Archive for the ‘illegal’ Category

Vietnam Envoy In Africa Arrested: Dealing in Banned Rhino

November 19, 2008

Vietnam says it will recall one of its diplomats from South Africa after she was filmed in an apparent illegal purchase of a rhinoceros horn.

A TV crew accompanying government investigators filmed an agent for a gang of poachers meeting the woman outside Vietnam’s embassy in Pretoria.

BBC

They filmed the agent handing the horn to the diplomat, who then took it inside the embassy building.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry said it had recalled her to “clarify the affair”.

Vietnam’s ambassador to South Africa, Tran Duy Thi, told the BBC that action had to be taken.

Rhinoceros (file image)
Crushed rhino horn is prized in some traditional East Asian medicine

“She did it right at the front steps of the embassy,” he said. “You see, they filmed the Vietnamese flag as she was doing it – how shameful! There must be a sanction.”

More than 40 rhinos are said to have been killed in South Africa this year.

Conservationists say Vietnamese syndicates are heavily involved in the illegal trade of their horns.

Crushed rhinoceros horn is a prized ingredient in traditional East Asian medicine, where it is used to treat fever and high blood pressure.

Nosorožec

Cocaine Smuggling Submarines: Druggies Getting Trickier

November 7, 2008

Authorities discovered a submarine-like vessel Friday still under construction by drug traffickers who planned to use it to smuggle cocaine, the head of Colombia’s secret police said.

Eduardo Fernandez said the fiberglass submarine was nearly complete when police found it near the Pacific Ocean, in Tumaco, 370 miles southwest of Bogota.

Associated Press

“The ingenuity of drug traffickers is amazing,” Fernandez told The Associated Press.

He said the vessel would have been used to carry cocaine to speed boats offshore, which would then take the drugs to Central America or Mexico, for eventual delivery to the United States.

The discovery came after authorities were tipped off to pieces of fiberglass and other construction material being transported to where the submarine was being built.

Officials stand next to an submersible craft with 1.6 tons of ... 
Officials stand next to an submersible craft with 1.6 tons of cocaine in Cabo Manglares, near the Ecuadorean border with Colombia November 4, 2008.REUTERS/John Vizcaino (COLOMBIA)

Fernandez didn’t provide details of its size. But Colombian authorities have caught drug traffickers using subs on a few occasions. They have been small, fiberglass vessels that travel just below the surface. But in 2000, police on a raid of a warehouse near Bogota were stunned to find a 100-foot-long steel submarine being built to transport up to 150 tons of cocaine.

Vietnam Hub Of Illegal Timber Trade

March 19, 2008

The BBC

Vietnam has become a major South-East Asian hub for processing illegally logged timber, according to a report from two environmental charities.

The trade threatens some of the last intact forests in the region, say the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Indonesia’s Telapak.

Because Vietnam has increased measures to protect its own forest, producers are getting timber from other nations.

The authors add that some of the timber is reaching the UK as garden furniture.

“Over the last decade, governments around the world have made a raft of pronouncements regarding the seriousness of illegal logging and their determination to tackle it,” the authors of the Borderlines report say.

The cost of such unfettered greed is borne by rural communities in Laos who are dependent on the forests for their traditional livelihoods.

Julian Newman,Head of forest camaigns, EIA, said, “The stark reality is ‘business as usual’ for the organised syndicates looting the remaining precious tropical forests for a quick profit.”

The report says that an increase in the price of raw timber has prompted some wood producing countries, such as Indonesia, to take steps to combat illegal logging.

But, they explain, as tougher measures were enforced by one country, the problem shifts to another.

Uncertain future

EIA and Telapak say they have gathered evidence that “Vietnam is now exploiting the forests of neighbouring Laos to obtain valuable hardwoods for its outdoor furniture industry”, which contravenes Laotian laws banning the export of logs and sawn timber.

They add that they also obtained evidence that timber traders from Thailand and Singapore were also securing raw materials from Laos.

Many rural communities’ long-term survival depend on forests.

The researchers who compiled the report said they met a Thai businessman who openly admitted paying bribes to secure a consignment of timber with a potential value of half a billion dollars.

