as a pro-reform centrist. He launched a campaign known as the Green Movement that attracted young supporters, especially women drawn to a platform of equal rights.

“Most of the people are trying to have their vote … for peace in the international relationship, for changing the economy, more freedom for the young generation,” he said.

“The Iranian people are angry that their vote was changed,” he said. “They feel betrayed.”

Ahmadinejad’s victory has caused the worst unrest in Tehran in a decade as protestors battled police in the streets and shouted from the rooftops..

Seemingly unfazed, Iran’s president likened the riled crowds’ outbursts to “passions after a soccer match.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Kurds Lay Claim to Oil Riches in Iraq as Old Hatreds Flare

Sitting on vast untapped oilfields, the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk has the natural resources to become one of the wealthiest places in the Middle East. But a standoff has developed between local Kurdish leaders and Baghdad over rights of ownership. And in Kirkuk itself, ethnic tensions are rising

In mid-2003, as Baghdad fell, Simzad Saeed, 39, returned to Kirkuk to build a house on land he did not own and to stake a claim in a new homeland.. He did not mean Iraq. Ever since the Iraqi central government has paid Saeed’s salary but, like roughly 200,000 other returned Kurds, he pays his dues to ‘Kurdistan’.

“I feel at home,” he said from his new lounge. “I was forced to leave after the first Gulf war [in 1991] and we didn’t return to our original home six years ago because my father still lives there.”

Across town in a ramshackle suburb built on a dried-up swamp, Faisal Mathor Mohammed, a 69-year-old Arab retired army officer from Baghdad, sat sweating in his mud-brick house, which he says was promised to him 22 years ago. He laid down his roots with a government grant.

“I went to the mayor in my town and asked him,” the former Iraqi army officer said. “They gave me land in Kirkuk and 10,000 dinars ($30,000) — enough to buy a house outright and furnish it fully in 1987. I have lived here ever since.”

Strewn across the landscape between both neighbourhoods are rows of shooting flames, roaring like Roman candles from the desert plain. Shifting winds send an oily film in both directions, letting no one in town forget what lies beneath their feet and what will soon shape their collective destinies.

Over the past six years of violence in Iraq, oil has been the flashpoint in Kirkuk, a city forever home to a combustible mixture of races. Kurds have always claimed Kirkuk as a homeland; Turkomans, Assyrians and Arabs have at various times based empires here. The resulting melting pot of races and clans has never mixed comfortably.

Since the US declared its invasion a success in mid-2003, Kirkuk has seen its biggest population shift in centuries, with Kurds capitalising on a power vacuum in Baghdad and Arabs rushing to reinforce their foothold. Kurds have been accused of ethnically engineering Iraq’s most divided city to lay the foundations for a nascent Kurdistan. Arabs have been accused of doing anything — including bombings — to stop the city from escaping their grasp.

All along, Kirkuk has had the feel of a boom-town-in-waiting, sitting on a subterranean lake of fabulous wealth that would one day create fortunes.

“That day is closer than ever,” said Sharlet Yohana, 50, an Assyrian woman who works in the Iraqi government-owned oil extractor, the North Oil company. “The real conflict here is about oil,” she said from the sitting room of her middle-class home in an Assyrian Christian neighbourhood. “Oil may well provide our future wealth and comforts, but it will also be our damnation.

“We will never have peace until the political problems surrounding the oil are solved. Everyone will suffer, far more than we are now: Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Christians. Already we have a curfew from midnight to 5am, and many Christians are blown up or assassinated. They are bringing this to a head now, before the foreign contractors come in.”

Later this month, Baghdad will announce the results of a tender for service contracts to start oil extraction. Last week Hussein al-Shahristani, the oil minister, announced a shortlist of companies in the running, among them BP, BG International and Premier Oil.

Foreign companies have circled Kirkuk since the fall of Saddam. Earlier this month, Norwegian and Turkish companies helped one large crude oil field in Iraqi Kurdistan, Tawke, to come on stream for the first time in Iraq since 1972. Kurdish leaders cheered like football fans as live footage was beamed back to Irbil of tankers unloading at an export facility nearby, which will eventually pipe the oil north to Turkey.

A Norwegian engineer stood at the site in the Kurdish foothills where tankers will cart their cargo away, alongside a drawling Texan computer programmer in a straw hat, a Canadian drilling expert and a Turkish site manager. A Kurdish employee pointed to the straw-coloured nearby ranges that border Turkey and said: “This is the land of Saladin, the great Kurdish warrior. He wanted to make peace with everyone, the Crusaders included. But in the end he knew where his home was and how to protect it. And so do we.”

Tawke is a relatively new oilfield, the first to be developed since the invasion. Its inauguration was backed by Baghdad despite the central government’s anger at a series of production-sharing agreements between the Kurdish government and private companies. This deal, Baghdad says, is acceptable because revenue will be piped back to central government coffers, which will in turn distribute 17% of the proceeds to the Kurdish administration.

To Baghdad, this is how it should be: it runs the show and the provinces pocket their share. The Kurds, however, are celebrating the symbolism of oil dollars flowing from fields they control. The Kurdish government’s separate deals have not been nearly as well received by Baghdad, which is withholding up to $400m in revenue that it deems the Kurds have made through contracts they struck that steer profits away from their rightful place in the national coffers.

Iraq’s oil minister said last week that Baghdad would not pay any firms who signed deals with the Kurdish regional government. In return, the Kurds are threatening to veto any oil deals signed by the Iraqi government that they don’t like.

All sides have been watching the posturing with great interest. “What they do up there will be very instructive for us,” said Ahmed al-Othman, 71, a Kurdish native of Kirkuk. Othman goes round town in the traditional Kurdish shirwal (baggy trousers) and says his closest friends are Arabs. “I’ve never left and I have never thought to leave,” he said. “Until recently.

“Last year, my brother was killed by an explosion in the market and so were two shopkeepers I drank coffee with for years. Since then, things have not been the same. Arab eyes don’t always look at me now and the marketplace is not what it was. The greed surrounding all the oil may change this place.”

Marketplaces were for centuries the one place that locals of all sects would meet. Fruit, falafel and Iraqi bread are still sold alongside butchered lambs dripping blood on to rubbish-strewn pavements.

Locals still mix there, but so, too, do suicide bombers. Kirkuk until recently was a killing field of the Sunni insurgency. But security officials, among them US officers, suggest Kirkuk’s militants have long had a Ba’athist flavour. “This was a city that Saddam long tried to orientate towards his regime and to Arab Iraq,” said one local intelligence official, a Turkoman. “There was a strong al-Qaida presence and there are still sleeper cells, but the Ba’athists were stirring the pot more than anywhere else in Iraq except Tikrit.”

Major-General Jamal Bakr, the regional police chief, said security had improved about 80% since mid-2007. He confirmed that militants had regularly tried to blow up oil pipelines: “But what we have seen here is similar to the rest of Iraq. Al-Qaida trying to cause havoc, no more, no less.” Sunni extremists were foiled in their most recent terrorist attempt when a Syrian youth wearing a suicide vest was tackled trying to enter the Shia al-Hussein mosque.

One of Bakr’s officers showed photographs of sappers cutting the suicide vest off the would-be bomber. “He was skinny, and looked unusual with this bomb strapped to him,” the officer explained. “That’s the only reason we don’t have a new sectarian war here. The bomb was enormous.”

From his office in a heavily guarded compound at the centre of town, Kirkuk’s mayor, Abdul Rahman Fatah, conceded that oil was a major obstacle to progress in Kirkuk, but claimed it was secondary to the continuation of a central government-funded project that pays for Kurds to return to Kirkuk and offers Arabs money to leave. It is this law that funded the return of Simzad Saeed, who has since started work at the agency that paid for his return.

“The real conflict is between the politicians,” said Fatah. “It is not really a conflict between the ethnic groups and religions. The issues here are not new; they are historical and well known. Even the Arabs who came here as part of Arabisation were victims. They were sent here by the previous regime and most came from the south of Iraq. Kirkuk was a much better option for them.”

Nearby, in an office set up to facilitate the Kurdish and Arab movements, the director, Tahsen Ali Weli, said 92,000 families displaced by Saddam had applied to return, all Kurds or Turkomans.

A total of 28,000 families has so far been allowed to return, most to homes built on new land. Each family has been given 10m dinars (£5,000). The precise number of Arab families who relocated to Kirkuk under Saddam is not known, but 14,700 have applied to leave: they will get 20m dinars (£10,000) each.

Advocates of the Arab claim to Kirkuk, among them an outspoken Sunni MP, Osama al-Najafi, insist the programme, which is authorised by article 140 of Iraq’s constitution, is no longer relevant, because it has expired. “The UN in its final report said article 140 was not suitable to solve this problem in its present form,” al-Najafi said.

The UN report was released in April after two years of searching for a solution for Kirkuk. The UN recommended a jointly administered region and a referendum to decide the city’s future racial complexion. But with the population and mix having changed so markedly and with Baghdad fearing it is now on the wrong side of the ledger, it is highly unlikely to endorse such a ballot.

“The report was unjust and one-sided,” al-Najafi complained. “They dealt with the Kurdistan province and Iraq as distinct areas, not one country. And they compared the situation to Northern Ireland and the UK. And when they dealt with the Arab perspective, they put inside quotes and added question marks.

“The Kirkuk problem comes down to oil,” he said. “The Kurds want the funds to finance the proposed state of Kurdistan. It is enshrined in the constitution that oil and gas is for all Iraqis. But they have signed a range of contracts from those that are without agreement from the central government.

“This situation cannot continue for long. The tensions are growing and there is no agreement about the shape of the future Iraqi state. There are deep divisions and they are not drawing any closer.”

To many Kurds, the divisions are indeed becoming more entrenched. “We don’t see this so much as Northern Ireland as a new Jerusalem,” said one senior member of the Kurdish parliament. “This is a conflict with a history and we are prepared to play a long game on it. The oil is bringing things to a head rapidly and Baghdad feels it is starting to lose significant ground..

“The Turks remain uneasy in the north, but we will do nothing to provoke them. Time is on our side.”

Perhaps realising this, some small-scale rearguard actions are taking place. Several of the Arab families who applied for and received their £10,000 grant to leave took the money and then stayed, prompting claims from Turkomans and Kurds that the article 140 project is now about consolidating the remnants of Arabisation.

Among the hangers-on is retired army officer Faisal Mohammed. “I got the money from the government, but I’m not leaving and I won’t be leaving. My sons are here and they won’t leave and so, too, our families. If both governments leave the future of the city to the residents, I’m sure we can do a better job of sorting this mess out.”

The Kurds of Iraq claim Kirkuk as part of their ancient homeland, which takes in about 40,000 sq km to the Turkish border in the north, Iran to the east and Syria to the west.

Successive empires of Babylonians, Assyrians, Arabs and Ottomans rose and fell, while Iraqi Kurdish nationalism failed to take root.

The post-Ottoman British mandate saw many revolts which inched the region towards autonomy.

Oil was first discovered near Kirkuk in 1927, and has underwritten eight decades of tensions.

Iraq, Iran and Turkey all felt threatened by this tide of nationalism and, throughout the 1970s, Kurds were squeezed into areas near Iran or deported elsewhere inside Iraq.

In the late 1980s, Saddam used chemical weapons against the Kurds of Halabja.

In 1991, Saddam attacked them again for co-operating with the US military during the Gulf war.

After the 2003 invasion, moves towards autonomy gained strength and the Kurdish regional government runs much of Kurdish Iraq with central government influence.

Kurdish elections are set for 25 July.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Ergenekon; Military to Weaken AK Party, Newspaper

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 12 — Documents recently discovered as part of the ongoing investigation into Ergenekon, a clandestine criminal organization charged with plotting to overthrow the government, have revealed plans to defame the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) through claims of reactionaryism, to weaken the Gulen movement and to support individuals arrested on charges of Ergenekon membership, daily Taraf reports. The documents, according to Taraf, revealed that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had a systematic plan to damage the image of the AK Party government in the eyes of the public, to play down the Ergenekon investigation and to gather support for members of the military arrested as part of the probe. So far, dozens of people have been arrested in the Ergenekon operation, launched after the existence of the gang was discovered in June 2007, when police found a house full of ammunition in Istanbul. The neonationalist Ergenekon gang, suspected of having ties to various individuals and groups within the State bureaucracy and the military, is accused to work to create a chaotic atmosphere in Turkey in which people would welcome a military coup against the ruling AK Party. Gen. Metin Gurak, the head of the Communication Department of the General Staff, said today that the military will conduct “immediately” an enquiry on the matter. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Unrest in Iran Deepens as Leading Critics Are Detained

TEHRAN — The Iranian authorities detained more than 100 prominent opposition members, and on Sunday unrest continued for a second day across Iran in the wake of the country’s disputed presidential election.

The leading opposition candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, issued a fresh statement calling for the election results to be canceled, as his supporters skirmished with a vast deployment of riot police and militia members on the edges of a victory rally organized by the government in central Tehran.

A moderate clerical body, the Association of Combatant Clergy, issued a statement posted on reformist Web sites saying the election was rigged and calling for it to be canceled, warning that “if this process becomes the norm, the republican aspect of the regime will be damaged and people will lose confidence in the system.”

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the opposition’s allegations of large-scale election fraud, saying his landslide victory had given him a bigger mandate than ever. He hinted that Mr. Moussavi — who remained at home Sunday with the police closely monitoring his movements — might be punished for his defiance.

“He ran a red light, and he got a traffic ticket,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said of his rival, during a news conference at the presidential palace.

Those arrested were from all the major opposition factions and included the brother of a former president, Mohammad Khatami. Some were released later in the day.

Calling the opposition protests “unimportant,” Mr. Ahmadinejad suggested that they were the work of foreign agitators and journalists. But he also seemed to throw down the gauntlet to other nations, saying, “We are now asking the positions of all countries regarding the elections, and assessing their attitude to our people.”

But Mr. Ahmadinejad’s electoral rivals appeared to be holding firm in their protest against the vote.

Mr. Moussavi issued a statement saying he had asked Iran’s Guardian Council, which must certify the election for it to be legal, to cancel the vote. He also said he was being monitored by the authorities, and was unable to join his followers. His campaign headquarters have been closed down, he said.

Another candidate, the reformist cleric Mehdi Karroubi, echoed Mr. Moussavi’s demand for the election to be canceled.

“I am announcing again that the elections should not be allowed and the results have no legitimacy or social standing,” Mr. Karroubi said. “Therefore, I do not consider Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of the republic.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad also spoke at a square in central Tehran, surrounded by thousands of flag-waving protesters in what was clearly intended to be a show of popular support for his election victory. But the smell of tear gas and smoke drifted over the cheering crowds, and only a few blocks away, groups of protesters chanted their own slogans against the government, and bloodied people could be seen running from baton-wielding police officers.

As night fell, chants of “God is great!” could be heard from rooftops in several areas of the capital.

[Return to headlines]



Yemen ‘Arrests Senior Al-Qaeda Man’

The alleged top al-Qaeda financier in Yemen has been arrested, security officials say.

He has been named as Hassan Hussein Bin Alwan, a Saudi Arabian national.

Reports say he was detained two days ago in Marib province, east of the capital, Sanaa, and is facing charges of forming an armed group.

Yemen has been combating Islamic militants suspected of links to al-Qaeda since the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.

The family of Saudi-born al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden is originally from Yemen.

Officials have expressed fears that Yemen might be used as a staging post for attempts to destabilise Saudi Arabia.

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

Russia


Russia: Gazprom’s Leading Role as an Energy Giant in Crisis

For years, Russia’s state-owned energy company held a quasi-monopoly position. During this time it failed to invest in technology and innovation, restricting itself to signing high price contracts to maintain its stranglehold over the market. Now it is backing away from contracts it signed with Central Asian nations whilst its pipeline network is aging and becoming increasingly dangerous.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Times are tough for Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom, the third most profitable company in the world in 2008 when it was worth US$ 350 billion. Now, it has shrunk by two-thirds to about US$ 120 billion, dropping to become the world’s 40th-largest company, this according to The Moscow Times.

For years the company’s fortunes soared, pushed up by rising oil and gas prices and Russia’s pipelines which are the only ones that allow Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to get their own gas to market. At home the company also enjoys a near monopoly.

However, Gazprom failed to profit from its dominant position. Instead of investing in technology and innovation to improve its position, it tried to gain control over foreign energy sources even at the cost of high prices.

Gazprom has also suffered from deals it worked out last year with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan when the price of gas was rising. At the time Gazprom agreed to pay the three Central Asian states “European” prices for their gas as a way to head off moves by European Union countries to reach an agreement on a rival pipeline project that would have brought Central Asian gas by a route that avoided Russian territory. Now the “European” prices that were at one time approaching US$ 400 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, have fallen to below US$ 300 and are expected to drop further.

Turkmenistan, for one, has insisted that Gazprom pay European prices as agreed, something Gazprom refuses to do because they are now too high and because its supplies meet Russia’s domestic needs.

Since Central Asian gas was always meant for Europe, current prices are no longer of interest to Gazprom. But for Turkmenistan the issue is more important since gas is its main source of government revenues.

However, Central Asian oil and gas producers have another card up their sleeve. In addition to Europe they are being courted by mainland China which is willing to pay good money for their energy.

Energy demands in Europe have also dropped in the first quarter of this year because of Gazprom’s inflexible pricing policy

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) gas consumption in the European Union has in fact decreased by 2-3 per cent in the first quarter of 2009, whilst gas imports declined by about 12 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2008.

In the same period, Gazprom’s supplies to Europe fell by 39 per cent (50 per cent in the case of Germany and Italy).

Gazprom is also facing another major problem: its aging pipeline network. Some of its sections date back to Soviet times when the network was built to ensure that gas and oil went through Russian territory. Now they are in a state of disrepair and prone to frequent breakdowns and explosions.

In the meantime other powers are making their presence felt in the region. China for instance is building an oil pipeline from Kazakhstan, and both Pakistan and India have expressed an interest in building gas pipelines from the Central Asian nation. At the same time the European Union wants to build pipelines that bypass Russia.

Ultimately Gazprom has lost credibility, creating enemies, when it got involved in the Russo-Ukrainian crisis of the beginning of this year, when it allowed itself to be used as a tool of blackmail.

Even in Russia Gazprom has lost some ground as a result of a ruling on 2 June by Russia’s antimonopoly authorities which forces the company to share its export pipelines with independent gas producers.

Some analysts point out that Russian leaders like current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have never liked the company’s leadership position.

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

South Asia


India: Church in Kerala Commemorates 50th Anniversary of Anti-Communist Liberation Struggle

In 1959 Catholics took to the streets of the Indian state to protest against the Communist government. Clashes caused the death of 15 people and more than 170,000 arrests. The confrontation was sparked by a state law that would have effectively taken over Catholic education facilities. Fifty years on the memory remains alive since the underlying causes have not been resolved.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — On 13 June the Catholic Church in the State of Kerala along with the Nair Hindu community will mark the 50th anniversary of what has come to be known as the Vimochana Samaram, the liberation struggle against the then ruling Communist government, something which still remains current today.

For the occasion Card Varkey Vithayathil, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and major archbishop in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, made public a letter urging the faithful to remember what happened 50 years ago and pray for the ‘martyrs of Angamaly’, the seven Catholics who were killed protesting the Communist government’s policy.

Fr Paul Thelakat, editor-in-chief of the Satyadeepam weekly and a spokesman for the Syro-Malabar Synod spoke to AsiaNews about the events of 1959.

“Police opened fire in four different places, killing 15 people. In 248 places they resorted to lathi sticks to push back the crowd. Altogether some 177,850 arrests were detained, including 42,745 women. But after 28 months the state government fell (pictured, Kerala’s first Communist Chief Minister Namboodiripad, first to right, after his resignation). Ever since the liberation struggle has been an important moment in the history of Kerala.

In 1957 the Communist Party came to power. Elamkulam Manakkal Sankaran Namboodiripad became the first and only democratically elected leader who did not belong to the ruling Indian National Congress. Once in power he began policies meant to discredit the Catholic Church and eliminate it as the only obstacle on the path to building a Marxist society.

Unrest followed when the new state government introduced an education bill that would remove the administration of educational institutions from the control of Church or the Nair Service Society, an organisation that manages education and health care for the Nair Hindu caste.

Catholics and Nairs took to the street in protest. Opposition parties did the same. In the following clashes people were arrested and killed. Only the intervention of then Union Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru brought the protest movement to an end.

“Invoking Art 365 of the constitution Nehru dismissed the state government. And in the following elections in 1960 the Communists lost badly, seeing their seats drop from 60 to 29,” said Father Thelakat.

Today the Vimochana Samaram continues to be controversial. The Communists, who are now in power at the state level but lost badly in last May’s federal elections, called it a “political game.”

For this reason Cardinal Vithayathil wrote the aforementioned letter and it is also why the Catholic Church in Kerala plans a remembrance Mass and symposium on the struggle and its victims.

P. Thelakat said that the Vimochana Samaram “must be remembered if for no other reason that it taught the Communist that they cannot be part of a multiparty system without respecting the democratic values of the constitution.”

This is still important today since the Church and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) are still at loggerheads.

Their attempt to nationalise the school system and the country’s rigid class system are still source of discussion today.

For Father Thelakat the struggle in 1959 at least “forced the Communists to understand that violence cannot succeed in India. It forced them to actually accept the democratic process if they wanted to get into power.”

For some commentators the results in India’s recent elections to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, which saw the Communist lose represent a silent version of the Vimochana Samaram.

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



Pakistan: Mutilated Body Sparks Religious Torture Charge

Family: Christian man raped, killed for refusing to convert to Islam

A young Christian man was raped and brutally murdered in Pakistan for refusing to convert to Islam, and police are doing nothing about it, the victim’s brother and minister told FOXNews.com.

Pakistani police reportedly found the body of Tariq “Litto” Mashi Ghauri — a 28-year-old university student in Sargodha, Pakistan — lying dead in a canal outside a rural village in Punjab Province on May 15. He had been raped and stabbed at least five times.

“They have sexually abuse him, torture him with a knife on his testicle and genitals,” Ghauri’s brother, 24-year-old Salman Nabil Ghauri, said. “They have tortured him very badly, and after that they have stabbed five times with a knife and killed him.”

The family believes Litto Ghauri was murdered by the brothers of his Muslim girlfriend, Shazi Cheema, after they found him in a compromising sexual position with their sister.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



President Obama in Cairo: Islam and End-Time Prophecy?

One clue may come from President Obama’s early upbringing in Indonesia, where different monotheistic religions are tolerated under the banner of a state ideology known as pancasila. More Muslims live in Indonesia than in any other nation, and most Indonesian Muslims view their Islam through the prism of these five principles of tolerance and social justice first enunciated in 1945 by Indonesian independence leader Sukarno. The moderate Islam with which President Obama has firsthand acquaintance is not the extremist Islam of al-Qaeda.

[Return to headlines]



Suu Kyi: Is There Still Purpose in Her Struggle?

COME Friday, the world’s most famous prisoner of conscience will turn 64. But there is no cause to celebrate.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest gift from the government of Myanmar was another farcical trial designed to extend her detention. On May 14, she was moved from her home on University Road in Yangon, where she has been under house arrest for most of the last 19 years, to Insein prison.

The court’s argument was that, by allowing American John William Yettaw to enter her lakeside residence, she had violated the terms of her house arrest.

Suu Kyi’s plea was that she felt sorry for Yettaw after he swam across Lake Inya to visit her.

This recent travesty is yet another tribulation the Nobel Peace Prize winner has had to endure in her long struggle to bring democracy and freedom to her native country (called Myanmar by its military rulers, but still known as Burma internationally).

Despite a thumping win in the 1990 general elections, Suu Kyi has never been allowed to take office as her country’s rightful leader. During her extended detention, her British husband, Dr Michael Aris, died, and she has barely seen her two sons, Alexander and Kim.

What does this woman really mean to the people of Myanmar today? Is there still purpose in her struggle, or is hers a futile effort?…

           — Hat tip: Zenster [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


NAB to Introduce Muslim-Friendly Loans

ONE of Australia’s major banks is planning to introduce “Muslim-friendly” loans that do not charge interest, to comply with Sharia law, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

Instead, the National Australia Bank will structure an Islam-approved line of finance to make money from alternative methods.

These include profit-sharing on the transaction, joint-ventures or leasing-type arrangements.

For example, to get round the Islamic ban on usury — or unfair lending — a Muslim mortgage often works by the bank buying the property, then selling it to the customer at a profit, with the customer then repaying the entire sum in instalments.

In this way the profit margin is built in from the start. It also has the advantage of making the loan immune from future interest rate rises.

NAB said the loans, which will start out small, will have to be cleared by a Sharia Advisory Board to ensure they meet strict criteria before they can be made available to the public.

“We are dipping our toe in the water with this scheme and thought we may be able to offer this product in high-density Muslim areas,” said Richard Peters, head of community finance and development at NAB.

“We suspect there is demand out there, but we don’t know how big it is, so we will trial a few products first.”

For the trial’s purposes NAB will pump $15 million from its not-for-profit finance division into the program, which will distribute the funds through various community finance schemes around the country.

The bank will monitor the take-up and assess potential demand.

Interest-free loans of up to $1000 will be available to help finance household items, such as washing machines and fridges.

The loans would also be available to non-Muslims.

The news comes just days after federal Assistant Treasurer Chris Bowen said that Australia could exploit international demand for Islamic finance to create more jobs.

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

Latin America


Air France Crash Jet ‘Split in 2 at High Altitude’

Investigators’ conclusion based on discovery of 2 trails of bodies 50 miles apart

THE Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic with 228 people on board broke apart before it hit the water, throwing out some passengers at high altitude, investigators believe.

Their conclusion is based on the discovery of two trails of bodies more than 50 miles apart, suggesting that the Airbus split in two after going out of control in bad weather and turbulence during its flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on June 1.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Air France Crash: Messages Sent From Plane on Rudder Problem

A burst of last-minute automatic messages sent by Air France Flight 447 included one about a problem with a rudder safety device but that did not explain what sent the jet plunging into the Atlantic Ocean, an aviation expert said.

The industry official, who has knowledge of the Air France investigation, said that a transcript of the messages posted on the website EuroCockpit was authentic but inconclusive.

The flight was carrying 228 people from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on May 31 when it ran into fierce thunderstorms.

One of the 24 automatic messages sent from the plane minutes before it disappeared points to a problem in the “rudder limiter,” a mechanism that limits how far the plane’s rudder can move. The nearly intact vertical stabiliser — which includes the rudder — was fished out of the water by Brazilian searchers.

“There is a lot of information, but not many clues,” the official said..

Jets like the Airbus A330 automatically send such maintenance messages about once a minute during a plane’s flight. They are used by the ground crew to make repairs once a plane lands.

Martine del Bono, spokeswoman for the French investigative agency BEA, which is in charge of the crash probe, and an Airbus spokesman declined to comment on the transcript.

If the rudder were to move too far while travelling fast, it could shear off and take the vertical stabiliser with it, which some experts theorise may have happened based on the relatively limited damage to the stabiliser.

The industry official, however, said the error message pertaining to the rudder limiter did not indicate it malfunctioned, but rather that it had locked itself in place because of conflicting speed readings.

Investigators have focused on the possibility that external speed monitors — called Pitot tubes — iced over and gave false readings to the plane’s computers.

“The message tells us that the rudder limiter was inoperative,” said Jack Casey, an aviation safety consultant in Washington, D.C. “It does not give you any reason why it is not working or what caused it, or what came afterward.”

Unless the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders — the black boxes — are found, the exact cause of the accident may never be known.

A French nuclear submarine is scouring the search area in the hopes of hearing audio pings from the black boxes’ emergency beacons.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Pattern of Dead Bodies From Doomed Air France Plane Suggests it Split Up in Mid-Air

The doomed Air France plane in which 228 people died broke in two before it hit the Atlantic Ocean, investigators believe.

They think the aircraft split in the air because of where the bodies of victims were found in the water.

Two trails of bodies were discovered, more than 50 miles apart, which suggests the jet broke up before impact.

Bodies discovered off the north-east of Brazil also support the theory passengers were dead before they were plunged into the ocean.

Their clothes had been stripped off, presumably in the rush of air as the plane fell from as high as 35,000ft, according the Sunday Times.

Some 50 bodies have been discovered. The post mortems done on 16 show they had no water in the lungs — which would have indicated drowning.

Investigators have also not yet found any traces of an explosion, burn marks or smoke which backs up the idea the accident was not the result of a blast.

It is thought it might have started with the blocking of the plane’s speed sensors — called the pitot tubes, which are prone to getting clogged up.

One possibility is that they started to malfunction leading to confusing speed readings which in turn knocked out the automatic pilot.

This would have left the crew trying to fly the plane by hand, which would have been very difficult given the difficult weather conditions.

The same pattern of events has happened in six cockpit emergencies on Air France jets since February 2008, it has emerged.

Leaked documents from the airline say the incidents involved ‘a rather incoherent cocktail of alarms’ and ‘severe breakdowns’.

They appear to have started with problems in the sensors during bad weather, according to the Sunday Times.

Pilots in all six cases managed to regain control of their planes, although in one flight the problem did cause the auto pilot to disengage.

Air France advised its pilots last year about the problem of the sensors confusing the autopilot.

The firm replaced the speed sensors last week after the pilots’ union threatened to boycott its long-distance craft.

Chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said at the time: ‘We do not deny that there is a problem with the sensors. But we cannot say that this is the cause of the accident. We do not know that.’

Investigators including a French submarine are still combing the Atlantic for the black box flight recorders in the hope they will reveal the truth about the accident.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Gaddafi: Sapienza, Immigrants Threatened by Libyan Services

(AGI) — Rome, 11 Jun. — “I was threatened some Libyan men who were amongst the students”. The quote is from Amina, a 47 year old woman who was amongst the students from Rome’s La Sapienza University together with the movement for Casa Action. Men speaking only Arabic have been amongst the students and demonstrators: “They asked me why, though I was wearing my veil, I had come to protest against a Muslim leader — and they told me they had photos of me with posters against Gheddafi”.

The students, on their part, are trying to distance those they see as “provokers” — though when asked to leave, the men responded only in Arabic. When an Arabic language and culture major tried approaching them, they refused any response.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Kids Attend Prom From ‘Sexual Hell’

You won’t believe how children as young as 12 years old partied

Note: This story contains material that readers might consider graphic and offensive.

Family advocates are outraged by a prom held at Boston City Hall that was open to children apparently as young as 12 featuring crossdressers, homosexual heavy petting, suspected drug use and a leather-clad doorman who teaches sexual bondage classes

[…]

“Why would 22-year-olds be mingling with 14 and 15-year-olds?” Camenker asked, troubled by the details of the event. “As we saw, they pay no attention to any age limit at all. It was full of all of these strange adults.”

[…]

“As a young person who has been exposed to many disturbing things within today’s youth culture, I believed I was prepared to deal with what I saw at the 2009 BAGLY Prom,” Max wrote.

“Minutes after entering the event, I discovered that I was not.”

Camenker agreed that the affair was shocking.

“This stuff doesn’t happen by accident. You don’t have these kinds of really weird people around these kids by accident. These guys actually think that this is what these kids should be experiencing,” he said.

“This movement has an obsession with kids, and there are no boundaries. It’s worse than anybody thought.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


Amil Imani: Liberty vs. Demagogues

What is a demagogue? According to the encyclopedia, a demagogue is a politician skilled in oratory, flattery, and invective, evasive in discussing vital issues, promising everything to everybody, appealing to the passions rather than the reason of the public, and arousing racial, religious, and class prejudices.

History tells us that personal liberty is most often the demagogue’s first victim, particularly when popular sentiment is whipped up against some internal or foreign enemy. In other words, liberty and demagogues cannot coexist. The ancient Greek word “demagogos” means simply a spokesman for the people or, more pejoratively, a leader of the mob. “Modern usage implies rhetorical gifts and the ability to arouse an audience, usually with the promise of radical change.”

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani [Return to headlines]



Flickr and Getty Images Buy Your Photos

Photo-sharing website Flickr has teamed up with Getty Images to let users sell their pictures.

One of the biggest photo libraries in the world is hoping the work of amateur photographers can reinvigorate its collection and help to create an edgier persona.

Getty Images, the world’s largest distributor of still imagery, has teamed up with Flickr, the photo-sharing website, to allow keen photographers around the world the chance to make some money out of their regular, everyday snaps. Over the past 12 months, Getty has had 30 art directors scouring Flickr’s archive of three billion images to find the ones that will “sell” and have commercial appeal.

So far, the team has identified 100,000 images it would like to add to the “Getty Flickr” collection, which can be accessed by consumers and customers alike via www.gettyimages.com/flickr. There is also a supportive Facebook application called “PictureMe”. This allows Facebook users to attach photos from the collection to their status updates to help them visually express their mood.

The collection contains only 20,000 images at the moment, as the team is still waiting to hear back from the photographers responsible for the other 80,000 cherry-picked photos, or for rights clearance. Flickr users can “opt in” to have their photos considered by the Getty art directors by clicking on a designated tab once logged into their accounts.

The rest is up to Getty, which will then email the Flickr users who have a minimum of five photos which interest them. If they consent, a contract follows and the photographer has to set about ensuring each that any photo that includes a person or piece of property has the appropriate permission from all concerned parties. Once all the formal processes are completed, Getty can go about selling the images.

One person who received such an email is Anna Creedon, a digital collections developer at the London Transport Museum by day, and an avid amateur photographer in her spare time.

“I only joined Flickr last October, after doing an Open University photography course. Someone on the course set up a supportive Flickr group and I progressed from there,” she explains.

“I opted in to be seen by Getty and one day I received an email from them asking me to upload seven of my images … one of which [a close-up abstract shot of an iris] has now been bought for use in a brochure. It’s given me a new zest for taking photos.”

Creedon specialises in macro photography, which means taking extreme close-up shots and she usually only uses a compact hand-held camera. Her choice subjects are flowers and nature.

However, there is no pattern as to what the Getty team are looking for..Often the chosen photos are very regular daily scenes: a baby playing in a swimming pool or a someone smoking a cigarette. But it’s more the spirit and the way these imagesare taken that attracts Getty.

However, not every Flickr user views the “Getty email” as a prime opportunity to gain market exposure. There is a big debate going on across the photo-sharing site about whether Getty’s plan is compromising people’s artistic integrity and just another example of a big market player abusing user-generated content for mass gain.

The man in charge of bringing Flickr content to Getty customers is Andy Saunders, Getty’s vice-president of creative stills and footage. His job is to try to introduce new content to the Goliath collection and keep it fresh. He recognises that commercialising a personal photograph collection isn’t for everyone and admits some people have refused Getty’s offer.

“I understand that when you reach out to a community whose original intention was not to sell content, but simply to share images and experiences, there will be some negative feedback, but that’s up to the individuals. They can opt in or opt out.”

Getty Images decided to sign the five-year exclusive deal with Flickr expressly because it wanted photos that hadn’t been taken with a commercial purpose in mind.

“It is because the Flickr images haven’t been taken with a view to being sold, that a lot of passion and emotion comes through in the shots.They can be more original than traditional photography and offer that emotional connection which our customers really value,” Saunders explains.

Users take, typically, a 20-30 per cent cut on any images that are sold; how much a user can hope to make varies, Saunders says, from as low as $10 a shot to as much as $100,000. So you won’t know what publication or campaign your pictures of your grandmother snoring or your baby swimming could end up being part of, but you do become elevated to the same status as a professional photographer just by clicking a tab. And you get paid, too.

Five tips to get your pictures noticed

Keep your approach original and fresh.

Think about whether you will be able to contact any people in your photo again in case you need to obtain their permission. Possibly take down their contact details at the time, just in case.

Regionality is always attractive — especially in areas such as the Far East, where the economy is booming. Photos of your travels which show off an area’s culture are very useful to us — this is something which we hope to build upon in the future.

Humour always sells and is something to bear in mind.

Don’t get into stale patterns. Keep snapping only what matters to you and not what you might think will sell.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

The Grozny Option

In a recent article entitled “The Age of Middle East Atonement”, Victor Davis Hanson analyzes Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo in order to highlight the absurdities of our government’s policies towards the Muslim Middle East.

In his address to the “Muslim World”, Mr. Obama used the classic rhetorical tactic of false equivalence. To him, the West and Islam are roughly the same — “They launch terror attacks against us, but we launched the Crusades against them.” This device places the two camps on an equal but opposite footing, and their antagonisms must thus be surmounted by deft compromises negotiated by a skilled mediator such as — surprise! — Barack Hussein Obama.

In his deconstruction of the Obama Doctrine, Dr. Hanson points out the futility of any attempt to placate Islam. The countries that refuse compromise and act in the most brutal fashion towards Muslims are those that suffer the least from Islamic terrorism:

Grozny turned to rubbleToday, Russia and China are much harder on Muslims than is the West. (Consider Russia’s actions in Chechnya and China’s treatment of the Uighurs.) Neither country pays any attention to Muslims’ grievances, and therefore Muslims respect and fear Russia and China far more than they do the United States.

What’s more, the geopolitical positions of the West and Islam are not symmetrical. If such comparisons were not “judgmental” — and therefore off-limits — it would be easy to demonstrate that Western Civilization is superior to Islam politically, socially, culturally, and scientifically. But in our hyper-tolerant age, such distinctions are not allowed. We’re obliged to view ourselves and Muslims as basically the same, even if they do dress funny, live in hovels, treat women as chattels, and are governed by violent and corrupt despots.

But privately the world knows that Muslims are treated better in the West than Christians are in Muslim countries. That Muslims migrate to the lands of Westerners, and not vice versa.

Not only do Christians treat Muslims better than vice versa, they treat Muslims better than Muslims treat each other. Here in the West Muslims are not only free of political oppression while they engage in their customary behaviors — cousin marriage, polygamy, pederasty, and the oppression of women, just to name a few — but they do so while supported by the infidel welfare state.

No wonder they escape to the West by the millions.

So why are Muslims unhappy with us?

[The world knows that] disputes over a border between Palestinians and Israelis do not explain the unhappiness of the Arab masses, suffering from state-caused poverty and wretchedness. That American military assistance to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Somalia, direct aid to Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians, and moral condemnation of Chinese, Russian, and Balkan treatment of Muslims, coupled with a generous U.S. immigration policy, are not really cause for apology or atonement.

But for some reason, none of this VIP treatment makes Muslims grateful, friendly, or respectful to the United States, nor to any of their other host countries in the West. On the contrary, the second and third generations of Muslim immigrants are the most violent and jihad-oriented of all.

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


The Chinese and the Russians are not the customary focus of Islamic terror, despite the routinely brutal treatment they deal out to their Muslim minorities when they deem it necessary.

Or are they in fact largely spared by the jihad precisely because of their ruthless strategies towards any outbreak of jihad within their borders?
– – – – – – – –
Now we’re entering territory that all well-intentioned PC-indoctrinated people recoil from in horror. The internal logic of the situation leads inexorably towards the hard questions that none of us really want to ask. After all, who wants to respond to terrorist threats in the manner of the Russians or the Chinese?

Consider what happened in Chechnya: the Russian Federation faced an Islamically-based terrorist separatist movement, and dealt with the problem by indiscriminately leveling much of Grozny, the Chechen capital.

By American logic, as described above by Victor Davis Hanson, Russia should be Islam’s Public Enemy Number One. You would expect Al Qaeda and other groups to react with repeated mass terror attacks against Russian cities, schools, and public transportation, on the model of the frequent and deadly terrorist incidents in India. By all rights there should also be high-profile attacks on Russian targets abroad.

But almost none of this occurs. Why?

Islamic terrorists are often described as deranged or insane. And one suspects that the actual shahids — the guys who drive trucks or strap on bomb belts to blow themselves up along with as many infidels as possible — must register quite high on any scale of psychological abnormality.

But there’s no evidence that the directors of these “martyrdom operations” are madmen. They are shrewd, self-serving, calculating, careful, and ruthless servants of a demonic ideology, but they are not nuts — when they see how the Russian government reacts to Islamic terrorism, they scale back their operations on Russian territory, and concentrate on places where they can continue their customary activities with relative impunity.

In other words, they prefer the soft underbelly of the West: the Muslim-placating dhimmocracies of Europe and North America. There they can plan jihad and get paid by the infidel governments while they do so. No wonder they prefer Malmö and Finsbury Park to Moscow!

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


In all this we are forced to consider questions that we’d rather not ask. Even mentioning these ideas makes us into “racists” and “neo-fascists” in the eyes of those timid souls who prefer not to look at the hard choices that confront us.

So is the “Grozny Option” the only option?

Are we doomed to act like the Russians?

Do we have to choose between massive brutality and total submission, or is there another way?

A hundred years ago we might have taken a different path. If the United States had reacted forcefully to the nationalization of the Saudi oil fields — if we had re-established our commercial hegemony in the Arabian Peninsula, using military force if necessary — subsequent events might have taken a different course.

If we had not dumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the coffers of despotic Middle Eastern regimes, while demanding virtually nothing in return, then we might not be held in the same contempt that we are now.

Unfortunately, a long-established pattern is in force today, and only a dramatic and brutal turnaround will be likely to convince the Muslim world that we are anything but the biggest jizyah milk-cow that Islam has ever seen.

Europe will shortly begin a battle for its very survival, and the United States may not be that far behind. After all, if you believe what our president says, America is “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world.” So whatever hard options confront the Europeans will also be ours in just a few years’ time.

As Fjordman wrote earlier today:

It is pretty obvious by now that we are facing a huge structural, economic and ideological collapse throughout the entire Western world in the near future. The crash can no longer be avoided, since our so-called leaders are doing everything in their power to ensure that we will indeed crash. We need to focus on surviving this crash, on regrouping and creating the seeds for the third generation of European civilization out of the leftovers from the coming collapse. We need to think and act like colonized people because that’s in many ways what we are now. We must reclaim our own histories and destinies.

[…]

As we know from history, things that may appear unthinkable today will appear inevitable tomorrow. We will do this or we will perish.

The more unpleasant of tomorrow’s options cannot be publicly discussed because the very structure of our political discourse makes them unthinkable. I can get away with what I say here only because this is an unimportant venue with just a few thousand readers and no advertisers to bring pressure to bear.

But no one in academia, politics, or the major media can speak frankly about the choices we will have to make in just a few short years. Being honest about such topics tends to truncate one’s career, or even one’s life.

As Fjordman and El Inglés have been at pains to point out, the options we describe here aren’t what any of us want. They’re simply what will inevitably face us if we continue to punt the hard choices and pretend we can go on living the way we have for the last sixty years.

But change is on its way. It’s unavoidable, and all the attempts to postpone it will only make it more catastrophic.

And when the future gets here, the Grozny Option may well seem a bucolic utopia in comparison.

Geert Wilders on Danish TV

Update: Steen has some photos and a live-blog of today’s events (in Danish).

Lars Hedegaard and Geert Wilders


Photo © Snaphanen.



Geert Wilders is in Denmark for a conference entitled “Free Speech and Islam”, which is being held today at Christiansborg Castle in Copenhagen and is sponsored by Trykkefrihedsselskabet (the Free Press Society). For a printable program of the event in pdf format, click here.

Mr. Wilders appeared on Danish television yesterday. After being pressed by the interviewer, he acknowledged that millions of Muslims — those who support jihad and shariah, and oppose the democratic societies that they live in — will have to be deported from Europe.

He says, “There’s only one solution.”

The video below is in English with Danish subtitles:



Hat tip: Balder.

[Post ends here]

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/13/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/13/2009Palestinian reaction to Obama’s speech in Cairo has been favorable. According to Palestinians interviewed for the Jerusalem Post, they are very pleased and consider him to be the best friend they have ever had in the White House. Obama-Hu Akbar!

In other news, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a landslide victory in Iran’s presidential election, amidst protests by supporters of his principle opponent. Also, a major Australian bank is trial-marketing shariah-compliant loans.

Thanks to Brutally Honest, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, Judith Apter Klinghoffer, The Observer, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

USA
Crime and Racial Profiling
Divided We Stand
 
Europe and the EU
France: Paris Bailiffs Chase Saudi Princess for Unpaid Bills
Gaddafi in Rome: Boos and Protest at Sapienza University
Hungary: Outrage Over Obscene Anti-Semitic Internet Post by Morvai
Italy: Kercher Defendant ‘Imagined Things’
Spain: Arms; Morocco 3rd-Largest Market, Israel Sales Up 60%
UK: Feminist Who Thinks Men Should Bring Up Babies is New Labour Family Guru
UK: Miliband Nearly Quit Last Week: Report
UK: Max Hastings: BNP in Power — Immigration and This Insidious Conspiracy of Silence
UK: Science Policy Scrutiny ‘At Risk’
 
Balkans
Albania: Corruption in Decline, More Transparency
Serbia-Slovenia: Protocol Signed on Readmission
 
North Africa
Algeria: Military Expenses Top USD 5.2bln, Highest in Africa
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Israeli Right-Wingers ‘Will Topple’ Benjamin Netanyahu if He Backs Palestinian State
Palestinian Affairs: Obama-Hu Akbar!
S. Craxi in Jenin for Region’s Economic Potential
Violence Rising in West Bank Settlements, Israeli NGO
 
Middle East
Ahmadinejad Confirmed Victor; Violent Protests Erupt in Tehran
Environment: Emirates Launch Underground Waste Collection
Environment: Abu Dhabi Plans to Recycle Koran Pages
Iran Election Protests Turn Violent
Riots Flare as Ahmadinejad Wins Landslide in Iran
Turkey: Landmark Ergenekon Trial Marks 100th Session
 
Russia
Kremlin Wants Closer US-Russian Anti-Terror Ties
Russia Snubs U.S. Call to Consider Hosting Radar
 
Caucasus
Former Official Killed in Russia’s North Caucasus
 
South Asia
India: Andhra Pradesh: Dalit Archbishop Wants Equal Dignity for Christians and Hindus
Indonesia: Thousands of Children Exploited for Sex Trade, Says UN
Pakistan: 7 Thousand Cases of Violence Against Minors in 2008
 
Far East
China: Authorities Fear High Number of Unemployed College Graduates
Fighting the War on Terror With Outsourcing
 
Australia — Pacific
Climate Laws Add to Police Workload
NAB to Trial Interest Free Muslim Loans
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Africa’s Top 10 ‘Big Men’
 
Latin America
Air France Probe Suggests Plane Broke Up in Air, Estado Says
 
Immigration
Gaddafi Says Tide is Difficult to Stem
Gaddafi in Rome: Libya Needs More EU Money for Immigration
 
General
Internet Free Ride Soon Over

USA


Crime and Racial Profiling

It would be illuminating if the NYCLU suggested what the proper percentage of stops should be for the various racial and ethnic groups. Doing so might force it to acknowledge the following facts about crime in New York: Blacks commit about 68 percent of all violent crime in the city, according to police records, though they are just 24 percent of the city’s population. According to data from victims and witnesses, blacks commit about 82 percent of all shootings and 72 percent of all robberies. Whites commit about 5 percent of all violent crimes, though they make up 35 percent of the city’s population, and commit 1 percent of shootings and about 4 percent of robberies

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Divided We Stand

Remember that classic Beatles riff of the 1960s: “You say you want a revolution?” Imagine this instead: a devolution. Picture an America that is run not, as now, by a top-heavy Washington autocracy but, in freewheeling style, by an assemblage of largely autonomous regional republics reflecting the eclectic economic and cultural character of the society.

