Discuss: World Politics

There’s a whole planet out there — we need a place to talk about other political affairs than the narrow domain of the United States, and Beatrice will be curating the discussion about politics that aren’t centered on the US.



  1. says

    Germany is currently being massively shitty again. Racist riots in front of arriving refugees and burning refugee homes (at least two in the last couple of days: in Weissach im Tal and in Nauen). The police is protecting these “concerned citizens”, while beating down the Antifa (a left-wing anti-facism group) counter-protests. And Merkel is silent.

  2. says

    From what I read here:

    Mrs Merkel has described the behaviour of far-right activists in Heidenau as “abhorrent” and “shameful” and said she would be visiting the town on Wednesday.
    Correspondents say most Germans have been welcoming to asylum seekers, but a small minority has been vocal in its opposition.

  3. petrander says

    Perhaps I am naive, but I am really hoping for Kurdish statehood in the aftermath of the Syrian and Iraqi civil war. From what I have heard, the Kurds are, generally speaking, among the most secular and progressive of the peoples in the Middle East (not saying they’re automatically saints). But they’re up against powerful forces, not in the least Turkey, and the role of the US is at the very least suspect. Nominally, the US, and any modern, democratic, secular society, Western or not, ought to support the Kurds in their ambitions, but naturally, despite everything, the US wouldn’t want to upset the Turks, who are a very useful ally with their access to the Black Sea and proximity to Russia. The Turks are really playing a dirty game, simply equating the YPG with the PKK and even ISIL, whereas one would think they’d have a lot more to gain allying themselves with the Kurds and in doing so extending their influence in the Middle East.

  4. says

    This is a cross post from Moments of Political Madness:

    Well, it looks like North Korea won’t be waging war on South Korea after all … at least not right away.

    The two sides agreed to a compromise. Pyongyang expressed regret for a land mine attack that injured two South Korean soldiers. Seoul agreed to turn off the loudspeakers it had been using to broadcast, among other things, pop (K-pop) music into North Korea.
    Propaganda was also broadcast:

    “Kim Jong Un’s incompetent regime is trying to deceive the world with its lame lies,” a kind-sounding woman would say in a slow, deliberate voice emanating from one of the banks of 48 speakers set up along the South Korean side of the military demarcation line. The messages can travel about 12 miles at night and about half that during the day, well into North Korean territory.

    North Korea also agreed to resume the meetings in had previously allowed between divided families.

  5. blf says

    Found on Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science site:

    $75,000 will prove God exists

    A bargain!

    Plus, he’s about to graduate with a Maters (sic) degree and enter a Doctorial (sic) program, so it’s all totally legit science!

    Currently, has raised a grand total of $6.66:

    Goal: Document and film the work of Charles Darwin to discover evidence of intelligent design. In order to prove intelligent design we must debunk the idea that evolution is all encompassing (from single cell to human).

    Plan of Attack: My belief is evolution exists in individual self-sustaining circles. By proposing this theory, with evidence from Darwin’s research we change the evolution flow chart from an all-inclusive chart to a multiple circles of self-sustaning [sic] life. By doing this the process of elimination will suggest the origin of each circle was conceived by intelligent design.

    This guy’s “Maters” was apparently in world salad with incoherent thought as a dressing, and his “Doctorial” looks like it’s in scamming to get an all-expenses paid vacation to the Galapagos Islands.

  6. Nick Gotts says

    Interesting times in the UK Labour Party. Following their failure to oust the Tories in the May general election (although they slightly increased their share of the vote, they failed to make much headway in England and Wales, and lost all but one of their Scottish seats to the Scottish National Party, which campaigned on a platform well to Labour’s left, opposing austerity and the renewal of the UK’s nuclear weapons), both the UK leader, Ed Miliband (“Milibland”) and the Scottish leader, Jim Murphy, resigned. Scottish Labour have passed the poisoned chalice – they are expected to lose seats in the Scottish Parliamentary elections next May – to Murphy’s henchwoman, Keiza Dugdale.

    The UK leadership election is where the unexpected is occurring – in spades. It is the first party leadership election to be organised as one-person-one-vote: apart from actual party members, members of affiliated trades unions could register to vote, and anyone could pay £3 to register as a “supporter” in order to vote. This system was introduced as a sop to the Blairite right after complaints that the “soft left” Milibland defeated his Blairite brother David due to trade union bloc votes. However, the right turn out to have shot themselves in both feet. To stand in the contest, an MP needed 36 nominations, only MPs having the right to nominate. Up to the last moment, it looked as though no representative of the left in the party would overcome this hurdle – but a few MPs from the centre gave the only declared left candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, their nominations, to “widen the debate” – and presumably, ensure that the left would be soundly beaten, but have no grounds to complain that they were excluded. But, having been quoted at 100-1 shortly before getting enough nominations, Corbyn is now the odds-on favourite. Over 600,000 people are registered to vote, the only two polls taken of these voters show him well ahead, he has more local party and union nominations than any of the three right-wing candidates (two retreads from the Blair and Brown eras, and a Tory who’s somehow ended up in the wrong party), he has thousands of volunteers in his campaign, and he’s packing out meetings of supporters. Labour “elder statespersons” and the media are falling over themselves to join the ABC (“Anyone But Corbyn”) chorus, and the right-wing Daily Telegraph, which started out hoping Corbyn would win and thus finish the Labour Party, now says “Jeremy Corbyn Must Be Stopped”. Evidently, they would not be saying anything of the kind if they did not recognise that his anti-austerity, tax-the-rich-and-big-corporations, renationalise-the-railways-and-energy providers, democratic socialist message would have wide appeal.
    The ABC chorus have four main points:
    1) His economic policies are absurd. But 40 prominent economists have written an open letter supporting them.
    2) He’s not electable. This message has come from, among others, Neil Kinnock, who lost two elections as Labour leader, Gordon Brown, who lost one, and Tony Blair, probably now the most hated man in Britain. And the Daily Telegraph clearly disagrees.
    3) He’d split the party. This has come from MPs who are, in fact, threatening to try to oust him from the day he’s elected. So what they are actually saying is “We’d split the party”. Most of them are careerists, so I don’t believe them.
    4) Guilt by association. It is true Corbyn has shared pro-Palestinian and anti-war platforms with some repugnant Islamists. He should indeed have been a lot more careful – but there’s not a scrap of evidence he shares their vile views.
    As a member of another party (the Scottish Green Party), I don’t have a vote in the election; and his election would both pull votes from our sister party in England and Wales, and make the Scottish independence I campaigned for last year less likely. Nor is Corbyn by any means without flaw (see 4 above, and he does not give climate change and other environmental issues the prominence they merit); also, I think he’s actually considerably less likely to win than commentators are currently saying*; but the prospect of an actual socialist leading the Labour Party, and taking the fight to the Tories rather than meekly accepting that, “there is no alternative” (©Margaret Thatcher) to market-worship, corporate greed, and ever-increasing inequality, for me greatly outweighs all other issues. And then there’s the delicious prospect of seeing Tony Blair’s face when he hears that Corbyn has won… Corbyn’s campaign website is here.

    *The polls referred to above were taken when only about 2/3 of the eventual electorate were available to pollsters; I expect an increasingly dirty campaign from the ABC chorus; and the election is by “Alternative Vote”, meaning that voters get to place all the candidates in order, if they want, with the one with least votes having their votes redistributed until an overall majority is achieved – so if the right can get their supporters to place Corbyn last, he’d need over 50% on the first ballot.

  7. blf says

    Poopyhead: The link in the sidebar to this thread is broken. It looks like there is an extra space (%20) at the end. So you get an +++ OUT OF CHEESE +++ error, which makes the mildly deranged penguin not quite so mildly deranged…

  8. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says


    I’ve mostly been focusing on refugee’s problems in Europe when pestering people with links to European news so… OK, I have to interrupt myself right away because I almost wrote the problem of refugees and had to stop and rephrase that. European countries have a number of problems, how to deal with refugees being just one of them. But as always, there’s the framing issue.
    Refugees are not a problem.
    What is happening in their home countries is a problem. The fact that they have to risk their lives, abandon everything they have including sometimes their families, travel and live in horrible conditions in a hope to reach a better life, for themselves and their loved ones…. that’s a problem.
    That countries, many of which have contributed to reasons these people are running, are not ready to help people who come with nothing but hope and nightmares is a problem.

    People are not a problem and we have to stop treating them as such.

    Europe has a problem with a rise of popularity or far-right parties. Fascists and nazis. I don’t use those words just as insults but as accurate description of their policies. The influx of refugees is a good opportunity for these parties to get support – their odious actions, as those of suspected neo-Nazis in the town of Troeglitz in eastern Germany may get condemned by some people, but there will always be those who will say

    It was over the top whoever set the building on fire but it’s the government’s fault for not informing us sooner about their plans to put a shelter here.

    That’s a direct quote from the linked article, by the way.

    And that’s the banality of evil.
    I believe this guy doesn’t think shelters should be burned down, but he’s not happy with refugees coming to his town. If only they were somebody else’s “problem”. I’m sure he wishes them well, just… somewhere else. But somewhere else lives that nice retired couple who feels really sorry about all those little kids crying on TV, but wouldn’t it be nicer if they weren’t sent to the town the couple lives? There must be a better place. And on and on it goes.

    There are exceptions, of course.

    She said several people in Troeglitz have now said they want to take in small groups of refugees into their own homes.

    “I hope that the refugees do come here and stay with families – that will give the world a different image of Troeglitz,” she said.

    I applaud the notable exceptions, but as usually, the “bad guys” are those who make the most noise and can do a lot of harm.
    Also, those who have real power over the refugees’ futures – governments of most developed countries in EU – are unfortunately very likely to loudly condemn the violence in one sentence, but say something similar to our friend from Troeglitz in the other. And I don’t mean the one who wants to accept refugees in her own home.

    Why us? can be heard as a whinge across EU.

    Solidarity needs to be voluntary and has to consider the capabilities of our country and specific limitations


    A survey by YouGov found that people support deploying the British Army to Calais by an overwhelming margin of 67 per cent to 19 per cent.
    The findings come after David Cameron described people travelling to the UK as a “swarm” while Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned of “marauding” migrants threatening living standards.


    Asked about media reports that migrants were forced to sleep on the streets because accommodation was not immediately available, junior minister Theo Francken, responsible for asylum and migration, said it was wrong to think of them as poor.

    “Many of these people pay 10,000 euros ($11,000) to get here. It’s naive to say they have not 50 euros for a hotel room. It’s a caricature to see them as completely penniless,” he told state broadcaster Radio 1.


  9. says

    Beatrice @ 9:

    If only they were somebody else’s “problem”.

    Here in the States, that attitude is known as NIMBY, Not In My Back Yard. You get a lot of “Oh, yes, something should absolutely be done about _______, I just don’t want that in my back yard.”

  10. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    It’s disappointing to see how EU expects the countries outside its borders, usually poorer countries who usually have plenty of their own people seeking asylum in the wealthier EU, to “protect” its borders from the refugees.
    What are Macedonia or Serbia to do with them?
    A couple of days ago, Macedonia has declared a state of emergency and sent its military to the border with Greece.

    But some 3,000 tired and frightened men, women and children, most of them fleeing war zones in Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan, were still waiting Friday evening in a neutral zone between the Greek and Macedonian sides, hemmed in by barbed wire and surrounded by soldiers and armed police officers. Many found makeshift shelter in one of the dozens of tents that were set up on the site.

    (- source)

    Where is Germany now? UK? Anyone?

    I’m not going to hesitate to point fingers at the Macedonian government for allowing its military to beat the refugees in trying to stop them from crossing the border (source), but the EU countries are not innocent in this either. They are the ones with more resources – if we all already know groups of refugees that crossed that border are heading for Germany, why are they being forced to (after already traveling for who know how long to the border) wait in no man’s land between Greece and Macedonia – sometimes without food, water or shelter, then wait for trains to take them to Serbia where they will again have to try to find ways around or across the wall Hungary is building (source)?

    Serbia’s prime minister has denounced neighboring Hungary’s razor-wire border fence to stop migrants, comparing it to Nazi-era concentration camps.
    Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic spoke as he talked to migrants from the Middle East, Africa and Asia who were camping Wednesday in a Belgrade park. He said Serbia has no plans to build fences on its border even though it is being overwhelmed by the flood of migrants.

    Vucic says “we won’t build those wires, those barbed wires. It only takes for someone to switch the electricity through those wires and to finish the job.”

    Serbia, on the main transit route for migrants who want to reach Western Europe, fears when the fence is completed, it will leave thousands of people stranded inside the Balkan country.

    Someone needs to take responsibility for these people instead of letting them wander and suffer until they find some hole to sneak through.
    Organize, send buses or trains to relocate them to refugee centers.
    Unless EU governments are silently hoping they all die from exposure or silently disappear into thin air… they are already here. They are not going back and this waffling about and waiting for someone else to solve the problem while people sleep on the streets, under the open air, is shameful.

  11. numerobis says

    Canada is in the midst of its longest election EVER — by a long shot. It’s about half as long as the US presidential primaries.

    The front-runners are the NDP. This is completely shocking: their whole existence they were the perennial also-rans, the socialist gnats embarrassing the other parties from screwing the poor *too much*. Well, almost their whole existence — they’ve been the official opposition for the past four years. Now they’re acting like they will likely be running the country.

    They are front-runners but not by much against the tories, who are running on a slightly more competent version of Bush’s platform: tough on violent criminals, tough on drugs, big on oil, shut up the scientists.

    In Quebec, the federal party to represent the separatists is failing to capture the imagination. Still I’ll be volunteering to help my current NDP MP keep her seat against their party leader.

    One of the major issues this election is half just luck of the draw, half a proof of bad planning. The Tories under Harper avoided the worst of the global depression, because their predecessors refused to deregulate the banks (the Tories desperately wanted to but didn’t have time to do so before disaster hit — and now that issue is political poison). So they got re-elected because they were so good on the economy compared to the rest of the world.

    Now the oil price crashed. Our economy is so bound up with oil prices that it’s taking a beating on the national level (on a provincial level, I expect the non-oil regions to do quite well). There’s not a whole lot that Harper could have done to soften this bust, except to have avoided fueling such a big boom, but this situation is showing him up to not actually be a genius. Anyone paying attention knew it already, it’s those who don’t pay attention who are getting a wake-up call.

