Tuesday, August 28, 2007

South Africa's health department has recalled millions of condoms given out under a program it funded

BBC News:

The company that produced the condoms, Zalatex, allegedly bribed a government official to certify almost four million faulty condoms as up to standard.

The government is now recalling all 20 million Choice brand condoms produced by the company.

Zalatex's attorney, James Ndebele, from Fluxmans Attorneys, said the company strongly denied the allegations.

He told the BBC News website that the allegations were "untrue... offensive and defamatory".

He said Zalatex was fully prepared to co-operate with the investigation.

About five million people in South Africa are believed to be infected with the HIV virus.

Every year, the South African government distributes hundreds of millions of condoms in a bid to control both birth rates and sexually transmitted diseases.

Department recalls more condoms

Some people with HIV/Aids in Papua New Guinea are being buried alive by their relatives

BBC News:

Margaret Marabe said families were taking the extreme action because they could no longer look after sufferers or feared catching the disease themselves.

Ms Marabe said she saw the "live burials" with her own eyes during a five-month trip to PNG's remote Southern Highlands.

PNG is in the grip of an HIV/Aids epidemic - the worst in the region.

Officials estimate that 2% of the six million population are infected, but campaigners believe the figure is much higher.

HIV diagnoses have been rising by around 30% each year since 1997, according to a UN Aids report.

Margaret Marabe, a known local activist in PNG, carried out an awareness campaign in the Tari area of the Southern Highlands earlier this year.

"I saw three people with my own eyes. When they got very sick and people could not look after them, they buried them," she told reporters.

She described how one person called out "mama, mama" as the soil was being shovelled over their head.

Villagers told her that such action was common, she said.

HIV/Aids is mostly spread in the country through heterosexual intercourse, and polygamy, rape and sexual violence are widespread.

Those caught up in the epidemic are often thought to be the victims of witchcraft.

Women accused of being witches have been tortured and murdered by mobs holding them responsible for the epidemic, according to officials and researchers.

Church leaders have described Aids patients being thrown off bridges or left to starve in back gardens in the past, the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney reports.

Ms Marabe, who works for the Igat Hope organisation in the capital, Port Moresby, said people in remote parts of the country remained ignorant about HIV/Aids and urged the government to take action.

"There are no voluntary counselling training centres in Tari. There are also no training programmes on HIV," she was quoted by PNG's Post-Courier newspaper as saying.

PNG's Secretary for Health Dr Nicholas Mann admitted to the BBC in an interview last year that the multitude of cultures and languages in the country made it difficult to get the HIV/Aids message across.

Papua New Guinea police to investigate claims AIDS patients buried alive

Families in Turkey accused of forcing young women to take their own lives

Helena Smith:

Nuran Uca never made it to 61 Aydin Arslan Street. If she had gone to the colourful two-storey building, climbed its narrow stairwell, walked down a corridor and sat in the plump brown armchair that so many other women had used, she might be alive today. There, with counsellors from the Kam-er support group, she could have talked about the "crime" of falling in love with a man she could never marry.

Instead, on June 14 the Kurdish woman succumbed to the phenomenon that is claiming lives in this Kurdish area of south-east Anatolia: she hanged herself in the bathroom of her home.

"She was just 25 but it was especially tragic because both were teachers, educated people," said Remziye Tural at Kam-er, the women's organisation that has become a lifeline in Turkey's poor south-east for those who face death because of a perception of dishonour. "She was modern and wore tight clothes - which is why his family rejected her. She was banned by her parents from seeing or speaking to him, and then they stopped her leaving the house. In the end the pressure was too much."

Despite the searing heat, Ms Tural is dressed for work in a pink T-shirt, combat trousers and boots.

On the streets of Batman, a city with a population of 250,000, an alarming number are harbouring suicidal thoughts, and acting on them.

Across Turkey, men are twice as likely as women to take their own lives, but, defying that trend, more than 300 women in Batman have attempted suicide since 2001. Seven women died in almost identical copy-cat deaths in one month alone.

The rising number of suicides has brought schoolgirls marching in protest to Batman's cemetery crying "stop the violence", a courageous act given the conservative mores in Batman.

"The numbers are increasing," said Ms Tural. "By June this year, 19 had tried to take their lives and most were successful. That's just in Batman. All over, in villages and towns, young girls are committing suicide."

There were those who had jumped into the River Tigris, others who had fallen off rooftops or cut their wrists, and some, like Nuran Uca, who had opted to end their lives abruptly as they were doing chores around the house.

Invariably, survivors said it was their kader, or destiny, to meet such an end.

But women's groups and human rights advocates believe the suicides are tantamount to murder. Stories have emerged of girls as young as 12 being locked in rooms for days with rope, poison or a pistol.

"There's a lot of evidence to suggest that these are, in fact, 'honour killings' passed off as suicides - that these girls are being forced to take their own lives," said Aytekin Sir, a psychiatrist who has studied the practice. There is no evidence that Nuran Uca's family forced their daughter to kill herself.

Last year, Yakin Erturk, a special UN envoy, arrived at the same conclusion, saying "honour suicides" had clearly begun to replace "honour killings", with the deaths increasingly being disguised as accidents.

It really sucks to be a woman in Turkey.

California High School Exit Exam: The number of LAUSD English-learners who passed the English portion of the exam on their first try dropped to 27%

Naush Boghossian:

Fewer English-language learners in Los Angeles schools are passing the California High School Exit Exam on the first try, even though the overall student passing rate remains relatively steady, according to results released Thursday.

The number of L.A. Unified School District English-learners who passed the English portion of the exam on their first try dropped to just 27 percent - down from 49 percent two years ago and 30 percent last year.

Just 32 percent passed the math portion of the test, down from 47percent in 2005 and 34 percent last year.

The drops reflect a statewide decline among English-learners, with just 36 percent of California's 10th-grade English-learners passing the English portion of the test - down from 42 percent in 2005.

About 47 percent statewide passed the math portion, down from 49 percent two years ago.

While a higher percentage of 10th-graders passed the CAHSEE, LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer III said he's disappointed at the rate of progress.

About 290,000 - or 41 percent - of the LAUSD's 708,000 students are categorized as English-learners.

Over the past two years, the district has set aside one hour of every six-hour classroom day to focus exclusively on building students' English skills.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said 10th-grade English-learners are the only group to experience such a drop, showing an urgent need to better prepare students.

O'Connell said he wants more analysis of the data, but suspects that the drop was because of more reclassification of students out of the English-learner program.

"This was one group that went in the wrong direction and it's something we need to address," he said. "We must be diligent and steadfast in our commitment to close the achievement gap not only for our students' future success, but also for California's future success."

The passing rate among all 10th-graders in the LAUSD remained flat compared with the past two years, with 66 percent passing the English portion and 61 percent passing math.

O'Connell said while he's encouraged by slight increases in the passing rate, the exam tests minimum competence.

"Their success at passing the test confirms they have acquired the fundamental skills and knowledge that every California high school graduate must have in order to compete in today's work force," O'Connell said.

"However, I continue to be troubled by the achievement gap, as indicated by our first-time test-takers, that continue to exist between students who are African-American or Hispanic/Latino and their peers who are white or Asian."

Thousands yet to pass high school exit exam

Test achievement gap persists in S.F.

Credit scores are good for auto insurance companies, but problematic for African-American and Hispanic consumers

Asa Aarons:

Those are the mixed findings from a Federal Trade Commission study on credit-based insurance scores and automobile insurance.

The study found credit scores effectively predict the number of claims consumers file and the total cost of those claims. However, it also found that black and Hispanic consumers tend to have lower scores than non-Hispanic whites and Asians. As a result, consumers in those demographic groups, on average, end up paying more for car insurance.

Credit-based insurance scores are tallied on information in a consumer's credit report. Insurance companies use them to predict the claims that consumers are likely to file, and set rates. Consumers with higher scores pay lower rates than consumers who have low credit scores.

Credit scores help insurance companies "better match the risk of loss that consumers pose" so higher-risk consumers pay higher premiums and lower-risk consumers pay lower premiums, the FTC explained. "Scores permit insurers to evaluate risk with greater accuracy, which may make them more willing to offer insurance to higher-risk consumers for whom they otherwise would not be able to determine an appropriate premium."

But credit scores are distributed differently among racial and ethnic groups. "These differences are likely to have an effect on the premiums that these groups pay, on average," the report noted.

The FTC could not suggest any alternative that would help insurance firms predict risk effectively but decrease price differences among racial and ethnic groups.

The bottom line: don't expect auto insurance carriers to stop using credit scores any time soon.

The best ways to boost your score: pay your bills consistently and on time, keep balances on your credit cards as low as possible and avoid opening a lot of new accounts in a short time, especially if you don't really need them.

FTC Study Confirms That Credit-Based Insurance Scores Mean African Americans and Hispanics Pay More for Auto Coverage

One in four babies born in Britain has a foreign mother or father

Philip Johnston:

Population data for the year to July 2006 showed the proportion of babies born to a foreign parent has risen to 25 per cent compared to under 20 per cent just six years ago.

The startling statistic reflected the impact of recent record levels of immigration on the population.