There might be an austere Republic of New England, with a natural strength in higher education and technology; a Caribbean-flavored city-state Republic of Greater Miami, with an anchor in the Latin American economy; and maybe even a Republic of Las Vegas with unfettered license to pursue its ambitions as a global gambling, entertainment and conventioneer destination. California? America’s broke, ill-governed and way-too-big nation-like state might be saved, truly saved, not by an emergency federal bailout, but by a merciful carve-up into a trio of republics that would rely on their own ingenuity in making their connections to the wider world. And while we’re at it, let’s make this project bi-national—economic logic suggests a natural multilingual combination between Greater San Diego and Mexico’s Northern Baja, and, to the Pacific north, between Seattle and Vancouver in a megaregion already dubbed “Cascadia” by economic cartographers.

Devolved America is a vision faithful both to certain postindustrial realities as well as to the pluralistic heart of the American political tradition—a tradition that has been betrayed by the creeping centralization of power in Washington over the decades but may yet reassert itself as an animating spirit for the future. Consider this proposition: America of the 21st century, propelled by currents of modernity that tend to favor the little over the big, may trace a long circle back to the original small-government ideas of the American experiment. The present-day American Goliath may turn out to be a freak of a waning age of politics and economics as conducted on a super-sized scale—too large to make any rational sense in an emerging age of personal empowerment that harks back to the era of the yeoman farmer of America’s early days. The society may find blessed new life, as paradoxical as this may sound, in a return to a smaller form.

This perspective may seem especially fanciful at a time when the political tides all seem to be running in the opposite direction. In the midst of economic troubles, an aggrandizing Washington is gathering even more power in its hands. The Obama Administration, while considering replacing top executives at Citigroup, is newly appointing a “compensation czar” with powers to determine the retirement packages of executives at firms accepting federal financial bailout funds. President Obama has deemed it wise for the U.S. Treasury to take a majority ownership stake in General Motors in a last-ditch effort to revive this Industrial Age brontosaurus. Even the Supreme Court is getting in on the act: A ruling this past week awarded federal judges powers to set the standards by which judges for state courts may recuse themselves from cases.

All of this adds up to a federal power grab that might make even FDR’s New Dealers blush. But that’s just the point: Not surprisingly, a lot of folks in the land of Jefferson are taking a stand against an approach that stands to make an indebted citizenry yet more dependent on an already immense federal power. The backlash, already under way, is a prime stimulus for a neo-secessionist movement, the most extreme manifestation of a broader push for some form of devolution. In April, at an anti-tax “tea party” held in Austin, Governor Rick Perry of Texas had his speech interrupted by cries of “secede..” The Governor did not sound inclined to disagree. “Texas is a unique place,” he later told reporters attending the rally. “When we came into the Union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that.”

Such sentiments resonate beyond the libertarian fringe. The Daily Kos, a liberal Web site, recently asked Perry’s fellow Texas Republicans, “Do you think Texas would be better off as an independent nation or as part of the United States of America? It was an even split: 48% for the U.S., 48% for a sovereign Texas, 4% not sure. Amongst all Texans, more than a third—35%—said an independent Texas would be better. The Texas Nationalist Movement claims that over 250,000 Texans have signed a form affirming the organization’s goal of a Texas nation.

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

Europe and the EU


France: Paris Bailiffs Chase Saudi Princess for Unpaid Bills

PARIS (AFP) — A Saudi princess alleged to have run up unpaid bills worth millions of euros in a Paris shopping spree has agreed to settle a 125,000-dollar tab after bailiffs turned up at her hotel, a lawyer said.

Upmarket clothes store Key Largo filed suit in a Paris court this week against Maha al-Sudairi, wife of Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, over an outstanding bill of 89,000 euros (125,000 dollars).

Bailiffs turned up on Friday at the luxury George V hotel, which is owned by Sudairi’s nephew Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, after a court order authorised the seizure of her belongings, the store’s lawyer Jacky Benazerah said late Friday.

“The Saudi Arabian consul was called out in person,” he said.

French media reported the princess was holed up in her room at the four-star hotel just off the Champs Elysees while her staff wrangled with the bailiffs, although the George V would not confirm she was on the premises.

After three hours of talks, the princess’ aides had handed over a guaranteed cheque of 89,000 euros, with a pledge the money would be transferred by Wednesday, said the lawyer.

Benazareh said he was told the bills went unpaid due to an oversight by her staff.

But the Saudi princess is alleged to have left a trail of unpaid bills at top Parisian locations including one for 10 million euros at the Crillon hotel, according to French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

Benazareh said Paris jewellers Chaumet has also taken legal action against the princess. The Journal du Dimanche says the store is owed more than 600,000 euros.

The manager of luxury lingerie store “Aux caprices de Lili,” which is just opposite the George V, told AFP the princess had run up a slate of 70,000 euros’ worth of designer underwear, silk bathrobes and swimwear.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Gaddafi in Rome: Boos and Protest at Sapienza University

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 11 — The visit of Libyan leader Gaddafi to Rome’s ‘La Sapienza’ University was accompanied by the expected chorus of protest. A group of students greeted his arrival with boos and shouting, the setting off of red smoke-bombs and waving protest banners — some of them in Arabic. But he was given an ovation by a group of around fifty Kurds who awaited him with banners showing pictures of the PKK leader Ocalan. In the university’s main hall, while the Colonel was answering a question, a group of students interrupted him, shouting “Let us speak, let us speak”, after the microphone had been snatched away from a female student of the Onda movement by men of Gaddafi’s staff just as she was about to pose her question. When things quietened down, Gaddafi was beginning his reply to another question when a group from the Onda movement started whistling and shouting. Covered by his staff who started clapping to hide the sound of the booing, Gaddafi made his exit from the hall earlier than planned. Also at Sapienza University, some Maghrebi women claimed that they had been “threatened” by ten or so Libyan men in dark suits. “They asked us why we weren’t wearing our veils. Yoùre Muslims, aren’t you? Why are you protesting against our leader?”. The police moved the group of Libyans along. For his part, university chancellor, Luigi Frati, said: “There is no Inquisition at Sapienza and nor is there censorship: we guarantee everyone the opportunity to speak in a civil manner, to express their ideas, even if they go against the grain, on the model of the Greek agora”. In Frati’s opinion “those who give voice to a high legal status,” have a right to speak at Sapienza “as it is necessary to build bridges and knock down walls”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaddafi: Welcomed by Frati, “Leader of Great Nation”

(AGI) — Rome, 11 Jun. — Muammar Gheddafi has made his entrance into the hall of the Academic Senate of Rome’s La Sapienza University followed by the institution head, Luigi Frati. “He is the leader of a great Nation,” stated Frati, and we believe “that culture, research and technology might be a bridge toward the future. With these feelings of friendship we welcome the leader Gheddafi”. In some minutes the Colonel will be given a chance to speak in La Sapienza’s ‘Aula Magna’, where he will be given a chance to debate with students.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Hungary: Outrage Over Obscene Anti-Semitic Internet Post by Morvai

Jobbik chief MEP candidate Krisztina Morvai has written in a message to Hungarian Jews posted on an online forum that: “I would be greatly pleased if those who call themselves proud Hungarian Jews played in their leisure with their tiny circumcised d***s, instead of besmirching me. Your kind of people are used to seeing all of our kind of people stand to attention and adjust to you every time you fart. Would you kindly acknowledge this is now OVER. We have raised our head up high and we shall no longer tolerate your kind of terror. We shall take back our country.”

She made the remarks on the Deák Ferenc Civic Forum website.

Morvai’s wrath was unleashed by comments from Gábor Barát, finance manager of a New York radiology institute, who called her a psychiatric case and a monster. Barát, referring to himself as “a proud Hungarian Jew,” said Morvai foments hatred and said she should be banned from politics for her dangerous remarks.

Morvai did not deny that she wrote the message, but declined to comment further.

Antall-era foreign minister Géza Jeszenszky said in a message posted on the same forum that “this tone and style are astonishing, unworthy of Hungarian traditions and a woman. All decent Hungarian people can only condemn this contribution. Such words were not written even by Csurka”.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Italy: Kercher Defendant ‘Imagined Things’

Amanda Knox blames testimony on police pressure

(ANSA) — Perugia, June 12 — American student Amanda Knox, on trial here with her ex-boyfriend for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, told the court Friday she had been pressured into “imagining” things during police questioning.

“Everything I said I said under pressure. It was suggested to me by the public prosecutor. They suggested the way,” she said, responding to the lawyer of Patrick Lumumba, a Perugia-based musician who Knox falsely accused of being the murderer.

“Under pressure I imagined lots of different things,” the 21-year-old Seattle-born student added.

Knox repeated claims she had been called a “stupid liar” when she was questioned a few days after the murder.

When Lumumba’s lawyer, Carlo Pacelli, asked Knox whether police had hit her to make her say that Kercher had had sex on the night of the murder, she answered “yes”.

Earlier in the trial Knox claimed she was “cuffed on the head” at a police station and told to “try to remember something else” before blaming the murder on Lumumba, at whose bar she worked.

Democratic Republic of Congo national Lumumba, 38, was arrested after Knox allegedly told police “he did it, he’s bad”, although she later withdrew her testimony.

Lumumba was released after 15 days in jail after an alibi confirmed he had been working in his city-centre pub on the night of the murder and police failed to find any forensic evidence linking him with the crime scene.

He is suing Knox for damages as a civil plaintiff as part of the murder trial.

As a defendant, Knox has the right not to answer questions, but took the stand Friday at the request of her defence team and of Lumumba’s lawyer.

Knox’s father, Kurt, said before the hearing began Friday that people would see “a new Amanda, not that dark angel that has been described so far”.

‘PERVERSE GROUP SEX GAME’.

Knox and her Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 25, are on trial for murder and sexual violence as well as for simulating a crime to make it look like an intruder had broken into Kercher’s house.

Exchange student Kercher, 22, was found semi-naked and with her throat slit on November 2, 2007 in the house she shared in Perugia with Knox and two Italian women.

A third defendant, Ivory Coast national Rudy Guede, 21, was sentenced to 30 years for sexually assaulting and murdering the British exchange student at a separate trial last October.

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini has told the court that Kercher, who was found semi-naked in her bedroom with her throat slashed on November 2, 2007 was killed when Guede, Knox and Sollecito tried to force her to participate in “a perverse group sex game”.

In Mignini’s reconstruction of events, Sollecito and Guede held Kercher’s arms while Knox slashed her throat with a kitchen knife.

The public prosecutor said Guede had also tried to rape Kercher.

But Guede’s lawyers claim that the crime was carried out by Knox and Sollecito alone.

Guede has always admitted to being in the house on the night of the murder but says he was in the bathroom when Kercher was murdered.

The defendants deny wrongdoing and their defence teams claim their clients were not in the house and that the crime was committed by a single attacker.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: Arms; Morocco 3rd-Largest Market, Israel Sales Up 60%

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 10 — Exports of arms from Spain were slightly up in 2008, and Morocco has become the third-largest customer of the country’s military industry, as well as its biggest non-European client. The figures were released in a report presented to Congress by Secretary of State for trade, and previewed today in El Pais. Some 40.7% of sales of Spanish weapons went to EU countries, and 70.5% to NATO member countries, including Norway and the USA — traditional purchasers of hunting weapons and pistols made in Spain. However, a significant portion of Spain’s arms exports went to Morocco, with supplies worth 113.90 million euros. The increase in export volumes is due to the supply of 1,015 off-road military vehicles, tanks and ambulances. There was also a significant increase in exports to Colombia: 31.7 million euros compared with 16 in 2007, including a transport aeroplane and military vehicles. One section of the report is devoted to sales to Israel, a controversial topic in Spain, given that the figures relating to the first six months of 2008 coincided with the Israeli bombing of Gaza. During the past year Spain sold a total of 2.4 million guns to Israel, 60% more than the 1.5 million of 2007. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: Feminist Who Thinks Men Should Bring Up Babies is New Labour Family Guru

A hardline feminist has been chosen as the Government’s new chief spokesman on families. Dr Katherine Rake, who wants to see men bring up babies, will head the Family and Parenting Institute, a heavily state-financed organisation set up by Labour to speak for parents and children. Dr Rake, who will take over from the Institute’s founding chief executive Mary MacLeod, has long declared her intention is not to support parents as they are, but to revolutionise their lives. Writing in The Guardian three years ago, she said: ‘We want to transform the most intimate and private relations between women and men. ‘We want to change not just who holds power in international conglomerations, but who controls the household budget. ‘We want to change not just what childcare the state provides, but who changes the nappies at home.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Miliband Nearly Quit Last Week: Report

LONDON (AFP) — Foreign Secretary David Miliband indicated in an interview Saturday he nearly quit in a wave of resignations which left Prime Minister Gordon Brown fighting for his job last week.

Highlighting the ongoing threat to Brown’s authority, Lord Peter Mandelson, effectively his deputy, predicted separately he would face another leadership challenge at the ruling Labour party’s annual conference in September.

Brown endured the worst week of his rocky premiership after Labour suffered historic losses in European and local elections on June 4 which saw the resignation of 11 ministers amid calls for him to quit.

But he managed to hold on to power as no alternative candidate put themselves forward. Some commentators say that had Miliband — reportedly behind a plot against Brown last year — gone, Brown would have had to follow.

“Sometimes you can make your decisions with great planning and calculation and sometimes you have to make them rather more quickly,” Miliband told the Guardian newspaper.

“I made my decision (not to resign) in good faith… we all have to live with our decisions.”

Meanwhile, Mandelson told the Daily Telegraph there was a “small group” of rebels who “won’t be reconciled to the prime minister’s leadership” but added that he would not “lose any sleep” over the threat posed by them.

Opinion polls suggest Brown’s government will be defeated by the main opposition Conservatives, led by David Cameron, in the next general election, which must be held by the middle of next year.

The Brown administration’s popularity has been hit hard by a scandal over lawmakers claiming generous expenses from the public purse for the upkeep of their homes, which has dominated news headlines here for several weeks.

In a sign of how the story has angered Britons, the country’s new poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy released her first verse in the job to the Guardian Saturday — and it seemed to be a bitter reflection on the expenses row.

The poem from the royal family’s official bard, entitled “Politics”, includes the lines: “How it takes/the breath/away, the piss, makes of your kiss a dropped pound coin/makes of your promises latin, gibberish, feedback, static”.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: Max Hastings: BNP in Power — Immigration and This Insidious Conspiracy of Silence

Britain’s body politic has been shocked to the core by this week’s election of two British National Party candidates to the European Parliament.

Their success is described as ‘the ultimate protest vote’. It has been attributed to public disgust with MPs of all parties following the expenses scandal.

Few, if any, Parliamentarians of any persuasion admit what is self-evident to the rest of us: that many thousands of voters back the BNP because it opposes further mass immigration to Britain.

We live in an age and a society allegedly committed to openness as the supreme virtue. Yet our politicians show themselves no more capable of frankness about the massive problems posed by immigration than about the future of an insolvent NHS, the absence of any sensible energy strategy for the future and the gradual collapse of pension provision which will soon start hitting the state sector as well.

In the face of deafening silence about migration from Tories, Labour and LibDems alike, some desperate people vent their bitterness by backing the only group they think willing to speak up for them, even though its character and attitudes are repulsive.

Polls show that most BNP voters are male and working class. More than one-third of them are manual workers. This means that they live among migrants, in a way that the liberal middle class does not.

Some 77 per cent of BNP voters believe that white people in Britain are now victims of discrimination. Many are former Labour voters and think their old party has betrayed them.

Only about half of BNP supporters explicitly admit to being racists. The rest are simply people who believe that their traditional communities are being destroyed, jobs lost or put at risk, by uncontrolled immigration.

Before considering how much of this is true, we should acknowledge that the perception is now widespread. It extends far beyond those who brought themselves to vote for the BNP.

The main parties, and especially the Tories, believe that by saying little or nothing about immigration, they escape the charge from the Left that they are promoting racial hatred, going back to their bad old Powellite ways.

Instead, however, there seems a powerful argument that they are thus failing in their duty as an opposition, to lay bare the failure of government policy.

They ignore a matter which deeply troubles voters. Some 80 per cent of people questioned in a YouGov poll for the independent think-tank MigrationWatch say that they are ‘concerned’ or ‘very concerned’ about levels of immigration.

Many thoughtful, educated people who would not dream of voting for the BNP nonetheless daily use such phrases as ‘It’s not our country any more’, and ‘I don’t feel I belong in the place where I grew up’.

Only a tiny handful of people, notably the brave and impeccably liberal figures of Labour MP Frank Field and Equality and Human Rights Commission chairman Trevor Phillips, have shown themselves willing publicly to acknowledge the huge social and political strains which immigration imposes on our society.

Scarcely one of Britain’s mainstream politicians is anywhere to be seen in a debate of vital concern for our national future.

The figures show clearly that this Labour Government has sanctioned and promoted a vast increase in migration, and thus in Britain’s population, without the most tenuous mandate for its policy from the nation.

For 20 years before Tony Blair became Prime Minister, immigration averaged 54,000 a year. It then rose steeply to 97,000 in 1999. In 2007, the last year for which figures are available, 333,000 more foreign nationals entered Britain than left.

In addition, there are estimated to be 725,000 illegal immigrants in the country, 518,000 of these in London.

On the Government’s own, almost certainly understated, numbers, our population will pass 70 million by 2028. It could reach 80 million in the course of the century.

We are the most overcrowded country in Europe, save Malta. Some 24 per cent of all births in this country are to foreign-born mothers.

Asylum-seekers now account for only 10 per cent of newcomers — though still 30,000 a year. Nor, contrary to popular myth, are most migrants East Europeans, the fabled Polish plumbers. Only 87,000 of the 2007 intake came from Eastern Europe, less than a quarter of the total.

Most new arrivals come from the Third World, at a rate which is increasing the national population by almost one per cent every two years.

How has this state of affairs come about? First, since 1997 the Government has quadrupled the number of work permits issued to foreigners. After five years here, permit-holders have a right to apply for permanent residence.

Second, Labour greatly eased restrictions governing the rights of anybody married to a resident to enter Britain. Numbers of those entering with a certificate of marriage, real or fixed for the purpose, have doubled.

Finally, there are students — 360,000 a year. There are no effective checks, first on whether they come to attend bona fide places of learning, and second upon ensuring their return home after completing their courses.

There were dramatic revelations last month about the major industry of phoney ‘colleges’ which teach nothing and exist solely to enable economic migrants, at a price, to enter Britain.

David Blunkett, as Home Secretary, was one of the villains of the piece. He is one of many New Labour standard-bearers who both proclaim the value of large-scale immigration to this country, and greatly eased the path of those seeking to come here.

In 2004, he asserted defiantly: ‘Migrants don’t just come to fill jobs — they also create jobs, helping our economy grow and giving us a more vibrant culture.’

These arguments were brutally dismissed last year in a report by the House of Lords’ Economic Committee, one of the very few political bodies to have dared to conduct a serious review of policy. The peers concluded that, contrary to New Labour propaganda, immigration has had ‘little or no impact’ on the economic well-being of Britain and offers ‘insignificant’ benefits to the existing UK population.

The argument that we need masses of immigrants to compensate for our ageing domestic workforce is nullified by the reality — obvious to all except Labour ministers — that immigrants, too, get old and become pensioners.

The social impact of migrants on existing communities is enormous, of course. Almost all choose to settle in England rather than the Celtic fringes. Anyone who walks the streets of London or any major English city today hears 20 languages spoken as readily as English.

This may be ‘richly culturally diverse’, as New Labour-speak puts the matter. But it causes many English people to feel deeply disorientated in their own home towns.

Because we are vastly less assertive than the Americans in imposing our own culture on migrants, many newcomers resist learning English.

Today, there are 300 primary schools in England where more than 70 per cent of pupils — nearly half a million children — use English only as a second language.

It is unlikely the virtuous liberals of any major political party send their own children to such schools. I doubt that they would be happy if they had to do so.

It is sometimes suggested that migrants offer useful cheap labour. But there is no really cheap labour in a welfare state. Each new arrival represents an additional burden on policing, health, education and infrastructure which must be paid for. Many police forces have expressed concern about the pressures and costs imposed by the huge influx of migrants.

Police officers in Cambridgeshire, for instance, must deal with cases in almost 100 languages. The county’s translation costs have risen from £220,000 in 2002-3 to £800,000 in 2006-7. Its drink-drive figures show a 17-fold increase in arrests of foreigners.

Of the 94,200 people predicted to move into Cambridgeshire by 2016, 69,000 are expected to be foreigners. And this is just one county.

There are also heavy health costs — which seem especially relevant in a week when new figures show the NHS heading for a major financial crisis by 2011.

A few years ago, tuberculosis was all but extinct in Britain. Today, there is a striking increase in reported cases, 65 per cent of them involving patients not born in Britain, with 21 per cent Africanborn. Hepatitis B cases have almost doubled in six years, to 325,000, 96 per cent of these involving patients born outside the UK.

Even the Government halfheartedly and unconvincingly acknowledges that too many migrants are coming to Britain. Yet nothing effective is being done to check to the flow.

Ministers have committed themselves to what they call ‘an Australian-style points system’ for assessing candidates for entry. Yet this will lack the indispensable feature of Australian policy — a defined upper limit on overall numbers.

Scrutiny of visa applications at British embassies abroad has become less rather than more stringent, because much of the work is now handled by local rather than British staff.

The Government lies again and again about its real commitment to address immigration. This is partly because it fears to tangle with its own Left-wingers, who are viscerally committed to the ideal of open borders.

The Government’s carelessness on this issue can scarcely fail to be influenced by the fact that ethic minorities vote pretty solidly for Labour.

In some constituencies, socalled ‘community leaders’ of minorities exercise significant influence, because they are able to deliver a block vote at elections which can amount to 2,000 or more ballots.

The Tories have raised the prospect of introducing a specified upper limit on migrants, but have given no hint of what this might be. Most Conservative front-benchers maintain a trappist silence on an issue which the leadership fears can be used by Labour to raise once more the spectre of themselves as ‘the nasty party’.

In a pitifully mute Commons, one of the boldest and most reasonable initiatives came last September from Labour MP Frank Field and Tory Nicholas Soames, who together published a pamphlet calling for a policy of ‘balanced migration’ — allowing into Britain each year no more people than leave — in 2007, some 96,000.

‘Our concern,’ they wrote, ‘is not the principle of immigration, but its scale. This rate of arrival is 25 times higher than any previous influx of immigration in nearly 1,000 years of our nation’s history. Nor is this influx due to globalisation. It is largely the result of government policies.’

Yet there is no evidence that, since the publication of Field’s and Soames’s report, the Conservatives are any more wiling than Labour to grasp the issue with conviction.

Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch, whose relentless, but calm and objective, barrage of statistics is often criticised but never plausibly disputed, says: ‘The Tories decline to discuss immigration at all. The LibDems have no policy except for an attack on illegal immigration. The Government gives an appearance of activity, but has not yet taken effective action.

‘We have been warning until we are blue in the face that if the major parties fail to address this issue, extremists would start to gain public support.’

And thus it was, this week, the repulsive BNP gained more votes in the European elections than Sir Oswald Mosley’s fascists dreamed of in the 1930s Depression.

Whether Britain’s mainstream politicians admit it or not, a major cause of public disillusionment is their bland, frankly craven refusal to address an issue about which a vast number of British people care deeply: the perceived alienation and transformation of their own society.

The latest YouGov poll shows that many voters feel ‘insecure’ in their own homeland. How could they not? The BNP will only be erased as a force from Britain’s political landscape, as we should all hope that it will be, when those parties which seriously aspire to govern Britain present coherent, realistic immigration policies; when they address an issue about which much of the country cares more than the recession, health, education, Europe — the cultural identity and population stability of the island in which we live.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Science Policy Scrutiny ‘At Risk’

Scrutiny of science policy is at risk, say MPs who have urged the government to establish a House of Commons science and technology committee.

The warning comes in a report by the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee (IUSS).

With science and business merged into the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, “science could be lost in a black hole”, they say.

They want the science committee, which was abolished in 2007, re-established.

The Science and Technology Committee was discontinued with the creation of the Department for Innovation Universities and Skills.

This recent merger appears to be the final straw for IUSS committee MPs, who fear that science could disappear in what committee chairman Phil Willis MP called the “all-encompassing ‘super department’ of Business, Innovation and Skills”.

Mr Willis said that the “desire to exploit the UK’s world-class science base in order to contribute to economic recovery” was “commendable, valid and not in dispute”.

But, he added, “establishing a science and technology select committee is critical both to reassure the science community that proper examination of science and engineering across government remains a priority, and to ensure MPs have an effective and transparent arena in which to hold the government’s science policy to account”.

The Campaign for Science & Engineering (Case) welcomed the IUSS report.

Nick Dusic, Case’s director, said: “The abolition of the Science and Technology Committee was a mistake that the government should rectify.

“Letting parliament re-establish the Science and Technology Committee would show that it is handing power back to the House of Commons.

“Incorporating science scrutiny within a business, innovation and skills committee would severely limit both the scope and frequency of inquiries on science and engineering issues within government.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Albania: Corruption in Decline, More Transparency

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, JUNE 10 — Efforts by Albanian authorities in their fight against corruption has achieved results. In its latest report, Transparency International (TI) reports that the Corruption Perception Index for Albania has improved. In 2008 the country ranked 85th in the world rankings of countries in terms of perceived levels of corruption, while over the past few years — as the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Tirana noted — Albania had climbed from 126th (2005) to 111th (2006), and then to 105th place (2007). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Serbia-Slovenia: Protocol Signed on Readmission

(ANSAmed) — BEGLRADE, JUNE 9 — Interior ministers of Serbia and Slovenia, Ivica Dacic and Katarina Kresal, respectively, signed a protocol on readmission in Ljubljana, reports Tanjug news agency. Dacic told Tanjug that Slovenia and its Interior ministry support abolition of visas to the EU countries for citizens of Serbia and its path towards European integrations. “We believe that such a stand will be important for the European Commission’s decision on the visa regime abolition for the citizens of Serbia by the end of the year,” said Dacic. According to him, Serbia has an excellent cooperation with Slovenia and its police. Dacic recalled that Serbia has an agreement with the EU on readmission but that it will sign protocols on the implementation of the process with each individual country. Minister Dacic also underlined that the process had so far been successful, adding that it is one of the prerequisites for the visa liberalization for Serbia and its European integrations.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Algeria: Military Expenses Top USD 5.2bln, Highest in Africa

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JUNE 10 — According to the latest report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), military expenses in Algeria have reached record levels of USD 5.2 billion in Algeria. “With Algeria’s 18% increase in military spending, they spend the most in all off Africa on their military,” was read in a report published by the Algerian press, and they are following a global trend. Since 2007, military spending globally has increased by 4%, exceeding 1.46 billion dollars, 2.4% of the world GDP. According to the SIPRI head of the sector, Sam Perlo Freeman, cited by Le Quotidien d’Oran, “Algeria’s increased military spending is due to the government’s choice to respond militarily to the fundamentalist insurrection”. “Algeria is the African country with the highest spending in the sector,” continued Freeman, “and they could attempt to increase their importance in the region by becoming a military power in the area”. Furthermore, “there are also public reasons,” he concluded, “soldiers have traditionally had an important role in the Algerian political landscape”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Israeli Right-Wingers ‘Will Topple’ Benjamin Netanyahu if He Backs Palestinian State

“We will try to topple him,” Arieh Eldad, head of the National Union party, a coalition member, told The Sunday Telegraph. “We will work to recruit all those who are loyal to the Land of Israel. He cannot lie to his voters.”

Against the backdrop of intense US pressure on Israel to make bold moves for peace, Dr Eldad’s comments underscore the opposing pressures on Mr Netanyahu.

Some aides have indicated that Mr Netanyahu does intend to give guarded approval for Palestinian statehood in a speech that commentators are describing as a “moment of truth” for the hawkish prime minister.

He met over the weekend Israeli president Shimon Peres, the former Labour leader who was condemned last week by right-wing coalition partners Jewish Home and National Union for calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The speech follows President Barack Obama’s sweeping address to the Muslim world in Cairo in which he made it clear the United States expected Israel to accept a Palestinian state — a development against which Mr Netanyahu has been an outspoken opponent throughout career.

Mr Obama also said Israel’s building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank — on land where the Palestinians plan to build their state — undermined peace efforts and must be stopped.

In his speech, Mr Netanyahu faces the task of both placating the new US administration while fighting to save his government whose survival is dependent on nationalist parties.

There are already indications that Washington is dissatisfied with what Mr Netanyahu plans to say. An Obama administration official said the message of the planned speech, the outlines of which they were informed of by US envoy George Mitchell, was”not adequate”.

Meanwhile in Israel there have been reports of secret outreach efforts with potential rebels from the opposition Kadima party, many of whom are former members of Mr Netanyahu’s own ruling Likud party but support Palestinian statehood, in the hopes they might break ranks and join his government.

One of the concerns among critics in Israel is even if Mr Netanyahu supports a Palestinian state, is that he might only do so only in what is perceived by them as the more sluggish framework of the U.S. and European-backed “road map” Mideast plan formulated in 2003 which calls for a gradual and conditional creation of a Palestinian state.

Avishai Braverman, a Cabinet minister and member Israel’s Labour party, said he has recommended that Mr Netanyahu act boldly and accept the time has come for a Palestinian state, despite opposition to the idea from not just more hard-line nationalist parties but his own Likud.

“The role of leader is to think what is right for future of our children and therefore what’s important is that he decides to embrace the Obama initiative and move forward. I think its an historic moment and if Israel does not move towards partitioning the Holy Land than it could be a call for one person, one vote and that could ultimately be the end of the Jewish state,” he said.

Nitzan Horowitz, a lawmaker representing the Left-wing Meretz party, agreed.

“There is a clear majority in Israel that supports the creation of a Palestinian state and the longer Netanyahu delays this and puts up obstacles, we all going to suffer. We expect him to acknowledge that and lead.”

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



Palestinian Affairs: Obama-Hu Akbar!

‘For the first time, we feel we have a friend in the White House.” This is what a Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah had to say this week, after listening to US President Barack Obama’s address to Arabs and Muslims from Cairo.

The official’s sentiments reflected those of many Palestinians who are beginning to talk about a “new era” in relations between the Arabs and the US under the Obama administration.

Words of praise for an American president are extremely rare in the Arab world. But Obama appears to be headed toward making history by becoming the first US president in modern history who is not being accused of bias toward Israel, and who is being hailed for his “balanced” approach to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

For some Palestinians, Obama may even turn out to be better than most of the Arab and Muslim leaders. As one woman in Ramallah put it, “When I heard Obama speaking [from Cairo], I felt as if I were listening to the head of an Arab or Islamic state. He’s really a great man.”

Like many in the Arab and Islamic world, the Palestinians are fond of Obama, first and foremost, because he’s not George W. Bush. As far as they were concerned, Bush was more pro-Israel than many Israelis, and that’s why he was reviled by most Arabs and Muslims.

“After eight years of Bush, anyone would be better received,” said As’ad Abu al-Hayat, a physician from Hebron. “Obama speaks in a different language, and is obviously more respectful of Islam and Muslims.”

Obama has apparently also won the hearts and minds of some Islamic fundamentalist groups. Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal heaped praise on him, because he had refrained from calling “resistance attacks” against Israel “terrorism.”

“Obama is talking in a new language, one that is different from the voice we used to hear from the previous US administration,” Mashaal said in an interview with the Palestinian daily Al-Kuds. “Obama avoided branding our resistance operations terrorism, but he made a mistake when he compared the situation of the Palestinians to that of blacks in America.”

Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh also went on the record praising Obama’s “even-handed” approach. He said he was especially encouraged by the US administration’s position vis-à-vis settlement construction, the two-state solution and the continued blockade of the Gaza Strip.

According to sources close to Hamas, the Egyptians this week told Mashaal that the Obama administration would exert pressure on Israel to lift the blockade and launch indirect talks with Hamas, if the Islamic movement agreed to a long-term cease-fire, and ended its power struggle with the rival Fatah faction.

Mashaal, the sources added, was told by the Egyptians that calm in the Gaza Strip would make it easier for the Obama administration to put pressure on the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to make far-reaching concessions. Mashaal is reported to have expressed his movement’s readiness to pursue reconciliation talks with Fatah and maintain the relative calm in Gaza.

THE PA, too, wants to facilitate Obama’s mission. The recent escalation in anti-Hamas raids by its security forces in the West Bank is aimed at showing Obama that Fatah is serious about fulfilling its obligations under the road map, particularly with regard to fighting terrorism.

The anti-Hamas offensive — which resulted in the killing of four top Hamas militiamen in Kalkilya — coincided with Obama’s address, and came on the eve of a visit to Ramallah by US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell. PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salaam Fayad, who met separately with Mitchell, are said to have heard words of praise for their recent measures against Hamas in the West Bank.

Under the Bush administration, the PA was under tremendous pressure to fight terrorism, end financial corruption and establish proper governing institutions. But now there is a sigh of relief among senior PA officials in Ramallah because, they say, they are no longer facing the same pressure as before.

The Obama administration knows that the ball is actually in the Israeli court and not the Palestinian court, remarked one of Abbas’s aides after this week’s meeting with Mitchell. “The Americans now understand that it’s Netanyahu who’s the obstacle to peace,” he added. “Netanyahu’s refusal to accept the two-state solution and his insistence on building in the settlements are the major threats to peace. We Palestinians, on the other hand, remain committed to the peace process, the two-state solution and to fulfilling all our obligations under the road map.”

FATAH AND Hamas appear to differ on almost everything — except when it comes to Obama. Both parties are pinning high hopes on the new American administration.

Hamas is desperate to end the state of isolation it has been in since the movement came to power in 2006. It feels there is a good chance that the Obama administration, through its conciliatory approach toward radical Muslims and Arabs, would assist it in winning recognition and legitimacy in the international arena. So far, the messages that Hamas has been receiving from Washington — through the Egyptians, Saudis and Qataris — are, as far as Mashaal and Haniyeh are concerned, very positive and encouraging.

Similarly, the PA leadership in the West Bank has every reason to be satisfied with the apparent shift in US policy on the Middle East. Some PA officials emerged from this week’s talks with Mitchell with big smiles on their faces. The Obama administration, one of them boasted, has almost entirely endorsed the Palestinian stance on major issues like settlements, the two-state solution and Jerusalem.

A number of officials in Ramallah predicted that the looming crisis between the Obama administration and Netanyahu would either force Israel to make radical changes in its policies or bring down the new right-wing coalition. The feeling among many officials in the Mukata presidential compound is that Netanyahu has no choice but to succumb to the American pressure or face new elections — in which case, they say, they would prefer to see Tzipi Livni and Kadima in power.

“For now, Obama is our man in Washington,” commented one official. “But if he fails to follow up on his nice statements with deeds on the ground, we and the rest of the Arabs and Muslims will turn against him very quickly.”

[Return to headlines]



S. Craxi in Jenin for Region’s Economic Potential

(ANSAmed) — JENIN (WEST BANK), JUNE 11 — Italy is promoting the industrial area of Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank, with “the strategic objective of focusing on the area’s potential for local economic development and to attract investment.” This is what the undersecretary to the Foreign Ministry, Stefania Craxi, stressed today at a conference of Italian and Palestinian entrepreneurs in the Haddad Centre in Jenin, to conclude a mission to the Palestinian Territories. The objective was that of favouring private sector contacts for Italian small and medium sized businesses with possible local partners, especially in the food, marble, construction and building sectors. Jenin is located in a “strategic position,” Craxi stated, “40 km from the port at Haifa, 30 km from the Jordanian border and 40 km from that of Syria.” It is another Palestinian city to be inserted into the EuroMidBridge, a logistical corridor that will connect Northern Europe and the Middle East, based around Verona’s freight village. Italy contributed 200,000 euros to initial research for the project. “None of us,” Craxi said, “intends to substitute the peace process with ‘economic peace’. We are convinced that the political dimension of the peace process must remain intact.” However it will be economic development to “make it last”, she repeated on more than one occasion to the people that accompanied her on the two day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Stefania Craxi also invited the Palestinian Premier, Salam Fayyad, to a presentation forum for investment opportunities in the territories that is scheduled to take place in Milan in November. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Violence Rising in West Bank Settlements, Israeli NGO

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JUNE 10 — Episodes of violent and intolerant behaviour against the Palestinian population by radical groups of settlers in Jewish West Bank settlements are on the rise. The claim was made in a report by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organisation, published today by Ynet, an online newspaper. The report provides an account of all the episodes of aggression, marches and provocative raids made by Israelis into Arab areas, as well as other hostile incidents, all of which have been on the rise in recent months. This behaviour, partly fed by the international community’s growing firmness with Israel and the Obama Administration’s call for the freezing of the settlements, has however found political support from the National Union, a far-right nationalist opposition party in the Israeli parliament. Furthermore, the behaviour has given rise to tension, recriminations and, at times, threats to Israeli police and military. What Yesh Din particularly denounces, however, is the growing amount of attacks being made on Palestinian farmers and the farms, from which many draw their only form of support. Indeed, the recent destruction or burning of hundreds of fruit and olive trees has been noted. On the other hand, Ynet reports the news that a Jewish settler and his young son were recently rescued to by several Palestinians after they had a road accident near Bethlehem. Ahmad Allam, one of the men that came to the settlers’ rescue, has said that “Our sense of humanity showed itself, at that moment, to be far stronger than the sense of animosity that the Israeli settlements give rise to”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Ahmadinejad Confirmed Victor; Violent Protests Erupt in Tehran

TEHRAN — Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei annointed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner of Friday’s presidential race, triggering violent protests across the nation and allegations by his nearest challenger of widespread vote rigging.

The violence ratcheted up the stakes in the most contentious election since the founding of the Islamic Republic 30 years ago. Prolonged strife or a political standoff would heighten the uncertainty hanging over a country that is one of the world’s biggest oil producers and Washington’s main irritant in the volatile Middle East.

As night descended on Tehran, supporters of main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi clashed with anti-riot police and plain-clothed militia. The city resembled a military zone as thousands of Special Forces units and anti-riot police stormed streets waving their electric batons and hitting rioters and onlookers.

Military cars blocked large swaths of main throughways and instead of traffic police, the para-military Basijis—trained volunteers in plain-clothes—were directing traffic. Vali Asr, the long Tehran avenue where Mousavi supporters last week formed a giant human chain during presidential campaigning, was covered in smoldered black ash—from burnt campaign posters that had been ripped from walls—and shattered glass. Dark smoke hung in the air from garbage dumpsters that were set ablaze on many streets.

On Motahari Avenue, one of the major streets in central Tehran, three public buses were set afire by demonstrators. Syamak Izadi, 62 years old, said he was riding on the bus in central Tehran when a group of men, dressed in Mr. Mousavi’s trademark green, stopped the bus and told passengers to get off. They then doused it with gasoline and set it afire, he said.

Protestors played cat and mouse with the police. They gathered on corners throwing their fists in the air, then ran away when riot police descended. On Hafteh Tir square, several hundred people, including men and women, young and old, marched blocking traffic shouting “God is Great” and asking the public to join them. People gathered on pedestrian bridges and encouraged the protestors while drivers honked their horns.

There was unconfirmed shooting reported in northern Tehran with reports of one woman injured from stray bullets.

“The results are not acceptable to us, Mousavi needs to lead the crowd and depose this government,” said a 37-year-old biologist who gave his name only as Kasra.

Shouts of “Allah o Akbar” rocked Tehran, reminiscent of the revolution where residents take to their rooftops and shout God is Great in order to show their protest.

Mobile phone service was suspended across the capital. BBC’s Persian language service, which many Iranians listen to for news, was jammed. Social networking site Facebook, used by Mr. Mousavi’s young supporters to organize, was blocked. On Vali Asr, a pedestrian bridge was set ablaze near Mellat Park.

[…]

Mr. Mousavi said there was an organized effort to block his campaign staff from communicating with one another and the public on Friday. The Ministry of Telecommunications imposed a nation-wide block of text messaging from mobiles. Mr. Mousavi’s supervisors at polls were planning to report discrepancies by text messages.

Thousands of Mr. Mousavi’s volunteer supervisors were not issued credentials by the Interior Ministry, which runs the elections, and were barred from polling stations, Mr. Mousavi said. Internet speed was slower than usual all day and by noon nearly all Web sites affiliated with Mr. Mousavi were blocked.

The campaign said that a group of people, who identified themselves as intelligence officers, entered Mr. Mousavi’s campaign headquarters in northern Tehran on Friday evening demanding that the young strategists at the campaign, responsible for much of deploying new media techniques, leave the premises.

Mr. Mousavi’s campaign lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh, said in an interview that Tehran’s chief prosecutor informed Mr. Mousavi’s campaign lawyer that security agents would arrive Saturday morning with a court order to shut down all their communication operations.

Mr. Obama and many of his advisers had been voicing optimism in recent days that the U.S. president’s outreach to the Islamic world, including his speech in Cairo last week, was helping facilitate a more moderate trend in the Middle East. They cited the victory in Lebanese elections last week of a pro-Western coalition against a political bloc led by Hezbollah.

“We are excited to see what appears to be a robust debate taking place in Iran,” Mr. Obama said Friday at the White House before the dueling claims of victory came out.

U.S. and European officials involved in Iran policy fear Mr. Ahmadinejad’s re-election could raise the prospect of sustained conflict between the West and Tehran in the coming months.

           — Hat tip: Judith Apter Klinghoffer [Return to headlines]



Environment: Emirates Launch Underground Waste Collection

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, JUNE 9 — Tomorrow Abu Dhabi will activate a new hydroelectric system able to compress waste below street level, the city’s high-tech response to the need to optimise costs and quality of its waste collection. There will be three ‘waste stations’ to start with and this number will gradually rise to 31 in several areas of the capital. The waste material will be thrown into new rubbish containers which are linked to the new underground containers in which it will be compressed. If the underground containers are full, a signal will be sent to the control centre. The compression of the waste means it will have to be collected only twice a week instead of every day, saving on the number of garbage trucks, on fuel and reducing traffic and pollution. Majdi al Mansouri, director of the waste management centre, also told the press agency WAM that the centre is studying the world’s first recycling system for paper with representations related to the Islam on it, which therefore is sacred. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Environment: Abu Dhabi Plans to Recycle Koran Pages

(by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI — Green is a symbolic colour of the environment, but also of Islam. In a program uniting the environment and religion, the Abu Dhabi waste management centre is preparing a new system, the first in the world, to collect and recycle sacred texts and all paper with religious content. Islamic tradition dictates that copies of the Koran, like other religious texts, should not be thrown on the ground or thrown away when they are worn out and must be burned. “We are preparing a system that will allow for these texts to be destroyed and reused according to Islamic law,” explained the manager of the Majdi al-Mansuri waste management centre to ANSAmed, “paying attention to Islamic and ecological practices”. Currently, in all mosques, there is a specific container for sacred texts, but the waste management centre is proposing to guarantee the complete separation of the text from all material starting with the initial phases of recycling. Mosques will be equipped with specific containers to deposit the materials. They will be closed from the outside and usable only by specific individuals, and will hold an internal shredder that will reduce the holy texts into thin strips. A sensor will go off when the container has reached capacity and a special mobile unit will collect the “sacred waste”, which will be recycled and reused, since it will be ‘uncontaminated’. Still in the planning stages, the project is making use of funds from about 250 mosques in the Abu Dhabi area, and will be discussed with the Religious Affairs Ministry. But the original ideas of the ‘green’ revolution, which with billions in investments, are transforming the working arrangement in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will not stop here. A pioneering group of young architects, led by Professor Ahmad Mokhtar of the American University of Sharjah, inspired by Masdar City, a self-sustaining and zero pollution city which is taking shape near Abu Dhabi, has developed a series of projects for ecological mosques. The first objective is to optimise the use of electricity and water in mosques, which, due to the requirement to carry out ablutions before each prayer, use large amounts of water. The mosques have also been studied to exploit the solar potential of the country, making use of solar panels and wind, by using “wind towers”. Older mosques, open on all four sides due the architectural style in the UAE, have allowed for cool air to enter naturally and for warm air to exit, keeping them cool for centuries. This style disappeared with the creation of air conditioners, the towers will be used in mosques in various ways, starting with the high minarets. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Iran Election Protests Turn Violent

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) — Angry crowds in Moseni Square in Iran’s capital Saturday night broke into shops, tore down signs and started fires as they protested the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to CNN employees at the scene.

They were yelling the name of Mir Hossein Moussavi, who the government says lost Friday’s presidential election by a wide margin.

Protests broke out in Tehran earlier Saturday after Ahmadinejad was declared the winner of the vote.

The announcement brought thousands of Moussavi supporters onto the streets where they were met a strong police presence and the threat of violence.

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour said she saw riot police fighting “running battles” with protesters, who were shouting “death to dictatorship.”

The government said on Saturday that Ahmadinejad won Friday’s presidential election with 62.63 percent of the vote and Mir Hossein Moussavi received 33.75 percent of the vote.

Before the vote count ended, Moussavi issued a sharply worded letter urging the counting to stop because of “blatant violations” and lashed out at what he indicated was an unfair process.

Moussavi said the results from “untrustworthy monitors” reflected “the weakening of the pillars that constitute the sacred system” of Iran and “the rule of authoritarianism and tyranny.” Independent vote monitors were banned from polling places.

           — Hat tip: Brutally Honest [Return to headlines]



Riots Flare as Ahmadinejad Wins Landslide in Iran

TEHRAN (AFP) — Hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was on Saturday declared winner by a landslide in Iran’s hotly-disputed presidential vote, triggering riots by opposition supporters and furious complaints of cheating from his defeated rivals.

