March 08, 2009
If you waited for the moment, if you were looking for an opportunity to change your life...
The time has come.
Time for change.
The greatest country on earth.
The richest country on earth.
The best country on earth.
Your country, which soon will disappear.
You do nothing, you only use.
Education - your profession is not needed in this country.
Working for some stranger.
You blow (hash).
You will die 55-60 yo.
Children - you don't want.
Family - you don't want.
Army - you don't want.
Everything just for yourself.
You just live your life, thinking that you are spending it on something useful.
All that will be left after you die - a plate with 16 figures.
You did not create anything.
You do not build or produce anything.
Do not invent and do not intend to.
You think that you have no relation to Russia.
That someone somewhere will solve everything.
But, in fact, there is no one except you.
You are your country's present, future, past.
The first and last hope.
And this is scary, because you do not want anything.
You're a consumer.
A small battery in a huge foreign system.
What do you consider valuable?
Money, phone, cool clothes, cars, hangouts?
All this is worthless.
But your life is worth something, and your time, your dreams, which do not have.
Look around you, your country is dying.
In the world system we are lumberjacks and miners.
We are noncompetitive.
We will be thorn in pieces at the first opportunity.
No great discoveries or great victories, no great culture.
Here's to you your freedom.
Freedom to be a bandit or a prostitute.
Freedom of self-destruction?
Freedom of self-abasement?
Freedom to be nobody.
Those from whom you are two steps away -- fought, built, raised, and went further to ensure that you will live. And they built a great country.
Thankless swine, or the one who can change the world?
Noneone or a hero?
The last or first?
Decide for yourself, but know that there is no one except you.
No one will live your life.
Our country has two options: to revive or die.
March 07, 2009
Any sentence with Albania in it is likely to get a laugh. Albania is funny. It’s a punchline, a Gilbert and Sullivan country, a Ruritania of brigands and vendettas and pantomime royalty.
It is a tragic place. But just at the point in the story where you should be sobbing, you can barely restrain the sniggers. After all, Albania’s favourite comedian is Norman Wisdom, and that’s the place all over. It’s funny because it’s not funny. The capital, Tirana, is a rare place, blessed with both fascist and communist architecture. The competing totalitarian buildings strut cheek by cheek down the potholed roads, like an authoritarian tango in marble and concrete.
The Italians, who had the most sympathetic fascist architecture, built the futuristically classical university art school and government buildings, while the communists made the thudding celebrations of workers’ triumph and the grim warrens of piss-stained grey boxes for housing the triumphant workers in.
Parts of Tirana look like small southern Italian industrial towns, tree-dappled, lots of cafes, while other bits look like Gaza, ripped up and smashed stretches of urban exhaustion and collapse.
But none of that is what you notice first. The thing that catches your eye and holds it in a sticky grasp, like a child with a humbug, is the colour. The grim apartments and public housing projects have been painted with broad swathes of livid decoration. They look like a giant installation of West Indian scatter cushions.
The multicoloured building was the very, very bright idea of Tirana’s mayor. A man who the locals seem to think is suicidal and inspired in equal measure. When Albania’s peculiar version of hermetic communism finally collapsed, in 1992, the new man said that, though there was no money to change anything, seeing as they’d been living in monotone grindstone misery for 50 years, they might brighten the place up with a lick of paint. Apparently, they got a job lot of all the colours Homebase couldn’t sell in Cheshire and sploshed away. The result is both inspired and ridiculous, and very Albanian. Like a clown’s make-up, it draws attention to the crumbling, gritty face underneath.
In the span of one long lifetime, Albania has been dealt a full house of political, social and economic experiments. It started the 20th century as a subservient state of the Ottoman empire, then it became a playground for every Balkan and Adriatic neighbour. At one time or another, Albania had seven competing armies trying to grab lumps of it. Briefly it was an imposed German monarchy, then an ineffective Austrian protectorate. In 1913 the Treaty of London drew its borders to suit the conflicting demands of Serbia, Greece, Italy, Austria and Russia, which left over half of all Albanians living outside their own country, principally in Kosovo.
At the Treaty of Versailles, the Albanian throne was absurdly offered to C B Fry, an English cricketer who was supposed to be such a paragon of masculinity that he was photographed naked and flexing at Oxford, and ended up running a naval prep school of exemplary cruelty with a dykey, sadistic wife. And then they got King Zog.
You really couldn’t make up Albania’s history. Zog was Europe’s last self-made monarch, and a man who made Charlie Chaplin look serious. He favoured light operetta, white hussars’ uniforms and waxed moustaches, and cut a mean tango; he encouraged the Italians to come and build things like roads and cafes. The bad news was, the Italians were Mussolini, so Zog had to make a dash for it and ruled in the Palm Court at the Ritz.
Then the Italians lost the war and the partisans took over; which might have been a good thing, except they turned out to be run by Enver Hoxha, the weirdest of all cold-war communist dictators, a man of stern cruelty and fathomless paranoia, who decided that the only two allies he could trust should be at the opposite ends of the world. Albania’s only mates were China and Cuba, and it became proudly the only Maoist state in Europe.
