Mar 31, 2009

'Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend' banned in Germany

Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend camp
HDJ camp

The German government has banned a neo-Nazi group that used summer camps to indoctrinate children. The group "Heimattreue Deutsche Jugend" or German Youth Faithful to the Homeland, was known for pushing racist, Nationalist Socialist ideology.

In raids across Germany, police seized Nazi related "educational" material, including tracts praising Hitler and the Third Reich. Comic books with xenophobic themes warning of the threat of the dread foreigner were also seized. Praising Nazism is forbidden under Germany's post-WW2 constitution.

The HDJ was founded in 1990. At its summer camps young people were put through military style drills and essentially brainwashed.

There were courses in "racial science" that promoted "blood purity". Foreigners were described as "enemies of the people". Tents bore names that call to mind the Third Reich - for example the "Führer's Bunker."

This may seem somewhat like a freakish deja vu in the context of all that has gone down since the 1940's, but the HDJ actually wielded a fair amount of influence in far-right circles. Their approach was similar in some respects to that of the "Viking Jugend"- or Viking Youth - that was banned in Germany in 1994.

German Interior Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, didn't mince his words when commenting on the break-up of the group: "Today's ban puts a stop to the disgusting activities of the HDJ. We will do everything in our power to protect our children from these rat catchers."

According to analysts, neo-Nazi recruitment is up in Germany, particularly in the east. The recent Dresden march to commemorate the Allied bombing of the city attracted some 8,000 neo-Nazis.

Mar 30, 2009

Canadian researchers uncover electronic spying operation

electronic spying

Researchers at the University of Toronto are part of a team that uncovered an electronic spying operation that infiltrated computers and stole documents. Targets reportedly included government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama.

The Information Warfare Monitor group investigated suspected Chinese espionage against the Tibetan community in exile. It turned up multiple infections that allowed attackers access to sensitive information.

The methods used by the attackers demonstrate the way in which malware can be adapted to create a low-cost intelligence capability. The data uncovered by the researchers led to the discovery of insecure, web-based interfaces to four control servers that gave the attackers access to compromised computers.

There have been allegations that China is behind the espionage. There isn't any evidence that the spies were working directly for the Chinese government, although there have been accusations that stolen information may have benefited Chinese policy and interests.

Boudoir Queen sues rocker over net libel

Courtney Love

A Texas designer, Dawn Simorangkir, lodged a libel suit in Los Angeles Superior Court this week. She is accusing Courtney Love of instigating a "an obsessional and delusional crusade" against her on social networking sites.

Simorangkir, aka the Boudoir Queen claims Love made "menacing and disturbing" statements about her on Twitter and MySpace.

The designer claims that the Hole singer accused her of being a "a horrible lying bitch and an asswipe nasty lying hoebag thief". She also claims that Love accused her of selling cocaine, being a drug addict, a prostitute and thief... oh and that the designer would be "hunted till your [sic] dead".

It is also alleged that Love posted demeaning remarks on a site where Ms Simorangkir sells her clothes, Etsy.com. The designer is described as "The nastiest lying worst person I have ever known ... evil incarnate, vile horrible lying bitch."

Simorangkir claims that things turned nasty after she billed Love for around $4,000 for couture clothing. Up until that point the relationship seemed to be friendly, even marked by expressions of appreciation.

According to Gawker, Love was so enthused about the designer's talents she described Simorangkir as "a genius". On MySpace Love reportedly praised a design that she described as "fucking ankle cuffs with fringe" and said it was "HOT".

Courtney Love isn't noted for her writing talents. When Love accused Kim Kardashian's brother Rob of bashing one of her associates there were a few syntax problems and according to Ms Kardashian a few reality gaps... 'a lot of what she wrote doesn't even make much sense and doesn't follow a clear train of thought'.

The disconnect suggested above would seem to support allegations in court papers in the Simorangkir claim: "Whether caused by drug-induced psychosis, a warped understanding of reality, or the belief that money and fame allow her to disregard the law, Love has embarked on what is nothing short of an obsessive and delusional crusade to destroy Simorangkir's reputation and her livelihood."

The documents also say that when the designer quit working for Love due to unpaid bills, Love upped the ante to "an intense level of animosity ... well beyond what any reasonable person would consider acceptable behavior".

Twitter can be a dangerous tool because it allows you to upload thoughts when you think of them. For someone like Courtney Love who has a well known tendency to fire off in random directions it could prove hazardous.

Mar 28, 2009

Manic Street Preachers' tune used on BNP site

Manic Street Preachers

Weird though it may seem, the Manic Street Preachers' If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next has been playing over clips on the website of the far-right British National Party (BNP).

The song by the Welsh band was inspired by the International Brigades - volunteers who went to fight fascism during the Spanish Civil War. It includes a few lines that should tip-off any aspiring brownshirt that the lyrics aren't exactly on-side with far-right politics... lines such as "So I can shoot rabbits/Then I can shoot fascists".

But that it seems was the point. The song was played over clips that according to a BNP source reveals the "violence, hatred, fragmentation and despair" brought about by the "great multicultural experiment".

The song had also been used as the soundtrack on a YouTube video under an account titled 'the Cesspit Called London'.

According to Simon Darby, spokesperson for the BNP, the Manic's song had somehow been streamed to the BNP site by mistake - noting that users often posted material not necessarily approved of by the party.

However the song got on there, the Manic's record company was less than thrilled. When SonyBMG called in the lawyers and issued a cease-and-desist order, the clips disappeared from YouTube and the song was pulled from the BNP site.

Mar 26, 2009

George Grosz: effort to re-collect works of Nazi-era painter

George Grosz

George Grosz, the great German expressionist painter and social critic was despised by the Nazis, who viewed him as "one of the most despicable representatives of degenerate art" - claiming that he worked in an 'anti-German fashion'.

Grosz made it to America before the Nazis came to power in 1933. The day after their victory Nazi thugs kicked in the door of his studio. If they had laid their hands on him his chances of survival would have been slim.

The fate that befell the work of this brilliant artist was a different kind of death.

Grosz consigned most of his work to his dealer, but the dealer who was Jewish also fled Germany and only took a limited amount of the work with him. Grosz's works that were in the museums were seized by the Nazis - some 285 works in all, some of which was burned.

His wife Eva said Grosz, not knowing what fate had befallen his works, began to suffer from "anxiety, particularly nightmares" and began to "drink without moderation". In 1959, shortly after his return to Berlin, Grosz was was discovered unconscious after a drinking binge. He died a short time later.

An article in Der Spiegel discusses the efforts of art historian Ralph Jentsch to catalog Grosz's works. Jentsch believes that the stolen works should be returned to the family.

Der Spiegel:

Grosz was a prolific artist. He created about 450 paintings and more than 15,000 works on paper. Pictures from his Berlin days are worth millions today, and Jentsch has traced some of them to prestigious museums in New York, Vienna, Tokyo and Bremen. But their directors are opposed to returning the works to Grosz's heirs. They see themselves as the rightful owners.

This claim, however, is at least up for debate. Since the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets, there has been international agreement that works of art stolen or "confiscated as a result of persecution" during the Nazi years should be returned to their former owners. In the Grosz case, this would be his son Marty, 78, who lives in Philadelphia, and his sister-in-law Lillian, in Princeton, New Jersey. The Grosz heirs agree that they do not want to place restituted works on the market. Instead, they hope to exhibit the paintings and drawings confiscated in the Nazi era at a George Grosz museum, and they are considering Berlin as a possible location.

Attempts to do justice to the works of George Grosz that were trafficked through legally contested routes has proved daunting, but it is an important fight.

Link here for the Der Spiegel article that maps out the complex background of works that are under contention.

