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It Turns Out Hamas Didn’t Kidnap and Kill the 3 Israeli Teens After All

It Turns Out Hamas Didn’t Kidnap and Kill the 3 Israeli Teens After All

When the bodies of three Israeli teenagers, ki...

Israeli occupation forces storm al-Aqsa compound

Israeli occupation forces storm al-Aqsa compound

Clashes erupted in Jerusalem at the al-Aqsa m...

Israeli extremists trigger violent clashes in Jerusalem

Israeli extremists trigger violent clashes in Jerusalem

A Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and kill...

Welcome for the Ramadan: The Month of Fasting

Welcome for the Ramadan: The Month of Fasting

Fasting is a common form of worship among the...

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World Global

Rampant Extremism: The U.S. lawmaker calls Islam 'a cancer in our nation'

1 MONTHS AGO
Rampant Extremism: The U.S. lawmaker calls Islam 'a cancer in our nation'

Religious leaders in Oklahoma are speaking out against remarks made by state Rep. John Bennett (R), who told a town hall audience on Monday that the Islamic faith "is a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out," and is a sociopolitical movement with the goal of taking over the world and destroy...

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President Aliyev: Azerbaijan becomes NATO’s reliable partner

1 MONTHS AGO
President Aliyev: Azerbaijan becomes NATO’s reliable partner

President Ilham Aliyev attended the NATO summit in Wales, September 4-5. In addition to the 28-members states that form the North Atlantic alliance, countries participating in the ISAF force in Afghanistan, the United Nations and the European Union participated in the meeting.{cmp_comments idke...

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French radicals are at the 'gates of power'

1 MONTHS AGO
French radicals are at the 'gates of power'

France's radical far-right National Front is at the "gates of power", Prime Minister Manuel Valls (pictured) warned on Sunday, after a recent poll showed FN leader Marine Le Pen would beat Socialist President François Hollande in a 2017 presidential vote.

The French premier was speaking to fellow s...

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Brussels warns BiH, Serbia not to use EU-Russia trade war

2 MONTHS AGO
Brussels warns BiH, Serbia not to use EU-Russia trade war

The European Union warned candidates for membership and potential candidates, among them Serbia and BiH, not to try to use sanctions between the EU and Russia to create a better trade position, reports Patria.

As many diaspora youth as possible to return to BiH

2 MONTHS AGO
As many diaspora youth as possible to return to BiH

At the Gazi Husrev-beg Library in Sarajevo today, the second meetings of youth from the BiH diaspora, organized by the Center for Social Education of Youth (CDOM), was opened, the Anadolu Agency reports.{cmp_comments idkey='6432c'[url=http://www.balkanchronicle.com/index.php/world-glo...

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Lingering accussation of Kosovo KLA leaders over war crimes perssist

2 MONTHS AGO
Lingering accussation of Kosovo KLA leaders over war crimes perssist

An EU inquiry published on July 29, 2014, asserted to have found evidences of war crimes committed by KLA leaders during the 1998-99 Kosovo-Serb conflict, while there will be no trial yet for the illegal traffic of organs.{cmp_comments idkey='6520c'[url=http://www.balkanchronicle.com/in...

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Economy

13th Denationalization Bond for Compensation of Citizens issued in Macedonia

2 MONTHS AGO
13th Denationalization Bond for Compensation of Citizens issued in Macedonia

According to its own press release, Macedonian Ministry of Finance issued the thirteenth today issued denationalization bond amounting to EUR 10 million.

Macedonian ministry states that all decisions on denationalization which became effective in the period 1st January 2013- 31st January 2014, ...

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Bulgaria to allow its fourth-biggest bank to collapse

3 MONTHS AGO
Bulgaria to allow its fourth-biggest bank to collapse

Bulgaria is to allow its fourth-biggest lender to collapse but could spend up to 2 billion levs ($1.39 billion) making sure customers do not lose out, as the Balkan country battles to clean up its worst financial scandal since the 1990s.

The central bank said it was removing Corporate Commercia...

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Russian news agency to open Balkan center also

13 HOURS AGO
Russian news agency to open Balkan center also

After the recent visit to the region in search of the possibility to invest in information business by the former CIA director, David Petrus, now Russia announces it is coming to the Balkan region as well. The Russian international news news agency "Russia Today" (MIA Rossiya Segodnya) announced tha...

