News Feed 20101216

Financial Crisis
» German Obstructionism Heightens Euro Fears
» Home Prices Are “Falling Dangerously”
» Special Report: Is America the Sick Man of the Globe?
» USA: Food Prices Rise Sharply — And There’s More to Come
» Year of Bullying, Bluff and Bailouts Leaves Euro Fighting for Its Life
 
USA
» Femi-Not
» Imam Feisal Rauf: New York Islamic Centre ‘Dream Alive’
» Julian Assange’s Extradition Not Yet Sought by US
» Love for Jesus Can Bring Christians, Muslims Together
» Muslim ‘Radicalization’ Is Focus of Planned Inquiry
» Outrage — Obama’s IRS: “Israel is a Terrorist Group”
» Park51 Proponents, Opponents Plot Their Next Moves
» Playboy Prince of Brunei Jefri Bolkiah Loses $21m Lawsuit to British Husband and Wife
» Poll: Most See Obama Losing in 2012
» Right Direction or Wrong Track
» The Wrong Way to Prevent Homegrown Terrorism
» ‘Underwear Bomber’ Abdulmutallab Faces New Charges
» Union City Case Against ‘Ground Zero Imam’ Moved to Bayonne, Postponed Until Feb. 2
» WikiLeaks Cables: Bradley Manning’s Health is Deteriorating in Jail, Supporters Claim
» Will the Afghanistan War Break Obama’s Presidency?
 
Europe and the EU
» “Geert Wilders is No Friend of the US”
» Archaeology: 8000 Year-Old Sun Temple Found in Bulgaria
» Austria: Iranian Jailed for Rape
» Austrian Man Convicted for Yodelling While Muslim Neighbours Prayed
» Barcelona: Islamist Stronghold on the Mediterranean
» ‘Belgium Has No Future’
» Boozing Innovation: Ukrainian Firm Hires Out Drinking Buddies
» Bread Like Baby Jesus? A Brief History of German Christmas Sweets
» Chernobyl Woos Tourists With Promise of ‘Negligible’ Risk
» Denmark Targeted for Christmas Terror
» Denmark: Notorious Neighbourhood Halfway to Renewal
» Dutch May Introduce Burqa Ban as Early as 2011
» Europe’s Collective Suicide is a Done Deal
» Fears of Extremism Widen to Scandinavia
» Germany Applies Anti-Nazi Laws on Two Non-Violent Pro-Sharia Islamic Groups!
» Germany: Cities Still Stripping Hitler of Honorary Citizenship
» Germany’s Mega-Forgery Scandal Gets Even Bigger
» Is the Netherlands Too Small for Muslims and Jews?
» Italy: Appeal Clears Ex-Spymaster and Former Secret Agent Over Egyptian Cleric’s Abduction
» Italy: Centrist Opposition Leaders Announce ‘Third Pole’ Against Berlusconi
» Jews Warned About Visiting Southern Sweden
» Netherlands: Voters: Wilders Politician of the Year
» Netherlands: The West Should Take ‘Preventative Action’ Against Iran, Says PVV
» Netherlands: PVV is Warmongering and Racist, Says Iran
» Pakistan: Two Alleged British Al-Qaeda Militants Killed in Drone Strike
» Priest Reveals Sins of the Polish Church
» Resolution to Counter Online Antisemitism Approved by Italian Foreign Affairs Committee
» Six States Urge EU Ban on Denial of Communist Crimes
» Stockholm Bomber’s Family Fear They May be Forced to Leave Sweden
» Stockholm Suicide Bomber in Family Portrait With Wife and Her Parents
» Stockholm Bomber: Police Fear Accomplice is on the Loose — Telegraph
» Suicide Bombing Stirs Sweden’s Far-Right
» Sweden: Bomber Linked to Radical Preacher: Report
» Sweden: Bomber’s Explosives Identified With FBI Help
» Swedish Report Assesses Terrorist Threat
» Terror in Europe: Why Sweden is in the Crosshairs
» UK: Extremism in Luton: What Went Wrong
» UK: Manchester ‘Al-Qaeda Bomb Plot’ Student Abid Naseer Fights Extradition to US
» UK: Poor White Boys Still Behind Richer Peers at GCSE… And the Gap is Growing
» UK: Rejecting Appeal, Judge Orders WikiLeaks Founder Ordered Freed on Bail
» UK: Siege of Sidney Street Memorial: Policemen Honoured on 100th Anniversary
» UK: Uni Bosses Axe Islam Course
» UK: Victims of Overseas Terrorist Attack to Receive Government Support
» US Embassy Cables: Barack Obama’s Briefing on Dutch Politics
 
Balkans
» EU Wary of Handling Explosive Kosovo Report
» Kosovo’s Thaçi: Human Organs Trafficker
» Mr Blair Has Some Very Bizarre Friends. But a Monster Who Traded in Human Body Parts Beats the Lot
 
North Africa
» Algeria: Zakat Collection Begins With Ashura
» Guess What Egypt’s Muslims Do With Christians…
» Libya: Gaddafi’s Son Quits Human Rights Work
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» France ‘Concerned’ At Palestinian Jailed for Blasphemy Blog
» ‘The Sea Gave Her Back’: Wonder in Israel as Ancient Roman Statue Buried for Thousands of Years is Uncovered by Storm
 
Middle East
» Iran in Secret Talks on Nuclear Swap in Bid to End Sanctions
» Iran: Obama Uses Engaging Approach in Diplomacy With Tehran
» Iraq: Christian Student ‘Abducted in Northern City of Mosul’
» Iraq: “Walled” Churches and Checkpoints. Christmas for Iraqi Christians
» Israel Can’t Defeat Hezbollah: Israeli Expert
» Making Friends With the Octopus: Jordan Bows to Iran
» New Attack Against Christians in Iraq. Girl Kidnapped From Her Home in Mosul
» Sledgehammer Coup Trial Opens in Turkey
» Stakelbeck Exclusive: Iran Using Western Mosques to Plot Terrorism?
» Turkey: 200 Soldiers on Trial for 2003 Attempted Coup
» Turkish Religious Directorate Puts Foot Down on Seating in Mosques
 
Russia
» Moscow’s Riots: The Moscow Mob
» Putin: Moscow Riots Show Need for Stronger Order
 
Caucasus
» Anti-Extremist Muslim Cleric Was Warned of ‘Death Sentence’
» Interfax-Religion
 
South Asia
» Afghanistan War Review: Barack Obama Announces ‘Significant Progress’
» American Who Stormed ‘Noisy’ Prayer Room in Indonesia is Jailed for Blasphemy
» Iran Arrests Eight for Suicide Bomb Attacks
» Karachi’s Ethnic Feuds: Mob Battles
» Malaysia : Islam Rejects Religious Pluralism, Says Ikim
» Pakistan: White Britons ‘Called Steve and Gerry Killed Fighting for Al Qaeda in Pakistan’ By U.S. Drone Missile
» WikiLeaks Cables: Rahul Gandhi Warned US of Hindu Extremist Threat
» WikiLeaks Cables: US Officials Voiced Fears India Could be Target of Biological Terrorism
 
Far East
» Chinese Ambassador: EU Servility is ‘Pathetic’
» Chinese Increasingly Unhappy With Life
 
Australia — Pacific
» Bashing Victim’s Dad Tells Judge ‘You’Ve Got No Balls’ After Sentencing
» Brumby Ignored Early Warning
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Sudan: Women Are Punished With ‘600,000’ Lashes a Year
 
Immigration
» Obama Quietly Erasing Borders
» UK: ‘Modern Day Slavery Ring’ Smashed as Police Launch Dawn Raids Across South-East
» UK: Failed Asylum Seeker Who Left Girl, 12, To Die After Crash Can Stay in UK as Deporting Him Would ‘Breach His Human Rights’
 
Culture Wars
» Christmas Trees Are Surprisingly Depressing for Some
» Finland: Laws Governing Racial and Hate Crimes to be Toughened
» ‘Intrusive, Unwelcome and a Violation of Our Law’: Furious Backlash After EU Court Orders Ireland to Scrap Anti-Abortion Rules
» Switzerland: Petition Calls for Crucifixes in Public
» UK: The Red Cross Bans Christmas
 
General
» Drug-Resistant Genes Spread Among Bacteria
» Giant Ice Volcano May Have Been Found on Titan
» Less is More When Measuring Fragile Atomic Bonds
» Woman With No Fear Intrigues Scientists

Financial Crisis


German Obstructionism Heightens Euro Fears

All eyes are on Brussels this Thursday as European leaders gather to discuss ways to solve the ongoing euro crisis. So far, though, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has proven unwilling to consider measures that may require additional German funds. Others in the EU are getting anxious.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is walking a tightrope. And on Wednesday, one day before European Union leaders gather in Brussels for consultations on the ailing common European currency, the euro, one could almost see her struggling to retain her balance.

Speaking in front of the German parliament in Berlin, Merkel sang the praises of the “extraordinary ideas of peace and freedom which provide the foundation of European unity.” It is a legacy, she went on, “to which I feel personally beholden.”

Fine words, to be sure. But there are some in Germany who have found cause to doubt the sincerity of Merkel’s commitment to the European Union. The German chancellor, after all, has become a stick in the deep mud of the ongoing euro crisis, one which has seen country after country fall victim to skyrocketing interest rates on government bonds, making borrowing on the international financial markets virtually impossible.

Merkel, though, has seemed unmoved. While Germany made a large contribution to the Greek bailout package in the spring, and to the massive, €750 billion ($990 billion) common currency backstop established earlier this year, Berlin has shown little interest in increasing or extending that fund. The idea of a European bond — one which would bundle the debt of European countries, thus making it more affordable for troubled states to borrow on the bond market — has likewise found little support in Merkel’s Chancellery.

‘Haughtiness and Arrogance’

Her stance has not been popular in other European capitals. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker has accused her of “thinking a little simply” and said she was displaying an “un-European manner.” His foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, went even further in an interview on Wednesday, blaming Germany of “haughtiness and arrogance.”

And the demands keep coming. On Wednesday, Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado insisted that the €750 billion fund, known as the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), be enlarged — a position supported by several countries in the euro zone. The idea mentioned in some European capitals is to double the size of the fund, to €1.5 trillion. Salgado also floated the idea that the EFSF could buy sovereign bonds from troubled countries, much as the European Central Bank has been doing.

The proposal, much like Merkel’s rejection of all such measures, is somewhat self-serving. The ratings agency Moody’s said on Wednesday it may downgrade Spanish debt rating in the near future, saying it was concerned about Spain’s 2011 funding needs and mounting debt…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Home Prices Are “Falling Dangerously”

Inquiring minds are noticing a list is growing…the number of national publications and organizations that were reporting the real estate market recovering who are now seeing their declaration premature. Add Forbes to the list:

Not long ago it looked like the housing market was on the mend in most major U.S. metropolitan areas. But now prices are falling fast again in many. Foreclosures and vacant homes lingering on the market are depressing prices, and the home buyer tax credit that expired in July is sorely missed.

Hmmm…once again, class, journalism majors didn’t know how to read economic data. Who would have guessed differently?

The new data is rather stark:

In September home prices fell in 18 of the 20 metro areas tracked by Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller composite home price index. That was worse than August, when 15 of the top 20 cities were down month-over-month.

“There is a large supply of houses on the market,” says David Blitzer, chair of the index committee at Standard & Poor’s. “And further, hidden supply due to delinquent mortgages, pending foreclosures or vacant homes.”

5 cities where prices are falling dangerously:…

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa [Return to headlines]



Special Report: Is America the Sick Man of the Globe?

Not long ago, if you wanted steak for lunch at the Texan Restaurant, less than two minutes drive from the Nexteer Automotive assembly plant, you had to be in the door by 11 o’clock in the morning. If you arrived any later, you joined a long line with other laggards and waited for a table to open up. With noon fast approaching on a recent day, however, only a handful of customers sat in one of the restaurant’s two sections and the other was closed. Asked how the decline in the U.S. auto industry has affected the local economy, Tammy Maynard, a waitress here since 1988, waved a hand around at the empty tables and said: “You’re looking at it, sugar.” Regulars and retirees keep the restaurant in business, while workers at the nearby auto supplier plant buy steak at the beginning of the month when they get paid — if they come at all — and then dine on specials over the next four weeks. “I just keep praying every day that we’ve hit the bottom and that things are going to get better,” Maynard said, “because it doesn’t seem like it could get any worse.” The U.S. government may have bailed out General Motors, the country’s largest automaker, but it hasn’t begun to tackle the broader problems that led to the city’s implosion. Doing so, experts say, would require the kind of political will that has not been in great evidence in the country recently. To the few remaining auto workers left in a city half the size it was in 1960, the America they knew growing up is long gone and things can only get worse. “We have made concession after concession on wages and benefits and there is no end in sight,” said Dean Parm, a worker and union committeeman at Nexteer Automotive, whose hourly wages have been cut to around $17 an hour from $28. “It feels like we’re dinosaurs. And we’re on the verge of extinction.” This is the point of the story where many Americans typically glaze over because they see Michigan as a long-standing financial basket case of a state thanks to the shrinking U.S. auto industry. But the problem is that the broad decline of the manufacturing sector that has been underway in this country for decades now may threaten not just the long-term health of the economy but also the living standards of all but the wealthiest Americans. “The whole country is now seeing the story that Michigan has been living with for a long time,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial. “We have kicked the can so far down the road that now all we have is a cliff to fall off.”…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



USA: Food Prices Rise Sharply — And There’s More to Come

For the first time since 2008, inflation is hitting consumers in the stomach.

Grocery prices grew by more than 1 1/2 times the overall rate of inflation this year, outpaced only by costs of transportation and medical care, according to numbers released Wednesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Economists predict that this is only the beginning. Fueled by the higher costs of wheat, sugar, corn, soybeans and energy, shoppers could see as much as a 4 percent increase at the supermarket checkout next year.

“I noticed just this month that my grocery bill for the same old stuff — cereal, eggs, milk, orange juice, peanut butter, bread — spiked $25,” said Sue Perry, deputy editor of ShopSmart magazine, a nonprofit publication from Consumer Reports. “It was a bit of sticker shock.”

But it makes sense. Since November 2009, meat, poultry, fish and eggs have surged 5.8 percent in price. Dairy and related products have gone up 3.8 percent; fats and oils, 3 percent; and sugar and sweets, 1.2 percent.

While overall inflation nationwide was 1.1 percent, grocery prices went up 1.7 percent nationally and 1.3 percent in the Bay Area, said Todd Johnson, an economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics office in San Francisco. “The largest effects on grocery prices here over the last month were tomatoes, followed by eggs, fish and seafood.”

[Return to headlines]



Year of Bullying, Bluff and Bailouts Leaves Euro Fighting for Its Life

Merkel will call the shots at tomorrow’s EU summit — but will she kill or cure the patient?

Inside a freezing, derelict military barracks on the crest of a hill in the middle of Germany, Bernd Niesel single-handedly carries on with his labour of love.

The 67-year-old retired serviceman oversees a shrine to the Deutsche Mark, the symbol of postwar German success, running a small museum devoted to the remarkable birth and lamented death of the currency. The mark was born behind barbed wire in total secrecy in this barracks in 1948 in what became known as the “conclave of Rothwesten”. The currency met an early death at the age of 50 in 1998 (though notes and coins were in circulation until 2001). But as the German opinion polls show every week at the moment, 30%-40% are hoping for a resurrection.

“Certainly for the older generation,” said Niesel, “the feeling is very much one of nostalgia — ‘if only we had the D-mark again’.” The sentiment is hardly surprising given the turmoil besetting the D-mark’s successor, the euro.

Only 12 years after it was launched to great fanfare and after early success, the euro is fighting for its short life. Two of the 16 countries using the currency have had to be bailed out, despite the ban on such rescues in 1992’s Maastricht treaty that created Europe’s monetary union.

Following the traumas of Greece and Ireland, Portugal may be next in line. There are worries about Spain.

In Brussels tomorrow the leaders of 27 countries, as well as the heads of the European commission and the European Central Bank, gather for their seventh EU summit this year, all consumed by the crisis surrounding the single currency.

The air of rancour and pessimism is pervasive. Bitterness is widespread, particularly among the smaller EU countries and those who feel they are being bullied by the most powerful.

“There is no appetite anywhere for another Franco-German plan to save the euro,” said an east European government minister.

Taking fright

Jean Asselborn, the foreign minister of Luxembourg, went further: “I can only warn Germany and France against a claim to power that shows a certain overbearingness and arrogance.”

A prime minister of a small EU state was more damning still. “Merkel and Sarkozy think they are the most pro-European leaders ever. But there is no Franco-German leadership. It’s all domestic politics,” he told the Guardian.

The widespread unhappiness, particularly with Germany and the nostalgia there for the rosy days of the D-mark, highlight the tensions gripping Europe as a result of the euro’s year of agony.

The crisis — a delayed impact from the banking and financial collapse of 2008 — crept up and took EU leaders unawares, starting in the Greek government’s confession late last year that its predecessor had been cooking the books for years and that its public debt and budget deficit were careering out of control.

The bond markets took fright, pushing up the risk premiums on Greek borrowing to exorbitant levels and triggering a spiral of panic and brinkmanship that engulfed Ireland and Portugal and exposed the flimsy foundations of the common currency.

The year opened as it ends, with a Brussels summit characterised by misunderstanding and fundamental differences over what to do. “It’s hard to see in policy terms what is the way forward,” said a senior diplomat in Brussels.

In February, EU leaders promised to do whatever it would take to help Greece and protect the euro. The markets attacked harder and called their bluff. In March, for the first time, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, dictated the stiff terms that would have to be met for Berlin to accede to a Greek bailout.

The German backlash was severe, with the media denouncing Greek spongers and feckless southern Europeans while attacking Merkel for betraying the principles supposed to underpin the euro. In May the EU and the IMF bailed out Greece to the tune of €110bn and announced a €750bn shield to protect the euro against a cascade of sovereign insolvencies around the Mediterranean…

           — Hat tip: JLH [Return to headlines]

USA


Femi-Not

The recent feminist “flash mob” in Philadelphia denouncing Israel and supporting the Palestinian jihadists showed yet again the abject failure of feminism and the true face of this phony movement. And that failure has to do with more than just supporting jihadists.

In a recent television interview I gave to CTS Television’s “On the Frontline with Christine Williams,” Williams asked me what message I had for feminists who support the burka, etc. I said, “shame on them.” And I addressed feminists themselves: “I say, shame on you. Shame on your silence when it comes to honor killings and gender apartheid.”

I also said that I am not a good person to ask about feminism “because I am a male chauvinist.” Feminism is a phony movement rooted in Marxist-Leninist ideology.

Peter Schwartz of the Ayn Rand Institute nailed it way back in 1991:

While feminists claim to be pursuing justice for women, it is becoming ever more apparent that their actual goal is the obliteration of justice. More precisely, their aim is to eliminate that which makes justice possible: objective standards. Instead of urging employers, for example, to adopt objective standards of merit in hiring and to apply them consistently to all candidates, irrespective of the (irrelevant) fact of gender, feminists call for the very opposite. They demand the lowering or the suspension of standards, in order to accommodate certain women…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Imam Feisal Rauf: New York Islamic Centre ‘Dream Alive’

Imam Feisal Rauf, spiritual leader of a Islamic community centre with a prayer space planned for lower Manhattan, has had a turbulent 2010.

A year ago, the New York Times wrote about the now notorious proposal just around the corner from Ground Zero, the site of the 11 September 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

“The story broke last December and nobody raised even a blip,” says Mr Rauf, sitting in his office in the Interchurch Centre on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “It wasn’t until the election cycle began that this became used as a wedge issue, and our story was hijacked and misrepresented and the fears of the people were whipped up.”

During a febrile summer, the centre was cast as a victory mosque by its critics, and prominent Republicans including Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin demanded it be moved.

I ask Mr Rauf whether he understands why some family members who lost their loved ones on 9/11 didn’t want a representation of Islam nearby.

“The feelings of the 9/11 families is something I am very sensitive to,” the imam replies. “I have been a member of this community for 27 years, and Muslims died on 9/11, Muslims were responders, we are as much part of the story of 9/11, and we have to be part of the healing and part of the solution.”

‘No misunderstanding’

Michael Burke, whose brother Bill, a firefighter, was killed on 9/11, is one of a group of relatives who strongly object to Mr Rauf’s planned Islamic centre.

Mr Burke says it’s offensive to have a reminder of the religion used to justify his brother’s murder so close to the place where he died. But he also objects to the imam’s belief that the community centre will help bridge the divide between Muslims and the West.

“This implies that 9/11 was a misunderstanding,” he says. “9/11 was not a misunderstanding, it was an attack.”

Three months after emotional protests both for and against the Islamic centre on the anniversary of 9/11, a lone policeman stands guard outside 51 Park Place. It’s the only indication that this isn’t just another dilapidated building in lower Manhattan awaiting development. So when will the $120m (£77m) community centre be built?

“The dream is still alive, the intention is still there,” Mr Rauf affirms. “Even if we had all the money today it would be at least two to three years until groundbreaking, then once you finalize your plans, another two or three years to build it.”

The decision by the developers behind the project to apply for a $5m federal grant reserved for the redevelopment of lower Manhattan has infuriated opponents.

“Using federal dollars to build this adds insult to injury,” Mr Burke tells me, pointing out that the developer Sharif El-Gamal has defaulted on loans. Mr El-Gamal told the New York Daily News default was a standard way to negotiate better credit rates, and the matter would be resolved.

Ready to react

Mr Rauf painstakingly explains that the developer has applied “only for programmes around helping veterans, and providing the kind of social services that our centre aspires to provide”.

Careful to draw a distinction between the role of Mr El-Gamal, the developer, and his own spiritual leadership, Mr Rauf is more expansive when talking about the latter. He now wants to see centres around the world where different faiths and traditions can come together and talk, a project he sees as crucial.

“We have learnt a number of things from the crisis of this summer, the most important of which is that the real battle is not between the West and the Muslim world, it is between moderates of all faiths and traditions and radicals and extremists of all faiths and traditions,” he explains.

As this eventful year draws to a close, Mr Rauf reflects on what he has learned.

“The reason why this story has gripped the nation and the world is that it’s relevant,” he says. “It’s about the relationships between Muslims and the wider world, and that’s relevant from Tennessee to London to India.”

Next year is the 10th anniversary of 9/11, which will inevitably mean a renewed focus on the Islamic community centre at Park Place. Mr Rauf is ready.

“We’re committed to the path we’re on right now, so the argument about location is a specious one,” he says.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Julian Assange’s Extradition Not Yet Sought by US

The US justice department has still to approach the UK government about extraditing Julian Assange in spite of one of his lawyers claiming last week that an indictment could be imminent, according to British diplomats.

If the US was about to seek extradition, it is almost certain that the US justice department and other officials would already be sounding out their counterparts in London in detail.

The US attorney general, Eric Holder, is under enormous political pressure to take action against Assange but his officials are struggling to find legislation under which to mount a prosecution.

A congressional committee, the house judiciary committee, today took evidence from a variety of lawyers about the possibility of a prosecution under the espionage act and the legal and constitutional issues raised by WikiLeaks.

There is a growing consensus among US constitutional lawyers and other legal experts, while rehearsing all the problems attached to bringing a prosecution, that Assange will be indicted. But they are doubtful about the chances of extradition from Britain and think it will be harder still from Sweden.

Floyd Abrams, the lawyer who defended the New York Times in the supreme court about the Pentagon papers leak in the 1970s, said today that the chances of a US indictment against Assange were better than even. Paul Rosenzweig, a former deputy assistant secretary for policy in the department of homeland security, put the chances higher, at 80%.

One of Assange’s lawyers, Jennifer Robinson, told ABC News last week that an indictment could be imminent.

But a British embassy spokesman in Washington, asked if the US has approached the British government about extradition, said today: “We do not comment on extradition.” Privately, British diplomats indicated there have been no substantive discussions with the Americans on any impending extradition request.

US lawyers are sceptical about whether Assange could be prosecuted under the espionage act and suggested the justice department was looking at alternatives…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Love for Jesus Can Bring Christians, Muslims Together

We have more in common than we think.

by Ibrahim Hooper, the National Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

The Prophet Muhammad himself sought to erase any distinctions between the message he taught and that taught by Jesus.

(WASHINGTON D.C.) — “Behold! The angels said: ‘O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and in (the company of) those nearest to God.’“

Before searching for this quote in the New Testament, you might first ask your Muslim co-worker, friend or neighbor for a copy of the Quran, Islam’s revealed text. The quote is from verse 45 of chapter 3 in the Quran.