A spokesman for the Office for National Statistics said: "That reflects the cumulative effect of immigration over the last 40 years."

Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch, said over the next 20 years one in three new households will be a result of immigration.

"It is clear from these figures that immigration is continuing unchecked and continues to break all previous records - despite the fact this is opposed by the vast majority of the public," he added.

Figures from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) earlier this year showed about six million people living in Britain - one in 10 - was born overseas.

This was far higher than the official figures from the 2001 census, which predated the recent surge in immigration.

25% of UK babies have a foreign parent

Gwinnett officials placed a 17-year-old Mexican boy in jail after he refused treatment for tuberculosis

Associated Press:

When doctors told Francisco Santos he had tuberculosis, Santos said he was walking out of the Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville and heading back to his home country of Mexico, officials said.

"I think he was scared," said David Will, attorney for the Gwinnett County Board of Health.

Will said Santos was detained because he is a public health threat.

"He has active, contagious TB," Will said Saturday. "He is at risk of communicating that with anybody he comes in contact with."

Gwinnett health officials say were aware of the recent incident involving Atlanta lawyer Andrew Speaker, who also has tuberculosis. After Speaker left for his wedding in Greece, a national news conference set off an international health scare.

Santos is the only inmate in a special medical isolation cell designed for inmates with contagious conditions. The cell, which measures about 15 feet by 20 feet, has a special ventilation system that keeps the air from reaching other inmates.

The teenager has a toilet, sink, bed and a mirror made of polished metal. Two deputies guard him and the other medical inmates.

Will said Santos will remain in jail until either he accepts treatment. Santos could be placed in a hospital with security at a Sept. 5 commitment hearing.

Gwinnett health officials are looking for family members and others who have been in contact with Santos, who lists his address as Norcross. He lives with at least one parent and several younger siblings. His jail records also indicate he is unemployed.

Santos said he was born in Mexico. The status of his citizenship was not known.

Gwinnett health officials expect to release more information about the case as early as Monday.

"Everybody's hoping he will undergo the treatment," Will said.

Teen With TB Agrees to Take Medicine

St. Paul: Somalis don't like to report crime - even rape

Anthony Lonetree:

The video shows what most witnesses in a St. Paul apartment building apparently didn't tell.

A man beat a woman, removed his pants and sexually assaulted her in a hall, and five to 10 people saw at least part of the attack but did nothing to intervene or help, according to investigators and court documents.

It was only after police were summoned on a report of two drunk people lying in the hall that they learned there had been a rape. Rage Ibrahim, 25, of St. Paul, was charged Thursday with first-degree and third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He is in Ramsey County jail.

The criminal complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court said the surveillance video showed the woman lying in the hall as early as 1:20 a.m. Tuesday. Police weren't dispatched until almost 90 minutes later.

Residents on the second floor of Afton View Apartments weren't talking much Thursday afternoon. One man wouldn't come to his door. A young woman, with children surrounding her, said: "I don't know anything."

Though the building's resident manager wouldn't provide demographic breakdowns, the tenant list in the entryway is dominated by Somali surnames -- a segment of St. Paul's population that police say is often reluctant to report crimes.

That reluctance is of such concern to police officials that Chief John Harrington has been meeting monthly with Somali elders to encourage community cooperation in criminal matters, police spokesman Tom Walsh said Thursday.

Through Wednesday night, the building in the 300 block of Winthrop Street had generated 63 police incident reports this year, with 19 involving various types of disturbances and 11 being 911 hangup calls.

Tuesday's rape was the first such offense at the building this year, reports show.

According to the complaint, officers found Ibrahim and the woman lying in the hall. Her clothes had been pushed above her waist. He wasn't wearing pants or underwear.

The woman told officers that she didn't know Ibrahim and that he had drugged her and raped her. She was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

Officers overheard the woman say she "just wanted to die," the complaint said.

An Immigration Explosion

CAIR Goes Back to School

Somalis in the Hallway

A troop of monkeys is giving Kenyan villagers long days and sleepless nights, destroying crops and causing a food crisis

Juliet Njeri:

Earlier this month, local MP Paul Muite urged the Kenya Wildlife Service to help contain their aggressive behaviour.

But Mr Muite caused laughter when he told parliament that the monkeys had taken to harassing and mocking women in a village.

But this is exactly what the women in the village of Nachu, just south-west of Kikuyu, are complaining about.

They estimate there are close to 300 monkeys invading the farms at dawn. They eat the village's maize, potatoes, beans and other crops.

And because women are primarily responsible for the farms, they have borne the brunt of the problem, as they try to guard their crops.

They say the monkeys are more afraid of young men than women and children, and the bolder ones throw stones and chase the women from their farms.

Nachu's women have tried wearing their husbands' clothes in an attempt to trick the monkeys into thinking they are men - but this has failed, they say.

"When we come to chase the monkeys away, we are dressed in trousers and hats, so that we look like men," resident Lucy Njeri told the BBC News website

"But the monkeys can tell the difference and they don't run away from us and point at our breasts. They just ignore us and continue to steal the crops."

In addition to stealing their crops, the monkeys also make sexually explicit gestures at the women, they claim.

"The monkeys grab their breasts, and gesture at us while pointing at their private parts. We are afraid that they will sexually harass us," said Mrs Njeri.

Kenyan village raided by vervet monkies

Monkey misery

Have racial preferences reduced the number of black lawyers?

Gail Heriot:

Specifically, Mr. Sander found that when black and white students with similar academic credentials compete against each other at the same school, they earn about the same grades. Similarly, when black and white students with similar grades from the same tier law school take the bar examination, they pass at about the same rate.

Yet, paradoxically, black students as a whole have dramatically lower bar passage rates than white students with similar credentials. Something is wrong.

The Sander study argued that the most plausible explanation is that, as a result of affirmative action, black and white students with similar credentials are not attending the same schools. The white students are more likely to be attending a school that takes things a little more slowly and spends more time on matters that are covered on the bar exam. They are learning, while their minority peers are struggling at more elite schools.

Mr. Sander calculated that if law schools were to use color-blind admissions policies, fewer black law students would be admitted to law schools (3,182 students instead of 3,706), but since those who were admitted would be attending schools where they have a substantial likelihood of doing well, fewer would fail or drop out (403 vs. 670). In the end, more would pass the bar on their first try (1,859 vs. 1,567) and more would eventually pass the bar (2,150 vs. 1,981) than under the current system of race preferences. Obviously, these figures are just approximations, but they are troubling nonetheless.

Mr. Sander has his critics--some thoughtful, some just strident--but so far none has offered a plausible alternative explanation for the data. Of course, Mr. Sander doesn't need to be proven 100% correct for his research to be devastating news for affirmative-action supporters.

Suppose the consequences of race-based admissions turn out to be a wash--neither increasing nor decreasing the number of minority attorneys. In that case, few people would think it worth the costs, not least among them the human costs that result from the failure of the supposed beneficiaries to graduate and pass the bar.

Under current practices, only 45% of blacks who enter law school pass the bar on their first attempt as opposed to over 78% of whites. Even after multiple tries, only 57% of blacks succeed. The rest are often saddled with student debt, routinely running as high as $160,000, not counting undergraduate debt. How great an increase in the number of black attorneys is needed to justify these costs?

Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action Hurts Minorities

Law School Affirmative Action

Nelson Mandela is to urge black leaders in Britain to do more to beat the gang culture gripping inner cities


The former South African president will tell an audience of black businessmen, sports stars, celebrities and politicians they have a duty to act as role models for the young.

He will urge the group, which will also include financiers and journalists, to help underachievers in their own communities.

A signed message will be handed to every guest, reading: “It is important for you as leaders to harness those responsibilities and ensure that you also empower those around you who scale the mountains with you.”

Mr Mandela's words come amid growing fears over the alienation of young people in inner cities and concern they may drift into violent gangs because they see no alternative future.

Britain's black communities have been caught up in a debate over how much help they should expect from government and the police and how much they should do themselves.

His message will underline recent government-backed research that found young black teenagers need a new generation of role models.

He is in Britain for the unveiling tomorrow of a 9ft bronze statue in his honour in Parliament Square opposite the House of Commons.

Let's hope the black leaders listen to him.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Norway: A Somali immigrant who wildly stabbed fellow passengers on board an Oslo tram 3 years ago is now seeking compensation from the state

Nina Berglund:

He claims he never should have been released from psychiatric care just days before he went amok, and his victim's own mother agrees.

The man, an immigrant from Somalia in his 40s, killed one of the passengers and wounded four others in the bloody attack on board the #17 tram as it rolled by Bislett Stadium on an August afternoon in 2004.

He had been sitting quietly on the tram when he suddenly pulled out a large knife, which he'd just bought in downtown Oslo, and started slashing at everyone around him. The shocked driver of the tram brought it to a halt and frantically called for assistance.

By the time it arrived, the man had fled, hijacking the car of a passing motorist. One of his victims, a 23-year-old man who didn't hear the uproar around him because he was deaf, was stabbed to death.

The assailant was eventually captured later that day and has been committed to psychiatric care ever since. Newspaper VG reported Friday that he now claims the state is liable for turning him into a killer because he didn't receive the care he needed at the time.

