Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/31/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/31/2009In an unusual move, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia has condemned the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact as immoral, and also expressed regret for the Katyn massacre (the slaughter of thousands of captured Polish army officers by the Soviets in 1940).

Mr. Putin’s words were not quite an apology, but they are still extraordinary behavior coming from a Russian leader, especially given that his Soviet predecessors denied all responsibility for the Katyn massacre for decades.

In other news, according to police figures, one out of every five killers in the UK is an immigrant.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, CSP, Derius, Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, Islam in Action, JD, Jewish Odysseus, Sean O’Brian, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Banks ‘Too Big to Fail’ Have Grown Even Bigger
Moody’s: Development of Islamic Banks Stable
Spain: New Benefit Plan, 420 Euro for 300,000 Unemployed
 
USA
Advocates: EEOC Rules in Muslims’ Neb. Plant Issue
Rambo 5 is a Go: Rambo vs. Mexico
Recreational Center Shields US Muslim Youth
Yale’s Misguided Retreat
 
Europe and the EU
Denmark: Brorson’s Church Vicar Accused of Lying
Denmark: Saudi Demand on Mohammed Cartoon
Frank Gaffney: Putin’s ‘Do-Over’
Ireland: Unite Unveils Anti-Lisbon Campaign
Ireland: Workers’ Rights Hot Topic in Lisbon 2 Campaign
Israel-Sweden: EU to Condemn Anti-Semitism, Frattini
Italy: One in Seven at Risk of Poverty, Says Report
Italy-Libya: Cesa, On Monday UDC Sit-in In at Embassy
Italy: Franceschini: Rally for Freedom of Press
Italy: EU Should Condemn Aftonbladet Article
Italy: Ethnic Restaurants Boom
It’s Time to Give Lisbon Lies the Red Card
Return to Lisbon Fight a Waste of Time — Ganley
Spain: 1.3 Mln Travel to Northern Africa, June 15-August 15
Spain: Sagrada Familia Inaugurated as Temple in 2010
Sweden: Firebomb Chaos in Uppsala
UK: Fireworks Mob Broken Up by Police
UK: Probe Into Police ‘Taser’ Arrest
 
North Africa
Burkini Stirs Row in Egypt
Iran: Terrorists Become Ministers, And the West Looks on
Iraq Seeks Serbian Return of MiGs
 
Middle East
Archaeology: Italy Involved in Mosaic Restoration in Syria
Bahrain: Overcrowding in Women’s Prisons, Report
Defence: USD 100 Billion to be Invested by 2014
Here’s Your Story: No Engagement Game Because Iran Burned Down
Iraq-Syria War of Words Escalates
New Developments in Iran’s Missile Capabilities: Implications Beyond the Middle East
Saudi University Professor Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Al-Walid Bin Talal and Other Owners of Saudi TV Channels Should be Executed According to Islamic Law
 
Russia
Africans ‘Under Siege’ In Moscow
Putin Condemns Nazi-Soviet Pact
The Decline of Russia’s Oligarchs
 
Caucasus
Russia ‘Kills Al-Qaeda Operative’
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: NATO Chief Calls for More Local Soldiers
Jail Term for Sri Lankan Editor
Pictured: The Man Who Had His Nose and Ears Cut Off by the Taliban for Daring to Vote
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
New Charges at Zambia Porn Trial
 
Immigration
Australian Navy Intercepts Suspected Asylum Seekers
EU Wants Plan to Distribute Refugees
Gaddur: Now Monitor Libya’s Southern Border
Greece: UN Deplores Conditions at Migrant Detention Centre
Italy: Indian Gang Arrested Over Passport Forgery
Maroni: We Will Continue to Send Them Back
UK: One Out of Every Five Killers is an Immigrant
 
General
Historical Facts About the Dangers (And Failures) Of Vaccines
Unesco: Paris Will Not Declare Preference for Faruk Hosni
US Book on Mohammed Cartoons Stirs Frenzy

Financial Crisis


Banks ‘Too Big to Fail’ Have Grown Even Bigger

Behemoths Born of the Bailout Reduce Consumer Choice, Tempt Corporate Moral Hazard

When the credit crisis struck last year, federal regulators pumped tens of billions of dollars into the nation’s leading financial institutions because the banks were so big that officials feared their failure would ruin the entire financial system.

Today, the biggest of those banks are even bigger.

The crisis may be turning out very well for many of the behemoths that dominate U.S. finance. A series of federally arranged mergers safely landed troubled banks on the decks of more stable firms. And it allowed the survivors to emerge from the turmoil with strengthened market positions, giving them even greater control over consumer lending and more potential to profit.

J.P. Morgan Chase, an amalgam of some of Wall Street’s most storied institutions, now holds more than $1 of every $10 on deposit in this country. So does Bank of America, scarred by its acquisition of Merrill Lynch and partly government-owned as a result of the crisis, as does Wells Fargo, the biggest West Coast bank. Those three banks, plus government-rescued and -owned Citigroup, now issue one of every two mortgages and about two of every three credit cards, federal data show.

A year after the near-collapse of the financial system last September, the federal response has redefined how Americans get mortgages, student loans and other kinds of credit and has made a national spectacle of executive pay. But no consequence of the crisis alarms top regulators more than having banks that were already too big to fail grow even larger and more interconnected.

“It is at the top of the list of things that need to be fixed,” said Sheila C. Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. “It fed the crisis, and it has gotten worse because of the crisis.”

Regulators’ concerns are twofold: that consumers will wind up with fewer choices for services and that big banks will assume they always have the government’s backing if things go wrong. That presumed guarantee means large companies could return to the risky behavior that led to the crisis if they figure federal officials will clean up their mess.

This problem, known as “moral hazard,” is partly why government officials are keeping a tight rein on bailed-out banks — monitoring executive pay, reviewing sales of major divisions — and it is driving the Obama administration’s efforts to create a new regulatory system to prevent another crisis. That plan would impose higher capital standards on large institutions and empower the government to take over a wide range of troubled financial firms to wind down their businesses in an orderly way.

“The dominant public policy imperative motivating reform is to address the moral hazard risk created by what we did, what we had to do in the crisis to save the economy,” Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said in an interview.

The worry for consumers is that the bailouts skewed the financial industry in favor of the big and powerful. Fresh data from the FDIC show that big banks have the ability to borrow more cheaply than their peers because creditors assume these large companies are not at risk of failing. That imbalance could eventually squeeze out smaller competitors. Already, consumers are seeing fewer choices and higher prices for financial services, some senior government officials warn.

Those mergers were largely the government’s making. Regulators pushed failing mortgage lenders and Wall Street firms into the arms of even bigger banks and handed out billions of dollars to ensure that the deals would go through. They say they reluctantly arranged the marriages. Their aim was to dull the shock caused by collapses and prevent confidence in the U.S. financial system from crumbling.

Officials waived long-standing regulations to make the deals work. J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo were each allowed to hold more than 10 percent of the nation’s deposits despite a rule barring such a practice. In several metropolitan regions, these banks were permitted to take market share beyond what the Department of Justice’s antitrust guidelines typically allow, Federal Reserve documents show.

“There’s been a significant consolidation among the big banks, and it’s kind of hollowing out the banking system,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Economy.com. “You’ll be left with very large institutions and small ones that fill in the cracks. But it’ll be difficult for the mid-tier institutions to thrive.”

“The oligopoly has tightened,” he added.

Consumer Choice

In the last quarter, the top four banks raised fees related to deposits by an average of 8 percent, according to research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Striving to stay competitive, smaller banks lowered their fees by an average of 12 percent.

“None of us are saying dismember these institutions. But you do want to create a system that allows for others to grow, where no one has an oligopolistic power at the expense of others who might be able to provide financial services to consumers,” said Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Normally, when faced with price increases, consumers simply switch. But industry officials said that is not so easy when it comes to financial services.

In Santa Cruz, Calif., Wells Fargo, Bank of America and J.P. Morgan Chase hold three-quarters of the deposit market. Each firm was given tens of billions of dollars in bailout funds to help it swallow other banks.

The rest of the market, which consists of a handful of tiny community banks, cannot match the marketing power of the bigger banks. Instead, presidents of the smaller companies said, they must offer more personalized service and adapt to technological changes more quickly to entice customers. Some acknowledged it can be a tough fight.

Wells Fargo is “really, really good at the way they cross-sell and get their tentacles around you,” said Richard Hofstetter, president of Lighthouse Bank, whose only branch is in Santa Cruz. “Their customers have multiple areas of their financial life involved with Wells Fargo. If you have a checking account and an ATM and a credit card and a home-equity line and automatic bill payments . . . to change that is a major undertaking.”

Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan and Bank of America declined to comment for this article.

Last October, when the Fed was arranging the merger between Wells Fargo and Wachovia, it identified six other metropolitan regions in which the combined company would either exceed the Justice Department’s antitrust guidelines or hold more than a third of an area’s deposits. But the central bank thought local competition in each of those places was sufficient to allow the merger to go through, documents show.

Camden Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers of America, said those comments reveal the government’s preferential treatment of big banks. He doubted whether the Fed would approve the merger of community banks if the combined company ended up controlling more a third of the market.

“To favor one class of financial institutions over another class skews the market. You don’t have a free market; you have a government-favored market,” he said. “We will never have free markets again if you have the government picking winners and losers.”

Moral Hazard

With executives comforted by that thinking, risk came unhinged from investment decisions. Wall Street borrowed to make money without having enough in reserves to cover potential losses. The pursuit of profit was put ahead of the regard for safety and soundness.

The federal bailouts only reinforced the thought that government would save big banks, no matter how horrible their decisions.

Today, even with the memory of the crisis fresh in their minds, creditors are granting big institutions more favorable treatment because they know the government is backing them, FDIC officials said.

Large banks with more than $100 billion in assets are borrowing at interest rates 0.34 percentage points lower than the rest of the industry. Back in 2007, that advantage was only 0.08 percentage points, according to the FDIC. Such differences can cause huge variance in borrowing costs given the massive amount of money that flows through banks.

Many of the largest banks reported a surge in profit during the most recent quarter, including J.P. Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. They are prospering while many regional and community banks are struggling. Nearly three dozen of the smaller institutions have failed since July 1, including Community Bank of Nevada and Alabama-based Colonial Bank just last week.

If the government continues to back big firms over small, regulators worry that reckless behavior could return to Wall Street.

The administration’s regulatory reform plan takes aim at this problem by penalizing banks for being big. It would require large institutions to hold more capital and pay higher regulatory fees, as well as allow the government to liquidate them in an orderly way if they begin to fail. The plan also seeks to bolster nontraditional channels of finance to create competition for large banks. If Congress approves the proposal, Geithner said, it would be clear at launch which financial companies would face these measures.

Economists and officials debate whether these steps would address the too-big-to-fail problem. Some say, for instance, that determining the precise amount of capital big financial companies should hold in their reserves will be difficult.

Geithner acknowledged that difficulty but said the administration would probably lean toward being more strict. Taken together, the combination of reforms would be a powerful counterbalance to big banks, he said.

“Our system is not going to be significantly more concentrated than it is today,” Geithner said. “And it’s important to remember that even now, our system remains much less concentrated and will continue to provide more choice for consumers and businesses than any other major economy in the world.”

           — Hat tip: Derius [Return to headlines]



Moody’s: Development of Islamic Banks Stable

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 12 — The economic development of Islamic banks, despite the global financial crisis, is stable thanks to a widespread availability of liquidity, high profit margins, and low leverage according to a report published today by Moody’s. The ratings agency however cautioned the sector for excessively using its available liquidity since this could destabilise the economic system, especially in the Gulf region. Moody’s reported a growth rate relative to total revenue of the banks in 2009 of around 10%, the same value reported in 2008 and 2007.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: New Benefit Plan, 420 Euro for 300,000 Unemployed

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 13 — The government will pay unemployment benefit to all those people who are unemployed with no other forms of income. The programme, which provides for a payment of 420 euros per month for a maximum of 6 months and which will be given to 300,000 people, will be approved today at an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers, and will enter into force retroactively from August 1. The assistance will also benefit families whose member are unemployed and with total income less than 75% of the minimum inter-professional age (624 euros per month). They could receive an additional payment to the benefit payment. This is a lifeline for families who are in difficulty as a result of the economic crisis. The aim of the measure is to help unemployed people who are unable to find work in the period avoid “being unprotected and without any social protection,” explained Labour Minister Celestino Corbacho in a statement to the press. In June the unemployment rate in Spain was equal to 11.9%, more than the European average, and in the case of young people it stands at over 20%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

USA


Advocates: EEOC Rules in Muslims’ Neb. Plant Issue

OMAHA, Neb. — Muslim advocates said Friday that federal officials determined a Nebraska meatpacking plant wasn’t doing enough to accommodate the religious needs of its Muslim workers but stopped short of laying out specific recommendations.