It is well known, particularly in this holiday season, that Christians follow the teachings of Jesus. What is less well understood is that Muslims also love and revere Jesus as one of God’s greatest messengers to mankind.

Other verses in the Quran, regarded by Muslims as the direct word of God, state that Jesus was strengthened with the “Holy Spirit” (2:87) and is a “sign for the whole world.” (21:91) His virgin birth was confirmed when Mary is quoted as asking: “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me?” (3:47)

The Quran shows Jesus speaking from the cradle and, with God’s permission, curing lepers and the blind. (5:110) God also states in the Quran: “We gave (Jesus) the Gospel (Injeel) and put compassion and mercy into the hearts of his followers.” (57:27)…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Muslim ‘Radicalization’ Is Focus of Planned Inquiry

WASHINGTON — The Republican who will head the House committee that oversees domestic security is planning to open a Congressional inquiry into what he calls “the radicalization” of the Muslim community when his party takes over the House next year.

Representative Peter T. King of New York, who will become the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was responding to what he has described as frequent concerns raised by law enforcement officials that Muslim leaders have been uncooperative in terror investigations.

He cited the case of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan man and a legal resident of the United States, who was arrested last year for plotting to bomb the New York subway system. Mr. King said that Ahmad Wais Afzali, an imam in Queens who had been a police informant, had warned Mr. Zazi before his arrest that he was the target of a terror investigation.

“When I meet with law enforcement, they are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders,” Mr. King said.

The move by Mr. King, who said he was planning to open a hearing on the matter beginning early next year, is the latest example of the new direction that the House will take under the incoming Republican majority.

Indeed, Mr. King, a nine-term incumbent from Long Island, said that he had sought to raise the issue when Democrats had control of Congress, but was “denounced for it.” He added: “It is controversial. But to me, it is something that has to be discussed.”

Mr. King’s proposal comes amid signs that deep anxieties about Muslims persist in the United States nine years after the 9/11 terror attacks and an outcry this year over a proposed Islamic center near ground zero in New York City.

Told of Mr. King’s plan, Muslim leaders expressed strong opposition, describing the move as a prejudiced act that was akin to racial profiling and that would unfairly cast suspicion on an entire group.

Abed A. Ayoub, the legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said Mr. King’s effort ignored that Muslim leaders around the country had been working closely with law enforcement officials since the 2001 terror attacks.

“We are disturbed that this representative who is in a leadership position does not have the understanding and knowledge of what the realities are on the ground,” Mr. Ayoub said, adding that Mr. King’s proposal “has bigoted intentions.”

Salam al-Marayati, the executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, also expressed deep concern and noted that his group would be holding a convention this weekend at which members would discuss the impact that the Republican takeover of Congress could have on Muslims.

“He basically wants to treat the Muslim-American community as a suspect community,” Mr. Marayati said of Mr. King. He added that Mr. King was potentially undermining the relationship that Muslim leaders had sought to build with law enforcement officials around the country. Tensions have occasionally erupted in recent years over counterterrorism measures that civil rights groups and others said had gone too far…

           — Hat tip: SF [Return to headlines]



Outrage — Obama’s IRS: “Israel is a Terrorist Group”

By Debbie Schlussel

I can’t believe I’m writing this in late 2010, rather than late 1939.. But Barack Obama’s IRS has decided that Israel is a “terrorist group.” No biggie that it’s only our most loyal ally in the world and that the country is nowhere on the State Department terrorist list. The Obamaniks make it up as they go along.

As you’ll recall, some time ago, I told you about our friend, the indefatigable Harvard grad and patriot, Lori Lowenthal Marcus, the founder and executive director of Z Street and her righteous fight against Barack Obama’s IRS regarding her organization and Israel. I’ve known Lori a long time and she is the real deal—”good people,” as we say. Her organization, Z Street, is one of the most important new organizations fighting Islamo-fascism and Israel-hatred in America and the Western World. With a tiny infrastructure, this superwoman is doing what plenty of Jewish and gentile organizations claim to do—BUT DON’T (Hanan Tudor/fraud “Brigitte Gabriel” fan club alert)—with millions of dollars and much unearned fanfare.

And, as I noted, Barack Obama’s IRS held out on granting Lori’s Z Street tax deductible status, claiming the organization doesn’t share America’s policy views on Israel and the Mid-East. I noted then that this was interesting, since CAIR, ADC, MPAC, ISNA all openly support HAMAS and Hezbollah (both on the State Department terrorist list) and Israel’s annihilation—NOT America’s stated policy in the Mid-East and certainly in contradiction with our country’s stated opposition to Islamic terrorist groups—and yet all of these groups DO have tax-deductible, non-profit status. As I noted, Lori filed a lawsuit, and since then, the IRS has a new response for its denial of tax-deductible 501 (c) (3) or (c) (4) status: THAT ISRAEL IS A TERRORIST GROUP.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Park51 Proponents, Opponents Plot Their Next Moves

For those who consider Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf the embodiment of evil — a wily terrorist sympathizer bent on bringing “stealth jihad” to the United States — the sight of him in a light blue cashmere sweater may feel incongruous. But these days, the imam seems a lot more relaxed than he did this summer, at the height of the furor over Park51. And while the most vitriolic or unfounded accusations have not faded, they pack less of a charge for him now.

After finding themselves on a 24/7 media loop for the better part of the autumn, the imam and his closest allies have recently managed to escape the attention of the press.

But last week, the imam returned to the spotlight with a press release announcing a project known as the Cordoba Movement. The announcement, he said, was directed at supporters of Park 51, “to expand upon the birth of a movement which happened this summer, with the thousands of people who rallied around us from all 50 states of the union and as many countries across the world and all six [sic] continents.”

Echoing the thoughts of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others, the imam thinks the furor over Park51 had more to do with pre-election hype that flared before November’s midterm elections and a campaign of misinformation by opponents and less to do with genuine grassroots opposition.

The issue, he said, “was not really our location.”

“What happened this summer was really the rise of Islamophobia in America,” he said. “Because there were three, four, five other centers at the same time — real mosques that were planned, that were also attacked at the same time.”

Still, the imam thinks he could’ve managed the controversy more skillfully, primarily by engaging with 9/11 families earlier, “and in a much more robust manner.”

Now, he claims those discussions are taking place. And he’s set to hit the lecture circuit at Harvard, Yale, the University of North Carolina and other institutions. At the same time, his wife, Daisy Khan, has been speaking in public. Last week, she addressed Rabbis for Human Rights about what she sees as a nationwide campaign against Islam.

“We are inviting people who consider themselves to be moderates and progressives,” she told the audience, “and they can be people of all beliefs and no beliefs, against the extremists who tend to dominate the discourse.”

Organizers are vague about how much money has been raised for Park51. Some claim nothing has been raised, others, like Daisy Khan, simply say it’s very early in the fundraising process. But the ultimate goal remains $100 million, of which they hope to have $8 million in hand by June. They say the project’s eventual nonprofit status means all financing will be completely transparent.

The plan calls for a 15 or 16 story building, with two separate sections, one with the mosque, the other containing a community center with a swimming pool, wellness center, culinary school and restaurant and a 500 seat auditorium. Park51 supporters say these services are primarily aimed at the lower Manhattan community, rather than Muslims. But there’s also talk of partnering with a Muslim domestic violence group and offering programming that draws secular Muslims as well as more devout ones. The mosque and community center would not only have separate entrances, say supporters, but separate sets of board members as well.

While the people behind Park51 have consciously avoided the media these last few months, opponents have been frustrated by the absence of coverage. And have tried to renew interest in the subject.

Today, in a midtown theater, a group of opponents is premiering a 45-minute documentary, “Sacrificed Survivors: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Mega-Mosque.” The movie is being distributed by the Christian Action Network. While many scenes relive the events of September 11, 2001, others depict, over an ominous score, a number of prominent mosques around the world that had been — according to the producers — Christian or Jewish houses of worship at an earlier time.

“Islam builds on what it conquers,” says one man. “And this has happened for, I guess, hundreds of years.”

One of the people promoting the movie is Andy Sullivan, a former professional karate fighter who’s worked in the construction business for 30 years. He’s even helped build two mosques, he said.

“I got plenty of Muslim friends,” he said. “My kids grow up half a block from a mosque in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. That’s a very, very huge populace of Muslims, in Bay Ridge. As a matter of fact, they call it Bay-root, now,” he said, with a laugh.

But he was outraged at the proposed location for Park51 and said many Muslims he knows are also against the project. In recent months he organized a boycott by construction workers, who said they wouldn’t work on the site. He also organized a boycott of celebrities who’ve endorsed the project, including John Cusack, Mayor Bloomberg, Stephen Colbert and Justin Bieber, who Sullivan claims gave the go-ahead to Park 51 in an interview with Tiger Beat magazine. Sullivan sayid regardless of Bieber’s not-so-advanced age, his children will no longer attend Bieber’s concerts.

“Are my two kids going to derail the Bieber machine?” asked Sullivan. “I don’t think so. But it hurts. He said something that clearly hurt my kids, and hurt me. So, if you’re gonna say statements that hurt, be prepared. There’s gonna be fallout.”

While the people behind Park51 say they’ve been engaging with 9/11 family members, others dispute that. Rosaleen Tallon is the sister of Sean Patrick Tallon, a firefighter who died on 9/11. She said the vast majority of family members oppose the project.

“Imam Rauf went on CNN and stated that they’d met with family members. And maybe they were a token group of people who supported the mosque. But there was never a major outreach to 9/11 family members. But of course, you wouldn’t reach out to a group that you already knew the feelings of.”

Although they haven’t been out demonstrating, opponents of the project have been seething over news that Park51 has applied for funding from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is taxpayer supported.

“So we are supposed to supply the seed money for a Ground Zero mosque?” said Pamela Geller, a leading opponent of the mosque. “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Geller had planned the first anti-Park51 protest in months, for Tuesday. But, in a shift from earlier protests, which drew thousands of people to Ground Zero, this one was going to be smaller, at a committee hearing on Wal-Mart held by the City Council. Geller said she wants to highlight the hypocrisy, as she sees it, of council members failing to oppose Park 51, but continuing to place roadblocks before Wal-Mart.

“That you would keep [Wal-Mart] out, ban them, and yet, the very idea of a Ground Zero Mega Mosque is extolled, and those who suffer — not only the 9/11 families, but all Americans who were attacked that day, and all of America was attacked that day — are derided, and called racist, Islamophobic, anti-Muslim bigots, because of the pain that they’re suffering, it’s outrageous.”

As it turns out, the Wal-Mart hearing was postponed until next month, so the protest will have to wait.

“Whenever it is,” she promised, “we’ll be there.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Playboy Prince of Brunei Jefri Bolkiah Loses $21m Lawsuit to British Husband and Wife

Two British lawyers have won a multimillion-dollar tussle with Brunei’s Prince Jefri Bolkiah.

The five-week trial provided a glimpse into the playboy prince’s jet-set lifestyle as a member of one of the world’s richest royal families.

Faith Zaman Derbyshire, 34, and her husband Thomas Derbyshire, 43, could now walk away with more than £13million after the verdict by a New York court.

In essence the protracted case centered on various claims and counter-claims between a lawyer and his client.

The difference being that this particular client is a fantastically rich prince who is locked in a spectacular royal family feud.

Enlarge Judge’s ruling: Prince Jefri lost his legal battle against London barrister Thomas Derbyshire, 43, and his wife Faith Zaman, 34, and was ordered to pay them £13million by a New York court

Jefri is the youngest brother of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the supreme ruler of oil-rich Brunei. The tiny country is on the island of Borneo in South-East Asia.

The prince is known for living lavishly. He once kept a stable of more than 600 properties and 2,000 cars, according to court documents.

A 2001 auction of some of his possessions featured gold-plated hot tubs and gilded toilet-paper holders.

He also has a set of sexually explicit, life-size, custom-made statues. Their existence emerged in the run-up to the trial, but a judge barred any mention of them in court. During the hearings, which ended yesterday, the prince said the Derbyshires abused his trust to steal from him in various schemes.

They, in turn, said he underpaid them and had given his permission for everything they did…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Poll: Most See Obama Losing in 2012

Most voters don’t believe President Barack Obama will win reelection, or that he deserves to, according to a new poll released Thursday.

Just 29 percent of the registered voters surveyed by Fox News and Opinion Dynamics said they believed Obama would win in 2012; 64 percent said they expected him to lose.

Views of Obama’s ability to get reelected broke down along party lines, with 49 percent of Democrats and 10 percent of Republicans saying Obama would win.

In a similar poll a year ago, 44 percent of the voters said Obama would win.

In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released earlier this week, Obama led a generic Republican presidential candidate, 43 to 39 percent, and specific candidates by even larger margins.

Views of whether Obama deserves a second term also broke down along partisan lines.

Overall, 35 percent of those surveyed said he deserves reelection. Among Democrats, it was 67 percent and among Republicans just 7 percent.

Among independents, 32 percent said Obama deserves reelection.

The national telephone survey of 900 registered voters poll was conducted Dec. 14-15, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Right Direction or Wrong Track

Just 23% of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken the week ending Sunday, December 12. Down three points from last week, it’s the most pessimistic finding since January 2009. Confidence that the country is moving in the right direction is down to 42% among Democrats from 59% the week before Election Day. Among all voters, confidence in the nation’s current course had been hovering around the 30% mark since last November except for a brief burst of enthusiasm, largely among Democratic voters, just after Congress’ passage of the national health care bill in late March. Seventy percent (71%) of voters say the country now is heading down the wrong track, the highest level found since March. Following passage of the health care bill, this number fell slightly but has since returned to levels found prior to the passage of the bill. Forty-nine percent (49%) of those in President Obama’s party feel the country is on the wrong track. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Republicans and 76% of voters not affiliated with either political party agree…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



The Wrong Way to Prevent Homegrown Terrorism

Following the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009, the attempted car bomb in Times Square in May and a number of other domestic cases, including the recent arrest of a Somali-American teenager in Portland, Oregon, U.S. security agencies are sharply focused on the potential “radicalization” of American-Muslims and how to prevent it. Many look across the Atlantic to the experience of Britain. Following the July 2005 attacks on London’s transport system, a “counter-radicalization” strategy known as Preventing Violent Extremism was introduced. Dubbed Prevent for short, the strategy aims to intervene in the dynamics of Muslim communities to win over hearts and minds and secure allegiance to Western liberal democracy. Prevent has two prongs. First, it seeks to sponsor moderate Muslim organizations to oppose “the ideology of violent extremism” (a British government phrase that is deliberately obscure) and promote accommodation with the West. Hundreds of millions of pounds of government funding have been made available to those willing to take on this task. Second, it seeks to profile individuals suspected of drifting toward “radicalization,” that is, the adoption of extremist ideas. Through an elaborate system of surveillance involving teachers and youth workers among others, would-be radicals are identified and given counseling, mentoring and religious instruction in an attempt to divert them from their extremist views. Many in Washington tout a Prevent-like program as an essential weapon in what they see as the “war within,” the next phase of America’s War on Terror. Governments cannot wait, they argue, until terrorist ideas turn into terrorist actions; there has to be some form of intervention earlier in the process to discourage those ideas from circulating. And in a liberal society, where ideas themselves cannot easily be criminalized, something like Prevent is a viable and necessary alternative, they argue…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



‘Underwear Bomber’ Abdulmutallab Faces New Charges

A Nigerian accused of trying to blow up an airliner with a bomb sewn into his underwear last Christmas has been arraigned on new charges in the US.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was indicted by a federal grand jury on two new charges of conspiracy and possessing an explosive device for a terrorism plot.

The 24-year-old, who fired his court-appointed lawyers in September, failed to enter a plea on the new counts.

He now faces a total of eight charges and, if convicted, life in prison.

Judge Nancy Edmunds entered a not guilty plea on Mr Abdulmutallab’s behalf, according to prosecutors.

Mr Abdulmutallab was previously charged with the attempted murder of 290 jet passengers on 25 December 2009 and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, among other counts.

On a flight to Detroit from Amsterdam, passengers overpowered the Nigerian native after he had allegedly attempted to set off explosives concealed in his underwear.

Judge Edmunds said she would set a date for the trial at a hearing on 12 January.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Union City Case Against ‘Ground Zero Imam’ Moved to Bayonne, Postponed Until Feb. 2

BAYONNE — A February court date has been set in the municipal case of the man known as the “Ground Zero imam,” who Union City has fined for alleged health violations found in September at a building he owns.

The case is to be heard on Feb. 2 at 9:30 a.m. in Bayonne Municipal Court. The case was moved from Union City to Bayonne to avoid any conflict of interest after Union City sued Sage Development, owned by Imam Feisal A. Rauf, and was granted receivership of the property at 2206 Central Ave. by a Hudson County judge.

Union City had sought receivership of the property so it could collect the rents and make the necessary improvements. The receivership lasted from Nov. 9 to Dec. 9. Last week control of the building reverted to the imam.

Union City is seeking to enforce fines on 24 summonses, mostly dealing with a hot water heater and bed bug infestations found in the 16-unit apartment building. The fine for each violation can go up to $2,000. Union City originally cited Rauf’s building with more than 200 alleged violations, mostly for fire code infractions, but the majority have been corrected.

After a 20-minute conference with both sides, Bayonne Municipal Court Judge Frank Carpenter set the February court date to give each side enough time to prepare their case.

Carpenter added that a number of pertinent documents from the Superior Court trial had not yet been received by Bayonne Prosecutor Robert Hennessey or the imam’s lawyer, Tomas Espinosa.

Rauf is the imam who has proposed to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



WikiLeaks Cables: Bradley Manning’s Health is Deteriorating in Jail, Supporters Claim

As Julian Assange emerged from his nine-day imprisonment, there were renewed concerns about the physical and psychological health of Bradley Manning, the former US intelligence operative suspected of leaking the diplomatic cables at the centre of the storm.

Manning, who was arrested seven months ago, is being held at a military base in Virginia and faces a court martial and up to 52 years in prison for his alleged role in copying the cables.

His friends and supporters also claim they have been the target of extra-judicial harassment, intimidation and outright bribery by US government agents.

According to David House, a computer researcher from Boston who visits Manning twice a month, he is starting to deteriorate. “Over the last few weeks I have noticed a steady decline in his mental and physical wellbeing,” he said. “His prolonged confinement in a solitary holding cell is unquestionably taking its toll on his intellect; his inability to exercise due to [prison] regulations has affected his physical appearance in a manner that suggests physical weakness.”

Manning, House added, was no longer the characteristically brilliant man he had been, despite efforts to keep him intellectually engaged. He also disputed the authorities’ claims that Manning was being kept in solitary for his own good.

“I initially believed that his time in solitary confinement was a decision made in the interests of his safety,” he said. “As time passed and his suicide watch was lifted, to no effect, it became clear that his time in solitary — and his lack of a pillow, sheets, the freedom to exercise, or the ability to view televised current events — were enacted as a means of punishment rather than a means of safety.”

House said many people were reluctant to talk about Manning’s condition because of government harassment, including surveillance, warrantless computer seizures, and even bribes. “This has had such an intimidating effect that many are afraid to speak out on his behalf,” House said.

Some friends report being followed extensively. Another computer expert said the army offered him cash to — in his words — “infiltrate” the WikiLeaks website. He said: “I turned them down. I don’t want anything to do with this cloak and dagger stuff.”

When the Washington Post tried to investigate the claim, an army criminal investigation division spokesman refused to comment. “We’ve got an ongoing investigation,” he said. “We don’t discuss our techniques and tactics.”

On 3 November, House, 23, said he found customs agents waiting for him when he and his girlfriend returned to the US after a short holiday in Mexico. His bags were searched and two men identifying themselves as Homeland Security officials said they were being detained for questioning and would miss their connecting flight. The men seized all his electronic items and he was told to hand over all passwords and encryption keys — which he refused. The items have yet to be returned, said House. He added: “If Manning is convicted, it will be because his individual dedication to human ethics far surpasses that of the US government.”

House, who met Manning through friends but came to know him only after his detention, said he was committed to his cause. “Like many computer scientists, I identify with the open government issues at the core of this case.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Will the Afghanistan War Break Obama’s Presidency?

Barack Obama puts a brave face on it. The Afghan war is winnable, he insists. “We are going to break the Taliban’s momentum,” he told US troops at Bagram this month. He repeated the mantra today. But American commentators and analysts, across the political spectrum, are wondering aloud: will it happen the other way around? Will the war break Obama’s presidency?

Obama is not yet the Rose Garden prisoner of a failed policy — the fate that befell a Democrat predecessor, Jimmy Carter, whose administration was taken hostage by Iran’s revolutionary mullahs. But he’s uncomfortably close, for all the determined White House talk.

Obama the presidential candidate talked up the war, spoke of fighting the good fight in Afghanistan in contrast to Iraq, wrote Peter Feaver in Foreign Policy. But Obama the president struggles to communicate his aims, much as he struggled on healthcare. Feaver said:

“The administration’s strategy appears to be to drive the public narrative underground.” In other words, Obama would rather not talk about it unless he cannot avoid it.

This reluctance is political and intellectual. Veteran foreign policy analyst Leslie Gelb, writing in the Daily Beast, said Obama can no longer persuasively answer the basic question: why are 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan, at an annual cost of $113bn?

“Afghanistan is no longer a vital interest of the United States but continuing the war there tears at our own nation’s very vitals,” Gelb said, arguing that international terrorism now has many bases, including Stockholm and London, and is no longer centred in the Hindu Kush (if it ever was). He added:

“With America drowning under a $1.5tn deficit for next year and an almost $15tn overall debt, we are verging on banana republic-hood… Of course I feel for the Afghans; but I feel far, far more for Americans.” Obama’s electoral vulnerability, waging a war he can’t explain and can’t afford, is explored further by the conservative columnist George Will. With US casualties at record highs and public support falling, Will speculated about a repeat not of Carter’s misfortunes but of Lyndon Johnson’s:

“Taliban leaders surely know that North Vietnam won the Vietnam war not in Vietnam but in America. And they surely known the role played by North Vietnam’s 1968 Tet offensive. Although US forces thoroughly defeated the enemy, the American public, seeing only chaos and the prospect of many more years of it, turned decisively against the war.” On this analysis, the all-powerful General David Petraeus can “surge” the reinforcements Obama sent him as long as he likes. Increased violence has the opposite effect to that intended. It strengthens the general’s most potent foes — who stand behind him, not in front of him.

These “foes” include a majority of the public, the CIA (which believes that Pakistani support for the jihadis is fatally undermining the whole counter-insurgency project), many Democrats in Congress, White House containment advocates such as vice-president Joe Biden, and maybe even Obama himself.

To a degree, he was trapped by his own stump rhetoric. But insider accounts suggest Obama knows in his heart he was bounced into an escalating conflict by a bunch of Iraq-tainted military top brass keen to prove they can win a war. He sacked generals McKiernan and McChrystal. But he can’t sack ‘em all.

Obama, of course, is adamant that a phased troop drawdown will begin next July. But the real deadline has been pushed back and back. As they say in Kabul: “2014 is the new 2011”. And even that may not stick, especially if sections of the Afghan security forces continue their impersonation of Dad’s Army.

All the same, next summer may still prove to be showdown time for Obama’s war — for both his presidency and his hopes of a second term. “Obama’s most ardent political supporters are the most fervent opponents of his war policies,” said Feaver. If limited July, 2011 withdrawals “start a rapid rush to the exit”, as the American left hopes, the Republicans whose votes have sustained Obama will desert him. If Obama adheres to Petraeus’s slower, “conditions-based” withdrawal through 2014 and beyond, Obama may lose his political base. “Any remaining left-leaning props undergirding public support will likely collapse altogether,” Feaver predicted…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


“Geert Wilders is No Friend of the US”

“Geert Wilders is no friend of the US”. This comment from leaked US embassy cables printed in July 2009 is reported in British daily The Guardian. The newspaper is one of several partners of WikiLeaks which vet its output.

US diplomats informing President Barack Obama on Dutch politics point out that the anti-Islam Freedom Party was the fastest growing party in the Netherlands.

The remark that Mr Wilders was “no friend of the US” was due to the party’s opposition to an extension of the Dutch mission in Afghanistan and because Mr Wilders “foments fear and hate of immigrants”.

The diplomats refer to “The Wilders Factor: golden-pompadoured, maverick parliamentarian Geert Wilders whose anti-Islam, nationalist Freedom Party remains a thorn in the coalition’s side, capitalizing on the social stresses resulting from the failure to fully integrate almost a million Dutch Muslims”.