His attorney wouldn't elaborate on the case, nor would the organization that promotes patients' rights in Norway.

State health authorities earlier criticized a doctor at Ullevål University Hospital for releasing the man from acute care without having a plan to follow up his treatment. An intern on duty had actually handled the release, but the doctor was viewed as being responsible.

The victim's mother, Karin Mjåland, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday that she understands why her son's killer is seeking compensation.

"I understand that he needs a confirmation (that the stabbings weren't entirely his fault) to get on with his life," she told NRK. "Living with the knowledge that you’ve killed someone and injured four others, must be terrible."

She and her family have also blamed Ullevål Hospital for the death of her son. "We feel they're responsible for the loss of our son," she said.

The state's real mistake was allowing him into the country in the first place.

Three young Somali men convicted of committing street robberies in Helsinki will be allowed to remain in Finland for now

Helsingin Sanomat:

The Supreme Administrative Court ordered them not to be deported, until it has made a decision on their applications for the right to appeal their deportation order. A decision on the matter could take months.

A group of young men of Somali background were convicted of violently robbing people on the streets of Helsinki in 2005. Several of the group were given prison sentences at the end of that year.

The Directorate of Immigration decided to order the deportation of some of the members of the group. They appealed the decision to the Helsinki Administrative Court, which upheld the deportation orders. Two of the men are from Somaliland and one from Puntland, which the court found to be peaceful.

The men appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court to stop the implementation of the deportation order. The court decided on Monday that the deportation should not be take place while it deliberates a ruling.

Send the criminals back to Somalia.

Drug crimes of the brothers of the French justice minister from Morocco

Kerstin Gehmlich:

The legal troubles of two brothers of France's justice minister are embarrassing the former poor immigrant's child, whose ascent into government has fascinated the nation, but they are unlikely to tarnish her political star.

Rachida Dati's brother Omar is to face trial on drugs charges in November, a prosecutor said on Wednesday, a day after an appeals court sentenced another of her 11 siblings, Jamal, to a year in prison for consuming and selling heroin.

Analysts say this will not spoil the minister's success.

"It's not her. It's about people that might be close to her ... it should have no bearing on her ability to do her job," said Hall Gardner of the American University of Paris.

Dati, a trained judge, was hardly known to most French when President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed her after his May election, but she has since been labelled a showcase member of his ethnically diverse government.

Dati remains popular, with 53 percent of French wanting a more important role for her, a recent TNS Sofres poll showed. Analysts say she benefits from the immense popularity of her sponsor, Sarkozy.

"Her image is very much associated to that of Sarkozy. It's Sarkozy who has offered her a portfolio and visibility," said Francois Miquet-Marty from pollster LH2, adding Dati had even joined the president's family on a holiday in the United States.

Newspapers have savoured every detail of how the daughter of a Moroccan bricklayer and an illiterate Algerian housewife financed her studies by selling face creams door-to-door and by working as a night nurse.

Three books on the youthful 41-year old, who almost always carries a bright smile, are coming out in the next few weeks amid increasing French interest in politicians' private lives.

Justice minister's new law sees brother jailed

Middle-class Britons are beginning to move out of towns in southern England that are home to large numbers of immigrants

This is London:

This phenomenon - called 'churn' by Whitehall officials and 'middleclass flight' by other commentators - saw 240,000 people move out of London last year.

Independent experts said the high emigration figures showed that many Britons are fed up with life here and believe they will do better elsewhere.

Liam Clifford, of consultancy firm globalvisas.com, said his company had 50,000 inquiries from would-be emigrants last month alone.

"They do not believe that the services and the system can cope with the number of people coming into the UK at the moment," he said.

"Even fairly rural areas and villages seem to be coming under the threat of having an increased population and lack of services."

Dean Morgan, of the workpermit.com website, added: "Normally in July and August it is quite quiet but this year we have been inundated.

"People are worried about their children and they worry about their jobs and their future here and possibly the economy as well.

"Perception of crime is another of the main reasons for people wanting to leave."

A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank earlier this year said there are now 1.3 million British emigrants living in Australia.

Another 761,000 live in Spain, and 678,000 in the United States.

The ONS yesterday estimated that last year's emigration figures were the highest since 1991, when modern counting methods were adopted.

Immigration of foreigners causes emigration of the native population.

Big British Out Migration And White Flight From Cities

Why is acting white so bad?

Andrew Anthony:

One proof of this is the pejorative slang term “coconut”, meaning someone who is black on the outside but white on the inside — or put another way, someone who looks black but acts “white”. For in reality, almost all of us good liberal anti-racists carry around a set idea of what being “black” entails: physically strong, non-academic, in some way anti-authority and of course promiscuously heterosexual. And anyone, particularly a male, who does not adhere to these preconceived notions is by definition somehow less black.

I got thinking about this imprisoning idea of blackness when I visited a largely black school in South London and met a talented young poet. His teacher told me that the pupil was in constant risk of expulsion as he tried to conform to a group image of toughness and resistance to education.

It struck me that teachers like my friend had been trained in anti-racism and diversity awareness, that society at large had become progressively less racist in the past three or four decades, employment opportunities had considerably increased, and yet statistics showed that the academic achievement of Afro-Caribbean boys had either not improved or declined during that same period.

For the anti-racist ideologues the answer was simple: racism. It had not gone away, it had just become more subtle. And in a way they were right, I think, although not in the way they thought. First of all, a large part of the racism that I witnessed came from within black communities themselves, where low expectations and cultural stereotypes were often aggressively enforced. Then there was the kind of “well-meaning” racism, no less restricting, in which I had been complicit.

I recalled, by way of example, an interview I once did with an obscure political aspirant by the name of Derek Laud (later to achieve a greater profile as a contestant on Big Brother). When I met Laud in 1997 he was the prospective Tory candidate for Bernie Grant’s Labour stronghold of Tottenham.

Laud dressed like an Edwardian gentleman, spoke in a camply posh voice, was a member of the right-wing Monday Club, and an enthusiastic fox-hunter. In other words, he wasn’t very “black”. Naturally, as a good liberal, all I did was talk about his race.

After teasing out all the apparent contradictions of Laud’s existence as a black man, I put it to him that it must have taken a great deal of willpower to ignore his own racial identity in the homogeneous environment of the Reform Club, where we met.

“This is your problem,” replied Laud. “You clearly think of me as being black.”

At the time, I thought this was a tragicomic case of self-denial. And I quickly pointed out that he was indeed black. To which he said: “I never wake up in the morning and look at my face and think: ‘Gosh, I’m black.’ ” Of course, I never woke up and thought I was white, but that was different: I was white. I wasn’t fighting my own racial oppression. Had he never heard of black consciousness? It was agreed by every approved authority on the matter that the way to liberation from racial prejudice was to “get in touch” with your racial identity.

But what does that mean? Or rather, what has that turned out to mean?

There is little danger of urban black youths being unaware of their identity as young black men. Its ubiquitous imagery is sold back to them with all the crude repetition of a 50 Cent album. And this self-dramatising idea of blackness has helped to create a mental ghetto that is every bit as debilitating and limiting as the real ghettos taking shape in our cities.

One way of correcting this situation, which almost everyone in theory agrees upon, is to challenge racial stereotypes. In which case there can be few greater challenges to the Afro-Caribbean stereotype than Laud: gay, camp, sardonic and Tory.

I was wrong about Laud. I don’t mean to say that he should be held up as some kind of role model; only that if the black story is to evolve beyond a constraining identity of victimhood and oppression, it first needs to embrace people like Laud. And then, the real test, it needs to be big enough to let them go.

Instead, the British African pressure group Ligali dismissed the “gay pseudo intellectual”, after his Big Brother appearance, as a “prime example of cultural disinheritance”. Alas, this is an all too typical bitter reaction to anyone who doesn’t put their blackness first. The truth is, however, that until people with black skin can reject and select their own culture they will never truly be free.

National Review: Race Is “A Perceptual Category, Not A Biological One”

Infectious diseases are spreading faster than ever before, the World Health Organization annual report says

BBC News:

With about 2.1 billion airline passengers flying each year, there is a high risk of another major epidemic such as Aids, Sars or Ebola fever.

The WHO urges increased efforts to combat disease outbreaks, and sharing of virus data to help develop vaccines.

Without this, it says, there could be devastating impacts on the global economy and international security.

In the report, A Safer Future, the WHO says new diseases are emerging at the "historically unprecedented" rate of one per year.

Since the 1970s, 39 new diseases have developed, and in the last five years alone, the WHO has identified more than 1,100 epidemics including cholera, polio and bird flu.

"It would be extremely naive and complacent to assume that there will not be another disease like Aids, another Ebola, or another Sars, sooner or later," the report says.

Diseases spreading with faster world travel

Cheap air travel 'is spreading deadly diseases'

WHO says more killer diseases like AIDS on their way

Infectious diseases spreading faster than ever: U.N.

Paralyzed five-year-old Gazan girl faces deportation battle in Israel

BBC News:

Five-year-old Maria Amin from Gaza is putting on a brave face in the hydrotherapy pool.

Two therapists at the Alyn Children's Hospital in Jerusalem are helping her.