Teen paints 18m penis on parents' house to lure Google Earth

penis on roof

Andy McInnis, owner of a pricey piece of real estate in West Berkshire was caught off-guard when reporters asked him if he knew there was a 60 foot/18m phallus painted on his roof. McInnis it seems was clueless.

The painting is the handiwork of his son Rory, who got the idea after watching a program about Google Earth.

He was curious to see if the giant penis would be picked up by Google's cameras. He must have been disappointed to discover that the website still shows the roof prior to cockification.

Apparently the bomb shaped member has been up there for a year.

Rory is presently off in Brazil where he is on a gap year. When he returns the parents will require him to remove the now world-famous rooftop dong.

Mar 24, 2009

Nude paintings of Irish PM show up in galleries

Nude paintings of Irish PM Brian Cowen appear in Dublin galleries

A nude painting of Irish PM Brian Cowen popped up mysteriously in one of Dublin's most prestigious institutions, snuck in by someone with a subversive sense of humor and also perhaps with an ax to grind. An 'anonymous donor' hung a nude painting of Cowen in the Royal Hibernian Academy. It shows a jowly Cowen with prominent beer belly holding a pair of dangling Y-fronts.

The beer belly has a touch of realism about it. Cowen is fond of saying "I was reared in a pub." His old man owned a public house in Clara and Brian apparently was very handy at serving up the pints.


Brian Cowen with undies


Another painting that depicts Cowen sitting on a toilet holding a roll appeared briefly on the walls of the National Gallery. A Gallery spokesperson said that it had been up for about 20 minutes before it was removed.

A woman who saw the Cowen-with-undies one at the Royal Hibernian offered to buy it.

As far as a critique goes, James O'Halloran of Adam's Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers was quite impressed. He said 'It's reasonably well painted. It's not the worst thing I've ever seen."

Obviously this is a bit more than a jest. Whoever went to the trouble to turn out a Lucien Freud-like effort wasn't content with a bit of graffiti on a wall. If the intent was to humiliate it has worked with half the world being treated to a glimpse of Cowen looking less than statesmanlike.

Brian Cowen isn't universally loved in Ireland. In addition to the budget fiasco he has a bit of an attitude when it comes to the Lisbon Treaty. Recently he said that people who are against the Lisbon Treaty are anti-EU, which isn't necessarily true.

He's also come off with remarks that live up to his nickname BIFFO - the nickname given to him by the tabloids meaning Big Ignorant Fucker From Offaly. The Irish Independent came up with another nick/acronym for the Taoiseach... GRUFFALO... which decodes as Grumpy Rude Uncensored Fucker From Around Laois Offaly.

The Taoiseach certainly has a way with words. During the peace talks in N. Ireland, Martin McGuinness in responding to some proposals said "we'll have to consult the IRA army council on this." Cowen replied "Yeah, well, there's a mirror in the toilet if you want to go in there and talk to them."

In 2008 Cowen was accused of 'conduct unbecoming in the Dáil' when he said to Tánaiste Mary Coughlan - "We need to get a handle on this, will you ring those fuckers."

He does get up a few people's noses so it's possible the art ambush was a detractor's way of dishing a high-end smear. Nastiness comes off even nastier when it is delivered in the form of art rather than a scrawl on a toilet wall.

It seems the Garda are interested in chatting with whoever is behind the paintings and the brief showings in the galleries.

Mar 23, 2009

Calgary: Neo-Nazi Aryan Guard and Anti-Racism protesters clash

Calgary neo-Nazis
Photo: Todd Karol

On the weekend 400 people supporting the Calgary chapter of Anti-Racist Action gathered at Calgary City Hall to show their support for the UN-sponsored International Day to Eliminate Racial Discrimination.

At the intersection of 7th Avenue and 6th Street SW they encountered about 50 members of the neo-Nazi Aryan Guard who were marking something called "White Pride World Day" - an event most Canadians have never heard of - not even the white ones.

The white-and-proud crew were looking for a confrontation. Most of them were camouflaged - wearing scarves and sunglasses to conceal their faces.

Several fights broke out but the police presence prevented the confrontations from escalating. The larger point is why were the cops escorting a few dozen neo-Nazis through the center of Calgary? The police might call it keeping the peace, but to a number of observers it looked like protection for racists.

The protest wound up around 4:30 P.M. when Aryan Guard members boarded a bus and departed the city center.

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Photo: Jeff McIntosh


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Photo: Lorraine Hjalte

Adam Smolcic: cop erased video of police shooting

police killing BC

Adam Smolcic says he used his cellphone to record a fatal police shooting in Vancouver. He says a cop erased his cellphone video of the incident.

According to police spokesperson Jana McGuinness the man shot by police was a suspect in the break-in of a van parked at the 700 block of Granville Street. She claims he advanced on police at the scene with an X-Acto utility knife.

Smolcic was across the street watching the incident play out. He says one of two police officers on the scene opened fire when the man took the X-Acto knife out of his backpack. As for McGuinness' claim that that the man was advancing on the police, Smolcic disagrees -"No, absolutely not. He was very shaky, but he wasn't making any moves toward the police at all that I saw."

Adam Smalcic
Adam Smolcic

Smolcic said he continued to record the incident after the man was shot. He was approached by a police officer who asked for his cellphone.

Smolcic:

He saw me filming and he came up to me and he asked to see my cellphone. He had my cellphone for a few minutes, and it appeared as though he was previewing the film. He gave me back my cellphone, probably about four or five minutes after he took it, told me to get lost, and of course, I did.


When the cellphone was returned, Smolcic says there was no video on it. He plans to take his phone to a forensics expert to see if the video can be retrieved from the hard drive.

Defence lawyer Mark Jette said police can't seize a phone or anything else unless they believe that there is material evidence that can be used in a criminal case. However they are required to preserve the evidence intact.

This case is still under investigation, but clearly any officer who erases a cellphone video on the street is engaging in an effort to cover-up evidence rather than 'preserve' it.

Mar 22, 2009

Israel: IDF rabbis pushed 'religious war' in Gaza

Rabbi at front in Gaza

The Israeli army's chief rabbinate has a controversial approach when it comes to providing religious guidance for the troops.

The army rabbinate produced a booklet titled Go Fight My Fight: A Daily Study Table for the Soldier and Commander in a Time of War, especially for Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. This booklet was given to soldiers preparing to enter the Gaza Strip.

The military conduct advocated has little in common with rules of modern warfare that are in compliance with international law. Cruelty is lauded as a "good attribute". The Jewish sage Maimonides is quoted as saying that "one must not be enticed by the folly of the Gentiles who have mercy for the cruel (the enemy)".

Religious texts made available to Israeli soldiers draw on the teachings of an ultra-Zionist named Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, head of Ateret Cohanim seminary in Jerusalem.

Aviner without any embarrassment, compares contemporary Palestinians with the Philistines of the Bible.

This is what he has to say on the subject:

Is it possible to compare today's Palestinians to the Philistines of the past? And if so, is it possible to apply lessons today from the military tactics of Samson and David? A comparison is possible because the Philistines of the past were not natives and had invaded from a foreign land ... They invaded the Land of Israel, a land that did not belong to them and claimed political ownership over our country ... Today the problem is the same. The Palestinians claim they deserve a state here, when in reality there was never a Palestinian or Arab state within the borders of our country. Moreover, most of them are new and came here close to the time of the War of Independence.


A group of ex-Israeli soldiers who created an activist group named Breaking the Silence, claim that the army rabbinate has been encouraging Israeli soldiers to disregard international laws of war that protect civilians.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz points out that text made available to Israeli troops "steps blatantly into politics, sounds racist and can be interpreted as a call to challenge international law when it comes to dealing with enemy civilians."