Former Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende also is also named in the documents. Initially he is seen as a “Harry Potter” look-alike”, however, the cables go on to say “he has consistently and skillfully delivered cabinet support for US policy objectives while balancing fragile parliamentary majorities.

The document states that Mr Balkenende’s fourth and last coalition was held together more by “fear of early elections than by unity of vision” and that the prime minister hoped to benefit from President Obama’s popularity.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Archaeology: 8000 Year-Old Sun Temple Found in Bulgaria

The oldest temple of the Sun has been discovered in northwest Bulgaria, near the town of Vratsa, aged at more then 8000 years, the Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reported on December 15 2010.

The Bulgarian ‘Stonehenge’ is hence about 3000 years older than its illustrious English counterpart. But unlike its more renowned English cousin, the Bulgarian sun temple was not on the surface, rather it was dug out from under tons of earth and is shaped in the form of a horse shoe, the report said.

The temple was found near the village of Ohoden. According to archaeologists, the prehistoric people used the celestial facility to calculate the seasons and to determine the best times for sowing and harvest. The site was also used for rituals, offering gifts to the Sun for fertility as BNT reported.

This area of Bulgaria was previously made famous because remnants of the oldest people who lived in this part of Europe were found.

Archaeologists also found dozens of clay and stone disks in the area of the temple.

“The semantics of the disks symbolise the disk of the Sun itself, which means that this is the earliest ever temple dedicated to the worship of the Sun God, discovered on our lands,” archaeologist Georgi Ganetsovski told the BNT

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Austria: Iranian Jailed for Rape

An Iranian has been found guilty of raping a young woman on her way home.

The 33-year-old man admitted the sex attack on the 19-year-old in Kaprun, Salzburg, one night last May. The defendant, however, denied having raped a 16-year-old girl in Zell am See in July.

A court in Salzburg sentenced the kitchen worker to 18 months in prison today (Weds).

The accused accepted the sentence. The verdict is, however, not yet legally binding as prosecutors decided to appeal it for being too low considering that the man could have faced up to 10 years in jail.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Austrian Man Convicted for Yodelling While Muslim Neighbours Prayed

Helmut Griese, 63, was found guilty of “ridiculing” their religious beliefs and fined nearly £700 by a court in Graz. Rather than face a protracted court case, with all its attendant legal costs, Mr Griese agreed to pay.

The court heard how the Muslim family regarded Mr Griese as a “grumpy old man” whose open-air Alpine chanting was intended as a taunt aimed at their religion. The retiree was accused trying to “mock and imitate” the call of the Muezzin, who calls the faithful for prayer in mosques. They alleged that he always began his yodelling just as they knelt down to pray.

Mr Griese, however, told the Austrian newspaper Kornen that “it was not my intention to imitate or insult them. I simply started to yodel a few tunes because I was in such a good mood.”

The court heard how things came to a head late in the summer when Griese was both mowing his lawn and yodelling as the Muslim family were praying. Police were called, and he was served with a summons.

Mr Griese was charged the “disparagement of religious symbols” — an offence usually used to prosecute for neo-Nazis who desecrate Jewish graves — and hindering religious practice.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Barcelona: Islamist Stronghold on the Mediterranean

American and Spanish officials say the autonomous region of Catalonia in northeastern Spain is “a major Mediterranean center for radical Islamists” and the United States has proposed setting up an intelligence hub at the US Consulate in Barcelona to counter the growing threat, according to diplomatic cables that were obtained by Wikileaks and published by the Madrid-based El Pais newspaper on December 11.

The three cables, all of which are from the US Embassy in Madrid, say that Catalonia has become “a prime base of operations” for Islamic terrorists; and thanks to uncontrolled immigration the region, it now has a “large Muslim population susceptible to jihadist recruitment.” The documents also provide insights into the extent of the links between Islamic terrorists and organized crime in Barcelona, which the cables call a “crossroads of worrisome activities.” Viewed as a whole, the cables largely corroborate the conclusions of many independent analysts about the huge challenges Spain faces from militant Islam.

A five-page cable, dated October 2, 2007, describes the link between mass immigration to Spain during the past decade and the rise of radical Islamism in the country. The document, which is classified secret and apparently authored by then-Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre, says: “Heavy immigration — both legal and illegal — from North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria) and Southeast Asia (Pakistan and Bangladesh) has made Catalonia a magnet for terrorist recruiters. … The Spanish National Police estimates that there may be upwards of 60,000 Pakistanis living in Barcelona and the surrounding area; the vast majority are male, unmarried or unaccompanied, and without legal documentation. There are even more such immigrants from North Africa. … They live on the edges of Spanish society, they do not speak the language, they are often unemployed, and they have very few places to practice their religion with dignity. … Individually, these circumstances would provide fertile ground for terrorist recruitment; taken together, the threat is clear.”

The cable also describes the “amorphous threat represented by the nexus of terrorism, crime and drug trafficking” in Catalonia, which the document says has become an international magnet for drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering, illegal smuggling, prostitution, organized crime and counterfeiting. Spain-based Islamist extremists are strongly influenced by the Takfir wal-Hijra doctrine, which justifies the use of illegal proceeds to fund jihadist operations, and accepts non-Muslim practices such as drinking alcohol and drug trafficking as a cover for extremist activities…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



‘Belgium Has No Future’

Six months after the general election, Belgium still has no new government. Flemish nationalist Bart De Wever, head of the country’s largest party, wants to split Belgium into two states. In an interview that has caused a scandal in his country, he told SPIEGEL why the nation has “no future.”

Belgium has sunk into political chaos. Following the parliamentary elections six months ago, all attempts to build a new government have failed. The country is divided into two camps that oppose each other, apparently irreconcilably: the socialists, who won the most votes in Wallonia, the French-speaking southern region of the country, and the nationalist conservatives in Flanders, the wealthier Dutch-speaking northern region.

The New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) obtained the most parliamentary seats in June’s elections. Its leader Bart De Wever wants to split Belgium into two. In an interview with SPIEGEL that was published in German on Monday, De Wever described how Begium is the “sick man” of Europe and has “no future in the long run.”

The interview caused a massive outcry throughout Belgium. The French-speaking daily Le Soir called it “a bomb” intended to stir up the markets for Belgian government bonds. The Flemish newspapers were more sympathetic regarding the content of the interview, but criticized its timing.

De Wever himself said he regreted it if anybody felt insulted but confirmed the message of the interview. “I have my opinion and my analysis is accurate,” he said. “There is nothing in the interview that is not true.”

————————————————————————————————————————

SPIEGEL: Mr. De Wever, how much longer do you think Belgium will last?

De Wever: I’m not a revolutionary, and I’m not working toward the immediate end of Belgium. And I don’t have to do that, either, because Belgium will eventually evaporate of its own accord. What we Flemish want is to be able to control our own judiciary, as well as our fiscal and social policy. We feel that foreign policy is in better hands with the European Union. But the nation of Belgium has no future in the long run. It is too small for greater political ambitions, and it’s too heterogeneous for smaller things like taxes and social issues.

SPIEGEL: Using those arguments, Bavaria should have seceded from the Federal Republic of Germany long ago.

De Wever: No, because Bavaria is part of the German democracy. If you look at German history, you can see how the country came about. In Belgium, you see how a country is breaking apart. And the consequences are fatal. In 2003, the German economist Hans-Werner Sinn coined the expression “sick man of Europe,” in reference to Germany. Companies were leaving the country or going bankrupt, and the tax burden on citizens was going up and up. Today Germany is Europe’s locomotive once again, and Belgium, after endless political quarrels, is the sick man.

SPIEGEL: Are you using economic arguments to pursue secession for the Flemish people?

De Wever: Once again, if it were possible to pursue the reforms that are now needed in Belgium as a country, I wouldn’t stand in the way. But it isn’t possible. The Walloons — especially the Socialists, as the strongest party — are blocking all reasonable reforms. That’s why I say: Belgium isn’t working anymore! Belgium is a failed nation.

SPIEGEL: So you want states to become ever smaller, while everyone around you is working toward a large, unified Europe?

De Wever: The developments in Europe and, most of all, the introduction of the euro, make partition much easier. I used to think that if we got rid of the Belgian franc, it would lead to economic disaster. Today both parts of Belgium simply continue to use the euro.

SPIEGEL: It’s always said that the last few things holding Belgium together are beer, football and the royal family. But the Flemish and the Walloons each have their own beer, while the country’s football is second-class and not worthy of collective identification. That leaves the king.

De Wever: Many people have a romantic notion of the monarchy. Even in republican France, the president puts on monarchist airs. But the monarchy is part of the Ancien Régime, part of the past. The king isn’t important to me.

SPIEGEL: But he is the one who charges politicians with the formation of a government.

De Wever: The fact that the king still plays a political role is a problem. The king plays an important role in a crisis, taking charge of forming a government. This is a disadvantage for the Flemish, because the king doesn’t think the way we do. It’s an advantage for the Walloons, because they are allied with him. We favor a republic.

SPIEGEL: It’s been half a year since the parliamentary election, and Belgium still has no government. Has the king failed?

De Wever: That’s a very dangerous question, because SPIEGEL is also read in Belgium.

SPIEGEL: Just be honest…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Boozing Innovation: Ukrainian Firm Hires Out Drinking Buddies

It’s cheap at the price — for 14 euros, a Ukrainian firm hires out drinking buddies to help while away the evenings in the industrial town of Dniprodzerzhynsk. The service is proving very popular.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Bread Like Baby Jesus? A Brief History of German Christmas Sweets

Germany’s favourite Christmas sweets include spiced Lebkuchen and Spekulatius cookies, as well as the raisin-filled, sugar-coated bread Stollen. But where do they come from? The Local explains some tasty holiday traditions.

The art of baking Lebkuchen began in monasteries during the Middle Ages, when the word leb meant “remedy.” The medicinal herbs and spices grown in monastery gardens — including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, aniseed and cardamom — were baked into the honey cookies as a symbol of the healing brought to the world by Christ’s birth.

Now supermarkets sell ready-made spice packets for the yeast-free cookies, which often use thin white wafers as a base. The ingredients of different regional versions sold at stores and Christmas markets are now state regulated to preserve the their tradition.

Click here for photos of the traditional sweets.

Click here for The Local’s visual guide to Christmas markets.

The shortbread cookies called Spekulatius are most closely connected with December 5, when Germans celebrate St. Nikolaus. The name is thought to be related to the Latin word for bishop, “speculator.”

The spiced cookies, which contain cloves, cinnamon and cardamom, are traditionally stamped with a variety of images of St. Nikolaus as a bishop.

Christstollen or just Stollen, as the loaves of sweet raisin bread are known, was first recorded in 1330 at a Naumberg monastery. Said to resemble the swaddled baby Jesus, the original loaves contained ingredients acceptable for Advent fasting — just water, oat flour, yeast and oil.

But after Pope Innocence VIII himself granted permission for butter to be used in the dough in 1491, Stollen developed into a special Christmas sweet and are said to taste best after a few months in the pantry. The basic form now contains raisins and sometimes also candied citrus peels. But variations include almonds, marzipan and even carrots now abound.

Some 150 years after the existence of Stollen was recorded in Naumberg, a similar Christmas bread called Striezel was noted in Dresden. The city and surrounding region are most famous for the bread, and the Saxon capital’s main Christmas market, the Striezelmarkt, was named in its honour, though the bread is now also known as Stollen there.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Chernobyl Woos Tourists With Promise of ‘Negligible’ Risk

The site of the worst nuclear accident in history will be a new tourist attraction, the Ukranian government announced Monday (Dec. 13). The area around Chernobyl is scheduled to open to visitors next year.

Where tourists are allowed to go, how long they may stay, and what they eat will be carefully controlled, government officials say, so the radiation risks are “negligible.”

“They will be properly channeled at all times,” said Vadim Chumak at the Research Center for Radiation Medicine of Ukraine.

Scientists researching the effects of Chernobyl at the U.S. National Cancer Institute declined comment, deferring to Chumak, but an unaffiliated biologist pointed out that many other adventurous vacations (think a steep mountain climb) are not risk-free, either.

The fallout

A nuclear reactor exploded at Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986. The blast knocked the 2,000-ton lid off the reactor and spewed out 400 times more radioactive fallout than the Hiroshima bomb, contaminating more than 77,000 square miles (200,000 square kilometers) of Europe. Roughly 600,000 people were exposed to high doses of radiation. [Top 10 Greatest Explosions Ever]

The exclusion zone around Chernobyl — the highly contaminated area covering a radius of 19 miles (30 km) around the doomed reactor — will be open to visitors next year.

“The visits of tourists would be strictly controlled, so that the radiation risks would be negligible,” Chumak, who heads the Ukraine research center’s laboratory of external exposure dosimetry, told LiveScience.

After the disaster, it was uncertain how contaminated the surroundings were, and in a hurry, the authorities declared an arbitrary distance from the reactor off-limits. Researchers later found that some areas within the exclusion zone contained only low levels of radiation. Also, radioactive material decays over time, and some of it disappeared soon after the explosion.

Still, other areas of the exclusion zone, such as the radioactive-waste disposal sites, the sarcophagus entombing the remains of the damaged reactor, and the Red Forest where much of the radioactive material from the reactor spewed, are still hazards. Radioactive cesium, strontium and plutonium are also still around. Plutonium in particular is expected to linger; it takes thousands of years to decay.

“However, the visits of the tourists would be strictly monitored so that they would not have access to locations with relatively high radiation levels,” Chumak said. “The visitors would be safe from the radiation point of view, as they would not be free to go wherever they want.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Denmark Targeted for Christmas Terror

Stockholm was only the beginning, say Iraqi sources

Last Saturday’s suicide bombing in Stockholm was the first of a series of terror attacks against Scandinavia, according to Iraqi intelligence services.

Norwegian newspaper VG reports that interrogations of al-Quaeda detainees in Iraqi prisons have revealed that the terror organisation is planning further attacks on Scandinavia over Christmas.

The paper also said a source from the Iraqi intelligence service identified Denmark as the main target.

American authorities are currently investigating two people from an as yet unspecified European country on suspicion of planning terror attacks.

According to Iraqi the interior minister, Jawad al-Bolani, the detainees received their information from al-Qaeda in central Pakistan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Notorious Neighbourhood Halfway to Renewal

Plan to rejuvenate Aarhus council estate approved in first round of resident voting

A one billion kroner renovation of the Gellerup housing estate in Aarhus received approval in the first half of resident voting on the plan.

Residents in the Toveshøj area of the estate voted in favour of an overall plan aimed at helping Gellerup shed its image as a ghetto.

The overall plan includes demolition of three blocks of flats. It will also include the construction of a high-rise building with a penthouse restaurant, which is to function as an entrance to a new business district and housing estate.

Tonight, residents of the Gellerup area will place their vote on the issue.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Dutch May Introduce Burqa Ban as Early as 2011

The Netherlands could ban the burqa, the full-body covering worn by some Muslim women, as soon as next year, Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders told Reuters in an interview Thursday.

Wilders’ populist Freedom Party is the third largest in parliament and provides crucial support to the minority ruling coalition in exchange for the government taking a tougher line on Islam and immigration from non-Western countries.

His party has grown in popularity largely because of his outspoken criticism of Islam, which he describes as “a violent ideology.”

“There are not too many people who are willing to fight for this cause. It’s a big responsibility. It’s not only a Dutch problem, it’s a problem of the West,” said Wilders.

He has been charged with inciting hatred against Muslims for comparing Islam to Nazism. The case is due to start over again following a request for new judges.

“We are not a single issue party but the fight against a fascist ideology Islam is for us of the utmost importance,” said Wilders, who argues his comments about Islam are protected by freedom of speech.

Wilders said immigration from Muslim countries “is very dangerous to the Netherlands. We believe our country is based on Christianity, on Judaism, on humanism, and we believe the more Islam we get, the more it will not only threaten our culture and our own identity but also our values and our freedom.”

The burqa ban, which his party agreed as part of a pact with the minority coalition, is due to come into force within four years and possibly as soon as next year or 2012, he said…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Europe’s Collective Suicide is a Done Deal

EUrabia Alert

The elimination of Western culture & civilization is a done deal according to these documents from the planned Euromediterranean Process, of which few have heard. In reality, this is the biggest treason in history — and the most intelligent, done by stealth, lying/concealment, demoralization, dechristianisation, and corruption.

Summary: The EU is fully engaged in the delivery on its promise at the 6. Euromediterranean Foreign Ministers’ Conference in 2003 of the allocation of the EU’s 4 freedoms, including freedom of movement, into the EU. First the EU granted Morocco, now Jordan these 4 freedoms — and the European Union announces that Egypt and Tunisia’s are next. The treaty with Jordan is the first within the framework of the ENP — the European Neighbourhood Policy. This article shows the contents of the agreement: It states to aim at strengthening the multilateral institutions of world governance! Moreover, the agreement will bring visa facilitation and promote the free circulation of people and workers between Jordan and the EU — Jordanians are to have equal social rights in the EU as native Europeans. It will coordinate their social security systems, it will strengthen the fight against terrorism and harmonize the judicial system in Jordan with that of the EU and incorporate Jordan into the EUROPOL and CEPOL, and exchange judicial information and promote cooperation between law enforcement authorities in general. It will increase exchanges of students and trainees and include many more Jordanian students in the Erasmus Mundus and Tempus programs. It will enhance the cultural cooperation and increase Jordan’s participation in relevant EU cultural cooperation programs. And much more. After 3 years negotiations will take place “to lift cooperation to a higher level.”

All these actions in relation to the Muslim “partners” in connection with the alreadystealth, lies/concealment, demoralization, dechristianisation, and corruption. This is the Luciferian New World Order, based on the Talmud.

“You are of your father the devil. There is no truth in him. For he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44). To the Pharisees, the authors of the Talmud, the foundation of the New World Order and here and here. Pres Obama’s media czar , Julius Genachowski is a Talmud Ace to secure “internet neutrality” — a la another Jew, Jay Rockefeller?

We were never told about the Euromediterranean Process and here. And when I asked ministers and MPs for an explanation, any comment was refused. A 2 MEPs of the Danish People’s party flattened the problem so obstinately that it was very suspicious. Our bought and here media has entirely concealed it, the most cowardly way of lying, since it costs us our independence and even our souls — and very few ever heard of it. Nevertheless it is the death certificate of Europe. The Euromediterranean is the biggest lie in history alongside with the global warming lie.

Without any ado, without our media having told us about it, the EU has as of 26 Oct. 2010 granted Jordan an “advanced status” according to its promise to the then 10 “partner countries” at the 6. Euromediterranean Foreign Ministers’Conference in Naples on 2-3 Dec. 2003 of having The EU’s 4 Freedoms , incl. free movement for their citizens in the Euromed. area. The only condition was progress as for democracy and economy. Free movement of persons is so important that i.a. for this reason the EU is now threatening Switzerland, which has tightened her immigration rules. On 13 July 2010 the equally silenced Union for The Mediterranean and here with a parliament of its own and a secretariat was proclaimed for all countries on the Mediterranean coasts except Libya incl. all EU members. This enormous organisation is largely unknown, since it is a piece in the puzzle to create the world state consisting of an re-awakening Rockefeller plan about a North American Union, the Union for the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf and the ASEAN + 3 (China, Japan, Australia). That is why the EU passionately supports a UN Parliamentary Assembly, a World Parliament. And that is why Iran has to be subdued somehow. The below ENP Action Plan clearly mentions “global governance” as the aim — as also stated by EU President, the Bilderberger puppet, van Rompuy.

EU Press Release 6 Dec. 2010: We have agreed on an “advanced status” for Morocco, a country that has made a clear choice to modernise and to strengthen relations with the EU. With Jordan, we have concluded a new “advanced status” Action Plan, and we are discussing similar arrangements with other neighbours, such as Egypt and Tunisia.

However, the Union for the Mediterranean has not brought about the degree of progress we had hoped for in our neighbourhood — especially concerning democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. Both EU Member States and partner countries want stronger relations based on high level political co-operation and deeper economic integration. Civil society organizations are also very supportive of the ENP as a tool to advance shared values and good governance. We develop a framework in which our expectations of partners are spelled out more clearly, as are the “rewards” that our partners will obtain if those expectations are met. Kommentar: Here is Morocco’s Action Plan. Not even that Morocco is breaking the premises of this advanced status is being mentioned in the media. The EU is now fulfilling its promises by granting its “partners” (in the New World Order — see videos on right margin of this blog) “advanced status” one by one! The foundation of this New World Order project is the Barcelona Declaration from 1995.

EU Press Release 26 Oct. 2010: On the occasion of the ninth EU-Jordan Association Council’s meeting of 26 October 2010, the first ever European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Action Plan incorporating the “advanced status” partnership was agreed by the two parties.

“Jordan has become an increasingly significant player, a regional actor and a key interlocutor for the European Union in the Middle East,” stated Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission.

The “advanced status” partnership will be based on the overarching objective of promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the EU neighbourhood. The advanced status is building on the core values Jordan and the EU share, i.e. the rule of law, good governance and the respect for human rights.

The “advanced status” partnership further expanded the areas of cooperation between Jordan and the EU opening up new opportunities in economic and trade relations via a progressive liberalisation in services and the right of establishment, facilitation of market access, progressive regulatory convergence and preparations of future negotiations on a deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement, as well as reinforced cooperation with certain European agencies and programmes. More EU information here.

The Jordan Times 28 Oct. 2010: Jordan and the European Union on Tuesday agreed on the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) Action Plan, under which the Kingdom enters into an “advanced status” partnership with the supranational institution. “This is a great achievement for Jordanian diplomacy. Jordan is the second Arab country to obtain advanced status after Morocco,” Minister of Industry and Trade Amer Hadidi told The Jordan Times yesterday, calling on the business sector to take advantage of the opportunities the agreement presents.

ENP Action Plan for Jordan — an excerpt

After three years, decisions by Jordan and the EU may be taken on the next step in the development of bilateral relations, including the possibility of new contractual links.

“Effective management of migratory flows and facilitation of movement of persons in conformity with the acquis, in particular examine the scope for visa facilitation for short stay for some categories of persons to be defined jointly.”Implement the Jordanian Sustainable Development Strategy, and implement the government’s strategy to reduce poverty • Develop the transport, energy and information society sectors and networks through sector liberalisation, investment in infrastructures and interconnection with EU networks. Notice in particular the marked texts: (28), (40), (41), (46), (48), (63), (64), (65): These taken together with the many other agreements mean mortal danger to Europe’s stability, prosperity and cultural survival.

Quite clearly global governance is mentioned as the aim.

Comment

As I see it these Action Plans with the EU are the New World Order’s death certificates for the European nation states, their cultures and religion. It is a silent liquidation, people seeing it happening under their very eyes — but still they don’t grasp what is actually going on. It is high treason in the usual sense of the word — but like good and evil, right and wrong, truth and lies, all other concepts in the New World Order adopt meanings twisted 180 degrees to what we are accustomed to — so all of a sudden traditional European values are treacherous — to the New World Order antivalues.

The Action Plans open up for a flood of citizens from the “partner Countries”. Now from 1 Jan. 2011, Muslims from the “partner” countries Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania will have visa-free travel into the Schengen zone. And guess where they will go? Well, where the social offers for them are the best, of course. So, a migration is about to take place, 1.3 mio Albanians having applied for passports into the EU, And as the “partners” south and east of the Mediterranean also obtain free access, native Europeans will soon be a minority, which has to keep all those “partners” alive, for the immigrant master race does not work — according to one of their imams. Native Europeans will become slaves or hunted game — unless they convert to Islam, as anywhere where the Muslims have taken power in previously Christian lands. They occupied 30% of our state budgets in Denmark and Sweden in 2001.

Well, that does not concern the decadent native Europeans. The Euromediterranean Process is considered just an insignificant thing by the few who even heard of it. In reality, this is the biggest treason in history — and the most intelligent, done by stealth, lying/concealment, demoralization, dechristianisation, and corruption. This is truly Luciferian…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Fears of Extremism Widen to Scandinavia

Sweden’s recent suicide bombing underscores a growing reality in the terror world: The threat of attacks is spreading beyond locations traditionally considered targets for Islamic extremists.

Scandinavia is emerging as one such new frontier, with a number of arrests and other incidents over recent months in the region, including in Norway and Denmark.

That notion was punctuated Wednesday when the Swedish Security Service, SAPO, issued a report saying that a number of Islamist extremist networks are operating in the country. The groups embrace violence, mostly focused on action against foreign troops in Muslim countries, according to the government-commissioned report into radicalization. SAPO has identified close to 200 individuals domiciled in Sweden, mostly males of varying ages and background, who it says are involved in the groups.