Finally, long after everyone else had got a credit card and a mobile phone, Hoxha got cancer and died, and his unique chronic communism died with him. So Albania was welcomed out of the cold into the warm embrace of the free market. That should have been the good news, but of course it wasn’t.
There’s a park in the centre of Tirana that was built by the workers for themselves. They dug a great lake, built an amphitheatre, made a little zoo with a mad bear. You get in by walking through a homeless incontinent’s toilet, past the busts of madly furrowed Albanian heroes and the small, neat British war cemetery.
In shady meadows, men cut grass for hay and young men sit on tree stumps staring at nothing. Around the lake, men fish without anticipation; behind them, other men squat and watch. Fishermen-stalking is a feature of former communist countries. As a displacement activity, it’s about as complete a waste of a day as you can come up with. Old men sit in the sun and play dominoes. Their peanut-butter-tanned bodies are wrinkled and polished like old brogues. They sit on cardboard boxes in those distressingly skimpy second scrotums that the communist world still clings to as attractive swimwear; they grin through bomb-damaged teeth.
These are the flotsam and detritus of the train wreck of a command economy, their jobs and pensions just another cracking Albanian joke. A man who was once a history professor looks out across the water at the speculative illegal palaces being built in the people’s park and tells me how the good news of capitalism came to Albania. “We didn’t know anything about markets or money. Suddenly it was all new, all opportunity, all confusion. And then there comes pyramid scheme. You’ve heard of this ‘pyramid’? We put money in. They give you back many times more. You put that money back and much more comes. It was brilliant, this capitalism. Magic. Everyone did it. Maybe 70-80% of the country. People gave up their work to live on marvellous pyramid money. This was best two years of Albania’s life. Drink and food and laughing; everyone is happy. Everyone has cash and hope.” He stops and looks at the fishermen. “But it’s fraud. Everyone loses everything, not just their savings but their homes and farms, and they borrow and there’s no state to help. We have less than nothing; I lose my savings and my job. I don’t understand.
“You laugh. We were fools, yes, but what do we know of capitalism? It was a fairy story. And when it’s gone, people kill themselves, go mad, fight, scream and cry and want revenge. You understand Albanians have very, very… ” (he searches for the words) “… strong emotion.”
Albania was a nation of dupes waiting to be taken and they didn’t take it well. Everything you understand or think you know about Albania and Albanians needs to be seen in relation to how they got the way they are. After the pyramid scam, Albania sold the only thing it had left: its people. They handed out passports and waited. There are 4m Albanian citizens in the world – fewer than there are Scots. Three million of them live at home, the fourth quarter work abroad, and what they do is mostly illegal. Albania is the hub of the European sex trade, smuggling and pimping girls from Moldova and the Ukraine into the West.
It’s said they also run most of the illegal arms trade, the cheapest Kalashnikovs you can buy. They’re the Asda of mayhem. After years of being bullied, invaded, ripped off and lied to, the Albanians have grown very good at being frightening. They’re not subtle, they don’t deal in proportionate responses, controlled aggression or veiled threats. Albanians, I’m told, have taken over the crime in Milan – exporting organised crime to Italy beats selling fridges to Eskimos or sand to Arabs.
In the centre of Tirana there’s an area known as the Block. Under Hoxha this was the closed, salubrious preserve of party members, patrolled by soldiers, forbidden to all ordinary Albanians. Now it’s grown into the all-night trendy reserve of the young: cafes, bars and clubs have sprouted back to back along the crowded streets.
In parts it looks like sunny-holiday Europe, but then you turn a corner into grim, hunkered, crumbling commie squalor, with kids kicking balls and toothless ancients sitting like lonely loonies on benches, staring at the angry graffiti.
The number and proportion of young people in Tirana is a shock, compared with northern Europe. This is a young person’s country; they have large families here who all continue to live at home, so they need to get out.
The cafes on the Block are thick with teenagers, collectively called “students”, though this is a title rather than a vocation – there’s precious little work for them to study for. The streets are a slow crawl of large cars: BMWs, Porsche Cayennes, blacked-out Range Rovers, Humvees and the ubiquitous tribe of Benzes – all stolen, of course, from Germany and Italy.
The young lounge and practise their impenetrably tough looks; the boys play-fight. The difference between these kids and their neighbours in Italy and Greece is how they look. With effortless élan, Albanian students are without peer the worst-dressed kids in the western world. They are obsessed with labels and designers, but all they can afford are the chronically laughable rip-offs and fakes in the markets. Shops here are full of absurdly repellent, tatty clobber with oversized logos stencilled on, and the kids wear this stuff with a flashy insouciance, all looking like characters in search of a comic-sketch show.
Albanians are naturally quite modest people. You still see old women in peasant headdresses and men wearing traditional white fezzes, but the youth are desperate to be European, and that means sexy. There are girls with bad peroxide jobs, and minute skirts, and tits-out-for-the-boys tops. They play at being gangster bitches, but it all looks much more like a drama-school production of Guys and Dolls.
