Thursday, August 31, 2006

Stockholm Conferences on Lebanon's Early Recovery and the Humanitarian Situation

The following message you can read on the homepage of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Denmark does not participate as a host nation in this conference. And the event is not being covered very much in Danish media. One may wonder why, but cosmic duck is not a one to ask silly questions!

On 31 August and 1 September, Sweden will host two conferences at the Grand Hôtel in Stockholm. Ministers and senior officials from main donor countries and international organisations are expected to attend.
The Lebanon conference is an answer to the call in UN Security Council Resolution 1701 for immediate steps to extend financial and humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people. The Government of Sweden is arranging the conference in close collaboration with the Government of Lebanon and with support from the United Nations. The World Bank and the European Commission have also been consulted in the preparations of the conference.
Stockholm Donor Conference on the Humanitarian Situation in the Palestinian Territories is a response to the reviewed UN humanitarian appeal for the Palestinian territories, as yet underfinanced despite great and growing humanitarian needs, especially in Gaza. The conference is held in collaboration with Norway and Spain, in consultation with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas

The conference already appears to be a success. A larger amount of money than anticipated has been raised according to the BBC:

The Lebanon donor conference in Stockholm has raised more than $940m in pledges of new money, Swedish Foreign Minister Jan Eliasson has said.
The organisers of the aid conference had set a target of $500m.
The new pledges bring the total amount of money raised to help with the rebuilding of Lebanon to $1.2bn.
PM Fouad Siniora told the meeting his country had sustained billions of dollars of damages during the 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah.
Mr Siniora said Lebanon's recovery from its civil war had been "wiped out in days"

On the Danish ministry of foreign affairs homepage there's only a brief message, and it is announced that about 4 mio $ has been appropriated for the rebuilding of Lebanon, and this amount has been increased by 3 mio.

The BBC article also writes about the Israeli use of cluster bombs, a matter Danish media has not been very noisy about:

On Wednesday the UN's humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, condemned the "completely immoral" way Israel dropped thousands of cluster bombs on Lebanon even as a resolution appeared imminent

Monday, August 28, 2006

Young People to be Evicted from Youth House in Copenhagen

Young people are going to be evicted from the Youth House in Nørrebro, traditionally a working class district near the centre of Copenhagen. The house was occupied by squatters ("BZ") in the beginning of the 1980's, when it was not being used by anybody. The municipal council of Copenhagen tried to get the young people out, but they would not move voluntarily, claiming that they did not have any other shelter.

After some negotiations between the municipality and the young, they got permission to stay. They turned the place into an activity centre for the counter culture youngsters in Copenhagen. The municipality attempted to sell the house in 2000, claiming it was in a state of dilapidation and decay. It was, however, renovated by the youngsters. The house was purchased by a company called Human Ltd through its attorney Inger Loft.

It turns out this is a cover for a fundamentalist Christian organization called the Fatherhouse. The Fatherhouse later buys the house from Human Ltd, and they then try to evict the young people.

They do not succeed. The young people claim that they have been given use right to the house by the municipal council. In 2003 the Fatherhouse indicts the young people in the Youth House at the district Court in Copenhagen with claim of violation of their property rights. The Fatherhouse wins the case. The sentence is appealed to a regional court which upholds the sentence on August 28. So now the Fatherhouse can ask for evicion of the young people with the sentence in their hands. And they will do so. The young people, however, still refuse to move out. It may thus end in some kind of confrontation.

The young people will probably have to move out, with their concerts, discussion groups, soup kitchens, cafés, bookshop, alternative festivals, and a lot of other activities that have helped to make Copenhagen a less boring city than it would otherwise have been. It's a disgrace for the Fogh Rasmussen Bismarckian-Conservative government and the municipality of Copenhagen that it is not possible to find space for the activities of young people who break through petty-bourgeois bigotry and live in a somewhat more colourful way than the rest of the materialist buggers. Denmark is going to enjoy a very healthy surplus on the state budgets this year of some 10-12 billion dollars, and yet this rich Bismarckian welfare state cannot afford to find some space for a few hundred young people outside the mainstream of welfarish materialism. It's a disgrace!!

Israeli Foreign Minister Reported to Danish police for War Crimes

The Danish Member of Parliament from the Unity List/Red-Green Alliance Frank Aaen has reported the Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livne to the Danish state attorney for international penal cases.

The Israeli foreign minister is on an official visit to Denmark today and tomorrow. Frank Aaen asks for the detention of the minister, while it is investigated whether she can be charged with co-responsibility for war crimes.

