Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/31/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/31/2009As a follow-up to my earlier G20 post: police in Plymouth have seized a weapons cache that they believe is related to the G20. The funny thing is, the weapons were fake — basically replica models incapable of firing live ammunition.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, Brutally Honest, C. Cantoni, CSP, EMET, Fausta, Fjordman, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, Paul Green, Reinhard, The Observer, Tuan Jim, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Arab and Latin American States Seek G20 Front
Beyond AIG: a Bill to Let Big Government Set Your Salary
Fiat CEO in USA to Seal Deal
Financial Rescue Approaches GDP as U.S. Pledges $12.8 Trillion
Immigration Reform Tough During Crisis, Biden Says
Jordan: Immigrants to Return Home Due to Job Losses
The American Jewish Committee Deserves Better Leadership
UK: G20 Protests: Put People First, They Shout… Yes, But How?
UK: What Planet Are They on? MPs Get Inflation Busting Pay Rise and Expenses Soar to £93m (While Ordinary Brits Fight Recession)
 
USA
Don’t Like CFLs? Ask Your Pet About Them
News Agencies Concealing Islamic Names?
Obama’s Coupe D’etat
Obama Pick Favors International Law
Obama Courts West-Haters
Retired Central Florida Judge Sues Gov. Charlie Crist
Suburban Schools See Limited Hispanic Integration
The Gitmo Guard Who Converted to Islam
U.S. to Join U.N. Human Rights Council, Reversing Bush Policy
Video: Maher Insults American Troops Again
Walgreen to Cut Washington State Medicaid Business
 
Canada
Anti-Semitism Incidents Rising as Economy Ails: Report
Court Upholds British MP’s Canadian Entry Ban
Galloway Speech Will Aid Hamas, Group Alleges
 
Europe and the EU
Battlelines Drawn Between Police and an Activist Army
Czech Teachers to Count Romany Pupils at Elementary Schools — Press
Denmark: Muslim Woman Refused Travel on Bus Due to Headscarf
Denmark: Teaching According to Ability Proves Popular
Dutch Institute Grows Intestine Outside the Body
EU Reaches Draft Deal on Telecoms Reform
Europe: Rights Watchdog Slams Italian Legal Delays
Germany Bans Far-Right Group That Targeted Youth
IRA Dissidents Burn Cars, Block Belfast Roads
Italy: Bribesville Figure Arrested
Legion of Christ to be Investigated
Malta: EU; Excessive Deficit, Brussels Pardons Valletta
Police Seize Weapons as Five Are Held in G20 ‘Terror Plot’
Spain: Deal in Basque Country to Oust Nationalists
Sweden: Muslim Group: ‘Make Halal Slaughter Legal’
UK Plans to Sell Off Nuclear Clean Up Authority London — Britain’s Government Said Monday it Was Putting the Body Responsible for Decommissioning and Cleaning Up the Country’s Nuclear Sites Up for Sale.
UK: ‘I Have Never Read the EU Constitution’, Admits Europe Minister Caroline Flint
UK: Al Qaeda Jailbreak Plot to Free Nine Terrorist Inmates in Hijacked Helicopter is Foiled
UK: Failed Asylum Seekers Are Not Entitled to Free NHS Treatment, Rules Judge
UK: Government Database Now Has the DNA of 5 Million Britons
UK: House of Commons Attack on Policeman Was ‘Incredibly Violent’
UK: Now Fire Service Introduces Hijab Headscarves for Muslim Workers
UK: NHS Must Do More to Eradicate Racial Discrimination, Say Watchdogs
UK: Pregnant Woman ‘Humiliated’ After Being Ordered to Leave Pub for Sipping Friend’s Pint
UK: Woman ‘Kept Daughters-in-Law as Slaves and Forced One to Work on Sewing Machine Night and Day for 13 Years’
UK: Woman Blocked Ambulance Crew as They Tried to Treat Man Who Later Died
What Caused Rome’s Collapse: Immigration or Centralisation?
 
Balkans
Croatia Probes a Serb for Post-WWII Killings
 
North Africa
Spain: Morocco Expels Missionaries Accused of Proselytizing
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Caroline Glick: Remembering Olmert’s True Record
Jordan: Water; Desalination Plant to End Supply From Israel
Obama: I Know Better Than Israelis and Palestinians
 
Middle East
Arab Summit Rejects ICC Arrest Warrant Against Bashir
Elections in Turkey: Testing Ground for Erdogan and the Army
Lebanon: UNIFIL, Incidents Between UN and Civilians
Religious Police Accused of Torture by Saudi Society for Human Rights
Sweden: Five Charged Over Iraqi Human Smuggling Ring
Yemen: Two Dutch Tourists Abducted
 
Russia
Report: Cosmonaut Grumbles About Space Bureaucracy
 
Caucasus
Azerbaijan Removes All Obstacles to Lifetime Reelection for President Aliyev
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: As Bad as the Taleban? Afghan President Backs Law Which ‘Legalises Rape Within Marriage’
Dutch Company to Make Electric Cars for Europe, US
India: Mumbai Gunman’s Life ‘threatened by Mafia Boss’
Pakistan: Army Fights Militants After Storming Police Academy
Pakistan: Home-Grown Al-Qaeda Led Militants ‘Behind Lahore Attack’
Pakistan: Petraeus: Military Reserves ‘Right of Last Resort’ for Threats Inside Pakistan
Pakistan: Taliban Promises Attack on Washington That Will ‘Amaze’ the World After Pakistan Police Massacre
‘Worse Than the Taliban’ — New Law Rolls Back Rights for Afghan Women
 
Far East
Korea: Hyundai Asan Staffer Arrested in N.Korea
Philippine Forces Move Toward Abu Sayyaf Abductors
Philippines: Maoists Attack Philippine Army Base, at Least 17 Killed
 
Australia — Pacific
Accused Nazi War Criminal Zentai Must Leave WA: Court
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
African Monitors Keen to Oversee EU Election
Oh No, Not Again! Oprah’s School Rocked by Second Sex Scandal in 2 Years
 
Latin America
Mexico’s Calderon Rules Out Joint Raids With US
The Southern Front: Islamic Terrorism and Failed States, South and Central America
 
Immigration
720 Migrants in Two Lampedusa Centres
Allow Enough Refugees in and They Will Provide All the Evidence You Need as to Why a State Can Fail
DHS Readies Tent City Strategy for Millions of Mexican ‘Refugees’
ICE Releases Workers Arrested in Washington Raid
Italy: Savage Attack Leaves Pakistani Man in a Coma
Shipwreck Libya, 300 Missing, 350 Rescued
Spain: 151 Migrants Land in the Canaries
Spain: 2 Holocaust Survivors Testify
 
Culture Wars
Abortion: Spain; Bishops, the Debate is Not Over
 
General
Earth Population ‘Exceeds Limits’
Rory Leishman: in Defense of the Pope

Financial Crisis


Arab and Latin American States Seek G20 Front

DOHA (AFP) — South American and Arab leaders on Tuesday sought to forge a common alliance to confront the global financial crisis on the eve of the G20 summit of industrialised nations.

Ahead of Thursday’s G20 forum in London, leaders of the 22-member Arab League and 12 South American states staged their second summit in four years in the Qatari capital, Doha, aiming to create political and economic fronts.

“We must learn from the errors that have occurred in past crises and show… our citizens that the South American and Arab nations are walking together,” Chilean President Michelle Bachelet told the gathering.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva noted that the Doha summit came two days before the London G20 summit which is due to “confront an unprecedented economic crisis.

“The world will follow carefully to see if South America and the Arab countries are capable of taking measures to prevent the financial crisis from becoming a social and political earthquake,” he said.

Lula insisted that the Doha gathering provided leaders with “an extraordinary opportunity” to endorse proposals for reform, namely “the reform of international organisations.”

“This is the only way for countries that have contributed the most to the financial crisis, the deterioration of the environment, trade imbalance and collective insecurity to assume their responsibilities,” he said.

South America and the Arab region are geographically far apart, but each contains a major oil producer, with Venezuela and Saudi Arabia among the world’s top exporters.

Gulf kingpin Saudi Arabia is the only Arab nation that will join emerging countries at the summit of leaders of the Group of 20 most industrialised and developing nations, which will also be attended by Brazil and Argentina.

The G20 summit is aimed at pulling the world economy out of its worst downturn in decades and rewriting the financial rulebooks.

South American and Arab leaders seek to bolster their economic ties, buoyed by the fact that trade between them has almost tripled to around 18 billion dollars since their first summit in Brasilia in 2005.

Leaders also hope to make progress towards forming an economic partnership and a political alliance in global institutions, diplomats said.

Among the South American representatives attending are eight heads of state, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez, who last week announced a clampdown on government spending to offset tumbling oil revenue, called for a “multipolar world,” saying “we think that (the Doha summit) is a good opportunity for this to happen.”

“The hour has come for the final fall of the American empire,” Chavez told reporters.

Regional issues, such as deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the interntional arrest warrant facing Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes in Darfur, were also raised by South American leaders.

The warrant issued on March 4 by the International Criminal Court is “a judicial horror and a disrespect to the people of the Third World,” Chavez told reporters.

“Why don’t they order the arrest of (former US president George W.) Bush, why don’t they order the arrest of the Israeli President (Shimon Peres)?” he asked.

Monday’s Arab summit in Doha united firmly behind Beshir in rejecting the ICC warrant.

Lula urged the incoming Israeli right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu to resume peace talks with the Palestinians, leading to the creation of an independent Palestinians state.

“It is important for the new government in Israel to commit itself firmly to the peace process and respect peace agreements previously reached,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]



Beyond AIG: a Bill to Let Big Government Set Your Salary

By Byron York

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., left, talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, right, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, on Capitol Hill Tuesday, March 24,2009. Frank’s committee has passed a bill giving Geithner extensive control over salaries of employees working at companies receiving government bailout funds. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) It was nearly two weeks ago that the House of Representatives, acting in a near-frenzy after the disclosure of bonuses paid to executives of AIG, passed a bill that would impose a 90 percent retroactive tax on those bonuses. Despite the overwhelming 328-93 vote, support for the measure began to collapse almost immediately. Within days, the Obama White House backed away from it, as did the Senate Democratic leadership. The bill stalled, and the populist storm that spawned it seemed to pass.

But now, in a little-noticed move, the House Financial Services Committee, led by chairman Barney Frank, has approved a measure that would, in some key ways, go beyond the most draconian features of the original AIG bill. The new legislation, the “Pay for Performance Act of 2009,” would impose government controls on the pay of all employees — not just top executives — of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government. It would, like the tax measure, be retroactive, changing the terms of compensation agreements already in place. And it would give Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner extraordinary power to determine the pay of thousands of employees of American companies.

The purpose of the legislation is to “prohibit unreasonable and excessive compensation and compensation not based on performance standards,” according to the bill’s language. That includes regular pay, bonuses — everything — paid to employees of companies in whom the government has a capital stake, including those that have received funds through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The measure is not limited just to those firms that received the largest sums of money, or just to the top 25 or 50 executives of those companies. It applies to all employees of all companies involved, for as long as the government is invested. And it would not only apply going forward, but also retroactively to existing contracts and pay arrangements of institutions that have already received funds.

In addition, the bill gives Geithner the authority to decide what pay is “unreasonable” or “excessive.” And it directs the Treasury Department to come up with a method to evaluate “the performance of the individual executive or employee to whom the payment relates.”

The bill passed the Financial Services Committee last week, 38 to 22, on a nearly party-line vote. (All Democrats voted for it, and all Republicans, with the exception of Reps. Ed Royce of California and Walter Jones of North Carolina, voted against it.)

The legislation is expected to come before the full House for a vote this week, and, just like the AIG bill, its scope and retroactivity trouble a number of Republicans. “It’s just a bad reaction to what has been going on with AIG,” Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, a committee member, told me. Garrett is particularly concerned with the new powers that would be given to the Treasury Secretary, who just last week proposed giving the government extensive new regulatory authority. “This is a growing concern, that the powers of the Treasury in this area, along with what Geithner was looking for last week, are mind boggling,” Garrett said.

Rep. Alan Grayson, the Florida Democrat who wrote the bill, told me its basic message is “you should not get rich off public money, and you should not get rich off of abject failure.” Grayson expects the bill to pass the House, and as we talked, he framed the issue in a way to suggest that virtuous lawmakers will vote for it, while corrupt lawmakers will vote against it.

“This bill will show which Republicans are so much on the take from the financial services industry that they’re willing to actually bless compensation that has no bearing on performance and is excessive and unreasonable,” Grayson said. “We’ll find out who are the people who understand that the public’s money needs to be protected, and who are the people who simply want to suck up to their patrons on Wall Street.”

After the AIG bonus tax bill was passed, some members of the House privately expressed regret for having supported it and were quietly relieved when the White House and Senate leadership sent it to an unceremonious death. But populist rage did not die with it, and now the House is preparing to do it all again.

           — Hat tip: Brutally Honest [Return to headlines]



Fiat CEO in USA to Seal Deal

Chrysler needs partnership to survive

(ANSA) — Turin, March 31 — Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is in the United States to hammer out the details of a partnership with American automaker Chrysler which will allow the Detroit No.3 to qualify for up to $6 billion in government loans.

US President Barack Obama said on Monday that Chrysler’s only hope of survival was to enter into a partnership with Fiat which would give the Italian automaker a controlling stake.

He also praised Fiat’s “impressive turnaround,” which has been orchestrated by the Canadian-trained Marchionne since he arrived in 2004.

Fiat Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo on Tuesday voiced “pride and satisfaction” over the fact that “the greatest nation in the world is paying attention to an Italian company and its technology”.

Leading Italian unions and the powerful industrial employers’ association Confindustria also expressed their satisfaction over the US president’s words and the possible partnership with Chrysler. Obama gave Chrysler and Fiat only 30 days to strike a definitive agreement in order to receive federal funds.

According to reports in the Italian and American press, the final agreement could be different from a preliminary, non-binding one they signed last January which would have given Fiat an initial 35% stake in Chrysler in exchange for the Italian automaker’s cutting-edge technology in the production of fuel-efficient vehicles.

The agreement also gave Fiat an option to but a further 20% stake in the US automaker and envisioned Fiat management “consulting” Chrysler in its strategy decisions.

Because of the size of Chrysler’s debt and costly union benefits, many observers believe that Chrysler may first be piloted through bankruptcy to restructure the company and eliminate the bulk of these obligations.

This would entail convincing lenders and unions that it would be better to own a stake in a ‘new’, profitable Chrysler than to try and recovery their losses through the company’s liquidation. In this case, Fiat would be given a 20% stake in the ‘new’ Chrysler in exchange for its technology and promise to produce cars in the US.

Fiat would later be allowed to increase its stake to a maximum of 49%, with much of the rest being held by unions and lenders in exchange for restructuring Chrysler’s debt and worker benefits.

If Fiat wanted to increase its stake above 50%, Chrysler would first have to pay back its bail-out loans, according to the conditions set by Obama on Monday.

According to one critic of aid to the auto industry, Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker, the Obama approach is basically giving Chrysler away to Fiat.

According to the Financial Times, since Fiat already has an important partnership with India’s Tata Motors, with Chrysler it may seek to create a giant international group which could possibly be opened to Peugeot of France.

Peugeot at the weekend fired its CEO, Christian Streiff, who had been cool to an alliance with Fiat and appeared convinced the French automaker could stand alone.

Marchionne, who is expected to stop in Washington on his way back from Detroit, recently said that once the current global economic crisis is over the world would be left with only six automakers and each would have to sell at least six million cars a year to survive.

Fiat shares on Tuesday were gaining more than 10% in Milan..

photo: Sergio Marchionne

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Financial Rescue Approaches GDP as U.S. Pledges $12.8 Trillion

March 31 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches the value of everything produced in the country last year, to stem the longest recession since the 1930s.

New pledges from the Fed, the Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. include $1 trillion for the Public-Private Investment Program, designed to help investors buy distressed loans and other assets from U.S. banks. The money works out to $42,105 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and 14 times the $899.8 billion of currency in circulation. The nation’s gross domestic product was $14.2 trillion in 2008.

President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with the chief executives of the nation’s 12 biggest banks on March 27 at the White House to enlist their support to thaw a 20-month freeze in bank lending.

“The president and Treasury Secretary Geithner have said they will do what it takes,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein said after the meeting. “If it is enough, that will be great. If it is not enough, they will have to do more.”

Commitments include a $500 billion line of credit to the FDIC from the government’s coffers that will enable the agency to guarantee as much as $2 trillion worth of debt for participants in the Term Asset-Backed Lending Facility and the Public-Private Investment Program. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair warned that the insurance fund to protect customer deposits at U.S. banks could dry up because of bank failures.

‘Within an Eyelash’

The combined commitment has increased by 73 percent since November, when Bloomberg first estimated the funding, loans and guarantees at $7.4 trillion.

“The comparison to GDP serves the useful purpose of underscoring how extraordinary the efforts have been to stabilize the credit markets,” said Dana Johnson, chief economist for Comerica Bank in Dallas.

“Everything the Fed, the FDIC and the Treasury do doesn’t always work out right but back in October we came within an eyelash of having a truly horrible collapse of our financial system, said Johnson, a former Fed senior economist. “They used their creativity to help the worst-case scenario from unfolding and I’m awfully glad they did it.”

The following table details how the Fed and the government have committed the money on behalf of American taxpayers over the past 20 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg…

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]



Immigration Reform Tough During Crisis, Biden Says

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) — The economic slump and soaring unemployment in the United States mean this is not a good time to push immigration reform, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Central American leaders on Monday.

“It’s difficult to tell a constituency while unemployment is rising, they’re losing their jobs and their homes, that what we should do is in fact legalize (illegal immigrants) and stop all deportation,” Biden told a news conference in the Costa Rican capital.

President Barack Obama said during his election campaign that he supported comprehensive immigration reform, as countries like Mexico have been urging for years.

Some 12 million illegal immigrants live in the United States, many from Mexico and Central America. The economic crisis has made many U.S. workers more hostile to legalizing those without papers.

“We believe, the president and I, that this problem can only be solved in the context of an overall immigration reform,” Biden said, asked about the chances of extending temporary migrant protection programs.

“We need some forbearance as we try to put together a comprehensive approach to deal with this.”

Biden was in Costa Rica to meet Central American leaders at an informal regional summit.

A comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws — including plans for a guest worker program — was killed off by Republicans in the U.S. Senate in 2007, although many Central Americans have been able to stay in the United States under the Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, system.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Jordan: Immigrants to Return Home Due to Job Losses

Amman, 24 March (AKI) — Arab countries including Egypt and Jordan are preparing for the return of thousands of immigrant workers who have lost jobs due to the global economic crisis.

According to Arabic satellite TV network, Al-Jazeera, authorities in Amman are preparing for the return of thousands of Jordanians who are expected to return from neighbouring countries in the next year due to the collapse of the job market.

Around 10,000 Jordanians are currently believed to be unemployed in the region. Qualified engineers in Amman have been particularly hard hit by the crisis.

“I lost my job in February,” said engineer Hamza al-Qatani. “Six other Jordanians who were working with me at the same company were also dismissed.

“Many Jordanians were left without work here in Dubai and have already returned home. From January to today there are at least a thousand of my countrymen who have lost their jobs.

There are an estimated 15,000 Jordanian engineers working in the United Arab Emirates and at least 20 percent of them are reportedly unemployed.

Most of them were employed in large private construction projects begun in the past few years which are now on hold due to the current global economic downturn.

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



The American Jewish Committee Deserves Better Leadership

By Philippe Karsenty

If ever an issue begged for the intervention of a Jewish organization of international stature, it was the Mohamed al Dura affair. This notorious blood libel accused Israeli soldiers of shooting to death an Arab boy in Gaza on September 30, 2000. Though the event was actually a staged hoax, it was broadcast the same day on French public television station, France 2. Mohamed al Dura became an icon for all Muslim children. The story triggered rioting, terrorism and mayhem throughout the Muslim world; unleashed the Second Intifada; was the pretext for Daniel Pearl’s beheading, and was referenced in Osama bin Laden’s recruitment tapes prior to 9/11.

For seven years I worked to expose that hoax, and was sued for my effort.

The American Jewish Committee is one of the world’s most active Jewish institutions. It would have been entirely consistent with its mission to have stepped forward to aid me in my efforts to counter a libel that dishonored every Jew.

But under David Harris as executive director, only silence and obstruction were forthcoming.

Harris is renowned for his diplomatic skills, his warm friendship with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and his contacts at the highest levels of other European governments. Some have complained to him that his representative in France, Valerie Hoffenberg, never once objected to France 2’s hoax or supported my efforts to expose it. In fact, Hoffenberg was waging a behind-the scenes counter-offensive to cover-up the al Dura lie by blocking my access to some French officials, lobbying Jewish leaders against me, and claiming that the phony news report was authentic. Harris’ response was always polite and reassuring: “I will look into it,” he promised.

Yet nothing ever changed. It finally became clear that Hoffenberg was not acting on her own initiative, but faithfully adhering to AJC policy. Because of Hoffenberg’s activities, AJC France was actually my most destructive foe.

Nonetheless, in May of last year I was vindicated in a French court.

DAVID HARRIS’ antipathy to exposing the al Dura hoax is entirely consistent with his advice to the Obama administration (as well as other foreign governments) to participate in the planning of the Jew-hating stimulus package known as Durban II — against the wishes of the State of Israel. Now he is viciously attacking three of Israel’s best defenders — Caroline Glick, Melanie Phillips and Anne Bayefsky — for advocating an immediate and unequivocal boycott.

Harris’ claims that he deserves the credit for the current US disengagement from Durban II or improvements in its draft declaration — after undermining boycott efforts repeatedly — are more examples of the same practice I witnessed in the al Dura context: AJC’s mastery of the double game.

When the French Court of Appeals ruled in my favor, the AJC immediately issued a statement in praise of French justice. But that statement was only for its US audience. When asked to comment in French, the AJC representative in France refused, afraid it would appear as criticism of the French government which owns and controls the French public TV station that broadcast the al Dura hoax.

On December 2006, the AJC published an excellent report called “Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism” by Alvin Rosenfeld. AJC received requests that it be translated into German.

Harris wrote to his Berlin bureau chief, Deidre Berger: “I believe there would be a mini-firestorm in Germany if this [the Rosenfeld report] appeared and, therefore, do far more damage than good to our image and reputation in a key country.”

In other words Germany is a “key country” and Harris had important relationships to protect.

I’M NOT ALONE in my concerns about Harris’ European involvement.

The following is an unsolicited note from a prominent German Jew that came to me in November 2008 and confirmed my perception of Harris’ “policies”:

“While you experienced problems with AJC Paris, AJC Berlin has been making problems in Germany. This is no coincidence. The explanation is that this AJC policy is supported by David Harris. AJC wants to sit in the first row among the Jewish organizations when it comes to contacts with European governments. For this reason they try to get along well with the establishments in the various countries…

“It is thus working against, and even sabotaging, other Jewish and non-Jewish NGOs that are more serious about combating anti-Semitism and supporting Israel. In short, AJC is practicing appeasement toward the European governments and elites. That establishment, for its part, appreciates AJC giving them the kosher stamp of approval. AJC is thus working against Jewish interests in Europe.”

Worldwide, Jew-hatred is skyrocketing and Israel’s enemies have never been as united as they are now. The UN’s Durban II is a forum intended to confer official legitimacy on that hatred and unity — no less than the fiction of Mohamed al Dura, the UN’s poster child for Israeli atrocities. Not surprisingly, the painful but phony image of the “dead” Al Dura boy adorned the walls of the places that hosted Durban I.

AJC attracts donors by claiming to protect Jewish interests, but in reality, under Harris’ leadership, its actions provide cover for our enemies.

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



UK: G20 Protests: Put People First, They Shout… Yes, But How?

The G20 protesters have every right to be angry, but their message doesn’t make sense, says Tracy Corrigan.

I am thinking of organising a demonstration. It seems to be the thing to do, in the run-up to the G20 meeting. My target, however, will be the G20 protesters themselves. I am fed up with them making a gigantic, disruptive fuss about everything they think is wrong with the world, without having any coherent notion of how to put it right.

It sounds oxymoronic to suggest that crowds can be attention-seeking, but the faces of those “Put People First” demonstrators in London on Saturday screamed “Look at me, look at me”. I am all for offering the global leaders who are convening in London this week some fresh ideas, and I’m happy for protesters to take to the streets to deliver that advice. It’s just hard to work out what it is.

“Our message is clear,” proclaims the Put People First website. “We must put people first.” Supporters are invited to send messages to the G20. In case any global leaders who happen to be reading missed these helpful hints, here is a selection: “Put people first! Yeah!” “Put people first! We must be heard!” “Against the rich and the powerful. Just one way: fight!” And my personal favourite: “Discover for yourselves the truth… then discover the alternatives by listening to us. Then act wisely.” No, I don’t think they were teasing.

If you still do not know what the Put People First protesters want — and at this stage, there is no reason why you should — let me shed a little light. They were marching for “jobs, justice, climate”. Dig a little deeper, and you discover that “the platform is united by three linked calls” for decent jobs and public services for all, an end to poverty, and a green economy.

The problem is that these pointers may confuse our leaders, rather than guide them. Jobs are certainly a good idea, and decent ones are better than the other sort, but what if they are in the oil or coal industries? Not so good on the climate front. And justice? Well, trade barriers aren’t very just, but without them the domestic labour force will suffer more cuts. And should the Government subsidise failing industries to preserve jobs, if that means cuts to social services?

I almost feel sorry for the politicians. Not only do they have a dismally low chance of agreeing on any effective solutions; they are also facing an angry mob, demanding… well, whatever. And instead of just explaining to the demonstrators that they can’t have everything, politicians feel obliged to say that they share the same pain. This is not the way political protest should work — and I am not without some small experience in these matters. The first demonstration I attended is my model. It had a clear goal — “US out of El Salvador” — and some nice tourism opportunities, since it was held in Washington DC. I had been invited by an extremely attractive senior at the US college I was attending in my gap year. The enterprise involved a very long journey in the back of a camper van; the protest was well organised and heavily policed; it was warm and sunny; and there were lots of guitars. Subsequent experience did not match up — after encountering some hostile women at Greenham Common, I threw in the towel. But I had learnt the basic lessons: deliver a simple, achievable message, and however cross you are, have some fun and don’t get nasty.

I do not quibble with the anger expressed by the G20 protesters. We are in a dreadful mess caused by the stupidity of politicians, the ineptitude of regulators and the greed of bankers, not to mention some profligate spending by consumers. Many people who did not contribute to the problem are suffering greatly as a result, and we will all be paying through the nose for years to come. It is our democratic right to take to the streets to complain about it, and I’m very glad that I live in a country where we can still do so. Traffic snarl-ups, broken windows and a hefty security bill are a small price to pay.

But at the very least, the protesters should try to come up with some slogans that are either more honest or more specific. Those who have a specific axe to grind should say so. How about “I know we have problems, but let’s make sure poor countries don’t suffer unduly” or “Things are bleak, but please don’t forget about climate change”?

Instead, much of the rhetoric seems to be about disrupting the G20 meeting. I don’t understand how this will help. I am not overly optimistic about the outcome of the gathering, but if by some fluke our leaders manage to agree on a plan to sort out at least some of our problems, it doesn’t seem a great idea to stop them in their tracks. If protesters don’t have anything constructive to suggest, I recommend that they stick to the basics. “Global leaders, you have made a real hash of things and we are very cross with you.” That’s a message we can all agree on.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: What Planet Are They on? MPs Get Inflation Busting Pay Rise and Expenses Soar to £93m (While Ordinary Brits Fight Recession)

The full extent of the Westminster gravy train has been laid bare as MPs received an inflation-busting pay rise and it was revealed that they claimed £93million in annual expenses.

Members are effectively trebling their pay by pocketing on average £144,176 on top of their back-bench salaries.

The expenses total for 2007-08 was up 6 per cent from £87.6million a year earlier, prompting fresh accusations that MPs had their ‘snouts in the trough’ at a time when voters are experiencing pay freezes or cuts and job losses.

To add insult to injury, it emerged that backbenchers would receive a 2.33 per cent pay rise from tomorrow, increasing their basic £63,266 salary by £1,500 to £64,766.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA


Don’t Like CFLs? Ask Your Pet About Them

Are feds dictating new light bulbs before they’re ready?

Online, a number of consumers also complain that their pets react adversely to the new bulbs.

On the U.K. Yahoo! Answers forum, posters complained of dogs barking at the ceiling and growing agitated in rooms that use CFLs.

“When the ‘low energy’ lamp is on, the dogs are not very happy and will not go to the room by choice,” wrote Stellar Meg. “Put the lamp back to a normal light bulb, or switch the low energy one off, the dogs are quite happy.”

Florida resident Brian Hetzman told WND of similar problems with his dog.

“My wife and I put a new fluorescent bulb in our ceiling light, and our 10-year-old dog literally jumped up off the floor and starting screaming,” Hetzman said. “She was moaning and growling and barking and looking up at the ceiling.

“I figured out what was happening and took the bulb out,” he continued. “Then I put it back in a second later to test the theory. Again, she started making noises I’ve never heard her make and running around in a circle moaning and whimpering.”

Popular CFLs use an electronic ballast to send a current through the gas within the bulb, which then excites the bulb’s phosphor coating to produce light. The electronic ballast is supposed to be an improvement over the flickering, slow starting magnetic ballasts used in older fluorescent bulbs, but some believe the electronic technology also produces an ultrasonic noise that disturbs animals.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



News Agencies Concealing Islamic Names?

Muslim suspects not identified in reports of Minneapolis shooting

Most of the local reports of a Minneapolis shooting left out the Islamic names of the suspects, notes a blogger at Newsbusters.com.

The suspects were identified in one report as Mohamud Ahmed Hassan, Hamad Ahmad Issek and Jibril Farah Mohamed, and the blogger wondered whether the Islamic names had anything to do with the omission in many other Minnesota media reports.

Blogger Warner Todd Huston said the question is “did the Old Media in Minnesota purposefully leave the names unreported so that they could cover up the fact that the criminals were Somali immigrants? And, if so, why would they do this?”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama’s Coupe D’etat

After yesterday’s events, there can be only one conclusion about the goal of Barack Obama’s administration — to destroy the U.S. economy, to transform it from one based on free enterprise to one directed by government.

In the last 48 hours, we’ve witnessed a presidential pretender fire the chief executive officer of General Motors and put a gun to the head of the Chrysler Corp., demanding that this U.S. business begin the process of selling out to a foreign automaker.

What do you call it when Obama makes moves to take over the auto industry? A coupe d’etat.

But it is hardly a joking matter.

Do you realize what just happened?

How does a president fire a CEO?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama Pick Favors International Law

As usual, President Barack Obama is multi-tasking the dismantling of the American system on so many fronts that not all of the outrages can be properly monitored. So while you should be mortified by his dictatorial power grab with General Motors, please don’t miss his recent nomination of former Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as legal adviser for the State Department.

In his new position, Koh not only would represent the United States before international bodies, such as the U.N. and the International Court of Justice, but also would influence the degree to which laws of other countries should influence American jurisprudence.

After reading an alarming piece by Meghan Clyne in the New York Post concerning the Koh nomination and the degree to which Koh believes it’s appropriate for courts to consider other nations’ laws in interpreting our Constitution, I read a number of Koh’s legal writings and speeches.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama Courts West-Haters

Plans to attend conference seeking Islamic interests

Concern has been mounting over President Obama’s scheduled participation in the U.N.’s Alliance of Civilizations summit in Turkey next month, with some critics painting the organization as anti-Western and advocating Iranian interests.

“The Alliance might more appropriately be called a U.N.-approved Slush Fund for Advancing Iranian and Other Islamic Interests,” wrote Claudia Rosett, a Forbes contributor and journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Retired Central Florida Judge Sues Gov. Charlie Crist

A retired Central Florida appeals court judge is asking the state’s high court to order Gov. Charlie Crist to name his replacement in a lingering standoff over appointing more minority judges to the bench.

“I deeply regret that the Governor has made it necessary to institute an action over the appointment of my replacement,” retired Fifth District Court of Appeal Judge Robert J. Pleus said in a statement Monday. “I feel that there is no alternative.”

The court petition filed Monday asks the Florida Supreme Court to order Crist to fill the judgeship from a list of six nominees the Judicial Nominating Commission sent to him last year. The seat has been vacant since early January, but the governor has twice rejected the list of six names saying the panel could have added African-American nominees. The panel made up of lawyers from Central Florida has said it is constitutionally barred from submitting new names to Crist.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Suburban Schools See Limited Hispanic Integration

Hispanic students have become more segregated in suburban public schools over the last decade, even while blacks and Asians have become slightly less isolated, according to a new study.

The report by the Pew Hispanic Center challenges the conventional assumption that growing minority populations will create an instant “melting pot” in suburban and other districts. It raises questions about whether local school boards need to actively promote integration.

“Suburbia has changed — suburban schools are getting much more diverse,” said Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew, a Washington think tank. “But we shouldn’t assume that white suburban students as a result are interacting significantly more with nonwhites.”

The popularity of charter schools, now promoted by President Barack Obama, is a factor behind some of the segregation in grades K-12, Fry and other experts say. This is because many charter schools have special ethnic themes or offer bilingual courses, and minorities are choosing to enroll in schools with classmates of the same race.

The nation’s suburbs added 3.4 million students from 1993 to 2007, representing two-thirds of the growth in public school enrollment. Virtually all the suburban growth — 99 percent — came from the addition of Hispanic, black and Asian students.

But while black and Asian students saw small gains in integration, Hispanic students were increasingly clustered at the same suburban schools. The study found their segregation was particularly evident not only in counties around Chicago, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and in Prince George’s, Md., where their population is small compared with blacks and whites, but also in Hispanic hotspots in the Los Angeles, Miami and San Diego metro areas.

Among other findings:

  • White students comprised 59 percent of suburban public school enrollment, down from 72 percent in 1993. Hispanics, who now make up 20 percent of enrollment compared with 11 percent in 1993, were the primary driver of overall growth.
  • Minority students tended to cluster in schools where blacks, Hispanics and Asians made up the majority of students, rather than being evenly spread among schools.
  • Nationally, blacks, Hispanics and Asians saw modest declines overall in segregation since 1993, as minorities began moving away from city districts, which were disproportionately minority.

The latest trends reflect some of the challenges ahead as public school districts educate a K-12 population that is increasingly minority.

David R. Garcia, an assistant professor of education at Arizona State University who has researched charter schools, said the dilemma of resegregation in some communities is complicated. That’s because many minorities are choosing to congregate in charter schools because of their emphasis on special needs such as Hispanic students with English-language problems.

The Supreme Court in 2007 rejected the explicit use of race in assigning students to schools, leaving districts scrambling to find new ways to alleviate isolation among racial and ethnic groups.

“We worked hard to have more diversity by bringing together students of different races who go to school together, learn together and become more tolerant as a whole, so there is concern,” Garcia said. But policymakers have been loath to intervene when minority and other parents are making the choices, he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



The Gitmo Guard Who Converted to Islam

[Comments from JD: Note the article slant.]

Army specialist Terry Holdbrooks had been a guard at Guantánamo for about six months the night he had his life-altering conversation with detainee 590, a Moroccan also known as “the General.”

[…]

He developed a strong relationship with the General, whose real name is Ahmed Errachidi. Their late-night conversations led Holdbrooks to be more skeptical about the prison, he says, and made him think harder about his own life. Soon, Holdbrooks was ordering books on Arabic and Islam. During an evening talk with Errachidi in early 2004, the conversation turned to the shahada, the one-line statement of faith that marks the single requirement for converting to Islam (“There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet”). Holdbrooks pushed a pen and an index card through the mesh, and asked Errachidi to write out the shahada in English and transliterated Arabic. He then uttered the words aloud and, there on the floor of Guantánamo’s Camp Delta, became a Muslim.

[…]

Holdbrooks’s level of identification with the other side was exceptional. No other guard has volunteered that he embraced Islam at the prison (though Errachidi says others expressed interest). His experience runs counter to academic studies, which show that guards and inmates at ordinary prisons tend to develop mutual hostility. But then, Holdbrooks is a contrarian by nature. He can also be conspiratorial. When his company visited the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, Holdbrooks remembers thinking there had to be a broader explanation, and that the Bush administration must have colluded somehow in the plot.

[…]

But other guards noticed changes in him. They heard detainees calling him Mustapha, and saw that Holdbrooks was studying Arabic openly. (At his Phoenix apartment, he displays the books he had amassed. They include a leather-bound, six-volume set of Muslim sacred texts and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam.”) One night his squad leader took him to a yard behind his living quarters, where five guards were waiting to stage a kind of intervention. “They started yelling at me,” he recalls, “asking if I was a traitor, if I was switching sides.” At one point a squad leader pulled back his fist and the two men traded blows, Holdbrooks says.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



U.S. to Join U.N. Human Rights Council, Reversing Bush Policy

UNITED NATIONS, March 31 — The Obama administration decided Tuesday to seek a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing a decision by the Bush administration to shun the United Nations’ premier rights body to protest the influence of repressive states.

The United States announced it would participate in elections in May for one of three seats on the 47-member council, joining a slate that includes Belgium, Norway and New Zealand. New Zealand has offered to step aside to allow the United States to run unchallenged, according to a U.S. official.

Human rights activists have been advocating U.S. membership in the council since its creation in March 2006.

“This is a welcome step that gives the United States and other defenders of human rights a fighting chance to make the institution more effective,” said a human rights advocate familiar with the decision. “I think everybody is just desperate to have the United States and Barack Obama run for the human rights council, and countries are willing to bend over backward to make that happen.”

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]



Video: Maher Insults American Troops Again

“At some point, these people are going to have to learn to rape themselves. [boos] I’ll ignore that.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Walgreen to Cut Washington State Medicaid Business

SEATTLE (Reuters) — Drugstore company Walgreen Co said on Monday it would pull almost half its pharmacies in Washington state from the U.S. Medicaid program in protest against the state’s plan to cut reimbursements for drugs.

Cash-strapped Washington state plans to insist on cheaper, generic drugs for low-income Medicaid clients whenever available and equivalent to brand-name drugs, and is also cutting the rate of reimbursements on all drugs to pharmacies which supply them.

Cutting the reimbursement rate of generic and brand-name drugs would severely impact the “economic viability of doing business in Washington,” Walgreen said in a statement.

Walgreen, one of the largest U.S. pharmacy chains, is to withdraw 44 of its 111 pharmacies in the state of Washington from the Medicaid program. Medicaid provides health insurance to low income individuals.

Unlike Medicare, the federal health program for seniors, Medicaid is partially funded by states. In order to cut the costs of the program, Washington state announced last week it would cut Medicaid reimbursements for brand-name prescription drugs by 6 percent, effective on Wednesday.

Walgreen said it would withdraw the 44 pharmacies from Medicaid as of May 1, a month after Washington introduces its plan. It said those pharmacies represent more than 60 percent of its total Medicaid business in the state.

There is a chance other pharmacies such as CVS Caremark Corp and Rite Aid Corp will follow suit in pulling out of Washington’s Medicaid program.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Canada


Anti-Semitism Incidents Rising as Economy Ails: Report

OTTAWA — Jews are being used as scapegoats for the ailing economy, B’nai Brith said Tuesday in its annual report that found anti-Semitism reached another all-time high last year.

The audit counted 1,135 incidents in 2008, an 8.9% increase over the previous year, and a more than fourfold increase over the past decade.

“As the economy faces recession, the hate industry experiences inflationary growth. Bad economic times encourages the growth of bigotry and especially anti-Semitism,” Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith, said at a news conference.

The Jewish group said it is no coincidence that 547 incidents happened in the last four months of the year and that December was the month with the highest total of the year.

Mr. Dimant said the federal government, as well as the official opposition, has made rooting out anti-Semitism a priority but that positive efforts are constantly challenged by a “coalition of hate”that he said includes terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, campaigns by the Canadian Arab Federation, neo-Nazi groups and academics on university campuses that support unions such as the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The union recently proposed adopting a resolution to prohibit Israeli academics from lecturing, teaching or researching in Canada.

“Radical Islamists threaten Jews and, together with the neo-Nazis and the academics, have created an informal entity of a coalition of hate in this country. Collectively and independently they are poisoning the harmony and tranquility which we once enjoyed in Canada, as a tolerant, multi-faith and multicultural society,” sad Mr. Dimant.

The majority of anti-Semitic incidents, 682, happened in Ontario and most of those, 538, were in the Toronto area while 62 were reported in Ottawa. Incidents in Quebec represented 22% of the country’s total, which marked a 15% decline from 2007. Anti-Semitic incidents were up in British Columbia and Saskatchewan and way up in Alberta where there was a 79% jump from the number reported in 2007.

About 800 incidents were characterized as harassment, followed by 318 cases of vandalism and 14 reports of violence.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Court Upholds British MP’s Canadian Entry Ban

OTTAWA (AFP) — The federal court on Monday refused to overturn the Canadian border agency’s decision to deny firebrand British lawmaker George Galloway entry for a speaking tour, on security grounds.

His lawyers had sought an injunction allowing him to speak at anti-war forums in Toronto and other Canadian cities this week, accusing Ottawa of censorship and heavy-handedness.

But Federal Court judge Luc Martineau ruled there were insufficient grounds to overrule the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

“As a fundamental principle of immigration law, non-citizens do not have an unqualified right to enter in Canada,” Martineau said in his decision.

“In this respect, Parliament has expressly given the CBSA officers legal authority to exclusively determine whether a foreign national who seeks to enter this country is admissible,” he said.

In this case, “a proper factual record and the benefit of full legal argument are lacking at the present time” to warrant an exception to the rule, the judge said.

The CBSA notified Galloway by letter on March 20 that his donation of cars and cash to the Hamas-run government in Gaza make him inadmissible to Canada, as Hamas is a listed terrorist organization in Canada.

Galloway had traveled to Gaza mid-March at the head of a humanitarian convoy, donating thousands of dollars and dozens of vehicles to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.

He praised the Palestinian “resistance” and condemned Israel’s 22-day offensive launched in December, in which 1,300 Palestinians died, as “genocidal aggression.”