Baton-wielding police clashed with protestors in unrest not seen for a decade as thousands of supporters of main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi took to the streets shouting “Down with the Dictator” after final results showed Ahmadinejad winning almost 63 percent of the vote.

Moderate ex-premier Mousavi cried foul over election irregularities and warned the outcome of the vote could lead to “tyranny,” as some of his supporters were beaten by riot police.

The interior minister said Mousavi had won less than 34 percent of the vote, giving Ahmadinejad another four-year term in a result that dashed Western hopes of change and set the scene for a possible domestic power struggle.

Iran’s all-powerful supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hailed Ahmadinejad’s victory and urged the country to unite behind him after the most heated election campaign since the Islamic revolution,

The vote outcome appears to have galvanised a grass-roots movement for change after 30 years of restrictive clerical rule in a country where 60 percent of the population was born after the revolution.

The international community had also been keenly watching the election for any signs of a shift in policy after four years of hardline rhetoric from the 52-year-old Ahmadinejad and a standoff over Iran’s nuclear drive.

Mousavi protested at what he described as “numerous and blatant irregularities” in the vote which officials said attracted a record turnout of around 85 percent of the 46 million electorate.

“No one can imagine such rigging, with the world watching, from a government who holds commitment to shariah-based justice as one of its basic pillars,” said Mousavi said in a letter posted on his campaign website.

“What we have seen from dishonest (election) officials will result in shaking the pillars of the Islamic republic system, and a dominance of lying and tyranny,” he said in a separate statement.

In the heart of Tehran, thousands of Mousavi supporters voiced their disbelief and frustration at the results, with some throwing stones at police who struck back with batons.

Angry crowds first emerged near Mousavi’s campaign office in central Tehran, where protestors, including women, were hit with sticks as riot police on motorbikes moved in to break up the gathering, an AFP correspondent said.

There were no immediate reports of violence elsewhere in the county.

Reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi, who came a distant fourth with less than one percent of the vote after ex-Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai in third, also declared the result “illegitimate and unacceptable”.

“They have ruined the country and they want to ruin it more over the next four years,” shouted an irate mob outside Mousavi’s office.

But Khamenei hailed Ahmadinejad’s victory as a “feast.”

“The enemies may want to spoil the sweetness of this event… with some kind of ill-intentioned provocations,” he said. “The president elect is the president of the entire Iranian nation and… all should support and help him.”

Mousavi had been hoping for a political comeback on a groundswell of support among the nation’s youth, with pledges to ease restrictions particularly on women, and fix Iran’s ailing economy.

Ahmadinejad’s supporters had earlier taken to the streets in triumph, honking their horns and waving Iranian flags.

The election highlighted deep divisions in Iran after four years under Ahmadinejad, who had massive support in the rural heartland, while in the big cities young men and women threw their weight behind Mousavi.

The elite Revolutionary Guards had warned of a crackdown on any “velvet revolution” by supporters of the 67-year-old who was prime minister during the war with neighbouring Iraq in the 1980s.

Iran has long been at loggerheads with the West as Ahmadinejad delivered a succession of fiery tirades against Israel, repeatedly questioned the Holocaust and vowed to press on with nuclear work despite UN sanctions, denying allegations Tehran was seeking the atomic bomb.

“The results of the election show, now more than ever, how much stronger the Iranian threat has become,” said Israel’s deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon.

US President Barack Obama, who has called for dialogue with Iran after three decades of severed ties, said he saw the “possibility of change” in relations with the regional Shiite powerhouse.

“Whoever ends up winning the election in Iran, the fact that there’s been a robust debate hopefully will help advance our ability to engage them in new ways,” Obama said.

Former US president Jimmy Carter, who was in power during the Islamic revolution, said he believed there would be no change in US policy “because the same person will be there.”

Even if Mousavi had won, it was doubtful there would be any major shift in Iran’s nuclear and foreign policy as all decisions on matters of state rest with Khamenei who has been in the nation’s top job for 20 years.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Landmark Ergenekon Trial Marks 100th Session

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 11 — The 100th hearing of the Ergenekon trial, where 88 suspects stand accused of membership in a clandestine organization charged with plotting to overthrow the government, was held today. With today’s trial, the court will have completed 100 sessions in seven-and-a-half months since the trial began in October of last year. Given how things normally progress move in Turkey’s higher criminal courts — on average four hearings are held annually per trial — the Ergenekon trial has, in relative terms, managed to complete 25 years worth of trial sessions in less than eight months. An alleged criminal network that came to be known as Ergenekon was revealed after police seized 27 grenades, TNT explosives and fuses in a shanty house in Istanbul on June 12, 2007 and Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into weapons. The first session of the Ergenekon trial being heard by the Istanbul 13th Higher Criminal Court at a courthouse inside Silivri Prison started on October 20, 2008. There are about 30 charges against the defendants, amongst them former generals, nationalist politicians, extreme right-wing sympathisers, show business personalities, writers, journalists and local mafia. The three most serious are: organising terrorist groups, incitement to revolt and attempting to overthrow the government. The public prosecutor says that they are all responsible in different degrees for trying to destabilise the country with anti-government protests, political murder and attacks against the forces of order with the aim of overthrowing the AKP government, in power since 2002. The controversial case, however, has divided Turkey, as many believe it has turned into a witch hunt targeting government critics. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russia


Kremlin Wants Closer US-Russian Anti-Terror Ties

MOSCOW — A top Kremlin official said Thursday that Russia is ready to expand cooperation with the United States in combating international terrorism.

Anatoly Safonov, the Kremlin’s top envoy on the issue, said President Barack Obama’s visit to Russia in early July should help boost joint U.S.-Russian efforts to combat terrorism and prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“The world is getting increasingly vulnerable and unsafe, and both Russian and U.S. leaders are worried about that,” Safonov said at a briefing. “We will preserve our achievements and move forward.”

After the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S., Moscow and Washington traded information on al-Qaida and other terrorist groups and worked jointly to prevent terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction. Disputes over the war in Iraq, U.S. missile defense plans and other issues strained ties and hampered these exchanges.

Obama has moved to “reset” relations ties with Moscow which plunged to a post-Cold War low under George W. Bush’s administration.

Safonov said Moscow now is particularly concerned about the situation in Afghanistan, which has produced an increasing amount of drugs flowing into Russia.

“We are working together with our Western counterparts to find efficient ways to stem drug-trafficking,” he said.

Safonov said that Russia is also worried that terrorists who fought in Iraq would move elsewhere, including Russia. He said the war in Iraq served as “Harvard for terrorists,” who now may move to other areas, including Chechnya and other provinces in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus, where Islamic militants stage regular raids on police and other authorities.

Safonov said the U.S.-Russian cooperation has been hampered in the past by what he called “double standards,” and voiced hope that it would improve under the new U.S. administration. Russia in the past has been annoyed by Washington’s reluctance to brand Islamic militants in Chechnya as terrorists.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Russia Snubs U.S. Call to Consider Hosting Radar

MOSCOW (Reuters) — Russia on Thursday spurned an offer from the United States to participate closely in its planned European anti-missile system, instead urging Washington to drop its proposals and start afresh.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday he was hopeful Moscow might consider hosting either radars or a data exchange center as it recognized the growing threat from Iran.

But Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday that Moscow would not entertain any novel ideas until Washington dropped its intention to place ten interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic.

“Only a rejection by the United States of plans to create a … missile Defense system in Europe could lay the groundwork for our fully fledged dialogue on questions of cooperation in reacting to potential missile risks,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko told reporters.

Moscow has protested against the anti-missile system, which it perceives as a threat to its own security and has also linked the scheme to negotiations on a new treaty to curb strategic nuclear weapons.

Nesterenko added that Moscow still hoped to find a way to reach a compromise with Washington.

U.S. officials have consistently stated that the planned deployment is aimed at preventing potential attacks from countries like Iran. Gates went further at a U.S. Senate hearing on June 9, saying Russia increasingly shared this view.

“The Russians have come back to us and acknowledged that (we) were right in terms of the nearness of the Iranian missile threat,” Gates told a senate appropriations hearing, according to the U.S. Federal News Service transcript.

“And we’ve made a number of offers in terms of how to partner, and I think there are still some opportunities — for example, perhaps putting radars in Russia, having data exchange centers in Russia,” Gates was quoted as saying.

Gates said he hoped there could be progress on this topic when U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Moscow from July 6-8, where he hopes to build on repeated calls from both capitals to ‘reset’ relations.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Caucasus


Former Official Killed in Russia’s North Caucasus

By SHAMSUDIN BOKOV, Associated Press Writer Shamsudin Bokov, Associated Press Writer 2 hrs 29 mins ago

NAZRAN, Russia — Gunmen killed a former top government minister in Ingushetia as he stood outside his home in the violent southern Russian region Saturday, law enforcement officials said.

Bashir Aushev’s killing was the latest in a string of assassinations — and the second to hit Ingushetia this week — to highlight North Caucasus’ continuing turmoil.

Two gunmen sprayed Aushev with automatic weapon fire as he got out of his car at the gate outside his home in the region’s main city, Nazran, around 6:30 p.m. (1430 GMT), the regional Interior Ministry’s press service said.

He died en route to the hospital.

Aushev was vice premier under former Ingush President Murat Zyazikov, a KGB agent who was widely reviled by many Ingush for his repressive policies.

Aushev, who was responsible for relations with law enforcement agencies in the region, resigned from the government when Zyazikov was replaced by the Kremlin in October. Russian news agencies said he had not worked since leaving government.

While in office, Aushev was attacked several times, and his home was hit by mortars, according to the government’s service, but he was never wounded.

Ingushetia is home to hundreds of refugees from the wars in Chechnya, to the south, and is one Russia’s poorest regions. Like other North Caucasus regions, it has seen an alarming spike in violence in recent years. Much of it is linked to the two separatist wars that ravaged Chechnya over the past 15 years, but persistent poverty, corruption, feuding ethnic groups and the rise of radical Islam also are blamed.

On Wednesday, gunmen killed a deputy chief justice of the regional Supreme Court opposite a kindergarten in Nazran. Five other people were wounded in the attack.

On June 5, the top law enforcement of another North Caucasus region, Dagestan, was killed by a sniper as he stood outside a restaurant where a wedding was taking place.

That killing prompted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to travel to Dagestan to meet with federal and regional police officials and showcase the Kremlin’s campaign to bring calm to the North Caucasus.

Earlier this week, Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed president, Ramzan Kadyrov, said in an interview that the United States was to blame for the North Caucasus’ problems.

“It is precisely from the side of America that work is being carried out aimed at the disintegration of the sovereign Russian state. It is not terrorists, not Islamists,” he said according to transcript posted on his government Web site.

The Americans “are creating problems for Russia; they want to pull Russia down… They have such a system working — all sorts of social organizations created to spread rumors and gossip, to agitate people; they know that in the Caucasus the only way to create problems for Russia is on a religious basis,” Kadyrov said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia


India: Andhra Pradesh: Dalit Archbishop Wants Equal Dignity for Christians and Hindus

Only the Church “treats us like a family, without discrimination of any kind,” says Mgr Marampudi Joji. He leads a delegation from the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches to meet Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy. He calls on the authorities to defend religious freedom and the right to convert; he wants Christian Dalits to enjoy the same rights as other Dalits, whether Hindus, Buddhists or Sikhs.

Hyderabad (AsiaNews) — “I am the first Dalit bishop of India and I have a duty to ensure that most Dalit Christians can enjoy the same privileges on par with other Dalits,” said Mgr Marampudi Joji, Catholic archbishop of Hyderabad and executive vice-president of the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Churches (APFC). In speaking to AsiaNews he explained what he and Christians throughout the state must do to uphold the rights of Dalits.

Last Friday he led a 40-member APFC delegation to meet Andhra Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yeduguri Sandinti Rajasekhara Reddy who just started his second mandate.

The APFC called on Rajasekhara Reddy to defend freedom of religion and the right to convert so that Christian Dalits can enjoy the same rights as Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh Dalits.

The chief minister reassured them that he intends to discuss the issue with Union authorities in New Delhi, especially with the ministers of Law and Justice and of Social Justice and Empowerment

Rajasekhara Reddy also said that he would be available to lead a delegation of Churches to the Union capital to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 19-20 June.

At the bottom of the problem is a 1950 presidential order which introduced a quota system to benefit Dalits in education and public service employment.

The same order denied Christian and Muslim Dalits or anyone who converted to those religions the right to claim any benefits that might accrue to them as members of scheduled groups.

For Archbishop Joji even a cursory reading of the order shows its discriminatory nature because it violates articles 15 and 25 of the constitution.

“By restricting the benefits to a particular religion, the order has divided the entire Dalit community on the basis of religion,” he said.

Christian Dalits are effectively denied the same protection and rights offered to other Dalits, and this constitutes a violation of religious freedom.

For the Indian Church APFC’s commitment to the Dalit community constitutes a cultural challenge in a country like India’s.

“When the Holy See announced my appointment as the first Dalit archbishop, there were a lot of rumblings in society,” the prelate said. But only Church “treats us like a family, without discrimination of any kind.”

“However, in Indian society this issue is also a socio-economic issue.” In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled “that a change of religion does not change caste and that the disabilities of the Scheduled Castes converted to Christianity continue even after conversion, on par with Dalits in other religions.”

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



Indonesia: Thousands of Children Exploited for Sex Trade, Says UN

Jakarta, 12 June (AKI/The Jakarta Post) — The global economic crisis has forced a greater number of Indonesian children into the workforce, particularly girls, many of whom are exploited for commercial sex, the United Nations specialised agency, the International Labor Organization said.

“Recent global estimates indicate the number of child workers had been falling. But the financial crisis that began in late 2008 is threatening to erode this progress,” Patrick Daru, chief technical adviser at the ILO’s Jakarta office, said Thursday at a media conference.

The crisis has exacerbated the income problems of poor families around the world, including in Indonesia, making them tend to send their children to work rather than to school.

“This is the supply and demand theory at work,” he added.

“Employers use child labour because they’re cheaper, while families also need additional income.”

ILO data from 2007 shows that of the 1.1 million Indonesian working children under the age of 14, 40 percent or 440,000 are girls. Of this number, an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 are victims of sexual exploitation.

“Girls are more likely to be the victims of trafficking into prostitution. Approximately 21,000 prostituted children, both boys and girls, are located in Java,” said Arum Ratnawati, the ILO Jakarta technical adviser.

Child prostitutes can be found easily in public places like streets and parks, or in “hidden” places of prostitution like beauty and massage parlours, discotheques, cafes and hotels, as well as karaoke lounges, leaving them vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS or forming a drug habit, Arum said.

Indonesia is also trying to solve the problem of child trafficking, which is rife in the areas of Indramayu and Karawang in West Java and Blitar and Banyuwangi in East Java.

Indonesia has a population of 235 million people and 90 percent of them are Muslim. Most practise a moderate form of the faith.

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



Pakistan: 7 Thousand Cases of Violence Against Minors in 2008

Today is the World Day against Child Labour. Despite government proclamations conditions for minors in the country remain difficult. The wound of child soldiers is added to a low level of education, violence and a lack of health care.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — In 2008 in Pakistan 6,780 cases of violence committed on minors took place: sexual abuse, targeted murders, abductions, forced labour and suicides are only some example of this, to which the exploitation of “child soldiers” in the war between Islamic fundamentalism and the army, must be added. The 2008 report on the “Condition of Children in Pakistan” —released by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) — underlines the governments failure to apply national and international law in protection of the rights of minors.

Today marks World Day against Child Labour. The Pakistani rights group report lists corporal punishment, the wound of street children, child brides and acid attacks, that mark the young lives forever. It urges a clamping down on child pornography and demands that the minimum age to marry is raised from 16 to 18.

The document reports that almost 30% of children under the age of five are malnourished. There are approximately 70 physicians for every 0.1 million people and a mere 1,000 government-run hospitals to cater to the entire population (circa 173 million). It claims that 30-40 percent of children of school going age across the country, are not attending schools; that 4,million babies are born in Pakistan every year but 40,000 die before reaching five.

The report cites a study by the Initiator Human Development Foundation in 2008, saying children from the lower strata of society studying at the madrasse religious schools also fall victim to sexual violence. The study claims seminary teachers sexually abused 21 % of sample students. The report says about 40% schools in the public sector are without boundary walls, 33 % without drinking water, over half without electricity or lavatories and 7 % without buildings. The tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, the theatre of violence between the army and the fundamentalists, have the least infrastructure for education; the few remaining resources are targeted by the Taleban, who have destroyed hundreds of schools above all female institutes.

The SPARC report says the government, despite its claims, has not favour polices to protect minors. In 1988 funding for education was equal to 2.4% of the Gross National Product (GDP). In the two year period of 2007-8 it grew little, arriving at a miserable 2.9% of the GDP. Pakistan is still far from reaching the Millenium Development Goals (MDG): among which is the guarantee of education for all by 2015.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (Hrcp) also warns of abuse and mistreatment of minors. The 2008 document on human rights reports that that at least 114 children were killed for various reasons, including for honour killings, and at least 221 girls and several hundred boys were reported to have been raped, gang-raped, subjected to sodomy or stripped in public. In the nations cities an estimated 700,000 children live and work on the streets; while in rural areas across Pakistan children are being recruited by armed militias and trained for terrorist attacks.

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

Far East


China: Authorities Fear High Number of Unemployed College Graduates

China’s economic crisis is hitting college graduates hard for the first time. For many job anxiety leads to depression, but what concerns the government is that too many unemployed graduates might cause street protests.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — A few months ago, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimated that about 12 per cent of last year’s graduates had still not found jobs. This year more than 7 million college and university graduates are facing grim employment prospects and will have to fight for jobs with the 1.5 million graduates from last year who are still unemployed. And for many, unemployment will be such a shameful burden to bear that they will descend into depression or even take their own lives.

In an export-driven economy like China’s plunging exports have led to thousands of plant closures and weaker contacts with foreign firms. This in turn has reduced the demand for new graduates.

Growing unemployment among new graduates is becoming a source of concern for the government, worried that a large number of jobless college students might lead to disaffection and social unrest; a fear that is compounded by the fact that 25 million migrant workers have also lost their jobs.

China’s leaders are also quite cognizant that the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square began when a large number of dissatisfied students took their grievances to the streets.For this reason the Communist Party has been trying to find them jobs.

The State Council has also issued a five-point guideline for helping graduates find jobs. These include urging provincial and lower-level governments do all they can to create more employment. For instance, in the city of Weifang (Shandong) local officials have been asked to use all their contacts and influence to find jobs for at least three graduates. In Beijing the city government has just announced a scheme to employ 1,600 graduates on three-year contracts as assistants to officials in the villages around the city.

During a visit in Shaanxi Premier Wen Jiabao told about 2,500 students that his government will make job creation for graduates one of its top priorities this year. On Sunday in a speech he delivered at Xian Jiaotong University he encouraged students to widen their employment search to include grass-roots jobs.

Chinese President Hu Jintao also urged students to work at the grass-roots levels instead in an address he made on Saturday at the China Agricultural University.

The Ministry of Education said last week that about 48 per cent of the mainland’s 6 million graduates had managed to land jobs.

But joblessness is not just about not finding a job. For students from poor areas whose families took on major financial burdens to fund their studies, it can cause a sense of dishonour. For years they dreamt of landing a great job so that when their aspirations are not fulfilled, unemployment becomes a reason to be ashamed.

Official figures indicate in fact that joblessness is the main cause of suicide among students.

At the same time the number of students who abandon their studies before completing their education is up from under 10 per cent in 1998 to 23 per cent.

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



Fighting the War on Terror With Outsourcing

MARAWI, Philippines (AFP) — When American consumers dial a toll-free hotline for customer service support, they may not be aware they are helping bring an end to a long-running insurgency half way across the world.

Some of the calls are routed to a call centre in the Philippines’ southern Muslim heartland, the Southeast Asian theatre of the US-led war on terror where part of a new strategy is to smother the insurgency with job empowerment.

The US Agency for International Development through its Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) programme has teamed up with a business process outsourcing firm, known as a BPO, in a novel venture to train and employ youths in this Muslim stronghold.

The rationale is to teach them English and hire them for backroom jobs outsourced by American firms seeking to cut operational costs at home.

Those behind the scheme hope that with more money and improved living standards, many will be weaned away from violence and contribute to developing a region racked by 40 years of insurgency.

“We are hoping to give them stable, long-term employment,” said Rene Subido, a GEM official who helped devise the plan.

“By giving them a stake in the development here, they will have more to lose if the war continues.”

Subido said the Nevada-based BPO firm, the Hubport Group, had initially been apprehensive about setting up in the Muslim Mindanao but was won over by the talent and eagerness of the region’s youth.

They set up a 24-hour back-room operation at Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) where 42 employees churn out web designs, software programmes and medical transcriptions for American clients.

Others specialise in technical support, guiding clients thousands of miles away as they trouble-shoot web pages.

No one had ever thought of setting up in the southern Philippines because of the violence, said Hubport chief operating officer Eric Manalastas during a recent tour of the facility by visiting diplomats.

He said the firm — which also has offices in Singapore, Canada, Britain, Japan and Saudi Arabia — believes the south has enough manpower “who if given the room to grow, can be harnessed into a highly efficient and competitive force that can match global standards”.

A large part of the manpower will come from MSU’s main campus in Marawi, an impoverished city on the shore of the picturesque Lanao lake where Arabic is widely taught and spoken.

It also is the heart of Islam in Mindanao, the Philippines’ main southern island where Muslim separatists have been waging a decades-long rebellion to carve out an independent state.

Militants with links to Al-Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) are also known to operate in the area, which intelligence experts consider fertile ground for recruitment.

A small room inside a brick building has been transformed into a speech and computer laboratory, where local tutors teach English..

For computer programmer Muhammad Husshan, 20, working for Hubport means he will be able to send money to his parents and seven siblings living elsewhere in the south.

“I hope more young people will be given jobs and will be trained in companies like this,” he said.

Like many here, Husshan believes that Muslims have been unjustly sidelined by the Manila government, but he added: “I think people would not pick up guns if they are busy with jobs.”

Small numbers of US troops have been rotating in the southern Philippines since 2003, when President Gloria Arroyo sought help to crush Abu Sayyaf militants blamed for high profile kidnappings and bombings.

Remnants of Abu Sayyaf still roam the south, while tens and thousands remain displaced by 10 months of fighting between troops and the main insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The US government meanwhile has given millions in development aid, with promises of more funds if insurgents signed a peace accord.

“I think that shift in policy is helping more in the anti-terror war than the fighting,” says Virgilio Leyretana, chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council.

“Of course, nothing can be solved overnight. And for as long as Mindanao is pictured as a troublesome place, businesses will shy away.”

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

Australia — Pacific


Climate Laws Add to Police Workload

EXCLUSIVE: FRONTLINE police will be forced to become “carbon cops” under the Government’s blueprint to cut greenhouse emissions.

The Herald Sun can reveal Australian Federal Police agents will have to prosecute a new range of climate offences.

But they are yet to be offered extra resources, stretching the thin blue line to breaking point.

“The Government is effectively saying to us, ‘Ignore other crime types’,” Australian Federal Police Association chief Jim Torr said.

The group had been trying for months, without success, to discuss the issue with Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, he said.

Interpol has warned the carbon market will be irresistible to criminal gangs because of the vast amounts of cash to be made. Possible rorts include under-reporting of carbon emissions by firms and bogus carbon offset schemes.

“If someone is rorting it by even 1 per cent a year, we’re talking about many, many millions of dollars,” Mr Torr said.

Ms Wong’s office said AFP agents would be expected to enter premises and request paperwork to monitor firms’ emissions reductions. They would act on the 30-strong Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority’s orders.

It said the authority could appoint staff members or police as inspectors.

She said the Department of Climate Change had spoken to the AFPA and the parties would talk again. Carbon trading involves carbon emissions rights buying and selling. Businesses can offset emissions by investing in climate-friendly projects, or carbon credits.

Ms Wong’s office said provisions had been made to ensure compliance. “Inspectors may enter premises and exercise other monitoring powers,” she said. “The inspectors may ask questions and seek the production of documents. There is provision for the issue of monitoring warrants by magistrates.”

The AFP’s 2855 sworn agents are involved in law enforcement in Australia and overseas, investigating terrorist threats, drug syndicates, people trafficking, fraud and threats against children.

Mr Torr said breaking carbon trading laws would be like breaking other laws. “These offences will constitute another federal crime type, along with narcotics importing, people smuggling and all the rest of it, that the AFP will be expected to police,” he said. “I can see very complex, covert investigations . . . a lot of scientific expertise required.”

The Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is facing Senate defeat unless it can secure the support of key cross-benchers or the Opposition.

Opposition climate change spokesman Andrew Robb said the scheme was problematic.

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



NAB to Trial Interest Free Muslim Loans

ONE of Australia’s major banks is planning to introduce “Muslim-friendly” loans that do not charge interest to comply with sharia law.

Instead, the National Australia Bank will structure an Islam-approved line of finance to make money from alternative methods.

These include profit-sharing on the transaction, joint-ventures or leasing-type arrangements.

For example, to get round the Islamic ban on usury — or unfair lending — a Muslim mortgage often works by the bank buying the property, then selling it to the customer at a profit. The customer then repays the sum in instalments.

In this way the profit margin is built in from the start. It also makes the loan immune from future interest rate rises.

NAB said the loans would have to be cleared by a Sharia Advisory Board to ensure they met strict criteria.

“We are dipping our toe in the water and thought we may be able to offer this product in high-density Muslim areas,” said Richard Peters, head of community finance & development at NAB.

“We suspect there is demand out there but we don’t know how big it is, so we will trial a few products first.”

NAB will pump $15m from its not-for-profit finance division into the program, which will distribute funds through various community finance schemes around the country.

Interest-free loans of up to $1000 will be available, which are intended to help finance household items such as washing machines and fridges.

“It’s a small step but we are trying to raise awareness about the need for Islamic finance,” Mr Peters said.

The loans would be available to non-Muslims as well.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Africa’s Top 10 ‘Big Men’

President Omar Bongo of Gabon died this week after nearly 42 years in power — who inherits his title as Africa’s longest-serving leader?

The BBC’s Peter Lewenstein has compiled a list — in reverse order, by length of continuous time in office — of the 10 African heads of state who have stood the test of time.

No 10: PRESIDENT ZINE AL-ABIDINE BEN ALI of TUNISIA

21 YEARS IN POWER

President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali came to power in a bloodless coup in November 1987.

He took over from Habib Bourguiba amid claims the latter was unfit to govern owing to senility.

Mr Ben Ali marked the 21st anniversary of office by releasing 44 political prisoners.

No 9: PRESIDENT BLAISE COMPAORE of BURKINA FASO

21 YEARS

Mystery still surrounds the death of President Blaise Compaore’s predecessor and friend, Thomas Sankara.

But after he was shot dead by a group of soldiers in October 1987, Mr Compaore, as his number two, stepped into the breach.

President Compaore has since won three elections, scraping in last time round in 2005 with 80% percent of the vote.

No 8: KING MSWATI III of SWAZILAND

23 YEARS

King Mswati came to the throne in April 1986; as son of Sobhuza, he was heir to the Swazi throne.

But it took a three-year power struggle following his father’s death before he was crowned.

As an absolute monarch, elections are not really his thing — he has allowed people to vote for members of parliament, but political parties are not recognised.

No 7: PRESIDENT YOWERI MUSEVENI of UGANDA

23 YEARS

After years in the bush fighting a rebellion, ex-army officer Yoweri Museveni led his National Resistance Army into Kampala in January 1986 to seize power.

He toppled Basilio Okello, who had himself overthrown Milton Obote in a military coup six months earlier.

Mr Museveni has also won three elections, but only last time, in 2006, were candidates allowed to run on a party-political basis.

No 6: PRESIDENT PAUL BIYA of CAMEROON

26 YEARS

In November 1982, Cameroon’s first post-independence leader, Ahmadou Ahidjo, formally resigned due to ill-health, and handed the presidency to his Prime Minister, Paul Biya.

Since then Mr Biya has won five elections, which — say the opposition — is not surprising, given that the votes have always been overseen by senior ruling party figures.

No 5: PRESIDENT HOSNI MUBARAK of EGYPT

27 YEARS

Hosni Mubarak took over after the assassination of President Sadat by Islamist militants in October 1981.

He was confirmed as president by a referendum.

In the last election in 2005, he squeaked through with 88% of the vote.

There has been plenty of speculation in Cairo that he is grooming his son Gamal to succeed him.

No 4: PRESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE of ZIMBABWE

29 YEARS

The world cheered when, after leading a long guerrilla war, Robert Mugabe led his Zanu party to victory at the elections in February 1980, after Zimbabwe had won its independence from Britain.

But he is no longer a global favourite and the opposition accuses him of destroying his country in a bid to stay in power.

He is now sharing power — but remains president.

No 3: PRESIDENT JOSE EDUARDO DOS SANTOS of ANGOLA

NEARLY 30 YEARS

President Jose Eduardo dos Santos assumed power on the death of Angola’s first president, Agostinho Neto, in September 1979.

But for much of the time after that, he ruled only over half the country, as his MPLA fought a civil war against Unita.

Now, with the war over, and Unita crushed at last year’s parliamentary elections, he is being called on to hold an election for the presidency. No firm date has yet been set.

No 2: EQUATORIAL GUINEA’S TEODORO OBIANG NGUEMA

NEARLY 30 YEARS

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema came to power in August 1979 in classic style, deposing his uncle, Macias Nguema, who fled but was later captured and executed.

Despite its new-found oil wealth, 60% of the people of Equatorial Guinea live on less than a dollar a day.

But they clearly all love President Nguema, as he won 97% of the vote at the last election in 2002.

No 1: PRESIDENT MUAMMAR GADDAFI of LIBYA

39 YEARS

And finally, Africa’s undisputed newly crowned longest-serving ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, who was in office a decade ahead of his nearest rival.

Col Gaddafi led a coup by young army officers in September 1969, then set about establishing his own political system, as laid out in his Green Book; and he’s been there ever since.

Last year, he was named “king of kings” by a meeting of Africa’s traditional rulers.

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

Latin America


Air France Probe Suggests Plane Broke Up in Air, Estado Says

June 12 (Bloomberg) — The Air France plane that crashed June 1 may have partly broken up in the air before hitting the Atlantic Ocean, O Estado de S. Paulo reported, citing investigators it didn’t identify.

Most of the 16 bodies examined in preliminary stages of the probe into the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris were found naked or with minimal clothing, suggesting the wind may have removed the garments, the newspaper said. The possibility of an explosion or fire in the jet is also unlikely because the bodies showed no sign of burns, Estado said.

Almost all of the bodies had multiple fractures, the paper reported. Investigators haven’t found water in the victims’ lungs, which would indicate drowning, Estado said. Bodies were found 85 kilometers (53 miles) apart, which may also indicate the Airbus A330-200 broke up before reaching the ocean, Estado reported.

Representatives from Brazil’s legal medical institute, which is conducting the body examinations in the northeastern city of Recife, weren’t immediately reachable when Bloomberg News called for comment before regular working hours.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Gaddafi Says Tide is Difficult to Stem

(ANSA) — ROME, JUNE 11 — “It is a difficult tide to stem — a form of immigration that forcibly imposes itself,” said Libyan Colonel Muammar Gaddafi on the ever increasing flow of immigrants departing from Libyan coasts trying to reach Italy and beyond. “There are strong attractions pulling them towards Europe,” said Gaddafi yesterday during a joint press conference with Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. But in Africa, he added, “there are no political problems”, and the issue of asylum seekers “is a widespread lie”. “Millions of people are attracted by Europe, and are trying to get here. Do we really think that millions of people are asylum seekers? It is really a laughable matter”. “If you try to send them back,” he added, referring to the Italian government’s recent decision to send migrant boats back to Libya, “they accuse you of acting against human rights. Are we then going to leave all Europe’s gates open and let the whole of Africa sweep into Europe?”. The Libyan leader then talked about the population “living in the desert, in the forests, having no identity at all. Let alone a political identity. They feel that the North has all the wealth, the money, and so they try to reach it.” According to Gaddafi, this phenomenon is mostly linked to “organized crime, as well as drugs and terrorism”. “There are government officials being investigated on charges of conniving with criminal organizations. There are international networks behind it and we need to assess who is responsible. But please,” he asked once again, “do not see it as a political issue”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaddafi in Rome: Libya Needs More EU Money for Immigration

(ANSAmed) — Rome, June 11 — Libya needs much more money from the European Union to help curb immigration from Africa, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said Thursday. “Many billions of euros are needed to stem the flows of immigrants into the Mediterranean,” Gaddafi told Italian Senators. He described the one billion euros the EU currently gives Libya to contain immigration as “insufficient”. Italy and Libya have recently started joint patrols and Tripoli has agreed to take back intercepted immigrants in a controversial policy criticised by human rights groups. Echoing Italian officials, Gaddafi said the two countries “could not tackle this problem alone”. He said the EU should do more because “the problem concerns the whole of Europe”. Gaddafi said immigration should be given greater attention by all international bodies including the United Nations and the African Union of which Libya is currently president. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

General


Internet Free Ride Soon Over

WITHIN five years internet users will have to pay to access content now free, according to Barry Diller, chief executive of InterActiveCorp in the United States, which runs about 30 websites and turns over $US1.5 billion ($A1.8 billion) each year.

“I absolutely believe the internet is passing from its free days into a paid system,” he told the Advertising 2.0 conference in New York this week.

Mr Diller said the paid model would include subscriptions, one-time purchases for access to sites and micro-payments.

But not all agree. “That’s quite a prediction,” said Neil Ackland, managing director of the Sound Alliance Group, the largest independent online publisher in Australia. Its niche music and lifestyle sites — such as FasterLouder, SameSame and Mess+Noise — attract 500,000 unique hits a month.

“We’ve been doing that for more than 10 years and manage to make a profit out of advertising as our model — why would we want to change that?”

Mr Ackland said people would be willing to pay for some content “but I think people are already paying for that content: finance, investment, dating, real estate information, high-end information. People already recognise that value.

“But a news story that is on 600 websites around the world simultaneously doesn’t have any value to the end user. It doesn’t have any exclusive value they can’t get elsewhere.”

Andrew Sims, general manager of marketing and products for Melbourne-based internet service provider iPrimus agrees: “If one of the big newspapers today wanted to make everyone pay for content, people would go elsewhere … there’ll be another two, three maybe five sites out there that’ll provide the services (free).”

The demise of respect for copyright on the internet plays a role. Canny consumers can find their way around information toll booths; once someone has access to content they can put it out there for others to access.

“We see that with all types of things,” said Mr Sims, “(such as) illegal downloads of video content and music.”

Companies must learn to survive on revenue via advertising on their sites, he said.

“Advertising companies are moving away from traditional media — print and TV — and putting their money online because they feel they get better bang for their buck. As that trend continues you’ll see more and more people spending online, which will certainly help websites whose ultimate goal is to deliver quality content.”

The shift in how young people, especially, found information was also a factor, said Mr Ackland.

“A lot of people now already get a lot of their news and information from forums and blogs — when they happen to stumble across news that’s been posted in forum threads …

“Twenty years ago there was a limited number of places where information could get published and distributed. Now there’s an infinite number … The idea of putting information behind a walled garden? I just don’t see it happening.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Some Mathematical History

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.


An important insight in the history of science was formulated by the French mathematician, biologist and astronomer Pierre-Louis de Maupertuis (1698-1759). Maupertuis had studied in Paris and in Basel, Switzerland, with Johann Bernoulli. He became a leading member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences in 1741 and in 1744 enunciated the principle of least action. He hoped that the principle might unify the laws of the universe and prove the existence of God.

As John Gribbin writes, “De Maupertuis had been a soldier before turning to science; his big idea is known as the principle of least action. ‘Action’ is the name given by physicists to a property of a body which is measured in terms of the changing position of an object and its momentum (that is, it relates mass, velocity and distance travelled by a particle). The principle of least action says that nature always operates to keep this quantity to a minimum (in other words, nature is lazy). This turned out to be hugely important in quantum mechanics, but the simplest example of the principle of least action at work is that light always travels in straight lines.” Euler, too, developed the idea of the principle of least action, and “This pointed the way for the work of Joseph Lagrange (1736-1813), which in turn provided the basis for a mathematical description of the quantum world in the twentieth century.”

Lagrange was born Giuseppe Lodovico Lagrangia in Turin, Italy, where he lived during the early years of his life. He replaced Euler when the great Swiss scholar left Berlin for Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1766 and spent twenty productive years in that city. By 1786 he moved to France, where he became known as Joseph-Louis Lagrange. According to O’Connor and Robertson he “excelled in all fields of analysis and number theory and analytical and celestial mechanics.” Lagrange was a better mathematician than de Maupertuis and provided the concept of least action with a more thorough mathematical foundation.

The Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) is widely recognized as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. He was certainly the most productive measured in published pages, although the eccentric and prolific Hungarian Jewish mathematician Paul Erdos (1913-1996) beat him in the number of published papers. Erdos, too, was interested in combinatorics, graph theory and number theory and the “contributions which Erdös made to mathematics were numerous and broad. However, basically Erdös was a solver of problems, not a builder of theories.” The mathematical community was obviously much smaller in the eighteenth century than it is today; it would be difficult for even the most gifted scholar to have such a wide-ranging influence and dominate the entire, now very diverse field of mathematics as Euler did in his time, but his achievement is nevertheless impressive.
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Euler was born in Basel, Switzerland, and his career was connected to that of the Bernoulli family. He graduated with honors from the University of Basel and got a post in the newly formed St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, created by Tsar Peter the Great as part of his modernization efforts of the Russian state. He accepted the invitation of Frederick II of Prussia to join the Berlin Academy of Sciences, founded on the advice of Leibniz. Euler returned to Russia in 1766 at the invitation of Empress Catherine the Great, whose succession to the throne marked a return to the Westernizing policies. He made contributions in most fields of mathematics which existed in his day, including hydraulics, ship construction and artillery, but he was especially devoted to astronomy. The tremendous prestige of his textbooks settled forever many questions of notation on calculus and algebra. Lagrange, Laplace and Gauss followed Euler in their works, and Riemann knew his work well. Euler was able to dictate his articles and letters to his sons and others virtually until the day of his sudden death in 1783. As The Oxford Guide to the History of Physics and Astronomy states:

“Yet productivity was perhaps the least important of Euler’s claims to mathematical distinction. One of his great contributions was his clarity….He contributed to every branch of mathematics of his day except probability. He achieved much in the realm of number theory. He arguably founded graph theory and combinatorics when he solved the Königsberg Bridge problem in 1736….in addition Euler contributed to ordinary and partial differential equations, the calculus of variations, and differential geometry….Euler made major contributions to every branch of mechanics. The motion of mass points, celestial mechanics, the mechanics of continuous media (mechanics of solids and nonviscous fluids, theories of materials, hydrodynamics, hydraulics, elasticity theory, the motion of a vibrating string, and rigid-body kinematics and dynamics), ballistics, acoustics, vibration theory, optics, and ship theory all received something important from him. If Beethoven did not need to hear to compose music, Euler did not need to see to create mathematics. He began to go blind in one eye in 1738 and became totally blind thirty years later. This only increased his productivity, since total blindness relieved him of academic chores like proofreading and eliminated unwanted visual distractions. Euler did not miss eyes for another reason; he had a prodigious memory.”

Mathematics has historically been overwhelmingly created by men, often very young men. The French mathematician Évariste Galois (1811-1832) died from wounds suffered in a duel while still in his early twenties, yet he had already managed to leave his mark on the history of mathematics. In 1830 he developed group theory, which was to prove of great importance for the development of quantum mechanics a century later. The Norwegian mathematical pioneer Niels Henrik Abel (1802-1829), too, died while still in his twenties. He suffered from tuberculosis, but continued to develop high quality mathematics as his health deteriorated. Dirk J. Struik writes in A Concise History of Mathematics, Fourth Revised edition:

“Abel proved the impossibility of solving the general quintic equation by means of radicals — a problem which had puzzled mathematicians from the time of Bombelli and Viète (a proof of 1799 by the Italian Paolo Ruffini was considered by Poisson and other mathematicians as too vague). Abel now obtained a stipend which enabled him to travel to Berlin, Italy, and France. But, tortured by poverty most of his life and unable to get a position worthy of his talents, Abel established few personal mathematical contacts and died (1829) soon after his return to his native land….Abel’s investigations on elliptic functions were conducted in a short but exciting competition with Jacobi. Gauss in his private notes had already found that the inversion of elliptic integrals leads to single-valued, doubly periodic functions, but he never published his ideas. Legendre, who had spent so much effort on elliptic integrals, had missed this point entirely and was deeply impressed when, as an old man, he read Abel’s discoveries.”

The Frenchman Adrien-Marie Legendre (1752-1833) was one of the leading mathematicians in Europe at the turn of the nineteenth century and made many personal contributions to the field, but some of his work was perfected by others, among them Abel, Jacobi and Galois. Carl Gustav Jacobi (1804-1851) was a German (Prussian) mathematician, born of Jewish parents, who studied in Potsdam and at the University of Berlin to be able to teach mathematics, Greek and Latin. In 1829 Jacobi met Legendre and other French mathematicians such as Fourier when he made a visit to Paris, and he visited Gauss in Göttingen. He became an influential and inspiring teacher and made contributions to the theory of elliptic functions.

The mathematician and astronomer Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865), who lived his whole life in Dublin, Ireland, could read Hebrew, Latin, and Greek at the age of five and learned many other languages during his lifetime. By 1822 his mathematical abilities had advanced to such an extent that he discovered a significant error in Laplace’s treatise Celestial Mechanics. In 1843 he introduced quaternions, algebra with hyper-complex numbers and “ the first noncommutative algebra to be studied.” He made major contributions to optics, and Hamiltonian mechanics helped shape quantum mechanics in the twentieth century.

According to scholar Alan Gabbey, “Pierre de Maupertuis’s principle of least action had sounded a new note. Reflecting on the controversy of the 1660s over Fermat’s least-time optical principle, Maupertuis argued (1744) that in all bodily changes, the ‘action’…is the least possible, a principle that for Maupertuis and Euler — though not for d’Alembert and Lagrange — pointed to the governance of all things by a Supreme Being….Maupertuis’s variational principle enjoyed an improved mathematical treatment by William Rowan Hamilton (1834, 1835), whose transformation of Lagrange’s equations was modified and generalized by Carl Gustav Jacobi in the form now known as the Hamilton-Jacobi Equation (1837). In turn, the Hamilton-Jacobi Equation found fruitful application in the establishment of the quantum mechanics of Louis de Broglie (1923) and Erwin Schrödinger (1926).”

Western Values and National Identity

Below is a translation by Rolf Krake of an article about former Danish prime minister Anders Fog Rasmussen that appeared in Politiken on May 12th. This was part of a pile of material that accumulated last month while I was in Copenhagen, but the content is not stale yet.

Note: in the article below, the phrase “cultural liberalism” can be taken to mean what is known as “classical liberalism” in the United States:

The New NATO Chief: Western values above all

There is one thing, which stands above all when Anders Fogh Rasmussen looks back upon his time as Prime Minister: Western values

There is almost something symbolic about Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s (Venstre: Classical Liberal) temporary office in the Foreign Ministry.

Anders Fogh RasmussenFrom the corner office in the State Ministry he is now back on the ground floor again — at eye level with the Danes. Precisely there, at the very place where one way or another the whole thing started.

Because when Anders Fogh Rasmussen today summarizes the project, for which he got the voters’ total support to bring to life in November 2001, it dealt with regaining the voters’ confidence in politicians, who for years had ignored the Danes’ concerns about increasing immigration, the sloppy justice policy, and the elite’s domination and know-it-all attitude.

Proud about the results

Fogh declares that he is proud about the factual results he now has entrusted to Lars Løkke Rasmussen [the new Prime Minister replacing Fogh]. A historically low unemployment rate, a considerable decrease in expanding immigrant family reunions, and a solid ceiling for taxation. Nevertheless it isn’t the “factual account” in Fogh’s administration which occupies him the most, but the bottom line in the battle of values he had put on the political agenda.

A battle which sent Danish soldiers into war in Iraq, divided the parliament and settled the debate with about the cultural radical influx (multiculturalism), that Western values of freedom are better than any other forms of governing.

“First and foremost I want to say that it was and is a values-based and a firm attitude project. One could summarize it in one word and say, what I would like to leave my mark on, is ‘cultural [classical] liberalism’ — And that you are welcome to perceive it as the opposite of cultural radicalism (multiculturalism),” says Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Free-spirited and a firmness on values

The coming Secretary General of NATO is busy putting the words on the project which a majority of the Danes has preferred three times in a row instead of a new Social-Democratic led government, which has been with but a few exceptions the tradition throughout the 20th century.

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“To be a cultural liberal is a combination of a free spirit and a firm attitude towards values. I feel a strong connection with the European tradition of enlightenment. The belief in the individual as a being of reason. The belief based on enlightenment and education. It concludes with the bottom-line attitude that one has to be critical towards the authorities — with that I am in the camp with the know-all expert. We deserve a society with the freedom to be different, a society with multiplicity, where we do not interfere with what people believe, what they eat, how they are dressed — yes, there has to be space for both the funny and ‘far-out’ people.”

Fogh often had to listen to talk about Denmark as just being a country without multiplicity, but he rejects it. Under his leadership the government on the contrary has shown openness in the face of international currents. Openness for active participation in international co-operation plus an engagement to undertake responsibility in the world, he says.

“The extroverted free-spirited attitude — and that combined with a firmness on values, wherein the first element is making demands and setting consequences”.

Demanding is to show respect

“You can’t just pay out money to young people — you have to say, if you don’t want to work, if you don’t want to educate yourself, then you close the wallet. You can’t just say that it doesn’t matter if you contribute or do not contribute. If you have that attitude, that it doesn’t matter, then it is the same as saying that nobody and nothing matters, and from you we can’t expect anything”

Because demanding is to show respect, he affirms.

“To make demands and show consequences is in reality to respect other people: this is so whether we talk about the social system or upholding justice,” says Fogh and turns the conversations towards his battle of values.

“The other part is the firmness of values. That is to say, that there exist as a matter of fact some absolutes in values in our society. That is why I strongly reject cultural relativism — according to which, that you cannot say if something is better than something else.

“Of course you can; freedom of speech is better than censorship and dictatorship. Equality between women and men is better than oppression of women. The separation between politics and religion is better than a so-called theocracy — that is, a society ruled by priests.”