The Chicago-based Council on American-Islamic Relations said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlined its decision in a letter sent to the organization this week. The decision comes after a nearly yearlong investigation into conditions at the Grand Island JBS plant, where hundreds of Muslim workers walked out in protest last September because they weren’t given time to pray.

“It’s a favorable finding … it’s definitely a victory,” said Rima Kapitan, an employment attorney who worked on the case for the council.

Company and union officials said Friday they were disappointed with the timing of the letter because they’ve already made progress to alleviate workers’ concerns. The letter came a week into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

EEOC spokesman James Ryan declined comment, saying the agency is barred from publicly discussing complaints or its investigations.

The day after the Sept. 15 walkout, plant management adjusted work schedules to accommodate the Muslim workers. But that prompted a protest by hundreds of non-Muslim workers who said Muslims were given preferential treatment. Plant managers responded by ending the shift changes, saying the new break times weren’t working.

The Greeley, Colo.-based company later fired 86 workers at the plant for walking off the job. It eventually hired back about a dozen.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations helped file some of the dozens of complaints with the EEOC that alleged discrimination based on religion, race and tradition or national origin. The council received the EEOC letter because of the group’s involvement, said council spokeswoman Amina Sharif.

The letter, dated Aug. 25, doesn’t offer specific recommendations for what company officials should do to accommodate Muslim workers but encouraged employees, the union and the company to work together on solutions, according to letter excerpts read to The Associated Press by Sharif.

Council officials said they couldn’t release the entire letter because of client confidentiality concerns.

Jill Cashen, a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said discussions have already been successful and hopes the letter doesn’t set them back.

“We believe we’ve built important bridges across the various work forces over the past year,” she said.

Union officials said the plant employs about 2,700 non-management workers. About 250 Muslims currently work at the plant, down from about 500 the union said worked there last fall.

JBS spokesman Chandler Keys declined to say whether the company was considering rehiring workers who were fired after the walkout. But he said the company has tried to accommodate workers, including by giving them space and time for prayer. Cashen said they’ve tried to educate non-Muslims about Muslim observances.

Keys and Cashen said they believe the changes and ongoing discussion have helped, judging by the lack of reported problems now that Ramadan is under way.

“We all learned a lot from last year and no one wanted a repeat of that,” Keys said.

           — Hat tip: Islam in Action [Return to headlines]



Rambo 5 is a Go: Rambo vs. Mexico

Or actually, the human traffickers and drug lords that are running people through the U.S.-Mexico border for their nefarious purposes, but saying “Rambo vs. Mexico” in the title just sounded more … Rambo-er. But I digress. Variety reports that Nu Image/Millennium Films has greenlit a fifth Rambo movie, to once again be written and directed by Sylvester Stallone.

Stallone has actually been talking up the sequel for awhile now, but this will mark the first time the film has gotten the official green light from the studio. The fourth film had Rambo working part time as a river boatman when he’s not running around gutting or finger-gouging super evil mean Asian military types in the neck. Made for $50 million, the film did $42 million in domestic business and scored nearly double that ($70 million) in overseas markets.

The fifth film will find Rambo running foul of slimy human traffickers and drug lords along the U.S.-Mexico border as he attempts to rescue an abducted girl. As you’ll recall, at the end of “Rambo”, Stallone’s character had finally decided to come home, and we saw him walking back to the Rambo homestead over the closing credits.

I recently saw “Rambo” on cable again a few days ago, and I have to admit, it’s gotten better with repeat viewing. It’s still bloody as hell, almost cartoonishly so, but I really felt for the big lug throughout the movie, and towards the end, when he’s staring down at Julie Benz’s character and realizing that he will never get the girl, kinda broke my heart.

I used to be against another Rambo movie, but now I’m kind of looking forward to seeing him come home and maybe, just maybe, get a little bit of a happy ending for himself at the end. Is that too much to ask? Yeah, yeah, it’ll be kind of sappy and maybe a little unrealistic (Rambo has killed enough people to populate his own country, after all), but why not? If it’s going to be the last one, then give the man a little bit of a happy ending already, dammit! (Preferably after he’s killed half of Mexico ala “The Wild Bunch”.)

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Recreational Center Shields US Muslim Youth

Sponsors insist that the proposed creational center will be the first in the US to comply with Muslim beliefs.

CAIRO — Muslims in the Midwestern state of Minnesota are embarking on an ambitious project to build an Islamic center in order to help young Muslims against social ills through recreational activity.

“Youth are disappearing, youth are dying, and people have really serious health concerns,” Matthew Palombo, secretary of the Somali Youth Action (SYA), an organization working to reduce youth violence in Minnesota, told the Star Tribune on Monday, August 31.

The center, expected to cost $48 million dollars, will be built on 300,000 square feet and would serve an estimated 150,000 Muslims living in the Twin Cities area.

According to the design, it would have separate swimming pools and exercise rooms for men and women, an indoor soccer field and a large multi-purpose room for weddings and other events.

The center would feature a walk-in clinic, a teen center where young people could work, study and socialize, and an art gallery.

There would also be a coffeehouse and space for counseling and legal services.

The project is meant to create a safe place for Minnesota Muslim youth, the majority of them from Somali background, to meet and practice their hobbies.

A 2007 report by the city of Minneapolis has warned against the lack of youth programs6 available for the Muslim community and called for a drop-in center that would be culturally sensitive to Muslims.

Although there are no official figures, America is believes to be home to a sizable Muslim community of nearly seven millions.

The stagnant economy and poor fundraising climate are posing as major hurdles for fulfilling the Muslim dream.

“It’s going to have to be a very broad, united effort for fundraising,” asserts Palombo.

To face the challenge, Muslim community leaders may seek donations from individuals and businesses from in and outside Minnesota, and even outside the country.

“It’s going to have to come from a lot of places, definitely from the local Muslim communities first, through private donations and fundraising events, and local philanthropists,” explains Palombo.

“We’re also hoping to do some corporate sponsorships, whether it’s a room or a program.”

Sponsors recognize that giving charity has become very difficult for American Muslims since the 9/11 attacks.

US authorities have placed Muslim charity works under the microscope on claims of channeling funds to terrorists.

In 2005, Treasury officials refused a request from a coalition of Muslim leaders to issue a “white list” of clean charities Muslims could donate to without fear of prosecution or investigation.

“We’re going to go after it … and we’re going to hope that the local community and donors and foundations respond,” said Palombo.

He estimates fundraising would take at least three to five years and two years after that for the construction.

“If they do, then it will move forward.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Yale’s Misguided Retreat

In deciding to omit the images from a book it is publishing about the controversy sparked by Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, Yale University Press has handed a victory to extremists. Both Yale and the extremists distorting this issue should be ashamed. I say this as a Muslim who supported the Danish newspaper .

Jyllands-Posten’s right to publish the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in late 2005 and as someone who also understands the offense taken at those cartoons by many Muslims, including my mother. After a while, she and I agreed to stop talking about them because the subject always made us argue.

For more than two months in 2006, I lived in Copenhagen, where I debated the issue with Danes — Muslim and non-Muslim — including Flemming Rose, the culture editor of Jyllands-Posten, who commissioned the images, and Naser Khader, Denmark’s first Muslim parliamentarian, who launched the liberal Democratic Muslims group just as the controversy unfolded.

Speaking at a conference that Khader hosted at the Danish parliament a year after the cartoons’ publication, I warned of two right wings — a non-Muslim one that hijacked the issue to fuel racism against immigrants in Denmark, and a Muslim one that hijacked the issue to silence Muslims and fuel anti-Western rhetoric.

Sadly, both groups are celebrating Yale’s decision because it has proven them “right.”

The controversy that many might recall as “Danish newspaper publishes cartoons of the prophet; Muslim world goes berserk” was actually much more complex. What occurred across many Muslim-majority countries in 2006 was a clear exercise in manufacturing outrage. Consider…

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Denmark: Brorson’s Church Vicar Accused of Lying

Vicar accused of telling lies after the release of video footage of a police raid on a refugee shelter

The justice minister has, after seeing police-captured video footage of the eviction of Iraqi refugees from Brorson’s Church, accused the church’s vicar Per Ramsdal of lying about it.

Police removed the Iraqis, who are facing forcible repatriation to their homeland, from the church in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen on 13 August.

According to Ramsdal, 50 officers in riot gear carrying weapons and batons entered the church and surrounded the Iraqis in a standoff that caused 70,000 kroner worth of damage.

Justice Minister Brian Mikkelsen has disputed the vicar’s version of events after seeing the police footage.

‘There’s no doubt that the vicar has given an untrue account to the public. I can see that the police did everything they could to ensure the action was carried out peacefully,’ Mikkelsen said to BT newspaper.

Immigration minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech has also questioned Ramsdal’s account, while Pia Kjærsgaard, who leads the Danish People’s Party, called on him to ‘apologise for his lies’.

Copenhagen Police released their own footage of the incident this weekend. It shows officers entering the church through an unlocked door in shirt sleeves and baseball caps, then approaching the Iraqi men, some of whom armed themselves with chairs and threatened to kill themselves, and urging them to be calm.

Female officers led the Iraqi women and children outside while male colleagues attempted to negotiate with the remaining Iraqis, before finally donning protective riot helmets after 45 minutes when glass was thrown at them.

The event sparked widespread protests after media footage showed police hitting and pepper spraying demonstrators who tried to prevent the police transporting the Iraqis away.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Saudi Demand on Mohammed Cartoon

A firm of Saudi Arabian lawyers has demanded that Danish newspapers apologise for re-printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

A firm of Saudi lawyers, purportedly acting on behalf of descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, has demanded printed and multi-lingual apologies from Danish newspapers who re-printed cartoons of the Prophet, as well as undertakings that all Internet pictures of the caricatures be removed in perpetuity.

The demand from the Saudi Arabian legal firm of A.Z. Yamani, is contained in letters sent to about a dozen Danish editors-in-chief and gives the end of September as a deadline for compliance.

The A.Z. Yamani firm was founded by Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, Saudi Arabia’s former Oil Minister from 1962 and until 1986 when he was summarily dismissed. The letter in question was sent by his lawyer son Faisal Yamani.

Ministries

Some Danish newspapers re-printed one of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as an illustration in connection with the police discovery of plans to murder Kurt Westergaard, a cartoonist who originally produced one of the caricatures.

Demands in the letter from the Yamani lawyers require newspapers who reproduced the cartoons to print an unconditional apology in Danish, Arabic, French and English for having offended alleged descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, as well as undertaking never again to reproduce similar drawings or material. The demand includes a requirement that a front page reference to the apology must also be made.

The Danish Newspaper Association says it doubts that newspapers will comply.

“Everything has to be looked into and it is clear that we will be speaking with the Justice and Foreign ministries in a case like this — but first of all we have to get an overview of the situation”, says Newspaper Association Chairman Ebbe Dahl.

But he adds that the Saudi legal firm’s demands are ‘clearly unacceptable’ and he is in no doubt that newspapers will stand fast.

“It’s completely natural that media use the core of the issue when something like this comes up”, says Dahl referring to the murder plans.

One editor-in-chief has already commented on the letter, rejecting the ultimatum.

“There must be some people who continue to flog this issue. With all due respect for Muslims in Denmark and elsewhere in the world — this is unacceptable”, says Der Nordschleswiger Editor-in-Chief Siegfried Matlok.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Frank Gaffney: Putin’s ‘Do-Over’

Twenty-six years ago this Fall, a titanic struggle played out in Europe. The main protagonists were Ronald Reagan and the Western alliance he led on the one hand and Yuri Andropov’s KGB-led Soviet Union on the other. It proved to be the beginning of the end of what Mr. Reagan properly called the “Evil Empire.” Today, one of Andropov’s agents, Vladimir Putin, is striving for a “do-over” — one which may have no-less-far-reaching implications.