Alykhan Velshi, a spokesman for Canada’s immigration minister, however described Galloway as “a street-corner Cromwell who brags about giving ‘financial support’ to Hamas.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Galloway Speech Will Aid Hamas, Group Alleges

A Federal Court judge in Toronto has upheld a Canadian travel ban for outspoken British MP and antiwar activist George Galloway.

TORONTO — George Galloway’s planned visit to Canada is not just a speaking junket, but a fundraising tour that would benefit the outlawed terrorist group Hamas, the Canadian wing of the Jewish Defence League alleged yesterday.

The controversial Zionist group cited a press release from Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, one of Mr. Galloway’s hosts, that said a Montreal event on Wednesday “will aim to raise additional funds for Galloway’s Gaza aid caravan.”

On Monday, a federal court judge in Toronto upheld a Canadian travel ban for the outspoken British MP and antiwar activist.

Hamas, an acronym meaning Islamic Resistance Movement, has ruled Gaza since elections in 2007.

Meir Weinstein, national director of JDL, said he did not know if it was his March 16 letter, citing Mr. Galloway’s own promotional material, that tipped the Conservative government to the visit.

But he praised the decision, taken four days later, to inform Mr. Galloway that he would be refused entry to Canada because he had “provided financial support to Hamas,” in the form of an aid convoy to Gaza.

Mr. Weinstein said he is primarily concerned with the fundraising, not the famously bombastic content of Mr. Galloway’s speeches.

He said concerns over free speech made him feel “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” But he said he “can’t accept being relegated to second rate status, that we don’t have a right to object.”

“We would oppose him speaking anywhere and we would oppose any apologist or supporter of Hamas,” he said. “But whether or not the government would prevent that, I don’t know. We’re not taking a stand on the issue of free speech here… It’s extremely dangerous what this individual represents.”

He criticized SPHR in particular for supporting Mr. Galloway, and alleged that they “instigated a riot” in 2002 to prevent a speech by then-former (now newly elected) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“They believe in free speech as long as it’s for them, and they deny free speech to others,” Mr. Weinstein said.

Laith Marouf, branches coordinator for Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights in Montreal, said that for the JDL to accuse others of supporting terrorism “is like the pot calling the kettle black.”

He referred to the FBI’s description of JDL as “a violent extremist Jewish organization.” Among other critics, the Southern Poverty Law Center calls it a “hate group,” and denounces its “long history of bombing, assaulting and threatening its perceived enemies.”

JDL’s Canada wing was recently reformed under Mr. Weinstein after a period of inactivity.

Mr. Marouf said Mr. Galloway’s aid caravan brought humanitarian and medical aid to Gaza, and did not support terrorism.

“That is what we are aiming to raise funds for,” Mr. Marouf said, adding that the money would be given as a donation to the British charity Viva Palestina.

This charity, backed by Mr. Galloway, has said it raised around $2-million, largely as a result of public outcry at Israel’s offensive there in January.

Last week, the British Charity Commission launched an inquiry after Viva Palestina offered “no substantive response” to requests for detailed financial information. It also expressed concerns with the charity’s financial governance structure.

Aside from handing out copies of an SPHR press release and a BBC news story, the main focus of the JDL press conference was a video it took from YouTube and showed to assembled journalists. It was a montage of short Galloway clips, such as his statements that “We are all Hamas now,” “Victory to the Intifada,” and “I’m not in favour of a two-state solution because I don’t believe in a Jewish state.”

The video also included crude propaganda, such as unidentified images of children wearing suicide bombs and masked men brandishing knives. One image showed Yasser Arafat against a backdrop of flames, with the caption, “No Virgins?”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Battlelines Drawn Between Police and an Activist Army

LONDON’S 10,000-plus police are pitted in an ever-changing game of cat and mouse against an unknown army of activists whose domain is the street but whose plans are made in cyberspace.

The Metropolitan Police says the G20 — which includes President Barack Obama’s first London visit — is the most complex and, at $15 million, the most expensive security operation in the city’s history.

Behind the scenes they are also dealing with veteran anarchists, young socialists, savvy climate change warriors, seasoned hippies, angry students and old-fashioned, blue-collar workers who have united in a common force of protest against the global financial crisis.

The images and rhetoric may not have changed much since the anti-globalisation protests of 2000, but the level of penetration and reach, via the internet, has deepened. The world of paper flyers and pamphlets posted on walls and telegraph poles has been replaced by email, chatrooms, Facebook and Twitter.

Commander Simon O’Brien of the Metropolitan Police said that police intelligence officers were working overtime to monitor traditional and newer sources of information.

“There is an almost unprecedented level of activity going on. We are seeing the return of some old faces, people we haven’t seen on the protests circuit in London for some years … what we have yet to see is how achievable some of the aims and ideas being discussed are going to be.”

Between Friday and Monday in Plymouth police arrested five protesters, the youngest aged 16, under anti-terrorism laws after one was caught painting Antifa (a Europe-wide anti-fascist and anti-racist organisation) on a wall and replica guns, homemade fireworks and flares were found during a police search.

And, for the first time in London, protesters’ greatest defence against police heavy handedness — photographs and video — may lead to their arrest, as the Counter Terrorism Act now permits the arrest of anyone “eliciting, publishing or communicating information” about members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers.

In other words, someone taking a picture of a policeman during a protest could face a fine or a jail sentence of up to 10 years — if a link to terrorism is proved.

The Herald spoke to representatives of London based anarchist groups, but only two agreed to be interviewed, and not until 24 hours before the first big protest. Dr Ashok Sinha, Director of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, said organisations such as his prefer legal, non-violent protests such as the 35,000-strong marches in London last Saturday.

“The one thing about direct action is they play cards close to their chest. They want to stay ahead of the authorities.. We know they will be active. We know they want to set up a camp in the City [London’s financial district]. There have also been some unhelpful noises. Some have talked

about bankers hanging from lampposts.”

But Dr Sinha, whose Coalition represents more than 100 global organisations and has close to 11 million members, said he accepts different forms of protest.

“I do understand some are so enraged by a new coal power plant that they want to trespass and sit in front of diggers.”

New forms of direct action, as planned for London today, also present a dilemma for the police: how to deal with the sudden appearance of a peaceful camp, including tents, toilets and mess huts, in the middle of main roads and the city’s financial district? Police may have tried-and-tested strategies to halt violence but street occupations, as pledged by the Climate Camp, may be more difficult.

The so-called G20 Meltdown Campaign — an informal group of organisations — is also expected to pose problems when they set off from four sites in London to converge on the Bank of England.

“We will seek to facilitate lawful demonstrations,” Commander O’Brien said.

“But there are groups who, by their very ethos, won’t work or talk with police. And we won’t allow, nor will we tolerate, people breaking the law, attacking buildings, other people, or our officers. Our plan spans right across London, and we have large numbers of officers [in] reserve to respond wherever and whenever we are needed. And we are very well rehearsed in the tactics that we are going to be using.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Czech Teachers to Count Romany Pupils at Elementary Schools — Press

Prague — The Czech Education Ministry has authorised teachers at elementary schools to count Romany pupils in their classes, the daily Lidove noviny writes today, adding that the project is aimed at finding out whether Romany children are discriminated against in the Czech education system.

Elementary schools will be obliged to report to the ministry how many Romany children started attending schools later than other children, how many of them were in preparatory classes and how many hours they were absent from the teaching process in these classes, LN writes.

The teachers who will be entrusted with the task will also have to provide data on how many Romany children had to repeat their grade and how many of them proceed to the next grade, LN writes.

“We need to know whether the groups of these children are subject of segregation and whether they are put at a disadvantage in the social and cultural area,” Deputy Education Minister Klara Laurencikova told LN.

It is generally accepted that Romany children attend schools for children with learning difficulties. These schools were previously called special and are now called practical schools in the Czech Republic.

So far, there has been no statistics on how many Romany children attended these schools, the paper says.

Laurencikova says there have been restrictions on the collection of ethnic and racial data for a long time, but this should be done in order to implement systemic changes.

She says she does not think the questionnaire drafted by the ministry has any racial subtext.

European directives allow the collection of such data when their collection helps reveal discrimination, Laurencikova says.

Schools and class headmasters must determine by themselves how many Romany children they have, the paper says.

According to the Education Ministry’s manual, boys and girls who consider themselves Romanies and declare their belonging to the Romany community and are also viewed as Romanies by a large part of their neighbours are considered Romany children.

The ministry believes that the role of the teachers involved in the project is of key importance as teachers themselves should be able to define their children’s ethnic origin over which they could be discriminated against, LN writes.

Ivan Vesely, chairman of the Romany Dzeno association, says he does not consider the collection of the data a problem but sees no benefit of the measure.

“I do not think that after the data are available something fundamental would change in this question in the following years,” Vesely told the paper.

He say the parents of Romany children often want their children to attend special schools but this harms the children. The Education Ministry shares his view.

The failure to enroll ethnic minority children in mainstream education has a negative impact on their further development and on their future, LN writes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Muslim Woman Refused Travel on Bus Due to Headscarf

Bus company Arriva said that it was a case of confusion and not racism that led a bus driver to refuse travel to a woman wearing a headscarf

A Muslim family was shocked when a local bus driver refused to continue driving unless the mother, who was wearing a traditional headscarf, got off the bus.

Århus Stiftstidende newspaper reported that Houria Nouioua, together with her husband and three young children, was told by the young male bus driver that she couldn’t travel on the bus because she was wearing a niqab — a traditional Muslim veil that covers the face.

‘The driver said that the rules in Denmark meant he couldn’t carry passengers that were masked,’ said the woman’s husband, Mohamed Belgacem. ‘I was so shocked that she couldn’t travel on the bus. I’ve lived in Denmark for 12 years and have never experienced anything like this.’ The Arriva bus remained at the bus stop for 15 minutes while other passengers became involved in the incident, outraged at the behaviour of the bus driver.

‘It’s pure racism and discrimination,’ said a female passenger who rang the Arriva head office and spoke to an official who instructed the driver to accept the Muslim passenger.

Martin Wex, press manager with Arriva said the driver will not be fired as it was not a case of racism but one of confusion.

‘The driver said he had heard that masks were forbidden during demonstrations in Denmark and thought that it also applied to busses,’ said Wex, who confirmed that in the next issue of the employee magazine rules will be made clear to all personnel.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Sounds like it was a burkha/niqab rather than a “headscarf”.]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Teaching According to Ability Proves Popular

Schools are reporting good results from splitting primary school students into groups according to ability, but some worry about the social affects of the policy

More schools are starting to implement a two-level teaching system in their upper primary school classes, where stronger and weaker students are put into separate teams for certain subjects, reports Politiken newspaper.

An ‘A and B team’ system was once prevalent in all schools, but was phased out due to concerns that it fostered inequality.

However, new legislation from 2003 made it again possible for teachers to split students up into groups according to ability, and most who have adopted the technique say it has been a success for effectively educating both groups. ‘Some parents were worried at first when we began using the system, but those concerns have since been alleviated,’ said Torben Mørup, headmaster at Nordvangsskolen in the Jutland city of Esbjerg. ‘The children know themselves what level they are at, and they say they don’t feel as incapable when they are in a group with others at that same level.’

But some experts and politicians continue to express concerns over the social stigma of students in the lower group, saying that they may feel inadequate compared to those in the higher-level group.

‘My scepticism stems from a concern that there will be so much class splitting that we end up with the old A and B group system again,’ said Social Democratic MP Christine Antorini.

But Frans Ørsted Andersen of the Danish School of Education believes that the two-tier concept is not being used enough in Danish schools.

‘We have a prevailing ideology where we want to hold onto the concept of one class,’ he said.

Anders Balle, president of the national headmasters’ association, said students want to feel they’re being taught at the level that suits them best.

‘Plus, they’re also getting more personal attention through this system,’ Balle said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Dutch Institute Grows Intestine Outside the Body

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Presumably this wasn’t an embryonic mouse stem cell — doesn’t really say.]

Dutch researchers have made the first step on the way to growing artificial organs outside the body. The advance is a significant one and may even be used to treat cancer patients in a few years’ time.

Dutch researchers at the Hubrecht Institute for stem cell research in Utrecht have successfully grown intestinal tissue from a single cell. The tissue reproduces itself fivefold in a week. This means that doctors can cut away more tumor tissue as it can be replaced quickly. In the scientific journal Nature, the researchers say this is the first time that intestinal tissue grown in a laboratory has remained stable for several months.

The tissue has been grown from a single cell from a mouse, but it has the same structure as human tissue. The artificial tissue replaces itself in the same way as normal tissue does, and with the right nutrition it can independently grow into organ tissue.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



EU Reaches Draft Deal on Telecoms Reform

European Union’s main institutions have struck a draft deal on the main elements of a package to reform EU telecom rules to increase competition and cut prices for customers, the EU executive said on Tuesday.

“We have a draft deal that was concluded at a very late hour last night,” European Commission spokesman Martin Selmayr said.

The reform sets up a new pan-EU supervisory body, beefs up consumer rights and allows regulators to split up integrated telecoms companies as a last resort to boost competition, a step Germany and its largest domestic operator is unhappy with.

“At the moment we are still cautious with regard to statements since the draft deal is ready for the vote but has not yet been approved,” Deutsche Telekom said.

“In general, however, network unbundling is the medicine for a disease Germany does not have,” the operator said.

The reform also aims to make it harder for a national regulator to shield a local operator from competition

           — Hat tip: Reinhard [Return to headlines]



Europe: Rights Watchdog Slams Italian Legal Delays

Strasbourg, 26 March (AKI) — Europe’s top human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, has expressed concern about what it calls the “dysfunction” of Italy’s judicial system and its risks. The council said on Thursday that its committee of ministers had adopted a resolution concerning the excessive length of judicial proceedings in Italy.

“The dysfunction of the justice system, as a consequence of the length of proceedings, represents an important danger, not least for the respect of the rule of law,” said the resolution which was adopted last week.

The resolution followed two others concerning the excessive length of civil and criminal judicial proceedings and bankruptcy cases in Italy.

“Given the substantial backlog in the civil and criminal fields — approximately 5.5 million pending civil cases and 3.2 million pending criminal cases — as well as in the administrative field, a final solution to the structural problem of length of proceedings still needs to be found,” it said.

The council said there are currently 2,183 cases against Italy concerning the length of judicial proceedings.

It also said the average duration of civil procedures for filing a bankruptcy petition was 159 days in 2007, while bankruptcy proceedings took an average of 3,754 days.

In addition, a 2009 report entitled ‘Doing Business’ by the World Bank ranked Italy 156 out of 178 countries in the enforcement of commercial contracts.

The World Bank also found that Italy’s judicial system offered business investors less protection than the African country of Mozambique and that contracts were more difficult to enforce in Italy than Colombia in South America.

In a report published in the British weekly, The Economist, in early March, Italy’s justice minister Angelino Alfano was reported to have said that it takes more than 31 months to bring a case to court.

Alfano’s view was echoed by the head of Italy’s supreme judicial court, Vincenzo Carbone who said in late January that Italy is ranked last in Europe in judicial speed and efficiency.

The council called on Italian authorities to adopt urgent measures to reduce the civil, criminal and administrative backlog and introduce reforms to speed up the processing of civil and criminal cases.

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



Germany Bans Far-Right Group That Targeted Youth

BERLIN — Germany’s top security official on Tuesday banned a far-right group on the ground that it organizes seemingly harmless activities to promote racist and Nazi ideology among children and young people.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the ban on the Homeland-Faithful German Youth, or HDJ, was effective immediately.

“Today’s ban puts a stop to the offensive intrigues of the HDJ,” Schaeuble said. “We will do everything possible to protect our children and youth from these rat-catchers.”

Authorities in the states of Berlin, Brandenburg, Lower Saxony and Saxony launched searches in connection with the ban.

Schaeuble’s ministry said in a statement that the group organizes activities to gain access to children who are then taught about the importance of race, with an emphasis on “true blood” and the “continuation of the German people,” while Jews and foreigners are depicted as posing a threat to the German race.

Schaeuble called the ban “a necessary step in the fight against far-right extremism,” but insisted that such measures alone are not enough.

“We need responsible parents, sensitized teachers and other engaged role models who teach our children the values on which our democratic society is based,” he said.

Security officials have been monitoring the HDJ’s activities for several years and say the group is well connected to other elements of the far-right scene.

The name, HDJ, evokes the German initials for the Hitler Youth, HJ — one of the Nazi youth movements meant to indoctrinate people with the party’s racist and xenophobic ideology from an early age.

Today in Germany it is against the law to display symbols or repeat slogans from the Nazi era, although far-right groups often find ways to skirt the regulations.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



IRA Dissidents Burn Cars, Block Belfast Roads

DUBLIN — Suspected IRA dissidents and their supporters hijacked cars Monday in working-class Catholic areas of Northern Ireland in a coordinated effort to block roads and threaten police stations, police said.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said it was receiving a wave of reports of vehicles being hijacked by masked gunmen in several parts of Belfast and in the Kilwilkie district of Lurgan, a power base for Irish Republican Army dissidents southwest of Belfast.

Some vehicles were being set on fire in roads to disrupt traffic at rush hour, while others were abandoned near four Belfast police stations and on Northern Ireland’s major motorway near Lurgan.

Police said they were treating all the abandoned vehicles as potential car bombs, although they cautioned this was unlikely. They urged motorists to avoid Kilwilkie and parts of Catholic west Belfast entirely.

Monday’s upheaval came at the end of a month in which IRA dissidents shot to death two soldiers and a policeman — the first killings of British security forces since 1998, the year of Northern Ireland’s peace accord.

Police said at least two cars were hijacked in Lurgan’s Kilwilkie district, the power base of suspected IRA dissident Colin Duffy. Duffy, 41, was charged last week with murdering the two soldiers.

One of the hijacked cars was abandoned on the M1 motorway, which connects Belfast to Dublin, 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the south. Authorities shut part of the motorway as a precaution.

One abandoned vehicle — which police said did not contain a bomb — was left near the Stormont Parliamentary Building, the center of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government between the British Protestant majority and Irish Catholic minority.

The coalition’s Protestant leader, First Minister Peter Robinson, said the rising dissident IRA threat would not spur Protestants to sever links with Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party that represents most Catholics today.

“The criminal terrorists responsible for the series of bomb scares and hijackings are beneath contempt and have no support whatsoever in the community,” Robinson said.

The hijackings and security alerts also coincided with a widespread breakdown of Belfast’s traffic lights system.. Police in a statement called that an “unfortunate coincidence.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Italy: Bribesville Figure Arrested

Mario Chiesa in waste scam 17 years after Clean Hands arrest

(ANSA) — Milan, March 31 — The former nursing home chief who triggered the historic Bribesville scandals of the early 1990s was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of heading a huge waste management scam around Milan.

Mario Chiesa, 56, the trigger of the Clean Hands probes that shook Italy’s political and business establishments, was taken into custody with nine others after a sweep by 150 policemen across northern Italy.

He is accused of running a scam that won tenders by offering discount prices and carrying out work on the cheap or not at all, police said.

Police said Chiesa’s influence was so great that he managed on one occasion to have a tender won by another firm annulled and awarded to his front company.

The head of the environmental protection police in Treviso, Colonel Michele Sarno, told reporters that when investigators heard Chiesa speaking on wiretaps, “we were amazed when we realised that we were dealing with a figure who changed Italian history”.

Investigators dubbed their probe Rewind “because it showed how things had returned to the way they once were”.

Chiesa, once nicknamed ‘Mr 10%’ after the kickback rate on the Milan nursing home where he fell from grace in 1992, is accused of bumping up prices by 10% and controlling an illegal business worth some two million euros ($2.7 million).

NURSING HOME ARREST STARTED ‘CLEAN HANDS’ PROBES.

The starting date of the Bribesville scandals is usually put at February 17, 1992 when Chiesa, a well-known Milan figure in Bettino Craxi’s Socialist Party, was caught red-handed pocketing a kickback of seven million lire (about $4,000) for a cleaning contract at the plush Pio Albergo Trivulzio nursing home in Milan.

After weeks in jail he started spilling the beans on a corruption system whose exposure would within two years engulf Italy’s traditional ruling political parties including Craxi’s Socialists and the long-dominant Crhistian Democrats.

Craxi, who had initially called Chiesa a “naughty boy”, eventually had to flee Italy and died in exile in Tunisia.

Chiesa was himself sentenced to five years, four months in prison but avoided jail after giving back six billion lire (about $3.5 million) and doing social work, including helping the handicapped, for a couple of years.

He disappeared from public view in 2000.

After Tuesday’s arrest, former Clean Hands spearhead Antonio Di Pietro, now a centre-left opposition party leader, said “this arrest shows that kickbacks have never stopped”.

He claimed it was “much harder to discover things now” because politicians had denigrated the work of prosecutors, depenalised crimes and blocked trials.

“Bribesville never died and, instead of lowering the guard, it should have been raised,” said Di Pietro, one of several leftwing leaders who have accused Premier Silvio Berlusconi of “criminalising” prosecutors.

Berlusconi has repeatedly claimed that the prosecutors who went on to target him in several cases were hounding him for political reasons. photo: Chiesa in 1991, a year before his arrest

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Legion of Christ to be Investigated

Benedict XVI asks for report on troubled religious order

(ANSA) — Rome, March 31 — Pope Benedict XVI has ordered an investigation into the activity of influential Catholic religious order the Legion of Christ after reports of sexual impropriety by its late founder.

It was revealed in February that Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, who died last year at the age of 87, had fathered a daughter now in her 20s.

Father Maciel had previously been disciplined by the Vatican in 2006 for the sexual abuse of seminarians and young priests in the 1940s and 1950s.

In a letter published on the Legion’s website, Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone told the movement that the pope had nominated a team of prelates who will make “apostolic visitations” to the Legion’s institutions before submitting a report on their activity.

Bertone said the pope wanted to help the Legion deal with its current problems with “truth and transparency” but stressed that Benedict had renewed his “solidarity and prayers” for the movement and those associated with it.

Father Alvaro Corcuera, director general of the Legionaries, said he “thanked the Holy Father from my heart” for offering help “to face our present vicissitudes related to the grave facts in our father founder’s life”.

He added that the Legionaries were “deeply saddened and sorry” about Maciel’s sexual impropriety and asked “for forgiveness from God and from those who have been hurt through this”.

In 2006 Benedict approved disciplinary action against Father Maciel, who had been accused of sexual abuse, telling the Mexican priest to observe a “reserved life of prayer and penitence” and to avoid saying mass in public.

The move, coming at the end of a long investigation, was seen by Vatican-watchers as showing that top officials believed at least some of the allegations were true.

The accusations first became public in the late 1990s.

Father Maciel, the highest-ranking Catholic official to be disciplined for sexual abuse, denied all the allegations against him.

At the time the Vatican said its action regarding the priest should be seen “independently” of the order he founded.

The Legion of Christ has a high standing in the Catholic Church and Father Maciel was frequently praised and supported by Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II.

Father Maciel founded the Legion of Christ in Mexico in 1941, and the order now operates in some 20 countries, including Spain and the United States, and has enjoyed rapid growth in Latin America.

It has has some 700 priests and 1,300 seminarians worldwide. The lay branch of the order, Regnum Christi, reportedly has 70,000 members.

The Legion of Christ also runs a pontifical university in Rome.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Malta: EU; Excessive Deficit, Brussels Pardons Valletta

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 25 — Brussels ‘pardons’ Malta for exceeding the 3% threshold in 2008 of the deficit/GDP rate specified in the Maastricht Treaty. A document issued by the European Commission explains that the overshoot was “limited” and “temporary”. Moreover, according to Brussels, despite the fact that the national debt was higher than 60% of the GDP (the threshold set by Maastricht) in 2008-2009, on the medium term the trend can be considered satisfactory since it is moving towards the benchmark value at a good pace after the reduction recorded over the period 2004-2007. Brussels has decided not to ask the Ecofin Council to take further steps in the procedure for EU countries that present an excessive deficit. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Police Seize Weapons as Five Are Held in G20 ‘Terror Plot’

DETECTIVES investigating a G20 “terror plot” arrested five people yesterday and seized weapons including an imitation AK-47 assault rifle, handguns and fireworks.

The haul was made after officers held a 25-year-old man for allegedly spraying graffiti on a wall in Plymouth.

They discovered the cache during raids on addresses in the city before swooping on four other suspects — two males, aged 16 and 19, and two women of 20.

Yesterday, all five were being detained at Launceston police station under the Terrorism Act as officers were granted extra time to question them.

The arrests were the most dramatic development in the build-up to Thursday’s G20 summit, marred by threats of mob violence.

Scotland Yard has warned of “unprecedented levels” of protest for the London Docklands gathering of world leaders, including US President Barack Obama.

However, police sources said those arrested — four Britons and one Greek — were not among dangerous “hard-line” anarchists identified by intelligence services.

Although they found “material relating to political ideology” the suspects did not belong to a particular radical group.

The guns recovered — including the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle — were understood to be incapable of firing live ammunition. One source said the group are political activists who may have wanted to disrupt the summit without harming anyone. Paul Netherton, Assistant Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “Further searches are ongoing and a number of items have been submitted for forensic examination.”

He described the weapons as “not major” and “probably not even lethal” and the arrests were an “isolated incident”, adding: “Police will be applying for warrants and further detention orders under the Terrorism Act in order to continue to search various properties in the Plymouth area and to interview the five suspects.”

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]



Spain: Deal in Basque Country to Oust Nationalists

Mon Mar 30, 5:43 pm ET MADRID (AFP) — The conservative party in Spain’s Basque Country announced Monday a deal with the Socialists to end their nationalist rivals’ 30-year grip on power in the region.

After lengthy negotiations following inconclusive March 1 regional elections, the Popular Party has agreed to back Basque Socialist leader Patxi Lopez as the head of a new government, said the secretary general of the PP in region, Inaki Oyarzabal.

The deal between the Popular Party and the Socialists, their traditional rivals at the national level, is expected to be signed on Wednesday and Lopez sworn in by late April, he told reporters in the Basque city of San Sebastian.

“A new step has opened in the Basque Country,” he said..

“It is a great opportunity to defend the freedom of all, to defeat ETA,” he said, referring to the armed separatist group blamed for 825 deaths in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland.

The PP and the Socialists together have a slim majority of 38 seats in the 75-member regional assembly from the regional elections, compared to 30 gained by the incumbent Basque Nationalist Party (PNV).

It was the first time since Spain returned to democracy in 1975 that non-nationalist parties had obtained a majority in the wealthy region bordering France..

Lopez had said on the night of the elections that he hoped to be appointed as the new head of government with the support of the conservatives.

The Socialist Party holds power in the central government in Madrid, while the PP are the main opposition party.

But both opposed plans presented by PNV leader and outgoing head of the regional government Juan Jose Ibarretxe for referendums on self-determination. However, the moderate nationalist PNV rejects ETA’s violent separatist campaign.

Analysts had attributed the rise in support for the Basque Socialists in part on tentative peace negotiations with ETA launched by Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in 2006.

The talks collapsed when the group killed two people in a bomb attack at Madrid airport in December 2006. ETA formally called off a ceasefire six months later, and since then the government has taken a tough line against the group and its outlawed political wing Batasuna.

Spain’s Supreme Court last month banned two pro-independence parties from participating in the regional election due to their links to ETA and Batasuna.

But the political deal in the Basque Country could complicate life for Zapatero in the national parliament, where the PNV has withdrawn the support of its six deputies for the prime minister’s minority government.

Under the deal announced Monday, called “Bases for democratic change in the service of Basque society,” the PP agrees to support Lopez as head of government and ensure the “stability” of the new administration while the PP would hold the post of parliament speaker.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Muslim Group: ‘Make Halal Slaughter Legal’

The Muslim Association of Sweden (SMF) has renewed calls for the legalization of religious slaughter practices such as kosher and halal.

In a letter to the Swedish government, SMF chairperson Mahmoud Aldebe, challenges the government to respect the “democratic rights” of Sweden’s Muslims to exercise their “religious freedoms” and find a way to permit the practice.

He points out that all other European Union countries have found a way to permit religious slaughter practices in a way that most religious authorities accept.

The halal slaughter method is administered by means of a sharp knife, cutting through the skin, jugular vein, and trachea to result in thorough bleeding of the carcass in preparation for dressing and evisceration in accordance with Islamic guidelines.

There is a great deal of similarity between halal and kosher methods and some Muslim halal authorities accept kosher meat as halal.

A key issue is when and how the pain killer is administered to the animal. The SMF is seeking a dispensation from the agriculture ministry over the requirement that an electric shock be administered to the animal before the cut is made.

“This method is prohibited by most Muslim and Jewish authorities as the risk of the animal dying before the cut is made is high,” Aldebe writes.

The ban on the slaughter of animals by cutting the jugular vein has been in force in Sweden since 1937.

Aldebe points out that in 1937 “around 20 Muslims” lived in Sweden. There are now around 500,000 and 60 percent of these are Swedish citizens.

Aldebe argues that the Swedish government should consider the issue as a question of the democratic rights to religious freedoms and not bow to pressure from “extremist groups” such as “neo-Nazis, animal rights activists and certain veterinarians” and grant dispensation.

He argues that opponents “have to see that the issue is more than simply a case of animal protection” and argues that if that were the case then elk hunting and the slaughter of pigs should also be banned.

The issue was last considered in a report by the agency for the prevention of cruelty to animals (Djurskyddsmyndigheten) published in the spring of 2007.

The department has since been integrated into the agriculture ministry and no action has been taken on the report’s recommendations.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK Plans to Sell Off Nuclear Clean Up Authority London — Britain’s Government Said Monday it Was Putting the Body Responsible for Decommissioning and Cleaning Up the Country’s Nuclear Sites Up for Sale.

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said the sale of the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s commercial arm, UKAEA Ltd., would help save public money. The body is primarily responsible for nuclear decommissioning and waste management, although it also works helping to build new power stations in Britain and abroad.

The government said it hoped the sale would help the company win consultancy and project management contracts in the expanding world civilian nuclear market. Last year’s spike in energy prices and continuing concern over fossil fuels and global warming have led to renewed interest in nuclear energy across the globe.

The government said it would consider keeping a stake in UKAEA Ltd., which employs some 230 people. It said it hoped to complete the sale by the end of the year.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘I Have Never Read the EU Constitution’, Admits Europe Minister Caroline Flint

The Government minister responsible for the revived EU constitution made an astonishing gaffe by admitting she had never read it. Europe Minister Caroline Flint admitted she had only been ‘briefed’ on parts of a document that surrenders a raft of British powers to Brussels.

Labour has refused to give British voters a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on the grounds that it is ‘substantially’ different to the dumped constitution.

But during a Commons debate, Ms Flint confessed she had not read all of the despised charter.

Critics said it was an ‘extraordinary admission’ to make. Mark Francois, the Tory Europe spokesman, said: “It is not every day that someone will admit they haven’t read the most important document for their job.

‘Her astonishing admission does leave some questions. How does she know if the Treaty is good for Britain if she hasn’t read it?

‘If she had taken the time to read the whole Treaty, as I have, she might then know it means a major transfer of power from Britain to the EU.

‘The right thing to do would be to let the British people have the chance to read it and decide for themselves.’

Lorraine Mullally, director of the anti-EU think-tank Open Europe, said: ‘This is an unbelievable admission. It is extremely worrying that the minister responsible for promoting the treaty in this country has no idea what it actually says.

‘Perhaps this explains why she is against giving the British people the vote on it they were promised — she simply has no idea how important it is.’

She branded Ms Flint a ‘hypocrite’ for telling Irish voters who threw out the treaty that they had ‘misunderstood’ it, despite never reading it herself.

Asked by MPs if she had read the elements of the treaty that related to defence, Ms Flint replied: ‘I have read some of it but not all of it.’

After an astonished response from politicians, she added: ‘I have been briefed on some of it.’

The Government has refused to honour an election pledge to hold a ballot by claiming the treaty — the biggest transfer of sovereign powers to Brussels — was different to the constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

Ministers said they had protected their crucial ‘red lines’ covering policing and courts, human and social rights, foreign policy and taxes.

But their claims were blown out of the water by the Labour-dominated European Scrutiny Select Committee, which carried out a line-by-line study of the documents.

Only four countries have not yet fully ratified the Lisbon Treaty: the Czech Republic, Ireland, Germany and Poland.

Britain rubber-stamped the power-grab by a vote in Parliament, despite more than 90 per cent of people questioned wanting a referendum.

Ireland is holding a second referendum in October after a ‘no’ vote last year. The future of the controversial constitution was thrown into further doubt following the collapse of the pro-Brussels Czech government.

It is almost certain to delay Czech ratification of the revived Lisbon Treaty, which can come into force only after it has been approved by all 27 European Union member states.

The Lisbon Treaty treaty comprises of nearly 300 pages, but it is written in complex legal language.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Al Qaeda Jailbreak Plot to Free Nine Terrorist Inmates in Hijacked Helicopter is Foiled

A plot by Al Qaeda terrorists to escape from a British jail in a hijacked helicopter has been foiled.

Nine Muslim inmates planned to kidnap the jail imam during prayers with weapons hidden in the mosque at Full Sutton prison in East Yorkshire.

Their plan was to then use the imam as a human shield as they made their way to the jail’s sports field.

Once there, accomplices from the outside were to pick them up in a helicopter hijacked at gunpoint after being hired for ‘business’.

Acting on a tip-off, wardens at the jail swooped on the inmates hours before the escape attempt was due to begin on Friday.

The nine men — who included convicted terrorists — were immediately segregated from other inmates and will now be transferred to different prisons.

The jail’s imam is not believed to have been involved in the plot.

One high-profile terrorist being held at the jail is Omar Khyam, who was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in 2007 for leading a gang that planned to blow up London’s Ministry Of Sound nightclub and Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent.

‘The intelligence was very strong and from a good source,’ an insider told The Sun. ‘It had to be acted on immediately.

‘It involved some of the most dangerous Al Qaeda terrorists in jail, all of whom are a massive threat.

‘It had been planned for months and the use of a helicopter shows it was sophisticated.’

The nine may have been inspired by the February escape of notorious Greek criminal Vassilis Paleokostas, who escaped with another man from a high security prison near Athens.

Accomplices hijacked a helicopter and picked up the pair by dropping a rope ladder into the prison’s exercise yard.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Failed Asylum Seekers Are Not Entitled to Free NHS Treatment, Rules Judge

A judge has ruled that failed asylum seekers should be refused free NHS treatment, declaring they ‘ought not to be here’.

Delivering a judgment that will save the taxpayer millions of pounds, Lord Justice Ward added: ‘They should never have come here in the first place.’

The test case was brought by a 35-year-old Palestinian, known as YA, who has links to the extremist Hamas party.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Government Database Now Has the DNA of 5 Million Britons

More than five million men and women now have their DNA profile held on the Government’s controversial database, it has been revealed.

The number of records held has increased a staggering 40 per cent in two years, despite a promise from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to remove the data of all children under the age of ten.

Figures released by the Home Office showed 5.1million have their profiles on the database, up 1.4million since February 2007. Database

That means one in 12 Britons has been profiled — the highest proportion of any country in the world.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: House of Commons Attack on Policeman Was ‘Incredibly Violent’

A man who allegedly injured a police officer in an “incredibly violent” assault yards from the Commons chamber remained in custody today as fresh questions were asked about parliamentary security.

The attacker, believed to be a director at a London-based publishing house, had to be sprayed with CS gas after going “berserk” when an officer intervened to stop an argument with another reporter and a woman in a corridor.

The officer received treatment for a split lip after the attack.

With the start of the G20 only days away, questions remain as to how the attacker and another colleague were able to carry their noisy argument to an area directly behind the Speaker’s chair, only a few yards from one of the main doors leading to the Chamber…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Now Fire Service Introduces Hijab Headscarves for Muslim Workers

Pop into the firestation and the chances are there’d be a group of reassuringly burly men in there waiting for the call out, with uniforms and firefighting suits tailored for their use alone.

The one or two women among them would have to make do with ill-fitting adaptations of the men’s outfits while the handful of Muslim women in the service would be wearing their own head scarfs.

But, with the fire service anxious to attract recruits of all sexes and backgrounds, it was decided that something had to be done.

So yesterday the results were uneveiled, including full-length skirts, hijab headscarfs and long- sleeved shirts for Muslim women recruits.

The hope is that the uniforms, designed for wearing round the station and for outings such as school trips, will be smarter and better fitting for every firefighter — even the men.

For the first time also, women will get their own mustard yellow fire-fighting suit designed to protect their breasts and upper body.

This outfit was tried on yesterday by Lincolnshire firefighter Julie Smith.

‘It is right that male firefighters and female firefighters to need protection in different areas,’ she said. ‘It is very comfortable, very new and very yellow.’

Her boss Mike Thomas, Chief Fire Officer for Lincolnshire, declared the uniforms would help ‘bust’ the ‘ traditional image of the hunky, British, white, male, firefighter’ — even though a great many of his staff probably fit this description.

‘There are no better positive role models than women and ethnic recruits in these uniforms, and hopefully they will encourage people to join,’ he added.

Firemen in Lincolnshire will be the first to try out the new national uniform which also includes sports and maternity wear.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: NHS Must Do More to Eradicate Racial Discrimination, Say Watchdogs

Trusts in England are failing to meet their obligation under race equality legislation to produce accurate and up-to-date ethnic workforce data

Health watchdogs called today for urgent action throughout the NHS in England to identify and eradicate racial discrimination against ethnic minority patients and staff.

In a final report before going out of existence tonight, the Healthcare Commission said only 35% of NHS trusts are meeting their obligation under race equality legislation to produce the information needed to assess whether they discriminate on ethnic grounds.

The commission, whose watchdog role is being taken over by the Care Quality Commission, said: “Trusts must do more to ensure that people from minority ethnic groups are fully represented in senior management positions. This group accounts for 16% of the workforce, but fewer than 10% are in senior management roles and just 1% are chief executives.”

It added: “Staff from minority ethnic groups are disproportionally involved in bullying and harassment cases, and are over-represented in disciplinary and grievance procedures.

The commission called on the NHS to look into the reasons for this and take appropriate action.

The report said it is not possible to discover whether health differences between people of different ethnic groups are getting better or worse because of the absence or incompleteness of data. For example, no ethnic data is recorded on 90% of contacts between patients and GPs. “Without the necessary data, it is not possible to analyse ethnic differences in access to healthcare services, quality outcomes and choice.”

The study was based on analysis of published data and an in-depth review of performance in 39 trusts. Last year, 35% of trusts provided the information required by race equality legislation, including ethnic workforce statistics, equality impact assessments and a race equality scheme. Although this was an improvement on a 9% rate of compliance in 2007, the commission thought progress was still too slow.

Anna Walker, the commission’s chief executive, said: “NHS trusts need to properly understand the ethnic makeup of the community they serve and the people they employ if they are to deliver services that are fit for purpose.

“NHS trusts have a legal responsibility both as an employer, and as a commissioner and provider of services, to meet certain requirements to promote race equality. It is not acceptable that nearly two-thirds of trusts do not meet these basic requirements in full.

“It is time for a fundamental shift in the way trusts prioritise issues around race equality and the wider equality agenda. The lack of publicly available data means that people from minority ethnic communities’ contact with services and the employment of those from minority ethnic communities cannot be properly assessed.

“Without accurate and up-to-date workforce data, trusts cannot be assured that their staff are promoted equitably, that staff are representative at all levels of the population they serve and that trusts are not discriminating against their own staff.”

Professor Helen Hally, national director of Race for Health, a government programme to develop best practice on race equality in the NHS, said: “It is unacceptable that some trusts are still not meeting minimum requirements for tackling race inequality. This is not a bureaucratic exercise — it has real impact in terms of saving lives and improving health for large numbers of people who, for reasons of ethnicity, are disadvantaged in the NHS.

“The core principles of equal access for all that drive the NHS demand that the improvements called for by the Healthcare Commission are made immediately.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: Pregnant Woman ‘Humiliated’ After Being Ordered to Leave Pub for Sipping Friend’s Pint

A pregnant woman was left shocked and disgusted after pub staff ordered to leave the premises for taking a sip of her friend’s beer.

Staff at the Sussex Cricketers pub refused to serve Caroline Williams, who is 23 weeks pregnant, because they said they were concerned for her unborn baby’s health.

Mrs Williams said she felt humiliated after being asked to leave and accused the pub of acting like the ‘drink police.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Woman ‘Kept Daughters-in-Law as Slaves and Forced One to Work on Sewing Machine Night and Day for 13 Years’

A cruel mother-in-law treated her sons’ wives as ‘slaves and dogs’ and made one of them work on a sewing machine day and night for 13 years, a court heard today.

The three women came to the UK from Pakistan as part of arranged marriages and were allegedly kept as prisoners in the family house in Blackburn, Lancashire, against their will.

Preston Crown Court was told that Naseebah Bibi, 63, ruled the household with a regime of beatings and threats as she ‘totally dominated’ her victims.

One daughter-in-law was ordered to work on an industrial sewing machine from early in the morning to just before midnight every day as soon as she arrived at the house in 1993.

The prosecution said her ordeal only ended in 2006 when her three-year-son told nursery staff that his grandmother was the cause of bruising on his mother’s hands.

Mother-of-five Bibi is alleged to have falsely imprisoned Nagina Akhtar between 1993 and 2006, Tazeem Akhtar from 2001 to 2003 and Nisbah Akhtar between 2005 and 2007.

Bibi’s son denies Nadeem Akhtar falsely imprisoning his wife Nisbah between 2005 and 2007.

Philip Boyd, prosecuting, said all three women had high expectations of a happy family life in England when they married their first cousins in Pakistan, but instead on their arrival they were abused and allowed no contact with the outside world.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Woman Blocked Ambulance Crew as They Tried to Treat Man Who Later Died

A 50-year-old woman blocked an ambulance crew in her driveway as they were trying to get a patient with chest pains to hospital where he later died, a court has heard.

Gillian Birdsall was putting her dogs in her Citroen AX which was parked in front of the ambulance, blocking it in the driveway she shared with neighbours Malcolm and Margaret Burdett in Bournemouth, Dorset.

Mr Burdett was being treated for chest pains and the crew wanted to take him to hospital for further treatment on October 31 2008.

