An expat's commentary on current events in national security, foreign affairs, the media, culture, technology and assorted trivia.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Strange doings in Rome

Strange news from the BBC:

The Italian parliament has passed legislation allowing people to shoot robbers in self-defence.

The law permits the use of guns and knives by people in homes or workplaces to protect lives or belongings. The reform was introduced by the Northern League party, a right-wing member of the ruling coalition with a strong anti-crime platform.

The opposition voted against the bill, which critics say will encourage people to take the law into their own hands.

The new law will allow people to use legally registered weapons to protect themselves or others, and their property and the property of others, from harm. It applies if there is a danger of aggression and the attacker does not desist.

Justice Minister Roberto Castelli backed the new law. "Today criminals will have more to fear while there will be fewer problems for honest people," said Mr Castelli, who belongs to the Northern League.

However, the centre-left opposition expressed concern that it would encourage violence and lead to increased use of firearms. "This is a... measure that delegates the use of force to citizens with the sole certain result of increasing the risks for people's safety," said Paolo Cento of the Greens party. A criminal lawyers' group also criticized the law, saying it amounted to allowing "legitimate offence".

Is this a hoax?


Corruption in Turtle Bay, part XL

The Financial Times tells us some shocking news... that there is major league corruption in the UN!

A different culprit, this time, though. Not the peacekeepers, or Kofi's family, or Kofi's deputy, or his special representative, or his election monitor, or his refugee commissioner or his right hand man...

United Nations investigators estimate the world body may have lost as much as $298m through irregularities in peacekeeping procurement, according to an unofficial draft of a report into alleged fraud and mismanagement.

The unofficial report, seen by the Financial Times, paints a damning picture of poor or bypassed financial controls, insufficient oversight by senior management, as well as a revolving door of employment between UN procurement staff, and the private companies whose services the UN hires.

The scale and allegedly systematic nature of wrongdoing has raised fears of a scandal as large if not larger than the Iraqi oil-for-food programme affair, which may hit even closer to UN headquarters.

The $298m figure, almost a third of the $1bn of contracts examined, was removed from a subsequent final document, as were references to named companies and officials. UN member states will be officially sent the final version.

Christopher Burnham, the UN’s head of management, acknowledged on Monday that the cost of fraud and mismanagement in peacekeeping procurement could go into the “tens of millions of dollars”, and the figure was likely to rise over coming months.

There are currently 200 separate investigations related to procurement. Over recent weeks, a new interim head of the procurement service has been appointed, and the UN’s internal investigative arm, OIOS, which conducted the investigation, has established a procurement fraud taskforce.

Last week, the UN announced it had placed eight staff members on administrative leave, although without any presumption of wrongdoing. “The UN is being proactive,” Mr Burnham said, citing co-operation with US federal authorities. “We are ferreting out corruption and fraud where is existed and where it exists.”

Contracts awarded to companies through violations “certainly will be terminated”, he added, and the secretariat would seek compensation.

The draft report also raised questions about the UN’s Headquarters Committee on Contracts, which reviews contracts above $200,000. It named eight officials which worked both for the UN and its contractors at different times.

Also under investigations was the UN’s controls over performance bonds, which are used to guarantee satisfactory completion of a contract. In nine sampled contracts, the bonds received ranged between zero to 7.6 per cent of the contract value, even though the minimum suggested was 10 per cent.

“OIOS noted the systematic erosion over many years of a fair and competitive source for the UN procurement,” the draft report said in its overall assessment. “A lack of enforcement of accountability and a reluctance to investigate mismanagement…has led to a pattern of corrupt practices.”

(Emphasis added.)

Well, one thing that you can say about the UN bureaucrats... at least they are thorough.


I hope Kojo's late fees and interest payments are similar to mine

According to CNN, eight years late, but Kojo finally picks up the tab:

The son of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he is sorry he misused his father's name to save more than $20,000 on a Mercedes SUV he had shipped to his native Ghana. Now, eight years later, he's looking to make things right.