“The most serious potential threat to Sweden is the long-term effects of people from Sweden choosing to travel abroad to join violence-promoting Islamist extremist groups,” the report said. “This type of travel has seen an increase lately and there are currently no signs of falling interest in joining foreign groups.”

The comments come as Swedish authorities continue to investigate the country’s first serious attempt by Islamic extremists at targeting civilians. Police are looking for possible accomplices to the man who died in the suicide bombing Saturday afternoon in Stockholm, near streets frequented by Christmas shoppers, injuring two others.

Western authorities’ focus has traditionally been on the vulnerability of European countries such as the U.K. and Germany. But in recent years, other countries have proved to be potential targets for those with extremist ideas.

“The Nordic countries are not different from the rest of Europe. We are now living in a globalized world,” said Göran Larsson, an associate professor at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, who focuses on Islam.

While millions of Muslims live in Germany and the U.K., Muslims account for a share of Scandinavian countries’ populations that is as large, if not larger. Sweden’s estimated 350,000 to 400,000 Muslims constitute about 4% of the population, says Mr. Larsson, a percentage that is higher than in Germany or the U.K.

The move by Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005 to publish cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad sparked protests by Muslim communities around the world, with demonstrators setting fire to Scandinavian embassies abroad. Under Islamic tradition, images of the Prophet are banned. Further controversy was caused when in 2007 a Swedish newspaper published a drawing by local artist Lars Vilks also depicting the Prophet.

This summer, Norwegian police arrested and charged three alleged al-Qaeda members suspected of having links with those suspected of plotting to bomb U.K. targets and the New York subway system. Police have named the suspects as 39-year-old Mikael Davud, a Uighur who became a Norwegian citizen in 2007; Shawan Sadek Saeed Bujak, a 37-year-old Iraqi Kurd; and Uzbek national David Jakobsen, 32 years old.

Norwegian police allege that from August 2009, the men had been gathering hydrogen peroxide and other material intended for bombmaking and that their targets included Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper that published the Mohammad cartoons, and the Chinese embassy in Oslo.

Norwegian police have charged the men with planning a terror attack and handling explosive materials. Messrs. Davud and Bujak remain in police custody. Mr. Jakobsen has been released but still faces charges. The investigation is ongoing.

Arild Humlen, a lawyer representing Mr. Davud, said his client has admitted to planning an attack, but that it was against the Chinese embassy to protest the treatment of the Uighur people and wasn’t motivated by Islamic extremism. Lawyers for the other two men couldn’t immediately be reached…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Germany Applies Anti-Nazi Laws on Two Non-Violent Pro-Sharia Islamic Groups!

Well, it’s about time that a non-Muslim country gets it right. I tip my hat to Germany for overcoming the politically correct disease, and doing what is necessary to protect Western Civilization. Back in October Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, stated that Muslims cannot live by Sharia in Germany. At the time I remember several people on numerous sites, saying it was just talk. Considering the fact that the West has more than its share of weak leaders, I didn’t blame them for thinking that. But thankfully, she has proven them wrong…

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]



Germany: Cities Still Stripping Hitler of Honorary Citizenship

The North Rhine-Westphalian city of Dülmen struck Adolf Hitler from its list of honorary citizens on Thursday. But the Nazi dictator still retains similar recognition in towns across Germany, experts say.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany’s Mega-Forgery Scandal Gets Even Bigger

It was already thought to be the biggest art forgery scandal in Germany since World War II. Now, documents show that Wolfgang Beltracchi may have been copying early 20th century expressionists since the mid-1980s. He may even have sold one forgery to the artist’s widow.

The establishment known simply as “Das Café,” in the western German city of Krefeld, celebrated an anniversary a few weeks ago. The city’s bohemian community, its artists, hedonists and students — and those aspiring to join them — have been getting drunk there for the last 30 years. Photos of popular guests adorn the walls. A prankster has written the word “Wanted” on the portrait of one former regular.

It is a photo of Otto Schulte-Kellinghaus, one of the bar’s original guests, who once dreamed of becoming the Andy Warhol of the Lower Rhine region. He is now in detention awaiting trial at a prison in Cologne’s Ossendorf district. He has been charged with commercial and organized fraud.

This is the fourth arrest in one of the biggest art forgery scandals in postwar Germany. Also imprisoned in Cologne-Ossendorf are Wolfgang Beltracchi, another former regular at “Das Café” in Krefeld, and his wife Helene. Her sister Jeanette was arrested and then released on bail in November.

Investigators suspect that Schulte-Kellinghaus, Beltracchi and the two women have sold at least 44 apparently forged paintings since the mid-1990s. The accused attributed almost all of the paintings to artists from the first half of the 20th century, including Heinrich Campendonk, Max Pechstein, Fernard Léger, Max Ernst and several others. Most of the works were sold with the story that they were part of the art collection of Cologne businessman Werner Jägers, who was the grandfather of the two suspected sisters. Jägers was said to have bought the works from the renowned art dealer Alfred Flechtheim and hidden them on his estate in the Eifel Mountains of western Germany during the Nazi years.

Turmoil among Auctioneers

The investigators accuse Schulte-Kellinghaus of having placed 14 of the 44 presumably forged paintings on the market, many of them via galleries in France. They included works by Max Ernst that were apparently so expertly forged that even Werner Spies, an art historian and Ernst expert, declared seven of them to be authentic. And the story Schulte-Kellinghaus used to market the paintings is remarkably similar to Beltracchi’s story. He claimed that the paintings, which were supposedly lost, were from the collection of his grandfather, the master tailor Knops from Krefeld.

The Beltracchi’s attorneys are not commenting on the charges at the moment. Rainer Pohlen, Schulte-Kellinghaus’s attorney, has likewise remained silent.

But the scandal has already caused turmoil in the world of auctioneers, gallery owners and art historians. The trade in works by the classic artists of the 20th century was considered a lucrative business, especially after the end of the boom for contemporary art. The works are scarce, prices are rising and values seem to be stable. All that’s missing is an adequate supply of new works. It is certainly possible that, when it came to works with unclear origins, people involved in the trade were not always interested in the whole truth.

Until now, investigators believed that the accused had been active since 1995. But SPIEGEL has learned that Beltracchi’s career as a presumed master forger began much earlier — in the 1980s. Based on files from former investigations and statements of his acquaintances, it appears that Beltracchi provided at least 15 additional paintings, starting in 1985 — bringing the number of suspicious works up to 59. Beltracchi’s attorney refused to comment on this development too. The documents also show that Beltracchi could have been caught in 1996, when the Berlin State Office of Criminal Investigation was on his trail. But the agents were unable to catch him…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Is the Netherlands Too Small for Muslims and Jews?

“Dutch Jews had better emigrate to Israel,” says Islam critic Frits Bolkestein. According to him, the anti-Semitic threats by Moroccan Muslims is great and will only increase.

A Moroccan politician has suggested that the police use officers dressed as Jews to catch the anti-Semites. Less than six months later, Frits Bolkestein has already given up hope and he advises practicing Jews to pack their bags and go to Israel.

Racism and Extremism Monitor

An Anne Frank Foundation project The Racism and Extremism Monitor has been used since 1995 by the Anne Frank Foundation and carried out by Leiden University. The researchers report, amongst other things, on racially-motivated incidents of violence against persons or institutions. It might be a rock through the window of a mosque or synagogue, or a street attack on a Jews or Muslim.

Violence against Jews fell from 58 incidents in 2005 to 18 incidents in 2009. Violence against Muslims increased from 2005, but fell again in 2009. In that year, researchers counted 52 incidents. NB: there are in the Netherlands around 800,000 practising Muslims and approximately 7000 practising Jews (out of a total of 50,000 Jews).

Decrease in violence

Further, the monitor shows that the total number of racially motivated violent incidents over the past five years has been halved to 149, a historically low point since 1991. One reason for this is the decrease of right-wing groups in the Netherlands…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Italy: Appeal Clears Ex-Spymaster and Former Secret Agent Over Egyptian Cleric’s Abduction

Milan, 15 Dec. (AKI) — A Milan appeals court on Wednesday acquitted Italy’s former spymaster Nicolo Pollari and former secret agent Marco Mancini over the 2003 kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric by CIA and Italian agents.

The appeals court cleared Pollari and Mancini by invoking state secrecy, upholding a 2009 ruling by a lower court that they should not stand trial.

Pollari and Mancini were among five Italians acquitted over the kidnapping of Osama Hasan Mustafa Nasr, also known as Abu Omar. Prosecutors had asked for jail terms of 13 years for Pollari and 10 years for Mancini.

But the appeals court gave a nine-year prison sentence in absentia to the CIA’s former Milan station chief in Italy, Robert Seldon Lady, for his role in Nasr’s abduction. The lower court had sentenced Lady to eight years in prison over the case.

The appeals court sentenced two Italian secret service agents, accused of abetting Nasr’s abduction, Pio Pompa and Luciano Seno, to two years and 8 months each in prison.

The lower court had jailed Pompa and Seno for three years each for their role in Nasr’s kidnapping.

The appeals court increased to nine years from seven the jail terms handed in absentia to 23 CIA agents by the lower court.

Nasr’s abduction from a Milan street in February 2003 was specifically mentioned in a secret CIA document released in August by the whistle-blowing Wikileaks website discussing the US as a possible “exporter of terrorism”.

In a landmark ruling in November, 2009 an Italian judge convicted 23 CIA agents and two Italian agents of Nasr’s abduction in broad daylight.

Three other Americans were acquitted on grounds of diplomatic immunity, including the CIA’s former chief in Italy.

All of the Americans were tried in absentia.

Nasr alleges he was flown to Egypt and tortured in prison there.

He was released in 2007 and now lives in the Egyptian city of Alessandria. He is suspected of recruiting Muslim fighters to train in Afghanistan and said he will set up an Islamist party with any legal damages he is awarded.

Nasr and his wife are seeking 15 million euros in compensation.

He could still face arrest if he returns to Italy.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Italy: Centrist Opposition Leaders Announce ‘Third Pole’ Against Berlusconi

Rome, 16 Dec. (AKI) — Italy’s centrist opposition parties have launched an alliance dubbed by media ‘the third pole’ after Italy conservative prime minister Silvio Berlusconi narrowly won parliamentary confidence votes earlier this week.

The alliance includes former Berlusconi ally Gianfranco Fini’s new Future and Freedom party, Pier Fernando Casini’s Catholic UDC party, former mayor of Rome Francesco Rutelli’s tiny Alliance for Italy, and several deputies from the Sicilian Movement for Autonomy.

In a statement released late on Wednesday following talks at Rome’s Minerva hotel, the alliance said it represented more than 100 members of the lower and upper houses of parliament and would prepared a common platform for local elections due early in 2011.

“A new pole is born and it seems solid,” said UDC chairman Rocco Buttiglione.

But Berlusconi dismissed the alliance, which on Thursday, saying it was “dead” and had “no future”.

Casini, who on Tuesday rejected Berlusconi’s offer of an alliance said it did not intend to trigger early elections but wanted to work together in parliament ‘for the good of the nation’.

Should it succeed in forming a coherent grouping, the alliance could mark the end of Italy’s brief period of a UK- and US-style bipolar political system dominated by the ruling conservative People of Freedom party and the main centre-left opposition Democrats.

Berlusconi’s government survived Tuesday’s confidence motion in the lower house of parliament with a wafer-thin majority of just three votes.

The government has been progressively weakened by Berlusconi’s bitter split with Fini earlier this year and by scandals surrounding the prime minister — many involving his relations with women — and other ruling People of Freedom party politicians.

The 74-year-old premier is on trial for graft and tax fraud and his critics say he is too mired in personal scandal and corruption allegations to remain in office.

His government — currently half way through a five-year elected term — has also been criticised for its handling of Italy’s stumbling economy.

Legislation aimed at solving Berlusconi’s legal woes, has taken priority over measures aimed at boosting growth and employment and improving Italy’s international competitiveness, according to Fini and other critics.

Opinon polls have indicated that the ‘third pole’ could draw as much as 20 percent of the vote should Berlusconi — who no longer has an automatic a majority in parliament — be forced to resign as premier and call snap elections.

Rome prosecutors have launched a probe into claims that some members of parliament were offered payments to back the government in Tuesday’s key vote.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Jews Warned About Visiting Southern Sweden

A US-based Jewish group has issued a travel warning urging Jews to exercise “extreme caution” when traveling in southern Sweden.

“We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment,” said Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director of International Relations with the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, in a statement.

“There have been dozens of incidents reported to the authorities but have not resulted in arrests or convictions for hate crimes.”

Samuels, along with Wiesenthal associate dean Rabbi Abraham Cooper, conveyed their concerns for the safety of the Jewish community to Swedish Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask during meetings in Stockholm on Thursday.

The statement emphasised that the travel warning had nothing to do with Saturday’s suicide bombing in Stockholm.

In issuing the warning, the Wiesenthal Centre cited “the outrageous remarks of Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu, who blames the Jewish community for failing to denounce Israel.”

Reepalu, Malmö’s long-time Social Democratic mayor, has come in for criticism over his comments regarding Jews on a number of occasions in the last year.

Speaking to the The Sunday Telegraph in February, Reepalu seemed to deny that Jews in Malmö were suffering from harassment despite police reports showing a doubling in the number of crimes against the town’s Jewish residents between 2008 and 2009.

“There haven’t been any attacks on Jewish people and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel, that is not a matter for Malmö,” he told the newspaper.

Reepalu has also been criticised by Malmö-based Jews for allowing anti-Semitism to fester.

“He’s demonstrated extreme ignorance when it comes to our problems,” Fredrik Sieradzki of the Jewish Community of Malmö (Judiska Församlingen i Malmö) told The Local in January.

“More often, it’s the far-left that commonly use Jews as a punching bag for their disdain toward the policies of Israel, even if Jews in Malmö have nothing to do with Israeli politics. It’s shameful and regrettable that such a powerful politician could be so ignorant about the threats we face,” he added.

According to the travel warning, Jews should exercise “extreme caution when visiting southern Sweden.”

The discussions with Ask, Cooper and Samuels invited Swedish officials to participate in a law enforcement training programme offered by the Wiesenthal Centre and urged Sweden to “strengthen the security of all Jewish institutions.”

“It is unacceptable in a democracy committed to protecting its citizens, that the Swedish Jewish community is forced to pay for necessary upgraded security measures to safeguard their lives and property,” said Samuels.

The Wiesenthal has previously issued travel warnings for Turkey, Dubai, France, and Belgium.

Calls by The Local to Reepalu asking for comment were not returned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: Voters: Wilders Politician of the Year

AMSTERDAM, 15/12/10 — Geert Wilders has been voted politician of the year by the some 30,000 members of television programme EenVandaag’s permanent opinion panel.

Wilders won 17.5 percent of the votes in the annual ‘election.’ Premier Mark Rutte wound up in second place with 16 percent, while third place went to Socialist Party (SP) leader Emile Roemer with 11 percent of the votes.

Labour (PvdA) leader Job Cohen does not appear in the Top 10. He has to be content with 12th place. Last March, he was still favourite for the premiership but his star fell rapidly after a dramatic election campaign.

The parliamentary press recently chose Mark Rutte as politician of the year. Christian democratic (CDA) leader Maxime Verhagen was placed second and Wilders third by the journalists.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: The West Should Take ‘Preventative Action’ Against Iran, Says PVV

The west should launch a preventative attack on Iran, Wim Kortehoeven, MP from the anti-Islam PVV said on Tuesday.

Speaking during a debate on the foreign ministry’s budget, Kortehoeven said parliament is not serious enough about the risk posed by Iran and Islam.

‘That is why we should understand we will have to carry out an act of war…’ he said. ‘There should be preventative action to prevent our own destruction.’

Reputation

During the debate, a number of MPs expressed their concerns about the Netherlands international reputation.

VVD MP Atzo Nicolaï said the decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan had damaged Dutch standing abroad.

But opposition MPs argued the role given to the ‘islamaphobic PVV’ by the current minority government had also hit the country’s reputation.

The debate will continue on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: PVV is Warmongering and Racist, Says Iran

The call by an MP for the anti-Islam PVV for ‘preventive action’ against Iran is a ‘warmongering, repulsive and racist standpoint’ which could be seen to ‘undermine the credibility’ of the Netherlands, the Iranian embassy in The Hague said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, PVV MP Wim Kortenoeven said during a debate parliament is not serious enough about the risk posed by Iran and Islam.

‘That is why we should understand we will have to carry out an act of war…’ he said. ‘There should be preventative action to prevent our own destruction.’

Kortenoeven, who did not go into further details, said later on Wednesday he had not called for the bombardment of Iran, but did support action by the US or Israel against nuclear installations in order to prevent a war.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Two Alleged British Al-Qaeda Militants Killed in Drone Strike

Islamabad, 16 Dec. (AKI) — Britain’s foreign office is investigating reports that two British nationals who converted to Islam and joined Al-Qaeda have been killed in a US drone attack near the town of Datta Khel in Pakistan five days ago.

The men, using the pseudonyms Abu Bakr and Mansoor Ahmed were British citizen’s alleged to be aged 48 and 25, according to UK media sources including the Guardian newspaper.

“We are aware of media reports of the death of two British nationals in Pakistan. Our high commission in Pakistan is seeking further information on these reports,” the British foreign office said in the Guardian report.

If the news is confirmed, it marks the first time British converts would have been killed in northwestern Pakistan, the foreign office further noted.

The report said one of the men, Abdul Jabbar, was being groomed to head an Al-Qaeda group in the UK, charged to prepare a Mumbai-style attack against European targets in Britain, France and Germany.

The US, which does not usually confirm drone attacks, has been ramping up the strikes in the area in recent months as part of an effort to break down groups of Taliban fighters in villages and compounds in the area.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Priest Reveals Sins of the Polish Church

Gazeta Wyborcza, 14 December 2010

“The guilt of my church”, reads the headline on Gazeta Wyborcza’s frontpage. It refers to the letter to the Vatican’s nuncio in Poland, archibishop Celestin Migliore written by father Ludwik Wisniewski, a legendary priest in communist times. In the letter, Wisniewski laments the condition of the Polish Catholic Church, stressing that some members of the episcopate support apparently Catholic initiatives which in fact are “pogan as they inflame and divide the society and the Church itself”. What is more, half of the Polish priests are “infected with xenophobia, nationalism and coyly hidden antisemitism”. Father Wisniewski also accuses his colleagues of not knowing “how to communicate with the constantly changing world” and of “blurring the boundries between the Gospel and politics”.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Resolution to Counter Online Antisemitism Approved by Italian Foreign Affairs Committee

Statement by Fiamma Nirenstein, Vice-president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Chair of the Committee for the Inquiry into Antisemitism, Italian Chamber of Deputies

“Yesterday the Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously approved a resolution that aims to counteract the spread of anti-Semitism (currently experiencing a sharp increase) through the Web, along with xenophobia in general.

This resolution actually sees the Government committed to signing an Additional Protocol to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, which regards crimes of racist and xenophobic nature committed through computerized systems. The Protocol allows investigators to coordinate their actions internationally when they make inquiries into this type of offence, thereby making it easier to apply abroad an existing Italian law on countering racial, ethnic and religious discriminations. In fact, it is difficult to apply this law when investigations are halted by restrictions of a territorial nature, or when the websites spreading propaganda of hatred — and this is often the case — are on foreign servers. With the adoption of this Protocol, it will be possible to move beyond the limitations of our borders…”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Six States Urge EU Ban on Denial of Communist Crimes

Six foreign ministers from former Communist EU countries have said the EU should consider a law against denying or trivialising the crimes of totalitarian regimes in the run-up to a European Commission report on the subject.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Stockholm Bomber’s Family Fear They May be Forced to Leave Sweden

Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly blew himself up in a busy shopping street in the Swedish capital last weekend.

Investigators are now examining whether the former University of Bedfordshire student was groomed by radical Islamic preachers while living in Luton.

While no innocent people were killed in Sweden’s first suicide bombing, the incident has sent shockwaves throughout the country. Now Abdulwahab al-Abdaly’s father, Thamer — who fled Iraq in 1991 and moved to the small Swedish town of Tranas with his family — has told friends he fears they will have to leave their adopted country and go into hiding overseas.

The friend, who is a member of Transa’s small Muslim community said they were living in fear of a backlash.

He said: “I spoke to Thamer because we are friends and I wanted him to know there were still people who cared about him and his family. “But they are absolutely devastated by what has happened. They are thinking about leaving Sweden because they do not feel they can stay here now. “Taimur’s sister Tamara has not dared go back to work and his little sister Tara has stayed at home from school.

“They are worried there is going to be a backlash from right-wing extremists. Tranas is a little town and people are friendly but you don’t know what is being said behind closed doors. The immigrant community here has spent a lot of time building up the trust of the locals but something like this can destroy that trust.” A relative, who also lives in Transa, said there was a lot of anger within the town’s small Iraqi community about the terror attack.

He said: “When Taimur went to Britain some people put the devil inside him. How could he do this to this country. This is not the way to say thank-you to a country for helping you.

“Life in Iraq is very tough and Taimour’s family came here looking for a better life. Taimour was happy in Sweden and as a teenager he was popular with everyone in the area.

“He did not think about Iraq, this was his home. This was not Taimour who did this terrible thing but the devils that these people put inside him. It is not religion. No religion allows someone to do this.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Stockholm Suicide Bomber in Family Portrait With Wife and Her Parents

With his arm around his wife and a smile for the camera, this is Swedish suicide bomber Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly and Mona Thwany, seen together for the first time.

Wearing a full length Islamic dress under her mortar board and gown, Miss Thwany — who wears the burka in public — is the picture of Muslim modesty.

The picture was taken during Miss Thwany’s graduation in 2005 from what is now the University of Bedfordshire, where she received a degree in psychology.

Celebration: Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly stands alongside his wife Mona Thwany as she graduated from the University of Bedfordshire in 2005. Miss Thwany’s parents, Mihaela and Abdul flank the couple

Her parents, Romanian Christian mother Mihaela and Iraqi Muslim father Abdul Thwany, cannot hide their pride in their eldest daughter’s achievement.

Yesterday Miss Thwany’s grandfather Vasile Nedelcovici told how Taimour’s suicide bombing had left the family close to despair.

He said: ‘My wife and I are very upset and very angry about all of this.’

Miss Thwany and the bomber’s three children, Amira, four, Aisha, two, and Osama, six months, were placed in temporary accommodation by the local council while police scoured her home for clues.

It was claimed last night that Abdulwahab was the first of a wave of Christmas terror attackers.

Insurgents captured in Iraq told interrogators that Al Qaeda fanatics were planning a series of suicide missions in Europe and the U.S, and claimed Abdulwahab’s blast in Stockholm on Saturday was just the start.

The warning came amid fears that Abdulwahab, 28, had lured a number of young Muslims into his extremist net during the nine years he spent in Luton.

Yesterday the bomber’s sister-in-law Nora Gharbi insisted the family were ‘shocked and angry’ about his murderous attack.

She said Miss Thwany and the bomber’s three children — Amira, four, Aisha, two, and Osama, six months — had been in temporary accommodation provided by the local council while police scoured her home for clues.

The warning that other bombers are planning Christmas massacres follows a pattern of previous Islamist attacks…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Stockholm Bomber: Police Fear Accomplice is on the Loose — Telegraph

Experts who have scrutinised the recording say someone can be heard breathing in the background as Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly vows to kill innocent civilians.

Almost a week after Abdulwahab blew himself up in a shopping street in Stockholm, injuring two people, detectives have also failed to find any trace of explosives in properties linked to the bomber, suggesting someone else could have made the bombs at an unknown location.

Police hope that if the bomber did meet an accomplice in the days before the bombing, the rendezvous might have been caught on CCTV. Hundreds of hours of recordings from CCTV cameras in Stockholm and his home town of Tranas have been seized and are now being scrutinised by investigators.

Johan Ohgren, a sound analyst who has examined the suicide tapes recorded by Abdulwahab in Swedish and Arabic, said: “In the Swedish file it is rather clear that someone is inhaling at the same time as he is speaking.

“I would say that means there are two people, as you can’t inhale and speak at the same time.”

Mr Ohgren added that the sound of someone clearing their throat on one of the recordings also appeared to come from a second person, as it overlaps Abdulwahab’s voice.