Emergency care assistant Anna Marie Mills told Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court she was dressed in full uniform and, while her colleague carried out an ECG in the back of the ambulance, she confronted Birdsall.

“I asked her how long she was going to be parked there as being an emergency vehicle we would need to leave shortly,” she told the court.

“She just responded saying it was a shared driveway.”

Miss Mills then went to speak to Mrs Burdett who was getting her 62-year-old husband’s medication and added: “I had to reassure the patient’s wife because she was clearly distressed as she could see we were being blocked in.”

When she asked her to move her car for a second time, Birdsall replied “Why, are they dead?” before driving off.

The ambulance then took the patient to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital where he died an hour and a quarter later.

The crew had arrived at about 12.45pm and left at about 1.10pm.

Miss Mills said Birdsall delayed them by five to 10 minutes and said if she had not needed to repeatedly ask her to move her car: “I would have been able to get the medication quicker and we would have left quicker.”…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



What Caused Rome’s Collapse: Immigration or Centralisation?

by Thomas F. Bertonneau

[…]

The Roman Empire in the West did not, in fact, suffer fatally from an illegal immigration problem, as Heather posits; it suffered, as O’Donnell argues, from rampant aggression by a criminal politician from the Bosporus who, long before Louis XIV, believed in the notion, “l’état c’est moi.”

In the demonic self-aggrandizement of the incipient étatiste regime in the District of Columbia, from whose marshy precincts the cronies of Big Government today seek to rule rather than to govern, as the Constitution directs; and in the self-righteous diktat-style of the European Union, its bureaucrats ordering people around by non-appellate edict from their cozy Brussels ensconcement: In these conditions — might I modestly submit — our world currently and obviously does suffer (and suffers daily, hourly) from the arrogant superbia of wealth- and freedom-destroying madmen who, when they look in the mirror, see looking back at them The State, if not rather a Redeemer or some species of Gnostic deity. Ah, but note this: We also suffer from pronounced crises both of illegal immigration and technically legal immigration by culturally inassimilable people, many of whom wish to see us humiliated in our own countries, roundly impoverished, and made subservient to a mad god’s law. The two kinds of aggressive Puritanism, étatiste and Islamic, are already in an arrangement of foreboding synchronization in Europe, and might soon be also in the United States. Or else the pretty little Reconquista, enabled by the Multiculturalists, will serve in the USA, as Islam serves in Europe. Multiculturalism — that too is a puritanical religion.

The basically non-religious latitudinarianism of a previous age, which would never have permitted the existing scandal, has meanwhile given way, in the Twenty-First Century, to a new Puritanism that resembles Justinian bigotry or Islamic fanaticism (two similar things) more than it will ever resemble “barbarian” tolerance, like Theoderic’s. In other words, our situation is actually worse than the Roman situation, or rather the Western situation, at the beginning of the Sixth century.

The Latinate world of that day had merely to deal with the concupiscent madness of a Constantinopolitan pipsqueak elevated by the equivalent of soccer-hooligans to the throne and given command of the armies.

An ex-KGB officer, Igor Panarin, has apparently argued in a recent monograph that the United States will soon split up, as the Soviet Union did twenty years ago. That spontaneous disintegration of the Stalinist Empire was the best fate that could have overcome the superannuated Bolshevik experiment and its subject peoples. In one of history’s ironies, the European nation-states began their march into lock-step rule by apparatchiks at exactly the moment when their old enemy ceased to exist. The United States, too, under Bush I and Bush II and now Obama, has embraced a new doctrine of centripetal authoritarianism and coercive ideological reconstruction. The much-to-be-hoped-for failures both of the European Community and the socialist-in-fact-but-not-by-name Democrat-Party regime in the United States, followed by the genuine re-federalization of Europe and North America, might be the most providential turn of events as the world lurches stupidly into its Twenty-First Century “Globalist” delusions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Croatia Probes a Serb for Post-WWII Killings

ZAGREB, Croatia — A prosecutor in Croatia has lifted the veil on a painful episode of Balkan history: the execution of thousands pro-Nazi soldiers and civilians at the end of World War II.

The Croatian state attorney has asked that a case be brought against an elderly former major in the communist-run Yugoslav army on suspicion of ordering 13,000 people put to death.

It marks the first legal procedure ever in Croatia regarding postwar killings carried by the victorious antifascists, or partisans. And part of the evidence may be the accused’s own autobiography.

Simo Dubajic, 86, is suspected of ordering the executions — mostly of Croatian pro-Nazi soldiers, but also civilians — between May 26 and June 5, 1945. Dubajic is believed to be living now in Belgrade, in neighboring Serbia, and the Croatian state attorney has asked that he be detained, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The allegations relate to a cataclysmic period at the end of the war. As partisans poured into the cities and villages of Yugoslavia, thousands of troops loyal to the Nazis, accompanied by frightened civilians, tried to flee. But many were caught and executed.

Martina Mihordin, a spokeswoman for the attorney’s office, said Tuesday that Dubajic’s victims were killed near Kocevski Rog in neighboring Slovenia and buried in natural pits. Most of the remains were recovered in recent years, but no one has ever been tried for the killings.

The people allegedly killed by Dubajic’s unit managed to reach Austria, but the allies turned them around and forced them back toward Yugoslavia.

The state attorney’s office said Dubajic’s unit was tasked with the liquidations. Dubajic is suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes against prisoners of war, Mihordin said.

Postwar communist authorities are believed to have ordered the execution of thousands of troops loyal to fascists from across the former Yugoslavia, but many civilians also fell victims to the revenge killings..

Croatia was a pro-Nazi state during World War II, and neighboring Serbia, Slovenia and Bosnia also had troops opposing the antifascists. Those countries formed communist-run Yugoslav federation, which disintegrated in bloody wars in the 1990s.

The post-World War II killings were a taboo topic in the former Yugoslavia and they remain a sensitive issue today.

Croatian nationalists often use them to diminish the crimes committed by pro-Nazi Croatian forces during the war. Others vehemently deny that any such executions took place, saying the claims are meant to blemish the partisans.

Croatian media have speculated that part of the attorney’s evidence against Dubajic is his autobiography, “From Kistanje to Kocevski Rog,” published in Belgrade in 2006, in which he reportedly admits the killings.

A leading daily, Vecernji List, quoted Dubajic as saying in 1990: “I did participate in liquidation of people, as I was commanded to do so. I am telling this today because I realized that conscience is stronger than victory.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Spain: Morocco Expels Missionaries Accused of Proselytizing

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 30 — Morocco has expelled five evangelical missionaries (four Spaniards and one German) accused of “proselytising” the Christian faith, reads a communiqué from the country’s Interior Ministry quoted today by El Pais. Casablanca-based police arrested the missionaries on Saturday during a “meeting on proselytism with Moroccan citizens”, say the sources. During the operation the police seized “evangelical propaganda material” including books, videos and prayer items. According to sources close to the mission, when the police carried out the raid “a communion meeting” was taking place in a closed off area where there were only Christian women, and no Muslims, meaning it was not a “meeting on proselytism”. Morocco recognises religious freedom but forbids the conversion of Muslims to other religions. The arrested missionaries have been moved to the port of Tangiers and put onto a boat bound headed to Algesiras, in Spain. El Pais highlights that the Moroccan authorities did not get in contact with the Spanish consulates in Casablanca and Tangiers to inform them of the arrests. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Caroline Glick: Remembering Olmert’s True Record

Last week’s reports that during Operation Cast Lead Israel bombed truck convoys in Sudan transporting medium-ranged Fajr-3 missiles to Gaza from Iran couldn’t have come at a better time for outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Even as defense officials were following standard practice of neither confirming nor denying the reports, Olmert was bragging like a teenage boy.

In an address at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya last Thursday Olmert crowed, “We are operating in every area in which terrorist infrastructures can be struck. We are operating in locations near and far and attack in a way that strengthens and increases deterrence. It is true in the north and in the south. There is no point in elaborating. Everyone can use their imagination. Whoever needs to know, knows.”

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]



Jordan: Water; Desalination Plant to End Supply From Israel

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MARCH 25 — Experts in Jordan called today for the construction of a desalination plant in the port city of Aqaba to solve the kingdom’s chronic water problem. Former water minister Mohammad Kilani said the desalination plant at the Red Sea would cost around USD 200 million annually, a price within reach, considering the importance of water resources to the population. “Jordan will no longer be hostage to fluctuating rainfall levels,” he said today during the final day of a seminar marking World Water Day organised by the Jordan Engineers Association (JEA). “The government can fund this project in cooperation with the Water Ministry,” he said, noting the population will be able to get water on regular basis. Currently citizens get water once a week as part of a rationing programme to manage the meagre reserves around the country. Jordan’s fragile water situation was exposed at full earlier this month when Israeli born contamination forced authorities to stop pumping water to the capital until the contamination was put under control. Jordan gets nearly one third of its water needs from Israel as part of an agreement to share water resources of the Yarmouk River. Other resources of water include dams that collect water in the rainy winter season and underground wells. JEA President Wael Saqqa called on the government to enhance its monitoring policy over water pumped by Israel to avoid a repetition of the recent water contamination the canal. “The government must find alternative sources for water and not depend on water pumped by the enemy,” said Saqqa. This year’s rainfall was less than average, with the kingdom’s dams filled up to less than half their capacity, raising concern of possible shortage in the summer. Experts believe the country needs continuous water supply that can put an end to this debacle once and for all. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Obama: I Know Better Than Israelis and Palestinians

By Barry Rubin

President Obama got it wrong in answering a question about Israel-Palestinian issues in his press conference, March 25. But his mistakes are different from those everyone noticed.

The reporter asked:

“Mr. President, you came into office pledging to work for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. How realistic do you think those hopes are now, given the likelihood of a prime minister who’s not fully signed up to a two-state solution and a foreign minister who has been accused of insulting Arabs?”

The reporter’s wording betrays typical aspects of many mainstream media messages:

—Any fault must be Israel’s and Israel is the sole focus of why there’s a problem. At least he formulated terms carefully. Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be “not fully signed up to a two-state solution,” instead of being labeled as opposed; Avigdor Lieberman is merely “accused” of insulting Arabs rather than being an evil racist.

—Palestinians only exist as victims so their politics aren’t worth studying or analyzing. After all, the PA’s prime minister just resigned, there’s a Hamas-Fatahn civil war, the PA announced elections in a year, and the current leader is ailing. As if that isn’t enough, the Palestinian leaders are really “not fully signed up to a two-state solution” and constantly insulting Jews.

What should Obama have said? If he were really professional something like this…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Arab Summit Rejects ICC Arrest Warrant Against Bashir

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MARCH 31 — The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has also condemned the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the president of Sudan, Omar el Bashir.. He made his statement today in Doha, where he participates in the 21st summit of Arab State leaders. Yesterday all participants in the summit rejected the measure against Bashir, who is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes regarding the civilian war in Darfur, in progress since 2003.. Chavez called the measure “a judicial disgrace and a lack of respect for all the people of the Third World”. “We underline our solidarity with Sudan” the document read out yesterday by the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, explains, and “we reject the decisions taken by the ICC against President Bashir (…) and we back the unity of Sudan. We reject the measures which jeopardise the peace efforts”. The Sudanese head of State called the resolutions “historic”. He ignored the fact that his request for a total annulment of the arrest warrant had not been taken up. Bashir promised to do “all I can to reach peace and stability across Sudan”. Libyan leader Gaddafi unexpectedly attacked Saudi King Abdullah ben Abdel Aziz, interrupting the host of the summit, Emir of Qatar Khalifa al Thani. Gaddafi returned accusations received by him six years ago by the Saudi king, accusing him of lying and being a ‘US protege”. But Gaddafi added that “out of respect for the (Arab) nation” the personal problem has been resolved. The two incidents show that it will not be easy to reconcile the 22 States of the Arab League, particularly after the war in the Gaza Strip split the League into two parts: Egypt and Saudi Arabia on one side with a moderate approach and support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Qatar and Syria on the other side backing Hamas and its biggest supporter, Iran. Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak — absent from the meeting together with the leaders of Algeria, Morocco, Oman and Iraq (though Iraq is represented by Prime Minister Al Maliki) — has issued a message in which he stigmatises “the dissipation of Arab efforts, the risks to a formal reconciliation in the absence of honesty and openness”. Today the Arab leaders will meet in Doha with their South American guests in the second summit between South American leaders of State and Arab countries. (remigio.benni@ansa.it). (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Elections in Turkey: Testing Ground for Erdogan and the Army

The AKP is the clear favorite, and seems set to win over the nationalists and Kurds. The electoral campaign has been conducted amid scandal, but freely and openly. The unknown postelection scenario: relations with the EU, or a “neo-Ottoman” program? Even the Vatican has something to say.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) — Tomorrow, March 29, Turkey will hold the most important administrative elections in its modern history. These elections, in fact, will determine the new political composition of the country, as a testing ground for the most important political transition after that of 1923, when Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic: the result of these elections will be a sort of referendum that could either confirm or fail to confirm the end of a parliamentary regime characterized until now by the invasive presence of the armed forces in the management of Turkish affairs.

In the newspaper Radikal, Hasan Celal Guzel wrote that after March 29, Turkish could conclude the period of state coups by the army. The importance of these elections can be seen in the fact that since the beginning, they have involved the party leaders themselves, more than the candidates, and that the campaign has been conducted at the grassroots level, from door to door.

Erdogan seems set to win

The long electoral debate began after the sentence from the Supreme Court in the summer of 2008, which prevented the suspension of the AKP, Erdogan’s governing party. The climate has been burdened by the continual revelations on the case of the terrorist group Ergenekon, with which Erdogan has stretched the credibility of the armed forces, and on the clash between Erdogan and Dogan, the head of the most important media group in Turkey, connected to the old Kemalist establishment. Dogan has been accused of tax evasion, and risks the dissolution of his media empire, but his guilt seems connected more to the fact that he brought light to the Fener Davasi case, a financial scandal in which some of Erdogan’s close collaborators have been charged.

Baykal, the head of the CHP, the party founded by Kemal Ataturk, is fighting for his political survival in these elections, and although he has denounced Erdogan for the dissolution of the secular state, he did not hesitate to accept the decision on headscarves for women. Meanwhile, the head of the MHP (the nationalist party) is seeking to corner the votes of the young people disappointed by Baykal, and afraid of Erdogan’s party.

Despite the crisis that is also beginning to affect Turkey, Erdogan is convinced that he has changed the history of this country, and is seeking definitive confirmation in these elections. All the more so in that the local administrations led by the governing AKP party, although they are not free from corruption, have administered well. In addition to these tangible results, the AKP has even presented modern women, with short skirts, as candidates. So he is telling everyone that if he does not win the elections with 47% of the vote, he will resign.

And then there is the Kurdish wild card in Diyarbakir, toward which Erdogan has conducted an all-out campaign. The analyst Ismail Kucukkaya says that Kurdish voters in the area are facing a serious dilemma: whether to vote according to logic, for the AKP, or according to sentiment, for the DTP, the Kurdish party. If the DTP loses support, this would also be a heavy blow for the PKK, the armed party of Ocalan, which is accused of terrorism.

Relations with Europe

One new element of this electoral campaign is the widespread sense of freedom that pervades the big cities above all. This is due in large part to the clash between the old establishment and the AKP. Thanks to the latter, the grip of the state over the masses and minorities, its asphyxiating control, has been relaxed.

Massive urbanization has also contributed to changing the mentality. Some of the members of the ODP party (the only true leftist party, and European in its orientation) says that there is a severe conflict between urban and rural culture in Turkey. This transformation could certainly produce many new outcomes.

The greatest danger for the country today seems to come from the possible exaltation or arrogance that could result from the geopolitical importance that Turkey is taking on — prompted in part by the new U.S. administration, urging it toward a neo-Ottoman model. And it is worrying that certain schools of thought, like that of Chicago, are urging Turkey to turn its back on Europe and resume its former Ottoman-style role.

Of course, President Gul, visiting Brussels yesterday, promised that after tomorrow’s elections there will be a resumption of negotiations to integrate Turkey into the EU. EU commissioner José Manuel Barroso spoke about freedom of the press in Turkey, and about the fine levied against Dogan.. The EU is calling for reforms, but Bajis, the Turkish head of relations with the EU, said that the journey of European integration is being slowed by the EU itself!

To all of these voices is added that of the Vatican. According to the president of Cyprus, Christofias, who met with the pope yesterday, the Holy See is in favor of Turkey’s entry into the EU, if the country meets European standards. At the same time — again according to Christofias — the pope is concerned over the withering of the Christian and cultural roots in the northern part of the island, which was occupied by the Turkish army in 1974.

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



Lebanon: UNIFIL, Incidents Between UN and Civilians

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 30 — A UN press release has reported that two incidents have taken place in Lebanon in the last 24 hours involving UNIFIL, the UN mission deployed in the south of the country, and civilians resident outside the UN area of responsibility. The first incident involved a UNIFIL official in the Nabatiye area, to the north of the Litani river which marks the border of the operations area. According to the statement, the uniformed serviceman who was travelling in a vehicle with the UN emblem, had got lost and ended up on a by-road where he was stopped by several civilians, two of whom were armed. The civilians seized the officer’s camera, mobile telephone, geographic maps and identification documents. They detained the officer until Lebanese soldiers arrived on the scene. In the other incident, several UN peacekeepers, who were not in uniform and were in a civilian car, were also detained whilst travelling on a road in the eastern valley of Bekaa, to the north of the Litani river. In collaboration with the Lebanese army, UNIFIL has opened inquests into the two incidents. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Religious Police Accused of Torture by Saudi Society for Human Rights

A report for the kingdom’s highest advisory body confirms cases of abuse of power, mistreatment, harassment, and, in some cases, the death of people under arrest. The new head of the muttawa is asked to give precise guidelines to the members of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Torture, arbitrary arrests, violations of rights, abuse: the Saudi Society for Human Rights has presented a long and detailed list of accusations against the religious police in its 100-page report to the Shoura Council, the highest advisory body in the kingdom.

The report essentially charges the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the official name of what is ordinarily called the muttawa, of “exercising excessive powers that are actually not in its jurisdiction.”

The report comes as the Commission finds itself the target of unprecedented criticisms on the part of the media, and after King Abdullah in February replaced its head, Shaikh Ebrahim Al Gaith, with Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Humaid. The men of the muttawa are a de facto police force charged with enforcing the rules on the separation of sexes, dress, and respect for the duty to pray. They also intervene in matters like the elimination of “signs” for the feast of Saint Valentine: for this holiday, they ordered florists and shops in the capital to remove any red-colored items.

Although the document from the Society for Human Rights speaks of the behavior of “men” of the muttawa who have not followed their instructions, the striking thing is the confirmation of the accusations made against the religious police in recent years. “There were several complaints about the torture and even custodial deaths against the members of the commission,” the document reads. Often these incidents ended up in the newspapers, but “in such cases, the commission officials have resorted to blaming the media and playing down the reports as exaggerated ones.” “It has been confirmed that there were several cases in which the commission members had taken custody of many individuals and subjecting them to various sorts of interrogation and torture. In some cases, mobile phones of the detainees were snatched by the commission members and even denied permission to contact with family members.”

Finally, the report asks the new president of the Commission to issue precise guidelines and repair the damage done. “The Presidency should issue work card for the members to specify their role and conduct periodical training courses to improve their efficiency besides taking measures to repair damage caused to the image of the commission.”

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



Sweden: Five Charged Over Iraqi Human Smuggling Ring

Three men and two women were formally charged on Monday for human smuggling on suspicions they helped transport 24 Iraqis into Sweden in return for large sums of money.

A 49-year-old man, his ex-wife and their son are the main suspects in the case at Attunda district court, while another man and woman are thought to have played a less prominent role.

According to prosecutor Marie Lind Thomsen, the suspects smuggled Iraqis into Sweden from the beginning of 2006 until June 2008.

They are alleged to have supplied the Iraqi citizens with legitimate passports, either lost by their rightful owners or stolen. In each case, the passports contained photos that resembled the Sweden-bound refugees in appearance.

The smugglers made large profits from the operation, with earning of at least 687,000 kronor ($82,000).

“One woman and her four children paid $25,000 US for their journey,” Lind Thomsen told news agency TT.

All of the Iraqi refugees were smuggled into the country via Stockholm’s Arlanda airport.

One of the suspects has admitted to involvement in the smuggling operation, while the four remaining suspects deny the charges.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Yemen: Two Dutch Tourists Abducted

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 31 — Two Dutch tourists have been kidnapped in Yemen today. After initial reports which gave fragmented information on the identity of the victims, their nationality was reported to ANSA by president of the Association for Italian-Yemeni friendship in Sanaa, Arhab Al-Sarhi. The abduction happened 90km south-east of the capital Sanaa, while the tourists were travelling without a guide. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russia


Report: Cosmonaut Grumbles About Space Bureaucracy

MOSCOW — Squabbles on Earth over how cosmonauts and astronauts divide up the space station’s food, water, toilets and other facilities are hurting the crew’s morale and complicating work in space, a veteran Russian cosmonaut said, according to an interview published Monday.

Gennady Padalka told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper as saying space officials from Russia, the United States and other countries require cosmonauts and astronauts to eat their own food and follow stringent rules on access to other facilities, like toilets.

“What is going on has an adverse effect on our work,” Padalka, 50, was quoted as saying in an interview conducted before he and his crew mates blasted off to the station last Thursday. They arrived safely at the outpost Saturday.

Russian space agency spokesman Alexander Vorobyov said he would not comment until he had read the interview.

Padalka, who will be the station’s next commander, said the arguments date back to 2003, when Russia started charging other space agencies for the resources used by their astronauts. Other partners in space station responded in kind.

“Cosmonauts are above the ongoing squabble, no matter what officials decide,” said Padalka, a veteran of two space missions, according to the newspaper. “We are grown-up, well-educated and good-mannered people and can use our own brains to create normal relationship. It’s politicians and bureaucrats who can’t reach agreement, not us, cosmonauts and astronauts.”

He said he had inquired before the current mission whether he could use an American gym machine to stay fit.

“They told me: ‘Yes, you can.’ Then they said no,” he was quoted as saying. “Then they hold consultations and they approve it again. And now, right before the flight, it turns out again that the answer is negative.”

While sharing food in the past helped the crew feel like a team, the new rules oblige Russian cosmonauts and U.S. and other astronauts to eat their own food, Padalka said, according to the report.

“They also recommend us to only use national toilets,” he was quoted as saying.

Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft were the only link to the space station when the U.S. space shuttle fleet was temporarily grounded following the 2003 Columbia disaster. They have continued to ferry crews and supplies to the station, and a Soyuz capsule is permanently docked at the station to serve as a lifeboat.

Padalka was also quoted as criticizing the Russian portion of the station, saying it looks backward compared to other sections.

“It’s built on technologies dating back to the mid-1980s, at the very latest,” he said. according to the report. “We are lagging seven to 30 years back in various space technologies.”

Russia’s space program fell on hard times after the Soviet collapse and struggled to stay afloat by selling seats on its Soyuz spacecraft to well-heeled space tourists. During the oil-fueled economic boom its budget increased, but it is again heading for tough times as Russia tries to weather its worst financial crisis since 1998.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Caucasus


Azerbaijan Removes All Obstacles to Lifetime Reelection for President Aliyev

The opposition calls it “a step toward monarchy,” and the Council of Europe is criticizing Baku and threatening sanctions. But the president’s party insists that about 90% of the voters are in favor.

Baku (AsiaNews/Agencies) — In a referendum on March 18, Azebaijan approved 49 changes to the constitution with a “Soviet style” majority. But at the Council of Europe, there are concerns that these modifications will allow current president Ilham Aliyev to be elected repeatedly, and consolidate his personal power at the risk of the young democracy.

According to the official data, about 90% of the voters approved the changes. The supporters of the referendum stress that 71% of the 4.9 million eligible voters turned out.

The opposition, which had indicated that it would abstain from voting, says that this is “a step backward for democracy, and a step toward monarchy.” The Constitution prohibited the president from being reelected more than two consecutive times, meaning that Aliyev would not have been able to run again at the end of his current term. Now there are no limits to reelection, and there are fears of power for life, after the country was led for decades by the father of the current president.

The opposition is also claiming fraud, and announcing appeals to invalidate the vote. But this is contradicted both by independent observers and by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which maintains that the vote was “transparent, well-organized and held in a peaceful atmosphere.”

But there is harsh criticism from Ian Micallef, president of the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the main regional organization for the protection of human rights. In an interview with Radio Free Europe, he says that these changes violate the pro-democracy commitment made by Baku in 2002, and that Azerbaijan’s membership in the Council could be suspended.

From Baku, Samed Sayidov, head of the Azeri delegation to the PACE and a member of Aliyev’s Yeni Azerbaycan party, responds that Micallef is not well informed on the situation in the country, and that the referendum was held in a completely democratic manner.

Previously, the Commission had stated that a limit on reelection is necessary, to prevent the president in office from using his power to impose an authoritarian and anti-democratic regime on the country.

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

South Asia


Afghanistan: As Bad as the Taleban? Afghan President Backs Law Which ‘Legalises Rape Within Marriage’

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win election votes by backing a law which the UN says legalises rape within marriage.

The final document has not been published but it is believed to state that wives cannot refuse to have sex with their husbands.

The Independent reports it also forbids wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands’ permission.

It is thought to have been rushed through parliament in a bid to appease Islamic fundamentalists ahead of the August elections.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Dutch Company to Make Electric Cars for Europe, US

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia — Malaysia’s national car maker Proton and a Dutch-based company signed a $555 million deal Monday to make zero emission electric cars that they said would be more powerful that any existing model.

Proton and Detroit Electric, a startup company that owns the technology, signed the agreement in the presence of Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to produce the sedan cars, initially targeted for Europe and the U.S.

“We have the audacity to bring to the people an affordable, practical, everyday car … with zero emission,” Detroit Electric Holdings Ltd. Chief Executive Albert Lam said in a speech.

The four-door vehicle will roll out of Proton’s factory by early next year, Lam told The Associated Press in an interview.

The aim is to produce 40,000 units in the first year, ramping up to 270,000 by 2013, he said. The cars will be priced between $23,000 and $33,000, depending on the model and taxation.

Under the agreement, Detroit Electric will use Proton’s underutilized assembly line. Detroit Electric’s motor, lithium polymer battery, the drive train and other components will be fitted in the bodies of two Proton models, Persona and Gen 2. They will be sold as Detroit Electric, without a specific brand name.

If it succeeds, Detroit Electric would be among the first to mass-produce an electric car driven purely by a noiseless battery-powered motor, unlike current hybrid engines that combine gasoline engines and electric motors.

General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co., PSA Peugeot-Citroen, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Tesla Motors are all seeking to develop electric cars market amid rising consumer interest in “green” technologies — and at a particularly difficult time for the industry amid the global slowdown.

U.S.-based Tesla Motors has a prototype that has a claimed range of 160 miles (257 kilometers) and is scheduled to be produced by 2011, and cost about $50,000. A Peugeot-Mitsubishi collaboration, the iMiEV hatchback, expected to reach European consumers next year, has a stated range of 90 miles (145 kilometers).

Lam said Detroit Electric’s base model, meant for city driving, will have a range of 150 miles (240 kilometers) on a full charge of eight to 10 hours and will have a top speed of 120 miles per hour (195 kmph).

The higher model will have a range of 200 miles (320 kilometers) with a top speed of 120 miles per hour. Plugging the car to an ordinary electric power outlet would charge the battery, manufactured by a South Korean company.

“We will be the spark that triggers change and tells people now is the time,” said Lam. “Let’s push change in the industry for environment’s sake, for the sake of less dependency on petrol, for the sake of zero emission and for noiseless driving.”

Lam, a British citizen and a longtime auto industry executive, joined a group of Dutch investors and inventors of the car’s motor to set up a company in Damwoude, Netherlands. Lam bought the rights to the company’s name — Detroit Electric produced electric cars in the U.S. in 1907 — to restore its historical legacy.

The engineers developed the car over 18 months and two working models were demonstrated to journalists last year.

Proton, which has struggled in recent years, could benefit from the agreement and create a niche market for itself.

“The project shows that Proton can adapt well to the current challenging economic climate,” said Proton Managing Director Syed Zainal Abidin bin Syed Mohamed Tahir. “As a manufacturer, we have to think differently from others and start venturing into new areas where there are potential for growth,” he said.

He said the deal will earn Proton revenue of at least 2 billion ringgit ($555 million) over four years, even if it makes only 40,000 cars per year.

Proton will have the option of buying the Detroit Electric technology after a nine-month evaluation period and to sell the car under its own brand in Southeast Asia.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



India: Mumbai Gunman’s Life ‘threatened by Mafia Boss’

Mumbai, 25 March (AKI/Asian Age) — India’s Intelligence Bureau has claimed it received a new threat against the life of Ajmal Aamir Qasab, the alleged gunman caught alive during the Mumbai attacks last November. However, this time the threat is from fugitive Indian mafia boss Chhota Rajan, the Intelligence Bureau said.

According to a senior official from the Mumbai police, Rajan has always projected himself as patriotic and in order to prove his patriotism he would try to eliminate Qasab.

“We have been informed by the central agencies that Rajan has hatched a plan to kill Qasab and is making arrangements to execute the plan,” an official said.

Although Rajan’s most trusted aide, D.K. Rao, was transferred from Arthur Road jail — Mumbai’s oldest prison — to the Taloja prison in early March, other suspected Rajan gang members are being held at Arthur Road.

“We are keeping a close watch on the movements of Rajan’s henchmen, who are either languishing in jail or are outside,” an unnamed official said.

A list of Rajan’s associates has been prepared and local police stations have been informed to keep a check on them, according to the official.

Rajan also killed several of suspected terrorist and underworld boss Dawood Ibrahim’s associates, who were allegedly involved in the March 1993 Mumbai bombings.

The 1993 bombings killed 250 people and injured 700 others.

Ibrahim is alleged to have financed and coordinated the March 1993 attacks and is now in hiding. Rajan — once a key aide and lieutenant of Ibrahim — is also at large and thought to be moving between various African countries.

“Until now there was no local connection to the 26 November (2008) Mumbai terror raids, however we have specific inputs that in order to eliminate Qasab, local assistance would be of utmost importance,” said a senior official from the Mumbai police.

“Qasab’s security is a major issue and we do not want to take any chance as it may send a wrong signal to other countries,” an official said.

The Intelligence Bureau had earlier informed Mumbai police that a team of highly-trained operatives from the banned militant Kashmiri separatist group Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency with the help of Ibrahim may try to eliminate Qasab.

Indian authorities have blamed LeT for the Mumbai attacks, which which killed over 170 people and injured hundreds in multiple locations in the financial capital.

Pakistan has admitted the attacks were partly planned inside the country, but it and LeT have denied any involvement.

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



Pakistan: Army Fights Militants After Storming Police Academy

Lahore, 30 March (AKI) — Militants on Monday killed at least 25 people and injured scores of others after attacking a police training academy in the Pakistani city of Lahore using grenades and rifles. Between eight and 14 militants are said to be holed up inside the academy.

Pakistan’s Dawn News TV said over 400 police recruits are being held hostage inside the academy and that snipers and sharpshooters have surrounded the training school.

The governor of the Punjab province Salman Taseer has said the Pakistani army has joined the gunbattle against the gunmen and have laid siege to the academy.

The militants are said to be wearing plain clothes and masks while others are said to have entered the academy wearing police uniforms. One gunman has been arrested, Dawn said.

Police have cordoned off the area and security has been put on high alert across the country. A curfew has also been imposed in the area.

Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik said involvement of foreign jihadi outfits cannot be ruled out and added that Uzbeks have entered Lahore from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

He also said the government had no prior information on the attack.

Less than a month ago, a terrorist attack against the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore killed six policemen and a Pakistan Cricket Board driver. Six players were injured in the attack.

The police academy, known as Manawaal, is located on the outskirts of Lahore.

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



Pakistan: Home-Grown Al-Qaeda Led Militants ‘Behind Lahore Attack’

Lahore, 30 March (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Home-grown Al-Qaeda led militants are behind Monday’s deadly attack on a police training academy in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, according to interior ministry chief Rahman Malik and some security analysts, including former general Talat Massood.

Such attacks have in the past been blamed on foreign intelligence agencies. While militant violence has surged in Pakistan since mid-2007, most violence has been in the northwest near the Afghan border.

Militant sources confirmed the early-morning grenade and rifle assault on the police academy was retaliation by Al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and Punjabi militants for Pakistan’s recent cooperation with the United States in hunting down Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

The attack marks a new front in the war against Pakistan’s security forces, the sources said.

Between 18 and 20 gunmen reportedly killed up to 50 people, wounded up to 90 and took hundreds of police cadets hostage during an eight-hour siege of the academy.

The siege ended when Pakistani security forces took control of the building. Four gunmen were killed in heavy exchanges of fire with army snipers while a fifth suspected gunman (photo)was taken into custody.

News reports were unclear over how many of the other gunmen had died in the siege, with police saying they may have blown themselves up.

The assault copied attacks carried out by gunmen from the banned militant Kashmiri separatist group Laskar-e-Toiba against military camps in Indian administered Kashmir.

LeT fighters — allegedly trained by elements in Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence — have been known to infiltrate army camps disguised in the uniforms of the Indian security forces before carrying out massacres and taking hostages.

Some of the militants involved in Monday’s attack in Lahore were wearing police uniforms, while other were wearing plain clothes and masks. They had ‘inside’ help to enter the academy and appeared to be highly trained, sources said.

More attacks of this sort are expected in bigger cities such as the southern port city of Karachi and the capital Islambad to press Pakistan and its military to stop its cooperation with Washington’s drive to route militants carrying out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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



Pakistan: Petraeus: Military Reserves ‘Right of Last Resort’ for Threats Inside Pakistan

The U.S. military will reserve the “right of last resort” to take out threats inside Pakistan, but it would prefer to enable the Pakistani military to do the job itself, Gen. David Petraeus said Monday in an exclusive interview with FOX News.

The commander of U.S. Central Command was interviewed as the Obama administration prepares to step up the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Asked about lingering concerns that Pakistan is not fully on board, Petraeus told FOX News’ Bret Baier that the U.S. military is putting “additional focus” on rooting out ties between Pakistan’s intelligence service and the Taliban.

One incident of obvious cooperation between the Pakistani intelligence community and extremists has already been uncovered, he said. “There is a case in the past year or so that we think was unambiguous. There appears to have been a warning prior to a Pakistani operation,” Petraeus said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Taliban Promises Attack on Washington That Will ‘Amaze’ the World After Pakistan Police Massacre

[Comments from JD: Warning: graphic photos]

The top Taliban commander in Pakistan has claimed responsibility for an attack on a police academy that left 18 dead after an eight-hour bloodbath.

And Baitullah Mehsud also promised an assault on Washington ‘soon’ — one he said will ‘amaze’ the world.

At least 18 people were dead last night after militants stormed the police academy in Pakistan.

The attackers, some wearing police uniforms, hurled grenades and seized dozens of hostages.

More than 100 people were wounded as military helicopters moved in to end the carnage.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



‘Worse Than the Taliban’ — New Law Rolls Back Rights for Afghan Women

Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win votes in Afghanistan’s presidential election by backing a law the UN says legalises rape within marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands’ permission.

The Afghan president signed the law earlier this month, despite condemnation by human rights activists and some MPs that it flouts the constitution’s equal rights provisions.

The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands’ permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands’ permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex.

A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only.

Senator Humaira Namati, a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament, said the law was “worse than during the Taliban”. “Anyone who spoke out was accused of being against Islam,” she said.

The Afghan constitution allows for Shias, who are thought to represent about 10% of the population, to have a separate family law based on traditional Shia jurisprudence. But the constitution and various international treaties signed by Afghanistan guarantee equal rights for women.

Shinkai Zahine Karokhail, like other female parliamentarians, complained that after an initial deal the law was passed with unprecedented speed and limited debate. “They wanted to pass it almost like a secret negotiation,” she said. “There were lots of things that we wanted to change, but they didn’t want to discuss it because Karzai wants to please the Shia before the election.”

Although the ministry of justice confirmed the bill was signed by Karzai at some point this month, there is confusion about the full contents of the final law, which human rights activists have struggled to obtain a copy of. The justice ministry said the law would not be published until various “technical problems” had been ironed out.

After seven years leading Afghanistan, Karzai is increasingly unpopular at home and abroad and the presidential election in August is expected to be extremely closely fought. A western diplomat said the law represented a “big tick in the box” for the powerful council of Shia clerics.

Leaders of the Hazara minority, which is regarded as the most important bloc of swing voters in the election, also demanded the new law.

Ustad Mohammad Akbari, an MP and the leader of a Hazara political party, said the president had supported the law in order to curry favour among the Hazaras. But he said the law actually protected women’s rights.

“Men and women have equal rights under Islam but there are differences in the way men and women are created. Men are stronger and women are a little bit weaker; even in the west you do not see women working as firefighters.”

Akbari said the law gave a woman the right to refuse sexual intercourse with her husband if she was unwell or had another reasonable “excuse”. And he said a woman would not be obliged to remain in her house if an emergency forced her to leave without permission.

The international community has so far shied away from publicly questioning such a politically sensitive issue.

“It is going to be tricky to change because it gets us into territory of being accused of not respecting Afghan culture, which is always difficult,” a western diplomat in Kabul admitted.

Soraya Sobhrang, the head of women’s affairs at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said western silence had been “disastrous for women’s rights in Afghanistan”.

“What the international community has done is really shameful. If they had got more involved in the process when it was discussed in parliament we could have stopped it. Because of the election I am not sure we can change it now. It’s too late for that.”

But another senior western diplomat said foreign embassies would intervene when the law is finally published.

Some female politicians have taken a more pragmatic stance, saying their fight in parliament’s lower house succeeded in improving the law, including raising the original proposed marriage age of girls from nine to 16 and removing completely provisions for temporary marriages.

“It’s not really 100% perfect, but compared to the earlier drafts it’s a huge improvement,” said Shukria Barakzai, an MP. “Before this was passed family issues were decided by customary law, so this is a big improvement.”

Karzai’s spokesman declined to comment on the new law.

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

Far East


Korea: Hyundai Asan Staffer Arrested in N.Korea

North Korea on Monday morning arrested a Hyundai Asan staffer working at the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex on charges of insulting the regime. A South Korean government official said North Korea claims the staffer denounced the political system, and “sought to corrupt a North Korean female worker and cajole her into defecting from the North.” The veracity of the claim could not be confirmed.

“Around 11:50 a.m., the immigration office of North Korea’s Kaesong Industrial Complex sent a telephone message that they are investigating a South Korean staffer in the industrial park in accordance with relevant regulations,” the Unification Ministry said.

A cross-border agreement on the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mt. Kumgang tourist area stipulates that if a South Korean staffer violates laws and regulations there, North Korea will investigate and notify South Korea of the violation, and warn, fine or deport the offender.

Observers say it is improbable that a staffer with Hyundai Asan, which has been Pyongyang’s main South Korean business partner for years, intentionally made remarks that would irritate the North at a time when it is imminently launching what the West believes is a ballistic missile.

A researcher with a South Korean government-funded think tank said it is more likely the North is holding the man hostage, much in the way it has arrested two U.S. journalists for on charges of spying.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Philippine Forces Move Toward Abu Sayyaf Abductors

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine troops and tanks advanced toward a jungle stronghold of al-Qaida-linked extremists after a deadline expired Tuesday for the beheading of one of three Red Cross hostages in a critical juncture of the 10-week crisis.

Officials redeployed government forces near the Abu Sayyaf camp in Indanan township on southern Jolo Island and put the predominantly Muslim region under a state of emergency after talks for the safe release of the hostages became bogged down and the militants threatened to behead them by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

There was no immediate indication that any of the Swiss, Italian and Filipino hostages, who have been held since Jan. 15, were killed after the deadline expired.

Jolo Governor Sakur Tan said an informant told him that all the hostages were still alive but his source had no proof to back up his claim.

“I hope the worst didn’t happen and will not happen,” International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Anastasia Isyuk told reporters in Manila.

More than 1,000 marines, police and militiamen, who have surrounded the militants for weeks, pulled back from around the Abu Sayyaf stronghold last week to prod the gunmen to make good on their pledge to free one hostage. But the militants reneged on their promise and insisted that troops withdraw from 15 Jolo villages — a demand rejected by the government.

“We’ve given them everything but they didn’t budge,” Tan said. “The troops are returning there.”

On Tuesday, tanks and truckloads of marines rolled out of a Jolo camp toward Indanan to try to surround the gunmen in a hilly jungle, Tan said. He refused to say if a military rescue was imminent or if the troops were being brought back to force the militants to resume negotiations.

“We’ll make sure that these bandits cannot kidnap again,” Tan said.

Tan’s emergency declaration empowered him to order the arrests of the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers, impose a curfew and set up road checkpoints on Jolo. He said the hostage-taking was “a heinous crime that deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

Abu Sayyaf gunmen said earlier Tuesday they would behead one of the captives unless troops withdrew from the area by the deadline, despite appeals from Pope Benedict XVI and others to free the hostages.

“The decision of the group is to behead if there will be no pullout,” Abu Sayyaf commander Abu Ali told The Associated Press in a cell phone text message Tuesday from the militant jungle stronghold on Jolo island.

“There will be no extension of the deadline for the pullout and we have no plan to release any hostage if there will be no pullout,” he said.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who heads the Philippine Red Cross, made a last-minute appeal to the militants to spare the hostages as the deadline passed, and he addressed the captives directly on national television.

“The whole family of the Red Cross prays for you and I’m proud of the way you’ve comported yourself,” Gordon said in the broadcast, his voice breaking and wiping away tears as he mentioned the names of the captives. “I’m sorry I should be stronger than you because I’m not in the midst of the ordeal you’re in now.”

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said it was impossible for the government to vacate the 15 villages by 2 p.m. Tuesday as demanded by the militants a day earlier. He said there was not enough time and that a wider pullout would leave the island’s civilian population exposed to militant attacks.

Puno hinted the government was ready to use force if the militants harm any of the hostages — Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Philippines: Maoists Attack Philippine Army Base, at Least 17 Killed

MANILA, March 31 (Reuters) — Maoist-led guerrillas stormed an army base on the restive southern Philippines island of Mindanao on Tuesday, and at least 17 people were killed, the military said.