  12. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    re: Canada’s elections

    It’s great when the party that is in the opposition actually offers something you can vote for with good conscience, especially when it actually has a chance of winning.

  13. says

    Alas, in the Canadian election, there is no good choice when it comes to carbon-reduction strategy; the (currently governing) Conservatives, being proverbial heads-in-the-sand types, simply don’t have one; while the Liberals and NDP, fearful of offending anyone (since they might get elected this time!) are making wishy-washy noises about cap and trade.

    Only Elizabeth May’s Green party is proposing an effective tax on carbon, and unfortunately, they don’t have a snowball’s chance of actually forming the government.

    One newspaper’s summing up of the situation:
    In Election 2015, which party has it right on global warming?

  14. rq says

    I’m actually disappointed with the NDP, as Mulcair refused to attend a debate (? terminology ?) on women’s issues, just because Harper wouldn’t go, either. But then, as I’ve been living out of the country for too long, I’m not allowed to vote anymore anyway, so what does it matter. :P
    BUT they’re still the best option overall, infinitely preferable to more years of Harper, and I’m sorry to say that the Trudeau family legacy isn’t helping Justin all that much right now. Legacy. Ha.

  15. blf says

    Illiteracy will cost global economy $1.2tn in 2015:

    Report by the World Literacy Foundation says almost 800m people worldwide who can’t read or write are ‘trapped in a cycle of poverty’

    Illiteracy is “a worldwide crisis” that will cost the global economy $1.2tn (£760bn) this year, the World Literacy Foundation (WLF) has warned. More than 796 million people are either completely illiterate, meaning they can’t read or write, or functionally illiterate, meaning they can’t perform basic tasks such as reading a medicine label, the WLF said in a report released on Monday (pdf).


    It used a formula developed by the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (pdf) that takes into account the size and structures of different countries’ economies. The formula estimates the cost of illiteracy to developing countries at 0.5% of their gross domestic product. In emerging economies, such as China and India, the cost stands at 1.2% of GDP, while in developed countries the cost is estimated at about 2% of GDP.

    These estimates reflect a lower level of spending on social services such as welfare, health and the justice system in less developed countries, the report said.


    The millennium development goals, which expire at the end of the year, targeted universal primary education and getting more girls enrolled in schools.

    Today around 57 million children do not have access to primary school education, an improvement on 2000, when 100 million children were thought to be out of school, according to the UN’s 2015 MDG report (pdf).

    The literacy rate among young people aged between 15 and 24 has increased globally from 83% in 1990 to 91% this year, the report said.

    In USAlienstani, several of the thugs in the Kandidate Klown Kar effectively want to hinder education. Whilst that doesn’t equate to promoting illiteracy, it is nonetheless not even wrong.

  16. numerobis says

    The debate thing is that Harper is refusing to go to many of the proposed debates, which is pretty much unprecedented.

    Mulcair is refusing to go to any debate that his main opponent is skipping, because that means he gets attacked while his opponent is just not in the picture.

    I think it’s by and large a reasonable response, but it leads to a very sucky result.

  17. numerobis says

    As for pipelines: yes, the NDP is playing a crappy game there. They’re against some of them, but for one of them because… uh… why?

    If we can get an NDP just shy of a majority with enough Greens to form a majority, that would be my ideal.

    Hey, a man can dream!

  18. F.O. says

    @petrander #3
    The Kurds are on the frontline against ISIS, which is why Turkey is allowing ISIS a lot of leeway.

    @Nick Gotts #7
    There seems to be a resurgence of real-left candidates: in UK with Corbyn, in Greece with Syriza, in US with Sanders and in Australia with the Greens.
    Let’s hope they don’t end up like Syriza.
    I will allow myself to be optimistic here.

    @Beatrice #9

    Refugees are not a problem.
    What is happening in their home countries is a problem.

    Thanks for that.
    It’s the very same in Australia.
    The racist message has a very appealing subtext: “it’s their fault, not ours”.
    It’s incredible how we support violence and exploitation in other countries and expect that not to bite us back in the ass.
    But dehumanizing people and blaming them for everything is so much easier I guess.

    How Australia is treating refugees is appalling, the US treats terror suspects better.

    @Lynna #18
    Good on them.
    There is not enough talk about Saudi Arabia.

  19. Nick Gotts says

    Yes indeed. A few days ago I attended a talk by Owen Jones, who noted the rise of opposition to the neoliberal establishment consensus in highly culturally-specific forms – some of them very unpleasant right-wing populism, e.g. UKIP in the UK, but very variable even on the left. He admitted he had thought it was the wrong time for a left candidate to stand for Labour leadership – Corbyn’s rise has been as surprising to his supporters, and I suspect to Corbyn himself, as to his enemies. Jones also argued that the right were able to use the financial crash of 2007-8 to intensify their class war offensives because the left did not have an alternative narrative and ideas ready (as the right did both in that crisis, and that of the 1970s). Perhaps the appearance of unexpected left alternatives you and he note will give us at least a chance to seize the initiative in the next crisis – which it seems possible could even now be upon us (hottest year on record, growing numbers of desperate migrants, stock market falls…).

    On Syriza, I think they faced an extremely difficult problem on coming to office (a friend recently said they should have been much quicker about reforming the tax system, but I doubt they had enough civil servants who were both competent and honest, given the years of corruption in the appointments system), and a hideous dilemma when faced with the troika’s intransigence. But I wouldn’t write them off yet – especially as other currents of opposition arise in European countries.

  20. says

    Taking a look at the Iran Nuclear deal from the European point of view:

    Given the sound, fury and millions of dollars swirling around the debate in Washington over the Iranian nuclear deal, the silence in Europe is striking. It’s particularly noticeable in Britain, France and Germany, which were among the seven countries that signed the deal on July 14.

    Here in France, which took the toughest stance during the last years of negotiation, the matter is settled, according to Camille Grand, director of the Strategic Research Foundation in Paris and an expert on nuclear nonproliferation.

    Camile Grand also said, “In Europe, you don’t have a constituency against the deal. In France, I can’t think of a single politician or member of the expert community who has spoken against it, including some of us who were critical during the negotiations.”

    When questioned about the quality of deal, Camille Grand said he was “surprised by the depth and the quality of the deal, the hawks are satisfied, and the doves don’t have an argument.”

    Who opposes the deal? Some, not all, of the officials in Israel; Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate; and Iranian hardliners.

    Republican politicians in the USA are extremely radical, even more radical than their conservative counterparts on the international stage.

    NY Times link

  21. rq says

    numerobis @19
    I know why he’s not attending, and I still think it’s stupid. That’s probably why I would never make it in politics.

  22. blf says

    The current mayor of Venezia is conservative who has been doing a number of dubious things. One that particularly annoys me is he has armed the police (for no clear reason that I know of, only saying something like “so the tourists feel safe”).

    And now for the latest dubiousboneheaded action, Venice mayor refuses to allow city to host gay pride parade:

    Mayor Luigi Brugnaro calls gay pride marches ‘height of kitsch’ and says: ‘Let them go and do it in Milan, or in front of their own homes’
    Luigi Brugnaro, a businessman who was elected mayor on a centre-right ticket in June, was quoted as saying that gay pride marches were the “height of kitsch” and would not happen in Venice on his watch. “There will never be a gay pride in my city,” he was quoted as saying in La Repubblica. […]

    Brugnaro, who had a public row this month with British rock star Elton John over family values, was criticised by Italy’s rights group Arcigay, which accused him of besmirching Venice’s reputation as an open, sophisticated society.


    Brugnaro sparked a controversy soon after taking office by banning books featuring same-sex couples from the city schools.

    Elton John, who has two children with his partner, David Furnish, used his Instagram page this month to condemn the move, calling Brugnaro “boorishly bigoted”. The mayor told the singer to keep out of Venice’s business.

    Brugnaro’s comments come at a time when the government is struggling to pass legislation that would finally give legal recognition to same-sex couples in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy.

    Italy is the only major western European country that does not recognise either civil partnerships or gay marriage. Despite prodding from the European court of human rights, some centre-right parties are digging their heels in to snarl progress on the long-delayed law.

  23. blf says

    Human rights groups face global crackdown ‘not seen in a generation’ (this is quite a long but interesting article, from which I am only excerpting a few points):

    Laws affecting funding, requiring registration and prohibiting protest are among controls that are making it difficult for NGOs and other campaign groups

    Over the past three years, more than 60 countries have passed or drafted laws that curtail the activity of non-governmental and civil society organisations. Ninety-six countries have taken steps to inhibit NGOs from operating at full capacity, in what the Carnegie Endowment calls a “viral-like spread of new laws” under which international aid groups and their local partners are vilified, harassed, closed down and sometimes expelled.

    James Savage, of Amnesty International, says: “This global wave of restrictions has a rapidity and breadth to its spread we’ve not seen before, that arguably represents a seismic shift and closing down of human rights space not seen in a generation.

    “There are new pieces of legislation almost every week – on foreign funding, restrictions in registration or association, anti-protest laws, gagging laws. And, unquestionably, this is going to intensify in the coming two to three years. You can visibly watch the space shrinking.”


    Tom Carothers, of the Carnegie Endowment, says: “Big countries that have been the drivers of this (crackdown) have continued to lead the way — and smaller countries are following their lead.” Restrictive measures are both formal, in the form of legislation, and informal — harassment, intimidation, demonisation, bureaucratic burdens. “Just counting NGO laws doesn’t quite give you the full picture.”

    The causes of increasing restrictions are complex, say organisations that monitor civil society activity, but broadly fall into three categories.


    The third cause of the NGO crackdown is the proliferation of counter-terrorism measures — often promoted by the west — that sweep civil society organisations into their embrace, either inadvertently or deliberately. Legitimate measures to curb funding of and money-laundering by terrorist organisations often have a debilitating effect on NGOs.

    This is affecting civil society in the west itself, and has consequences around the world, say campaigners. Savage says states such as the UK and US that have been supportive of NGOs and been human rights defenders are, because of the practices they are introducing in their own states, undermining their ability to have positive influence and push back at restrictions that are “much graver” in places such as Russia and Egypt. “That’s a very worrying new trend,” he says.


    High-profile global organisations with strong reputations, such as Amnesty International, have greater protection from the worst effects of the crackdown — although Greenpeace was targeted in India, and Save The Children was temporarily expelled from Pakistan.


    In response, the UN has appointed Maina Kiai as a special rapporteur to focus on freedom of expression and assembly. […] Amnesty International has identified defending NGOs and human rights campaigners as one of its five strategic goals, and will launch a global campaign next year.


    The new assault on NGOs has intensified principally in countries such as China, Russia and central Asia, where notions of democracy range from primitive to non-existent. But, worryingly, an array of democracies have joined the list.

    Israel: Israeli NGOs critical of the government — in particular the country’s continued occupation of the Palestinian territories — are facing severe new restrictions amid a toxic political climate on the right that has sought to label them as disloyal.

    A draft law seeks to cut off foreign funding by introducing a tax and labelling NGOs with external finance as “foreign agents” receiving funds from foreign governments to continue their work.


  24. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    katybe ,
    from the article you linked

    Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are only accepting Christian families.

    I can’t even…
    Regarding Germany’s suggestions, I especially like this
    They also demand “lasting and systematic financial support” for the municipal authorities in countries, like Hungary, Greece and Italy, which are under particular strain and properly funded rescue services in the Med

  25. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says


    I realize that he’s a bigot but… The mayor of Venezia complains about the “height of kitsch”? Really. Carnevale di Venezia.
    Ok then.

  26. blf says

    Egypt launches English blog to counter ‘inaccurate reports’ by foreign media:

    Accusing international press of ‘smear campaigns’, foreign ministry sets up website to hit back at critical coverage.

    Egypt has launched a new English blog to “enhance its communication with the world” and to address “inaccurate” reports about the country in foreign media.


    “[…] The aim is to provide a more objective narrative of events in Egypt for those who seek more than just the partial truth,” [Foreign Minister Sameh] Shoukry wrote in welcome note on the blog.

    Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zeid took a harsher tone in a statement in Arabic, saying the website comes amid “smear media campaigns adopted by some foreign media outlets regarding political, economic and security issues in Egypt.”


    In June, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Egypt’s media climate has become significantly more repressive, with more Egyptian journalists imprisoned than ever before recorded. At least 18 journalists are behind bars, and the threat of jail is used to censor critical voices, the Committee found.

  27. blf says

    Robert Mugabe booed in Zimbabwe’s parliament over economic crisis:

    Zimbabwe’s economy has been on a downward spiral for more than a decade with slow growth, low liquidity and high unemployment

    Zimbabwe’s veteran president Robert Mugabe was booed and heckled by opposition politicians over the deteriorating economy as he gave his state of the nation address to parliament on Tuesday.

    Movement for Democratic Change parliamentarians questioned his economic policies, jeering as the 91-year-old delivered a policy speech which lasted less than half an hour.

    He spoke as the UN confirmed earlier estimates that around 1.5 million Zimbabweans or 16% of the country’s population will face hunger later this year and need food aid.

    Mugabe launches charm offensive as Zimbabwe’s economic woes mount:

    Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe moves to allay misgivings of foreign investors in face of rising public discontent about labouring economy
    Analysts say Mugabe needs foreign investment and debt relief to jump-start growth, but the west remains wary of the often bellicose 91-year-old, while China — another important investor — is struggling with its own financial woes.

    Zimbabweans are becoming increasingly fearful of a return to the dark days of hyperinflation that decimated incomes before 2009.


    Zimbabwe started using foreign currencies, including the US dollar and South African rand, in 2009, after the Zimbabwean dollar was ruined by hyperinflation, which hit 500bn% in 2008.

    [Stephen Chan, professor of international relations at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies,] said Mugabe was between a rock and hard place and described his speech as an effort to make himself more “user-friendly” to the west.

    “It’s not a softening of his position but an attempt to put life into a position that has become moribund … everyone also understands that the west has a fatal … hesitation in going beyond a certain point of re-engagement, and that has to do with the personality of Mugabe himself,” he said.

  28. blf says

    Berlin orchestra’s planned Tehran concert angers Israel:

    Israeli-Argentinian conductor Daniel Barenboim in talks to take Berlin State Opera to Iran, but Israel wants Angela Merkel to block performance
    Israel’s culture minister, Miri Regev, said she would send a letter of protest to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, calling on her to block the concert.

    “In my letter I shall stress that Daniel Barenboim’s appearance in Iran harms Israel’s efforts to prevent the nuclear agreement and gives encouragement to de-legitimisation of Israel,” she wrote in Hebrew on her Facebook page.