“The cost of such unfettered greed is borne by rural communities in Laos who are dependent on the forests for their traditional livelihoods,” said EIA’s head of forest campaigns, Julian Newman.

“They gain virtually nothing from this trade; instead, the money goes to corrupt officials in Laos and businesses in Vietnam and Thailand.”

The authors estimate there are about 1,500 wood processing enterprises in Vietnam with a total processing capacity of more than 2.5m cubic metres of logs a year. They believe outdoor furniture accounts for about 90% of the country’s total wood exports.

Although the Vietnamese government has been tightening controls on logging since the early 1990s, it is also encouraging the wooden furniture industry to expand.

EIA said the nation had relaxed regulations concerning ownership in order to facilitate foreign investment, and it was also actively promoting the sector in overseas markets.

Mixed message

The groups said that ultimate responsibility had to rest with western markets that imported products made from the uncertified timber.

Illegal logging is a long-standing concern for environmentalists”To some extent, the dynamic growth of Vietnam’s furniture industry is driven by the demand of end markets such as the European Union and US,” the report concludes.

“Until these states clean up their act and shut their markets to wood products made from illegal timber, the loss of precious tropical forests will continue unabated.”

The team found that many leading brands and retailers had “taken the necessary steps” to ensure that certified and legal timber was used in products they sourced from Vietnamese producers.

But researchers, posing as furniture buyers, found that a number of companies operating in the UK had failed to take the appropriate measures to ensure illegal timber was not entering the country.

Stemming the flow

In an effort to prevent illegal timber entering its borders, the EU developed an initiative called Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (Flegt) in 2003, aimed at forming partnerships with timber producing countries.

The scheme is underpinned by Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs), which involve establishing a certification system to ensure only legally sourced timber enters EU markets.

Global demand for wood products is driving the trade, the report saysMalaysia began negotiations in 2006 to establish a VPA, and Indonesia embarked on a similar process in 2007.

EIA says the system focuses on direct shipments from the country, and does not take into account the fact that raw timber can pass through several countries, eg from Laos into Vietnam.

“Another problem with VPAs is that end products such as furniture are currently not included on the list of timber categories to be controlled,” the report says.

Gareth Thomas, the UK’s International Trade and Development Minister, said the report raised a number of concerns.

“Through the EU, we will be raising this with the Vietnamese government. I personally will be raising this with my Vietnamese counterpart,” he told BBC News.

“We will explore with G8 colleagues whether there is G8 action we can take in this area.”

Thinking You Are “Above the Little People”

March 16, 2008

By Thomas Sowell
The Washington Times
March 16, 2008

What was he thinking? That was the first question that came to mind when the story of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s involvement with a prostitution ring was reported in the media.
Eliot Spitzer looks at a chart at a press conference in New ... 
It was also the first question that came to mind when star quarterback Michael Vick ruined his career and lost his freedom over his involvement in illegal dog fighting. It is a question that arises when other very fortunate people risk everything for some trivial satisfaction.
.
Many in the media refer to Eliot Spitzer as some moral hero who fell from grace. Mr. Spitzer was never a moral hero. He was an unscrupulous prosecutor who threw his power around to ruin people, even when he didn’t have any case with which to convict them of anything. Because he used his overbearing power against businesses, the anti-business left idolized him, just as they idolized Ralph Nader before him as some sort of secular saint because he attacked General Motors.
.
What Eliot Spitzer did was not out of character. It was completely in character for someone with the hubris that comes with the ability to misuse his power to make or break innocent people.
.
After John Whitehead, former head of Goldman Sachs, wrote an op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal, criticizing Attorney General Spitzer’s handling of a case involving Maurice Greenberg, Mr. Spitzer was quoted by Mr. Whitehead as saying: “I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done.”
.
When you start thinking of yourself as a little tin god, able to throw your weight around to bully people into silence, it is a sign of a sense of being exempt from the laws and social rules that apply to other people.
.
For someone with this kind of hubris to risk his whole political career for a fling with a prostitute is no more surprising than for Michael Vick to throw away millions to indulge his taste for dog fighting or for Leona Helmsley to avoid paying taxes — not because she couldn’t easily pay the taxes and still have more money than she could ever spend but because she felt above the rules that apply to “the little people.”
.
What is almost as scary as having someone like Eliot Spitzer hold power is having so many pundits talk as if this is just a “personal” flaw in Mr. Spitzer that should not disqualify him for public office. Mr. Spitzer himself spoke of his “personal” failing as if it had nothing to do with his being governor of New York.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/article/20080316/
COMMENTARY07/242309123/1012/COMMENTARY