The men have a strange – and, it must be said, deeply unattractive – habit of rolling up their T-shirts so that they look like bikini tops. The Albanians are short and ferret-faced, with the unisex stumpy, slightly bowed legs of shetland ponies. My favourite fashion moment was a middle-aged man with a Village People moustache and a Hobbit’s swagger in a T-shirt that declared in huge letters: Big Balls.
Albanian is one of those languages that have no known relative, just an extra half a dozen letters. They say it’s impossible to learn after the age of two. They say it with very thick accents. The fact that nobody else can speak it makes it a ready-made code for criminals, but in a typically unintentional way it’s also pathetically, phonetically funny. The word for “for sale”, for instance, is shitet; carp, the national fish, is krap.
I went to a tiny basement bar that specialised in death-metal music. This, finally, is a look that even Albanians can get right. I found a seat next to the drummer’s mother, a beamingly proud peasant woman watching her son epileptically thrash our eardrums with his group Clockwork Psycho Sodomy Gore.
Groovy Tirana troops into a nightclub with a self-conscious bravado and sips cocktails politely, while the naffest barman in the free world goes through his Tom Cruise bottle-juggling routine, shaking passé drinks and presenting the bill stuffed into the top of his stonewashed hipsters to groups of giggling top-heavy girls.
All this imitation, this desperate wannabe youth culture, is being paid for by cash sent home from abroad. Albania’s economy runs courtesy of Western Union and wads of red-light cash stuffed under the seats of hot-wired Audis. Much of it is criminal, but there is also a lot that is the bitter fruit of lonely, uncertain, menial jobs in rich Europe done by invisibly despised immigrants on the black economy. However it’s gleaned, this is the hardest-earned money in Europe.
I was constantly told to be careful of pickpockets and muggers in rough areas. Over the years, I’ve developed a bat-eared coward’s sixth sense for the merest whisper of trouble, but Tirana felt like a very safe place playing tough. There is very little drunkenness on the street, though they drink copiously. The only drugs seem to be a bit of home-grown grass and, given that this is the vice-export capital of the West, there were no lap-dancing clubs or pornography shops. You can’t even find a prostitute on the street in Tirana. It’s like trying to find lobsters in Scotland: they’ve all gone for export.
Albania has by far and away the worst traffic record of any western country, and no Albanian would conceivably wear a seatbelt, considering it the first symptom of passive homosexuality. Driving north out of Tirana along the pitted roads, you see an insatiable orgy of construction with barely a nod to need, purpose or planning permission. The outskirts are being covered in country bars and restaurants without customers, and capacious country houses without sewerage, water, electricity or inhabitants. The biggest single industry in Albania is money-laundering, and construction is the easiest and quickest way to turn vice into virtue. There are thousands of buildings without roofs or windows flying an ironic Albanian flag, which, appropriately, is the double-headed eagle looking both ways at once.
The mountains are a landscape of terraces and forests sparsely populated by peasants who still cut hay with scythes, where men turn rotated strips with wooden ploughs behind bony mares as their wives sow seeds from baskets, looking like the posters for a Bertolt Brecht revival.
Tiny villages lurk in high valleys; extended families live on the first floor of stone-and-mud-plaster houses. On the ground floor live the cattle and plough horses. Vines climb the walls; chickens and infants scratch in the dirt; dogs are chained in wicker kennels; hens nest under the sweet hayricks; women bake bread in wood ovens. We’re given a lunch of grilled lamb, fizzing sheep’s cheese, tomatoes and cherries fresh from the tree. The fields all around are choked with wild flowers; songbirds and turtledoves clamour for attention; tortoises shuffle in the stubble; donkeys moan operatically to each other.
It is as close as any of us will get to seeing what life across Europe was like in the 16th century, but living a 16th-century life in the 21st century is not a smart option. Even 16th-century people know that. So the country is emptying, and the peasants trudge to the city to try and lay their hands on a little second-hand vice money.
All across Albania there are decrepit concrete bunkers, thick beehive constructions that smell of mould and foxes. They run in little redoubts up hills, along coverts and through gardens. There are millions of them. Hoxha started building bunkers at the end of the war, and they became a lifelong paranoid obsession that cost a hubristic amount of Albania’s wealth. The bunkers follow no coherent battle plan. There would never have been enough soldiers to man them; they are simply the solid pustules of mistrust and fear. Albania has always been surrounded by enemies, but it has also been divided against itself.
There is no trust in this landscape: it is the place of vendetta and vengeance. There are still families here where the fearful men never leave their windowless homes, where male babies are born to die. The rules of being “in blood” were laid down in the 15th century in the Canon of Lekë, an ancient murderer’s handbook. That is one of the reasons Albanians are so good at organised crime. The distinctions of religion are nothing compared with the ancient honour of families; everything is secondary to family honour and to making money. Everything is excusable to sustain those.
There is also a divide between north and south Albania. The north is called Gheg, the south Tosk. Gheg is tough, uncouth, aggressive; the south, educated, civilised, Italianate. It’s a bit like England.