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Why Coal Isn’t Going Away

2 MONTHS AGO
Why Coal Isn’t Going Away

Coal plays an integral role in keeping the lights on and buildings standing. Despite the green energy movement, more than 40% the world's electricity still comes from coal-fired plants, and 70% of the world's steel production requires metallurgical coal.

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Bulgaria becomes world's biggest producer of Lavender Oil

3 MONTHS AGO
Bulgaria becomes world's biggest producer of Lavender Oil

Dozens of workers wade through a sea of purple, picking lavender blossoms in the sweltering heat. The 100-degree Fahrenheit temperatures give the blossoms their highest concentration of oil — a liquid treasure that is prized by perfume makers around the world.{cmp_comments idkey='4933c'[url=htt...

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Bulgarian Minister vows to fight for South Stream Implementation

5 MONTHS AGO
Bulgarian Minister vows to fight for South Stream Implementation

Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev said that Bulgaria will do its best to make sure the South Stream gas pipeline project is implemented. "We will fight for the implementation of South Stream," he said.{cmp_comments idkey='130c'[url=http://www.balkanchronicle.com/ind...

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Bulletin Board

The ‘Eastern Question’ Still Persists in Europe

1 MONTHS AGO
The ‘Eastern Question’ Still Persists in Europe

The Balkans lived in peace for hundreds of years under Ottoman rule. The Bosniaks in particular were the standard bearers of Islam in Europe. The sound of the adhan, the call to prayer, has never fallen silent from the time when the region joined the Ottoman Empire to the present day.

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Buddhism in Myanmar: Extremism Galore

2 MONTHS AGO
Buddhism in Myanmar: Extremism Galore

Myanmar is undergoing a state of upheaval and transformation. As of now, the country is experiencing changes on the political, economic and social frontiers.

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Why is no one talking about US poverty?

1 YEAR AGO
Why is no one talking about US poverty?

It's not my intention to belittle the government shutdown or the political showdown underway between President Obama and the GOP, but more often than not, America's fickle news media is dominated by one subject. It's what gets left out that is often more telling than what everyone (or at least ...

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Gunpowder Composition for Rockets and Cannon in Arabic Military Treatises In Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

1 YEAR AGO
Gunpowder Composition for Rockets and Cannon  in Arabic Military Treatises  In Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

A Gap in the history of gunpowder and cannon

n some documented histories of warfare and weapons in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance there is a noticeable gap in the history of gunpowder and cannon in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Some Authors jump from China in the far east to Eu...

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Polish climbers to climb peaks of the Balkan

8 MONTHS AGO
Polish climbers to climb peaks of the Balkan

Balkan Winter Expedition 2014 project aims to climb the highest peaks of Balkan countries in the winter - Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Romania.

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ACTION ALERT: Tell the Simon Wiesenthal Center to Apologize For Denial of Genocide on Bosniaks

9 MONTHS AGO
ACTION ALERT: Tell the Simon Wiesenthal Center to Apologize For Denial of Genocide on Bosniaks

CALL TO ACTION:

On behalf of Bosniaks in the U.S. and Canada and survivors of the Bosnian genocide, we call to action all friends and people of good will to protest the comments made by Efraim Zuroff in which he is denying the genocide in Srebrenica and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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Special Interest

The month of Ramadan is a time to purify the heart

3 MONTHS AGO
The month of Ramadan is a time to purify the heart

O Believers, Observe Saum — the fasting, it is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you (Jews and Christians), that you may become Al-Muttaqun — the God-concious, the pious ones.

Al-Quran, 2-183.

Ramadan offers this central theme for Muslims: complete submission of mind and ...

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Al-Salafiyyah: The Methodology of the Pious Predecessors

4 MONTHS AGO
Al-Salafiyyah: The Methodology of the Pious Predecessors

All praises and thanks are due to All?h, and may the blessings and prayers be upon the Messenger of All?h, his family, his companions, and all those who follow in their footsteps until the Day of Judgment.

Al-Islam is a collection of rules and articles of faith, of knowledge and action, of thin...

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Montenegrin Church and Religion

8 MONTHS AGO
Montenegrin Church  and Religion

In the area of present-day Montenegro (formerly the Roman province of Praevalitane), Christianity started to put down roots early. The first episcopacy was formed in the fourth century when the native populace consisted of Romans and Romanized Ilirs. (See "Iz Povijesti Hriscanskih Crkava u Crno...

