Thursday, November 29, 2007

School principal dismissed for... using a wheelchair

The image is copied from Marfa's blog, original source unknown.

Two months ago, adding a comment to my post about the disabled Bulgarian children abandoned in instituions, I wrote, "To be honest to these parents, it can be very exhausting to raise a disabled child without any support from society, when a school headmaster continuing her work after becoming a wheelchair user is national prime time news."

I was referring to Vanya Stoitseva, headmaster of a professional secondary school in the sity of Plovdiv. I had watched on BTV channel how this lady, who lost her ability to walk as a result of a cardiovascular problem, returned to her job. The school of course had no wheelchair ramp (very few buildings in Bulgaria have one), so the employees made one themselves from old doors and pieces of furniture. The school also had no lift, so her office was moved from the 2nd to the 1st floor. All this was reported with a sensationalist tone as if the people in Plovdiv hadn't done a good but still ordinary work but had accomplished a feat, e.g. invented a cure for AIDS or a method for cold nuclear fusion.

In Bulgaria, including a disabled person is indeed an achievement deserving national prime time TV news. And like most such achievements, it cannot endure for long. Because I rarely watch TV news, I am lucky that Marfa described in her blog what happened later (based again on BTV channel).

On Nov. 13, she wrote: "After every blunder of our government we think that those who have climbed so high that only their red rear ends are seen from below just cannot do anything more stupid - and they easily break their own record. Here is the story as I heard it from BTV news. Vanya Stoitseva is headmaster of the above mentioned secondary school. She uses a wheelchair... As she was at work, in her office, two men entered and informed her that whe was fired. They showed her an order signed by (education minister) Valchev where it was written that Stoitseva had to go away because her disability was at odds with her position... She hadn't received any notice... As she was sitting in dismay, they pushed her out of the room... and sealed the door until the arrival of the new principal, whenever this would take place... Teachers and students gathered and asked what was happening and the two men explained that Ms. Stoitseva was no longer their headmaster because she was disabled... The BTV tead contacted Mr. Valchev and he confirmed he had issued such an order. The Ministry of Education had received a letter signed by some teachers from this school who claimed that their headmaster could not do her job because she was disabled... Ms. Stoitseva intends to sue this sympathetic gentleman with a short beard and peculiar sense of humour first in Bulgaria and then in (the European Court of Human Rights in) Strasbourg. I wish her success."

Next day (Nov. 14), Marfa wrote a sequel: "Last night, I positioned myself in front of TV interested to see the eventual development of the case. When (speaker) Kadriev began to read a refutation from the Ministry of Education, I felt relieved. I thought that the initial report was exaggerated and distorted and as I was planning how to explain this in a new post, I heard what the essence of the exaggeration was: Ms. Stoitseva was not fired (Bulg. uvolnena) because of being disabled, she was dismissed (Bulg. osvobodena) for being disabled... The difference is tremendous, you must agree..."

Below Marfa reported that the teachers who sent the letter were activists of Podkrepa trade union and it seems that some disagreement between the union and the headmaster (probably related to the strike) was the true cause for them to write the letter. I watched on BTV news that some teachers allegedly claimed that their principal was too authoritarian (I say "allegedly" because not one of them repeated this in front of the camera).

Strictly speaking, there is nothing in a wheelchair that can prevent its user from being authoritarian, incompetent, of poor ethics etc. But if his dismissal is sought, and ordered, for such reasons, those signing the order should provide extra proof that the reason is legitimate and not discrimination against a vulnerable minority. Instead, here we see that whatever the true reason for the teachers to seek Ms. Stoitseva's dismissal, the formal pretext was her disability - and the Ministry agreed and signed without hesitation.

The place I am blogging from is presumed to be not Sparta, 4th century BC, but EU, 21st century.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A carnivorous Mickey Mouse

My 4-year-old son enjoys watching short videos at the computer. Last night, he asked me for one.

"What video do you want?" I asked.

"A Mickey Mouse video."

I duly started a Google search for video mickey mouse. However, as you guess, the Disney products are very heavily copyrighted, so my search produced different Mickey Mouse-related stuff rather than the real thing. No. 5 of the items found was the video shown above, Hamas Mickey Mouse Teaches Terror to Kids, by Palestinian Media Watch.