“I am very confident that there are two people,” he said. Photographs taken at the spot where the bomber blew himself up showed a walkie-talkie lying on the ground which police believe he was carrying. One theory is that he was using it to keep in touch with an accomplice who might have been close enough to see him, though it is also possible he had adapted the device for use as a remote controlled detonator for a rucksack bomb he had with him.

Swedish investigators are understood to be particularly troubled by the fact that they have found no trace of a “bomb factory” in their searches of Abdulwahab’s home in Luton and family addresses in Sweden. All of the properties have tested negative for explosives, suggesting three bombs used by Abdulwahab — a car bomb, a rucksack bomb and his suicide belt — were assembled elsewhere, possibly by an assistant. Anders Thornberg, of the Sapo security police, said his officers were now “investigating whether there could have been someone else involved in the preparations”.

Meanwhile a close friend of the family who has spoken to Abdulwahab’s father, Thamer, said: “The family are absolutely devastated by what has happened. They are thinking about leaving Sweden because they don’t feel they can stay here now.

“Taimur’s older sister Tamara has not dared go back to work and his 16-year-old sister Tara has stayed home from school.

“They are worried there might be a backlash from right wing extremists.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Suicide Bombing Stirs Sweden’s Far-Right

The bombs had barely exploded in Stockholm’s bustling shopping district before members of the far-right, Islam-bashing Sweden Democrats rushed to their blogs and Twitter feeds. “Told you so,” said one. “Finally” tweeted another. The government and just about every editorial page has warned against blaming Sweden’s growing Muslim minority for the Dec. 11 suicide attack carried out by an Iraqi-born Swede, who appears to have been radicalized in Britain. But the far-right fringe is doing just that in another challenge to Sweden’s famed tolerance, already frayed in recent months by the Sweden Democrats’ entry into Parliament and a serial gunman’s sniper attacks against people with dark skin. Authorities say there’s a risk that even more extreme groups, long marginalized in Sweden, will use the opportunity to advance their positions. “The biggest worry isn’t that the Muslim community will become radicalized but what this means for the view of Muslims in Sweden,” said Erik Akerlund, police chief in Rinkeby, an immigrant suburb of Stockholm nicknamed “Little Mogadishu” because of its large Somali community. While investigating the attack, the Swedish security service is also keeping an eye on any potential reaction from right-wing extremists, said Anders Thornberg, the agency’s director of operations. Those groups have kept a low profile since a series of attacks on immigrants and left-wing activists in the 1980s and ‘90s.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Bomber Linked to Radical Preacher: Report

The man who narrowly missed wreaking carnage in Stockholm with Sweden’s first suicide bombing may have had links to radical Muslim preacher Abu Hamza, media reported Thursday.

They also said that other voices could be heard on an audio message the suicide bomber sent out before Saturday’s attack near a busy pedestrian shopping street in the Swedish capital.

The Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) daily reported, quoting sources with insight into the case, that British police were looking into a possible connection between Taymour Abdulwahab, who is strongly believed to have been the Stockholm bomber and Egyptian-born Hamza.

Hamza, the former imam of the once-notorious Finsbury Park mosque in north London, was jailed in Britain for seven years in 2007 for inciting followers to murder non-believers.

TV4 meanwhile reported that it had hired a sound technician to analyse the audio message the Stockholm bomber sent to police and media shortly before he first blew up his car and minutes later himself.

“There are at least two people” heard on the message, sound technician Johan Öhgren told the commercial broadcaster.

“It is not possible to speak while breathing in. You can clearly hear there is someone else in the room,” he added.

Police have yet to confirm that Saturday’s bomber, who was the only person to die, had helpers.

The bomber was carrying a cocktail of explosives and is believed to have detonated a small charge prematurely, prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand said Monday.

Two other people were injured when his car exploded nearby minutes earlier.

The Expressen daily meanwhile reported Thursday that Sweden’s domestic intelligence agency Saepo would begin probing surveillance video feed from a petrol station in Tranås in southern Sweden, where Abdulwahab grew up.

He is believed to have driven the car he bought in November from there to Stockholm before it exploded Saturday, and police are reportedly scanning the surveillance tapes to see if more people made the trip with him.

Säpo has also requested all pictures of cars that exceeded the speed limit taken by cameras along the route from Tranås to Stockholm on Saturday in the hope of seeing a shot of the bomber and his possible accomplices, Expressen reported.

Säpo and the lead prosecutor on the case were scheduled to give a press conference here Thursday afternoon.

The security service has been harshly criticised in Sweden for not seeing the threatening audio message sent to it from the bomber minutes before the explosion until nearly five hours after the attack.

“It is worrying that it took so long,” terror expert Magnus Ranstorp told the TT news agency Thursday, adding that the delay was “symptomatic of the fact that there has never before been this kind of crisis (in Sweden). The (intelligence) system and organisation is overwhelmed.”

Säpo, which published a report Wednesday saying it knew of some 200 “violence-promoting Islamic extremists” living in Sweden, has also faced criticism after acknowledging that Saturday’s bomber did not figure on the list and had never been on its radar.

The episode also prompted soul-searching in Britain, where Abdulwahab had been living in recent years with his wife and three children, after it emerged the man who would have turned 29 the day after the attack had a reputation for extremist views.

The chairman of a mosque in Luton, near London, where he used to worship said he had stormed out in 2007 after being confronted over his support for jihad.

An Islamist website, Shumukh al-Islam, posted a purported will by Abdulwahab in which said he was fulfilling a threat by Al-Qaeda in Iraq to attack Sweden.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Bomber’s Explosives Identified With FBI Help

Swedish investigators theorise that equipment problems may have caused the Stockholm suicide bomber to divert to a side street, potentially saving many lives. They also claim to have identified explosive material used in the attack.

“We’re trying to create a 100 percent picture of what happened. One thesis we’re working on is that he had some sort of problem with the equipment and therefore headed toward Bryggargatan,” Anders Thornberg of the Swedish security service Säpo told reporters on Wednesday.

Thornberg stressed that this was just a theory, pointing out that the investigation is still in its initial stage.

“We are not ruling anything out and we are holding all doors open … We don’t want to get locked into any specific lead,” he said.

The bomber, strongly believed to be Taymour Abdulwahab, blew himself up on the much less crowded street, just metres from its intersection with Drottninggatan, a bustling pedestrian street lined with shops and eateries.

“Our current picture of the final movements of the bomber was that he had trouble exploding the device and was therefore moving back and forth close to the street where he was found,” Jan Garton, a security chief with intelligence agency Säpo, told AFP.

Investigators have so far refused officially to confirm the identity of Saturday’s bomber, since DNA results from Wednesday’s autopsy have yet to be released, but have not denied other reports that it was Abdelwahab.

Thornberg said formal identification should be clear “within days.”

Investigators also revealed that, aided by explosives experts from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), they have identified the type of explosive used in the blasts.

The investigation into the attack is moving forward, deputy prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnström told reporters.

“Tips are coming in, a lot of people want to provide information and our analysts are working on it. We’ve secured material from two locations. It will take a little time because the explosive material must be analysed,” she said.

“At the moment, we think we know what sort of explosive was used.”

Hilding Qvarnström, who is heading up the preliminary investigation into the suicide bombing, said than an autopsy had been carried out on the body of the bomber.

However, she refused to divulge any of the findings from the autopsy.

Police have yet to determine if the bomber had any helpers, and police and prosecutors refused Thursday to reveal details of the investigation.

“One important priority of the investigation is to know whether he was alone or wether he had accomplices. That’s all I can say for now,” was all Garton would say.

“We expect the work to continue for a long time. We have a large number of resources at our disposal. We’re working with expert authorities in Sweden in an effort to get a comprehensive picture of the bomb,” Anders Thornberg of Swedish security agency Säpo told reporters.

“We’ve examined the bomb site and the car and had made a number of interesting discoveries. I can’t go into what they are.”

Thornberg explained that tests revealed the bombs didn’t contain any radioactive material, but that analysis of the material continued. He added that the sound file attached to an email sent by the bomber minutes before the bombing is being analyzed, as is footage from surveillance cameras.

According to Thornberg, Swedish police and their partners are “doing everything we can to make it safe to spend time in Sweden.”

Jan Garton of Säpo reiterated to reporters in Stockholm Thursday that the current terrorism threat level, which was raised in October to “elevated” would not be raised further for the time being.

“At this point in time we have no reason to adjust our terror threat to Sweden or to Swedish interests,” he said.

A group of around 500 Shia Muslims meanwhile marched throw a Stockholm snow storm Thursday afternoon to comdemn the attack, carrying signs stating “No place for terrorists” and “Peace, Peace, Peace.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Swedish Report Assesses Terrorist Threat

Swedish Security Police have identified almost 200 individuals, mostly young males, as Islamic extremists who advocate violence, but there’s no indication their number is growing, a new report said Wednesday. In a country once considered immune from terrorism, Swedish police say that violence-promoting Islamist radicals do exist in their country and should not be underestimated as potential threats, according to the police study, commissioned months before Saturday’s terrorist bombings in central Stockholm. Sweden experienced its first suicide bombing last weekend, when two explosions killed the bomber and wounded two other people in a district full of Christmas shoppers. Sweden’s radicals mostly focus on “action and propaganda against foreign troops in Muslim countries and against governments they see as corrupt and not representing what the networks consider to be the only true interpretation of Islam,” the report found.

The extremist threat isn’t widespread, according to the report, which the government commissioned in February. “The threat from violence-promoting Islamic extremism in Sweden is currently not a threat to the fundamental structures of society, Sweden’s democratic system or central government,” the summary said. But the radicals are capable of damage, police said. “While violence-promoting Islamist extremist groups do not pose a threat to Swedish society, they are still a threat to individuals and groups, especially in other countries,” the report said.

The police analysis highlighted the disturbing trend of increasing foreign travel by the radicals. “The most serious potential threat to Sweden is the long-term effects of people from Sweden choosing to travel abroad to join violence-promoting Islamic extremist groups,” the police said. “There are currently no signs of falling interest in joining foreign groups.” Swedish authorities are investigating involvement in radicalism by Taimour Abdulwahab, the weekend’s suicide bomber. His e-mails before the bombings said that one reason for the attack was Sweden’s tolerance of Lars Vilks’ newspaper cartoon of the prophet Mohammed as a dog, authorities said. Abdulwahab, 28 — who had lived in Iraq, Sweden and a southern England town known for its Islamic extremists — also cited the presence of Swedish troops in Afghanistan. That cartoon of Mohammed, published in 2007, was also cited in the new report as an example “of local events that may fuel radicalism globally.” Sweden’s radical networks are typically made up of males between 15 and 30 years of age, with varying backgrounds, most of whom were born or grew up in Sweden, the report said…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Terror in Europe: Why Sweden is in the Crosshairs

The people of Sweden are coming to terms with the first suicide bombing on their soil, an attack which stunned the nation and in the words of the country’s foreign minister could have been “catastrophic.” Authorities say that only the premature detonation of Taimour Abdulwahab’s device likely prevented many others from being killed. “Fifty, 60, 70 people could have been killed — this was not amateur hour,” Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense College, told CNN. The incident did not surprise counter-terrorism experts. “For some time Swedish officials have been worried about a growing threat, both from overseas terrorists and from home-grown extremists within the country,” says Michael Taarnby, a Danish terrorism expert, who has extensively researched Islamist militants in Scandinavia. At the heart of Sweden’s unwanted new-found status: cartoons. Three years ago, Lars Vilks published an image of the Prophet Mohammed in a Swedish newspaper. Sweden became an object of jihadist hate, just as Denmark did in 2005 after the publication in a newspaper there of caricatures of the Prophet. In March of this year, authorities in Ireland and the United States broke up a plot to murder Vilks. One of those allegedly involved was Colleen LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman who identified herself online as Jihad Jane. LaRose has pleaded not guilty to providing material support to terrorists. In July ‘Inspire’ magazine, an online magazine by al Qaeda’s Yemeni arm, put Vilks at the top of an assassination list. And a few weeks ago al Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, released a video in which a Swedish member exhorted Swedish militants to kill Vilks. These threats follow an audiotape back in 2007 from Umar al Baghdadi, then a senior figure in al Qaeda in Iraq, who promised “a reward of $100,000 for anybody who kills this Infidel criminal. This reward will be raised to $150,000 if he is slaughtered like a lamb.” Baghdadi also called for attacks against Swedish businesses, including Volvo. There’s an ironic twist in the mention of Volvo. Back in the 1970s Osama bin Laden went on vacation to Sweden because an older brother was trying to buy Volvo trucks for the bin Laden family construction company…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Extremism in Luton: What Went Wrong

PART of Argyll Street, with its two-storey terraces, is currently cordoned off, as Luton’s police scour the house of Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly for evidence about his botched bombing in Stockholm on December 11th (see article). A few doors away lives the aunt of another well-known Lutonian, the founder of the anti- Islamist English Defence League (EDL), Tommy Robinson. Abdulwahab’s fate is a sad reminder of Luton’s ongoing links to violent Islam; the EDL plans a big rally in February which could cause violence of another sort. No wonder Luton, with its large Asian population and aggrieved whites, is on edge. Are these just typical post-industrial woes, or is this seemingly blighted town evidence that British multiculturalism is in crisis?

Sarah Allen, the borough’s community-cohesion officer, dismisses that generalisation. “Apparently we’re sitting at the epicentre of the world clash of civilisations. I don’t see that.” A settlement since pre- Roman times, this town 30 miles north of London was always a crossroads. Today more than 25,000 of its 200,000 or so people are Muslim, many of them Kashmiri, but there are also Slavs and Sikhs.

In a town where Vauxhall, a carmaker, used to employ 30,000 workers and now has around 1,500 there is much to lament. More people are on jobless benefits than the national average. In some wards (mostly heavily Asian ones) child poverty is twice as high as in Britain generally. Social housing and school places are scarce.

Yet a lot is improving. Crime has dropped for three straight years. Exam results are up. On the ground, even strongly Asian Bury Park is a mix of cultures, with the Polish Sklep U Ani food store doing brisk business. And above all town, council, police and religions have come together to fight the well-publicised extremism that, unchecked, could wreck the place.

A campaign launched in January—Luton in Harmony—is more than wishful thinking: 29,000 residents have signed a neighbourly pledge. A school-pairing project is helping children from different backgrounds exchange views. All say that the ructions are the work of small minorities. But their provocations can be hard to resist.

Abdulwahab was other things before he became Luton’s semi-native son. Born in Iraq, he moved as a child to Sweden and then to Britain to study at the University of Bedfordshire. Friends in Sweden say he was radicalised in Britain: how and where is unclear. The Luton Islamic Centre (see picture) claims it threw him out…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Manchester ‘Al-Qaeda Bomb Plot’ Student Abid Naseer Fights Extradition to US

A Muslim student plotted to bomb a British city centre as part of co-ordinated international attacks by al-Qaeda, a court heard yesterday.

UK-based Abid Naseer, 24, a Pakistan national, was the alleged ringleader of a terrorist cell based in Manchester and was arrested just days before the attack was due to be carried out.

But prosecutors decided not to charge Naseer — and he is now facing extradition to America on terror charges.

Naseer allegedly travelled to Pakistan in 2008 and met with al-Qaeda leaders, before returning to the UK. He then used coded emails to update terror chiefs on the progress of the cell which he led, the court heard…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Poor White Boys Still Behind Richer Peers at GCSE… And the Gap is Growing

Poor white boys are still getting lower grades at GCSE than their richer classmates, official figures show.

Just over a fifth (22.8%) of white British boys eligible for free school meals, a measure of poverty, passed five GCSEs, including maths and English, with grade C or above this summer.

In comparison, around half (55%) of white British boys not eligible for free meals reached the target, a gap of 32.2 percentage points. Last year, the gap was 31.8 percentage points.

Held back: Almost a third less poor white boys got good GCSE results this summer than their richer classmates (picture posed by model)

The widened attainment gap comes despite a slight increase in the number of poor children from this background achieving five good GCSEs including the two core subjects.

Today’s figures, published by the Department for Education, break down GCSE attainment by gender, ethnicity and eligibility for the free meals.

The statistics show that all pupils eligible for free meals are still academically far behind their wealthier classmates.

In total, 30.9% of pupils eligible for free school meals scored grade C or better in at least five subjects, including English and maths, compared with 58.4% of those not eligible.

This is an achievement gap of 27.6 percentage points, compared with 27.7 percentage points last year.

Pupils from some ethnic minority backgrounds are the best GCSE performers.

Those with a Chinese background were among the best, scoring 20.3 percentage points above the national level for results…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Rejecting Appeal, Judge Orders WikiLeaks Founder Ordered Freed on Bail

A London court on Thursday ordered that Julian Assange, the founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, be released on bail while he fights extradition to Sweden for questioning in connection with accusations that he broke rape and other laws.

The High Court decision reversed a ruling two days ago to deny bail. The terms Thursday included strict conditions on where he may live until another hearing on Jan. 11.

[Return to headlines]



UK: Siege of Sidney Street Memorial: Policemen Honoured on 100th Anniversary

Three policemen murdered by a gang of eastern European anarchists during a botched burglary were remembered today on the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

Two other police officers were also left crippled for life following the raid in Houndsditch, City of London, in what remains the joint worst police shooting in history.

The killings led two and a half weeks later to the famous Siege of Sidney Street, in which two of the suspects and a firefighter died.

When the gunmen were tracked down, then Home Secretary Winston Churchill was in the huge crowd watching from the sidelines as hundreds of police officers and a company of Scots Guards engaged in a fierce gun battle with gang members holed up in 100 Sidney Street in Stepney, east London.

Today the men killed in Houndsdich -Sergeant Robert Bentley, 36, Sergeant Charles Tucker, 46, and Pc Walter Choat, 34, were remembered…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Uni Bosses Axe Islam Course

Manchester Metropolitan University has pulled the plug on its Islamic Studies course after just four students signed up. It has run a two-year course on the religion and Middle-Eastern societies for the past two decades.

But managers are now calling time on the subject, arguing that the numbers are unsustainable.

More than 400 lecturers and students have now signed a petition arguing for the course to keep going.

Lucinda Lavelle, a fourth-year student, said other universities were seeing a boom in Middle Eastern studies amid renewed interest in world affairs.

She argued MMU bosses should give the course more time, saying: “At a time when all other institutions in the UK and Europe are expanding and encouraging teaching of the culture and the politics of the Islamic world, MMU is planning not to recruit new students on this programme from September 2010.

“The courses on this programme are unique and they encourage young Muslims and non-Muslims to study together to promote tolerance and understanding and respect for Islamic culture at a time when it is under attack.”

The cuts come after vice-chancellor John Brooks warned that higher education institutions could not afford to ignore market forces.

An MMU spokesman said there had been single-figure demand for the course for many years.

He said: “It is very disappointing that this course has not been more popular.

“We do offer Islamic studies elements as a part of other politics courses but the demand for a single subject qualification is extremely low.”

Existing students on the course will be allowed to finish their course next year.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Victims of Overseas Terrorist Attack to Receive Government Support

Funds will also be available to the families of those killed in overseas atrocities to pay for them repatriate their bodies.

But there is likely to be criticism that victims of terrorist attacks which take place overseas are still being denied compensation. And the move is not retrospective, meaning that those caught up in outrages such as the 2002 Bali bomb and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai will not receive any new cash.

Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, whose brother was killed in the Bali blast, said: “I am very pleased that this has happened, but we are only half way there.

“I have been campaigning for a long time along with the families of others caught up in terrorist incidents overseas to have the same package as is offered to those in attacks at home, including access to the criminal injuries compensation scheme.”

The Government has provided victims with help since 2004, but since 2008 travellers without insurance have been excluded from the scheme, known as Exceptional Assistance Measures (EAM).

This rule was introduced to reflect the fact that many insurance policies exclude acts of terrorism from their cover…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



US Embassy Cables: Barack Obama’s Briefing on Dutch Politics

Monday, 06 July 2009, 12:08 S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 THE HAGUE 000395 SIPDIS STATE PLEASE PASS TO WHITE HOUSE FOR THE PRESIDENT EO 12958 DECL: 07/06/2019 TAGS PREL, OVIP”>OVIP, ECON, EFIN, PINR, MOPS, NL SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS: OVERVIEW FOR THE PRESIDENT’S JULY 14 MEETING WITH DUTCH PRIME MINISTER BALKENENDE Classified By: Charge d’Affaires Michael F. Gallagher for reasons 1.4 ( b) and (d).

Summary Barack Obama is prepared for a meeting with the Dutch prime minister, Jan Pieter Balkenende, in which he is also told that far-right MP Geert Wilders is a “thorn in the coalition’s side”. Key passage highlighted in yellow.

Read related article Mr. President:

1. (C) Your July 14 meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Pieter Balkenende provides an opportunity for us to urge the Dutch to continue as part of NATO in Afghanistan and to enlist PM Balkenende in solving Guantanamo issues. For his part, Balkenende will seek to continue the Dutch role in the G20 and to find a common ground to work with us on climate change and the Middle East.

2. (C) Balkenende, in office through four coalitions since 2002, is a cunning politician who does not impose his vision on coalition partners, but maneuvers effectively to achieve the intended goal. At first, he was dismissed as a lightweight “Harry Potter” look-alike, but he has consistently and skillfully delivered Cabinet support for U.S. policy objectives while balancing fragile parliamentary majorities. Balkenende,s current center-left coalition government (“Balkenende IV”) is held together more by fear of early elections than any unity of vision. The financial crisis has plunged the Netherlands into a recession likely to last through 2010, and the Cabinet must continually defend its three relatively modest stimulus packages against calls to do more to spur recovery. Balkenende is also under pressure from a skeptical public to withdraw the Netherlands, 1,800 troops from Afghanistan in 2010. His main coalition partner, the Labor Party, is in decline, having fared poorly in the 2006 national election and the 2009 European Parliament election, and believes rejecting a continuing role in Afghanistan will please its base and may win back supporters.

3. (S) The Wilders Factor: Golden-pompadoured, maverick parliamentarian Geert Wilders, anti-Islam, nationalist Freedom Party remains a thorn in the coalition’s side, capitalizing on the social stresses resulting from the failure to fully integrate almost a million Dutch Muslims, mostly of Moroccan or Turkish descent. In existence only since 2006, the Freedom Party, tightly controlled by Wilders, has grown to be the Netherlands second largest, and fastest growing, party. Recent polls suggest it could even replace Balkenende,s Christian Democrats as the top party in 2011 parliamentary elections. Wilders is no friend of the U.S.: he opposes Dutch military involvement in Afghanistan; he believes development assistance is money wasted; he opposes NATO missions outside “allied” territory; he is against most EU initiatives; and, most troubling, he forments fear and hatred of immigrants.

4. (C) As a result of these currents, Balkenende,s coalition finds itself in a precarious position and could fall within a year (most likely after municipal elections in March 2010). The Prime Minister is aware we want him to deliver continued Dutch boots on the ground in Afghanistan after 2010 and help with Guantanamo detainees. He knows there are high risks/expectations involved in his meeting with you, but we understand he is coming to offer as much as he thinks he can deliver at this time.

5. (S) Balkenende, a long-time champion of U.S.-Dutch relations, seeks to establish a strong relationship with you and capitalize on your popularity. The Dutch public overwhelmingly supported your election in November, and you remain hugely popular here as a beacon of change. Balkenende Qremain hugely popular here as a beacon of change. Balkenende will encourage you to view the long arc of the U.S.-Dutch relationship, not just current bumps in the road (e.g. the likely drawdown of Dutch forces in Afghanistan after 2010). He wants you to see the Netherlands as America,s friend and partner, with significant Dutch contributions to our shared foreign policy priorities: Dutch military presence in Afghanistan and support for NATO; support for U.S. intervention in Iraq; active participation in the EU, NATO, and other multilateral institutions; substantial and sustained foreign development assistance; and a long-standing commitment to promoting human rights, tolerance, and the rule of law. And, he will ask you for a seat at the G-20 table in Pittsburgh as well as for a meeting at the White House in September for the Crown Prince.

6. (C) Balkenende will use your private, one-on-one session to highlight your shared personal values and experiences. He believes social organizations are more effective in promoting change than government. His philosophy is that we must treat…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Balkans


EU Wary of Handling Explosive Kosovo Report

The EU has painfully avoided taking a clear-cut position on a report by the Council of Europe which says Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci was the head of a gruesome crime ring and that EU countries knew but said nothing about it.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Kosovo’s Thaçi: Human Organs Trafficker

by Srdja Trifkovic

The details of an elaborate KLA-run human organ harvesting ring, broadly known for years, have been confirmed by a Council of Europe report published on January 15. The report, “Inhuman treatment of people and illicit trafficking of human organs in Kosovo” identifies the province’s recently re-elected “prime minister” Hashim Thaçi as the boss of a “mafia-like” Albanian group specialized in smuggling weapons, drugs, people, and human organs all over Europe. The report reveals that Thaçi’s closest aides were taking Serbs across the border into Albania after the war, murdering them, and selling their organs on the black market. In addition, the report accuses Thaçi of having exerted “violent control” over the heroin trade for a decade.