Cultural radicals are deeply pessimistic

According to Fogh cultural liberalism is in sharp contrast to cultural radicalism; liberalism is founded on the belief in progress, believing in the future, whereas you often experience cultural radicals as “deeply pessimistic”. That is why the cultural liberals have taken over the national political agenda, and that is something Fogh isn’t ashamed off at all.

The Danish identity has played a central role in connection with the shift of power, and that is the way it should always be, he thinks.

“I don’t believe in the abstract human being — The abstract cosmopolitan, who doesn’t belong anywhere at all. We are all born into a certain community, an identity, from where our world begins. So a cultural liberal holds that at the same time we are open towards the rest of the world, we have got a clear foundation in our national identity, and are conscious of what it means to be Danish.”

“As a cultural liberal you have the belief that there has to be a strong national community, and a strong national identity. You have to take as a starting point that we are all born into a community. We Danes are born into a national Danish community — that is our identity. And it is my clear understanding, that the stronger the identity, the more you are ready to fight for those values, which is what our democracy is founded on”

Danish special forces in Afghanistan

As a newly appointed Prime Minister back in January 2002 Fogh decided to send Danish special forces into Afghanistan. A difficult decision, but in spite of that he was never in any doubt that it was the right thing. The same goes for the decision to send Danish soldiers into Iraq on a tight political mandate — a historical decision. But Fogh rejects the notion that it divided the Danish population.

“The very fact that I was elected to be the Prime Minister and re-elected twice since disproves that I divided the population. So we have to be careful to distinguish — what is the parliament and what is the people, and what is the media? All the polls are showing a broad majority in support of for example a policy based on [Western] values.”

But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stand for Fogh as natural offshoots from the battle of [Western] values, which he had made his project since 2001.

“It is about values and principles. When the Danes wish for freedom and peace, then we also have to contribute with efforts. We can’t just let it be something others have to fight for”

And principles, values and attitudes will always stand as the final difference between Fogh and his opponents, he thinks. Because since 2001 there has not been any tampering with the project’s foundation.

“The fact is, the case that we won the election with in 2001 is exactly the same when we won in 2005 and 2007. Because, when it comes to the economy, then we have got the tax ceiling, and when it comes to opinion-making, then we have got the immigration policies. Both elements were decisive in 01, 05 and 07.

“Was I at all surprised it would be so decisive? No, in 2001 we knew that we had two positions of strength. Whether these would get us to the point of taking office, we couldn’t know in advance. So in that regard I am positively surprised it has shown such strength,” says the former Prime Minister.

Election Postmortem in the Netherlands and Flanders

Our Flemish correspondent VH has compiled a series of reports on the results of the recent European elections, as played out in the Netherlands and Flanders. First, a report on Islamization of the Christian Democrats, who will send the first hijab-wearing MEP to Brussels:

The Christian Democrat enablers

First headscarf in the EU Parliament thanks to Christian Democrats

The case of the Dutch Christian Democratic anti-Western, anti-Israel, and pro-Islam Rena Netjes has caused quite a stir. Even though her submission to Islam and hatred of the West did not make her win a seat, she did get a lot of attention recently, and her interview has subsequently been pulled at her request.

Mahinur Özdemir, with hidden scarf


Still it seems Christian Democrats are in process of surpassing the Socialists in dhimmitude and appeasement. The Turkish Mahinur Özdemir will be the first MP to appear in the EU parliament with a headscarf, with thanks to the Walloon Christian Democrat Party (CDH). The latter has tried to cover up her fundamentalism in the campaign brochure by zooming into her picture until the headscarf fell out of the frame. An entertaining video was made out of that: “Where did that scarf go?”.

Mahinur Özdemir, with scarf revealedWhile the Christian Democrats tried to hide her headscarf from their general electorate, the Turkish citizens in Brussels knew better. Her headscarf is even the main reason to vote for her. In the Turkish promotion it did not disappear at all. In 2006 the Turks in Brussels were told: “Özgürlüğünü başörtüsüyle ifade ediyor. Belçika’nın en büyük belediyesine meclis üyesi secilen Mahinur Özdemir’in başörtülü olmasi, parti başkanınca böyle savunuluyor,” which reads approximately: Freedom of expression is under pressure. Support the headscarfed Mahinur Özdemir as member of Belgium’s largest municipal council. The party is another way to defend this [the headscarf].

The Turkish article continued: “In the municipal elections in the largest municipality in the country, the Brussels Turkish quarter called Schaerbeek has voted Mahinur Özdemir of the Christian Democratic Party onto the city council, who has always defended the headscarf, and whose chairman lets this young girl be free, free to do things her way. It is a lifestyle. This conviction. It deserves respect. Because it is a part of society. We all create society ourselves.” And this week they are excited that their Turkish headscarfed Muslim representative has been elected in the EU parliament.

Vlaams Belang wrote about this: The brand new “Christian Democratic” parliamentarian has already announced she will wear the headscarf in the EU parliament, with which she immediately will create a unique precedent in the parliamentary history of this country. Up to now it has not been permitted to wear a headscarf in the Turkish parliament, but it is in the EU. Radicals in Turkey no may point to the EU to obtain the same “right” in Turkey.

And will this new MEP for the Christian Democrats promote Western or Christian Democratic issues? No: “Özdemir want to fight in the Brussels Parliament against discrimination and for better education and social housing. She also wants that Muslims to be able to wear a headscarf in all schools.”

It looks as if Turkey and Islam will be carried into the European Parliament on the backs of the Christian Democrats.

Next, a translation from Vrij van Zegel:

The Netherlands, Flanders, and Europe

By Laurent Asselbergh

In the Netherlands, the PVV, the party of Wilders, caused quite a stir and an emerging panic among the established powers. Among (many) others, in Rotterdam it has become the largest party. This is yet another cry of the indigenous population for attention to its problems and the alienation which they have to deal with in their own cities.

However, it is important to put the election result in perspective: it is below that of Pim Fortuyn a few years ago. This is not surprising when we realize that for 2012 the Dutch Center for Research and Statistics (Nederlandse Centrum voor Onderzoek en Statistiek, COS) predicts that more than 50% of the total population of Rotterdam will be of foreign origin, and even now 62% of the population under 14 years of age are immigrants. [note: It is even worse, in that 50% has actually already been achieved this year, 2009, according official statistics: see here — VH]

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The future is thus settled for the mainly leftist parties. Hence, we will quickly proceed as usual and real measures and changes will not happen.

In Flanders a similar situation exists.

A unique opportunity for a real change through one Flemish-minded party [Vlaams Belang] has been lost. Without the emergence of the LDD [List Dedecker] a few years ago, Vlaams Belang would probably have approached the 30% level and without competition, and would have become the largest party in Flanders.

Then probably the undemocratic cordon sanitaire would have crumbled and also the Flemish party N-VA would have crossed the bridge.

But now we witness that despite the historically high score, the fragmentation in Flemish-minded parties has never been so large. Even for the N-VA of the TV celebrity Bart de Wever it may prove to be a pyrrhic victory.

This opportunity for Flanders will most likely not happen again in the future, given the demographic evolution. For this reason, after a while the traditional parties will care little about the results and proceed on the path of compromises and broken promises.

In Europe the situation is not better, on the contrary.

With a deadly precision, the disappearance of our heritage, our civilization, our culture and our people is being pre-programmed and implemented by our “leaders”.

As the French politician Philippe de Villiers put it: the Treaty of Lisbon enables — according to the principle of non-discrimination — amongst others the fundamental right to gay marriage and mass abortion.

As cream on the pudding, immigration — 80% of it made up of Muslims — will be recommended and encouraged to replace the native population until the latter no longer exists.

When one now knows, for example, that in Belgium all parties — including the so-called Flemish “nationalists”, but excluding Vlaams Belang — fully support this treaty, one must also understand that the fate of Europe has already been sealed. The planned accession of Turkey to the EU will only accelerate the process.

Only an unexpected and dramatic event may change the course of history.

Below is a translation of an interview in Angeltjes with the Flemish Nationalist Jean-Marie Dedecker of the List Dedecker (LDD), before the elections:

“Traditional parties are rotting Belgium”

By Marc Peeperkorn

They want to trample him and then dance on his body, he is convinced of that. “They” are all the other political parties in Belgium, “he” is Jean-Marie Dedecker, political leader of List Dedecker (LDD). Why? “Because I break though the status quo of power.”

Take the opinion polls, says Dedecker. “They are all manipulated by those who order them. Only recently I suddenly tumbled down in those polls, to undermine my position just at the eve of the elections. Previously, I was hyped by the same polls. With the same goal: the bigger you make someone, the harder you can finish him off.”

Although the conspiracy is omnipresent, de Dedecker (57) does not appear to suffer from it. A few days before the regional and European elections, there is a serenity in the party office in Ostend. Because what would he worry about?

The former judo coach, who in 2006 was expelled form the Center-Liberal VLD and in 2007 gained six parliamentary seats with his LDD, out of the blue, will become according to the polls the second or third party in Flanders. [As it turned out, in Antwerp for instance, he gained enough for just one seat: 5.1% of the votes; in Flanders he became number 6, in the Flemish EU elections number 7. — VH]

A matter of “being there at the right moment in history,” grins Dedecker. “Europe is moving to the right, look at Sarkozy. I’m in that flow. I speak to people who earn enough to pay tax but also pay too much for scholarships and other benefits.”

A second reason for his success is the “mess-up” by the rest. “Belgium has been unmanageable for two years now. If none of the others are making anything of it, you can jump onto that.”

Third reason: “We do not belong to the political class, we tell it like it is. Take the migrants, I am for the proletariat, but against profitariat. Everyone is welcome to study and prosper here, but not to be a parasite. A migrant must add value. Therefore, we must stop that miserable follow-up migration flow [like family reunions]. Women and children should be allowed in, but not their parents-in-law they bring over to put in the retirement homes here at our costs.”

Why your own party? Because you always getting in a quarrel?

“The VLD was in a continuing conflict. I’m still center-liberal, the VLD changed into a glorified socialist party. A bit like what Wilders and Verdonk endured in their previous party [the VVD, center liberals]. Then I was approached by the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA). They came to pull me in, I had just presented a book, Rechts voor de raap (Straight [also “Right”] forward), the best-selling political book ever in Belgium. But the N-VA was in a cartel with the Christian Democrats, so I had to get out again.

“But it was not just that. The entire political system joined together to deal with me. I am humiliated. I am from the sports world: you can beat someone, but not dance on his body. The press, the traditional parties, everyone was pleased that I was out. Well, I am also a troublemaker. I have kicked around, so I could expect such a reaction.”

Everyone is against you, don’t you put yourself on a pedestal?

“I am a dangerous duck in the pond. Vlaams Belang has been disabled by the cordon sanitaire, so that the Christian Democrats, Socialists and Liberals can divide the power amongst themselves. And then suddenly there is that newcomer who also as suddenly is successful. I break the pecking order. That is why the tried to take me out. You will see that also after these elections, the traditional parties will rub against each other as a crutch and wooden leg, in order to stay in power.”

You’re the white knight?

The pillarization [each group its own party, union, media, etc] has rotted this country and that pillarization is maintained by the traditional parties. They divide the jobs and rot to the country. You can not get a government job at any level if you are not a member of one of the three major parties. The appointments of judges are neatly spread across Catholics, liberals and socialists.

“It is shocking how the courts are infiltrated by politics. Chairman Londers, President of the Court of Cassation, is a comrade of current Prime Minister Van Rompuy, and who contributes to the derailing of former Prime Minister Leterme. Simply perverse.”

You think it was a conspiracy?

“Absolutely. I am not saying that Van Rompuy was a bad man, he just seized his chance. There are constantly accounts settled at the top.”

How bad is it in Belgium?

“Half of Belgian politics is rotten. Not a week passes without a wart cracking open. This country is at its very limit. The time of the ancien regime, including the economy, is over.”

You make it very easy for your opponents. You hired a private detective against Minister Karel De Gucht of Foreign Affairs…

“I had the real estate transactions of Prince Laurent researched by a fiscal expert: no problem. I had the back room appointments of former Minister Dewael researched by an undercover agent: no problem. But as soon as you employ a private detective, you’re suddenly a bastard. Everyone threw himself on me to kick me down. While I only wanted to verify that De Gucht was involved in a company that was into buying Belgian court buildings.”

Maybe you came too close.

“Yes, I came too close to the sun. Too close to the power and big business. Then it is extremely dangerous. I am not afraid, I never was. But I do wake up every day with the thought: who will attack me today?”

You say that the old ideologies are dead. What is yours?

“The dividing line is no longer between left and right. Each person is a classic liberal when he works during the week. Saturday in the pub he is social, and on Sunday, while strolling in the park, he is green.”

“The dividing line now runs between high- and low-skilled. I am socio-economically right-wing. Everyone should get equal opportunities. Who goes for it, deserves to be rewarded, those who don’t, should be taken on, those who cannot find work you should help.”

Are you the answer to Vlaams Belang?

“Partly. Initially, the other parties were satisfied with it. Until I took their voters. Then all the forces were gathered against me. If you survive that, you will gain. I will not become a mega party, but expect at least 10 percent of the votes.”

Soon you will be in the Flemish government. Are you able to compromise?

“There is a difference between a compromise and compromising yourself. With the first I have no problem. But I will never distance of my promises to gain power.”

Can you deal with losing?

“Very difficult. I am from the sports world, therefore I am an atypical politician. I can hardly watch the news, that is how angry it can make me. I almost never watch a political program. All that b******t, my tube is sometimes on the brink of exploding. The political debate has been milked dry. What remains is infotainment, the total leveling out for the sake of laughter, steered by political scientists and journalists. You ought to shoot them ten inches above their head, that is where their vanity lives. It is incestuous, the interrelation between politics and journalism.”

Why do the Belgian voters put up with such a rotten, incestuous arrangement?

“That is what I also ask myself. The Netherlands had Fortuyn, but he also first had to die. I saw Dutch journalism change when he received the bullet. I have been vilified in all media in recent months, taunted and degraded. But the Belgians will get revenge at the ballot box.”

And if nothing changes?

“That cannot be, this country is steering itself towards death. Flanders and Wallonia must have more autonomy. Foreign affairs, defense and the monarchy as subsidized puppet theatre will remain national then. We are at a tipping point, I feel the call to give shape to it. But if the voter does not want me, I’m out. I am not going to have my pants worn out in that parliament.”

VH adds this report:

Elsevier columnist Syp Wynia points out that Wilders also gained by virtue of the Christian vote. Many of those see Islamization as a threat and feel the CDA (Christian Democrat Party of PM Balkenende) is getting it wrong, is only making it worse, and is not up to the challenge.

Also the appeasement attitude does not quite comfort them. Therefore many CDA votes went to the PVV and made the PVV at the same time the second largest Christian party in the Netherlands.

Of the Dutch Reformed for instance, 30% voted the CDA, but 20% voted PVV, of the Catholics, 30% voted CDA and 20% PVV. This, and the landslide victory of Wilders’ PVV, which became the biggest party in many cities, is despite the fact that Wilders has up to now been severely marginalized, demonized, and ridiculed, Wynia states. “A substantial part of the Dutch electorate ignored this and did not let themselves be intimidated, which is remarkable.”

In Flanders the elections did not go too well, either for the independence of Flanders, or for the anti-jihad. Vlaams Belang has not only been confronted with political fencing, but also fiercely demonized and ridiculed by nearly all mass media and especially the Flemish TV service VRT. In addition to that, all focus was on pushing and pulling other Flemish Nationalists like List Dedecker (LDD) and Bart de Wever of the NV-A. Basically in an attempt to show the electorate that traditional parties are the only “reliable” ones in these days of financial “crisis”.

Flanders voted both in the European and national elections. In Flanders the VB is now the number three party, after the Christian Democrats and Center-liberals, and in the EU number two, after the Christian Democrats. Frank Vanhecke and Philip Claeys will be MEPs.

Filip Dewinter and Frank Vanhecke are the numbers 6 and 7 in the Flemish top ten for the Europarliament, and Filip Dewinter is 3 in the top ten of Flanders. In the Antwerp region, Vlaams Belang is with 23% still the largest party.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/12/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/12/2009There are four or five more news stories tonight about Muammar Gaddafi’s visit to Rome. Mr. Gaddafi called for the abolition of European political parties, dismissed the idea of democracy, and equated the United States with Al Qaeda. He received the kind of press attention usually reserved for Michael Jackson or Paris Hilton.

In other news, a fifteen-year-old Palestinian boy was hanged for collaborating with Israel. One of the alleged perpetrators was the boy’s father.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Henrik, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, Islam in Action, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, LN, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
Leaders of Emerging Nations for an Alternative to the Dollar
Majority Now Cosponsors Ron Paul’s Fed Audit
 
USA
A Better-Dressed Soviet-Style Communism
Administration Speeds Overseas Detainee Relocation
Cloward-Piven Crisis Care
Darwin-Loving Museum Shooter Hates Bible, Christians
Drilling Might be Culprit Behind Texas Earthquakes
Egypt: Obama Speech Linked to F-16 Deal
Key Health Care Senators Have Industry Ties
Lying With Impunity
Miss Affirmative Action, 2009
More Scandals Haunt Sotomayor
Obama’s Deep Belief in Himself is No Match for Global Reality
Obama Nation’s Low View of Christianity
Obama: Where Have All His Records Gone?
Rabbi: Obama Breeds Climate of Hate Against Jews
Republicans: Debt Will Bring Barack Obama Down
Rev. Wright: I Meant to Say “Zionists” Are Keeping Me From Talking to President Obama — Not Jews
Tampa Mayor Declines to Honor CAIR
The Enemy Within
 
Canada
Handing Out the Vote
 
Europe and the EU
Britain Will ‘Obviously’ Join Euro Says Mandelson
Call Wilders What He is: A Racist
European Left More Dangerous for Jews Than European Right
Finland: Football Match Sparks Riots — Detainees Released by Police
French Shops Sue Saudi Princess
Gaddafi Compares USA to Bin Laden, Says Party System is “Democracy’s Abortion”
Greece: Thrace Row
Italy: Centre Right Hails Local Polls
Italy: Knox on the Witness Stand on Friday
Italy: Customs Finds $134 Billion in a Suitcase
Lario Breaks Silence on Marriage
Metternich 2 — the Lisbon Treaty
Schengen: Weapons and Women Smuggler’s Paradise
Spain: Arm Lost in Accident, Limb Thrown in Trash Bin
Sweden: Women in Custody for Beating of Far-Right Politician
Switzerland: Obama Picks Wealthy Donor as Ambassador
The German Passport is Losing Its Appeal
Tourism: Bye Bye Sun and Beaches, Spain Seeks New Model
UK: Ben Kinsella: Police Bugged Killers to Gather Crucial Evidence
UK: Classroom Assistant at Muslim Girls’ School Forced Out of Job by Parents Who Believed She Was a Man
UK: David Cameron Calls for Referendum on EU Constitution
UK: Free Speech and the Bacon and Eggs of Democracy
 
Balkans
Frattini in Belgrade: Don’t Exclude Them From EU
Kosovo: NATO Defence Ministers: Wind-Down of KFOR Begins
 
Mediterranean Union
Mediterranean Union: Low on Israeli Priorities
 
North Africa
Egypt: Furniture Imports Rise From USD 62 to 138 Million
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Barry Rubin: Israel and America: Neither Surrender Nor Confrontation
Netanyahu Speech, Premier Under Fire
Palestinian Boy ‘Hanged for Collaboration’
S. Craxi in Ramallah and Jerusalem Today
UNRWA on the Brink of Bankruptcy, Officials Say
 
Middle East
Iraq: WMD Slam Dunk Never Reported
Press: Brain Behind Madrid Attacks in Syrian Jail
Terrorism: Al-Qaeda Asks Turkish Muslims for Funds
The Age of Middle East Atonement
Turkey: Girl Tortured and Killed After Refusing Marriage
Turkey: Record in Dismissals of Unionized Workers, Report
Turkey: Pro-Kurdish Paper Silenced by Court
U.S. Sends 3 Guantanamo Detainees to Saudi Arabia
UAE-Turkey: Several Deals Are Back on the Front Burner
 
Russia
Putin ‘Turns Into Art Instructor’
 
South Asia
Bangladesh: Catholic Chef Has a “Really Rough Time in Dhaka’s Central Jail”
Indonesian Chopper Crashes
Italians Hurt in Afghan Firefight
Pakistan’s ‘Loose Nukes’
Singapore: Christians Jailed for ‘Sedition’
US Commander Vows to Cut Afghan Casualties
 
Far East
China Sub Collides With Array Towed by U.S. Ship: Report
Climate Pact in Jeopardy as China Refuses to Cut Carbon Emissions
N. Korea in Extortionate Demands for Kaesong Complex
NK Detention of S. Korean Worker Enters 74th Day
Problems for Marines in Korea
US Climate Envoy: China Seeks Top US Technology
 
Australia — Pacific
Australia: A Nation of Paupers
Chinese Muslims Trigger Public Backlash in Palau
Military ‘Meatheads’: Latham
The Suburb That Simmers
 
Immigration
America Losing Its Language and Culture Without a Whimper
Denmark: Confusion Grows Over Iraqi Repatriation
Finland: “Time Running Out on Immigrant Integration”
Finland: Qualified Immigrants to be Given Work to Match Their Educational Achievement
Greece: Focus on Immigration
Italy: Police Target Human Traffickers in 16 Cities
Netherlands: Putting ‘Import Brides’ to the Dutchness Test
Norway: Increased Number of Asylum Seekers
Southern Border: Massive Tunnel Found
Sweden’s EU Immigration Plans Facing Headwinds
 
Culture Wars
Homosexual Activists Frustrated With Obama’s Agenda
 
General
NASA Study Shows Sun Responsible for Planet Warming
Threat to Global-Warming Skeptics Retracted

Financial Crisis


Leaders of Emerging Nations for an Alternative to the Dollar

The leaders of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will meet next week in Russia to discuss the global crisis, currencies and climate change. They aim to find a common ground to bring greater weight to September summit of the world’s 20 largest economies in the USA.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) —Next week in Yekaterinburg (Russia) leaders from Brazil, Russia, India and China (Bric) will meet to discuss the global crisis and development but also to discuss the possibility of finding an alternative to the US dollar in global currency. President Hu Jintao will represent China at the summit which the government in Beijing has already cautiously defined as being “very important”.

He Yafei, deputy foreign minister has stated that “The BRIC countries share very similar viewpoints on a lot of international issues” underlining that strengthening communication and co-operation “is beneficial towards the development of emerging markets and raising the overall voice and influence of the developing countries”. Food security, energy security, climate change and development aid will be discussed but top of the agenda will be seeking a way out of the financial crisis.

The issue of reserve currency will also be addressed. He has clarified that “the reserve currency should be relatively stable”, a characteristic of the Yuan given that Beijing blocks all uncontrolled fluctuations. Since December, China has signed currency swap agreements with at least five countries with a combined value of 650 billion Yuan” (circa 65 million Euros).

Experts maintain that the four countries aim to co-ordinate their positions for the third G20 meeting in the US in September. But they all want to promote their own currencies, and therefore it is not possible for them to agree to use the Yuan as a common reserve currency.

The 4 States represent 42% of the global population and according tot eh International Monetary Fund, in the last 2 years realised 10.7% of the global Gross Domestic Product and above all, count for a third of global economic development between 2006 and 2008.

After the summit the Russia, China and the 4 central Asian nations of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, will meet, once again in Russia.

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



Majority Now Cosponsors Ron Paul’s Fed Audit

Demand for transparency reaches ‘crucial benchmark’

Less than 24 hours after WND reported a proposal from U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, to audit the Federal Reserve was approaching majority support in the U.S. House, he is confirming the plan has reached that “crucial benchmark.”

“The tremendous grass-roots and bipartisan support in Congress for H.R. 1207 is an indicator of how mainstream America is fed up with Fed secrecy,” Paul said shortly after U.S. Rep Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, became the 218th cosponsor, giving the plan, technically, majority support in the 435-member House.

“I look forward to this issue receiving greater public exposure,” Paul said.

A spokeswoman in Paul’s office said by the end of the business day in Washington, D.C., the plan had attracted 221 cosponsors. She said hearings on the transparency of the Federal Reserve are expected over the next month as part of the Financial Services Committee’s series of hearings on regulatory reform.

WND reported only a day earlier on the list of consponsors reaching 213 for H.R. 1207, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2009.

Paul long has opposed the power held by the Federal Reserve and its ability to manipulate the nation’s economy and over the years has launched multiple proposals to get rid of the private banking powerhouse, without significant support.

But in light of the economic collapse in the United States — the government takeover of the banking industry, the government’s demands for various auto industry bankruptcies, the government’s appointment of a “pay czar” — change apparently is coming.

“To understand how unwise it is to have the Federal Reserve, one must first understand the magnitude of the privileges they have,” Paul wrote in a recent Straight Talk commentary. “They have been given the power to create money, by the trillions, and to give it to their friends, under any terms they wish, with little or no meaningful oversight or accountability.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA


A Better-Dressed Soviet-Style Communism

By now many people not sold out to the Obama faction (including people carried along by deceitful media hype who voted for him) have realized its baneful intention to abandon our national heritage, our Constitutional republic, our free enterprise economy, indeed our entire way of life as a free people. People who not long ago shunned and even ridiculed people like me for clearly speaking out about this intention are now decrying the surrender to socialism and accepting descriptive terms like “neo-communist” that suggest the Obama faction’s ultimate goal: the establishment of a better-dressed, more astutely implemented version of Soviet-style communism in the United States.

The Obama faction’s agenda bankrupts the nation, while dangerously increasing the leverage China and other potentially hostile competitors can bring to bear against U.S. interests. It poses a grave threat to property rights and economic freedom, a threat that includes the mobilization of government-controlled distribution of economic goods (like the allocation of GM franchises to car dealers) to punish political opposition and enforce submission to their factional dictatorship. It undermines our military strength. It directly threatens Second Amendment rights, up to and including schemes to undermine the legitimacy and efficacy of private ownership of firearms.

On the international front, Obama’s appeasement policies encourage contempt for American resolve, while offering time for implacable enemies like Iran and North Korea to develop and produce nuclear weapons that will vastly increase the damaging potential of the terrorist infrastructure they support. At the same time, promotion of phony Middle East peace overtures, based on a consciously biased and deceitful mangling of the historical record, aim to force Israel onto a path of sure destruction while continuing to shield Arab despots from their responsibility for violence, poverty and economic stagnation in the region.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Administration Speeds Overseas Detainee Relocation

WASHINGTON — Despite fierce opposition in Congress, the White House insisted Friday it has not ruled out releasing Guantanamo Bay detainees in the United States. But with narrowing options, the administration has begun shipping newly cleared inmates abroad to regain momentum in its effort to close the Cuba-based prison camp.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration has not abandoned the possibility of releasing detainees in the U.S., but he added that national security considerations would govern any moves.

“We’re not going to make any decisions about transfer or release that threatens the security of the country,” Gibbs said at the end of a week in which nine detainees were transferred under high security to foreign nations, and one to the United States to face trial.

Gibbs said the release of those detainees showed “marked progress” and other decisions were being made on a case-by-case basis. President Barack Obama said last month that the cases of 50 detainees had been reviewed — and the administration said 48 of them were waiting for release to foreign nations.

But the prospects for any transfers of Guantanamo inmates to the mainland U.S. have dimmed in recent weeks as Congress acted to block funding to pay for the moves. And foreign countries have been hesitant to take even cleared detainees who were deemed not to pose security threats.

Authorities announced late Friday that three detainees had been sent home to Saudi Arabia.

The Justice Department said the trio will be subject to judicial review in Saudi Arabia before they participate in a “rehabilitation” program administered by the Saudi government.

With the latest transfer, the U.S. has removed 10 detainees from Guantanamo in the past week, sending four to Bermuda, one to Chad, one to Iraq, and one to face trial in New York City. That leaves 229 detainees still at the U.S. military detention center in Cuba.

The three men sent to Saudi Arabia are Khalid Saad Mohammed, Abdalaziz Kareem Salim Al Noofayaee, and Ahmed Zaid Salim Zuhair.

U.S. officials said they were close to a deal with Saudi Arabia and Yemen under which Saudi Arabia would take about 100 Yemeni detainees and place them in Saudi-run terrorist rehabilitation centers.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private diplomatic contacts, would not say how many Yemenis might be transferred or when the agreement might be finalized.

Negotiations on the fate of the Yemeni inmates have been under way for months, stalled over a Saudi demand that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh publicly endorse the proposal, the officials said. Saleh had refused to do so fearing a backlash among his people, the officials said, and, as of late last month, he preferred for Yemen to set up its own centers.

Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo by early next year, and U.S. officials have been searching for places to resettle detainees, lobbying hard with foreign governments. The pace of those efforts picked up last month after Congress said it would prevent detainees, even those cleared of wrongdoing, from being brought to the U.S.

This week alone, the administration transferred 10 detainees out of Guantanamo. Two were sent to Chad and Iraq, one was brought to New York to stand trial in civilian court, four were sent to Bermuda, and three to Saudi Arabia. And a deal in principle has been reached with the Pacific island nation of Palau to accept some others.

Besides detainees who might be freed, tried or turned over to foreign governments, there are still others — highly dangerous — who the administration says can be neither freed nor tried. These prisoners — “people who in effect remain at war with the United States,” Obama has said — include detainees who may have received extensive al-Qaida training, commanded Taliban troops or sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

With clear movement this week on settling 17 Chinese Muslims, known as Uighurs, from Guantanamo, the Yemeni detainees are the largest national bloc at the Cuba-based prison.

Their transfer would put a significant dent in the facility’s population but still not set the stage for closing.

Numerous countries have balked at accepting detainees unless some are also resettled in the United States.

Despite Gibbs’ comments, a key House panel approved legislation Friday that would deny immigration benefits to any Guantanamo detainees who might be released in the U.S. after being brought here for trial.

The bill, to be voted on soon by Congress, would be in effect until the end of the budget year at the end of September. Lawmakers could then extend the ban.

Adoption of the legislation would deal another blow to the administration, which was taken aback by the vehemence of the resistance to a tentative earlier plan to resettle some of the Uighurs in Virginia.

The Uighurs were determined not to be enemy combatants by the Pentagon and ordered released by a federal judge.. But few nations have been willing to accept them, out of fear of angering China’s government, which accuses them of being terrorists and demands they be returned to China.

Intense opposition from both Republicans and Democrats forced the Obama administration to shelve the resettlement plan after a particularly embarrassing setback for Obama in which the Democratic-led Congress stripped funding to close Guantanamo.

Lawmakers of both parties denounced even the possibility of trials in the U.S. of detainees. And Republicans made clear they would use the issue as a linchpin in their opposition to other administration projects.

Determined to regain the upper hand, U.S. officials have been crisscrossing the globe in recent weeks to cajole other governments to take freed detainees.

“The White House came to the realization that it’s just too hard, that there were too many obstacles to this and is looking at other options,” said one senior official.

Earlier this week, after a visit from Obama’s special envoy for closing Guantanamo, Daniel Fried, the president of Palau, a remote island east of the Philippines, said his country was willing to accept some or all of the Uighurs.

Then on Thursday, four Uighurs were transferred from Guantanamo to the British territory of Bermuda. The move angered British officials, who have responsibility for the island’s foreign, defense and security affairs, but were not informed until shortly before it happened.

Hours later, the administration’s interest in completing those transfers was evident in the presence of Fried and White House counsel Greg Craig aboard a flight that carried four newly released Uighurs and their lawyers to Bermuda. White House officials said the officials were on the flight to ensure there were no last-minute hitches.

Officials had long believed that the Uighurs would be the easiest — and perhaps the only — Guantanamo detainees who could be released in the United States.

Now that Bermuda and Palau have stepped forward, the administration has for the time being given up on bringing any Uighurs to American soil.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Cloward-Piven Crisis Care

[Comments from JD: Understanding this tactic is important because Obama is using this tactic to foist Socialism on America.]

The president’s ability to exploit crises is reminiscent of the controversial teachings of Columbia University political scientists, Frances Fox Cloward and Richard Andrew Piven. Inspired by the Obama mentor — radical community organizer Saul Alinsky — these two sixties social revolutionaries taught that upheaval is something that should “never be wasted” and that political change can be fostered through “…orchestrated crisis.” Two skills Barack Obama proficiently exercises every chance he gets.

Cloward-Piven instructed activists that if a crisis did not exist, promote or manufacture one by exaggerating a benign or unthreatening predicament. In doing so, contrived commotion would serve as a tool to convince the masses of their urgent need for rescue. In order to achieve the ultimate goal, students were encouraged to stress the social system to the breaking point, which would quash capitalism and institute socialism through a massive infusion of government intervention

Cloward-Piven repeatedly cited Alinsky’s, Rules for Radicals, in all their work. Marxism advocates were taught by Cloward-Piven to, “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.” Never failing to remind their apprentices that, “…when pressed…human agencies inevitably fall short…the system’s failure to “live up” to its rule book can then is used to discredit it altogether.” The definitive goal: “… replace the capitalist “rule book” with a socialist one.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Darwin-Loving Museum Shooter Hates Bible, Christians

Suspect in death of security guard defies easy stereotyping

James von Brunn, the man who allegedly shot and killed a guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., was a Darwin-lover who hated the Bible and Christians, and defies media efforts to classify him as a stereotypical “right-winger,” according to report.

The Moonbattery blog revealed von Brunn advocated the socialist policies espoused by Adolf Hitler and used Darwinian theory to support his anti-Semitism.

And in statements that later were stripped from an anti-religion website, he wrote, “The Big Lie technique, employed by Paul to create the CHRISTIAN RELIGION, also was used to create the HOLOCAUST RELIGION … CHRISTIANITY AND THE HOLOCAUST are HOAXES.”

The blog had an answer to how to classify von Brunn, who remains hospitalized after being shot while attacking and shooting a guard at the museum: “If it barks like a moonbat, it’s a moonbat.”

[…]

“None of this will surprise readers of Jonah Goldberg’s bestseller ‘Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change,’ which clearly demonstrates that ‘fascism’ of the kind advocated by the British National Party (BNP) and the likes of James W. von Brunn is just as likely to reflect ‘leftwing’ views as ‘rightwing’ ones,” Shaidle wrote.

[…]

“In short, von Brunn’s connection with conservative thought and action today — be it talk radio or ‘tea parties’ — is tenuous. Those trying to puff up such ‘connections’ are acting in bad faith, out of blind partisanship — of the sort which is as corrosive to the health of the body politic as von Brunn’s own b[l]atherings,” Shaidle wrote.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Drilling Might be Culprit Behind Texas Earthquakes

CLEBURNE, Texas — The earth moved here on June 2. It was the first recorded earthquake in this Texas town’s 140-year history — but not the last. There have been four small earthquakes since, none with a magnitude greater than 2.8. The most recent ones came Tuesday night, just as the City Council was meeting in an emergency session to discuss what to do about the ground moving.

The council’s solution was to hire a geology consultant to try to answer the question on everyone’s mind: Is natural gas drilling — which began in earnest here in 2001 and has brought great prosperity to Cleburne and other towns across North Texas — causing the quakes?

“I think John Q. Public thinks there is a correlation with drilling,” Mayor Ted Reynolds said. “We haven’t had a quake in recorded history, and all the sudden you drill and there are earthquakes.”

At issue is a drilling practice called “fracking,” in which water is injected into the ground at high pressure to fracture the layers of shale and release natural gas trapped in the rock.

There is no consensus among scientists about whether the practice is contributing to the quakes. But such seismic activity was once rare in Texas and seems to be increasing lately, lending support to the theory that drilling is having a destabilizing effect.

On May 16, three small quakes shook Bedford, a suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth. Two small earthquakes hit nearby Grand Prairie and Irving on Oct. 31, and again on Nov. 1.

The towns sit upon the Barnett Shale, a geologic formation that is perhaps the nation’s richest natural gas field. The area is estimated to have 30 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas and provides about 7 percent of the country’s supply.

The drilling’s economic impact has been significant, because gas companies pay signing bonuses and royalties to property owners for the right to drill beneath their land. Signing bonuses climbed to around $25,000 an acre at the boom’s peak.

Cleburne agreed to lease the mineral rights in the earliest stages of the frenzy, receiving a modest $55 an acre for 3,500 acres of city land. There are about 200 drilling sites in Cleburne, and it is not unusual to see cattle chewing grass in the shadow of gas pipes.

Cleburne has collected between $20 million and $25 million in royalties since 2001, about $6 million in 2008 alone, Reynolds said. Such riches have allowed the building of parks and sports complexes in the city of 30,000, about 30 miles south of Fort Worth.

“That’s a lot of libraries and police cars,” the mayor said proudly. “It’s enabled us to escape the worst part of the recession, enables us to keep tax rates low and lowered unemployment.”

Landowners are also getting theirs. Locals call it “mailbox money,” occasional royalty checks that arrive from the gas companies. The mayor, a contractor who owns three quarters of an acre, said his most recent check, for three months’ worth of royalties, was nearly $850.

“It’s better than a poke in the eye,” he said.

Although many residents never felt the quakes, those who did have described them in different ways. When the first few hit, some ran outside to see if a house had exploded. The city manager said he thought his wife was closing the garage door. Picture frames and windows rattled.

None of the quakes caused any damage or injuries, though city officials said they are keeping a close eye on the earthen dam at Lake Pat Cleburne..

There seems to be little fear around town of any catastrophic damage, but the ground shaking is unnerving nonetheless. Townspeople want to find out at least what is causing it, even if it is unclear whether anything can be done about it.

The gas is extracted through a process known as horizontal drilling. A company will drill roughly 5,000 feet to 7,000 feet down and then go horizontally for as much as 4,000 feet or so. Then the fracking begins.

A spokeswoman for Chesapeake Energy, which owns most of the mineral rights leases in the Cleburne area, said the company is “eager to get to the facts” and is working with the government and local researchers to determine whether there is a link.

“Drilling has occurred for more than a hundred years,” Julie Wilson said in an e-mail. “Tens of thousands of wells have been drilled with no nearby earthquakes at all; hundreds of earthquakes have occurred with no drilling nearby.”

Cliff Frohlich, a scientist at the University of Texas and author of “Texas Earthquakes,” said he believes more than 20 Texas earthquakes in the past 100 years are related to drilling for petroleum and gas. But he added: “I would be surprised if a seriously damaging earthquake came out of this.”

John Breyer, a petroleum geologist and professor at Texas Christian University, said drilling is absolutely not causing the earthquakes.

“It’s like the Great Wall of China,” he said. “If you pull a brick out of the wall every half-mile, you are not going to affect the stability of the structure.”

The mayor said he is open to any answer the city’s geologist brings him.

“We are going to find out what’s causing them and if it is something that we can deal with, I promise we will deal with it,” Reynolds said. “But it’s like the dog that chases the car and catches the car: I don’t know what you do then.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Egypt: Obama Speech Linked to F-16 Deal

Payoff was U.S. promise of Egyptian access to weapons

Egypt’s hosting of President Barack Obama’s “mutual respect” speech to the Muslim world came at the same time the Obama administration quietly was agreeing to Egypt’s longstanding request to purchase some 24 F-16 fighters, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

According to informed sources, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates relayed the commitment in his May 5 meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Key Health Care Senators Have Industry Ties

WASHINGTON — Influential senators working to overhaul the nation’s health care system have investments and family ties with some of the biggest names in the industry. The wife of Sen. Chris Dodd, the lawmaker in charge of writing the Senate’s bill, sits on the boards of four health care companies.

Members of both parties have industry connections, including Democrats Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin, in addition to Dodd, and Republicans Tom Coburn, Judd Gregg, John Kyl and Orrin Hatch, financial reports showed Friday.

Jackie Clegg Dodd, wife of the Connecticut Democrat, is on the boards of Javelin Pharmaceuticals Inc., Cardiome Pharma Corp., Brookdale Senior Living and Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals.

Dodd is filling in for ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will soon start work on a health care bill.

Other publicly available documents show Mrs. Dodd last year was one of the most highly compensated non-employee members of the Javelin Pharmaceuticals Inc. board, on which she has served since 2004. She earned $32,000 in fees and $109,587 in stock option awards last year, according to the company’s SEC filings.

Mrs. Dodd earned $79,063 in fees from Cardiome in its last fiscal year, while Brookdale Senior Living gave her $122,231 in stock awards in 2008, their SEC filings show. She earned no income from her post as a director for Pear Tree Pharmaceuticals but holds up to $15,000 in stock in Pear Tree, which describes itself as a development-stage pharmaceutical company focused on the needs of aging women.

The annual financial disclosure reports for members of Congress are less precise. They only require that assets and liabilities be listed in ranges of values.

Dodd was granted a 90-day extension to file his report covering last year, but released it to The Associated Press.

Bryan DeAngelis, Dodd’s spokesman, said, “Jackie Clegg Dodd’s career is her own; absolutely independent of Senator Dodd, as it was when they married 10 years ago. The senator has worked to reform our health care system for decades, and nothing about his wife’s career is relevant at all to his leadership of that effort.”

DeAngelis said that Mrs. Dodd has hired a personal ethics lawyer to avoid any conflicts of interest and is not a lobbyist.

Other reports showed:

* Rockefeller, D-W.Va., reported $15,001 to $50,000 in capital gains for his wife from the sale of a stake in Athenahealth Inc., a business services company that helps medical providers with billing and clinical operations.

Rockefeller is honorary chairman of the Alliance for Health Reform, a Washington nonprofit whose board includes representatives from the UnitedHealth Group health insurance company; AFL-CIO labor union; the AARP, which sells health insurance; St. John Health, a nonprofit health system that includes seven hospitals and 125 medical facilities in southeast Michigan; CIGNA Corp., an employer-sponsored benefits company; and the United Hospital Fund of New York.

* Coburn, R-Okla., is a practicing physician. He reported slight business income, $268, from the Muskogee Allergy Clinic last year; $3,000 to $45,000 in stock in Affymetrix Inc., a biotechnology company and pioneer in genetic analysis; $1,000 to $15,000 in stock in Pfizer Inc., a pharmaceutical company; and a $1,000 to $15,000 interest in Thomas A. Coburn, MD, Inc.

Under Senate ethics rules, Coburn can’t accept money from his patients..

* Gregg, R-N.H., disclosed $250,001 to $500,000 in drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. stock and $1,000 to $15,000 each in stock in pharmaceutical companies Merck & Co. and Pfizer, the Johnson & Johnson health care products company and Agilent Technologies, which is involved in the biomedical industry.

* Kyl, R-Ariz., the Senate minority whip, reported $15,001 to $50,000 in stock in Amgen Inc., which develops medical therapeutics. Kyl’s retirement account held stakes in several health care businesses, including the Wyeth, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and AstraZeneca pharmaceutical companies; medical provider Tenet Healthcare Corp.; CVS Caremark prescription and health services company; Genentech, a biotherapeutics manufacturer; and insurer MetLife Inc.

* Harkin, D-Iowa, has a joint ownership stake in health-related stocks. Harkin and his wife, Ruth Raduenz, own shares of drug makers Amgen and Genentech, Inc., each stake valued at $1,001 to $15,000; Their largest health care holding, Johnson & Johnson, was valued at $50,001 to $100,000.

* Hatch, R-Utah, a member of the Finance and Health committees, reported owning between $1,001 and $15,000 worth of stock in drug maker Pfizer Inc. He spoke to two pharmaceutical industry conferences last year. Sponsors of the conferences donated $3,500 to charities instead of speaking fees, as required by Senate rules.

Like millions of Americans, several senators took a financial hit in 2008. A sampling:

_Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., lost some $100,000 in equity in his home in Springfield and $35,000 in his Chicago condominium. Durbin, who released his tax returns, reported losing $32,259 in various investments last year, including more than $10,400 in Berkshire Hathaway and $5,535 in Fidelity stock.

_Kennedy in 2007 had four trusts each valued between $5,000,001-$25 million. In 2008, only one trust was still in that category while the rest had slipped in value to $1,000,001-$5 million.

_Hatch’s investments suffered from the banking crisis. In 2007, he reported assets of between $2,002 and $30,000 in Countrywide Credit Industries Inc. stock. His 2008 financial disclosure lists the value at less than $1,000.

One of Dodd’s investments showed a vast improvement.

A new appraisal more than doubled the value of his vacation cottage in Ireland, which has been subject of a Senate ethics complaint filed by a conservative group questioning if the undervalued property was really a gift.

The property is valued at 470,000 euros, or about $660,000, on Dodd’s disclosure report.

The previous year’s report valued the seaside home, located in County Galway, at between $100,001 and $250,000.

DeAngelis, the spokesman, said Dodd and his wife decided to have the property appraised because they felt it was time to update the information.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Lying With Impunity

The presidency of George W. Bush — his popularity, approval numbers and so forth — was razed to the ground on the basis of one invalid claim: “Bush lied” (regarding his accusation that Saddam Hussein’s regime possessed weapons of mass destruction, this being the justification for invading Iraq).

Let’s assume, just for the sake of an amusing mental exercise, that President Bush’s charge was indeed a lie. If this lie was Hurricane Katrina (actually an amusing if ironic analogy in itself), it pales beside the Great Flood of omissions, rationalizations and outright fabrications to which Americans are subjected on a regular basis by President Obama.

But it just doesn’t matter.

One could enumerate the dozens of statements Obama woodenly delivered during the 2008 campaign that were assertions only a fool would believe, but could not be directly proven: His ignorance of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s racism, unawareness of William Ayers’ terrorist past, and non-involvement with the nefarious Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). Yet, these are trifles compared to the counterfeit oratory he’s pulled off with impunity since becoming president.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Miss Affirmative Action, 2009

Having lost the Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008, Republicans are looking to redefine themselves for a nation that still leans conservative but is less Republican that it has been in decades.

The nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court presents just such an opportunity. For, even if the party loses the battle and Sotomayor sits on the court, it can win the war, as Ronald Reagan won the Panama Canal debate, even as Senate Republicans committed collective suicide by voting to give away the canal.

What are the grounds for rejecting Sonia Sotomayor?

No one has brought forth the slightest evidence she has the intellectual candlepower to sit on the Roberts court. By her own admission, Sotomayor is an “affirmative action baby.”

Though the Obama media have been ballyhooing her brilliance — No. 1 in high school, No. 1 at Princeton, editor of Yale Law Review — her academic career appears to have been a fraud from beginning to end, a testament to Ivy League corruption.