It hardly needs my comment, but I'd like to cite what Freedom for Egyptians wrote about another headscarved and indoctrinated little girl: "The girl is wearing a scarf?? Is this the definition of a childhood for what they call themselves "true Muslims". This is childhood abuse and there is no difference between it and childhood pornography. She is wearing it because her parents are teaching her that males are thirsty dogs who will try to rape her at any time."

UPDATE: For readers who for technical reasons cannot see the video, and also in case the video stops being available, I've written down the subtitles:

Al Aqsa TV (Hamas), Apr. 16, 2007
Mickey Mouse: We are setting with you the cornerstone for world leadership under Islamic leadership.
Girl –TV show host: We remind you that we, the great ones, started this program to lead this world. The nucleus, with the will of Allah, will be from here, from Palestine.
Mickey Mouse: From Palestine, oh Saraa, what do you mean? From Gaza, Jerusalem, Ramallah, or from all of Palestine?
Girl – TV show host: Yes, from all of Palestine. Many say that we had glory, and we had culture, and the Muslims had greatness and respect.
Mickey Mouse: We, tomorrow’s pioneers, will restore to this nation its glory. We will liberate Al-Aqsa, with Allah’s will, and we will liberate Iraq, with Allah’s will, and we will liberate the Muslim countries, invaded by murderers.
Girl – TV show host: Yes, they are children [in Palestine] occupied by the Jews, but with the will of Allah, we will resist and protect against the Zionist occupation.
Mickey Mouse: Until we win, with the will of Allah, we will resist until we win.
Al Aqsa TV (Hamas), Apr. 23, 2007
Esraa (12) on the phone (sings): We will surrender ourselves.
Mickey Mouse: No!
Girl – TV show host: Esraa, it’s not a good song. Why? Because it has surrender. We don’t want to surrender, we want to resist against the enemy.
Mickey Mouse: Allah willing, Allah willing, this country, its children, its men, its women, and its elderly – will win! We will win, Bush! We will win, Sharon! Ah, Sharon is dead. We will win, Mofaz! Mofaz left. We will win, Olmert! We will win! We will win, Condoleeza!
Girl – TV show host: I remind you that Al-Aqsa and the prisoners are a trust on our shoulders, and Allah will ask us on Resurrection Day what have we offered for their sake.
Al Aqsa TV (Hamas), Apr. 30, 2007
Harwa (11) on the phone (sings, Mickey Mouse is dancing): The people firmly stand, singing this to you. Rafah sings “Oh oh”. Its answer is AK-47. We who do not know fear, we are the predators of the forest.
Muhammad (12) on the phone (sings, Mickey Mouse is dancing): Oh Jerusalem, we are coming. Oh Jerusalem, it is the time of death. Oh Jerusalem, we will never surrender to the enemy, and we will never be humiliated. It is beloved Palestine that taught us what to be and taught us to be the soldiers of the Lord. We will destroy the chair of the despots. It is the time of death, we will fight a war.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Shame on you, Minister Grancharova!

In my Oct. 16 post Bulgarian government - unit measure for arrogance I described how our social minister Emilia Maslarova insolently tried to rebut the shocking facts about the "care home" in Mogilino disclosed in the BBC documentary Bulgaria's Abandoned Children. (If you don't know the story around Mogilino, check the relevant links at the right side of this page).
Now Maslarova's record in arrogance is broken by her colleague Gergana Grancharova, Minister for European Affairs. (WTF is the function of a "ministry for European affairs", other than giving some people comfortable lives on public payroll? And then we are told that there is no money for the teachers, the sick children etc. This was off-topic, excuse me.)
The information that I'll share with you was brought to me by the Mogilino blog. Its Nov. 15 post What's new gives a link to Minister Grancharova's blog post titled Mogilino. (I didn't know that some of our ministers have blogs. Haven't they any true friends to tell them that in their case, blogging isn't a very good idea?)
Grancharova's blog is in Bulgarian. I doubt that if it were in English, she would write the same things, though with our rulers everything is possible. I want the international community, the BBC and everybody to have access to the above mentioned post. Therefore, I am translating it below, omitting only the irrelevant first paragraph. Possibly I am violating copyright, to hell with it. Keep in mind that the author is a lady who has studied law and has a postgraduate qualification in International Human Rights Protection. The mentioned Red House is the building where the documentary was officially shown in Bulgaria for the first time. I won't add any further comments to the text.