    What is the problem with ignoring deranged rants about the agreement?

    Regev accused Barenboim — who founded a groundbreaking youth orchestra called the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 that brings together Israeli, Egyptian, Iranian, Jordanian, Lebanese and Palestinian musicians — of “using culture as a platform for his anti-Israel political views”.

    Mr Barenboim is a strong critic of the occupation of Palestine. That is not the same thing as being “anti-Israel”, Ms Regev. I rather suspect Mr Barenboim has done more useful and constructive things then you have.

  29. blf says

    Not exactly politics, and this might be called “art” for certain values of “art” (such as so bad-it’s-amusing…), but put here because anything involving N.Korea seems to have a propaganda (read: made-up-shite, i.e., political) aspect — which is not saying this story is made-up, only that what is behind this story is about is, well, made-up: N.Korea as a modern travel destination! There is even a new airport terminal, North Korea’s shiny new airport falls short of expectations:

    After Air Koyro is declared the world’s worst airline, a visit to Pyongyang International suggests tourist facilities offer little improvement

    Pyongyang’s shiny new airport building has all the features international travellers have come to expect.

    On arrival passengers see coffee and well-stocked souvenir shops, a DVD stand, information desk and a slickly produced billboard showing a crew of the nation’s flag-carrier, Air Koryo, looking sharp in their blue and red uniforms. There are even two chocolate fountains. One for white chocolate and the other one for dark.

    But some of the amenities lose their luster upon closer examination. Case in point: the internet room appears to be missing the internet.

    On two recent trips through the airport, the room’s three terminals were either occupied by airport employees, making it impossible for others to use them, or were completely empty — with their keyboards removed.

    Maybe it was a temporary glitch. It’s hard to say, since airport officials have refused to comment.

    Yesterday Air Koryo, North Korea’s official carrier, was named the worst airline on the planet for the fourth year running. Skytrax, who monitor international aviation standards, gave the airline one-star flagging up its “questionable” safety and rudimentary safety belts. The airport offers little improvement.

  30. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says


    You mentioned Kurds in Turkey, I found an interesting article confirming some of your thoughts and further speculating on Turkey’s actions:


    A couple of excerpts:

    The next morning, as the group gathered again at the cultural center to await the border crossing, the suicide bomb exploded. It killed 33 young activists and injured many others, and set off a chain of events that would destroy much of the Turkish left’s tentative political progress. The bombing was carried out by ISIS to send a message to those who would assist the Kurds in Kobani. But in its effects, the massacre benefited the ruling AKP party just as much as it did ISIS, creating a state of war in which the leftist victims of the bombing would be targeted a second time by the government.

    The immediate aftermath of the bombing was predictably gruesome and tragic. But one especially shocking aspect of it was the bizarre response of government forces. Within a few moments of the explosion, heavily armed police and tanks surrounded the cultural center. Yet instead of aiding the victims, they immediately aimed their weapons at the devastated survivors.

    In fact, politically speaking, the targeting of the SGDF by ISIS was extremely shrewd. A group of young Turkish socialists may have seemed an odd target for the group, which had been refraining from carrying out attacks within Turkey, but the consequences favored the Islamic State’s interests. The Turkish left’s attempt to build bridges with the Kurds received a heavy blow, and the Turkish government was given an excuse to escalate its assault on IS’s Kurdish enemies.

  31. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Another boat sinks off the Libyan coast.

    A boat packed with mainly African migrants bound for Italy sank off the Libyan coast on Thursday and officials said up to 200 might have died.

    A security official in the western town of Zuwara, from where the overcrowded boat had set off, said there had around 400 people on board. Many appeared to have been trapped in the hold when it capsized.

    By late in the evening, the Libyan coast guard rescued around 201, of which 147 were brought to a detention facility for illegal migrants in Sabratha, west of Tripoli, the official said, asking not to be named.


    Our papers (not in English, sorry) said there was another boat and possibly even more victims, but I can’t find anything to confirm that.

  32. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    How European smugglers “help” refugees:

    I couldn’t find the exact number of people found dead (probably from suffocation) in a truck in Austria because the decomposition makes it difficult to determine.
    After unknown horrors they reach Europe, only to suffocate in a truck. Locked in, left to die… I have no words.
    Just have some tissues ready if you read the whole article.


    Austrian authorities launched an international probe Thursday into the deaths of up to 70 suspected migrants, with white-suited forensic experts still struggling to count the decomposed corpses left by a tragedy that immediately touched off a new round of recriminations over Europe’s handling of an escalating refugee crisis.

    The bodies were discovered shortly before noon after a highway patrol officer investigated a putrid smell and liquid coming from the back of a truck abandoned near the Austrian village of Parndorf on the main expressway between Vienna and Budapest.

  33. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    More on refugees found dead in that truck in Austria:

    We don’t know much about who they were yet and I doubt we ever will:

    “Among these 71 people, there were 59 men, eight women and four children including a young girl one or two years old,” police spokesman Hans Peter Doskozil said.

    “There was also a Syrian travel document found so of course our first assumption is that these people were migrants, and likely a group of Syrian migrants. We can rule out that they were Africans,” he told a news conference.

    While plane crashes or horrifying accidents are followed with investigations of victims’ background, the most we will probably ever know about these people is their country of origin and their sex. I realize that when it comes to one of hundreds of refugees from Syria, we can’t exactly expect random Austrian journalists to track down their relatives in a war and terrorism torn country to interview them, but at the same time it is disgraceful how desensitized people have become to their suffering. No matter the reason for it, I would argue that the way we talk about the death of refugees or immigrants, the way their deaths are reported, adds to the general public’s perception of them as other. People with no identities, just a faceless mass moving towards us – threatening.

    Some arrests have been made, so I’m hoping people responsible for this are brought to justice.

    Doskozil also said that three people were in custody in Hungary over the tragedy — believed to be the owner of the truck found on a motorway lay-by and two others who were driving.

    One is a Bulgarian citizen of Lebanese origin believed to be the owner of the vehicle.

    The others — a Bulgarian and another with Hungarian documents — are “pretty certain to be those who drove the vehicle,” Doskozil said. He said the victims had likely suffocated to death.

    The article also mentions another smaller boat capsizing yesterday, so that must be the other boat I say mentioned only in one other paper before this. I’m not entirely sure, but I think the whole statement below refers to the victims of the same incident.

    Thirty bodies were also recovered in the Mediterranean off Libya on Thursday after yet another boat crammed with migrants sank, while a Swedish coastguard ship docked in Sicily with a grim cargo of 52 dead.

  34. blf says

    The European murdertools industry has long been known to rely heavily on USAlienstan goons and gun fondlers for much of its sales, revenue, etc. However, this is the first time I can recall seeing a suggestion on using an existing legal vehicle to slow or stop the exports of guns and ammo specifically to the USA, Europe has questions to answer over America’s gun crime:

    [… A]s Europeans, we can do something. After all, the EU boasts a very healthy gun industry, one that certainly profits from America’s love affair with the gun. In 2012, EU countries exported small arms and ammunition to the value of more than three-quarters of a billion dollars there. That year the US was the recipient of 24% of the UK’s total small arms and ammunition exports ($28,130,000). And it made up 38% of Germany’s, 42% of Italy’s and 87% of Croatia’s small arms and ammunition export market — the three largest EU exporters to the US that year.

    The truth is that some of the biggest gun companies in Europe — Beretta, Heckler & Koch, FN Herstal — all rely heavily on the US as a core market. Austria’s leading handgun manufacturer, Glock, boasts that about 65% of America’s police departments put one of their pistols “between them and a problem”.


    The United Nations’ arms trade treaty, for instance, seeks to regulate arms transfers that could exacerbate conflict or be used to commit violations of human rights law. All EU states have signed the treaty and all, save for Greece and Cyprus, have ratified it. With as many as 110,000 people being injured or killed by guns every year there, could we be bold enough to say that the US is a nation in conflict?

    Human Rights Watch has also noted, with regard to the US police, that there exists a “gulf between respect for equal rights and law enforcement’s treatment of racial minorities”. Should we be sanctioning Glock, for instance, to be so readily arming America’s police forces?

    This reminds me that the Europeans managed to mostly shutdown the lethal injection state murders by simply refusing to export the drugs used, partly out of revulsion, and partly (as I now recall) citing similar(? the same?) international agreements.

    Which highlights the obvious problem with the idea: Not-exporting those drugs worked because they weren’t otherwise available. Not so with guns and ammo; the bloody things are made all over the place, and both domestic and other foreign makers would attempt to fill the gap.

    Which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tried.

  35. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    I only have Croatian and Serbian sources for this, but here goes a rough translation:

    A little Syrian boy Abdul Kerim Faris (10) has traveled almost 2.500 km from Damask to Belgrade by himself, without a single family member. LItle Abdul, who is currently living in the park near the bus terminal in Belgrade says that his father sent him on the trip, as the youngest male child in the family.

    – My father just told me: “Run, son and save yourself”, while he stayed in Damask to protect my brothers and sisters. He told me to go to Germany and that he’ll find me there. Every night I dream of my mother and him and wish I could see them again – this brave boy begins his story.

    This boy is a favorite in the group of refugees that arrived in Belgrade from Preševo yesterday. Before that he spent 4 months walking to Gjevgjelija, where he survived hell in struggles with the police. And then to macedonian-serbian border, then to teh Serbian capital…

    Even though adults take care of him and try to be there for him, he is still alone without anyone of his own.

    – I survived all sorts of things before coming here! It was the most difficult last weekend where we were trying to cross from Macedonia to Serbia. POlice pushed us around and beat us, people were falling, children crying. I’ve never been as scared in my life – says Abdul Kerim.

    Although he’s having a difficult time himself, he worries about his parents, brother and sisters.

    — I’m afraid bombs will kill them. There’s a war in my country, it’s horrible, I’m always wondering if I will ever see them again, my loved ones. Even if I get to Germany, how will they find me there? – this little one is asking wondering.

    They have their own problems, but other Syrian refugees are shaken by little Abdula’s fate. They it’s the worst at night, when he calls for his parents.

    – We feel sorry for this boy. We see how scared he is and how much he misses his family. He cries every night, when he thinks we can’t see him. It breaks your heart to hear him sob.We tried to contact his parents, but we haven’t succeeded. Who knows what happened to them. When we were in Greece, kid got sick. He had a sore throat and high temperature. We were afraid for him. – says Hamad Ahmet from Damascus.

    The boy will continue to HUngary today from where they will continue to Germany, with a group of men who have been taking care of him.

    – He’s tough, he’s walking with us like a 20-year-old. What’s the poor child to do, he has no choice. Whatever happens, he has no choice. Whatever happens, we won’t leave him. What happens to us will happen to him – declared the Syrian men protecting little Abdul Kerim.

    According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, since the beginning of the year 9.000 children have asked for asylum in Serbia. One third are refugees without parental supervision. That is only the registered number, the number of children who don’t register is significantly higher.

  36. blf says

    Canada government suspends scientist for folk song about prime minister:

    The song was written by Tony Turner, who worked at government agency Environment Canada and is ‘a mainstay on the Ottawa folk music scene’

    An environmental scientist working for a Canadian government agency has been suspended and will be investigated for recording a protest song about the prime minister, Stephen Harper, according to union representatives.

    The song is called Harperman and was written by Tony Turner, who worked at Environment Canada and is, in his spare time, “a mainstay on the Ottawa folk music scene”, according to a biography on his website.

    The song, which is recorded with a backing choir and a double bass, with Turner himself on the guitar, contains lyrics like “no respect for environment / Harperman, it’s time for you to go”, and “no more cons, cons, cons / we want you gone, gone gone”.

    Turner’s union representatives told the CBC that Turner was being accused of having “violated the departmental code of values and ethics in that the writing and performing of this song somehow impeded his ability to impartially study migratory birds”.


    A Facebook page calling for a nationwide singalong of the song for 17 September was set up after the song was released by a friend of Turner.

    Here is the YouTube video. It’s well worth a listen, Dr Turner seems a quite good songwriter and singer, albeit I must admit I did not get some of the presumably local (Canadian) jibes.

  37. says

    Blf @ 26:

    Mayor Luigi Brugnaro calls gay pride marches ‘height of kitsch’ and says: ‘Let them go and do it in Milan, or in front of their own homes’

    So…there isn’t a single gay person in all of Venice. Remarkable.

  38. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    The destruction in Palmyra and torture and death of Khaled al-Asad, an antiquities scholar who devoted his life (quite literary) to the archeological site are world known by now, but his name should not be forgotten:


    Khalid al-Asaad, who retired a decade ago, was abducted and held captive by ISIS militants for about a month before being brutally killed in public on August 18. Those who knew Asaad and who spoke to him before his kidnapping say that ISIS gunmen killed him because he refused to give them information about the location of Palmyra’s most valuable treasures.

    According to Arabic media reports, the placard listed five “crimes” that ISIS deemed Asaad to have committed, including acting as a representative of Syria at “infidel conferences,” acting as director of “idolatry” in Palmyra, and visiting Iran.

    Satellite images of IS destruction in Palmyra:

  39. says

    blf@39 unfortunately all that increasing restrictions on European gun exports to the US would do is encourage the companies to increase their US manufacturing operations. SIG Sauer, Beretta, FN Herstal, and Glock all have manufacturing plants in the US.,

  40. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    Malaysia Bans the Color Yellow

    on Friday the government went as far as to pass a decree banning the yellow clothing worn by the protesters.

    yeah, that’ll be effective…

    There is one other twist to this story that most American news media coverage fails to mention. Which corrupt bank do you think helped Mr. Najib launder so much money?
    I’ll give you a hint: It’s the bank you would most associate with political corruption – Goldman Sachs.

  41. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Turkey arresting journalists:

    Vice News journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury were detained by police as they filmed in the south-east region of Diyarbakir on Thursday.

    Their lawyer told the BBC police interrogated them about alleged links to Islamic State and Kurdish militants.

    I’m not surprised. Considering they were “filming clashes between police and Kurdish militants”, who knows what they could have caught on tape. Turkey isn’t to be trusted when it comes to Kurds, militants or not.