Thailand: “Haven for Criminals”

March 9, 2008

The Bangkok Post
March 9, 2008

By Wassayos Ngamkham

A comprehensive network of communications, transport facilities and hospitality have made Thailand a sanctuary for the world’s criminals and other fugitives, said police.

Panaspong Sirawongse, the head of Interpol’s Liaison Office Bangkok, said foreign criminals pick Thailand as a hide-out or a venue to negotiate illegal deals apparently because the country is a hub of communications and transport.

Also, Thailand is a world tourist destination where fugitives from crime can easily slip in and mingle with foreign tourists, he said.

“I believe they chose us because it is convenient for them to make contacts here,” Pol Col Panaspong said.

He referred to the latest arrest involving Russian Viktor Bout, 41, dubbed the ”Merchant of Death”, on Thursday at a Bangkok hotel. The fugitive was wanted by the US Drug Enforcement Administration for allegedly selling arms to terrorists.

Police escort international arms dealer Viktor Bout as he arrives ...
Police escort international arms dealer Viktor Bout as he arrives at the Bangkok Criminal Court March 8, 2008. Bout, dubbed the “Merchant of Death” of the clandestine arms trade and who was arrested in a U.S. sting operation in Thailand, has told police he was in Bangkok for a holiday and not to transact any weapons business, a police officer said on Saturday.
REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang (THAILAND)

Before that, Thailand was also in the spotlight for the much-publicised arrest of Nurjaman Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, in Ayutthaya in 2003. Hambali was suspected of being Southeast Asian terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah (JI)’s operations chief and the architect of the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

His capture, according to a recent US report on terrorism, suggested that Thailand was a transit point for regional terrorists.

Following Hambali’s arrest, a number of other wanted fugitive criminals have been apprehended in the kingdom. They include Christopher Paul Neil, 32, who was arrested days after Interpol issued an unprecedented worldwide public appeal for help in identifying the suspected paedophile.

In mid-February, Morgan Michelle Hoke, 21, known as the ”ponytail bandit”, was arrested at a guesthouse in the Bang Lamphu area. She was wanted by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a series of armed bank robberies.

Crime Suppression Division (CSD) deputy chief Petcharat Saengchai agreed with Pol Col Panaspong that communications and transport facilities are among the factors criminals consider before they choose to flee to Thailand.

Pol Col Petcharat, the head of the task force involved in the arrest of Mr Bout, is chief of a new crime suppression division which has been specially set up to tackle international crimes.

He said Thai people’s friendliness and hospitality are also a drawcard.

“Thailand is their heaven. Thai people are also friendly so the criminals like Thailand, especially Bangkok, which is a large and complex city. It is an ideal hideout, even for local criminals,” he said.

CSD commander Pongpat Chayaphan agreed that the character traits of local people can be a double-edged sword.

“Thai people are kind and friendly. So the criminals feel at ease here,” he said.

Justice Dept. ‘Cannot’ Probe Waterboarding, Mukasey Says

February 8, 2008

By Dan Eggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 8, 2008; Page A04

The attorney general yesterday rejected growing congressional calls for a criminal investigation of the CIA‘s use of simulated drownings to extract information from its detainees, as Vice President Cheney called it a “good thing” that the CIA was able to learn what it did from those subjected to the practice.

The remarks reflected a renewed effort by the Bush administration to defend its past approval of the interrogation tactic known as waterboarding, which some lawmakers, human rights experts and international lawyers have described as illegal torture.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said Justice Department lawyers concluded that the CIA’s use of waterboarding in 2002 and 2003 was legal, and therefore the department cannot investigate whether a crime had occurred.