Aaen refers to the Amnesty International report on Israeli war efforts in Lebanon. According to this report Israel has committed war crimes during its attacks on Lebanon and it has asked for prosecution of those responsible.

Denmark is a signatory to the Geneva convention and, according to Aaen, this means that Denmark has an obligation to prosecute war criminals while they are in Denmark. Aaen would do the same to Nasrallah if he came to Denmark, as he thinks that Hizbollah also has violated the convention on how war should be waged - even though he thinks that Hizbollah violations are not measurable to those of Israel.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

New CERD Report on racial relations in Denmark

The UN Committee for the elimination of racial discrimination (CERD) has presented its latest report on racial discrimination in Denmark. The report is critical of the state of racial relations in Denmark.

The Strict Danish rules for family reunification are criticized. According to Danish immigration laws spouses must be at least 24 years of age to have a legal right to family reunification in Denmark. One of the consequences has been the virtual flight across the bridge to Malmoe of more than 1000 mixed couples. They now live in Malmoe across the Oresound and travel to work in Copenhagen. It's a violation of human rights that two humans who love each other cannot choose their place of residence.

The conditions for asylum seekers in Danish asylum centres are critized in the report. Sometimes whole families have to live in a room, and the children do not have enough space for play.

It takes a very long time, and it is a very difficult procedure, for people of foreign origin to become Danish citizens. In the meantime they do not have full citizen rights. One of the gravest problems is the problem of women who have been exposed to domestic violence. They're in Denmark with right of residence because they live with the violent man. If they leave him, or he leaves them, they're bound to be expelled from Denmark. In that situation a lot of women prefer to stay in a violent marriage.

Asylum seekers and refugees who are unemployed get lower social welfare benefits than other residents in Denmark. It's difficult for them to subsist on these social selfare hand-outs with the high price level in Denmark.

The report also criticizes the widespread use of hate speech about immigrants. As has been documented also by Cosmic Duck (look into the archive for February and March), even a number of influential politicians in the Danish parliament have abused the immigrant population verbally.

It is symptomatic for the state of racial relations in Denmark that the state attorney would not sue the Jyllandsposten, when it printed the Mohammed cartoons, for violating the article on blasphemy in the penal code, so it could be tried in the courts.

The report is very lenient on the state of racial relations in Denmark. Many other aspects of the problematic should have been mentioned. It's a big problem that employers discriminate against people from a foreign background. If an applicant to a job is called "Mohammed" or "Ali" it's much more difficult to get to the job interview than if he is called "Jens" or "Søren". Employers generally prefer people with ethnic Danish names (like Jensen or Petersen). There is a chorus of employers yelling about a tight labour market, and yet they will not employ for instance more than 40 unemployed ethnic Danes in engineering. The chairman of the national union of engineers has presented a list of these people from his union's membership archive to Danish engineering employers. All of them have foreign sounding names. All of them have sent hundreds of applications. Because of their names they're not called to job interviews.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

In contempt of international law

The Guardian writes today about the Israeli military offensive that took place after the UN Security Council adopted a resolution to stop the Lebanon war:

Israel continued its military offensive in Lebanon today, killing at least 19 people, despite a United Nations resolution for a ceasefire, passed unanimously last night.
The deadliest attack was on homes in the village of Rachaf, in the south of the country, just four miles from the Israeli border, where at least 15 civilians were killed by air strikes, security officials said.

Israel is contemptuous of the UN. It's a disgrace that a nation acts in this way. And one wonders why? It is probably in complicity with the US. Otherwise Israel would not dare disregarding the international community. It may also be due to the fact that Israel has been humiliated by the surprising strength of Hezbollah and hence is yearning to prove that it is still a first rate military power in the Middle East.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Etnically divided classes in Copenhagen school dropped

At the beginning of the new school year a Copenhagen school planned to divide the pupils in the first year courses along ethnic lines. The School situated in the working class/middle class neighbourhood of Vesterbro bowed to pressure from a group of Danish parents.

After talks with the cultural and school affairs mayor of Copenhagen and pressure from some national politicians the plans for divided classes has been dropped. In stead the school will try to deal with the problem of "non-learning" pupils in another way. Classes will be divided into subgroups, - not along ethnic lines, but according to themes and interests.

Etnically divided classes is probably unlawful according to the Danish school laws: The declaration of basic principles of the Danish school law states that the pupils must be dealt with on an equal basis, no matter their racial, gender, and religious background. Also it is a painful problem to decide the "ethnicity" of some pupils. What are the defining criteria: citizenship? colour (this would be racial prejudice/discrimination)? language? Some pupils will be extremely difficult to place in either class.