Deliberate Destrution of Evidence — Long dismissed in the mainstream media as “Serbian propaganda,” the allegations of organ trafficking — familiar to our readers — were ignored in the West until early 2008, when Carla Del Ponte, former Prosecutor at the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague, revealed in her memoirs that she had been prevented from initiating any serious investigation into its merits. She also revealed — shockingly — that some elements of proof taken by ICTY field investigators from the notorious “Yellow House” in the Albanian town of Rripe were destroyed at The Hague, thus enabling the KLA and their Western enablers to claim that “there was no evidence” for the organ trafficking allegations.

In April 2008, prompted by Del Ponte’s revelations, seventeen European parliamentarians signed a motion for a resolution calling on the Assembly to examine the allegations. The matter was referred to the Assembly’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, which in June 2008 appointed Swiss senator Dick Marty as its rapporteur. He had gained international prominence by his previous investigation of accusations that the CIA abducted and imprisoned terrorism suspects in Europe.

“Genuine Terror” — In his Introductory Remarks Marty revealed some of the “extraordinary challenges of this assignment”: the acts alleged purportedly took place a decade ago, they were not properly investigated by any of the national and international authorities with jurisdiction over the territories concerned. In addition, Marty went on…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]



Mr Blair Has Some Very Bizarre Friends. But a Monster Who Traded in Human Body Parts Beats the Lot

Our former prime minister has some very bizarre friends. A new report from the respected Council of Europe accuses Mr Thaci of overseeing a ‘mafia-like’ organised crime ring in the late Nineties, which engaged in ­assassinations, beatings, human organ ­trafficking and other serious crimes.

The report, which took two years to compile, names Mr Thaci as having exerted ‘violent control’ over the ­heroin trade in Kosovo during the last decade. Figures from his inner circle are accused of taking scores of Serbs captives across the border after the war with ­Serbia ended in 1999, where a number of them were murdered for their kidneys, which were sold on the black market.

In short, the prime minister of ­Kosovo is painted by the report as a major war criminal presiding over a corrupt and dysfunctional state, which ­happens to have been propped up by Western — including British — aid.

And yet this same Mr Thaci and his associates in the so-called Kosovo ­Liberation Army were put in place after the U.S. and Britain launched an onslaught in March 1999 against ­Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. More than 250,000 bombs were dropped, and an estimated 1,500 blameless ­civilians killed.

This was Mr Blair’s first big war, and it paved the way for the subsequent Western invasion of Iraq. The crucial difference is that while the Left in ­general and the Lib Dems in particular opposed the war against Saddam ­Hussein, both were among Mr Blair’s main cheerleaders as he persuaded President Bill Clinton to join forces with him in crushing Serbia.

Mr Blair’s justification for bombarding Belgrade was humanitarian. Unlike Iraq, where the bogus claim of ­weapons of mass destruction was trumped up, there was ­little pretence that ­British national self-interest was at stake. We were acting as the world’s policeman — which was the role we played again, along with the U.S., when we invaded Iraq in March 2003.

Kosovo had been part of ­Serbia since 1912. There is no doubt that the ­forces of President Slobodan Milosevic of ­Serbia had brutally suppressed Kosovar Albanian nationalists in ­Kosovo, many of them led by the Kosovo Liberation Army, who wanted independence.

But both Mr Blair and the ­Clinton administration tended to ignore atrocities committed by Hashim Thaci’s Kosovo ­Liberation Army. Of the 2,000 people killed on both sides in the year before the U.S.-British bombing began, a significant minority were Serbs. A UN report later said that 90 Serb ­villages in Kosovo had been ­ethnically cleansed in the months leading up to March 1999.

President Milosevic finally agreed to withdraw his troops from Kosovo, and the bombing was stopped in August 1999. Tens of thousands of Serbs were then ethnically cleansed by the Kosovo Liberation Army, and driven over the border.

into Serbia.

It would be a brave man who made a moral judgment between the ghastly bully ­Milosevic and the Kosovo ­Liberation Army, but that is exactly what Tony Blair did. He also ignored the inconvenient fact that Kosovo was part of Serbia in international law.

Indeed, there was evidence that Milosevic was prepared to accept a deal put to him by the British and Americans in ­February 1999, but the terms —including unlimited rights of access for an unlimited period by Nato troops throughout ­Serbia — were made unacceptably draconian to the Serbs because by that stage Blair and Clinton preferred war.

Writing about Kosovo at the time, and visiting the province twice after the war, I could not understand why more people in Britain were not worried by Mr Blair’s assumption that he could bomb and invade someone else’s country when he felt like it in order to redress what he believed was an injustice. Those were the days, of course, when most of the media thought Tony Blair could do no wrong.

His military success in 1999 convinced him that Britain could and should play the role of the world’s number two policeman to the U.S. A ­messianic note entered his rhetoric, as at the 2001 Labour party conference, when he raved that ‘the kaleidoscope has been shaken . . . Let us ­­re-order this world about us’.

The U.S.-British legal case for invading Iraq was as feeble as it had been in the case of Kosovo. In fact, Saddam Hussein was a much more egregious genocidal maniac than Milosevic. ­However, while many on the Left had branded Milosevic a ‘fascist’ (actually, he was a barely reconstructed former communist), they were more indulgent of the tyrant Saddam Hussein.

Incidentally, the extremely unpleasant Hashim Thaci wrote an article in The Guardian newspaper praising Mr Blair to the skies as recently as September. The delusion that the ­Kosovo Liberation Army were really not such bad chaps ­persists on the Left.

what happened in Kosovo helped shape subsequent events in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr Blair acquired the mentality of a do-gooding Wild West sheriff who believes he can right wrongs wherever he chooses, and doesn’t care overmuch about breaking the law in the process, or even the ­unfortunate deaths of innocent civilians who get caught in the cross-fire.

It is richly ironic that ‘liberated’ Kosovo should now be a failed, gangster state, with its prime minister, Hashim Thaci, identified by as authoritative a body as the Council of Europe as being directly or indirectly responsible for organ trafficking, as well as corruption and other misbehaviour on an epic scale.

Kosovo finally declared ­independence from Serbia in 2008, but it is far too small and poor — despite having received ­billions of dollars of western aid, much of which may have been siphoned off — to go it alone as a viable country. So the West will be nursing it, and its ­corrupt leaders, for years to come.

Meanwhile, Serbia is still recovering from the shock that was inflicted on it by Britain and the U.S. in 1999, when the cost of the damage caused was put at £38?billion. It, too, has absorbed an enormous amount of aid, most of it from the ­European Union.

Needless to say, neither Mr Thaci nor any of his senior ­comrades in the Kosovo ­Liberation Army have been put on trial, though that could now change. By contrast, numerous Serbs have been tried at the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague — no doubt rightly so — including Milosevic, who died of a heart attack before a verdict had been delivered.

With his messianic certainties, the morally bipolar Tony Blair liked to divide the world into ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’, having presumptuously placed himself in the first category. How fitting that this begetter of war after war should end up by receiving the Golden Medal of Freedom from a monster who traded in body parts.

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Algeria: Zakat Collection Begins With Ashura

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, DECEMBER 16 — The ‘Zakat’ collection kicked off today in Algiers. It is a compulsory charity and third pillar of Islam, as part of Ashura, a holiday in the Maghreb and Sunni countries and a day of mourning instead in countries having a Shia majority, in which the death of the third Imam, Sidna Hussein (the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson and son of Ali) is commemorated. In Algeria it is the “Day of Charity”. “Receive from their wealth an offering (Zakat)…with which you purify and make them virtuous”, one reads in the Koran, “the Zakat which you give in the name of God…will repay you twice-fold”. The amount of the donation is calculated on the basis of profits which remained stable for all of the previous year. The calculation is rather complex and depends on what the individual owns. In general, it corresponds to 2.5% of earnings, which will be given to the poor and used for social work. The state-run daily El Moudjahid has today published the current account of the ‘Zakat Fund’, which citizens can pay into, and reminded it readers that “it is an obligation for all Muslims according to the Sharia”, Islamic law.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Guess What Egypt’s Muslims Do With Christians…

Attacks by Muslims in one of America’s Middle East allies, Egypt, on Christians are intensifying, and experts on the centuries-old conflict over Islam’s claim to pre-eminence say the violence isn’t a surprise.

Among the most recent attacks, which have included shootings, abductions and church burnings, were the assaults against Coptic Christians trying to use St. Michael’s Church in Talbiya for prayer, where officials staged an all-night operation to convert a house across the street from the Christian church into a mosque to oppose Christianity.

International Christian Union’s Joseph Hakim says the attacks aren’t new, as the Copts have been under Islamic attack for years.

“Over the last 10 years, there have been multiple Christian massacres in Egypt. There have been gangsters who have gone to Christian neighborhoods for the last 10 years now. It’s been happening periodically,” Hakim stated.

Listen to the first part of an interview with Hakim: Islam watcher, intelligence analyst and writer Christopher Logan agrees, saying the persecution has deep roots.

“The Coptic Christians of Egypt have been persecuted under Islamic rule for centuries. Muslims invaded and took over what used to be Christian land back in the 7th Century,” Logan observed…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


France ‘Concerned’ At Palestinian Jailed for Blasphemy Blog

France said Thursday it was “concerned” about the arrest of a young Palestinian blogger jailed for posting “blasphemous” remarks online. “France is concerned by the risks of damage to fundamental freedoms and in particular the freedom of expression, contained in the ‘crime of blasphemy’,” a foreign ministry spokeswoman said. “Freedom of religion and of conscience and freedom of expression… guarantee the right to have no religion and the right to express one’s opinions without being harassed,” she told reporters. Walid al-Husseini, 26, was arrested in the West Bank city of Qalqilya at the end of October accused of “blasphemy against the prophet and the Koran” for posts on his blog and on social networking site Facebook. Human Rights Watch, a New York-based watchdog, has urged the Palestinian Authority to either charge him or release him and said his continuing detention without charge is a violation of Palestinian law. A new post appeared on Husseini’s blog page earlier this month in which the author apologises for the offence caused by his blog. “I apologise for the offence I have caused to all religions and especially to Islam with that which was published on the pages of this blog,” it says in a post allegedly written by Husseini. It was not clear how he managed to post the blog entry while being held in jail. On the English-language version of his blog, entitled “Proud Atheist,” Husseini explains why he decided to renounce Islam, describing it as “this hollow faith which, just like any other religion, (is) a mythical ideology put at the service of politics.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



‘The Sea Gave Her Back’: Wonder in Israel as Ancient Roman Statue Buried for Thousands of Years is Uncovered by Storm

A long-lost Roman statue buried for thousands of years has been unearthed by massive winter storms that have lashed the coast of Israel this week.

The mysterious white-marble figure of a woman in toga and ‘beautifully detailed’ sandals was found in the remains of a cliff that crumbled under the force of 60mph winds and enormous 40ft waves.

The statue, which lacks a head and arms, is about 4ft tall and weighs 440lbs. It was found at the ancient port of Ashkelon, around 20 miles south of Tel Aviv…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Iran in Secret Talks on Nuclear Swap in Bid to End Sanctions

The Turkish-led deal calls on Iran to ship about 1,000 kilograms of its low-enriched uranium, as well as its entire 30 kilogram stockpile of 20-per cent enriched uranium, to a safe location.

In return, France and Russia will supply ready-made fuel rods for the medical isotope reactor for which Iran says it has been enriching uranium to 20 per cent — a level which halves the time needed to manufacture weapons-grade material.

“We think the deal is doable,” an official involved in the negotiations said, “but there’s still a lot of detail to be worked through.” Turkish and Iranian negotiators, diplomatic sources say, have met several times to discuss the contours of the deal, which they hope to bring to the table next month at a meeting with an international consortium called the P5+1 — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany.

France, Russia and the United States have also been involved in the negotiations, which began after a meeting between Ahmed Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, and Iranian officials in Bahrain earlier this month.

Earlier this month, talks between the P5+1 and Iran ended in impasse, after it refused to discuss specific nuclear issues. A French diplomat told The Daily Telegraph the discussions consisted of “a lot of monologues”.

Backed by P5 member China, as well as Brazil, Turkey has long argued against harsher sanctions on Iran, arguing that weakening its economy threatens regional stability.

“Turkey does not want to impose itself on the world stage,” said Mustafa Kibaroglu, a nuclear expert at Bilkent University in Ankara, “but it has real stakes here. Shallow, hectoring diplomacy is not going to do it. Iran needs an interlocutor it trusts.” In the US, opinion is divided on the Turkish-led initiative. Last month, several influential senators called on Barack Obama, the US president, to reject any deal until Iran dismantled its uranium enrichment infrastructure.

But Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, recently said Iran could resume enrichment work “at some future date once they have demonstrated that they can do so in a responsible manner”.

“The basic dilemma,” a US diplomat said, “is this: should we pocket our winnings, and ship out whatever low-enriched uranium we can, or hold out for more in the hope sanctions will work?”…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Iran: Obama Uses Engaging Approach in Diplomacy With Tehran

Tehran, 16 Dec. (AKI) — In February 2007 Barack Obama was far from being nominated by the Democratic Party to run for president. But Iranian-American journalist Hooman Majd told Iranian leader Mohammed Khatami that the senator from Illinois could be the 44th president of the United States.

“It won’t ever happen,” Khatami said. The Americans will “never send a black to the White House,” Khatami mused, according to Majad’s book “The Ayatollahs’ Democracy.”

Of course Khatami — then president of the Islamic Republic — got it wrong. But Iran was thrown into a conundrum following Obama’s election: Should the country that in 1979 seized the US Embassy and held its staff hostage take a softer stand toward the world’s most powerful country, journalist Tatiana Boutourline writes in an analysis piece on Thursday in Italian daily Il Foglio.

Obama’s middle name “Hussein” gave the Baptist American a Muslim Middle Eastern flavour, and he had rock star popularity among many Iranians.

As a senator and at the beginning of his presidency Obama proposed reaching out to Tehran with the goal of opening diplomatic channels. After his 2008 election the diplomatic machine was put in motion, said Nasser Hadian, an Iranian foreign policy expert who was involved in forming a policy toward the US in the wake of Obama’s election.

“We met for a number of weeks. We were a group of foreign policy experts called on to elaborate on ways to respond to Obama.”

As Iran was testing the waters for more positive relations with America, Tehran formed an Iranian-American chamber of commerce, according to a diplomatic cable send by the US consulate in Dubai to Washington in Spring 2009, according to Il Foglio, which cited WikiLeaks diplomatic dispatches.

At the end of the day, the decision to speak with America is up to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who always has the final say in national matters, and he wasn’t against relaxing tensions, said former Iranian ambassador to France Sadegh Kharrazi.

“The road to Washington passes through the Supreme Leader,” Kharrazi said.

When thousands of Iranians protested in the streets to contest the results of the June 2009 elections that gave president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a victory, they looked to the new US president for support: Obama you are with us or with them,” said protesters’ placards.

Obama’s support for the protesters was lukewarm, possibly because he was working to convince the Iranian government to scrap its uranium enrichment programme.

The challenge of dealing with Iran was the heart of Obama’s foreign policy, said former US State Dept. Official Aaron David.

“Iran would suck the oxygen out of the room,” he said. “Even Israeli-Palestinian matters were given lesser priority.”

Obama’s diplomacy with Iran follows what many experts deem years for diplomatic failure by the George W. Bush presidency.

“Diplomacy is conducted between people. I worked day and night for three years on Iran without ever meeting an Iranian diplomat,” said Nicholas Burns, former under secretary of state for political affairs during Bush’s presidency.

America’s new way of dealing with Iran is to work with what you have, according to Ray Takeyh, an adviser to Dennis Ross, who councils Obama on policy for the Persian Gulf region.

“It is what it is. It’s their prerogative to select their leaders we can’t do anything about it,” he said.

“We want to inject a dose of rationality in this relationship. To give it a dynamic of two nations that have their differences and common interests. To go beyond the incendiary rhetoric,” according to Takeyh, who said that the US is open to further dialogue but “the door won’t be open forever.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Iraq: Christian Student ‘Abducted in Northern City of Mosul’

Mosul, 15 Dec. (AKI) — Armed militants abducted a young Christian female student from her home in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul. The gunmen burst into her home in Mosul’s Karaj neighbourhood overnight and drove her away to an undisclosed location, according to the Ankawa Christian news website.

It is estimated that of the 100,000 Christians who once lived in Mosul, only some 5,000 are still there following the rise of radical Islam and attacks on the religious minority. The girl is a student at a local technical institute.

Christians are reportedly fleeing Iraq in unpredented numbers following a wave of attacks against the community in Baghdad, Mosul and elsewhere in the country.

An attack against a Christian church in Baghdad on 31 October, left 58 worshippers dead including two priests. It was one of the worst in the spate of attacks that have targeted Iraqi Christians and have left scores dead over the past two months.

Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for an end to the violence against Christians in Iraq.

There have been calls for Iraq to create an autonomous Christian region in the north of the country, where around 100,000 Christians have taken refuge since the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

Many of Iraq’s approximately 500,000 remaining Christians are said to be living in fear of their lives.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Iraq: “Walled” Churches and Checkpoints. Christmas for Iraqi Christians

After the escalation of anti-Christian violence, the government decides to erect concrete barriers three meters high around parishes. Bishop Warda: “Everyone is asking who will now be the next”.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — To defend Christians from potential new attacks during the Christmas season three meter high concrete walls will be erected around the churches in Baghdad and Mosul. The access points to the parishes will be controlled by police equipped with scanners and metal detectors, according to reports by Catholic News Service. The barriers are the Iraqi government’s response to escalating threats and violence against minority religious communities, increasingly the target of crime and Islamic terrorism.

The Christmas celebrations will consist of masses and small parties within the boundaries of the parishes, but there is frustration among the faithful. “The sadness of the people is everywhere. Insecurity and uncertainty are everywhere. The question on everyone’s lips is ‘who is next?” Archbishop of Erbil, Bashar Warda told Aid to the Church in Need. “There’s a certain desperation, but whatever happens, the faithful are determined to celebrate the Christmas liturgy at all costs”.

Bishop Warda said the barriers and security measures make the faithful feel as if “they were entering a military camp. “ In any case, the bishop welcomes the Government’s initiative to ensure security during the important religious holiday.

The massacre of 31 October at the Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad killed 57 people and wounded dozens. At least two thousand Christian families have left the capital and Mosul for fear of new waves of sectarian violence.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Israel Can’t Defeat Hezbollah: Israeli Expert

Israel cannot defeat Hezbollah in a direct engagement and the Lebanese guerrilla group would inflict heavy damage on the Israeli home front if war broke out, a former Israeli national security adviser said Thursday. Though outnumbered and outgunned, Hezbollah held off Israel’s advanced armed forces in a 2006 war and fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israeli territory. The group has a domestic political base and has since bolstered an arsenal that Israel describes as a strategic threat. Tensions between Israel and Hezbollah’s Iranian and Syrian backers have stoked expectations of renewed violence in Lebanon. “Israel does not know how to beat Hezbollah,” said Giora Eiland, an army ex-general who served as national security adviser to former prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Making Friends With the Octopus: Jordan Bows to Iran

By Barry Rubin

Here’s an old joke that applies to the contemporary Middle East. The Lone Ranger was a Western lawman who chased bad guys with his friend, a Native American named Tonto. One day, they were surrounded by dozens of Native American warriors.

The Lone Ranger turned to Tonto and said, “Don’t worry! We can fight them off.”

Tonto replied, “What do you mean ‘we,’ Paleface?”

Or, in other words, if your friend decides he can’t rely on you to get him out of a jam he can always change sides.

Which brings us to Jordan. Let me begin by telling a story I’ve never recounted before. The year is 1990, after Iraq has invaded and seized Kuwait. I’m sitting in a meeting with some high-ranking Jordanian military officers and officials (don’t ask, it’s a long story).

Someone asks what they would do if Iraq’s army appeared on Jordan’s border and Saddam Hussein asked safe passage to attack Israel. Before responding, the highest-ranking Jordanian there leaned over to the man sitting next to him and whispered in Arabic, “Of course, we’d fight them!”

At the time, of course, the Jordanians knew they could depend on their superpower ally, indeed the only country of that type in the world, the United States.

In 2003, of course, Saddam was overthrown. From Jordan’s standpoint, though, he was replaced by Iran as a threat. And just as the Jordanians had wanted and needed American protection from Baghdad now it required that shield to save it from Iran. We already knew this, of course, but the Wikileaks have documented that fact.

Even in 2004, King Abdallah warned Americans about the Iranian threat. According to the State Department cable, Jordanian officials called Iran an “octopus” whose tentacles “reach out insidiously to manipulate, foment, and undermine the best-laid plans of the West and regional moderates.”

According to the Jordanian government, Iran’s “tentacles,” its allies in seizing control of the region and putting into power revolutionary Islamism, are Qatar, Syria, Hizballah, Hamas, and Shia Muslims in Iraq.

Now, however, the king is singing a different tune. In fact, he has just accepted an invitation from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to go to Tehran. It is “imperative,” says the king, “to undertake practical steps for improving Jordanian-Iranian relations.”…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



New Attack Against Christians in Iraq. Girl Kidnapped From Her Home in Mosul

Gunmen broke into the house on the evening of December 15 in Mosul and forcibly abducted the student. Patriarch Ignatius III Younan denounces cover-up of the terror targeting Iraqi Christians.

Mosul (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A new attack on the Christian community in Iraq. On the evening of December 15 armed militants abducted a young Christian female student from her home in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul. The gunmen burst into her home in Mosul’s Karaj neighbourhood overnight and drove her away to an undisclosed location, according to the Ankawa Christian news website. The girl is a student of a local technical institute.

It is the latest in a string of attacks against the country’s Christian community, once 100 thousand Christians lived in Mosul, but now only five thousand live in the area, due to growing wave of religious fundamentalism, and attacks against them. The Iraqi government decided only days ago to protect Christian churches with three meter high concrete walls, to avoid tragic incidents like the attack on the Syrian-Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad Oct. 31.

In his homily of 10 December the Syrian Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Joseph III Younan asked the Iraqi government to ensure the safety of all Iraqi citizens, and particularly Christians, “people who are honest, peaceful and helpless.” The patriarch in the mass in memory of the “46 new martyrs” of the church of Our Lady of Salavation, which took place in the presence of members of the government denounced that “the cover-up of the terror targeting Iraqi Christians is still going on after such a period of time. E it is the responsibility of the Iraqi government to carry out proper and thorough investigations to uncover the terrorist groups who did plan and finance the carnage, of whatever religious or political allegiance they may be, and to bring them publically to justice”.His words were echoed at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on December 15 when Mgr. Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka, archbishop of Baghdad, told the assembly; “Iraq’s Christians live in fear of the future”.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



Sledgehammer Coup Trial Opens in Turkey

The trial of nearly 200 former Turkish military officers began in a court just outside of Istanbul early on Thursday over an alleged plot to overthrow the government.

Prosecutors accuse the 196 officers, including the former commanders of the Turkish navy and air force, of colluding in 2003 to carry out a coup plot nicknamed “Sledgehammer.” Some of the officers could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

The plot first came to light in January of this year after documents detailing the plan were leaked to the liberal newspaper Taraf.

“This is one of the most important trials of this country’s history,” Yasmin Congar, deputy editor of Taraf told Deutsche Welle. He sees the trial as crucial in democratizing the country.

“If the prosecutors manage to go to the end of this, Turkey will be definitely be more democratic and it will be a more secure, and more transparent country,” he added. All of those implicated have denied the charges, saying the much of the evidence is made up of training documents for hypothetical scenarios.

The case, which is expected to take years to complete, could heighten tensions between Turkey’s secular military and the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, which has its roots in Islam.

Anti-AK Party plot

The military is accused of trying to topple Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The Sledgehammer plot is said to have included the bombing of two major mosques in Istanbul, an attack on a military museum by people disguised as Islamic fundamentalists and the provocation of military tensions with neighboring Greece.