  42. blf says

    More from the surreal Harperville, Canada’s prime minister wants to make it harder for people to vote against him:

    Stephen Harper, who won by an uncomfortably small margin in the last election, has passed laws that may keep voters who oppose him from the polls

    Acclaimed Canadian author Margaret Atwood faced censorship in the national press late last week for her satirical take on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hair. It might have been a rather amusing episode if it wasn’t symptomatic of darker, Orwellian trends that have marked Harper’s nine years in office.

    Stephen Marche’s article in the New York Times mid-month does an excellent job of summarizing how Harper has pulled tight the reins of power, stifled criticism and eroded the freedoms of Canadians. But it is in the prime minister’s assaults on the most fundamental of democratic acts, a citizen’s right to vote, that Harper’s lust for control finds its most disturbing outlet.

    Not confident of winning re-election on merit in October, he’s pushed through a series of legal changes spearheaded by the perversely named Fair Elections Act. Harper’s front man for the task, the aptly titled democratic reform minister, Pierre Poilievre, brushed off critics, claiming the changes are “common sense”. But it’s more likely that, after winning by an uncomfortably small margin in the last election and, after nine years, having the distinct honor of the lowest job creation numbers since World War II and least economic growth since the 1960s, Harper is making sure potential naysayers have a harder time accessing the polls.

    The Fair Elections Act strips Elections Canada, the nonpartisan government body responsible for administering elections, of its authority to actively encourage citizens to vote — a matter, we’re told, that is the responsibility of political parties to promote. And on voting day, incumbent candidates and not Elections Canada will appoint polling supervisors. This hardly smells like democracy.

    Then there is the muzzling of the chief electoral officer, restricting the role to speaking publicly on just five ‘safe’ topics such as ‘how to become a candidate’ and ‘how to cast a ballot’. Specifically removed is the role’s power to alert the public to problems during an election and to raise awareness of the electoral process, particularly to “persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties in exercising their democratic rights” as previously outlined in the Elections Act. […]

    Harper also cut Elections Canada’s budget by 8%, stripping it of $5.6m USD, forcing the group to abandon its intention to pilot online voting, which increased voter turnout by as much as 10% in municipalities where it was tested. […]

    Discouraging voter participation is one third of Harper’s equation to win at all costs. Another is to make it more difficult to investigate vote fraud and amendments, including cutting off Elections Canada’s investigations arm. It’s no coincidence that, after the last vote in 2011, a Conservative political consulting firm and party staffer were found guilty of making thousands of misleading, automated phone calls directing non-Conservative voters to the wrong polling stations.

    Looking to borrow from the American style of exorbitant electoral fundraising, Harper has loosened party funding regulations, hiking the amount individuals can donate by 20% […]

    […] Only people vetted by the PM’s team and in receipt of a bar-coded ticket will be allowed entry to campaign events. For the rest of us? “Turn on your television”, advises the Conservative party’s spokesman.

    The referenced New York Times article is well worth reading.

  43. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    More bad news from Hungary.


    Hundreds of angry migrants demonstrated outside Budapest’s shuttered Eastern Railway Terminus on Tuesday, demanding that the station be reopened and they be allowed to travel on to Germany, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

    Migrants waved tickets, clapping, booing and hissing, and shouting “Germany, Germany” with police lined up at the entrance to the station.

    Hungary’s government criticised Berlin’s easing of asylum rules – aimed at relieving pressure on southern European nations where migrants arrive by sea – as “(building) up the hopes of illegal immigrants”.

    To repeat : the law for asylum seekers in the European Union says that they must seek asylum in the first EU country they enter, and wait there until their application is assessed. Of course, that puts a strain on the border countires, which is also one of the reasons Croatian government is panicking even though we still count asylum seekers in dozens.
    If an asylum seeker crosses into another EU country before their application is processed, they risk deportation back to the country they first entered.
    It seems unreasonable that HUngary isn’t letting people out even though places like Berlin are willing to accept them having documentation or not, but I guess they are afraid of suddenly having hudreds if not thousands of people sent back to them.

  44. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    (CNN)When the management at the Auschwitz Memorial installed sprinklers outside the former Nazi concentration camp in Poland, they thought they would create some cool comfort for visitors. Instead, it sparked a red-hot controversy.

    Offended Jewish visitors over the weekend likened the misting stations to the “showers” used to exterminate members of their faith at the camp during World War II, Israeli media reported.

    That was never the intent, museum management said.

    “Because of the extreme heat wave we have experienced in August in Poland, mist sprinklers which cool the air were placed near the entrance to the Museum,” the Auschwitz Memorial Facebook page said. Temperatures soared to the low 100s over the weekend.

    I’m honestly not sure what to think about this one.
    On one hand – in these summer heats those sprinklers can bring visitors a much needed relief. On the other… yeah, I can see the unfortunate implications.


  45. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Pope being generous again:

    I’m quoting the whole article, bolding parts I find especially revealing.

    Pope Francis has called on priests to pardon women who have abortions and the doctors who perform them during the upcoming jubilee year, overruling hardline traditionalists within the Catholic church.

    “I have decided, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, to concede to all priests for the jubilee year the discretion to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it,” he said on Tuesday.

    In a speech outlining special measures for the jubilee, Francis said he knew that while “the tragedy of abortion is experienced by some with a superficial awareness … many others … believe that they have no other option”.

    The pope said he was well aware of the pressure that some women faced to abort, adding that he had “met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonising and painful decision”.

    Francis, who has repeatedly urged the church to show greater compassion, said priests should use “words of genuine welcome”, and make sure those involved were aware of “the gravity of the sin committed”.

    He announced earlier this year that there would be a jubilee, traditionally a time for remission and forgiveness, which will run from 8 December2015 to 20 November 2016. It will be celebrated in dioceses across the world.

    Dear Pope,
    Fuck you and your condescending “mercy” and “forgiveness”.

  46. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says


    An illegal immigrant attempted a novel way of trying to make it through into Spain unnoticed by hiding inside the bonnet of a car.

    Spanish police discovered the 23-year-old squashed up against the car’s engine when they opened the battered car’s bonnet.

    The plucky man had attempted to cross a chaotic land border between Morocco and Spain’s north African enclave of Ceuta earlier today.

    His head was pressed up against the hot engine and his legs were nestled around the windscreen washer.

    Last month a Moroccan teenager was stopped by police on the same border with an eight-year-old boy inside a suitcase.

  47. says

    German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train:

    (note the use of the word refugees by The Independent rather than “illegal immigrants” or “migrants”, because they *are* refugees, a term with a specific meaning)

    Police in a German city have been forced to ask the public to stop bringing donations for arriving refugees after being inundated with food, clothes and toys in an overwhelming show of support.

    This morning, Polizei München’s official account tweeted that around 590 refugees were at the city’s main train station, adding: “Anyone who wants to help is welcome.”

    They could scarcely have predicted the huge response that followed within just minutes, as hundreds more migrants continued to disembark at the Hauptbahnhof.

    Little over an hour after police announced the refugees’ arrival, they wrote that they were being inundated by volunteers with food, drink and nappies for babies, adding: “We think it’s great!”

    Shortly before 11am, officers confirmed that the aid was continuing to flow in.

    A Twitter post read: “More refugees are arriving at the Hauptbahnhof in Munich – help from the public isn’t stopping. Class!”

    By 1pm, police and local authorities transferring the refugees to reception centres had more than they needed and the Twitter account issued a polite request for people to “please bring no more items” as they were “overwhelmed”.

    Too many donations to handle?
    I wish that was a “problem” all the time.

    Germany is currently leading Europe for taking in asylum seekers, receiving more than 73,000 first-time claims in the first three months of this year alone, compared to just 7,300 in the UK.

    The country’s government has predicted that 800,000 refugees will arrive this year and Angela Merkel urged citizens to welcome them yesterday, instead of being swayed by the “hate” spread by far-right groups.

    Good job Germany. UK, step up your game.

  48. blf says

    Mr Tony, there was an interesting article about that “problem” in Germany in The Grauniad, but I can’t find it now… but whilst searching for it, found this, Günter Grass criticises refugee treatment from beyond the grave:

    Posthumous publication of Nobel prize-winning writer’s last book attacks rising vitriol towards refugees in Germany

    For much of his lifetime, he was the personification of Germany’s moral conscience, with literary interventions on anything from postwar guilt to the Israel-Palestine debate. And it appears that even his death in April this year hasn’t dimmed Günter Grass’s determination to provoke debate.

    In his last ever book, published in Germany at the end of last week, the Nobel prize-winning novelist and poet issues a beyond-the-grave warning about rising vitriol towards refugees. One of the poems in Vonne Endlichkait (On Finiteness) laments that Germans who were once refugees themselves now displayed the same level of intolerance towards refugees that they themselves once encountered.

    Millions of Germans displaced from east-central Europe after the end of the second world war, Grass writes in the poem entitled Xenophobic, were met with cries of: “Go back to where you came from!” when they tried to settle in other parts of Germany. “But they stayed,” the author continues, and applied the same rejection to foreigners who came from far further afield.

    The poem concludes on a hopeful note, suggesting that there will be a point where those “who have always been natives” will come to recognise their own strangeness in others. […]

    Also, another German idea which seems to be catching fire, ‘Airbnb for refugees’ group overwhelmed by offers of help: “Refugees Welcome, which matchmakes citizens willing to share their homes with displaced people, also receiving offers to set up schemes across EU”.


    On another subject, a letter published in The Grauniad, Uganda NGO bill will be blow for LGBT rights from Frank Mugisha, Executive director, Sexual Minorities Uganda (quoted in full):

    The restrictive laws being imposed on NGOs, human rights organisations and campaign groups across the world hint at a rising tide of authoritarianism (Report, 27 August). This also raises serious concerns about the protection of free speech and expression. And for LGBT communities in the 78 jurisdictions worldwide that still criminalise homosexuality, this crackdown may be a case of life or death.

    In Uganda, the NGO bill, due to be debated next month in parliament, will make NGOs advocating for LGBT rights illegal, including the organisation I run. If the bill becomes law it would severely weaken the capacity of NGOs to fight for human rights to be upheld and will likely pave the way worldwide for governments to introduce even more oppressive laws. Only once we have achieved freedom of association and human rights for all can we even dare to hope for equality in countries that have famously denied it.

  49. blf says

    Having been probably thwarted in his desire to start a war with Iran (latest reports are Mr Obama now has sufficient votes in the Senate to uphold a veto), Israeejit Netanyahu is now proposing to resume the active war on occupied Palestine, starting by shooting kids, Netanyahu hints at easing rules on firing at Palestinian stone-throwers:

    Israeli prime minister orders review of live-fire regulations after increase in stone-throwing in Jerusalem and on road in occupied West Bank

    Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, has ordered his security officials to examine changing the rules governing when soldiers can shoot young Palestinian stone-throwers.

    A statement issued by his office on Wednesday revealed Netanyahu was considering giving security forces a freer hand to open fire with live ammunition […]

    Despite rules of engagement that in theory permit potentially lethal live fire to be used only in life-threatening situations, a number of recent incidents have led to young Palestinians being killed by Israeli soldiers — including a brigade commander — while fleeing and posing no immediate threat.


    It was unclear from the statement, however, what the new rules might look like or the implications of any new open-fire regulations would be.


    “Since the justice system finds it difficult to deal with minors who throw rocks, changes to orders on opening fire towards stone- and petrol bomb-throwers will be examined,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.


    Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee, criticised the potential new policy.

    “This rightist Israeli fanatic government is pursuing its criminal policy to kill Palestinians. The new regulations would mean more escalation, killings and crimes against our people.”

    Sarit Michaeli, of the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, told the Guardian that while it was hard to comment until new orders had been issued, it seemed to make for a “grim read”.

    “It seems from the wording to suggest that because the justice system can’t deal with stone-throwers, shoot them. Currently, it is prohibited to fire on anyone who is not posing a mortal danger.”

    In reality there have been a number of high-profile incidents in recent years — exposed by media and human rights groups — in which Israeli security forces have shot and killed Palestinians even as they were fleeing or walking away from the scene of stone-throwing.

    In the most recent incident, a Palestinian teenager, Mohammed Kasbeh, was shot and killed by an Israeli brigade commander after the officer’s car was hit by a stone. Medical and witness testimony suggested he had been shot in the back while fleeing.


    While tougher action against stone-throwers would probably prompt international concern, Netanyahu’s government and the military have been facing calls from Israeli settler leaders in the West Bank for a security crackdown.

    Those demands mounted after a video last week that showed a masked Israeli soldier being hit and bitten by relatives of a Palestinian boy — a suspected rock-thrower whom he had placed in a headlock. Many Israelis asked on social media why the infantryman had not fought back or even used his assault rifle.


    B’Tselem lists 12 Palestinian minors who were shot and killed by Israeli forces during protests and clashes in the West Bank in 2014. In at least four of those incidents, Israel said the youngsters had been throwing stones or petrol bombs, according to B’Tselem.

    Since 2011, three Israelis, including a baby and a girl, have been killed in the West Bank after stones were thrown at vehicles they were travelling in.

  50. rq says

    Beatrice @54
    Note the description: “the plucky man”.
    Plucky? Seriously? What depths of incompetence do you have to be to describe desperation of that magnitude as ‘plucky’?
    Still talk of ‘economic migrants’ going around this country. Yeah, they’re doing all this desperate hiding in bonnets and jumping on trains for a few thousand more in their pockets, and that’s it. Right.

    Anyway, I know PZ posted about it, but here’s a CBC story on the pictures of the little drowned boy – mostly a discussion of should they be shown. But honestly, if it’s this kind of picture that is needed to awaken compassion in people, then the world is too broken. Too broken.
    Warning, though, for anyone who hasn’t seen the photos yet (anyone?) – some of the photos are pixellated, and some are not. It is not pleasant viewing by any means.

  51. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says


    Even if they were economic immigrants, I wouldn’t see an issues with it. People move. People from Eastern Europe have their own stories of immigration and searching for work in the wealthier West. We should really keep our mouths shut about economic immigration.

    Regarding the other story, I actually wrote this comment on the other thread, but since you specifically mention the ethics of posting that photo here I’m pasting my respose I typed up there over here:

    I’m sorry.
    My reason for thanking PZ was that this image leaves them with some dignity in death instead of parading their corpses. I know the other image is powerful and that’s the reason at least some of the media is using it, but I also see it as a bit exploitative.

    That was my reaction yesterday already, and now I’ll go and rread that article you link to. Maybe it clears it up for me a bit.

  52. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Oh, I didn’t notice it was the article from yesterday.

    I’m conflicted but maybe now is not the right time for that discussion.