A soldier using the pseudonym 'Ram' is also quoted in Haaretz describing the ways in which the rabbinate tried to turn Gaza into a Holy War:

The rabbinate brought in a lot of booklets and articles and their message was very clear: We are the Jewish people, we came to this land by a miracle, God brought us back to this land and now we need to fight to expel the non-Jews who are interfering with our conquest of this holy land. This was the main message, and the whole sense many soldiers had in this operation was of a religious war.


In Daily Torah studies for the soldier and the commander in Operation Cast Lead there is the statement: "[There is] a biblical ban on surrendering a single millimeter of it [the Land of Israel] to gentiles, though all sorts of impure distortions and foolishness of autonomy, enclaves and other national weaknesses. We will not abandon it to the hands of another nation, not a finger, not a nail of it."

In addition to the official publications made available through the army rabbinate, extreme right-wing Israeli groups also managed to get leaflets and messages into IDF bases. One such flyer sings the praises of Baruch Goldstein, who massacred unarmed Palestinians in Hebron. It is attributed to a group affiliated with Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg.

There has been a lot of concern about the role and influence of the military's chief rabbi, Brigadier General Avichai Rontzki. Rontzki is a West Bank settler. He was reportedly very active during the Gaza war, spending a lot of time with the troops in the field. Some accused him of fomenting a 'Holy War'.

Avichai Rontski
Avichai Rontzki

None of this is particularly new as far as Rontzki's views are concerned. He is known to have a condescending attitude toward "humanistic values". He says such feelings are merely subjective and should be governed by the 'laws of the Torah'.

Rontzki came under criticism from some quarters when it was discovered that a booklet he had been handing out to soldiers contained a rabbinical edict against showing any mercy for the enemy.

The Israeli Human Rights Organization Yesh Din has called upon the government to remove Avichai Rontzki from his post as chief army rabbi.

Rabbi addresses the IDF





Mar 20, 2009

Israeli soldiers admit to killing civilians in Gaza

Israeli army brutality

When Operation Cast Lead was underway in Gaza and observers accused Israeli troops of crimes, the accusers were labeled "anti-Semitic" by people who regard criticism of Israel as racist. Critics of Israel were also accused of aiding Islamic fundamentalism.

When reports surfaced about Palestinian homes that had been defiled, anti-Arab graffiti scrawled on walls and other property violations... the accusers were called liars and fabricators.

When observers claimed that Israel was using white phosphorous that burned people to the bone, it was dismissed as more of the same - lies and more lies.

Over time these claims have been validated. Most recently Israeli soldiers have stepped forward and testified that they were allowed, and in some cases ordered, to shoot unarmed Palestinian civilians. These revelations took place at a post-operation discussion at the Oranim Academic College in northern Israel. The transcript of the session was published in the newspaper Haaretz.

A soldier told how a mother and her children were shot dead by a sniper because they turned the wrong way on leaving a house. The soldier said the lives of Palestinians were "very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers".

A squad leader testified: "At the beginning the directive was to enter a house with an armoured vehicle, to break the door down, to start shooting inside and – I call it murder – to shoot at everyone we identify. In the beginning I asked myself how could this make sense? Higher-ups said it is permissible because everyone left in the city [Gaza City] is culpable because they didn't run away."

You think only Muslims advocate jihad? Think again. Israeli soldiers have said that military rabbis pushed the idea of a 'religious war' against the Gentiles. The soldiers were given religious booklets that conveyed the impression it was a religious war.

One soldier said: “All these articles had a clear message: we are the Jewish people, we have come to the land by miraculous means, and now we have to fight to remove the Gentiles who are getting in our way and preventing us from occupying the Holy Land… a great many soldiers had a feeling throughout this operation of a religious war.”

These testimonials offer an anecdotal glimpse into the horror of what actually went on in Gaza. Yet there are still some who believe even now that targeting Israel for crimes in Gaza is nothing less than "anti-Semitism"- or plays into it, so we should lower the volume.

Recently a group of 150 concerned Canadian Jews made a brave call to the press in Canada to stop using 'anti-Semitism' as an excuse for suppressing criticism of Israel. They had their statement rejected by the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail as an op-ed piece.

IDF T-shirts mock dead Palestinian babies

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Shocking testimonials by Israeli soldiers describing the ruthless disregard for civilian life during the Gaza campaign, makes it no surprise that some off-duty Israeli soldiers have a liking for custom clothing featuring sadistic artwork.

There is a business that caters to their needs. Adviv fabric-printing shop in south Tel Aviv has everything a soldier with twisted tastes could possibly wish for.

Adviv will print your design of choice on whatever... T-shirts, ball caps, hoodies, pants.

You can opt for designs that show mothers weeping on the graves of their children... or how about a gun aimed at a child... or a Palestinian mother weeping over her dead baby with a teddy bear beside him. It includes the slogan: "Better Use Durex" [condoms].

For soldiers in need of a laugh there is a design that shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull's-eye superimposed on her belly. The accompanying slogan reads in English, "1 shot, 2 kills."

Is Adviv services popular with IDF personnel with a taste for sick humor? Extremely.

Link to the story on Haaretz - here.

George Galloway banned from speaking in Canada

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Canadian Immigration minister Jason Kenney has denied entry to British MP George Galloway who was due to embark on a speaking tour of Canada.

Canadian Border officials said that Galloway was "inadmissible" because of his views on the war in Afghanistan and the presence of Canadian troops there. They said the decision had been taken in accordance with section 34(1) of Canada's immigration act.

A Canadian government spokesperson described Galloway as an "infandous street-corner Cromwell"... an attempt to be clever that comes off looking silly. What's Cromwell got to do with it? Trite populist comparisons aside, the two men couldn't be more different.

No doubt Galloway's opposition to sanctions against Hamas and support for the peace process is interpreted as support for terrorism in the cockeyed universe of infandous Tory paranoics. Say what you want about Hamas - it was democratically elected and doesn't begin to match Israel when it comes to slaughter of the innocent - that even Israeli troops are now testifying to.

The greater truth is that Harper has had to eat his boasts about Afghanistan. His absurd posturing and misplaced confidence makes him look compromised now that he has gone public with the admission that the Taleban can't be defeated. So why are our troops still there? Why are Canadian lives being lost - to what end? No wonder the Harper government has shut the door on Galloway. Inconvenient truths are hard to swallow.

Immigration minister Kenney has the power to exempt people from the act if he believes their presence would not be "detrimental to the national interest" but in Galloway's case Kenney has "declined to exercise that discretion."

Galloway who learned of the decision Friday, says he intends to take legal action against the Harper government by challenging the department's decision in Federal Court.

Commenting on the decision Galloway said:

We’ll be in court soon to try and overturn this. Canada remains a free country with an independent judiciary. They will have to review whether he has acted reasonably in these circumstances.

This may be a rather desperate election ploy by a conservative government reaching the end of line, or by a minister who has not cottoned on to the fact that the George Bush era is over.

All right-thinking Canadians, whether they agree with me over the wisdom of sending troops to Afghanistan or not, will oppose this outrageous decision.

On a personal note – for a Scotsman to be barred from Canada is like being told to stay away from the family home.

This is not something I'm prepared to accept.


This move demonstrates the controlling approach of a government that can't even see its way to allow a democratically elected politician into the country. The ban on Galloway is beyond pathetic. He isn't a supporter of terrorism. He opposes the Canadian government's approach to terrorism and is entitled to his views.

Galloway said Canada is the only country that has banned him from entry. He added that even Israel would allow him in.

MP Olivia Chow (NDP) has called Kenney the "Minister of Censorship" - never a truer word.

Link here to George Galloway's site where he has posted comments on the Canadian ban.

Link here to sign a petition to allow Galloway to speak.