Maria cannot kick her legs or even feel the water she's floating in. She is permanently attached to a ventilator.

Maria was paralysed from the neck down by an Israeli rocket attack in May 2006.

The missile was aimed at a leader of the armed Islamic Jihad movement, who was killed outright.

So were Maria's mother, her grandmother and seven-year-old brother, who were driving past at the time. Maria was blown through the car window, suffering severe injuries.

Israeli law denies compensation to victims of what it calls its "acts of war", but Maria's story was taken up by local as well as foreign press.

Under pressure, Israel's Defence Ministry has been paying for her rehabilitation treatment at the specialist hospital in Jerusalem.

But now it wants to deport Maria to a Palestinian clinic in the West Bank.

Staff at the hospital in Jerusalem are helping Maria to become as independent as she can be. They are teaching her to use her mouth to work a computer.

The head of the hospital, Shirley Meyer, doesn't want to let Maria go.

"Without going into politics - that's not my role and not my business - my first priority is to make sure my patients receive the care they need," she says.

"I don't care where that is, but as far as we know, this is the only hospital in the Middle East that can look after Maria properly.

"Her case is extremely complicated. So we will not agree to discharge her until we are satisfied she will be adequately cared for elsewhere."

Israel's Supreme Court will hear Maria's case at the end of September.

If the country's Defence Ministry gets its way, Maria will be sent to the Abu Raya Rehabilitation Centre in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

In a statement, the ministry said Maria would fare better in her "natural environment".

Her father Hamdi is fighting to keep her in Jerusalem.

"It's a matter of life and death for Maria. She can only survive 50 seconds without the ventilator and there are often complications. Here they are experts. In Ramallah they are not," he says.

"Israel's air strike killed my son and my wife. All I ask is that they look after my daughter."

Maria's lawyer, Adi Lustigman, has several objections to the Defence Ministry's plan: Maria is Gazan and has no family in Ramallah; Abu Raya has not got the experience or equipment to deal with complications such as hers; far less severe cases are sent to the Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem.

Frequent hold-ups at checkpoints between Ramallah and Jerusalem could cost Maria her life. She would not be the first Palestinian to die that way.

Israel's Defence Ministry has offered to send staff from Abu Raya to Jerusalem for training. It says it will pay for some of Maria's medical equipment and for her father's rent in Ramallah for a year.

"But then what?" asks her lawyer. Maria's paralysis, her frequent infections and fevers, her need for new medical equipment as she gets bigger, are all ongoing.

Everyone involved in Maria's case says they have her best interests at heart but, like so much else in this conflict, the fate of this Gazan child has become highly politicised.

Maria will turn six next week. She says she just wants to lead as normal a life as possible.

"I want them to give me a home for me and my father and my little brother where I can bathe by myself, get dressed by myself and everything," she says.

"I want them to make a kitchen so I can cook for my father and my brother whatever they want.

"I would love to go to school. But first I would have to shower, get dressed and have a school bag."

Maria's father is constantly by her side. He feeds her, cleans her ventilator and brushes her hair.

He even paints her nails, although he knows she will never use her hands again.

Palestinians: 11-year-old boy killed in Israeli West Bank raid

South Africa's military is needed to fight crime on Cape Town's Table Mountain, the city authorities say

BBC News:

The city's tourism head Simon Grindrod said there had been 15 muggings on the mountain, one of South Africa's most famous landmarks, in the past 14 days.

"Table Mountain is under attack. If the mountain is under attack, we are all under attack," he told the BBC.

Last month, the tourism minister warned that high crime could deter visitors coming to the 2010 football World Cup.

The mountain which looms above Cape Town is one of the most iconic symbols of South Africa.

It draws thousands of tourists who come to walk and climb along its flanks, and many more who catch the cable car to the top.

It has 52 rangers patrolling it daily, backed by 200 volunteers, but there is increasing concern that the level of crime will deter tourism.

He said criminals were already using guerilla tactics by hiding in the forbidding terrain and the military were trained and equipped to deal with it.

"The military use this vast national park for training so they could step up patrols and join in with game rangers and police," said Mr Grindrod, who is in charge of tourism for Cape Town's mayor.

He said police resources are being overwhelmed by the rise in crime.

South Africa and crime

Mauritius lures SA's rich

Dog-fighting and the African-American community

Dave Gibson:

While most of are sickened by the details of NFL star Michael Vick's brutal and cowardly treatment of his dogs, incredibly there is a large segment of this nation's black population (including the NAACP) which cannot understand the outrage.

Amid all of the coverage devoted to the Michael Vick case by the mainstream media, the one thing that is often right on the tip of the reporter's tongue, but which we will never hear is the fact that dog fighting is a common and accepted activity in every black inner city neighborhood across the United States. The pit bull has become the dog of choice by young black thugs, who see no wrong in placing their dog in mortal danger.

What was traditionally an activity participated in by poor whites in the rural South, dog fighting has now become as popular as football or basketball amongst a great many black Americans. To this element, the cruel act of pitting dogs against one another which often ends with one or both dogs being maimed or killed, is seen no differently than a boxing match.

One cannot be certain as to which is more appalling, the disgusting accounts of Vick enjoying watching his dogs rip off one another's face, then torturing them to death by drowning or electrocution when they lose or the nonchalant responses to his activities given by his fellow black millionaire athletes.

NBA thug Stephon Marbury who plays for the New York Knicks, recently defended Vick by saying: "They don't say anything about people shooting deer." He went on to declare: "Dog fighting is a sport!"

Former NFL celebrity Deion Sanders even wrote an article for NewsPress.com defending Vick's criminal behavior. Sanders justified the brutality by saying: "What a dog means to Vick might be a lot different than what he means to you." He went on to offer the following insights: "I believe Vick had a passion for dog fighting. I know many athletes who share his passion. The allure is the intensity and the challenge of a dog fighting to the death. It's like ultimate fighting, but the dog doesn't tap out when he knows he can't win."

Then this final gem from Sanders: "It reminds me of when I wore a lot of jewelry back in the day because I always wanted to have the biggest chain or the biggest, baddest car. It gives you status."

While we will hear the usual excuse from liberals as to why many poor blacks engage in dog fighting, that excuse does not hold water for Vick who of course is black, but who also is a millionaire. For that, the NAACP steps in.

President of the Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP, R.L. White recently told CNN: "The way he (Vick) is being persecuted, he wouldn't have been persecuted that much had he killed somebody." White went on to condemn the NFL for suspending him and demanded that Vick eventually be reinstated and allowed to play.

While functional illiterates such as Michael Vick are idolized by poor black teenage boys, who also see a prison sentence as badge of honor, Vick's actions only be further encouragement to torture 'man's best friend.'

Foxx defends Vick over dog fighting charges

Poll: Americans want a strong federal policy that secures America's southwestern border and makes illegal immigration more difficult

Joe Murray:

According to the Aug. 18 poll, Americans, by a margin 56-31 percent, want the federal government to continue building a fence along the Mexican border. Last summer, Congress passed, and the president signed, a bill that required the federal government to construct an 854-mile-long security fence. To date, only 13.4 miles of that fence has been completed.

Americans also have disdain for sanctuary cities, which offer protection to immigrants in the U.S. illegally. By a margin of 58-29 percent, Americans favor cutting off federal funds to sanctuary cities.

The poll also discovered that Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of a national identification card program "for all foreign workers and students in the United States." Seventy-one percent of Americans voiced support for the program, while only 16 percent responded that they oppose.

Support for such an identification card is not surprising, as an Aug. 12 Rasmussen poll found that 79 percent of American adults "favor a proposal requiring employers to fire workers who falsely identity documents," while only 9 percent oppose. Seventy-four percent believe that landlords should be allowed to require prospective tenants to provide documentation proving they are in the country legally. Seventeen percent feel no such documentation is necessary.

In response to the poll, Bob Dane, communications director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), noted, "The polls are now offering more specific questions with more reasonable solutions."

Dane noted that a few years back, the poll questions were "politically charged" and usually presented the immigration issues in the extreme, i.e., mass deportation or amnesty.

"Immigration used to be an issue that was in someone else's backyard, and now it has become one that is in my backyard, and people are responding to this crisis," Dane added.

Earlier this summer the Bush administration angered a number of conservatives when they actively supported the Kennedy-McCain immigration bill, a bill that granted instant legal status to the 12-15 million illegal aliens already in the United States. Rasmussen found that only 22 percent of Americans supported the bill. It died in the Senate.

Then in July, a Pennsylvania federal judge ruled that the town of Hazleton had violated the Constitution when the town passed measures that punished employers and landlords for employing/renting to illegal aliens.

The Aug. 18 poll showed that 75 percent of Republican voters want the federal government to build the fence along the Mexican border, while 73 percent favor cutting federal funds to sanctuary cities and 81 percent favor an identification card for foreigners. Such numbers have not been lost on the GOP presidential hopefuls and the immigration issue has dominated the headlines.

Earlier this week, GOP frontrunners Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani traded barbs over immigration. Romney first attacked Giuliani by stating the former New York City mayor presided over one of America's largest sanctuary cities. As mayor, Giuliani continued the policy of his predecessor, Democratic Mayor Ed Koch, which prohibited city officials from sharing the immigration status of an illegal immigrant unless there was evidence of a crime.