In 1983, the issue was whether the NATO alliance would proceed with its agreed plan to deploy hundreds of Pershing II ballistic missiles and Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles in five Western European nations (collectively known as Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces or INF). The allies had decided such deployments were necessary in the face of the Soviets’ massive deployment of their own INF missiles, which the West called SS-20s — formidable weapons armed with three nuclear warheads intended to intimidate and dominate Western Europe…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]



Ireland: Unite Unveils Anti-Lisbon Campaign

Trade union Unite has urged its 60,000 members to reject the second Lisbon Referendum, saying it failed to protect workers’ rights.

Officially unveiling its campaign against the treaty in Dublin today, Unite warned that the Government had failed to secure a clause that would prevent “social dumping and second class treatment of workers”.

The union plans to hold a series of meetings covering members in financial services, energy, manufacturing, communications, health, education, local authorities and other sectors.

“These meetings will cover a range of issues facing our members but one clear message that will ring out is that a No vote is needed to prevent workers rights being ignored by our own government and dismantled by the European Courts,” said Unite Irish regional secretary Jimmy Kelly.

“We are told by government and even by some trade unions that workers rights will be protected under Lisbon and that we are scare-mongering, but when the Irish government went seeking legal guarantees they got them in areas of taxation, of morality, and in numbers of commissioners but not in relation to workers rights.”

Unite also opposed the original Lisbon Treaty, which was rejected last year by voters, for the same reason, and said the treaty on which people were being asked to vote a second time had failed to make any progress in this area.

Mr Kelly described the “solemn declaration” given in relation to workers’ rights as “worthless”.

“We are asked to have faith in our own government, that they will bring forward legislation that will protect Irish workers. We say today that we are fed up waiting for this legislation and that we have no faith in this government’s ability or even willingness to deliver,” he said.

He said Irish workers were alone in Europe in having no legal right to representation by a union and no provision for pension protection.

Unions had sought to include a “social progress” clause in the treaty to clarify that the fundamental right to organise and the right to strike were not subordinate to economic freedoms pursued by the EU member states. However, this was not included in either the original treaty or the guarantees that the Government sought from Europe before bringing Lisbon back to voters.

“Voting yes to Lisbon in the face of this would enshrine Irish workers lack of fair treatment as being alright in the eyes of Irish politicians and of the Irish people. EU institutions would continue to follow a business over labour ideology which is too loaded against workers all across Europe,” Mr Kelly said.

Trade union leaders are divided on their attitude to Lisbon. Last week a group of trade unionists supporting the treaty said that it represented a major advance for workers.

The Charter Group, which is to launch its campaign tomorrow, said in a report that the evidence was that the EU had been a champion of workers’ rights for the past 35 years. Secretary of the group, Blair Horan of the CPSU said the report showed conclusively that it was the EU that protected workers’ rights in Ireland.

[Return to headlines]



Ireland: Workers’ Rights Hot Topic in Lisbon 2 Campaign

Ireland’s second biggest trade union on Monday encouraged its members to vote No in the country’s upcoming referendum on the Irish Treaty, accusing the document of cementing restrictions on workers’ rights delivered in a series of recent decisions by the European Court of Justice.

Unite, a joint Anglo-Irish trade union, representing some 60,000 workers in Ireland, warned that the additional guarantees extracted by the government after the treaty was defeated in the country’s first referendum last June covered ‘moral’ issues but were insufficient in protecting employee protections and rights.

“We were told that workers’ rights would be protected under Lisbon and that we were scaremongering,” said the union’s Irish regional secretary, Jimmy Kelly, according to a report in the Irish Times. “When the Irish government went seeking legal guarantees they got them in areas of taxation, of morality, and in numbers of commissioners but not in relation to workers’ rights.”

“Instead we got a ‘solemn declaration’ that is worthless given the way in which the European Courts have interpreted workers’ rights as being subservient to those of business,” he added.

The union, which opposed the the treaty during the last referendum as well, has also offered its building for use by the Vote No to Lisbon campaign, headed by the Socialist Party of Dublin MEP Joe Higgins and backed by Sinn Fein, the republican party.

A number of trade unions back the treaty, however, with the pro-Treaty ‘Charter Group’ last week issuing a report arguing that the European Union had been a force for worker protection for 35 years in Ireland.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Israel-Sweden: EU to Condemn Anti-Semitism, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 31 — Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, has said in an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he has come to an agreement with his Swedish counterpart, Carl Bildt, that the European Union — under Swedish presidency — will strongly condemn anti-Semitism during the next meeting of foreign EU ministers on September 4 and 5, and will take action against any manifestation of it on the continent. Frattini said he intends to demand that the meeting’s summary statement explicitly condemn the article published in the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, which claimed that Israeli soldiers harvested the organs of dead Palestinians, killed during the Intifada in the West Bank. Frattini told Haaretz that he considers articles of this sort to be “acts of blatant anti-Semitism.” Referring to the political crisis between Sweden and Israel caused by the article, and the refusal of the Swedish government to intervene, Frattini stressed that “the state cannot intervene in the work of the press. The journalists are the ones who must set limits for themselves.” In a comment printed by the liberal Israeli daily, the Italian ministers is described as “a Scandinavian Italian” due to his self-control and diplomatic attitude. Frattini is also presented — next to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel — as a supporter of Israel who is not afraid of expressing “sincere criticism.” These are, the columnist concludes, cherished friendships for Israel, which must be cultivated. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: One in Seven at Risk of Poverty, Says Report

Rome, 27 August (AKI) — One in seven Italians is at risk of poverty, and those most at risk come from the region of Sardinia and cities in the north and centre of the country, according to new research released on Thursday.

The Sintesi Studies Centre said residents in cities such as the coastal city of Rimini, the northern city of Brescia and Cesena in the central Emilia-Romagna region, as well as residents from small towns on the island of Sardinia were at risk because of their low incomes.

The research which looked at 114 provincial capitals, found that 1.4 million individuals or 14.5 percent of salary earners declared an income that was less than the average local poverty level with earnings of 10,388 euros a year, against a national average of 24,593 euros.

Analysis of individual communities conducted by the Venice-based research centre found that Villacidro, a town of 14,000 people in southwest Sardinia, to be the most exposed to the risk of poverty with 32.2 percent of local wage earners earning below the average salary.

Rimini, a holiday resort town on the Adriatic coast, has 26.3 percent with salaries below the local poverty threshold.

The research showed that local workers earn an average salary 4,300 euros less than the national average and the degree of poverty is exacerbated by higher than average expenses in the town.

Sintesi conducted its research based on data produced in 2006 by Italy’s national statistics agency ISTAT and the ministry of economy and finance.

In the country’s biggest urban centres, the research showed one in five wage earners or 19.1 percent in the northern city of Turin and Milan were hard hit by poverty, ahead of the southern city of Naples with 16.4 percent.

“The study shows that the cities of the south show low levels of wage earners at risk compared to communities in the north,” the researchers said.

“Among the 20 cities with the most elevated local poverty, 15 come from the central north.”

“Such a phenomenon is attributed to the high cost of living found in northern communities that erodes the income of people in a large part compared to what happens in the south.”

At least 8 million people in Italy or 13.6 percent of the population live in poverty and nearly three million of them (5 percent) live in”absolute poverty” according to a report published by ISTAT.

However, in the south of the country, 23.8 percent of people lived in poverty while almost 8 percent lived in absolute poverty, an increase of 2.1 percent compared to the previous report in 2007, ISTAT said.

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



Italy-Libya: Cesa, On Monday UDC Sit-in In at Embassy

(AGI) — Rome, 28 Aug. — On Monday, August 31, at 11.30 am, Italian political party UDC has organized a sit-in in front of the Libyan embassy to protest against the visit of Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, to the African State, marking the anniversary of the Friendship Treaty and for Italy’s involvement in the celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the revolution. UDC secretary, Lorenzo Cesa, together with numerous party representatives, will take part in the sit-in.

“We will peacefully move in front of the Libyan embassy,” Cesa said. “to defend Italy’s dignity and to state clearly that we have nothing in common with those that do not respect the victims of massacres and human rights. Gaddafi’s provocations should have caused stronger responses from this government, which is instead still indulging every whim of the Libyan leader, starting with the enormously expensive Friendship Treaty which hold no guarantees for our country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Franceschini: Rally for Freedom of Press

(AGI) — Rome, 28 Aug. — “The PD had announced its intention to promote a mobilization in September to defend freedom of press and information in our country. We believe that, at the moment, this is a very relevant issue which concerns everyone, despite their political affiliations, despite belonging to the majority or the oppositions. We believe we should all take a step back.

We hope that all associations that hold freedom of press at heart (starting with Articolo 21 and the journalist union) will promote the rally, also based on today’s plea presented by three great Italian jurists, Cordero, Zagrabelski and Rodota’, defending freedom of press and information. The PD is ready to do his part and to support the rally on a political and organizational level. The rally must not turn out to be a single-party event, but it should involve everyone because freedom of press is a problem that concerns everyone”, said Dario Franceschini, PD secretary, following a political meeting in Cesena.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: EU Should Condemn Aftonbladet Article

Italy’s foreign minister, Franco Frattini, says he has met with his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt to iron out a strategy for resolving the fallout from an article published in the Aftonbladet newspaper, which reported allegations that the Israeli army harvested the organs of dead Palestinians, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports.

But in a farcical twist, Bildt has denied that the two discussed the crisis or the Italian’s proposed solution.

Frattini told the newspaper he has met with Bildt, and the two agreed that at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers later this week, they will work to pass a resolution making it clear that the EU, under the Swedish presidency, strongly condemns anti-Semitism and will take action against any manifestation of it on the continent.

Frattini said he intends to demand that the meeting’s summary statement explicitly condemn the article published in Aftonbladet. He said his proposed statement would declare articles of this sort to be “acts of blatant anti-Semitism.”

“There are limits to freedom of the press that stem from respect for the truth and the duty of every journalist to prove his claims,” Frattini told Haaretz.

Frattini added that the accusations made in the Aftonbladet article are “terrible conclusions, lying and hurtful, and they have the power to assist all those who seek to incite against Jews or who oppose the existence of the State of Israel.”

However, Frattini defended Sweden’s position to refuse to condemn either the article or the newspaper: “The state cannot intervene in the work of the press. The journalists are the ones who must set limits for themselves and must find the right balance within the framework of the journalistic code of behavior.”

Frattini said that the Council of Ministers, which is scheduled to discuss the situation in the Middle East later this week in Stockholm, is the proper forum “for Sweden to prove, with concrete steps, its determined stance against anti-Semitism. It would be better for the Swedish response to be expressed there than via a government communique to the press.”

However, in a further twist to this diplomatic crisis that swings from the bad to the farcical, Bildt — in Kabul for talks with international representatives and Afghan officials — has flatly denied that he and Frattini even discussed Sweden’s standoff with Israel, according to the Swedish news agency TT.

Through the foreign ministry’s head of communications, Cecilia Julin, Bildt denied that he and Frattini had discussed the disagreement between Sweden and Israel over the Aftonbladet article, or that they had discussed a possible resolution by the Council of Ministers.

“From the Swedish side we have no plans to handle this question through the informal foreign ministers’ meeting in Stockholm,” said Julin. She also conveyed that Bildt had suggested that the proposal must have arisen through an “Italian misunderstanding.”

Meanwhile, it is not clear whether the Italian initiative would even satisfy Israel, which remains publicly incensed at Sweden’s refusal to condemn the Aftonbladet article published on August 17th. While the Israel Prime Minister’s office was not commenting on the proposal, the Foreign Ministry appeared to dismiss the proposal as irrelevant to the present crisis between the two countries.

“Every initiative against anti-Semitism is welcome,” said Yigal Palmor, a ministry spokesman. “But if the declaration is general and does not specifically relate to the article in Aftonbladet, it will not resolve anything.”

“We did not ask for an apology, or for measures against the newspaper or the journalist. All we asked of Sweden and the Swedes is that they reject and decry the content of the report. And our position has not changed,” he added.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Italy: Ethnic Restaurants Boom

Foreigners also moving into Italian food

(ANSA) — Rome, August 31 — Ethnic eateries are booming in Italy and foreigners have also carved out a big chunk of new Italian restaurants.

Restaurants serving foreign food have risen from 2,500 in 2000 to more than 4,000 in 2009, says Fipe-Confcommercio, Italy’s association of restaurant and bar owners.

