New Synagogue in Munich

On the 68th anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogrom, Germany’s president Koehler joined with other dignitaries in inaugurating a new synagogue in Munich.

Neo-Nazis plotted to bomb the ground-breaking ceremony for the Munich synagogue exactly three years ago. Members of the group were arrested and their leader is now serving a seven-year jail term.

German President Horst Koehler warned of lingering anti-Semitism in the country and noted that neo-Nazi crimes have increased this year.

“This is painful … we must learn the lesson and remain watchful today and for all time,” said Koehler in a speech.

The opening went off without a hitch. Munich is now home to Germany’s second-largest Jewish community (behind Berlin), with roughly 9,000 of the country’s 110,000 Jewish citizens. I haven’t seen the new synagogue in person yet, but it won’t be long.

Journalists spied on in Germany

Bastards.

The German government admitted Monday that the Federal Intelligence Service had recruited and spied on journalists from 1993 until as recently as last year.

“The government regrets the incidents,” said Ulrich Wilhelm, the government spokesman after he had been bombarded with questions during the Monday regular news conference.

Wilhelm said the Chancellery had ordered the Federal Intelligence Service to stop such activities following a string of allegations emerging over the last few days that the agency had recruited journalists to spy on their colleagues.

The parliamentary controller’s committee, which monitors the activities of the intelligence services, will hold a special session Tuesday amid calls by the German Association of Journalists and the Association of Newspaper Publishers for a “rigorous investigation.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali/Magan moves to US

Controversial “Dutch” politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose true surname is Magan and not Ali, is reported to move to the United States where she will be working for The American Enterprise Institute. She is currently embroiled in a scandal because she had lied about her past to obtain a Dutch passport:

Hirsi Ali said she came clean about the lies she told to get asylum when she joined the Liberal Party (VVD) in 2002. Yet prominent VVDer (and now EU Commissioner) Neelie Kroes described Hirsi Ali as a person who had lived through five civil wars in Somalia. This was not true as Hirsi Ali lived in Kenya for over 10 years before coming to the Netherlands.

A spokesperson for the VVD said the party had been aware that Hirsi Ali lied about her name and date of birth when seeking asylum. This was not seen as a barrier to her joining the party or becoming one of its MPs.

These lies, in short, were already public knowledge. Way back in 2003, for example, the BBC published a story on Ayaan Hirsi Ali/Magan with the correct version of the facts, including her move to Kenya and stop-over in Germany.

The truly salient part of the story is, however, this:

Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk said on Friday that Hirsi Ali need not worry about facing repercussions for what she did 14 years ago. But she repeated she would have deported Hirsi Ali if she had been the minister back in 1992. “I don’t like lies,” Verdonk said on Friday.

Remember, Verdonk now plays tough on illegal immigrants. Yesterday evening, Monday 15th, Verdonk is reported to have made a phone call to Hirsi Ali, her colleague in the VVD party, saying that Hirsi may very well not be Dutch after all because, in 1997, she lied about her application for Dutch citizenship… Gotta love politics.

BTW, Hirsi Ali has declared to be shocked by all this, in The New York Times.

UPDATE, Saturday May 20th: Verdonk stated that Hirsi will get her Dutch passport back. The Dutch news story can be found here. Apparently they want to keep the VVD from splitting into two camps because of this affair. Huge pressure was piled on VVD member Verdonk to compromise and retract her earlier decision to strip Hirsi of her Dutch citizenship.

Villepin denies allegations

Reuters report.

Villepin, crippled by a bruising defeat over a youth job law last month, issued the latest of his almost daily denials of guilt as the murky scandal rekindled speculation about his ability to stay in office.

The so-called Clearstream affair has derailed Villepin’s efforts to press on with reforms and fuelled a resurgence of the far-right ahead of 2007 presidential elections.

Le Monde on Wednesday published extracts from a leaked document the daily said proved Villepin knew more than he had acknowledged about an alleged dirty tricks campaign to smear Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, his rival for the presidency.

Le Monde’s article

Via Jerome, who says they ” blows open Villepin’s defense”.

Jyllands-posten Files Defamation Suit

The Comics Reporter

The Jyllands-Posten has sued attorney Michael Christiani Havemann for defamation, claiming Havemann said the paper ordered a staff cartoonist to make a more distorted drawing of the Prophet Muhammed because the cartoons they had solicited from freelancers weren’t quite provocative enough. The publication of those cartoons last September led to weeks of international rioting in the first few months of this year. Havemann represents 27 Muslim organizations in a defmation lawsuit against the paper, seeking $16,800 damages.

The newspaper is seeking $16,800 in damages and a court ruling that the statement was false.

De Villepin tried to frame Sarkozy?

Major political scandal underway in France says Jerome.

A first scandal was started in early 2004 when a number of politicians (including Nicolas Sarkozy) and top businessmen were accused to have hidden bank accounts with Clearstream in Luxembourg. These accusations were proven to be false in early 2005 by the investigating judge, and new judicial procedures were started, by Sarkozy and others, for slander (“dénonciation calomnieuse”), to try to find out the mysterious source of the fake documents that triggered the first scandal.

Sarkozy has long suspected Chirac and Villepin to have been behind this attack on him, and today’s revelations would seem to bear this out. Villepin has already denied categorically the substance of what Le Monde prints today, but this could trigger his resignation and a government reshuffle, especially coming just after the CPE episode which has gravely weakened his authority and credibility.