On the Adriatic coast, in Durres, which was once a seaside capital, the beach is a muddy grey, a coarse sand of cigarette ends, bottle tops and those blue plastic bags that are the world’s tumbleweed. The smelly, tideless Adriatic limply washes nameless slurry onto the shore, and children build sand villas while their parents roast. Albanians have surprisingly fair skins and they cook to a lovely livid puce. A man calls me over. He’s angry. “American?” No, English. “Tell them, tell Europe, we don’t have tails. You see, we are not apes. We’re not another species. Durres is going to be the new Croatia.” There’s a thought.
“Norman Wisdom – what do you think of him?” I asked. “He’s very ’90s. Now top best comic is definitely Mr Bean.”
Sitting in Tirana’s main square, where the moneychangers stand in the shade with their wads, and men sell dodgy mobile phones and repair petrol lighters, I watch the Albanians come and go, and there’s something odd. It takes me an hour to work out what it is – hardly anyone wears a watch. Well, why would they? They haven’t got anywhere to be.
AA Gill - July 23, 2006 @ timesonline.co.uk
March 06, 2009
President Bush’s remark the other day that the theory of ‘intelligent design’ should be taught alongside the theory of evolution brought howls of derision from his detractors in Europe and the United States. It was, they said, one more piece of evidence that America is populated by fundamentalist zombies who are potentially as dangerous as bin Laden’s boys. Intelligent design, it goes without saying, is a boneheaded piece of pseudo-science, almost as simplistic as the naive materialism that Darwinists teach. But neither side of the argument cares about logic, much less truth. The important thing is to declare which side you are on: religious fanaticism or cosmopolitan anti-religious fanaticism.
Both sides agree on one thing: that America really is the promised Land of true-believing Christians. In ‘Old Europe’, the United States is seen as a land of extreme piety and fanatical Puritanism. In the United States, at least among those who support the Bush administration, Europe — France, in particular — is regarded as impious, socialist and immoral, but then France has always been America’s favourite whipping boy.
‘Man,’ declared Mark Twain, ‘is a creature who stands somewhere between the angels and the French,’ and French husbands, according to American legend, are flagrantly disloyal, while American men are the very models of marital fidelity. But there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the French are more likely to cheat on their wives than the Americans; and in most areas of traditional morality, the French are better behaved than the Americans. According to a worldwide survey of abortion rates in the 1990s, for example, a statistically average American woman could be expected to have .69 abortions, while her French counterpart would have .39 (and a German woman only .23). In America, furthermore, the divorce rate is more than twice as high as it is in France, and the rate of teenage pregnancies more than five times as high. In so far as these things can be measured scientifically, Americans are more sexually permissive — though also more puritanical — than Europeans.
So is there anything to American piety, or is it one of those useful myths that make it easier for BBC presenters to pretend to understand complex issues?
America has always been a strange place, even to Americans. While most countries are content merely to exist, America is supposed to have a project, a destiny, a divine mission. New England Puritans suffered from the delusion that their little settlement was a ‘city on a hill’, and Cotton Mather, who played a key role in the Salem witch trials, thought New England was plagued by witches because, before the arrival of white European Calvinists, the continent had been a playground for devil-worshipping Indians and idolatrous Catholics. President Lincoln went so far as to describe the United States as ‘dedicated’ to a proposition, and secular Americans speak glibly of America as ‘an experiment’ — a grisly idea, if ever there was one. Even today patriotic conservatives believe that ‘God’ has blessed our nation as a reward for our virtue and our piety. As H.L. Mencken observed in a more candid age, ‘No one ever went broke underestimating ...the American people.’
Small wonder that so many Europeans are afraid of the United States and its messianic approach to foreign policy. The good news is that all our exceptional virtue and piety is so much buncombe, as Mencken would have said. Despite the many myths of American ‘exceptionalism’, most Americans have always been just as content to muddle through as if they had been born among the unredeemed heathens of London and Paris.
In fact, America’s lack of genuine piety has aroused the ire of some excitable Catholic intellectuals who regard the United States as a masonic conspiracy. After pointing out the masonic symbols on the dollar bill (to say nothing of the masonic design of the national capital), they will go on to cite the fact that the constitution (drafted by leading freemasons) never mentions Christianity. This omission is aggravated by the doctrine of ‘the separation of church and state’ — a notion unacceptable to some traditional Catholics. This historical interpretation (apart from the bit about the masonic conspiracy) is utter nonsense. Christianity is not mentioned in the constitution because it is a treaty of union, not an ideological declaration. In a multi-ethnic, multi-confessional union, the best way to avoid religious conflict was for the national and state governments to be neutral towards competing Christian sects.
