Free At Last

The continuing saga of the Bulgarian nurses in Libya is finally at an end. Through a deal brokered by the EU with the help of Qatar, the nurses and their Palestinian doctor colleague have flown to Bulgaria. They were released under a 1984 prisoner exchange agreement

The Bulgarian president and prime minister both met the plane as it landed. The former hostages (let’s call it like it is) were travelling with the wife of the French President and the European Union foreign affairs commissioner. They were immediately officially pardoned by the president, who has even gone one step further and is putting them up at the presidential residence. This includes the doctor, who was granted Bulgarian citizenship last month.

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Libya agreed to release them after the EU agreed to take care of all of Libya’s HIV children in European hospitals for the rest of their lives. The Libyans were also offered normalised relations with the EU. I’d say they managed to pull of a good deal. Find some Christians who have come to your country to help people, arrest them on ludicrous charges, see that they get sentenced to death, and it is amazing how much leverage you can have.

While we rejoice in their freedom, let us not forget that there are other Christians imprisoned, killed, and otherwise persecuted for their faith by Islamic (and other anti-Christian) regimes around the world.

Ransomed

The Bulgarians nurses I wrote about in May have had their death sentences commuted. They have not been freed, but rather merely given life imprisonment for crimes which research has shown the could not have committed.

They have been convicted of intentionally infecting 438 children in Libya with HIV. Even though the accusation is ludicrous, foreign experts with no vested interest in covering up the problem of AIDS in a Muslim country have determined that the infections started before the Bulgarians even arrived in Libya. They made confessions, but these were aided by the usual Libyan methods of torture.

In the end, it wasn’t just all of the foreign pressure from the civilised world that worked. It was the blood money that was raised. More than £200 million of it to be paid to the families. There were sweeteners for the Libyan government like all of their debt to Bulgaria written off. You know a country is in pretty bad shape when they are in debt to Bulgaria.

Now the pressure should not be let up until they are released.

The Living and the Dead

Dr David Holford has linked to an article from Hot Air about Christianity rebounding in Europe and in his adopted country of Sweden in particular. Most of it is not happening in the Church of Sweden. Why?

Hedvig Eleonara [parish church] has three full-time salaried priests and gets over $2 million each year though a state levy. Annika Sandström, head of its governing board, says she doesn’t believe in God and took the post “on the one condition that no one expects me to go each Sunday.”

Russian Civilisation?

If you were thinking that human rights are a reality in post-Communist Russia, you would be very mistaken. The former KGB officer serving president may claim to be a devout believer, but with another KGB agent leading the Holy Synod in which at least another two members were also KGB agents, perhaps its not surprising that things haven’t changed much in Holy Mother Russia.

When a Chechen meat wholesaler named Zaur Talkhigov helped the security services to negotiate the release of hostages in the Moscow theatre siege, he was arrested for terrorism and sent to Siberia. Investigating his case is one of the reasons investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya was murdered. As reported in The Sunday Times:

Talkhigov is now in a cramped cell with 18 inmates sharing one lavatory in Komi, a remote and forbidding region that became infamous under Stalin for its many forced-labour camps. In winter, temperatures drop to -30C. In summer, the cell is a stifling 30C plus.

He is allowed out of his cell for just an hour a day and permitted to wash once a month. The food consists of buckwheat porridge, rancid fishbone soup and the occasional plate of boiled meat.

His mother Tamara can visit him only once a year, for three days. The return train journey to the prison from her home in Chechnya takes 84 hours.

“Conditions in the prison where I am now are relatively good,” said Talkhigov. “In Moscow I was held in a cell so cramped that we took it in turns to sleep. Tuberculosis was rampant. In another prison, where I was held in solitary confinement, two guards came into my cell shortly after I arrived and beat me all over my body with their truncheons as their way of welcoming me. I’ve been under constant psychological pressure.”

Yet this is a country that wants to be treated as an equal with the G7 nations. Putin has cooled relations with the US over NATO missile defence systems in free nations that have aligned themselves with the West, rather than their previous compulsory alliance with Russian under the Warsaw Pact.

