Thanks to TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Details are below the fold.
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Is Obama Talking Secretly With Raul Castro?
By Humberto Fontova
“As I left Havana earlier this month,” writes Dr. Rens Lee, senior fellow at Philadelphia’s prestigious Foreign Policy Research Institute, “Cuba was eagerly awaiting the United States’ November presidential elections. The buzz around the capital, reportedly from a highly placed source, was that Barack Obama has already talked to Raul Castro by phone.”
(Note: I notified the Obama campaign of these claims and asked for a response or clarification. It has not responded.)
Dr. Rens Lee explains that the buzz was reported by both highly placed Cuban officials and by an experienced Western diplomat posted in Havana. Lee also cautions against an outside chance that the report is simply wishful thinking from Cuban officials based on Obama’s Castro-friendly campaign promises.
The wishful thinking is certainly warranted. After all, Barack Obama has already pledged himself to grant the Castro brothers one of their most fervent wishes by abolishing a Bush policy that seriously stung them. “I will immediately allow unlimited family travel and remittances to the island,” pledged Barack Obama on his Miami visit in May.
Naturally, as presented by Castro’s agents (on the payroll and off) in the U.S. media, Obama’s proposal sounds eminently reasonable, commonsensical, practical and humane — unlike those of the Cuban-American cabal that designs and enforces the Republican Party’s Cuba policy in between tying screaming damsels to railroad tracks.
As recited by his U.S. media, think-tank and Democratic Party mouthpieces, Castro’s talking points tug mightily at the heartstrings of the uninformed and misinformed on Cuba. “After all, what’s wrong with allowing families to visit each other and help each other financially? Gosh, what type of intransigence and malice could possibly motivate those mean Miami Cuban Republicans to oppose loving families from being together?”
Sound familiar? Of course. We heard the same chorus from the same choir during their advance work for the Democratic shanghaiing of Elian Gonzalez.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: When you see Charles Rangel advocating a certain policy toward Cuba, when you see the media quoting Wayne Smith, Phil Peters and the Inter-American Dialogue to the same effect — the Castro brothers requested it. Then when you see the Democratic National Committee adopt this policy, you can bet there’s something to what Lee heard in Havana. All of the above apply here.
Here are a few things you’re not hearing from the Castro brother’s Beltway echo-chamber: Until fairly recently, the Castro regime (classified by the U.S. State Department as a state sponsor of terrorism, and classified by the liberal media as a victim of a “cruel U.S. embargo”) was in fact enjoying a $1 billion a year lifeline straight from the U.S. This largess came in the form of cash remittances to Cuba from Castro’s former subjects and from the spending by these former subjects upon their frequent visits to their homeland. This $1 billion in remittances approached Red China’s monetary infusion into Cuba.
“Dutch Spy Recalled From Iran on US Attack Plan”
AMSTERDAM, 30/08/08 — The Dutch AIVD secret service has had an ultra-secret operation underway in Iran in recent years. This has been halted in connection with plans for a US attack on Iran, newspaper De Telegraaf reported Friday.
The “ultra-secret operation” had as its aim infiltration and sabotage of the weapons industry in the Islamic republic. “The operation, described as extremely successful, was halted recently in connection with plans for an impending US air attack on Iraq. Along with this, targets would also be bombed which were connected with the Dutch espionage action,” writes the Netherlands’ biggest newspaper.
“One of the agents involved, who was able to infiltrate the Iranian industry under the supervision of the AIVD, was recently recalled because the US was thought to be making a decision within weeks to attack Iran with unmanned aircraft. Among the potential targets were said to be not only nuclear plants, but also military installations that have been brought to light partly by the agency of the AIVD,” according to the newspaper.
“Information from the AIVD operation has in recent years been shared with the American CIA secret service,” the paper continued. “Various supplies could also be sabotaged and stopped. These were parts for missiles and launching equipment.”