"Mogilino. The BBC documentary about the care home for children with severe physical and mental disabilities. The shock of the audience after watching these 90 minutes of tremendous agony. The author, British Kate Blewett, who was these days in Bulgaria to explain what she intended to report with this film, who hasn't done his job and who must be very ashamed because of this horrible reality. Kate appeared before all national TV channels plus the crowded hall of the Red House, administered justice and went home. After her, a team from the French TV Channel 2 came. They want to make documentaries about the Bulgarian institutions for abandoned children... I am terrified by the thought that for people who don't know my country, Bulgaria will evoke only the memory of this documentary.
On Monday I visited the Mogilino care home with my colleagues Emilia Maslarova and Miglena Tacheva. We saw its reality, not a movie. I wanted to see with my own eyes what is done with public money, the money of us all, for the abandoned children. What is not done. I had previously watched the entire BBC documentary at the computer in my office. I had felt terrified and helpless. I had requested from the Social Ministry all relevant information in order to form my own picture, my own opinion. I had answered all letters I had received. I knew I had to go there. I contacted one of the large Austrian foundations that now establish in Bulgaria their work devoted to supporting institutions for disabled children. I suggested that they could start their work with Mogilino (they informed me that they were beginning their activity in Bulgaria with an initial sum of EUR 2 millions). They immediately accepted the idea and the next day sent their representative from Bucharest... directly to the care home in Mogilino. They contacted me again, saying that the situation there was much better than they expected... they couldn't begin with this home, it had everything, they would look for an institution in real need.
The children met us with joy. Emilia Maslarova knew most of them by name, they also knew her (I admit I was moved by this). The women employed at Mogilino asked me, "Why did Mrs. Kate lie to us, she promised us funds, support to the care home scheduled to be closed, this was the reason we let her make her film here. Why doesn't it show how we hug the children." The Bulgarian National Radio asked Mrs. Kate about the promised money - I tried, she said, but...
I know that the first reaction of every normal person after seeing such a documentary is to feel miserably. Unhappy. To touch wood secretly. To ask, "My God, why do such terrible things happen!" I know that the audience at the Red House applauded Kate Blewett. It is absurd to applaud after you have seen this documentary...
Children with severe mental and physical disabilities are born - I am saying this with deep sorrow - in all parts of the world. Despite the progress, despite globalization, despite scientific research and medicine. 10% of the EU population are people with disabilities. This is a tragedy and it looks the same painful way around the world, regardless whether these children are filmed in a specialized institution or in their own homes. Alas, some of the parents - in all parts of the world - abandon these children of their own. Perhaps they think they save their own future lives, they save themselves, their partners, their other children. The children in Mogilino are abandoned but only some of them have signed documents by their parents that they can be adopted by somebody who would be willing. Therefore, the state will facilitate the procedures for their adoption.
They have rights. According to Bulgarian and international laws. To film them, to expose details about their life, their medical record, their appearance - you have to obtain somebody's consent. Who allowed a camera to film over months their faces, their wounds, their catatonia. Who alowed a camera to film them naked?! Even if some of these chilren had the chance to be taken by adoptive parents, now after the documentary has broadcasted them as an edification, would anybody want to adopt them?!
We are living in Bulgaria. Bulgaria unfortunately isn't a rich country, not yet. The care home in Mogilino had to be closed back in July 2006 according to an act by the Government. The local Municipality council took a contrary stance. But the living condition for these children there are good, I am saying this only after I saw it with my own eyes, even Kate Blewett says it. There are cosy dormitories, there is a playroom with a pool of baloons, there is a special therapy room made back in 2001 with a water bed. 67 disabled children are under the care of 60 employees. Yes, there is no professional care in the true modern sense for these children. Yes, there aren't many experts (teachers, therapists, psychologists) who would agree to live and work constantly in a village and give individual care to each child. Here, the state is obliged to offer a solution - by providing much higher pay or by gradually moving these institutions to large cities. But we must say frankly that whatever tha state does, it will never change the fact of the tragedy - these children are, first, sick, and second, abandoned.
I ask myself, why do we cause ourselves this humiliation to applaud the filming of a tragedy. What is this urge? The tragedies everywhere in the world look the same way in a film. But the tragedy must be a bell calling for help, not an occasion to administer "justice".
I said in Mogilino that I am convinced that society must become and is the natural partner of the state in the matters concerning people with disabilities. Organizations of citizens can provide the specialized care and approach for this, similarly to the situation in all modern states. We in Bulgaria won't have a true elite until our successful people begin philantropic work. Until the philantropists of today and of today's scale are born. I also said that in Bulgaria, foundations are made by poor people with ideas, while abroad foundations are made by rich people with sentiments. We'll see the time when true celebrities will devote a part of their money to true causes. It won't be today but it will happen. And then the applause will be for the people who solve problems. Not for the creation of a problem by exposing accumulated problems. Not by putting a lable on a state... and by the following applause for this."