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Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Maxim Dies at 98

1 YEAR AGO
Bulgarian Orthodox Patriarch Maxim Dies at 98

The Bulgarian Ortodox Patriarch Maxim, who weathered a revolt over his Communist-era ties to lead his country's Orthodox Christians for more than 40 years, died here on Tuesday at age of 98.

The Bulgarian Ortodox church's top clerical body Holy Synod said in a statement that the cause of death ...

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Jewish scholar lectured on 'How Islam Saved the Jews'

5 MONTHS AGO
Jewish scholar lectured on 'How Islam Saved the Jews'

David J. Wasserstein, a professor of Jewish History at Vanderbilt University, lectured on "How Islam Saved the Jews" on Thursday, April 24, at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

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Muslim Jewish Conference Meets In Sarajevo To Combat Islamophobia And Anti-Semitism

1 YEAR AGO
Muslim Jewish Conference Meets In Sarajevo To Combat Islamophobia And Anti-Semitism

Students and young professionals from around the world have gathered in Sarajevo, Bosnia to exchange experiences and fight prejudice and hatred. They represent different cultures and races and speak dozens of languages, but they share either one of two identities: they are all Muslims or Jews.

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Health

Vitamin D deficiency linked to increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

2 MONTHS AGO
Vitamin D deficiency linked to increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

Vitamin D deficiency is now linked to increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

According to a study completed in collaboration with Dr. Paulo Chaves, associate professor at Florida International University College of Medicine, study participants who had severe vitamin D deficiency we...

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Circumcision Protects Against AIDS

1 YEAR AGO
Circumcision Protects Against AIDS

A new study found that uncircumcised men were nearly seven times more likely to get the AIDS virus, giving further support to findings that circumcision . The study by Robert C. Bollinger and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University Medical School and the National AIDS Research Institute in Pune, In...

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Cinnamon, Ginger and Onions Strongly Protect Us from Colds and Flu

9 MONTHS AGO
Cinnamon, Ginger and Onions Strongly Protect Us from Colds and Flu

In the fall as the weather gets cooler ailments tend to affect our Lungs in the form of coughs, sinus issues, colds and flu. In Traditional Chinese Medicine autumn relates to the metal element which corresponds to the Lungs. The taste that strengthens the Lungs is pungent: the spicy flavor of f...

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Genetically Modified Democracy

1 YEAR AGO
Genetically Modified Democracy

Reliable sources in Washington D.C. have informed the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) that Monsanto has begun secretly lobbying its Congressional allies to attach one or more "Monsanto Riders" or amendments to the 2013 Farm Bill that would preempt or prohibit states from requiring labels on...

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Puberty Before Age 10: A New ‘Normal’?

1 YEAR AGO
Puberty Before Age 10: A New ‘Normal’?

One day last year when her daughter, Ainsley, was 9, Tracee Sioux pulled her out of her elementary school in Fort Collins, Colo., and drove her an hour south, to Longmont, in hopes of finding a satisfying reason that Ainsley began growing pubic hair at age 6. Ainsley was the tallest child in her thi...

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Every human emotion now classified as a mental disorder

1 YEAR AGO
Every human emotion now classified as a mental disorder

The industry of modern psychiatry has officially gone insane. Virtually every emotion experienced by a human being -- sadness, grief, anxiety, frustration, impatience, excitement -- is now being classified as a "mental disorder" demanding chemical treatment (with prescription medications, of co...

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Life and Style

Babies born naturally 'have higher IQs than those delivered by caesarean section'

2 YEARS AGO
Babies born naturally 'have higher IQs than those delivered by caesarean section'

Babies born naturally may have higher IQs than those delivered by caesarean section, new research claims.

According to scientists, when women give birth naturally there are higher levels of a special protein in babies' brains that helps boost intelligence levels as they develop.

 Scientist...

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Teaching Kids Responsibility

2 YEARS AGO
Teaching Kids Responsibility

Discover the secret to getting your kid to set the table or tidy her room without being constantly on her case about it.

My daughter, Zoe, was 5 when I decided to give her a couple of chores: making her bed every morning and putting some of her clean clothes in drawers on laundry day. Let's just say...

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Video gaming addiction can control your thoughts

1 YEAR AGO
Video gaming addiction can control your thoughts

A psychology researcher from Canberra has collected some of the first scientific evidence that video gaming can be addictive in a way similar to gambling and alcohol.