Kojo Annan wants to pay back the customs duties he skirted during the 1998 transaction that cast a shadow over him and his father during last year's probe into the United Nations oil-for-food scandal, according to Kojo Annan's attorney.

Investigators last year found that Kojo Annan "used false pretenses" in obtaining a diplomatic discount for a Mercedes ML 320 sport-utility vehicle he purchased in Geneva, Switzerland.

He saved over US$20,000 by using those false pretenses.

In a January 19 letter to Ghana's customs agency, Kojo Annan's attorney, William Taylor, wrote, "The automobile was not for the secretary-general's personal use and therefore the exemption was not justified."

"Kojo Annan wishes to make full payment of the amount due to the government of Ghana as a result of this transaction," Taylor wrote...

Neither Annan was immediately available for comment. But U.N. spokesman Stephanie Dujarric said, "He obviously misled his father."

Kofi Annan told Volcker investigators that he gave Kojo Annan $15,000 to help him buy the car but said he didn't realize his son was purchasing the car in his name.

Never mind that he had to get forms and signature's from Papa's office to save the 20 G's.

The United Nations has remained silent on details about the vehicle, and Kofi Annan called a Times of London reporter "an overgrown schoolboy" last month after the reporter pressed him on the SUV's whereabouts.

Let's give these paragons control over war and peace...

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Endangered Germans

Another straw in the wind on Europe's demographic suicide, from Reuters:

Ursula von der Leyen, a medical doctor and the mother of seven, wants Germans to have more babies.

Since taking the family affairs portfolio in Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet, she has been making proposals that have put the family high on Germany's political agenda.

Her calls for free child care and extensive tax breaks for families with small children have put the spotlight on Germany's low birthrate.

The Federal Statistics Office said yesterday that Germany's population fell for a third straight year in 2005, adding impetus to the new minister's determination to halt the decline by encouraging families to have more children.

The data show the number of Germans has fallen by 3.2 million in the past 33 years, a decline masked until recently by the flow of immigrants...

Determined to overhaul Germany's child-care system and end the frosty attitude toward families, Mrs. von der Leyen sparked a debate by urging states and communities to slash or even eliminate preschool-care charges that far exceed university fees.

Other European nations are prescribing similar incentives.

More than 600,000 Italian newborns will receive a letter from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in the next week welcoming them into the world as Italian citizens and telling their parents how to receive a 1,000 euro "baby bonus" from the state. Like Germany, Italy's birthrate has plummeted.

Political opponents accuse Mr. Berlusconi of campaign trickery in the run-up to the April 9 elections, using the letter to evade campaign laws limiting his time on television.
"Best wishes for your arrival; do you know that the budget has put aside 1,000 euros for you?" Mr. Berlusconi writes in the letter sent to babies born in 2005.

He signs off: "Big Kiss, Silvio Berlusconi."...

Today, German women find it hard to raise children and pursue a career at the same time. A law scrapped only in the 1970s even allowed a husband to have his wife fired from her job by saying she was neglecting her family. (How sophisticated! - ed.)

Mothers who swap diapers for careers are still disparaged as "raven mothers" -- leaving their children alone in a cold nest. Studies show one-third of German women think working mothers can't have a warm, stable relationship with their children...

(What to do? Beg the government!)

"Free child care might be a nice idea," said Stephan Articus, head of the association of German municipalities. "But we simply don't have the [money] needed."

(Emphasis added.)


NoonShadow has put the spotlight on the phenomenon of Europe's quietus before.

It is not only that the population is shrinking, but that with so few children, the population is becoming older and older.

Minister von der Leyen's moves come too late to make a difference.


Speaker for the oppressed and downtrodden?

The N.Y. Times explains how the U.N. chooses sides between gang rapists and their victims:

Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani woman whose defiant response to being gang-raped by order of a tribal court brought her worldwide attention, was denied a chance to speak at the United Nations on Friday after Pakistan protested that it was the same day the country's prime minister was visiting.