Don't forget Ilan Halimi

Ilan Halimi (photo copied from Wikipedia, original source AFP)

I intended to write here my next Bulgaria-centric post but a discussion at Highlander's blog changed my intention. Her Nov. 3 post The Patriot and the Racist: a tale of two citizens begins like that, "Israel is an ally of the US and is rewarded handsomely for it. They are there holding the front in the Middle East against the barbarians (that would be the Arabs - for those who don't know their 101 of the Middle East)." (Those my readers who don't know Highlander - don't rush to judge her based on this single quote, it was quite unlike her.)

I commented, "The mention of "barbarians" is interesting. By the way this was how Ilan Halimi's murderers (who were Muslims but not Arabs) called themselves..."
French commenter Nomad replied, "I am surprised you call yourself a scientist, because of this very sentence I can just see how your an adept of the "vagueness". There were no avered "arabs" in the gang who killed Ilian Halimi, the murderer is Ivoirian, his complices are white young surburbans from different EU origins... The only allegated "muslin" is the ivoirian, who is not practicing his religion though. In his mind it's more racism anti-whites than anti-semit."
So this post was called into existence.

"Ilan Halimi (1982 - 2006) was a young French Jew kidnapped by a gang of Muslim immigrants called the "Barbarians" and subsequently tortured to death over a period of three weeks." This is the beginning of his article in English Wikipedia. It specifies below, "Implicated in the crime are the members of a youth gang calling themselves "les barbares" (the Barbarians), many of whom were Muslim. The people so far arrested are mostly unemployed children of immigrants from African countries."
The same source describes Ilan's fate as follows: "On 21 January, Halimi, aged 23, was lured by an attractive 17-year-old French-Iranian girl to an apartment block in the Parisian banlieues (suburbs). There Halimi was overwhelmed by a youth gang and kept prisoner for twenty-four days. During that time, his kidnappers tortured him by stabbing him with knives, burning his face and body with cigarattes and beating him in order to try to extract a ransom of initially EUR 450,000 from his family. He was also kept naked and tied up and at one time, his kidnappers poured flammable liquid on him and set him on fire. Reportedly, neighbors came by to watch and to even participate in the torture but no one called the authorities. On 13 February, Halimi was found naked, tied and handcuffed to a tree near a railroad track in the Parisian suburbs, with burns from acid covering 80% of his body..., with multiple stab wounds, as well as with one severed ear and toe. On the way to the hospital, he died from his wounds."

Let me comment the bit about the neighbours. I have spent all my life in apartment buildings. This sort of housing offers no privacy, let alone secrecy. If you play violin in your apartment, or if your child jumps around the way children do, neighbours come to complain. It is unthinkable that a person can be tortured to death in such a building without all inhabitants being aware. Each one of them could call the police from some pay phone and tell them what was happening without any risk to himself. Nobody did it. Some neighbours may have participated in the torture and some did not, but all of them wanted him tortured.

Let's look at the alleged kidnappers' list as given by Wikipedia. Youssouf Fofana, aged 25, the self-proclaimed "brain of the Barbarians", is regarded as Muslim even by Nomad. Indeed, she said he was non-practicing. I asked in reply, were Mohamed Atta & Co. practicing Islam while in the USA? In this context, "practicing" and "non-practicing" are terms of absolutely no importance.
The next gang member listed is "Christophe M-V aka "Moko", a 22-year-old French man". However, the corresponding French Wikipedia article gives an additional detail: "Christophe Martin-Vallet dit "Moko", martiniquais converti à l'islam". So those who make the effort to check French sources are rewarded with the information that the Barbarians' No. 2 was a convert to Islam. It is a strange coincidence that, disputing the term "racist", I had commented on the same Highlander's post, "I would also feel uncomfortable if flying with Arabs... It has nothing to do with racism. I would feel equally uncomfortable if I know that some of my white fellow passengers are converts to Islam. Because there have been many terrorist converts, regardless of their racial affiliation..."
The next person on the list is "Yalda, a seventeen-year-old French-Iranian girl who acted as a honeypot to lure Halimi into the gang's lair". It is well known which religion is dominant in Iran.
No. 4 in the list is "Samir" (Samir Aït Abdelmalek) - no details are given about his origin, the name sound like a Muslim one.
No. 5 is "Zigo" (Jean-Christophe G) - no details are given about his origin, the name doesn't sound like a Muslim one. Some Barbarians may have been non-Muslims. Would this change much? Non-Muslim useful idiots often assist Islamists in their crimes. A good example is the International Solidarity Movement.
No. 6 is "Giri", from the Comoros. Wikipedia says that this country "prior to 2002 was known officially as the Islamic Federal Republic of the Comoros", with as much as 98% of the population consisting of Sunni Muslims.
No. 7 is "Nabil", with Egyptian-French origins (remember Nomad's claim that not one of "the Barbarians" was Arab).
No. 8 is "Jérôme", a Portuguese. Perhaps he gave Nomad the excuse to call the gang members "white young surburbans from different EU origins", hardly an accurate description.