In terms of law and justice, Russia still has a long way to go to be considered a civilised nation. The other question is whether the Church in Russia is going to be an agent of reform or of collusion.

The Cost of an Education

Apparently getting a university education may contribute to the end of British civilisation as we know it. According to Melanie McDonaghan writing in the The Times, 40% of women graduates do not have a baby by age 35. If the Government succeeds in its goal of getting 50% of the population through university, this only asking for trouble, especially with more women than men now attending university.

A simple mathematics exercise indicates that with 60% of graduates being women (based on the current ratio of intake), 24% of women of childbearing age will be childless. If this is all childlessness by choice, it does not take into account the surge of barrenness that will result from the chlamydia epidemic, which the Health Protection Agency showed has infected 12% of young women 16 to 19 as of last year.

Britain’s birthrate is 1.87 children per couple. This is not a replacement rate and will place a huge tax burden on the tiny workforce to support the pensions of an ageing population that is living longer. However, compared to the rest of Europe this is almost a population boom. The average across the Continent is 1.37 children per couple.

Biblically, children are a blessing and barrenness is a curse. Post-Christian Europe may deny it, but it can’t avoid the consequences.

Clothes Police

If you’ve heard of the clothes police, but never thought this referred to an actual law enforcement body, you may soon be wrong. It may soon refer to any constabulary in Scotland.

Under proposed Scottish legislation, unlicensed kilt wearers could face a £5,000 fine and six months in jail. Don’t worry about wearing the wrong tartan. It all has to do with the sporran – the pouch worn over the unmentionables due to the lack of pockets in a kilt.

Sporrans are traditionally made from leather or fur. Applicants for a license had better know the provenance of their sporran. The animal providing the materials must have been killed lawfully. That means it if it is made from badger, otter, deer, or a number of other animals, it must have been made before 1994.  It’s always a good idea to keep those receipts.

If you can’t prove how old it is (or that it is disgracefully made from non-traditional materials), not only will you have a criminal record and possibly a cellmate, but you will also have your sporran confiscated.

This crazy legislation is not entirely from the deranged collective mind of the Scottish government. It has been proposed to conform to the rest of the European Union.

I’m Back

I am sorry, Gentle Reader, if I left you in a lurch, wondering where I might have been these past few days. I awoke this morning 4:45 BST+1 in Isigny-sur-Mer, Calvados, Basse Normandie and over 600 miles and 15 hours later arrived back in the Shire. I drove all but the last sixty miles and the 30 miles of sea between Dunkerque and Dover.

Last Saturday we hired a seven-seater and picked up my parents, who were already in the UK. We had reserved a five-seater that can be turned into a cramped seven-seater (a Vauxhall Zafira), but when we got to the car hire place they had upgraded us to a comfy true seven (a Chrysler Voyager). We spent the night near the Channel coast and took the ferry on Sunday morning.

We wanted to take my parents (and especially my dad) to see the D-Day sights in Normandy. We had seen them last summer and since then had planned to go back with my parents. We went to the same campground where we stayed for a fortnight last summer. Last year we had originally intended to stay for one night and just never left. It must be the best campground in Europe. It was good last year, before the owner made significant upgrades (like adding a covering and heating to the swimming pool)  over the winter.  He plans even more improvement for next year.

If you are going to France on holiday, you must go to Isigny and stay at Camping Le Fanal – whether as a tent camper (as we were last year) or in one of the chalets or mobile homes. It is family oriented, friendly, and extremely clean. I know this sounds like an advertisement, but we absolutely love it. There is so much of Europe to see, but we just would just hate to miss Normandy.

The owner remembered us from last year. We had booked accommodation that he thought was too small for all of us, and it was a very light week (our half-term was the week after a French holiday week and just before the northern Europeans start coming in), so he upgraded it.

The week before half-term was filled with beautiful weather.  Last week was a bit more turbulent. We had lots of rain. It would rain as we were driving to a place we wanted to see. As soon as we would get there, the rain would stop. As soon as we got back in the car, it would start again.