Ottawa gag order: George Galloway banned

George Galloway banned from speaking in Canada

Mar 19, 2009

Neo-Nazi appeal growing in Germany despite NPD setbacks

German neo_nazis

The far-right German National Democratic Party (NPD) has been mired in financial problems and internal disputes. The financial problems are related to heavy duty fines the NPD has incurred for accounting irregularities. A former treasurer was charged in 2008 with embezzling over 700,000 euros and is currently serving a prison term. NPD leader Udo Voigt has described the situation as an "existential crisis."

The NPD has been attempting to tone-down its image in an effort to broaden its appeal. NPD leadership contender, Andreas Molau, recently withdrew his candidacy. Molau claimed that incumbent Udo Voigt and deputy chairman Jurgen Rieder were out to get him. Rieder reportedly accused Molau of being "one-eighth Jew" - Molau in turn accused Voigt of being a "compliant puppet of the stock market speculator Rieger."

NPD problems haven't led to a falling off of support. If anything it has increased. New stats point to an increase in German youth who identify with the far-right.

The targets of far-right protest don't fit the old mold. At the demo against the building of a giant new mosque in Cologne, there was the curious sight of Jewish protesters and neo-Nazis on the same side of the fence. In an effort to make political capital out of local concerns, the NPD formed the Citizens' Movement Pro Munster.

The increasing pull of the far-right was on display in Dresden earlier this year. Upwards of 8,000 neo-Nazis showed up to mark the 64th anniversary of the Allied bombing of the city - link here for photos. Neo-Nazis refer to the Dresden WW2 air attacks as a "Bombing Holocaust."

The Dresden neo-Nazi presence this year was twice the size of previous years:


neo-Nazis in Dresden
Neo-Nazis marching in Dresden


neo-Nazis Germany
A neo-Nazi group in Dresden


neo-Nazi protest
NPD supporters protesting mosque construction
in the Neu Koelln district

When you talk about rising far-right numbers in Germany you have to look to the east. East Germany has been fertile soil, in part because of the depressed economy. An anti-EU and anti-immigrant platform holds strong appeal.

On the political front the NPD has made some headway in the regional parliaments. It has seats in Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and is looking to elect members to the parliament in Thuringia.

Despite the NPD's efforts to present a more moderate image, the hardline priorities of the party remain pretty much the same. Former NPD official, Uwe Luthardt, told Der Spiegel "the simple aim is the restoration of the Reich." Some members would like nothing more than to see the Sturmabteilung - para-military brown shirts - cracking skulls again. The Nazi anthem is sung at NPD meetings and according to reports the party receives donations from old Nazis in South America.

Many Germans want to see the party banned, but this could be difficult if past experience is any indication. An attempt in 2003 failed. The case was thrown out when NPD officials called to testify turned out to be informants for the intelligence service.

Mar 18, 2009

Pope says condoms 'increase problem of AIDS'

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On his arrival in Africa, the pope said Tuesday that condoms "increase the problem" of AIDS. The comment was made to reporters aboard his plane.

There is a large body of scientific evidence that demonstrates that condom use in fact lowers the risk of contracting H.I.V. infection and does not lead to increased sexual activity. In using his considerable influence as leader of the Catholic Church to make irresponsible pronouncements, the pope is placing lives at risk.

There are no African countries that have successfully combated the spread of AIDS using abstinence as the primary policy tool. The pope's views are driven more by traditionalist Catholic dogma and hidebound morality than any pragmatic consideration with respect to prevention.

The problem isn't his promotion of abstinence per se, but rather his misinformed views and opposition to condom use. In the fight against AIDS every resource needs to be made available to those at risk. The message he is sending is dangerous, especially given the great esteem which many African Christians accord him as head of the Church.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman, Eric Chevallier, criticized the pope's remarks: "We consider that these statements endanger public health policies and the imperative to protect human life... Along with information, education and testing, the condom is a fundamental element of actions to prevent transmission of the AIDS virus."

Apparently the pope is also concerned about the challenge to Catholicism in Africa from what he describes as "superstitious forms of religion." An ironical statement, coming as it does from a pope who appears to be more than happy to revive, or turn a blind eye to, every Catholic superstition in the book if it helps to further his reactionary agenda.

Australia: internet 'blacklist' includes Wikileaks

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As part of its effort to censor the internet, Australia's Communications and Media Authority has compiled a list of censored sites . The blacklist includes several pages from Wikileaks - the popular website that publishes anonymous submissions of sensitive info relating to corporations, government and other areas of interest.

The number of blacklisted sites in Australia is around the 1,370 mark. According to the Sydney Morning Herald this could increase to 10,000 or more sites. Blacklisted sites have been distributed to Australian ISP's. They are required by law to make filters available.

A very real concern here is that an internet censorship plan - in Australia or elsewhere - could easily be extended to include censorship of sites carrying political opinion. In both the Thai and Danish cases the blacklist has gone beyond porn sites to include sites with political content. The Thai list reportedly includes more than 1,200 sites deemed to be critical of the royal family.

As it stands at present Australia's Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) isn't going after the average internet user but is targeting webmasters who post links to sites that are on the blacklist. A site named Whirlpool was threatened with fines of $11,000 a day unless it removed a link from its forum that connected users to a site hosting graphic abortion images.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported a few hours ago that Wikileaks has posted the Australian list. The leaked list, understood to have been acquired from an internet filtering software maker, contains 2,395 sites - so significantly more than the 1,370 mentioned up top.

According to the Herald, roughly half of the entries include "online poker sites, YouTube links, regular porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist."

Government attempts to censor the net have run into quite a bit of opposition. Senator Scott Ludlam of the Australian Greens describes the move as a "deeply unpopular and troubling experiment to fine-tune its ability to censor the internet."

Reporters Without Borders
has placed Australia on its "watch list" of countries imposing anti-democratic internet restrictions that could result in abuse-of-power and control of information.

Mar 17, 2009

Suppression of Israel criticism in Canada

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A group of 150 Jewish Canadians have co-signed a statement expressing their concern about attempts by Jewish organizations to silence criticism of Israel through the use of fear-tactics. They point to the recent crackdown on university campuses that saw students being suspended and fined, posters confiscated and concerted efforts on the part of some universities to silence the exercise of free speech when it comes to criticism of Israel.

Help this important statement to get into broad circulation. You may also wish to write to the Star and Globe editorials and express your dismay that they have chosen not to publish it.

Here is the statement in full with a preamble:

Jewish Canadians Concerned About Suppression of Criticism of Israel

James Deutsch, M.D., Ph.D., Judith Deutsch, M.S.W., R.S.W., Miriam Garfinkle, M.D.

Over 150 Jewish Canadians signed a statement expressing their concerns about the campaign to suppress criticism of Israel that is being carried on within Canada. The signatories include many prominent Canadians, including Ursula Franklin O.C., Anton Kuerti O.C., Naomi Klein, Dr. Gabor Mate, and professors Meyer Brownstone (recipient of Pearson Peace Medal), Natalie Zemon Davis, Michael Neumann, and Judy Rebick. *

The signatories are particularly concerned that unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism deflect attention from Israel’s accountability for what many have called war crimes in Gaza. They state that B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress have led campaigns to silence criticism of Israel on university campuses, in labor unions and in other groups. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff unquestioningly echo the views of these particular Jewish organizations.

They strongly state that they are against all expressions of racism. While firmly committed to resisting any form of prejudice against Jewish people, their statement explicitly states that these spurious allegations of anti-Semitism bring the anti-Communist terror of the 1950s vividly to mind.

The statement underlines the immeasurable suffering and injustice to the Palestinian people due to the severe poverty, daily humiliations, and military invasions inflicted by the State of Israel.



Statement: Jewish Canadians Concerned about Suppression of Criticism of Israel

We are Jewish Canadians concerned about all expressions of racism, anti-Semitism, and social injustice. We believe that the Holocaust legacy "Never again" means never again for all peoples. It is a tragic turn of history that the State of Israel, with its ideals of democracy and its dream of being a safe haven for Jewish people, causes immeasurable suffering and injustice to the Palestinian people.