Two weeks ago, the New York Times reported that, to get up to speed on her English skills at Princeton, Sotomayor was advised to read children’s classics and study basic grammar books during her summers. How do you graduate first in your class at Princeton if your summer reading consists of “Chicken Little” and “The Troll Under the Bridge”?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



More Scandals Haunt Sotomayor

Bill O’Reilly has declared, “I don’t think she’s a racist,” in regard to Obama Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, even though it turns out that her comment about a Latina woman making better decisions than a white man was repeated on several occasions. O’Reilly turns a blind eye to her raw display of racism because he doesn’t want to be accused of being a racist himself. This is how cowardly the sponsor of the “No Spin Zone” has become in the face of a politically correct “debate” that has already forced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to retract his charge of racism against her.

False accusations against white people are tolerated by the media, even the conservative media. This is why Al Sharpton is a frequent guest on the O’Reilly show, despite his participation in the Tawana Brawley hoax, whereby he falsely accused a group of white men of raping a black woman.

But accurate accusations of racism against members of minority groups who make racist statements are not tolerated. That is why Gingrich backed away from his accurate comments, and why O’Reilly said he didn’t want to have anything to do with them.

[…]

In my previous column on this nomination, I noted that Sotomayor had delivered a speech entitled, “Being the Change We Need for Our Communities.” It sounded like something delivered by a political candidate or Obama himself. We now have a copy of that speech.

[…]

She added, “What is our challenge today: Our challenge as lawyers and court related professionals and staff, as citizens of the world is to keep the spirit of the common joy we shared on November 4 alive in our everyday existence. We have to continue to work together for our common goal of bringing the promise of America’s greatness and fairness to all members of our society.”

Notice how she referred to herself as a “citizen of the world,” not as a citizen of the United States. This takes on significance in her case because she wrote a foreword to a book called The International Judge. Does she believe in American sovereignty?

Calling for more “change,” she said, “It is the message of service that President Obama is trying to trumpet and it is a clarion call we are obligated to heed. We must devote ourselves to bettering the lives of all the needy of our society and we must do it together.”

She is openly advocating using the courts to push Obama’s political agenda.

Based on these comments, which violate the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, Sotomayor should not only be forced to withdraw her nomination for the Supreme Court, she should be impeached.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama’s Deep Belief in Himself is No Match for Global Reality

Despite his boldness, Barack Obama seems as fated to fail as were Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter. And for the same reason: a belief in his own righteousness and moral superiority, and a belief that his ideals and his persona count mightily in the modern world.

[…]

As for Barack, he behaves on the world stage like some Ivy League kid ashamed of the people he came from, letting one and all on campus know that he is nothing like his benighted family with its sordid history.

In Cairo, he confessed that America had a hand in dumping over the regime in Iran in 1953. He did not mention that the United States forced the retreat of Joseph Stalin’s army from Iran in 1946.

For the 100th time, he declared, “I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.”

Is Obama unaware that Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia run prisons that make Guantanamo look like The Breakers at Palm Beach?

How many Guantanamo inmates plead to be sent home to Muslim countries?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama Nation’s Low View of Christianity

President Obama’s comment to French television on June 1 that the United States is “one of the largest Muslim countries in the world,” plus his Islam-praising speech in Cairo, Egypt on June 4, raise anew questions about his own faith and how he views America.

Questions can also be asked about his math. The CIA Factbook estimates America’s Muslim population at 0.6 percent, or about 1.8 million, which puts it in 58th place among nations’ total Muslim populations. Even if you take the Islamic Information Center’s high estimate of 8 million, that still puts the U.S. at 29th out of 60 nations.

In Cairo, Obama quoted from the Koran, used his middle name of Hussein, and indicated that the United States and Muslim nations have the same commitment to tolerance and freedom. To fathom the absurdity, think about the possibility of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution springing from the pens of Islamic scholars Thomas al-Jefferson and James al-Madison.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama: Where Have All His Records Gone?

Footprints of president’s own history either vanish or remain covered up

While nearly 400,000 concerned citizens demand President Obama present his elusive “long-form” birth certificate, more than a dozen other documents remain unreleased or otherwise blocked from the public eye.

Numerous documents which have yet to be surrendered include the following.

Birth certificate Obama kindergarten records Punahou School records Occidental College records Columbia University records Columbia thesis “Soviet Nuclear Disarmament” Harvard Law School records Harvard Law Review articles University of Chicago scholarly articles Passport Medical records Other documents

* Complete files and schedules of his years as an Illinois state senator

from 1997 to 2004

* Obama’s client list from during his time in private practice with the

Chicago law firm of Davis, Miner, Barnhill and Gallard

* Illinois State Bar Association records

* Baptism records

* Obama/Dunham marriage license

* Obama/Dunham divorce documents

* Soetoro/Dunham marriage license

* Adoption records

[Comments from JD: See article for details on each of these items.]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Rabbi: Obama Breeds Climate of Hate Against Jews

Our new president did not tell a virulent anti-Semite to travel to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington to kill Jews, but he is most certainly creating a climate of hate against us.

It is no coincidence that we are witnessing this level of hatred toward Jews as President Barack Obama positions America against the Jewish state.

Just days ago Obama traveled to Cairo, Egypt. It was his second trip in a short time to visit Muslim countries. He sent a clear message by not visiting Israel.

But this was code.

In Cairo, Obama said things that pose a grave danger to Jews in Israel, in America and everywhere.

And if his views are not vigorously opposed they will help create a danger as great as that posed by the Nazis to the Jewish people.

Just last week, Obama told his worldwide audience — more than 100 million people — that the killing of six million Jews during the Holocaust was the equivalent of Israel’s actions in dealing with the Palestinians.

This remark is incredible on its face, an insult to the six million Jews who died as a result of Hitler’s genocide — and it is a form of revisionism that will bode evil for Jews for years to come.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Republicans: Debt Will Bring Barack Obama Down

Republicans on Capitol Hill think they’ve finally found Barack Obama’s Achilles’ heel: rising public concern about government spending and the federal deficit.

While Obama’s overall job-approval ratings are up over the past month, a Gallup Poll out this week has a 51 percent majority of Americans disapproving of the president’s efforts to control federal spending and a slim 48 percent to 46 percent disapproving of his handling of the federal deficit.

Those are the only areas where Obama has negative approval ratings — Americans approve, by double-digit margins, the way Obama is handling his overall job, foreign affairs, terrorism, the Middle East and North Korea. But the GOP will take what it can get.

“The president is still popular, but his policies are catching up with him,” said Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who, as the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, is in charge of messaging for his conference. “When that happens, it helps us make our points.”

           — Hat tip: LN [Return to headlines]



Rev. Wright: I Meant to Say “Zionists” Are Keeping Me From Talking to President Obama — Not Jews

In an interview on a liberal satellite radio show, Rev. Jeremiah Wright attempted to clarify his comments to the Newport News, Virginia. Daily-Press about “them Jews” preventing him from speaking to President Obama.

“Let me say like Hillary, I misspoke,” Wright said. “Let me just say: Zionists.”

Wright said “I’m not talking about all Jews, all people of the Jewish faith, I’m talking about Zionists.”

Wright then criticized Israel, saying, “I quote Jews when I say this,” and referencing books by Jewish authors such as “Judaism Does Not Equal Israel: The Rebirth of the Jewish Prophetic” by Marc Ellis and “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by Ilan Pappe.

“I’m talking about facts, historical facts,” Wright said. “I’m not talking about emotionally charged words or the fact that like Jimmy Carter’s book, that because he used the word that Jews use, ‘apartheid,’ he gets labeled anti-Semitic.”

“They can jump on that one phrase if they want to,” Wright said, “but they can’t, they can’t undo history. They can’t undo the facts of Jewish historians and Jewish theologians who write about what’s going on, who write about the enormous influence that AIPAC has on our government and on United States policy and the United Nations.”

(Wright did not identify who “they” was.)

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Tampa Mayor Declines to Honor CAIR

Group says official ‘has succumbed to the pressure of an anti-Muslim extremist’

TAMPA — Mayor Pam Iorio has decided to halt proclamations of an annual day in Tampa for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization that says it seeks to defend the civil rights of Muslims in the U.S., but has been accused of terrorist links.

Iorio has proclaimed a “CAIR Day” each fall since 2005. The organization has an active chapter in Tampa.

Among other activities, the group has defended Youssef Megahed, a University of South Florida student arrested in 2007 on explosives charges along with another student who was accused of aiding terrorists. Megahed was acquitted but is now subject to deportation proceedings.

Iorio, who didn’t return calls for comment, said through a spokeswoman the mayor’s decision was based on her own research on the group. She made the decision after at least two interest groups contacted the city about the matter.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Enemy Within

The horrifying news of an American soldier gunned down at a Little Rock Army recruitment center has left many asking why. The answer may be shocking to some: The prison made me do it.

In an outline of his defense strategy for accused murderer Carlos Bledsoe, attorney Jim Hensley told reporters that his client was “radicalized” by Islamic fundamentalists in a Yemeni prison, where he spent four months last year after overstaying his visa. It is a plausible scenario. But here’s the sad truth: Thousands of inmates are radicalized by Islam every year, and it is happening in prisons right here in the United States.

Most recently, the four men arrested in an alleged plot to blow up New York synagogues and military targets were radicalized Muslims who had spent time in the U.S. prison system. In fact, at least two of them converted to Islam during stretches in prison.

While about 1 in 100 Americans claims to be Muslim, six times as many American prisoners identify as Muslim. As many as 40,000 American prison inmates convert to Islam every year.

The problem isn’t so much that prisoners are converting to Islam, it’s the particular form of Islam they are embracing: one that preaches hatred of Jews, Christians and all infidels and violence against America.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Canada


Handing Out the Vote

Toronto Mayor David Miller continues to flog his favourite bad idea: making non-citizens eligible to vote in the city’s municipal elections.

At a panel meeting held at City Hall on Wednesday, the English-born Mr. Miller played the pathos card, waxing nostalgic about the single mother who raised him — even though, according to the rules then prevailing, Mom was actually eligible to vote in Canada from the second her toe hit the tarmac. No matter. The point is, if you oppose Miller on this issue, you obviously hate immigrants. And if you hate immigrants, then darn it, David Miller has a problem with you.

Perhaps Mr. Miller has a point, though: Considering that our next prime minister may be a man for whom Canadian citizenship was no more than a totemistic afterthought for much of the last 30 years, can we reasonably object to letting non-citizens vote in Toronto elections if they do, in fact, live in Toronto?

We kid, partly, but the debate over non-citizen municipal voting may, in fact, break down along similar fault lines as does the debate over Michael Ignatieff’s felicitously timed return to Canada. Mayor Miller emphasized that newcomers who patronize city services and pay user fees and taxes should have a say in its government; and this is, in fact, a strong utilitarian argument, one which frames the city purely as a business, the mayor and council as managers and Torontonians as clients.

If, on the other hand, one takes a slightly more romanticized view — if one regards the city as more than just a business or a package of services, but a multi-generational co-operative project, and sees Torontonians as a particular, unique strain of Canadian humanity sharing a common destiny — then the argument that “non-citizens are customers too” won’t wash. Customers they may be, but it is entirely proper for us to make them wait a little while before receiving part-ownership of the enterprise and access to the attendant management privileges.

Mayor Miller made a curious argument at one point on Wednesday: “It’s my view,” he said, “that those people who have chosen to make Toronto their home and live here permanently should have the right to vote in municipal elections in exactly the same way as Canadian citizens.”

The obvious rejoinder would seem to be: What on Earth can be wrong with expecting immigrants to become citizens, precisely as a means of proving that they intend to make Canada their home and live here permanently? Isn’t that exactly what an immigrant is supposed to be signalling by applying for citizenship — “Here I am, I’m putting down roots”?

It seems to us that Mr. Miller’s real argument runs the other way: It is an appeal specifically for the benefit of Toronto residents who do not see the city as home, and may not want to live there permanently. In any city, at any moment, there are folks who are just passing through and may soon be on their way. But Mr. Miller refuses to observe any meaningful difference at all between “a person who happens to be living in Toronto” and “a Torontonian.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Britain Will ‘Obviously’ Join Euro Says Mandelson

The newly promoted First Secretary of State, speaking in Berlin, hailed the euro as a saviour that had brought stability to the European Union during financial turmoil.

“It is perfectly clear that the euro has been a great success in anchoring its eurozone members during this financial crisis,” he said.

“Imagine where all of us would have been if it hadn’t. I hope people will recognise that this represents a major vindication for the single currency.”

Asked if the British Government would consider joining the euro, Lord Mandelson replied: “Does it remain an important objective for Britain to find itself in the same currency as that single market in which it interacts? Obviously yes.”

He added: “That has to be a decision taken on the right terms in the right circumstances and conditions and therefore at a future time than we have now.”

The Conservatives accused Lord Mandelson of trying to bounce Britain into the single currency. “It is deeply disturbing that the man who now makes most of the government’s policies has declared that Britain should join the euro,” said William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary.

Mr Hague rejected the argument that the euro could have sheltered the British economy and pointed to the total loss of control over monetary policy that is required for membership. “The fact is that if we had scrapped the pound interest rates would have been lower in the boom and would now be higher. Under the euro, Gordon Brown’s boom and bust would have been even deeper,” he said.

“Lord Mandelson’s failure to learn this obvious lesson shows how bereft Labour are of fresh thinking.”

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



Call Wilders What He is: A Racist

Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom has all the hallmarks of an extreme-right party. Why then do the Dutch prefer to call it populist? asks René Danen.

By René Danen

The foreign media routinely describe Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom as an “extreme-right” party. Yet the Dutch media, including NRC, seem to be deadly afraid of calling the PVV by its name, preferring to describe it as “populist” or “anti-Islam”.

After Wilders released his [anti-Islam] film Fitna, for instance, the Dutch government was mostly worried about its effect on Dutch trade interests. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon went much further in denouncing Fitna. He said there was “there is no justification for the hate speech or incitement to violence” in the film and that taking legal action against the film was not a violation of the principle of freedom of speech.

Dutch politicians moved on as soon as the Fitna hype died down. Luckily, the Amsterdam appeals court later ordered Wilders to be prosecuted for “incitement to hatred and discrimination”. There was good reason to do so if you look at some of Wilders’ positions.

The PVV wants to close the borders to people who belong to one particular religion, and ban the houses of worship and schools for one population group. Wilders once told De Limburger newspaper that he wants to “tear down the mosques”. He told HP/De Tijd newsweekly that “it is okay for the Netherlands to have Jewish and Christian school but not Islamic schools”. In other words: pure discrimination…

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]



European Left More Dangerous for Jews Than European Right

by Soeren Kern

Jewish groups in Europe and the United States have reacted with alarm to the gains made by far-right political parties in the recent elections for European Parliament. Right-wing and nationalist parties posted significant victories in Austria, Britain, Denmark, Hungary, Romania, and the Netherlands in four days of voting that ended on June 7.

The Paris-based [1] European Jewish Congress (EJC), an umbrella organization for Jewish communities in Europe, said: “As we assess the results of this week’s elections, one disturbing trend has already crystallized; the gains made by extreme-right groups is a Europe-wide phenomenon. The success of the far-right and nationalistic parties that won seats in the elections on the basis of racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic platforms points to a clear erosion of tolerance and a clarion call to European officials to immediately engage in intercultural dialogue. The success of such rabid groups as The Freedom Party in the Netherlands, the Freedom Party in Austria (FPO), the Danish People’s Party, the British National Party, and Jobbik in Hungary, among others, will sadly only serve to embolden those who espouse the dangerous concepts of extreme nationalism, racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.”

The New York-based [2] Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said it was “deeply distressing that the blatantly anti-Semitic parties received so many votes,” and called on European leaders to “ensure that anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry never again gain a foothold in Europe. … It is imperative that European leaders do not remain silent, but speak out and reject the hateful and bigoted worldview of parties of the far-right and their supporters.”

The Geneva-based [3] World Jewish Congress (WJC) said: “Far-right parties and extremists have made gains across Europe amid protest votes and low turnout for the European Parliament (EP) elections. The elections were held in all 27 EU member states from Thursday to Sunday last week. Support for centre-Left parties and governments collapsed across the EU as fringe parties, picked up protest votes.”

Although these and other Jewish groups are not alone in their concerns about rising anti-Semitism in Europe, their fear of the far right often obscures the indisputable fact that some of the greatest threats to Jews (and Israel) in contemporary Europe stem from the left side of the political aisle. Indeed, it is [4] no big secret that all across the European continent, left-wing intellectuals are playing a crucial role in making anti-Semitism seem respectable. Of course, they are (usually) careful to promote their hatred of Jews only indirectly. Instead, modern anti-Semitism is typically disguised as [5] anti-Zionism and an obsession with Palestinian victimhood.

European Judeophobia often takes on new life forms such as anti-Semitic boycott campaigns and anti-Israel demonstrations, the growing intensity of which the European left not only [6] overlooks or obscures but often actively supports. It is transmitted by Europe’s left-leaning mass media, which not only believes that the systematic demonization of Israel promotes the postmodern and postnational ideological worldview of Europe’s governing class, but also appeases the wrath of Europe’s Muslim immigrants, lest they expose the myth of European socialist multicultural utopia…

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]



Finland: Police Acknowledge That Wednesday’s Football Scuffles Got Beyond Them

With the current resources it was an impossible task to preserve order

Police in Helsinki have admitted that things got seriously out of kilter on Wednesday evening, prior to the Finland-Russia World Cup qualifying match, when processions of rival fans clashed on Mannerheimintie, with bottles, bricks, and flares being thrown and individual scuffles breaking out.

The scenes of violence were unprecedented in the Finnish experience, and Seppo Kujala of the Helsinki Police Department acknowledged that the officers did not entirely succeed in keeping the peace.

“Our objective was to prevent these clashes in advance and fend off disturbances between the rival factions. In the main we succeeded, but when highly-motivated groups looking for a rumble were involved, some fights and incidents broke out.”

According to some estimates, there were between 8,000 and 10,000 Russian fans in town for the match, together with around 25,000 Finns, and several hundred police were deployed.

Over the evening and during the match itself police arrested around thirty Russian fans and a dozen or so Finns. Nearly all were released on Thursday morning.

The reasons for the arrests included bottle-throwing or carrying illegal flares.

There were also a number of assaults reported. However, there have been few actual reports submitted to police of a crime being committed, which would suggest that the fighting was a mutual affair.

The scuffles climaxed in a clash between large groups of fans marching along Mannerheimintie.

At one point, the vanguard of the Finnish procession caught up with the rear of the Russian fans’ march.

Kujala noted that it may well have been that the biggest troublemakers on the Russian side had not set out with the others from the Senate Square, and he implied that some of the trouble had been planned in advance.

Kujala pointed out that efforts were made to keep the two groups separate in order to avoid any volatile encounters, but said that with the resources available it was an impossible task.

Matters were not helped by the fact that the police had no prior information on the route of the Russian procession.

The Finnish march had on the other hand been arranged beforehand between the organisers and the police.

Kujala stated that Wednesday’s unfortunate events were unlikely to influence the tradition of marching en masse to matches that the Finnish National Team Supporters’ Club (SMJK) has fostered.

Aside from the throwing of flares and fireworks in the enclosure for travelling Russian fans on the South Bank, there was little trouble in the stadium itself, and after the match the crowds dispersed without undue incident.

The decisive Russian victory — they crushed Finland 3-0 — possibly contributed to the ultimately peaceful end to the evening.

As for the fireworks, they could lead to sanctions for Palloliitto, the Finnish FA.

A FIFA match observer will be reporting on the game to the international body, whose disciplinary committee will consider the matter.

As hosts, the Finnish FA were responsible for security, but their Russian counterparts may also face punishment from FIFA, as they sold the tickets to the fans in the areas of the stadium where the trouble took place.

Security officials pointed out the difficulty of checking for items such as fireworks as fans came in through the turnstiles.

Many of the items are very small, and hard to spot in anything but the most rigorous and time-consuming of inspections.

Some have suggested there might have been as many as 12,000 in the stadium supporting the Russian team, and particularly after the visitors had scored twice and effectively settled the outcome, the singing and flag-waving occasionally gave the impression this was a home match for Russia.

A few local fans have grumbled that the willingness of Finnish and other entrepreneurs to sell the visitors large Russian flags only added to the sense of imbalance, but business is business.

For the most part, the rivalry in the Olympic Stadium was friendly enough, and as always in these cases, the genuine supporters denounced the troublemakers as “not real football fans”.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Finland: Football Match Sparks Riots — Detainees Released by Police

Wednesday’s World Cup qualifying football match between Finland and Russia sparked hooliganism and fights in downtown Helsinki. Police detained 35 football fans — 29 of whom were Russians.

They were all later released. Police had to take many of the hooligans into custody in the Olympic Stadium during the game itself, but some fights broke out downtown before Russia’s 3-0 victory over Finland.

The main clash occurred on the city’s main boulevard Mannerheimintie, when a parade of Finnish fans caught up to a parade of Russians marching their way to the match. According to police, both nationalities threw flares and bottles at each other.

“Both groups provoked each other, and someone always gets irate,” says Helsinki police spokesman Juha Hänninen.

Police were also targeted by the rioters. They estimate that around 4,000 people took part in the parades and that as many as 8,000 Russians may have attended the match — the largest contingent of foreign football fans ever to attend a match in Finland.

The afternoon before the match was mostly peaceful, with a busy carnival atmosphere. Russian fans hung flags out of their car windows and drove around town honking.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



French Shops Sue Saudi Princess

Luxury retailers in Paris are suing a Saudi princess who allegedly owes tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills, a lawyer for two shops said.

Maha al-Sudairi, the wife of the Saudi interior minister, is accused of owing the two shops 117,000 euros ($164,000).

The lawyer, Jacky Benazerah, said a court order had been obtained for bailiffs to go to the George V hotel in Paris and seize her belongings.

Ms Sudairi has diplomatic immunity because of her husband’s status.

Reports say several upmarket shops are owed money, including the clothes retailer Key Largo, a lingerie shop and jewellers.

Some bills are alleged to have remained unpaid for more than a year.

Mr Benazerah told the BBC that a bailiff, accompanied by a locksmith, would go to the George V Hotel — partly owned by Ms Sudairi’s nephew, Prince Al-Walid bin Talal — later on Friday.

He said the hotel could refuse them entry, in which case the French interior ministry and senior police officials would be consulted to authorise a police escort.

But Mr Benazerah said he was confident the princess would agree to an “amicable” settlement.

The Paris court where Mr Benazerah has filed his case has refused to comment, and Ms Sudairi has not responded to calls from the media.

This is not the first time the Saudi princess has made headlines.

In 1995, she was accused of beating a servant in Florida whom she suspected of stealing $200,000 from her. No charges were filed.

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



Gaddafi in Rome: Warns Against Illegal Immigration

(ANSAmed) — ROME — On the second day of his visit to Rome, Muammar Gaddafi made some unyielding statements to those who defend immigrants on principle, the majority of whom do not meet the requirements to be recognised as refugees, but are simply “hungry Africans who are politically unaffiliated. They do not know who the political parties are, and they are not involved in the elections.” The Libyan leader did not abandon for an instant the cliche’s that have always characterised him, as he faced every potentially delicate issue with determination. On illegal immigration, Gaddafi used a crude, yet effective image to make his point: “let the Italian government stop defending you from immigration. Let millions of people enter the country” and then “you will need a dictator to protect you”. He then added ironically: “let the human rights organisations find them jobs, treat them medically, and do everything else they need”. Irony again was not lacking when he said: “would you accept a million political refugees? If you would, it would be a great thing, I would help you, if you want a million Africans, who would then turn into two, twenty, fifty million, then I am with you”. He took a very hard stance on colonialism. In Gaddafi’s view, former colonising countries must “acknowledge that they have stolen Africa’s resources, colonised the continent, and in the past, treated its people like animals”. “Apologies must be made for this and it must never be repeated again,” added the colonel in his speech at La Sapienza University in Rome. “We will tell the G8 that resources have been stolen and now it is necessary to negotiate compensation,” he explained. In this way only “can immigration be stopped, dealing with today’s greatest challenge”. The colonel did not miss out on the chance to attack the United States, which he compared to Bin Laden, for its attack on Libya in 1986, “What is the difference between America’s attack in 1986 on our homes,” he asked, “and Bin Laden’s terrorism?”. “If Bin Laden does not have a state, he is an outlaw,” he added, “America is a state with international regulations”. Thanks to the United States, continued Gaddafi, today Iraq has become “an open arena” for al Qaeda’s terrorism. “Iraq was a fortress against terrorism,” he explained. “With Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda could not enter the country, now, thanks to the US, it is an open arena for terrorism and benefits al Qaeda.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaddafi Hits Out at U. S. in Italy

Terrorism a ‘reaction’ to colonialism, Libyan leader says

(ANSA) — Rome, June 11 — Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi on Thursday took a swipe at the United States on two separate occasions during his three-day state visit to Rome, forcing the Italian government to take its distance.

Speaking to students at La Sapienza, Gadaffi said the US wanted to “colonise the globe”, was not interested in people’s freedom and fought against anyone who “got in its way”.

“The US wanted to kill Gaddafi because he did not want to be subjugated and wanted his country to remain free,” he said, referring to the US’s 1986 airstrikes on Libya.

Addressing terrorism, Gadaffi said terrorist actions were “to be condemned”, but that “the reason (behind it) is linked to the colonialism of the Islamic world by countries who profess Christianity”.

Terrorism was a “reaction” to this, he said.

Earlier on Thursday Gaddafi attacked the US in an address to the Italian senate, likening the US retaliatory bombing of his quarters in 1986, in which an adopted infant daughter was killed, to al-Qaeda’s attacks and claiming the invasion of Iraq had turned the country into “an arena for al-Qaeda”. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said following the session that the government “certainly didn’t agree on everything” with the Libyan leader.

Gaddafi is expected back in Italy next month to attend the Group of Eight nations summit in the quake-hit town of L’Aquila.

The Libyan leader will attend the part of the July 8-10 G8 summit devoted to Africa in his capacity as chairman of the 53-nation African Union and may meet United States President Barack Obama, diplomatic sources say.

AFRICAN MIGRANTS ‘KNOW NOTHING OF POLITICS’.

Recalling Italy’s colonial occupation of Libya — over which Italy and Libya signed a landmark $5 billion dollar friendship accord in August in a bid to address grievances — Gadaffi said Libyans had “drunk from a bitter cup, with every Libyan family affected by the consequences, with victims either deported or killed”.

“Our aim is to prevent the colonialism of the past from being repeated,” he told La Sapienza students.

Students questioned Gaddafi about immigrant rights in Libya, which has not signed the United Nations Refugee Convention, in the wake of a new Italian policy to intercept and return to the North African country migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, leaving Libya to deal with asylum requests.

“I agree with the need to respect rights, but we need to know who the political refugees are and how they can be recognised because a lot of information is wrong,” Gaddafi said.

“Are the millions who march from Africa towards the European Union political refugees? The Africans are starving, not political, they don’t practice politics, they don’t know about parties or elections,” he said.

Gaddafi said immigrants headed for Europe to “chase after resources that they believe have been taken away from them” by colonialist countries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaddafi in Rome: Terrorism, USA Like Bin Laden in ‘86

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 11 — “We are against terrorism and we condemn it” but “we must try to understand the real reasons behind this pernicious phenomenon”, said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during his speech to the Italian Senate. We need to “hold talks even with the devil, if that will help us understand terrorism”. “What is the difference between the US attack against our homes”, he then asked, during his speech in the Sala Zuccari at Palazzo Giustiniani, “and Bin Laden’s terror attacks?”. “While Bin Laden has no country and is an outlaw, the United States of America is a country abiding to international laws”. Due to the USA intervention, Gaddafi added, Iraq has become “an open arena” for al Qaeda terrorists. “Iraq was a fortress against terrorism”, he explained, “while Saddam Hussein was in charge, al Qaeda could not infiltrate the country. And now, thanks to the USA, Iraq is an open arena and al Qaeda can only benefit from it”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaddafi Compares USA to Bin Laden, Says Party System is “Democracy’s Abortion”

President claims United States in Libya is like Al Qaeda. Praise for Berlusconi: “Could be Libya’s premier”

ROME — Security in the capital was tight for the visit of Libyan leader Muammar Gheddafi. The Libyan leader arrived on Wednesday to a ceremonial welcome that was so heavily criticised it was decided to deny him the high-profile platform of the Senate chamber for his address. In the end, he spoke at Palazzo Giustiniani, the Senate leader’s office. In his speech, President Gheddafi attacked the United States, accusing the country of being “terrorists like Bin Laden”. The Libyan president Palazzo Giustiniani for La Sapienza university, where students from the Onda movement and other demonstrators protesting at his visit to the university chanted slogans, set off smoke bombs and waved placards, some in Arabic, as they booed his arrival. In the evening, Mr Gheddafi visited the Capitol. The Libyan president had “no objection if [his] friend Silvio Berlusconi were to put himself forward to be prime minister of the Libyan government”. “The Libyan people would certainly benefit”, added President Gheddafi, again referring to the Italian premier as his “friend” in the part of his address in which he proposed the Libyan Jamahriya as a valid alternative to the “party system”, which he called “democracy’s abortion”.

MEETING WITH SCHIFANI — President Gheddafi was greeted at Palazzo Giustiniani by the leader of the Senate, Renato Schifani, who called the meeting “historic”. He gave a lengthy speech in which he referred to Silvio Berlusconi, Giulio Andreotti, Francesco Cossiga and Lamberto Dini, calling it a meeting with “old friends”. In a reference to Italy’s colonial past, President Gheddafi said: “Today’s Italy is not the Italy of yesterday, but for many years there remained a psychological situation of frustration and pain with regard to Italy. I have worked to move forward from this state of affairs and reach a new stage in relations between the two countries”. He went on: “I have always maintained that Italy should apologise for what it did during the Fascist and pre-Fascist periods. We have always insisted on the need for compensation for the moral and material damages suffered by every family in Libya. We were not asking for anything material. But on the political level, yes. What was needed was condemnation of the past and acknowledgement of colonialism’s mistakes”. President Gheddafi said that if those wounds heal — “and they should heal, we do not want further hostilities” — then co-operation is a goal that can be reached. That, he said, is why the friendship treaty is important. President Gheddafi then referred to “God’s justice”, pointing out that Mussolini was executed in public.

DICTATORS AND TERRORISM — In an ambitious analogy with the days of the Roman empire, President Gheddafi went on to find justification for terrorism and dictatorships, launching a fierce attack on the United States. In short, he said that Saddam Hussein had been elected by the Iraqis. It was an internal matter so why had someone from outside decided to remove him from power? While claiming to firmly “condemn” terrorism, the president attempted to offer as an explanation for the phenomenon the need for “defence” against the encroachments of the western world. “They call people with guns and bombs terrorists but what can we call the powers that have intercontinental missiles? What is the difference between Bin Laden’s actions and Reagan’s attack on Libya in 1986? Wasn’t that terrorism?” This part of the speech was criticised by the Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini: “It’s certainly a very strong statement but in any case we are not in agreement with Colonel Gheddafi about everything”. President Gheddafi continued: “If peace is desired, arrogance must be put to one side. The Earth was created by God for all humanity, not for one controlling power”. He also said that no one had given Libya credit for interrupting its nuclear programme, which justified other nations in not interrupting theirs.

BOGUS DEGREE FROM IDV — Some Italy of Values (IDV) senators with group leader Felice Belisario had been waiting for the Libyan president outside Palazzo Giustiniani with a facsimile degree certificate bearing the words “Laurea Horroris Causa”, a reference to human rights violations. Group leader Belisario and the other senators were wearing pinned to theirs jackets a photograph of the wreckage of the Pan Am aircraft that exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland with the caption “270 dead”. The six IDV senators — Stefano Pedica, Pancho Pardi, Giuliana Carlino, Giuseppe Caforio and Elio Lannutti, as well as Mr Belisario — went into Palazzo Giustiniani but were prevented from entering the Sala Zuccari with the photo and fake degree certificate.

STUDENT PROTESTS — President Gheddafi’s visit to the university in Rome was contested by students of the Onda movement, who complained among other things about the massive army presence in the university area. When the motorcade drew up outside the university, scuffles broke out between students and Carabinieri. A short distance away, about 50 Kurds staged a rousing welcome for the Libyan president, waving flags bearing portraits of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Gaddafi Tells Italy to Scrap Political Parties

By Stephen Brown and Philip Pullella Stephen Brown And Philip Pullella Thu Jun 11, 5:02 pm ET

ROME (Reuters) — Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, addressing Italians in a historic Rome square, embarrassed his hosts on Thursday by saying he would abolish political parties and give Italians direct power if it were up to him.

“There would be no right, left or center. The party system is the abortion of democracy,” Gaddafi said in a sunset address in the famous Campidoglio square designed by Michelangelo atop Capitoline hill.

“I would abolish political parties so as to give power to the people,” said the idiosyncratic Gaddafi, while some members of the crowd held up pictures of the Libyan leader and banners welcoming him.

His angry host, right-wing Rome mayor Gianni Alemanno — who had praised the Libyan leader an hour earlier — told reporters Gaddafi’s discourse on political parties was “unacceptable” and that “we don’t accept lessons on democracy from anyone.”

Gaddafi also praised Italy for condemning fascism after the colonial period. Alemanno, standing beside him, was once the youth leader of a neo-fascist party and sparked controversy last year by refusing to label fascism as evil.

Earlier in the day Gaddafi, making his first visit to the former colonial power, faced protests by students over his human rights record and over a bilateral agreement for Italy to send back boatloads of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

The students tried to stop him giving a lecture at a Rome university, hurling paint and scuffling with police.

He told the students terrorism was “the residue of colonialism.”

“Terrorism is to be condemned and most victims (of terrorism) are innocent and unarmed,” Gaddafi said. But the world community had to look at the root causes of terrorism, such as injustice, he added.

The North African nation, once a pariah accused of sponsoring terrorism, has seen a thaw in its relations with the West since Gaddafi promised to give up the quest for weapons of mass destruction. International sanctions were lifted in 2003.

Italy, which last year apologized for Italian atrocities during its 1911-1943 colonial rule, is at the forefront of the diplomatic thaw and now gets a quarter of its oil from Libya, and more recently Libyan capital injections into Italian firms.

But Gaddafi retains a defiant tone, arriving on Wednesday in Rome with a picture pinned to his uniform of Omar al-Mukhtar, a resistance hero hanged by Italian occupiers in 1931.

Italian television on Thursday screened “Lion of the Desert,” a 1981 film about al-Mukhtar which was banned in Italy until now.

Gaddafi, who as current chairman of the Africa Union will attend a G8 summit in Italy next month with U.S. President Barack Obama, also criticized the U.S-led war in Iraq during a speech earlier on Thursday to the Italian senate.

“Iraq was a fortress against terrorism, with Saddam Hussein al Qaeda could not get in, but now thanks to the United States it is an open arena and this benefits al Qaeda,” he said.

He also compared the U.S. air strike on Tripoli in 1986, in which one of his daughters was killed, to an al Qaeda attack.

“What difference is there between the American attack on our homes in 1986 and bin Laden’s terrorist actions?” he asked. “If bin Laden has no state and is an outlaw, America is a state with international rules.”

Arguing that the world should have room for “regimes of all kinds” including “revolutionary” Libya, he asked: “What’s wrong with North Korea wanting to be communist? Or Afghanistan being in the hands of the mullahs? Is not the Vatican a respectable theocratic state with embassies all over the world?”

Some senators from the opposition center-left managed to get Gaddafi blocked from speaking in the main chamber, forcing the speech to take place in a nearby annexe.

Gaddafi also complained that the world had not rewarded Libya for giving up its ambition of owning weapons of mass destruction.

“We cannot accept living in the shadow of intercontinental missiles and nuclear weapons, which is why we decided to change route,” he told the senators.

“We had hoped Libya would be an example to other countries,” Gaddafi said. “But we have not been rewarded by the world.”

On Wednesday, his host Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Libya agreed to supply more oil to Italy and the head of Libya’s sovereign wealth fund said he was eyeing investments in Italian electricity and infrastructure companies and joint ventures with Italy in Libya.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Greece: Thrace Row

Turk PM wants muftis accepted

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday told Turkish television that the reopening of the Halki Orthodox Seminary “could be discussed” if Greece cooperated by recognizing muftis in the northern region of Thrace, which has a large Muslim population. Just over a week before his scheduled visit to Athens for the inauguration of the New Acropolis Museum, Erdogan told Turkey’s NTV channel that he had broached the issue with Greek Premier Costas Karamanlis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis. Bakoyannis said the two issues, that of the patriarchate and Thrace’s Muslim population, were “not comparable.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Italy: Centre Right Hails Local Polls

Provinces up from 12 to 26, rivals down from 50 to 14

(ANSA) — Rome, June 9 — The centre right led by Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Tuesday hailed local election results from the weekend where it made a much stronger showing than elections for the European Parliament.

“Berlusconi is in an excellent mood,” said Cabinet Secretary Paolo Bonaiuti after Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party (PdL) and its ally the Northern League more than doubled their tally of provinces from 12 to 26 and the centre left saw their total plummet from 50 to 14.

The PdL and League took 15 provinces away from the centre left, which now also faces 22 run-off elections in provinces it previously governed.

“This is proof that when voters vote on things that matter to them daily, and not Europe, the Left collapses,” Bonaiuti claimed.

“It is a great result,” he said, noting that the centre left had been forced into run-offs in many parts of the central Italian ‘Red Belt’ it has ruled since WWII.

There was no immediate comment Tuesday from Dario Franceschini, leader of the largest opposition party, the Democratic Left (PD).

But PD grandee and former premier Massimo D’Alema said he was “confident” about the run-offs. The biggest prizes for the centre right were taking the provinces of Naples and Piacenza away from the centre left and forcing it into run-off votes in the provinces of Milan, Venice, Turin, Ferrara and Arezzo.

Municipal elections in provincial capitals saw the centre right take Biella, Bergamo, Verbania, Pavia, Pescara and Campobasso away from the centre left and force run-off votes in such centre-left strongholds as Florence, Bologna, Prato, Ancona and Ascoli Piceno. The only city where the incumbent centre right was forced into a run-off was Brindisi.

Franceschini had been much more vocal on Monday, as the EP results came in.

He said the PD had defied recent polls in the EP vote, sinking only to 26% from 33% in last year’s general election. The PdL meanwhile saw its support drop from 37% to 35%, far from the 45% target set by Berlusconi.

Pundits said both of the major parties had been hit by ‘friendly fire’ from smaller but feistier allies.

Graftbuster Antonio Di Pietro’s Italy of Values, the PD’s unruly ally, rose to 8% from 4.4% last year.

The League, identified by many voters as the driving force behind a crackdown on crime and illegal immigration, increased its share from 8.3% to 10.2%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Knox on the Witness Stand on Friday

Kercher murder suspect plans to reply to questions, lawyer

(ANSA) — Perugia, June 11 — American student Amanda Knox, on trial here with her ex boyfriend for the murder of British student Meredith Kercher, is prepared to talk freely when she takes the witness stand in her defence on Friday.

Knox’s lawyer Luciano Ghirga told reporters on Thursday the 21-year-old student “planned to answer any questions she’s asked” when she goes on the stand on Friday and Saturday.

Knox and her Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 25, are on trial for the murder, on charges of sexual violence as well as for simulating a crime to make it look like an intruder had broken into the house.

The American must also answer charges of falsehood for having accused Perugia-based musician Patrick Lumumba of being the murderer.

Prosecutors have have cleared Lumumba of any involvement in the case and he is suing for damages. Exchange student Kercher, 22, was found semi-naked and with her throat slit on November 2, 2007 in the house she shared in Perugia with Seattle-born Knox and two Italian women.

A third defendant, Ivory Coast national Rudy Guede, 21, was sentenced to 30 years for sexually assaulting and murdering the British exchange student at a separate trial last October.

Prosecutor Giuliano Mignini has told the court that Kercher, who was found semi-naked in her bedroom with her throat slashed on November 2, 2007 was killed when Guede, Knox and Sollecito tried to force her to participate in “a perverse group sex game”.

In Mignini’s reconstruction of events, Sollecito and Guede held Kercher’s arms while Knox slashed her throat with a kitchen knife.

The public prosecutor said Guede had also tried to rape Kercher.

But Guede’s lawyers claim that the crime was carried out by Knox and Sollecito alone.

Guede has always admitted to being in the house on the night of the murder but says he was in the bathroom when Kercher was murdered.

The defendants deny wrongdoing and their defence teams claim their clients were not in the house and that the crime was committed by a single attacker. Knox is taking the stand at the request of her lawyer and of Lumumba’s attorney, who is involved in the trial as a civil plaintiff.

As Knox prepared to take the stand, an article in the New York Times by Pulitzer-winning author Timothy Egan took issue with prosecutor Giuliano Mignini’s handling of the case, which has drawn widespread coverage here and abroad. In an article published on Thursday, An Innocent Abroad, Egan casts doubt on the strength of the case and the prosecution’s motives.

“The case against Knox has so many holes in it, and is so tied to the career of a powerful Italian prosecutor who is under indictment for professional misconduct, that any fair-minded jury would have thrown it out months ago,” says the author, who is a Seattle resident.

A number of other US and British papers have questioned the prosecutor’s case.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Customs Finds $134 Billion in a Suitcase

It is either the biggest smuggling operation in history — or a fraud of equally impressive proportions. Italian customs officials stopped two men at the Swiss border carrying bonds worth $134 billion (95.8 billion euros).

Italian customs officers on the Swiss border often stop smugglers — but not of this scale. Two Japanese citizens have been detained by Italian police in Chiasso on the Swiss-Italian border after being found with $134 billion of US bonds hidden in the base of their suitcase, according to a press statement by the Italian Guardia di Finanza.

The two men, reported to be more than 50 years old, were traveling by train from Italy to Switzerland on June 3. Financial police at a control on the border found the documents tucked inside a closed section at the bottom of their suitcase, separate from their personal items. According to their statement, the men’s luggage included 249 government bonds worth $500 million and 10 so-called Kennedy bonds, each worth a billion dollars.

But details of the case remain unclear: The Japanese embassy in Rome confirmed the arrest of the two men but the news agency Bloomberg reported on Friday that it was not yet established whether they were Japanese citizens.

It yet to be seen whether this is the biggest smuggling scandal in history — or a massive fraud. Italian officials said they were still checking the authenticity of the bonds.

But should the bonds, or at least some of them, turn out to be real, the men will face a significant penalty. In Europe it is illegal to transport more than €10,000 across borders without notifying customs.

Meanwhile, if they turn out to be authentic, Italy is set for a windfall. According to Italian law, the state could fine the men 40 percent of the seized money. Italy’s mountain of public debt, which is at 105 percent of GDP, could shrink.

And although details of the case are still murky, the Italian media is already mulling how the windfall would be best spent. Aside from shrinking the national debt, there are suggestions the funds could help rebuild the earthquake-wrecked Abruzzo region.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Lario Breaks Silence on Marriage

Truth ‘has not even been touched upon’, Mrs Berlusconi says

(ANSA) — Rome, June 11 — The wife of Premier Silvio Berlusconi, Veronica Lario, on Thursday broke her silence over their public divorce spat to say that the truth about their relationship had “not even been touched on”.

Lario, 52, asked for a divorce last month after Berlusconi attended the 18th birthday party of aspiring model Noemi Letizia, telling Italian daily La Repubblica that she “(could) not stay with a man who consorted with minors”.

In a statement issued to another daily, Corriere della Sera, and printed on its first page Thursday, Lario said she had spent the last few weeks “watching in silence, without reacting in the media, the brutal mudslinging against myself, my dignity and the history of my marriage”.

“It’s certain that the truth about the relationship between me and my husband has not even been touched upon, just like the reason why I had to turn to the press in order to communicate with him,” she said.

“Certainly, I have always loved him and I have built my life in terms of my marriage and my family”.

Berlusconi, 72, has categorically denied any “steamy or more than steamy” involvement with teenagers, explaining there was nothing “spicy” about his attendance at the birthday party of the 18-year-old because he had a long friendship with her family.

He also criticised his wife for slamming alleged plans to field pretty young women in the European Parliament elections, which Lario described as “shamelessly trashy”, saying all the women were qualified for the job.

As a direct result of the Letizia flap, the premier found himself mired further after paparazzo photographs of topless women at his villa in Sardinia emerged, and a scandal broke over allegedly improper use of publicly funded state flights to ferry guests to the villa.

Right-wing politician Daniela Santanche’ meanwhile alleged that Lario herself had a long relationship with her 47-year-old bodyguard, Alberto Orlandi.

The allegations were published by right-wing daily Libero, which labelled actress Lario the “ungrateful showgirl” and published topless photos of her from early in her career.

Lario has not commented on the allegations but friends have denied them.

DIVORCE SPAT INFLUENCED PdL ELECTION SETBACK.

Last month Berlusconi told Corriere he might file a counter-suit if Lario went ahead with plans to divorce him.

Asked if his 19-year marriage to Lario could survive, he replied: “I don’t think so, and I don’t know if I want it this time. Veronica will have to publicly apologise to me, and I don’t know if that will be enough”.

“It’s the third time she’s played a trick like this during an election campaign. It’s really too much’.

Lario’s statement Thursday came after observers fingered the divorce spat as one of the reasons Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party suffered a slight setback in the EP elections.

The PdL won 35.3% of the vote which was an improvement over the 32.4% won by its two main components — Forza Italia and the National Alliance — in the last European elections but below the 37.4% of the vote which brought it to power last year and much less than Berlusconi’s optimistic prediction of 45%.

Berlusconi fell in love with actress Lario, his second wife, when he saw her performing topless in 1980 at a theatre he owned and divorced his first wife to marry her in 1990.

The Berlusconis had another highly publicised spat two years ago when Lario demanded, and obtained, a public apology after he reportedly flirted with young women, one of whom is now his equal opportunities minister.

In the latest incident, Lario accused him of insulting womens’ dignity and making “victims” of his family.

The premier has three children by Lario, aged 20, 22 and 24.

His two children by his first wife play top roles in his business empire.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Metternich 2 — the Lisbon Treaty

One hundred and fifty years after his death, the Austrian Empire’s ambassador in chief remains politically incorrect. With the Lisbon treaty, however, the twenty-seven member states are recreating 1814’s Congress of Vienna that gave rise to modern Europe, argues Czech daily Lidové Noviny.

Do you fear that once they ratify the Lisbon Treaty, the big nations will get along well amongst themselves and discount the small ones? That under their baton Europe will be reduced to a “concert of great powers”? Today we remember Prince Metternich, the man who demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of such a policy.

