Archive for February 21, 2009

Nostradamus in Kabul

Baba Vanga, a Bulgarian clairvoyant and blind prophet of doom, has inadvertently closed down Payman – Afghanistan’s most respected newspaper – from beyond the grave.

How did this happen? According to the newspaper, the rumour trail points to the Afghan president as the main driver behind the threats that ultimately led to its closure. The shutdown came after Payman mistakenly published a “blasphemous” article called “Prediction of the Third World War” – the story of Bulgarian visionary Baba Vanga, her dramatic life and her dystopian vision of a nuclear war.

The offending article was apparently published by mistake. It had a title strikingly similar to the one the paper had intended to publish: “Will There Be a Third World War?” An easy mistake in the age of internet journalism. The former had blasphemous content, the latter was harmless, but Payman was unlucky and published the wrong one. Its editors were quick to spot the mistake and immediately apologise for its publication.

“We are in the business of journalism where such mistakes are common,” they explained in a public letter of apology to the country’s religious scholars. “A review of the paper’s past content shows that the paper has consistently respected Islam and the public’s religious sentiments,” they said. It was a mistake; we’re aware of it and we apologise, they repeated. But to no avail. The paper’s headquarters was raided and the Supreme Court ordered the collective arrest of Payman’s journalists. They were released hours later but their colleague, the news editor, remained in custody for 10 days.

The cause of the fuss was a blasphemous paragraph introducing the article. It said world religions have no evidence to prove their vision of the afterlife, leaving the question of humanity’s origins and the hereafter an unsolved mystery. In other words, it suggested that the prophets were liars.

Immediately after publication, Payman said the article’s content was unacceptable and apologised for its mistake – but to no avail. According to the paper, a rumour is making the rounds, pointing the finger of blame at President Karzai. The president, rumour has it, has had enough of Payman’s constant criticism of his administration and in the mistaken publication of the article, he saw a convenient opportunity to silence it for good.

Payman was an outspoken critic of Karzai. The paper made no secret of its view that his constant vilification of Pakistan was a ploy to distract from the multiple failures of his administration. When reports announced that the war on terror was to spread to Pakistan in 2008, a policy much favoured by Karzai, Payman warned Kabul not to meddle with Pakistan because if provoked, Islamabad could retaliate. Karzai dismissed such fears, assuring the public that the Afghan army was capable of defending its borders. Karzai’s reassurance left Payman sniggering: “How can a government that can’t even ensure security in the capital defend the country’s distant borders?” The paper was proved right when insurgents attacked the justice and education ministries at the heart of Kabul last week. The war on terror has extended to Pakistan but Kabul is no longer safe. Payman was right, and Karzai wrong.

The story of Baba Vanga and her accidental entanglement with Payman’s closure is sad and ironic. Payman was the exact opposite of Baba Vanga. The blind Bulgarian had visions; the Afghan paper had facts. The clairvoyant foresaw a nuclear war between Muslims and Christians; the Afghan paper discussed Krishnamurti’s teaching alongside ethnical philosophy and religious pluralism. Baba Vanga was more in tune with old Afghanistan, where political careers were made on myths like the one about Mullah Omar pulling his own eye out when he was injured.

Payman, by contrast, was all about contemporary, urban Afghanistan, a place where investigative journalism has in recent years led to a demystification of politics, separating facts from fabrication, truth from fancy. Payman published articles that carried titles like “How to avoid stupid beliefs”.

The likeable Baba, on the other hand, believed that in 2111 mankind would become robots. And yet it was the mistaken publication of Baba Vanga’s story that led to the closure of Afghanistan’s most intellectually open-minded and unbiased newspaper. In this incidental clash of Afghan rationalism versus Bulgarian supernaturalism, Afghans are very much the losers. Payman served an important public service in a country where religious sentiment has been politicized to a point that Islam has become a source of conflict instead of unity. (Consider the irony of the Taliban waging jihad against the “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”).