The Guardian, a source not known to have pro-Jewish and anti-Muslim bias, has published on Feb. 22, 2006 an article titled Brutal murder was anti-Semitic crime, says Sarkozy. It says, "The police, who found literature linking some of the suspects to Palestinian and Muslim groups, have insisted the murder was motivated by greed - the gang had demanded a ransom - and not religious motives. Mr Sarkozy told MPs: "The truth is that these crooks acted primarily for sordid and vile motives, to get money, but they were convinced that 'the Jews have money', and if those they kidnapped didn't have money, their family and their community would come up with it. That's called anti-Semitism by amalgam." He added that four of the six other people the gang had approached and tried to kidnap "were of the Jewish faith"... Police had earlier insisted the murder was not anti-Semitic, but the victim's mother Ruth Halimi accused them of ignoring this motive for fear of upsetting Muslim opinion."

Other, less politically correct sources paint even a bleaker picture. Media-Ratings reports in March 2006, "The media have been doing a lot of beating around the bush to avoid addressing the anti-Semitic nature of this crime. As soon as we found out that the victim of this crime was Jewish, that the gang’s other kidnapping attempts mainly targeted Jews, plus some additional facts Ilan Halimi’s family had revealed, there could be no doubt about its anti-Semitic motive. Yet the press held out until, first, the Israeli daily Haaretz published an interview of Mrs Halimi on February 20 2006, to the dismay of the French Foreign Office".
A Feb. 23, 2006 post by Tom Gross says, "Rafi Halimi, Ilan’s uncle, told the media that “when we said we didn’t have 500,000 euros to give them they told us to go to the synagogue and get it.” “The gang phoned the family on several occasions and made them listen to the recitation of verses from the Koran, while Ilan’s tortured screams could be heard in the background.” The police found literature linking the suspects to extremist Muslim causes and also discovered that the gang had already tried to kidnap four other Jews in recent weeks. Yet, last week the Paris public prosecutor, Jean-Claude Marin, told French journalists that “no element of the current investigation could link this murder to an anti-Semitic declaration or action”. Following an outcry late last week by French Jews, the police have now admitted that there was an anti-Semitic component to this torture and murder... For days last week, when reports of the kidnapping and murder of Ilan Hariri were published in Le Figaro, Libération and Le Monde, there was no mention of the racist aspect of this crime. Only French Jewish media mentioned it.Following protests, French newspapers have now said that this was an anti-Semitic crime... In London, The Observer, the Sunday affiliate newspaper of The Guardian, in its report on the kidnapping and murder also failed to mention that the victim was Jewish. It is very unlikely that The Guardian of The Observer would report on an almost certain racial attack on a black or Asian Muslim without mentioning that it was a racial attack, or who the perpetrators and victim were."
Gross also cites a Wall Street Journal article reminding an earlier murder: "The murder of Ilan Halimi invites comparison with the November 2003 killing of a Jewish disc jockey, Sébastien Selam. His Muslim neighbor, Adel, slit his throat, nearly decapitating him, and gouged out his eyes with a carving fork in his building’s underground parking garage. Adel came upstairs with bloodied hands and told his mother, ‘I killed my Jew, I will go to paradise." In the two years before his murder, the Selam family was repeatedly harassed for being Jewish. The murderer, who admits his guilt, was placed in a psychiatric hospital, and may be released soon. The initial response to the kidnapping of Ilan Halimi suggested a comparably selective ignorance."
Some months ago, a Libyan-American Islamist wrote in his blog (now deleted) a post about a young Muslim mother who was attacked by four or more young men in Glasgow and had to run away with her baby, leaving the pram behind (the case is described e.g. here).
If that blogger wanted to be more balanced in his reports about racially/religiously motivated crimes in Glasgow, he could also mention 15-year-old Kriss Donald, who in 2004 was abducted by men of Pakistani origin, stabbed 13 times, doused in petrol, set on fire and left to die. But this is another matter.
In his post, the Libyan-American said that the media reports didn't mention the religion of the attackers and that if Muslims were doing a crime, their religion would be mentioned. Highlander agreed with this in a comment. I disagreed and cited the 2005 Washington Times article about the Paris arsonists Rioters are Muslims, but don't say it.
Indeed, mainstreem media and politicians do all they can to cover up the hate crimes committed by Islamists. They prevented the murders of Kriss Donald and Sebastien Selam from receiving wide publicity, they tried to do the same with the murder of Ilan Halimi, they still manage to do it with the systematic gang-rapes of native European and other non-Muslim women by Muslims.
The question is, why do ordinary native Europeans like Nomad embrace this pernicious policy even in circumstances when they have no reason to fear for their own safety? One reason is the multi-culti charlatanism postulating that non-Westerners cannot do bad things. Another reason is the psychological phenomenon known as wishful thinking. With so many Muslim immigrants already in Europe and not intending to go anywhere, and becoming more numerous every year, it is so tempting to regard them as no worse than any other group of people. So Westerners prefer not to see the unpleasant truth, not to hear it and, above all, not to speak about it.
But the memory of the victims and the future of our children requires us to open our eyes and mouths. Because if we do not speak, who will?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Aftermath of the 2007 local elections, part 1: Boyko Borisov, again