Troops held their ground for about 90 minutes when communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas attacked the base in Bukidnon province, said Major Michele Anayron.

Eleven rebels and two civilians were killed, Anayron said, adding the retreating guerrillas commandeered two private trucks passing the area. Four members of a local militia were also killed.

The rebel attack came two days after the NPA, the communist party’s military arm, marked its 40th anniversary. Active in 69 of 80 provinces across the country, the rebels have been waging a protracted war to overthrow Manila’s democratic government.

The rebels usually attempt to grab ammunition and weapons during raids on military posts to boost their own armoury.

The Maoist-led insurgency has killed 40,000 people and scared potential investors from the resource-rich Southeast Asian state.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Accused Nazi War Criminal Zentai Must Leave WA: Court

An alleged Nazi war criminal has failed to avoid extradition to Hungary on charges of murdering a Jewish teenager in 1944.

Charles Zentai, 87, appeared in the Federal Court on Tuesday to learn the outcome of his application for a review of a magistrate’s ruling that he is eligible for surrender to Hungarian authorities.

Zentai, of the southern Perth suburb of Willeton, had made the application on the basis that the charge against him did not constitute a war crime at the time of the murder.

Justice John Gilmour upheld the ruling of magistrate Barbara Lane, concluding the charge was a war crime and an extradition offence.

Asked why Zentai should not be held in custody until the federal government made a decision on his extradition, lawyer Denis Barich said his client had a heart condition and was under the care of specialists.

Zentai, who supported himself with walking stick at the hearing, was given a seven-day stay on a bail ruling.

Justice Gilmour said he should provide submissions from his specialists to show cause why he should not be held in custody.

Zentai is alleged to have been with two other men who tortured 18-year-old Peter Balazs in Budapest in November 1944, leading to his death.

Zentai says he was not even in Budapest at the time.

After Ms Lane ruled he was eligible for surrender to Hungarian authorities, his lawyers argued that a 1945 decree in the Australia-Hungary treaty meant the offence Zentai was accused of was not a war crime.

Zentai, who will appear in the Federal Court again next Tuesday, is likely to make application for an appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


African Monitors Keen to Oversee EU Election

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The Pan-African Parliament is in talks with the EU on sending monitors to the European elections in June, in a project that could see Zimbabwean politicians oversee voting in the UK.

The South Africa-based institution, which is the parliamentary wing of the African Union, agreed details of a monitoring mission with European Parliament officials last week.

The EU sees itself as a model for free and fair elections around the world (Photo: wikipedia)

Ten members of the African Parliament (MAPs) would first see how the UK conducts its election on 4 June. The delegation would then inspect the central vote-counting office in Wiesbaden, Germany. The MAPs would watch the final result with MEPs in Brussels on 7 June.

The main goal of the project is to learn lessons ahead of a potential pan-African election some time in the future. But the mission would also produce a final report on EU democratic standards.

The scheme could fall through if it clashes with the African parliament’s plenary session. But if it goes ahead, it would represent a role reversal for the EU, which frequently organises election monitoring missions to African states.

The African Parliament has suspended the activities of members that recently suffered coups d’etat, as in Mauritania, Guinea and Madagascar.

But there is a prospect that countries with a poor track record on democracy and human rights, such as Zimbabwe, could form part of the 10-man EU monitoring team.

If a Zimbabwean delegate is chosen, he or she might come from an opposition party instead of the camp of authoritarian President Robert Mugabe, African parliament spokesman Khalid Dahab told EUobserver.

“I was in both rounds of the Zimbabwe elections as a co-ordinator for our observation mission,” he said. “The first round met the minimum standards of being free and fair. But we criticised the second round very strongly and said it does not represent the will of the people,” he added.

“I don’t think the fact that Zimbabwe is a member of our organisation has a negative effect on our work.”

The African Parliament is not the only body keen to keep an eye on the EU vote.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



Oh No, Not Again! Oprah’s School Rocked by Second Sex Scandal in 2 Years

Oprah Winfrey’s elite boarding school for girls in South Africa has been rocked by its second sex scandal in fewer than two years.

Seven students were suspended last week for sexually harassing their schoolmates, the “Afrikaans on Sunday” newspaper reported.

One 15-year-old was accused of preying on another pupil and forcing other girls to lie to investigators about it, the paper reported.

“You have been found guilty of physical contact of a sexual nature with another pupil on campus, harassment, bullying other girls on campus and of being dishonest by not telling investigators the whole truth,” a letter to her parents read.

Other girls were caught fondling each other or trying to get other girls to join them in lesbian liasons, the paper reported.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Latin America


Mexico’s Calderon Rules Out Joint Raids With US

LONDON — Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Monday he’s ruled out joint raids with the United States aimed at stemming drug cartel violence along their border, but called for closer cooperation between the neighboring nations.

Calderon said he wants the U.S. to share intelligence on drugs traffickers and help Mexican law enforcement by providing high-tech surveillance equipment.

He urged U.S. President Barack Obama to do more to reduce demand in the U.S. for drugs produced in Mexico and to stop the flow of powerful weapons, including assault rifles, over the border.

“It is true that we do have a problem of violence and organized crime that we have to tackle,” Calderon told reporters in London, speaking through a translator. “It is acknowledged by President Obama this is a common problem that we have to face commonly.” But he said “that does not imply, or shall not imply, the joint participation of military operations, or even the joint participation of law enforcement agents.”

Most Mexicans oppose any U.S. intervention on their side of the border, in part due to lingering sensitivities over the U.S. seizure of swathes of Mexican territory, including the area which now comprises Texas and California, in the mid-19th century.

Calderon said both countries should instead step up their efforts on their respective sides of the border.

Mexico claims that since 2006, around 9,000 people have been killed in violence linked to Mexico’s drugs cartels. Army troops have been deployed in an attempt to root out criminals and drugs traffickers.

“We are facing this problem with a firm hand and a determination that has not previously happened in our country,” Calderon told reporters after talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Obama said in an interview aired Sunday that violence in Mexico’s north is a serious threat to U.S. border communities.

He said he was considering putting more National Guard troops on the U.S. border and will take steps to limit the flow of cash and guns heading south into Mexico.

Calderon is in London for a state visit. He was due to spend Monday evening dining at Buckingham Palace’s ballroom with Queen Elizabeth II and invited dignitaries.

His comments to the media came as his military commanders met their U.S. counterparts on the Mexican side of the border to discuss the escalating violence.

Mexico’s Defense Department said the officials were exchanging experiences in the annual closed-door meeting in Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora state, bordering Arizona. The meeting ends Thursday.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



The Southern Front: Islamic Terrorism and Failed States, South and Central America

By: Kyle Shideler, Senior Research Fellow, EMET

Concern over the potential threat of Islamic terrorism operating from South and Central America to strike the United States is not new. As early as 1992, Iranian proxy Hezbollah utilized the lawless enclave known as the Tri-border Area (TBA) which conjoins Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to strike Jewish and Israeli targets in Argentina . Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah are all believed to conduct organization and fundraising in the area. In 2002, Paraguay’s public prosecutor for drug trafficking and terrorism stated that since 1995 around $50 million dollars had been remitted to Hezbollah by Lebanese businessmen in the TBA , with as much as $300 to $500 million being transmitted all of the active Islamic terrorists both Sunni and Shiite…

           — Hat tip: EMET [Return to headlines]

Immigration


720 Migrants in Two Lampedusa Centres

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO), MARCH 30 — 720 illegal immigrants are the guests of the reception centre in Contrada Imbriacola (540) and the former military base Loran in Capo Ponente (180). This morning about a hundred, mainly women and children, were transferred to Porto Empedocle by ferry. The transfers should continue tomorrow, according to the Agrigento prefecture. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Allow Enough Refugees in and They Will Provide All the Evidence You Need as to Why a State Can Fail

The first step on a society’s road to destruction can usually be called “stupidity”. That stupidity can be due to naivety, or optimism, or ignorance, or even just plain stupidity itself.

Either way, it can be fatal. Here in Ireland we’ve had plenty of opportunity to study examples of how threats to other European societies have begun, so by this time we should have learnt about the suicidal stupidity of allowing foreigners uncontrolled access into one’s country.

The Labour Party, however, seems to have learnt almost nothing at all about such matters. Joan Burton last week complained to an Oireachtas Committee that thousands of foreigners who were “legitimately” visiting Ireland to see relatives and to take holidays were being refused entry by “over-zealous” immigration officials.. Other visitors had to endure “excessive scrutiny”.

Excessive scrutiny: what does that mean, please, in a Europe which was only spared the simultaneous mid-air destruction of up to a dozen airliners a couple of years ago by a vigilant security official at Heathrow who noticed that a succession of Asian-looking men had identical bottles of mineral-water in their hand-luggage?

The bottles were found to contain a high-explosive that would have brought down any airliner. No subsequent investigation could possibly have revealed the causes of such a simultaneous mid-Atlantic multi-plane massacre, for the debris would have been spread over thousands of square miles.

To be sure, the intended authors of this massacre were home-grown Britons. But their cultural allegiance was and is to the jihadist caliphate that is apparently about to take over the failed-state of Pakistan. Which is why, as a general rule of thumb, the entire European Union should be very reluctant indeed to accept anyone from that particular country, and half a dozen other countries like it.

If you have ever wondered why a state fails, let me suggest the following uncontrolled experiment: allow a large enough number of refugees from it to enter your country, and they will very rapidly provide all the evidence you need as to why a state can fail. The answer is simple: the people in it.

The hiberno-left apparently still believes that we shouldn’t have tight, stop-and-check airport security. Some US lefties were probably saying something similar about immigration controls at JFK when Mohammed Atta arrived to start a course in a flying school nearly a decade ago. The chances are that those freedom-loving American lefties were not trapped on a window sill 80 storeys up, with an inferno a few floors below, about a year later. Three thousand other people were not so lucky.

Moreover, the culprits there were part of a truly global franchise. Many of the Saudi plotters of 9/11 in New York lived in London, but the terror cell responsible was based in Hamburg. So the cultural and demographic threat to Europe is no longer some lurid right-wing fantasy. Many areas of Britain, France, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have spiritually seceded from the polities they live within. With mass immigration, entirely new value-systems have arrived.

We know that thousands of bogus asylum seekers have arrived in Ireland in the past 15 years, we just don’t know how many. Should we now deliberately allow their numbers to increase merely because Joan Burton — using the special innocence-sensors which left-wing politicians are apparently born into this world with — is able to declare all incoming foreigners are arriving here “legitimately”?

The shocking fact is that, last week’s Oireachtas Committee notwithstanding, the issue of immigration has never once been discussed in Dail Eireann. Moreover, the ridiculous fiction-filled saga of Pamela Izebekhai, now finally drawing to a close, would only have been possible in a society where any discussion about “asylum seekers” is routinely reduced to a hibernian moral superiority competition, in which the victor is the Irish commentator who can emote the loudest and longest about the alleged plight of would-be aslyum-seekers back home. Though, frankly, I’d let the woman and her daughters stay, but as strict exceptions to the rule.

Entire areas of Ireland have been transformed by the arrival of thousands of her fellow Nigerians, who seem to find that the word “racist” rises with remarkable ease to their lips whenever they don’t immediately get what they want. Are they the people Joan Burton wants to have waved through immigration at our airports? Or has she Pakistanis in mind? Or perhaps Algerians and Saudis? She should let us know, and maybe then the Dublin Airport Authority and gardai will oblige, and remove security measures for them all.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



DHS Readies Tent City Strategy for Millions of Mexican ‘Refugees’

Rather than fight the [drug] war, the Obama administration appears ready to surrender, Corsi contends.

The Obama administration has developed a contingency plan for millions of Mexicans to flee the drug war by coming across the southern border as illegal immigrants.

Rather than turn back the refugees at the border, the Obama administration is planning to create tent cities to house and feed the millions fleeing Mexico.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



ICE Releases Workers Arrested in Washington Raid

SEATTLE (AP) — Many of the 28 workers arrested by immigration agents last month in a northwest Washington raid have been released and given permission to work, in another sign of how the Obama administration is handling illegal immigration differently than its predecessor.

The raid at a Yamato Engine Specialists plant in Bellingham was the first mass arrest of immigrants since President Barack Obama took office and appeared to contradict his policy that federal agents focus more on employers who hire undocumented workers than on the workers themselves. Shortly after the arrests, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a review of the raid.

The Bellingham Herald reported that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement gave the immigrants work permits or the option of returning to their native country.

Immigrants were released with documents advising them “that per the assistant United States attorney assigned to this case, all persons involved with the Yamato Engine Specialists … should be afforded the benefit of deferred action and an employment authorization document, valid for the duration of this case.”

ICE spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said the workers were released pending further investigation of the engine company and were given the option of work permits. She declined to comment further.

Rosalinda Guillen, executive director of the Bellingham-based immigration advocacy group Community to Community Development, said most of the workers are remaining in the area with their families, and that two were deported.

The workers were released Thursday, she said.

Guillen said workers are expecting more questioning from ICE agents, and may seek legal help.

Shirin Dhanani Makalai, Yamato’s administrative manager, declined to comment.

Workplace raids involving the arrests of hundreds of illegal immigrants at a time became almost routine in the last years of the Bush administration.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Italy: Savage Attack Leaves Pakistani Man in a Coma

Rome, 30 March (AKI) — A witness of a savage attack in Rome against a Pakistani man was due to testify on Monday as police seek to identify the attackers, who fled the scene. Five Italian youths in their 20s are said to have severely beaten a Pakistani man last Monday in what investigators say was a racially-motivated attack. However, the news only surfaced on Saturday.

Mohammad Basharat, 35, the owner of a small convenience store is said to be in a coma at Rome’s Policlinico Casilino after the group of young men began to savagely beat him, while his car was stopped at a red light in Rome’s deprived Tor Bella Monaca district.

Reports say Basharat’s friend, Naziq Mehmood Muheed, managed to keep his door locked after a young man with shaved head tried to open it. Muheed told Basharat to be calm. However, four other men arrived at the scene and tried to open his door.

Basharat then got out of his van and asked the young man what they wanted. He was then brutally punched, causing him to fall to the ground and hit his head on the pavement.

Basharat fainted but regained consciousness and was taken to the hospital. After staying in the hospital overnight, his condition worsened and suffered a severe brain haemorrhage, probably due to the beating he received.

Basharat’s 38 year-old Sri Lankan partner Chandy Karunasekera , who was three months pregnant, miscarried on hearing the bad news about her husband.

“We were about to get married. Now what do I do? I am alone and I am afraid,” Karunasekera told Italian daily Il Messaggero.

“My husband did not have enemies, he did not have problems with anyone.”

The Pakistani immigrant has been living in Italy for 14 years, while Karunasekera has been here for 16 years.

Muheed will be shown several photos of the alleged attackers on Monday and will attempt to recognise them.

In late January, three Italian youth attacked an Indian labourer Navtej Singh Sidhu and doused him with petrol and paint and set him alight as he slept on a station bench in Nettuno, south of Rome. The three youths, aged 17, 20 and 30 kicked, punched and insulted him before they set the 35-year-old on fire.

January 2009 saw vigilante-style attacks against immigrants in Italy following several rapes allegedly perpetrated by immigrants. Last November, four youths beat up and set alight a homeless Italian man sleeping on a park bench in the northern city of Padova.

A 63-year-old Ghanaian immigrant sitting on a park bench in Milan was severely beaten last year by baseball-bat wielding thugs who shouted: “Dirty nigger, you all have to get out of Italy!”

Earlier vigilante-style attacks have occurred in central Italy, for example when a naval captain’s wife was allegedly raped and murdered in Rome by a Romanian drifter in 2007.

Raids were carried out on encampments across Italy and dozens of Romanians judged to be a threat to public security were deported after the incident.

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



Shipwreck Libya, 300 Missing, 350 Rescued

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Sources in the International Organisation for Migration reported that 300 persons are missing at the moment after the shipwreck of three barges off the Libyan coast. An official Coastguard communique’ has stated that around 350 migrants have been rescued by an Italian ocean-going tug. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed its deep sadness for this migration tragedy. According to preliminary reconstructions, on the evening of March 28 three crowded barges went down due to strong winds. A fourth boat was assisted by an Italian unit together with Libyan authorities. On Sunday the boat was towed to the port of Tripoli with all passengers still on board. At the moment 23 persons have been rescued from the other boats, 21 lifeless bodies have been found. The number of missing persons is expected to rise, since one barge was carrying 253 persons, the other 365. According to Egyptian press agency Mena, all illegal migrants — many of Egyptian nationality — were headed for Italy. One of the ships had left Sid elal Janzur, a suburb of Tripoli. After three hours the ship went down 30km off the Libyan coast. This renewed tragedy on the route between Libya and Sicily hasn’t curbed migration to Italy: over 400 non-EU citizens have reached the Sicilian coast in the past hours.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: 151 Migrants Land in the Canaries

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 31 — Two boats with 151 migrants on board landed today on El Hierro island, in the Canaries, say sources in the office of the vice-prefect, as quoted by Europa Press. Both boats were spotted by the SIVE, Spain’s border surveillance service, 1.8 miles off the coast and were aided and escorted ashore by the Marine Rescue group. The landings occurred late this morning in the port of La Restinga. Some 75 people were travelling on the first boat, and 76 on the second boat, which landed shortly after. Among the immigrants, who were all sub-Saharan Africans, were many minors, although the exact number has not been indicated. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: 2 Holocaust Survivors Testify

MADRID — Two Spanish Holocaust survivors testified Monday about their Nazi concentration camp ordeals as a judge began gathering evidence in a lawsuit urging the United States to extradite four alleged former death camp guards for genocide.

Judge Ismael Moreno of the National Court heard from Ramiro Santisteban and Jesus Tello, who were both at the Mauthausen camp, for about four hours, according to a court official and the human rights group that filed the lawsuit.

Last July, Moreno agreed to consider the complaint from the Brussels-based group, Equipo Nizkor, which argues the four suspects should be extradited from the United States on charges of genocide under the so-called principle of universal justice.

The doctrine allows particularly heinous offenses — such as crimes against humanity, terrorism and torture — to be prosecuted in Spain even if they are alleged to have been committed elsewhere.

Spain has used it to go after former Chilean ruler Augusto Pinochet in 1998 and Osama bin Laden in 2003, although extraditions and convictions have been extremely rare.

The complaint identifies the four suspects as John Demjanjuk, Anton Tittjung, Josias Kumpf and Johann Leprich, and says they worked as camp guards at Flossenberg and Sachsenhausen, in Germany, or Mauthausen in Nazi-occupied Austria.

Demjanjuk is also being sought by Germany.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, which worked with Equipo Nizkor to prepare the lawsuit, says Demjanjuk is No. 2 on its “most wanted” list of Nazi war criminals — behind only SS doctor Aribert Heim.

Moreno has to decide whether to file charges against Demjanjuk and the other three and seek their extradition. It is not clear how long he will take.

The four live in the United States and are in their 80s. Equipo Nizkor says U.S. authorities have tried for years to deport them after they lied on their immigration papers about their Nazi pasts, but they remain in the United States because no country wants to take them in.

Equipo Nizkor says its case in Madrid is bolstered by the fact that thousands of Spaniards were among the millions killed in Nazi concentration camps. It says more than 7,000 Spaniards were held at Mauthausen and at least 4,300 of them died.

Most Spaniards in Nazi camps were leftist Republicans who fled to France during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 and were captured while fighting German troops.

In Monday’s closed-door session with Judge Moreno, Santisteban and Tello were shown archive photos of Mauthausen and “talked about how the camps worked and how the extermination methods worked,” said Gregorio Dionis, a spokesman for Equipo Nizkor, whose lawyers were present during the testimony.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Abortion: Spain; Bishops, the Debate is Not Over

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, MARCH 5 MAR — “The government cannot be the judge in the debate on abortion. It is society Which decides whether a social debate is closed or not”. The statement was made by the Secretary General of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, in an interview published today by the conservative newspaper Abc on the reform of the abortion law being studied by the government. According to Camino, the events and demonstrations scheduled for this week, as well as today for the Day of Life, are “evidence that the debate on the decriminalisation of abortion is not closed or over”. Regarding the publicity campaign started by the church, which maintains that animals in danger of extinction like the Iberian lynx have greater protection than unborn children, Martinez Camino said it was in good part getting what the ecclesiastical hierarchy wanted, meaning that the “protagonist of the debate has a voice. “You can’t be silent, not listen to the voice without words of those to be born and whose life is being decided” stated the Episcopal Conference secretary general. As to the mobilisation of some associations to support the anti-abortion campaign during Holy Week, the bishop defined the initiative as “coherent and worthy of gratitude from all of society”. Finally, on the demonstration against the reform of the abortion law scheduled for Sunday in Madrid by the pro-life organisations, Martinez Camino affirmed that “the bishops exhort the associations that defend life to contribute in all legitimate ways” to the demonstration, “as announced in the recent statement from the Family and Life Commission”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

General


Earth Population ‘Exceeds Limits’

There are already too many people living on Planet Earth, according to one of most influential science advisors in the US government.

Nina Fedoroff told the BBC One Planet programme that humans had exceeded the Earth’s “limits of sustainability”.

Dr Fedoroff has been the science and technology advisor to the US secretary of state since 2007, initially working with Condoleezza Rice.

Under the new Obama administration, she now advises Hillary Clinton.

“We need to continue to decrease the growth rate of the global population; the planet can’t support many more people,” Dr Fedoroff said, stressing the need for humans to become much better at managing “wild lands”, and in particular water supplies.

Pressed on whether she thought the world population was simply too high, Dr Fedoroff replied: “There are probably already too many people on the planet.”

GM Foods ‘needed’

A National Medal of Science laureate (America’s highest science award), the professor of molecular biology believes part of that better land management must include the use of genetically modified foods.

“We have six-and-a-half-billion people on the planet, going rapidly towards seven.

“We’re going to need a lot of inventiveness about how we use water and grow crops,” she told the BBC.

“We accept exactly the same technology (as GM food) in medicine, and yet in producing food we want to go back to the 19th Century.”

Dr Fedoroff, who wrote a book about GM Foods in 2004, believes critics of genetically modified maize, corn and rice are living in bygone times.

“We wouldn’t think of going to our doctor and saying ‘Treat me the way doctors treated people in the 19th Century’, and yet that’s what we’re demanding in food production.”

In a wide ranging interview, Dr Fedoroff was asked if the US accepted its responsibility to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be driving human-induced climate change. “Yes, and going forward, we just have to be more realistic about our contribution and decrease it — and I think you’ll see that happening.”

And asked if America would sign up to legally binding targets on carbon emissions — something the world’s biggest economy has been reluctant to do in the past — the professor was equally clear. “I think we’ll have to do that eventually — and the sooner the better.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Rory Leishman: in Defense of the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI seems to be under attack in the secular media. First, newspapers around the world mocked him for suggesting during a discussion of AIDS with reporters: “You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

Then, on Saturday, Agence France-Presse sensationally reported: “Pope Benedict used a nationally televised speech in Angola yesterday to reiterate the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on abortion, even to save a mother’s life.”

According to the official Vatican text of the Pope’s address, he made only one reference to abortion, stating: “How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of ‘maternal’ health care! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health!”

Later, Agence France-Presse reported that Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi had “clarified” the Pope’s remarks on abortion, stating that the Church has always taught that “indirect” abortion is permissible if necessary to save the life of the mother. Lombardi added: “What the Pope said is that the concept of maternal health cannot be used to justify abortions as a means of limiting births.”

Quite so. It is generally agreed among pro-lifers — Catholic, Protestant and secular — that induced abortion is a grievous wrong that can never be justified except if necessary to save the life of the mother.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the Pope’s remark about condoms and AIDS continues. In an editorial, The New York Times contended: “Pope Benedict XVI has every right to express his opposition to the use of condoms on moral grounds, in accordance with the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church. But he deserves no credence when he distorts scientific findings about the value of condoms in slowing the spread of the AIDS virus.”

In support of this argument, the Times editorial stated: “From an individual’s point of view, condoms work very well in preventing transmission of the AIDS virus from infected to uninfected people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites ‘comprehensive and conclusive’ evidence that latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are ‘highly effective’ in preventing heterosexual transmission of the virus that causes AIDS.”

This statement is essentially misleading. Despite several decades of “safer-sex” propaganda, the great majority of sexually active people do not use condoms “consistently and correctly.” In an article published in The British Medical Journal, Dr. Stephen Genuis, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alberta, observed: “In theory, condoms offer some protection against sexually transmitted infection; practically, however, epidemiological research repeatedly shows that condom familiarity and risk awareness do not result in sustained safer sex choices in real life. Only a minority of people engaging in risky sexual behaviour use condoms consistently. A recent study found that … [e]ven among stable, adult couples who were HIV discordant and received extensive ongoing counseling about HIV risk and condom use, only 48.4% used condoms consistently.”

What about Africa, in particular? Have the millions of free condoms that Western countries have distributed on this continent over the past several decades not at least served to reduce the scourge of AIDS among Africans?

Alas, no. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard University, is one of the leading authorities on AIDS. In an illuminating article in First Things, he wrote, “Consider this fact: In every African country in which HIV infections have declined, this decline has been associated with a decrease in the proportion of men and women reporting more than one sex partner over the course of a year — which is exactly what fidelity programs promote. The same association with HIV decline cannot be said for condom use, coverage of HIV testing, treatment for curable sexually transmitted infections, provision of antiretroviral drugs or any other intervention or behaviour.”

Even The New York Times has grasped that condoms are not a cure-all for the AIDS epidemic. In its editorial chiding the Pope, the paper conceded: “The best way to avoid transmission of the virus is to abstain from sexual intercourse or have a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected person.” Pope Benedict could not have said it any better.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Whose Job Will It Be?

A new government is in place in Israel.

The era of Olmert has ended and the era of Netanyahu has begun. In the midst of the financial crisis, Israel faces the looming threat of Iranian nukes.

The can that everybody has kicked down the road over the last decade has finally come to rest, and it can’t be kicked any farther.

The EU spent years dickering with Iran, to no avail. Now Barack Hussein Obama seems to think he can talk to the mullahs and persuade them to give up their nuclear ambitions via the power of “dialogue”. But most of the rest of us don’t believe in such foolishness.

Iran has decided that the End of Days is at hand, that the Islamic Republic has its part to play in the Shiite version of Armageddon, and that nuclear weapons are part of the plan. All indications are that the regime will not change its mind unless it is forcibly deterred.

And who will do the deterring? Bibi or The Messiah?

The new prime minister has sent a clear message to the new president: if the USA doesn’t act, then Israel will have to. According to The Atlantic:

Netanyahu to Obama: Stop Iran — or I Will

In an interview conducted shortly before he was sworn in today as prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu laid down a challenge for Barack Obama. The American president, he said, must stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — and quickly — or an imperiled Israel may be forced to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities itself.

“The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy, and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told me. He said the Iranian nuclear challenge represents a “hinge of history” and added that “Western civilization” will have failed if Iran is allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

In unusually blunt language, Netanyahu said of the Iranian leadership, “You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran.”

- – - - – - – - -

History teaches Jews that threats against their collective existence should be taken seriously, and, if possible, preempted, he suggested. In recent years, the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has regularly called for Israel to be “wiped off the map,” and the supreme Iranian leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, this month called Israel a “cancerous tumor.”

But Netanyahu also said that Iran threatens many other countries apart from Israel, and so his mission over the next several months is to convince the world of the broad danger posed by Iran. One of his chief security advisers, Moshe Ya’alon, told me that a nuclear Iran could mean the end of American influence in the Middle East. “This is an existential threat for Israel, but it will be a blow for American interests, especially on the energy front. Who will dominate the oil in the region — Washington or Tehran?”

So here we are at the “hinge of history”.

The Year of the Jackpot has arrived at last. It may be this year, or it might be 2010. It may even go all the way to the end of the Mayan epoch in 2012.

But it will be here soon.



Hat tip: islam o’phobe.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

I noted yesterday that rumors are sweeping the libertarian wing of the British blogosphere concerning the official attitude towards mass demonstrations that are predicted to disrupt this week’s G20 summit in London.

Like much of the news coming out of the UK these days, all the speculation about the onset of government repression seems to be the stuff of paranoia, not to be taken seriously by sober-minded people.

And yet…

The ominous news just keeps rolling in. Today comes word that the Westminster council’s CCTV cameras — part of the infamous and ubiquitous network of British video surveillance — may have to be shut down. In fact, if the shutdown occurs on schedule — and I can’t find a news article that updates the Guardian story — the cameras have already been turned off by the time you read this. And, in one of those uncanny coincidences that make a paranoid’s eyes light up, they are the very same cameras that will be recording the crowds in locations where the largest and most vigorous of the G20 demonstrations are likely to take place.

This sudden decision is mandated by a law that goes into effect on April 1, and the CCTV cameras in the Westminster network are out of compliance with the law because the resolution of their video image is too narrow by 16 pixels.

In other words, of all the local jurisdictions from one end of Britain to the other, surveillance cameras in the most sensitive part of London during an acknowledged public-safety emergency are to be idled because of a 16-pixel technicality.

No wonder the bells of paranoia are ringing.

Here’s the story from the Grauniad:

Ahead of G20 Summit, Council Told to Switch Off Illegal £15m CCTV Network

The security operation at this week’s G20 summit was thrown into chaos last night when it emerged that the entire network of central London’s wireless CCTV cameras will have to be turned off because of a legal ruling.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has ruled that Westminster council’s mobile road cameras — a third of the authority’s CCTV network — “do not fully meet the resolution standards required” and must be switched off by midnight tomorrow.

The blackout begins on the eve of the summit, when world leaders arrive in the capital and protesters take to the streets.

The council only discovered last week that images from its newly installed £15m traffic cameras do not meet the quality required under the Traffic Management Act, which comes into force on 1 April.

In an urgently drafted letter seen by the Guardian and hand-delivered to the transport secretary, Geoff Hoon, on Friday, the council warns its entire network of wireless cameras will need to be shut down unless the minister finds a way to give special dispensation. “This would have a serious impact on our ability to manage our road network safely, as well as impeding our community protection efforts,” the letter states.

- – - - – - – - -

It adds: “We are seeking authorisation from DfT as a matter of urgency to enable Westminster to continue using its digital CCTV network.”

The 60 cameras in question use the latest digital technology and transmit images using Wi-Fi. While they are primarily for traffic enforcement, according to the council the cameras are “an essential additional tool” to tackle crime and disorder, and have been fixed to strategic locations across the capital ahead of the summit.

The 24-hour live footage from the cameras, which monitor roads around the West End, Belgravia, Trafalgar Square, Knightsbridge, Oxford Street and London’s main bridges, is also accessible to police and the intelligence services.

[…]

“Frankly, it couldn’t have come at a worse time,” a source said. “These are not just parking enforcement cameras, they’re for public order and we’ve got the G20 world leaders coming. This is a complete disaster.”

Under the legislation, traffic cameras must be capable of recording at 720 x 576 pixels, an analogue broadcast standard.

Westminster’s wireless network of road cameras, introduced last year, is the only fully digital traffic enforcement system operating in the UK, and is regarded as one of the most advanced in the world. But its picture quality is only 704 x 576 pixels. The DfT’s enforcement branch, the Vehicle Certification Agency, has ruled it does not comply with the law.

DfT lawyers were last night frantically exploring a way to exempt Westminster from the legislation. A department statement said: “To ensure local authorities have a fair and transparent way of detecting unlawful drivers, any recording device must meet minimum requirements.”

The council last night confirmed that — barring an 11th-hour U-turn — it would have to switch off the network tomorrow to comply with the act. [emphasis added]

This story hasn’t been widely reported — the Guardian was the first major outlet to run with it, and all the other versions that I could find are basically the same.

So, to sum up: a devastating problem suddenly emerges, because of a law that just happens to come into effect on April 1, and just happens to shut down CCTV where the demos are scheduled, and then an official communication about it just happens to fall into the hands of the Guardian.

I’m prepared to hear some non-paranoid, plausible explanation for all this. I’m willing to be talked back into my accustomed sanity.

If the whole thing is some simple bureaucratic stupidity, then an emergency exemption will surely be enacted to allow the surveillance to continue during this, the crown jewel of all the worthless baubles in Gordon Brown’s worm-eaten treasure chest.

But if not…

Whatever monstrous events occur in Trafalgar Square or on London Bridge during the next three days, there will be no official visual record of them.



Hat tip: Gaia.

Jamaat ul-Fuqra Reaches Out

MOAAs I reported last year, the Muslims of America — the smiley-face mask that covers the wretched terrorist ghoul known as Jamaat ul-Fuqra — came out of their compound at Islamberg near Deposit, New York, and held a parade in downtown Binghamton in honor of Mohammed’s birthday.

This year they staged a reprise of the event, and the Christian community of Binghamton responded with open arms to ol’ Mo’s birthday celebration. According to the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin:

Reaching Out to Christians: Muslims March for Reconciliation

Hundreds rally in Binghamton

BINGHAMTON — Muslims from the Southern Tier and other communities as far away as Michigan and South Carolina gathered in Binghamton on Sunday to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday and publicly urge reconciliation between Christianity and Islam.

“In many places Muslims and Christians are in conflict. This is senseless because it leads to a tremendous loss of life and suffering,” said M. Hasib Haqq, public relations spokesman for the new United Muslim-Christian Forum, which organized Sunday’s program.

Have you noticed that Muslims only talk this way when they are outnumbered by at least thirty to one?

Compare Mr. Haqq’s rhetoric with the routine utterances of imams in, say, Antwerp or Finsbury Park.

The best way to overcome the conflict is to emphasize the commonalities between the two religions — namely belief in God, practice of The Ten Commandments and emphasis on “the golden rule” of “doing unto others as they would do unto you,” he said.

More than 500 people, including a small number of non-Muslims, filled West Presbyterian Church on Main Street for a series of speeches, followed by a march on Main and Court streets to the Broome County Courthouse lawn.

The local Christians are urging — big surprise — “dialogue”, the all-purpose soothing unguent of the liberal mind, Obama’s Universal Balm of Salvation:
- – - - – - – - -

West Presbyterian’s board approved use of the church to “foster inter- religious dialogue, understanding and tolerance,” said the Rev. Andrew Stehlik, pastor, who spoke during the program. Other speakers included Binghamton Mayor Matthew T. Ryan; the Rev. Tim Taugher of St. Catherine’s Church in Hillcrest; and Khalifah Muhammad Hussein Adams, chairman of the Muslims of the Americas.

The Muslims of the Americas sponsored a similar event in Binghamton a year ago, and many in attendance Sunday came from their communities in the United States, including a compound in Hancock [Islamberg, the North American headquarters of Jamaat ul-Fuqra].

For new arrivals, here’s some background on the case: the Muslims of America acknowledge Sheikh Gilani as their spiritual leader and moral authority. This is the same Sheikh Gilani who insists that Islam must be purified by violence. He’s the lovable guy who made a terrorist training video in which he fired automatic weapons, supervised instruction in hijacking and explosives, called his followers “Soldiers of Allah”, and cautioned them to keep his videotaped instructions secret.

The Muslims of America are a front for Jamaat ul-Fuqra, an international terrorist organization headquartered in Pakistan.

And this is the group that makes the good Christian burghers of Binghamton all weak and gooey and filled with universal love.

Fair warning — some of this stuff is more effective than ipecac:

“We’re all just people,” said Gloria Westgate, 72, a member of West Presbyterian Church who called the event “wonderful.”

Adams said he hopes Sunday’s rally “clarifies and sends out the truth about us.” He urged the audience to reject extremists who have no respect for, or appreciation of, human life.

“We can stop the clash of civilizations,” he said, “by just holding hands.”

Ohhhh-kay. Yup. That’ll do it.

If only we’d thought of that before! Then there would have been no 9-11, no 7-7, no Mumbai attacks, no Madrid bombings, no Bali bombing, no this bombing, that bombing, and the other bombing. Nothing but peace, love, ’n’ joy as far as the eye can see.

Just by holding hands. Pure genius.

Mr. Adams is doing an effective job for his faith with such masterful taqiyyah. I can’t fault him for that; that’s just what Muslims do.

But what about all these gullible Christians?

Honestly, how can we possibly stand a chance against the Great Jihad with raving loonies like this in charge of the spiritual institutions of our common civic culture?

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


I can’t top the response of one of the commenters to this news article, so I’ll let him have the last word:

I must remind the venerable Khalifah Muhammad Hussein Adams (who, by the way, has taken up the Arabic names of those who enslaved his African ancestors continuously from the 6th Century A.D. to 1960 A.D.) that “reconciliation” is a two-way street.

I hereby request that the good Khalifah officially solicit the Saudi Arabian government, the spiritual center of Islam, to permit the establishment of Christian and Jewish churches, synagogues and religious schools in that country. This would only be fair, since we have thousands of mosques in the USA and well as Muslim private religious schools.

Moreover, I ask that he solicit the Saudis to remove that sign on the major highway to Mecca: “This highway for Muslims only.” Ditto: Sudan, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Yemen, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, West Bank of “Palestine” etc. I ask that the honorable Khalifah send me CC’s of these solicitations, and a CCC to the Binghamton Press.

I shall now hold my breath.



Hat tip: C5.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/30/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/30/2009Muammar Qaddafi stormed out of the Arab Summit in a huff after insulting the king of Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Saudi women are fighting to keep gyms from being closed to them.

In other news, the number of Muslims in Latin America has increased dramatically, and five Christian missionaries were expelled from Morocco.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, CSP, Fjordman, Holger Danske, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, The Observer, Tuan Jim, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
EU: Merkel is Ready to Greet, and Then Resist, Obama
GM Boss Steps Down at White House’s Request
Netherlands: Opposition Slams Cabinet’s Crisis Measures
Nicolas Sarkozy’s Threat to Walk Out of Global Summit
Rep. Duncan Hunter: ‘Mr. President, Put the Checkbook Down’
The New Vigilantes and Their Unaccountable Enablers
UK: Speaking Truth to the Prime Minister
 
USA
Al Gore Ignores ‘Earth Hour’
Coming Government Takeover of Food
Expanded Americorps Has an Authoritarian Feel
Farrakhan Addresses Violence Problem
Frank Gaffney: Lawfare & Obama’s Transnationalist
Islamic Law’s Influence in America a Growing Concern
Join the Quiet Revolution
NY Times Spiked Major Obama-ACORN Story Before Election
Obama’s Fuzzy Math
Obama Judicial Nominee Says Prayers to Allah OK… But Not to Jesus
Online Activists on the Right, Unite!
Racial Harmony? Not Quite!
Sen. Gregg No Longer in Obama’s Corner
The Coming Nuclear Renaissance
The Media Sees No Evil
Understanding Obama’s Fabian Socialism
Video: Personal Computers Could be Open to Government Access Under New Obama Copyright Plan
 
Canada
Justice ‘Cannot be Veiled’
This Man Wants to Reinvent Canadian Multiculturalism
 
Europe and the EU
Czech Rep: Czech Govt Approves Compensation for Communist-Sacked Students
Finland: Left Alliance and Sdp Accuse True Finns Leader Timo Soini of Playing Tricks Over European Parliament
Finland: Russian Politician Warns Finland Against NATO Membership
Former Latvian PM to Stand for Libertas
Germany: From Mania to Mistrust
Netherlands: Cities Seek Powers to Block Poor Schools
Norway: Too Many East Europeans on the Dole
Obama Links Chrysler Aid to Fiat
President Obama Heads to London for G-20, and Meet Queen Elizabeth II
Sharia Banking Conquers Europe
Sweden: Rosengård: Integration in the Eye of the Storm
Sweden Democrats in Racism Row
Sweden: Female Students Win Discrimination Case
Sweden: Two Charged for Prosecutor Bomb Attack
UK: ‘Healthy’ Man, 25, Collapses and Dies Playing Wii Fit Game
UK: British Archbishop Thanks Muslims for Bringing Religion Back to England
UK: Couple Who Died in House Fire With Three-Year-Old Son as Police Held Back Neighbours Desperate to Help
UK: China ‘Could Use BT Network to Launch Cyber Attack and Cripple Britain’
UK: Free Our Police From the Tyranny of Targets
UK: Failed Asylum Seekers ‘Not Entitled to Free NHS Care’
UK: Five Activists Arrested in G20 ‘Bomb Plot’ as London Goes Into Lockdown for World Leaders
UK: Police Try to Stop Facebook Hunt for Rapist… in Case it ‘Victimises’ Attacker
UK: Pensioner Booked for Speeding… in a 1923 Model T Ford That Doesn’t Even Have a Speedo
UK: Tory Councillor Quizzed by Police After Making ‘Homophobic’ Joke About Transsexuals
UK: When a Bishop Has to Leave the Church of England to Stand Up for Christians, What Hope is Left for Britain?
UK: Water Police Could Ban Power Showers… and Summer Bills May Soar in Purge on Waste
 
Balkans
Montenegro: Political ‘Godfather’ Tipped to Win General Election
 
North Africa
Muslim Morocco Expels 5 Christian Missionaries
 
Middle East
Cinema and Theatre Contrary to Islam, Says Saudi Grand Mufti
Gaddafi Storms Out of Arab Summit and Labels Saudi King ‘a British Product’
Saudi Arabia: Women Fight to Stop Gym Closures
Saudi Arabia: New Fund to Oversee Asset Investments
Turkey: Erdogan Heads for a Vote: He Will Win, But He Will Lose Support
 
South Asia
India: New Delhi Looks at New Missile Deal With Israel
Nepal: UN Warns Peace Process at Risk
Pakistani Army End Bloody Siege After Attack by Militants Which Left 19 Dead
US Opens Route to Afghanistan Through Russia’s Backyard
 
Far East
Asia: Iranian Experts Helping North Korea With Missile Launch
For Tibetans in Exile, the “End of Slavery” is Nothing But Propaganda
 
Australia — Pacific
Islamophobia is a Fabrication
Muslim Unemployment Higher and May Rise
New Zealand: Togs Planned for Muslim Women
New Zealand: Wage Packets Fatter From Tomorrow
Queensland to Crack Down on Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Vatican: Bishop Claims AIDS Virus Can Penetrate Condoms
 
Latin America
Growth of Islam in Latin America
 
Immigration
Finland: Minister Concerned Over Immigrant Youths
Sweden: Asylum Seekers Buy Fake Adresses
Twin Crises: Immigration and Hospital Infrastructure
Two More Landings in Sicily, 405 Immigrants
 
Culture Wars
UK: History Has Been ‘Feminised’ Says David Starkey as He Launches Henry Viii Series
Who Will Raise Kids: Mom, Dad or State?
 