Payman provided much-needed religious edification by publishing academic but easy-to-understand articles about religion so that its readers, armed with reason, would not fall victim to militant religious fundamentalism. Unfortunately for President Karzai, militant fundamentalism has turned out to be a much more serious threat to his administration than the paper he allegedly forced to shut down.



Geert Wilders Shows Fitna in Rome

Gordon Brown missed the opportunity today to view the film Fitna today and shake the hand of champion of Western civilisation Geert Wilders who was showing his film in Rome.

If Wilders was entrusted to sorting out the economic mess created by Brown et al then the people of Europe and the world would have had greater hope for the future. In the event the hopes of people placing their faith in the ‘third way’ will turn to despair and ruin. I suppose the people of Europe get the leaders that they deserve. If Brown is wrong about the economy it is likely that he is wrong about the virtues of Islamisation.

Fitna was shown in Rome and Wilders was present proving that Italy is a much more free society than Great Britain which constrains and cajoles in the name of the intolerant New Labour creed that tolerates no dissent from its worldview. It is good to see that the cultural heart of Western Civilisation stands firm against the tide of Islamist intimidation that says that no one can speak out against or question Islam. The Italian’s have shown the metal of their imperial Roman roots and stood firm against the bullies who want to transform their society into an Islamic state under sharia.

The Labour Government said that the era of boom and bust economics was at an end and its representatives now criticise Geert Wilders. On how many issues must the British Labour Government be proved wrong before it does the honourable thing and stands down? How much more damage to Great Britain must be suffered at the hands of these short sighted incompetent and traitorous imbeciles? Surely it is time for change!

The British press in not much better than the New Labour crew and are probably in league with them. They label Geert Wilders ‘extreme right’ but do not provide any justification of this appellation. This labelling is dishonest and grossly misleading and demonstrates the sorry state of the fourth estate in Great Britain. No wonder that the British press seems worried about competition from the Internet and seems willing to support measures to suppress and constrain such competition. It seems that there is an emerging axis of mediocrity between the media and New Labour that perhaps seeks to make true public discourse impossible.

The event today in Rome took place in an environment of massive security with the Italian army and the Caribinari securing the immediate vicinity of the conference. This of course was necessary because of the previous record of Islamists in the Western world which has suggested that their intentions are not peaceful and do not respect an individual’s right to free speech. It seems that links were made between Wilders and Italian politicians and activists that will help take the message of Fitna to a much broader audience within Italy. This is very important as the Islamisation of Italy continues apace. Italy has a rich culture that should be protected and preserved for future generations.

It is good to see Geert Wilders building up alliances in Italy and getting his message to a much wider audience within Italy.

Geert Wilders announces EU election bid

The leader of the Freedom Party (PVV) of The Netherlands, Geert Wilders, has announced that he will take part in the European parliamentary elections on June 4. “You may not have noticed, but the campaign for the European parliamentary elections has begun. And you will not believe it, but it can even get exciting.” 

According to Dutch media, the entry of the PVV will enliven the usually staid atmosphere in the capital of Europe – Brussels. Hero Brinkman, a member of the Dutch parliament for the PVV, for example, recently caused a major uproar by accusing politicians of corruption in the Netherlands Antilles. “Our overseas regions were, until recently, far away, and were silently and with a feeling of guilt paid off with a bag of money. This no longer works, ever since Brinkman started to talk about a corrupt nest of villains.” 

Observers expect much the same sort of shake-up for Geert Wilders, who recently was banned from entering Great Britain where he was scheduled to show the House of Lords his controversial film ‘Fitna’, which deals with the threat of Islamism. According to Dutch daily ‘De Volkskrant’, “Wilders’ European party is not named ‘For the Netherlands’ for nothing. Europe doesn’t interest him. The campaign will be about the billions of wasted euros. The corruption in Bulgaria and Romania. About Turkey, which according to Wilders may not become a member ‘not now, not in a hundred years, not in a thousand years, never.” The paper expects an exciting EU campaign.

Bulgaria’s Georgiev aims for chess world record

Bulgarian grandmaster Kiril Georgiev on Saturday began 360 chess games in an attempt to break the world record for the largest number of simultaneous games played.