The military has seized power in Turkey in three seperate coups since 1960. The army, which sees itself as the guardian of the secular state, has been deeply suspicious of the Islamic-rooted current government ever since it came to power The alleged goal of the attacks would have been to throw the country into a state of emergency, allowing the military to seize control of government from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party.

The once-powerful military has seen its influence wane in recent years, particularly under AK Party rule.

The string of arrests that followed the plot allegations marked the first time in Turkey’s history that such high-ranking officers have faced imprisonment…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Stakelbeck Exclusive: Iran Using Western Mosques to Plot Terrorism?

In the latest episode of the Stakelbeck on Terror show I sat down with a former member of Iran’s powerful and fearsome Revolutionary Guard Corps who infiltrated the group for the CIA..

Perhaps the most stunning revelation to come out of my interview with Reza Khalili was his admission that Iran uses mosques in Europe and the U.S to plot, finance, recruit and train for terrorism.

Reza was personally involved in some of these operations while working for Iran in the Muslim communities of Europe.

Given the current controversies that are raging over proposed mega-mosques, not only at Ground Zero but across America’s heartland, Reza’s insights are vitally important.

You can watch our mosque exchange at the above link.

[Return to headlines]



Turkey: 200 Soldiers on Trial for 2003 Attempted Coup

(ANSAmed) — SILIVRI (TURKEY), DECEMBER 16 — Today near Istanbul a trial has begun for about 200 Turkish soldiers accused of having prepared a coup d’état in 2003 to oust Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pro-Islamic party.

A judge has begun verification procedures for the identity of the 196 defendants in the trial which is being held in the bunker court of the Silivri penitentiary centre with many journalists in attendance.

The defendants, including the former heads of the navy and the air force, risk between 15 and 20 years in jail for “trying to oust the government”. Their defense claims instead that the seized documents on which the charges are based were part of a seminar in 2003 in which military tactics were prepared for different possible scenarios.

It is the first time in Turkey that the role of those in the military, who have always been considered defenders of the secular state and often at odds with Erdogan’s Islamic-inspired AKP party, has ever been placed under accusations in a trial as large as this one.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkish Religious Directorate Puts Foot Down on Seating in Mosques

Seats in mosques and critical claims that their presence causes the Muslim houses of worship to resemble Christian churches were the subject of a Dec. 1 meeting of the directorate’s High Board of Religious Affairs.

The increasing use of seating in Turkey’s mosques “is not compatible with Islamic culture,” the country’s Religious Affairs Directorate has declared, calling on physically healthy Muslims to refrain from sitting while praying.

Seats in mosques and critical claims that their presence causes the Muslim houses of worship to resemble Christian churches were the subject of a Dec. 1 meeting of the directorate’s High Board of Religious Affairs. The board ruled that people who pray while sitting could have “clear consciences” in doing so only if they could perform the rite no other way.

Minor physical ailments or illness should not be an excuse to incorporate seating into the performance of prayer as it presents an “unappealing image” of Islam and could provoke arguments within the community, the board said.

The Muslim “namaz” style of prayer, performed five times a day, is carried out on a small rug and requires worshippers to stand, bow, kneel and prostrate themselves in the direction of Mecca. Offering seating in mosques is thus incompatible with the culture of Islamic prayer, the board said, adding that even the ill or disabled should pray while sitting on a rug on the floor.

In its decision, the board made clear that a description of how to perform the Islamic namaz was described by the Prophet Mohammed both orally and in practice, but allowed that religious responsibility should be determined according to the ability of the worshipper to perform the rite. The board said a “facilitating principle” existed for instances when the ability of the worshipper to perform the rite is exceeded.

According to the board’s decision, people who can stand, but cannot bow, should start praying in a standing position and perform the rest of the traditional motions while sitting down. It made the same recommendation for people who can stand but cannot get up after sitting. Those who can neither stand nor sit on the floor may sit on a stool or chair to perform the rite, the board said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Russia


Moscow’s Riots: The Moscow Mob

MANEZH PLAZA, under the walls of the Kremlin, is a symbolic place in Russian politics. In the late 1980s, thousands demonstrated there against the injustices of the crumbling communist system. But this past weekend, the square saw an ugly scene of rioting nationalist thugs played out. The tacky fountains and underground shopping malls that epitomise the oil-fuelled consumption of today’s Russia can no longer disguise an inherent instability and a growing sense of injustice among different social groups.

The pogroms were sparked by the killing of Yegor Sviridov, a football fan, on December 6th, by a man from Russia’s north Caucasus. Several of the men initially detained for the murder—although not the prime suspect —were inexplicably (some say for a bribe) later released by the police, infuriating Mr Sviridov’s friends. Inevitably their protest turned racist, and the mob turned on people from the north Caucausus, who are formally Russian citizens but have long ceased to be treated as such.

Several thousand football fans and right-wing radicals shouting “Russia for the Russians” clashed with riot police, pelting them with heavy objects. A few brave policemen tried to shelter several swarthy-looking men from the wrath of the neo-fascists. After an appeal from the head of the Moscow police, the rioters were pushed underground into metro stations, where they proceeded to attack anyone who did not look ethnically Russian.

The riots exposed the fragility of the Russian political system, as well as the Kremlin’s impotence. The riot police may be able to disperse peaceful demonstrations, but they appear to be less effective when confronted by an aggressive nationalist crowd, whose views many of them share.

For the Kremlin, it is business as usual. A day before the rioting Vladimir Putin, the prime minister and “alpha dog” of Russian politics, was in St Petersburg, crooning “Blueberry Hill” and performing a Soviet-era homage to the motherland.

But after ten years of consolidating political power and installing “stability”, the Kremlin is struggling to keep a lid on violence. Corruption is undermining the foundation of the state. The day after the pogroms, several migrant workers in Moscow were attacked and a Kyrgyz man murdered by a group of 15 people.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Putin: Moscow Riots Show Need for Stronger Order

MOSCOW (AP) — Violent rampages outside the Kremlin have highlighted the need to strengthen public order and raise police prestige, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday, using the occasion to lash out at liberal critics.

Putin spoke after a weekend rally of 5,000 racists and hooligans in Moscow left more than 30 people injured and raised doubts about the government’s ability to stem a rising tide of xenophobia. Police on Wednesday, however, prevented a replay of the violence between nationalists and mostly Muslim ethnic minorities in the capital and several other cities, detaining hundreds.

Putin struck out at liberal critics who have criticized his government for sending riot police to disband opposition protests.

“It’s necessary to prevent extremism from all flanks,” Putin said, during a call-in session broadcast live on state television and radio. “The liberal community must understand the need for maintaining order. The government exists to protect the majority’s interests.”

He continued the scathing attack, saying that the rallies demonstrated the need to raise the prestige of the nation’s police force. The force has faced public criticism over corruption and other abuses.

“We mustn’t paint them all in black and bring them down,” Putin said. “Or otherwise the liberal intellectuals will be the ones who have to shave their thin beards off, put helmets on and go out on the square to fight the radicals.”

Moscow police spokesman Viktor Biryukov said some of the 800 people detained in the capital on Thursday were released immediately. Others, particularly those found to be carrying weapons, were held for investigation. He said he could not say how many were still in police custody.

Preceding Putin’s comments, his longtime aide Vladislav Surkov, now serving as the Kremlin’s deputy chief of staff, accused critics of the government of helping pave the way for racist hooligans by holding unauthorized rallies. “People were different, but their attitude was the same,” he said in an interview published Thursday in the daily newspaper Izvestia.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, now a fierce Kremlin critic, fired the accusation of fomenting social disorder back at the authorities and at Putin himself.

“They don’t have a shred of evidence that we are stirring up this trouble,” Nemtsov told The Associated Press. “Surkov is personally responsible for flaring up these tensions.”

Many Russian observers in the past have noted links between nationalist groups and some part of officialdom, saying that hard-liners within the government may be supporting nationalists to justify tight Kremlin controls and fend off efforts to open up Russia’s political system.

While Russian police quickly and brutally disperse peaceful protests by anti-Kremlin activists, some nationalist groups have been allowed to hold their rallies freely in recent years. Opposition groups claim that pro-Kremlin youth organizations have hired soccer fans and ultranationalists to carry out attacks on Kremlin critics.

Nemtsov said it was in the Kremlin’s interests to foment tensions so it can use the resulting violence as a pretext to introduce new, tougher laws on public protests ahead of a new presidential election cycle.

Russia votes on a new parliament in late 2011 and on a new president in March 2012. Putin is widely expected to seek another term.

Putin shifted into the premier’s seat in 2008 following two consecutive four-year terms in office, but has remained the nation’s No. 1 leader, overshadowing his protege and successor, President Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev has initiated a constitutional amendment that will extend the presidential term from four to six years starting in 2012…

           — Hat tip: Frontinus [Return to headlines]

Caucasus


Anti-Extremist Muslim Cleric Was Warned of ‘Death Sentence’

A leading muslim cleric has been shot dead in Nalchik — and it is said he knew in advance that he was under threat. Mufti Anas Pshikhachev was gunned down at his home on Dec. 15, gzt.ru reported. But it later emerged that he had expected his violent end after his anti-extremism stance put him in conflict with others. And Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has called on greater security for religious leaders in the North Caucasus.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Interfax-Religion

Investigators are pursuing all possible lines of inquiry into the murder of Kabardino-Balkaria spiritual Muslim leader Anas Pshikhachev, the Investigative Committee said.

“The investigators believe that Anas Pshikhachev could have been murdered for his negative attitude towards radical Islam, and in particular, Wahhabism, which the mufti publicly showed on several occasions,” the committee said on its website.

The murder suspects are both Nalchik residents and have been named as 22-year-old Astemir Mamishev and 20-year-old Azparukh Shamayev, it said.

Investigators have eyewitness accounts containing detailed descriptions of the assailants, as well as strong evidence confirming the suspects’ involvement in the murder, the committee said.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan War Review: Barack Obama Announces ‘Significant Progress’

Speaking as the White House unveiled a review of its Afghan troop surge launched a year ago, he said that “significant progress” had been made and that al-Qaeda’s leadership was “hunkered down” and finding it harder to recruit, train and plot attacks.

“We are focused on disrupting, dismantling and defeating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and preventing its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future,” Mr Obama said, flanked by senior aides.

Striking a note of caution, he added that gains made against the Taliban were “fragile and reversible”, and added that progress has not come fast enough in Pakistan, where terrorists continue to find safe haven.

“I want to be clear, this continues to be a very difficult endeavour,” he said.

Despite the caveats, Mr Obama presented a more upbeat assessment than those offered recently by US intelligence agencies and aid groups working on the ground.

The review came 12 months after the president ordered 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, taking total US military personnel there to 100,000.

The past year has been the bloodiest since US-backed Afghan forces ousted the Taliban regime in 2001 after al-Qaeda had planned the September 11 attacks on Afghan soil.

Yesterday a roadside bomb killed 14 civilians in western Afghanistan and four Afghan soldiers died in a US air strike.

Neither Mr Obama nor the summary of the review offered supporting data for its cautiously positive findings. The president also declined to provide any details about the planned drawdown of troops that he said would begin on schedule in July 2011, which the review said would be “responsible and conditions-based”…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



American Who Stormed ‘Noisy’ Prayer Room in Indonesia is Jailed for Blasphemy

An American has been sentenced to five months in jail in Indonesia for blasphemy and disorderly conduct.

The court in West Nusa Tenggara ruled that Gregory Luke had insulted Islam by storming into a prayer room near his house in Kuta village during Ramadan and pulling out the speaker cables.

Judge Suhartoyo said Luke, 64, had been found guilty of two counts of blasphemy and one of disorderly conduct in August.

The five-month sentence, including time already served, is lighter than the seven months sought by prosecutors.

As Luke has been in custody since September 17, he is expected to be released by mid-February.

Suhartoyo said there were mitigating circumstances for handing down a lighter sentence. ‘The defendant has never committed a crime before, acted politely during the trial and expressed regret for his act,’ he explained.

Suhartoyo said another factor in Luke’s favour was that he was a Muslim and had claimed it was never his intention to blaspheme Islam.

‘There’s also the factor of his advanced age and desire to remain in Indonesia and help develop the tourism sector in Lombok,’ the judge said. Luke runs a guesthouse in Kuta village.

Speaking after the hearing, Luke said he was satisfied with the light sentence. ‘I’m very happy, I feel really good today,’ he said. ‘I accept the sentence that I received.’…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Iran Arrests Eight for Suicide Bomb Attacks

“In a special intelligence operation, Intelligence Ministry personnel succeeded in arresting eight other terrorists behind and related to this crime,” the Islamic Republic’s state-run broadcaster quoted a source at the ministry as saying.

Jundullah, a jihadist group operating in the country’s Sistan-Baluchistan region,had claimed responsibility for the blasts which targetted a Shi’ite religious ceremony on Wednesday. The twin blasts in the town of Chabahar wounded more than 100 people. The official, who was not named, said such attacks were “guided by the enemies’ intelligence services with the aim of creating insecurity and preventing the economic prosperity of the country’s southeastern region.”

Local officials had earlier said “a terrorist related to the attacks was arrested near the border with Pakistan.” Iranian officials had said on Wednesday that one attacker had been killed by police, and that a second had been arrested by trying to flee Iran.

Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar told state television that the attackers were linked to neighbouring Pakistan and that they were trained there.

The deprived province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which shares a border with Pakistan and Afghanistan, has witnessed unrest with the mainly Sunni population claiming it is discriminated against…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Karachi’s Ethnic Feuds: Mob Battles

IT IS two months since gunmen rampaged through the labyrinthine Shershah car-parts market in Karachi, leaving 13 shopkeepers dead. But business is still bad. There is fear in the faces and voices of traders. Violence between ethnic groups has been escalating in Pakistan’s largest city and politicians are accused of abetting it.

The slaughtered traders were Mohajirs, a group whose ancestors migrated from northern India at the time of Pakistan’s partition from India in 1947 (mohajir is an Arabic word meaning migrant). The killers are believed to have been Baluchis, whose ethnic homeland is the province of Baluchistan in western Pakistan.

“We are not linked to any political party. We were just doing our business. What was our fault?” says one trader. He describes how the gunmen pulled up the steel shutters of his little shop, shot dead his two sons, aged 24 and 26, and injured a brother who died a few weeks later.

Over the past year, territorial struggles between criminal gangs of Mohajirs, Baluchis and Pushtuns from Pakistan’s north-west have fuelled Karachi’s biggest outbreak of communal violence since the mid-1990s. A Western diplomat in Pakistan ventures that Karachi could even descend into “civil war”.

Containing the violence is proving hard because of the ethnic affinities of Karachi’s main political groups. Many in the city suspect that a lot of the gangsters have ties with politicians, for whom expanded territorial control can translate into more votes. Party workers sometimes forcibly take identity cards from voters in their areas and use them to cast fraudulent ballots.

The dominant political party in Karachi, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), sides with the Mohajirs, the city’s largest ethnic group. The next biggest group, the Pushtuns, tends to back the Awami National Party. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which has led a coalition government in Islamabad since 2008, draws support from Baluchis.

Zulfiqar Mirza, the PPP home minister of Sindh, of which Karachi is the provincial capital, admitted on December 13th that all political parties were implicated in the killings in Karachi. He said that 60 suspected assassins were in custody, 26 of whom belonged to the MQM.

The MQM has some reason to worry about its future political strength. Pushtun ranks have been swelled by tens of thousands of people fleeing the north-west, where troops are battling the Taliban. “There’s a plan to snatch Karachi from the MQM,” says Haider Abbas Rizvi, an MQM member of the national parliament from Karachi. Mr Rizvi denies that his party has any gang ties.

In Islamabad the MQM is in a coalition that includes the other two parties. So the feuding in Karachi could destabilise the national government, which looks wobbly. A small Islamic party, the Jamiat e Ulema e Islam (JUI), said on December 14th that it was withdrawing from the coalition because of the sacking of a JUI minister…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Malaysia : Islam Rejects Religious Pluralism, Says Ikim

Islam rejects the notion of religious pluralism which espouses that all religions are equally good and true, said Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) director-general Datuk Nik Mustapha Nik Hassan.

He said, however, Islam accepted that veracity, truth, goodness and ethics co-exist all religions.

“Islam has always welcomed fairness, honesty and integrity irrespective from where they come from.

“Goodness and ethical beauty should be harnessed to propel the people towards a better direction,” he said when commenting on religious pluralism aired in a newspaper today.

Nik Mustapha said despite differences of religion, national unity should be fostered by advocating the uniqueness of religious traditions while promoting goodwill, benevolence and compassion.

“Devotees of various religions should strive to do good deeds, for example by championing the poor and needy people,” he said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: White Britons ‘Called Steve and Gerry Killed Fighting for Al Qaeda in Pakistan’ By U.S. Drone Missile

Two white British men who were fighting alongside Al Qaeda militants in Pakistan have been killed in a drone attack, it was reported last night.

One of the men was identified by Taliban sources as 25-year-old Gerry Smith, whose Islamic name is Mansoor Ahmed, according to the officials. The second was only identified as Stephen, 48, but also goes by Abu Bakar.

The men died five days ago when a Hellfire missile was discharged from a remote-controlled American drone in the town of Datta Khel, in North Waziristan.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



WikiLeaks Cables: Rahul Gandhi Warned US of Hindu Extremist Threat

Rahul Gandhi, the “crown prince” of Indian politics, told the US ambassador at a lunch last year that Hindu extremist groups could pose a greater threat to his country than Muslim militants.

In controversial comments likely to cause a storm in India, Gandhi — considered a likely prime ministerial candidate and a scion of the country’s leading political family — warned Timothy Roemer that although “there was evidence of some support for [Islamic terrorist group Laskar-e-Taiba] among certain elements in India’s indigenous Muslim community, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalised Hindu groups, which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community”.

The 40-year-old politician, the son of the Congress party president, Sonia Gandhi, told the ambassador that “the risk of a “homegrown” extremist front, reacting to terror attacks coming from Pakistan or from Islamist groups in India, was a growing concern and one that demanded constant attention”.

The US view of him has evolved. In late 2007, US diplomats described the young politician, recently appointed to lead the Congress youth wing, as “widely viewed as an empty suit and will have to prove wrong those who dismiss him as a lightweight”.

“To do so he will have to demonstrate determination, depth, savvy and stamina. He will need to get his hands dirty in the untidy and ruthless business that is Indian politics,” one said in a cable entitled The son also rises: Rahul Gandhi takes another step towards top job.

Other cables talk of Gandhi’s political inexperience and repeated gaffes. They also repeat cutting criticism from political analysts and journalists…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



WikiLeaks Cables: US Officials Voiced Fears India Could be Target of Biological Terrorism

US diplomats are concerned that India could be the target of a biological terror attack, with fatal diseases such as anthrax being released into the country before spreading around the world, confidential cables from the US embassy in New Delhi reveal.

A senior Indian diplomat told the US in 2006 that concerns about biological weapons were “no longer academic”, adding that intelligence suggested terror groups were increasingly discussing biowarfare.

“[Diplomat YK] Singh reported that Indian intelligence is picking up chatter indicating jihadi groups are interested in bioterrorism, for example seeking out like-minded PhDs in biology and biotechnology,” a cable sent to Washington reports.

“He compared the prospects for nuclear terrorism (‘still in the realm of the imaginary’) to bioterrorism (‘an ideal weapon for terrorism … anthrax could pose a serious problem …it is no longer an academic exercise for us’).”

Another cable warns that “advances in the biotech sector and shifting terrorist tactics that focus on disrupting India’s social cohesion and economic prosperity oblige the [government of India] to look at the possibility of terror groups using biological agents as weapons of mass destruction and economic and social disruption”.

It also warns terrorists could easily find the material they need for bioterrorism in India and use the country as a base for launching an international campaign involving the spread of fatal diseases.

“The plethora of indigenous highly pathogenic and virulent agents naturally occurring in India and the large Indian industrial base — combined with weak controls — also make India as much a source of bioterrorism material as a target,” diplomats warned.

“Release in an Indian city could facilitate international spread … Delhi airport alone sees planes depart daily to numerous European, Asian, Middle Eastern and African destinations, as well as non-stop flights to Chicago and Newark.

“Terrorists planning attacks anywhere in the world could use India’s advanced biotechnology industry and large biomedical research community as potential sources of biological agents.

“Given the strong web of air connections Delhi shares with the rest of the world and the vulnerabilities that might be exploited at airports, a witting or unwitting person could easily take hazardous materials into or out of the country.”

Though its author admitted the chance of such an attack was slim, the cable referred to Indian government intelligence, passed to the US, indicating that Islamic extremist groups were “seeking to recruit or employ biology/biotech PhD graduates from within India”.

The cable focused particularly on the lack of preparedness of Indian authorities for such an attack, assessing Indian government assurances that the country could defend itself against bioterrorism to be “unconvincing”.

Scientists attached to the US embassy had been shown photographs taken by a senior Indian army officer from “frontline field laboratories for diagnostics of infectious diseases” which “demonstrated a host of poor laboratory security and safety practices, including families sleeping in labs and disposable gloves being washed for re-use or being disposed of as non-hazardous biological waste,” the cable reported.

The dispatch is one of many dealing with the threat of terrorism in India sent by diplomats in New Delhi both before and after the attacks on Mumbai, the country’s commercial capital, which were carried out by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) group in November 2008. Earlier cables focus more on the radicalisation of Muslims within India.

One is optimistic. “India’s over 150 million Muslim population is largely unattracted to extremism. India’s growing economy, vibrant democracy, and inclusive culture, encourage Muslims to seek success and social mobility in the mainstream and reduces alienation,” it said.

Though the Muslim community in India “suffers from higher rates of poverty than most other groups in India, and can be the victims of discrimination and prejudice … the vast majority remain committed to the Indian state and seek to participate in mainstream political and economic life”, the cable continued. “Only a small number of young Muslims have … gravitated toward pan-Islamic and pro-Pakistan organisations, which sometimes engage in acts of violence”.

Post-Mumbai, Pakistan-based groups received the most attention. Cables reveal US diplomats making repeated efforts to reassure their often frustrated Indian counterparts that Washington was working hard to pressure Islamabad to shut down the threat posed to India by Pakistan-based groups.

Last January, weeks after the Mumbai attack, Richard Boucher, the visiting US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, argued about the group with the Indian national security adviser, Shiv Shankar Menon.

“The two men were in full agreement on the need to ensure that Pakistan eliminate Laskhar-e-Tayiba, but disagreed on some tactics,” a cable reporting the meeting said…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Far East


Chinese Ambassador: EU Servility is ‘Pathetic’

Europe’s willingness to take directions from other world powers is “pitiful” and “pathetic” China’s top man in Brussels has said. The remarks come as leaked diplomatic cables show the US lobbied hard earlier this year to prevent the EU from ending its arms embargo on China.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Chinese Increasingly Unhappy With Life

Sky-rocketing food prices, rural land grabs, a growing rich-poor divide and the outlandish corruption of government officials were the chief complaints, according the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Although China’s economy grew at 10 per cent this year, pushing average earnings above £2,500 per head for the first time, the poll of 4,100 people across seven major cities and seven smaller town found levels of dissatisfaction at an almost five-year high.

The top concern among ordinary Chinese was rising food prices, which have leapt by 15-20 per cent this year, forcing the government to introduce food subsidies amid a growing amount of grumbling in the nation’s market-places.

Although China’s government has continued to deliver rising living standards, the poll showed that confidence in the government’s ability to manage the social upheaval caused by China’s economic development was falling.

For the rural poor land disputes — when farmers are shoved off their village land by local governments in return for unfairly low compensation — remain the biggest source of complaints and social unrest in modern China.

Suicides, self-immolations and violent demonstrations in which police are injured and property destroyed are an increasingly common feature of everyday life, as a growing number of farmers are forced into high-rise accommodation that doesn’t suit them, the study found.

“When farmers live in multi-story buildings, they have to pay for everything from water to electricity,” said Kong Xiangzhi, vice-dean of the School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development in Beijing, “They can no longer raise livestock or dig wells, and live as they had on farms in houses with courtyards.” Official corruption and a growing sense of that ordinary people are not getting a fair slice of the vast riches now on offer in the new China, is also fuelling resentment. China’s Gini Coefficient an indicator of income inequality increased this year to 0.5, exceeding the widely recognised “warning” level of 0.4. A country’s social stability is generally believed to be in danger if the index reaches 0.6.

According to one calculation, over the last 20 years China’s farmers have been cheated out of nearly GBP200bn as result of being paid below market-rate for their land by unscrupulous developers and local governments, who often work hand in hand.