Ms. Mai had long been scheduled to make an appearance called "An Interview With Mukhtar Mai: The Bravest Woman on Earth" in the United Nations television studios, sponsored by the office for nongovernmental organizations, the Virtue Foundation and the Asian-American Network Against Abuse of Human Rights.

But on Thursday night the organizers were informed that the program would have to be postponed because of Pakistan's objections.

Ms. Mai is leaving New York on Saturday so the effect was to cancel her appearance.

Asked at a news conference why Pakistan had taken the action, the prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, said: "I have no idea. You have informed me and so have some other people as I was walking in. I don't know how the place functions."

The Pakistani Mission did not return calls seeking comment.

In 2002, a village council sentenced Ms. Mai to be gang-raped for the supposed misconduct of her brother. Pakistani women in such circumstances often commit suicide, but Ms. Mai instead successfully challenged her rapists in court. She gave the compensation money she received to schools in her remote district...

Mr. Aziz is scheduled to see President Bush in Washington next week.

This was not the first time that Pakistan's government had interfered in Ms. Mai's travels. President Pervez Musharraf blocked her from taking a trip to the United States in June and then relented last fall when Glamour magazine honored her as its "Woman of the Year...

In an interview, Ms. Mai said: "I feel disappointed. I was not going to say anything bad about Pakistan. I was just going to talk about my work and what people are doing."

(Emphasis added.)

It is a strange place, the U.N.

Supposedly founded to advance humanity's highest ideals, it instead wallows in the muck, proudly protecting the world's cruelest scum.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Quote for the day

As soon as man began considering himself the source of the highest meaning in the world and the measure of everything, the world began to lose its human dimension, and man began to lose control of it.

- Vaclav Havel (1936 - )
Czech playwright and president


Global warming crisis

Where were the SUVs?

An extraordinary burst of global warming that occurred around 55 million years ago dramatically reversed Earth's pattern of ocean currents, a finding that strengthens modern-day concern about climate change, a study says.

The big event, the Palaeocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), saw the planet's surface temperature rise by between five and eight degrees C (nine and 16.2 F) in a very short time, unleashing climate shifts that endured tens of thousands of years.

(Emphasis added.)

America didn't exist 55 million years ago.

Actually, neither did Europe.

Actually, neither did homo sapiens!

Please explain, greenies.


Fat Canucks

Also in Toronto's Globe and Mail:

Canada's obesity crisis appears to be deepening, with the number of people classified at the most extreme end of the spectrum exploding in recent years, new research suggested Monday.

The findings were part of a study conducted by researchers at Queen's University, who were looking at changes in the prevalence of three classes of obesity in this country.

They found that between 1990 and 2003, the prevalence of those falling into the class III category of obesity – those with a body mass index of 40 or greater – rose to 1.3 per cent, from 0.4 per cent, an increase of 225 per cent.

That trend, they said, mirrored a similar move south of the border, where the prevalence of class III obesity soared 175 per cent.

Canada: 225%
USA: 175%

Wait, I thought it was the Big Mac scarfing, SUV driving, reality show watching couch potatoes in the U. S. of A. who were slapping on the lard?

How can the compassionate, fully insured, fully disarmed Canadians be outperforming the Yanks?

Re obesity, see earlier post on South Korea. And for the whole bleedin' world, see this post. (The Maltese and Malians and Mexicans and Jordanians are fat too? I bet it is still the Americans' fault.)


Shocking news

The Toronto Globe and Mail has endorsed the Conservative Party!

Full details at the New Sisyphus.

I don't know how long it has been, but it has been quite a while since the de facto mouthpiece of the Grits has endorsed the Tories. The rotten stench of Liberal corruption must really be thick in Ontario.

The election is 23rd Jan.


Quote for the day

If your opponent has a conscience, then follow Gandhi. But if you enemy has no conscience, like Hitler, then follow Bonhoeffer.