And of the Italian restaurants opened each year, more than 40% are owned by foreigners, it added.

The boom has been fuelled by foreigners’ family-based model which permits savings of “more than 50%,” said Edi Sommariva, head of the Fipe-Confcommercio association.

Sommariva said he did not agree with recent bans on ethnic food in parts of Milan and the Tuscan town of Lucca, which have sparked charges of “gastronomic racism”.

But he warned that immigrants who go into Italian cuisine should be careful of denting Italy’s tradition of food excellence.

“Our traditions are unique, linked to produce, and the increase in restaurateurs who know them only marginally risks damaging the system”.

However, instead of restrictions, “the way to go is to offer tax breaks for those who commit to keeping up traditions,” Sommariva said. Chinese restaurants account for some two thirds of the ethnic boom, followed by Japanese cuisine, which has however stalled because of high prices.

Vietnamese and Korean cuisine is also showing healthy gains, Fipe said.

The recent spread of highly popular kekab shops cannot be quantified because they come under the category of artisans and not eateries, Sommariva said.

Moves to curb their spread are “not right,” he said.

Earlier this year the conservative town council of Lucca moved to stop kebab bars spoiling the “identity” of its historic centre.

Milan also unveiled a drive to “preserve native food” led by the regionalist Northern League, which is sometimes accused of being against immigrants.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



It’s Time to Give Lisbon Lies the Red Card

By Gene Kerrigan

“Hey, begob, sure ‘tis only me, Mickey O — pulling another fast one on ye, so I am!”

If we’re going to be smothered in bulls**t in the weeks to come (and we are, dear reader, we bloody are), at least O’Leary’s variety provides a degree of entertainment — and we’ll get to Mick’s bulls**t in a moment.

There’s a blizzard of the stuff headed our way, the intent being to leave us overwhelmed, jaded and ready to obediently swallow not one but two bitter pills prescribed by Mr Cowen’s government.

Nama is the bigger of the bitter pills — it’s approximately the size of a grand piano — a massive transfer of wealth from the citizens to the bank bondholders and shareholders who backed the wrong horse.

The second bitter pill is the re-run of the Lisbon Treaty. (It seems that when we voted last year we didn’t understand that the ‘No’ box was on the voting paper purely for decorative purposes.)

We’ll give Nama a rest here this week — and the substance of the Lisbon Treaty debate is another day’s work.

What’s remarkable is the cynical nature of the establishment campaigns to get us to swallow both. Basically, the strategy is to tell us that Serious People have decided what’s best for us and the world will fall down around our ears unless we do as we’re told.

It would be more impressive if the establishment hadn’t so recently made such a pig’s mickey of the country. Not just politicians, but the senior civil service, bankers, speculators, big bonus business chiefs, regulators, economists and those who style themselves the leaders of “civic society”. They were all equally dismissive, and abusive, of anyone who questioned the Celtic Tiger nonsense.

Today, for some reason, we must accept that they are Serious People, qualified to tell us what’s best for us.

The Government assumed they’d get Nama through very easily because it involves complex financial concepts. Luckily, some academic economists took seriously their duty to examine and explain the process to civilians.

The politicians have so far stood back from the Lisbon campaign. Instead, the “leaders of civic society” have taken the burden.

There’s been an allegedly spontaneous eruption of pro-Lisbon outfits. Ireland for Europe, Generation Yes, We Belong, Women for Europe and Lawyers for Europe. These are liberally sprinkled with distant-from-Cowen type politicians (Pat Cox and the like), would-be politicians and the handmaidens of the establishment.

They have a case to make for the treaty, but they don’t make it. Instead, the Serious People tell us what they see as unquestionable truths. 1: This is a changed treaty. 2: This is about whether or not Ireland stays in the EU. And 3: The ‘No’ side are liars.

In fact, the treaty remains precisely the same, though it has been festooned with colourful pledges by politicians, the significance of which could be (but won’t be) argued.

The tactic of claiming that this is about being pro or anti EU is tricky. Membership of the EU is clearly not an issue. The ‘Yes’ side swerves around this by inventing something called “the heart of Europe”. Vote ‘No’ and we’ll be ejected from “the heart of Europe”.

More subtly, the issue is posed as whether we’re “for” Europe. All but one of the “civic society” outfits has that deception in its title. They either want us to “belong” in Europe or vote “for Europe”. The manipulative deceit is in the notion that to oppose the treaty is to be against Europe.

The perpetually uncivil Michael O’Leary is one of the civic leaders calling for a ‘Yes’ vote.

Last week, he decried the “headbangers” who oppose the treaty, and promised to spend half a million euro of Ryanair money on a ‘Yes’ campaign.

Why? Well, perhaps because Michael is a man who has clashed with EU bureaucrats (something similar could be said of Intel, also spending hundreds of thousands on a ‘Yes’ campaign). If, for instance, the issue of a Ryanair takeover of Aer Lingus was to — ah, but Mick would never be so calculating.

Oddly enough, last October O’Leary told the Sunday Business Post that there should be no re-run of the referendum.

“It seems that only in the European Union, Ireland and Zimbabwe are you forced to vote twice,” O’Leary said. “The vote should be respected. It is the only democratic thing to do,” he said.

So, O’Leary is now spending half a million to overturn a vote he said should be respected — knowing that the re-run is an undemocratic contrivance.

Why? Well, I believe what he told Matt Cooper last week: “Everything we do is in the interests of Ryanair.”

Much of the media is onside. And the Broadcasting Commission has decided that both sides of the issue don’t have to be given equal time. This was never before applied to a campaign — and the Commission says it will not be a precedent for future votes. It’s just for Lisbon 2. Imagine that.

While an objective analysis would say there was at least exaggeration on both sides last time, the ‘Yes’ campaign states it as a fact that it stands for truth and the ‘No’ campaign stands for lies.

The Generation Yes website has a section entitled “Fight The Lies”. Brigid Laffan, chair of Ireland for Europe, wants a “yellow and red card system” to stop lies.

It’s scatty (who would be the ref, what would be the sanction?) but it boosts the fiction of truth tellers versus liars, Serious People versus headbangers.

Good marketing doesn’t argue why you should buy a product — it creates the impression that cool people favour the product, while only the uncool reject it.

How does Ms Laffan’s outfit report the Michael O’Leary half million euro campaign? It takes its wording from an Irish Times report.

“Meanwhile”, the original newspaper report said, legitimately adding on three paragraphs reporting that some trade union leaders see Lisbon as “a major advance for workers”.

On its website, Ireland for Europe replaced the “Meanwhile” with “In response”, and changed the report to make it appear the trade union leaders were saying that O’Leary’s “announcement represented a major advance for workers”.

All in this together, you see, union and fanatically anti-union, except for the “headbangers”. (I’m not sure if this qualifies for a yellow card or a red.)

There’s lots of low-quality bulls**t on offer. Former Fianna Fail minister Frank Fahey was wheeled out on Friday to defend Nama. He claimed to be frightened that the Irish banks will “fall into foreign ownership” without Nama.

“And”, said an outraged Frank, “look at what the foreign banks have done to this country!”

I’m still trying to figure that one out. The economic collapse was caused by foreign banks, apparently.

By contrast, last week, Michael O’Leary cleverly refused to tell Matt Cooper how he voted in the first Lisbon referendum. “Next question,” he said, as though reluctant to admit something.

“Are you going to be one of those people who switched sides to the ‘Yes’ side?” Cooper asked.

Despite Cooper’s pressure, O’Leary repeatedly insisted on his right to keep his 2008 vote private, creating an impression that he had studied the issue and changed his mind from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’.

In fact, O’Leary voted ‘Yes’ last time — at least, that’s what he told the Business Post last October, when he had no qualms at all about revealing how he voted.

Now, that’s quality bulls**t.

[Return to headlines]



Return to Lisbon Fight a Waste of Time — Ganley

LIBERTAS leader Declan Ganley has claimed that a return to the Lisbon Treaty campaign trail would be a “waste of time”, writes Áine Kerr.

The failed European election candidate insisted he had “no plans” to make a dramatic entrance into the Lisbon Treaty debate ahead of the second referendum in four weeks.

Breaking his silence for the first time since Libertas bombed at the European elections and since an online petition was set up calling on him to return to politics, the businessman firmly ruled out any role in the upcoming campaign.

“No plans, I gave it my best. If there’s a ‘No’, with the cross-party ‘leadership’ we have in Ireland they’ll just make us ‘vote’ again anyway,” he wrote on the online discussion forum Twitter. “In short, no plans to be involved, waste of time.”

In response to messages from a Limerick businessman asking if Mr Ganley expected other anti-Lisbon Treaty supporters to “just surrender”, the Libertas chief said: “No but in the absence of backbone and vision, be confident our ‘leaders’ will. They were rolling over before the last vote was counted.”

The Libertas supporter then asked Mr Ganley if it was not time to remove these ‘leaders’.

“Not up to me, I tried. I’m back in the biz world and enjoying it a lot more,” Mr Ganley said in response.

Following Mr Ganley’s failure to win a seat in the North West, the ‘BringGanleyBack’ website, an online petition, was set up by unknown individuals.

The site argues that a large number of people (84,000) voted for the Libertas leader on his first electoral outing.

“He represents a large section of Irish thought,” the website states.

[Return to headlines]



Spain: 1.3 Mln Travel to Northern Africa, June 15-August 15

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 18 — Over 1.3 million people, mostly individuals who have immigrated to Europe and are returning to their home countries for vacation, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to travel to Northern Africa between June 15 and August 15, informed sources from the Civil Defence Department and emergency services, cited by press agency EFE. During the same period, 355,330 vehicles boarded ferries headed from Spanish ports to Morocco, with a 3.9% decrease compared to the same period in 2008, while the decrease in passenger traffic was 3.8%. The weekend of July 11-13 had the highest traffic for ‘Operation Crossing the Strait’, while the greatest traffic on a single day was recorded on July 12 with 52,858 passengers and 38,994 vehicles. In general, according to sources, the exodus occurred without any incidents thanks to staggered departures. The days on which most people are expected to return to Spain are on August 28, 29, and 30. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: Sagrada Familia Inaugurated as Temple in 2010

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, AUGUST 12 — The ‘Sagrada Familia’, the masterpiece by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudì that is a symbol of Barcelona, will be inaugurated as a temple for the celebration of religious functions during the 2010 ‘La Merce”, Barcelona’s main festivity that falls on September 24. Joan Rigol, president of the Patronage of the Sagrada Familia, made the revelation during an interview on Catalan radio, assuring that work to complete the temple (which began in 1882) is drawing to a close. Rigol said that “Many of my generation, that of the 1930s or 1940s, will be able to see the completion of the Sagrada Familia”. Currently the Patronage he presides is engaged in a dispute with the public administration because of a tunnel for the High Speed Railway that is being created next to the monument’s foundations. He added that “We think that the ministry of Infrastructures and that involved administrations are trying to make us believe that it is a done deed. We hope that a tunnel will be built to serve the city, while also protecting the Sagrada Familia”. Gaudi”s emblematic monument, one of the most visited in Barcelona, noted a “spectacular drop in tourists” at the beginning of the year because of the economic recession, but Jaon Rigol believes that “it is now experiencing a positive moment and is recovering lost ground”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Firebomb Chaos in Uppsala

Authorities are convening a crisis meeting in Uppsala today after a wild weekend of firebombings and burning cars.

On Saturday night in the suburb of Gottsunda, a number of cars were set alight, and a firebomb was thrown into a swimming centre, an officer of Upplands Police told news agency TT. It was the third night in a row of chaos, with youth gangs running rampant, according to a report in the Uppsala Nya Tidning.

A number of local authorities and actors are convening at a hastily arranged crisis meeting on Monday morning to discuss the recent spate of gang violence that culminated in the wild weekend of fires in Gottsunda. Politicians are concerned about the rise of gang-related vandalism, but emphasise that the situation requires long-sighted efforts to address the problems.

At the meeting this morning, between representatives from the county council, rescue services, the police, the fire service and housing association, the police and fire service will present a report on the latest incidents, and the meeting will discuss measures that can be instituted to break the cycle of violence, according to the report in the Uppsala Nya Tidning. The response to the unrest is being handled under the umbrella of a long-standing social, cultural and environmental programme in the district called the “Gottsunda Process”.