Conservative evangelicals, on the other hand, insist that the founders of the republic were all pious Christians. In fact, few of the men who led the revolution or drafted the constitution could be described as pious or even orthodox. Washington was an ordinary Anglican, which even in the 18th century meant very little, while John Adams was a Unitarian, Jefferson a mildly anti-Christian deist, and Ben Franklin a sceptical freemason as well as a rake. America —alas, it is all too true — has been swept periodically by revivals and cult crazes. Many of the cultists went west and ended up in California, the last stop of the rootless and disaffected before falling into the Pacific.
I have lived 60 years in the United States, the first 25 of them as an atheist, the last 35 as an increasingly reactionary Christian. I have never witnessed the great piety and deep spirituality which I have heard described in 4 July addresses and in semi-scholarly tomes on American religion. We are a practical people, above all else, and, as I have heard repeatedly from business and political leaders, religion makes good sense: the man who goes to church also goes to work, takes care of his family, pays his taxes. This is religiosity, not Christianity.
For American Christians, what they say they believe does not always translate into concrete actions or even into support for Christian moral positions. They complain, occasionally, about the prohibition of prayer in school and resent media attacks on religion, but they seem unaffected by the pervasive blasphemy of television commercials and by the barbaric post-Christian morality of everyday life in these United States. This is a country, remember, where Britney Spears was a spokesbimbo for the Episcopal Church. Many evangelical and Catholic Christians actively supported the philandering, lying Bill Clinton, and many traditional Catholics, in defiance of both the Vatican and the Church’s teachings on just war, support George Bush’s war in Iraq. In March 2003 Pope John Paul II, who described his opposition to the war as ‘unequivocal’, sent Cardinal Pio Laghi to dissuade President Bush from attacking Iraq. The President told Cardinal Laghi, ‘We’ll be quick and do well in Iraq.’ As Cardinal Laghi, who calls the invasion ‘tragic and unacceptable’, points out, ‘Bush was wrong.’
But warmongering Catholics are no match for the Revd Pat Robertson. Mr Robertson has gone beyond deflecting hurricanes and denouncing Ariel Sharon for turning Jewish settlers out of land that God gave them. Now he has called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the troublesome president of Venezuela. In defiance of both logic and Christian ethics, Robertson recently said: ‘If he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.’
When foreigners speak of American piety, they usually have in mind some form of evangelical Protestantism. But that is a very broad category, which includes austere and disciplined Calvinists in the South as well as clownish TV preachers and the megachurches fitted out with rock bands and wall-sized video screens. Imagine a luxurious sports complex with Elvis, in his sequinned powder-blue Vegas jumpsuit, crooning ‘How Great Thou Art’ to a mob of hysterical middle-aged women writhing in the aisles. This is not ‘that old-time religion’, unless the ‘old time’ in question is the heyday of the Münster anabaptists. Perhaps I am biased: as a pure-minded young atheist I was arrested for mocking a travelling evangelist who healed the sick and raised the dead with wirework that anticipated Hong Kong martial arts movies.
The United States was never a ‘Christian country’ in a confessional sense, though it was once a nation of mostly Christians. Today, it is a nation with a weak-kneed Christian majority that elects, year after year, an actively anti-Christian political class that encourages divorce, protects abortion and pornography, and banishes prayer and Christian symbols from public places. Republican leaders, it is true, pander to their Christian constituents, but they have never and will never lift a finger to advance the cause of Christian morality, much less Christian faith.
Most Americans say they ‘believe in God’, and Americans do attend religious services more frequently than Europeans, or at least they tell pollsters they do, though when the numbers of an ABC poll are broken down, weekly churchgoers tend to be women, Southern, Republican, and old. In western Europe, far fewer people go to church or profess any religious faith, but, from what I have seen, observant Catholics in Italy and France are a good deal more serious than their counterparts here in the land of ‘In God We Trust’.
To compare apples with apples, the most prominent conservative Catholics in the United States are the so-called neoconservatives. They are indifferent or hostile to the traditional liturgy, defend the discovery of democratic capitalism as an event of ‘incarnational significance’ (Michael Novak), and have routinely defended US foreign policy against explicit statements of John Paul II. Catholic neoconservatives represent the triumph of ‘Americanism’ in the Church. They are more Republican than Catholic, more loyal to George Bush than to any Pope. In secular, anti-Catholic France, a Catholic has to be resolute, even courageous; in America, he just goes with the flow.
European leftists can breathe a sigh of relief. A typical American may go to church too often to be respectable, but when he walks out on the street he is either a little liberal or else a little conservative. If there really were a ‘Christian America’, Hollywood would be broke, and the ashes of both political parties would be reposing quietly in the dustbin of history.
Being busied with many things, impatience, anxiety, irritability.... These things are certainly unpleasant. Pleasing, however, is that you sense how much they damage your soul and that you wish to be cured. You need only ﬁnd out from whence they arise, what their source is. If you eradicate the source, then they will disappear on their own. Examine yourself to see if perhaps excessive self-conﬁdence, self-esteem, and feelings of self-worth exist within you. These things create an egotistical and deceptive sense of self-sufficiency in a person: He believes that he can unerringly arrange and accomplish everything on his own, without the contribution or advice of his fellow man and, above all, without God’s help. If, then, some obstacle occurs and his plans are upset, and if things do not turn out the way he desired and planned, then he grumbles against God and becomes angry with people. Perhaps you also rely more than you should on your own abilities?