  53. rq says

    I think it’s fine to discuss. It’s just not emotionally easy to do, but perhaps it needs to be discussed.

    Anyway, this is related.
    For. Shame, Canada. For. Fucking. Godsdamned. Shame, Harper.

    Teema, a Vancouver hairdresser who emigrated to Canada more than 20 years ago, said Abdullah and Rehan Kurdi and their two boys were the subject of a “G5” privately sponsored refugee application that was rejected by Citizenship and Immigration in June, owing to the complexities involved in refugee applications from Turkey.

    The family had two strikes against them – like thousands of other Syrian Kurdish refugees in Turkey, the UN would not register them as refugees, and the Turkish government would not grant them exit visas.

    “I was trying to sponsor them, and I have my friends and my neighbours who helped me with the bank deposits, but we couldn’t get them out, and that is why they went in the boat. I was even paying rent for them in Turkey, but it is horrible the way they treat Syrians there,” Teema said.

    Fin Donnelly, the MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam, said he’d hand-delivered the Kurdis’ file to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander earlier this year. Alexander said he would look into it, Donnelly said, but the Kurdis’ application was rejected in June. Alexander could not be reached for comment.

    “This is horrific and heartbreaking news,” Donnelly said. “The frustration of waiting and the inaction has been terrible.”

    Jeezus craist.

  54. rq says

    Tony, above
    Perhaps the German government can divert the extra items to neighbouring countries who may not have the same donations or resources. At least make use of them, if people are willing to help.

  55. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Fuck everyone.
    The Turks and the Canadians and everyone else.

  56. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Macedonia and Serbia could certainly use some help.
    While they are at it, send some transport to carry these people safely to Germany or wherever they were headed.

  57. rq says

    As the Starks are fond of saying, Winter is coming. And it’s not going to be mild in any sense for people (a) not acclimatized to it and (b) not appropriately dressed, housed or fed for it. Might as well be killing them outright. :(

  58. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    So as not to cross-post everything, I’m going to be posting about refugees mostly here:
    The world is broken since it’s a topic specific post by PZ.

  59. Pteryxx says

    In happier news (to a point), have some pictures of Guatemalans celebrating the order for arrest of their corrupt president and former genocidal general Otto Perez Molina:

    BB: Guatemala’s Attorney General calls for the arrest of President Otto Perez Molina

    Background at BB: In Guatemala, a popular uprising may send a US-backed president to prison. It’s about time.

    Guatemala is a place where justice seldom reaches those who deserve it most. But today in Guatemala, something amazing has happened. And they’re calling it “Guatemalan Spring.”

    For about a month now, poor and marginalized Guatemalans have been gathering for protests in Guatemala City’s plaza central to demand that Perez Molina resign, even before documents were released linking him personally to the payback racket. On Aug. 21, when prosecutors announced they had evidence implicating the sitting president as a ringleader in the scheme known as La Linea, the elites that control Guatemala’s economy joined in the calls of “#RenunciaYa!”–resign now–and #YoNoTengoPresidente, “I don’t have a president,” hashtags that stated so clearly what so many have felt so long.

    The Legislature’s vote to strip OPM of immunity was unanimous, and echoes a decision by the country’s Supreme Court last week. This paves the way for his arrest, and perhaps jail.

    The unprecedented result of this popular uprising is unfolding in a country that practically invented uber-corrupt military dicators, a time-honored tradition of thievery and brutality that began with a CIA-led coup in the fifties to protect the interests of USA-based multinational fruit businesses.

    Allan Nairn is a US-based journalist who has covered Guatemala since the 1980s–the brutal years of the government’s assault on Mayan peasants, college students, unionistas, and anyone who fell afoul of the military.

    Back then, Nairn famously interviewed Perez Molina when he was an Army general known as “Mayor Tito.” OPM back then was tasked with carrying out Rios Montt’s program of genocide in the Ixil region to the north.

    From Democracy Now’s interview with Nairn today:[Democracy Now link]

    DEMOCRACY NOW: You were outside Congress last night when Congress stripped the Guatemalan president of immunity. Can you talk about the significance and the reaction?

    ALLAN NAIRN: Well, people were cheering, they were crying, setting off fireworks. This is an example for the world. This is a general we’re talking about, one of the generals—one of the U.S.-backed generals who carried out the massacres that devastated the Mayan population of the northwest highland. I met him in the highlands as he was doing that, and his troops described how they strangled, executed civilians and threw them into mass graves. He then became president. Prior to that, he was placed on the CIA payroll. And now he’s going to be treated like a common citizen, and perhaps a common criminal. He could be taken at any moment by the authorities.

    Last night after the verdict, I walked by the Casa Presidencial, the presidential house—it’s the White House of Guatemala—and spoke to a soldier outside who is a member—a corporal of the presidential guard. And I asked him how his unit would react if the Ministerio Público, the justice department, comes and tries to arrest the president, Pérez Molina. And he said they would not resist. They would take their orders from the Ministerio Público. This is remarkable, looking at Guatemalan history, because outside—that very building that we were standing outside of was for years the national torture chamber of Guatemala. People would be dragged there if they criticized the army, if they criticized the rich, if they were seen as being too close to the organized indigenous population, and they would be chopped up, they would be electroshocked. Their bodies would be thrown by the roadside with their hands cut off. This work done by the—what’s called the Archivo and by the G-2, the military intelligence service, that had actual American CIA agents placed inside it. And now, soldiers from the presidential guard, from that very place, are saying they’re not going to stop one of the generals who carried out those atrocities being arrested.

    His arrest, though, would only be on corruption, but it opens the door to bringing him to trial for the mass murders that he helped preside over while carrying out the program of genocide of General Ríos Montt. But there’s still a long way to go. It was big surprise that Congress stripped his immunity. The unanimous vote was in some ways deceptive, because the big blocs in Congress which are controlled by the oligarchs, the drug traffickers and the army, did not want to strip him of immunity. They don’t want to open the Pandora’s box of looking into the crimes of the army and the oligarchy. But they felt such massive public pressure, that in the end they felt they had no choice.

    AMY GOODMAN: You talk about Otto Pérez Molina being involved in murder of indigenous people in the northwest highlands, Allan Nairn, but what these protests are about are corruption, why his vice president has now been arrested, as well as other officials. So, do you see this possible indictment getting larger? And are people calling for that?

    ALLAN NAIRN: Corruption has kicked open the door. Now, what could follow is mass murder, a prosecution for mass murder. Just about everyone I talk to on the street raises that issue. And under Guatemalan law, an ordinary citizen can go to a court and file a criminal case. And now that Pérez Molina has been stripped of immunity, anyone can step forward and file criminal charges against him for the slaughter in the Ixil zone in December of ’82, when slaughter that occurred, and I was there talking to Pérez Molina and talking to his—talking to his troops. So that now becomes a possibility.

    And part of it—if that goes forward, and part of it is dependent on the action of state prosecutors—if the state prosecutors go forward, I would also urge them to look at charging not just Pérez Molina, but also his U.S. sponsors, the Americans who worked as military and intelligence liaisons with the Guatemalan army as they were murdering civilians, and also high American officials who set the policy in Washington. They can be charged as accomplices to murder. As President George W. Bush said, if you arm a terrorist, if you fund a terrorist, you are a terrorist. I think President Bush had a point, and that he should be subject to that same rule, that same principle, and that now that Guatemala has kicked open the door, set an example for the world, this trail of blood can be followed wherever it leads, including back to Washington.

    Guardian, Nomad (in Spanish), Plaza publica (in Spanish)

  60. rq says

    Was just struck by a thought refugee-related but a bit off-topic for the broken world thread:
    How many of my fellow citizens (and non-citizens, too!) in my* country are members of a family where one or more other members are off in the UK and Ireland and sending money home, plus enjoying all the government support and benefits that they can apply for (and this can be, compared to here, quite a bit!)? How many of their own family members are ‘merely’ economic migrants (the most despicable possible class of ‘migrant’ because they are surely living in palaces and merely looking to acquire a second within the European Union), and yet they have the nerve to protest refugees?
    If anyone plans on bringing this up in any upcoming friend-gatherings (there’s at least two on the calendar), and they refer to immigrants, I’m going to point to myself and make sure they shut up about it.
    (And by ‘point to myself’ I don’t mean that I’m some fine example of non-prejudice, but that I am an immigrant, and my grandparents were refugees, so maybe they could clarify their point about these ‘migrants’ they are so callously referring to?)

    * Because I was going to write ‘this country’ and I realize that the only reason I want to do that is because I’m rather ashamed of it right now (both my countries, as it were), but actually, if I can call it ‘my country’ in the good times, I have to own the bad times, too.

  61. blf says

    If it’s August (well, September), then it is time for Teh Frogstrike! Angry French farmers hold tractor protest in Paris:

    Struggling farmers say plunging food prices and soaring costs are destroying their livelihoods and leaving many on the brink of bankruptcy

    French farmers have blocked the streets of Paris with over 1,500 tractors to protest over plunging food prices and soaring costs they say are killing their livelihoods.

    From far-flung corners of the country, some spent days slowly chugging towards the capital, leaving behind barely surviving pig, cattle or beetroot farms.

    The protest came after months of similar acts around the country and prompted the government to offer fresh measures to address the farmers’ concerns.

    Plummeting food prices, ever-increasing taxes and social charges, and “crazy” environmental standards: the farmers in Europe’s leading agricultural power say they have had enough.


    The protest is the culmination of months of anger that has seen farmers block key cities, dump manure and rotting vegetables in the streets and in one case send pigs running through supermarket aisles.

    The article quotes one farmer as blaming “greenies who live in the city and can’t tell the difference between a rabbit and a chicken” — excuse me, I can certainly do that — which is perhaps accurate in the sense I myself do not have much of a clew what is going on.

  62. blf says

    Wingnuts in Harperville, Bad timing: how Canada’s prime minister walked into his own electoral trap:

    Fixed-date elections, a legal obligation to balance the budget and a long election campaign could herald Stephen Harper’s downfall

    Here’s a tip. If you’re running a hard-right government with a tyrannical sense of mission, don’t pass a law mandating US-style fixed-date elections. For you are Father Time’s plaything. It will bat you like a cat toy.

    The Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, passed just such a law and so was forced to call an autumn election. And on Tuesday, Canada entered a recession, the only G7 nation to do so.

    Harper had placed his tender hopes in the rough hands of the planet-poisoning Alberta tar sands. Oil prices collapsed. Canada’s economy is now based on cheap oil and job fear. The two main opposition parties are pumped, and it’s voting time!


    Here’s another tip for Harper. Don’t pass a law mandating a balanced budget, as Harper’s Conservatives did this summer in another serious case of bad timing.

    For all the neoliberal economics he has promoted, Harper doesn’t balance his budgets. Harper ran seven consecutive budget deficits while claiming to despise such things, and then his own law turned around to bite him. […]

    One last tip for our prime minister. In a country that, like Britain, prefers its election campaigns brisk, don’t copy the Americans twice over and drag the thing out. But Harper has. The campaign will last 11 long weeks, giving voters a chance to see just how strange Harper is. A controlling man, who dislikes being physically approached, Harper won’t meet just any voter. Anyone who wishes to attend a campaign rally must sign up, provide ID, be vetted and searched, and sign a gag order — though the last was subsequently dropped. Reporters are searched by the RCMP, Canada’s federal police force, sniffed by guard dogs, and allowed a total of five questions, which are generally dismissed by Harper while the audience boos.

    […] Compared to the invariably courteous Trudeau, relaxed in the presence of other humans, and Mulcair, who happily holds public rallies of the NDP faithful and unfaithful, Harper sticks with his base: older, white, male, rural.

    That base doesn’t photograph well. Canada is a genuinely multicultural nation. It’s almost as if Harper wants to win, but only with the votes of people he can stand. However, even those people worry about soaring house prices, lousy interest rates on savings, traffic jams from neglected infrastructure and unemployed children. […]

  63. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    That’s what pisses me off too.
    We are proud of whole generations of people who went to Germany to work. What are they but economic migrants?
    Our politicians are almost on their knees in worship when meeting teh dyaspora in Australia or Canada.
    I hear a man who I know fled Bosnia and nearly wasn’t let into Croatia because no one would vouch for him and his mother (and he was just a child then) saying that we shouldn’t accept those people.

    People are hypocrites.
    You tell those relatives of yours.

  64. ibyea says

    So, since the Syrian refugee crisis is a topic now that a lot of it is reaching Europe I thought I would give some more information on it. The Syrian refugee crisis is the largest refugee crisis since the Afghanistan war in the 80s. There are over 4 million Syrian refugees. That takes Syria’s population of around 22 million prewar down to 18 million.

    Lebanon is suffering the worst from it as they took in one million people. Along with Palestinian refugees, refugees make up a quarter of Lebanon’s 6 million people right now. Turkey has taken in two million people. Together both countries make up around 3/4 of all Syrian refugees. Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt make up most of the rest of the countries that took in Syrian refugee. Then there are tens of thousands that reach Europe. As horrifying as it sounds, they are a vast minority of refugees from Syria.

    The numbers are worse when you take account of the internally displaced people though. Around 7.5 million people are displaced in their own country, often times due to having to flee rebel held areas because of systematic air strikes by the government. Combined this with the external refugees, displaced Syrians make up almost half the prewar population of Syria.

  65. blf says

    And the French are still being quite beastly to the Roma, even without the “help” of the le pens, France’s War on the Roma (short editorial quoted in full):

    Despite repeated warnings from the European Union, the United Nations and human rights groups, France continues to persecute the Roma. Last Thursday, about 300 people were evicted from Le Samaritain, a Roma camp in the Paris banlieue of La Courneuve. The fate of Le Samaritain was hardly unique — the French government has been forcibly evicting Roma for years — but the particulars of this case speak volumes about France’s cynical attitude toward the Roma.

    Under the government of President François Hollande, forced evictions of Roma, also known as Gypsies, have exploded. More than 19,000 Roma were evicted in France in 2013, twice as many as in 2012. The European Roma Rights Center documented another 13,483 Roma evicted in France in 2014, and the evictions have continued this year at a rate of 150 per week. In June, the United Nations slammed France on its treatment of the Roma, and called for France to improve the Roma’s housing conditions, provide “on a systematic basis” alternative lodging for Roma evicted from camps, and redouble efforts to keep Roma children in school.