“The events of recent days are very serious, and no one benefits from it. Now in the first place we will work to ensure order returns, but unfortunately there is no simple solution for this problem,” said Hilde Klasson, a local volunteer in the Social Democrats, and coordinator of the Gottsunda Process.

Local authorities appear to be pointing the finger at a small number of disaffected youths in the area as being responsible for the disturbances in recent days, although public explanations about the nature of the problems in Gottsanda have thus far been oblique.

Both Klasson, and fellow Gottsanda Process member and chairman of the social committee for children and youth, Anders A. Aronsson, agree that the disturbances involve only a few perpetrators, who were responsible for most of the damage.

“At the same time it is important to emphasise that the picture is not all bleak. Gottsunda also has other faces. For example, no other district in Uppsala has such a vibrant cultural life,” said Aronsson.

There have been calls for the creation of more natural spaces for young people in the area. But Klasson does not believe that the scarcity of public places or infrastructure is a factor behind the disturbances.

“These places exist already. I don’t believe that’s the cause of the problems. It’s important now to build up a good relationship between the police and youth. It’s clear that there is a feeling of exclusion, but that can’t excuse such criminal behaviour,” she said.

The head of Uppsala County Councli’s Social Services (Socialtjänsten) was engaged in the emergency meeting when The Local sought a comment, and had not returned calls by this afternoon.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Fireworks Mob Broken Up by Police

Riot police broke up a mob of 200 Asian youngsters after they threw fireworks at officers in a town where a right-wing march was banned.

Officers wearing helmets and carrying shields went to Luton’s Bury Park after youths attacked local police on Sunday.

The disorder followed community tension over protests in the town.

Bedfordshire Police said protesters had been deterred from a planned march on Sunday by a banning order approved by Home Secretary Alan Johnson last week.

The force added: “[Sunday’s] disorder follows weeks of engagement and public consultation by Bedfordshire Police and Luton Borough Council in response to tensions within the community after the town was identified as a potential location for a march by right-wing supporters.”

Luton Borough Council and Bedfordshire Police were granted a three-month banning order on public processions by four named organisations or associated groups.

Police previously said residents and businesses feared a repeat of the violence and disorder which erupted when the groups previously marched in the town and elsewhere.

Protest plans by March for England, UK Casuals United, United People of Luton and English Defence League had increased tensions in Luton, they added.

Angry scenes broke out in March when a small number of Muslims held an anti-war protest during a homecoming parade of British troops.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Probe Into Police ‘Taser’ Arrest

A police force is to be investigated after a man alleged its officers assaulted him and fired a Taser stun gun at his head as he was arrested.

The 45-year-old filed a complaint against South Wales Police who arrested him on 15 August on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage.

The man from Briton Ferry, Neath, went to hospital after his arrest where he had stitches to his forehead and nose.

The Independent Police Complaint Commission (IPCC) is investigating.

The police watchdog said it had decided to look into the incident following the complaint.

It said police were called to reports of a man causing criminal damage to a car using a crowbar.

The man, who was arrested, alleged that the officers assaulted him and that a Taser, which uses a 50,000 volt shock to disable a suspect, was deployed and hit his head.

The IPCC said he later received between 10 and 12 stitches to his forehead and three stitches to his nose in hospital.

‘Monitoring Tasers’

Tom Davies, IPCC commissioner for Wales, said they were “monitoring the continued roll-out of Taser very closely”.

He said: “Following on from the IPCC role in the Home Office’s Taser trial, all complaints relating to Taser use are now referred to the IPCC, as this complaint has been.”

Mr Davies said the IPCC investigation would establish whether the use of force used to arrest Mr Evans was both “necessary and proportionate”.

“The IPCC will also establish… that its use was properly authorised, tactical advice followed and this was in compliance with policy,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Burkini Stirs Row in Egypt

Many hotels and resorts in Muslim-majority Egypt ban burkini-wearing women from accessing swimming pools. (Google photo)

CAIRO — The impression Omayma Mansour got from her last visit to Egypt was that Islam could also be unwelcome even in one of its lands.

The Egyptian-American mother of two was staying at the Moevenpick in El Gouna resort in Hurghada when she received a shock that might take her months to recover or understand.

Seeing her youngest son, 2, struggling in the swimming pool, she went into the pool with her burkini, a waterproof swimsuit that covers most of the body, to help her kid.

Mansour was immediately asked by a swimming pool attendant to exit the pool.

The man told her she was not allowed to use the swimming pool with her burkini, an outfit consisting of a headscarf, a tunic and trousers.

“The policy to ban veiled women from the pool is discriminatory to all practicing Muslim women,” Mansour told IslamOnline.net.

“This is definitely a violation of our religious freedom as Muslim women.”

Having endured this humiliation, Mansour headed straight to the office of the hotel manager but got nothing back expect what she calls “nonsensical excuses”.

“I think people at these hotels view it [the Islamic dress] as perhaps low-class,” she said.

“So they don’t want that image portrayed in their five-star resorts.”

The burkini, derived from the words burqa (a head-to-ankle dress) and bikini, resembles a wetsuit with built-in hood.

The three-piece covers the whole body except for the feet, hands and face.

The full-length lycra suit is not too figure hugging to embarrass, but is tight enough to allow its wearer to swim freely.

Around 90 percent of Egypt’s 80-million population are Muslim.

Common

Some hotel workers told her that some of their colleagues lost their jobs because they allowed burkini-wearing women into the swimming pool.

This led many to suspect an organized campaign against Islamic dress codes, particularly at hotels and resorts frequented by foreigners.

Nadia El-Awadi, an Egyptian journalist, had a similar experience when she went to Ain Sukhna, a famous resort about 200 kilometers east of the capital Cairo.

As she entered one of the hotels, she was given papers to sign. But she noticed that one of the papers stated that Islamic swimsuits were not allowed in the swimming pool.

“I couldn’t understand what was happening,” El-Awadi, 40, told IOL.

“I felt so sad about it. Nobody should tell anybody what to wear. What to wear and what not to wear is everybody’s personal freedom.”

El-Awadi had to take her luggage and her two children out of the hotel again to seek another place where she could enjoy swimming while being covered.

She discovered that was a really hard catch.

It took the tour operator who organized her journey a long time to find a place that allows covered Muslims into its swimming pools.

“How can this happen in Egypt?” she asked.

Some suspect an organized campaign against Islamic dress codes, particularly at hotels and resorts frequented by foreigners, is in full swing.

“Listen, we don’t have any problem with Islamic swimsuits, but the problem is that some of these suits contain materials not good for the skin of their users,” the Egyptian manager of a five-star hotel told IOL, requesting anonymity.

“These materials aren’t hygienic.”

But the argument is refuted by those who wear the burkini.

“This whole notion that long swimsuits are ‘not hygienic’ is quite offensive and absolutely absurd,” insists Mansour, the American-Egyptian woman.

“The Islamic swimsuit I wore was composed of a lycra, waterproof, polyester material just as any other swimsuit is.”

Clash

“What happens in this regard shows the clash between secular and religious Egypt at its strongest,” Youssef told IOL.

“The government doesn’t tell people what to wear and what not to wear, but at the same time it leaves the owners of hotels and private places to do whatever they want with their clients.”

Egypt has not officially acted against the burkini, the hijab or the niqab.

But some officials, including those linked to the state-run religious establishment, have spoken against them.

Some say hotel and resort owners in Egypt, a country that boasts beautiful beaches on both the Mediterranean and the Red seas, shun the Islamic dress to satisfy foreigners who come in their millions every year.

“Hotel officials do this to please the non-Muslims who come to their hotels,” contends El-Awadi.

“But at the same time, they allow these people to go topless to the swimming pools without getting angry.”

Last year, Egypt received more than 11 million tourists.

Tourism earned the country $10.5 billion in the fiscal year through June, according to the Central Bank figures.

The strange thing though is that while Muslim Egypt does this, many Western countries allow Muslim women to use swimming pools while wearing the burkini.

Earlier this week, authorities in the Norwegian city of Oslo allowed Muslim women to use municipal swimming pools with their burkinis.

The Muslim swimming dress is also allowed in Australia, Britain and the United States.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Iran: Terrorists Become Ministers, And the West Looks on

Il Giornale, August 23, 2009

It’s time for terror institutionalization: it might happen more and more often to Western politicians that they will be shaking the hands of people on Interpol’s “wanted” list, or at least to some leaders who have been publicly praising — and probably also financing — certain notorious multiple-killers of women, children, tourists.

The Iranian regime is sending a very precise messag, in spite of all the diplomatic norms, by appointing Ahmad Vahidi as Iran’s Minister of Defense. Vahidi is on Interpol’s “wanted” list because he is a former commander of the “Quds Force” of the Revolutionary Guards, the unit in charge of Iran’s overseas operations that on 1994 carried out the bomb attack on the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured some 200: people still remember the huge destruction and devistation caused by the bomb, the hell of death and pain; the same images then replied in so many cities: Jerusalem, New York, Mombasa, Madrid, London, Mumbai…

With Vahidi’s appointment, Ahmadinejad is signaling that killing innocent people is moral and good, and that terrorist attacks are rewarded when they take place in big cities far away from the Middle East. The Iranian regime’s choice has a lot to do with its evident involvement in international terrorism; a reminder that sounds like a promise.

Terror still remains a matter of praise: it has passed now from the iconographic representation of the suicide bombers with the rifle inside the houses and mosques to being considered a normal chapter of a cursus honorum, a CV element. And, at the same time, we gape, or even worst, we dialogue with this new culture of death, adopting a policy of appeasement.

Meantime, Libyans took to the streets to welcome home Abdel Basset al-Magrahi, who was just released from British jail where he was held for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, where 270 persons were killed. Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi received him yesterday and welcomed him with a huge embrace; then he thanked everyone, Gordon Brown, the Scottish Prime Minister, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Andrew, for their “brave decision”. Libya, i.e. its leader, has accepted the formal responsibility of the Lockerbie attack. But many keep on following a Syrian-Iranian track, claiming that at the time of the tragedy, no one was interested in accusing Syria of being involved because of the coalition against Saddam Hussein for the First Gulf War. These are only uncertain theories, suppositions. In any case, Syria remains another country that has always demonstrated a very close relationship with Hezbollah and Hamas, through Iranian sponsorship. But, no matter what, the vain American and French policy of the outstretched hand tries all the time to rehabilitate and promote it.

The mechanism works like this: I praise my terrorist, you will do more and more to redeem me and eventually you will yield to my conditions. On July 2008, Hezbollah praised beyond all measure the swap of the corpses of the two kidnapped Israeli soldiers with one of the fiercest terrorists you can imagine, Samir Kuntar, who in ‘79, during the Nahariya terrorist attack, killed a 4-year-old child by smashing her skull against the rocks with the butt of his rifle. But Nasrallah has welcome him back as a hero, turned him into a model, a good example to be emulated. In spite of this, Europe, and in particular the United Kingdom which has started secret contacts with Hezbollah, now prefers to treat it as a popular party — which it is exactly what Hizbullah claims -, trying for the umpteenth time to seek an impossible compromise.

Another fundamental chapter concerns Fatah, the so-called moderate part of the Palestinian leadership, chaired by Abu Mazen, which in the last days held its congress in Bethlehem: President Obama considers Fatah as the main interlocutor of his outstretched hand policy. But the Fatah convention shouted for the joy when famous negotiator (moderate, obviously) Ahmed Qurei, alias Abu Ala, presented as an hero the terrorist Khaled Abu Usba, the man that in 1978 attacked two buses on the coast road south of Haifa and killed 35 passengers, Israelis and tourists. Is this crowd of important delegates an interlocutor for peace? Is this the reason why ithe Europeans are obsessed with releasing Marwan Barghouti, a jailed criminal serving 5 life sentences, and whose large popularity is due to his role as commander during the Second Intifada?

John Brennan, President Obama’s adviser for homeland security and counterterrorism, said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that “even if we condemn and we oppose the illegal tactic of terror, we must recognize and relate to the legitimate rights of the common people that terrorists claim to represent”. What is sure is that Megrahi, Vahidi, Kuntar, and Abu Usba all symbolize the hatred against the West. And even if we understand it very well, this will not help us when Vahidi, as Minister of Defence, will manage the Iranian atomic bomb.

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



Iraq Seeks Serbian Return of MiGs

The Iraqi authorities say they are negotiating the return of 19 fighter jets which were sent to the former Yugoslavia in the 1980s for repairs.