The only time it didn’t was when we travelled to Saint-Malo so I my father could preach there one night. It rained while we were trying to get our bags into the hotel. After that, any time we were out of the hotel, it was dry. When we left Saint-Malo it rained until we got to Dol, where I wanted to see the cathedral dedicated to our father among the Welsh saints, Samson, who was ordained to the episcopate by St Dyfrig. It stopped while I got out, then started again when I got in the car. It rained all the way to Mont Saint-Michel, then stopped the whole time we were there. As soon as we started to get in the car – you guessed it – it started tipping down.

If I don’t stop now this will turn into a disjointed, but complete, travelogue of how I spent my spring vacation.  As it is, I’ll re-visit a few experiences over the next few days. For now I should get to sleep.

Rolling Through a Loophole

I hope I don’t catch any more flak for talking about the handicapped, but this story was just too good to pass up.

A wheelchair-bound German stunned police when they pulled him over for using the road and found he was 10 times over the legal alcohol limit for drivers.

“He was right in the middle of the road,” said a spokesman for police in the northeastern city of Schwerin on Tuesday. “The officers couldn’t quite believe it when they saw the results of the breath test. That’s a life-threatening figure.”

The 31-year-old told police he had been out drinking with a friend and was about 2 km from home when a squad car stopped him as he passed through the village of Ventschow.

Police said that because the man was technically travelling as a pedestrian, he could not be charged with a driving offence.

“It’s not like we can impound his wheelchair,” the spokesman said. “But he is facing some sort of punishment. It’s just not clear yet what exactly that will be.”

This says a lot about the Germans. They are going to make sure he is punished, even if they haven’ t come up with a charge yet. They won’ t let a little thing like the fact that there is no offence to match his behaviour stand in the way.

Making Sense of It All

I’ve been waiting to see a newspaper front pages that doesn’t have a picture of, or story about, Madeleine McCann.

In The Times, David Aaronovitch finally says the sensible things no one else will say.

Blood Money for Nothing

Five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor were tortured into confessing that they infected 426 Libyan children with the HIV virus. They have been sentenced to death.

Why would the Libyans try to put the blame on foreign nurses? HIV principally transmitted through homosexual or non-marital heterosexual acts. This is not the sort of thing a fundamentalist Islamic country like Libyan would want to admit. That being said, the scientific evidence indicated that much of the infection was transmitted throughout the hospital by unsanitary practice.

The death penalty isn’t absolute. There is a way out. The Bulgarian government can pay $13.48 million in blood money for each for each family. That’s only a bit over $7.42 billion. But since the entire Bulgarian government’s annual budget expenditure is $12.16 billion (with revenues of only $13.28 billion) it might be just a little hard to scrape the cash together. The Libyans originally offer to trade them for Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Pan Am 103 (Lockerbie) bomber, but they withdrew this offer.

It’s not surprising that folks in Bulgaria have turned to prayer. Thousands attended a prayer service led by Patriarch Maxim at the Alexander Nevski Cathedral in Sofia. They’ve even brought in the big guns with three miracle working icons of the Theotokos brought in from monasteries in Troyan, Rila and Bachkovo with the cathedral open throughout the night.

I don’t know if there is a traditional patron for nurses, but if you do, please add a comment.

Pray for Ashraf Ahmad Djum’a al-Hadjud, Kristiyana Vulcheva, Nasya Nenova, Valya Chervenyashka, Snezhana Dimitrova and Valentina Siropulo.

Bloc Voting

The Eurovision song contest is tonight. It’s like international pop idol that every country other than the UK takes seriously.   I think that’s because the UK actually has a music industry. We watched March of the Penguins instead.

Actually I forgot about it until I was watching the story of how the Frenchmen made peguin film. The acts had already performed and we watched the review of each one with the voting phone numbers at the bottom of the screen and the interval act while all the countries got their votes together and got ready for the video uplink to the studio of each national broadcaster with the announcement. Each country doles out a sort of proportional representation vote of 1-8, 10, and 12 points. This means that Andorra and Moldova get to hand out the same number of votes as the UK, France, Germany or Russia.