We are appalled by recent attempts of prominent Jewish organizations and leading Canadian politicians to silence protest against the State of Israel. We are alarmed by the escalation of fear tactics. Charges that those organizing Israel Apartheid Week or supporting an academic boycott of Israel are anti-Semites promoting hatred bring the anti-Communist terror of the 1950s vividly to mind. We believe this serves to deflect attention from Israel’s flagrant violations of international humanitarian law.

B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress have pressured university presidents and administrations to silence debate and discussion specifically regarding Palestine/Israel. In a full-page ad in a national newspaper, B’nai Brith urged donors to withhold funds from universities because "anti-Semitic hate fests" were being allowed on campuses. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have echoed these arguments. While university administrators have resisted demands to shut down Israel Apartheid week, some Ontario university presidents have bowed to this disinformation campaign by suspending and fining students, confiscating posters, and infringing on free speech.

We do not believe that Israel acts in self-defense. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid, receiving $3 million/day. It has the fourth strongest army in the world. Before the invasion of Gaza on 27 December 2008, Israel’s siege had already created a humanitarian catastrophe there, with severe impoverishment, malnutrition, and destroyed infrastructure. It is crucial that forums for discussion of Israel’s accountability to the international community for what many have called war crimes be allowed to proceed unrestricted by specious claims of anti-Semitism.

We recognize that anti-Semitism is a reality in Canada as elsewhere, and we are fully committed to resisting any act of hatred against Jews. At the same time, we condemn false charges of anti-Semitism against student organizations, unions, and other groups and people exercising their democratic right to freedom of speech and association regarding legitimate criticism of the State of Israel.

Signatories:

Abigail Bakan, Adam Balsam, Sharon Baltman, Julia Barnett, Lainie Basman, Jody Berland, Sam Blatt, Geri Blinik, Anita Block, Elizabeth Block, Sheila Block, Hannah Briemberg, Mark Brill, Stephen Brot, Meyer Brownstone, Eliza Burroughs, Smadar Carmon, Gyda Chud, Charles P. Cohen, Nathalie Cohen, David Copeland, Natalie Zemon Davis, Eliza Deutsch, James Deutsch, Judith Deutsch, Abbe Edelson, Jack Etkin, Elle Flanders, Danielle Frank, Ursula Franklin, Dan Freeman-Maloy, Miriam Garfinkle, Alisa Gayle, Jack Gegenberg, Mark Golden, Brenda Goldstein, Sue Goldstein, Cy Gonick, Marnina Gonick, Rachel Gotthilf, Amy Gottleib, Kevin A. Gould, Daina Green, Lisa Frances Greenspoon, Ricardo Grinspun, Cathy Gulkin, Rachel Gurofsky, Deboran Guterman, Yesse Gutman, Freda Guttman, Judy Haiven, Michael Hanna-Fein, Jean Hanson, Jan Heynen, Maria Heynen, Adam Hofmann, Jake Javanshir, Jeannie Kamins, Marylin Kanee, Howard S. Kaplan, Gilda Katz. Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta, Mira Khazzam, Bonnie Sher Klein, Mark Klein, Martin Klein, Naomi Klein, Joshua Katz-Rosene, Ryan Katz-Rosene, Judy Koch, Anton Kuerti, Jason Kunin, Aaron Lakoff, Michael Lambek, Natalie LaRoche, Richard Borshay Lee, Andy Lehrer, Gabriel Levin, Gabriel Levine, Joel Lexchin, Kim Linekin, Abby Lippman, Lee Lorch, Martin Lukacs, Audrey Macklin, Elise Maltin, Richard Marcuse, Wayne Mark, Gabor Mate, Arthur Milner, Anna Miransky, Dorit Naaman, Joanne Naiman, Neil Naiman, Michael Neumann, David-Marc Newman, David Noble, Clare O’Connor, Robin Ostow, Andre W. Payant, Jenny Peto, Simone Powell, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Fabienne Presentey, Yacov Rabkin, Diana Ralph, Naomi Rankin, Judy Rebick, Ester Reiter, Jillian Rogin, Richard Roman, Joseph Rosen, Herman Rosenfeld, Martha Roth, Marty Roth, Ruben Roth, E.Natalie Rothman, B. Sack, Ben Saifer, Miriam Sampaio, Jacob Scheir, Fred Schloessinger, Alan Sears, Shlomit Segal, Edward H. Shaffer, Noa Shaindlinger, Ray Shankman, Eva Sharell, Elliot Shek, Sid Shniad, Max Silverman, Samuel Singer, Elizabeth Solloway, Susan Starkman, Greg Starr, Jonathan Sterne, Jeremy Stolow, Rhonda Sussman, Vera Szoke, Joe Tannenbaum, Howard Tessler, Marion Traub-Werner, Ceyda Turan, Sandra Tychsen, Cheryl Wagner, Jon McPhedran Waitzer, David Wall, Naomi Binder Wall, Kathy Wazana, Karen Weisberg, Barry Weisleder, Paul Weinberg, Judith Weisman, Suzanne Weiss, Abraham Weizfeld, Ernie Yacub, B.H. Yael, Yedida Zalik, Melvin Zimmerman

Hijacking free speech in Canada

 Pro-Israel Canadian mainstream media

Mar 15, 2009

Ben Ehrenreich: 'Zionism is the Problem'

Israeli tanks and Palestinian kids

The LA Times has an op-ed piece this week by Ben Ehrenreich titled Zionism is the Problem.

Ehrenreich takes a refreshingly candid approach to the subject of Israel, stating his objections in a clear and concise fashion. He zeroes in on Zionism and the problem posed by a state founded along ethnic and religious lines.

Being Jewish he's unlikely to become the recipient of anti-Semitic charges, although 'self-hating Jew' is always a possibility.

A couple of early paragraphs in Ehrenreich's article signal some of his main concerns :

For the last several decades, though, it has been all but impossible to cry out against the Israeli state without being smeared as an anti-Semite, or worse. To question not just Israel's actions, but the Zionist tenets on which the state is founded, has for too long been regarded an almost unspeakable blasphemy.

Yet it is no longer possible to believe with an honest conscience that the deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank come as the result of specific policies, leaders or parties on either side of the impasse. The problem is fundamental: Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.

Link here for the full Ben Ehrenreich article in the LA Times.

Mar 14, 2009

Tristan Anderson: American injured by Israeli forces

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Israeli gas canister

An American, Tristan Anderson, has been critically injured after being shot in the head with a tear-gas canister by Israeli forces. The canisters labeled in Hebrew "40mm bullet special/long range" can be shot up to 500m.

Anderson, 37, was part of a demonstration against the construction of the annexation wall through the village of Ni'lin.

Haaretz reports that Anderson wasn't near the "the hub of the clash". He was standing by the side of the road when soldiers fired at him.

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Tristan Anderson

Orly Levi, a spokeswoman at the Tel Hashomer hospital where Anderson was taken, told Haaretz: "He’s in critical condition, anesthetized and on a ventilator and undergoing imaging tests". She described Anderson’s condition as life-threatening.

Ulrika Jenson, an International Solidarity Movement activist, said that "Tristan was hit and fell to the ground. He had a large hole in the front of his head, and his brain was visible."

The Israeli army began using the high velocity tear gas canister in December 2008. It doesn't make a noise when fired or emit a smoke trail. The combination of the canisters high velocity and silence is dangerous - it has caused numerous injuries.

Mar 13, 2009

Lesbians in S. Africa subjected to 'corrective rape'

lesbian 'corrective' rape South Africa

A report from the international NGO ActionAid, says that horrific assaults against lesbians in South Africa are going unrecognized by the state and unpunished by the legal system. ActionAid backed by the South African Human Rights Commission has condemned what it describes as 'a culture of impunity'.