    None of these recommendations were respected when authorities moved in to evacuate Le Samaritain. Established in 2008, it was France’s oldest Roma camp. It enjoyed support from various community and nonprofit groups and had even been proposed for entry in an architectural competition on temporary structures. The groups had a proposal to help residents assimilate into French society and move out of the slum over the next few years. Children at the camp were enrolled in school. A quarter of the adults held regular jobs.

    Despite all this, on Aug. 6 a policeman reportedly told residents of Le Samaritain that the camp had to be cleared before the December COP 21 international climate change meeting, slated to take place a few kilometers away in Le Bourget. The residents were stunned. Jozsef Farkas, a plucky 17-year-old who grew up in Le Samaritain, launched a protest petition on Change.org that garnered more than 38,000 signatures. On Aug. 27, just days before the new school year was set to begin, police moved in to evict. Clearly, Roma shantytowns are a blot on France’s image — but that stain just became darker with the eviction of Roma from Le Samaritain.

    COP21 is the upcoming UN Climate Change conference.

  66. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Funny how bigots are afraid Europeans will be converted to Islam and yet:

    At a Berlin church, Muslim refugees from Iran converting to Christianity in droves

    None will openly admit to converting in order to help their asylum chances. To do so could result in rejection of their asylum bid and deportation as Christian converts. Several candidates for baptism at Martens’ church would not give their names out of fear of repercussions for their families back home.

    Most said their decision was based on belief, but one young Iranian woman said she was convinced most people had joined the church only to improve their chances for asylum.

    Meanwhile, as other churches across Germany struggle with dwindling numbers of believers, Martens has seen his congregation swell from 150 just two years to more than 600 parishioners now — with a seemingly unending flow of new refugees finding the way to his congregation. Some come from cities as far away as Rostock on the Baltic Sea, having found out by word-of-mouth that Martens not only baptizes Muslims after a three-month “crash course” in Christianity, but also helps them with asylum pleas.

    It shouldn’t be that surprising, but this priest sounds like a decent person.

  67. blf says

    Strike New Zealand off the list of desirable places, they have an overactive manipulatable censor, New Zealand bans award-winning teenage novel after outcry from Christian group:

    Ted Dawe’s Into the River is banned from shops, schools and distribution across the country with fines of up to [NZ?]$10,000 for those ignoring the order

    An award-winning young adult novel has become the first book in more than 20 years to be banned in New Zealand after an outcry from a Christian group.

    Ted Dawe’s Into the River has been banned from sale or supply by the Film and Literature Board of Review (FLBR) after a complaint from conservative lobby group Family First.

    It is currently being pulled from libraries, schools and bookshops around the country.

    Family First objected to sexually explicit content, drug use and the use of a slang term for female genitalia.


    Into the River won the New Zealand Post Children’s Book award in 2013 and is aimed at a teenage, largely male audience. Dawe said this audience was hard to reach.

    “I have taught in secondary schools for the past forty years. Much of this time has been spent encouraging boys to read. Part of the challenge was to find books that ‘spoke’ to them. This meant books about issues that were relevant to them and written in a style that was authentic,” he said.


    “The last banned book was entitled How to Build a Bazooka. Perhaps the content of Into the River is a bazooka fired into the complacent middle class oligarchy that rules this country.”

    Joanna Mathew, executive director of the Library and Information Association of New Zealand, said the banning of Into the River was “concerning” for freedom of speech in New Zealand.

    “I have read the book, and while there is content in there that is confronting it doesn’t warrant being banned,” she said.


    Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said in a statement his group welcomed the interim banning of Into the River and the move could set a benchmark for restricting offensive content to younger readers in New Zealand.


    New Zealand poet laureate and writer CK Stead said: “I haven’t read the book but it’s obvious from what has been said about it there’s nothing that is sensational for the sake of it or is trading off those subjects.

    Numerous commentators are pointing out this is perhaps the best recommendation the book could get.
    One comment I liked, “Surely the correct response after such an outcry is not to ban it, but to put it on the syllabus.”

    I can’t look (the wedsite seems to be down), but apparently the xian troglodytes responsible are quite reprehensible. (Apologies to all sane cavepeople everywhere, everywhen.) According to Ye Pffft! Of All Knowledge they advocate pretty much the full set of xian authoritarianism and self-centred bigotry.

  68. blf says

    Fear stalks Burundi as besieged regime turns to torture:

    Victims say president Pierre Nkurunziza is trying to turn Hutus against Tutsis as protests continue against government

    [… Accounts of torture] are increasingly common in the febrile atmosphere that now pervades the capital of this small, landlocked and long-neglected east African nation [Burundi]. Street protests in the capital Bujumbura against President Pierre Nkurunziza resumed last week as demonstrators threw stones at police amid shooting and explosions.


    The thud of gunfire can be heard almost every night, while bodies turn up in garbage or gutters almost every morning. Poverty and hunger are rife. And a decade after the end of an ethnic-based civil war, Nkurunziza’s opponents accuse him of playing with fire by trying to turn the Hutu majority against the Tutsi minority.

    [… A] report by Amnesty International that found evidence of torture by security forces to extract “confessions” and silence dissent. […]

    This is the fallout of protests that raged in Bujumbura between late April and mid-June against Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term, seen by many as unconstitutional and singled out for criticism by Barack Obama in a speech to the African Union. Police were accused of using excessive and lethal force including shooting unarmed protesters as they fled. At least 100 people are thought to have died in the unrest and 200,000 fled to neighbouring countries.

    Nkurunziza, a former Hutu rebel leader, won the July poll as expected but a low-level insurgency continues. Police attempting to search neighbourhoods for firearms find some are effectively no-go areas. Last week in Nyakabiga, for example, rocks were lined across streets as makeshift barricades, while more women than men were visible during daytime because the latter sleep in readiness for armed guard duty at night.


    Bodies turn up regularly […] “We find them in garbage. Yesterday there was a body in the river. Even just now I heard there is another one. It’s becoming so normal to get someone thrown by your home or in your neighbourhood. They are being killed by the government — there is no other explanation. They want to eliminate us one by one so we will stop the protests.”

    [… C]civil society and journalists remain under attack. Last month alone, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, a human rights activist known as “Burundi’s Nelson Mandela”, was shot and injured, while Agence France-Presse reporter Esdras Ndikumana said he was detained and badly beaten by security forces. State-controlled media now monopolise the airwaves.

    “There is a desperate attempt to normalise things,” one locally based analyst said. “They want the rest of the world to think everything is back to normal, but this is not the case. It’s now a country of rumours. There is no media and everyone in the know has fled. I don’t think anybody really knows what’s going to happen.”

  69. blf says

    Picking your minions, How To, Not (Haperville example 22thousand-something), Wee problem for Canada’s ruling party as urination video sinks candidate:

    ● Jerry Bance filmed using coffee cup while working as appliance repairman
    ● Toronto businessman no longer a candidate for Conservative party

    A Toronto businessman who ran for parliament with Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s party is out of the race, after being caught on video urinating into a coffee cup.


    The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation used hidden cameras in 2012 to record Bance peeing into the cup and pouring it down the sink while on a service call. The homeowner was in the next room.

    Bance runs an appliance repair company; the CBC was reporting on home repair companies.


    “He must be someone who is adept at Stephen Harper’s trickle-down theory of economics,” Mulcair said. [Tom Mulcair is the opposition New Democrat leader.]

    Last week, a government agency announced Canada recorded its second straight quarter of economic contraction, meeting economists’ definition of a recession.

    Some of the better comments:

     ● Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are to be commended for the consistent quality of their candidates. The nation is scratching its head and asking, “Where does he find them?”.
     ● What a nice change. Cons are normally to be found pissing on vulnerable and marginalized groups. This guy is a humanitarian in comparison.
     ● I am surprised that he has been dropped as a candidate by the Conservatives. I would have thought that he fit their profile of the ideal MP. After all, isn’t that what they do to Canadians?

  70. blf says

    Fascists overcharging fascists, public funds loose, France’s Front National charged with fraud in election finance inquiry:

    Marine Le Pen’s party, which has previously denounced corruption scandals, accused of inflating campaign expenses
    Investigating judges suspect senior FN [le pen the younger’s nazies] officials and associated companies of defrauding the state by inflating campaign expenses for the 2012 parliamentary elections.

    [… le pen the younger nazi claimed] her party was not among the country’s grasping and discredited elite and was squeaky clean. The scandal is centred on a “micro-party” named Jeanne, set up to deal with elections for the FN.

    Jeanne is suspected of selling special “election campaign kits” including posters, material and websites to 525 FN parliamentary candidates in 2012 for about €16,000 (£12,000) each. The cost would then be reimbursed by the state if the candidate won more than 5% of the vote. Jeanne is suspected of making large margins from state funds by overcharging for the kits. It is also being investigated over high-interest loans it made to candidates to buy the kits.

    Another company, Riwal, which worked on party communications and created the kits, is also suspected of making big margins. The companies are among six other entities and people already charged as part of the investigation.

    Earlier this year, Le Pen said her party was beyond reproach in terms of election funding and denounced what she called a “political will to damage the FN”.

  71. says

    Sudan denies rape and torture report:

    In a report released Wednesday, the U.S.-based rights group Human Rights Watch said the abuses appear to be “widespread and systematic attacks” on civilian populations that may constitute crimes against humanity.

    The organization said it interviewed 212 victims and witnesses of the Darfur attacks between May 2014 and June 2015, including 151 who had fled to Chad and South Sudan and 16 who were interviewed inside Darfur.

    Sudan’s Information Minister Ahmed Bilal said Human Rights Watch is an untrustworthy organization that is always out to discredit the Khartoum government every time it does something positive, particularly as it tries to stabilize Darfur and bring peace to the region.

    “In fact, we consider Human Rights Watch an untrusted organization. We do some progress and they will come out with some allegations just because someone from a rebel radio said that there is mass rape of 200 women. This… I think makes the credibility of Human Rights Watch somehow not credible,” said Bilal.

    In February 2015, Human Rights Watch reported that Sudanese army forces raped more than 200 women and girls in an organized attack on the north Darfur town of Tabit in October 2014.

    But the UN Mission (UNAMID) concluded that it had not found “any evidence or information” about the reported mass rape.

    Report focuses on Golo

    In its latest report, “Men With No Mercy: Rapid Support Forces Attacks against Civilians in Darfur, Sudan,” Human Rights Watch said the January 2015 attacks in the town of Golo, in Jebel Marra, were emblematic of the atrocities.

    “Many of the women were gang raped, often in front of the community members who were forced to watch. Some of those who resisted were killed,” the group said.

    Jonathan Loeb, one of the authors of the recent report, told VOA the information included in the report came predominantly from interviews with eyewitnesses and victims of attacks in Darfur.

    “We conducted interviews with over 200 different victims and eyewitnesses. The majority of these interviews were done with individuals who fled the attacks in Darfur to refugee camps either in eastern Chad or in northern South Sudan,” Loeb said.

    Talk to the victims in person

    But Bilal said interviews conducted by telephone with so-called alleged victims are not credible. He said if Human Rights Watch wants to conduct a fair investigation it must come to Sudan and Khartoum will give access to anyone the rights group might want to interview.

    Why does he dismiss telephone interviews?

    Bilal said Khartoum has every intention to stabilize Darfur and to bring peace to the region. He said he predicted during President Omar al-Bashir’s recent visit to China earlier this month that Human Rights Watch was going to do something to dampen the good news about Bashir’s visit to China.

    “The president visited China. So when we are there in China, I told everybody that just wait within one or two days Human Rights Watch will [lead] a campaign against Sudan, and actually this has happened. We think this is actually unfair. It is a politicized campaign against Sudan,” Bilal said.

    Bilal said if Human Rights Watch wants to do a fair investigation, it is welcome to come to Sudan and he personally will give the group the chance to go wherever it wants to go and talk to anyone they would want to talk to, but not by telephone.

    I’m sure the presence of government officials won’t deter anyone from agreeing to be interviewed. Or put anyone under pressure to take care with their words.

  72. Gregory Greenwood says

    The assisted dying private member’s bill in the UK has been voted down by MPs in the UK parliament today. About 70% of MPs were against the bill, put polls indicate that about the same proportion of the general public actually supported it – so much for the democratic will. Despite extensive proposed safeguards only allowing terminally ill people with a diagnosis of six months to live or less being eligible and requiring two doctors and a High Court judge to agree that assisted dying is allowable in each case, the opposed camp argued that it would lead to vulnerable people being compelled to end their lives. Naturally, the critics of the bill provided no actual evidence to support their scaremongering claims.

    It was glaringly obvious that the religious lobbies were heavily involved in torpedoing the bill (it is not just the US that has those, more’s the pity), and so in essence the status quo remains in the UK where religious value systems are being imposed upon the populous of a predominantly secular society with regard to this issue (among others), and where innocent people are being forced to suffer horrendously essentially so that the pious in our society can parade their ethically vapid self righteousness. It is utterly repellent.

  73. blf says

    Mr Corbyn has been elected British Labour “leader”. The corrupt B.Liar-ites who have been running the party are now resigning en mass.

  74. Gregory Greenwood says

    It is good news. The principle party of opposition in the UK may actually start to be meaningfully Left wing again for a change, rather than merely being Conservatism Light ( with only three quarters the concentrated evil of Conservatism!).

  75. Lofty says

    Well, Australia’s Catholic conservative Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has just been ousted by Malcolm Turnbull, merchant banker and former communications minister in a 55:44 party room vote. Hopefully Mr Turnbull can bring some sanity to the country’s leadership, only time will tell. Australia’s next federal election is due in around 10-11 months and the Labor Party opposition leader Bill Shorten has been lacklustre to put it mildly. Turnbull at least is intelligent, whether he can lead the Liberal rabble is another matter.

  76. blf says

    The secondary arsehole of Ozlandunder, tony abattoir of reason, has been “spilled” (Ozspeak for dumped on his arse by his fed-up party hacks). The primary arsehole, ken “piglet rapist” ham, was exported to USArseholianthanthouistan some time ago.

    The secondary arsehole happened to be the PM, meaning he got most of the bribes. I assume he wasn’t generous enough in his payola to the minions.

    More seriously, this means one of the more repulsive and arrogant bigots “leading” a nominal democracy has been ejected. Since the secondary arsehole is, e.g., a climate change denier, amongst numerous other thug-apeing nonsenses, this is very possibly quite good news.