Perhaps you have “pushed” God to the edge of your life? Do you begin your every work with prayer, do you continue it in prayer, and do you ﬁnish it in prayer? Do you believe that you are completely worthless and that you owe all of your achievements to the Lord? Do you humbly place yourself below all of creation?
If not, then you must evaluate your position before your Creator and His creations. In your relations with God and other people, be profoundly conscious of your own insigniﬁcance. Pray unceasingly.
And unshakably believe that the Lord is the ruler of the world and of your life. Without Him, nothing good can take root in us.Let us, then, place ourselves with trust in His hands. This does not mean that we will abandon or reduce our struggles, efforts, and labors for our spiritual cultivation. Let us not, however, rely on these labors, because if God does not bless them, they will not bear spiritual fruit.
(*) Source: Ἃγιος Kυπριανός, No. 330 ( January-February 2006), p. 272.
St. Teophan the Recluse, Handbook to the Spiritual Life (extracts from his letters), (Oropos, Attika: Ekdoseis Hieras Mones Parakletou, 2003), pp. 145-146.
March 05, 2009
Ian Wathey, 40, and Craig Faunch, 32 were convicted in May 2006, of molesting and filming eight-year-old twins and two 14 year-old boys placed in their care by the Wakefield Council. Since they were approved as foster parents in 2003, Wathey and Faunch took in a total of 19 boys.
Despite growing reservations by staff and complaints from the mother of two of the boys, the two men were treated by the authorities as "trophy carers" who, because of their status as homosexuals were regarded as beyond scrutiny. An independent investigative panel has found that officials of Wakefield Metropolitan District Council, controlled by the Labour Party, allowed "the fear of being discriminatory" to lead them to "fail to discriminate between the appropriate and the abusive."
The Daily Telegraph reports that the review panel found authorities ignored or inadequately investigated complaints against the two men and that an annual review was never conducted.
The Telegraph quotes one social worker who told the inquiry team, "you didn't want to be seen discriminating against a same-sex couple."
At the time of his conviction for sexual abuse, Judge Sally Cahill told Faunch, "Once you realised social services were going to take no action in respect of the photos that had been found, and believed your ridiculous story about why you had taken it, you went on to abuse others in your care believing yourself to be safe from the authorities."
The men were convicted of multiple counts of sexual activity with the two 14 year-old boys, and Faunch was convicted of using a camcorder to film two eight year-old boys while they showered. Wathey was also found guilty of encouraging a 14 year-old child, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome and has the mental age of a seven year-old, to watch homosexual pornography.
Referring to one boy's "very troubled background" the judge said, "You are presented as a couple but this is not a case about homosexuality, it is about a breach of trust".
The panel leader, Brian Parrott stated, "These anxieties about discrimination have deep roots, we argue - in social work training, professional identity and organisational cultures, and the remedies for these go beyond the remit of any single council or inquiry report."
Five weeks before their conviction, Wathey and Faunch took part in a civil partnership ceremony and are thought to have been the first homosexual partners in Yorkshire to be allowed to act as foster parents. That Faunch was jailed for six years and Wathey for five years, outraged some children's charities who said that for such a "breach of trust" the sentence ought to have been ten years.
Run by the Albanian mafia, one such ‘baby factory’ is reportedly operating in Athens, according to the Mail. Young women, primarily Bulgarians and Romanian gypsies, are selected by racketeers on the basis of beauty and health for impregnation.
Once pregnant, the women are fed, housed and clothed for nine months to ensure a healthy pregnancy. The babies are born in a private location to avoid hospital questions, with a paid midwife on hand. The mothers will typically care for the baby for the next 40 days, when the child will be ready for delivery to the buyer. Such transactions can cost up to £20,000.
Greek officials said black-market baby-selling rings are increasing, with nine known instances of the sale of Bulgarian babies in the first half of 2006--police arrested 33 suspected racketeers, including 24 Bulgarians, seven Greeks (including doctors and lawyers) and two Albanians.
In an additional case, five Albanians were arrested near the Greek-Albanian border under suspicion of selling eight Romanian babies.
“This is an escalating problem, the scale of which is impossible to grasp,” Lieutenant Colonel Antonia Andreakou, director of the Greek police’s public security division handling cross-border crime, told the Mail.
“This is just a fraction of the number of cases. We need to prove that money has exchanged hands, as this is what makes the transaction illegal, but that is very difficult to do.”
Police said those responsible recruit poor women who are young, pretty and healthy with promises of false passports and papers to get them into Greece. After they arrive in the country, the girls are handed heavy bills they can’t afford to pay, and told the debt will be written off if they get pregnant and give up their baby.
“The girls have no option but to comply,” a police source told the Mail. “You would not want to upset these people.”
For the women who are convinced to participate, the deal can ultimately cost them their life.
“Once the woman has served her purpose, she is as good as dead,” a senior police source said. “The gang will force her into prostitution and drive her into the ground.”