“Georgiev began playing 360 games Saturday morning,” Bulgarian chess federation chief Stefan Sergiev told AFP.

The grandmaster was making an average of three moves an hour, while moving among the long rows of chess tables occupied by opponents who ranged from children to pensioners.

Georgiev has to win 80 percent of the games in order to break the previous record set by Hungarian-American chess champion Susan Polgar in 2005.

Polgar played 326 games, winning 309 of them, drawing 14 and losing only three.

Bulgaria’s Christian Orthodox Honor All Souls Day

All Bulgarian Orthodox Christians honor Saturday All Souls Day by performing and attending memorial services for the Faithful Departed.

According to the Bulgarian tradition, women boil and sweeten grain to take to the services and hand it to other attendees. The tradition also includes wine and bread while in recent times cookies, crackers and pastries have been added.

The services are held at the cemetery, the church or at home. At the cemetery the priest usually performs the Parastas (Panikhida) – a liturgical observance in honor of the departed which is served in the Eastern Orthodox Church. If the service is for an individual, it will often take place at their graveside. If it is a general commemoration of all the departed, or if the individual’s grave is not close by, the service will take place in a church, in front of a special “memorial table”.

According to Orthodox beliefs, the Souls of the Departed come back on this day and stand at their own graveside. For this reason their relatives bring them wine and food. The ritual giving away of food to other people is believed to help satiate the Departed’s hunger. The relatives also light a candle to illuminate the Departed’s road so that they do not get lost in the dark.

Sunday, the day after All Souls Day, is the so-called Sunday of the Last Judgment or the second Sunday before Great Lent. The second Sunday before Great Lent is observed on a different date each year because it depends on the date of the Orthodox Easter. The Second day before Lent is the first holiday of those from the Easter cycle. 

The Sunday before Lent is the last day when meals cooked with meet are allowed on the table. On Monday, Christian Orthodox begin observing a 40-day lent until Easter.

The Eastern Orthodox Church dedicates several days, (usually four), throughout the year to the dead, mostly on Saturdays, because of Jesus’ resting in the tomb on Saturday.

EU Commission hails enlargement

The European Commission says the 27-nation EU must not let the current economic crisis jeopardise the gains of eastward enlargement.

A commission report says the accession of 12 states since 2004 – mostly ex-Soviet bloc countries – boosted living standards and business opportunities.

It said enlargement served as an anchor for stability and driver of democracy.

But there are concerns that EU states may be tempted to prop up weak domestic firms at their neighbours’ expense.

The BBC’s Chris Mason in Brussels says the impact of the economic crisis threatens to undermine the single market, a founding tenet of European integration.

‘Peace and prosperity’

The European Union took in 10 mostly ex-communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe in 2004 and two more, Romania and Bulgaria, in 2007.

It is now the world’s biggest integrated economic area, with half a billion people producing 30% of global economic output and 17% of world trade.

In the report on published on Friday, the commission said enlargement had brought about huge economic and political benefits for both sides.

Income per capita in new member states rose from 40% of the old member states’ average in 1999 to 52% in 2008. Economic growth averaged 5.5% per year in 2004-2008, compared to 3.5% in 1999-2003.

The old member states averaged annual growth of around 2.2% in the last four years.

Enlargement also increased trade opportunities. In 2007, almost 80% of exports of the new member states went to the rest of the EU. Old member states also saw their sales to the new members increase to around 7.5% of their total exports in 2007, from 4.75% a decade ago.

Unemployment in new member states declined to levels similar to those across the rest of the EU – around 7% in 2007.

“Enlargement has served as an anchor of stability, and driver of democracy and the rule of law in Europe,” Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said.

“Economically it has benefited both new and old member states, as well as the EU as a whole. It has extended the area of peace and prosperity to almost 500 million people and increased our weight in the world,” he added.

Protectionism fears

But some of the poorer member states fear protectionism is on the rise in richer countries, our correspondent says.

The old member states can afford to spend billions of dollars to shield their banks and industries from the crisis, he adds.