    The replacement is Malcolm Turnbull, about whom I know nothing. (Same was true of the secondary arsehole until around the time he lied his way to PMsink-the-ship, so…)

    The Grauniad indicates there are good signs about Mr Turnbull, Australian leader Tony Abbott ousted by Malcolm Turnbull after party vote: “Turnbull [is] a moderate who supports same-sex marriage and strong action on global warming […]”

    However, it goes on to report “It is understood Turnbull has told colleagues he would retain the government’s current climate policy […]”.

  77. blf says

    Flash and a bang as Mozambique is declared free of landmines:

    Exclusive: Campaigners and locals celebrate as mines first planted in the 60s are cleared

    There was a flash, a cloud of dust and a loud bang beneath an iron railway bridge, followed by a car alarm. The last known landmine in Mozambique had been destroyed, a victory many felt they would never see in their lifetime.

    “That was a big boom,” said Cindy McCain, a veteran campaigner against landmines who, wearing protective visor and body armour, detonated the mine on Wednesday from behind a sandbag wall more than 100 metres away. “It would really hurt someone.”

    Ash Boddy, programme manager of the Halo Trust, which has led demining efforts in the country for more than 22 years, replied: “Those are really dangerous, nasty mines.”

    Perhaps happiest of all was Albert Augusto, director of Mozambique’s National Demining Institute, who had cranked up the detonator for McCain. “Now I’m jobless,” he joked.

    Mozambique is set to declare itself the first heavily mined country in the world to be cleared of all known minefields […]. Such claims seemed unthinkable […] in 1997 [but] brave and painstaking demining efforts, sometimes by hand, sometimes by heavy armoured digger, yielded results more quickly than anyone expected.

    Augusto said: “Many people thought Mozambique would take a hundred years to demine the whole country. We ended up demining in less than 30. The key was the commitment of the government having a clear plan, doing it district by district, and the generosity of donors. Donors go anywhere there is a clear plan and they can see the value of money.”


    In the early 1990s, around 600 casualties per year were reported; by 2013 this had dropped to 13. With a combination of manual and mechanical clearance, Halo has now destroyed more than 171,000 mines and cleared 1,118 minefields, roughly four-fifths of the total removed by all operators at a total cost estimated in 2012 at $285m.

    Calvin Ruysen, regional director of Halo in southern Africa, said: “This is the first heavily mine-affected country to reach an end state. That’s a massive story because it demonstrates that, with the right approach and resources, you can bring a problem to conclusion. It’s an example to other heavily affected states: the fact we’re here now is very important.”

    The global fight against landmines has achieved notable successes. Since the Mine Ban Treaty came into effect in 1999, the use and production of mines has nearly halted, casualties have sharply reduced and 27 affected countries have declared themselves free of mines. But the International Campaign to Ban Landmines said last year around 4,000 people are still killed or injured annually in 60 countries.

    USAnnihilate!annihilate!annihilate! has, of course, not signed the 1997 treaty — over 160 countries have — albeit “[i]n 2014, the United States declared that it will abide by the terms of the Treaty, except for landmines used on the Korean Peninsula” (according to Ye Pffft! of All Knowlege).

  78. numerobis says

    The Canadian leaders’ debate tonight was on economic policy.

    Halfway through, we turned it off. When the moderator announced he was taking a short breather before the second part, my girlfriend and I looked at each other with the most painful expressions on our faces.

    My verdict: Elizabeth May, leader of the Green party, won hands down. She wasn’t there.

  79. Saad says

    TTP terrorists attack air force camp in Pakistan

    At least 33 people, including 13 terrorists, were killed as the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) camp at Inqalab road in Peshawar’s Badaber came under attack by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants early Friday.

    Thirteen terrorists were killed by security forces, Director-General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major-General Asim Bajwa said on Twitter.

    Sixteen people offering prayers at a mosque inside the airforce camp were killed by a group of militants, Bajwa said.

    [. . .]

    A military official at the base said, “All the terrorists were wearing explosives-laden jackets and were armed with hand grenades, mortars, AK-47 rifles.”

    Nearby residents said explosions and gunfire could still be heard more than three hours after the attack took place.

    [. . .]

    But recently then there has been a lull in violence. The last deadly attack in the city came in February when three heavily armed Taliban militants stormed a Shia mosque, killing 21 people.

    Military operation Zarb-i-Azb was launched against insurgent hideouts in North Waziristan on June 15 following a brazen militant attack on Karachi’s international airport and the failure of peace talks between the government and TTP negotiators.

    Officials say nearly 3,000 militants have been killed since the launch of the latest offensive.

    The number of attacks in Pakistan has fallen around 70 per cent this year, due to a combination of a military offensive against Taliban bases along the Afghan border and government initiatives to tackle militancy.

  80. blf says

    I must admit I’d never heard of this case, despite living in France, but this sounds like a move in the proper direction, despite being long overdue, SNCF found guilty of discriminating against Moroccan workers:

    French rail operator ordered to pay €150m in damages to about 800 north African workers first hired in 1970s

    The French rail operator SNCF has been ordered to pay about €150m (£97m) in damages after being found guilty of discriminating against hundreds of Moroccan workers.

    The employees had sued the transport company, claiming they had been deliberately passed over for promotion and offered fewer work and retirement benefits than their French and European colleagues.

    On Monday, the industrial court ruled that SNCF was guilty of discrimination in “the execution of work contracts” and the retirement rights for about 800 Moroccans, most of them hired as private contract workers in the 1970s to build and maintain the rail network.


    A total of 849 mostly retired workers sued SNCF and the court upheld nine out of 10 legal complaints. The judges awarded damages and compensation of between €150,000 and €230,000 to individual workers, many of whom had waited more than a decade for the case to be settled. The workers had claimed €400,000 each.


    As the judgment was read, the workers, known as chibanis (grey hair in Moroccan Arabic) and their supporters, burst into applause and cries of: “Vive la République. Vive la France. Vive justice!”

  81. blf says

    The younger Le Pen nazi has a problem, Marine Le Pen faces court on charge of inciting racial hatred:

    French Front National party leader compared Muslims praying in streets due to mosque shortages to a Nazi occupation

    Marine Le Pen, the president of France’s far-right Front National party, is to appear in court for allegedly inciting racial hatred over comments in which she compared Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation.


    At the rally, Le Pen made reference to “street prayers” after reports of Muslims praying in public in three French cities, including Paris, because of a lack of mosques or a lack of space in local prayer rooms. The French government later clamped down on the “illegal” use of the public space for prayers.

    “I’m sorry, but for those who really like to talk about the second world war, if we’re talking about occupation, we can also talk about this while we’re at it, because this is an occupation of territory,” she told supporters, prompting waves of applause.


    Despite numerous complaints from anti-racist organisations, a preliminary inquiry by the authorities in Lyon was dropped in 2011. However, one association pursued the legal complaint, and when the European parliament lifted Le Pen’s parliamentary immunity in July 2013, a preliminary inquiry was opened. In September 2014, the prosecutor’s office announced she would be sent before a judge.


    The penalty for inciting racial hatred in France is up to a year in prison and a €45,000 fine.

    The nazis, with a complete lack of irony, are trying to cast this as an attack on “freedom of speech / expression”.

  82. says

    Regarding “Marine Le Pen faces court on charge of inciting racial hatred” I think the First Amendment is one of the most striking differences between U.S. and european countries.

    I have to say that, being european, I would prefer to have the same freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. because very often the so called “hate speech laws” can be used as a political weapon.
    Because of the cost involved in enforcing them, it’s far too easy to justify the lack of enforcement for friend.
    At the same time is equally easy to justify the enforcement on someone many really don’t like.

    Imho “inciting racial hatred” is so vague that it could means anything one like it to means.

  83. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says


    These days, about a quarter of Europe could be charged with inciting racial hatred.

  84. blf says

    A follow-up to @57: Having been thwarted in his desire to start a war with Iran, Israeejit Netanyahu has indeed resumed the active war on occupied Palestine by ordering kids to be shot, Israel relaxes live-fire rules against Palestinian stone-throwers:

    Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu pushes through tough rules allowing Israeli forces to fire live .22 rounds during protests

    Israel’s security forces will have greater latitude to use live ammunition against Palestinians throwing stones and firebombs — including against minors — as part of a tough new series of measures pushed through by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.


    The change in open-fire regulations comes in a package that has seen opposition both from human rights groups and the Israeli attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, including tough new sentencing guidelines for throwing stones and molotov cocktails, as well as heavy fines.


    The new regulations bring the Israeli police in line with the rules of engagement for Israeli soldiers on the West Bank, who have been criticised for how they interpret “threat to life” before opening fire.

    The new rules come despite the vocal objection of Weinstein, who objected both to the new sentencing guidelines and also to the loosening of police rules of engagement for live fire.

  85. says


    These days, about a quarter of Europe could be charged with inciting racial hatred.

    Too true, too true. That fucker Orban should take his precious Hungary right out of the EU. But our very own wannabe right wing star, the Ministerpräsident of Bavaria demonstratively invited Orban and showed him some solidarity *puke*

  86. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Watching a report about immigrant centers in Italy.

    A Tunisian immigrant is still in the center he was first admitted to, after a couple of years his status hasn’t been determined. By now, he’s learned Italian and is working with boys in another center for underage immigrants who came alone.

    Mafia has taken hold of this business, as local government gives 35 euros per immigrant per day. There are protests held by activists in front of some centers daily, because the money is clearly not being spent as it should, considering it has been reported that in at least one center underage immigrants don’t have either heating or warm water – in winter!

    I looked up some reports on the last bit mentioned: 13 people sewing their mouth shut in a detention center in Rome last year:

    The situation has escalated this last couple of months, but Europe shouldn’t pretend this is anything new. The immigration crisis has only escalated in degree, but we’ve had problems with our own xenophobia and bigotry breaking over the backs of poor people for a long time.

  87. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    More on italian mafia’s new(ish) business venture:


    According to the Italian news agency ANSA, a mafia network run by Massimo Carminati — known in Italy as the “last king of Rome” — makes most of its revenue by extorting money destined for the country’s Roma population and immigrants.

    The documents explain how the mafia bribes officials to gain access to profitable public work contracts. According to Italian investigators, the mafia’s network reached as far as into the mayor’s office, where high-ranking officials were allegedly bribed with payouts of as much as $18,000 a pop. In return, mafia members won valuable contracts to manage the accommodation of refugees, the city’s waste collection and even parks.

    In an intercepted phone call, suspect Salvatore Buzzi was quoted saying that “drug trafficking earns less.” Other evidence suggests that Rome’s mafia has largely given up on trafficking in drugs and has instead embraced the more profitable “immigration business,” according to investigators.

    “We closed this year with turnover of [$50 million], but … our profits all came from the gypsies, the housing emergency and the immigrants,” Buzzi reportedly said in a phone call.


    Mario Michele Giarrusso, a Sicilian senator from the Five Star Movement political party, was quoted as saying: “The interest is to open as many as possible and keep the migrants there. The longer they keep them, the more money they bring in. … It’s a business all right. These migrants die in the Strait of Sicily just to bring millions of euros to the mafia.”

  88. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    A bit more recent news:

    The $100 million contract to run the asylum camp was won by the Calatino Lands of Hospitality consortium, which has links to organised crime. An anti-Mafia prosecutor is carrying out investigations in the Sicilian city of Catania into how the contract fell into the hands of the consortium.


    he mafia controls the prostitution, which is rife, as well as the transport to and from the nearby farms, where asylum seekers can earn a meagre salary while awaiting a decision from the immigration authorities. Both transport and labor are all controlled by organised crime gangs. Many are paid as little as a dollar-a-day and the one-way trip to the fields costs over $5.

    What was that fear about rape? Because it looks to me like in all that fear mongering about immigrants posing a threat to natives, the reversal of roles is much much closer to reality.

  89. numerobis says

    Saudi official says 769 people died in Thursday’s Hajj stampede


    Saudi is victim-blaming, natch.

    This year makes up for the good luck of the past decade of the Hajj. Must be an amazing thing to run (or partake in): a couple million people descend on the city all at once. The hardest crowd management problem in the world — particularly the stoning, where part of the point is to get riled up.

  90. blf says

    This doesn’t seem to be a case of antivaccince loonies, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns into(or already has turned into) that, Ukraine could destroy 3.7m polio vaccines despite risk of major outbreak:

    Unvaccinated children at risk as healthcare lobbyists claim UN-donated vaccines are unsafe in spite of assurances from World Health Organisation

    A healthcare lobby group is arguing for the destruction of 3.7 million polio vaccines donated to Ukraine by the UN, despite the risk […] that a new outbreak of the disease could spread across the country and into the EU.

    The all-Ukrainian council for patients’ rights and safety has alleged the vaccines are unsafe, because the frozen vaccines partially thawed while in air transit to Ukraine from the manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur in France. Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) says the transport and refreezing were carried out in line with international best practice, the complaint alleges that the process contradicts a set of Ukrainian guidelines that state the vaccines cannot be refrozen.

    “We must absolutely destroy the vaccine, or pass it on to some poorer countries,” said Viktor Serdyuk, president of the council. “Good or bad — it does not matter. We should vaccinate safely and according to the protocol.”

    Oh FFS! “Pass it on to some poorer countries … We should vaccinate safely …”. But it is Ok for “poorer countries” to use vaccines you won’t use you think they pose a risk. Racism much?

    The WHO says the vaccines are safe. Dr Dorit Nitzan, head of the organisation’s Ukraine office, said: “The way they’ve been stored is the normal practice. That’s how it’s been done all over the world.

    “I keep telling the investigators, ‘These vaccines are the best you could have ever asked for — Canadian money, Unicef, pre-qualified by WHO, Sanofi Pasteur, made in France — what more do you want?’ But their view is that proper protocols must be followed. They just do that — but they {have forgotten} about the children.”

    The move puts more than three million unvaccinated children at risk of the debilitating sickness. Two children, respectively aged 10 months and four years old, have already been paralysed after contracting polio in the first case of the disease in Europe since 2010. Hundreds more are believed to be carrying the virus, which could spread rapidly through a country where less than 50% of children and 14% of infants are inoculated against the disease.

    “What we see is the tip of the iceberg. When two cases are presenting there are usually at least 200 carriers behind each one,” said Nitzan.

    (My added boldfacing.) Multiple FFS! Sputters with rage…

    The WHO is asking Ukraine to follow the internationally agreed outbreak response guidelines and declare a public health emergency. The crisis has prompted Bill Gates, a leading campaigner for the global eradication of polio, to phone the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, and make the case for distribution of the life-saving vaccines.