"People who spend an excessive amount of time playing video games are powerless to stop themselves from thinking about gaming," says ...

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One Question that Could Save Your Marriage

2 YEARS AGO
One Question that Could Save Your Marriage

“Who knew marriage could be so difficult?” asked Sara:

“One day you’re this care-free woman, pretty selfish and self-indulgent. Next you have a roomie – and one that is supposed to share that room with you for the rest of your life!”

“We were living on top of each other,” she added,

“Everyone h...

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Cosmetics causing an epidemic of allergies: Doctors urge for preservatives to be removed

1 YEAR AGO
Cosmetics causing an epidemic of allergies: Doctors urge for preservatives to be removed

A chemical used in hundreds of beauty products is being blamed for a massive rise in dangerous allergic reactions.

Cosmetic giant Johnson & Johnson says it is so concerned, it is taking the chemical out of its best-selling Piz Buin sun cream and other products.

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Beauty Queens Outside and Slobs Inside?

1 YEAR AGO
Beauty Queens Outside and Slobs Inside?

In the West women dress with looks to kill outside the home and save the sweats and t-shirts for inside. Most women will look very beautiful while going outside of the house, but look like a slob inside the house. This is not always true and sometime it’s the other way round.  Many women leave ...

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Technology

Google pulls ‘Bomb Gaza’ app after public criticism

2 MONTHS AGO
Google pulls ‘Bomb Gaza’ app after public criticism

'Bomb Gaza' developed by PlayFTW and still available as an app on Facebook, imitates the on-going conflict between Israel and Hamas, which dominates the Palestinian territory. Players drop bombs from a fighter jet while dodging missiles from Hamas fighters in black and green masks.

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Putin calls Internet 'CIA project'

6 MONTHS AGO
Putin calls Internet 'CIA project'

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday called the Internet a "CIA project" and warned Russians against making Google searches.

Putin assured a group of young journalists that the Internet was controlled from the start by the CIA and its surveillance continues today.

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How to get rid of the bedbugs?

1 YEAR AGO
How to get rid of the bedbugs?

Bedbugs have become a growing problem around the world, with epidemics New york and other world cities.

However, researchers have found an unlikely solution - kidney bean leaves.

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The Pirate Bay is the World's Most Efficient Public Library

1 YEAR AGO
The Pirate Bay is the World's Most Efficient Public Library

The way "media piracy" works is that one person or group purchases a work, and then shares it with millions of other people. This supposedly deprives the author or artist of those millions of people's money. One group has acquired over 50 million media items, and makes each of them available to...

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Dire warning: Due to massive solar flare storm you could lose power, communications

2 YEARS AGO
Dire warning: Due to massive solar flare storm you could lose power, communications

The largest solar storm since 2005 is now in progress, causing fluctuations on the power grid and disruptions to the Global Positioning System. The ongoing strong proton storm is in full fury. And it's getting stronger; a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) impact also impacting us, traveling at 1,400 miles...

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“Dark matter” mystery deepens

3 YEARS AGO
“Dark matter” mystery deepens Like all ga­lax­ies, most as­tro­no­mers be­lieve ours is filled with a strange, in­vis­i­ble sub­stance that be­trays its pres­ence only through its gravita­t­ional pull. The gal­ax­y’s stars would fly apart with­out this so-called dark mat­ter hold­ing them to­geth­er.

But the na­ture of “dark mat...

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Arts

Turkish tradition, Islamic art meet at Acar’s exhibit

2 YEARS AGO
Turkish tradition, Islamic art meet at Acar’s exhibit

Turkish tradition and Islamic art came together as a renowned artist from Turkey opened his first exhibition in the Kingdom on Feb. 28.

Imsail Acar mounted a solo gallery featuring 43 of his paintings at the Consulate General of Turkey here until March 1.

Acar introduced his works as a combination o...

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Top Islamic artworks on display at Paris show

2 YEARS AGO
Top Islamic artworks on display at Paris show

The Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris is playing host to an exhibition of Islamic artworks created by 10 top Iranian and Arab artists selected for the Jameel Prize 2011.

Awarded every two years, the Jameel Prize is an international art award for contemporary artists and designers inspired by Islamic ...

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Modernist Islamic Architecture: Toward preserving a migrant past

3 YEARS AGO
Modernist Islamic Architecture: Toward preserving a migrant past

MakeSpace Architects is a London-based firm whose work specializes in private and social housing, as well as community buildings. Much of the community work focuses on the development of mosques and Islamic centers. Besides designing and building the structures, MakeSpace aspire to develop a new arc...