These crimes received greater attention when Eudy Simelane, a star of South Africa's national female football squad, was gang-raped and viciously beaten and stabbed. Her body was found in a creek in a park in Kwa Thema, on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Eudy Simelane
Eudy Simelane #13

Campaigners say that the attacks are viewed by the perpetrators as "corrective rape". Research by Triangle, a leading S. African gay rights organization indicates that 86% of black lesbians from Western Cape live in fear of sexual assault. Triangle says it is dealing with up to 10 cases of "corrective rape" every week.

Carrie Shelver of the women's group Powa, a South African NGO, says that the root of the problem "is a macho culture that seeks to oppress women and sees them merely as sexual beings. So when there is a lesbian woman she is an absolute affront to this kind of masculinity".

For more on this story, link to the Guardian.

Also link to a Guardian video featuring interviews with victims of 'corrective rape'.

Pope less than honest about Williamson's Holocaust denial?

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Since he ascended the Throne of St Peter Benedict XVI has shown a number of tendencies that are hard to miss. Chief among these tendencies is the reactionary urge to turn back the clock, block progressive reform and appoint like-minded reactionaries to bishoprics and other positions of influence in the Church. The agenda is one of restoration and it even includes bringing members of the Valais-based Society of St Pius X back into the fold.

Another trait that is hard to miss, is the tendency of the pope to play the innocent when it's difficult to believe that he doesn't know what's going on. On a number of occasions he has pretended he was not in possession of knowledge, that there is reason to believe he was in fact in possession of.

How could the Pope not have known about Richard Williamson's controversial views? Well only if he had spent his time in the Vatican cloistered with a bong, some great hash and a bag of mescaline buttons.

Given Williamson's and fellow bishops' Pius X Fraternity connections you would think that Benedict or an aide would have launched a Google query or two before bringing these oddballs back into the Church. They claim a web search never even occurred to them. The more likely explanation is that there wasn't much they didn't already know.

All-systems-go denial-mode only became necessary after Williamson's Holocaust denying remarks on Swedish TV and the massive international outcry that followed. But the Swedish TV comments were by no means the first time Williamson had gone public with his views. He made the same claims when he was rector of the St Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Winona, Minnesota. He wrote in letters that "Judeo-Masonry brought about the first two world wars."

He made similar claims in Canada. During a speech in Notre-Damn-de-Lourdes church in Sherbrooke, he said:

There was not one Jew killed in the gas chambers. It was all lies, lies, lies... The Jews created the Holocaust so we would prostrate ourselves on our knees before them and approve of their new State of Israel ... Jews made up the Holocaust, Protestants get their orders from the devil, and the Vatican has sold its soul to liberalism.


The Pius X Fraternity Williamson was involved with is well known for attracting right wing cranks with controversial views on everything from the Holocaust to democracy. There are other clues. Williamson is a close friend of the controversial historian David Irving, so close in fact Williamson showed up at a garden party held at Irving's home in Windsor last year.


Richard Williamson and David Irving
Irving and Williamson


The well known Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, has candidly said that he believes the pope knew about the views of the four bishops. Kung doesn't go so far as to state that the pope knew explicitly about the Holocaust denial, but then Kung isn't exactly free to make such a judgment call. He described the move to reinstate the bishops as "a huge mistake" not just in respect to the relationship with Judaism, but also in respect to "freedom of religion and conscience in general, accommodation with the Protestant churches, rapprochement with Islam and other world religions, as well as reform of the liturgy".

The SSPX has long been accused of being a Fraternity in which anti-Semitic views are commonplace. The political outlook it has been associated with place it on the far right of the political spectrum. Archbishop Lefebvre has attacked the French Revolution of 1789. He has spoken favorably of Philippe Petain, leader of the Vichy government (1940-1944). He has also expressed support for the Front National and its hardline leader Jean-Marie le Pen.

Benedict had to be well aware of the background noise associated with the SSPX. Also it's not as though he had never set eyes on Williamson before. From 2001 to 2005 Benedict - then cardinal Ratzinger- was a member of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. He sat in the front row, where he watched proceedings that involved the above mentioned bishops, including Richard Williamson.

As cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger was known to be a man of great intellectual capacity, with a wealth of detailed knowledge relating to Church business - and we are supposed to believe that he remained ignorant on the subject of Williamson's views?

The Williamson affair is just the latest in a number of moves the pope has made that suggest he is less than forthright in his approach when it suits his ends. This raises questions about his personal integrity, at a time when he is increasingly out-of-touch with grassroots Catholics. Many simply don't agree with his traditionalist priorities.

Mar 12, 2009

Nine year-old Brazilian girl has abortion

Jose Cordosa Sobrinho
Archbishop Jose Cordosa Sobrinho with press

The case of the nine-year old Brazilian girl who became pregnant with twins after being abused by her stepfather is sickening enough, but the tragedy of the child's violation verges on the grotesque when you consider how the Catholic Church has acted in this case.

The mother of the pregnant girl and the doctors involved have been excommunicated by the Church for providing abortion assistance to the child. The rapist stepfather on the other hand hasn't been excommunicated due to the weird priorities of canon law.

Cardinal Giovanna Battista Re told the Catholic paper La Stampa that the twins had "a right to live." What about the will of the child who was used by the stepfather? What about the violation of her body and the psychological wounds she will carry for many years to come?

The readiness of the Catholic Church to attack those who helped the child simply confirms that this is a Church that has allowed ideology to overrule common sense. A victimized child should not be birthing children.

Quite aside from the moral objections in this case, there were sound medical reasons for making the decision to abort. Brazil only permits abortion in cases of rape and health risks to the mother. The doctors involved made clear that the girl's case met both conditions.

Even so, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardosa Sobrinho said the law of God was above any human law. What Sobrinho refers to as the 'law of God' is law that reflects Vatican priorities - revised and amended over the years by Catholic theologians.

The President of Brazil, Luiz Inacio da Silva, himself a Catholic, said he regretted what he described as a bishop's 'deeply conservative attitude'.

The sexual assaults by the stepfather spanned a number of years. Quite aside from the pregnancy, the child has been damaged as a result of living in a dysfunctional home where she became a target of ongoing abuse from a young age. For a nine-year old in these circumstances to become the mother of twins in order to satisfy the requirements of the Catholic Church would have turned a tragedy into a horror show.

An abortion was the correct decision in this case.

Mondo Bizarro

Catholic clergy oppose abortion in case of abused girl

Mar 11, 2009

'Big Brother' Sarkozy to punish downloaders

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An anti-piracy Bill in France will punish people who repeatedly download music and films illegally by cutting off their internet access for up to a year. The law would create a new state surveillance agency to monitor internet users.

Surfers engaging in illegal downloads can anticipate being outed with the help of internet service providers and music/film companies. Offenders will first receive a cease-and-desist notice by e-mail, then a registered letter. If caught again they will have their web access cut off for up to a year.

Sarkozy is keen to see the Bill pass. His pals in the industry have been urging him for some time to crackdown on illegal downloading. French First Lady Carla Bruni is also a supporter of more draconian measures.

Sarkozy said: “The Internet must not become a high-tech Far West, a lawless zone where outlaws can pillage works with abandon or, worse, trade in them in total impunity. And on whose backs? On artists’ backs.”

Consumer groups have rightly condemned the move. It's an infringement of internet freedom - yet another move by Sarkozy to curtail freedoms in the name of what he grandly describes as the "civilized internet" - which translates into an internet on the end of a short leash held by government and corporate players.

Instead of backing policing and penalties why doesn't the industry develop simple and low-cost alternatives to allow people to make purchases on the web. Industry business models haven't kept pace with rapid digital developments, and putting the screws on people is no solution.