General
U.N. ‘Climate Change’ Plan Would Likely Shift Trillions to Form New World Economy

Financial Crisis


EU: Merkel is Ready to Greet, and Then Resist, Obama

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, an avowed friend of the United States and the leader of the European Union’s biggest economy, is diplomatic about the coming visit by President Obama. But she is clear that she is not about to give ground on new stimulus spending, stressing the need to maintain fiscal discipline even as she professes to want to work closely with the new American president.

[…]

During the hourlong interview, Mrs. Merkel made clear that she was not wavering in her response to the economic crisis, by loosening the German checkbook or encouraging the European Central Bank to follow the Federal Reserve in pumping money into the system. She also said she expected Mr. Obama to keep his word to gradually rein in imbalances that would cause American indebtedness to grow sharply as a result of his domestic stimulus plans.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



GM Boss Steps Down at White House’s Request

Fritz Henderson, GM president and chief operating officer, to take over

Time and time again, General Motors Corp.’s board of directors reaffirmed its support for Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, even as the company piled up billions of dollars in losses and begged for government loans to stay alive.

But Wagoner is now a high-profile casualty of government intervention, forced out as part of the Obama administration’s sweeping last-ditch effort to save the century-old auto giant.

Wagoner, 56, who spent 32 years with GM working all over the world, stepped down effective immediately, the company said in a statement early Monday. He was replaced as CEO by Fritz Henderson, the company’s vice chairman and chief operating officer.

[…]

Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive of the automotive Web site Edmunds.com, called the move “political theater” to appease an increasingly bailout-weary public.

“American taxpayers are not happy,” Anwyl said. “But this way you’re able to point to Rick and say he’s gone, and that creates an environment where the loans become politically palatable.”

Interviewed Monday on NBC’s “Today” show, the governor of Michigan said Wagoner is a “sacrificial lamb.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: Opposition Slams Cabinet’s Crisis Measures

The opposition has fiercely criticised the government’s package of crisis measures during a parliamentary debate. The conservative VVD says no hard choices have been made, and is accusing the cabinet of procrastinating. The Socialist Party says it foresees growing gaps in society. The Green Left party complains that the crisis plans fail to put a cap on mortgage interest tax deductions for the rich.

The democrat party D66 argues that the six billion euros the cabinet says it will invest in the economy is ‘old money’. D66 says the investments had for the most part already been approved, but are now being moved forward to revive the economy.

MPs from the coalition parties, the CDA (Christian Democrats), the Labour Party and the Christian Union, were satisfied with the cabinet’s plans, but want to take a serious look at the VVD’s plans to fight youth unemployment. The VVD is concerned about young people on temporary contracts who are at risk of being fired before their contracts have to become permanent.

Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party MPs demonstratively stormed out of the chamber after CDA Chair Pieter van Geel said there was only limited room for changes to the cabinet’s plans.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Nicolas Sarkozy’s Threat to Walk Out of Global Summit

President Sarkozy yesterday threatened to wreck the London summit if France’s demands for tougher financial regulation are not met.

France will not accept a G20 that produces a “false success with language that sounds good but contains no commitments”, his advisers said.

Asked if this meant a possible walk-out, Xavier Musca, Mr Sarkozy’s deputy chief of staff for economic affairs, said: “A basic rule with nuclear deterrence is that you do not say at what point you will use the weapon.”

The French threat dramatically raised the temperature hours before President Obama arrives in London today. If carried through, it would ruin a summit for which Mr Brown and Mr Obama have high ambitions, believing it vital to international recovery.

Mr Sarkozy, who blames the “Anglo-Saxons” for causing the economic crisis, told his ministers last week that he would leave Mr Brown’s summit “if it does not work out”.

A deal to tighten regulation will be one of the key features of the G20 accord but France wants a global financial regulator, an idea fiercely opposed by the United States and Britain. Mr Brown has described the notion as ridiculous.

Germany and other nations are reported to be against a global regulator and sources said that President Sarkozy must know that the proposal would not make progress.

Instead, countries will agree that their national regulators should cooperate more. So-called colleges of supervisors are likely to be established to monitor the activities of companies that operate in several countries.

British officials said it looked as if Mr Sarkozy was picking a fight he could present as a victory back home.

Mr Sarkozy’s threat underlines the emerging splits between world leaders. Germany and France have led opposition to plans to coordinate public spending, championed by the Administration of President Obama.

The importance of action to ease the economic decline will be underlined today by a report from the OECD, the umbrella group for Western democracies. It now expects the economies of its 30 member nations to slump by 4.3 per cent this year, against the 0.4 per cent drop that it forecast last November.

The group also warns that unemployment will reach 10 per cent by next year in most developed nations.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



Rep. Duncan Hunter: ‘Mr. President, Put the Checkbook Down’

Mr. Speaker, recently released documents from AIG accounts for some of the more than $180 billion in aid that AIG has received. And it’s revealed that over $58 billion of that $180 billion has gone to foreign banks around the world. And $58 billion have gone to French banks, German banks. French and German banks, respectively, pulled in $19 billion and $17 billion of American taxpayer money. I understand the outrage over bonuses, $166 million in bonuses, but that’s a pittance compared to the $58 billion that have gone to overseas banks. Societe Generale, based in France, was the top foreign recipient, at $11.9 billion. Deutsche Bank of Germany received $11.8 billion of taxpayer money. Barclays, based in England, got $8.5 billion. BNB Parabas, based in France, got $5 billion.

The House Oversight Committee also discovered a list of questionable foreign investments conducted by the largest recipients of TARP funds. Citigroup, JP Morgan and Bank of America each received $25 billion in TARP funds on October 26th of last year. Citigroup then loaned Dubai $8 billion of American taxpayer money. JP Morgan invested $1 billion of American taxpayer money in India. And Bank of America gave communist China $7 billion of the American people’s money.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The New Vigilantes and Their Unaccountable Enablers

If you think there are no consequences to hysterical, anti-corporate grandstanding in Washington, pay attention to what’s happening across the pond: “This is just the beginning.”

So warned a public letter signed this week by a vigilante group called “Bank Bosses are Criminals.” The thugs claimed responsibility for vandalizing a former financial executive’s home and car in Edinburgh, Scotland. The bank official, Sir Fred Goodwin, was excoriated by U.K. politicians for refusing to give up company pension benefits dubbed “obscene,” “grotesque,” “unjustifiable and unacceptable.” The vigilantes were stoked by a former newspaper editor, one Max Hastings, who wrote a diatribe exhorting citizens to violence:

“The time has come to address the entire robber banker culture. Investment banks have been run not for the benefit of society, customers or even shareholders, but exclusively for the advantage of the bankers themselves. … This is why we must stand outside their homes throwing rocks through the windows until they do.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Speaking Truth to the Prime Minister

[Comments from JD: Daniel Hannan for Prime Minister!]

Editor’s note: Daniel Hannan’s fiery speech addressing Gordon Brown at the European Parliament electrified the Internet when it was broadcast on YouTube last week. Vox Day interviewed the iconoclastic Englishman about Brown, Britain, and the global economic crisis on March 26, 2009.

Vox: Your speech criticizing Gordon Brown’s incompetent stewardship of the UK economy was extraordinarily well received, not just in Britain, but around the world. Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition party, David Cameron, has been rather quiet on that front. Why has Mr. Cameron been so reluctant to say the things you said to Mr. Brown?

Daniel: Because in the British system, there’s this great thing about the loyal opposition. And when you get a crisis like this, that comes out of a clear blue sky, nobody wants to risk looking unpatriotic, so you have to be measured and tempered in how you respond, which is completely understandable. The result of it, unfortunately, is that a lot of people are left with saying, wait a minute, hang on, nobody is saying what I would like them to say. All the politicians seem to be in this together. A lot of people felt that a cartel of politicians and bankers were setting policy in defiance of public opinion. Those were the people I was trying to speak for.

[…]

Vox: The European Union is described as everything from a free-trade union to the EUSSR. How do you, as a European member of Parliament, see the EU today?

Daniel: The EU is a racket: a mechanism for taking money from the taxpayer and handing it to Eurocrats. … The EU’s equivalent of the Prague Spring was the “No” votes of 2004 and 2005. Nobody believes anymore that if only the question could be fairly put, then all the people would come around to it. They’ve lost whatever ideological impetus they had, but they understand that their position in society depends upon their maintaining the status quo. Since the “No” votes across the EU, Eurocrats have given up on the idea that their system will ever win approval. That’s what makes them so tetchy.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA


Al Gore Ignores ‘Earth Hour’

Driveway to Nashville mansion flooded with electricity

Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” may have inspired many to participate in yesterday’s “Earth Hour” by switching off their lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., but maybe the former vice president didn’t get the memo.

Drew Johnson, the president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, decided to drive by Gore’s mansion in Nashville at 8:48 p.m. and records that floodlights were on illuminating the driveway leading up to the main quarter.

[…]

The United Nations’ top climate official, Yvo de Boer, called the event a clear sign that the world wants negotiators seeking a climate change agreement to set an ambitious course to fight global warming.

The event was initiated with hopes of impacting talks in Bonn this week to craft a deal to control emissions of the heat-trapping gases supposedly responsible for “global warming.” The talks are due to culminate in Copenhagen this December.

“Earth Hour was probably the largest public demonstration on climate change ever,” de Boer told delegates from 175 nations. “Its aim was to tell every government representative to seal a deal in Copenhagen. The world’s concerned citizens have given the negotiations an additional and very clear mandate.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Coming Government Takeover of Food

In response to the soaring cost of food, more Americans are turning back to their roots — literally. Mail order seed giant Burpee Seeds reports record demand for garden vegetable seeds. Cable TV shows on home gardening are suddenly popular beyond the core of committed “grow your own” types. The healthy food movement has been lifted beyond its core of Agbiz rejectionists. Websites catering to those thirsting for basic knowledge on home gardening “how to” are flooded with new visitors.

The “recession garden” has arrived in your backyard (or one near you) echoing the “victory garden” of World War II.

Both big government and big business are alarmed — and both are working to control this phenomenon. What’s in the works threatens a government definition of what is “food” and proposes regulations amounting to a government takeover of the production, transportation and sale of food in this country for the benefit of Big Ag.

[…]

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced HR 875 to establish a new Food Safety Administration to “protect the public health” and “ensure the safety of food.” Rep. DeLauro believes that the FDA is not effective enough with the current laws governing food safety, so HR 875 grants broad new powers to the new FSA. DeLauro is a former chief of staff to Sen. Chris Dodd. Her husband, Stan Greenberg, is a leftist consultant whose corporate clients include Monsanto.

This bill — if passed — would give FSA inspectors the right to enter, anywhere in the world, any premises of any food establishment to inspect and determine whether the product of that food establishment should be sold to American consumers.

[…]

Basically, don’t sell, or even give, the produce from your “recession garden” to anyone — or you’re in a heap of trouble.

HR 875 provides a $1 million fine for each infraction of the “rules” or “orders” of the FSA for each day that such infractions are deemed by the FSA to exist. SB 425 provides a fine of $100,000 for each violation of any order or regulation of the FSA and for each day that such violation occurs.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Expanded Americorps Has an Authoritarian Feel

With almost no public attention, both chambers of Congress in the past week advanced an alarming expansion of the Americorps national service plan, with the number of federally funded community service job increasing from 75,000 to 250,000 at a cost of $5.7 billion. Lurking behind the feel-good rhetoric spouted by the measure’s advocates is a bill that on closer inspection reveals multiple provisions that together create a strong odor of creepy authoritarianism. The House passed the measure overwhelmingly, while only 14 senators had the sense and courage to vote against it on a key procedural motion. Every legislator who either voted for this bill or didn’t vote at all has some serious explaining to do.

Last summer, then-candidate Barack Obama threw civil liberties to the wind when he proposed “a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” as the regular military. The expanded Americorps is not quite so disturbing, but a number of provisions in the bill raise serious concerns.

[…]

POSTED Mar 26, 2009 anonymous: “I spent four years with Americorps. It is already an extremely authoritarian group. Many of those serving with Americorps describe it as being in a cult. The program disguises itself as “voluntary” or “community” service, but as you can see from the editorial piece it is really neither.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Farrakhan Addresses Violence Problem

CHICAGO) (WLS) — Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan laid out his ideas Sunday for ending the violence that has killed so many young people in Chicago and the suburbs.

Farrakhan spoke after services at Greater Institutional AME church on South Indiana. A number of political, religious and community leaders joined him.

The minister said the solution to the problem is everyone working together to solve it. He said children need to see each other as brothers and sisters so they will not have a need for guns.

Farrakhan also talked about the insecurities that some young people feel.

Story continues belowAdvertisement”There’s a tendency to feed youth with the idea that weapons give you power,” he said.

Farrakhan also suggested there could be conflict resolution centers around the city to help people resolve disputes.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]



Frank Gaffney: Lawfare & Obama’s Transnationalist

What is wrong with this picture? We learned this weekend that a Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzon, is preparing to prosecute six Americans who worked as senior legal and policy advisors to President George W. Bush — including Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith. The alleged crime? The opinions they provided Mr. Bush supported the use of torture against enemy combatants.

Most Americans would find this assertion of what has come to be called “transnational law” to be troubling on several grounds. Its application is an affront to due process and the rule of law in this country. It would criminalize internal U.S. policy-making deliberations, with profound implications for U.S. sovereignty. If allowed to run its course, this prosecution would have a profoundly chilling effect on the willingness of subordinates to provide a president with advice, or perhaps even to serve in government.

One would hope that President Obama would recognize that this use of legal mechanisms as a form of warfare against the United States — increasingly known as “lawfare” — holds serious dangers not just for the country and those who ran it for the past eight years, but for his administration, as well. That would appear not to be the case, however, in light of his choice of Harold Koh to be the State Department’s top lawyer…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Islamic Law’s Influence in America a Growing Concern

As America’s Muslim population grows, so too does the influence of Islamic law, or Shariah, in daily life in the U.S.

“Shariah Law is the totality of the Muslim’s obligation,” said Abdullahi An-Na’im, a professor of law at Emory University in Atlanta. According to An-Na’im, Shariah is similar to Jewish Talmudic Law or Catholic Canon Law in that it guides an adherent’s moral conduct.

“As a citizen, I am a subject of the United States,” An-Na’im said. “I owe allegiance to the United States, to the Constitution of the United States. That is not inconsistent with observing a religious code in terms of my own personal behavior.”

While many view this as a testament to the “great American melting pot,” others see Islamic law’s growing influence as a threat. Shariah’s critics point to cases such as the airport in Minneapolis, where some Shariah-adherent taxi drivers made headlines in 2006 for refusing to pick up passengers they suspected of carrying liquor. The drivers’ aversion to alcohol stemmed from a verse in the Qur’an that describes “intoxicants and gambling” as “an abomination of Satan’s handiwork.”…

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]



Join the Quiet Revolution

[Comments from JD: The acronym COPS stand for Community Oriented Policing Services]

Adhering to the successful SARA model, City inspectors began ticketing homeowners for violations of Local Agenda 21 land use regulations. Since Safe and Affordable Housing is a UN Human Right, all housing must be regularly inspected for code violations. Thousands of Seattle residents refused to invite the inspectors inside their homes. Unable to gain entrance to so many homes without a valid warrant, and thus unable to complete their interior safety inspections, the City planned other innovative ways to gain access to the insides of private dwellings. In a memo to Seattle neighborhood groups in 1998, SPD Chief Stamper called the 4th Amendment requirements for a legal search warrant “an identified barrier to the program.”

[…]

In June 2001, John (Jody) Kretzman was the guest speaker at Seattle’s Town Hall. He introduced local neighborhood group leaders to an alternative approach to mapping neighborhoods. His program was called ABCD (Asset Based Community Development). He said the focus had changed from identifying problems to identifying assets, which he assured the room was a much more positive approach to rebuilding community. His books included “Mapping and Mobilizing Community Capacity” which suggests an 11 page interview of all residents. Working with concerned neighborhood volunteers, the COPS could go door to door asking people to help save the community by answering all the questions about their skills and abilities. Of course during these interviews COPS and city employees are “trained” to look around for “any other life-threatening things” they might be able to see. The Seattle City Attorney’s office spent years on their “Top Ten” list, included were “unlocked dumptsters” and “messy kitchens.” All this data is then entered into COMPASS.

[…]

There is a lot of attention being paid to Fusion Centers now. A Missouri cop leaked Fusionst documents to someone on Alex Jones’ staff. The report has since been verified and admitted to by the Missouri State Police. The analysts’ report, based on COMPASS data, predicts the followers of presidential candidates Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin have a potential for domestic terrorism. This revelation, along with the Child Safety Act, the proposed Gun Registration regulations, and Monsantos’ proposed Food Safety Act has many registered Independents, Libertarians, Republicans, Constitutionalists and even Democrats talking openly about an inveitable coming civil war against the feds.

[…]

But there’s little evidence COPS has worked, and there’s some evidence it has actually encouraged police tactics completely at odds with the objectives of community policing. A 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office concluded that the program may have contributed to a minor reduction in crime — a little more than 1 percent — but at a cost of $8 billion. A peer-reviewed study in the journal Criminology concluded that COPS “had little to no effect on crime.” “The main problem with federal block grants is that once they’re issued, Congress can’t monitor them to be sure they’re spent properly. And that’s certainly true of COPS. A 2000 report by the Madison Times, for example, found that COPS grants, along with a federal program through which local police departments obtain surplus military equipment from the Pentagon, led to a mass expansion of SWAT teams throughout Wisconsin in the 1990s. SWAT teams popped up in absurdly small communities like Forest County (population 9,950), Mukwonago (7,519), and Rice Lake (8,320). “And not just in Wisconsin. In a survey conducted by criminologist Peter Kraska, two-thirds of responding police chiefs said SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics “play an important role in community policing strategies.”

[…]

COPS, like every other program coming down via the UN Declaration at Rio, is based in the theory of communitarianism. Promoted as the sensible solution to the conflicts posed by too many individual rights and not enough community rights, Communitarians insist there must be a new effort to “shore up the moral, social and political environment.” They “balance” the rights of individuals against the health and safety of the community at large. Amitai Etzioni has told us numerous times that individual rights can only be protected by taking some away.

[…]

…I met several police in Seattle who told me they’re a “real cop” and not a “community cop.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



NY Times Spiked Major Obama-ACORN Story Before Election

The New York Times had killed a story in October that would have shown a close link between ACORN, Project Vote and the Obama campaign because it would have been a “a game changer.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama’s Fuzzy Math

In his press conference last Tuesday, Barack Obama said that America must reject the “borrow and spend” policies of the past in favor of a strategy of “save and invest.” Sounds good. So why is Obama proposing to borrow and spend more than any president in the history of the republic? Already in the first 45 days of his administration, the federal government has authorized more debt spending than Ronald Reagan did in eight years in office.

Then last week the Democrats’ own Congressional Budget Office found that the ten-year deficits of the Obama plan will be about $2.3 trillion higher than the $6.97 trillion the White House is projecting. This is the policy of the party that was swept back into power in 2006 and 2008 promising a return to an era of fiscal responsibility.

Welcome to the Obama doctrine. It is built on the high stakes economic gamble that the public and the bond markets will tolerate trillions of dollars of borrowing to pay for massive expansions in government spending on popular income transfer programs. The corollary to this doctrine is that the left will create a political imperative to jack up tax rates to pay for higher spending commitments made today.

But the news on the red ink front is much worse than the president or even the CBO’s budget report suggests. If all of Obama’s “transformational” policy objectives—from global warming taxes to universal health care to doubling the Department of Energy’s budget—are enacted, the debt is likely to increase from about 40 percent of GDP today to close to 100 percent of GDP by 2018. The ten-year debt is likely to be at least $6 trillion higher—or more than one-half trillion of higher deficits a year from now until forever—than the Obama budget projects.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama Judicial Nominee Says Prayers to Allah OK… But Not to Jesus

Judge David Hamilton ruled that prayers in Jesus Name at the Indiana House of Representatives was unconstitutional, but prayers to Allah were not.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Online Activists on the Right, Unite!

Eleven years later, “seminar callers” abound and call screeners are trained in the art of weeding them out. But the filtering does not always work.

“This is nothing more than the Internet version of Soviet disinformation,” Human Events editor Jed Babbin told me. “MoveOn.org and the little boys from ‘Lord of the Flies’ who run Media Matters want to make it appear that there’s huge dissension within conservative ranks on issues on which we’re most united.”

…The right, for the most part, embraces basic Judeo-Christian ideals and would not promote nor defend the propaganda techniques that were perfected in godless communist and socialist regimes. The current political and media environment crafted by supposedly idealistic Mr. Obama resembles Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela more than John F. Kennedy’s America.

The Huffington Post, Daily Kos and other left-leaning sites benefit from the right’s belief that there are rules and decorum in political debate and civic engagement. Of course, every now and then, a curious right-winger will go in and engage in discussion at a left-wing site, but rarely under purely disingenuous and mass coordinated means.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Racial Harmony? Not Quite!

Attorney General Eric Holder got what he wanted this week in Oakland, Calif..: black and non-black people talking about race.

In mid-February, he called us “a nation of cowards,” unwilling to discuss race issues.

Well, race issues dominated Bay Area media since March 21, but I doubt the rhetoric that surfaced — and is still being heard on talk radio and news even as I write this — was what Holder had in mind.

He talked kumbaya about dialogue and discussion. What he got was ugly, semi-violent, vindictive, and dangerous — exposing the underbelly of an ugly aspect of race relations, unfortunately held by many blacks: They don’t like cops, and they especially don’t like non-black cops.

I also doubt the reason for the race talk was what Holder had in mind: It was the vicious, deliberate slaughter of four Oakland police officers by a career criminal, on parole, with a warrant for missing three meetings with his parole officer and, who was in possession of a gun.

This was a bad, bad man who did even worse because he was more than willing to use that weapon, and then another one, to deliberately kill police.

[…]

The black mayor of a predominantly black city, plagued with crime, a shortage of police and budget issues, clearly has some problems.

But so do many Oakland residents. Even before the crime situation was resolved, people gathered on street corners and derided police, cheering the criminal fugitive and the police deaths, calling them retribution for alleged “racist” police work.

For them, it’s clear race division and “whitey” is the bad guy. There were efforts during the week for rallies and demonstrations. The killer, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon, was cheered as a hero. The rhetoric was hateful and divisive.

Many talk show callers spilled their anger, dragging out the usual cliches about slavery, discrimination, profiling and O.J. Simpson.

Too many, clearly, never will never change their conclusions that black is good and white is bad. Everything was responsible for the criminal activity except Mixon and his broken family. There were diatribes about not enough “understanding” for the criminal but almost nothing about the crimes, which got Mixon jailed in the first place.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Sen. Gregg No Longer in Obama’s Corner

Last month, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg agreed to join President Barack Obama’s cabinet as Commerce Secretary, but then he abruptly withdrew his name, saying he and the president were “functioning from a different set of views on many different items of policy.”

Saturday, Gregg drove the point home when he warned that Obama is engineering an “extraordinary move of our government to the left.”

Gregg, one of the Senate’s leading voices on budget issues, charged in the GOP’s weekly radio and Internet address that Obama’s proposals would “dramatically grow the size and cost of government and move it to the left.”

[…]

That budget, said Gregg, “spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much.” Republicans have not presented a detailed alternative of their own but expect to in the coming days.

The GOP, Gregg said, believes “you create prosperity by having an affordable government that pursues its responsibilities without excessive costs, taxes or debt.”

In other words, he said, “it is the individual American who creates prosperity and good jobs, not the government.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Coming Nuclear Renaissance

Dozens of planned reactors were canceled. In the years since Three Mile Island, not a single nuclear plant has been ordered and built in the United States.

Yet far from being washed up, atomic power seems poised for a renaissance. Consider…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Media Sees No Evil

What do all Americans, starting with George Washington, and especially pro-life advocates, have in common according to such media luminaries as NBC’s Brian Williams, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and the always quotable Rosie O’Donnell? They all could be considered terrorists, a word the media have begun to deploy against anyone they find particularly contemptible.

Except—too often, alas—actual terrorists.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Understanding Obama’s Fabian Socialism

How about a Marxist socialist? The difference between the Marxist and the Fabian is somewhat of an important difference, but from Marx’s point of view, socialism was going to be the answer to the capitalist economic system. And what Marx did was divide basically the human race into two groups, the proletariat and the bourgeois. And from a Marxist point of view, the bourgeois needed to be eliminated so that we could have peace on earth, and goodwill to all the socialists, I guess.

But the Fabian socialists came along with a different idea. They came along with the same socialist idea, but instead of dividing the world between the two groups, they decided that they were going to bring about socialism through a more peaceful process. In other words, the Bolsheviks were known as the party of slaughter, and we had to ultimately get rid of the bourgeois. And they did, by the way, Brannon. They killed tens of thousands. I think the numbers are probably closer to 100 and some million..

But the Fabians decided that they were not going to use the heavy hand. They were going to go slowly and surely, and that’s what they did.

The word Fabian comes from a Roman general by the name of Fabius who was — he was up against the Carthaginians and Hannibal, and he decided that he wasn’t going to face them head on, but he was going to — he was going to go through them, and he was going to go above them, and he was going to go below them. He was going to use a lot of different tactics to defeat them, so that’s what he did.

[…]

Did it really? No. The truth is, Brannon, than I have traced a direct link from the Fabian socialists right to our present day House of Representatives. And by the way, the House of Representatives is the key to the socialization of America, and I hope that all of our listeners are listening rather carefully here, because what I’m about to give you is in the article itself.

But there are four progressive, radical, socialistic what we would call organizations or caucuses in the United States House of Representatives. They are, and I will give these in order, and then I’ll come back on them and tell you who — how many members they have, just to show you what we’re talking about here.

The Progressive Democrats of America, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Democratic Socialists of America. These are all organizations that your listeners right now can go to their computer, go to Google, and type in each one of them, and they will find exactly what we’re talking about.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Video: Personal Computers Could be Open to Government Access Under New Obama Copyright Plan

The Obama Administration is currently negotiating the ACTA Agreement with several international partners. The proposed agreement would empower security officials at airports and other international borders to conduct random ex officio searches of laptops, MP3 players, and cellular phones for illegally downloaded or “ripped” music and movies.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Canada


Justice ‘Cannot be Veiled’

Permitting alleged victims or any witness to wear a veil while testifying would fundamentally change core principles in our justice system, an Ontario Superior Court judge was told yesterday.

“Justice must be seen to be done. It cannot be masked or veiled,” Jack Pinkofsky said. “The face of justice cannot be faceless,” the veteran defence lawyer added.

Superior Court Justice Frank Marrocco has been asked to decide whether an alleged victim in a sexual-assault case in Toronto will be permitted to testify while wearing her niqab. The Muslim veil covers all of her face except her eyes.

The provincial court judge presiding over the preliminary hearing of the two defendants ruled last fall that the woman’s religious beliefs were not that strong and ordered her to remove the veil. She refused and was granted the right to appeal the decision to the Superior Court.

While it may be harder to assess the demeanour of a witness in a niqab, the impact on the defence “is not that significant,” said the woman’s lawyer, David Butt. “If you have got the eyes, you have got the picture,” he suggested.

The Criminal Code permits witnesses such as alleged sexual-assault victims or children to testify by video or behind a one-way screen. In both situations, the defence lawyer and accused can see the witness. Mr. Butt explained that this would not be acceptable for his client because men could see her without the veil.

The legal issue for Judge Marrocco is not about the Charter of Rights and religious freedom, but a question of “natural justice,” said Mr. Pinkofsky, whose firm is representing one of the accused.

“The submissions I heard today suggested we should be glad that Pierre Elliott Trudeau crafted the Charter, because we never had anything before the Charter. That is not correct. This has been vested in the common law for centuries. It is the rule of law. We don’t search for the half-truth,” Mr. Pinkofsky said.

He spoke of the “right of confrontation” of an accused person to see his accuser, which dates back to Roman law and is enshrined in the U. S. Constitution. It is not enough to hear what a witness says to be able to properly assess credibility and receive a fair trial, Mr. Pinkofsky said.

“If you went to any man or woman on the street and suggested they would fully appreciate what someone is saying just by listening and not by seeing, they would guffaw,” Mr. Pinkofsky said. “Demeanour is part of the very fabric of what we call evidence, and it is not to be taken away from us without a terrible struggle.”

The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney-General is taking the position that the woman should be allowed to wear the niqab at the preliminary hearing, because the judge has limited legal powers to assess credibility when determining if the accused should go to trial. Crown attorney Laurie Gonet explained that the province has not taken an official position on the broader issue of whether this should be allowed in an trial.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



This Man Wants to Reinvent Canadian Multiculturalism

Caught in a rare moment inside his Parliament Hill office, Immigration and Multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney is finished his interview with Fox News to talk about American military deserters seeking refuge in Canada. And an interview with a B.C. television station to discuss the case of a Chinese grandmother needing a special permit to visit Canada to tend to an injured grandson. And a TV reporter wanting to talk about Croatian visa policy. At the same time, his communications staff was fielding calls from reporters about the government’s decision to ban British MP George Galloway from visiting Canada, as well as the latest turn in a public battle with the Canadian Arab Federation, and reports on abuses in Canada’s refugee system — after finally managing to put aside, for now, the media and political fallout from the minister’s comments days earlier about strengthening language proficiency requirements for new citizens.

For the past few weeks, and despite pressing matters in portfolios related to the economy, Mr. Kenney has arguably been the most public face of the federal Conservative government, daily stickhandling everything from tricky, politically charged issues, with accusations of racism and unethical political interference, to local-interest immigration sagas. It is, Mr. Kenney admits, an “emotionally draining … tough position.” But, for Mr. Kenney, a full-fledged Cabinet minister for not quite six months, the most challenging and politically perilous work planned for his portfolio — reshaping Canada’s approach to immigration and multiculturalism — has scarcely begun.

The higher profile matters — the Galloway issue, the scuffle with Arab groups, the language abilities of immigrants — form the early marks of a pattern of what is to come. Rejecting the CAF’s support for Islamic terrorists and arguably anti-Semitic messages, Mr. Galloway for financially supporting Hamas, calling for newcomers to better integrate: These are of a piece with efforts to fortify what the Conservatives would call The Canadian Identity. It is, Mr. Kenney makes clear, a vision for a country that stands up for its pluralism, but also for its core liberal traditions of tolerance, democracy and secularism. “We can’t afford to be complacent about the challenge of integration,” he says. “We want to avoid the kind of ethnic enclaves or parallel communities that exist in some European countries. So far, we’ve been pretty successful at that, but I think it’s going to require greater effort in the future to make sure that we have an approach to pluralism and immigration that leads to social cohesion rather than fracturing.”

For a country with the highest average per capita immigration rate on the planet — roughly 250,000 new residents arrive yearly from nearly every region and creed — maintaining such philosophical hygiene will take great energy, audacity and support from within Canada’s ethnic communities, where immigration reform is personal. It will take, also, someone able to absorb repeated accusations of racism or xenophobia, which are already flying Mr. Kenney’s way. When he advocated to the Calgary Herald recently a limited federal role in promoting multiculturalism — “I think it’s really neat that a fifth-generation Ukrainian Canadian can speak Ukrainian — but pay for it yourself,” he said — Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj complained the minister was jettisoning sacred tenets. “He’s the minister in charge and he fundamentally disagrees with the intent of the [Multiculturalism Act] legislation that supports his portfolio,” Mr. Wrzesnewskyj says. Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis this week called Mr. Kenney “intolerant” for raising the issue of enhanced language requirements. The Arab Federation has painted him a Zionist lackey.

But there are those, many of them within Canada’s ethnic pockets, who support such a muscular approach.

“What is different with him is, with previous [Conservative] immigration ministers, both have been pussycats; this guy is a tiger,” says Tarek Fatah, an author, prominent Liberal supporter and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress. “He’s standing up for Canadian values. I would like every politician to stand up for this country the way Jason Kenney has.”

Before being elevated to Cabinet last fall, Mr. Kenney spent two years shuttling between community halls, temples and church basements, building support networks in Sikh, Hindu, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Jewish and Arab communities, as Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity. His mission: to break a near lock his Liberal opponents have had on ethnic support since Trudeaumania.

Come last October’s election, the payoff arrived: The Tories upset numerous Liberal strongholds surrounding Vancouver and Toronto by converting Asian, East Asian and Middle Eastern voters from red to blue. Mr. Kenney’s predecessors, including Diane Finley and Monte Solberg, were ministers of immigration. When Mr. Kenney got the job in October, the Prime Minister added the “and multiculturalism.”

Multicultural maven is a curious role for a pale, Reform party pioneer raised in Saskatchewan, educated by Jesuits, deeply socially conservative, who came to politics primarily with an agenda for fiscal restraint (Before becoming a Reform MP in 1997, he headed the Canadian Taxpayers Federation). But political opponents looking to brand him as too redneck for the sensitive immigration file find it hard to land a punch. In his diverse Calgary Southeast riding, families speak fondly of Mr. Kenney’s efforts, long before he became the minister in charge, in helping them sort out immigration issues; his key staffers, including a Tibetan, a Muslim and an Armenian, resemble the dessert lineup at the UN cafeteria. He spearheaded the government’s efforts to recognize the Ukrainian Holdomor, its apology to the East Indian community for the Komagata Maru incident, he has defended Chinese Uyghur Muslims and paid his respects at the Mumbai Jewish centre attacked by terrorists. On his office wall hang portraits of abolitionist heroes William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln. A few years ago, Mr. Kenney boarded an entire family newly arrived from India in his Calgary home while they settled into Canadian life. “It gave me, for the first time, a real view of the immigration experience from the eyes of a family that’s landed without any previous connections in Canada,” he says. “I benefited from it as much or more than they did.” Today, the kids call him Uncle Jason.

“The irony is that as a white, Catholic kid, he’s very cosmopolitan. Maybe the most cosmopolitan minister we’ve had,” says Mr. Solberg, now an advisor for government relations firm Fleishman-Hillard in Calgary.

If Mr. Kenney is to succeed in reshaping his sensitive file, he will likely need his solid ethnic-friendly credentials and deep community networks. It helps, too, that he has the confidence of his boss, Stephen Harper. Mr. Kenney has become a key member of the Prime Minister’s inner circle after years out of favour for his loyalty to Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day. Everything he does today comes clearly with the Prime Minister’s blessing, says Tom Flanagan, the University of Calgary political scientist who served as Mr. Harper’s chief of staff and strategist.

The minister is dealing now with “probably the most difficult issues,” Mr. Flanagan says. “Charges of racism are always just one syllable away.” And increasingly powerful statements denouncing anti-Semitism (“Peaceful and pluralistic Canada sees signs that this evil is newly resurgent,” Mr. Kenney recently told a European summit on the issue), criticizing Muslim-led attempts to censor blaspheming Canadian writers through human rights commissions, and slamming certain groups that would stoke ancient and modern Middle East enmities here, have led to accusations in Arab communities, and in some corners of the media, that the minister has abandoned an unprejudiced approach and made Canada a stooge for the so-called Israel lobby: The CAF called him a “professional whore;” the Toronto Star a “professional fool.” (The CAF announced this week it will take the government to court over its failure to renew the group’s immigration settlement contracts.)

For Mr. Kenney, these things, and more, are part of preserving the Canadian way. Immigrants, he says, should come prepared to accept our national standards, or stay out. “My job is in part to ensure that we successfully integrate newcomers into Canadian society and that our particular Canadian model of pluralism remains a success,” he says. “There’s always a danger that political correctness can dissuade us from making clear distinctions between what constitutes legitimate political debate, and on the other hand, extremism and the promotion of hatred and violence. We cannot allow political correctness to cloud our ability to make those basic distinctions.”

This is an approach that has taken hold more firmly elsewhere since Al Qaeda opened Western countries’ eyes to the risks of careless multicultural policies, but has not yet made progress here. It is, says Mr. Solberg, a trend toward a more “melting pot” approach, rather than the Liberal concept of a multicultural “mosaic” where immigrants are encouraged to retain their separateness. “I think Canada has really gone beyond that; I think the immigrant communities have gone beyond that, too. They’re more self-assured,” he says. “This old model of needing [government] to preserve their culture no longer exists.”

The Conservatives have been most influenced by reforms in Australia, a country with remarkably similar economic features that has reshaped its approach to both integration — better matching newcomers to the labour market’s needs, increasing their job-finding success rate by 38% — and cultural integration. Former Aussie prime minister John Howard famously announcing “we will decide who comes to this country, and the circumstances in which they come,” would rename the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, declaring the shift from “altruism to pragmatism.” His successor, Kevin Rudd, though a political adversary, has stuck with the program.

Mr. Kenney said he believes it does immigrants no favour to bring them here seeking work in fields that do not need them, or with unrecognized credentials. It might even harm their loyalty. He was stunned, he says, recently sitting in an Immigration Canada interview with a thirty-something citizen arrived in Canada over a decade ago who was unable to understand questions in English or French.

Canada has not yet gone as far as Australia in enforcing a cultural and economic compatibility from its immigrants, but Mr. Kenney seems to be headed in a similar direction (He also acknowledges following recent British moves to delegitimize Arab and Muslim groups involved with radical elements, while the Netherlands, France and even Quebec have experimented with methods of preserving traditional standards).

“The idea that we are a happy mosaic and we can continue to let people do anything they want, short of breaking the law, is short-sighted,” says Martin Collacott, a former Canadian ambassador who studies immigration for the Fraser Institute; a country must select its immigrants carefully to ensure they are fit to become productive, dedicated citizens.

The Liberals, dependent on ethnic support, were politically unable to take such steps, Mr. Collacott points out. Liberal prime ministers, for instance, would not list the Tamil Tigers a terrorist group (even today, Liberal MPs are still routinely spotted at events supporting the Tigers), and they appointed Hezbollah and Hamas supporters to the Immigration and Refugee Board. Last year, Tory plans under then-immigration minister Finley to raise qualification levels for immigrants to work down an 800,000 application backlog had the Liberal opposition, roused by outraged ethnic groups, threatening to bring down the minority government.

Mr. Kenney, having built from the ground up his own simpatico Conservative base in Canada’s ethnic pockets, has a freer hand to move more aggressively. Since his appointment, the minister has yet to bring forward any legislation, though it’s true that the opportunity to do so has so far been limited. But he promises an “ambitious policy agenda” coming soon. When it does, it will almost certainly prove at least as divisive as anything Mr. Kenney has done in recent days, and will likely take all the political and ethnic goodwill he has spent years accumulating to succeed — presuming, by then, he has a sufficient stock of the stuff left.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Czech Rep: Czech Govt Approves Compensation for Communist-Sacked Students

Prague — The Czech government today approved compensation for Czechs who were expelled from university in 1948-56 on political grounds, Education Minister Ondrej Liska (Greens) has told journalists.

The one-off compensation is to reach up to 100,000 crowns.

The proposal is yet to be passed by parliament.

“It is a big debt society owes to the people who were affected by totalitarian power,” Mirek Topolanek (Civic Democrats, ODS) said.

He added about 300 such persons are still alive.

Topolanek’s centre-right coalition government is in resignation. The Chamber of Deputies voted no confidence in it last Tuesday.

Politicians have long been in dispute over whether the measure should cover only students expelled from studies until the year 1956, or whether it should apply to the whole 40 years of the communist regime.

More than 10,000 students and academics had to leave schools between February 1948, when the communists seized power in then Czechoslovakia, and 1949 alone, on the basis of vettings before the Action Committee of the communist-led National Front.

Only a small part of them were rehabilitated during the Prague Spring reform movement in 1968, the others had to wait until after the collapse of the communist regime in late 1989.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Finland: Left Alliance and Sdp Accuse True Finns Leader Timo Soini of Playing Tricks Over European Parliament

True Finns MP Timo Soini’s announcement on Saturday that he has decided to run for the European Parliament in the next EU elections in June has met with criticism from the Left Alliance and the Social Democratic Party. Soini also made it known that he will leave the EU Parliament if he wins a seat in the Finnish Parliamentary elections in 2011.

Left Alliance Chairman Martti Korhonen commented on Soini’s plans at a meeting of the Party Council, saying that “it certainly sounds like he is playing tricks”. Korhonen was supported by SDP Party Secretary Ari Korhonen, who said that it takes new MEPs 18 months to get used to the Parliament procedures and it is not possible to look after the interests of Finland during a quick visit to Brussels.

“If a candidate declares already in advance that he is to leave his seat in the middle of a term, it is pure underestimation of people. A mandate from people is given for the entire five-year period; it must not be split as one pleases”, Ari Korhonen writes in his press release.

Timo Soini himself also commented on the matter to the Finnish News Agency (STT) last night, saying that he is only being honest with his voters. In Soini’s view, the Left Alliance are attacking him because they are afraid of losing their own seat on the European Parliament. The Left Alliance is seeking two seats in the next EU elections in June. At present they only have one. Before submitting its list of candidates for the upcoming EU Parliament elections, the True Finns Party Board is to name another three candidates as soon as possible.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Finland: Russian Politician Warns Finland Against NATO Membership

A Russian politician and international policy expert has warned Finland not to join the NATO alliance. Yuli Kvitsinsky, First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs, says such a move would damage bilateral relations.

He added Finnish NATO membership would lead to Russian responses in the military, political and economic fields.

Speaking in an interview given to YLE, Kvitsinsky pointed out that from the Russian standpoint, NATO is above all else an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. For this reason, Finnish membership of the alliance would place the country in a standoff between superpowers, he said.

Russia’s reluctance to see NATO on its borders also extended to Finland, Kvitsinsky noted.

A similar warning was issued last spring by Dmitri Rogozin, the Russian ambassador to NATO.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Former Latvian PM to Stand for Libertas

ANTI-LISBON Treaty group Libertas has signed up a former prime minister of Latvia to lead its European Parliament election campaign in the Baltic state.