A defence ministry delegation has gone to Belgrade to discuss bringing the MiG-21s and 23s back into service.

A spokesman said the aircraft, whose existence had recently come to light, would be an important addition to Iraq’s defence capability.

Two of the MiGs were ready for immediate use, a statement said.

The statement did not specify how the discovery was made or what condition the other 17 aircraft were in.

At the moment Iraq’s air force has no jet fighters, only helicopters, and it had been planning to buy 18 F-16 fighters from the US manufacturer Lockheed Martin. It is not known if the discovery of the MiGs will change that.

Sanctions and flying restrictions were imposed on Iraq following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, after which Saddam Hussein’s government was unable to repatriate military equipment located abroad.

After his government’s overthrow in 2003, the Iraqi state collapsed and its army was disbanded by Iraq’s US-led occupiers. Baghdad has struggled to rebuild its military capability since then.

The Iraqi defence ministry spokesman said four Iraqi navy vessels had also been discovered in Egypt and Italy, as well as “aircraft and equipment in Russia and France”.

Saddam Hussein co-operated closely with the communist-ruled Yugoslav government and its Serbian successor, led by Slobodan Milosevic.

Serbia’s defence minister visited Iraq earlier in August and Belgrade has recently signed deals to export hundreds of millions of dollars worth of military equipment to Iraq.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Archaeology: Italy Involved in Mosaic Restoration in Syria

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, AUGUST 17 — A group of Italian experts has taken part in a group of restorers, alongside Syrian and Lebanese experts, who, as part of a cooperation and development activity, have carried out a one-month project in Syria to carry out work using advanced techniques on a mosaic discovered in 1976. The restoration was carried out in several stages: cleaning and support of the back section of the mosaic, the creation of new supports, the cleaning of the surface of the mosaic, completion and colouration. The restored mosaic was found in 1976 in the area of Amrit in 1977 and was transferred on a cement support so that restoration work could be carried out. In 1978 it was exhibited in the museum in the citadel of Arwad. It is considered to be one of the most important mosaics of the Syrian artistic heritage. It is a funereal floor mosaic, in that it lined the floor of a tomb and is composed of two panels. The first panel portrays the goddess of the earth, Gaia, on whose head there is an upturned plate of fruit. The figure is surrounded by a frame of rhomboidal geometric decorative motifs and by a Greek inscription in a rhombus above her head, whilst a second inscription stands out below the figure. The second panel features the bust of a man with a crown of flowers on his head. The figure could be identified as Aeolos, the god of wind. The mosaic is surrounded by a frame of undulating geometric motifs. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Bahrain: Overcrowding in Women’s Prisons, Report

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 25 — Overcrowding is one of the main problems in Bahrain’s only women’s prison. The criticism comes in a report by a human rights association in the small kingdom, Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS). The report, which is published in the Gulf Daily News, says that up to ten prisoners are held in one cell, which measures four by five metres. It says that because of the lack of space, under-age girls are locked up together with murderers, prostitutes, drug-addicts and prisoners suffering from contagious diseases. Inspections revealed however, that only one prisoner was found with hepatitis B and one with AIDS. The BHRS campaigners found 57 prisoners in the jail, including a 17 year-old girl. Girls under the age of 15 are considered under-age in Bahrain law. The report condemns this rule as conflicting with international conventions which set the legal age as 18. The Ministry for the Interior has announced a project to build another prison with a women’s wing, which will include more services for prisoners. Among the recommendations in the report are that the construction of the prison be expedited, and that professional courses be established and new amendments in the 25 year-old laws over rehabilitation and detention be created, with lighter sentences for minor offences. Abdulla Al Deerazi, secretary general of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, maintains that allowing an unscheduled inspection of prisons is a measure “which improves the practice of the defence of human rights”. The BHRS is also calling for Bahrain to ratify the United Nations convention against torture, which was signed in 1998. Ratification, explained Al Deerazi, would allow humanitarian organisations and NGOs to visit prisons without prior notification. “These inspections ensure that detention and rehabilitation centres respect the criteria for which they were created”, concluded the secretary general. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Defence: USD 100 Billion to be Invested by 2014

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, AUGUST 26 — The Middle East will invest more than 100 billion dollars in weapons in the coming five years, 10% of global defence expenditure. This is one of the results of the survey carried out by US consultancy agency Frost & Sullivan, quoted by the United Arab Emirates newspaper The national. “This is a huge increase from the current 7-8 percent of the global budget” said Balaji Srimoolanathan, director of the company’s defence department. The main reasons for the increase are regional tensions, domestic security and consolidation of oil resource defences. The countries that will spend most are Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia, on its way to military dominance in the region, spent 36 billion USD last year and will do the same in the coming five years, according to the Frost & Sullivan report. Israel’s spending is also stable, USD 13 billion this year and Iraq, gradually regaining responsibility for its own domestic and international security, will spend USD 11 billion by 2014. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Here’s Your Story: No Engagement Game Because Iran Burned Down

By Barry Rubin

Gerald Seib’s article in the Wall Street Journal is worth responding to because it does symbolize the curious mentality about Iran prevailing in American policymaking and opinion-making circles. The article is entitled, “Iran Collapse Complicates U.S. Moves.”

On the contrary! I think it makes things much simpler and clearer.

But first a story told to me many years ago by famed radio host Barry Farber:

A reporter is dispatched to cover a high school basketball game but doesn’t file a story. As deadline approaches the editor irritably calls the journalist into his office and asks where is the story?

“There isn’t any story,” says the reporter.

“Why not?” asks the editor.

“There wasn’t any game,” the journalist replies.

“Why not?” asks the editor.

“The gym burned down.”

For those of you who are journalists with certain mass media outlets, I should explain the point of the anecdote: The gym burning down was the story.

Now back to Seib…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



Iraq-Syria War of Words Escalates

Syria’s president has hit back at Iraqi accusations that Syria supports deadly insurgent attacks in Iraq, calling the claims immoral and illogical.

President Bashar al-Assad was speaking as Turkey launched a diplomatic initiative to defuse a growing rift.

Iraq has accused Syria of hosting terrorist training camps and sheltering alleged masterminds of recent attacks.

France and Iran have also joined efforts to cool a row which threatens regional stability and co-operation.

Last week, Iraq and Syria recalled their ambassadors from each other’s capitals following Iraqi allegations of Syrian involvement in two devastating bombings on 19 August in Baghdad which killed about 100 people.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Cypriot counterpart, Dimitris Christofias, President Assad said Syria had asked Iraq to provide evidence to back up its claims, but had not received any response.

“When Syria is accused of killing Iraqis at a time it’s hosting around 1.2 million Iraqis… the least that can be said about this accusation is that it’s immoral,” Mr Assad said.

“When Syria is accused of supporting terrorism, while it has been fighting it for decades… this is a political accusation that follows no political logic.

“And when it is accused of terrorism without proof, it is outside any legal logic,” he added.

‘Religious teaching’

Indicating from the Iraqi side that the row was far from being settled, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said “90% of terrorists” of Arab origin had infiltrated Iraq via Syria.

[…]

The 29-year-old, calling himself Muhammad al-Shamari, said he had then crossed into Iraq and carried out a number of attacks.

“They taught us lessons in Islamic law and trained us to fight. The camp was well known to Syrian intelligence,” he said.

Last week, Iraqi police broadcast the confession of an Iraqi man, in which he said a former Iraqi Baathist based in Syria had ordered him to carry out the ministry bombings. It is impossible to verify any of the claims.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



New Developments in Iran’s Missile Capabilities: Implications Beyond the Middle East

by Uzi Rubin

Iran is vigorously pursuing several missile and space programs at an almost feverish pace with impressive achievements. The Iranians have upgraded their ballistic missiles to become satellite launchers. To orbit a satellite is a highly sophisticated endeavor. It requires proficiency in stage separation and advanced guidance and control systems to insert the satellite into a stable, desired trajectory. They took the Shahab, extended it a bit, added a new lightweight second stage, and now they have the Safir space launch vehicle. The very capability to build a two-stage satellite launcher, rather than the usual three-stage rockets for space-lift vehicles, is quit remarkable by itself — an impressive engineering achievement.

In spite of the Missile Technology Control Regime and in the face of sanctions, Iran has succeeded in acquiring the needed infrastructure and to raise a cadre of proficient scientists and engineers backed by academic research institutes. Iranian missile technology now seems to be more advanced than that of North Korea.

The solid-propellant Sejil missile signifies a technological and strategic breakthrough. This missile already poses a threat to a number of European Union countries. Based on its demonstrated achievements in solid propulsion and staging, Iran will face no significant hurdle in upscaling the Sejil into a compact, survivable intermediate-range ballistic missile. A range of 3,600 km. will be sufficient to put most of the EU under threat.

Contrary to a recent report by U.S. and Russian scientists published by the EastWest Institute in Washington, D.C., the solid-propellant technology demonstrated by the Sejil gives the Iranian a key for longer-range missiles that could be deployed in a survivable manner from Western Iran. The report claims that it will take the Iranians just six years to develop a nuclear warhead that could be carried by a ballistic missile. By that time the Iranians might already have the appropriate missiles to carry such warheads. The West would do well to start preparing its defenses right now.

Iran Invests in Nuclear and Missile Technology

The cumulative weight of Iranian missile development achievements in the last two years puts Iran’s programs into a context which might be wider than the Middle East. Up to now, the Iranian programs could fit only a local scenario. However, recent developments may show not necessarily the intention but at least the capability of the Iranians to extend their missile program to potential targets beyond the Middle East.

The Iranians love to show their hardware in parades. They have two armed forces: the army and the Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guard. The army holds its parade on April 22 every year, while the Pasdaran holds its parade in December. During the big parade the army held in 2008, they displayed guns and artillery, all of which had been purchased before 1979 during the time of the Shah. They showed a modern tank that they make in small numbers, but most were Soviet T55s, a tank from the 1950s. Obviously they are not investing much money in ground forces or in new armament.

During the air show, some 220 planes flew above Tehran, but, again, they were F5s made in America and bought during the Shah’s time, Mirage F1s, and Iraqi aircraft which were flown to Iran during the Gulf War. There were F4 Phantoms, F14 Tomcats, and MIG 21s. The most modern fighter aircraft they flew was a MIG 29 from 1992.

So we see that the money is not being invested in the ground forces or in the air force. Where is the money going? It goes into nuclear technologies and missiles. They can make all the excuses in the world that everything is for peaceful purposes, but the fact is that Iran’s biggest budgets are going to nuclear technology and missile technology.

Iran’s Engineers Become More Advanced than North Koreans

In 1988 the Iranians had only Scud B and Scud C missiles. Ten years later they had their first operational Shahab III. The Iranians bought the Shahab, which has a range of 1,300 km., from North Korea, including the production line. We now see the Iranians building underground silos for the Shahab, to make it more survivable.

The Iranians are also now capable of taking an unguided rocket like the Zalzal — that Hizbullah also has — and turning it into a guided rocket with a range of 200 kilometers. This is an original Iranian project; we don’t see it anywhere else.

They have also upgraded their ballistic missiles to become satellite launchers. To orbit a satellite is a very complicated project. There are missile stages, and a careful guidance and control system to insert the satellite into a stable, desired trajectory. They took the Shahab, extended it a bit, added more propellant, and now they have the Safir space launch vehicle. They launched it twice and the second time it was successful; for a while they had a test satellite in orbit. They built a two-stage satellite launcher with a very elegant upper stage, incomparable to anything we know — an impressive engineering achievement.

Up to now, North Korea has been the fountainhead of technology to Iran. In the 1990s and the early 2000s we saw the North Korean No-dong missile appearing in Iran, as well as the Shahab II and Shahab III, which in North Korea are called the Wassong V and Wassong VI. The Scud is a North Korean invention which was also exported to Iran. But looking at April’s North Korean satellite launch attempt, they used a satellite launcher that looks nothing like what we see in Iran. It was completely different, much bigger and heavier, and with three stages.

This means that the connection between Iranian and North Korean technology is not that tight anymore, and the pupils are now the teachers. The Iranians have reached a level of proficiency which has disconnected them from North Korea and in some cases they are more advanced than the North Koreans. The Iranians are now going to deploy a missile which is nothing like what the North Koreans have, so a connection may now be the other way around. Start watching Iran not as a market for North Korean merchandise but as an exporter of Iranian missile technologies.