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Ottoman architecture not just from Armenians and Greeks, says historian

3 YEARS AGO
Ottoman architecture not just from Armenians and Greeks, says historian Two recent exhibitions on Istanbul's Armenian and Greek architects have caused a debate among experts on Ottoman . While some say there is an attempt to show that Istanbul’s recent architectural heritage belongs to Armenians and Greeks only, others think that such a prejudiced approach goes against ...

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Macedonia and the medieval manuscript: It is the first time that this has repeated itself

2 YEARS AGO
Macedonia and the medieval manuscript: It is the first time that this has repeated itself

In every class of every school there are students, who are excellent; there are good ones and ones with average performance; there are also bad student and ones that are so bad they have to take the same class twice; but there are also ones, who do not like anything and anyone.

The case with th...

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Tears of the famed Mona Lisa

2 YEARS AGO
Tears of the famed Mona Lisa

Save You stand among the crowds in a world museum like the Louvre in Paris, moving from one hall to another gazing at pieces of art such as the Mona Lisa, trying to understand the secret of that mysterious smile on the face of the Italian La Gioconda ... well, you are not alone! Many people in th...

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Entertainment

2011 Libyan rebellion comes to Sarajevo

3 MONTHS AGO
2011 Libyan rebellion comes to Sarajevo

Hundreds of former Libyan rebels gathered in Sarajevo on Thursday to see the world premiere of a documentary dedicated to their 2011 fight against Moamer Gathafi's regime.

The four-hour documentary "Tomorrow, Tripoli" by French director Florent Marcie depicts the everyday experiences of fighter...

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'Arrow': An Islamic prayer and the issue of cultural prejudice

8 MONTHS AGO
'Arrow': An Islamic prayer and the issue of cultural prejudice

In the recent "Arrow" episode, an assassin takes a moment to pray before drinking poison and dying. That moment was meant to deny information to heroes Oliver Queen and Sara Lance, while simultaneously showing commitment to the League of Assassins.

But did this moment mean more? Is "Arrow" guil...

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The upcoming “Islamic music industry”

10 MONTHS AGO
The upcoming “Islamic music industry”

Ten years ago, a young and unassuming British-Azerbaijani, who’d recently had a spiritual awakening, released an album that catapulted him to stardom. Sami Yusuf, now 33, is known throughout the Muslim world for his spiritual songs about Islam. At the peak of his career, following the rele...

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Some Serbians sensitive to Handler's jokes about their country

3 YEARS AGO
Some Serbians sensitive to Handler's jokes about their country

Chelsea Handler may have forgotten all about a few jokes she tossed out during a taping of her show earlier this week that touched on Amy Winehouse's botched comeback tour kickoff in Belgrade, but tens of thousands in Serbia have not.

People of all ages in the country appear outraged at her comments...

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Exploring Jefferson, Islam and the founding of a nation

9 MONTHS AGO
Exploring Jefferson, Islam and the founding of a nation

Americans have been arguing bitterly over religion since before the founding of the independent nation. The Colonists came by it honestly. They arrived from Europe with a legacy of several hundred years of wars with the infidels, the Papists and fellow Christian reformers.

A few early Colonists...

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An ‘industry’ built on hate: How the right-wing successfully brought anti-Muslim bigotry into the American mainstream

1 YEAR AGO
An ‘industry’ built on hate: How the right-wing successfully brought anti-Muslim bigotry into the American mainstream

Ahmed Sharif was a 44-year-old Muslim Bangladeshi taxi driver in New York City. It was August 24, 2010, a time that marked the height of vitriolic protests against a planned Islamic center to be located in lower Manhattan, a few blocks away from the site of Ground Zero. Sharif picked up 21-year...

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Travel

Albanian Tourism Project Puts Beds in Bunkers

2 YEARS AGO
Albanian Tourism Project Puts Beds in Bunkers

The Balkan country of Albania has hundreds of thousands of disused communist-era bunkers and a booming tourist industry. Now a joint German-Albanian project has put the two things together -- and is converting a bunker into a backpacker hostel.

In the coastal town of Tale, about 50 kilometers (...

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Albania's surprising side

2 YEARS AGO
Albania's surprising side

Superb Roman ruins, glorious scenery, good food and ridiculously low prices – Edward Reeve finds much to admire in the former communist state.