In a related story, the Mail reported earlier this month on a British woman accused of stealing a baby from a teenage Romanian gypsy, who admitted that she traveled to Greece early in December to sell her six-month-old daughter for nearly £10,000.
Sophia Percula, who according to reports was just 15 years old and had been transported to Greece by her step-father, told police that she had arranged to meet Marie Golby, 41, in an Athens grocery store, but that Golby had stolen the child without paying the money.
While police have said they do not think the incident was gang-related, it is an indication of the growing frequency of baby-trafficking in the country.
Mafia-Run ‘Baby Factories’
TIRANA, Albania - Organized crime syndicates in the Balkans, spawned when communism collapsed a decade ago, are thriving on illegal trade in drugs and sex slaves. The final destination for much of the goods and services is Western Europe. The trade, which yields billions of dollars each year, doesn’t just pay for the mansions and yachts of wealthy traffickers. It also has a political purpose — supporting the purchase of arms for Albanian rebels.
Nearly two years after NATO troops drove Serb forces from this region, rebels are believed to still be skimming profits from drug and sex slave trafficking to fund illegal arms purchases for ethnic Albanian rebel movements.This trafficking has allowed both the Kosovo Liberation Army in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo and the National Liberation Army in Macedonia to be outfitted with the latest in rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, mortars, sniper rifles and night-vision goggles.
The rise of organized crime syndicates flourished following the collapse of the communist system and frontier controls throughout most of the Balkan peninsula, resulting in lawlessness and civil conflict. The traffickers are from every ethnic group in the region, and despite the bloody rivalries that have torn apart Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia, they work closely together.
In many areas they work with the complicity of police and customs officials. The U.S. State Department report on human rights for 2001 notes that “instances of corruption and involvement of police in trafficking in persons occurred on the local level. At least two law enforcement officials have been dismissed for accepting bribes from traffickers.”
Often these activities enjoy the protection of high-ranking politicians, who are generously bribed, according to regional law enforcement officials.
Corrupt judges and prosecutors also frequently help arrested criminals.
On April 18, the Albanian state security service acknowledged the problem, saying in a statement that a “dangerous aspect of the growing power of the criminal groups is their ability to establish links with individuals in the top state administration offices and with politicians.”
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Sitting in a brothel bedroom in Velesta, a town synonymous with forced prostitution that police and experts consider one of the most dangerous places in Europe, Olga said that her “owner” would kill her for telling a reporter about her state of captivity. But the cruel conditions under which she is held, and her deteriorating mental and physical health, compelled her to speak out.
Her head hung in shame, Olga’s dark brown eyes welled with tears. She brushed back her long black hair, revealing a fair complexion flushed with anger at her fate. “There is only one word for this,” she said. “Slavery.”Forced to have sex with as many as 10 men every day, Olga and other women clandestinely interviewed by MSNBC.com as part of a four-month investigation into the sex trade in Europe, insisted that their real identities not be revealed.
Their fears are not unfounded. Those brave enough to seek help have been savagely beaten — and sometimes killed — for trying to escape.
Flourishing Sex Trade
In Europe alone, officials estimate that more than 200,000 women and girls — one-quarter of all women trafficked globally — are smuggled out of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics each year, the bulk of whom end up working as enslaved prostitutes. Almost half are transported to Western Europe. Roughly a quarter end up in the United States. Human rights activists say the numbers do not tell the full story, because most women remain silent rather than turn to frequently corrupt authorities for help.
The rapid rise of this sex slave trade can be traced to the fall of the Soviet Union, where borders once heavily guarded by the Red Army suddenly became porous and Soviet republics and Eastern European satellites once in the Kremlin’s grasp saw their industries and subsidies collapse overnight. Millions of young women like Olga came of age amid this economic misery. Their childhood fantasies of a better life in the West soon became a human trafficker’s golden opportunity.
Billions in Profits
Ten years of wars in the Balkans have turned the region into a trafficking highway paved with lawlessness and corruption that has prompted former enemies — Bosnian Muslims and ethnic Albanians — to set aside ethnic rivalries in the name of vast profits. “You’re talking about big international organizations,” said Rudolf Perina, a former U.S. ambassador to Moldova who was involved in Washington-funded anti-trafficking efforts.
Ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo, Macedonia and south Serbia — long the masters of drug running in the Balkans — are deeply involved in the human smuggling business, using the flesh trade to fund their separatist movements.
In the Heart of Europe
Farther along the trafficking pipeline, hundreds of women and girls are smuggled into Europe every day and forced onto the streets of cities like Hamburg, Paris, London and Amsterdam.
Amsterdam, a city synonymous with hedonism, is perhaps best known for its legalized sex industry, in which prostitutes pay taxes and undergo regular health exams. The city’s Red Light District is a virtual Disneyland of sex — with only European Union passport holders allowed to ply the trade.