Giuliani fired back by arguing that when Romney was governor of Massachusetts he permitted two cities, Cambridge and Somerville, to offer the same protection to illegal immigrants that New York City did.

While GOP frontrunners scatter to adjust their immigration policy to reflect the polling data, one candidate, Arizona Sen. John McCain, stuck to his guns in regards to the Senate's amnesty bill, and such a decision caused the senator to plummet in the polls to single digits or the low teens.

But nowhere has the issue of immigration been more influential than in the second tier of Republican presidential candidates. Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo made a name for himself as a staunch defender of America's border and has taken the message on the road to the White House.

Tancredo's tough immigration message has caused the Congressman to explode from just 1 percent of the Iowa vote to 14 percent of the vote at the Aug. 11 Iowa Straw Poll. Tancredo now is polling between 5-7 percent and is seeing campaign growth.

Other candidates, such as California Congressman Duncan Hunter, have also been bringing the immigration message to the American people. Last week, Hunter told a Las Vegas, Nev., crowd that he does not understand why it is taking so long to build the border security fence the president signed into law.

"It is just a fence. ... You line it out and build it all concurrently," Hunter said. He also acknowledged that the people he meets on the campaign trail are frustrated by the government's inaction over illegal immigration.

The big issue that unifies America? The media won't believe it, but it's ....

Cut federal funding for sanctuary cities/states

Kelsey Grammer is to confront the man who raped and murdered his sister in an attempt to prevent the killer's release from prison

Daily Mail:

One of the men behind Karen Grammer's killing, Michael Corbett Larry Dunn

The star of TV's Frasier will come face to face with Freddie Glenn at a parole hearing in January.

Grammer will tell the parole board of the anguish he has suffered since his sister Karen was killed in 1975.

The 18-year-old student was abducted, raped and her throat was slashed.

Grammer, 20 at the time, had to identify the body.

The killing plunged Grammer, who plays quick-witted psychiatrist Dr Frasier Crane in the U.S. comedy series, into a spiral of drink and drug abuse.

The actor has only recently come to terms with the tragedy, which he has admitted changed his life.

Glenn has served 31 years of a life sentence in a Colorado jail but Grammer is determined he remain behind bars.

"Recently, I got news that the man who did this to Karen is now eligible for parole," he said.

"There is a hearing sometime later this year that I will attend. I am angry about him. "I never had the opportunity to speak for my sister before. I will now."

Grammer, 52, has rarely spoken about his sister other than to admit the devastating impact her death had on his life.

He was an aspiring actor living in New York when he had to identify her body.

Karen, a college student, had been abducted after leaving a fish restaurant in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she had gone to see her boyfriend.

Glenn, Michael Corbett and Larry Dann raped her and then Glenn slashed her throat with an army bayonet and tossed her into the street. She crawled away looking for help but bled to death.

The prosecutor in the case and lead detective appealed against Glenn's parole last year when he first became eligible for release.

Blood Trail

A sweep by federal immigration agents and local authorities has netted 60 Mexican immigrants with ties to violent street gangs

Greg Gross:

The two-week-long sweep is part of Operation Community Shield, an ongoing nationwide effort by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to dismantle transnational gangs.

“In general, it seems that gangs in San Diego are composed of about 20 percent foreign nationals, and the rest U.S. citizens,” said Serge Duarte, deputy ICE special agent-in-charge in San Diego.

“We think it's important to the gangs to maintain those (international) links to have access to narcotics, to weapons trafficking.”

All of the 60 gang members are expected to leave the country, either voluntarily or through deportation, which carries added penalties if they're caught in the United States again.

Of those 60, 11 of them first will be prosecuted on state and federal charges, including weapons charges.

“There's one who's being prosecuted for receiving stolen property, three counts of spousal battery and violating a court order,” Duarte said. Furthermore, most of the 11 who are being prosecuted were in the United States after having already been formally expelled from the country, he said.

In addition to the 60 gang members, law enforcement officers picked up another 68 Mexican nationals believed to be illegally in U.S. territory.

“They weren't gang members or associates, to our knowledge. They were just in the wrong place,” Duarte said.

Federal authorities will seek formal deportation hearings for all 60 gang members picked up during the sweep, Duarte said. A deportation, which requires a ruling from an immigration judge, carries more weight legally than a voluntary repatriation, in which illegal immigrants are allowed to leave the country by their own choice.

Those with a prior criminal history caught on U.S. soil again after having been deported could face up to 10 years in federal prison.

“Our intent is to have a formal deport process for every one of them,” he said, adding that ICE also is looking at using federal money-laundering statutes against the gangs.

“We're going to use every tool in the toolbox,” he said.

The raids focused on gang members in Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista. The largest number of gang members was found in San Marcos, followed by Escondido, said ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack.

In addition to ICE agents, officers involved in the raids included sheriff's deputies, Escondido and Oceanside police officers, county probation officers and members of the North County Regional Gang Task Force.

Since it began in 2005, Community Shield has led to the arrest of more than 4,900 gang members and associates belonging to more than 500 street gangs around the country. Of those arrested, 272 were in the San Diego area.

The three gangs that produced the greatest number of arrestees in this latest sweep were Varrio San Marcos, South Los and the Vista Homeboys, Duarte said.

Feds Arrest 128 Mexicans In California Gang Sweep

Springdale : City to change tactics to fight crime by aliens

The Tide is Turning in the Criminal Illegal Alien Controversy

73-year-old woman raped by an illegal immigrant from Guatemala

Dan Uhlinger:

Resolute in her desire for justice, the 73-year-old woman steered her motorized wheelchair into the Hartford courtroom Wednesday to confront the man who broke into her East Hartford apartment while she was sleeping and raped her.

Fidgeting with the plastic tube from her portable oxygen tank, the woman, identified only as JD, took a breath and stared at Alejandro Cuy Xum as he was brought into Superior Court in Hartford for his sentencing.

The last time JD saw Cuy Xum, now a 23-year-old, was after midnight July 17, 2005, when he broke into the Willow Arms Apartments for the elderly on Main Street.

Cuy Xum walked down a hallway and found the wheelchair-bound woman's door unlocked. He walked in, found JD in her bedroom and punched her in the head before raping her. After the attack, Cuy Xum rifled the apartment and took some of her belongings. As he left, he grabbed JD's little dog and threw it against a wall.

"There is no sentence that is enough," Assistant State's Attorney Edward Narus told Judge Thomas Miano. "This was a victim who had no means to fight. She was not able to defend herself."

Calling it a heinous crime, Miano sentenced Cuy Xum to 20 years in prison for one count of first-degree sexual assault, one count of third-degree assault on an elderly person and two counts of burglary.

"No one can appreciate what this woman has gone through," Miano said. "This is such a devastating affront to humanity."

Miano said JD showed great courage in her willingness to testify in the case. Miano noted that many rape victims are afraid to become involved in the court system.

"This woman should be commended," he said.

Before Cuy Xum was sentenced, Miano asked him whether he wanted to speak.

Cuy Xum admitted his crime and said he was taking responsibility for his actions.

"I would like to let the victim know I am sorry," Cuy Xum said through an interpreter.

Cuy Xum said he read in the Bible that they are brother and sister in God's eyes.

"I would like her to forgive me. I wish everyone to forgive me for everything I did."

JD's eyes were fixed on Cuy Xum but she did not react.

Before Cuy Xum spoke, JD's daughter read a statement prepared by her mother.

The statement said, in part:

"I've lost the ability to live in my own home. I was living in a senior apartment complex when I was attacked. I no longer have the strength to live on my own. That part of my life ended.

"I've lost most social contacts. My lifelong best friend, Dot, and I lived at Willow Arms Senior Housing along with other friends and building neighbors. Dot and I would see one another several times a week. I seldom see them anymore. That part of my life ended. ...

"I've lost full use of my arm. ...

"I've lost the companionship of my little dog. Peaches was my constant companion."

Narus said JD's life will no longer be the same.

"We consider our home sacrosanct ... safe and secure," Narus said.

When a home is broken into the victim feels violated, he said.

Narus cited the "horrific" break-in last month of a doctor's home in Cheshire and the killing of his wife and daughters, one of whom was raped.

After an event like that, there is a public outcry for justice, Narus said. Narus said he could understand the outcry.

In the East Hartford case, Narus said, he tried to imagine the "sheer terror" the woman felt when she was "savagely attacked and sexually assaulted.

"She is a prisoner within her own walls now," he said.

Cuy Xum, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, is likely to be deported after serving his time in prison, Narus said.

73-year-old rape victim: Security, independence, privacy, pet all gone

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Britain: The continuing problem of gang violence is due to the absence of fathers in black communities, Justice Secretary Jack Straw says

BBC News:

He said young black men needed their fathers as role models, otherwise their development suffered.

Black girls from similar backgrounds had different attitudes and succeeded more than black boys, he said.

He was responding to US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson who said inner city violence was an economic problem.

"Gang violence is rooted in the economics of desperation," said Rev Jackson, adding that some people were "profiting" from providing guns to deprived areas.

He called for more investment in pre-natal care and education, rather than building more jails.