Terry Wogan always commentates for the BBC. He’s always a bit drunk. This makes it much more entertaining.

In recent years, it has become a matter of regional political block voting with talent having little to do with it. Since 2000, no Western European country has won. The winners have been Estonia, Latvia, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Finland, and this year Serbia. In addition to added national pride, the winner hosts the contest in the following year. They have the year to promote themselves as a tourist destination.

In 2003, with anger over ther invasion of Iraq and a really bad act, the UK got nul point. This year, we were saved from this fate by the loyalties of Ireland and Malta. You would think we would be considered honorary members of the Eastern bloc since half of it’s population lives here and supports the other half financially.

Reflection on Crime

From the Daily Telegraph today:

The Vatican has held its first trial for drug possession, sentencing an employee to four months of “reflection” after he was caught with 87 grams of cocaine in his desk drawer.

The Court of the Holy See made the judgment despite the there being no specific law in the Vatican against drug possession or use. The employee, who has not been named, has also been fired from his job with the Pontifical Commission of the State of Vatican City.

Gianluigi Marrone, a Vatican judge, said drug use was “damaging to the health, morality and religion” and the court was able to sentence the offender “thanks to the international convention on drugs which the Holy See has signed”.

Cocaine-laced wine was a favourite tipple of Pope Leo XIII, who died in 1903.

I could not find any actual statutes of the Vatican, other than the Fundamental Law of the State of Vatican City. I translated that from Italian with Google.  I thought Google might have the easiest time with Italian. It wasn’t very clear, so I tried German and between the two I got the general idea. As best I can tell, laws are passed by a commission of Cardinals appointed by the Pope to five-year terms.

I don’t know if they have any criminal laws, but given the case above, perhaps they should consider passing some drug laws, lest the St Peter’s Square becomes a tiny haven for drug transactions.

Warmth

I was going to write about this before I saw the data today. I was think just yesterday that the weather feels more like June than April. Aprils when I was in the UK in the early 90s were nothing like this. Even when I moved here at the turn of the millenium, they weren’t this warm.

In fact, this is going to be the warmest April since records began in 1659. It seems like the temperature has been more than the 3.4 degrees Celcius above normal indicated by the Met Office.

The downside to this warmth seems to be the sunshine associated with it. It’s been warm and dry all over Europe.  While this has been good for businesses like sidewalk cafes, it’s not been so good for crops. There are already signs of drought. It is already evident in Hungary, where April temperatures were 5-6 degrees above normal. We may even be headed for a repeat of last year’s summer heat wave.

The UK is not headed for the same drought conditions as the continent, because whilst the temperatures were quite moderate, we had a rather wet winter.

Of course news like this brings the global warming crowd out.  They want to attribute all of this to anthropogenic sources. What they don’t like to tell you is that even though this is the warmest April on record it’s not that much hotter than some other times on record. It may be 3.4 degrees above normal, but it is only 0.5 degrees above the average in 1865.

These this come and go in cycles. Rather than trying to place blame with whatever capitalist enterprise most irritates the left-wing loony ideology of the global warming activists, more should be invested in predicting the cycles and planning for them.

Open Door Policy

When I was still a law student (acting as a certified legal intern) I successfully quashed two search warrants on the same apartment. Even though my client was guilty – the cops found his sizable stash of drugs both times – they didn’t bother to follow the protections of the law in obtaining their warrant. You may think it is a shame that my client went free – though knowing him, probably only temporarily – but Fourth Amendment protects you as well as him from unreasonable search and seizure without a warrant issued by a judge supported by sworn probable cause. Though it may have been compromised in various ways, the citizens of the US still enjoy the rights established under the Fourth Amendment.