It is quite astonishing that we do not celebrate a Metternich year, although 2009 was proclaimed the Year of Darwin. We celebrate Darwin for two reasons: he was born in 1809 and published its magnum opus, On the Origin of Species, in 1859. Those two years were watersheds in Metternich’s career: he became Austria’s Foreign Minister in 1809 (de facto, executive head, and later State Chancellor), and he died on June 11, 1859. He was lain to rest in the family tomb at Plasy, in western Bohemia..

Prince Metternich is remembered as the father of the post-Napoleonic Europe that emerged from the Congress of Vienna, the inspiration behind the idea of the “Concert of Great Powers”, the founder of Realpolitik that puts the balance of interests and the stability of power above morality. Even if, when they hear the term “Realpolitik”, modern-day Europeans “stop up their noses and close their ears”, there is no denying that Metternich’s Europe worked for nearly 100 years running, from the Napoleonic Wars to World War I. And even if its author died 150 years ago, Metternich’s political thought survives to this day today and, in many cases, remains avant-garde.

Last September, when ex-Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek launched the campaign for the Czech presidency of the European Council, he drew an apt comparison: “In varietate concordia — unity in diversity. This is the motto of the European Union, but also my vision of the Czech Republic’s action in Europe. The United States has roughly the same motto: E pluribus unum — out of many, one.” This motto was also de facto that of Metternich, who rejected the centrifugal ambitions of nations for the sake of supranational balance and stability. So why not pay tribute to that inspiration, why not honour its author by name?

150 years after his death, Metternich remains the symbol of reactionary thought and obscurantism. It is true that Metternich abhorred change, revolutionaries and liberals. But we should not attribute this aversion to an unconditional attachment to all things relating to the past. Quite simply, Metternich was afraid — and history was to prove him right — that modernism would be accompanied by other “isms”: nationalism, socialism etc..

The Metternichian face of Europe held for half a century, before being overthrown by the nationalisms born of war: viz. the Crimean, Prusso-Austrian and Franco-Prussian wars. World War I gave it the coup de grâce. Seeing as Metternich fashioned the face of the Old Continent for four generations, while the Versailles system only held for one, his was no small feat in the grand scheme of things.

The opponents of the Lisbon Treaty may see themselves as reincarnating the naysayers of the Age of Metternich and its penchant for riding roughshod over the weak. In the final analysis, what counts most is how our current situation will be judged in, say, the year 2050. In other words, when we have gained sufficient perspective to weigh up the pros and cons of Realpolitik.

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



Schengen: Weapons and Women Smuggler’s Paradise

Open EU borders are a paradise for weapons and human smugglers, senior Danish police officers say.

Senior Danish police officers are complaining that the EU’s open borders under the Schengen agreement have made it simple for criminal groups to smuggle weapons and women into Denmark.

“The Schengen agreement has made it much easier to move weapons around Europe and to get them into Denmark. This is a problem as crime becomes much more serious when weapons are involved,” says Henrik Svindt of the Copenhagen Special Unit for Gang Crime and Women Traficking.

The issue of how to stop weapons and women smuggling into Denmark has risen on the Danish political agenda after the Social Democratic Party recently suggested stricter border controls. The Danish People’s Party has demanded for some time that border controls should be introduced.

DOCUMENTATION: What is the Schengen area? (External link)

Weapons Svindt is not prepared to say whether border controls should be re-introduced, but notes that the parties to the current gang warfare in Denmark are able to get hold of AK47 and Uzi automatic weapons with ease. The weapons are often smuggled to Denmark from the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

The National Commissioner’s Office has confiscated more than 170 weapons over the past two months, although it is not clear how they got into the country.

Svindt says the current situation cannot be compared to the situation before borders were opened in 2001.

“Criminals used to bash each other up. Now there is a tendency that criminals are more willing to use firearms,” Svindt says.

Woman The Head of Copenhagen Police Women’s Trafficking Unit René Hansen says human traffickers hardly need to speculate on how to get women into Denmark.

“Once the prostitutes are in the Schengen area, it’s easy to send them up here — and that is, of course, a problem,” Hansen says, adding that Denmark has many trafficked women from Eastern Europe and Africa.

ALSO SEE: Sex slaves seek freedom

“We should increase searches of buses from Eastern Europe — then we can find the girls who don’t have the necessary papers. Traffickers will always try to send women to Denmark — so we try to catch the traffickers. But in principle it would be better to try to prevent the women from coming here, rather than letting them come in and then investigating them to stop the traffic,” Hansen says.

Police decision The National Commissioner’s Office policy, however, is not to increase border controls, but rather to try to catch those behind the traffic in women and weapons.

“But if senior police officers feel that it would be an idea to increase controls buses from Eastern Europe, then they can do so. It’s their decision,” says Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Spain: Arm Lost in Accident, Limb Thrown in Trash Bin

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 11 — A non-EU immigrant lost an arm in the gears of a kneading machine and his employers, instead of taking the limb with them to seek medical care, through it into a trash bin on the way to a Valencian hospital. The horrible tale of a young Bolivian, 33, without a stay permit or a job and still under medical treatment has led to indignation and sympathy across Spain. Today, the prosecutor’s office in Valencia that investigates work related accidents asked for a report from the Guardia Civile and the intervention of a workplace inspector at the bakery in Real di Gandia (Valencia), where the incident took place on May 28. At the moment it took place, according to what was reconstructed by the authorities on the basis of what the man’s sister saw, he was pouring 40 kilos of flour into an automatic kneader when the plastic protection which he was wearing on his left arm got caught in the gears, which crushed the mans arm and ripped it off. In spite of copious haemorrhaging, the young man was loaded into a car and taken for medical treatment, but just 50 metres from the hospital, he was forced to get out of the car and go to the Emergency Room on foot, and — according to the man — his employers got rid of the arm throwing it into a trash bin. The young man, in shock, was treated in the hospital in Gandia, where doctors were unable to attempt to put the man’s arm back on, it being found some hours later in deteriorated condition. According to the report presented by the sister of the victim, the employers “cleaned the entire bakery”, so that there would be no evidence of the illegal worker. The authorities arrested the owners of the bakery last week, two brothers, for violating workers’ rights, because they employed people without any type of contract. But the charges could potentially turn criminal for manslaughter. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Women in Custody for Beating of Far-Right Politician

Two young women suspected of beating up the spokesperson of the far right Sweden Democrats and his girlfriend were remanded in custody on Wednesday by the Södertörn District Court.

Prosecutor Jens Nilsson requested the women be remanded on suspicions of aggravated assault for their attack against Martin Kinnunen.

One of the women, who is 25-years-old, was also held for her suspected role in two other assaults which took place on Folkungagatan on Södermalm in southern Stockholm in February.

During the remand hearing, the women denied the assault allegations against them.

Prosecutors believe the attack on Kinnunen and his girlfriend, who were targeted by a group of five to ten people, was politically motivated.

Police may arrest more people suspected of participating in the incident, which took place early Sunday morning when Kinnunen and his girlfriend were walking near Gullmarsplan south of Stockholm.

The couple were punched and kicked repeatedly, and forced to seek treatment at a nearby hospital for their injuries.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Obama Picks Wealthy Donor as Ambassador

Donald Beyer, the former lieutenant governor of Virginia, has been pegged to be the next United States ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Beyer, who became wealthy as a car dealer, is one of several big money donors from the Democratic Party to receive diplomatic postings. He raised more than $500,000 (SFr541,000) for then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential bid and contributed $4,600 of his own money to the campaign.

Beyer replaces Peter Coneway, a Texas Republican appointed by George W. Bush. He held the post for roughly two years before stepping down on December 7, 2008.

Leigh Carter, a career diplomat, will continue to act as the embassy’s chargé d’affaires in Bern until the Senate confirms Beyer’s appointment and Switzerland approves his credentials.

Making the trip across the Atlantic with Beyer will be Washington lawyer Howard Gutman, who has been dispatched to Belgium. Gutman also raised more than $500,000 for the Democratic president.

About one third of US ambassadors are non-career appointees — friends of politicians or party donors — who often receive plum assignments to places like Bern or London. Career diplomats are assigned to more sensitive posts.

Career diplomats were nominated on Thursday to be envoys to Burundi, Tunisia, the Marshall Islands, Oman and Suriname. Obama also chose retired Army General Alfonso Lenhardt to be ambassador to Tanzania.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



The German Passport is Losing Its Appeal

Fewer foreign residents of Germany chose to become naturalised German citizens last year than in any previous year since reunification in 1990.

Last year 94,500 foreigners applied for and received German citizenship, a drop of 16 percent from 2997, according to the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden.

Analysts point to the entry of formerly communist eastern neighbors into the European Union in 2004 as well as a rule limiting dual nationality as likely causes for the continuing drop in naturalizations.

There was a surge in foreigners becoming Germans in 2000 when laws on becoming German were loosened, but a clause pushed through by conservative politicians makes it impossible for new Germans to keep their old citizenships.

Of those who did successfully become German last year, 24,500 were of Turkish origin; nearly 7,000 were from Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and the former Serbia-Montenegro; and roughly 4,200 each from Poland and Iraq. Naturalizations from most countries dropped in 2008, with the exception of those from Iraq.

The drop may also have been partially caused by the implementation of a new naturalization test, for which some authorities and schools were not prepared, according to the Federal Integration Commissioner Maria Boehmer.

“I am already calculating a significant increase for 2009,” she said.

There are about two million foreigners who have lived in Germany long enough to apply for citizenship, she said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Tourism: Bye Bye Sun and Beaches, Spain Seeks New Model

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 11 — It’s not just the economic slump, but the failure of the ‘sol y playa’ model for tourism. Following a peak in 2007 with a record 59 million arrivals, Spain has witnessed a progressive decline in the number of tourist visitors to its sun-kissed beaches, with 2 million fewer heading their way in 2008 than during 2007. The trend seems to be getting worse: the downward trend was confirmed by the 12% drop in numbers in the first quarter of this year. This failure of competitiveness, says an enquiry sponsored by Pais, has led the government to hit the subsidy button, doubling the budget set aside for this sector to 778 million this year. It is a sector which, alone, makes up 11% of the country’s GDP and employment. Having been overtaken by the USA as the world’s second-favourite tourist destination, Spain is trying to repair some of the damage done by years of systemic destruction of the natural attractions of its coastline, especially in areas such as Alicante and Almeria, to try and freshen up a product which was already losing its competitive edge compared to eastern destinations or the eastern Mediterranean, such as Istanbul or Egypt. The big sector operators, in a meeting of the Exceltur association, have decided on “a paradigm shift”, capable of offering “a tailor-made experience for each visitor”, as tourism lobby spokesperson, José Luis Zoreda, put it. The new package is not based on tourist numbers but on their average disbursements pro capita. Having plumped for “intensive brickwork”, says Josep Oliver, professor at Barcelona University, “implies that one single generation has used up a resource that could have lasted centuries or millennia”. A paradigm shift is an objective which entails not aiming at the lower to medium tourist market, such as those of eastern Europe, but of aiming “to compete with some of the regions of southern Italy or of France”. Positive examples of a change in this direction are the transformation of the Costa Brava, where for years now licences for tourist operators have only been granted to the highest quality organisations, or the virtuous development undertaken in the sector in Bilbao, with its construction of the Guggenheim museum. There has also been significant progress made over the past years in business and cultural tourism. To save Palma de Majorca a plan has been presented “for a complete renovation of the area, capable of boosting a new round of innovation and sustainability for the future,” Zoreda explains. This is a public-private initiative, promoted by the Spanish government and that of the Balearics, for the renovation of 1,000 hectares, with 40,000 tourist posts and for 1.5 million visitors per year, in order to revitalise a destination which appears in terminal decline. The project entails the demolition of half of accommodation for 40,000 tourists, two-thirds of which consists of hotels of fewer than three stars. The estimated cost is between 2 and 3 billion euros, 70% of which will come from the private sector; even though only 8 million euros have so far arrived from the Industry Ministry for works to be offered for tender in the course of next week. In the medium term, the government is aiming at providing incentives for investment by businesses in the sector, above all by SMEs, through its Renew Tourism Plan, which has one billion euros in funding. A large amount of the financing will be dedicated to renovating hotels. But the outlook for the future remains hazy, under the black clouds of the economic recession. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: Ben Kinsella: Police Bugged Killers to Gather Crucial Evidence

Handcuffed in the back of the police van, Ben Kinsella’s killers wasted no time in plotting ways to avoid being convicted.

Speaking in hushed tones and using the language of the street to try to conceal their intentions, the men set about targeting witnesses and getting their stories straight. Jade Braithwaite, Michael Alleyne and Juress Kika were unaware, however, that detectives had obtained a licence secretly to record their every word during the journey.

While police in the early stages of the investigation had obtained other intelligence that the defendants were Ben’s attackers, they lacked vital proof. The hunt for the knife or knives that had delivered the fatal blows had also been fruitless.

As officers waited for blood and DNA results to be processed, engineers fitted the van with bugging equipment. The recordings, made as they travelled to Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court and then an identity parade, give a rare insight into the mindset of three young men involved in street drug crime, immersed in American rap music and believing that the slightest loss of face should provoke revenge of the utmost severity.

In one tape the men can be heard gloating about how little evidence the police had. In another, sometimes laughing and joking, they compared notes about the investigation.

In one excerpt Kika appears to recall the moment that he attacked Ben. Referring to it as “the madness”, he said: “See when it happened, yeah. Like boom, it was like a kinda quick ting. Like boom. Went down the road, come back up. Boom, boom. Finished. Boom. Ghost. You get what I’m saying?”

He then added that he believed that the only witnesses to the attack could have been “the people from the houses that were watching on the road. Know what I’m saying?”

They then try to identify the “snitch” (informant) from their “endz” (neighbourhood) who had named them as the killers. Meanwhile Kika claimed that “someone should sort out” a man who ran the council’s CCTV cameras that filmed them running from the murder scene.

Braithwaite, who used the nickname J-Man, later told Kika that if he took all the blame for the stabbing he would receive “Gs” — thousands of pounds.

At one point Kika pondered whether it was possible that they were being secretly recorded: “Blood, they sure these tings ain’t got no f***ing recording s*** cuz?” Alleyne, who used the nickname Tigger, replied confidently: “Suck your recording.”

It was those recordings, though, that led to the defendants’ initial confidence collapsing into a desperate clamour to accuse each other of delivering the fatal blow. Detective Chief Inspector John Macdonald, who led the investigation, said the type of language the men used was often peculiar to a small group of friends. When Braithwaite gave evidence he dropped the “street” tones and was well spoken. “He said he was speaking that way in the police van to keep face with the other defendants.”

Approval of bugging — what the Home Office calls “intrusive surveillance” — is given by an independent surveillance commissioner. It must also then be approved by the Home Secretary, who must believe that the surveillance is either in the interest of national security, for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime, or for safeguarding the UK economy.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Ben Kinsella’s Murderers ‘Face Retribution’ During Life Jail Term

Three men who stabbed the schoolboy Ben Kinsella to death were jailed for life today after being warned that they face retribution in prison for the murder.

Jade Braithwaite, 20, Juress Kika, 19, and Michael Alleyne, 18, have all received letters from prison authorities alerting them that they are marked men.

Each will spend at least 19 years in jail for the murder of the 16-year-old brother of the former EastEnders actress Brooke Kinsella.

Applause erupted from the public gallery of the Old Bailey as the killers were led down to the cells in handcuffs. Police had to intervene as friends of the defendants clashed with friends of Ben as they shouted out “Bye” and “Enjoy your porridge”.

Miss Kinsella, who played Kelly Taylor in the BBC soap, clapped once but otherwise kept silent with the rest of her family in the well of court.

Speaking outside court after the hearing she said of the 19-year minimum tariff: “It’s just little more than Ben lived, so it really is not good enough.”

Sentencing the killers, Brian Barker QC, the Common Serjeant of London, said: “Ben Kinsella was 16 when he died. Your blind and heartless anger that night defies belief. He had in front of him a lifetime of promise. You have taken all that away from him in a brutal, cowardly and totally unjustified attack.”

“It reflects yet again the futility of carrying and use of knives by some people. Crimes like these generate outrage in all like minded people.”

Earlier, lawyers for the three killers confirmed that they had received letters warning them they may be under threat from members of a notorious crime family.

Nerida Harford-Bell, for Braithwaite, said: “Jade understands he is a marked man. His mother, grandmother and aunt are in process of moving from their addresses to an entirely different area.”

Sallie Bennett-Jenkins, for Alleyne, said: “He has received a letter that will have an impact for more than many years. It is an unusual step but one he is going to take very, very seriously.”

James Nichol, solicitor advocate for Kika, said of his letter: “It is being taken seriously.”

Ben, who wanted to become a graphic designer, was stabbed 11 times after becoming the innocent victim of an argument. He had been celebrating the end of his exams at Shillibeers bar in Holloway, north London, when he was attacked in the early hours of June 29 last year.

After a mass brawl that had not involved Ben, Braithwaite recruited Kika and Alleyne to get revenge for being “disrespected”. They chased the rival group of youths down the street and picked on Ben when he failed to run away.

The straight-A student was kicked to the floor and stabbed eleven times in five seconds as he pleaded: “I’ve not done anything wrong.”

He was the 17th teenager to be murdered in London last year.

Kika was wanted by police for a stabbing and robbery in Islington days earlier but was only tracked down when he was arrested for the murder on June 30.

Alleyne was on licence after being released from an 18 month prison sentence for drug dealing. Braithwaite had served a 12-month sentence for attempted robbery in 2006. He later blamed Alleyne and Kika for the stabbing, sparking ugly scenes in court as the defendants turned on each other.

Kika and Alleyne, both from Holloway, north London, and Braithwaite from Bow, east London, all denied murder.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Classroom Assistant at Muslim Girls’ School Forced Out of Job by Parents Who Believed She Was a Man

A classroom assistant has quit her job at a strict Muslim girls’ school after parents launched an email campaign claiming she was a man. Shifa Patel, who dressed traditionally in a hijab and full-length robe while at work, had to submit herself to a humiliating medical examination after the petition demanded she prove her gender. The headteacher at Al-Islah Muslim Girls’ School in Blackburn, Lancashire, even sent a letter to parents reassuring them that Ms Patel was female in an attempt to quash the growing discontent.

But police had to be called in when an angry mob of parents gathered at the school gates demanding that she be sacked. The assistant then took the decision to save the school and herself from any more grief and tendered her resignation.

The hate campaign is believed to have begun when photographs of Ms Patel with short hair and wearing a shirt and trousers were copied from internet site Facebook. These were then circulated by email. A distraught Ms Patel, whose age is not known, said: ‘I have irrefutable medical evidence that I’m a woman. ‘The people who have done this to me have hurt me so badly. I will never forgive those who did this to me and spread these lies.’ In some of the photographs circulated, Ms Patel is pictured next to acting head teacher Fatima Patel.

Fatima Patel said: ‘When some parents approached me I told them I will take the Quran in my hand and swear to tell the truth. But they were more concerned about obtaining a GP’s certificate for Shifa.’ She added: ‘What does that say about some people? Some of the parents have been very supportive.’ The school’s governing body also backed Ms Patel, saying her ‘unquestionable work ethic and professionalism had never been in doubt.’ Sgt John Rigby, of Lancashire Constabulary’s minority team, said: ‘This is an entirely internal school matter and police attended simply to calm the situation down.’

Al-Islah Muslim Girls’ School is privately-run and has nearly 200 students. It occupies the first floor of a red-brick mosque in Blackburn. While it is a girls’ school it takes a handful of boys at primary level each year. All students must adhere to a strict uniform code. Music is viewed as un-Islamic and girls studying for the GCSEs are taught Islamic studies rather than religious education and Arabic and Urdu instead of modern European languages.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Sounds like a first-rate way to achieve integration!]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: David Cameron Calls for Referendum on EU Constitution

David Cameron, the Tory leader, has called for a referendum on the European constitution to restore trust in the political system following the MPs’ expenses scandal.

Mr Cameron warned that voting for the minor parties would be “letting the Government off the hook” over the issue of a referendum on the European constitution.

“In terms of rebuilding trust, I think this issue of when you make a promise, sticking to that promise, like the promise we have all made about having a referendum on the constitution, is as important as anything else,” he told GMTV.

He said he was publishing a Bill today which would allow for a referendum to be passed through Parliament with a vote on the same day in the autumn as the Irish.

The Conservative Bill would require the support of substantial numbers of Labour rebels to get through the House of Commons, and is thought extremely unlikely to succeed.

But Mr Cameron said that Thursday’s elections to the European Parliament gave voters a chance to put pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to grant a referendum by voting Conservative.

Britain ratified the Treaty by a parliamentary vote in June last year, but it cannot come into force until all 27 member states have ratified. As well as the hurdle of the Irish referendum this autumn, the Treaty must also gain the assent of the Czech President and Poland must deposit its documents confirming ratification.

Mr Cameron has promised a referendum in the UK if the ratification process has not been completed across the Union by the time a Conservative administration comes to power, but today he declined to say what he would do if ratification is complete and the Treaty is in effect by that time.

The Tory leader has said that he “would not let matters rest” in that case, leading Labour to claim that he would attempt to renegotiate the agreement in the face of opposition from all the other EU states, potentially miring Britain in years of constitutional wrangling.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Cameron resisted several requests to spell out exactly what his plans were, but indicated that he may seek to use a forthcoming renegotiation of the EU’s budget to seek reforms to bring powers back from Brussels to Westminster.

“I don’t want to go into every last detail of what happens if a series of things happen — if there isn’t an early election, if the Irish vote yes in a second referendum, if the Poles decide to ratify this treaty, if the Czechs decide to ratify,” said Mr Cameron.

“I know that, of course, my opponents would love me to focus on what happens if all these things happen, but I am not going to do that. I am going to focus on the here and now, because on Thursday people can go into these voting booths, vote Conservative and pile pressure on Gordon Brown to hold a referendum. I don’t want to let him off the hook.”

He added: “Every treaty is an effective renegotiation and if we had a Conservative government we would be going into that renegotiation with a list of powers we want returned to the UK, because we believe in being members of the EU but we want it to be more about trade and co-operation rather than this endless process of building a superstate…

“There’s an important negotiation coming up on the future funding of the EU and I don’t want to see us increasing the funding at all, but it gives us enormous leverage in terms of making sure we get a good deal for Britain and we build the sort of EU that not just the Conservatives but other parties in Europe want to see.”

Mr Cameron said he could not foresee circumstances in which he would want to call a referendum on Britain remaining in the EU, adding: “If I thought that being a member of the EU was against the national interest, I would argue for us to come out, but I don’t.”

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]



UK: Free Speech and the Bacon and Eggs of Democracy

So, do you believe in democracy? Or do you prefer, instead of engaging in the political process, to walk around shouting ‘no free speech for fascists’ like some mantra for morons whenever someone says something you disagree with?

That’s about the extent of subtlety you can expect from the Irish Left these days, as their contempt for democracy becomes even stronger.

We have seen this manifest itself in near riots outside a university campus when Israeli ambassador Zion Evrony tried to speak; the disgraceful cancellation of a debate featuring discredited historian David Irving; and on one rather amusing occasion the mantra for morons was directed towards your humble columnist by some mad people.

We also see this disdain for democracy in the Shell To Sea campaign where spokesweirdo Maura Harrington is quite open in her contempt for mere mortals.

She blithely admits that she doesn’t care if the majority of the Irish people are opposed to her actions, she is going to do what she is going to do, tough.

The very fact that someone as obviously unhinged as Harrington can come to the fore of any campaign and actually be seen, as some sort of heroic martyr as opposed to just being a crank with too much time on her hands, is indicative of the current Irish situation.

The inherent self-contradiction in the phrase ‘no free speech for fascists’ shows the blatant, bovine stupidity of the mobs who like to chant it with orgasmic glee at anyone they don’t like.

After all, free speech has always been in rather short supply in fascist countries and the fact that these blathering morons can’t appreciate the irony in using fascist tactics to suppress people they regard as fascists is quite delightful.

The best example this week came with the treatment of the odious BNP leader, Nick Griffin.

Now, a quick perusal of the policies of the British National Party will show you that while some make perfect sense — an end to untrammelled immigration, the restoration of British culture at the heart of civic society and putting a stop to multiculturalism, a further look will show that it is also a party of utterly racist nutters, Holocaust-deniers and the kind of sad bastard whose biggest worry in life is inter-racial marriage.

But while he may be many things, Nick Griffin is no nutter, and he is particularly hated by the Left because he routinely trounces them in debates.

In fact, New Labour made the BNP and now the far Left are propping them up.

This is because the debate on immigration and assimilation has been stifled and hijacked to the extent where anyone who questions the wisdom of untrammelled immigration is automatically branded a racist.

And so, the average working class Brit, whose family would have voted Labour for generations, turns to a party that he would have traditionally despised.

After all, when you have a situation where someone like Yasmin Alibhai Brown, a Ugandan Muslim immigrant who was given asylum in Britain, can blithely condemn the white working class with statements such as: “Criticise them and, they who detest PC, bring down the wrath of Alf Garnett on your head. Their culture is proud; they are noble; what they believe — however stupid or vicious — must be awesome.”

If you said that about any other ethnic group, the fascists of liberalism would have you up in front of the beak in a minute for incitement to racial hatred.

And could you imagine her saying that to the face of the “stupid or vicious” white working class, who volunteered for the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, or their counterparts in east London who took to the streets of the East End and fought hand-to-hand with Moseley’s fascist Blackshirts in the famous Battle Of Cable Street?

So, how did the grandchildren of the veterans of Cable Street end up turning to the inheritors of Moseley’s beliefs?

Well, it’s actually quite simple.

People are simply pissed off being treated like third-class citizens in their own country.

One of the most pernicious aspects of multiculturalism is the fact that the only culture it won’t respect is indigenous British culture, which it condemns as imperialist, colonial and racist.

Which is why London has a giant Paddy’s Day parade and festival but no celebration of their own patron saint, George, because that would be “offensive” to other cultures.

One of the particularly nauseating aspects of the egg-throwing incident is the fact that the police simply stood by and did nothing while a baying mob did their best to get at him.

Compare that to the police reaction to the recent anti-military march in Luton.

On that occasion, a bunch of Muslims turned up to greet the returning Royal Anglian Regiment from Basra.

As they held placards with such charming sentiments as “Anglian soldiers go to hell” and “UK you will pay”, nine people were arrested.

None of them was Muslim, of course.

They were locals who were outraged at the insults and threats hurled at British soldiers who had risked their lives.

And, despite the fact that the protest was organised by Muslim extremists like Anjem Choudhry, Gordon Brown spoke about “a tiny minority” — as if extremists had somehow infiltrated an extremist protest.

It was a typical example of the kind of appeasement which has driven ordinary people, who can clearly see the reality and not the politically approved myth, into the arms of the BNP.

One of the men was arrested in Luton because he threw a packet of rashers into the protest. Yet Nick Griffin was pelted with eggs and nobody is apprehended.

So, it’s okay to throw eggs. But not bacon.

And are there any lessons to be learned?

Yes there are.

Namely — that was a waste of a good breakfast.

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

Balkans


Frattini in Belgrade: Don’t Exclude Them From EU

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JUNE 9 — It is not possible to keep the Western Balkans out of Europe. The day after the European elections, Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini flew to Sofia and Belgrade on a mission sending a clear message to all parties after having met with the highest authorities from the two countries. “We must fight for more Europe and not less Europe,” the Foreign Minister said, observing that “all European political families” should be “worried” about the amount of Euro-scepticism that emerged from the recent elections. For the vision of a stronger union and a larger and more stable regional landscape, Italy will continue to support closer relations between Serbia in the first place, but also other countries like Bosnia and Montenegro, and the EU. “A Balkan and not a European enclave,” reflected the Italian Foreign Minister, “would not be in the interest of Europe.” It is an objective that is entirely “political” and not simply “technical”, Frattini stated, because “it still makes sense to talk about enlargement and there is just as much to gain for Europe as for the Balkans.” On the issue of closer relations to Belgrade, two issues must necessarily be left out of the process, as was highlighted by the statement released after the trilateral meeting between Frattini and his Serbian and Romanian counterparts, Vuk Jeremic and Cristian Diaconescu, in Belgrade. On one hand the position Belgrade holds on the status of Kosovo “cannot be connected to prospects for the adhesion to the EU.” On the other, there is the issue of the collaboration of Serbia with the International Criminal Court at the Hague for the arrest of the war criminals still at large like the ex-general Ratko Mladic. Some European countries, like the Netherlands, consider it to be insufficient. Frattini however made it clear, as well as the historic Serbian radio station B92 which broadcast the comments immediately, that Serbia fully collaborates with the International Criminal Court. At this point there are two immediate objectives for the Italian Foreign Minister: resolve the issue of visas by year’s end — Serbia considers this step particularly important, as President Boris Tadic and Foreign Minister Jeremic noted — and to give the go-ahead for the ratification of ASA, the partnership agreement between Serbia and the EU by the end of June. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Kosovo: NATO Defence Ministers: Wind-Down of KFOR Begins

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JUNE 10 — The defence ministries of NATO-member countries have agreed on a gradual reduction of KFOR troops in Kosovo, 10 years on from their deployment, report sources within the alliance at the end of the first session of its Defence Council. The reduction of the force should happen in stages, with three successive phases, while keeping an eye on developments on the ground. The first stage envisages a reduction by 10 thousand troops (of the theoretical current total of 15 thousand), then down to 5,700 and finally down to 2,300 soldiers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Mediterranean Union: Low on Israeli Priorities

(by Luciana Borsatti) (ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV/ROME, JUNE 10 — The Union for the Mediterranean? It still is not a priority for the Israeli government. This notion has been confirmed by Eran Lerman, Israel’s Deputy for Policy to the National Security Advisor. Questioned by ANSAmed on the issue, Lerman explained that “The troubling truth is that the new Israeli government, overburdened as it is by huge issues (the peace process and Obama; the Iranian challenge; the economy; Israeli Arabs) has hardly been free to give this issue a proper thought”. Lerman, a former military intelligence analyst and director of the American Jewish Committee for the Middle East, added that “Hopefully, as the ‘regional dimension of the peace process takes hold, there will also be a revival of interest. In my own capacity I will do my best to push this forward”. But in any case there will be the weight thrown around by “an influential politician, sidelined by Netanyahu but still with some clout within the party — former FM Silvan Shalom — who is now the Minister for regional cooperation, and may find the Med an important area for activity”. But one of Israel’s most pressing challenges is the one posed by Iran, which has stolen the limelight of Middle Eastern politics. In a recent meeting with Mediterranean journalists, Lerman pointed out that “By now the region is divided between Iran and its allies on one side, and the rest of the area on the other”. Speaking of Iran’s allies, he explicitly pointed to Hezbollah, the Shiite ‘party of God’, as an “occupying force” in Lebanon that “acts with Syrian approval”. He added that Syrian president Bashar al Assad nonetheless “does not control Hezbollah, which is instead led by Iran”. However, Iran does not fully control Hamas, which is simply its “client and ally”. He emphasised that “if Iran is the problem, Syria is part of it and Israel is part of the solution”. Because if Iran acquires a nuclear capability, for which “the true bottleneck is the availability of fissile material”, Turkey and Algeria will acquire it as well. In his opinion, the fact that the threat posed by Teheran is Israel’s top priority derives from the fact that “even if the Palestinians gain their own State, Iran is the one that does not recognise Israel”. He concludes that since this is the danger, it is a mistake to look to Iran (as Italy is doing by inviting Teheran to the G8 meeting) as a potential partner in the stabilisation of Afghanistan. Lerman emphasised that “Whatever tactical advantages they can gain, these would be crushed by the damage done through their treating Teheran as a legitimate partner”. But other issues apart from Iran were distracting Israel’s attention from the Euro-Mediterranean process that was initiated in Barcelona and then revived last year by Sarkozy. Another major hurdle is given by the Palestinian issue which (as pointed out by a source within Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs which asked to remain anonymous) lead to ‘politicisation’ and a ‘deadlock’ of the still desirable inter-Mediterranean cooperation processes. In other words, the Union for the Mediterranean is not viewed as the framework within which to find a solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine, nor (as confirmed by the same sources) something to which “Israel can sacrifice its political interests”. In short, as far as Israel is concerned the Mediterranean can wait. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Egypt: Furniture Imports Rise From USD 62 to 138 Million

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 10 — Figures from the Egyptian national statistics institute, reported by the Italian foreign trade commission (ICE), show that furniture imports have undergone a notable increase in the last year, moving from USD 62 million in 2007 to USD 138 million in 2008. Import volumes have also increased. Chair imports were up by more than 38%, with 35% of those coming from Italy. Other wooden furniture items saw an import increase of roughly 50%, of which 40% came from Italy. EU countries (above all Italy and Germany) and Asian countries (particularly China) are the biggest furniture suppliers to the Egyptian market, followed by the USA and Turkey. Italy is the fourth-biggest supplier country in the sector, with a total export value of around USD 8 million. China, however, exports USD 44 million worth of furniture, and Italy also trails Germany (19 million) and the USA (9 million). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Barry Rubin: Israel and America: Neither Surrender Nor Confrontation

The United States demands that Israel stop construction on settlements. If this doesn’t happen, it hints at dire retaliation.

If Israel agrees to this step, President Barack Obama promises great things. First, he claims this will bring dramatic progress toward Israel-Palestinian peace.

That’s rubbish. We know that yielding would be followed by Palestinian Authority (PA) demands for more unilateral Israeli concessions. PA leaders openly say their strategy is to let the West force Israel to give them everything they want without any change by them. We know the current PA leadership is both disinterested and incapable of making real peace.

In addition, the U.S. initiative is absurdly one-sided, without hint of reciprocity by the other side. Equally, the administration’s brutal-style rhetoric denies previous U.S. commitments to Israel have been made on this issue. This approach seems almost designed to convince Israelis that further unilateral concessions will continue to be unrewarded and Western commitments continue to be forgotten.

Second, we are promised that if Israel gives in, Arab states will change their policies, becoming more conciliatory toward Israel and more helpful on pressing Iran.

This, too, is rubbish. Arab regimes have their own interests. They need the conflict; they view its solution to be an American problem. They’ve already make it clear that the United States will get nothing from them for pressuring Israel into concessions except demands to press Israel for more concessions.

Third, we’re promised that if Israel stops construction on settlements, the West can act more effectively on Iran. But they’ve already chosen a policy of engagement and concessions to Iran. There’s no will or ability to increase sanctions, not to mention continuing opposition by Russia and China.

So this, equally, is rubbish. Iran will make no deal, is stall for time, and correctly assess Western willpower as low. Of course, Iran wants to be regional hegemon. It sees having nuclear weapons as a plus whose political and economic costs are low.

Most disgusting of all are honeyed claims by American and European officials—be they cynical or foolish—that such concessions are good for Israel, as it will help it make peace and greater security. In truth, they want Israel to make concessions for their own selfish interests. They believe it will make the radical Islamist threat go away at Israel’s expense.

What then is the reality? If Israel ceases construction on settlements it will get nothing. Arab states, the PA, and West won’t change policies. Iran will go merrily on toward nuclear weapons.

Nevertheless, there’s still a strong case for Israel making a gesture to the U.S. administration for several reasons…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



Netanyahu Speech, Premier Under Fire

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JUNE 11 — Benyamin Netanyahu is under siege. On Sunday at the University of Bar Ilan (Tel Aviv) he will make a highly anticipated speech in response to American President Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo on the new Middle East. Lately in the press, reports of varying credibility on Netanyahu’s position have been circulating. Haaretz reports that he will confirm Israel’s support of the Peace Treaty (published by the Quartet in 2003) and that he will push for a “demilitarised Palestinian state”, if Palestinians acknowledge the Jewish state. In the Likud party, there are growing fears that the Prime Minister may yield on certain points due to pressure by the US, EU, and Israeli head of state Shimon Peres. In recent weeks, meeting with Obama and Mitchell, and today in a meeting with Solana, Peres has taken a stance that may not be compatible with that of the government. Yesterday a Likud ideologist (Benny Begin, the son of Premier Menachem Begin) warned that a Palestinian state would be a threat to Israel. Similar fears were confirmed today by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud). Some right-wing parties have already voiced their displeasure about Peres’ meddling, who “has perhaps forgotten that his role is only symbolic”. From Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas’ (Abu Mazen) advisor has already clarified that Palestinians are not interested in a makeshift state. Netanyahu is currently not making any statements and has limited himself to consulting his party members. “He has clear political stances, a well-rooted vision,” assured Rivlin today during a visit to two settlements in the West Bank. To the settlers who were worried after Sunday’s speech, Rivlin responded: “Stay calm. I’ll come back and visit in 20 years.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Palestinian Boy ‘Hanged for Collaboration’

Palestinian police say a 15-year-old boy has been found hanged near the town of Qalqilya in the West Bank.

They said several family members had confessed to involvement in the killing, accusing the boy of collaborating with the Israeli army.

Collaboration is viewed as a serious offence in Palestinian society. Suspects are often summarily killed.

However, police said it was unlikely that such a young boy would have been recruited as an informer.

He has been named in the Palestinian press as Raed Sawalha.

Palestinian police spokesman Adnan Damiri said those responsible for the boy’s death would be brought to justice.

He said the boy’s father, uncle and cousin confessed to the killing, but that police were also investigating other motives for the killing, the Associated Press reported.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



S. Craxi in Ramallah and Jerusalem Today

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JUNE 10 — Italian Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Stefania Craxi, who last night arrived in the Middle East, will be visiting Ramallah (the West Bank) this morning to take part in the opening of the business conference on “economic opportunities in Palestine and the Gaza Strip”, together with around 40 Italian entrepreneurs. Craxi will have a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the conference with Palestinian Economy Minister Basem Khoury. After that, the undersecretary will meet Foreign Minster Riad al Malki and Palestinian National Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad. This afternoon Craxi will be in Jerusalem, where she is to meet with the Israeli deputy minister of Foreign Affairs, Daniel Ayalon. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UNRWA on the Brink of Bankruptcy, Officials Say

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JUNE 11 — Officials from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA warned today that the 6-decades-old relief organization is on the verge of banckrupsy as funds expected to dry up before year end amid dwindling aid from international donors. The agency, created after the 1948 war with Israel to provide shelter, food and medical assistance to millions of Palestinian refugees who fled t neighbouring countries, has been suffering from a sever financial crisis since last year. During a meeting in Amman with donors from Arab and foreign countries, officials from UNRW said the budget deficit is close to the $32 million. This cash is needed to pay salaries of staff, let alone operational costs, they said. If the agency does not receive urgent help, thousands of employees will be left without pay in its five areas of operation: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, said UNRWA commissioner Karin Abu Zaid, during a meeting with representatives of donor countries. Figures from UNRWA show that there is at least, a $100 million deficit is forecast for the agency’s 2010 budget. Nearly 4.7 million Palestinian refugees receive some sort of aid from UNRWA including residents of refugee camps. The USA, one of the biggest donors to the group, announced a contribution of USD 55.3 million to the UNRWA general fund, bringing its total contribution in 2009 to $154.5 million. Meanwhile, UNRWA staff in Jordan are threatening an open ended work stoppage if the agency does not offer them pay hike. The general strike is expected to take place next September with the start of school year, when 124.000 refugee students are expected to start a new year. But AbuZayd said ruled out any salary increases this year due to financial difficulties. “It is good that staff unions decided to postpone planned strikes till September,” she noted, indicating that this move would allow more time for discussions. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Iraq: WMD Slam Dunk Never Reported

I may have linked to the following article before and have simply forgotten, but it summarizes the true story behind Saddam’s WMD program and how it was hidden from U.S. inspectors.

This is old news, but I remain incredibly frustrated by it. It is worth reviewing today if only as a defiant stick in the eye to remind the Left that we weren’t all fooled.

With the complicity of allies in the bureaucracy, the mass media/Leftist/Democrat alliance relentlessly promoted the myth that no weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological or chemical) existed in Iraq to justify invasion, to the point where today it is accepted as fact.

But it is a patent fraud made all the more infuriating because these same people who promoted it knew the truth. Indeed many of them publicly demanded Saddam divest himself of WMD right up to the moment we invaded, and had we not done so, would have certainly accused Bush and the Republicans of weakness.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Press: Brain Behind Madrid Attacks in Syrian Jail

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JUNE 11 — Wanted in Spain for having taken part in the 2004 terrorist attacks on Madrid, Abu Mussab as Suri (a.k.a. the Syrian), a suspected member of Al-Qaeda and notorious as ideologue of the “electronic Jihad”, is now in a Syrian prison, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al Awsat reports. The London-based newspaper, edited by Clive Stafford Smith, the British lawyer who defended As Suri and other detainees in the US Guantanamo prison writes: “Mustafa Nassar, also known as Abu Mussab as Suri, is under arrested in Syria, his country of birth’. Nassar is known as one of the “main strategic minds behind Al-Qaeda”: with the publication of around 1,600 web pages attributed to him, such as “attacking the enemies of Islam”. Already arrested in Pakistan in 2005, he is currently wanted by the Spanish authorities for the attacks in Madrid in 2004. Resident for many years in the United Kingdom, Nassar has double Syrian and Spanish citizenship, the latter obtained through marriage to a Spanish woman who converted to Islam. According to his defence lawyer, Nassar may have already been in prisons in Syria “for many years now”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Terrorism: Al-Qaeda Asks Turkish Muslims for Funds

Kabul, 11 June (AKI) — Al-Qaeda has appealed for financial donations, particularly from Muslims in Turkey, to fund its military operations in Afghanistan. The terror network made its appeal in a new audio message posted on jihadi Internet forums on Thursday.

The message is entitled ‘Our advice to the Turkish population’ and made by Al-Qaeda spokesman, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid.

“There are no differences between Arab Muslims and Muslims in other countries because Islam has taught us to support each other and our brotherhood,” he said.

Abu al-Yazid discussed several speeches by Al-Qaeda leaders, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, and said those who were not directly involved in jihad, or holy war, could contribute to the cause of Al-Qaeda.

“You all know that jihad needs a lot of money,” he said. “Without money, the mujahadeen cannot buy food and weapons, so how can we accomplish jihad?

“Many verses of the Koran discuss the obligation to fund the jihad. We are in Afghanistan and we need money for our operations. Unfortunately, we are being forced to cut back our operations and attacks because of inadequate funds.”

“There are many brothers who cannot participate in jihad because they do not have enough money and many aspiring suicide attackers, who would like to sacrifice themselves on the way to god, cannot be recruited because of the lack of funds.”

Abu Al-Yazid spoke generally about Al-Qaeda victories against NATO troops in Afghanistan in the audio message. It is believed, however, that the message was recorded several months ago because former president George W. Bush is still referred to as the president of the United States.

Several days ago the Arab news channel, Al-Jazeera, aired an interview with Abu al-Yazid, carried out by a correspondent in Afghanistan.

The militant proclaimed that Al-Qaeda would defeat NATO troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2010.

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



The Age of Middle East Atonement

by Victor Davis Hanson

Therapeutic efforts to disguise the truth never really work.

President Obama made an earnest effort — as is his way in matters of discord — to split the difference with the Islamic world. His speech essentially amounted to: “We did that, you did this, tit-for-tat, now we’re even, and can’t we all just get along?” He should be congratulated for expressing a desire for peace and for gently reminding the Muslim world of the way to reform, even if he did so while inflating Western sins.

But the problem with such moral equivalence is that it equates things that are, well, not equal — and therefore ends up not being moral at all.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Shades of Chesterton!]

To pull it off, one must distort both the past and the present for the presumed higher good of getting along. In the 1930s, British intellectuals performed feats of intellectual gymnastics in trying to contextualize Hitler’s complaints against the Versailles Treaty, assignment of guilt for the First World War, and French bellicosity — straining to overlook the intrinsic dangers of National Socialism for the higher good of avoiding another Somme. Over the short term, such revisionism worked; over the longer term, it ensured a highly destructive war.

Whatever a well-meaning President Obama thinks, occasional American outbursts against Muslims are not analogous with the terrorism directed at Westerners or the hostility toward Christianity shown in most of the Muslim world. Try flying into Saudi Arabia with a Bible, as compared to traveling to San Francisco with a Koran. One can easily forsake Christianity; one can never safely leave Islam. European worries about headscarves are not the equivalent of the Gulf states’ harassment of practicing Christians. Sorry, they’re just not.

Pace Obama, Arab learning in the Middle Ages, while impressive, did not really fuel either the Renaissance or the Enlightenment. If anything, the arrival in Europe of the learned of Byzantium fleeing Islam over two centuries was a far stronger catalyst for rediscovery of classical values, while enlightened European sympathy for Balkan peoples enslaved by the Ottomans rekindled romantic interest in Hellenism in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Colonialism and the Cold War — both of which have now been over for decades — do not account for present Arab pathologies. The far more pernicious Baathism, Nasserism, Pan-Arabism, and Islamism were all efforts, in varying degrees, to graft ideas of European socialism and Communism onto indigenous Arab and Muslim roots.

Today, Russia and China are much harder on Muslims than is the West. (Consider Russia’s actions in Chechnya and China’s treatment of the Uighurs.) Neither country pays any attention to Muslims’ grievances, and therefore Muslims respect and fear Russia and China far more than they do the United States.

There are no Arab coffeehouse discussions today about the nearly 1 million Muslims killed over two decades by the Soviets in Afghanistan and the Russian government in Chechnya, yet there is constant haranguing over Abu Ghraib, where not a single inmate was killed by rogue American guards. In short, neither logic nor morality is in abundance on the Arab Street, and conjuring up American felonies will not change that.

“On the one hand, on the other hand” — what Greek rhetoricians knew as men/de — when delivered in mellifluous tones, can suggest a path to reconciliation. But denial of fundamental differences leads nowhere. Our problems with the Middle East will dissipate, as have to varying degrees our problems with Japan, Southeast Asia, South Korea, and South America, when the region adopts, in part or in toto, open markets, consensual government, and human rights. Until then, we are in an uneasy and dangerous waiting period.

Conflating Western misdemeanors with Middle Eastern felonies is classical conflict-resolution theory, and laudably magnanimous. But privately the world knows that Muslims are treated better in the West than Christians are in Muslim countries. That Muslims migrate to the lands of Westerners, and not vice versa. That disputes over a border between Palestinians and Israelis do not explain the unhappiness of the Arab masses, suffering from state-caused poverty and wretchedness. That American military assistance to Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, and Somalia, direct aid to Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians, and moral condemnation of Chinese, Russian, and Balkan treatment of Muslims, coupled with a generous U.S. immigration policy, are not really cause for apology or atonement.