At last month's elections, Sofia mayor Boyko Borisov won a second term by a landslide victory at the first round. I hoped that at least there would be a second round.
I am happy that I have dealt with Borisov in detail in my May 30 post and so don't need to do it now.
As a resident of Sofia and a local patriot, I was definitely saddened by the election results. I envied the residents of the city of Varna as I watched on TV their re-elected mayor Kiril Yordanov. He is a socialist and not a perfect mayor. But he at least looked well in a suit. By contrast, our mayor looked as if two strong men had put the suit on him by force while four others were restraining him.
Two days ago, I received from a friend the following e-mail:

"Maya, see what has been published by the FrontPage Magazine:
If the link doesn't work, the title is Bulgaria's Future
?, by John Wilhelm. I'm afraid John Wilhelm hasn't made the necessary effort to check some things in detail... As if it wasn't enough that we elected Big Brother Boyko at the first round, plus many more his clones in other cities, and now he is being made popular in America!"
Let me now discuss some quotes from the article:

"There have been many visible improvements since Borissov took over as Sofia’s mayor. The city’s parks have been cleaned up; its old public buildings are being repaired, repainted, and magnificently lit; and a new Metro line is under construction..."
I see no visible improvements, and I am living in Sofia. The Metro was in construction, and a part of it working, long before Borisov took office. As for the "old public building being repaired" - Borisov has continued the unfortunate tradition of Sofia mayors to allow demolition of landmark buildings to make space for ugly modern business centers bringing more profits. Right now, Bulgaria Hotel and Bulgaria Concert Hall are scheduled for destruction. Details at the Guerrilla's blog, e.g. here. Bulgarian readers are advised to sign an online petition for the preservation of these buildings at

"Bulgaria’s Black Sea Coast and mountain ski resorts is flourishing."
This needs no comment, just check the Black List and my recent post about it.

"While in Sofia earlier this year I interviewed Mayor Borissov... Behind him was his favorite, and perhaps most telling, graphic piece: A movie-poster painting of actor Yul Brynner and six rugged cowboys atop galloping horses charging against the bad guys in a scene from the classic Western, “The Magnificent Seven.” It’s a tale of gunslingers enlisted by desperate villagers to assist in a noble cause. This says it all."
I wouldn't advise anybody to use popular culture as a guide for real-life decisions. I have enjoyed Pretty Woman, but would it be wise for a young girl to become a prostitute with the hope of marrying a millionaire?

"While it is true that there were a number of unsolved gangland murders during Borissov's tenure as Secretary-General at the Interior Ministry, Bulgarians credit him with sharply reducing ordinary crime."
Indeed, some Bulgarians credit him with reducing crime although no such thing happened.
Mr. Wilhelm, why didn't you do your homework before writing the article? Even Jenny McCarthy (who will be featured in a coming post) can use Google! And it is for people like you that people like me take the trouble to write in English.
Or you know the real nature of B.B. and would never vote for him but find him good enough for Balkan barbarians like us?