“We should not let the crisis overshadow this uncontested success. United, we can shape the solution to global issues such as climate change or a new international financial governance,” Economic Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said. “Divided we will achieve nothing.”

An emergency summit will take place in Brussels on 1 March partly to discuss protectionism.

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Bank loans in Bulgaria to Grow 4.4% in 2009

Bank loan growth in Bulgaria in 2009 will be 4.4%, forecast the managing partner in PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Bojidar Neychev.
The slowing down of growth compared to last year is 58.5% but unlike Western Europe, Bulgaria still expects some growth from the provided loans.
Bulgaria will recover from the crisis easier and more quickly thanks to its less developed economy, the expert explained. 
Savings in Bulgaria measured against the GDP are 15% while in Central and Western Europe this percent is rather lower – like in Great Britain where savings amount to 1% of the GDP. 
The Chinese and Romanian economies do better in this aspect with respectively 45% and 23% of the countries’ GDP.
The foreign investment due to enter Bulgaria will be half the last year’s amounts but still much more than the investments in the well developed economies.
Natalia Malcheva


Categories: Bulgarian Sports Tags: ,

Bulgaria Divided in Two by Snow Storms

Snowfalls and blizzards divided Bulgaria in two parts. The north and the south were disconnected for hours. Three avalanches have closed Petrohan passage in Stara Planina. Dozens of cars and buses got stuck in the snowdrifts. Several buses were turned by the storm. Bulgarian armed forces came to help.
The situation in the whole country was calamitous. “In Central and South Bulgaria the situation was most critical”, explained Doncho Atanassov from the National Road Agency. “2000 machines are on the roads cleaning the snow”, he pointed out. “It is better not to start a trip if it is not urgent. And yet if someone decides to travel these days for passing from northern to southern Bulgaria I recommend Vitinya passage”, Atanassov added.

Bulgaria’s farmers in trouble.

Bulgaria’s farming industry, once a main stay of the economy, has shrunk to 5 percent of GDP from 25 percent in the past decade. Cash-strapped producers suffered again in 2008 after the EU froze millions in farm aid over graft. The crisis may erase Bulgaria’s gains over the past decade because its main export market, the EU has fallen into recession. Trade unions say some 50,000 people are likely to lose their jobs in 2009.

Categories: Bulgarian Economy Tags: ,

Greek drivers block Bulgaria’s border

Bulgaria’s embassy in Athens has been asked to convey its dissatisfaction that Greece’s  internal problems have damaged Bulgaria for the second time in less than a month, Bulgarian Foreign Ministry press service said on February 20 2009.

Bulgaria’s reaction comes after hundreds of long-haul truck Greek drivers staged blockades all around Greece preventing freight traffic entering and leaving the country on February 19 2009. This happened a few weeks after Greek farmers had staged a week-long blockade at the Greek-Bulgarian border to demand more subsidies and higher pensions.

On February 19 Greek drivers asked the authorities to launch frequent checks on foreign trucks entering the country and to stop illegal immigrants sneaking onto their vehicles.

According to Greek Katimerini newspaper, more than 2000 trucks joined the action, blocking the ports of Patras and Corinth, in central Greece, the northwestern port of Igoumenitsa and the crossings of Evzones and Promachon, at the borders with Macedonia and Bulgaria respectively.

On February 20 2009 the Promachon-Koulata checkpoint on the border with Bulgaria was opened for buses and light vehicles but not for heavy vehicles. It is not known how long the protests will continue.

“Greek trucks always get pulled over for inspections but foreign ones cross the border without any checks,” Kathimerini quoted Apostolos Kenanidis, head of the union representing the truckers. Another gripe of drivers is that they often face legal action when would-be migrants are found hidden in their vehicles.

Greek drivers’ demands, however, did not correspond with earlier statements by the Bulgarian embassy in Athens that in the last four months there have been about 30 cases of Bulgarian drivers being detained, tried and sentenced for harbouring illegal immigrants from Greece.

Last year, thе embassy warned that Bulgarian drivers passing the border should be very careful and inspect their vehicles for refugees. The best possibility for that occurs in the coastal Greek town of Igoumenitsa.