Sweden heads to the polls
The Sweden Democrats have been demonized and are referred to below as "far-right" but they are in fact little different from any other conservative party except that, unusually for Sweden, they are very critical of Muslim immigration, which is apparently very naughty of them.
A similar party in Denmark has succeeded in getting very tough immigration laws passed so they do seriously threaten the Swedish establishment. There is a lot of public support for a crackdown on immigration in Sweden but that will not translate to similar support for the Sweden Democrats -- as most Swedes will vote as they always have done
SWEDES go to the polls on Sunday with surveys hinting voters will re-elect the centre-right government, as the far-right makes its debut in parliament and could be handed the role of kingmaker.
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, 45, is vying to see his four-party coalition become the first rightwing government to win a second term in nearly a century.
That would spell a decisive break with the hold on power of the Social Democrats, who have dominated Swedish politics for 80 years and are considered the caretakers of the country's famous cradle-to-grave welfare state.
Three separate polls published a day before the vote showed the gap between Mr Reinfeldt's coalition and the left-wing opposition was shrinking, but still handed the government a lead of between four and nine percentage points.
Social Democrat leader Mona Sahlin, 53, who heads up the three-party leftwing coalition, however said she had not given up hope of becoming Sweden's first female prime minister.
There is still a chance we can achieve a 'red-green' government,: she said.
Towards the end of a campaign focused largely on the economy and the future of the welfare state, both Ms Sahlin and Mr Reinfeldt have meanwhile stressed the importance of achieving a majority government to offset the sway of the far-right Sweden Democrats, who are expected to make it into parliament for the first time.
"Don't expose Sweden to this experiment (of allowing the Sweden Democrats into parliament). Make sure they don't get any power," Mr Reinfeldt said, urging Swedes to vote in "a stable majority government".
Even with a handful of seats, the far-right party could play kingmaker in a tightly split parliament with minority rule and, analysts caution, could even make it so difficult to govern that new elections would need to be called.
The three latest surveys handed the current government between 49.2 and 51.2 per cent of voter intentions, which even in the worst case is enough votes to secure a clear parliamentary majority with 175 of the 349 seats.
Saturday's surveys meanwhile indicated the Sweden Democrats, who won just 2.9 per cent of the vote in the 2006 elections, would garner between 3.8 and 5.9 per cent of votes, while the party itself has said it expects to win as much as eight per cent.
Polling stations open at 8am and will close 12 hours later, with 7.1 million Swedish citizens eligible to vote, including a record number of first-time voters. Turnout in Sweden is traditionally high and stood at nearly 82 per cent in the last elections.
The Airbrushing of Middle East History
In the Guardian, Giles Tremlett writes about Europe’s first Christian theme park in Mallorca. He writes:
Exact details are scant, but the Buenos Aires park offers its re-enactments of the creation of mankind, the birth of Christ, the resurrection and the last supper eight times a day. With a cast of extras in the costumes of Romans and early Palestinians, the park advertises itself as ‘a place where everyone can learn about the origins of spirituality..
‘Early Palestinians’, eh? And just who were these ‘early Palestinians’? Well, they were what we would otherwise call... Jews. Jesus was a Jew. The ‘last supper’ was the Jewish Passover seder. The land of the New Testament was called Judea and Samaria. The people who lived there and were persecuted by the Romans were not called Palestinians. They were Jews.
Yet Jews do not figure at all in Tremlett’s story (whether they figure as such in Mallorca’s theme park itself is not clear). This is not some idle mistake. This is the wholesale adoption of the fictional Arab narrative which airbrushes the Jews out of their own story and claims, falsely, that Jesus was a Palestinian.
Much of this rewriting of history comes from Arab Christians based at the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem under the aegis of Father Naim Ateek (who is such a personal favourite with so many in the Church of England), and which is a crucial source of systematic, theologically-based lies and libels about Israel. Ateek has revived the ancient Christian doctrine of supersessionism, or replacement theology – the doctrine which said the Jews had forfeited all God’s promises to them which had been inherited instead by the Christians, and which fuelled centuries of Christian anti-Jewish pogroms -- and fused it with ‘Palestinianism’ to create the mendacious impression that the Palestinian Arabs were the original inhabitants of the land of Israel and that Jesus was a ‘Palestinian’.
Ateek has sought to plant the impression that the Jews are crucifying the ‘Palestinians’ just as they helped crucify Jesus. In December 2000, he wrote that Palestinian Christmas celebrations were ‘marred by the destructive powers of the modern-day ‘Herods’ in the Israeli government.’ In his 2001 Easter message, he wrote: ‘The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily. Palestine has become the place of the skull.’ And, in a sermon in February 2001, he likened the Israeli occupation to the boulder sealing Christ’s tomb. With these three images, Ateek has figuratively blamed Israel for trying to kill the infant Jesus, crucifying him and blocking the resurrection of Christ. And in 2005 Sabeel issued a liturgy titled ‘The Contemporary Stations of the Cross’ that equates Israel’s founding with Jesus’ death sentence and the construction of a security barrier with his crucifixion.