The most troubling news concerning Boyko and his so-called party came to me from the village of Musachevo. My husband works for a company having a production unit in this village. The elected mayor was from GERB, the party of Boyko Borisov. After the elections, local people said that they were given them money as a bribe to vote for the GERB candidate, 50 leva (EUR 25) per voter. (Buying votes isn't rare at elections in Bulgaria, but this October it was of unprecedented scale and arrogance.) Some villagers took the money and then voted for the other candidate. After the elections, thugs came to the village, found these voters and slapped them in the faces.

The embedded video shows the song "My firefighter", a 1999 parody of a chalga song, performed by Radka Kurshumova. It has all the hallmarks of the awful popular Bulgarian music known as chalga - pseudo-folk elements and explicit references to sex. I am translating the first verses of the lyrics:

Firefighter, how much I love you!
I’ll set you on fire with my eyes.
Because I am a girl made of fire,
Direct your fire hose at me.
Oh my firefighter, you are a super boy!
Extinguish the fire in me, thank you!

I saw this video on the blogs of Marfa and Lyd. These two Bulgarian bloggers, who live in other cities, had embedded it as an ironic greeting to Sofia residents for re-electing Borisov because he is a former firefighter. Yes, my fellow Sofia residents, by electing Big Brother Boyko we made ourselves a laughing matter for the entire country!
At the discussion of Marfa's post, it was mentioned that Radka Kurshumova resembles the singer in Kusturica's movie Black cat, white cat as two droplets of water resemble each other, except for the absence of the nail.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Daily Mail or the misery of journalism

It is well known that if you want high-quality journalism, the Daily Mail isn't exactly what you should read. Now I can confirm this under oath, if necessary.
Nearly a month ago, I found in the Web the Daily Mail article BBC may be prosecuted for offering £40,000 to 'child-smugglers'. It begins as follows:
"The BBC was dragged into a fresh row over standards after police claimed it broadcast a misleading investigation into child-trafficking. The report, which led BBC1's Ten O'Clock News on Thursday, purported to expose Bulgarian criminals offering toddlers for sale to British couples for £40,000 each. But Commissioner Veselin Petrov, head of police in the Bulgarian city where the undercover report was filmed, has insisted that there is no evidence of organised criminals selling children. Petrov accused the BBC of entrapping 'Harry', the alleged trafficker, by offering him money, and threatened to charge the reporters with incitement, an offence that carries a prison sentence of up to a year. "
The Daily Mail Web site gives readers the opportunity to post comments. I submitted the following:
"Don't buy what Bulgarian police and government tell you! They have a mile long record of lies. They protect and cover up baby trafficking rings and other organized crime. When journalists expose the ugly Bulgarian reality, our authorities, instead of addressing the problem, rebut the allegations with lies, then try to prosecute the journalists. All honest Bulgarians congratulate the BBC for real investigative journalism."
However, my comment was never shown. Indeed, as you submit a comment, there is a disclaimer that "comments may be edited and not all will be published". However, I think my contribution was worth being published. There are only 16 published comments to this article, so there is room for one more. And none of the other commenters (most of whom are bashing the BBC) is from Bulgaria, which automatically makes my opinion special.
My guess is that the BBC has criticized the Daily Mail (I bet there have been plenty of occasions) and now the tabloid uses every opportunity to take revenge.
For the record, the findings of the BBC team were 100% confirmed by Bulgarian journalists. One of them, Martin Karbovski, even reported that when public attention is focused on a baby trafficking ring, the orphanages in the region receive an unusually high number of abandoned babies. This is because the traffickers keep a low profile and don't trade babies while the turmoil lasts, so the newborns produced specifically for sale and not wanted by their parents have nowhere to go but the institutions.

