Sunday, November 15, 2015
Paris terror rampage no surprise after a year of tragedy
Unlike the attacks at Charlie Hebdo magazine in January, there was little surprise in France today when gunmen sprang attacks around the capital, apparently in the name of the radical Islamist cause.
President Francois Hollande’s government has been warning constantly that it was only a matter of time before home-grown French jihadists committed another atrocity.
With hundreds of French-born Islamists fighting in Syria and Iraq and networks operating underground around French cities, the security services are said to have thwarted half a dozen plots to inflict carnage in public places this year. A man was arrested last week in Toulon, on the south coast, and charged with planning an attack on the local naval base.
Three people have been murdered in attacks attributed to Islamists in recent months and there have been several narrow escapes. In August US and British passengers stopped a gunman from shooting passengers aboard a Thalys Brussels to Paris express after he pulled out a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
In April a would-be jihadist gunman was arrested while on the verge of firing inside a church on a Sunday in Villejuif, a southern suburb of Paris.
Police and intelligence services have been beefed up and given new powers to monitor communications among the country’s disaffected young Muslim population as the country marked the tenth anniversary of the 2005 riots in the immigrant housing estates, which alerted France to the discontent among the offspring of its former colonial subjects.
In the face of criticism from right-wing parties — including Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicans and Marine Le Pen’s National Front — the security services have argued that they lack the resources to keep track of thousands of sympathisers with the Islamist cause who are attracted by Islamic State and its exploits in Syria and Iraq.
Angela Merkel's future under scrutiny for the first time as German asylum process criticised
A popular talk show the possibility of a coup against the German chancellor after her own party made implicit criticisms of her policy
Angela Merkel’s political future is being questioned for the first time in Germany as divisions continue to grow in her government over her “open-door” refugee policy.
Guests on a popular television political talk show debated the possibility of a coup against the German chancellor from within her own party.
The discussion came as civil servants at the government refugee agency warned identity checks for Syrian asylum-seekers were ineffective and open to abuse by economic migrants and terrorists.
Wolfgang Schäuble, the finance minister, warned that Germany was facing an “avalanche” of refugees set off by a “careless skier”.
And Thomas de Maiziere, the interior minister, twice acted unilaterally to introduce stricter controls on Syrian asylum-seekers without informing Mrs Merkel.
But other guests on the television show were dismissive of the possibility of an internal party coup against the chancellor.
“Anyone who tries to overthrow some one like her will destroy himself,” Karl-Rudolf Korte, a political scientist at the University of Duisberg-Essen, said, adding that she was protected by an “armour of popularity”.
But he added: “The situation is not flattering for the chancellor, a loss of power is quite evident”.
Peter Altmaier, Mrs Merkel’s national refugee coordinator and the head of her chancellery office, tried to downplay the disputes with Mr de Maiziere as a “communication misunderstanding”.
“It is clear there are a lot of discussions over this issue,” he told the talk show. “I hope that we can discuss this internally and behind closed doors. However it is vital that we act as one – as we do.”
Mr Schäuble has come under fire for his intervention from coalition partners, and from Joachim Gauck, the country’s usually non-political president.
Mr Gauck broke with protocol to warn against those who “voice assumptions and perpetuate stereotypes”, in remarks widely seen as directed at the finance minister.
Mrs Merkel came under intense questioning in a special half-hour interview on ZDF television entitiled What Now, Mrs Merkel? on Friday evening.
In the interview, she vowed to continue her “open-door” refugee policy: “It is our principle to help people in need,” the German chancellor said. “We need to show the freedoms we enjoy in practice and help those in need.”
“I cannot unilaterally define a limits. We in Germany cannot simply determine unilaterally who can come and who cannot.”
Mrs Merkel dismissed claims that her government was in crisis at the end of a week that has seen two of her most senior ministers openly challenge her refugee policy.
“The chancellor has the situation under the control, the federal government has the situation under control,” she said.