This is odd. I'm sitting in a bar in Tirana, Albania, and there's not a gangster in sight. What there is is a 20ft-long counter packed with an array of ...

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Istanbul’s historic Grand Bazaar to undergo major restoration in 2013

2 YEARS AGO
Istanbul’s historic Grand Bazaar to undergo major restoration in 2013

Restoration of Istanbul's famous historic Grand Bazaar (Kapali Çarsi) will begin in the early months of 2013 and cost the municipality TL 200 million, the Fatih district mayor has said.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Fatih Municipality Mayor Mustafa Demir said they plan to restore...

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Riding the Danube Express through Istanbul and Budapest

3 YEARS AGO
Riding the Danube Express through Istanbul and Budapest

Imagine a train journey through time. Crossing cultural, political and religious conflicts spanning not just centuries but millennia. No, you don’t need to be Doctor Who to take this trip; all you need is a ticket for the Danube Express.

Eight carriages will transport you and up to 41 fellow travell...

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The New Hungarian Secret Police

Hungarian-Secret-Police

Brad Pitt knows all about the TEK, Hungary’s new counter-terrorism police.

When Pitt was in Budapest last October shooting World War Z, an upcoming zombie-thriller, TEK agents seized 100 machine guns, automatic pistols and sniper rifles that had been flown to Hungary for use as props in the movie. The weapons were disabled and came with no ammunition. But the Hungarian counter-terrorism police determined that they constituted a serious threat.

The dead-pan seizure of movie props made TEK the laughing stock of the world. As David Itzkoff joked in the pages of the New York Times, “If Hungary ever finds itself the target of an undead invasion, its police force should now be well supplied to defend the nation.”

Few have taken TEK seriously. But that is a big mistake. In fact, TEK seems to be turning into Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s own secret police. In less than two years, TEK has amassed truly Orwellian powers, including virtually unlimited powers of secret surveillance and secret data collection.

The speaker of the Parliament, László Kövér, now has his own armed guard too, since the Parliament yesterday passed a law that creates a separate armed police force accountable to the Parliament. It too has extraordinary powers not normally associated with a Parliamentary guard. The creation of this “Parlia-military” gives Hungary the dubious distinction of having the only Parliament in Europe with its own armed guard that has the power to search and “act in” private homes.

About the Parlia-military, more later. First, to TEK.

TEK was created in September 2010 by a governmental decree, shortly after the Fidesz government took office. TEK exists outside the normal command structure of both the police and the security agencies. The Prime Minister directly names (and can fire) its head and only the interior minister stands between him and the direct command of the force. It is well known that the head of this force is a very close confidante of the Prime Minister.

TEK was set up as an anti-terror police unit within the interior ministry and given a budget of 10 billion forints (about $44 million) in a time of austerity. Since then, it has grown to nearly 900 employees in a country of 10.5 million people that is only as big as Indiana.

Why was TEK necessary? When it was created, the government said that it needed TEK because Hungary would hold the rotating presidency of the European Union starting in January 2011. During the six months it held this office, Hungary could be expected to host many important meetings for which top anti-terrorism security would be necessary. But even though Hungary’s stint in the EU chair is over, TEK has continued to grow.

Eyebrows were raised when János Hajdu, Orbán’s personal bodyguard, was appointed directly by the prime minister to be the first head of this new agency. Since TEK’s job also included guarding the prime minister, some believed that Orbán had set up the office to get his trusted bodyguard onto the public payroll. Patronage turns out to be the least of the worries about TEK, however.

TEK is now the sort of secret police that any authoritarian ruler would love to have. Its powers have been added slowly but surely through a series of amendments to the police laws, pushed through the Parliament at times when it was passing hundreds of new laws and when most people, myself included, did not notice. The new powers of TEK have received virtually no public discussion in Hungary. But now, its powers are huge.

What can the TEK do?

TEK can engage in secret surveillance without having to give reasons or having to get permission from anyone outside the cabinet. In an amendment to the police law passed in December 2010, TEK was made an official police agency and was given this jurisdiction to spy on anyone. TEK now has the legal power to secretly enter and search homes, engage in secret wiretapping, make audio and video recordings of people without their knowledge, secretly search mail and packages, and surreptitiously confiscate electronic data (for example, the content of computers and email). The searches never have to be disclosed to the person who is the target of the search – or to anyone else for that matter. In fact, as national security information, it may not be disclosed to anyone. There are no legal limits on how long this data can be kept.