(n.b. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian minister hanged by the Nazis in 1945 for helping Jews and for his involvement in the plot to kill Hitler)

- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968)
American pastor, civil rights leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner


Kyoto greenhouse gas wheeze

Hypocrisy? Bite your tongue! Only the morally superior sign Kyoto...

Rob Lyons in Spiked Online:

One of the many strange things about the Kyoto protocol is that its biggest defenders are also its biggest breachers...

Canadian prime minister Paul Martin said in his speech to open the talks at Montreal: 'The time is past to pretend that any nation can stand alone, isolated from the global community, for there is but one Earth and we share it, and there can be no hiding on any island, in any city, within any country, no matter how prosperous, from the consequences of inaction.'

Canada, bound by the treaty to achieve a six per cent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, is currently producing 24 per cent more emissions than in 1990.

The treaty demands that global emissions of six greenhouse gases fall by 5.2 per cent compared with 1990 levels over the period from 2008-2012. Yet its biggest supporters are failing miserably in this effort. Emissions for the EU are supposed to fall by eight per cent but the 15 longest-standing members of the Union will manage cuts of only 2.5 per cent by 2012.

What is Canadian PM Paul Martin saying? That the only important thing to do is sign Kyoto... implementation is optional?

Lyons again: "The Kyoto process is not dead, but it may be in a permanent vegetative state."

Isn't that a perfect example of hypocrisy?

Friday, January 06, 2006


Paragon of virtue insulted

Iran doesn't need any goody-two-shoes UN busybodies telling it when it can or can't make bombs. No matter how loudly their good-conduct medals may clank and clatter.

From the New York Times:

A defiant Iran rebuffed the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Thursday, failing to show up for a meeting to discuss Tehran's plans to move closer to uranium enrichment within days.

Diplomats close to the agency described the move as unusual and suggested it was at least partly triggered by criticism of Tehran by agency head Mohamed ElBaradei during a Wednesday meeting with Iranian envoys.

One of the diplomats said the Iranians appeared taken aback by the firmness of ElBaradei's demands for more cooperation in his agency's investigation of Tehran's nuclear activities...

But a diplomat accredited to the agency said the IAEA appeared resigned to not getting the details it had asked for before Monday. He cited ElBaradei as saying he did not expect the high-ranking Iranian delegation to ask for a new appointment.

Agency officials said the delegation, led by Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, was en route to Tehran by Thursday afternoon...

European powers had hoped that a briefing by IAEA officials would help them determine whether to go ahead with planned talks with Iranian officials in Vienna on Jan. 18 or to cancel them and have Tehran referred to the Security Council. (Note to EuroWeenies: What, it isn't clear yet? If the other party doesn't show, consider them cancelled... Where's the mystery? What do you need, a freakin' diagram? Jeez... - ed.)
(Emphasis added.)

Please note that there is one phrase missing from this article, which is replete with references to ElBaradei and the IAEA.

This little phrase is present, without exception, in any recent article regarding either ElBaradei or the IAEA.

That phrase is 'Nobel Peace Prize-winning.'

Yes, for their good works, Mr ElBaradei and his IAEA won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

Could this glaring omission be because the Persians just took a rod to the ineffectual international bureacracy and beat it like a redheaded stepchild? Then made water on the IAEA quivering toadies and snorted with derision?

Or is it just an oversight by the New York Times? (We know how cavalier that the Grey Lady has been with the facts in recent years. Isn't that right, Howell?)


Quote for the day

Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.

- Jean-Francois Revel (1924 - )
French author and philosopher

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Dubya's great-great^4096 grandfather is to blame, naturally

There is a certain spin on this new study which seems to beg - nay! entreat, importune, implore, plead, beseech - a certain question:

A new study has revealed that an extraordinary burst of global warming that took place around 55 million years ago dramatically reversed the world's pattern of ocean currents, adding weight to modern concerns over climate change.

The research, produced by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, showed how global warming caused by greenhouse gases can quickly disrupt ocean processes and lead to drastic changes.