“I am sure that we will continue to show a friendly face. That is my sort of welcoming culture.”
But she refused to give way on her insistence that Germany can handle a record influx of some 800,000 asylum-seekers this year.
Asked about her earlier slogan of “We can do it”, she replied: “I think we have to work to make sure we can do it, and I believe we can do it.”
She refused to set a limit for the number of refugees Germany could take in.
“I cannot unilaterally define a limits,” she said. “We in Germany cannot simply determine unilaterally who can come and who cannot.”
Mrs Merkel refused the discuss the alleged rebellion. “Wolfgang Schäuble is in a class of his own,” she said enigmatically.
The chancellor admitted she had made mistakes in the past and said it was up to her to reduce the numbers of asylum-seekers and to crack down on illegal immigration.
But she vowed Germany would continue to open its doors to genuine refugees.
“I’m not the first chancellor to fight for something,” she said, comparing her situation to that of Helmut Kohl, the chancellor who oversaw the reunification of Germany.
She was critical of Germany’s European partners, saying she regretted the EU had not been able to come up with a common solution.
She compared the numbers arriving in Europe to the more than two million Syrian refugees Turkey has taken in, including some 900,000 children.
“We are a much richer continent than Turkey, I think it’s obvious,” she said. “We talk about human dignity, then we say we have be careful about refugees.”
While ministers argue, civil servants at the federal office for migration and refugees have published an open letter warning of serious flaws in procedures.
Asylum-seekers are being accepted as Syrians without being asked for any proof of their nationality, they warned.
Those claiming to be Syrian do not need to show passports, according to the letter. The only checking of their identity is carried out by freelance translators who often have little or no experience of Syrian dialects or accents, and are not accountable for any mistakes.
A “large proportion” of asylum-seekers were giving false identities in order to stay in Germany, the letter warned.
“The discontinuation of identity checks has also facilitated infiltration by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists into Europe,” it claimed.
Austria on Friday announced plans to build a 2.5-mile stretch of fence on either side of its busiest border crossing with Slovenia.
Hungary and Slovenia have already built fences along sections of their borders.
Austrian officials said the new fence was not intended to prevent asylum-seekers from entering the country, but to control the flow.
“It’s about an orderly entry, not a barrier,” Josef Ostermayer, a minister at the Austrian chancellery said.
Meanwhile in eastern Germany, an eight-month pregnant asylum-seeker from Somalia was attacked and badly beaten.
The 21-year-old woman was taken to hospital. She has not been named and details of her injuries have not been released.
Police said they suspect two boys aged 14 and 15 and a 14-year-old girl of carrying out the attack.
Gender Pay Gap Caused, in Part, by Temperament
Really, it boils down to what kind of equality we’re talking about. For the Left, it wants to make sure everyone arrives at the same, equal outcome. Thus, leftists insist that when it comes time for the paychecks to get cut wages should be equal, regardless of gender, regardless of skill or experience. For more practical students of political philosophy, it’s more realistic to insist that everyone start out with equal opportunity.
According to details about a study performed by the National Bureau of Economic Research, women graduating from an MBA program earned less than their male colleagues because they searched for less competitive jobs. “Gender differences in taste for competition explain around 10 percent of the overall gender gap,” said the study. “Female MBAs are 8 percent more likely to work in low-paying industries at graduation and 12 percent more likely to work in such industries seven years later.”
In other words, a male with a type-B personality will likely earn less than a type-A woman with the top of the corporate ladder on her mind. Both had the same opportunities, and both are presumably content with where they are. If that isn’t equality, what is?
Newspaper reveals huge salaries of top British governmernt officials. Government moves to prevent any more of that information getting out
The fat cat pay and perks deals exposed this week by the Mail have been dubbed ‘shocking’ and ‘unacceptable’ by MPs.
We have revealed how a police back-office manager in Wales got £170,000 for a year in which he worked only 19 days, a former council chief claimed £2,368 per month so he could drive a Porsche to work, and an assistant chief constable in wales charged the taxpayer £54,000 expenses when he moved house – including for installation of a TV aerial and the replacement of curtains and blinds.