There is no Fourth Amendment or any sort of equivalent in the UK. The Centre for Policy Studies has just released Crossing the Threshold a new 112-page report by barrister Harry Snook outlining the 266 powers the state has to enter a home in this country. I haven’t read the whole thing, but it is scary so far. (You can download it if you wish, but I should warn you that your computer may not realise it is a pdf file and you may need to tell it to open with Acrobat Reader.) I have included a few snippets below the fold. Read more of this post

Positive Aspects of Britain’s Role in the Slave Trade

Today is the 200th anniversary of the passage of the Slave Trade Act (47 Geo III Sess. 1 c. 36) and there still seems to be controversy over Tony Blair’s refusal to apologise for the slave trade on behalf of the British Government. I was going to comment on one of my blogrolled blogs, but I decided I had enough to say that I should post it here.

It should be noted that the slave trade was never specifically legalised by the Crown in, or out of, Parliament. It’s not like one Government brought it in and another did away with it, but failed to apologise for what the previous Government did. I suppose the only thing for which the Government could apologise is not acting sooner. But has anyone considered that Britain was the second European country to ban the slave trade, after Denmark, which passed legislation that only took effect four years before? The only country to act earlier was the United States, which made provision for legislation in the Constitution, though that legislation actually came into effect eight months after the British act.

And what’s the big deal about this anyway? Slavery itself wasn’t abolished in the British Empire until the appropriately named Slavery Abolition Act in 1833. So will there be another round of apologies (or demands for them) in 2033? Almost certainly.

Britain has nothing for which to apologise. If anything, exactly the opposite. Read more of this post

Better to Give Than to Receive

The low level of Turkish national self-esteem has been made evident once again. The country that can bear no criticism has banned YouTube.

Some Greek YouTubers have been insulting Turkey. That was enough for a Turkish judge to order Turk Telecom to block access to the site. Try to log on from Istanabul, Ankara, or Izmir and you will receive a message that says (translated from Turkish) “Access to this site has been denied by court order ! …” (I’m not sure what point is of the elipsis after the exclamation mark. Maybe it’s a Turkish thing.)

It’s not just that Greeks have been insulting Turkey. It has been a trading of insults, with Turks insulting Greece as well. But then Greece doesn’t have laws for imprisoning anyone who insults Greece or Greek culture.

What made the situation intolerable for the Turks was criticism of Ataturk. Even though he’s been dead for 72 years (though I wouldn’t mention that if you are in Turkey), insulting the former president is very serious business. A prosecutor asked the Istanbul police for evidence of the criticisms of Ataturk on YouTube. She asked a magistrate to review the case, a court order was issued by an Istanbul criminal court yesterday.

This is the same Turkey that wants to join the European Union. The only problem is that freedom of expression is important on this side of Bosphorus. It’s just not something the Turks can handle.

Abkhazia

There’s just so much going on in the world and you never really hear about some of the little guys. Abkhazia is not recognised by any other country in the world. This is especially true of Georgia, from which is trying to establish its independence. Abkhazia held parliamentary elections yesterday, but this act has been denounced in Tbilisi.

Its absorption into Georgia is a relatively recent. It was unilaterally made a part of Georgia by Stalin in 1931. This led to attempts at ethnic obliteration, including changing the Abkhaz alphabet to a Georgian base, closure of Abkhazian schools and replacing them with Georgian schools, banning the Abkhaz language, you know, the usual stuff.

Because the head of Stalin’s secret police, Lavrentiy Beria, was a Georgian from Abkhazia, he had a special hatred from the Abkhaz. After World War II, he planned to deport the entire Abkhazian nation. Only his fall from power after the death of Stalin in 1953 prevented this.

Like Georgia, Abkhazia is an Orthodox Christian nation. It was evangelised by St Nino in the early 4th century. Having adopted the five-cross flag, maybe it’s time for Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to show a little more Christian charity.

In the meantime, I’ve added Abkhazia to my flags of unrecognised oppressed nations on the right.

Down in the Muck

I thought when it came to depravity, the UK was right up there with the best (or worst). No, no, no. I think the Norse have to take that title.

I’m not suggesting in any way that all of Norway should be tainted with the actions of one man, but I’m not even going to describe them, other than to say it was, in just about every sense of the term a “crime against nature“. The story is three years old – but even if it isn’t hot off the press, the shock value is unabated.

H/T to Bad Cop News