The Palaeocene/Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which occurred 55 million years ago, saw the planet's surface temperature rise by between five and eight degrees Celsius in a very short time, unleashing climate shifts that lasted tens of thousands of years.

The study appears in the respected British journal Nature, and comes after research published in November suggested that global warming is slowing the Atlantic current, giving western Europe its mild climate.

The question is: How many fat Americans were driving SUVs and launching wars for oil... 55 million years ago?


European 'social' 'model' creates no jobs... but plenty of misery and immigration

Schadenfreude alert:

Germans are leaving their country in record numbers but unlike previous waves of migrants who fled 19th century poverty or 1930s Nazi terror, these modern day refugees are trying to escape a new scourge -- unemployment...

High unemployment that lingers at levels of more than 20 percent in some parts of Germany and dim prospects for any improvement are the key factors behind the migration. In the 15 years since German unification more than 1.8 million Germans have left...

According to the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden, the 150,667 Germans who left last year went to 200 countries -- the United States was the top destination with 12,976, following by Switzerland (12,818), Austria (8,532) and Britain (7,842.)...

"There are actually far more Germans moving abroad than the numbers reflected in the official statistics," said Klaus Bade, a University of Osnabrueck professor who studies migration.

"The poor chance of finding jobs at home is the main reason they're leaving," Bade told Stern magazine in a cover story that gave Germans useful tips on how to emigrate.

It's a remarkable change of fortune for Germany, which thanks to the post-war "Economic Miracle" of the 1950s and 1960s was a magnet for millions of foreigners who trekked there from Turkey, Italy and other poor countries in search of jobs.

The main exodus from Germany has been from its formerly communist East, which has been depressed and contracting since just after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. The East's population has shrunk to 14.7 million from 16 million since 1990.

(Emphasis added.)

Hey, even corrupt, thrice-divorced hair-dyer Gerd is doing it. (And he gets the added bonus of forcing poor Ukrainian untermenschen pensioners to freeze to death whilst raking in millions of Russian petro-dollar dosh.)

Don't forget: the German population was already shrinking before this latest tidbit.

And loyal readers won't be able to say that they never saw it coming. It is not big news. This trend has been gathering pace. And we know why.

The Jerries aren't alone though...

Remember the House of Orange! (The Dutchies are fleeing the Netherlands, too, but at least in Holland, you can find a job if you are not a lazy dole-addicted slob.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Quote for the day

If a working class Englishman saw a bloke drive past in a Rolls-Royce, he'd say to himself 'Come the social revolution and we'll take that away from you, mate'. Whereas if his American counterpart saw a bloke drive past in a Cadillac he'd say 'One day I'm going to own one of those'. To my way of thinking the first attitude is wrong. The latter is right.

- Kerry Packer (1937 - 2005)
Australian businessman

Thursday, December 15, 2005


More sexcapades from our sophisticated, compassionate, betters at the UN

Remember Carina Perelli?


UN Chief Fired Over Sexual Harassment Charges

UN's electoral chief Carina Perelli was fired over sexual harassment and authority abuse charges on Tuesday.

UN Undersecretary-General Christopher Burnham handed 48-year-old Perelli a letter of dismissal in the morning.

According to the letter she was dismissed due to "serious misconduct" and conduct "inconsistent with the standards of conduct expected of international civil servants."

An internal investigation had shown that Perelli had been "engaged in sexual and professional harassment" of her staff and that she had abused her authority as a manager.

Perelli said that she would appeal the dismissal, because the accusations were wrongful.

Misconduct, yes. Inconsistent with UN standards, no.

Early this year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers (the 'Rude Lover') was given a choice between resignation or the sack, for his serial sexual harassment. He resigned.

Or how about the globe-spanning saga of Blue Helmets & Purple Helmets, chronicling the exploits of our Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning UN Peacekeepers, including running prostitution rings, gang-rape of 12-year-olds, offering food for sex with starving children, and so on, in every location where the UN has a peacekeeping operation.

Sounds awful bleeding 'consistent with UN standards' to me. Disgustingly so.