The article was written by Joost de Haas, known for his good contacts in the intelligence world. Earlier, he got hold of an AIVD report which suggested that corrupt powers within Dutch police corps supplied weapons to criminals to liquidate other criminals.
Amsterdam: City Council Rejects Mayor Cohen’s Plea for Mosque Subsidies
AMSTERDAM, 30/08/08 — A majority on Amsterdam city council is distancing itself from Mayor Job Cohen’s idea of subsidising mosques.
Cohen wants the local authority to help religious groups build a house of prayer, as has already happened with the infamous Westermoskee mosque. It is not according to him a matter of subsidising a faith but of fostering integration.
Labour (PvdA), conservatives (VVD) and Christian democrats (CDA) rejected Cohen’s proposals in a council meeting. The leftwing Greens (GroenLinks), Socialist Party (SP) and centre-left D66 did support the Islam subsidies, proposed recently by Cohen in a report on the separation of Church and State.
Remarkable was the opposition of Cohen’s own PvdA. PvdA council member Frank de Wolf fears that “such support will not contribute to the emancipation” of Muslims. Stronger yet, outdated views on women and homosexuals could be encouraged by the subsidies, according to De Wolf.
The critical position of the PvdA and thereby a majority in the council appeared to surprise Cohen. He said that emancipation is not the first goal of his memo, but the “reduction of deprivation.”
But Cohen may be able to carry out his idea after all. De Wolf would in fact not promise that the PvdA will eventually vote against his memo. “We must still discuss it with the party,” according to De Wolf.
A majority on the Amsterdam city council already considers that a government authority can use religious institutions to carry out policy. This could for example mean deploying Imams to stem radicalisation or Christian drug rehabilitation centres for heroine addicts. A number of parties considered this is not a violation of the separation of Church and State.
Denmark: Parents to Pay for Kids’ Vandalism
The government has had enough of young troublemakers and is ready to hold parents responsible for their children’s misbehaviour
A new proposal to make parents financially responsible for their children’s vandalism has majority support in parliament.
Lene Espersen, the justice minister, and Karen Jespersen, the social welfare minister, have put together a proposal that will not only toughen the punishment for young offenders but will require that parents pay for any physical damage caused by their children.
The proposal from the Liberal-Conservative government will likely pass in parliament, having the support of the coalition’s common ally, the Danish People’s Party.
‘It’s a really good idea,’ said Peter Skaarup, the party’s legal affairs spokesman. ‘It’s a healthy thing that parents will feel the pinch in their pocketbooks when their kids don’t behave properly and destroy public or private property.’
In addition to billing parents for damage and tougher punishment for offenders, the six-point proposal also recommends: creating parent help programmes; fines for slack parenting, such as when kids are truant; a bully-hooligan register; and more surveillance.
Espersen said the proposal is aimed at two problem groups in particular.
‘It’s the modern families who think it’s best when children are raised without setting boundaries or limits,’ said the justice minister. ‘They end up doing whatever they want, and everything becomes about “me, me, me” instead of about the community. They’re the types who end up throwing bricks off bridges onto vehicles.’
The other group are young people of non-Danish ethnic background.
‘Many families of foreign background have a culture in which the boys should be in charge of their own lives already at the age of 8 or 9,’ said Espersen.
Jespersen believes that more use of school detention should also supplement any changes in the law.
‘It provides a certain order and discipline that is especially beneficial to the weaker students.’
The opposition Social Democrats, the nation’s second-largest party, are also tentatively supporting the proposal.
‘Maybe it will get parents to clamp down a bit on the kids if they believe they’re going out to cause trouble,’ said Karen Hækkerup, the party’s legal affairs spokeswoman. ‘But I still have a lot of questions about the proposal that first need to be answered.’
Denmark: Daylight Robbery on Strøget
Police were ready when two armed thieves exited a jewellery store on walking street Strøget after a broad-daylight robbery attempt
Tension filled Copenhagen’s main pedestrian street Strøget on Thursday afternoon when two gun-wielding robbers rushing out of a watchmaker’s shop were immediately confronted by police.
