From KKK To An Italian Village, Was David Duke Plotting A Comeback?

A visit to the tiny village in the Dolomite Mountains where the notorious U.S. politician and former Ku Klux Klan grandmaster was residing under a false name. He was deported last week.

KKK in Venas di Cadore?
KKK in Venas di Cadore?
Eleonora Vallin

VENAS DI CADORE — In the local police station they've come to call him "Mr. White," but his real name is David Duke — the notorious Ku Klux Klan leader and Holocaust denier who was a U.S. presidential candidate in the 1992 after serving in the Louisiana state legislature.

Duke came to this small town in the Dolomites near the Austrian border 18 months ago, declaring that his intention was to study. But earlier this month, Italian police say they expelled him from the country because of his “dangerous intentions to form racist and anti-Semitic groups in Europe.”

“Ernest Duke, the name that we knew him by, came to Italy in February 2011 with a valid visa on his passport from the Italian Embassy of Malta,” a local police official said.

No particular issues were raised about his visa when he first arrived. "But when it was being renewed, we began to do some investigating," the officer explained. "He wasn’t studying, nor doing any research.”

It was then that the authorities discovered the real identity of the controversial U.S. politician, who had indeed been overlooked because of the name switch. Upon arrival, Duke had used his middle name, Ernest, which was how he was able to obtain his first visa.

When authorities discovered that a 2009 residence and travel ban in Europe's Schengen open border zone had been issued by Switzerland, they sought to have him deported. Duke appealed with the Regional Administrative Tribunal (TAR), but it was rejected last week.

“It’s a technical question,” explains his defense lawyer Filippo Augusto. “These are ideological-political issues regarding the Swiss measure. In Italy he isn’t accused of proselytism. Now we have six months to prepare our appeal for the justice ministry’s state council.”

As regards the relationship between Duke and Augusto, the lawyer says: “He sought me out. I have only met him a few times and I didn’t know who he was before. I don’t know what contacts he might have in Venas di Cadore but I do know that he only speaks English.” Since then, Duke is thought to have left Italian territory.

But what in the first place was he doing in a tiny Italy town with only 800 inhabitants? On Nov. 1, 2012, on the forum of the white supremacist website Stormfront, Duke greeted his “Italian friends,” explaining that he wanted “to do some historical research in the South Tyrol region,” and that “he needed to be in contact with those who live in the region.” He also needed some “devoted friends,” who could “help him with some information.”

A very old photograph

“I saw him just once — when he came with his landlord to sign his rent contract,” says Bruno Savaris, mayor of Venas di Cadore municipality. “I know that he lived alone, and I never saw any American friends in the area. Nor did I hear of any conferences.”

Francesca Larese Filon, who heads an association that preserves the local Ladin culture and dialect, says she'd never heard of Duke. She said that "the Ladin community up here in the mountains is totally distant from these kind of attitudes."

Curiously, a member of the civic registry who wishes to remain anonymous, declared that he himself deleted Duke from the local records, because of suspicious activity. “I remember when he came here for his residential permit. He brought a photo of himself that made him look about 70-years-old. Yet, in his passport photo he was young and charming-looking. I know that he was here thanks to an Internet contact who was passionate about history.”

The gossip around town is that he just used the apartment for sleeping, and as a northern Italian base to travel elsewhere in Europe. He often went to Bolzano, 70 kilometers east, and over the border to Austria where he is actually listed as a resident.

“This may seem strange but I don’t know anything about him, even though I own a bar and a newsstand in town. There’s not that many of us here, really, I would have heard about him,” says the owner of the Bar Posta di Venas. Still, something doesn’t add up.

The Stormfront website has continually quoted an interview they published five years ago where Don Black, ex-head of the Klan and founder of the site, openly said of Italy: “We love your country — there’s much excitement on our site for what’s happening to you. You are the first to react and show that you do not submit to immigrants. Even David Duke thinks so, so much so that he spends the majority of his time in northern Italy. Last year, we all went skiing in the Dolomites.”

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.



• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.


"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.



For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.


Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️


We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.


Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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