Ordinary police in Hungary are allowed to enter homes or wiretap phones only after getting a warrant from a judge. But TEK agents don’t have to go to a judge for permission to spy on someone – they only need the approval of the justice minister to carry out such activities. As a result, requests for secret surveillance are never reviewed by an independent branch of government. The justice minister approves the requests made by a secret police unit operated by the interior minister. Since both are in the same cabinet of the same government, they are both on the same political team.

TEK’s powers were enlarged again in another set of amendments to the police law passed on 30 December 2011, the day that many other laws were passed in a huge end-of-year flurry. With those amendments, TEK now has had the legal authority to collect personal data about anyone by making requests to financial companies (like banks and brokerage firms), insurance companies, communications companies (like cell phone and internet service providers) – as well as state agencies. Data held by state agencies include not only criminal and tax records but also educational and medical records – and much more. Once asked, no private company or state agency may refuse to provide data to TEK.

Before December 2011, TEK had the power to ask for data like this, but they could only do so in conjunction with a criminal investigation and with the permission of the public prosecutor. After December 2011, their data requests no longer had to be tied to criminal investigations or be approved by the prosecutor. In fact, they have virtually no limits on what data they can collect and require no permission from anyone.

If an organization (like an internet service provider, a bank or state agency) is asked to turn over personally identifiable information, the organization may not tell anyone about the request. People whose data have been turned over to TEK are deliberately kept in the dark.

These powers are shocking, not just because of their scope, but also because most Hungarians knowledgeable about constitutional law would probably have thought they were illegal. After the changes of 1989, the new Hungarian Constitutional Court was quick to dismantle the old system in which the state could compile in one place huge amounts of personal information about individuals. In its “PIN number” decision of 1991, the Constitutional Court ruled that the state had to get rid of the single “personal identifier number” (PIN) so that personally identifiable data could no longer be linked across state agencies. The Court found that “everyone has the right to decide about the disclosure and use of his/her personal data” and that approval by the person concerned is generally required before personal data can be collected. It was the essence of totalitarianism, the Court found, for personal information about someone to be collected and amassed into a personal profile without the person’s knowledge.

With that Constitutional Court decision still on the books and not formally overruled, the Fidesz government is reproducing the very system that the Court had banned by creating a single agency that can gather all private information about individuals in one place again. What, one might ask, is left of constitutional law in Hungary?

One might also ask: Are there any limits to TEK’s power?

The law specifies that TEK operates both as a police and as a national security agency. When it is acting as a police unit, it has the jurisdiction to spy on any person or group who poses a threat of terrorism, along with anyone else associated with such persons. Hungary, like many countries after 9/11, has a broad definition of terrorism that includes, among other things, planning to commit a “crime against the public order” with the purpose of “coercing a state body . . . into action, non-action or toleration.” Crimes against the public order include a long list of violent crimes, but also the vaguer “causing public danger.” In addition, TEK also may arrest “dangerous individuals,” a term not defined in the criminal law. It is difficult from the text of the law itself to see any clear limits on TEK’s powers.

And TEK is very active. On April 7, TEK agents were called in to capture a young man in the small village of Kulcs who killed four members of his family with a machete. And then, in the early morning hours of Friday, April 13, TEK agents conducted a major drug bust in Budapest, arresting 23 people. According to news reports, fully 120 TEK agents were involved in the drug operation, raising questions about whether the drug bust was thought to be part of the anti-terrorism mission of the agency or a rather broad extension of the concept of the “dangerous individual.” Either way, the drug ring looked like garden-variety crime. If that is within TEK’s jurisdiction, it is hard to imagine what is not.

A You-Tube video of the April 13 drug bust, made available by TEK itself, shows what a middle-of-the-night raid by TEK officers looks like, complete with the use of heavy-duty tools to cut open an exterior door.

Given that this is the video that TEK wanted you to see, one can only imagine the activities of TEK that are not recorded for posterity. (It would be interesting to know, for example, why the audio cuts out at certain points in the clip, as well as what happens between the time that TEK breaks open the door and the time the various suspects are seen lying handcuffed on the floor.)