The many shoppers and tourists present on the street were witness to a standoff when one of the thieves aimed his pistol at the officers. But then, realising he and his partner were far outnumbered, he dropped the gun and surrendered.
Police found around 10 million kroner’s worth of merchandise in the thieves’ bags after their capture.
The unsuccessful heist took place at watchmaker Ole Mathiesen on the Østergade section of Strøget near Kongens Nytorv square. Police say the two men, who were reportedly from the Balkan region, entered the shop and smashed several of the display cases, threatening the shop’s employee at gunpoint.
The men were scheduled for a preliminary hearing Friday morning.
East London Council Adapts to Ramadan
CAIRO — Showing courtesy to Muslim employees, a local council in east London is urging non-Muslim members not to eat or drink during meetings with Muslim colleagues during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, reported the Daily Mail on Friday, August 29.
“It is requested that members do not partake of any refreshments until after the iftar (fast breaking) refreshments are served,” John Williams, head of Tower Hamlets Council’s democratic services, said in an e-mail to non-Muslim council members.
The order is part of special arrangements made by the council for the holy dawn-to-dusk fasting month.
The arrangements also include giving Muslim employees a 45-minute break during evening meetings to allow them break their fast and perform prayers.
Muslim members would also be offered iftar packs including tea, coffee, sandwiches and special Muslim snacks at the time of iftar.
The council’s agenda has also been reduced during Ramadan to include only seven committee meetings all over the month.
Ramadan, the ninth month on the Islamic lunar calendar, will fall this year in early September.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Gangmaster Who Raped Journalism Student in Calais May Have Fled to Britain
A gangmaster believed to have raped a journalism student in a squalid Calais migrants’ camp could be on the loose in Britain. Police say they think the people smuggler has already left the area and may have fled to the UK to avoid detection. As horrific details emerged of the 31-year-old student’s ordeal, detectives issued a photo e-fit provided by the victim to all UK ports, as well as British and European police.
The student had travelled to the French port to interview migrants sleeping rough before trying to sneak into Britain. As she took photographs of a group of Afghan refugees, she was lured into a makeshift hut in the notorious unofficial camp called The Jungle by the gang leader, who told her he wanted to show her something inside.
There he held her down, repeatedly hit her around the face and body, and subjected her to a half-hour rape, police said. Although she screamed for help, no one came to her aid. French state prosecutor Philippe Muller said he believed the man was a French-speaking people smuggler in his 20s of Afghan or Iraqi appearance.
The human traffickers charge other immigrants up to £800 a time for a place in a truck or train to get to England. […] The woman, who was born in Canada but has lived most of her life in London, is being treated for physical injuries and undergoing counselling for mental trauma in Calais…
Hacker Puts Thousands of Anti-Wilders Pamphlets on Dutch Websites [Translation]
Thousands of Dutch websites have been the victim of an Islamic hacker. The hacker took over the homepage of websites and replaced them with an anti-Fitna pamphlet.
The hacker, who works under the name nEt^DeVil, writes in the pamphlet that he or she feelsobliged to defend Islam and the holy prophet Mohammed “in response to the Fitnafilm of that Geert Wilders-cow.”
Where the hacker comes from and whether he or she works alone, is unknown. What is clear is that nEt^DeVil is a busy bee: the last few weeks over 18,000 websites have been attacked and taken over. The hacking of a site to replaced the homepge with a message is called ‘defacement’.
The attacks are mainly aimed at users of the free content management system of Joomla, which contains a leak that goves the hacker the opportunity to break in. It is striking that the majority of the hacked sites are running on a Linux based server, a program that relatively speaking in not very widely used.
The website of Joomla itself was also addressed in mid-August, after which the company updated their software. As turns out not all websites have installed this update. Also today dozens of websites have been taken over.