It is a narrative which gives the lie to the naive belief that the Middle East impasse is a fight over land boundaries. It is instead an attempt to excise from the region not just the Jewish state of Israel, not just every single Jew from a future state of Palestine, but the historical evidence that this land – including Judea and Samaria – was the Jewish national home centuries before Arabs invaded and conquered it, and many more centuries before Arabs started to style themselves as Palestinian. It is an attack on Jewish historical national identity in order to justify the attempt to destroy the Jewish nation state.
That is why the Arabs have destroyed so much archeological evidence of the ancient kingdom of Judea gathered from excavations on the Temple Mount. That’s why the Jews are being airbrushed out of the history of the region, the origins of Jesus and of their own story.
Isn’t it wonderful to have quality newspapers written by educated writers?
British Airways caterer dishes up plans to make most of its meals halal
Cringing nonsense -- but it could be worth it if it leads to some good Balti curries
The world’s largest independent airline caterer has announced plans to make the majority of its meals halal. GateGourmet, which provides meals for all long-haul British Airways flights from Heathrow, wants to standardise production to drive down costs and boost profits.
The caterer has been tempted into the switch by lucrative business available from Middle Eastern and Asian airlines. Most carriers currently offer a halal option, but these meals need to be prepared, stored and transported separately in order to comply with Muslim dietary rules – making them more expensive.
Removing halal meals from the menu is not an option for a company serving airlines across the globe, but managers at the Swiss-based catering giant believe it makes financial sense to ensure most meals meet with the strict Islamic rules.
‘My aim is to make our large hub operations halal compliant,’ said Guy Dubois, GateGroup. Mr Dubois said the plans were not driven by social or religious considerations, but simply by cost. He said: ‘If I produce everything according to halal standards, I will reduce complexity and increase cost effectiveness.’
The catering firm is about to open a dedicated halal kitchen at Heathrow – where meals are prepared for 14 airlines including BA. The specialist kitchen will be smaller than the main kitchen that already exists at the airport, but could be the first stage in a gradual switch.
The move follows the sharp growth of carriers such as Emirates, of Dubai, and Etihad, of Abu Dhabi, which require all meals to be halal. But GateGourmet caters for numerous airlines from non-Muslim countries, which would also be affected by the changes. The company prepares more than 200million meals a year from its 100 flight kitchens in more than 25 countries.
Compelling customers to eat food prepared in accordance with the Muslim faith could be controversial in some countries, including the UK.
Yesterday British Airways played down the significance of the catering firm’s proposals. A spokesman said: ‘British Airways has no plans to change its current menus or halal meal process.’
Peter van Niekerk, head of GateGroup in the UK, said: ‘We are at the moment competing for some more halal business and when we make that, the scale tips.’ He said the company would consult with customers such as BA and Cathay Pacific to ‘manage perceptions and manage such a transition’.
How can a nation ring fence foreign aid but slash defence? How the British taxpayer's money is misspent... and even makes poverty worse
As an idea, it is beyond reproach. An end to child labour, education for all and free school books for every Indian primary school pupil. It is called Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan — Education For All — and the logo for the project is a jaunty cartoon of two tiny Indian children sitting astride a giant pencil, happily learning to read.
The reality, however, leaves a lot to be desired. This Indian development programme has been tragically pillaged by officials, who have robbed impoverished children of their hopes. Auditors have discovered that around £70 million of aid money has gone missing from the gigantic scheme, which was designed to fund schools for India’s 350 million children.
A report by India’s Auditor General, seen by the Daily Mail, reveals widespread ‘diversions and mis-utilisations’, showing that almost £14 million has been spent on items that have nothing to do with schools. Instead, corrupt officials bought cars and other luxuries. In one instance, aid money was used to buy four luxury beds, at a cost of £17,754.
In the state of Andhra Pradesh, money was wasted on 7,531 colour televisions — despite the fact that many of the classrooms have no electricity. Computers were bought and now lie idle in stockrooms.
Tens of thousands of pounds were allocated to 2,369 schools in the district of Jharkhand that do not even exist, and £150,000 was paid into a mystery bank account with no reason given.
In Muzaffarpur, Bihar state, it was found that only £400,000 out of an allocated £1.1 million had gone to schools. One woman involved in the widespread fraud has been accused of siphoning off up to £6 million from the funds, reportedly even using £44,000 of it to make a movie directed by her son.