China set to pass first anti-drug law

December 23, 2007

BEIJING (Reuters) – China is expected to pass its first anti-drug law this week to combat drug-related crimes and reduce the number of abusers, state media said on Sunday.

Opium, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine hydrochloride — commonly known as “ice” — as well as morphine and cocaine were listed as banned drugs in the draft, Xinhua said.

A revised version also said drug-addicted pregnant women who breast-feed babies under one year old were not suitable for compulsory rehabilitation.

At present, drug dealing is considered a crime under more general criminal laws.

Drug abuse was virtually wiped out after the Communist Party took power in 1949, but….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071223/wl_nm/china_drugs_law_dc_1

Kansas doctor accused of running ‘pill mill’

December 21, 2007
By ROXANA HEGEMAN, Associated Press Writer 

WICHITA, Kan. – A physician accused of operating a “pill mill” was charged Thursday with illegally prescribing drugs in a scheme that prosecutors say caused the overdose deaths of at least four patients.

A Topeka grand jury returned a 34-count indictment against Dr. Stephen J. Schneider and his wife, nurse Linda K. Schneider, who were arrested Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren said. They are to appear in federal court in Wichita on counts including conspiracy, unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, health care fraud, illegal monetary transactions and money laundering.

According to the indictment, 56 of the doctor’s patients have died from accidental prescription ….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071221/ap_on_re_us/doctor_indicted_2

The dark side of illegal immigration

December 3, 2007

Wichita, Kansas, Nov. 28, 2007
KSN TV

While the nation focuses on illegal immigration, there is a whole set of criminals preying and profiting off the fear of illegal immigrants. In a special investigation, KSN exposes the dark underground of human slavery, extortion and trafficking.

The story begins at an apartment in Houston, TX, where an alleged victim was told he could go and find work. We’ll call him Rico to protect his identity.

“When we arrived at the apartment, I realized there was something wrong. A lot of people were being held against their will. Then there was an individual with a handgun and he was telling folks that they could not go outside and leave.”

Rico says he was loaded into a van and brought to Wichita, where he was forced to work all day washing dishes in the kitchen of a Chinese restaurant. He was never paid.

“I was standing for 14 hours a day and we could not take breaks, we had to keep working.”

At night, Rico claims he and others were locked in a nearby apartment until the next morning when they were taken back to work. Then one morning, Rico and another man decided to make a run for it.

Rico says he has been working with federal authorities on the case, but no government official would comment to KSN.

Rico’s story however, comes on the heels of another case – the first ever prosecuted in Kansas involving the kidnap and smuggling of illegal immigrants.

Two Mexican nationals were arrested last January after the mini-van they were driving to a flat tire west of Hutchinson on Highway 50.

Deputy Shawn McClay responded to the call, “The tow truck company and myself opened up the back compartment of the van to see if we could find the tool and the spare tire to help them and change it. And it was at that time as soon as we opened it we saw the 11 Hispanics in the back.”

None of them were wearing shoes. Odd, thought Deputy McClay who knew at the very least he had a van of illegal immigrants.

“Now that I look back on it, some of them kind of seemed relieved. But at the time I didn’t know why.”

McClay’s instinct would prove right. When immigration officials questioned the group, they discovered the immigrants were hostages. A spokesperson says the captors deprived the group of their shoes, so they wouldn’t run away.

The Justice Department says the illegal immigrants were abducted from a stash house in Phoenix, Arizona. They were then held at gunpoint and then forced to call family members for payments. They’re not alone – nationwide these crimes are on the rise.

So why is this happening? Law enforcement officials say after September 11th, increased border patrols made human smuggling big business. Other crimes associated with smuggling have increased as well.

Rico says once in Wichita he learned his captors paid for him, “he said, no you owe me money I had to pay for you guys.”

Even though Rico managed to escape, he was left homeless, with no money and hundreds of miles from anyone he knew. He says he’s met others in Wichita who have experienced the same thing he has.

They don’t say anything, they don’t do anything they’re afraid because of the fear of being deported, and they are scared.”

But Rico says nothing’s scarier than what he has experienced, so he shared his story hoping authorities will put a stop to it.