But Mr Straw, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, said the problem was not due to economics.

"One of the striking things is the difference between the attitude and the success in life of black girls from exactly the same backgrounds compared to black boys."

Black girls perform around the average at Key Stage 4, aged 16, compared to the overall population, he said.

"Black boys go backwards when they get to secondary school.

"It's a cultural problem. It's the absence of fathers who are actively involved in parenting.

"And as we know - lads need dads. Of course they need their mums as well, but there is a particular point in teenagers' development, of young men, where fathers are very important and they are more likely to be absent in the case of the Afro-Caribbean," Mr Straw said.

Mr Straw said the government had put in place schemes to deter people from getting into gang violence, but admitted "there is a very great deal more to do".

"But this cannot just be a matter for the government.

"It has to be a matter for these communities because the problem for these communities is that not only are they - the black lads - much more likely to end up in prison, but they are also much more likely to be the victims of crime than the white or non-black sections of the community."

Straw blames absent dads for gang violence

An Alameda County judge has denied bail to an associate of Your Black Muslim Bakery who is charged with kidnapping a woman for ransom

Henry K. Lee:

Joshua Bey has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping a woman for ransom

Joshua Bey, 19, would be a danger to the community and to the woman if he is released on bail, said Judge Morris Beatus of Alameda County Superior Court. Bey himself could also be in danger, the judge said, though he did not specify from whom.

Bey shook his head in disagreement and relatives cried in the gallery of the Oakland courtroom as the judge announced his decision.

Bey's criminal case is one of several involving people associated with the Oakland bakery. A handyman with the group, Devaughndre Broussard, 19, has been charged with murdering Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey on Aug. 2, allegedly because he was upset that Bailey was reporting on the bakery's financial problems.

Bey, his half brother and bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV, 21, and Tamon Halfin, 20, were arrested in the kidnapping the same day Broussard was arrested in Bailey's killing. The Bey brothers and Halfin have not been charged in the slaying, but could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted of kidnapping the woman.

All three are being held without bail on three counts of kidnapping, two counts of false imprisonment and one count of torture. Joshua Bey has pleaded not guilty; the other defendants have not yet entered pleas.

According to authorities, the three men used a Ford Crown Victoria outfitted with emergency lights - the same type of car that police use - to pull the woman over on Interstate 580 near Seminary Avenue about 10:30 p.m. May 17.

They took her to an abandoned home on Avenal Avenue, put a bag over her head, and hit and stabbed her and told her that she would be tortured with a hot curling iron if she didn't reveal where an acquaintance kept his money, authorities said.

They asked her if she could "smell that gasoline, that's the next thing that's gonna happen," Oakland police Officer Jesse Grant wrote in a statement that outlined grounds for the three men's arrest.

The men fled when a police officer who had heard the woman's cries for help arrived at the home.

Joshua Bey's attorney, David Washington, sought unsuccessfully Tuesday for a "reasonable bail" for his client.

The attorney said Bey IV had directed Joshua Bey and Halfin to get money from the woman. He said the bakery leader had lied to the other men, telling them the cash would help the financially ailing group, which filed for bankruptcy protection in October.

In reality, Bey IV told police, the money was to be used to repay a personal debt, according to Grant. Bey IV "had to lie to get them to follow instructions," Washington told the judge.

The accusation is similar to one made Monday by Broussard's attorney, LeRue Grim, in the murder case. Grim said Bey IV had coerced Broussard to be a "good soldier" for Your Black Muslim Bakery and falsely confess to killing Bailey.

Deputy District Attorney Scott Patton said the kidnapping was an extremely serious case. Joshua Bey "may not be the mastermind, but the idea that he wasn't intricately involved in the commission of the crime is just not accurate," he said, arguing that the defendant was a flight risk.

Bey IV and Halfin are unlikely to make bail, as Bey is facing separate criminal charges relating to real estate fraud, the vandalizing of two Oakland liquor stores and assault on a bouncer outside a San Francisco strip club. Halfin pleaded no contest last year in the liquor store vandalism case from 2005.

The Color of Crime

Immigration, multiculturalism and Scottish independence

David Pryce-Jones:

Tony Blair has got out of Downing Street just in time, leaving a whole range of crises, any one of which might well scupper Gordon Brown, the new British prime minister. Scotland is one of the issues with potential for immediate and lasting harm. Blair initiated a process of devolution that gave the Scots limited powers of self-government. At the time he was warned that this threatened the integrity of the United Kingdom, and so it is proving. This summer, the Scottish National Party won elections to the Scottish parliament, though by a very thin margin. The SNP’s sole purpose is to break away from the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent and sovereign country. Its leader, Alex Salmond, has just completed his first 100 days in office, and with a mixture of ability and guile he is playing the independence card long. It so happens that Brown is himself a Scot, and it is the rawest of ironies that he has to confront the SNP. This duel of the two Scots will decide whether Britain continues to exist in its historic entity, or becomes as obsolete as the Soviet Union.

Opinion polls suggest that almost two-thirds approve of Salmond’s administration so far, and also that independence one day is inevitable although under a quarter of the respondents actually were in favour of it. I have just spent some time in Scotland, and pretty well everyone I spoke to there confirmed the broad outlines of these polls. However unenthusiastic they might be at the prospect, almost everyone considered that independence was the virtually certain outcome of devolution. And that would be Blair’s irreversible legacy.

One Scottish grandee, a Unionist, had an interesting angle. The Scots, he said to me, have a very strong sense of their own identity, and do not take kindly to others coming to live among them, or telling them what to do. This is tribalism, with its plusses and minuses, and it means that when they look at Britain they see that immigration is out of control, and there is a diminishing sense of identity, and even less national pride. The Scots hope to avoid such a fate. In a nutshell, then, repudiation of multi-culturalism is the motor driving Scottish independence and the ultimate break-up of Britain.

Immigration Driving Scottish Separatism?

Greek police have clashed with African immigrants protesting over the death of a Nigerian man in the northern city of Thessaloniki

BBC News:

Police fired tear gas at a stone-throwing crowd who had gathered outside the police station on Monday holding up photographs of the dead man.

The Nigerian in his 20s died after he jumped from a building where he was selling pirated DVDs in a cafe.

He had fled when he believed police in the cafe were trying to arrest him.

Police say no officers had been in the cafe at the time.

Protests first took place on Sunday when angry migrants gathered outside the cafe and threw stones and chairs at police, AP news agency reports.

For a second night, youths clash with police in Thessaloniki over immigrant's death

African Immigrants Clash with Police in Thessaloniki

Bad Headline From The BBC

Two members of the gang which murdered British policewoman Sharon Beshenivsky have been charged with stabbing a fellow prison inmate

BBC News:

Yusuf Abdillh Jamma and Muzzaker Imtiaz Shah

Yusuf Abdillh Jamma, 20 and Muzzaker Imtiaz Shah, 25, were sentenced to life in prison following the shooting of the officer in Bradford in 2005.

Both are accused of stabbing a man, 22, who is also serving life for murder, at Durham's Frankland Prison in March.

They will appear before Peterlee magistrates on 30 August, charged with wounding with intent.

The prisoner was reported to have been stabbed in the stomach on 6 March.

Pc Beshenivsky was shot on 18 November 2005 at a travel agency in Bradford.

In December last year, Shah and Jamma were both told they must serve a minimum of 35 years in prison for her murder before being considered for release.

Frankland Prison, which houses some of the UK's most dangerous terrorist inmates, has seen several high-profile attacks in recent months.

In July, the jail cell of Hussain Osman, one of the 21/7 bomb plotters, was set alight.

It followed an attack on another al-Qaeda inmate, Dhiren Barot, who subsequently spent five days in Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary after being scalded with boiling water.

And earlier this month, three youngsters found a bag containing a sawn-off shotgun and balaclavas hidden in undergrowth near the jail.

I guess these morons want to spend the rest of their lives in prison.

Zimbabwe's annual rate of inflation jumped to 7,638% in July according to the first official figures to be published for three months

BBC News:

The Central Statistical Office said inflation had more than doubled since May - the last official data released.

Since then the government has ordered shopkeepers to slash their prices and arrested anyone who has failed to obey.

Last month, the International Monetary Fund warned annual inflation could reach 100,000% by the end of the year.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe has said the real year-on-year inflation is far higher than the official rate - claiming it was nearer 13,000% in June.

Zimbabwe's economic crisis has led to an estimated three million people fleeing the country for South Africa.

Unemployment stands at about 80% and there are mass shortages of fuel and foodstuffs.

Businesses were forced to freeze prices in June as President Robert Mugabe's government tried to stem inflation.

But some producers, fearing making a loss, cut production, meaning the move exacerbated shortages, leaving shop shelves empty.

Last month a new 200,000 Zimbabwe dollar note was launched, in a bid to tackle the country's inflation, the highest in the world.

The country's government has created a commission to find a way to control soaring living costs.

But correspondents say that as long as Zimbabwe has a shortage of staple foods, including maize, food shortages are likely to continue.

Critics have blamed President Mugabe's policies, especially the seizure of farms, for ordinary Zimbabweans' hardship.