    “[The lobbyists] are targeting the international organisations that provided vaccines as humanitarian assistance,” said the deputy health minister Ihor Perehinets. “Someone doesn’t want to have procurement outsourced to international organisations — which are much more transparent while conducting procurement in Ukraine and abroad.”


    “Doctors are getting $100 per month in Ukraine and nurses $50,” [Dr Olha Bohomolets (head of the parliamentary commission for healthcare in Ukraine)] said. “You can’t survive on this. Then a representative of a pharmaceutical company comes to the doctor and says: ‘OK, look, you prescribe this special medicine. You get 5% of the price from every box or tube sold.’ So the country is running out of medicine. We don’t have anything.”

    While the UN’s efforts are focused on containing the virus, the WHO believes polio is likely to be just the first in a series of diseases to hit Ukraine if the government doesn’t start vaccinating immediately.

  91. Saad says

    Man calls police on a meeting of bearded men because he thought they were ISIL members

    On Saturday, about 30 bearded men met up at the historic Brahehus Castle outside Granna, Sweden. All were members of Bearded Villains, an international organization for beard aficionados, and they were posing for a group photo.

    About an hour later, the police showed up.

    They had received a call from a passing driver who reported having seen a group of terrorists carrying the Islamic State’s flag, Andreas Fransson, a Bearded Villains group member, told The WorldPost on Monday in a Facebook message.

    The Bearded Villains’ flag, as can be seen in the photo below, features the group’s name in white text and the image of two swords…

    [. . .]

    Bearded Villains, which was founded last year, is an organization of beard enthusiasts with chapters across the world, from Miami to Germany to Kuwait. Its website and social media accounts highlight funnyaphorisms about beards, share grooming tips and sell Bearded Villains merchandise.

    The Swedish chapter is also a charitable group, having previously raised money for the Swedish Prostate Cancer Foundation and for organizations addressing homelessness in the United States. Its mission is to “make the world a better place for everyone, we stand up against oppression, bullying, homophobia and more,” Fransson said.

    “The idea that we, a charitable organization[,] would be mistaken for ISIS was so profound,” he added.

  92. numerobis says

    Harper is hopefully finished, but I’m sad about who gets to replace him.

    I’m just back from the last-dash party for the NDP. Standing 10 feet from Mulcair I got a good impression of why he failed to win the election. When he talks about progressive values and about what an NDP government will do, he’s great and the crowd gets riled up. Then he veers into vicious attacks against Harper and the Liberals, and … we politely boo because that’s what we’re expected to do.

  93. dianne says

    Then he veers into vicious attacks against Harper and the Liberals, and … we politely boo because that’s what we’re expected to do.

    How can you not love a country where a politician loses because he campaigned too negatively? (But the crowd was too polite to out and out tell him that that was the problem.)

  94. numerobis says

    Andrew Coyne is voting NDP.

    That’s like, I don’t know, William Buckley voting Green.

  95. numerobis says

    My candidate won! And Harper is gone! But it’s a centre-left party that won, and the socialist party is right back at third place where it usually is. So I cheer with a heavy heart for what might have been.

    Chatting with my candidate’s husband, he told me they ran a very different campaign locally than the national party. The national organization sent the local office 60,000 flyers. The local office didn’t hand them out — they instead printed out flyers that were about what the NDP was standing for and what positive things my candidate had done. That’s what they got the volunteers (myself included) to hand out and talk about. He didn’t say, but all the messaging I saw from the national party was focusing first on what horrible things the other parties had done, so I assume that’s what the stash of flyers were doing.

    IOW, my guess about optimism is shared by my candidate’s husband.

    I wonder if John Oliver is going to be made to pay up.

  96. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says


    gobsmacked, that even Neten-Yahoo [sic] would absolve Hitler of Holocaust.
    Overwhelmed I am by how much hate he must have to try to blame it on the Palestinians (blaming them en masse because, a Palestinian Leader supposedly suggested to Hitler, “burn em” [and factchecking, says it was never said])
    (I just go ahead and mention what he left unsaid): The USA was also complicit, by refusing to accept the refugees he was expelling at the start of the “cleansing”. I say this to accept some of the guilt for the holo, not to relieve the guilty of any of it, just to acknowledge that there was even more than usually acknowledged.

  97. Saad says

    Racist Hungarian cameraperson planning on suing Syrian refugee she tripped

    Petra Laszlo, the Hungarian camerawoman who drew international ire after footage emerged of her kicking and tripping refugees, may have apologized for her actions, but that isn’t stopping her from filing suit.

    [. . .]

    The man she plans to sue is Osama Abdul Mohsen, a 52-year-old Syrian refugee who fell to the ground on top of his child after Laszlo tripped him. Mohsen has since found a job in Spain at the country’s national soccer coaching academy.

  98. numerobis says

    slithey@124: So netanyahu is turning into a Holocaust denier of sorts? Fascinating.

    saad@125: I’ve seen defenders of Laszlo going frame by frame to “prove” that she didn’t actually trip the guy, based on there doesn’t appear to be any contact between his leg and hers at any frame of the video. It’s pretty inventive: she only *tried* to trip him, and it was a coincidence that he fell right then, QED. Also: oh yeah, the other video where she clearly kicks a child and the kick connects, um, pay no attention to that one. She’s been framed! She’s a martyr and a saint!

  99. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re @126:
    not quite, more like “blame shifting”. From Germany to Muslims. to inflame more hatred at the locals.
    Seems he prefers conflict over accommodation (uhh cooperation).
    Isn’t that a stereotype he should be avoiding?

  100. says

    Here’s something that would be *awesome* to see in the U.S. (which means we’ll never see it)-
    Iceland sentences 26 bankers to a combined 74 years in prison for their role in the 2008 financial crisis:

    In a move that would make many capitalists’ head explode if it ever happened here, Iceland just sentenced their 26th banker to prison for their part in the 2008 financial collapse.

    In two separate Icelandic Supreme Court and Reykjavik District Court rulings, five top bankers from Landsbankinn and Kaupping — the two largest banks in the country — were found guilty of market manipulation, embezzlement, and breach of fiduciary duties. Most of those convicted have been sentenced to prison for two to five years. The maximum penalty for financial crimes in Iceland is six years, although their Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments to consider expanding sentences beyond the six year maximum.

    After the crash in 2008, while congress was giving American banks a $700 billion TARP bailout courtesy of taxpayers, Iceland decided to go in a different direction and enabled their government with financial supervisory authority to take control of the banks as the chaos resulting from the crash unraveled.

    Back in 2001, Iceland deregulated their financial sector, following in the path of former President Bill Clinton. In less than a decade, Iceland was bogged down in so much foreign debt they couldn’t refinance it before the system crashed.

    Almost eight years later, the government of Iceland is still prosecuting and jailing those responsible for the market manipulation that crippled their economy. Even now, Iceland is still paying back loans to the IMF and other countries which were needed just to keep the country operating.

    Good move Iceland!

  101. numerobis says

    Not sure if this fits in the feminist thread, the racism thread, or the world politics thread, since it’s all three.

    First nations women in Val d’Or were routinely sexually assaulted by police over the last 20 years (at least). The assumption is that the problem is more widespread than just that one area. It’s very likely there will be a provincial inquiry.

    The Tory federal government had been ignoring calls for an inquiry into the sky-high violence that first nations women face throughout Canada, and that was one of the big issues in the recent election campaign, which saw high turnout to boot out the Tories. So this case intersects quite directly with national politics.


    I can’t find the story again, but of course, the police union is defending the actions of its members saying that it’s just women who are making unsubstantiated allegations so we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. I’m sure that when their members start getting charged they’ll argue it’s just a few bad apples who didn’t spoil the bunch, and we shouldn’t be so hard on them.

  102. says

    Ireland to decriminalize small amounts of drugs including heroin, cocaine, and cannabis for personal use:

    Ireland will move towards decriminalising substances including heroin, cocaine and cannabis as part of a “radical cultural shift”, the country’s drugs minister has said.

    Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the chief of Ireland’s National Drugs Strategy, told a lecture at the London School of Economics on Monday that drug users will be able to inject in specially designated rooms in Dublin from next year.

    The minister said attitudes to drugs needed to move away from shaming addicts to helping them and emphasised there was a difference between legalisation and decriminalisation.

    It would remain a crime to profit – from either the sale or distribution of illegal drugs – but drug takers would no longer be criminalised for their addictions.

    If you want to reduce drug use, this is one of the things that needs to be done.

  103. says

    While Ohioans voted against marijuana, Mexico’s Supreme Court declares individuals have the right to consume and cultivate marijuana:

    Today, in a 4 to 1 vote, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled that the prohibition of the consumption and cultivation of marijuana for personal use is unconstitutional. The Court determined that the prohibition of the consumption of marijuana – and its cultivation for non-commercial ends – violates the human right to the free development of one’s personality. This landmark case could lead to the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes if followed up with legislation.

    “This vote by Mexico’s Supreme Court is extraordinary for two reasons: it is being argued on human rights grounds and it is taking place in one of the countries that has suffered the most from the war on drugs,” said Hannah Hetzer, Senior Policy Manager of the Americas at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Uruguay became the first country to legalize marijuana, Canada is expected soon to follow suit, medical marijuana initiatives are spreading throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and marijuana is legal in a number of U.S. states. Now with this landmark decision out of Mexico, it is clear that the Americas are leading the world in marijuana reform.”

  104. says

    Nerd @132:
    Ah, thanks for the clarification.


    Finland prepares universal basic income experiment:

    When fully implemented, the universal basic income would provide every Finnish citizen with a monthly taxfree payment of 800 euros, equivalent to about USD 881. This would replace currently existing social benefits received through the Finnish welfare system. Any income earned beyond the basic income will be taxable. Kela’s basic income proposal includes a trial period in which the payment delivered to citizens is only 550 euros, while existing benefits such as housing and income support would not be affected.

    Unemployment has steadily increased in Finland over the past decade and citizens are eager for innovative solutions. In April 2015, the pro-basic income Centre Party won the most seats in the Finnish parliament elections with 21 percent of the vote. Two other pro-basic income parties, the Green League and the Left Alliance, respectively won 8 percent and 7 percent of the vote. Even the voters for the nationalist True Finns party, which won 17.6 percent of the vote, support basic income, with 57 percent approval.

    Related: Dutch city to hand out free basic income in new social experiment

    Kela aims to submit its basic income proposal to the Finnish government by November 2016. The government then intends to begin the trial on a national level. The city of Utrecht in the nearby Netherlands has already begun its basic income experiment.

    Basic income promises to free workers from the need to earn a living by any means necessary. With stability in one’s life, the individual is then free to pursue creative, entrepreneurial, or humanitarian causes. They are better able to maintain family and community. Thanks to progressive policymakers in Finland, the whole world will soon learn whether this promise is true.

  105. Rob Grigjanis says

    Tony @133: A similar trial was run in Dauphin, Manitoba from 1974 to 1979, although the data was only recently analyzed.

    She [economist Evelyn Forget] found that only new mothers and teenagers worked substantially less. Mothers with newborns stopped working because they wanted to stay at home longer with their babies, and teenagers worked less because they weren’t under as much pressure to support their families, which resulted in more teenagers graduating. In addition, those who continued to work were given more opportunities to choose what type of work they did. Forget found that in the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 percent, with fewer incidents of work-related injuries, and fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse. Additionally, the period saw a reduction in rates of psychiatric hospitalization, and in the number of mental illness-related consultations with health professionals.

  106. blf says

    I have not been following this closely, so perhaps some of our MooseCanadian friends can fill in details, but there is a seemingly-political kerfuffle in the (and yes, there really is such a thing in the 21st C) “Miss World” contest, Canada renews backing for Miss World contestant’s human rights push in China:

    Anastasia Lin has been at the center of controversy as China appears withhold an invitation to the event’s final: ‘I felt like I was facing this by myself’

    The newly elected government of Canada has renewed the country’s support for its Miss World contestant’s efforts to raise awareness of human rights violations in China, amid fresh claims of harassment by Chinese officials.


    Lin […] has been in the eye a political storm since she was crowned Miss World Canada in May, because of her outspoken stance on China’s human rights abuses. Lin cites her public activism as the reason China appears to be refusing to issue her an invitation to attend the final, which means she cannot apply for her travel visa.

    Since her coronation, Lin has raised the issue of abuses against practitioners of Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual practice with elements of Confucianism that the Chinese Communist party cracked down on during the Cultural Revolution, often brutally, and which remains illegal in China to this day.

    Soon after she won the title in May, Lin said she received a text message from her father asking her to stop her human rights activities. “He told me the security force approached him,” she said. “My father was told there would be consequences.” […]


    Lin moved to Canada from China in 2003 […] while her father remained in Hunan province. […]

    When she arrived in Canada, and with the benefits of an internet service free from censorship, she did some reading on her own. “I was really shocked,” she said.

    […] A new report released by Amnesty International on Wednesday claims that Chinese security agents continue to employ a medieval array of torture methods against government opponents, activists and practitioners of Falun Gong.

    [… O]nce she began speaking out about China’s treatment of Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetan Buddhists and Christians, she said she received more invitations to speak. She testified before a US congressional committee and was part of a Canadian ministerial working group.

    Lin said her rising public profile meant she began being targeted for speaking out. “Chinese state media wrote a lot of nasty things about me,” she said, adding that the Miss World Organisation in Canada received an email threatening that sponsors would pull out if she won the title.


    “I’m 25, I’m a theatre student. I’m an actress,” she said. “It’s shocking how much {the Chinese authorities} are afraid of people speaking up.”

    Some material I’ve read says Ms Lin is herself a follower of Falun Gong, but I am neither aware of any confirmation of that claim, nor should it matter. For that matter, Ms Lin’s age does not matter, so I elucidated it from the article, except where Ms Lin herself mentioned it in a quote.

  107. quotetheunquote says

    I have not been following this closely, so perhaps some of our MooseCanadian friends can fill in details,…

    Nope, sorry, no can do – I had never heard of Anastasia Lin before this week. The human rights situation in China is so universally bad, that it’s mind-numbing after a while….

    In much better news, I am heartened to see that Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has won, not just a majority, but a clear two-thirds majority in the elections in Myanmar/Burma. Not everything is rosy there, obviously (esp. with the generals still holding on to 25% of the seats) but it is a big step in the right direction.