Christian Paul, a French Socialist MP said the Bill will create "massive surveillance" of the internet and society as a whole. He added "criminalizing a whole generation" wasn't the answer and that the industry should look at their own business plans.

Mar 9, 2009

Welcome: film angers French Immigration minister

Welcome asylum seekers

Welcome is opening this week in France. It is a story of personal challenge in the face of discriminatory laws, red tape and enforcement.

A 17-year old Kurdish refugee named Bilal (played by novice actor Firat Ayverdi) is coached by a swimming instructor who hopes to prepare the young man for the challenge of swimming the English Channel. Bilal's dream is to join his girlfriend and play for Manchester United.

Calais, where the film was set, has been a gathering point for immigrants hoping to make it across the English Channel. The Guardian has an interesting take on the reaction of local Calais residents to the shooting of Welcome:

... audiences cheered at the preview screenings. "It's the most beautiful and most upsetting film I have ever seen," said Laure Ducastel, 31, a local resident. "It shows how the refugees and the charity workers are heroes and what dirty work the French state does to make their lives a misery."


The director of the film, Philippe Lioret, went so far as to compare the ordeal experienced by many migrants in France with the plight of Jews in Nazi-occupied France during the Second World War.

In reference to the French laws that threaten people who help migrants the director had this to say to the newspaper La Voix du Nord:

"To see that a decent guy can all of a sudden be charged and that he can go to prison is crazy... It feels like it’s 1943 and we’ve hidden a Jew in the basement."


The comparison has angered the French Immigration minister, Eric Besson, who said Lioret has "crossed a red line" in an effort to generate publicity for the film.

Besson might argue with the comparison but the truth is a hellish situation faces migrants who end up in Calais. Since the closure of the Red Cross-run Sangatte center back in 2002, no substantial improvements have been made. During the winter local authorities caved-in and provided indoor facilities, but this was only because they didn't want to risk press stories about frozen bodies lying around on the street.

The migrants come from countries where life is already tough - places such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and the Sudan. There is no state support for them in Calais. It is against the law to help 'illegals' there, making it risky even for humanitarian aid workers who provide the basic provisions of life. The migrants are the target of harassment by police. In a recent raid at a camp at Norrent-Forentes, those living there were arrested. The cops ripped holes in the tents and took all the cooking equipment.

Up to 500 people without status are surviving as best they can in the the so-called "jungle"- the woods around the port. The makeshift dwellings they use for shelter have been demolished by the authorities in the past. There were reports that the cops used tear gas in some of these raids. There have also been reports of migrants who have been lifted by police, driven miles to some remote locality and unceremoniously dumped.

Calais refugees

Hopefully Welcome will increase public awareness about the plight facing immigrants not only in France, but in many other European countries also.

EU report: 'illegal annexation' of East Jerusalem

Israel demolition of arab homes

A confidential EU report obtained by the UK Guardian makes the allegation that Israel is "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem.

Guardian:

The report states: "Israeli 'facts on the ground' - including new settlements, construction of the barrier, discriminatory housing policies, house demolitions, restrictive permit regime and continued closure of Palestinian institutions - increase Jewish Israeli presence in East Jerusalem, weaken the Palestinian community in the city, impede Palestinian urban development and separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank."


US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has described the demolitions as "unhelpful" - there are 88 homes scheduled for demolition, all for lack of permits.

The permits game is one the Israelis have been playing for years. Israel issues only 200 permits a year for Palestinian homes and leaves just 12% of East Jerusalem available for Palestinian residential use.

These figures are a disgrace when you consider that Palestinians in the east represent 34% of the city's residents. In addition only 5%-10% of the municipal budget is spent in their areas.

Guardian:

The EU says settlement are being built in the east of the city at a "rapid pace". Since the Annapolis peace talks began in late 2007, nearly 5,500 new settlement housing units have been submitted for public review, with 3,000 so far approved, the report says. There are now about 470,000 settlers in the occupied territories, including 190,000 in East Jerusalem.

The EU is particularly concerned about settlements inside the Old City, where there were plans to build a Jewish settlement of 35 housing units in the Muslim quarter, as well as expansion plans for Silwan, just outside the Old City walls.

The goal, it says, is to "create territorial contiguity" between East Jerusalem settlements and the Old City and to "sever" East Jerusalem and its settlement blocks from the West Bank.
Israeli bulldozers demolish Palestinian homes


Israeli soldier and Palestinian family

There has been a concerted effort over time on the part of Israeli authorities to control the demographic balance in Jerusalem in favor of Jews. This has involved the use of rules and red tape to hamper Palestinian expansion.

Moreover land in East Jerusalem was taken (some 35%) and various financial incentives were then offered to encourage Jews to build there. These policies demonstrate a consistent effort to restrain Palestinian growth, while facilitating Jewish development whenever possible.

This has been going on for some time. To give an example by way of stats ... in the 1990's for every new residence built in Arab neighborhoods, 12 were built in Jewish areas. Building permits have been routinely denied on the basis of race. If Palestinians go ahead and build anyway they risk having their homes demolished.

For a related Guardian article titled 'World's Apart' - link here.

Mar 8, 2009

Israel ex-President indicted for sexual offenses

Israeli president Katsav

Israel's ex-President Moshe Katsav is to be indicted for alleged sexual offenses including rape and indecent acts. He will also be charged with obstruction of justice.

Justice officials say that the testimony of a woman, known only as employee "A" or Aleph is credible. They reached this conclusion in part because of testimonies of female employees who were told of the alleged assaults as they were said to have occurred.

A number of other women who worked under Katsav have also made accusations of sexual misconduct.

The first woman to accuse Katsav of rape, employee A, said that the former president turned her into a "sex slave". She has described Katsav as a "pervert and serial sex offender" who "terrorized my body and my soul".

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Katsav's accuser

The experience of going public with her accusation has made employee A highly skeptical of the system. She said "from my personal experience I am telling you: don't complain. Go to a psychologist, but don't go to the police. Especially if the attacker is a public figure."

The ongoing harassment she suffered got worse as she moved into more senior positions in the President's Residence.

She claims that from the beginning, Katsav made a point of making suggestive remarks about her appearance. She quotes him as saying "You're beautiful... you're sexy. I want to know you I'm interested in you. Your skirt is nice... your hair is nice, etc".

Employee A claims that after she received a promotion Katsav began exposing his genitals in her presence and asking her to touch him.

At a press conference employee A stated that the president repeatedly raped her. After the first incident she didn't come to work and this resulted in threatening calls from Katsav.

"He threatened to ruin my life," she said.

Two British soldiers shot dead in N. Ireland

Massereene army base
Aeriel view of Massereene army base

Two British soldiers have been shot dead and four others injured in an attack at Massereene army base in Antrim, 16 miles north of Belfast. Of the four injured - two were soldiers and two civilian.

Accounts indicate that a car or van pulled up at the main gate. Witnesses described hearing long bursts of gunfire.

It is believed that dissident Republicans may be behind the attack.

These are the first British soldiers killed in N.Ireland since Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was killed by an IRA sniper in 1997.

It should be pointed out that the Massereene attack has been criticized by Sinn Fein. Gerry Adams has described it as 'an attack on the peace process' and says it won't derail the determination to seek a united Ireland by democratic means.

The attack in Antrim came shortly after Sir Hugh Orde, chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, asked the Special Reconnaissance Regiment to assist in gathering intelligence on dissident Republican groups.

There have been incidents in the recent past involving dissident Republicans. In 2008 there was was an attempt to kill PSNI officers in separate incidents in Derry and Dungannon.

In February 2009 a 300 lb bomb was defused in Castlewellan close to a barracks.

There has been an increase in dissident activity over the past few years. In 2008 Brit security services said that 60% of electronic intercepts were coming from Irish dissidents. There was a claim at the time that Irish dissidents pose a greater threat to the UK than home-grown jihadists.

