October 27, 2009
October 27, 2009
October 27, 2009
Human Rights Services: (h/t reader VK)
Few people outside of Denmark have heard of Tingbjerg. It’s a residential neighborhood in northwestern Copenhagen. About 6500 people live there, down from about 10,000 in the 1970s. Today the great majority of those residents are Muslims. As the neighborhood has become increasingly Muslim, it’s also been increasingly plagued by gang violence, burglaries, car-burnings, vandalism, and other offenses. Over the years, the members of Tingbjerg’s non-Muslim minority have come to feel increasingly vulnerable and ill at ease in their community. Many have moved out.
Among the latter is Ulrich Vogel. He is German and gay – and until recently he also happened to be the pastor at Tingbjerg Church. But now, after seventeen years in that position, he’s fled – moved out of the church residence, gone underground, taken sick leave, and begun psychological treatment.
Why? Because in recent years Vogel has been the repeated target of crime and harassment by local Muslims. Vogel refused to discuss his situation with Uwe Max Jensen, who reported on the story for sappho.dk on October 6. But Jensen found police reports in local newspapers that describe acts of vandalism at the church on March 26 and August 5 of this year and a break-in at the church residence on August 16. The latter crime involved the destruction and robbery of much of Vogel’s personal property, including his computer. And this is apparently only the tip of the iceberg: a member of the church congregation told Jensen that the residence has been broken into “countless” times.
In any case, Vogel has given up. And so, apparently, has the church council: instead of opening up a search for a substitute pastor who’s willing to live in the church residence at Tingbjerg, they’ve decided to sell it.
For days, the rumor circulated that Vogel was tormented by the young Muslims because he’s gay. Then, on October 17, Lea Holtze and Jannie Iwankow Søgaard of Kristeligt Dagblad reported that Vogel had broken his silence in order to deny that rumor. No, he insisted: he was tormented not because he’s gay but because he’s a pastor, and thus “a picture of an institution and a normality that is not welcomed by this group of young people.” Vogel also noted, truthfully enough, that he was hardly the only person in the neighborhood who had been victimized by local youth.
“It’s a whole neighborhood that’s been taken hostage,” Vogel said of Tingbjerg, complaining that “one is left to fend for oneself” there because “the police don’t do enough.” The problems, he said, can’t be dismissed as ordinary teenage hijinks: “It feels like pure malice.” The pastor recalled that last March, after local youths threw rocks at buses, resulting in a disruption of the public transport system, he spoke out in a local newspaper and on the TV news about the neighborhood’s ordeal – an action which, he suggests, may help explain why he appears to have been singled out for repeated victimization…
October 27, 2009
PARTNERS BANK of Naples, Florida, earned a dubious distinction on Friday October 23rd. It became the 100th American bank failure of the year. On the same day six other lenders—two more in Florida and banks in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Georgia—joined the rollcall of failure in the aftermath of the credit crisis.
More banks have failed in other years. The post-war record was set in 1989 when 534 banks went under. That was at the peak of the savings-and-loan (S&L) crisis, which erupted in the late 1980s and continued in the early 1990s. This year has seen more failures than any since 1992, but another 75 banks must go under to overhaul that year’s total.
Counting absolute numbers of failures, however, is not the best way to assess the extent of a financial crisis. The number of banks and thrifts has fallen dramatically since the S&L era, from some 16,000 lenders then to around 8,000 now. According to CreditSights, a research firm, when the current cycle is over, the rate of bank failures may be double what it was during the S&L crisis.
The total of failures also disguises the size of individual collapses. The demise of Washington Mutual, the biggest bank to fail in America so far in this crisis, means that banks accounting for more than 3% of the system’s total assets have fallen during the current cycle already, compared with 4.4% of assets over the entire S&L episode.
Yet passing the hundred mark symbolises how the financial crisis has shifted its focus from large banks to small ones. America’s big banks may face regulatory uncertainty but they take the shelter of government support. Most have diversified businesses so they can offset credit losses with buoyant earnings from investment banking. The recent slew of third-quarter results suggests that the number of non-performing loans is approaching a peak.
Small banks have no such comfort. They are too small to pose a threat to the entire system and thus too small to require saving. And they are heavily exposed to commercial property, an asset class that continues to go downhill fast. In the latest sign of distress, Capmark, one of America’s largest commercial-property lenders, filed for bankruptcy on Sunday.