Money was also used by officials to finance religious festivities. Auditors checking individual state accounts found sums of up to £4.8 million missing from the books — although an investigation into the precise figures involved is ongoing.
And who is paying for the Education For All project? You are, of course — and it is your money that has gone missing.
Surprised? Don’t be — this extraordinarily ill-advised million-pound expenditure is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Britain’s multi-billion-pound overseas aid bill.
Indeed, our country’s vast aid budget has just been ring-fenced by the Conservative Government, despite the swingeing cuts facing ordinary Britons.
This week, the Mail revealed the same spend thrift attitude extended to overseas aid officials, who are living the high life at taxpayers’ expense. Devastating documents showed that executives at the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) stayed at luxury hotels and dined in London’s finest restaurants.
Taypayers paid more than £700 for the bosses of the CDC fund to dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant, and one official claimed £336.54 for a taxi from Brussels to Paris.
So just how much is Britain spending on foreign aid, where is it spent and why? And can the country really afford to lavish such largesse around the world as it confronts its own huge national debt?
This year, Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) has spent a staggering £9.1 billion on aid, funding 90 different countries.
Some money goes to nations which are desperately in need of help, such as impoverished African states on the brink of famine. Here, the concern is often not just whether the money is needed, but whether it is getting to those in need. Every year, millions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money leaks into the pockets of corrupt officials and warlords.
In other cases, however, Britain is paying huge amounts in aid to projects of questionable worth. In South America, for example, DFID indirectly funds an organisation which represents sex workers called RedTraSex. It refers to itself as ‘a movement in high heels’.
Then there is China. Last year, Britain paid £32 million to the Communist superpower, which is now officially classified by the World Bank as a middle-income country.
Britain has given Beijing on average £34.5 million a year since 2004 to fund schools, fight Aids and provide fresh water.
Ironically, as we face hard times in Britain, China is forecast to become the biggest economic power in the world within five years. Indeed, the latest figures from the World Bank show China’s GDP was £2.8 trillion in 2008 — eclipsed only by the U.S. and Japan. So why on earth are we giving them aid?
Even the Left-wing Baroness Symons, Tony Blair’s former Middle East envoy and an ex-Foreign Office minister, has questioned the Government’s priorities on aid to China. She acknowledged parts of China had ‘real poverty and deprivation’, but added: ‘I would not have thought by any standards that China can resile (step back) from the responsibility of dealing with its own poverty, given its enormous, and growing, wealth.’
She added: ‘The primary responsibility for dealing with that poverty should be with the government, which is now presiding over a huge and growing economy, an enormous sovereign wealth fund and which is such a strong competitor to our own companies when they are doing business abroad.’
The Tories now plan to bring the Chinese programme to an end in 2011 — but by then many more millions of pounds will have been spent on the Chinese economy.
And then there’s India, the single largest recipient of UK overseas aid — between 2003 and 2008, it benefited from £1 billion in aid. And two years ago, Gordon Brown agreed to give the former colony another £825 million by 2011.
In the past ten years, British development aid to the country has almost trebled — despite the fact the Indian economy is ranked 11th in the world and is predicted to overtake the British economy as the world’s fifth largest by 2015.
Canit be right that British taxpayers give such vast sums to a nation that can afford nuclear weapons, a space programme and has a defence budget of £25 billion?
Of course, India has hundreds of millions of poor people. But it is now so well-off that it has started an overseas aid programme of its own.
Indeed, MPs on the International Development Select Committee recently said India ‘seems to have become tired of being cast in the role of aid recipient’.
And on a visit to India in July, even our own Prime Minister suggested Britain should bend its knee to the former colony. He said: ‘I have come to your country in a spirit of humility. I know that Britain cannot rely on sentiment and shared history for a place in India’s future. Your country has the whole world beating a path to its door.’ The Indian government now refuses to allow DFID to work directly with most local charities, insisting that payments be processed through official channels.
This, said the MPs, caused ‘ difficulties in tracking money trails, and problems in determining outcomes’. One might ask why Britain gives such huge amounts in the face of such an attitude. The majority of DFID’s spending — although at 56 per cent, perhaps less than you might expect — does go to what are known as the ‘least developed countries’, mostly in Africa.
Here, the problem is often what happens when the aid reaches these desperate countries. Earlier this year, for example, the House of Commons Public Affairs Committee (PAC) looked at the case of Malawi, in southeast Africa.
Britain has spent £312 million helping the country since 2003, despite evidence of widespread corruption.Indeed, a commission has recommended 118 cases for prosecution for aid fraud in the past year alone. MPs also expressed concern that around £23 million had been wasted buying surplus fertiliser at peak prices. The chairman of the PAC cited it as a case of ‘gross mismanagement’.
There were questions over whether the matter was down to corruption or sheer ineptitude. Either way, the money has gone.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.