Sitting MEP Guntars Krasts will head a list of eight Latvian candidates for Libertas. They will join other candidates battling for Latvia’s allocation of nine seats in the parliament. Mr Krasts has held several positions in the Latvian government, including prime minister between 1997 and 1998. He served as deputy prime minister and was the country’s minister for the economy from 1995 to 1997. He has been an MEP since 1994.

At the launch of Libertas’s Latvian campaign on Saturday, Mr Krasts spoke of the need for an “economic and political renaissance” in Europe. He is a member of the Union for Europe of Nations grouping in the European Parliament.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



Germany: From Mania to Mistrust

Europe’s Obama Euphoria Wanes

Europe was ecstatic when Barack Obama got elected, but the enthusiasm has dampened since he took office in January. On the eve of his first visit to Europe as president, some here are wondering how seriously he takes the Continent.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, the new director of policy planning at the US State Department, was sitting on the stage at a conference on trans-Atlantic relations in Brussels. “Europe has a phone number,” she said, and there was a satisfied murmuring of approval among her mainly European audience. Everyone remembers the famous remark by former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who complained in the 1970s that he didn’t know who to call when he wanted to talk to Europe.

But when the moderator asked Slaughter if she had that number on her, she was evidently caught off guard. “I have three,” she replied. The hall erupted into loud laughter.

Slaughter quickly corrected herself, explaining that Europe was simply organized differently, with an EU “troika” representing the bloc on foreign policy issues, but that the EU was still able to conduct an effective foreign policy. Nevertheless, the exchange reflected a degree of uncertainty in relations with Europe ahead of US President Barack Obama’s first major foreign trip.

When Obama arrives in London on Tuesday for the start of his one-week visit to Europe, he’ll come as a friend, but as one who is still in some ways a stranger. Europe backed his election campaign more enthusiastically than most other parts of the world. But the White House has been too preoccupied coping with domestic crises to devote much attention to this region in the first two months of Obama’s presidency…..

….Compounding the problem, say many, is that US ministries are understaffed as a result of the drawn-out process of appointing people to top positions — a shortcoming that has been especially noticeable in diplomatic appointments. The designated Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Phil Gordon, has yet to approved by the Senate, and important ambassador’s posts including the one in Berlin remain unfilled. “There’s a list of up to 12 people circulating but the decision will take time,” said a German diplomatic source.

“It’s unbelievable how few people there are to talk to on the American side,” said one high-ranking member of the German delegation who recently visited Washington to discuss the future of General motors subsidiary Opel.

The British too have been complaining that their calls aren’t getting returned because the Americans lack staff. One German diplomat said the dimensions of Germany’s economic stimulus package had to be explained in person to Obama’s economic advisor Lawrence Summers because he lacked advisors on European affairs. He had apparently only read about the German measures in the media.

The White House counters by saying that it has put trans-Atlantic relations on a completely new footing in the last two months with the planned closure of Guantanamo, a clear distancing from torture, a fresh start on combating global warming and by moving towards European thinking on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq.

Still, the Obama skeptics in Europe are having a field day. “The notion that Europe is going to rally around this administration is being exploded,” Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation, told the Washington Post. Indeed, a feeling of skepticism regarding Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy and his proposals for solving the financial crisis has been making itself felt.

When it comes to the European people, though, Obama remains a beacon and he can expect a hero’s welcome when he arrives. “Obama can reach out to the European public to create a different dynamic, to create a political will to do more,” said Karen Donfried, executive vice president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “He has the ability to reach the public in a way George W Bush did not.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: Cities Seek Powers to Block Poor Schools

The four large cities are seeking to expand their powers in order to prevent poorly performing schools from expanding. The news comes after an Islamic school announced its intention to open a new school in Utrecht. The Schools Inspectorate has rated the school’s existing branches in Almere, Lelystad and Hilversum as “poor” to “very poor”.

Utrecht’s Education Councilor Rinda den Besten wants to block the new school but lacks the authority to do so. The education councillors of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague are also seeking expanded powers. In addition to Islamic schools, antroposophic and rural schools often perform poorly.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Norway: Too Many East Europeans on the Dole

Per Olaf Lundteigen, MP from the government coalition party Agrarians (Senterpartiet), wants stricter Norwegian regulations for issuing welfare benefits to unemployed from Eastern Europe. In Lundteigen’s opinion it is unacceptable that workers from Eastern Europe should be able to obtain full NOrwegian unemployment benefits after only six months in this country.

In just one year the number of Eastern Europeans who receive unemployment benefits is five times higher than earlier.

Most of them are from Poland, and the National Labour Office (NAV) fear that the growth has just started.

At the same time the general unemployment in Norway has just doubled, Aftenposten writes.

Nearly 100,000 foreign workers now hold valid work permits for Norway.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Obama Links Chrysler Aid to Fiat

Without alliance with Italians Detroit No. 3 will fail

(ANSA) — New York, March 30 — United States President Barack Obama on Monday made it clear that any aid to American automaker Chrysler would depend on it striking a partnership with Italy’s Fiat.

In outlining his government’s position on helping the crippled auto industry, Obama said “Chrysler needs a partner” to survive and “if they are able to reach a solid agreement which protects American consumers, we will consider lending them $6 billion”.

“If no such accord is reached and if no other viable partnership surfaces, we will not be able to justify the investment of further taxpayer money to keep Chrysler operating,” the American president said.

Fiat, Obama recalled, “is ready to transfer its cutting-edge technology to Chrysler and, after having worked closely with my team, has promised to build new, fuel-efficient cars and motors here in America”.

Fiat has linked any hypothesis of an accord with Chrysler to it obtaining a loan from Washington.

Looking at the US auto industry in general, Obama said we cannot, we must not and will not allow our automobile industry to just vanish. This sector, like no other, is an emblem of the American spirit”. The automobile industry, he added, “is a pillar of our economy. But we cannot go on like this”.

Chrysler was given 30 days to finalise an accord with Fiat, after which it will face bankruptcy.

General Motors, the biggest US automaker, was given an additional 60 days to revamp its restructurization plan which, like Chrysler’s, was found to be insufficient by the Obama administration.

Funds were guaranteed to both automakers to stay afloat during the extended deadline period.

Later on Monday Chrysler, Fiat and the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, which owns 80% of the Detroit automaker, announced they had reached an agreement for a global alliance.

Chrysler said in a statement that the alliance with Fiat “reinforces our business model” and that it would “reinforce Chrysler’s ability to create and maintain jobs in the USA”.

Fiat in January signed a preliminary non-binding agreement with the struggling American carmaker to create a global partnership in the production and distribution of automobiles and other motor vehicles.

The non-cash accord calls for Fiat to take a 35% stake in the Number Three American carmaker in exchange for Fiat’s platforms for its fuel-efficient, small and medium-sized compact cars, which will fill a gap in Chrysler’s range of models.

The partnership is slated to be formalised sometime in April and would give Fiat access to Chrysler’s assembly plants as well as its sales and service networks.

These are all necessary for the Italian automaker’s goal of bringing Alfa Romeo back to the US market and introducing its popular new Fiat 500 city car there, both of which need to be produced in the US to be profitable.

Fiat is also reported to have an option to acquire a further 20% in Chrysler should the partnership prove successful.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



President Obama Heads to London for G-20, and Meet Queen Elizabeth II

Before getting down to business at the G-20 global summit in London later in the week, he’ll have a high-stakes meeting Wednesday with Queen Elizabeth II at which his etiquette and protocol will be under the microscope.

Obama caught grief in the United Kingdom for giving British Prime Minister Gordon Brown what many deemed cringe-worthy goodies — a set of DVDs and toy models of Marine One — during their White House powwow earlier this month.

[…]

Obama will wrap up his trip with a stop in Turkey Sunday night, his first visit to a predominantly Muslim country. The importance of Obama’s diplomatic push into Muslim nations will be trumped only by his efforts to solve the international economic meltdown.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Sharia Banking Conquers Europe

by Thomas Landen

All over Europe Islamic banks are establishing branches, Western banks are offering Sharia-compliant financial services, and European governments are trying to outcompete each other in welcoming them. Proponents of banking along the lines of Sharia (Islamic law) claim that the Islamic banking system is “more ethical” than the West’s capitalist system. This is not true. Unfortunately, however, in our age of crashing financial markets, many Westerners — not just the traditional anti-capitalist European left — seem very eager to buy that argument.

Early this month, even the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano voiced its approval of Sharia banking. “The ethical principles on which Islamic finance is based may bring banks closer to their clients and to the true spirit which should mark every financial service,” the paper said in a downright stupid and “unethical” article published on March, 4.

The article, entitled “Islamic finance proposals and ideas for the West in crisis” [pdf] suggests that the basic rules of Islamic finance could relieve suffering markets and particularly international financial systems. It says that in the current atmosphere of crisis banks should take Muslims as an example and that the Islamic finance system may pave the way for the establishment of new rules in the Western world.

Islamic or Sharia banks differ from regular banks in two major ways. As commanded in the Koran, the charging of interest is prohibited in all monetary transactions. The other defining feature of Islamic banks is that they are supervised by a board of Islamic scholars and clerics whose job it is to ensure that the banks’ activities comply with Sharia law…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Rosengård: Integration in the Eye of the Storm

Malmö suburb Rosengård has come to symbolise Sweden’s struggles with integration. AFP’s Marc Preel examines a community grappling with its identity after a winter marred by rioting and clashes with the police.

Believers file quietly out of a mosque into the cold night in Rosengård, a neighbourhood at the centre of a heated debate over Sweden’s failure to integrate immigrants amid reports that radical Islamists now control the area.

“How does society expect us to integrate when we are so segregated?” asks Sami Touman, a 21-year-old mechanical engineer student whose family comes from Gaza.

Around 86 percent of the some 22,000 people who live in the towering, grey, 1960s concrete structures that make up the heart of this Malmö suburb in the south of Sweden are first or second generation immigrants.

Traditional Swedish names like Svensson, Larsson and Andersson have gradually disappeared from the metal buzzers, replaced to a large extent by the names of Muslim refugees who have fled conflicts in places like Iraq, Lebanon, the former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Afghanistan.

“When I first got here 15 years ago I had Swedish neighbours. Today, there isn’t a single one left,” says Anis, a 33-year-old of Bosnian origin who only gives his first name, as he eats a kebab at the large shopping centre that is Rosengård’s main meeting point.

The neighbourhood found itself in the midst of a media frenzy in December following days of violent clashes between immigrant youths and police, and again in January after a government-commissioned report claimed a small group of radical Islamists had a stranglehold on the area.

“Families who have just moved into the neighbourhood and who have never been particularly religious or traditional claim that they led freer lives in their home country than in Rosengård,” the report said.

Women who did not wear the Muslim headscarf, or hijab, in their home country were for example obliged to don it, according to the study.

The authors also singled out “cellar mosques” which had no link to official Islam and whose ultraradical members serve as a kind of “thought police.”

The report has been met with heavy criticism in Rosengård, where many residents say they do not recognise their neighbourhood in its description.

“No one has ever come up to me and asked: ‘Are you a Muslim? Do you pray five times a day?’,” Touman insists.

Kenneth, a 56-year-old unemployed truckdriver, agrees that Rosengård is basically just your average community.

“Rosengård is a fairly nice neighbourhood. You find everything here, except a Systembolaget,” the state-run liquor store, the ethnic Swede jokes as he sips coffee with a friend at a shopping centre cafe surrounded by oriental stores interspersed with Swedish supermarkets.

“It’s true that we are a minority here, but we don’t really think about it in those terms. We have so many immigrant friends,” he says.

Maxime Camara, who heads the Rosengård’s refugee welcome committee, however laments that increasingly influential Islamic groups have further isolated the already over-populated and under-employed neighbourhood.

While Sweden’s official unemployment rate stands at around seven percent, nearly 40 percent of Rosengård working age residents are jobless.

“A lot of young people here are out of work… Their parents don’t work, and they get their only social interaction in the Islamic milieu, which complicates integration,” says Camara, originally from Guinea.

“They spend their time speaking Arabic,” he says, adding that “at heart they don’t really want to be Swedish. They tell me so themselves.”

Even the imam (preacher) at Rosengård’s largest mosque complains that some immigrant communities here are not as open as they should be to Swedish society.

“That is a problem for us, for Europe, having some communities always looking to the past,” says Bejzat Becirov, who gives his sermons in Swedish.

“So here we are with an Islamic football club and table tennis team,” he adds.

The December riots were sparked by the closure of a Rosengård club belonging to the Islamic Cultural Association of Malmö.

Ammar Daoud, one of the group’s leaders, rejects the criticism against the organisation and maintains the Rosengård report was “unfounded, misleading and racist.”

The racism charges lobbed against the Swedish establishment after the report was published ballooned further following the release in early February of audio tapes of police comments during the December riots in which they referred to immigrant youths as “

ing primitive beasts.”

Media also revealed that during a training course in early 2008, instructors had told police to use the fictitious code names “Neger Niggersson” and “Oskar Neger” (Negro).

Daoud meanwhile insists his group does nothing to hamper integration and instead plays a positive role in Rosengård.

“Does helping children with their homework counter integration efforts?” he asks.

Pernilla Ouis, an expert on Islam in Sweden at Malmö University, however maintains that a heavy Islamic influence makes it more difficult for immigrants to fit in in Sweden.

“The Muslim communities say they want to help, and that’s fine, but their behaviour towards the non-Muslim society is not normal,” she says.

The unrest was therefore in fact a good thing, insists Ouis, a Swedish citizen who herself wore the Muslim headscarf for 18 years.

“What happened this winter has brought attention to the problem that we couldn’t talk about before without being accused of racism,” she says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden Democrats in Racism Row

Racism and hostility toward foreigners are common themes for the far-right Sweden Democrats, despite the party’s efforts to move into the political mainstream, according to a new investigation.

As part of an in-depth report, Sveriges Radio (SR) planted three journalists from the Kaliber investigative news programme with Sweden Democrat chapters in Stockholm, Gothenburg, and in Skåne in Sweden’s far south.

During one third of the party’s roughly 30 meetings attended by the undercover journalists, members of the Sweden Democrats made racist or anti-immigrant statements.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: And the two subjects are analogous how?]

Among other things, members of the Sweden Democrats who hold elected office said that immigrants aren’t loyal, don’t want to pay taxes, and would rather take black-market jobs.

“Those who come from these countries, they’re pretty raw and real savages… [laughter]…They are, it’s in their nature,” one elected official could be heard saying on SR’s tape.

At another meeting, immigrants are compared with dogs.

“Did you know that am immigrant who comes to Sweden from countries like Afghanistan and Africa sometimes come with 2,000 parasites in their body. Not ever our dogs have that many, and they have to sit in quarantine…,” said a Sweden Democrat representative, prompting several at the meeting to burst into laughter.

In other excerpts from the programme, party members claim that Muslims don’t eat pork because they have sex with pigs and that Muslim women where burqas to hide the fact that they are beaten by their husbands.

The head of the Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, doesn’t agree with the radio station’s contention that the party has one set of opinions it shares with the public and another which its members hold in private.

“I think it’s an odd conclusion to make from what was aired on the programme. We’re talking about a total of a few seconds, maybe a few minutes of rude, harsh, and in some cases completely unacceptable statements from peripheral members or, as they claim, representatives for the party,” Åkesson told the TT news agency.

He contends the statements aren’t representative of the party’s views.

“We have sound, anti-racist values and our principle programme is quite clear when it comes to human rights and the equal value of all people,” he said.

Åkesson said he doesn’t plan on taking action against those who made the racist comments, but added that the incident will be investigated further.

“It’s painful to hear, obviously, but it’s way too early to say what we’re going to do. We’ll have a discussion with these people and get an overall picture of what has happened,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Female Students Win Discrimination Case

In a closely watched affirmative action case, a Swedish court ruled on Monday that men should not have been offered spots in a veterinary school programme ahead of women with equivalent qualifications.

The case involves 44 women who were rejected from the veterinary medicine programme at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet — SLU) between 2006 and 2007.

Although the women had the exact same qualifications as the men with diplomas from Sweden’s folk high schools (folkhögskolebetyg), only men were accepted to the veterinary programme.

The men received additional weight in the selection process because men were seen as an “underrepresented gender” in the veterinary school programme.

But the District Court in Uppsala has ruled against SLU’s affirmative action strategy and ordered the state to pay the women 35,000 kronor ($4,200) each, which is significantly less than the 100,000 kronor they had sought.

The state must also pay for the costs of the trial.

The women were “disadvantaged by being treated worse than male applicants. The unfair treatment consisted of the male applicants, through a weighted lottery, received a significantly greater chance of being offered a spot in the programme,” wrote the court in its ruling.

The acceptance of the men over the women was seen as violating discrimination prohibitions in laws guaranteeing the equal treatment of candidates seeking higher education in Sweden, as well as a European Union (EU) directive on equal treatment.

“The point of the weighted lottery has been to benefit applicants of a certain gender and therefore disadvantage applicants of the other gender,” wrote the court.

Gunnar Strömmer, a lawyer with the Centre for Justice (Centrum för rättvisa) which represented the women in the case, expects the university to appeal the ruling.

The ruling may be significant for others who feel they’ve been discriminated against during their bid for acceptance to Sweden’s colleges and universities.

According to the Centre for Justice, approximately 8,000 college applicants were subjected to discrimination between 2006 and 2008.

Two thirds of Sweden’s institutes of higher education rely on acceptance criteria which discriminate on the basis of gender which adversely affect female applicants in nine out of ten cases.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Does this make sense to anyone?…Sweden of all places — I would have thought it would be the other way around.]

The discrimination is most prevalent in popular programmes such as medicine psychology, and veterinary medicine, and usually affects applicants with degrees from Sweden’s folk high schools.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Two Charged for Prosecutor Bomb Attack

Two men have been charged for the bomb attack on the home of chief public prosecutor Barbro Jönsson in November 2007.

Arabzadeh Mohammad Abadi, 25, and Moayed Abedi, 24, were indicted on charges of aggravated public endangerment and aggravated threats and intimidation in connection with the bombing of Jönsson’s home in the south-western Swedish town of Trollhättan on November 20, 2007.

Jönsson, who had just left for work when the blast ripped off the front door of her house and shattered her hallway, “would have been in a life-threatening position” had she been inside, according to the charge sheet filed with the Vänersborg district court by prosecutor Urban Svenkvist.

The explosion also put “the lives and wellbeing of people outside the house in danger,” it added.

Jönsson had at the time of the attack been prosecuting a case against a violent criminal gang called the Wolfpack Brotherhood.

“The crime is considered aggravated because (the two) showed particular ruthlessness and because the attack was against (Joensson’s) private sphere and aimed to affect her in her work fighting organised crime,” the charge sheet said.

The bombing was one of the first overt attacks on a Swedish prosecutor and prompted calls to root out a growing problem with criminal gangs in the Scandinavian country.

Jönsson, who moved after the attack on her home and joined a police unit in Gothenburg working to fight gang crime, insisted in an interview with AFP last month that attacks on the judiciary needed to be promptly addressed.

“We risk having judges who don’t dare to judge, prosecutors who are afraid to prosecute and police who refrain from making arrests,” she said.

It remained unclear when the trial against the two defendants would begin.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘Healthy’ Man, 25, Collapses and Dies Playing Wii Fit Game

A ‘fit and healthy’ 25-year-old man suddenly collapsed and died in front of his horrified girlfriend and best friend as he played a computer game.

Tim Eves was ‘jogging’ on a Wii Fit games console as Emma Tuck and Lewis Hickin looked on, when he slumped to the floor.

The tragedy happened just hours after Tim had flown home from celebrating his mother’s 50th birthday in Portugal.

Devastated Emma, 26, said last night: ‘Tim was the best boyfriend anyone could have and the best friend a girl could have.

‘I love him loads and will miss him so much.’

Paramedics dashed to the house and rushed Tim, who had been fit and well, to hospital but it was too late.

The family were told he could have been killed by Sudden Adult Death Syndrome.

Also known as Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome, it is a disorder of the electrical system of the heart.

Those with the condition are vulnerable to an abnormal heart rhythm. During exercise the heart may stop pumping out blood, causing the brain to become deprived of blood and sudden death.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: British Archbishop Thanks Muslims for Bringing Religion Back to England

A year ago the Archbishop of Canterbury said that Islamic (Sharia) courts in Britain seemed “inevitable” and could aid “social cohesion” even though women have no rights under such a system. This weekend Archbishop Rowan Williams thanked Muslims for bringing religion back to Great Britain.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Couple Who Died in House Fire With Three-Year-Old Son as Police Held Back Neighbours Desperate to Help

This is the first picture of Mark and Michelle Colley who died alongside their three-year-old son in a house fire.

Angry neighbours have said that police held back would-be rescuers.

They said they could see heavily-pregnant Michelle at an upstairs window, screaming ‘please save my kids’.

But police said they had to wait for firemen to arrive.

By then, however, Mrs Colley, 25, her husband Mark, 29, and their three-year-old son Louis were dead.

Their daughter Sophie, five, is fighting for her life in hospital.

Family friend David Davis, 38, said: ‘It was the most harrowing thing I have ever seen.

‘Michelle was at the bedroom window and we wanted to help but the police were pushing us back and not allowing us near.

[…]

Another witness said some friends and neighbours ignored the police warnings and tried to reach the family with ladders and a hosepipe. But again the police intervened and stopped them.

Chris Richardson, 37, said: ‘It was shocking. I couldn’t believe the police were acting like that.

‘One woman climbed over the garden fence and went to the house but there was a policeman at the back who stopped her.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: China ‘Could Use BT Network to Launch Cyber Attack and Cripple Britain’

China could shut down Britain with a cyber attack using BT’s new £10billion network, ministers have been warned.

Parts of the system installed by a telecoms firm linked to China’s army could be used to halt supplies of power, water and food, the intelligence services say.

The components can also be manipulated to disrupt transport and financial systems, and to spy on anyone who uses the network, including MI5, MI6, government departments and the military.

A confidential document sent to Whitehall by the intelligence services warns that while BT has taken steps to reduce the risk of attacks by hackers or organised crime, ‘the mitigating measures are not effective against deliberate attack by China’.

[…]

However, ministers are concerned that replacing the Chinese components with British parts would go against their policy on competition and would be too expensive.

[Comments from JD: Is this smart? To leave holes in your security infrastructure in the name of “competition” and expense.]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Free Our Police From the Tyranny of Targets

When the daughter of friends was assaulted at a dance club, they expected the culprit to be caught and prosecuted since the name of the alleged assailant was passed to the police. Yet no one has been brought to book for a crime that happened several months ago. The parents have now been told that it is unlikely anyone ever will be. The police were extremely solicitous for the welfare of the girl. But when it came to catching the attacker, who was another girl (this really is a tale for our times), they were hopeless.

The family is bewildered that a serious offence can result in nothing beyond a few phone calls and a letter saying the case is closed. After all, isn’t one of the reasons given for so few officers patrolling the streets because they are focusing on “serious crime”? Does not an unprovoked assault resulting in the hospitalisation of a teenage girl qualify as serious?

Earlier this month Bristol police despatched four officers to arrest Paul Saville, a 23-year-old student for writing a slogan on the pavement asking: “Are we free?” He used playground chalk so that it would be easy to remove. Yet he was arrested, locked in a cell for two hours, photographed and required to give DNA samples. He now faces trial on a charge of causing criminal damage to a pavement.

Last week, six boys aged 11 and 12 were arrested and questioned by police over the disappearance of another pupil’s school bag, a prank that was no doubt irksome but is commonplace. The boys were questioned, required to submit a DNA sample and bailed pending further inquiries. The police are increasingly being called to schools to deal with fights and other playground antics that headteachers used to sort out themselves.

These stories suggest a serious disjunction between the priorities most of us wish the police to pursue and those which they consider important. This theme runs through a report published today by the Centre for Social Justice think tank entitled, ironically in the circumstances, A Force to be Reckoned With. The study, carried out by a team chaired by Ray Mallon, the former Middlesbrough police commander nicknamed Robocop, found that one question kept popping up: “What do we want the police to do?” The report correctly concludes that before there is any more talk about structural reform, this basic question needs to be answered.

The report contains some startling statistics. Policing costs the country £17.5 billion a year, half the entire public order budget, which includes courts, prisons and fire. There has been a 16 per cent rise in police numbers since 2000, yet 85 per cent of the public thinks that there are not enough police on the street. Officers are spending less than a fifth of their time on patrol, which translates to every full-time officer patrolling for less than seven hours a week. At that rate, in order for a force to add one full-time officer to street patrol, five new officers need to be employed.

There are fewer police seen on the streets of Britain than in many other countries where crime is lower, suggesting a connection between patrolling and the maintenance of law and order. You would be astonished at the number of people in the criminal justice world who would argue that there is no measurable evidence that routine patrolling lowers crime…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Failed Asylum Seekers ‘Not Entitled to Free NHS Care’

Failed asylum seekers are not automatically entitled to free treatment on the NHS, one of Britain’s most senior judges has ruled.

Individual hospitals have discretion to decide whether to treat penniless patients who are not residents of the UK, and should use it in the most urgent cases, the judge said.

In the case of a Palestinian man refused free treatment for a liver condition, Lord Justice Ward ruled that it was not right to say that a failed asylum seeker who had been in the country for more than a year had “lawfully resided” in the UK for that period, and thus qualified for NHS care. He noted that they “should never have come here in the first place.”

“One resides here lawfully when one has the right to do so. An indulgence is granted to a claimant for asylum, not a right. Being here by grace and favour does not create that necessary foundation,” he added.

“I fully appreciate that these conclusions preclude failed asylum seekers from seeking free medical help when many will need it.”

The ruling at the Appeal Court in London was made in a test case brought by a 35-year old with a deteriorating liver condition who was told he was not eligible for free treatment at West Middlesex University Hospital.

He was granted temporary admission to the UK, but has been refused leave to remain.

However, he cannot return to the Middle East because he has no travel documents, the Palestinian authorities cannot issue them, and Israel is against facilitating the return of Palestinians to the occupied territories.

The judge said the man was billed £9,000 for treatment, but was “destitute”.

As a result, he sought a judicial review of the Government’s guidance to hospitals on how to deal with failed asylum seekers who are unable to return home.

The Palestinian, identified in court only as YA, won a High Court ruling last year that the guidance on such situations was unlawful.

But the Appeal Court substantially allowed an appeal against the decision yesterday by the Secretary of State for Health.

However, Lord Justice Ward backed the man’s claim that hospitals retain a discretion under the guidance to give treatment to those who cannot not pay.

The judge added: “My conclusion is that it is implicit in the guidance that there is a discretion to withhold treatment but there is also discretion to allow treatment to be given when there is no prospect of paying for it.

“How that discretion is to be exercised may depend on how long the failed asylum seeker will remain at large. The plight of those who cannot return should be identified and clarified.”

Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said it was not right to deny life-saving treatment because asylum seekers were unable to pay for it, adding: “We hope that this ruling will offer extra protection to those who are very sick and vulnerable.

“However, we remain concerned that a charging regime for refused asylum seekers still exists at all. Almost all asylum seekers arrive in the UK with nothing, and a great many of those who are refused, but who can’t go home straight away, end up homeless and destitute.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Five Activists Arrested in G20 ‘Bomb Plot’ as London Goes Into Lockdown for World Leaders

Five people suspected of terrorist offences are being questioned by police today in connection with an alleged plot to target the G20 summit.

Three men and two women have been arrested under the Terrorism Act in Plymouth over the last three days after officers uncovered a cache of weapons and suspected extremist material during a house search.

They are being questioned over claims they planned to target the meeting of the world’s most powerful political leaders in London later this week.

The five were held after officers found weapons, imitation weapons, suspicious devices and ‘material relating to political ideology’ during a house search, a police spokesman said.

[…]

A massive security operation is also in progress to protect Mr Obama on his first visit to Britain as president.

An unprecented entourage numbering more than 500 people is to accompany the American leader when he arrives in London on Tuesday, to ensure his safety, and his ability to operate as head of state 3,000 miles from the White House.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Police Try to Stop Facebook Hunt for Rapist… in Case it ‘Victimises’ Attacker

Police have warned the fiancé of a rape victim to shut down a Facebook site he set up to catch the attacker in case it ‘victimises’ the criminal, it has been claimed.

The woman’s boyfriend posted CCTV images of the suspect after growing angry at what he thought was lack of progress by police after the rape in Sale, Manchester, last year.

In the first known case of the social networking site being used to hunt a criminal, more than 5,000 people have joined the group Find the Sale Rapist.

[…]

‘This evil and dangerous man is still out there but after all these months, the police seemed no closer to catching him.

‘Who logs on to a police website on the off-chance there might be someone wanted who they might recognise?

‘They could have given it greater publicity, with posters or more door-to-door knocks.

‘I have managed to get the picture out to more people who are likely to have been out that evening.

‘Now they have warned it may have to be taken down. I’m furious that his human rights seem to be prioritised when my fiancée is the one who has suffered.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Pensioner Booked for Speeding… in a 1923 Model T Ford That Doesn’t Even Have a Speedo

When Dave Stanisfield went for a relaxed Sunday drive in his beloved 86-year-old Model T Ford, he expected to hold up traffic as he crawled along at less than 30mph.

But the baffled pensioner was apparently caught speeding in the 1923 two-gear ‘Tin Lizzie’ — a model so dated it does not even have a speedometer.

Mr Stanisfield, 67, went to court to prove what he thought was the utter ridiculousness of the claim.

But without direct proof of the speed he was travelling he was forced to give up his fight and pay £138 in fines.

The semi-retired mechanic was driving home on September 21 last year from a vintage car show when a Worcestershire speed camera flashed him travelling at 35mph in a 30mph zone.

He said: ‘I didn’t think it could do 30mph. When it was new it could do 46mph but it’s nearly 90 years old now.

‘I couldn’t believe it when I got the letter through the post. I was shocked.’

Mr Stanisfield, from Coventry, was so stunned that he went to court in a bid to avoid a £60 fine and three points on his licence.

[…]

But, faced with spiralling court costs, Mr Stanisfield pleaded guilty to speeding at Worcestershire Magistrates’ Court last week.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Tory Councillor Quizzed by Police After Making ‘Homophobic’ Joke About Transsexuals

He thought he was just making a humorous remark.

[…]

Today Mr Yardley, 48, said: ‘I find it ridiuclous you can get in trouble over an off the cuff remark with no malice intended. I didn’t even know there was a transgender person there.

‘There are much more important issues that the police should be spending their time on. These are the politically correct times we live in, you can¹t make jokes any more.’

At the meeting which landed him in hot water the public had been given handsets allowing them to electronically answer 36 questions that were being flashed up on screen as part of a presentation.

The first few questions, as is usual at the quarterly meetings in Wolverhampton chaired by Mr Yardley, the city council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety, were intended to establish the demographic of the audience.

The audience was told by a police authority worker: ‘Let¹s start with an easy question to get us going: Press A if you’re male or B if you’re female’. The transgender person’s partner then asked: ‘What if you’re transgendered?’, and Mr Yardley said: ‘You could press A and B together.’

He says his remark raised a laugh and the meeting carried on. But afterwards it emerged the transgender person, who has not been named, was left feeling ‘uncomfortable’, prompting the police to give Mr Yardley a talking to.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: When a Bishop Has to Leave the Church of England to Stand Up for Christians, What Hope is Left for Britain?

The resignation of Michael Nazir-Ali as Bishop of Rochester is a terrible blow, not just for the Church of England but for Britain.

The bishop says he is resigning so that he can work for endangered or beleaguered Christian minorities both abroad and in the UK.

What a shocking rebuke to the church, that he has to leave his post of influence and authority as a bishop in order to carry out the church’s core duty to defend its own against attack.

Shocking — but hardly surprising. Across the world, in countries such as Nigeria and Sudan, millions of Christians are being persecuted at the hands of militant Islam, with forced conversions, the burning of churches and widespread violence.

Yet in the face of this global onslaught, the Church of England makes scarcely a peep of protest.

Worse still, when Dr Nazir-Ali warned last year that Islamic extremists had created ‘no-go areas’ across Britain where non-Muslims faced intimidation, he was disowned by his fellow churchmen who all but declared that he was a liar — even though he was telling the truth.

For this act of moral courage, he and his family had to be put under police protection, while his own church left him to swing in the wind of bigotry and intimidation.

Dr Nazir-Ali is one of the very few inside the church to make explicit the link between Christian and British values, and to warn publicly that they are being destroyed through the prevailing doctrine of multiculturalism.

That strong voice of protest has never been needed more than it is now. For Christianity in Britain is under attack from all sides.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Water Police Could Ban Power Showers… and Summer Bills May Soar in Purge on Waste

Every home should have a water meter, and power showers should be banned, an environmental watchdog will say today.

The call comes from the Government’s Environment Agency under a policy that amounts to ‘rationing by price’.

The introduction of smart meters could see families charged more for water in the summer months in order to stop them filling up paddling pools or washing their cars.

The agency argues that a drastic reduction in water use is needed to conserve supplies and save the planet.

It claims that universal meters would cut average household water use by as much as 15 per cent.

However, such a move would come with a huge bill for the public — estimated at more than £1billion.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Montenegro: Political ‘Godfather’ Tipped to Win General Election

Podgorica, 27 March (AKI) — Montenegro’s prime minister and political ‘godfather’ Milo Djukanovic was on Friday being seen as an sure victor in Sunday’s general election. Pollsters predict Djukanovic’s ruling Democratic Party of Socialists will win at least 51 percent of votes cast.

Sixteen parties are competing for 81 seats in the parliament .

According to a survey conducted by the Centre for democracy and human rights (CEDEM), the opposition vote will be split between several rival parties, with the Socialist People’s Party, which split from Djukanovic in 1998, expected to get 17 percent of votes.

A pro-Serbian group, the New Serbian Democracy is expected to get 12 per cent of Montenegro’s half a million voters.

The surveys predicted just six percent of voters would opt for the Movement for Changes, led by young economist Nebojsa Medojevic. Three years ago, the party was seen as a fresh challenge to Djukanovic.

The ex-communist Democratic Party of Socialists has been absolute ruler of Montenegro for the past 20 years and is running in coalition with three minor parties in the election.

A controversial figure, Djukanovic has already served four terms as prime minister and one term as president of the small Balkan state. But he withdrew from politics in 2006 to dedicate himself to his business interests.

Djukanovic has been investigated by Italian prosecutors for his alleged role in a multimillion dollar mob-run cigarette smuggling racket to Italy in the 1990s and for money laundering.

But the case was dropped after Djukanovic became prime minister again last February.

Montenegro’s opposition leaders have claimed Djukanovic accumulated millions of euros in investment and banking schemes between 2006 and 2008.

The election will be monitored by 100 domestic and more than 200 international observers.

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

North Africa


Muslim Morocco Expels 5 Christian Missionaries

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — Authorities have expelled five Christian missionaries from Morocco on the grounds that they were illegally inciting Muslims to convert, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.

The missionaries were caught Saturday during an assembly with Moroccan Muslims in Casablanca, the North African kingdom’s economic capital, and have been sent to Spain by boat, the Interior Ministry said in a statement carried by the official MAP news agency.

“Numerous pieces of evangelical propaganda material were also seized,” including video cassettes in Arabic that advocated conversion to Christianity, the statement said.

A senior Interior Ministry official said the missionaries were four Spaniards and a German woman. He insisted Morocco has nothing against the Christian faith, but that authorities felt the missionaries had gone too far. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with Interior Ministry rules, said the missionaries were expelled without being officially arrested or charged. He could not specify the Christian denomination to which they belonged.

Several Evangelical Christians have been charged or detained in recent months in neighboring Algeria, and authorities throughout North Africa have become increasingly wary of an apparent push by some Protestant churches in this overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim region.

Christianity and Judaism are freely practiced in dozens of churches, temples and synagogues throughout Morocco, but proselytizing to convert Muslims is considered illegal.

A tourism haven and a strong Western ally, Morocco has a reputation for tolerance. At the same time, the country’s King Mohammed VI is also “Amir al-Mouminine,” or commander of the believers and protector of the Muslim faith.

Morocco appears to have hardened its stance on moral issues in recent weeks. A Shiite Muslim school was closed earlier this month on suspicion it was trying to convert pupils, and Rabat severed its diplomatic relations with Iran, accusing the Shiite Islamic republic of trying to undermine Morocco’s Sunni unity.

The Interior Ministry also recently issued a statement asserting it would not hesitate to crack down on media or activists that threatened the country’s religious or moral values. The statement was viewed as targeting Shiites, as well as some newspapers that recently called for more rights for homosexuals.

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Cinema and Theatre Contrary to Islam, Says Saudi Grand Mufti

Such activities distract people from their work and prevent them from achieving professional success. Saudi society is increasingly showing signs of strains between a very conservative religious leadership and youth who want greater openness and freedom. In eight days more than 25,000 Saudis attend screening of Saudi-made comedy.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Cinema and theatre are “against Sharia” because they distract people from work and weaken their efforts in achieving progress, said Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Shaikh Abdul Aziz Alu Al Sheikh during a conference on leisure, visual arts and literature attended by students at King Saud University.

“Theatrical performance, whether it is a cinema or a song, would generally make an impression that is against Sharia. People need only those (art forms) that are useful to them to change their way of life (in an Islamic manner),” he decreed.

Last year the Grand Mufti issued an edict, in which he slammed Turkish soap operas like ‘Nour’ and ‘The Last Years,’ the hottest shows on Arab TV, describing them as “so much evil” that “they destroy people’s ethics and are against our values.”

The mufti’s pronouncements are however a sign that Saudi society is increasingly split between a ruling establishment made up of very conservative clerics who espoused strict adherence to Islamic precepts and a broader group of more liberal-oriented young Saudis who want greater openness, more freedom for women and a greater range of entertainment.

Like young people across the Middle East young Saudis routinely go online which gives them access to US action movies, but they cannot go to the movies, an issue that is still taboo.

Yet the recent screening of a Saudi comedy, ‘Menahi’, in two movie theatres twice a day for eight days—with women dutifully seated in the balcony, and men in the stalls—was cheered by many Saudis.

“We put sound and visual equipment, we sold tickets for the first time in Saudi Arabia, and we even sold popcorn,” said Ayman Halawani, general manager of Rotana Studios, the production arm of a company owned by Waleed bin Talal, a financier and member of the royal family, who has become the target of ultra-conservatives for his liberal ideas and investments in the TV and show business.

Overall some 25,000 people actually saw the film.

Such desire for openness is in contrast with what the ruling class wants for Saudi society. For the old guard any overture to customs and traditions that are not strictly Islamic is a threat that must be opposed.

In his address to students at King Saud University, the grand mufti warned against playing chess because it “causes a man to lose his wealth and waste his time.”

Conversely “photography is one of the necessities of life” because it helps in “lectures, [. . .] religious activities [. . .] while maintaining public security.”

“Only the photography of sculptures and models is prohibited,” he said.

Remuneration for poets who attend festivals and cultural events is permissible if their words are good, faultless, without “abusive words or references.”

Finally, the mufti urged students to stay away from cigarettes and avoid reckless driving, especially at night or early morning.

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



Gaddafi Storms Out of Arab Summit and Labels Saudi King ‘a British Product’

He has a history of rubbing other Arab leaders up the wrong way.

And today Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi managed to renew hostilities with Saudi’s King Abdullah by loudly criticising him for his links with the West.

Gaddafi disrupted the opening Arab League session in Qatar by taking a microphone and criticizing the Saudi king, calling him a ‘British product and American ally.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Gadhafi Storms Out of Arab Summit in Qatar

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi stormed out of an Arab summit on Monday after denouncing the Saudi king for his long ties to the West.

Gadhafi disrupted the opening Arab League session in Qatar by taking a microphone and criticizing Saudi’s King Abdullah, calling him a “British product and American ally.”

Gadhafi has harbored a grudge against Abdullah since exchanging harsh words during a summit in early 2003 shortly before the US-led invasion of Iraq.

“Now after six years, it has proved that you were the liar,” Gadhafi said, adding that he now considered their “problem” over and was ready to reconcile.

But when the emir of Qatar tried to quiet Gadhafi, the Libyan leader insisted on speaking to the summit.

“I am an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam (leader) of Muslims and my international status does not allow me to descend to a lower level,” Gadhafi said before getting up and walking out of the hall.

A Libyan delegate said Gadhafi went to the Islamic museum in Doha for a tour.

The Libyan leaders is known for his unpredictable behavior and it’s not clear whether he will rejoin the two-day summit.

Gadhafi has angered other Arab leaders with his sharp remarks at past summits.

Last year, he poured contempt on fellow Arab leaders at a summit in Syria and warned that they might be overthrown like former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein.

He boycotted the 2007 summit in Saudi Arabia but gave a televised speech saying “Liza” — referring to former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — had dictated the gathering’s agenda.

In 2005, he told the summit in Algeria that Palestinians and Israelis are “stupid.” A year earlier, he sat smoking cigars on the conference floor of the Tunisia summit to show his contempt for the other leaders.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



Saudi Arabia: Women Fight to Stop Gym Closures

Dubai, 23 March (AKI) — A group of young Saudi women have begun a campaign to protest against a government decision to close all the country’s female gyms that are not linked to a hospital or health body. According to Arab TV network Al-Arabiya, the women have adopted the slogan, ‘Let them get fat’, while complaining about the high cost of sports centres linked to official health organisations.

They have also appealed to the minister and to the secretary in the municipality of the coastal city of Jeddah to review their decision.

The young women are particularly concerned since they do not have the means to go to ‘official’ gyms and believe this government decree will be bad for their health.

That view was endorsed by Maha, who enrolled at a gym six months ago and lost 21 kilogrammes. While she said she has several pieces of gym equipment at home, she prefers to go to a gym where she gains support and encouragement.

Another woman, Umm Abd al-Aziz said practising sport is a way of a “moment of relief” and going to a fitness club is the only way to release the tension accumulated at home.

“Where can we go now that the gyms are closing?” the woman asked.

Sara Abd al-Aziz asked why men are permitted to practise sport in gyms that do not depend on a health authority, while women cannot, although they have the same needs.