Some 10,000 flee Congo to Uganda

Probe into Rwandan Darfur general

'Curse' of Liberia's resources

Zimbabwe Collapses By Christmas?

Indian Muslims are largely illiterate and poor

Soutik Biswas:

As historians tell it, during India's first election in 1952, Jawaharlal Nehru was already worrying about the feeble representation of Muslims in the country's positions of authority.

Many more Muslims had stayed back in India than the millions who migrated to newly-born Pakistan after the partition just five years before.

India's first prime minister's concerns about the country's second largest religious group and the largest religious minority were eminently justified.

"There were hardly any Muslims left in the defence service, and not many in the secretariat," says historian Ramachandra Guha.

Next year, in 1953, a group of intellectuals met to discuss forming a political party for the Muslims and spoke about the low representation of Muslims in political positions and bureaucracy.

More than half century later, on India's 60th anniversary of independence, very little has changed.

Today, at over 138 million, Muslims constitute over 13% of India 's billion-strong population, and in sheer numbers are exceeded only by Indonesia's and Pakistan's Muslim community.


Muslims comprise only 5% of employees in India's big government, a recent study found. The figure for Indian Railways, the country's biggest employer, is only 4.5%.

The community continues to have a paltry representation in the bureaucracy and police - 3% in the powerful Indian Civil Service, 1.8% in foreign service and only 4% in the Indian Police Service. And Muslims account for only 7.8% of the people working in the judiciary.

Indian Muslims are also largely illiterate and poor.

At just under 60%, the community's literacy rate is lower than the national average of 65%. Only half of Muslim women can read and write. As many as a quarter of Muslim children in the age-group 6-14 have either never attended school or dropped out.

They are also poor - 31% of Muslims are below the country's poverty line, just a notch above the lowest castes and tribes who remain the poorest of the poor.

India's Muslims adopt Hindu names

Violent crime along the U.S.-Mexico border is increasingly spilling northward into the cities of the American Southwest

Richard A. Serrano:

In Phoenix, deputies are working the unsolved case of 13 border crossers who were kidnapped and executed in the desert. In Dallas, nearly two dozen high school students have died in the last two years from overdoses of a $2-a-hit Mexican fad drug called "cheese heroin."

The crime surge, most acute in Texas and Arizona, is fueled by a gritty drug war in Mexico that includes hostages being held in stash houses, daylight gun battles claiming innocent lives, and teenage hit men for the Mexican cartels. Shipments of narcotics and vans carrying illegal workers on U.S. highways are being hijacked by rival cartels fighting over the lucrative smuggling routes. Fires are being set in national forests to divert police.

In Laredo, Texas, a teenager who had been driving around the United States in a $70,000 luxury sedan confessed to becoming a Mexican cartel hitman when he was just 13. In Nogales, Ariz., an 82-year-old man was caught with 79 kilograms of cocaine in his Chevrolet Impala. The youth was sentenced to 40 years in prison in one slaying case and is awaiting trial in another; the old man received 10 years.

In Southern California, Border Patrol agents routinely encounter smugglers driving immigrant-laden cars who try to escape by driving the wrong way on busy freeways. And stash houses packed with dozens of illegal immigrants have been discovered in Los Angeles.

But a huge U.S. law enforcement buildup along the border that started a decade ago has helped stabilize border-related crime rates on the California side; a recent wave of kidnappings in Tijuana has been largely contained south of the border.

The sprawling border has been crisscrossed for years by the poor seeking work and by drug dealers in the hunt for U.S. dollars. For decades neither the United States nor Mexico has managed to halt the immigrants and narcotics pushing north. But with the Mexican government's newly pledged war on the cartels, and an explosion of violence among rival networks, a new crime dynamic is emerging: The violence that has hit Mexican border towns is spreading deeper into the United States.

U.S. officials are promising more Border Patrol and federal firearms officers, more fences and more surveillance towers along the desert stretches where the two nations meet.

But law enforcement officials are wary of how this new burst in violence will play out, especially because the enemy is better armed and more sophisticated than ever. Among their concerns are budget cutbacks in some agencies -- including a hiring freeze in the Drug Enforcement Administration -- and community opposition to the surveillance towers.

Johnny Sutton, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas, said he would need at least 20,000 new Border Patrol agents in El Paso alone to hold back the tide. But that is the total number of agents that Washington hopes to have along the whole border by the end of 2009.

In six years, Sutton's office has tried 33,000 defendants, about 90% of them on drug and immigration violations. "We're body-slamming them the best we can," he said.

In Phoenix, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said there were 10,000 inmates in his jail and overflow tents; 2,000 of them are "criminal aliens" from the border, he said. His deputies are investigating the deaths of 13 people executed in the desert.

Immigration Officials, Crime Stoppers Team Up to Nail Child Sex Offender

Mexico Propaganda and Crime Update

More than half the African-American and Hispanic applicants for teaching jobs in Massachusetts fail a state licensing exam

Tracy Jan:

More than half the black and Hispanic applicants for teaching jobs in Massachusetts fail a state licensing exam, a trend that has created a major obstacle to greater diversity among public school faculty and stirred controversy over the fairness of the test.

The minority failure rate has been demonstrably higher than among whites since the test's inception nearly a decade ago, according to state statistics, which show that 52 percent of Hispanic applicants and 54 percent of black applicants fail the writing portion of the exam. By comparison, 23 percent of whites fail. Black and Hispanic teachers also lag behind white teachers in major subject tests such as English, history, and math.

The problem has become so acute that a state task force of teachers, professors, hiring directors, and state education officials convened last week to begin examining why minorities fare so much worse on the tests.

"One of the fallouts which is particularly upsetting in our experience across the colleges is fewer and fewer students of color are even going into teaching because word has gotten out that these tests are very difficult for them," said Sally Dias, a vice president at Emmanuel College in Boston who is a member of the panel. "One test should really not be a determinant of someone's career."

Stiffer federal rules about teacher quality have increased educators' worries about the results of the teaching test, which more than 16,000 Massachusetts teachers take annually. States, under a 2001 federal law, must show teacher competency under a bar set by the state. In Massachusetts, school districts now risk losing federal money if they are not making progress toward licensing all teachers.

Education school deans in the last year began expressing concerns about the minority teachers' high failure rates to state officials and asked the state to evaluate the validity of the test and consider other ways of judging prospective teachers. They and others say the minority teachers' results raise questions about whether the design of the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure is culturally biased and whether the quality of education that minority teaching applicants receive is good enough.

The state's teachers have had to take a battery of tests to get their licenses since 1998, under rules set in the 1993 Education Reform Act. Before 1998, teachers qualified for licenses if they passed certain college courses and had completed student teaching.

Chris Anderson, chairman of the state Board of Education, said he is open to other ways of assessing teachers as long as standards are not lowered.

"There's no reason to have any barriers to quality teachers if we don't need them," he said. "But at the same time, we need to have accountability and assurance that there are basic abilities for any new teacher in Massachusetts."

It should not be surprising that black and Hispanic teachers don't do as well on exams as their white counterparts since we see the exact same situation amongst students. Pretending that blacks and Hispanics are as intelligent as whites will not change reality.

A controversial scholar claims modern culture was born in the foothills of the Alps

Andrew Curry:

The search for the origins of civilization has taken archaeologists to less pleasant places than Swabia. Nestled between France, Switzerland, and Bavaria, the German region is the heart of Baden-Wuerttemburg, a state that markets itself as a center for creativity and innovation. It's no idle boast. Hundreds of small high-tech firms dot the region. Giants such as Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Zeiss are all based in the gleaming, modern state capital, Stuttgart.

American archaeologist Nicholas Conard is convinced Swabia's tradition of innovation goes back a long way: 40,000 years, give or take a few thousand. Excavating in caves east of Tübingen, a medieval town 20 miles south of Stuttgart, Conard has unearthed expertly carved figurines and the oldest musical instruments in the world. The finds are among the earliest art ever discovered, and they're extremely sophisticated in terms of craftsmanship, suggesting a surprising degree of cultural complexity.

Conard claims his finds are evidence of an intense flowering of art and culture that began in southwestern Germany more than 35,000 years ago. Although older art and decorations have been found--including geometric patterns on stones and personal ornaments in South Africa, as well as drilled shell beads on the shores of the Mediterranean--the figurines and instruments in Conard's caves are symbolic representations that reflect a state of mind with which modern humans can easily identify. "Figurative art began in Swabia, music began in Swabia," he says. "It couldn't have developed elsewhere, because the dates are just later elsewhere."

35,000-Year-Old Mammoth Sculpture Found in Germany

Palaeolithic ivory sculptures from southwestern Germany and the origins of figurative art

Current Research on the Gravettian of the Swabian Jura

The color of your eyes could determine your achievements in life, say scientists

Ben Clerkin:

They claim those with blue eyes are more likely to sparkle academically than those with brown.

They are more intelligent and gain more qualifications because they study more effectively and perform better in exams.

The discovery might help explain the success of such disparate individuals as Stephen Hawking, Alexander Fleming, Marie Curie, Stephen Fry and Lily Cole.

In reaction time trials conducted by U.S. scientists, the brown-eyed performed better, making them more likely to succeed at activities such as football, hockey and rugby.