Norway: Record Number of New Citizens
A record 14,900 persons received Norwegian citizenship last year. Of these, seven out of ten were former citizens from a non-European nation.
This is shown by fresh figures from Statistics Norway (SSB).
As in the two previous years, the two largest groups caame from Iraq and Somalia, with 2600 and 2200 persons respectively.
From 1977 to 2007, altogether 203,000 foreign citizens have received Norwegian citizenship.
More than 140,000 of these were formerly holding non-European citizenship.
Norway: More Somalians Wanted
Hassan Samahle returned to the mountain village of Vinje in Telemark County after getting his degree. Somalians here are so well integrated that the community want more of them to come. Everyone completes secondary school, and no one is a passive welfare recipient.
Hassan Samahle leads the Vinje Soccer Second Team. His daughter Hibach plays on the team along with coach Grete Høgset’s daughter Randi, and Ogbad Mohammed and Anne Våle.
The 32 year-old electrical engineer, has brought new expertise to one of the main employers in the area.
He came to Norway and Vinje when he was 15, completed secondary school with good grades, studied engineering, did a year’s national service in the military and five years as a part-timer in the Home Guard, taught mathematics for a year and then returned home to Vinje.
Government statistics show immigrants from Somalia as the group most likely to be unemployed, receiving welfare payments and with least education.
A recent book written by a Somalian woman living in Norway, with the pen name Amal Aden, claims amongst other things that her compatriots in Oslo don’t want to integrate in Norwegian society, they exploit the welfare system and teach their children to hate Norwegians.
In the wooded valleys around Vinje things are different. Mayor Arne Vinje thinks that the Somalians are so well integrated that he would like to see more of them living in his area.
Now It’s the Citizen Snoopers: Councils Recruit Unpaid Volunteers to Spy on Their Neighbours
Councils are recruiting ‘citizen snoopers’ to report litter louts, dog foulers and even people who fail to sort out their rubbish properly.
The ‘environment volunteers’ will also be responsible for encouraging neighbours to cut down on waste.
The move comes as local authorities dish out £100 fines to householders who leave out too much rubbish or fail to follow recycling rules.
It will fuel fears that Britain is lurching towards a Big Brother society, following the revelation this week that the Home Office is extending some police powers to council staff and private security guards.
Critics said the latest scheme could easily be abused and encourage a culture of bin spies and curtain twitchers.
Matthew Elliott, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Snooping on your neighbours to report recycling infringements sounds like something straight out of the East German Stasi’s copybook.
‘With council tax so high, the last thing people want to pay for is an army of busybodies peering through their net curtains at their neighbours as they put out their rubbish.’
Recruitment adverts appealing for the unpaid environmental volunteers have appeared across the country in recent months.
Swedish Prison: Fermented Herring a ‘Security Risk’
Forget firearms or terrorist plots. In Sweden, prison administrators have sounded the alarm about the security threat posed by a can of foul-smelling fermented herring.
An inmate at the Tidaholm correctional facility in central Sweden recently had a craving for the peculiar seasonal specialty, known in Swedish as surströmming.
He could think of nothing better than the possibility of sharing a can of the fermented fish with an acquaintance.
But officials in charge of the ward denied the prisoner’s request.
When he then appealed the decision to the prison’s management, the inmate was once again denied his wish to crack open a container of the smelly dish.
Surströmming is a security risk, ruled the prison.
“Tidaholm has made a determination to deny the possession of a can of surströmming as this food product cannot be considered in accordance with the facility’s responsibility to uphold order and security vis-à-vis [the prisoner’s] personal engagement in such a culinary tradition,” wrote the prison in its decision.
UK: Economy at 60-Year Low, Says Chancellor Alistair Darling. and it Will Get Worse
Chancellor says Labour failing to communicate with voters
Britain is facing “arguably the worst” economic downturn in 60 years which will be “more profound and long-lasting” than people had expected, Alistair Darling, the chancellor, tells the Guardian today. In the government’s gravest assessment of the economy, which follows a warning from a Bank of England policymaker that 2 million people could be out of work by Christmas, Darling admits he had no idea how serious the credit crunch would become.