Lately the groups have been breaking up into smaller units which is why Orde likely called on the Special Reconnaissance Regiment for assistance in intelligence gathering. RIRA has apparently divided into four micro-groups and CIRA has also split up.

Martin McGuinness, deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, has been critical of the decision to use the SRR for intelligence gathering. He characterized the move as "damaging". He further added that it was "stupid" and "dangerous"... and that it "sent out a very negative message" in dealing with a threat that McGuinness believes is being overinflated.

McGuinness is right on the mark. Setting the SRR on dissident micro-groups is like stepping back into the past and is bound to inflame the situation. It appears that Orde's foolhardy decision could have been a factor in this attack.

Link here for some additional background on dissident Irish Republican groups.

Mar 7, 2009

Former SAS commander says Afghanistan operation 'worthless'

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Former SAS commander, Major Sebastian Morley, said recently that the UK's effort in Afghanistan is "worthless". He also said that the situation in Afghanistan is similar to the start of the Vietnam war.

Morley had a sobering assessment of the situation on the ground:

This is the equivalent to the start of the Vietnam conflict, there is much more to come.

We hold tiny areas of ground in Helmand and we are kidding ourselves if we think our influence goes beyond 500 metres of our security bases.

We go out on operations, have a punch-up with the Taleban and then go back to camp for tea. We are not holding the ground.


Major Morley resigned after Cpl Sarah Bryant and three colleagues were killed when their Snatch Land Rover hit an anti-tank mine in Helmand province in June 2008.

The SAS commander says he was compelled to stand down after Quentin Davis, British minister for Defence Equipment and Support told an "unacceptable lie". At the time Davis stated that commanders had a choice of vehicles.

Major Morley: "There was no other vehicle to use. The simple truth is that the protection on these vehicles (Snatch Land Rover) is inadequate and this led to the unnecessary deaths."

Morley's assessment is brutally honest and speaks to a hard truth about the operation in Afghanistan.

He isn't the first British military commander to speak out. In October 2008, Brigadier Mark Carlton-Smith said the British public should not expect a "decisive military victory". He spoke these words shortly after a leaked memo from a French diplomat claimed that the British ambassador in Kabul, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, told him the western strategy was "doomed to fail".

Obama should think long and hard before getting in deeper. Despite increasing the US troop presence he has said he will seek talks with the Taleban. When asked if the US was winning the war in Afghanistan, he replied "No".

The challenges facing Afghanistan will not be solved by military intervention by western powers. More-of-the-same, along with the fantasy of an Afghanistan 'on track' in accordance with the prescription being offered by the west won't succeed.

A determination to get in deeper will result in hundreds, perhaps thousands of more young lives needlessly lost. Families in Afghanistan and the western nations involved will be faced with burying their loved ones for some time to come.

The Soviets retreated from Afghanistan after a spectacular failure. Recently Lt General Ruslan Aushev who was part of that operation expressed a skepticism based on hard experience:

We were there for 10 years and we lost more than 14,000 soldiers, but what was the result? Nothing,

BBC story here.

Harper stops sniffing glue

Stephen Harper tells CNN that Taliban cant be beaten in Afghanistan

Mar 6, 2009

Prachatai website: Chiranuch Premchaiporn arrested

King Bhumibol

Thai police recently entered the offices of Prachatai, a Bangkok-based website and detained Chiranuch Premchaiporn who founded the operation five years ago.

She has been charged with 'endangering national security' which in Thailand can be as trivial as poking fun at King Bhumibol. Comments about the monarchy posted on the site by visitors at the end of last year, apparently prompted the raid.

Prachatai carries content that other media outlets tend to shy away from.

The monarchy in Thailand is protected by lese-majeste laws which bans criticism of the monarchy. There have been quite a few cases of foreigners being prosecuted for monarchy references deemed to be unacceptable under lese majeste laws.

An Aussie writer named Harry Nicolaides isn't exactly a best selling author. A novel he wrote three years ago titled Verisimilitude sold just seven copies. The reason he made the news is because he included a brief passage in his novel that refers to an unnamed crown prince, and for that 'crime' was sent to jail. He has now been pardoned.

It can get amusing. A Swiss national named Oliver Jufer was sentenced to 19 years in jail for daubing black paint on a portrait on King Bhumibol. It is claimed that Jufer was drunk at the time. He received a pardon a month after his conviction.

Thailand has been becoming increasingly touchy about references to the monarchy. YouTube clips even come in for the treatment. In 2007 Thailand blocked access to YouTube because a clip allegedly insulted the monarchy.

Really this is a ridulous law if only because it's counterproductive. When you tell people they can't do something, there will be those who will want to do it with a passion.

Rarified monarchs protected by laws are a bit of an anachronism in this day and age. It certainly doesn't help if they are perceived as being part of the problem.

Lese majeste laws have come in for heavy criticism around the world. There was even a campaign by academics to have the laws changed.

In the case of Ms Premchaiporn the authorities appear to have become more devious. She has been charged under a new law which makes it an offense to carry computer content that endangers national security. This enables them to crackdown on debate about the monarchy without appearing to be stifling freedom of expression.

Israel Apartheid Week: standing with Gaza

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"Standing United with the People of Gaza" is the theme of the Fifth Annual Israel Apartheid Week (IAW). Needless to say efforts have been made by influential Zionists and their friends in the Canadian media to disrupt and undermine this year's events.

The comparisons between Israel and apartheid South Africa don't just relate to discriminatory treatment of Palestinians and human rights abuses in the occupied territories - or to the genocidal onslaught on Gaza - the ties are historical and very real. During the apartheid era in South Africa, Israel and the South African racists were tight. Israel trained South African security forces and supplied the white regime in Pretoria with weapons.

One man who won't easily forget this is former South African intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils. He understands what persecution is about. At the beginning of the last century his parents escaped from the anti-Jewish pogroms in Tzarist Russia and immigrated to S.Africa.

Kasrils is scheduled as one of the guest speakers in Toronto - the birthplace of Israel Apartheid Week.

Stateside Nir Harel of Israel's Anarchist's Against the Wall is in New York. Another prominent Israeli activist is Matan Cohen who has done great work in the drive to implement a divestment campaign against Israel at Hampshire College in Massachusetts.

Meanwhile the boycott effort has been gathering steam. Some boycott updates from electronic intifada:


Professors and university employees in Quebec, Canada, endorsed the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees' call to boycott Israel.

SJP's actions at Hampshire College follow similar moves by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education in the UK.

In London, students held sit-ins at Goldsmith University and the London School of Economics, among other institutions. Similar protests have spread throughout the UK, with some winning concessions from university officials.

At Manchester University, about a thousand students joined a campaign equating Israel with apartheid-era South Africa, and called on the administration and student union to boycott Israeli companies and support Gaza and the BDS movement.

In Australia the University of Western Sydney's Student Association recently joined the international BDS campaign. International trade union support for political action against Israel has been seen from Spain to South Africa.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, under directive of the Council of South African Trade Unions, refused recently to unload an Israeli ship which docked in Durban, despite threats and pressure from both management and the Israeli lobby.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, with 600,000 members in 55 unions, is preparing to start a boycott of Israeli goods.

Meanwhile, the biggest trade union in Canada's Ontario province, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), was forced under pressure to moderate its call for a boycott of all academic institutions in Israel. Instead it called for a boycott of Israeli institutions engaged in research which aided the Israeli military.


Unfortunately a lot of the events associated with IAW will go under reported in a Canadian media that for the most part has chosen to demonize the event.

Underneath are links to a few sites that are involved in the BDS campaign:

http://www.mylinkspage.com/israel.html

http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-israel.html

Also link here for Naomi Klein's January boycott call in the UK Guardian.