Western European News Digest
Polish Hooligans Have Military Training, Many Unidentified
An indepth article in Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung June 2 provides a portrait of Polish soccer hooligans: Their belief structure is sheer brute violence; unlike the hooligans in Germany, the Poles have no code of ethics; they go for the maximum violence, just for violence's sake. Recently, hooligans of one Krakow soccer club stabbed a fan of another club to death.
Many have had paramilitary training, which is why the Polish "hools" are seen as the most dangerous in Europe. There are approximately 3,000 in Poland, and usually, they do not look like neo-Nazi skinheads; they look like "normal" youth, under age 35 or so. Unlike in Western Europe, most are not registered in police files. Police surveillance is still weak; therefore, it will be difficult to identify the hools, when they come to Germany for the World Cup soccer championship.
For the Polish hools, every trick, every weapon is allowed. The average top hool in Poland is married, has children, a job; he is practicing the violence as an adrenalin kick, after work, just like a computer game addict. A weak Polish state and lack of public order correspond to the spread of "privatized" violence. Training for the hools is provided by the many paramilitary sports centers.
Police Privatization Helps Hooligans Escape Surveillance
The other side of the military privatization coin, is the erosion of police and secret service structures in Eastern Europe over recent years. Many former officers have followed Western examples of privatized security functions, and the (formerly) secret special training and torture camps of the Bush Administration in Europe's East, mostly run by unofficial (that is, privatized) networks there, are aspects of that.
Coming under strong surveillance by police in the West in recent years, violence-prone hooligans and weapons-loving neo-nazis have moved into Eastern Europe by the thousands. This is not for sightseeing and cheap beer "vacations," but rather for live-fire training with pumpguns at a site in Budapest, for example; or more recently, in more remote Romania and Ukraine. In Ukraine, things have gotten worse since the Orange Revolution, where authorities are aware of the problem, but have decided to tolerate it, for reasons of additional "tourist" revenue.
Blair Ratings Drop in Wake of Peerage Scandal
A Telegraph-ICM poll released in Britain May 21 shows 54% of those polled believe that seats in the House of Lords were offered in return for secret loans or donations to the Labour Party, or for funding of the government's City Academies. Only 28% said they believe they were not. At the same time, 53% believe that Prime Minister Tony Blair should be prosecuted if the London Metropolitan Police investigation finds that Labour acted illegally over the loans affair, and only 36% say he should not face charges.
Compounding Blair's problems, Sir Alistair Graham, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Standards in Public Life, accused Blair of treating standards as a "peripheral, minor issue, not worthy of serious considerations." Graham, who was appointed by Blair to oversee the behavior of politicians, said the "cash for peerages" scandal had damaged the whole government. "Opinion polls show the public think this Government is as sleazy as the last," he told The Mail, adding that: "He [Blair] has paid a heavy price for ignoring standards."
Blair Trust Manager Also Handles Funds for Labor Moneybags
In what Conservative Party MPs are calling a "curious coincidence," it turns out that City of London lawyer Barry Paisner handles both the "blind trust" for Tony Blair and the trust for millionaire stockbroker Michael Townsley. In 2005, Lord Townsley secretly loaned the Labour Party 1 million pounds for its reelection campaign; Townsley was one of four businessmen who withdrew from their nominations to the House of Lords after it was revealed that the Lords Appointments Commission had blocked them. Moreover, Townsley is considering whether or not to turn the loan into a donation. And, Townsley donated 1.5 million pounds to one of Blair's City Academies.
But the question marks do not end there: Paisner, who is supposed to keep the Blairs' trust "blind," was their trustee in 2002 when "Cheriegate" began with Cherie Blair's purchase of two Bristol flats for the trust with the assistance of convicted fraudster Peter Foster. Townsley and Paisner also sit on the board of another company, Ebury Investments, and are directors of two charitiesUK Friends of Peres, whose board includes Lord "Caspoint" Levy, Blair's main solicitor of loans and of the Weizmann Institute.
Conservative MPs have vowed to get to the bottom of whether or not Blair has a personal stake through his retirement "blind trust" in the "loans for peerages" scandal. Meanwhile, Paisner refused to say whether he had introduced Townsley to Blair, claiming attorney-client privilege.
Lafontaine Again Warns of Hedge-Fund Collapse
In a brief speech in the Bundestag May 19, on a motion by his own Linkspartei for revoking licenses for hedge funds, former German Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine quoted the warning from Jochen Sanio, Germany's chief financial market regulator, that "hedge funds are the black holes of the world financial system," and that "it is not a question of if, but when, a hedge fund will cause a disaster."
Lafontaine, former SPD chairman, said that, "In 1998, the LTCM collapse threatened the world financial system," and that, "a lot of luck and the consequent action by the U.S. Federal Reserve then prevented the world financial system from collapsing." Lafontaine added, "It does not suffice ... to say that if, at all, hedge funds can only be regulated within an international framework. No, we ourselves are urged to act according to our responsibility, and contribute to ensuring there is no international disaster.
"What is addressed here, is the principal question whether we shall watch idly as financial markets live with such risks. If one day, another crisis should occur like LTCM, and the international financial markets collapse, it is not enough to stand there with one's mouth open, but to commit oneself to take responsibility."
Pope Benedict Visits Auschwitz
The last day of Pope Benedict XVI's stay in Poland was a visit to the site of the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz, where the Pope addressed several thousand survivors of the camp. In his speech, the Pope spoke of "reconciliation," and said that evil and hatred can be overcome only by the good. "To speak in this place of horror, in this place where unprecedented mass crimes were committed against God and man, is almost impossibleand it is particularly difficult and troubling for a Christian, for a Pope from Germany. In a place like this words fail. In the end there can only be a dead silence, a silence which is itself a heartfelt cry to God: 'Why, Lord, did you remain silent? How could You tolerate all this?' In silence, then, we bow our heads before the endless line of those who suffered and were put to death here; yet our silence becomes in turn a plea for forgiveness and reconciliation, a plea to the living God never to let this happen again."
Benedict said he came to Auschwitz "as a son of the German people. For this very reason I can and must echo Pope John Paul II's words. I could not fail to come here. I had to come ... as the successor of John Paul II and as son of the German peoplea son of that people over which a ring of criminals rose to power by false promises of future greatness and the recovery of the nation's honor, prominence and propriety, but also through terror and intimidation, with the result that our people was used and abused as an instrument of their thirst for destruction and power."