[…] The chancellor, who says that Labour faces its toughest challenge in a generation, admits that Brown and the cabinet are partly to blame for Labour’s woes because they have “patently” failed to explain the party’s central mission to the country, leaving voters “pissed off”.
In a candid interview in today’s Guardian Weekend magazine, Darling warns that the economic times faced by Britain and the rest of the world “are arguably the worst they’ve been in 60 years”. To deepen the sense of gloom, he adds: “And I think it’s going to be more profound and long-lasting than people thought.”
The economic backdrop presents Labour with its toughest challenge since the 1980s. “We’ve got our work cut out. This coming 12 months will be the most difficult 12 months the Labour party has had in a generation,” he says. But Labour has been lacklustre. “We’ve got to rediscover that zeal which won three elections, and that is a huge problem for us at the moment. People are pissed off with us. […]
The Afghan Women Jailed for Being Victims of Rape
In Lashkar Gah, the majority of female prisoners are serving 20-year sentences for being forced to have sex. Terri Judd visited them and heard their extraordinary stories
Beneath the anonymity of the sky-blue burqa, Saliha’s slender frame and voice betray her young age.Asked why she was serving seven years in jail alongside hardened insurgents and criminals, the 15-year-old giggled and buried her head in her friend’s shoulder.
“She is shy,” apologised fellow inmate Zirdana, explaining that the teenager had been married at a young age to an abusive husband and ran away with a boy from her neighbourhood.
Asked whether she had loved the boy, Saliha squirmed with childish embarrassment as her friend replied: “Yes.”
Ostracised from her family and village, Saliha was convicted of escaping from home and illegal sexual relations. The first carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, the second 20. These are two of the most common accusations facing female prisoners in Afghanistan.
Two-thirds of the women in Lashkar Gah’s medieval-looking jail have been convicted of illegal sexual relations, but most are simply rape victims — mirroring the situation nationwide. The system does not distinguish between those who have been attacked and those who have chosen to run off with a man.
Wide-Scale, Vicious Campaign Against Islam Must be Tackled
Former Dean of Kuwait University’s College of Sharia (law) and Islamic Studies Dr. Mohammad Al-Tabta-baei on Friday underlined the necessity for sincere efforts to be exerted by political, intellectual and religious powers to confront the wide-scale and vicious campaign against Islam. The Islamic world shoulders responsibility of facing the campaign instigated against Islam, as such campaigns seek to deliberately associate infrequent violent incidents committed by Muslim individuals with Islam, Al-Tabtabaei told KUNA.
The former dean is heading a high-ranking Kuwaiti academic delegation to the international conference of “Humanity in Islam” which was hosted in Rome. […]
The conference, which was held in the northern Italian city of Bersha on August 26, tackled several pivotal issues such as the status of the individual in the Holy Qur’an; humanitarian aspects in the life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH); issues of equality and justice; and worship from an Islamic perspective.
The conference came out with a number of recommendations in the framework of responding to the campaign launched against Islam and the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), in addition to buttressing contacts among the Muslim community in Italy, which amount to one million…
Bildt Rejects Georgia-Kosovo Comparison
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt on Friday rejected Russian comparisons between its recognition of two Georgian breakaway provinces from the West’s recognition of Kosovo earlier this year.
He added that “there is no other place in the world where there’s been this sort of mechanism within the framework of the United Nations.”
In the case of Russia’s unilateral recognition this week of the Georgian provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia, on the other hand, “we have a situation where Russia launches a military attack just like that,” Bildt told a joint press conference in Stockholm with his Georgian counterpart Eka Tkeshelashvili.
Russia, which was angered by the West’s recognition of Kosovo, has criticised lacking international reaction to what it charges was a Georgian “genocide” in South Ossetia, insisting that it was forced to intervene.