But only a few miles’ drive from the city center, traditional Dutch tolerance is helping fuel the trafficking problem. In Theemsweg, a fenced-in, football field-sized parking lot built by the government for unregulated sex workers, girls sit in bus shelters — also courtesy of the government — waiting for clients. There are no EU citizens here — and the prostitutes’ countries of origin are strikingly familiar: Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic. On weekends, men looking for cheap sex wait in cars that back up for a mile. Sexual encounters, which take place right in the cars, cost $20.
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‘The synagogue has been not only a house of worship, but also a community center for the Jews. So it is obvious why even atheistic Jews, or at least some of them including me, believe that some material support of synagogues is possible and justifiable now,’ Ginzburg said in his article ‘A Few Notes on Atheism, Religion, and Jewish Feeling of Ethnic Identity,’ published in 2004 by Yevreiskaya Starina online almanac.
According to him, the Russian Jewish Congress as a secular body shares his view. ‘State support of synagogues in Israel is unquestionably natural in certain limits too,’ he added.
However even in Israel ‘Judaism’s role and influence exceeds the limits acceptable for a secular and democratic state.’
‘Why public transport stops or is restricted in Israel on Sabbaths? If the believers do not want to use it, it’s their problem, but why the atheists’ freedom is restricted?’ he said hoping that Israel ‘will move towards full separation of religious organizations and all religious life from the state.’
According to Ginzburg, Judaism ‘has been essential’ for non-assimilation of the Jews after they left Palestine. However, ‘unavoidable and ultimate’ advent of atheism will not result in ‘total assimilation of the Jews.’
‘There is a more universal and deep feeling than religion, which also counters assimilation in diaspora. I mean the feeling of ethnic identity,’ he said.
In case with the Jews, ‘being sympathetic to Israel and desiring for it to flourish is an explicit manifestation of such a feeling,’ he added.
In 1995 Ginzburg won the Israel-based International Wolf Prize in Physics. During the award ceremony he said to the jury: ‘I am an atheist but my parents were Jewish and I am glad that there is Israel where any Jew may find his or her home.’
Russian "Greek" Orthodox history is tainted with Jewish blood
The Russian government controls the Greek Orthodox church not Greece. the history of Christian control over the state of Israel is well documented & the battle between Ar'bs & Christians over mosque & church is based on the tombs and homes of Biblical Jews. Starting with the Romans, foreigners paid shekels for a spot & later Ottoman Saladin collected revenue in taxes. Not one of these transactions was legitimate. All were a Den of Thieves according to Ju-zeus. All bare false witness!! Members of this church were Ar'b converts to Christianity.
The Greek Orthodox Church is largely not Christian. Just because they use Christian-sounding words does NOT make them Christian. A Christian is a follower of Christ, not some pompous windbag who hates Jews. Were the Jews involved with having Jesus killed? Yes. Are Christians to hate and revile Jews as a result? No. Real Christians do not hate Jews, do not love the enemies of the Jews (in the sense of supporting those who hate Jews), do not believe that the Christian Church has somehow mystically appropriated the uni-lateral covenant promises made to the Jews through Abraham, and do NOT worship idols (as do most Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox and Catholic adherents). God still has a plan for Israel and His chosen people (the Jews) that will kick back into top gear once the real Church of believers is removed from this planet in the near future. Once that event happens (millions of people disappearing in an instant), you Jews will know without a doubt that any people remaining claiming to be "Christian" (which will be most of the "big churches" previously mentioned) will in fact not be. Any person who favours the children of Ishmael over the children of Jacob is in direct opposition to the God of Abraham's plan and wishes. The Bible says that Ishmael and his descendants would be "wild donkeys" with "his hand turned against everyone, and everyone's hand turned against him" - what clearer picture of the Arab usurpers could you want? All of Israel, from Lebanon to the Wadi of Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates belongs to the Jews. Woe to the person who would steal land given by God to another!
The problem other Christian groups have is the Christian Orthodox practice of relic worship which includes the actual dehydrated head of John the Baptist, the actual dehydrated hand of John the Baptist and the list goes on of dehydrated corpses, feet and so on. The Multi -Christian groups who share the Holy Sepulchre Church, St Helene's Chapel (crypt of tombs) Church of the Nativity etc. all of which have relics of Jews. The question is why do they collect dead relics of Jews when they have live religious Jews to learn spirituality from? Clearly the G-d of Israel does not approve of this method of Christian Orthodox worship. After viewing several photographs of these relics used we all need to pray for the redemption Orthodox Christian groups whose pratices are unacceptable to G-d.
denying that these people are Christians is like we Jews denying Meyer Lansky was a Jew. Cover it up but deep down all Christians hate us because we reject Jesus. You & other Christians all believe we are damned & must be "saved" so please cut the crap as we are not fooled nor are we interested in your dead voodoo man-god
EVERY INCH IS OUR LAND!!!! ALL arabs & (if you are not pro-Israel or want prostulatize and convert) ALL GOYIIM out!!!!!! THIS IS JEWISH LAND ALWAYS AND FOREVER!!! MOSHIACH!!!! KOCH baby!!! KOCH!!!