While its videos are crystal clear, TEK’s legal status is blurry, as some parts of its activities are authorized under the police law and others parts are authorized under the national security law. Different rules and standards apply to police agencies and to national security agencies. Moreover, TEK seems to have some powers that exceed those of both police and national security agencies, particularly in its ability to avoid judicial warrants. No other agency in the Hungarian government has both police and national security powers, and it is unclear precisely how the agency is accountable – for which functions, under what standards and to whom. What follows is my best guess from reading the law.

With respect to its powers authorized under the police law, it appears that TEK must act like the police and get judicial warrants to search houses, to wiretap and to capture electronic data when these activities are part of a criminal investigation. When TEK was arresting the machete-wielder and making the drug bust, it was probably acting under its police powers.

But TEK only need judicial warrants when it is engaged in criminal investigations. It doesn’t need judicial warrants when it is using its secret surveillance powers in security investigations. When it is acting as a national security agency, TEK only needs the permission of the justice minister to engage in secret and intrusive surveillance. Of course, given that the permissions and constraints are different depending on whether TEK is acting as a police agency or a national security agency, it would matter who decides whether a particular activity is conducted for police or national security purposes and what the criteria are for determining that it is one or the other. The law does not provide the answer to either question.

Suppose someone believes that she has been spied upon illegally by TEK. What can she do to object? First, if TEK is engaged in secret surveillance or data collection, it is unlikely that people will know that they are a target, given the extraordinary secrecy of the whole operation. But even if one finds out that one is being watched, the remedies are not encouraging.

A person aggrieved by TEK’s actions may complain to the interior minister, and the interior minister must answer the complaint within 30 days. But given that the interior minister is the minister who controls TEK in the first place, this is not an independent review. If the complainant does not like the answer of the interior minister, s/he may appeal to the Parliament’s national security committee, which must muster a one-third vote to hear the petition. At the moment, the 12-member national security committee consists of two-thirds governing party members and one-third members of all other parties combined. If the governing party does not want to investigate a complaint, garnering a one-third vote would mean uniting the whole opposition – or, to put it in more blunt terms, getting the Socialists to work with the neo-Nazis. That is unlikely to happen. Even if the national security committee agrees to hear a petition, however, it would take a two-thirds vote of the committee to require the interior minister to reveal the surveillance methods used against the complainant so that the committee can determine whether they were legal. There is no judicial review at any stage of this process.

TEK operates in secret with extraordinary powers and no one reliably independent of the current governing party can review what it is doing when it uses its most potentially abusive powers. This shocking accumulation of power may explain the Hungarian government’s abolition of a separate data protection ombudsman who would have the power to investigate such shocking accumulation of data. Instead, the data protection officer – a post required by European Union law – has been made a political appointee of the government itself. This is why the EU haslaunched an infringement action against Hungary for failing to guarantee the independence of the office. Now we can see why the EU may be onto something.

As if the powers of TEK are not enough, though, Parliament yesterday authorized another security service with the power to use police measures against citizens and residents of Hungary. The cardinal law on the Parliament itself contains a provision that gives the Parliament its own military, a Parlia-military.

The Parlia-military is an armed police unit outside the chain of command of the regular military or police structures. Its commander in chief is the speaker of the house, László Kövér, who served as minister without portfolio for the Civilian Intelligence Services during the first Orbán government from 1998-2002. The Parlia-military has the power to guard the Parliament and the speaker of the house, as might be expected. But if the Parlia-military is only supposed to guard the Parliament and the speaker, why does it need the powers that the cardinal law gives it?

The law gives the Parlia-military power “to enter and to act in private homes.” That’s literally what the law says. It is unlikely that the Parliament will want to conduct a plenary session in someone’s living room, so one must then wonder just what the Parliament will do if its armed military enters someone’s home to “act.” In addition to this power, the Parlia-military may also make public audio and video recordings of people. It can also search cars, luggage and clothing. It can use handcuffs and chemical substances (which I assume means tear gas and nothing more, but the wording make it sound like the Parlia-military may use chemical weapons!). The draft law seems to imply that the Parlia-military would have to operate under the constraints of the police law, which would mean that it would need judicial warrants to conduct these intrusive measures. But that is not completely clear. What is clear is that Hungary now suffers from a proliferation of police that are under direct political control.

Until this point, I have thought that the Fidesz government was just attempting to lock down power for itself for the foreseeable future, which was bad enough. But now, with the discovery of these new security services, it seems increasingly likely that the Hungarian government is heading toward the creation of a police state. Actually, it may already be there. But shhhh! It’s secret.

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