Anti-Bulgarian bias of historian Alan Kramer and the New York Times

The Nov. 4 issue of the New York Times published the book review Extermination States by S. S. Montefiore. It is about the book Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War by Alan Kramer (Oxford University Press).
Below is a quote from Montefiore's article:
"In some ways, the war against Serbia had been fought already in the two Balkan wars of 1912-13, caused by the nationalist goals of the region’s new states... The massacre of tens of thousands of civilians in Macedonia and Thrace by the Bulgarians was “not merely ... a short-term byproduct of war” but a “part of a longer-term project of nation-state construction.” Meanwhile, in crushing Serbia, Austria and Germany killed 250,000 soldiers and 300,000 civilians out of 3.1 million. No combatant faced higher per capita losses."
I'll let to historians to disprove these statements (though I bet that their contra-arguments will not be published by the New York Times or the Oxford University Press). Let me, as a lay person, add just a common-sense remark.
Nations, similarly to individuals, usually try to convince themselves and others that they do what is right while actually doing what they consider to be in their best interests. After World War I, the winners took from Bulgaria land populated by Bulgarians and gave it to Serbia. So portraying the Bulgarians as villains and the Serbs as cute innocent victims would serve well to justify this act.
But, guys, what year is now? Nearly a century has passed after these events. Isn't it already OK to write things nearer to the truth?
I am happy that I am working in the field of natural and not social sciences.
As for the New York Times, its anti-Bulgarian bias is no news. Let's remember the 2003 article Bush's Warsaw War Pact by Maureen Dowd, a gossiper unfortunately misled by somebody to think that she is a journalist:
"In diplomatic circles, our new allies from Eastern Europe are dryly referred to as ''Bush's Warsaw Pact.'' As one Soviet expert put it, ''Bulgaria used to be Russia's lapdog. Now it's America's lapdog.'' The Bulgarians were such sycophants to Russia that in the 60's they proposed becoming the 16th republic of the Soviet Union. Mr. Bush will not be the only one having trouble with the Bulgarian prime minister's name. We all will. In some press reports it's spelled Simeon Saxcoburggotski, and in others Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The tall, balding, bearded prime minister was formerly King Simeon II, a deposed child czar. He is a distant relative of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's consort, but not Count Dracula. That's our other new best friend, Romania. Is this a good trade, the French for the Bulgarians? Sketchy facts about Bulgaria rattle around: It has a town called Plovdiv; it wants to become big in the skiing industry; its secret service stabbed an exiled dissident writer in London with a poison-tipped umbrella -- a ricin-tipped umbrella, in fact; its weight-lifting team was expelled from the Olympics in a drug scandal in 2000; it sent agents to kill the pope... In ''Casablanca'' there was the Bulgarian girl who offered herself to Claude Rains to get plane tickets."
As you see, this so-called author blames Bulgarians not only for having been sacrificed to the Soviet Union after World War II but also for the way they are portrayed in old movies. This reminds me of primitive cultures where you can be held responsible for what you have done in somebody's dream.
UPDATE: People who had read Kramer's book told me that it described events in a more balanced way. Mentioning the "tens of thousands of civilians" allegedly massacred by Bulgarian troops, the author made it clear that this was alleged by Greeks and not confirmed by any independent source. It was Montefiore who, in his review, made Bulgaria the chief villain. It seems to me that, as long as we are a US ally and a Coalition member, we have a subscription for bashing by The New York Times!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Does anybody know what happened to Sofka?

I received the following comment to my Sept. 17 post about the BBC documentary Bulgaria's Abandoned Children:

"I am the mother of 2 Roma children that I adopted from Bulgarian orphanages 10 years ago. My daughter was 7 years old. When we were in Bulgaria visiting our daughter we found out that she had a twin. Further investigation let us to find out that the twin was still alive but was "severely affected." We asked for a medical evaluation and we were denied our request. We asked to visit her and we were told we would not be permitted to visit. We offered donations and they refused them. I was told by our facilitator that these places were horrible places. For 10 years I have been haunted by the thoughts of my daughters twin living in conditions that I would not even let my pets live in. Never having a family, never having access to medical help or services that may have changed her life. Every time I look at my daughter I wonder, what happened to this girl named Sofka. She would be 17 now.
My daughter doesn't know she has a twin. By the time we adopted her she had been so severely neglected physically and emotionally that the effects were lasting. She continues to struggle with post traumatic stress disorder from beatings and other events that she can't even verbalize. She is developmentally delayed. BUT she is getting the help she needs, she has enough to eat, she is living the life that her sister was never given the chance to live.
Maybe someday we will find out what happened to this girl."

I am reposting this comment with the meager hope that it may be read by somebody who knows the fate of this abandoned girl named Sofka (maybe Sophia). If you know something about it, please write a comment. If you are a Bulgarian blogger, you may go to my Bulgarian blog where I have translated this publication, copy it and republish it in your blog, so that it is read by more people.