She said women actually have more need for sport than men since they experience different phases of their lives, such as pregnancy and birth, and also suffer from many pressures without finding any relief.

In response to the protests, the deputy-director of Jeddah’s public relations office, Ahmad al-Ghamidi, said the provincial secretary has the right to close female gyms which lack the appropriate licenses, and said a regulatory body is currently carrying out inspections to make sure they follow the rules.

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



Saudi Arabia: New Fund to Oversee Asset Investments

Abu Dhabi, 24 March (AKI) — Saudi Arabia is establishing a new stock market fund to oversee the investment of the assets of the oil-rich kingdom’s largest state-run pension fund.

The country’s ruler, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, on Monday approved the creation of the new fund, to be called the Hassana Investment Company which will also promote the development of real estate, commercial and other projects.

According to the London-based Financial Times, the kingdom, which boasts the Arab world’s largest economy, has traditionally given the responsibility for its reserves and investment portfolio to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (Sama).

But under a move announced by the Saudi cabinet, the general organisation for social insurance (Gosi) will establish a new fund to invest in local, regional, and international stock markets.

Gosi, which is responsible for private sector workers’ pension contributions, is estimated to have assets worth tens of billions of dollars.

According to the Financial Times, it already has stakes in nearly 50 projects, ranging from fisheries to hotels and manufacturing with a value of 19.2 billion riyals (or 5.1 billion dollars)

“The change is significant and important as the kingdom moves towards diversifying the institutions that manage the nation’s wealth,” John Sfakianakis, chief economist at SABB Bank, told the Financial Times.

“It shows that in the midst of a financial crisis they are institutionalising elements of the investment arms of the state and that is important.”

Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, has traditionally been conservative about its investments.

The Times article said that about 85 per cent of the kingdom’s foreign reserves of some 500 billion are estimated to be invested in dollar-dominated fixed income securities, and unlike other Gulf states it does not yet have an active sovereign wealth fund.

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



Turkey: Erdogan Heads for a Vote: He Will Win, But He Will Lose Support

The economic crisis, accusations of corruption, and the failure to keep many promises made in the last elections are weighing against the Turkish prime minister, engaged in a campaign of rallies and inaugurations. Neither the governing party nor the opposition parties have presented any real plans to break the inertia.

Ankara (AsiaNews) — There are only a few days left before the administrative elections in Turkey. It is a crucial electoral appointment for the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 48 million voters have been called to renew the provincial councils and to elect mayors and advisers for the administrations of 2,941 municipalities. It will be a genuine test of the solidity of the AKP, which currently holds twelve out of the sixteen most important cities in the country, including Istanbul and Ankara.

Although there are nineteen parties on the list, only four are in serious competition. The AKP, the Justice and Development Party, is currently in power for the second consecutive time under the leadership of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The CHP, the Republican People’s Party, heir of the Kemalist tradition, is the main opposition party. Then there are the MHP, the right-wing nationalist party often equated with the Grey Wolves, and the DTP, the Democratic Society Party, which is especially strong in the southeast of the country and holds the administration of the city of Diyarbakir, the Kurdish stronghold.

Turkey is coming to these administrative elections with a disastrous economic situation, with accusations of corruption from all sides, with negotiations for entry into the European Union proceeding slowly, and with a series of unrealized promises for more democracy and development. In spite of these contentious issues, however, the electoral debates have been dominated by disputes between parties devoid of any real plans for breaking the inertia, and without any real future projects for reviving the country.

Prime minister Erdogan, who wants to win at all costs, has taken the field personally, with constant appearances on television and in the newspapers, in front of massive crowds and all sorts of inaugurations. Since the beginning of the electoral campaign, he has participated in 70 demonstrations and rallies, visiting 67 out of the 81 provinces, and has presided over inaugurations on an almost daily basis: hospitals, cultural and sporting centers, schools, the new rapid bus line connecting the European and Asian parts of Istanbul, and the mini-extension of the subway system in modern Constantinople.

Although recent surveys show that 46% of those who will vote miss the reformist Erdogan of the first term, and 48% accuse the AKP of abandoning its progressive ideas, this party of Islamic inspiration nonetheless has a base that, according to a survey conducted for CNN by the agency A&G, totals 39.8%, a proportion that has certainly fallen since the 2007 elections, when Erdogan won with 46.6% of the vote, but is still significant. If the AKP wins, it will not be due solely to the charisma of Recep Tayyip and his team, but above all to the lack of a true political alternative.

But the governing party must also come to terms with the many suspicions that have emerged against it. First among these are the accusations of corruption against some of its members, and even more so the scandal that months ago implicated Deniz Feneri, a Turkish charitable organization tried in Frankfurt for diverting funds raised from Turks living abroad to the AKP, instead of giving them to the poor. Then there was the controversy over the 50 million euros earmarked for “social assistance” and distributed by the government mainly in the southern part of the country, with a Kurdish majority population and one of the poorest areas in Turkey. Potential voters have been given “complimentary” brand new household appliances, like refrigerators, television sets, and air conditioners.

As if this were not enough, the DTP has denounced many irregularities in voter registration. According to this party, the government, which is aiming at winning the municipal administrations in the east, has encouraged the attribution of false addresses to 1,630 soldiers, 1,200 teachers, and 2,000 citizens in Adana, who are charged with having been given residency in a few Kurdish cities solely in order to allow them to vote in those areas. Other illegal voter registration practices have been revealed by the Dicle News Agency.

In addition to this, according to Fuat Keyman, a professor of international relations at Koc University in Istanbul, the credibility of the democratic process is being damaged by the sudden rise in registered voters, whose numbers have grown by 6 million. “If it is true that the elections demonstrate that there is democracy in Turkey,” Keyman continues, “this does not necessarily imply that it is a vital, healthy democracy.” And the party secretaries are well aware of this. In order to avoid electoral fraud, which has always been very widespread, they have organized a veritable army of observers to be sent to polling places to ensure a regular voting process. The AKP itself will place one representative and nine observers at every polling place, at an overall cost of about 1.3 million euros. The CHP will also use three observers at each polling place, while the MHP will count on its extensive popular support, and the DTP will provide one observer per polling place.

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

South Asia


India: New Delhi Looks at New Missile Deal With Israel

New Delhi, 26 March (AKI/Asian Age) — India is believed to have reached a 1.9 billion dollar deal with an Israeli company for the supply and joint development of medium-range surface-to-air missiles. The defence ministry is yet to officially confirm the deal, but sources in the department of defence research and development (DRDO) said it was likely to go ahead.

The joint development of the 70-kilometre MR-SAM missile project would be carried out by India’s DRDO and the Israeli Aircraft Industries.

The Israeli company also manufactures Barak missile systems and the DRDO is hoping that collaboration with the IAI will help it develop these missiles within four to five years.

Indian left-wing parties have raised objections to the proposed deal.

Two prominent Communist leaders Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan sent a letter to the prime minister in February alleging bribes were paid to clinch the Barak surface-to-air missile interceptor deal in 2000 and that there is evidence of remittances paid by Israel Aircraft Industries.

The left leaders alleged that the MR-SAM deal had been signed despite the fact that the DRDO already had the capacity to make advanced air defence missiles.

In 2007, defence minister A.K. Antony told parliament that India had made defence purchases worth more than 5 billion dollars from Israel from 2002 to 2007.

Indian naval sources said that Israeli Barak missiles, Derby missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic warfare equipment are either already being used by the Indian navy or are in the process of being bought.

The Barak missiles are surface-to-air precision-guided missiles with a short range of about 10 kilometres and are very effective missile interceptors used as the last layer of defence to destroy an advancing missile.

The Indian military regards Israel as a reliable defence partner.

In August 2007 an Indian cabinet approved two arms deals worth 1.7 billion dollars with Israeli companies to upgrade the country’s missile defence systems.

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



Nepal: UN Warns Peace Process at Risk

New York, 23 March (AKI) — The United Nations human rights chief has warned that Nepal’s peace process could be at risk unless justice is ensured for victims of past and ongoing abuses.

On her first official visit to Nepal, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navanethem Pillay, met several families whose loved ones were victims of serious rights violations, both during and after the decade-long civil war that claimed some 13,000 lives before it ended in 2006.

“Human rights were violated in these cases in Nepal, and under international law the state has a responsibility to ensure that the families obtain truth and justice,” she told a media conference in the capital, Kathmandu, on Sunday.

“The demands of victims’ families are not mere wishes they are supported by law,” she said.

“And until these demands for justice are fulfilled and accountability for past, and in particular ongoing, violations is ensured, a truly new Nepal will not emerge, and indeed, the peace process could be jeopardised.”

The civil conflict came to an end in 2006 with the signing of a peace accord between the government and Maoists, with the parties also agreeing to set up of a commission on disappearances and a truth and reconciliation commission.

In voicing her support for the establishment of a disappearance commission, Pillay emphasised that it must not be a “token body.”

Rather, victims should be consulted in the process of setting it up and it should be given all the protection and powers by parliament to make it meaningful.

The high commissioner also voiced her alarm at the detention and “arbitrary action” taken against many journalists in the South Asian nation.

She urged the government to take concrete steps to ensure the security of human rights defenders, including journalists, “who are the first line in defence of the human rights of all Nepalis.”

Nepal was the scene of widespread human rights violations during the 10-year conflict between the government and Maoist rebels.

Political disappearances, killings and torture were common during the war and there were victims on both sides of the conflict.

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



Pakistani Army End Bloody Siege After Attack by Militants Which Left 19 Dead

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Graphic photos.]

Pakistani soldiers have overpowered militants who launched an attack on a police academy near Lahore, killing 19 people and taking around 35 hostages.

The attack began this morning as the militants — who disguised themselves in police uniforms — gained access to the training academy during a morning drill.

Armed with assault rifles and grenades the attackers then opened fire and picked off their targets in the ensuing shootout.

Up to 40 people have been killed in the attack, including 11 police officers.

Eight of the gunmen died, including two who blew themselves up.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



US Opens Route to Afghanistan Through Russia’s Backyard

American influence in former Soviet countries could make or break Obama administration’s new Afghan-Pakistan strategy

A soldier of patrols in the village of Madrassa near Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Photograph: Michael Kappeler/AFP/Getty Images

The road passes a shimmering green mountain pasture, then dips steeply to a new US-built bridge. Across the languid Panj river is Afghanistan and the dusty northern town of Kunduz. On this side is Tajikistan, Afghanistan’s impoverished Central Asian neighbour.

It is here, at what used to be the far boundary of the Soviet empire, that the US and Nato are planning a new operation. Soon, Nato trucks loaded with non-military supplies will start rolling into Afghanistan along this northern route, avoiding Pakistan’s perilous tribal areas and the ambush-prone Khyber Pass.

This northern corridor is essential if Barack Obama’s Afghan-Pakistan strategy is to work. With convoys supplying US and Nato forces regularly attacked by the Taliban on the Pakistan route, the US is again courting the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan…

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]

Far East


Asia: Iranian Experts Helping North Korea With Missile Launch

A group of Iranian missile experts is in North Korea to help Pyongyang prepare for a rocket launch, Japan’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper reported on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



For Tibetans in Exile, the “End of Slavery” is Nothing But Propaganda

In Lhasa and Beijing, great celebrations and proclamations of the “liberation” brought by the Communist Party to Tibet. In Dharamsala, today is a day of protests and mourning. Beijing pressures India to block the “political activities of the Dalai Lama.”

Dharamsala (AsiaNews) — Today the Chinese authorities launched their annual Day of “freedom from slavery,” to commemorate the Chinese victory over a Tibetan revolt that, 50 years ago, sent the Dalai Lama into exile. But in Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile, today is being lived as a “day of mourning,” and Beijing is being accused of conducting “propaganda.”

In Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, about 10,000 pro-Chinese Tibetans gathered in front of the Potala, the former residence of the Dalai Lama, to celebrate the anniversary, red flags flying. Zhang Qingli, the local secretary of the Communist Party, asserted that the Chinese Communist Party has brought “democratic reforms unprecedented in human history to the Tibetan highland.”

Yesterday evening, at a ceremony in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, the Panchen Lama selected by China, Gyaincain Norbu — who is viewed unfavorably by the Tibetans — thanked the Chinese Communist Party for giving him “clear eyes for judging what is true from what is false,” and praised Beijing’s policies on Tibet as “an historic leap in Tibet’s social system.”

There were also some testimonies from Tibetans who once had been servants in the monasteries and for the Tibetan nobility, and who received “liberation” with the Chinese invasion.

The Day of “liberation from slavery” was created by Beijing this year, after the revolts one year ago, which were repressed with violence and with thousands of arrests. Tibet has been under martial law for months in preparation for the Day.

For the Tibetans in exile, these 50 years have been “years of oppression,” during which Tibetans “continue to suffer unimaginable religious, political, and cultural repression.” For this reason, today in Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government in exile, tens of thousands of exiles gathered for an entire day of protests, organized by the Tibetan Women’s Association, Students for a Free Tibet, and by the Tibetan Youth Association. “The day of ‘liberation from slavery’ sponsored by Beijing,” one of them says, “is a heavy-handed campaign of propaganda to convince the world that Tibetans are happy under Chinese rule. But no propaganda can hide the fact that these have been 50 years of servility.”

Recently the Dalai Lama himself recalled the “series of repressive and violent campaigns” conducted in Tibet by Beijing. “These,” he said, “have thrown Tibetans into the depths of suffering and hardship, making them live hell on earth. The first result of these campaigns has been the death of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans.” Speaking in Dharamsala, on the anniversary of his flight, the Buddhist leader added: “Still today, Tibetans in Tibet live in constant terror . . . Their religion, culture, language, identity are close to extinction. The Tibetan people have been branded as criminals, who deserve only to be put to death.”

Yesterday, Zhang Yan, the Chinese ambassador to India, asked New Delhi at a press conference to “not permit the Dalai Lama to carry out political activities on Indian soil, in the best interests of bilateral relations between the two countries.”

For some time, China has been threatening economic consequences for all countries that host the Dalai Lama or let him speak.

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

Australia — Pacific


Islamophobia is a Fabrication

by Paul Sheehan

I’ve been considering a request from a post-graduate student who wants to do a thesis on Islamophobia in Australia. She writes: “I am researching the topic Islamophobia, and I am trying to prove whether Islamophobia is based on religion fear or cultural fear of Islam.”

What about proving that Islamophobia exists at all? That would be the logical, ethical and scholarly starting point. But it appears the outcome has already been decided. This would fit the prevailing orthodoxy in academia that the default position for Muslims in Australia is victim. The jargon, “Islamophobia” is part of this ideological construct. Literally, it means fear of Muslims.

I reflected on all this while on holiday in Malaysia and the Maldives last week. This was my twelfth visit to Muslim societies because I do not “fear” Muslims and do not “fear” Islam. Yes, there is ample evidence that Australians have become uneasy about Muslims in general and hostile in specific cases, but this is about cause and effect.

Consider the series of blows to the image of Muslims in just the past three weeks, where the everyday decency of the majority have been collaterally damaged by the antics of the few.

On March 8, the night of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, police say a group of about 100 young Muslim men, allegedly members of a loose gang called MBM — Muslim Brotherhood Movement — moved through the centre of the city intimidating, harassing and beating bystanders.

On March 15, Abdul Darwiche was murdered, shot to death in a shopping centre in the latest hyper-violence involving two warring Lebanese Muslim clans. Police later arrested Darwiche’s brother, Michael, for driving around with a loaded pistol. A third brother, Adnan, appeared in the NSW Supreme Court three years ago to be sentenced for a double murder. He and his fellow accused, Nasaem El-Zeyat and Ramzi Aouad, laughed and joked, going out of their way to express their contempt for Australian law. After the three men were all given life sentences they shouted “God is great!” This was the same Adnan Darwiche who purchased rocket launchers stolen from the Australian Army, which have never been recovered.

Hundreds of mourners attended Abdul Darwiche’s funeral at the Lakemba Mosque, where, within days, Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly was involved in yet another controversy. Channel Nine obtained a copy of a video surveillance tape which shows the former mufti of Australia kicking in a door, then returning soon after in the company of police. Apparently he called police over vandalism which he committed, blaming others who are engaged in a power struggle at the mosque. Sheik Hilaly has been embroiled repeatedly in controversy and provocation, making numerous inflammatory remarks about Australia and Australians.

A few days later, yet another rape sentence was handed down to one of the K brothers, three of whom, during their various trials for gang rape, claimed they were victims of an anti-Muslim conspiracy. Between them, four K brothers have been convicted of gang-raping five girls.

This sentencing followed closely on the conviction of seven Sydney schoolboys for the aggravated sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl in a toilet block in Yagoona in 2007. According to police, the ring-leader was on his phone speaking in Arabic during the assaults and most or all of the boys are of Muslim background.

If this is so, these latest convictions produce a morbid tally of more than 30 young Muslim men involved in serious proven sexual assaults of non-Muslim girls in Sydney, involving the Skaf brothers, the K brothers, the E-M cousins, the Yagoona schoolboys and various others. Because sexual assault is the least reported crime (about 15 per cent of incidents are reported to police) this particular phenomenon was certainly much broader.

Finally, there has been fatal violence between bikie gangs, accompanied by news that there has been an infusion of young Muslim men into the bikie culture. There is now warring between new gangs and traditional Anglo criminal gangs for control of the drug and protection markets. Gang leaders named Mahmoud and Hassan and Ismail have been prominent. Gangs like MBM, Notorious and Asesinoz have flaunted their ethnicity. Overtly racist videos have been posted on YouTube, such as the message that “Asesinoz is now targeting Aussies”, with an image of a vandalised Australian flag…

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]



Muslim Unemployment Higher and May Rise

Muslim people already suffer twice the unemployment rate of other workers in Queensland and the global economic crisis is likely to make matters worse, research shows.

A study undertaken by Queensland University of Technology researcher Dr Hossein Adibi found there was a huge gap between the level of unemployment in the general population and Muslims, something that was likely to worsen in the declining economic climate.

“It is obvious that the current recession will have an enormous impact on the employment status of Muslims in Queensland, and the unemployment rate of Muslims will rise significantly,” Dr Adibi said.

The unemployment rates for some segments of the Muslim population, including women and young Muslims, may exceed 20 per cent, he said.

The jobless rate in Queensland for February was 4.5 per cent.

Dr Adibi found that Muslims were disadvantaged due to four main factors: racism, discrimination, media bias and the lack of Muslim representation in decision-making bodies.

Unemployment among Muslim women and young people was even worse than for men, he said.

Youth unemployment among Muslims contributed to a feeling that their aspirations for mainstream acceptance were being “thwarted”, Dr Adibi said.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]



New Zealand: Togs Planned for Muslim Women

A group of refugee women have produced designs for Islamic bathing costumes to help Muslim women in New Zealand learn to swim.

The sewing group, NZ Somalian Inc, presented their idea at the Auckland Cultural Festival at Wesley War Memorial Park yesterday. “Many Muslim women don’t learn to swim because the strict rules of Islam forbid them from wearing the swimming costumes sold in New Zealand shops,” said Fadumo Ahmed, chairwoman of the group.

“We are surrounded by water in New Zealand, so it is important that they too learn how to swim and we think that having these bathing suits will just encourage more to do so.”

Most swimming pools ban swimmers from wearing track pants and long sleeved T-shirts, but the group says it will be consulting pool operators to ensure its swimsuit is permitted. The cover-all swimming costume drew its inspiration from the two piece “burkini”, which is popular in the Middle East and introduced to Australia two years ago.

The swimming costumes, like the recycled bags, will be sold as part of an effort to create an income-generating business for the refugee women, and lift them out of long-term benefits, Ms Ahmed said. “It gives the women a great sense of self worth and a huge amount of excitement to see something that they have created being sold,” said Susan Barter, who teaches the group sewing.

“The idea is to teach them a skill that can be income generating to transform their lives, and the swimming costume was something they felt the community needs.”

The group has already been turning recycled billboard materials into bags.

Ethnic Affairs Minister Pansy Wong said she supported the idea of having swimming costumes for Muslim women, and thought it was a “sensible” way to encourage them to learn swimming.

Mrs Wong said she was impressed by the attitude of refugee communities in New Zealand, many of whom will be represented at Sunday’s festival. “I am particularly impressed by the attitude shown by many refugees who don’t see their traumatic uprooting as an ending, but rather as a new beginning where they can rise above negative experiences and the mentality of being victims and work hard to contribute to their new community and new country on the whole,” Mrs Wong said. “They deserve our admiration and respect.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



New Zealand: Wage Packets Fatter From Tomorrow

[Comment from Tuan Jim: This is how you stimulate spending!]

About 1.4 million New Zealanders will get extra cash from tomorrow when the tax cuts come into effect — a package the Prime Minister says is “focused fairly and squarely on middle New Zealanders”.

The Government hopes people will either spend or pay off debt with the tax cuts. However, it has been criticised for giving greater benefit to those who earn more and are less likely to spend the money.

Yesterday, John Key said he believed the tax cuts were well designed to encourage spending by targeting middle New Zealand.

While the top rate of 39 per cent would drop to 38 per cent — a benefit to those on higher incomes — he said overall they were fair.

About 280,000 people earning between $50,000 and $70,000 would get just under $20 a week — and Mr Key said the “vast bulk” of people would notice the difference.

A further 630,000 workers on lower wages would get the new independent earner’s credit — costing about $235 million of the $1 billion cost of the tax cut package.

Recently, Mr Key called for those who did not want to spend their cuts and had low debt levels to instead donate it to charity to help them cope with a drop in corporate donations in the recession.

He was unable to confirm that the next two years of cuts would go ahead, repeating that it was his “preference” for that to happen but the Government had to ensure they were “affordable in light of the economic conditions we might face in 2010 and 2011”. Under the changes, the threshold before the 33 per cent rate begins rises from $40,000 to $48,000.

From tomorrow, workers can also choose to reduce their KiwiSaver contributions to 2 per cent.

Benefits, superannuation and student loans will also increase by 3.4 per cent, in line with the cost of living.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Queensland to Crack Down on Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

POLICE in Queensland would be given the power to ban members of outlaw motorcycle gangs under new laws approved by the State Government.

Premier Anna Bligh on Monday announced the state would prepare tough laws like those put in place in South Australia nine months ago and soon to be introduced to NSW Parliament.

NSW made moves to introduce the laws after an outbreak in bikie violence, including the death of a man at Sydney Airport last week during a brawl between members of the Hells Angels and the rival bikie gang Comancheros.

Ms Bligh said Queensland had been watching the progress of SA’s laws with a view to introducing similar powers, but the recent surge in violence had increased the urgency.

“Like all Australians, the Queensland government has been watching recent events involving bikie gangs in NSW with some distress and horror,” she told reporters in Brisbane.

Ms Bligh said the new legislation “goes to the heart of the right of association”, and was not dissimilar to anti-terror legislation.

“An organisation can become a proscribed organisation and it then becomes an illegal activity to be a member of that organisation or to associate with it,” she said.

“These are very serious laws. They will require careful consideration.”

Ms Bligh said a national approach to the gangs would be preferable, but Queensland could not wait for the other states to act.

“I don’t want the sort of thing we’ve seen in NSW in the last couple of weeks to ever find a home in Queensland,” she said.

SA’s attorney-general is now considering the first application of its laws, which would outlaw the Finks motorcycle gang.

The NSW laws would require an application to the Supreme Court to outlaw a group, and Queensland will consider which of these two options to adopt.

The Government will also consider whether gangs proscribed in other states will automatically be outlawed in Queensland.

Police Minister Neil Roberts said Queensland had 14 known bikie gangs, with more than 800 members, mainly active on the Gold Coast.

The police service’s Task Force Hydra, targeting outlaw motorcycle gangs, has laid 931 charges including attempted murder, arson, extortion, robbery and drug trafficking since its inception in February 2007.

The Government will consult legal groups on the legislation, which could be in place by mid-year.

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Vatican: Bishop Claims AIDS Virus Can Penetrate Condoms

Orleans, 27 March (AKI) — A little over a week after Pope Benedict XVI said condoms worsen the problem of HIV/AIDS, a prominent French bishop told a French radio station on Friday that condoms gave ineffective protection against the deadly virus.

‘You know very well, and all the scientists know it: the AIDS virus is infinitely smaller than a sperm. This is proof that the condom is not a 100 per cent guarantee against AIDS,’ said the bishop of the central French city of Orleans, Andre Fort, in an interview with Radio France.

‘On a cigarette pack there is written ‘Danger’. We should be writing on a box of condoms: Reliability doubtful,’ Fort added.

On his first visit to Africa last week, Benedict said sexual abstinence was the best way to fight HIV/AIDS. He was on his way to Cameroon, where over half a million inhabitants are infected with the virus.

“The problem cannot be overcome with the distribution of condoms. This only aggravates the problem,” said Benedict.

Fort’s comments came the same day that the prominent British medical journal ‘The Lancet’ slammed Benedict’s comments about condoms. The editorial in the journal’s current edition accused the pontiff of ‘publicly distorting science’ and asked him to retract his comments.

“By saying that condoms exacerbate the problem of HIV/AIDS, the Pope has publicly distorted scientific evidence to promote Catholic doctrine on this issue,” said the editorial.

“Whether the Pope’s error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear.

“When any influential person, be it a religious or political leader, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record,” the editorial stated.

“Anything less from Pope Benedict would be an immense disservice to the public and health advocates, including many thousands of Catholics, who work tirelessly to try and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS worldwide.”

The Vatican has faced strong criticism over its opposition to the use of condoms despite findings by the United Nations’ World Health Organisation that “consistent and correct” condom use reduces the risk of HIV infection by 90 percent.

HIV/AIDS has killed more than 25 million people — mainly in sub-Saharan Africa — since it was discovered in the 1980’s.

Over 22 million people currently live with the HIV virus in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Catholic Church opposes any kind of contraception because it claims sex must only be for procreation

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

Latin America


Growth of Islam in Latin America

By Dr. Mozammel Haque

SOME three-four million Muslims live in Latin America and over 50,000 of them are Hispanic. Majority of Muslims there have roots from Middle Eastern countries like Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. There are large Muslim populations in Brazil, Venezuela and Columbia. Mosques and prayer houses can be found in all major cities.

Islam in Latin America began with Muslim journeys to the continent even before the arrival of Columbus. Evidence of this early contact is based on world maps produced by Muslims in the early 16th century. Later, during the voyages of Columbus to the New World, some Muslim Moors are believed to have accompanied him, fleeing persecution in the Iberian Peninsula. In Brazil, the importation of African slaves during the colonial period accounted for a substantial influx of Muslims into the continent. Little is known whether these early Muslims were able to maintain their faith.

The Islamic influence on regional architecture and culture between 1600-1800 CE is still visible today in cities such as Lima, Cholula and Guatemala City. Lima, the capital of Peru, is famous for its Tapadas Limenas or Covered Women in Lima. During the 18th Century, there was uprising of Muslim slaves (Brazil 1835).

Since late 19th century, Arabs first began to immigrate from the Middle East to Latin America. The descendants of these immigrants are still found today in significant numbers. Further, emigrants from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine increased during the mid 20th Century after Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its surrounding areas. These Muslims were largely merchants and became influential in local trade. Many have even held leading positions in government.

In the 1980s, many who had previously lost touch with their Islamic roots have been turning back to Islam. Over the last 25 years, increasing numbers of Catholics of Hispanic and Indian American origin have been accepting Islam. Local mestijo and indigenous people are embracing Islam in larger numbers.

In the 1990s, majority of Da’wah activities were spearheaded by reverts (converts) to Islam. Each year more students from Latin America complete their Islamic studies at institutions around the Muslim world.

Influential Arab Muslims did play an important role in setting up Islamic centres. But now the spread of Islam has been taken forward by Hispanic Muslims. Converts in Mexico run majority of activities.

Latin America is a fertile ground for inviting people to Islam. The people are simple, open, without much hostility towards Islam. There is a general positive attitude towards Islam and Muslims. The prophecy of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that Islam will reach all corners of the globe, is being witnessed in reality…

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Finland: Minister Concerned Over Immigrant Youths

Minister of the Interior, Anne Holmlund is concerned about the position of immigrant youths in Finland. She says improved efforts at integration into Finnish society would improve national security.

Speaking at a police seminar on immigration affairs on Monday, Holmlund emphasized the vital role played by police in the integration of immigrants.

The Minister called on local authorities to take additional measures aimed at helping and guiding young immigrants. Noting that crimes committed by immigrant youths have increased, Holmlund feared their alienation could lead to tougher attitudes against ethnic minorities.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Asylum Seekers Buy Fake Adresses

Asylum seekers from Latin America are buying fake residential addresses from a network in Stockholm in order to secure temporary work permits, Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) reports.

The c/o address allows the asylum seekers to avoid being placed in a detention centre and they can instead live in Stockholm and work with a temporary work permit.

Sweden’s Migration Board (Migrationsverket) holds the adresses of all those applying for residency status in the country. SvD reports that the board has 187 Latin Americans living at four addresses in the Swedish capital.

At one of the addresses, a studio apartment, there are 50 people registered.

The newspaper writes that a fake c/o address can be bought for between 200 kronor ($25) and 600 kronor per month.

The newspaper reports that many of those selling the c/o addresses have also themselves once been in the same situation when arriving in Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Twin Crises: Immigration and Hospital Infrastructure

Every year, an estimated 400,000 to as high as 450,000 pregnant illegal alien women cross America’s borders. Some arrive legally with visas. They rush to the nearest hospital where they birth their ‘jackpot baby’ or more popularly known as an ‘anchor baby’. Once inside the hospital or ER, they receive unlimited ‘free’ care via U.S. taxpayers.

Their child, through a misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution meant for children of slaves in the 1800s, becomes an instant citizen. Therefore, the mother enjoys immune status for being deported out of the United States. She becomes immediately eligible for assisted housing, food stamps, child care, medical care and more. Since most of them arrive illiterate and without job skills, they become immediate wards of the federal government and local municipalities.

At an average of $8,000.00 per healthy birth to as high as $500,000.00 for premature babies or one that suffers a congenital heart defect or Down’s Syndrome, etc., the costs annually run in excess of $3.2 billion. Later, taxpayers shell out $7,000 to $8,000.00 per year for educating those children K-12. Dan Stein of www.fairus.org estimates anchor babies and other immigrant children cost U.S. taxpayers $7.4 billion annually.

In the meantime, an estimated 20 million illegal aliens may visit any U.S. hospital or ER for ‘free’ service compliments of U.S. taxpayers. The costs run into the tens of billions of dollars annually. Passed in 1986, Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act: mandated by Congress, it allows any illegal alien that needs medical attention to enter any facility without paying and be provided with unlimited medical care. Some individuals have run up millions of dollars of care. In California, 60 hospitals and ERs bankrupted out existence because of EMTALA.

[Return to headlines]



Two More Landings in Sicily, 405 Immigrants

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Two boats carrying immigrants arrived at the coast of Sicily during the night. The first boat, with 156 people including 25 women and five children on board, was intercepted in Scoglitti (Ragusa) by a patrol boat of the Pozzallo coast guard. The non-European migrants, who say they are Congolese, were in a 20-metre long wooden boat which was led to port in Pozzallo. They are all in good health. A further 20-metre craft, carrying 249 migrants including 31 women, has reached the port at Portopalo di Capo Passero. The immigrants were escorted to dock by a seaborne unit of the Guardia di Finanza (Italy’s financial and tax police) and by a patrol boat from the port’s coast guard. These latter migrants, who claim to be from Somalia and Eritrea, were inspected and then moved to an initial immigrant holding centre. The boat was then confiscated and investigations to identify the people smugglers are ongoing. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


UK: History Has Been ‘Feminised’ Says David Starkey as He Launches Henry Viii Series

Speaking shortly before the launch of a new Channel 4 series to mark the 500th anniversary of the Tudor monarch’s accession to the throne, Dr Starkey said he found it “bizarre” that so much historical effort was now focused on the monarch’s wives.

In an interview with the Radio Times, out today (TUES), Dr Starkey said: “One of the great problems has been that Henry, in a sense, has been absorbed by his wives. Which is bizarre.

“But it’s what you expect from feminised history, the fact that so many of the writers who write about this are women and so much of their audience is a female audience. Unhappy marriages are big box office.”

He said that in his new series, Henry VIII: Mind of a Tyrant, “we’re trying to say, ‘Hang on a minute, Henry is centre stage.’

“This is Henry — wives appear simply to explain or complicate the story of Henry. This is his development, his psychology and, above all, why he matters.”

Prominent female authors to write about Henry VIII and the Tudors include Lady Antonia Fraser, whose titles include the best-selling account The Six Wives of Henry VIII; Alison Weir, who wrote a book bearing the same title; and Jessie Childs, author of the prize-winning Henry VIII’s Last Victim.

Talking to The Daily Telegraph, Dr Starkey said that while writing about Henry VIII, “even I fell into the trap of subjugating the history of Henry … to that of his wives”.

He said he did so because “they are a gift to the writer — you end up with six stories for the price of one.”

But he warned that the “soap opera” of Henry’s personal life should come second to the political consequences of his rule, such as the Reformation and the break with Rome.

Dr Starkey went further, by saying that modern attempts to paint many women in history as “power players” was to falsify the facts.

He said: “If you are to do a proper history of Europe before the last five minutes, it is a history of white males because they were the power players, and to pretend anything else is to falsify.”

For example, while he considered Elizabeth I to be a great monarch, “the way she is presented as some sort of female icon is ludicrous”.

During Victorian times her conduct was regarded as “perfectly deplorable”, he added.

Dr Starkey insisted: “I’m not joining forces with Fathers for Justice, it is simply saying that our new world has its own set of prejudices, its set of distinctive lenses, and we need to be aware of them.”

He also stressed his comments were not a “value statement” about how he thought the world should be, but argued: “It is a great impertinence to impose our values on the past. It instantly reduces the people of the past from real people to mere straw men and women in our struggles.”

Earlier this month Dr Starkey said he believed Henry VIII’s handwriting showed he had an “emotionally incontinent” personality because he was brought up in a female-dominated household…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Who Will Raise Kids: Mom, Dad or State?

Parental rights: 67 in Congress pushing to amend Constitution

Though efforts to pass a constitutional amendment protecting parental rights have failed in the past, two U.S. legislators are preparing to reintroduce the idea this week; and this time, they say, the effort is backed by more than 60 congressional members.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., who introduced a parental rights amendment by himself last year, told the Agence France-Presse that he will be joined by Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., on Tuesday as they renew the fight.

According to a statement released to AFP by Hoekstra’s office, the amendment “would clearly outline in the U.S. Constitution that parents, not government or any other organization, have a fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit.”

“At a time when government at every level seems to encroach upon the ability of parents to choose the best for their children,” Hoekstra writes on his website, “it is important to preserve parental rights into the Constitution..”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


U.N. ‘Climate Change’ Plan Would Likely Shift Trillions to Form New World Economy

A United Nations document on “climate change” that will be distributed to a major environmental conclave next week envisions a huge reordering of the world economy, likely involving trillions of dollars in wealth transfer, millions of job losses and gains, new taxes, industrial relocations, new tariffs and subsidies, and complicated payments for greenhouse gas abatement schemes and carbon taxes — all under the supervision of the world body.

Those and other results are blandly discussed in a discretely worded United Nations “information note” on potential consequences of the measures that industrialized countries will likely have to take to implement the Copenhagen Accord, the successor to the Kyoto Treaty, after it is negotiated and signed by December 2009. The Obama administration has said it supports the treaty process if, in the words of a U.S. State Department spokesman, it can come up with an “effective framework” for dealing with global warming.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Excelling at Muslim Mediocrity

The Lambeth Walk has a report on the ninth annual Muslim News Awards for Excellence, a gala event in which politicians and other notables gave awards to various British Muslims for… well, for being somewhat mediocre.

Am I a racist? Or are all these pandering politicos the real racists, granting prizes to members of ethnic minorities on the basis of tying their own shoelaces or being able to chew gum while they walk?

Here’s the story:

Jacqui Smith left her sister’s home specially to be there, and other distinguished guests among the 800 invited included shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and Communities Secretary Hazel Blears.

So, without further ado, who are these heroes, those Muslims who make us proud to be a tolerant, inclusive nation?

The winners included:

Mohammed Ali, a Birmingham-based graffiti artist whose so-called aerosol Arabic is influenced by both classical Islamic calligraphy and urban street graffiti.

Imran Sidat, 15, from Leicester, who competes for England in freestyle karate and kickboxing

Mohammed Mujahid Ali, an alternative therapist, for work improving the wellbeing and mental health of black and minority ethnic people.

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Reverend Gilleasbuig MacMillan, minister at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, for welcoming Muslims to the cathedral.

Acclaimed Iraq-born composer Ahmed Mukhtar, who is based in London and is master player of the Oud, the stringed instrument popular in the Middle East.

Oh.

We have a petty vandal, a sportsman (worthy, but he’s no different from any of the scores of other British kids training for the Olympics), a racist masseuse, a dhimmi and a person who plays an instrument no one has ever heard of.

Can you seriously imagine the Home Secretary turning up to something like this if the terms ‘ethnic minority’ and ‘community relations’ weren’t involved?

No, I can’t.

But I can imagine the unvoiced assumption that underlies all this nonsense: that Muslims and other ethnic minorities are incapable of the routine accomplishments that we white racist Islamophobes take for granted. No one gives awards to us honkies for such piddly little achievements. We just have to suck it up.

Truth be told, the multiculturalist’s standard assumption — that white Europeans bear a load of collective guilt for their vicious colonial past — is also an assumption that the Dark-Skinned Heathen isn’t capable of standing up on his own two feet and attaining the stature of a full human being.

And that’s racist.

The Exploitation of Migrant Workers in the Arabian Peninsula

Last year I posted about P. Mijhar, a native of Nepal who worked for a period in Saudi Arabia and then returned home. He lost his job as result of illness, and discovered that there was no protection for migrant workers in Saudi Arabia.

The plight of migrant workers on the Arabian Peninsula is especially important now, in the midst of the financial crisis. They are being laid off by thousands and sent home to countries in which finding new employment is difficult at best.

Mr. Mijhar has launched a petition to draw attention to the circumstances of migrants in Saudi Arabia. In his preamble he says:

I would like to shed light on the Exploitations of Asian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia by privately owned company due to lack of government mechanism to monitor problems and issues concerning their protection and welfare in time of accident or serious sickness.

Also most of the Asian migrant workers are forced to work long hours without pay and very low payscale compared to other countries.

Gulf cooperation council have declare the right to protect the right of Asian workers welfare and security they have entitled but is still yet to come in action in Saudi Arabia.

And the petition itself:

Petition:

We, the undersigned, call on the Saudi government to implement the following demand to abide by the Gulf cooperation council policy passed and declared to protect the welfare and rights of Asian workers.

  • All the wages of Asian workers are not below the range of S.R. 800.00 ( Eight hundred Saudi Riyals)
  • The working regular shift hour should be 8 regular shift hour according to international labor law. More than 8 hour will consider overtime hour.
  • All the workers are to provided with good medical facilities and medical insurance policy.
  • The company should provide or protect workers from good working environment and not force to work if he or she is physically not fit to work or sick.
  • They should allowed weekly day off if they are willing to take.
  • In the time of accident or serious sickness company should compensate workers through insurance policy. All the workers should insured for these term in insurance company.

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  • There should be formed special task force to monitor all the issue concerning exploitation, sexual abuses, job harassment, discrimination etc. These task force should check every company surrounding if there is any suspicion of such act and freely act and take action to employer if they are doing so. In this task force some Asian minor should recruit for some translation problems.
  • Company cannot terminate any workers unless he or she involved in serious crime or illegal activities. This action should be taken on evidence basis not in verbal or paperworks.
  • Every employee should provide with well accommodation facilities and food allowance.
  • Saudi government should provide legal welfare fund to every single Asian migrant workers.
  • All the contract paper signed by the company should be approved by Saudi labor ministries abide by Gulf cooperation council declarations.
  • If any of company or employer are found guilty of exploitations and abuses then they should be taken legal action and brought into justice.
  • No illegal recruitment should allowed which is the main cause of the low payscale that company are paying and let these workers work long hour without pay. This practice should end and labor authorities should take severe action for this act.
  • Every Asian migrant worker should be provided a Gratuity or special fund after working long periods in a company.

To sign P. Mijhar’s petition, visit Go Petition.

Who Wants the G20 Demonstrations?

If you eavesdrop on the British blogosphere and read the comments sections on MSM news stories in the UK, a frequently repeated phrase keeps popping up: If there is another election”.

What does this have to do with this week’s G20 meeting in London and the mass demonstrations that are expected to accompany it?

There is a widespread sense within the British libertarian underground that the G20 demonstrations are actually being encouraged by the government. The police have announced that they expect huge crowds and violence, and that they are prepared for any kind of trouble. The BBC is pumping up the Leftist demos, making a thousand or so people waving Soviet flags look like an enormous popular uprising. The authorities seem to want trouble.

Why?

Given the state of public affairs in Britain today, any theory about what is happening must necessarily verge on paranoia.

But the general idea is this: the government already has the emergency powers laws that will allow it to crack down on the populace. These laws were passed — as so many repressive laws have been — as part of “anti-terrorism” legislation.

So the government needs a violent crisis in order to invoke these laws, thereby possibly avoiding the annoying requirement of holding a general election in 2010.

According to PJC Journal:

Just who is planning the violence in London next week?

When Police Commanders are reported to have said of the over hyped expected violence at the G20 marches that they are ‘up for it’, I seriously begin to wonder whether our prediction that the Government, and the Police, are actually looking to provoke the expected clashes.

An article in the Guardian Friday evening tells us:

Yesterday, the Metropolitan police was understood to have contacted a number of protest groups warning that the main day of protest, Wednesday, 1 April would be “very violent”, and senior commanders have insisted that they are “up for it, and up to it”, should there be any trouble.

Is this what you would call responsible policing?

Andrew Dismore MP, who chairs the joint common human rights, said police language in recent days had been “not very helpful”.

“The police have a duty under the Human Rights Act to facilitate protest and not frustrate it. If they act in a confrontational way and use confrontation language, they will start to provoke the kind of behaviour they are seeking to prevent. There may well be a fringe element that want to incite violence. But that doesn’t mean police should criminalise every protester.”