Vesterbro Ny Skole has probably made the ethnic division in classes in order to deal with a problem that is quite common for schools in some inner city areas: When ethnic pupils come in, ethnic Danes pull their kids out and enroll them in another school. That brings about an ethnic division of schools. That seems to be a more palatable alternative to the authorities. It is however a problem that the resource flow to the ethnic schools is insufficient when measured against the need for supportive education and native language teachers.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Denmark's neo-colonial adventure

Sometimes there's news in the Danish media about Afghanistan. That happens every time something happens to Danish soldiers there.
Why has Denmark sent 290 soldiers to Afghanistan? If you ask the average common man in the street, he probably doesn't know the answer. If you ask the politicians in the Danish parliament who sent them there, they probably don't know the answer either.
One answer to the question you sometimes hear is that they're in Afghanistan to see to it that there's "stability and quiet" in this far-away country. Or that "it's necessary to help the Americans to build democracy".
Now the Danish People's Party who is part of the war coalition demands that the Danish force be employed against the Taleban insurgents. Otherwise the soldiers "should be withdrawn from the turbulent Helmand province", foreign spokesman Søren Espersen from the DPP says to the Danish press in the beginning of August.
"If we do not want to be part of a war of aggression against the Taleban and al-Queda, we either got to get the soldiers home, or they shall be stationed in the north, where they can do surveillance and law-and-order tasks."
"They cannot build a bridge and be shot at at the same time," Espersen adds, and as a kind of after-thought: "It's boundlessly naive to imagine that this is possible"!
It's nice that the leading politicians are such common-sensical folks.

The Brits do not seem to be in doubt about what their troops are doing in Helmand province. When the 10th British soldier was killed this morning the British military sent out the following message (Guardian):

The Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the soldier's next of kin were being informed. "It is with regret that we can confirm that a member of the UK Armed Forces has been killed in action this afternoon during ongoing operations against insurgent positions in Helmand Province"

As the Danish soldiers are under British command in the ISAF force they're probably there for the same purpose. They're fighting insurgents, whether they're called "Taleban" or something else. And these insurgents are getting stronger by the day. Because they do not like foreign occupation. Nor does the Afghan population. That is the reason why insurgents become increasingly efficient. This is the way guerilla force normally operate.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The end of the road for Castro? - Not the end of the road for Cuba and the Cuban people!

Fabian Escalante, former head of Cuban intelligence with the job of revealing attempts at the leader's life, has calculated that there have been a total of 638 attempts on Castro's life. Among the more amusing is the cigar assassination attempt. Unfortunately, Castro stopped smoking in 1985, so the cigar trick cannot be used any longer.
Castro's disease and operation is followed with keen interest in Washington. President Bush has spoken. He has said that the US will support Cubans who will "build a transitional government in Cuba committed to democracy". There's a lot of interference in Cuban affairs.
Actually, Castro was not a Soviet inspired communist in the first place. He just wanted the corrupt Batista dictatorship supplanted by a more development oriented regime.
The US made him a hard core communist.
Castro was in favour of land reforms which antagonised the Americans because big American multinationals owned large parts of the land on the island. Through a series of measures and counter-measures the conflict escalated. In the end Cuba had nowhere to turn to, but to the Soviet Union.

If the Americans want to turn Cuba into a semi-colony again, dominated by American investments, and with a prostitute waiting in the hotel bed for the visiting businessman, this is not necessarily in the best interest of the Cubans.
American style democracy and capitalism is not what they're yearning for, even though a lot of the Cubans probably want some democratic change and more freedom. There are, however, other kinds of democracy and capitalism than the American brand.

The Council have spoken

(Don't push. There's room for everyone!)
"The Council calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities to be followed by a sustainable

This is the silly decision the European council of foreign ministers could agree upon at its latest meeting. The war in Lebanon was on the agenda.
What is the difference between a "cease-fire" and an "immediate cessation of hostilities"? This peculiar semantic exercise is a cover-up over the deep differences of opinion between the member states, primarily Germany, Britain, some new memberstates, and Denmark on one side, and France on the other.

The US and Israel did not want an immediate cease-fire, until Israel's army had done its job of "securing the area". The EU council seems to be afraid of deciding something that they fear might antagonise the Americans. In that way the EU countries do not help to solve the conflict. The Israelis get a free hand to carry through with its high-tech warfare against Hizbollah and civilians in Lebanon.