In short, few Arab leaders wish to give a “speech to the West.” They would have to take responsibility, directly or indirectly, for either fostering or appeasing radical Islam, while denying their culpability for its decades of mass murdering. They would also have to lament the global economic havoc caused in part by oil cartels and energy price-fixing.

President Obama’s intent is noble, but therapeutic efforts to disguise the truth never really work. We will see how the short-term good created by his therapeutic speechmaking compares to the long-term harm caused by telling the Muslim world, once again, that its problems were largely created by us — and, therefore, that we are largely responsible for providing the remedies.

Neither is true.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Girl Tortured and Killed After Refusing Marriage

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 11 — In Turkey a young woman who had refused to marry a man was kidnapped by members of his family — who then tortured her, broke her arms and legs and killed her with blows to the head. The tragic incident occurred in Afyon in central Anatolia, around a 3-hour drive from Ankara. The victim, 19-year-old Nimet Gurbunar, was “guilty” of turning down the marriage proposal of 24-year-old Tayfun Sahin. His sister Fadime and one of his brothers, Sayfi, kidnapped the girl to convince her to accept the wedding. They started torturing her and, when the girl still refused, they started breaking her limbs one by one. Despite the injuries the girl had already sustained — a newspaper writes — her suitor wanted to rape her as final act, but only abandoned the idea when he saw her bloodstained legs. Then, several blows to the head, probably with a bat, smashed the victim’s skull. The woman and her brothers have been arrested. A survey carried out in 35 provinces in the country showed that in Turkey, one out of every three women are the victim of domestic violence. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Record in Dismissals of Unionized Workers, Report

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 11 — Turkey has the worst record for the dismissal of workers involved in trade union activity among 68 countries, daily Hurriyet reported, quoting a report released by an international trade union group. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reported 7,500 cases of the dismissal of workers involved in trade union activity in 68 countries around the world. “The country with the worst record of dismissals was Turkey, where more than 2,000 cases were documented”, the report said. The next to come are Indonesia, Malawi, Pakistan, Tanzania and Argentina. The report also highlighted that the recession has led some governments to crack down on workers demanding higher wages to cope with the recession and high food prices. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Pro-Kurdish Paper Silenced by Court

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 11 — The pro-Kurdish daily Gunluk was slapped with a publishing ban by an Istanbul court, which issued two rulings on teh same day pertaining to the newspaper, Hurriet reports today. The editors-in-chief of Gunluk, Ayhan Bilgen and Filiz Kocali, said one of the rulings was in regard to the paper’s June 1 edition that had focused on a banner unfurled during a party rally. They said the court ruled that in a photo used in that edition to show members of the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, attending a concert in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, a banner portraying a picture of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, was visible in the corner of the frame and that the paper had “focused” on the Ocalan banner. Bilgen and Kacali said the second ruling was in regard to two opinion columns the paper ran in its June 2 edition, which the court judged the two columns as “engaging in terrorist propaganda”. They reiterated that similar columns had appeared in other publications. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



U.S. Sends 3 Guantanamo Detainees to Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Three detainees from Guantanamo Bay were transferred to Saudi Arabia “under appropriate security measures,” the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday, in another step toward President Barack Obama’s goal of closing the prison for terrorism suspects.

“All individuals transferred to Saudi Arabia are subject to judicial review in Saudi Arabia before they undergo a rehabilitation program,” the Justice Department said in announcing the transfer of Khalid Saad Mohammed, Abdalaziz Kareem Salim Al Noofayaee and Ahmed Zaid Salim Zuhair.

All three men are from Saudi Arabia.

Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during a visit to Riyadh he was impressed with the Saudi program to rehabilitate militants and the United States had raised the idea of also sending Yemeni detainees to the kingdom.

The Saudi transfers followed the transfer of six other detainees this week — four Chinese members of the Uighur ethnic group were released in Bermuda, and one detainee from Iraq and another from Chad were sent to their home countries.

Obama has ordered the closing of the prison on a U.S. naval base in Cuba, which now holds 229 detainees, by the end of January.

Guantanamo Bay, opened under former President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks, drew international criticism for holding prisoners indefinitely, many without charges.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UAE-Turkey: Several Deals Are Back on the Front Burner

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 10 — Deals involving heavy investment between Turkey and the UAE are once again being reviewed with several of them beginning to materialise, said a senior executive of Turkish firm Ata Invest, an investment banking and capital market advisory group as reported by local press. “A lot of deals were put on hold due to the global financial crisis; not because they were bad opportunities but because people were expecting the worst. We are seeing that changing now. People are thinking they may be reaching towards the end of the crisis,” said Ata Invest Dubai Chairman Hakan Ferhatoglu. “So we are seeing a lot of deals, especially from Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, being more seriously examined again. More transactions have started to take place,” said Ferhatoglu, who is also the Finance Committee Chairman of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board and an Executive Committee Member of the UAE-Turkey Business Council. Turkey-UAE trade has increased to about USD 9 billion (Dh33bn) while it was much lower in the past five years or so. “On trade side, it has already picked up, while on investment side, it is picking up and is estimated to be between $1.5bn and $3bn. Turkey has expressed its interest to invest about $40bn in the UAE in next five years.” Sectors such as food, healthcare, agriculture, energy and logistics have been attracting high interest from UAE investors. Among the sectors in Turkey where UAE investors can seek opportunities include energy, retail, food and logistics. He said with a large proportion of young population and skilled human resource, Turkey presented attractive opportunities in terms of investment. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russia


Putin ‘Turns Into Art Instructor’

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been raising eyebrows by telling one of the country’s most famous artists how to paint better.

Visiting 79-year-old artist Ilya Glazunov, Mr Putin stopped in front of a large painting of a medieval knight.

“The sword is too short,” he is reputed to have said. “It’s only good enough for cutting sausage.”

Not wishing to displease his powerful guest, Mr Glazunov immediately agreed to correct his mistake.

Oligarch humiliated

In North Korea, they call it “on the spot guidance”.

It is when an all powerful-ruler drops by to give soldiers, scientists, farmers even artists advice on how to do their jobs properly.

However, it is not only artists that have been getting a tongue-lashing from Mr Putin.

Last week, he humiliated one of Russia’s richest men on live television. He forced the billionaire businessman Oleg Deripaska to reopen an aluminium plant after protests by laid-off workers.

As the cameras rolled, Mr Putin threw his pen on the table and ordered Mr Deripaska to sign the paperwork.

It was a brilliant piece of political theatre, which went down extremely well with Russia’s public who were delighted to see Mr Putin bringing the hated oligarch to heel..

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

South Asia


Bangladesh: Catholic Chef Has a “Really Rough Time in Dhaka’s Central Jail”

Now out on bail, the chef at the Castel Inn was initially arrested for allegedly possessing illegal alcoholic beverages. He spend two weeks in prison in a cell built for 20 inmates but housing around 240. Now local Catholics are waiting for the trial, demanding justice.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — Sapon D Costa, a hotel chef arrested during the night of 25 May for allegedly possessing illegal alcoholic beverages, was recently released on bail to wait for trial. For two weeks the Catholic man was imprisoned in Dhaka, locked up in a cell originally built for 20 inmates but currently holding about 240 men. In this short period of time he got sick because of poor hygiene and inadequate food, “not even sufficient for a child.”

“I had a really rough time in the central jail,” Costa said, “locked up with 240 people in a cell built for 20. I got a skin disease that covered by whole body and whatever food we got it was not even sufficient for a child. It is really inhumane in Dhaka’s central jail.”

Fortunately for him Sapon D Costa was released on bail last Saturday. As soon as he got out he and his entire family went to church to attend Mass and thank God.

His wife Onima Corraya said that she “prayed to Our Lady”, grateful to the priests and the Catholic community who showed solidarity and support. She said she hoped her husband can go back to work.

After Sapon D Costa’s arrest a number of Christian associations and human rights activists mobilised on his behalf, calling for a fair trial and an impartial investigation.

Fr Edmond Cruze, a local Holy Cross priest, said that Costa’s release was not enough; instead, “we want justice.”

Indeed for days the Catholic chef was locked up in his crowded cell not knowing what charges had been brought against him.

The initial warrant said that he was in possession of banned alcoholic beverages that had been served at a party held on the evening of 24 May at the Castel Inn, the luxury resort where Costa works.

“A bunch of young men and women were released after paying the agents. I am poor and could give them nothing,” Costa said.

Eventually he found about the charges against him after a few days in prison.

“Customers brought alcoholic drinks in from the outside. Only those who were at the party and the hotel manager could have known about the bottles’ content,” he explained.

The manager perhaps tried to get him into a compromising situation in order to get him fired and have his relatives and friends hired instead.

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



Indonesian Chopper Crashes

JAKARTA — TWO military personnel were killed and five others seriously injured on Friday in the second crash of an Indonesian military aircraft this week, the air force spokesman said. The Puma helicopter went down at a military base in Bogor, West Java, at around 2pm (0700 GMT, 3pm Singapore time) during a test flight, spokesman Bambang Sulistio said.

‘The helicopter had just undergone repairs and was being tested to see if it was fit to fly. Seven personnel were in it and two were killed in the crash,’ he added.

It was not immediately known what caused the crash. The dead servicemen were technicians from the air force.

‘Planes and helicopters must be checked before they are allowed to fly,’ Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono said.

Two special forces troops were killed Monday when an army helicopter crashed in South Cianjur, West Java.

An Indonesian military Hercules transport plane crashed last month as it prepared to land at a base in East Java, killing 101 people.

In April, 24 military personnel were killed when their training aircraft slammed into a hangar at an air base in West Java. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Italians Hurt in Afghan Firefight

Three soldiers wounded, one seriously

(ANSA) — Rome, June 11 — Three Italian soldiers were wounded, one seriously, in a firefight Thursday in western Afghanistan, defense ministry sources said.

Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said the soldier in the most serious condition had suffered wounds to the arm pit and shoulder, areas not fully protected by bullet-proof vests, but was not in any mortal danger. The clash with Taliban insurgents took place in the province of Farah, located in the southern part of the western region where international ISAF forces are under Italian command.

According to La Russa, Farah “is an area which has always been marred by violence and thus is one of the most dangerous for our forces”.

The firefight followed a nighttime attack on an Italian patrol, which returned fire and did not suffer any injuries.

These latest in a series of attacks, the defense minister said, will not have any effect on Italy’s mission in Afghanistan.

“Neither this government nor the previous one ever hid the fact that this mission is not just one focused on reconstruction but entails the use of force, when necessary,” La Russa said. The use of force, he added, “is part of our soldiers’ mission there. They know this and are well aware of the risks involved”. “Our men are doing their job with their usual dedication and professionalism. They are there to reconstruct but they also know that dangers exist and that, if necessary, they may have to use force, in accordance with the rules of engagement,” the defense minister said.

Violence has been increasing in Afghanistan ahead of this summer’s presidential elections there and Italy has sent in additional troops to deal with the situation.

On Wednesday, Italian and Afghan government forces killed two local Taliban leaders in the western Afghanistan province of Baghdis in an operation in which two Italian helicopters suffered minor damage.

An Italian military patrol came under attack during the night between Monday and Tuesday in the Mushai Valley, some 30km from the Afghan capital Kabul.

Paratroopers from the Folgore Brigade were said to have returned fire and “neutralised the threat” without suffering casualties or injuries. Insurgents were said to have used light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades in their attack on the Italian patrol. Last week Italian helicopters were employed in a joint Italian-Afghan military operation to destroy a number of Taliban positions in western Afghanistan.

The action took place in the area of Bala Morgab, where a week before a joint Italian-Afghan patrol engaged in a firefight which left 25 insurgents and three Afghan soldiers dead, while four Italian paratroopers from the Folgore Brigade suffered minor injuries. The clash came not far from where an Italian military helicopter, carrying General Rosario Castellano, the commander of allied forces in western Afghanistan, came under machine-gun fire the day before.

Because of the expected surge in pre-election violence, Italy this year boosted its troop strength in Afghanistan from 2,270 to 2,800, with most of the additional forces sent to reinforce its contingent deployed in the turbulent province of Farah.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Pakistan’s ‘Loose Nukes’

Every now and then in this business someone in a position to know some enthralling secret passes information on to you, but you have no means of backing it up from other sources.

A few years ago, I was told about extraordinary US contingency plans to recover Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, in the event of a collapse of law and order or an extremist coup in that country.

My informant gave me considerable detail. A super-secret agreement had been put in place early this decade following confrontations between India and Pakistan, two nuclear armed nations, over the disputed Kashmir region.

In order to stabilise an otherwise potentially highly volatile situation, Pakistan would tell the US where its nuclear weapons were.

India had been promised, that in the event of some Pakistani national cataclysm, the Americans would move in to remove the nuclear weapons.

The “loose nukes” nightmare would thus be avoided, and India would not be tempted into a first strike on Pakistan’s atomic arsenal.

Sometimes stories, even from people who have held senior positions in Western governments, are a little too good to be true.

This one seemed to smack of Tom Clancy. Nobody would ever confirm it, and indeed some of those I checked it out with were openly sceptical. So I never ran the story.

Perhaps, after all, my original informant had been trying to plant it.

Now that the Obama administration is openly voicing its concern about the threat to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons from rising militancy in that country, some aspects of that original tip off have come back into sharp focus.

In April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a US senate committee, that the US spent a lot of time worrying about Iran getting nuclear weapons, but that Pakistan already had them, and that, “they’ve adopted a policy of dispersing their nuclear weapons and facilities”.

In this phrase, “adopted a policy” I detected a possible inference that Pakistan had moved away from an earlier procedure of keeping their bombs in a small number of locations.

My further inquiries suggested this inference was deliberate.

So here at last was a measure of confirmation for something I had heard years earlier.

As to what exactly Pakistan had told the US in the time of president (and former army chief) Pervez Musharraf, we are once again in hazier territory.

We do know however that Mr Musharraf knew far more about the country’s nuclear complex than any civilian leader has ever been allowed to learn.

We also know that in the first years after 9/11, there was intimate strategic co-operation with the US.

Of course any suggestion that the US might, in the past, have had plans to sweep up these weapons is politically sensitive in Pakistan.

The country revels in the status that its arsenal has given it. Any suggestion that there were plans to “secure” the bombs, even in a state of anarchy, would strike many Pakistanis as a US plot to emasculate an Islamic nuclear power.

Some feel the nuclear danger is being exaggerated in Washington in order to build support for the Obama administration’s Af-Pak policy.

There may be something in this, given that the chance of Taliban storming some nuclear weapon storage point is remote.

But the real danger at present lies in subversion.

Pakistan’s nuclear establishment produced the unhappy example of AQ Khan, who sold nuclear weapons technology to Libya, North Korea and Iran.

He is said to have acted from a combination of ideological and financial motives.

The chance currently is less of a complete collapse of order, the kind of circumstance under which possible secret plans of yesteryear would have come into play, but of one or more individuals working inside the system providing Islamic militants with nuclear materials or, sum of all nightmares, an entire atomic weapon.

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



Singapore: Christians Jailed for ‘Sedition’

Singapore, 10 June (AKI) — A Christian couple were jailed for eight weeks in Singapore on Wednesday for distributing evangelical publications considered “seditious”. A district court judge earlier had found Ong Kian Cheong, 50, and Dorothy Chan, 46, guilty of sedition for “distributing seditious or objectionable publications”.

In sentencing them, district judge Roy Neighbour said the couple’s offences affected the foundation of Singaporean society and public policy required the court to apply the principle of deterrence in punishing them, according to local daily, The Straits Times.

But the prison terms the couple received were at the lower end of what the prosecution had urged the court to impose.

It had sought a sentence of between two and six months.

The couple were found guilty on four charges late last month in the first full trial under the Sedition Act to be heard in Singapore.

Neighbour noted that Ong, a technical officer and Chan, an associate director with financial firm UBS, said that neither had realised they were doing anything wrong.

“They have the capacity to undermine and erode the delicate fabric of racial and religious harmony in Singapore,” said Neighbour, cited in The Straits Times.

He added that as Singaporeans, the husband and wife cannot claim to be ignorant of the sensitivity of race and religion in Singapore’s multi-racial and religious society.

“Common sense dictates that religious fervour to spread the faith, in our society, must be constrained by sensitivity, tolerance and mutual respect for another’s faith and religious beliefs,” said the judge.

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



US Commander Vows to Cut Afghan Casualties

LONDON — The commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan has said he will review military strategy in an effort to reduce civilian casualties.

U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said in an interview broadcast Friday that troops had a duty to protect Afghan civilians.

He told the BBC that he would review troops’ rules of engagement and instructions, “with the emphasis that we are fighting for the population, and that involves protecting them both from the enemy and from unintended consequences of our operation.”

“Because we know that although an operation may be conducted for the right reason, if it has negative effects it can have a negative outcome for everyone,” he said.

“Sometimes there’s winning a tactical fight and losing a strategic event.”

Civilian deaths, particularly in U.S. airstrikes, have angered many Afghans and undermined support for foreign intervention in the country. The U..S. is currently investigating airstrikes in western Afghanistan’s Farah province that killed at least 30 civilians last month.

There are about 70,000 U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan. President Barack Obama is sending 21,000 more American troops there to fight a resurgent Taliban, and has shaken up the U.S. military command in a bid to break the stalemate there.

McChrystal, a former special forces officer, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate this week as commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. He replaces Gen. David McKiernan, who was forced out by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Taliban insurgents are ramping up attacks on foreign forces. On Thursday, the head of U.S. Central Command, David Petraeus, said the number of insurgent attacks had hit the highest level since the December 2001 fall of the Taliban.

McChrystal said U.S. troops would be in Afghanistan for a long time to come.

“I think it will go on until we achieve the kind of progress we want to achieve,” he said. “It won’t be short.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Far East


China Sub Collides With Array Towed by U.S. Ship: Report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A Chinese submarine accidentally collided with an underwater sonar array being towed by a U.S. military ship, CNN reported on Friday, quoting an unnamed military official.

The incident occurred on Thursday near Subic Bay off the coast of the Philippines, according to the CNN report.

The destroyer USS John S. McCain was towing the array, deployed to track underwater sounds.

“The John S. McCain did have a problem with its towed array sonar. It was damaged” on Thursday in Subic Bay, a Pentagon spokesman told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The spokesman, who asked not to be identified, would not confirm other details of the CNN report, including whether the array collided with a Chinese submarine. He said the U.S. destroyer was not damaged and was not hit by another vessel.

The U.S. Navy does not view the incident as a deliberate move by Beijing to harass military ships operating in the region, CNN reported.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Climate Pact in Jeopardy as China Refuses to Cut Carbon Emissions

China will not make a binding commitment to reduce carbon emissions, putting in jeopardy the prospects for a global pact on climate change.

Officials from Beijing told a UN conference in Bonn yesterday that China would increase its emissions to develop its economy rather than sign up to mandatory cuts.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



N. Korea in Extortionate Demands for Kaesong Complex

North Korea wants South Korea to quadruple wages for North Korean workers and pay 31 times the rent at the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex. The North made the new demand in a second round of inter-Korean talks at the industrial park Thursday. That dims prospects for the project even further, but the two Koreas agreed to meet again on June 19 to continue talks.

The Unification Ministry said North Korea demanded that workers’ wages are raised from the current US$75, including social insurance, to $300 per month. Most of the wages already go to the regime, not the workers.

It also demanded $500 million in rent for 3.3 million sq. m land put aside for the first phase of the industrial park, for which Hyundai Asan and the Korea Land Corporation in 2004 already paid in $16 million for a 50-year lease. In addition, the North wants another $10 per 3.3 sq. m for 1.98 million sq. m land currently allotted to the industrial park a year from 2010.

An intelligence officer said, “If we pay $500 million in rent and increase the per capita wage to $300 per month, North Korea will earn $600 million to $700 million in cash this year alone. That’s nearly 70 percent of North Korea’s annual export volume of $900 million” as of 2007.

The South Korean side called on Pyongyang to release a Hyundai Asan staffer identified as Yu who has been held incommunicado in Kaesong for some 70 days. It wants the two sides establish a committee on travel between the two Koreas, which will serve as a forum to discuss the safety of South Koreans traveling to the North. Seoul also urged Pyongyang to stop conducting nuclear tests and creating military tension, resume inter-Korean talks and return to the six-party nuclear talks.

Prof. Nam Ju-hong of Kyonggi University commented, “North Korea may want to close the Kaesong industrial park unilaterally, but it also has to be mindful of Chinese and other foreign investors who have money in the North. It is apparently attempting to choke off South Korean firms to make them leave of their own accord.”

But some feel there still is room for negotiations with the North. Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University said, “If it had decided to close down the industrial park, the North would have unilaterally told Seoul that it would do so, without setting a date for the next round of talks. It seems that Pyongyang is trying to see how Seoul would respond to a maximum demand.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



NK Detention of S. Korean Worker Enters 74th Day

South Korea yesterday made no progress in the release of a Hyundai Asan Corp. employee detained by North Korea for the 74th day.

Both Koreas spoke on the detainee in working-level talks at the inter-Korean business park in Kaesong, but the North just listened to the complaints raised by the South.

North Korean officials simply repeated, “This does not fall under our jurisdiction.”

Seoul failed to determine where he is being held, and Pyongyang denied him his basic human rights.

On April 24, the 39th day of their detention, the North announced its prosecution of two American journalists arrested March 17 near the border between North Korea and China near the Duman River. On June 4, the 80th day of their detention, it began the trial of the journalists and announced their sentence four days later.

Pyongyang, however, has said nothing about the South Korean detainee except a statement May 1, the 33rd day of his detention, that it would conduct an in-depth investigation. If he is put on trial, the North is required to consult with the South under a 2004 bilateral agreement, but has said nothing yet.

Moreover, North Korea is apparently taking advantage of the case to raise its offensive against South Korea despite failing to state the charges against him or present evidence.

The North said March 30, “He tried to corrupt and deviate [sic] a female worker at the Kaesong industrial park and encouraged her to flee our country,” but released no details on evidence or circumstances.

It said May 1, “He criticized our regime with malicious intent, infringed on our republic’s sovereignty, and committed a serious violation of related law.”

The North also aroused suspicion by saying May 15 that he wore a Hyundai Asan cap.

The two detained Americans have been allowed to meet the Swedish ambassador to Pyongyang three times, and write letters and phone their families in the United States. The Hyundai Asan employee, however, has had no chance to meet South Korean officials, not to mention his family.

North Korean officials said in the middle of last month that he was doing well. South Korea sent underwear to him and the North often sent back the clothes he wore, but this was stopped May 15.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Problems for Marines in Korea

WASHINGTON — THE United States would be hard pressed to launch an amphibious landing in Korea if called to do so, US Marine Corps commandant said on Thursday, warning against a decline in the military’s capability to fight from the sea.

In discussing tensions with North Korea over its nuclear test last month, General James Conway told reporters that only between 10 to 15 per cent of US Marine forces are trained in the type of amphibious warfare that could be required.

‘It concerns me greatly that there is always the possibility that we could be asked to do something like that that we’re not trained to do,’ he said at the National Press Club.

‘Today we have the capacity to put two Marine expeditionary brigades to sea. That’s two regiments across the beach. That’s not a lot of people when you’re talking about invading another nation,’ he added.

A Marine expeditionary brigade amounts to about 15,000 men, according to the Defence Department. By contrast, Pyongyang’s highly militarised regime has a one million man army at its disposal.

The Marine Corps last major amphibious invasion was during the 1950-53 Korean war when the 1st Marine Division landed at Inchon in 1950 to spearhead a counter-offensive against a North Korean invasion of South Korea.

Gen Conway warned against the Pentagon’s budget cuts — which has focused on reducing its conventional weaponry — slashing Marine training in this arena, noting the United States ‘could lose its amphibious capability.’ — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



US Climate Envoy: China Seeks Top US Technology

BONN, Germany — China wants the United States to deliver top of the line technology as part of a new global warming agreement, the chief U.S. climate negotiator said Thursday.

Jonathan Pershing, who was part of a U.S. delegation that returned this week from Beijing, said the Chinese are looking to the U.S. for ideas and technology to retool its high-carbon industry.

“They want from us technology, and we want from them action,” Pershing said on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks. “There’s room for agreement there.”

But the Chinese “don’t want any technology. They want some of the advanced technologies which are part of our own intellectual capital,” Pershing told Public Radio International’s Living on Earth program.

The mission to Beijing by Pershing and Todd Stern, President Barack Obama’s climate envoy, underscored the paramount role of quiet diplomacy in reaching critical political deals — outside the conference halls of the 192-nation U.N. negotiations, where delegations tend to repeat entrenched positions.

An understanding between the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest polluters, is essential for the talks to succeed in crafting a successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. That agreement, which expires in 2012, calls on 37 industrial countries to cut emissions by a total of 5 percent from 1990 levels but made no demands on developing countries.

The U.S. has made it clear that China must be part of a new climate package, and that without China there’s no deal.

But Stern was quoted as saying in Beijing on Thursday the U.S. was not demanding that China accept mandatory emissions targets. “We don’t expect China to take a national cap at this stage,” Stern was quoted as telling the China Daily.

China, India and other developing countries say targets would constrain their economic growth, and their first priority is to fight poverty.

“We have 400 million people who don’t have access to electricity,” said Shyam Saran, the chief delegate from India, which is another key player. India’s population is about 1.2 billion.

At a rare news conference in Bonn, Saran held fast to India’s insistence that industrialized countries deepen their emissions cuts to a total of 40 percent below 1990 levels within the next decade, while at the same time rejecting emissions targets for developing countries.

Saran said developing countries would consider measures to curb the growth of emissions, but only in exchange for technology and funding from the rich countries. Funding could reach $250 billion a year, he said.

Delegations in Bonn have been working on a draft text of an agreement, due to be completed in December at a major conference in the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

The draft, which began with 53 pages, has ballooned to some 200 pages as delegations inserted language to be negotiated later. The second draft was expected to be whittled down to a more manageable size at the next round of talks in August.

Saran said the U.N. talks were mandated only to build on existing agreements, not negotiate a new treaty. “The Kyoto Protocol remains a valid legal document,” he said. India and the developing countries face no obligations under the Kyoto pact as it stands.

Veteran India watchers said Saran’s line, virtually unchanged from last year, appeared to be a negotiating tactic.

“India is holding the line,” said Richie Ahuja, the India Policy Coordinator for the Washington-based Environmental Defense Fund.

But in the end India will likely have to sign on to a new climate deal because it would translate into a flow of funds from the rich countries and the chance to take part in a lucrative new carbon market.

Environmentalists said they saw little movement on major issues from any of the negotiators, and that the gap between rich and poor countries was increasing.

“It’s clear they are building up their fortresses,” said Tasneem Essop of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Australia: A Nation of Paupers

IT’S no great surprise that the ACTU congress last week called on the Rudd government to back a wealth tax on high-income earners.

The common orthodoxy, even among a large section of the economic commentariat, is that the wealthy should be the last to get tax cuts in good times and the first to be hit with tax rises in bad times.

Take Geoffrey Barker, writing in The Australian Financial Review after the May budget. He complained Wayne Swan’s budget was “plainly flawed in moral terms” because it did not slug the rich enough. “An ethical budget should … seek impartiality to make benefits granted and sacrifices demanded commensurate with the needs and abilities of citizens.” There was no attempt to claw back revenue by progressively increasing the taxes paid by the wealthiest citizens, Barker complained.

When pundits start framing tax reform in moral terms, you know something’s awry. Their belief in taxing the wealthy has become an article of faith, not a matter for rational analysis. Just as with climate change, those who treat tax as the greatest moral issue of our time will necessarily regard arguments for any limits as immoral. Thus, if you regard progressive tax as a moral imperative, then you can never hit the rich hard enough with higher taxes because every hike makes the system more progressive and, therefore, more morally right. On the flipside, any tax cut or tax break for the rich must necessarily be derided as immoral.

And the sorts of flat tax rates apparently suggested by economist Henry Ergas in his review for the Liberal Party represent the ultimate in moral turpitude. Never mind that flat taxes have helped former communist countries such as Russia and the Baltic states stage a Lazarus-like economic recovery.

Laurie Oakes boarded the same moral indignation train when Malcolm Turnbull committed the political sin of appearing on BRW’s rich list a few weeks back. Oakes thought he had found the ultimate “gotcha” moment when he asked the Opposition Leader how he could possibly support maintaining the private health insurance rebate for high-income earners when he was so rich. In other words, the rich never deserve tax breaks of any kind.

To be sure, it must be politically tempting to run this line. After all, how many votes are you going to lose by soaking the rich? Hence, governments weighed down by deficits and debts are doing just that. Gordon Brown’s Labour government in Britain has raised its top tax rate, overturning Labour Party policy not to raise taxes. In the US, the Obama administration may do the same, following a swath of US states that have raised income taxes on the rich in recent years.

However, clothing these arguments in moral terms is designed to give some respectability to what is in truth little more than an infantile cri de coeur, a barely disguised envy yelp. Rational analysis requires consideration of two questions. First, who pays what proportion of tax? And, second, if you raise the taxes of the wealthy, at what point will they start to change their behaviour, depleting tax revenues?

As to who pays the most, a report commissioned by the Howard government in 2006 cited Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development figures that revealed Australia had the most progressive tax system after Ireland. In other words, the relative tax burden falls more heavily on those with the highest incomes. Many will say that, too, is as it should be. Indeed, the Barkers of this world will say the wealthy should bear higher taxes, as sacrifices must be commensurate with means. It’s a nice pollyanna kind of idea.

Alas, in the brutish real world, you cannot avoid the second issue. If you raise the taxes of the wealthy, you can expect tax revenues to fall as the wealthy change their behaviour. It is hardly novel to point out that raising the tax on a packet of cigarettes will change behaviour. That’s why governments tax cigarettes. People may smoke less or even give up. Same with taxes on alcohol. Why, then, doesn’t the same logic apply to raising income taxes? In other words, the disincentives from paying higher taxes may mean that those we rely on most to fill up the tax coffers may stop doing so.

Evidence of that abounds. In the 1960s, Britain’s 95 per cent top tax rate turned the Rolling Stones into tax exiles and contributed to the devastation of the British economy, reversed ultimately by Margaret Thatcher. The Beatles song Taxman and the title of the Stones album Exile on Main Street should stand as a potent reminder that progressive taxation has its devastating limits.

For more detail on that, take a look at a recent study for the American Legislative Exchange Council by Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore. They found that from 1998 to 2007, every day more than 1100 people hightailed it out of the nine highest income tax states in the US, such as California, New Jersey, New York and Ohio, and relocated mostly to the nine tax-haven states with no income tax, such as Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas.

They also found that during “these same years, the no-income tax states created 89 per cent more jobs and had 32 per cent faster personal income growth than their high tax counterparts”. Laffer and Moore, authors of Rich States, Poor States, found that because people, investment capital and businesses were mobile, there was no coincidence that the two highest tax-rate states — California and New York — also were those in the deepest fiscal hole. In other words, if you soak the rich, you end up sinking the rest.

There are logical reasons hitting the rich, while satisfying the envy gene, does nothing for the economy. The wealthy can, and do, migrate. Those who stay may be more determined to avoid tax (including by working less). And remember, too, that you won’t find rich people locating to a high-taxing country.

This is as true in Australia as anywhere else. As the Rudd government confronts the question of how to pay off decades of debt, inevitably there are calls for tax rises for the rich. That would be a grave mistake. Arguing against tax rises for the rich is not about defending the rich. They can look after themselves. This is about looking after the rest. The smarter approach is to aim for that level of progressivity that maximises the overall tax take, including from the rich. I don’t pretend to know precisely where that point is, but I do know that going beyond that point — although politically tempting — would revive the Beatles’ cry: “Yeah, I’m the taxman. And you’re working for no one but me.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Chinese Muslims Trigger Public Backlash in Palau

KOROR, Palau (AP) — The tiny Pacific nation of Palau’s decision to allow 13 Chinese Muslims from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp to resettle there has sparked anger among islanders who fear for the safety of the tranquil tourist haven.

The U.S. government determined last year that the Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, were not enemy combatants and should be released from the U.S. military prison in Cuba. China has objected to their resettlement, calling the men “terrorist suspects” and demanding they be sent home.

The U.S. has said it fears the men would be executed if they were returned to China.

Palau President Johnson Toribiong explained his decision to grant the Uighurs entry as traditional hospitality, but public opinion has appeared overwhelmingly negative. Some complained Friday that the government failed to consult the people.

“I totally disagree” with allowing the Uighurs onto Palau, Natalia Baulis, a 30-year-old mother of two, told The Associated Press by telephone.

“It’s good to be humanitarian and all, but still these people … to me are scary,” she said.

The Uighurs (pronounced WEE’-gurs) have been in custody since they were captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001.

Fermin Nariang, editor of the Palau newspaper Island Times, said he had been stopped in the streets of the capital, Koror, by residents venting their anger.

“This is a very small country … and some are saying if the whole world doesn’t want these folks, why are we taking them?” Nariang said.

The newspaper quoted islander Debedebk Mongami as saying, “I’m also afraid this news is going to scare the tourists who plan to come to Palau.”

The Palau Chamber of Commerce, which represents the country’s multimillion dollar hotel industry, did not return calls seeking comment Friday.

Toribiong has denied the move was influenced by any massive aid package from Washington, saying instead that the Uighurs had become “international vagabonds” who deserved a fresh start.

“Palau’s people are always on the side of the U.S. government,” Toribiong said.

He said Palau would send a delegation to Guantanamo to assess the Uighur detainees. It was unclear when this would happen or when the Uighurs would arrive in the island nation.

Four other Uighurs left Guantanamo Bay for a new home in Bermuda on Thursday. Some residents of the North Atlantic island were also unhappy, with dozens unleashing their anger on the Facebook page of a local newspaper, The Royal Gazette.

Even Britain, which handles Bermuda’s defense, security and foreign affairs, expressed displeasure at the deal.

The British Foreign Office complained that Bermuda’s leaders failed to consult “whether this falls within their competence or is a security issue for which the Bermuda government do not have delegated responsibility.”

Although the Pentagon said the 17 Uighurs were not enemy combatants, the Obama administration has faced fierce congressional opposition to allowing them into the U.S. as free men. China says no other country should take them.

On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a news conference that the U.S. should “stop handing over terrorist suspects to any third country, so as to expatriate them to China at an early date.” He did not say if China would take any action in response.

Toribiong said Palau did not consider China’s reaction when it accepted the U.S. request to temporarily resettle the detainees.

Palau has eight main islands and more than 250 islets, and is a former U.S. trust territory that has retained close ties with the United States since independence in 1994.

Some 20,000 people live in Palau, a predominantly Christian nation.

           — Hat tip: Islam in Action [Return to headlines]



Military ‘Meatheads’: Latham

DEPUTY Prime Minister Julia Gillard has defended the members of the Australian Defence Force after former Labor leader Mark Latham called them “meatheads”.

Ms Gillard says the men and women of the ADF do a first-class job.

Mr Latham accused the nation’s soldiers of having “limited intelligence and primeval interests in life”, in a column in today’s edition of The Australian Financial Review.

He said former defence minister Joel Fitzgibbon was better off out of the portfolio, with even the most tedious of public duties “better than knocking around with the meatheads of the Australian Defence Force”.

When asked about the comments, Ms Gillard said in Sydney that Australian soldiers were respected around the world.

“I, as Deputy Prime Minister, deal with many men and women in our defence forces and as Deputy Prime Minister I’d certainly want to say that the men and women of the Australian Defence Force do a first-class job, a fantastic job,” she said.

“Their skills and abilities are recognised around the world.

“Our soldiers, our defence personnel, join with those in other nations for operations around the world, and around the world they are known as highly trained, highly professional, highly skilled personnel who get on with doing dangerous work in the interests of this country.”

In a wide-ranging assault Mr Latham wrote that when he worked for Gough Whitlam the iconic Labor leader had told him the one of the purposes of his office as an ex-prime minister was “to milk the system” and take full advantage of publicly funded entitlements.

“Regrettably, milking the system has become a regular part of Labor’s culture,” Mr Latham wrote.

Mr Latham contrasted the frugality of former Labor leaders John Curtin and Ben Chifley with the modern ALP breed.

“Labor talks a lot about working families but most of its Mps are working hard for the high life,” Mr Latham wrote.

“Their favoured form of infrastructure is the gravy train.”

He said Labor has “jettisoned its traditional values” and ALP figures viewed power as an “entree card to the social establishment rather than a forum for radically attacking elites and social inequality.”

“Labor’s ministers have been duchessed in the establishment, crippling the credibility of their social democratic beliefs.”

Mr Latham wrote Mr Fitzgibbon should be relieved to be out of the Rudd ministry because he privately had held the Prime Minister in contempt and could now regain pride and self-respect.

“For most of his time in opposition Fitzgibbon despised Rudd, remorselessly ridiculing every detail of the man’s existence, form his gawky ways and peculiar hairstyle to his wife’s less-than-glamourous-looks.”

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



The Suburb That Simmers

Newcomer students pursue an education, intent on gaining permanent residency. Erik Jensen, Jonathan Pearlman and Hamish McDonald report on the explosive result when the students clash with their neighbours in an ethnic hothouse.

Three weeks ago a crude Molotov cocktail smashed through the front window of a house in Harris Park, near Parramatta. The five men inside were young Indians here on a combination of student and bridging visas. Rajesh Kumar, 25, a hospitality graduate, suffered burns to a third of his body.

This was not the first violence against Indians in the suburb. There had been robberies — as many as 100 in the past year, according to some community leaders. But this was the first serious attack to come without theft as a motive.

Kumar remains in a critical condition and has had multiple skin grafts.. His flatmates cannot think of a motive. Nor can police. There is no gang connection. Chander Mohan, who was inside at the time of the attack, says Kumar had no enemies.

“We don’t know why.”

On Monday night Indian leaders met to discuss the attack at Billu’s Indian Eatery and Sweet House, three blocks from the firebombed house, still boarded up with police crime-scene tape. Outside the restaurant, as leaders discussed getting money to the victim’s family, the assault of two more Indian men ignited a fire that would burn for three nights.

A rumour circulated that the perpetrators were Lebanese. Police later confirmed this. A group of 150 Indian men, mainly students, gathered in Harris Park. They later beat up three Middle Eastern men with bars and hockey sticks. About 2am a group of the protesters marched on Parramatta police station to complain of police inaction.

“Our people don’t say nothing until water goes up over the top,” said Jindi Singh, a Harris Park taxi driver who joined the protest when it regrouped on Tuesday night. “Police won’t do anything but we’ve got to do something. I’m not saying all of them are bad, but most of them. The police know. The Government knows. The Government in India knows. If nothing’s going to happen, then it comes into our own hands.”

The flare-up in Harris Park, matched by similar attacks and protests in Melbourne, have turned what seemed a success story — the huge growth in the number of Indian students coming to Australia — into a diplomatic crisis..

For the past three weeks the second-biggest news story on the 120million television sets of the world’s second-most populous country has been Australia — and the pictures have not been pretty. Virtually every night Indian television has played clips, mainly captured by Australian television channels, of student victims, claims of racism and the subsequent community protests. Only India’s own recent elections gained greater prominence in the media of the world’s biggest democracy.

The result, for Australia, has been a highly damaging airing of claims — frequently exaggerated — of racially motivated violence towards Indians. Australia’s high commissioner to India, John McCarthy, has been doing dozens of damage-control interviews, including appearances on popular panel debate shows such as The Big Fight and We The People.

“Clearly the television coverage has altered some people’s perceptions of Australia,” he says. “I think the relationship is repairable, but it has been a rough patch … There was a huge reaction here. I don’t think we can kid ourselves that perceptions of Australia have not been affected..”

It all seems a long way from the vision of foreign students pursuing higher degrees, working in lecture halls and laboratories, spending quiet hours over books, taking their leisure on the sports fields or in noisy cafes, eventually returning to their home countries with valuable qualifications and fond memories.

Instead, it reflects a milieu where study is secondary to the main purpose — getting migrant status in Australia. Study is mostly irrelevant to the cause of making money; long hours of work at petrol stations, convenience stores and the car-wash for below-award pay are tough but essential.

Until 2004 higher education was the main aim of Indian students here. They made up 8 per cent of total university enrolments that year, and fewer than 4000 Indians were enrolled in the sort of vocational courses — cooking, hairdressing and so on — that now dominate.

Vocational courses now account for about 52,000 Indians and English language schools for 16,000 — a twelvefold increase in five years.

Under immigration changes in 2001 applications for permanent residency can be made within Australia, with specified university degrees enhancing chances. The first great wave of Indian students came four years later, when trades courses joined the process and could be completed in a fraction of the time taken doing a university degree.

Between 2005-08 the enrolment of overseas students in trade courses trebled to 173,432. Indians are the biggest group in this category.

It gave Australia a crucial advantage over rivals such as Britain and the US in the foreign student market, adding to advantages of cheapness and perceived safety.

Yadu Singh, a Sydney cardiologist who has been leading Indian community efforts to resolve student safety and other concerns, says: “Australia has been very smart in marketing itself as the place for education, and has one extra advantage: if we have degrees from here it is easier to get immigration also.”

The expanding Indian middle class was quick to seize on the opportunity.

“They are willing to [mortgage their homes] to send their children here,” Singh says.

Catering for the demand are a proliferation of private schools spreading out from the longstanding student quarters such as Kingsford to the raw suburbia of Australia’s battlers and newcomers.

In 1991 there were five times more Lebanese-born residents in Harris Park than there were Indian-born. At the last census, in 2006, Indians were Harris Park’s largest ethnic group, outnumbering the Lebanese two to one. Half of Harris Park’s residents are students.

In 1978 Our Lady of Lebanon opened on the hill above Harris Park’s main street: the largest Maronite church in Sydney, a huge structure whose lit roof cast shadows over this week’s violence. The names involved in the church’s formation were uniformly Lebanese: Ziade began the project; Saad owned the land; Abood, Samia and Wehbe negotiated the sale. There were 1800 seats, full every week. They will be full again this weekend, but the congregation comes from further west — from Liverpool and Granville, where Harris Park’s Lebanese community moved.

Indian restaurants have opened in steady numbers. Seven years ago the suburb’s’s mixed business was owned by a Lebanese family. Now the owners are Bangladeshi. There are Indian sweets near the counter, where roasted nuts used to be.

Mustafa Karim, a Bangladeshi migrant who bought the shop from his uncle three years ago, says: “Indian people, Bangladeshi, subcontinent people, we know how to behave but [the students] don’t absorb. After six months there is still a culture gap.”

Hitesh Jotani moved to Harris Park a year ago to begin a masters of civil engineering course at the University of Technology, Sydney. His parents are well-off — they own a diamond polishing business in Gujarat — but he is living with five men in a three-bedroom apartment. He works odd shifts for an employment agency, often taking the train home after midnight.

Jotani says he was robbed two months ago but did not report the attack.. Many do not. He says the robbers — four men in a car — were Lebanese. “They are doing this because I am Indian. This happened because I am Indian, because I am a student. I didn’t want to call the police because they don’t do anything. That might affect my PR.”

PR is a much used abbreviation in Harris Park, binding and isolating the community of Indian students there. It stands for permanent residency, the great goal of a migrant middle class, the reason many are studying here, and the reason they choose certain courses that are favoured for skilled migration. It is because of those ambitions that many students do not report crimes — they fear that in doing so they will prejudice their applications, a police clearance being needed before permanent residency is granted.

“If you bash me up and I go to the police, what prevents you from saying it was the Indian who hit first?” says the cardiologist Singh.

Indian students turn to a familiar way of public protest. Most learned about Gandhi’s non-violent protests, says Robin Jeffrey of the Australian National University.

“These people come from a tradition where you go to the streets if things appear to be intolerable.”

Police steadfastly denied the clashes of the past week were race-linked. Commander Robert Redfern, who oversaw policing for the Cronulla riots and is now superintendent at Parramatta, sticks to a single line: “I don’t think there’s any suggestion that they are racially motivated.”

That may have been true, initially. Attacks such as the fire bombing and Monday night’s assault had no clear motive. Others seemed opportunist, as police were keen to point out: students with money, walking alone, made vulnerable by the shifts they work. It was coincidence, perhaps, that the perpetrators seemed often to be Lebanese. There is a large Lebanese community here.

“The Cronulla riots were not racially motivated,” says Sean Comello, of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin’s Parramatta chapter.

“It became racially motivated because of who got involved.”

As the week’s protest divided on ethnic lines, as carloads of Lebanese men from Merrylands and Dundas arrived, the issue took on a racial dimension — a particularly nuanced one that does not pit a single culture against another, but in which a thin band of young men in each culture is present, a group of supposed victims pitted against what seemed to be their attackers.

On Tuesday, when news trickled through of another violent robbery — an Indian cleaner, beaten unconscious by Middle Eastern men near Warwick Farm station — the belief seemed to be confirmed. “It is racially motivated,” said Jay Singh, a friend of the cleaner.

Each night the rally gathered in front of a Lebanese market that has operated in Harris Park for 30 years, but the business was not attacked. On Wednesday police directed the Lebanese coffee house across the street to close early, though the older Lebanese men drinking there were ignored by the crowd.

On Tuesday night a carload of young Middle Eastern men tore up Marion Street, chased by a hundred young Indians. “F—-ing Lebs,” the group’s apparent leader yelled. “You want to kill me, kill me. You are f—-ing racist.”

Later, a text message told the crowd there was a car of Lebanese men on neighbouring Weston Street. Twenty protesters broke away from the police cordon and ran up the street into a wall of white tracksuits. Two were beaten with poles, one was hit by a car. “Maybe tonight someone will be killed,” an Indian hospitality student said. “What will police do?”

What Australian governments do is more the question.

The ANU’s Jeffrey sees rising student numbers as a chance to broaden contacts with India. “These students have the potential to give us a real flesh and blood link with India. A good bilateral relationship, like that with the US or UK or Canada, involves a flow of people back and forth.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Immigration


America Losing Its Language and Culture Without a Whimper

Twenty years ago, Americans enjoyed walking into their supermarkets, banks, recreation halls and hardware stores with confidence knowing that cashiers, clerks and managers spoke English—America’s national language for 233 years.

Every immigrant that attained citizenship learned to speak English. But today, millions of illegal criminal aliens along with legal immigrants drive America’s language and culture into a fragmented polyglot pile of mush.