The Met police has refused to rule out the use of anti-terror legislation, and if the Guardian reports are correct, attempts by various groups to contact Senior Police figures to arrange liaison have gone unanswered and been ignored.

This blog has warned previously that the Government and Police were looking for this fight, and that the full weight of the plethora of legislation available to them will be brought to bear.

I do not believe that any Government enacts legislation unless they have an intention to use it at some stage, and it has always been my view that the intended targets for these laws are the ordinary people of Britain.

Armed with this latest knowledge, I would advise extreme caution and suggest that we heed the previous words of warning from Leg-Iron.

If we don’t riot, Labour are likely to be obliterated in a general election.

If we do riot, there won’t be one.

This Government is looking for a fight. Don’t give it to them.

- – - - – - – - -

This trend needs to be discussed at the highest levels, the very idea that the Government is plotting against its own people is repugnant in the extreme.

Expect to see more than the average of hyped up high profile media coverage of ‘terror alerts’, mass evacuations of airports, railway stations and the like. Ahead of the G20 there will be a show of force, to be seen to be ‘doing something’.

I neither condemn nor condone these marches, I only wish that they remain peaceful, but will support and defend the right to hold them.

[…]

UPDATE Sunday March 29th. (borrowed from Snowolf)

Amazing scenes in news rooms up and down the country today as editors wandered around with shell-shocked looks on their faces, as reporters emailed in copy and beamed in TV reports that showed today’s demonstrations in London which spectacularly failed to ‘kick-off’.

Brown must be crapping himself, if it doesn’t kick off during the G20 meeting, or at any point between now and May next year, he’ll have to go the polls, and won’t be able to postpone it with the Civil Contingencies Act.

Somewhere there’s a shabbily dressed, one-eyed Scot with a quivering a***hole. Why can’t the proles be trusted to rise up when provoked? Perhaps it was because the weather was so s****y today.

I’m too far away from the UK to know how much of this is paranoia, and how much is a true picture of the shape of things to come.



Hat tip: Gaia.

Filip Dewinter on Free Speech, Dieudonné, and Anti-Semitism

Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated an interview with Vlaams Belang leader Filip Dewinter that appeared in Joods Actueel. First this note from the translator:

Paul Belien sent me a tip for this interesting interview with Filip Dewinter. I made a transcript and translated it.

The gap between Vlaams Belang and Jean-Marie le Pen is getting too wide to bridge, and though it might appear to be a strategic move, Dewinter sounds sincere in his doubt about any further cooperation with Le Pen. VB is very positive about the idea of inviting Israel to join NATO.

All parties in Belgium — except for one — are a bunch of potential Nazis. The exception is Vlaams Belang.

Another Socialist Islamo-fascist is unmasked: recently the French comedian Dieudonné gave a show in Brussels, Belgium. All political parties had someone in the theatre to enjoy the performance, including the Flemish Socialists, with whom Fouad Ahidar had a great time, and the latter confessed to Belgian TV that he is a major fan of Dieudonné. The only party that refused to show up was Vlaams Belang.

And now the interview by Joods Actueel [“Jewish Actuality”] with Filip Dewinter of Vlaams Belang, transcribed and translated by VH:

You must have heard and read about it: the French comedian Dieudonné was in our country yesterday. Now, you were not present there?

Dewinter: No, I was not present.

What is your position towards Dieudonné and the anti-Zionist party he founded last week?

Dewinter: He is a provocateur who naturally takes every opportunity to gain the interest of his audience. Whether it is about his anti-Zionist party, or his presence at the event of Jean-Marie le Pen or his anti-Semitic statements, he provokes.

His plea of provocation is obviously his main propaganda tool. I regret that, and I think he at the very least goes much more than one bridge too far. But still, it’s his free speech.

In my humble opinion I think he has the right to say what he wants to say, although I definitely do not support his opinions, and not a hair on my head was willing to be present at Dieudonné’s show. And that is my right to freedom of expression.

- – - - – - – - -

You may know that he is also a big fan of Robert Faurisson, the man who trivialized the Holocaust, and he recently give him an award, presented by someone with a costume like those worn in concentration camps. I know that you have a good relationship — so I was told — with Jean-Marie le Pen; you have a picture of him at your home. And Dieudonné is also a big fan of Jean-Marie le Pen. Apparently, Jean-Marie le Pen is the godfather of one of the children of Dieudonné. So how do you view these two?

Dewinter: First, I would like to argue that the rudeness in his umpteenth provocation by — as mentioned — having someone in concentration camp togs hand out an award… naah, that is something so utterly disgusting that there are no words for it. But let me say again: he increasingly seeks to stretch the envelope of provocation all the time and therefore scans in the least the limits of the permissible and even of freedom of expression. Because it is questionable what this has to do with freedom of speech, this insulting of an entire population, in this case the Jewish community.

But to answer the second part of your question: Yes, Jean-Marie le Pen does what he can’t refrain from doing. I am absolutely not impressed at all with those statements by Le Pen about concentration camps and the Holocaust as part of the anti-Semitic remarks he made earlier and repeated yesterday once again, and I repudiate them in the strongest terms.

Because the only aim of all that is to be controversial enough to mobilize the dwindling number of voters in the face of the European Elections. But anyway, the roads of VB and Jean-Marie le Pen are ever more explicitly diverging from each other. I cannot currently say whether we are still prepared or willing to form a group with Jean-Marie le Pen in the European Parliament.

But you have that photo of Jean-Marie le Pen with you which is still prominent on the fireplace.

Dewinter: Firstly I have no fireplace in my home, and for that matter my private desk belongs to my private life…

And do you find that the right to freedom of expression should be absolute, that everyone should be able to say everything?

Dewinter: No, not everything. Free speech stops when it becomes a call to violence. There is a restriction on free speech. But we need not have laws to muzzle the freedom of expression for that…

Is not that a bit of the strategy that VB has always made use of?

Dewinter: Take for example the statements about what he [Dieudonné] says, the complaints, the court proceedings, the conviction, that remain in the picture, not that one should grant it to the man, and he always says that he is a comedian. Well then, treat a comedian as a comedian, laugh at him and leave it there.

The court procedure against the Vlaams Blok did not quite lay any shell-less eggs for you, so that is something of which one might also say: a provocation, media exposure because of that, and being a victim.

Dewinter: If you allow me to say something in brief about that conviction of Vlaams Belang: the man in the street already knew by intuition that this prosecution was unjust, and this is of course because of the principle that a party should not be sentenced by a court but by the voters at the time of elections, through the ballot box.

Then I have a further question: last night, I think for all political parties [except Vlaams Belang] in our country there was at least one person present. And as far as I know — but there may have been be more — Fouad Ahidar of the SP.a [Flemish Socialist Party]. What is your reflection on this, that someone of what one may say is a leftist party — and this Fouad Ahidar represents the left wing of a leftist party — is present with someone who in France has a reputation of being “extreme right”? Some say “les extrèmes se touche” [extremes closing ranks] and some people here assert that it is about Jew-hatred. That the friends of extreme groups agree with each other. The extreme right with the extreme left. How do you see this?

Dewinter: I have a different view on that. I believe that Fouad Ahidar was there as an Islamist, a Muslim, and the anti-Zionist tendency, the anti-Semitic tendency, and the unfortunate Jew hatred of Dieudonné — because that what it is about — suits Fouad Ahidar, and in fact in a way he sympathizes as a Muslim. I think it is about this. And it is not particularly “les extrèmes se touche” that is the issue here, but rather the fact that anti-Semitism, hatred of Jews and so forth, is part of radical Islam and is also increasingly put into practice by less radical Muslims. I think one has to look there for a clue, and not particularly the fact that the extreme left and extreme right find each other in the anti-Semitic lead of Dieudonné.

Some have suggested that one possible solution might be for Israel to become a member of NATO, so that when it is attacked the rest of the EU or NATO is also attacked. What is your position on an Israeli membership of NATO, and maybe the EU?

Dewinter: As far as a membership of NATO is concerned, I have no problem at all with that, and I think it might even be very good when Israel joins NATO, because NATO defends freedoms and democratic values, characteristic of European civilization, and I have always said so and will repeat it again, that Israel is an outpost of the free West in Islamic-occupied territory. Thus as far as I am concerned, Europe should more explicitly support Israel, instead of always wanting to be the critic, and holier than the Pope, in its approach towards Israel. Israel happens to be in very difficult circumstances, is besieged by radical Islam and receives criticism instead of help.

Secondly, I have my reservations about the plan for accession of Israel to the EU. Let me explain why: I think in terms of its civilization, its culture and so forth, and even economically, Israel would fit perfectly into the EU. But there is of course the geographical aspect, that Israel is not geographically a part of Europe. And how can countries that are a geographical part of Europe be kept outside the EU, when we would have Israel join the EU, which is in a geographical respect very far away from Europe, in the Middle East?

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/29/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/29/2009It looks like the G20 is going to be a humiliating failure for Gordon Brown. George Soros says that IMF will probably have to rescue the UK, and Angela Merkel has said in no uncertain terms that Germany will not spend money according to the dictates of other countries. Meanwhile the Messiah is set to descend on London with armored limousines and an entourage of hundreds.

In other news from the UK, the BBC has updated the Robin Hood legend to depict Friar Tuck as a buff black martial arts expert.

Thanks to Fausta, Gaia, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
EU: Brown Snubbed Over Tax — Germans Wreck ‘Global New Deal’
Italy: Calabria Town Council Project for Local Currency
Soros: Britain May Have to Seek IMF Rescue
Spain: Zapatero Wants to Spur Modernisation
UK: Gordon Brown Left Red-Faced at Summit as UK’s Debts Soar
 
USA
Boston College Nixes Invite to Former Radical
Vice-President Joe Biden’s Daughter Ashley Filmed Snorting Lines of Cocaine
 
Europe and the EU
BBC Reinvent Fat Balding Friar Tuck as Black Martial Arts Expert for New Series of Robin Hood
Italy-Greece: Defence; Crosetto in Athens, Policy and Weapons
Nigerian Says Baby Death Tale Still True
UK: Blow for David Cameron as Former Tory Donor Pledges £100,000 to UKIP
UK: Muslim Women Told: for Family’s Sake, Commit Suicide
UK: Only Five of England’s 44 Bishops Want the Bells to Ring Out on St George’s Day
 
Mediterranean Union
Fashion: Italian Group Burani Invests USD 3.5 Mln in Beirut
Jordan: EU to Help for First Solar Energy Plant
Tunisia: Italian Navy Chief of Staff Visits Tunis
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Israel: Umm Al-Fahm, 22 Arabs Arrested
Mediterranean Games: the Last Without Israel, Frattini
 
Middle East
GCC: Conference in Manama, Common Currency Delay Inevitable
Israel: Turkey, Right-Wing Rhetoric Out of Government
Lebanon: Hariri Tribunal; Media Cover Cassese’s Appointment
Lebanon: Attack on Phalangist Leader Thwarted
 
South Asia
Gandhi Arrested for ‘Inciting Violence Against Muslims’
 
Far East
Gates: U.S. Not Prepared to Respond to North Korea Missile Launch
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
South Africa: He Has Four Wives and He Faced 783 Counts of Corruption
 
Latin America
Bolivian Police Bust Jungle Cocaine Factory

Financial Crisis


EU: Brown Snubbed Over Tax — Germans Wreck ‘Global New Deal’

GORDON BROWN’S carefully laid plans for a G20 deal on worldwide tax cuts have been scuppered by an eve-of-summit ambush by European leaders.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, last night led the assault on the prime minister’s “global new deal” for a $2 trillion-plus fiscal stimulus to end the recession.

“I will not let anyone tell me that we must spend more money,” she said.

The Spanish finance minister, Pedro Solbes, also dismissed new cash being pledged at Thursday’s London summit.

“In these conditions I and the rest of my colleagues from the eurozone believe there is no room for new fiscal stimulus plans,” he said.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has insisted that “radical reform” of capitalism is more important than tax cutting.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Italy: Calabria Town Council Project for Local Currency

(ANSAmed) — SPEZZANO DELLA SILA (COSENZA), MARCH 27 — The aim of the Spezzano Sila town council’s “Scec coupons — local currency against the crisis” is to prevent the impoverishment of families by fostering recovery in local productive sectors. The Scec project (which takes its inspiration from the concept of “solidarity on the move”) provides for the use of vouchers to pay for goods and services that are part of a circuit. “The town council administration,” said mayor Tiziano Gigli, “has been working for months on new ideas that have the aim of supporting families in this particularly difficult moment, and of helping businesses by consolidating the responsiveness of institutions to the demands and needs of citizens. We are convinced that the plan for a local currency against the crisis — which has led to constructive discussions and ideas in the council and the country, and which in other situations is supplying serious solutions for the revitalisation of entire agricultural and tourist districts — is both a new and an effective response which we must place our trust and hopes in.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Soros: Britain May Have to Seek IMF Rescue

‘You have a problem that the banking system is bigger than the economy’

[Comments from JD: If the IMF get involved, Britain is doomed. Soros is promoting his own agenda.]

Britain may have to go to the IMF for a huge financial bailout, the influential investor George Soros warns today.

The man who made $1 billion on Black Wednesday in 1992 told The Times that Britain was particularly vulnerable to the economic crisis.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Spain: Zapatero Wants to Spur Modernisation

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 27 — The crisis should be taken advantage of to “stimulate modernisation efforts in the country”, is the view Spanish premier Jose Luis Zapatero expressed in an interview with Il Sole 24 Ore. He also said that with Spain’s “low level of debt”, the country has a greater possibility to bring in “new stimulus” for the economy and to concentrate on “green economy and biotechnology”. To assess whether “additional plans” will be needed, in any case it will be necessary to “wait for the summer” and see “whether there are signs of an economic recovery”. If there aren’t, then it will prove necessary to take action “by way of a different sort of effort, concentrated and selective,” focused on “the two large sectors which will be the growth factors for the latest phase in the world economy”. The latter are a sustainable economy and business innovation, “biotechnology as well as health and life sciences”. It is action that “it would be a good idea to plan alongside other European partners and which I consider structural”. In Zapatero’s eyes, also the Spanish financial system “has worked well”, thanks to the efforts of “its supervisor, the Bank of Spain”. If the Bank of Spain “were to believe that there is the need for some sort of additional measure, then we will listen to its suggestions.” In any case, the upcoming G20 in London “is necessary to come to an agreement on market reform in order to inject confidence at the international level”. The Spanish premier said that the aim of the next rotating six-month EU presidency will be to “get the Lisbon Treaty back on its feet, as long as the Irish manage to recover their faith in the European Union.”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: Gordon Brown Left Red-Faced at Summit as UK’s Debts Soar

Gordon Brown faced huge embarrassment on the eve of the G20 summit as it was revealed that Britain is heading for the top of Europe’s borrowing league.

The figures — which came as the first world leaders began arriving in London — mean Britain’s chairmanship of the meeting is likely to be overshadowed by the dire position of its public finances.

The Prime Minister’s hope of getting leaders to agree a ‘global new deal’ is already looking increasingly unlikely.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA


Boston College Nixes Invite to Former Radical

Students hope to host William Ayers off-campus

Boston College yesterday abruptly withdrew two student groups’ invitation to former radical William Ayers to speak on campus Monday.

A BC spokesman said he was unaware of the plan for the controversial figure to speak on campus until contacted by the Herald yesterday afternoon. But students last night were scrambling to hold the speech off-campus.

“After meetings between administrators and students, the decision was made to rescind the invitation,” spokesman Jack Dunn said. Dunn declined to say why, adding only, “We feel the appropriate decision has been reached.”

[…]

But student organizers reached last night said they want to try to hold the speech off-campus.

“All of us who have put a lot of hard work into planning and defending this event are really disappointed because we had hoped this would be an open academic forum for someone who’s widely respected,” said College Democrats member Melissa Roberts, 21. “We’re going to make sure this respected academic gets heard.”

[Comments from JD: Useful idiot(s).]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Vice-President Joe Biden’s Daughter Ashley Filmed Snorting Lines of Cocaine

The White House was rocked yesterday by claims that the daughter of Joe Biden, the Vice-President, was shown on video snorting cocaine.

The video purports to show Ashley Biden, 27, snorting lines of white powder at a house party in her home state of Delaware.

It surfaced days after Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, declared that the United States shared the blame for Mexico’s violent drug wars. “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,” Mrs Clinton said on a trip to Mexico.

The video will embarrass Mr Biden, a teetotaller and an outspoken anti-drug crusader who coined the term “drug czar” in 1982 while campaigning for tougher action against illegal drugs.

However, the video is unlikely to undermine his position with President Obama. Mr Obama admitted in his own memoir that he had used marijuana and cocaine — but not heroin — as a youth. “Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though,” he wrote in Dreams from My Father.

This month Mr Biden swore in a new US drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, whose stepson has a history of marijuana arrests.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


BBC Reinvent Fat Balding Friar Tuck as Black Martial Arts Expert for New Series of Robin Hood

He is typically remembered as Robin Hood’s white, fat and balding companion..

But for the latest instalment of the BBC show, producers have reinvented Friar Tuck — as a black marital arts expert.

The fighting monk is played by Criminal Justice actor David Harewood, who had to undergo gruelling training sessions for the role.

The image overhaul appears to be keeping in line with some interpretations that Tuck was physically fit and ‘proficient with clubbes and staves.’

But the radical transformation has sparked fury among professors who believe the portrayal is historically inaccurate.

English professor Helen Phillips, from Exeter University, told The Times: ‘Sub-Saharan Africans wouldn’t have been converted by that point, they would have had other religions. North Africans would have been mostly Muslims.

‘Also, friars came from upper-class families, as did monks. The kind of families from which friars were drawn wouldn’t have been in any sense African.’

Harewood, who was the first black actor to play Othello at the National Theatre, admits he found the idea ridiculous at first.

He said: ‘ I actually laughed.’

‘My stunt double was a kind of capoeira champion and there’s quite a lot of marital arts that my character does later on in the series, which was really, really fun to do and very physical.’

However, the actor, 43, admits he was keen to take the on the role, which was originally rumoured to be played by Little Britain star Matt Lucas.

He said: ‘Funnily enough, when I first saw Robin Hood when it started three years ago, I though they’d missed a trick adn they they should have ahad a black character.

‘It turns out that I am the black character so I think it adds a modern dimension to it, as well.’

In the first episode, airing tonight on BBC1, Tuck returns to England in hopes of resurrecting the legend of Robin Hood.

Harwood said:’ He wants England to be a place of hope but he comes back to find the people are slightly broken, much like they are now with the credit crunch.

‘The people need a hero and that’s what Tuck very much wants, to stand behind a symbol of good.’

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]



Italy-Greece: Defence; Crosetto in Athens, Policy and Weapons

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, MARCH 20 — The situation and cooperation in Kosovo and Afghanistan and the possibility of collaborating to upgrade the military was the focus in Defence Undersecretary Guido Crosetto’s meetings with Greek government representatives in Athens today. Crosetto, accompanied by a delegation from the ministry and by Ambassador Giampaolo Scarante, met with his counterpart Yannis Plakiotakis and Foreign Undersecretary Theodoros Kassimis. Crosetto specifically confirmed the government’s will to keep a contingent in Kosovo, stating the importance of the regional balance in the Balkans. In this context, he defined the defence of the Orthodox monasteries in the area as essential. He expressed a desire for greater cooperation between the contingents of the various countries, specifically Greece and Italy, in Afghanistan. Kassimis pointed out their agreement on political issues, which were discussed, and the desire of both Athens and Rome to face them in the same light within the EU. Crosetto also expressed to Plakiotakis his full willingness regarding agreements between the two governments to contribute to the modernisation of the Greek military, from Fremm multipurpose frigates to helicopters, destroyers, training military aircraft, missiles, and tanks. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Nigerian Says Baby Death Tale Still True

Mother’s Supreme Court battle to prevent deportation from Ireland over female circumcision fears for daughters looks set to collapse

A case taken by Pamela Izevbekhai, the Nigerian woman who is fighting deportation from Ireland on the grounds that her two daughters will be forced to undergo female circumcision if returned to Africa, is expected to collapse when it comes before the Supreme Court this week.

Izevbekhai admitted yesterday that documents used to advance her case were fake.

She insisted, however, that Elizabeth, her first daughter, died in 1994 aged 17 months from blood loss following female circumcision.

Izevbekhai said she only discovered the documents were fake on Friday when her husband, who is living in Nigeria, admitted they were bogus.

He said he had been forced to obtain fake documents because Dr Joseph Unokanjo, an obstetrician, had refused to supply papers and medical reports without a substantial payment. Unokanjo has denied this.

The documents, including a death certificate and “statements” from Izevbekhai’s family doctor in Nigeria, were obtained from a counterfeiter.

“They were sent to me by my husband after I arrived in Ireland,” she said. “If I had known the documents were fake, I would have done things differently. I wouldn’t have put myself or the children through this kind of thing. I now regret taking the case. I am so sorry.”

The admission may prompt Izevbekhai’s lawyers to withdraw an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. It has asked the Irish government to put a stay on the family’s deportation until it can examine the case.

A garda investigation into Izevbekhai’s claims, during which officers travelled to Lagos, established that the documents were fake. The team tracked down Unokanjo to a clinic in Surulere, a district in the city.

When interviewed by gardai and staff from the Irish embassy in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, Unokanjo denied he had provided Izevbekhai with a statement supporting her claims. Unokanjo claimed that Izevbekhai had never given birth to a baby called Elizabeth in 1994, and provided the investigation team with copies of her medical records which suggested that her daughter Naomi was her first-born child.

Officials in government offices were also interviewed, and they stated that the death certificate for baby Elizabeth supplied to the Irish and European courts was also a fake.

[Return to headlines]



UK: Blow for David Cameron as Former Tory Donor Pledges £100,000 to UKIP

One of the Tories’ biggest donors is giving £100,000 to the UK Independence Party after becoming disillusioned with David Cameron’s line on Europe, it was reported today.

Spread-betting millionaire Stuart Wheeler said he now doubted the Conservative leader would honour his commitment to hold a referendum on the EU’s controversial Lisbon Treaty.

The paper said that Mr Wheeler now intended to vote for Ukip — which campaigns for withdrawal from the EU — in the European parliamentary elections in June, although he would continue to support the Tories in the local and general elections.

‘The EU is doing so much damage to our economy and our way of life that I can no longer vote Conservative at the European elections,’ he told The News Of The World.

‘The Conservatives — though perhaps more Euro-sceptic than Labour — just wish no one would talk about the EU so that they can win the general election in peace.’

He said that his doubts had been heightened by the tone of recent remarks by Mr Cameron.

‘My doubts about his commitment to doing anything effective were increased this week when I was told that he had got 70 Conservative MPs together and told them the EU issue did not matter,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Muslim Women Told: for Family’s Sake, Commit Suicide

Honor killers avoid prison by forcing victims to take own lives

Turkey’s crackdown on the practice of honor killing has resulted in unintended consequences — instead of being murdered by a close male relative for bringing dishonor to their families, Muslim women are being pressured to commit suicide.

And the numbers of “honor suicides” are soaring, reported the UK’s Independent.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Only Five of England’s 44 Bishops Want the Bells to Ring Out on St George’s Day

Most Church of England bishops show little or no interest in the idea of celebrating St George’s Day by asking all churches to ring their bells.

Only five out of the church’s 44 bishops enthusiastically back the plan — and several are hostile, claiming it could be ‘dangerous’ and cause a backlash from other religious groups.

The lack of interest among senior clerics in England’s patron saint stands in sharp contrast to London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan to hold a week-long celebration of St George in London, with traditional English music and poetry readings.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Fashion: Italian Group Burani Invests USD 3.5 Mln in Beirut

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 20 — The new showrooms of the Italian designer, Mariella Burani, have been officially opened in the centre of Beirut. Three boutiques have been set up so far: Sebastian for shoes, Sécret Pon-Pon for bags and Mariella Burani for clothes. As for the Burani group’s Facco and Baccialini jewellery, they will be put on sale in the ABC shopping centre in Dbaye (a northern suburb of Beirut) in the coming months. The Burani Design Holding group has invested in Lebanon, in partnership with the industrialist Sarraf’s Lebanese Malia Holding group, creating a joint venture for luxury products, called Malia Mariella Burani — M. M. B. The new joint venture has a capital of USD 1 million and will represent all of the Burani group’s labels, both in Lebanon and in the Near East countries. The total investment in the Burani group in Lebanon is estimated at USD 3.5 million for the 2009/2010 period. The Italian Foreign Trade Institute (ICE) in Beirut has reported that Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Italian Ambassador Gabriele Checchia were at the official opening of the showrooms yesterday evening. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Jordan: EU to Help for First Solar Energy Plant

(ANSAmed) AMMAN, MARCH 26 — The EU will help Jordan establish the kingdom’s first solar energy power plant in the central part of the kingdom by providing a 10-million-euro, an EU official said today. The plant, to be set up in the southern part of the kingdom, will become a centre for renewable energy training at the local and regional levels, according to Patrick Renauld, head of the EC Delegation in Amman. The plant would generate around five megawatts (MW) of energy, said Renauld, noting the project is part of efforts to establish a source of renewable energy applications in the Kingdom. Jordan is embarking on a number of key projects to generate power from natural resources apart from fossil fuel, including wind power generators and solar systems and nuclear plant. The country has little oil reserves and depends on purchasing fuel from abroad, an issue that caused massive pressure on the state budget. The use of alternative sources of energy will help the government find sustainable source of power at lesser cost. Officials from ministry of energy said the country should be able to generate 600MW of wind and 600MW of solar energy, 10 percent of the country’s energy consumption, by 2020. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: Italian Navy Chief of Staff Visits Tunis

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 27 — The Chief of Staff of the Italian Navy, Admiral Paolo La Rosa, on a visit to Tunisia, met with Defence Minister Kamel Morjane. The meeting emphasized the excellent current relations between the two countries, which also cooperate on a military level.. The various aspects of cooperation between the two navies were examined, specifically in personnel training, maritime traffic control, hydrography, and sea aid and rescue. The next session for the joint Italian- Tunisian military commission is scheduled to take place in Tunis in June. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Israel: Umm Al-Fahm, 22 Arabs Arrested

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MARCH 25 — Israeli police have today reported the arrest of 22 people involved in the protests staged by Umm Al Fahm inhabitants against the march by about a hundred Israeli extreme right militants. Those arrested have been identified as the inciters to the most violent forms of protest, which led to clashes with almost 3,000 policemen escorting the march. The rioting went on for just over half an hour, with stone throwing and tear gas, and about a dozen police and 15 demonstrators were injured. Thirteen arrests were made today, after nine yesterday evening. The march, which was held by representatives of the extreme right and the settlers’ movement with the stated aim of testing the loyalty of Israeli Arabs to the Israeli state, as well as underscoring the sovereignty of Israel over “the entire national territory”, was seen as a sort of provocation by local citizens, as well as by leaders of the Arab community, pacifist rabbis and leftist Zionists. Initially put on hold due to concerns over public order, it was later authorised by the Supreme Court in the name of freedom of demonstration, and therefore protected by police.(ANSAmed)..

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Mediterranean Games: the Last Without Israel, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 23 — “The games in Pescara will be the last Mediterranean Games without the participation of Israel and Palestine”. Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, in an interview with Corriere della Sera, explained the initiative which could bring a change in the situation which is currently defined as “paradoxical” and as an opening to a “road map for peace in the Middle East”. During the Games’ inauguration ceremony, the minister plans for the organisation of a public meeting, in which the president of the Israeli Olympic Committee and that of the Palestinian Olympic Committee “will make themselves ready to participate together in the next event”, Frattini Explained. The head of the Foreign Ministry said that there is the need “to find a solution that comes from the base, from the athletes and the federations that say we are ready to compete together on the playing field instead of with machine guns”. The result of the initiative will be positive, according to Frattini, who added “before two athletic delegations presenting themselves, we will put the policy of denying possibilities of competing together against the wall”. Palestine, the minister concluded, “must become an independent state, I think that Israel understands that there will not be security without it”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


GCC: Conference in Manama, Common Currency Delay Inevitable

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MARCH 25 — Delaying the emission of a common currency was the suggestion from the secretary of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) during an economic conference in Manama where, for the first time, some representatives from the secretariat of the oil block formally highlighted the impossibility of respecting the scheduled deadline of January 2010, reported the ‘National’. GCC member countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman — are still in fact busy creating a monetary body which will have the responsibility of establishing another timeframe for the actual minting of the currency. The agreement for the monetary union of the Gulf countries was ratified last December with some difficulty: Kuwait freed its currency from the dollar (to which all other Gulf currencies are tied), and Oman confirmed that it would not participate in the common currency, at least in the initial phase. A new deadline has yet to be proposed. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel: Turkey, Right-Wing Rhetoric Out of Government

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 27 — At a press conference in Brussels today, the Turkish President, Abdullah Gul, said that Turkey expects that there will be no space for the “right-wing rhetoric” they used while in opposition. Gul, who is in Brussels to meet the EU Commission, has raised the alarm about the possibility that Avigdor Lieberman’s right-wing party will not give up its positions: “The situation could get worse, creating further suffering”, Gul explained. Speaking about the crisis in the Middle East, Gul spoke about Turkey’s role as a mediator in the peace process.. “We have excellent relations with Israel, just as we do with the Palestinians and other Arab countries”, Gul added, pointing to Turkey’s mediation in the indirect peace talks between Israel and Syria. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Hariri Tribunal; Media Cover Cassese’s Appointment

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 25 — Antonio Cassese’s photo is on the front pages of Lebanese papers today after the announcement that he is to head the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the Hague, although for the moment there has not been any official comment by Lebanese authorities.. “The Italian Cassese as President” (of the tribunal) is the headline across Al Mustaqbal, the paper owned by the family of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, whose assassination on February 14 2005 will be the focus of the tribunal. The widely-read An Nahar instead wrote that Cassese’s appointment and the first Syrian ambassador to Beirut were both “very important events in the modern history of Lebanon”. In relation to Cassese’s appointment, a number of papers have quoted Saad Hariri, son and political heir to the former prime minister, as simply saying that he “trusted in the tribunal” to do its job. Hariri has repeatedly accused Syria of being responsible for the violent explosion which killed his father and 22 others along the Beirut seafront. “We are sure that the Syrians committed this crime,” he has said. Damascus, on its part, has rejected all accusations.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Attack on Phalangist Leader Thwarted

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — Lebanese daily An Nahar has reported today that over the night Lebanese security sources found material intended for an attack near the home of former Lebanese president and Christian Phalangist leader Amin Gemayal in Bikfaya, north-east of Beirut. The paper said that Gemayal’s private vigilantes had stopped and searched a suspicious-looking car over the night, driven by a Syrian and in which electricity wires, a detonator and a grenade were found. Quoting Lebanese security sources, An Nahar added that the driver, now undergoing police questioning, had a number of false passports with him. Gemayel’s private vigilantes have also said that they had seen the car driving close to the anti-Syrian leader a number of times over the past few days. Gemayel has already begun his election campaign for June’s legislative elections.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Gandhi Arrested for ‘Inciting Violence Against Muslims’

The great-grandson of India’s first prime minister was arrested yesterday for promoting hatred against Muslims.

Varun Gandhi, 29, is alleged to have made hate speeches and incited violence ahead of next month’s national elections.

It is claimed he was filmed comparing a rival Muslim politician to Osama bin Laden and had threatened to cut the throats of Muslims at two recent political rallies.

Gandhi belongs to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has produced three prime ministers over six decades and always encouraged a secular government and tolerance for religious minorities.

But Varun, a descendant of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, is a member of the Hindu nationalist, right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.

Yesterday he drove through the streets of Pilibhit, a town in the state of Uttar Pradesh, 135 miles east of New Delhi — where he is seeking a parliamentary seat.

Thousands of supporters accompanied him before he turned himself in.

He will be held until tomorrow, when he can seek release on bail. If convicted, he could be disqualified from running for office and jailed for three years.

On March 17, India’s Election Commission told officials in Uttar Pradesh state to file a criminal case against him for promoting hatred.

Gandhi denied making the comments, saying the video had been tampered with.

He said: ‘I am innocent. I have been falsely implicated in a conspiracy.’

But the Electoral Commission said it is ‘fully convinced and satisfied’ the video ‘has not been tampered with or doctored’.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Far East


Gates: U.S. Not Prepared to Respond to North Korea Missile Launch

The United States can do nothing to stop North Korea from breaking international law in the next 10 days by firing a missile that is unlikely to be shot down by the U.S. or its allies, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday.

Appearing on “FOX News Sunday,” Gates said North Korea “probably will” fire the missile, prompting host Chris Wallace to ask: “And there’s nothing we can do about it?”

“No,” Gates answered, adding, “I would say we’re not prepared to do anything about it.”

Last week, Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said the U.S. is “fully prepared” to shoot down the missile. But Gates said such a response is unlikely.

“I think if we had an aberrant missile, one that was headed for Hawaii, that looked like it was headed for Hawaii or something like that, we might consider it,” Gates said. “But I don’t think we have any plans to do anything like that at this point.”

North Korea has moved a missile onto a launch pad and says it will be fired by April 8. Pyonyang insists the missile is designed for carrying a communications satellite, not a nuclear warhead that the secretive nation appears bent on developing.

Gates said while he doesn’t think North Korea has the capability yet to shoot off a long-range nuclear-tipped missile, “I don’t know anyone at a senior level in the American government who does not believe this technology is intended as a mask for the development of an intercontinental ballistic missile.”

Gates conceded that North Korea will likely get away with thumbing its nose at the international community by test-firing the missile. He also said that six-party talks aimed at curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions have been largely fruitless.

“It’s very troubling,” Gates said. “The reality is that the six-party talks really have not made any headway anytime recently.”

Gates also lamented that the missile launch planned by dictator Kim Jong-Il comes just two months after President Obama took office.

“If this is Kim Jong-Il’s welcoming present to a new president, launching a missile like this and threatening to have a nuclear test, I think it says a lot about the imperviousness of this regime in North Korea to any kind of diplomatic overtures,” he said.

Gates also said Japan is unlikely to shoot down a North Korean missile unless it drops debris on the island nation.

The Obama administration has signaled it wants to scale back the deployment of a missile defense system that was initiated by former President George W. Bush. The White House is also talking about dropping plans for missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Gates lamented the futility of diplomatic efforts toward North Korea and Iran, another nation with nuclear ambitions. Despite the Obama administration’s talk of ramping up diplomatic overtures toward Tehran, Gates was pessimistic about that strategy.

“Frankly, from my perspective, the opportunity for success is probably more in economic sanctions in both places than it is in diplomacy,” Gates said. “What gets them to the table is economic sanctions.”

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


South Africa: He Has Four Wives and He Faced 783 Counts of Corruption

PETER HITCHENS on South Africa’s next president

Imagine how you would react if Gordon Brown opened and closed his election rallies by bursting into a song called Bring Me My Machine Gun, swaying and jigging to the hypnotic chorus of this menacing ditty.

And how would you feel if the Prime Minister were alleged to be taking campaign money from Colonel Gaddafi; faced 783 counts of fraud, racketeering, tax evasion and corruption which somehow never came to court; and had been acquitted of rape while his fearsome supporters mobbed the courthouse?

Then ponder how you would despair if, despite all these things, Mr Brown’s party was certain to win the election whatever he did or said.

If you can picture all this happening here, then you have an inkling of the horrible process South Africa is now going through. Except it is much, much worse.

[…]

In the coming weeks, South Africa seems to me to be taking several definite steps towards its cold, shocking awakening — as a full member of the Third World.

The man who will lead it there is called Jacob Zuma. Remember the name. You are going to hear a lot more of it.

Zuma is wholly African. He has at least four wives and 18 children. He has for years avoided standing trial on fraud and corruption charges. Nobody seriously believes he ever will: his approaching election is already spreading fear in South Africa’s legal establishment.

Mr Zuma joined the Communist Party in 1962 (he only left a few years ago), and has a dark and inadequately examined past as a much-feared intelligence chief in the ANC’s ruthless armed wing, Spear of the Nation. He underwent ‘military training’ in the old Soviet Union in 1978, when the KGB was very much in charge of such things.

On April 22 he will become President of one of the world’s most important countries.

Comrade Zuma, as his supporters know him, certainly is not dull. And South Africa will not be dull either when he takes over.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Latin America


Bolivian Police Bust Jungle Cocaine Factory

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivia’s interior minister says police have uncovered one of the country’s biggest known cocaine processing factories.

Interior Minister Alfredo Rada says two Colombians and a Bolivian were arrested at the nearly 1,000-acre (400 hectare) site in Bolivia’s dense, southeastern jungles.

He said Friday that anti-drug police were led to the factory after intercepting a small plane bearing 660 pounds (300 kilograms) of cocaine near Bolivia’s border with Argentina and Paraguay this week.

Bolivia is the world’s third biggest producer of coca after Colombia and Peru.

The leaf is used in indigenous teas and medicines, and to make cocaine.

The government says Bolivian police confiscated a record 27 tons of drugs in 2008.

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

Flemming Rose Interviews Naser Khader

On March 27 the Danish Muslim politician Naser Khader was interviewed by Flemming Rose on Jyllands-Posten TV.

For those who are not familiar with Naser Khader: he has received death threats for his advocacy of civil liberties, for favoring the assimilation of immigrants into Danish society, and for other outspoken opinions which radical Muslims find objectionable. As a result Mr. Khader is under 24-hour protection by the Danish security police.

Thanks to our Danish correspondent TB for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for adding the subtitles and posting the video at YouTube:



Below the jump is a complete transcript of the translated interview.
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Flemming Rose:   Welcome. I will in the future, on a regular basis, present and interview bloggers on jp.dk [Jyllands-Posten TV]. Today I interview Naser Khader, conservative MP and a blogger on jp.dk. Welcome Naser.
 
Naser Khader:   Thank you.
 
FR:   My first question is related to an ongoing debate in many media outlets these days. It is about this conference, some call it a conference about freedom of speech, and other call it a conference that seeks to combat extremism and radicalism. You are the motive force behind this conference. Why should we have this conference in Copenhagen? And why now?
 
NK:   It is a conference about freedom of speech, radicalization, extremism, the fight against Islamism. I call it a Freedom of Speech Conference because I want to focus on the limitations on freedom of speech that we witness around the world.
 
FR:   Geert Wilders has been a matter of debate in connection with this subject. Why do you think that Geert Wilders should be invited? I know that Jeppe Koefod from the Social Democrats wrote the other day in our newspaper [Jyllands-Posten] that Wilders should not be invited.

The chairman of The Union of Danish Journalists Mogens Bjerregaard writes on their homepage something similar, as does your good friend Hans Jørgen Bonnichsen [meant sarcastically, former employee of the Secret Police]. The point is, they say, that Geert Wilders is not a man who knows anything about how to combat extremism and radicalism. On the contrary, he knows something about how to stimulate extremism and radicalism.

What is your answer to this critic?
 

NK:   My answer is that Geert Wilders is more important than ever when addressing a conference about freedom of speech and radicalization. Because we should not have experts to sit and… say, to come up with solutions to radicalism is something that takes an enormous amount of work behind the curtains. The goal here is to create a focus on the problem, and that’s the limitation of freedom of speech.

It is that many young people born in the West suddenly become radicalized. What is it that attracts them into this ideology? What can we do to avoid these people ending up like this? But in connection with Geert Wilders, where he is relevant, it is in part about freedom of speech.

And he is now much more relevant after the British denied him access to England. It is grotesque. It is historical. It is appalling I think that a democratic country with a very fine democratic tradition, England, refuses entry to a democratically-elected member of another country’s parliament, and I think that the British have let themselves be pressured by the Islamist lobby in England.

And that is why I think that Geert Wilders is needed more than ever before. And by the way, Hirsi Ali also one of those who will receive an invitation. I simply cannot see the difference between Geert Wilders and Hirsi Ali concerning their attitudes. What the Social Democrats, Bonnichsen, and others have pointed out is that Geert Wilders wants have the Quran forbidden. Well, Hirsi Ali wants that too.

Geert Wilders says that Muhammad was a pedophile. Well Hirsi Ali says that too. When Hirsi Ali comes to Denmark she is welcomed like a hero. But Geert Wilders they do not want. The only difference as I see it is that she is young, beautiful and dark while he is middle aged, from the West and pale [Khader laughs].
 

FR:   With a bad hairstyle…
 
NK:   With a bad hairstyle, yes. So I think it is grotesque!
 
FR:   Thanks a lot. That was Naser Khader who blogs at jp.dk. Please visit our homepage and read further and participate in the debate. Thank you.
 

A Natural Thing to Do

Russkiy is a regular reader and occasional commenter here at Gates of Vienna. He lives in New Zealand, and sent this account of the cultural differences he recently encountered among Arab immigrants:

Baron,

You can’t make this stuff up…

About a year and a half ago, on the streets of Auckland (New Zealand’s biggest city), I started seeing “strange” looking people, kind of like Indians but different. They had dark skin complexions, but their facial features were distinct, and another noticeable feature of many of these youths was their rather large bottoms, much like a female body type, but males.

I later found out that they were actually Arabs from Saudi Arabia. Most of the other Arabs I knew were different from them, more Caucasian looking.

After I learned that they were Saudis, I started talking to them, practising my Arabic (I have been learning Arabic for about four years). All this time I was hoping to get them talking about their views. For about six months I didn’t get anywhere, until yesterday…

Yesterday I was on my way from work. When I passed a Turkish café, I saw a Saudi man of about 40. I found an excuse to sit down and chat with him. He first said that he was a tourist, but after finding out that my girlfriend is a lawyer, he told me that he had a problem. He had come to NZ to give assistance to his nephew, who has been charged by the police.

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His nephew was walking down the street and saw some girl looking at him, so he came over and hit her (not sure how hard), so police came and charged him.

This man came and paid money to the girl to get her to drop the complaint, which she did, but the police are not dropping the charges.

What amazed me is that there was no shame apparent in the behaviour of his nephew, as if it is such a natural thing to do, and how dare they prosecute his poor nephew! His nephew is a victim of this cruel society…

I don’t know whether my knowledge of Arabic made him think that I am sympathetic in my views towards them or that I am a Muslim, I am always vague about that subject when they ask me.

— Russkiy