We told how an NHS executive got a £840,000 pay deal – but still put a £1.40 bus fare on expenses – while an NHS trust chair charged the taxpayer nearly £6000 when a cancer scandal meant she had to cancel her safari holiday.
And we revealed the shocking scandal of how 2000 council bosses across the country use taxpayers’ money to fund their private medical insurance.
It took 6,000 freedom of information requests and months of analysis to expose the scandal of public sector fat cat pay.
Over the past year, reporters from the Mail Investigations Unit have been working with researchers from the Taxpayers’ Alliance to uncover the truth about pay in the public sector.
Detailed questions were sent to every council, NHS trust, police force, fire service, university, school and quango.
We asked them to reveal the names and pay deals given to their highest earners and how many of them earned more than £100,000, £150,000, £200,000 and £300,000 last year.
The details were for all staff – not just the board members who are usually mentioned in annual reports.
In total, 5,913 freedom of information requests were submitted for the project. Reporters then spoke to whistleblowers and analysed public accounts, searching for details of bonuses, pay offs and expenses hidden in the tiny footnotes.
We found bosses had billed taxpayers for lavish holidays, business class flights and even their home gas bills, furniture and a £1.40 bus ticket.
When it emerged that one council boss was in receipt of private medical insurance, we asked the question of all other councils – and were stunned to discover taxpayers are being billed for fat cats’ private treatments across the country.
Further investigation found that many of the highest earners had claimed huge pay deals despite overseeing catastrophic failures - and while publicly complaining about cuts to their budgets.
The shocking scale of pay and perks in the public sector would never have been revealed if it were not for Freedom of Information laws.
And the results are a stark illustration of why the laws are so crucial in holding the government and other public figures to account.
They will add to growing fears over the Government’s desire to limit Freedom of Information laws.
Incredibly, only last week a cabinet minister sparked fury by saying it 'isn't acceptable' to use Freedom of Information laws to find news stories.
Chris Grayling accused journalists and campaigners of 'misusing' the law by using it as a research tool to uncover stories.
Yet journalists and campaigners insist the laws – which were introduced 15 years ago – are a crucial tool in holding the ruling classes to account.
Freedom of Information laws helped expose the MPs expenses scandal and the existence of Prince Charles's 'black spider' letters to ministers.
And the Act is used not only by journalists but also by members of the public, charities and campaign groups.
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: ‘For too long Whitehall kept taxpayers in the dark about how their cash was spent, so the introduction of Freedom of Information was a huge step forward for transparency.
‘The TaxPayers' Alliance and the Daily Mail submitted over 5,000 FOI requests to obtain information about senior salaries, and that shows how important FOI is. That makes recent moves to water it down deeply concerning and politicians must not be allowed to close the books again.
‘After all, power should be in the hands of those who pay, not those who spend.’
The Government is currently carrying out a review of the laws - and there are growing concerns that the supposedly independent review is in fact heavily rigged against the interests of journalists.
Matt Hancock, the minister in charge of FOI legislation, has already said that he believes it should be curtailed to give ministers and civil servants a 'safe space' to devise policy out of public view.
Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood - known as Sir Cover-Up - said last month the law was having a 'chilling effect' on government decision-making.
An ‘Independent Commission of Freedom of Information’ is reviewing the law.
But the panel includes former Home Secretaries Lord Howard and Jack Straw, who has suggested the Act should be reined in – and does not include any campaigners for transparency.
Possible restrictions include charging for FOI requests, and limiting the scope of the Act, which covers Whitehall departments, police forces and hospital trusts.
Donald Campbell, of the charity Reprieve, said Mr Grayling’s comments were 'astonishing', while Labour MP Jack Dromey said Freedom of information was ‘essential’ and that ‘public bodies should always be publicly accountable and the powerful must always be held to account.'
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.