America’s Most Poorly Run City

November 17, 2007

By Colbert I. King
The Washington Post
Saturday, November 17, 2007; Page A17

“My own view is that it is very unfortunate, but people steal.”

D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), Nov. 9

And there it is: The quintessential response of the city’s politically entrenched to scandal in the D.C. government. Instead of an assumed pride in the commitment and dedication of public servants, there’s hopelessness, an absence of outrage, a ready acceptance of the worst.

Thirty million dollars in tax receipts out the window and into someone’s pocket? Tsk, tsk. “People steal.”

Which helps explain the blind eye that is turned to a steady stream of criminality in the D.C. government. How about:

— The former D.C. corrections officer who pleaded guilty Nov. 13 to conspiring to accept money in return for the delivery of contraband to D.C. jail inmates.

— The guilty plea on the same date by a former budget analyst in the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency on charges of filing false claims, first-degree fraud and theft (by stealing checks sent to the agency and depositing them in her personal account).

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/16/AR2007111601425.html?hpid=opinionsbox1
**********************

Leadership, Accountability and the Media

By John E. Carey
September 5, 2007

I became a believer in the “freedom of the press” and the great importance the media plays during the last eleven years. It was eleven years ago this summer that I retired from the U.S. Navy, and organization with a jaundiced eye on the media most of the time. Just eleven years ago this summer I decided to become a journalist myself.

During this eleven year journey, I have seen the power of the free press “up close and personal,” as they say, here in the U.S.A. I have also witnessed the terrible and disgusting disregard for truth and free media in places like China and Vietnam. In those two countries and others, the lack of a free and open media allows government human rights abuses and downright malfeasance to thrive.

Here in the U.S. I am proud to say that I supported The Washington Post in its campaign to right the many wrongs of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and its lack of appropriate follow-up for soldiers under their care. We have also applauded many papers who stimulated the Congress to pay more attention to the equipment sent to support our soldiers during the current war.

Every now and again a journalist, even a fledgling like me, gets to see some small product of his or her work reflected in one of the great bastions of journalistic excellence.

Today I was reminded of something I wrote in 2003, which echoed across the pages of the Washington Post and New York Times just recently.In the Washington Times on October 26, 2003 I was proud to see published my essay “District Leadership is a National Disgrace.” The piece pointed toward numerous leadership and management lapses on the part of the elected and appointed caretakers of the government of the District of Columbia. A part of that essay dealing with the D.C. schools read, “As the school year started in 2003, School superintendent Vance was shocked to learn that the entire school system’s budget would only pay his system’s staff until Sept. 30. The superintendent is also a ‘fat cat’ with an enormous salary. Meanwhile, the schools are in a decrepit state of repair. Last winter, several school days were lost at more than one school because the furnaces wouldn’t start. Cost of educating the elementary school students in the District? Among the highest in the nation. Grades and measures of effectiveness? Among the lowest.”

Fast forward to 2007. In Fact, take a peak at the New York Times editorial of September 4, 2007, under the headline “National Disgrace.” That editorial reads in part, “remaking the schools [of the District of Columbia] will inevitably mean dismantling a central bureaucracy that has shown a disturbing talent for subverting reform while failing the city and its children in every conceivable way.”

Bravo New York Times. And Bravo also to the Washington Post, which earlier this summer ran a multiple part series exposing the many problems of the D.C. school system. And Bravo finally to the Washington Times, which has been exposing the malfeasance foisted upon the people of the District of Columbia by elected and appointed highly paid “public servants” for years.

In today’s Washington Times, a page one headline reads, “D.C. textbook chief appealed firing.” You see, one Donald Winstead, the lone manager of the school system’s often-troubled textbook department, was fired by former schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman in 1998 after books were not delivered in a timely manner. The Times’ Gary Emerling wrote that, “Mr. Winstead was reinstated in his position Dec. 19, 2000, following a settlement reached a day earlier between Mr. Winstead and the school system through the D.C. Office of Employee Appeals.”