Without the ability to speak to ourselves, we fracture at the core of our national foundation. Without a common language, we cannot and do not communicate. You may witness other countries fracturing today because they let their immigrants displace their languages and cultures. Unhappy and unhealthy examples abound: France, United Kingdom, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Quebec, Malaysia, Lebanon and Belgium. Cyprus and Pakistan split. They all face major upheavals. You wonder why the leaders of those countries allowed the degradation of their own cultures and languages.

The great scholar Seymour Lipset said, “The histories of bilingual and bicultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension and tragedy.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Confusion Grows Over Iraqi Repatriation

The Danish government says its agreement with its Iraqi counterpart allows the forced repatriation of Iraqi citizens, but now Iraq says it doesn’t want anyone forced home

A new statement from the Iraqi government regarding the forced repatriation of its citizens has thrown doubt on the future of 282 failed asylum seekers currently in Denmark.

The asylum seekers’ applications were rejected, but they remained in Denmark as it was judged too dangerous to return them home to their country.

However, two months ago the Danish government signed an agreement with the Iraqi authorities that allowed them to forcibly repatriate the failed asylum seekers — some of whom have lived in Denmark for up to 12 years. A statement on the Iraqi Foreign Ministry website said that the government wished to address the rumours that its citizens living abroad would be forced to return home.

‘The Republic of Iraq has signed number of Memorandums of understanding with friendly countries to regulate the presence of Iraqis outside and facilitate their return to their country voluntarily and not forced to return to,’ read the statement, adding that the agreements include ‘appropriate insurance for human rights and not to interfere in personal freedoms’.

The Foreign Ministry continued by saying, ‘Memorandums of understanding stated that whether citizens leave or return to their country is a basic human right and the state will assist the voluntarily , dignified , safe and regular return for the Iraqis living outside Iraq.’

The statement, written in broken English, repeatedly refers to voluntary repatriation, which has left some in doubt about the Danish government’s plans.

The Danish Integration Ministry said they were aware of the Iraqi statement, but stated that the new interpretation of the agreement had not yet been sent to the Danish authorities on an official level.

‘We are relying on the repatriation agreement we made with Iraq…that says there is the possibility to use force as a last resort. That’s why we made the agreement, if it hadn’t said force we would have had no reason to make such an agreement because they could have just returned home voluntarily,’ said Integration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech to Politiken newspaper.

News of the Iraqi statement has also reached the 60 rejected asylum seekers who have taken refuge in Brorsons Church in Copenhagen to highlight their plight.

‘There were parts of the agreement I didn’t really understand and now I don’t know who’s telling the truth. If Iraq is incorrect then Denmark has made an agreement with a country that deceives people,’ said Hazhar Jaaf who is currently living in the church.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Finland: “Time Running Out on Immigrant Integration”

Heads of Security Police and Immigration Service warn that failure of assimilation into Finnish society lays the groundwork for radicalisation of immigrants

In Finland several ethnic minority groups are growing rapidly. In 2008, 4,035 people sought asylum or other protection in Finland. This is 2,500 more than in the previous year. The growth has continued this year, and the Finnish Immigration Service estimates that by the end of December there will have been about 6,000 applicants.

As a result, the number of immigrants coming into Finland will increase many times over on the basis of family unification. This especially applies to asylum-seekers from Iraq and Somalia. They are being driven to Finland especially by the tighter immigration policies of our neighbouring countries, and by the good level of Finnish social welfare.

From the point of view of security officials, there are risks inherent to a strong increase in immigration, which could lead to serious problems for security.

Risk factors include increases in crime, gang formation, violence, and disturbances of the peace.

Such events have been seen in Europe — in Sweden and France, for instance.

To prevent the risks from coming to pass, the integration of immigrants requires significantly more input from Finland.

According to the prevailing opinion of European security officials, another danger in immigration is the infiltration of terrorists into the flows of immigrants.

This threat ties down a significant amount of resources of security services.

An additional challenge stems from the fact that asylum-seekers who constitute a threat cannot always be sent back to their countries of origin; their security situations can be so bad that sending them back is impossible for humanitarian reasons.

In certain suburbs of Helsinki and Turku, the proportion of foreigners in the population has risen as high as 30 per cent. According to some studies, such a large concentration of immigrants can lead to uncontrolled ethnic isolation of the communities.

To prevent such problems there have even been proposals of enacting a partial curfew, which would be truly exceptional in the Nordic countries. These suggestions underscore the seriousness of the problem. The unrest caused by an atmosphere of marginalisation, rootlessness and anger are compounded, and spread to other similar suburbs.

The risk of radicalisation of immigrants is increased by the rootlessness that they experience in their new home countries. This, in turn, is fed by the problems of integration. Second-generation immigrants often find it hard to identify with their parents’ culture and home country. They lack the kinds of anchor points of life that normally create security and balance.

Failures in integration establish a foundation for radicalisation, and in extreme cases, for terrorism. At the same time, concern increases over confrontations between the native population and immigrants, and over the disappearance of the values that are a part of democracy.

This can result in increased racism, and an increase in the number of mutually hostile groups. For that reason, the importance of the ability of officials to react quickly is underscored.

The Security Police (SUPO) is not currently aware of any individuals in Finland who would be actively involved in terrorist activities. On the other hand, there are strong indications that groups and networks involved in conflicts in Muslim countries get support from Finland.

Practical responsibility for integration efforts is with local authorities. Contrary to what is claimed on the basis of isolated cases, local authorities have succeeded well in their task so far.

The illiteracy, ignorance of Finnish society, and large families of many immigrants pose challenges to local authorities.

Language skills and adapting to Finnish society and its rules are central factors in successful integration. Only in that way can immigrants eventually get work.

The challenges of integration will increase in the coming years as numbers of immigrants grow. For that reason, language teaching for immigrants should be increased significantly. If immigrants are to have a realistic and correct image of Finland, assimilation should start already in the country of origin, by coaching them in advance on the rules and mores of Finnish society.

Increasing the efficiency of assimilation requires considerably more personnel in the social affairs and health sector, in interpreter services, and in education, especially in language teaching. The availability of rental housing also needs to be increased significantly.

There are also positive sides to the increase in immigration. Work-based immigration is an important additional resource for Finland and its future.

Finland also has to take care of its international humanitarian obligations, and to offer protection for the persecuted.

If integration is successful, the native Finnish majority of our population will accept a growing foreign minority.

However, there is no time to wait in increasing the efficiency of how immigrants can become “new Finns”: the window of opportunity will only remain open for a few years.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



Finland: Qualified Immigrants to be Given Work to Match Their Educational Achievement

Outdated Act on the Integration of Immigrants is to be amended in order to improve employment

It has been suggested that immigrants should be given work to match their skills and their educational achievement, as a majority of immigrants have been forced to change their profession in order to get work.

As professional degrees from other countries are not necessarily recognised here, many university-qualified immigrants in Finland are forced into low-paid jobs, as supplementary training is not available in all sectors.

The main reason for the problem is the Finnish Act on the Integration of Immigrants that came into force in May 1999.

“It has become outdated”, says Mervi Virtanen, the director of the immigration policy department of the MInistry of the Interior.

Now the act is finally being amended. A report on the act will be debated by Parliament in its plenary session on Thursday. The actual bill for an amendment to the legislation is to be brought before Parliament next spring.

Mervi Virtanen and Annika Forsander, the manager of immigration affairs at the City of Helsinki, believe that an amendment to legislation would improve the integration and employment of immigrants.

“It is imperative that the Act on the Integration of Immigrants be amended”, Forsander notes.

Helsingin Sanomat reported on June 8th that in spite of education, immigrants are not easily employed.

In 2008, only one in six immigrants participating in integration training found a job in the general labour market in the Helsinki capital region.

A total of 15,611 immigrants participated in the training.

In general, immigrants study the Finnish language as well as working-life skills.

According to Forsander, for example language training has to be improved, while immigrants should also gain access to training faster.

“The goals are high and the schedule is tight”, Virtanen admits.

Those immigrants who have been granted asylum have obtained training even under the current Act. However, they form just a fraction of all immigrants.

“Those who have arrived in Finland for some other reasons, for example in search for work or as members of a family, will be left outside the integration programme and without training. The scope of application of the act will have to be enlarged”, Virtanen continues.

In order to be admitted to the integration programme, foreigners will have to register as jobseekers at the nearest employment office.

“The number of paths offering supplementary training is not adequate, which is why we will have to invest more in this kind of education”, Virtanen notes.

“For example foreign physicians can take part in certain adaptation training in order to achieve the qualifications required before they can practice their profession in Finland. However, such training programmes do not exist in certain other fields, for example in the humanities and social sciences”, Forsander reports.

When it comes to the employment of immigrants, time is the decisive factor. As the integration process takes several years, the newcomers should have an access to the right training sooner than happens today.

According to the current law, immigrants are entitled to training for a period of three years. In certain cases it can be prolonged to five years.

“This period is not long enough”, comments Forsander.

Language training and cooperation between authorities should also be improved. Today’s bidding contests are bound to make the problem worse.

“The integration of immigrants has already long been regarded as a short-term project”, Forsander notes.

“For example language training often consists of short periods, which is why the teachers will not be able to develop their activities. While it is true that a large number of quite good and competent players are involved, the fact is that passing from one place to another is not acceptable”, Forsander argues.

In 2008, the total number of foreigners living in Finland was 142,256, with half of them resident in the Greater Helsinki area.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Greece: Focus on Immigration

Government heralds heavy terms for smugglers, seeks EU help with repatriations

Responding to growing pressure to tackle a burgeoning problem with illegal immigration, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos yesterday heralded the imposition of tougher sentences to discourage human smugglers and the creation of reception centers where undocumented migrants would be held for up to 12 months until their fate is decided.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis sent a letter to Jan Fischer, his counterpart in the Czech Republic, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, asking for the union’s full support in curbing the migration flows that have hit countries like Greece, Italy and Spain particularly hard.

“The big issue that Greece and other EU countries face is the uncontrolled entry of illegal immigrants at Europe’s borders, mainly through people smugglers,” Pavlopoulos said after yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, noting that traffickers would face felony rather than misdemeanor charges which carry heavy jail terms.

The minister added that he would press EU officials at a summit next week for the signing of repatriation agreements with migrants’ countries of origin and urge Turkey to honor a bilateral pact with Greece for migrants’ repatriation.

Pavlopoulos added that the government would push ahead with stalled plans to build a mosque for the capital’s Muslims in the central Votanikos area and a Muslim cemetery in Schisto, western Attica.

The government’s proposals attracted strong opposition criticism. George Papandreou, the leader of Socialist PASOK, described the measures as “sketchy and inadequate” and proposed instead an eight-point plan foreseeing the boosting of border controls and a drive to upgrade parts of the capital that have turned into ghettos for migrants. The Communist Party accused the government of seeking to imprison migrants in “concentration camps.”

Speaking to reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Pavlopoulos insisted that the new measures were not a reaction to the government’s losses in last Sunday’s European Parliament elections and to the gains made by the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS).

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Italy: Police Target Human Traffickers in 16 Cities

Rome, 9 June (AKI) — Italian police conducted nationwide raids on Tuesday in a major operation targeting an international human trafficking network alleged to have brought thousands of illegal immigrants to Europe. The police operation called ‘Ticket to Ride’ targeted traffickers and their colleagues in 16 Italian cities and seven European countries.

Dozens of people were arrested by police in Venice and other cities in relation to the network which police believe has brought thousands of illegal immigrants to Europe in the past three years.

Police claim an international criminal organisation based in Iraqi Kurdistan is behind the trafficking network. It has alleged links in Turkey, Greece and in Italy.

According to police investigations, more than 2,500 people, mainly of Iraqi-Kurdish origin, were transported on 180 trips.

Police also estimated that between December 2006 and May 2009 the organisation earned millions of dollars from several other voyages.

The organisation was structured around operative ‘cells’ everywhere it operated.

In Rome there were allegedly three cells — the ‘Erbil group’, the ‘Chamchamali group’ and the ‘Badini group’ — that managed prospective immigrants from Iraqi cities including, Erbil, Kirkuk, Mosul and Dohuk.

The other main ‘cells’ police identified in Italy were located in the northern cities of Milan and Como as well as the cities of Rimini and Ancona on the Adriatic coast.

The immigrants began their journey overland from Iraq and when the immigrants reached Turkey, they were moved by vans, ships or on foot to Greece, police said.

From Greece they travelled by sea to Italian ports on the Adriatic Sea — Venice, Ancona, Bari and Brindisi.

Police also had evidence that other immigrants landed on the Calabrian coast.

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



Netherlands: Putting ‘Import Brides’ to the Dutchness Test

More women are coming to the Netherlands as ‘import brides’. Helping them pass the Dutch integration exam has become a business.

Sander Bons looks at Marina Yeranosyan and says in Dutch: “Pretty blouse.” Yeranosyan (29) looks nonplussed and asks: “Pretty blouse?” Bons points to her garment and says: “Pretty blouse.” Yeranosyan looks down at the blouse and relaxes. “Pretty blouse,” she says and smiles.

Yeranosyan is one of six women present in Bons’ class on the first floor of a town house in Utrecht. They all want to marry their lovers in the Netherlands. But that isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Integration test

Since the Integration law was adopted in 2006 potential immigrants are required to take an integration test in their country of origin. Already in 2004, the financial and age criteria were tightened: the Dutch partner has to make at least 120 percent of minimum wage and be over 21-years old. Every month some 650 integration test are taken across the world. Immigrants from European countries, the US, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, South Korea and Japan are exempt.

One reason for the integration law was to better prepare so-called ‘import brides’ for their new lives in the Netherlands. Turkish-Dutch and Moroccan-Dutch men often choose a bride in the country of origin. Without a good knowledge of the Dutch language these women could jeopardise their children’s education, was the thinking.

After the rules were tightened in 2004 family-related immigration dropped by more than a third. The introduction of the integration exam led to a further decline. Until last year. This week integration minister Eberhard Van der Laan told parliament that the number of applications for family-related immigration went up from 11,000 in 2007 to 15,330 in 2008. Seventy percent of the applicants in 2008 were women.

The statistics don’t distinguish between new families or family reunification, but Van der Laan admitted that many of the women are ‘import brides’. He worried about the arrival of more uneducated marriage partners, not just from Morocco and Turkey but more and more from places like Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq.

The integration exam tests the knowledge of Dutch society in thirty questions. Which country is bigger: the Netherlands or Morocco? Where is princess Máxima from? Or the student will be shown a Rembrandt painting and asked who painted it.

The second part is a language exam consisting of sentences spoken by a computer voice which the applicant has to repeat, as well as simple questions. Which is more: 15 or 20 euros? Is a ball for eating or playing? Is a bench for sitting or driving?

With or without topless pictures

The applicant is supposed to prepare for the exam in the country of origin. There is an integration package which the partner in the Netherlands can mail. The cultural questions are in a booklet and on a DVD. There is a censored version (without the topless sunbathing pictures) and an uncensored one. The Dutch government organises classes in some countries, like Morocco and Turkey, but in most countries the applicants are on their own.

The women in Utrecht have chosen a different approach. They came to the Netherlands on a tourist visa to take an integration course with Sander Bons. Sixty hours of classes cost 840 euros. Afterwards, they will fly back to their countries of origin — Colombia, Armenia, Venezuela, Sudan, Indonesia and Brazil — where they will take the exam at the Dutch consulate, or over the phone with the Netherlands. Once they pass the test, they can apply for the necessary paperwork and fly back to the Netherlands. Business is good for Bons, and he is not the only one who saw there was a profit to be made with the integration exams.

“My boyfriend is paying for the course and the trip,” says 29-year-old Margarita Ariza. She is slim and her long black hair falls on the scarf around her neck. Summers are too cold in the Netherlands, she says, but other than that she thinks it’s a wonderful country. “You can have everything here: a job, a good salary. You can even buy a house.” In Colombia she works as a secretary; she lives with her mother in Baranquilla. She doesn’t make enough money to rent her own apartment.

But not everybody has the luxury of hiring Bons’ services. A 45-year-old man from Iraq sits in the Lelystad office of Vluchtelingenwerk, an aid group for asylum seekers. He doesn’t want to see his name in print. He fled from Iraq to the Netherlands thirteen years ago, leaving his wife and three-month-old daughter behind. After years of red tape he finally got his residence permit in the 2007 regularisation. He wants to bring his wife and children to the Netherlands, but first his wife has to pass the integration exam.

Learning Dutch in Iraq

How do you study Dutch abroad without the help of someone who speaks the language? His wife has no computer or internet. Her husband bought a bunch of phone cards and, in his broken Dutch, shouted the sentences to his wife over the phone.

Taking the exam proved almost impossible. There is no Dutch embassy or consulate in Iraq. The wife had to travel to Turkey where she stayed in a hostel as she waited to take the exam. Just applying for the paperwork costs several hundred euros. The husband, who lives on disabled benefits, is having trouble keeping up with all the costs, which run in the thousands of euros. But in the end it paid off: his wife passed the exam.

Vluchtelingenwerk wants people like the Iraqi couple to be exempt from the integration exam. Family reunification makes up only five percent of all family-related applications; the remaining 95 percent are mostly import brides. It is reasonable to make demands of these new partners, says Erna Lensink. “If a man looks for a partner in the country of origin, he know there are rules you have to abide to in the Netherlands,” says Lensink.

But family reunification often applies to people from countries like Afghanistan, Somalia or Iraq. Lensink: “These are places where it is extremely difficult to prepare for the exam, especially if the wife is illiterate. But we’re talking about reunifying families that have been separated for years.”

Marina Yeranosyan, who is a photographer in Armenia, thinks she can teach the Dutch women a thing or two. “Some of them will wear an orange blouse with a pink shirt,” she whispers. Marina is always in high heels and make-up. “You have to show that you’re a woman. Dutch men like that.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Norway: Increased Number of Asylum Seekers

The number of asylum seekers arriving in Norway is again on the increase. In the first five months of this year 6595 persons applied for asylum, compared with 4324 in the same period last year. In May alone, 1490 applications for asylum were registered, according to the Immigration Directorate. This compares with 996 applications in May last year.

The largest group of asylum seekers in May this year (30 per cent) came from Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Southern Border: Massive Tunnel Found

We got tipped off late Wednesday evening and within a few hours we were on a plane and then on the road arriving in Nogales just as the sun peaked over the Sonoran Desert. Our contacts had told us of an elaborate tunnel, one of the best they’ve ever found, running 45 feet or so on the Mexican side of the border, then extending another 38 feet into the United States.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Sweden’s EU Immigration Plans Facing Headwinds

The renewal of the EU’s justice and home affairs priorities will be a key challenge for the forthcoming Swedish EU Presidency. But despite the country’s legislative credentials, Sweden’s ‘Stockholm Programme’ is likely to fall short of its ambitions, sources told EurActiv.

Sweden has one of Europe’s most liberal asylum policies, and intends to push for a comprehensive Common Asylum System when it takes the EU’s helm on 1 July (EurActiv 10/06/09).

The Swedish government has outlined its progressive ambitions on immigration, arguing for a “humane refugee policy,” and emphasising that “the current trend in Europe to close more borders must be opposed”.

However, the government is also issuing a clear warning to its EU partners, stating that “if Sweden has to shoulder a disproportionate share of the responsibility for refugee situations […] this will eventually raise questions about the sustainability of our asylum system”.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: No…Really? Color me shocked!]

The solution, argues Sweden, is obvious: “All EU member states must share the responsibility for offering protection for refugees.” This, says the presidency, is why common rules for EU countries will be its goal.

Sweden has considerable “moral authority” on this issue, according to Bjarte Vandvik, secretary-general of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), an NGO. Speaking to EurActiv, Vandvik noted that “if you look at numbers, Sweden takes the same number of asylum seekers per capita as Malta, or even more”.

Indeed, the European Commission yesterday called for a JHA programme which moves “towards a common asylum system” and insists on “burden-sharing and solidarity between member states”.

Political will not there, say experts

However, while the Swedish Presidency has lofty ambitions, there is very little chance of these targets being met, according to an immigration expert contacted by EurActiv.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said that the Stockholm Programme “encapsulates all the good intentions” about harmonising and working together on protection issues for refugees, migration, and so on.

“At the same time, however, we know that there is no real political will, let alone consensus, in the Council to make this happen,” they added.

All previous efforts to harmonise EU immigration and asylum systems have failed and are reflected in “the fact that the Commission is currently so eager to show off” the new European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the source continued.

“This is actually a red herring, basically giving the message that ‘well, we didn’t succeed in actually getting where we wanted with the Common Asylum System, but look at this wonderful office we created instead’.”

Bjarte Vandvik agrees. “With the best of intentions for the Swedes, I think they’re in a difficult position. They have a brand new Parliament which has yet to grasp the importance of these issues in a procedural way. And this Parliament is far more right-wing and conservative, and is likely to be more sceptical on these questions of harmonisation,” the ECRE boss told EurActiv.

He did, however, think that “something manageable like the question of resettlement — taking refugees out of camps, for instance, or deciding on the size of quotas for refugees — that has a chance to succeed”.

A right-wing Europe

The current political reality in the EU may also be a constraint for Sweden’s ambitions. The centre-right currently leads 20 of 27 member states, and won a majority in last week’s European Parliament elections (EurActiv 08/06/09).

Traditionally, the centre-right has been more hardline on immigration and asylum issues, and a number of EU countries are likely to be vehemently opposed to the Swedish plans.

“My greatest worry,” said Bjarte Vandvik, is that the EU “will continue with this policy of just shutting the borders, as has been the case so far”.

“Making border controls efficient, making security measures efficient, and then not taking any steps on the other issues” would be a mistake, he argues.

“I think a truly harmonised Common European Asylum System will not happen. It’s still a pipe dream,” Vandvik concluded.

Positions: The Swedish EU Presidency “will take its share of the responsibility for the international protection of refugees, but if Sweden has to shoulder a disproportionate share of the responsibility for refugee situations around the world in relation to comparable countries, this will eventually raise questions about the sustainability of our asylum system,” according to the presidency website.

“All EU member states must share the responsibility for offering protection for refugees. This is why common rules for the countries in the EU are one of the government’s main objectives in the area of migration,” the statement concludes.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that “in future, EU action must aim above all at delivering the best possible service to the citizen in an area of freedom, security and justice more tangible for the citizens”.

“We want to promote citizens’ rights, make their daily lives easier and provide protection, and this calls for effective and responsible European action in these areas. In this context, I consider immigration policy particularly important. This is the vision the Commission is presenting to the Council and Parliament for debate, with a view to the adoption of the new Stockholm Programme by the European Council in December 2009,” he said.

Bjarte Vandvik, ECRE (European Council on Refugees and Exiles) secretary-general, told EurActiv that “the old JHA divide between the north and south of Europe is less evident today than in previous years. If you look at numbers, Sweden takes the same number of asylum seekers per capita as Malta, or even more”.

He added that “the smaller states in the south, certainly, are calling for greater support from their wealthier neighbours”.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Homosexual Activists Frustrated With Obama’s Agenda

Impatient homosexual activists say Barack Obama should be moving more quickly to enact their social agenda, but he’s running into a political reality that they want him to ignore.

President Obama — in his proclamation declaring June as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month” — reaffirmed his support for enhancing “hate crimes” laws, homosexual civil unions, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, homosexual adoption, and the repeal of the military’s ban on openly homosexual service-members.

However, in the proclamation he did not repeat his campaign promise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. In fact, his call for the repeal of DOMA has also been stripped from the White House website.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


NASA Study Shows Sun Responsible for Planet Warming

From DailyTech, we have still more evidence that any warming occurring on planet earth is coming from natural sources and is cyclic in nature—NOT from the evil capitalism that Al Gore, the UN politicians at the IPCC and other socialists love to blame.

From the article:

Now, a new research report from a surprising source may help to lay this skepticism to rest. A study from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland looking at climate data over the past century has concluded that solar variation has made a significant impact on the Earth’s climate. The report concludes that evidence for climate changes based on solar radiation can be traced back as far as the Industrial Revolution.

Past research has shown that the sun goes through eleven year cycles. At the cycle’s peak, solar activity occurring near sunspots is particularly intense, basking the Earth in solar heat. According to Robert Cahalan, a climatologist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, “Right now, we are in between major ice ages, in a period that has been called the Holocene.”

If our media, culture and a large portion of the “scientific” community were really honest, it would be the worshippers of the religion of anthropogenic global warming who are called “skeptics,” wouldn’t it?

Because it is those pushing this silly theory that our puny SUVs and power plants are causing earth to warm up when the most obvious source of heat hangs over their head every single day.

AGW simply doesn’t pass the smell test. Nor does it line up with the objective data…

[Return to headlines]



Threat to Global-Warming Skeptics Retracted

Editor’s Note: The author of the subject article on TalkingPointsMemo.com has formally retracted the article and apologizes for what he describes as his “extremist global warming” blog post. “The whole post was ill-conceived, poorly written — and not representative of who I am,” the author says. “But I did write it, and I take full responsibility for it. My intention was not to wish imprisonment or execution of global warming skeptics.” (Full retraction is available at TalkingPointsMemo.com)

Original story:

A popular left-leaning website recently published some harsh rhetoric concerning deniers of alleged global warming.

According to Marc Morano of ClimateDepot.com, the left-leaning website TalkingPointsMemo.com recently published an article that issued this public appeal: “At what point do we jail or execute global warming deniers?” The article accused “right-wingers” of blocking fixes to the problem of supposed “climate change” and stated that when “end of the world”-type events start to take place, “how will we punish those responsible?”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Critique of the Culture of Kevin MacDonald

The reader response to “Road Rage” prompted Takuan Seiyo to send the following guest-post on a similar topic.

Further update: I think the problem is now fixed, and this post is open for comments.



Critique of the Culture of Kevin MacDonald
by Takuan Seiyo

“The first time I became aware of leftist Jews was when, as a reporter for The Daily Cardinal, the student newspaper, at the University of Wisconsin, I was assigned to cover a meeting of the Committee Against the War in Vietnam. This was around 1965” — reminisced the evolutionary psychologist Kevin MacDonald in “Memories Of Madison — My Life In The New Left”.

Professor MacDonald has won fame and a following on the far right for having “explained the Jews,” particularly in his book The Culture of Critique (pdf). And one has to respect him for the courage and sheer data doggedness with which he has taken on in depth an important and shunned subject — the leftist tilt of the Jewish ethny and its negative effect on Gentile societies.

Anyone who in the pursuit of truth chooses to become a prime target of lefto-lunatic money scammers like Southern Poverty Law Center has my respect. But I am dismayed that MacDonald, an academic who ought to know better, has constructed a revealing if partisan typology and then treated it as though it’s an explanatory taxonomy.

The first time I became aware of leftist Jews was when, in 1956, I looked up from my lead soldiers’ formation on the kitchen floor and saw my Jewish father’s 2nd (and only surviving) cousin enter our assigned apartment in commie Warsaw, pushing a wicker pram.

“Do you want these?” he asked. Under the baby blanket, the deep cart was filled to the brim with the combined works of Marx, Engels and Lenin in Polish, Russian and German. Nikita Khrushchev had just made a speech denouncing Stalin and shattering the utopian castle that my “uncle” and millions like him in the European intelligentsia had built in their heads, none more so than the Jews.

Since then, born Catholic and happily acculturated in Slav society but half-Jew of the wandering kind myself, I have come to know perhaps 300 Jews in ten countries over half a century well enough to have talked life or politics. To this, I’d have to add personal observations of Jewish strangers and analysis of media content created by Jews, the analysis of media content being briefly my academic specialty and its creation becoming, eventually, my profession.

In the fourteen years I spent at three universities in the 60s/70s I acquired a store of memories that resembles Kevin MacDonald’s, if at a greater distance from the radical Jewish milieu. I too perceived the radical politics, feelings of separateness and alienation, attitude of moral and intellectual superiority, hostility to Western cultural institutions, ethnic paranoia and bunker mentality, disdain for capitalism, generic tendency to impute and then combat perceived racism and fascism, disputatiousness and intellectual sophistry, negative attitudes toward Christianity, positive attitudes toward psychoanalysis and Marxism. I too had charismatic Jewish professors with a leftist view of European and American history.

Despite my long exercise in personal ethnography among Jews, including the long period among their — in my eyes — preponderantly disgusting stratum in the American social sciences academia, I have not met a single Jew who was motivated by the ethno-biological red-of-tooth-and-claw impulses it has become Dr. MacDonald’s life mission to ascribe to the Jews as a whole. Moreover, except for perhaps one-third of those in academia, mass media and the law, none of the Jews I have met had any of the corrosive leftist rancor described in “Madison,” while still being almost uniformly liberal.

In “Memories Of Madison — My Life In The New Left” MacDonald continues his grand project of assembling true facts or experiences, and then illuminating them with a jaundiced light. To start, he repeatedly takes universal phenomena or traits common to all people, or to a social or occupational class, and ascribes them to Jews, as Jews. He writes, for instance, of the “tendency for Jewish intellectual movements to become centered around highly charismatic Jewish figures,” as if there were non-Jewish intellectual movements not so centered, whoever the charismatic figure.

MacDonald’s description of the Jewish mental baggage at Madison includes “talking about movies a lot, especially European movies by directors like Ingmar Bergman and Francois Truffaut,” and about historically important (and) Jewish leftists. Also, disdain for “Christian” prudishness and obsession with “intellectually intricate and subversive theories like “ Marcuse’s synthesis of Marx and Freud.”

Why, one could think that MacDonald describes the University of Bologna or a student café in Dusseldorf or Helsinki — in the 1960s or now. Hardly any Jews there. MacDonald’s Jew screamers are Bernardo Bertolluci’s gentile dreamers in an eponymous film about French students in the 60s. Not a single Jew behind or in front of the camera in that film.

When he mentions important Jewish leftists like Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg and Herbert Marcuse, MacDonald fails to mention that these are not the heroes of Jews, or even just of Jewish radicals, but of the entire continental European intelligentsia.

Red Rosa, for instance, has bronze statues and a large square in Berlin named after her. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, with funding from the Federal Republic of Germany is “instigating, promoting and supporting” socialist political education worldwide, creating “International Neoliberal Networks,” organizing 2,000 “educational” events per year with 50,000 participants in Germany alone, publishing in several languages, and operating socialist action centers in 11 cities worldwide.

MacDonald evokes the “ingroup bunker mentality” as “a fundamental characteristic of Jewish society.” So it was, and perhaps still is among many older Jews. But to fail to limn why it’s so for exogenous and millennia-long reasons, and how it parallels the same mentality in other middleman minorities, can only be seen as a telling omission. This is even more bizarre when Thomas Sowell has already done the intellectual heavy lifting, e.g. here.
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Prof. MacDonald is correct in linking the rise of multiculturalism and massive non-white immigration to the activism of organized Jewry. Reading demographic dissolutionist Jewish statements like HIAS’s Progress by Pesach — and there is something in that category every week from ADL, AJC, HIAS and from crypto-Jewish organizations like ACLU and SLPC — is a revolting experience.

Moreover, MacDonald performs a valuable service here and elsewhere in exposing the long-standing pattern of Jewish activism on behalf of non-white immigration, and even more aggressive activism on behalf of resident and not necessarily deserving non-whites. The latter pattern is richly veined and old — from W. E. B. DuBois as the only black man on the executive board of Arthur Springarn’s NAACP, to Martin Luther King’s consiglieri, Stanley Levinson, to Barack Obama’s troika of consigliere, dead (Saul Alinsky) and alive (David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel).

But MacDonald spoils whatever salutary effects such showing might have by turning it into a Jew-baiting campaign, as though his PhD, along with David Duke’s, were from Interregional Academy of Personnel Management rather than from a reputable American university.

The explanation of Jewish radicalism one is treated to — and I am still staying with “Madison” — is that “Jews emerged from the ghetto with hostility toward the culture around them” and “Jewish hostility toward the culture of non-Jews has been a constant threat throughout Jewish history.” Has this hostility arisen by immaculate conception?

From the time the Jews arrived in chains and en masse in Rome, the one constant in Jewish history has been persecution, much of it of the cruelest and most murderous kind, a short review of which may be found here. The gradual genocide has brought down the European Jewish population from an estimated 4 million in the 1st century to less than 100,000 by the 16th. Such a genocidal constriction of the Jews’ gene pool takes its biological toll to this day, e.g. in the various Jewish genetic illnesses.

But MacDonald’s task is not merely to falsely highlight the unwarranted nature of Jewish hostility. “It’s about displacement and domination.” And the proof he adduces is how former denizens of Russo-Ukrainian shtetls became a part of the dominant Bolshevik elite — able to actually carry out in the USSR the fantasies [of] the New Left Jewish radicals in the US — i.e., the “humiliation, dispossession, imprisonment or execution of the oppressors.”

In “Stalin’s Willing Executioners” that MacDonald’ links in the preceding quote, he recounts truthfully many of the blood-chilling actions of the Jewish Bolshevik nomenklatura. But then he illuminates them in a deliberately evil light by omitting any reference to what Jews had suffered under the tsars, for how long and how frequently.

A mention of just 50 years of Russian history prior to 1917 would have to include at the least the tremendous, fascist-style oppression under Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II and the royals’ rabid anti-Semitism, the many state-sanctioned mass murders (i.e. “pogroms”) of Jews, arbitrary deportations and destructions of Jewish communities, the Okhrana and the Black Hundred, the blood-libel Beilis trial and the forgery of the Protocol of the Elders of Zion, the super anti-Semitic and tsar-sponsored Union of the Russian People, the prominent roles of Jew-haters like Konstantin Pobedonostsev [read Wikipedia entry here], restrictions on habitation, education and access to the professions, and a prevailing atmosphere of hatred and disdain for Jews in all institutions of tsarist Russia except only the nascent communist conspiracy.

But mentioning that, though it would not excuse the Jewish Bolsheviks’ retaliatory atrocities, would put a dent in the MacDonald theory of the self-propelled evil evolutionary Jew. Hence no mention.

To put it succinctly, a half-truth told by a professional interpreter of facts is a purposeful lie. And so MacDonald (in “Madison”) carries on about the Jewish “machinery of mass murder and oppression” in the USSR, with the parallel of the New Jew Left bent on a “similar displacement of white elites” in America. But the latter is as much anti-Semitic libel as the former is based on a telling omission.

Lawrence Auster had this to say about Prof. MacDonald’s curious interpretation of Russian history:

It is essential to distinguish between anti-Semitic attacks on Jews and legitimate, rational criticisms of Jews. [snip] To portray Jews as the source of all ills [snip] is anti-Semitism. For example, to say that Jews as Jews are “hostile” to our culture and have organized themselves in a campaign to destroy it, is anti-Semitism. What’s wrong with anti-Semitism is, first, that it’s false, and, second, that the flaw can’t be corrected. If Jews, who have been a part of European civilization since before the time of Christ, are the source of all evil in our civilization, there is nothing for them to do but die.

MacDonald’s animus spills over onto the subject of Israel, as is often the case with people who dislike American Jews for valid reasons, Israel for invalid reasons, and who have a larger anti-Semitic gestalt underlying both. Mac Donald goads a Jewish lefto-lunatic like Mark Rudd to oppose “Zionism and its influence in the US,” equates Zionism with racism and evokes “the racial Zionist movement that dominates the politics of Israel today.” But then he challenges Rudd to become active in “the cause of reversing the effects of four decades of non-white immigration” to the United States.

So, pining for a white racial groundswell in the United States, MacDonald condemns “Jewish ethnic chauvinism in Israel” while imputing to Jews — correctly — the same hypocrisy he has, except in reverse. Geert Wilders said this relative to white “defenders of the West” who simultaneously vituperate Israel and Zionism: “It is not that the West has a stake in Israel. It is Israel.”

And pace MacDonald, it’s leftist Israeli and Anglophonic Jews, and ultra-religious Jews who are nowadays the most pernicious foes of Zionism.

Having far less interest in Jewish apologetics than Prof. MacDonald has in Jewish philippics, I have read only his shorter pieces and visited his website occasionally, but have not read his books. The former pretty much precludes the latter. I find MacDonald’s Moses-meet-Shylock-meet-Darwin hypothesis to be an expression of his own anti-Semitism and therefore unhelpful either for understanding the phenomenon of Jewish leftism or for countering it properly.

A critic I find consistently perceptive and honest, John Derbyshire, has delved deeper into the MacDonald oeuvre and has come up with rather similar conclusions. Lawrence Auster, another thinker of honest opinions and frequent critic of Jewish liberalism has commented on MacDonald too.

To see the levels of malice and brain-dead stupidity that Dr. MacDonald’s intellectual crocheting leads to, one could peruse the many neo-Nazi websites whose chatrooms throb with epiphanic exclamations of the final light of truth shed on Jew perfidy by the Jewgroup evolutionary theorist from Long Beach.

I will skip over the more moronic ones like Vanguard News Network whose official motto is “No Jews. Just Right” or Storm Front whose unofficial motto is “Hitler was right.” The higher-hanging fruit is the Jew-is-an-evolutionary-parasite website Majorityrights.com, where disquisitions like this go on for yards of scrolling, replete with Der Stürmer-type cartoons and Sturmführer-type perorations on the hyena nature of the Jew.

But before one dismisses Kevin MacDonald and his spawn, the eye hits a comment like this by, uhm, Jews Hate Whites [ibid.] “Jew Robert Reich calls for discrimination against white males in the coming economic stimulus even though white males are the majority of the workforce”

Jews Hate Whites may be an idiot, but his anger is justifiable. And when one contemplates the political imprint of America’s Jews in the last 100 years, from Max Shachtman to Noam Chomsky, from the Jewish Socialist League of America in the 30’s to the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action in the 90s, from Saul Alinsky to the Rosenbergs, from Abbie Hoffman to George Soros, from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Ramona Ripston to the current crop of Jewish politicians in Congress and machers in the White House, one begins to worry less about the veracity of the MacDonald hypothesis and more because of the veracity of his facts.

There is hardly any doubt that Jews have so enriched the European civilization and its American outpost, and in so many ways, that an analysis that dwells only on the debit column of the ledger, as MacDonald’s does, is skewed. Moreover, when this analysis ascribes a truly diabolical motive to that debit, and ignores other viable explanations, it’s not just a troubling bias but a deplorable falsification.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that for the last 50 years, the American Jewish community, particularly through its organized expression, has been drawing down its credit through massive entries on the debit side, just as American blacks have since the 60s. I no longer care how many Jewish doctors save lives, Jewish scientists discover new particles and Jewish violinists provide transporting experiences, when Jews are at the spearhead of every corrosive movement turning the United States into a slipshod third world Babel of the equally ignorant yahoos brimming with self-esteem but disdaining whitey, his Constitution and his Shakespeare.

Alas, careful observation might point to a Jewish pathology stranger even than the MacDonald biological reductionist theory, if without the malignancy MacDonald attributes. Actually, it could be labeled as “much too much of a good thing” or, in the Oriental view of things, “yin toxicity,” or maybe “slow-motion hara kiri.”

The “good thing” stems from what Thomas Cahill described in The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. It’s the momentous and singular Biblical ideas of the equality and dignity of each individual, universal moral obligations, and great value placed on peace and justice. This, coupled with the Jewish arch-tradition of tikun olam, repairing the world.

Extreme Jewish leftism in the past had partial motivations of resentment and vengeance toward the social classes that had harmed and despised Jews. It represented as well class interests, as most Jews were poor and deprived of opportunity. But since the 1950s, it’s a different story.

Liberalism, which is the true religion of most Jews, is the antithesis of an evolutionary mechanism for survival and dominance. Rather, it’s the application of various political and economic means to establish “peace, social justice and universal brotherhood” on earth, fueled by the best intentions and by the worst disregard for how reality works. Contrary to MacDonald, the Jewish project is not to evolutionize the Israelite but to immanentize the eschaton.

Reality never fails to punish those who snub her, including whole societies built on liberal delusions. The Jewish weight applied on the side of open borders and amnesty, affirmative action and endless coddling of undeserving minorities, legal activism, pacifism and world government, punitive taxation and income redistribution, is harmful, first and foremost, to the Jews themselves, though the rest of us will succumb after the coal mine canaries.

It’s Jews whose influence will wane in direct proportion to the ratio of non-whites and Muslims in the American population and political elite. It’s Israel that will lose out the more American politicians distance themselves from Israel for the sake of the colored plurality’s votes. It’s Jewish money that’s being confiscated through high taxes and redistributed to people who don’t like Jews. It’s Jewish university applicants who are rejected for the sake of admitting black and brown applicants with two-thirds the IQ and two-thirtieths the future potential. It’s Jewish lives and property that are increasingly in jeopardy due to the Jewish-endorsed influx of criminal illegal aliens, Jewish “anti-racist” judicial activism, and the Jews’ antipathy to the Second Amendment and to freedom over equality.

Chandra Levy, murdered by an illegal alien from El Salvador in 2001, was Jewish. Adrienne Levine, aka Adrienne Shelly, the actress who was murdered by an illegal alien from Ecuador in 2006, was Jewish. David Rosenbaum, a veteran journalist who was beaten with a metal pipe by black robbers in 2006 and died from his injuries due to the incompetence of Washington’s minority-stuffed public services, was Jewish. Alan Senitt, who had his throat slashed and his companion sexually assaulted by black recidivist criminals in 2006, was Jewish. Jewish liberal activist too.

It was an Egyptian immigrant who shot up the El-Al Airlines terminal in Los Angeles in 2002. It was a Pakistani immigrant who shot up the Seattle Jewish Federation in 2006. It was an Arab neighbor who cut the throat of and mutilated Sébastien Selam, a 23-year old Jewish DJ in Paris, in 2003. It was a gang of African immigrants who kidnapped, tortured and killed the 23-year-old and Jewish Ilan Halimi in a Paris suburb, in 2006. It was the British-born son of Pakistani immigrants, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who decapitated Daniel Pearl in 2002.

Yet the Jewish love affair with Babel through unrestricted immigration continues, in the US just as in Europe. And by misinterpreting as evolutionary clawing the grand and suicidal delusion, the lunacy that lies beneath the harmful political activism of Jews, MacDonald misses its connection to the harmful political activism of Christians as well.

The American Roman Catholic Church engages in a Hispanization scheme on a scale undreamed of by the most committed apparatchiks of the Hispanic section of ADL — ostensibly an organization existing to combat anti-Semitic defamation. The scale of the subversion in just one diocese, Cardinal Mahony’s Los Angeles, may be glimpsed here and here. It’s no different in any other American city, e.g. Chicago or Washington. And the activism is not just on immigration issues, what with Catholic phenomena such as Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker Movement or Father Pfleger’s antics in Chicago.

To walk into a random Protestant church in an American city — an exercise I have performed a hundred times — is to walk into a branch office of the Swedish Social Democratic Party — a name that serves as a garnish of parsley on top of a thick Socialist slab slathered with a cultural-Marxist sauce. The notices on the bulletin board, the literature on display, the sermons — I am not aware of anything in Eastern Europe during the height of communist rule that was so suicidally nation-dissolving, white-ethny demonizing, and Western heritage destroying

And it’s not only at the base of the pyramid, or on its left side. To read George W. Bush’s (or John McCain’s) paeans to the Hispanization of the United States, his homilies to Hispanic family values, his speeches on the merits of immigration amnesty and the related home downpayment amnesty, is to experience nausea. It’s not coincidental that Bush is himself a committed Christian, and his Big Government Proposition-Nation ideology was poured into templates prepared by equally deluded Christian hands like Michael Gerson.

It’s useful and legitimate to isolate Jewish leftism and cultural Marxism, to assemble relevant facts and discuss their characteristics and harmful consequences. But it can’t be done reliably by people who testify for the defense in Holocaust deniers’ trials (pdf), and then deny the denial. It cannot be done by people who ascribe a collective malignancy to others, but are themselves so tainted by a malignancy that they view all of Western history with shades fashioned to block all light frequencies but the narrow band of cherchez le juif.

And this cannot be mitigated by the recognition that Prof. MacDonald’s chief enemies, the ADL, SPLC et al. are themselves deluded, defamatory, meretricious and repulsive.

America is in a situation so dire, in so many ways, that it can no longer afford the lying leatherette upholstery on its aging hemicuda bought with money borrowed or printed wantonly. It’s time, among others, to give the finger of derision to the R-taboo, to stop the evasive noise about “divisiveness” and to highlight that “toleration” is very far in meaning from “celebration.”

As far as the Jewish community is concerned, this means that the price of utopian social lunacy is already so great, and the trajectory visible from now to the conceivable future so disastrous, that the most-humming of all the motors driving the country to the ruins of dystopia cannot but become the object of wide antipathy.

There isn’t a day that I don’t hear someone I know as cultivated and reasonable, Gentile and Jew alike, express bitter frustration with the Jewish community because of its leftist-multicultural thrust and the damage it’s doing to America. If the Jewish community won’t wake up to criticism from friendly parties, it will eventually face criticism from the growing number of unfriendly parties.

It’s not gratuitous to mention that America is now treading the same economic path where Weimar Republic once trod. Jews were the most prominent in the left’s leadership in Weimar too, with sorry consequences. Maybe a beacon of truth shined on all that can do some good both for America and for its Jews.

Among the growing number of genuinely conservative and race-honest Jewish-Americans whose voices are worth listening to are names like Mark Levin, Michael Levin, Paul Gottfried, Michael Hart, Lawrence Auster, Dan Stein, Ilana Mercer, Julia Gorin, Nicholas Stix and others. Perhaps from them and others like them will come the impetus that can turn the left-tilting rudder of the multiculti ship of America’s Jewry.

Imported Imbeciles

Yorkshire Miner has translated this article from the Dutch PvdA (Labour Party) website:

Aboutaleb shocked at Young Criminals’ IQ

Rotterdam is going to work together with Minister van der Laan (Integration) to look at what the State can do about the development level, especially in relation to Antilles and Moroccan youths.

Burgemeester Ahmed Aboutaleb is very shocked by what he has heard from police circles, he said yesterday during the presentation of the Safety Index 2009. “The IQ and the mental ability of arrested youths is so low that you can’t do much with them. When they are on there own they are great, but when there are two they do the most crazy things.” What’s more, with Moroccans there is often a severe form of schizophrenia present.

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Aboutaleb will also ask that the GGZ and the Ministry for Health Welfare and Sport be involved in discussions to see what can be done. “We must do everything that will help and not hinder, such as tackling leaving school early.”

This article appeared in the Metro 16 April 2009.

The Labour Party Chairman Peter van Heemst is happy that Burgermeester Aboutaleb and Minister Van der Laan are taking the problem seriously. Van Heemst asked in May 2008 for an inquiry into the background and mental abilities of young criminals.