Iranian Breakthrough: A Solid Fuel Missile

On May 19, 2009, the EastWest Institute issued a report entitled Iran’s Nuclear and Missile Potential: A Joint Threat Assessment by U.S. and Russian Technical Experts, claiming that “There is no reliable information at the present on the state of Iran’s efforts to develop solid propellant rocket motors.” The next day, on May 20, the Iranians successfully fired a solid fuel Sejil rocket. Solid propellant leaves a trail of particles behind, while liquid propellant has transparent flames that don’t leave any trail, so video reports of the launch are quite revealing.

What is also impressive here is the pace of development. In 2005 we heard for the first time about the coming of the Sejil. The first flight occurred thirty months after the end of development of the solid propellant motors. Iran’s space program is even more impressive.

They have the engineers to understand what they are doing. They have the system engineers to engineer fixes and they have the program managers to run the whole program. They have demonstrated the ability to manufacture a 14-ton solid propellant rocket motor, and they have the infrastructure they need. To build such a rocket you need big, expensive installations. They are not available for sale, they are controlled by the Missile Technology Control Regime, but Iran has managed to acquire them. All of this infrastructure is in Iran. Another point on the proficiency of their engineers: I received a list of Iranian technical publications from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, all of them dealing with big solid propellant rocket motors.

The Iranians conducted six major tests of multi-stage missiles in eighteen months by two different teams from two different test ranges with all the instrumentation and flight control guidance system telemetry. When there is a challenge, they overcome the challenge.

Europe Coming into Iranian Missile Range

The Iranian defense minister has spoken of two missiles: the Kadr I that goes 2,000 km. and the Sejil that goes more than 2,000 km. Why is 2,000 km. significant? Less than 2,000 km. does not threaten Europe. Beyond that you are starting to threaten Europe.

Two weeks after the EastWest Institute report came out, Ted Postol of MIT, one of its authors, published an addendum to the report. Based on data he presented, our calculations show that the Sejil has an actual range of about 2,500 km. Such a range could reach Warsaw and, indeed, six European Union countries: Poland, Slovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Greece. The Tabriz launch area in Iran is as big as Azerbeijan, bigger than Israel and half of Jordan. It’s about 50,000 sq. km., full of mountains, valleys, and canyons. You can hide thousands of ballistic missiles there with a very high probability of survival. So the capability to make a survivable missile that can threaten Europe now exists in Iran.

Iran is vigorously pursuing several missile programs and a space program at a feverish rate. No one else, except the Chinese perhaps, is working at such a speed. In spite of all the sanctions, the Iranians have managed to acquire all the needed infrastructure to make advanced missiles and develop a technology cadre. They are building up technological universities. They have been in the business for twenty years.

The solid propellant Sejil is the watershed breakthrough. The Iranians have the technology right now to produce an intermediate range ballistic missile that can threaten Europe. Whether they do it or not involves the question of intention, but they are capable of doing it. The EastWest Institute report estimates that it will take Iran about six years to fit a nuclear warhead on a missile. If this is true, then the time to start missile defense in Europe is now. The fact that the Iranians are building that capability is something that should be brought to public view.

The distance from Iran to Israel remains the same no matter what missiles the Iranians develop. From an Israeli anti-missile defense perspective, the threat remains more or less the same, whether it’s a Shahab III or a Sejil. But while the implications of Iran’s continued missile development are not so great from an Israeli point of view, they may be quite significant for those who live beyond the Middle East.

* * *

Uzi Rubin has been involved in Israeli military research, development, and engineering programs for almost forty years. Between 1991 and 1999 he served as head of Israel’s Missile Defense Organization, and in that capacity he oversaw the development of Israel’s Arrow anti-missile defense system. He was awarded the Israel Defense Prize in 1996. This Jerusalem Issue Brief is based on his presentation to the Institute for Contemporary Affairs in Jerusalem on August 6, 2009.

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



Saudi University Professor Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Al-Walid Bin Talal and Other Owners of Saudi TV Channels Should be Executed According to Islamic Law

[Video available here: www.memritv.org/clip/en/2216.htm]

Following are excerpts from an interview with Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad, a professor of Islamic law at Al-Imam University, Riyadh, which aired on Daleel TV on August 8, 2009.

Interviewer: A year ago, Sheik Saleh Al-Lahidan issued a fatwa that made all hell break loose. He demanded that owners [of liberal Arab TV channels be placed on trial] and repent. Do you support Sheik Al-Lahidan’s demand?

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: I believe all Muslim scholars support him in this.

[…]

I believe that one of our problems is that we continue to bury our heads in the sand, and talk about “Lebanese” TV channels, as if we are being honest. Take LBC, for example. We all know who owns it. We should say to [the owner] Al-Walid bin Talal: Beware. The same is true of MBC TV, Al-Arabiya TV, the ART and Rotana channels — all these [Saudi] channels serve to destroy Islam and the Muslims.

[…]

Regarding these base channels that I have mentioned, and others like them — I have no doubt whatsoever that their danger to the Islamic nation is no less than that of the Zionist Jews, or of the Crusader Americans in Iraq and elsewhere.

Interviewer: What led you to such an extremist view? Note that you are equating channels owned by Muslims, by Saudi citizens, with the Jews.

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: I wasn’t equating them. I said they are more dangerous. I was being precise. in my view, the deadly poison that they are spreading has reached the bone marrow.

[…]

The people who spread corruption in the land — whether highway robbers, drug dealers, or the owners of these TV channels, who are even more dangerous… These channels broadcast corruption and nudity. They are all people who spread corruption in the land, and they should be tried in an Islamic court of law and sentenced to death. This [fatwa] is clearly in accordance with Islamic law. There’s no doubt about it.

Interviewer: The ferocity of this fatwa has cast fear in the hearts of…

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: … of the hypocrites.

Interviewer: In everybody’s hearts. Even in the West, it received much attention.

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Islam itself casts fear…

Interviewer: No, it doesn’t. Islam is a religion of tolerance and leniency, Sheik.

Sheik Yousuf Al-Ahmad: Allah says otherwise. Islam is lenient, but the infidel West trembles in fear of it. Allah has ordered us to prepare: “Prepare for them what force and steeds of war you can, to cast fear in the hearts of Allah’s enemies and of your own.” Our human nature may tell us that stoning is unacceptable, but this is a punishment decreed by Allah. If Allah decrees death — this is how it should be. If the Islamic scholars ruled that the punishment for drug dealers is death, this is how it should be.

I believe that [the TV channel owners] are more dangerous than all of these. Forget about whether or not they should be killed — we demand that they face trial in an Islamic court of law. I call upon the good, honorable businessmen to contribute their millions in order to hire lawyers to file Islamic lawsuits against these TV channels owners, and to persecute them legally. I call upon lawyers and good people in Saudi Arabia, in the Gulf states, in Egypt, in Yemen, and everywhere, to banish them from all Muslim countries.

           — Hat tip: Jewish Odysseus [Return to headlines]

Russia


Africans ‘Under Siege’ In Moscow

Nearly 60% of black and African people living in Russia’s capital Moscow have been physically assaulted in racially motivated attacks, says a new study.

Africans working or studying in the city live in constant fear of attack, according to the report by the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy.

A quarter of 200 people surveyed said they had been assaulted more than once. Some 80% had been verbally abused.

But the number of assaults was down from the MPC’s last survey in 2002.

The report’s clear conclusion was that Africans living in Russia exist in a state of virtual siege, says the BBC’s Rupert Wingfield Hayes in Moscow.

Extreme violence

Many of the African respondents said they:

  • Avoided using the Moscow metro
  • Were also careful to avoid crowded public places
  • Did not go out on Russian national holidays or on days when there were football matches

Many of the attacks on Africans were pre-meditated and extremely violent, the report found.

One Nigerian migrant interviewed by the BBC had been repeatedly stabbed in the back and then shot.

Another man said his attacker had attempted to remove his scalp.

Officially there are some 10,000 Africans living in Moscow, but far more are believed to live there illegally — many as economic migrants.

The Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy is an English-speaking interdenominational Christian congregation that has ministered to Moscow’s foreign community since 1962.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Putin Condemns Nazi-Soviet Pact

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has condemned the Nazi-Soviet pact signed a week before Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland as “immoral”.

In a piece for the Polish paper Gazeta Wyborcza, he also expressed sorrow over the massacre of Polish army officers by Soviet forces at Katyn in 1940.

His words are seen as a bid to ease tensions with Poland over World War II.

But he also argued the Munich agreement signed by France and Britain wrecked efforts to build an anti-Nazi alliance.

Mr Putin is among several statesmen attending a service in the Polish port city of Gdansk on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of Poland’s invasion.

“Our duty is to remove the burden of distrust and prejudice left from the past in Polish-Russian relations,” said Mr Putin in the article, which was also published on the Russian government website.

“Our duty… is to turn the page and start to write a new one.”

Katyn regret

Memories of the 1939 pact — in which the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany essentially agreed to carve up Poland and the Baltic States between them — have long soured Moscow’s relations with Poland and other east European states.

Within a month of the pact being signed, Soviet troops had invaded and occupied parts of eastern Poland.

“It is possible to condemn — and with good reason — the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact concluded in August 1939,” wrote Mr Putin, referring to the two foreign ministers who signed the pact at the Kremlin.

It was clear today, he said, that any form of agreement with the Nazi regime was “unacceptable from the moral point of view and had no chance of being realised”.

“But after all,” he added, “a year earlier France and England signed a well-known agreement with Hitler in Munich, destroying all hope for the creation of a joint front for the fight against fascism.”

The Munich Agreement of September 1938, widely seen as the low point of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement, allowed Germany to annex Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland region.

Mr Putin added that Russian people understood “all too well the acute emotions of Poles in connection with Katyn”.

In 1940 Soviet secret police massacred more than 21,000 army officers and intellectuals on Stalin’s direct orders in the Katyn forest near the city of Smolensk.

Moscow only took responsibility for the killings in 1990, having previously blamed the massacre on the Nazis.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



The Decline of Russia’s Oligarchs

If you look up the word “oligarch” in the dictionary, you will find it means a member of a small group holding power in a state.

Today, though, it usually refers to the super-rich Russians who made their fortunes in the sometimes barbaric business world of their country in the 1990s.

In some cases, they sought to convert their new financial clout into political influence.

They grew even richer as oil prices and the Moscow stock markets soared in the boom years which followed.

Then, 12 months ago, as the global financial crisis reached Russia, the oligarchs got a shock.

“They have taken the biggest hit because they had the most to lose,” says Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Uralsib, a banking and investment company based in Moscow.

“The stock market in the second half of last year fell almost 75%, and we’ve seen that reflected in the Forbes list of billionaires et cetera,” Mr Weafer says.

“Just looking at the wealth of these individuals, they’ve taken a huge hit — hundreds of billions of dollars have been wiped from the value they had in the middle of 2008.”

[…]

Stewart Lansley — a co-author of the book, Londongrad, about their lives in the British capital — says their reduced spending actually fuelled the downturn in the luxury goods market in Britain. Now, he says, they’re returning.

“What’s happened in the last couple of months is that the Russians have been creeping back. There’s evidence already that they’ve started looking for bargains in a number of areas, they’ve been reappearing in jewellery shops, they’ve been reappearing buying Rolls Royces and top end cars.”

The oligarchs have usually excelled at reading the Russian political situation. Jonathan Eyal, from the Royal United Services Institute in London, agrees that the government currently has a political advantage — but, he argues, that does not mean that the oligarchs are finished.

“The oligarchs have many opportunities of influencing Russian political life, partly because Russian political life is itself now quite brittle,” Mr Eyal says.

“We have a double-headed leadership — on the one hand, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, on the other hand President Medvedev — and in that kind of a structure the oligarchs will always find a weak point, or will always be able to divide and rule.”

The dictionary definition of oligarch doesn’t refer to wealth. Russia’s oligarchs have definitely lost part of theirs, and, as a result, they may also lose some of the “power they hold in the state”.

Given their proven ability to survive and prosper in the toughest of times, they are not about to disappear.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Caucasus


Russia ‘Kills Al-Qaeda Operative’

Russian forces have killed an al-Qaeda militant in the increasingly volatile North Caucasus region of Dagestan, officials say.