But the researchers concluded that those with lighter eyes appeared to be better strategic thinkers.

Blue-eyed boys and girls proved to be more successful in activities that required them to plan and structure their time, such as golf, cross-country running - and studying for exams.

Stephen Hawking, author of A Brief History Of Time, is Britain's most eminent physicist.

Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin while Marie Curie was the first twice-honoured Nobel laureate for her work on radioactivity.

Writer and actor Stephen Fry gained a scholarship to Cambridge while model Lily Cole secured a place at King's College, Cambridge, after achieving five As at A-level.

Joanna Rowe, professor emeritus at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, who conducted the tests, said the results suggested a hitherto unexplored link between eye colour and academic achievement.

"It is just observed, rather than explained," she said. "There's no scientific answer yet." Dr Tony Fallone, senior psychology lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire, who has also studied eye colour, believes it should be taken more seriously as an indicator of personality and ability.

Most babies have blue eyes but they usually darken as the pigment melanin builds up in the iris.

Less melanin produces green, grey, or light brown eyes. Eyes with very little melanin appear blue or grey.

Body parts that reveal your intelligence

Study: Blue-Eyed People 'Smarter' than Brown-Eyed

Israel will in future turn away all illegal entrants from Sudan's war-torn region of Darfur, a top official says

BBC News:

The policy applies to new arrivals only, while some 500 people from Darfur already in Israel will be permitted to stay for "humanitarian reasons".

Israel is struggling to stem the flow of Africans entering the country via its southern border with Egypt.

Overnight, Israel handed 48 Sudanese people back to Egypt, according to Egyptian security officials.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Egypt accepted the refugees for "very pressing humanitarian reasons" but such a move "would not be repeated again".

At least 200,000 people are believed to have died and more than two million displaced in Darfur since fighting broke out in 2003 between rebels and pro-government militias.

Israeli spokesman David Baker said on Sunday: "The policy of returning back anyone who enters Israel illegally will pertain to everyone, including those from Darfur."

Last month, Israel's interior ministry said a limited number of Darfuris would be allowed to remain in Israel as it was "clear that they have suffered the most".

As many as 50 asylum seekers arrive in Israel each day, lured by the prospect of employment, according to UN High Commissioner for Refugees estimates.

Israel estimates that 2,800 people have entered the country illegally in recent years - nearly all were from Africa, including 1,160 from Sudan.

However, some critics have said that Israel, which was created after the Nazi persecution of the Jews during WWII, is morally obliged to offer sanctuary to people fleeing persecution.

Offer to help Christian asylum seekers facing deportation from Israel

More Swiss than Rwandans have a gene for unusually good emotional memory

The Economist:

PEOPLE remember emotionally charged events more easily than they recall the quotidian. A sexual encounter trumps doing the grocery shopping. A mugging trumps a journey to work. Witnessing a massacre trumps pretty well anything you can imagine.

That is hardly surprising. Rare events that might have an impact on an individual's survival or reproduction should have a special fast lane into the memory bank—and they do. It is called the α2b-adrenoceptor, and it is found in the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in processing strong emotions such as fear. The role of the α2b-adrenoceptor is to promote memory formation—but only if it is stimulated by adrenaline. Since emotionally charged events are often accompanied by adrenaline secretion, the α2b-adrenoceptor acts as a gatekeeper that decides what will be remembered and what discarded.

However, the gene that encodes this receptor comes in two varieties. That led Dominique de Quervain, of the University of Zurich, to wonder if people with one variant would have better emotional memories than those with the other. The short answer, just published in Nature Neuroscience, is that they do. Moreover, since the frequencies of the two variants are different in different groups of people, whole populations may have different mixtures of emotional memory.

The reason Dr de Quervain suspected the variants might work differently is that the rarer one looks like the commoner one when the latter has a memory-enhancing drug called yohimbine attached to it. His prediction, therefore, was that better emotional memory would be associated with the rarer version.

And that did, indeed, turn out to be the case in his first experiment. This involved showing students photographs of positive scenes such as families playing together, negative scenes such as car accidents, and neutral ones, such as people on the phone. Those students with at least one gene for the rarer version of the protein (everyone has two such genes, one from his father and one from his mother) were twice as good at remembering details of emotionally charged scenes than were those with only the common version. When phone-callers were the subject, there was no difference in the quality of recall.

That is an interesting result, but some of Dr de Quervain's colleagues at the University of Konstanz, in Germany, were able to take it further in a second experiment. In fact, they took it all the way along a dusty road in Uganda, to the Nakivale refugee camp. This camp is home to hundreds of refugees of the Rwandan civil war of 1994.

In this second experiment the researchers were not asking about photographs. With the help of specially trained interviewers, they recorded how often people in the camp suffered flashbacks and nightmares about their wartime experiences. They then compared those results with the α2b-adrenoceptor genes in their volunteers. As predicted, those with the rare version had significantly more flashbacks than those with only the common one.

Besides bolstering Dr de Quervain's original hypothesis, this result is interesting because only 12% of the refugees had the rarer gene. In Switzerland, by contrast, 30% of the population has the rare variety—and the Swiss are not normally regarded as an emotional people.

Whether that result has wider implications remains to be seen. Human genetics has a notorious history of jumping to extravagant conclusions from scant data, but that does not mean conclusions should be ducked if the data are good. In this case, the statistics suggest Rwanda may have been lucky: the long-term mental-health effects of the war may not be as widespread as they would have been in people with a different genetic mix. On the other hand, are those who easily forget the horrors of history condemned to repeat them?

A Gene to Better Remember Traumatic Events

Scientists Find Gene for Emotional Memory

All South Africans are settlers, regardless of their skin color, and their DNA carries the proof

Lynnette Johns:

So says Dr Wilmot James, head of the African Genome Project, a distinguished academic, sociologist and, more recently, honorary professor of human genetics at the University of Cape Town.

And he says South Africans will soon have a public genetic database which will show how the country became populated over thousands of years.

The African Genome project is supported by local genealogy website Ancestry24.com.

James aims to trace the origins of South Africans "no matter what their language, ethnic origins, or skin colour".

"No one group can lay claim to South Africa. Everyone is a settler, and we will show how people came here in waves of migration."

Next month he and his colleague, associate professor Himla Soodyall, will do mass genetic testing of Capetonians.

Soodyall is the principal medical scientist at the National Health Laboratory Service and is an associate professor in the Division of Human Genetics at the University of the Witwatersrand.

James says he expects about 300 people will come for free testing on September 9. The test simply involves swabbing the inside of a person's cheek.

"Normally it costs R1 000 a time but this is a public exercise in science and a journey through the history of South Africa," said James.

The results will be out early in 2008. The data will be used to map how people migrated here more than 100 000 years ago. They will do similar testing in Johannesburg.

The Africa Genome project aims to fill a gap in the current DNA databases available worldwide and establish the diversity of ancestry in the South African population.

The testing will offer another view of SA history since written history only goes back 400 years. It will also further confirm archaeological and palaeontological evidence.

"We do not understand our history well enough and the truth has been modified in many stories," says James.

"South Africa is not the site of human origins. The Sterkfontein caves have evidence of pre-modern humans, but modern man comes from East Africa where there is evidence of significant human presence dating back at least 100 000."

The Khoi/San moved from East Africa and, up until 2 000 years ago, people living in southern Africa were brown.

Africa's black people are originally from the Niger/ Congo region.

James says genetic testing will confirm the theory that there is a population in South Africa whose ancestors were from Niger/Congo.

Even though the test itself is easy, it is the lab work from where all the exciting details will come to light.

Looking at what is known as mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) which comes from mothers, and Y chromosome DNA which comes from fathers, scientists are able to reconstruct the hereditary lineage of individuals and their families as far back as 100 000 years.

The limitation of this approach is that those ancestors who did not pass on their genes by having surviving children are excluded from the studies.

"Still, we are able to enrich beyond measure our understanding of who we are and where it is we come from," said James.

"Some DNA mitochondria do not combine, they develop mutations which creep in and these are seen as fingerprints. They can be traced to where geographic concentrations of the same mutations occur."

James's own test results have revealed that he has Indian, Spanish, German and English forebears.

His mother's one line is Southern Pakistan/Northern Indian and German. Her father was a Hartel and James still has a title deed handed down from generation to generation for a piece of land along the Liesbeek River granted to German infantryman Wilhelm George Hartel by Cape Governor Simon van der Stel.

It is from Hartel that James inherited Factor V Leiden, a mutation in his genes which has resulted in him having a clotting disorder, making him susceptible to deep vein thrombosis.

His ancestors on his father's side are English; no surprise there, considering his surname. But he emphasises that ultimately everyone's ancestors were Africans, who migrated into Europe tens of thousands of years ago.

His next project will be to concentrate on groups like Italians, Muslims and Jews.

"Italian prisoners of war worked on many of the Cape farms and they had families here. Eventually the project would like to reunite those Italian descendants with their families in Italy. The same for those of Javanese descent.

"In fact, there are all types of settlers in South Africa, with successive waves of immigrants. The ultimate question for us to find an answer to is: what is an African?"

Scientific Proof: All South Africans are Colonisers

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