Corruption remains a deep source of anger, despite repeated pledges by China’s ruling Communist Party to purge its ranks and hand down exemplary sentences, as this week when an official whose sexual diaries were leaked online, received 13 years in jail for his excesses.

However public discontent is never far from the surface, as last October when the son of a senior security official from Hebei province ran over and killed a young woman and was heard to shout: “Go ahead, sue me if you dare, my dad is Li Gang”.

The phrase “my dad is Li Gang” became a by-word for the arrogance and impunity of Chinese officials, spreading like wildfire across China’s internet which continues to seethe with anger over the incident…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Bashing Victim’s Dad Tells Judge ‘You’Ve Got No Balls’ After Sentencing

A JUDGE who allowed six men involved in a vicious assault to walk free from court has been told by the victim’s father, “you’ve got no balls”.

Archie Dalli lashed out at County Court Judge James Montgomery for sentencing his son’s attackers to community based orders instead of jail.

“Is that it? Is that it?” Mr Dalli yelled after Judge Montgomery had finished reading his sentence.

The six men smirked after the judge left the bench, provoking a tense exchange of insults with Mr Dalli’s family.

Victim Aaron Dalli was 18 when he was set upon by up to 10 men in May 2006 outside Fix Bar in Docklands. After a verbal stoush inside the venue, Mr Dalli was punched, kicked and stomped on as he lay unconscious.

He was lucky to survive the nasty attack, which left him brain damaged and struggling to walk.

Three of the six admitted assaulting Mr Dalli, while three others confessed to attacking three other victims.

Sinan Cekuc, 20, assaulted Mr Dalli inside the club while Orhan Bekar, 24, hit Mr Dalli inside the club before punching another patron outside.

Both men pleaded guilty to recklessly causing injury, assault and affray and were sentenced to serve 150 hours of unpaid community work as part of a one-year community based order, pay a $1000 fine and serve a six-month wholly suspended jail term.

Okan Yoruden, 23, was among a group of men who chased Mr Dalli and set upon him in a gang with Yoruden stomping on his stomach. He pleaded guilty to assault and affray and was ordered to serve 150 hours of unpaid community work and a six-month suspended jail term.

The remaining three, Yusuf Kilic, 24, Emrah Aslan, 24, and John Yussef, 23, pleaded guilty to charges of affray and assault. They were sentenced to serve 150 hours of unpaid community work and pay a $1000 fine.

Four more men are due to face a County Court trial next year.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



Brumby Ignored Early Warning

REJECTING the most advanced bushfire technology may have cost Labor Victoria.

IT’S slowly dawning on the Victorian Labor Party that its failure to accept new technology for the early warning detection of bushfires cost it government.

How? Almost all who died in the Black Saturday inferno were in the state seat of Seymour and the federal seat of McEwen. The average swing against Labor was 6 per cent but in Seymour it was 8 per cent.

Liberal Fran Bailey, retired member for McEwen, and Seymour candidate Liberal Cindy McLeish made early warning technology a big issue in the Victorian election. They won the debate and Labor lost the seat.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Sudan: Women Are Punished With ‘600,000’ Lashes a Year

Khartoum, 16 Dec. (AKI) — Forty thousand women in Sudan are subject to police whippings for moral transgressions each year, a figure that came to light after a video was circulated on the Internet which showed the public thrashing of a Khartoum woman.

Sudanese feminist and political figure Mariam al-Sadiq al-Madi brought the issue to the attention of authorities, the Sudanese daily al-Sharq al-Awsat reported.

The drama of the physical punishments against women in Sudan is much more serious than previously believed,” al-Madi said. She said that each year around 600,000 lashes are dealt to women in Sudan.

“The situation was worsened by a 1991 law that increased violence against them,” she added.

The so-called ‘law 152’ allows for women to be whipped for an array of ‘moral’ crimes including wearing trousers as in the case of a journalist, Lubna Ahmad Hussein, who was found guilty of this ‘crime’ last year.

According to lawyer Nabil Adib, “a vast array of crimes allows for whippings,” she said, citing the excessive use of alcohol and gambling to washing one’s car in an incorrect location as crimes punishable by flogging.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Obama Quietly Erasing Borders

Dem administration advancing ‘North American Union’ agenda

Acting quietly, below the radar of U.S. public opinion and without congressional approval, the Obama administration is implementing a key policy objective of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, or SPP, to erase the border with Mexico and Canada.

The administration is acting under a State Department-declared policy initiative described in a March 23 fact sheet titled “United States-Mexico Partnership: A New Border Vision.”

“Mexico and the United States have a shared interest in creating a 21st century border that promotes the security and prosperity of both countries,” the State Department declared. “The U.S. and Mexican governments have launched a range of initiatives that challenge the traditional view of ‘hold the line’ and are developing a framework for a new vision of 21st century border management.”

At the same time, CTV News in Canada has obtained a draft copy of a declaration between the U.S. and Canada entitled “Beyond the Border: A Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Competitiveness,” to be implemented by a newly created Canadian-U.S. “Beyond the Border Working Group.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘Modern Day Slavery Ring’ Smashed as Police Launch Dawn Raids Across South-East

Eleven people have been arrested by police investigating a criminal gang suspected of running “a modern-day slavery operation” involving migrant workers.

Dawn raids were carried out at 12 properties in Kent following a two-year investigation by the Kent and Essex Crime Directorate.

Large sums of cash, paperwork and documents, including passports and identity papers, were seized during the searches yesterday.

Victims living at several of the properties were offered advice and support on issues such as healthcare, social services and housing.

Translators were on hand to help the victims in their native languages, including Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish and Russian.

The 11 people were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to people traffic, money-launder and fraud, and freed on bail pending further inquiries.

They were aged between 22 and 40 and were mainly living in the Canterbury and Thanet areas of Kent, a police spokesman said.

A woman from Surrey is also being dealt with by the UK Border Agency in connection with suspected immigration offences.

Detective Chief Inspector Andrea Bishop, from the serious organised crime team of the Kent and Essex serious crime directorate, said it was a ‘detailed and complex’ inquiry.

Raids: Dawn raids were carried out at 12 properties at Canterbury and Thanet in Kent following a two-year investigation by the Kent and Essex Crime Directorate

She said: ‘These criminals prey on and exploit migrant workers, effectively running a modern-day slavery operation.

‘A key part of the work we have done over the last few days is to work with a number of partner agencies to help victims break the grip this gang has on them, and we are giving them all the help and support they need so they can rebuild their lives free from this tyranny.

‘The work does not stop here.

‘My investigative teams will continue processing all the new evidence we have obtained and we will work with the Crown Prosecution Service and other agencies to ensure anyone involved in this organised criminality will be prosecuted to the full force of the law.’

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Pughsley, who leads the Kent and Essex serious crime directorate, said: ‘We are sending out a clear message that we will not tolerate criminals operating in our communities.

‘We are listening and responding to what local residents are telling us concerns them the most, and are tackling criminality at all levels, from organised criminal networks like the one involved in this operation, to those involved in burglary and other theft-related crime, those who handle stolen goods, and those who use, deal and supply drugs which can often fuel all other types of offending.’

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Failed Asylum Seeker Who Left Girl, 12, To Die After Crash Can Stay in UK as Deporting Him Would ‘Breach His Human Rights’

A failed asylum seeker who left a 12-year-old girl dying under the wheels of his car while banned from driving will be allowed to remain in the UK, judges ruled today.

Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, 33, an Iraqi Kurd, was jailed for four months over the 2003 crash which cost Amy Houston her life.

Her father, Paul Houston, 41, begged judges at a recent deportation hearing to bring ‘my seven years of hell to an end’ by sending Ibrahim back to Iraq.

Today two senior immigration judges rejected a final appeal by the UK Border Agency to have him deported. Ibrahim will now be allowed to live in the UK permanently.

The UK Border Agency said they were ‘extremely disappointed’ with the decision — and that Ibrahim should have been removed.

The Upper Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber sitting in Manchester also heard Ibrahim, given leave to remain in the UK, had a string of criminal convictions.

Ibrahim’s lawyers argued that his human rights would be impinged if he was sent back to Iraq.

Mr Houston was left to make the decision to turn off her life support machine hours after the crash in Blackburn, Lancashire, in November 2003.

He has since campaigned to get Ibrahim deported in a tortuous legal battle.

Last month he handed in a letter to judges, containing an impassioned plea asking for Ibrahim to be deported.

Mr Houston, from Darwen, Lancashire, said he was ‘frustrated and angry’ at the decision.

‘I’m really angry. We should all be angry. It is a ridiculous state of affairs,’ he said.

‘I’m battling away here on my own. This is a perversity of our society.

‘What are the judges saying here? They are saying it doesn’t matter what you do when you come here, who you kill, what laws you break, as long as you have a child here you can stay?

‘You work hard, play by the rules, pay your taxes and this is how you get treated. What does that say about politicians, our leaders and the legal system? It’s a joke.

‘They are obsessed with the rights of others from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Where are my human rights?

‘This man is a criminal, do we have no say who we allow in this country?

‘He’s not a life-saving surgeon or a Nobel prize winner. He was a criminal before, a criminal now and he will continue being a criminal.

‘The Human Rights Act is for everybody, not just asylum seekers and terrorists.

‘How can he say he’s deprived of his right to a family life? The only person deprived of a family life is me. Amy was my only family.’

Ibrahim’s lawyers claimed human rights laws permitted him to remain in the country, as his right to life and to family life trumped attempts to return him to his native Iraq.

Mr Houston was not allowed to address judges at the last appeal hearing.

Lawyers for the Border Agency asked for Ibrahim to be deported on the grounds that the judge who originally allowed Ibrahim leave to remain on the basis of his right to a family life did so incorrectly.

Although he now has two children, there was little evidence to suggest he was living at the same address so could not claim a right to family life, it was argued.

The judges were also told of Ibrahim’s convictions, including a further incident of driving while disqualified in 2006, harassment and possession of drugs.

But Senior Immigration Judges Lane and Taylor, in a reserved judgment made public today, rejected the Border Agency appeal.

They said the original decision should stand but added that the outcome might well have been different if the process to remove Ibrahim had begun before he had children.

Ibrahim knocked down Amy near to the home of her mother, Joanne Cocker, from whom Mr Houston is divorced.

He was already serving a nine-month driving ban for not having insurance or a licence. He ran off but later handed himself in to police.

Ibrahim was jailed for four months after admitting driving while disqualified and failing to stop after an accident.

After serving his sentence, Ibrahim, who came to the UK in 2001, met a British woman, mother of his children Harry, four, and Zara, three.

At the time, Ibrahim’s applications for asylum and citizenship had been rejected and although he was technically awaiting deportation, he was not returned to Iraq because the lack of security in the country would have breached his right to life.

Last year he won leave to remain in the UK after arguing that, because he now had two children since being freed from prison, he had a right to a family life under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

Speaking at an earlier appeals hearing, Mr Ibrahim said: ‘This incident when Amy died was an accident and should not stop me living in this country with my family.

‘I did not expect to meet Christina [his partner] or have children when I came here seven years ago but it has happened and I cannot leave them. I cannot go back to Iraq. Do you not watch the news? It is far too dangerous.’

It is now thought all legal avenues to have Ibrahim deported have been exhausted.

The Regional Director of the UK Border Agency in the North West, Jo Liddy, said they Ibrahim should have been removed from the country.

‘We are extremely disappointed at the tribunal’s decision to allow Mr Ibrahim to remain in the UK,’ she said.

‘He was convicted of committing an offence that led to the tragic death of a twelve year old child and it is our view that he should be removed. We would like to express our deepest sympathy to the family of the victim.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Christmas Trees Are Surprisingly Depressing for Some

Here’s a new twist to the annual “War on Christmas” debate: Reminders of Christmas can make religious minorities feel ill at ease — even if they don’t realize it. When people who did not celebrate Christmas or who did not identify as Christian filled out surveys about their moods while in the same room as a small Christmas tree, they reported less self-assurance and fewer positive feelings than if they hadn’t been reminded of the holiday, according to a new study.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Finland: Laws Governing Racial and Hate Crimes to be Toughened

The government has proposed stronger measures to deal with racially motivated and hate crimes perpetrated on the internet. Toughened severity clauses will be applied both racially motivated and other hate crimes in the future.

Keeping writings on the net promoting racism or hate crimes would be prosecuted in addition to their distribution. For example, displaying writings that promote violence on an individual’s own web pages or social network site would be punishable even if that person was not the writer.

A specific clause in criminal justice legislation of promoting racial hatred towards others would be adopted allowing for a maximum punishment of our years’ imprisonment.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



‘Intrusive, Unwelcome and a Violation of Our Law’: Furious Backlash After EU Court Orders Ireland to Scrap Anti-Abortion Rules

Irish pro-life campaigners reacted furiously today after the European Union ruled that a law banning abortion should be lifted.

In a landmark judgment, the European Court of Human Rights harshly criticised Ireland’s inaction on the issue, stating that the current situation violated the rights of pregnant women.

The decision is also likely to spark fury among many Irish Catholics who maintain that abortion should be illegal.

Pro-life campaigns Youth Defence described the ruling as ‘intrusive, unwelcome and an attempt to violate Ireland’s pro-life laws’.

Spokesman Rebecca Roughneen said the ruling should be ‘dismissed out of hand’ by the government.

‘It s an unwarranted attempt to coerce the Irish people and overturn our ban on abortion,’ she said.

‘In fact, far from violating human rights, Ireland’s pro-life ethos upholds and respects the human rights of both mother and child’.

Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute said that despite claims to the contrary, the ruling was not binding in a practicable sense.

‘The ruling is not enforceable, the Court cannot force Ireland to change her laws or collect penalties from Ireland if we refuse,’ she pointed out.

The judgment, from the court of human rights in Strasbourg, France, applies to women whose pregnancies represent a potentially fatal threat to their own health.

Ireland has resisted taking that step despite a 1992 judgment from the Irish Supreme Court declaring that abortions should be considered legal in Ireland in all cases where the woman’s life would be endangered by continued pregnancy — including through threats to commit suicide.

The delay has left the abortion rights of thousands of women in legal limbo, obliging many to travel overseas for the procedure.

The Strasbourg judges said Ireland was wrong to keep the legal situation unclear for women who received a doctor’s advice that their pregnancy could complicate their own medical problems.

Irish minister for Health Mary Harney said the Government would reflect on the ruling and take legal advice.

Acknowledging the judgment was binding on the Irish State, she said the Government would have to come forward with proposals to reflect the ruling. ‘However, this will take time as it is a highly sensitive and complex area,’ Ms Harney said.

The court ruled in favour of one of three litigants (known only as Woman A, B and C) who sued Ireland for allegedly failing to protect their rights to health and well-being under terms of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The successful litigant is a Lithuanian woman living in Ireland who, at the time of her pregnancy, was successfully battling cancer through chemotherapy and feared that her pregnancy would trigger a relapse of the disease. She testified that her doctors agreed, but none was willing to authorise an abortion.

She had to travel to England for an abortion. The European judges ruled she should have received an abortion in Ireland as a matter of medical urgency.

They ruled against two other litigants: one a woman who didn’t want to become a single mother, another who had four other children placed in state care. In both cases, the judges said they had failed to demonstrate that their pregnancies represented a risk to their health.

The Irish Family Planning Association, which brought the case on behalf of the three women, welcomed the verdict as likely to force Ireland to legislate along the lines of the 1992 Supreme Court judgment.

In the 1992 case, a pregnant 14-year-old girl who had been raped by a neighbor successfully sued the government to permit her to travel to England for an abortion.

The government tried to stop her, arguing it could not facilitate an illegal act, even though she was threatening to commit suicide.

The Irish Supreme Court ruled that traveling to obtain abortions abroad was legal, and Ireland itself should provide abortions in cases where a continued pregnancy would threaten the life of the woman. Ireland in 1992 passed a law permitting women the right to travel abroad for abortions but has refused to pass a law spelling out the rules of granting abortions on medical grounds.

When the three women’s lawsuit was heard last year in Strasbourg, experts testifying on behalf of the women said Irish doctors continue to fear having anything to do with women who seek an abortion even on lifesaving medical grounds.

Lawyers for the government countered that several hundred abortions were taking place annually — without public acknowledgment — in Ireland in line with the Supreme Court order, so no new law was required.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: Petition Calls for Crucifixes in Public

Those in favour of keeping crucifixes on display in public buildings have filed a petition in Lucerne.

The petition, signed by 11,976 people and submitted on Tuesday, states that both crucifixes and crosses should be allowed to hang in schools as well as in other public buildings.

It was launched in late October as a reaction to recent disputes in cantons Lucerne and Valais. According to the organising committee, banning the religious symbol would be a sign of intolerance.

Some 60 per cent of the signatures were from canton Lucerne and the petition was filed with the government there.

A teacher in canton Valais was recently fired after he removed crucifixes from the classrooms that he taught in.

Meanwhile, a father in canton Lucerne asked that crosses be removed from a primary school; the school obliged.

In 1990, the Federal Court ruled that crucifixes were contrary to religious neutrality. However, many Swiss classrooms keep one on display and they are a common sight on roadsides in Catholic areas.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]



UK: The Red Cross Bans Christmas

Christmas has been banned by the Red Cross from its 430 fund-raising shops.

Staff have been ordered to take down decorations and to remove any other signs of the Christian festival because they could offend Moslems.

The charity’s politically-correct move triggered an avalanche of criticism and mockery last night — from Christians and Moslems.

Christine Banks, a volunteer at a Red Cross shop in New Romney, Kent, said: ‘We put up a nativity scene in the window and were told to take it out. It seems we can’t have anything that means Christmas. We’re allowed to have some tinsel but that’s it.

‘When we send cards they have to say season’s greetings or best wishes. They must not be linked directly to Christmas.

‘When we asked we were told it is because we must not upset Moslems.’

Mrs Banks added: ‘ We have been instructed that we can’t say anything about Christmas and we certainly can’t have a Christmas tree.

‘I think the policy is offensive to Moslems as well as to us. No reasonable person can object to Christians celebrating Christmas. But we are not supposed to show any sign of Christianity at all.’

Labour peer Lord Ahmed, one of the country’s most prominent Moslem politicians, said: ‘It is stupid to think Moslems would be offended.

‘The Moslem community has been talking to Christians for the past 1,400 years. The teachings from Islam are that you should respect other faiths.’

He added: ‘In my business all my staff celebrate Christmas and I celebrate with them. It is absolutely not the case that Christmas could damage the Red Cross reputation for neutrality — I think their people have gone a little bit over the top.’

The furore is a fresh blow to the image of what was once one of Britain’s most respected charities.

The British Red Cross lost friends this year over its support for the French illegal immigrant camp at Sangatte and its insistence on concentrating large efforts on helping asylum seekers.

Yesterday officials at the charity’s London HQ confirmed that Christmas is barred from the 430 shops which contributed more than £20million to its income last year.

‘The Red Cross is a neutral organisation and we don’t want to be aligned with any political party or particular philosophy,’ a spokesman said.

‘We don’t want to be seen as a Christian or Islamic or Jewish organisation because that might compromise our ability to work in conflict situations around the world.’

He added: ‘In shops people can put up decorations like tinsel or snow which are seasonal. But the guidance is that things representative of Christmas cannot be shown.’

Volunteers, however, said they believed the Christmas ban was a product of political correctness of the kind that led Birmingham’s leaders to order their city to celebrate ‘Winterval’.

Rod Thomas, a Plymouth vicar and spokesman for the Reform evangelical grouping in the Church of England, said: ‘People who hold seriously to their faith are respected by people of other faiths. They should start calling themselves the Red Splodge. All their efforts will only succeed in alienating most people.’

Major Charles Heyman, editor of Jane’s World Armies, said: ‘There is really nothing to hurt the Red Cross in Christmas, is there? Would the Red Crescent stop its staff observing Ramadan?’…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

General


Drug-Resistant Genes Spread Among Bacteria

Unlike other superbugs, a new class of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are gaining their power from easily transferable genes such as NDM-1.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Giant Ice Volcano May Have Been Found on Titan

A potential new ice volcano has been found on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Named Sotra, the volcano is nearly 1 kilometre tall and has a 1.6-kilometre-deep pit alongside it. Surrounded by giant sand dunes, it is thought to be the largest in a string of several volcanoes that once spewed molten ice from deep beneath the moon’s surface.

“We think we have found the strongest case yet for an ice volcano on Titan,” said Randy Kirk, a geophysicist at the US Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona. “What we see is not just a flow like we see in other places, it’s like a volcanic field would be on Earth.”

Titan is about the size of the planet Mercury but has an atmosphere thicker than Earth’s. This makes it incredibly difficult for astronomers to know what’s happening on the surface. Planetary scientists, including Kirk, are using NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to map the moon, but so far only about half of Titan has been imaged.

Kirk and his team created a 3D mapping technique that patches together multiple images of the same area, so they were lucky that Sotra was in one of the rare places imaged twice.

“The classical volcano everybody thinks of when you say the word is a mountain with a crater on it and lava flows coming out of it,” said Kirk. “That’s what we’ve found on Titan.”

‘This is it’

The team cannot be certain if the chain is active, but described the find as the best evidence found so far for a cryovolcano, or ice volcano. Previously, bright spots seen in low-resolution satellite images have been interpreted as volcanic flows and craters. However, once those areas were mapped in 3D, it became obvious they weren’t volcanoes.

“We had noted Sotra Facula as a candidate cryovolcano before,” said Rosaly Lopes at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “But it was only when Randy got the topography done that we realised, wow, this is it.”

Earth’s interior is divided into distinct layers of rock and liquid magma. When this molten rock erupts through the planet’s crust, it’s known as volcanism. Titan’s volcanism is more complicated because beneath the moon’s surface lies a layer of ice. Even a small amount of internal heat could create molten ices. Because the liquid would be less dense, it would force its way to the surface. The result would be a massive eruption of slushy liquid and gases similar to what scientists have seen on other icy moons.

“Ice at outer solar system temperatures is very rigid,” Kirk said. “Ice at close to its melting point is soft. What would be a glacier on Earth would be a volcano on a body that’s made of that same material. It’s the difference between the cake and the frosting.”

Methane source

Some have theorised that volcanoes on Titan are the best way to explain the strange abundance of methane gas in its atmosphere. This gas is constantly being stripped from Titan’s upper atmosphere by the sun. Without a source to replenish it, all of the methane would disappear in a few million years.

However, if an ice volcano like Sotra were to erupt, it would release volatiles like methane and ethane from inside Titan. Kirk’s team calculates that it would take a Sotra-sized volcanic eruption every 1000 years to maintain the current level of methane in Titan’s atmosphere.

Others are sceptical about ice volcano claims and have proposed alternative theories to explain the methane abundance.

“There’s been this whole list of volcanoes (on Titan) that have been published and then subsequently shot down,” said planetary scientist Jeffrey Moore at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “This new feature doesn’t make me change my tune that no one has unambiguously found a volcano on Titan.”

Ice cube

Moore believes that unlike Earth’s well defined and separate layers, beneath Titan’s surface is a huge layer of mixed rock and ice, or what is called a partially differentiated interior. If this is the case, it would be much more difficult to heat ice enough to cause an eruption onto the surface.

Moore and others believe that Titan was once an enormous ice cube. According to their theory, as the sun aged and warmed, it heated Titan’s surface. This process could have put methane into the atmosphere and subsequently fuelled a rain cycle that erased all impact craters. Moore said this would also have given Titan the young appearance that many have attributed to volcanism.

“If you press forward in time, all the methane will be erased and (Titan) will have a blue sky and a nitrogen atmosphere with sand dunes of hydrocarbons,” Moore said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Less is More When Measuring Fragile Atomic Bonds

IF YOU want to look at individual atoms, it helps to have a powerful microscope. But for delicate situations such as a lone atom on the edge of a sheet of carbon atoms, a high-energy beam can disturb the bonds that hold such atoms in place, making them difficult to study. Now, for the first time, a low-energy beam has been used to count these bonds.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Woman With No Fear Intrigues Scientists

A 44-year-old woman who doesn’t experience fear has led to the discovery of where that fright factor lives in the human brain.

Researchers put out their best foot to try to scare the patient, who they refer to as “SM” in their write-up in the most recent issue of the journal Current Biology. Haunted houses, where monsters tried to evoke an avoidance reaction, instead evoked curiosity; spiders and snakes didn’t do the trick; and a battery of scary film clips entertained SM. The patient has a rare condition called Urbach—Wiethe disease that has destroyed her amygdala, the almond-shaped structure located deep in the brain. Over the past 50 years studies have shown the amygdala plays a central role in generating fear responses in various animals from rats to monkeys.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

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