Needless to say, the texbook situation in D.C. schools is still a disaster. In an August 7, 2007 Washington Times article Mr. Gary Emerling wrote, “The new [D.C. school system] chancellor has faced several difficulties that have plagued the system for years, including news that at least half of the city’s 146 schools may not have textbooks by the time school starts and that others will not have air conditioning.”

So, to those who doubt that a free and open media is a good thing for our nation, our society and, in fact, all nations everywhere; we ask them to look no further than the capital of the United States of America. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Washington Times may just help bring change to a very troubled and corrupt school system.

We are proud of these newspapers and the journalists who serve the people.
********************
District Leadership is a National Disgrace

By John E. Carey
The Washington Times
October 26, 2003

Just after hurricane Isabel passed, there was some talk that the leadership of the District of Columbia had been less than cordial in its dealings with the federal government throughout the crisis. Metro, some said with city blessing, shut down on Thursday at 11 a.m. without very much consultation with the federal government. Consequently, the feds were compelled to cancel the workday entirely.

After the hurricane, city officials cited city ordinances in an effort to get more of the FEMA financial aid pie than their neighbors in Maryland or Virginia. FEMA and its parent, the Department of Homeland Security, rightly rebuffed District officials.

Here are a few tidbits of information we have learned about the District of Columbia during the last few years (much of it from The Washington Times).

–The police chief continues to collect perks and pay raises year after year. He was hired to reduce crime. In fact, crime is up. The crime rate in D.C. is about 50 percent greater than other cities with similar populations. What is down is the police department’s success rate in crime-solving (one of the lowest in the nation). The disgracefully inept execution of the Chandra Levy case reminds us of how badly the police department functions.

–Our fire chief a few years back, one Ronny Few, had apparently “padded” his resume to secure his job. When exposed by the newspaper, he blamed the mayor’s office. Finger-pointing in City Hall ensued but nobody took responsibility for the shoddy way candidates for city jobs are vetted. The chief had also hired several cronies. Their resumes, we discovered, were also inflated, falsified or otherwise inaccurate.Meanwhile, several fire stations were in a decrepit state, a house fire had to be doused by a nearby garden hose because the fire truck had so many problems, and someone actually died due to the inefficiency of the 911 operators.

–Recently, the District’s inspector general resigned. His resume was also inflated. Do we see a trend beginning to emerge? The incumbent mayor’s re-election committee forged many of the required signatures to get the mayor on the ballot. If he is such a great leader, how can he tolerate such conduct? And why was fraud preferred over obtaining legal signatures?

–The president of the University of the District of Columbia lives in a publicly owned mansion. The taxpayers recently paid for a “renovation” of this estate that cost more than $215,000. “Repairs” included the addition of Italian granite and marble countertops worth more than $9,000. The university president also has a handsome salary. Yet the University of the District of Columbia’s Law School is rated dead last among more than 230 law schools rated by the American Bar Association. The percentage of graduates that pass the bar the first time is 22 percent. Only two colleges have rates in the 30th percentile and two schools are in the 40th percentile. All other law schools can boast that at least half the graduates pass the bar on the first try. The cost of educating a law student at UDC? The highest in the nation.

–As the school year started in 2003, School superintendent Vance was shocked to learn that the entire school system’s budget would only pay his system’s staff until Sept. 30. The superintendent is also a “fat cat” with an enormous salary. Meanwhile, the schools are in a decrepit state of repair. Last winter, several school days were lost at more than one school because the furnaces wouldn’t start. Cost of educating the elementary school students in the District? Among the highest in the nation. Grades and measures of effectiveness? Among the lowest.

–The D.C. coroner recently resigned. The morgue is in such disastrous condition that opportunities for forensics resolution to many crimes is seriously doubted. Overall, working for the District of Columbia government provides the best pay, bonus and retirement structure of almost any city in the nation.

Finally, the District of Columbia would like to tax commuters who come to the city to work. This is one way the banana republic preys upon its neighbors. Traffic enforcement cameras, predatory parking enforcement, towing and other practices contribute to the city coffers and to the ill will the city engenders in the neighborhood.

So I ask the voters in the District of Columbia, “Do you have the best government money can buy? Are you satisfied and content? Are you proud of your city and your flag?”