“We did it as some other states did in the case of Kosovo and some other problems,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told the BBC this week.
Bildt on Friday acknowledged that Georgia on the evening of August 7, “had taken measures where one can discuss whether they were advisable or wise,” but pointed out that “they were still within the borders of Georgia.”
Russia should not be surprised that the international community did not intervene, he said, since “there was no call from Russia for international action.”
“Had there been such a call from Russia, I think we should have answered it. That option was never put on the table by Russia,” he added.
Bildt said he considered declaring independence for South Ossetia “a joke,” but acknowledged that Abkhazia “has national rights that must be respected, and they have some justified complaints about what happened in history.”
However, while Kosovo counts a large majority of Kosovo Albanians, there is far from a majority of Abkhazians in the breakaway Georgian province, he said.
“The territory does not have a Abkhazian majority and has not had for hundreds of years.”
Indian Police Told to Shoot as Anti-Christian Riots Flare
Police were ordered to shoot rioters on sight in an eastern Indian state on Wednesday to tame rising violence between Hindus and Christians that has killed 11 people so far and left the Pope “profoundly saddened”.
Three bodies were found overnight in Orissa’s rural Kandhamal district, where Hindu mobs have damaged more than a dozen churches and attacked Christian homes and an orphanage this week. The violence, now spreading to new districts, was sparked by the murder of a Hindu leader in Kandhamal, a tribal area where Christian missionaries have been active for years.
The murdered leader had been heading a local campaign to reconvert Hindus and tribal people from Christianity. Authorities extended a curfew and issued orders to police to shoot on sisght any troublemaker in 11 towns of Kandhamal. Most of the dead so far have been Christians. Hundreds of police marched through Kandhamal to maintain calm, but the violence spread to nearby districts with Hindus attacking Christians and the two groups clashing in some places.
Religious violence has roiled Kandhamal region for years with Hindu and Christian groups fighting over religious conversion. Pope Benedict XVI “firmly condemned” the violence in Orissa, where Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons were burnt alive in 1999 — a crime for which a Hindu man is serving life in jail. […]
Indonesia: Tobacco Farmers Protest Fatwa Plan on Smoking
East Javanese tobacco farmers visited the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Surabaya branch on Friday to protest the fatwa body’s plan to declare smoking forbidden according to Islamic teachings. “We are protesting MUI’s plan to issue a fatwa declaring smoking as haram,” Tobacco Farmers Association chairman Amin Subarkah said, as quoted by Tempointeraktif.com.
Subarkah said it was unfair to make a smoking haram on the basis that it could be bad for some people. In fact, he said, forbidding smoking would only cause pain and suffering to tobacco farmers and their families. “There are 1,367 tobacco factories in East Java, employing thousands of workers,” Subarkah said.
According to the association, tobacco farmers in East Java supply 53 percent of the country’s total tobacco consumption with a total investment value worth Rp 682 billion.
MUI Surabaya head Ulama Abdussomad Bukhori told the farmers to relax and to continue their work planting tobacco as the plan was still being debated by Islam scholars within the fatwa body.
Indonesia: Prosecutor Confirms Request for Execution Delay
Bali Prosecutors’ Office head Alit Adyana said local and foreign pressure group had requested that the executions of the three Bali bombers be postponed. “There was indeed such requests from abroad, but we cannot be influenced,” Adyana said, as quoted by Antara on Friday.
He refused to give more details on the source of the requests and said that the attorney general’s decision to postpone the executions was not based on the requests. Assistant attorney general for general crimes Abdul Hakim Ritonga announced last week that the terrorists would be executed after Ramadan.
Earlier, Attorney General Hendarman Supadji said the terrorists would be executed before Ramadan, which starts on Sept. 1 until Sept. 30. Ritonga said the reasons for the delay were humanity considerations and that the executions were not in line with the holy event of Ramadan. The AGO wants to allow the death-row convicts to observe their last religious activities during the fasting month, he said.