The Algerian national, known as “Doctor Mohammed”, was killed when police stormed a house near Chechnya on Sunday night, an unidentified official said.

Correspondents say a violent Islamist insurgency is growing in the region.

The official announced the deaths in a televised address, dressed in combat gear with his back to the camera.

“A representative of an international terrorist organisation in the North Caucasus tasked to oversee terrorist acts in Dagestan was neutralised during a combat operation,” he told Russia’s Vesti-24 news channel.

A second militant was also killed as police raided the house in Khasavyurt, near the border with Chechnya, he added.

Violence has flared in the North Caucasus in recent months, with dozens of militants and members of the security forces being killed in Dagestan, neighbouring Chechnya and Ingushetia.

Russia says the insurgency is being funded by foreign-based extremist Islamist organisations.

Russian forces have fought two wars against Islamist separatists in the mainly Muslim republic of Chechnya since 1994. The conflicts claimed more than 100,000 lives and left much of Chechnya in ruins.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan: NATO Chief Calls for More Local Soldiers

Ankara, 28 August (AKI) — NATO’s secretary-general has urged member countries to step up the training of Afghan security forces but said the alliance would remain in Afghanistan for “as long as it takes”. Speaking on a visit to Turkey, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who called for reinforcements earlier this month, would not comment further on troop numbers.

“I think it is premature to present exact numbers. We are waiting for an analysis from (U.S. Army General Stanley) McChrystal and on the basis of that analysis we will be able to calculate the exact number of troops,” Rasmussen said in an interview with a small group of foreign journalists in Turkey.

But he added: “The number of troops does matter.”

Meanwhile, Rasmussen joined Turkish leaders at a Ramadan fast-breaking dinner Thursday in what he described as a manifestation of his respect for Islam.

“Please see my presence here tonight as a clear manifestation of my respect for Islam as one of the world’s great religions,” Rasmussen said at the iftar, or the evening meal when Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

“Fasting is meant to teach patience, modesty, self-restraint and giving and reaching out to the less fortunate. These are all universal human values that go beyond cultures and religions,” he said.

Turkey had objected to the appointment of the former Danish foreign minister to NATO’s top post, partly due to his stance during the controversy over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in Denmark in 2005.

The row was resolved at a NATO summit in April when US President Barack Obama convinced Turkish leaders to drop their objections.

Rasmussen praised Turkey’s role as “a bridge between Europe, the Arab world and Central Asia” and pledged to work for better ties between NATO and Muslim countries.

“I’m confident that we will make real progress in building trust and cooperation between the alliance and partners in the Mediterranean and the Middle East,” he said.

Rasmussen had invoked freedom of expression to defend the publication of a series of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper in September 2005, which triggered outrage and deadly unrest among Muslims worldwide.

Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a practicing Muslim who had previously criticised Rasmussen, said the NATO chief’s participation in the iftar “will be a meaningful message to the people of my country and the Muslim world.”

Rasmussen held talks with Erdogan and Turkish president Abdullah Gul on Thursday.

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



Jail Term for Sri Lankan Editor

The high court in Sri Lanka has sentenced a prominent Tamil journalist to 20 years in prison after convicting him under anti-terrorism laws.

JS Tissainayagam was found guilty of “causing communal disharmony”.

Mr Tissainayagam was arrested in 2008 and charged with inciting violence in articles in his magazine, the North Eastern Monthly, which is now closed.

He was also accused of receiving funds from the Tamil Tigers rebels. He denied supporting violence.

Mr Tissainayagam’s lawyer says he will appeal and that his client never sought to arouse hatred.

The world’s largest organisation of journalists, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), has condemned the judgement — which also sentences Mr Tissainayagam to hard labour while in prison — and described it as “disproportionate, brutal and inhumane”.

‘Widespread attention’

Mr Tissainayagam was found guilty of causing “racial hatred” and “supporting terrorism”, a court official said.

The court found that he had received money from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to fund his website, the official said.

One of the articles accused the government of shelling a coastal town and trying to drive out its population in the war which was going on at the time, says the BBC’s Charles Haviland, in Colombo.

The Tamil journalist has already been in detention for a year-and-a-half and was one of a handful of journalists mentioned in May by US President Barack Obama, who called them “emblematic examples” of reporters jailed for their work.

The Sri Lankan government said Mr Obama had been misinformed.

‘Victimised’

The case of JS Tissainayagam has received widespread attention in Sri Lanka, and international rights group have been campaigning for his release — they say Sri Lanka is using anti-terror laws to silence peaceful critics.

The general secretary of the IFJ, Aidan White, said the sentence was a “chilling reminder of how dangerous Sri Lanka has become for independent journalists”.

“This man has been victimised for no more than holding the government to account and giving voice to legitimate, if critical opinion,” he said, calling for the journalist’s immediate release.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Pictured: The Man Who Had His Nose and Ears Cut Off by the Taliban for Daring to Vote

Lal Mohammad was determined to stand against Taliban threats and exercise his right to vote in Afghanistan’s presidential election.

But he now regrets his defiance.

These horrifying pictures show a fearful Mohammad recovering after he was ambushed by Taliban fighters as he walked to a polling station last week.

The 40-year-old farmer was beaten and mutilated. The Taliban cut off his ears and part of his nose in the shocking attack.

The Taliban vowed to disrupt the August 20 vote, threatening reprisals against voters and staging scores of rocket attacks and several bombings across the country on election day.

The threats and violence failed to stop the election from taking place, but they do seem to have hurt turnout in some areas, especially the Taliban heartland in the south.

Mohammad was in pain and in tears as he gave the gruesome account of his ordeal.

He described how militants stopped and searched him while he was on his way to a polling booth. They beat him with the butt of an assault rifle after they found his voting card.

Then they took out a knife.

‘I saw one reaching my nose with a knife. I asked him to stop, but it was useless,’ Mohammad said.

‘I regret very much getting the card and going to vote.’

Election officials have reported scattered incidents in which militants cut off voters’ fingers stained with indelible ink.

The ink was meant to prevent multiple voting but it also helped the militants pick out people who had cast their ballots.

A Taliban spokesman denied before the election that an order had been given to mutilate voters.

Mohammad described how he lay bleeding and unconscious for several hours, coming to only after a man from his village spotted him and put him on the back of a donkey.

But with no proper health care facility in remote Dai Kundi province, Mohammad travelled for three days over mountain tracks and dirt roads by donkey and car to reach the capital.

After answering some questions, Mohammad, apparently exhausted, slumped back onto his hospital bed.

Like two thirds of Afghans, Mohammad does not read or write.

He said he did not even know who was running for office when he went to vote but had been excited by the prospect of casting a ballot to help choose a president.

A doctor said Mohammad needed plastic surgery and weeks for his treatment and recovery.

Mohammad said he hoped the government would look after his family until he got better.

But Afghanistan remains in political limbo until the final results of the presidential election are tallied.

The results are expected to be announced today, with incumbent President Hamid Karzai currently in the lead.

Mounting accusations that the election was a failure has raised fundamental questions about the coalition strategy to rebuild Afghanistan.

The independent Electoral Complaints Commission says that of more than 2,100 allegations of wrongdoing during voting and vote-counting, 618 have been deemed serious enough to affect the election’s outcome, if proven.

Whatever the outcome, the government must be ready to implement a strong infrastructure, because the Taliban — despite the violence — is winning support to their cause, a top counter-insurgency expert said today.

The Taliban were already running courts, hospitals and even an ombudsman in parallel to the government, making a real difference to local people, said David Kilcullen, a senior adviser to U.S. commander General Stanley McChrystal.

‘A government that is losing to a counter-insurgency isn’t being outfought, it is being out-governed. And that’s what’s happening in Afghanistan,’ Kilcullen told Australia’s National Press Club.

Though Karzai remains ahead, his lead is not enough to avoid a second round against his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah.

Kilcullen, an Australian military officer and adviser to past U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said Karzai’s government was failing to maintain a rapport with local people, who were now turning to the Taliban for court judgements, education and even fair taxation assessment.

A network of 15 Sharia courts in the Taliban-dominated south spent relatively little time on hardline Islamic issues, as Westerners usually believed, but instead focused 95 per cent of effort on civil issues, like land and inheritance disputes.

Local people would laugh at the idea that they could go to the police if a bike or goat was stolen, Kilcullen said, while the Taliban had even set up an ombudsman’s office near the southern militant stronghold of Kandahar to hear complaints.

‘It’s a direct challenge to the international security forces,’ he said.

‘If the Taliban do something that offends you, you go to the ombudsman and you complain, and they hear the case. Sometimes they fire or even execute Taliban commanders for breaking the code of conduct.’

Kilcullen said hard fighting in Afghanistan would likely last another two years, after which insurgents would hopefully believe it was better to negotiate than continue combat with international and government forces.

That would be followed by a three-year transition to effective Afghan government and five-year overwatch period involving international forces as back-up, he said.

A Taliban leader who threatened to kill Prince Harry has been assassinated, it was revealed today.

Mullah Abdul Karim was killed by Australian forces in the Oruzgan region of southern Afghanistan earlier this month.

Last year Karim described Prince Harry as an “important chicken’.

The Prince had previously been serving in Helmand Province but withdrawn after news of his secret deployment leaked out.

Chief of Joint Operations, Australian Forces, Lieutenant General Mark Evans confirmed that Karim had been killed, along with a number of other insurgents.

He said: ‘Mullah Karim was killed during an operation directed against the insurgent network of improvised explosive device operators in Oruzgan Province.

‘Mullah Karim was a tactical-level insurgent commander active in the Khaz Oruzgan area and known to be directly responsible for numerous attacks against Australian and Afghan forces.

‘He was also heavily involved in insurgent recruitment in the area and was responsible for the frequent harassment of, and threats against, the local population during the lead-up to the elections.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


New Charges at Zambia Porn Trial

Two Zambian journalists have been charged with contempt of court after publishing an article in support of their news editor who is on trial.

The journalists say charges against Chansa Kabwela — that she distributed obscene material — should be dropped.

She sent photos to government members showing a woman giving birth without medical help during a strike in Zambian hospitals in June. The baby died.

She says she was exposing health issues and urging nurses to end a strike.

President Rupiah Banda has branded the pictures, published by The Post, the country’s biggest selling newspaper, pornographic and demanded a police investigation.

Earlier the government barred rival activists from attending the trial.

It said they would no longer be allowed in court after police had to intervene following scuffles between government supporters and Ms Kabwela’s sympathisers.

Graphic pictures

Prosecutors in Ms Kabwela’s trial complained about the article, prompting magistrate Charles Kafunda to bring charges against the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Fred M’membe and journalist Muna Ndulo.

They are expected to appear in court on Wednesday.

Ms Kabwela did not publish the controversial photographs, but sent copies to a number of prominent people and women’s rights groups, along with a letter calling for the strike to be brought to an end.

The defence is arguing that the case rests on the definition of obscenity and so witnesses should have to describe what counts as obscene and arousing.

The BBC’s Jo Fidgen in Lusaka says the pictures are graphic, showing a woman in the process of giving birth to a baby in the breech position — when the baby’s legs come out first.

Its shoulders, legs and arms are visible, but the head has not yet been delivered.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Australian Navy Intercepts Suspected Asylum Seekers

SYDNEY (Reuters) — An Australian naval ship on Saturday intercepted a boatload of suspected asylum seekers, a government minister said, the latest in a wave of arrivals that has stoked fears of weak border security.

The boat was stopped near Ashmore Island off Australia’s northern coast, Home Affairs Minister Brendan O’Connor said in a statement. An initial count showed 55 people on board including three crew. Their nationalities were not known.

Border protection is a hot political issue in Australia. Critics blame a new rise in people-smuggling this year on a softer stance on the issue by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, compared to the conservative government he ousted in 2007.

“The group will be transferred to Christmas Island where they will undergo security, identity and health checks as well as establish their reasons for travel,” O’Connor said, referring to the latest arrivals.

Australia has a processing center for suspected asylum-seekers on Christmas Island, an Indian Ocean possession just south of the Indonesian island of Java.

Many of the people-smugglers are thought to be based in Indonesia, although the asylum seekers are generally from war-ravaged countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



EU Wants Plan to Distribute Refugees

(by Ugo Caltagirone) (ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — After the tragedy of Eritrean refugees, Europe is trying to awaken from its stupor to bring in concrete measures as concerns refugees fleeing from oppressive regimes, as well as to prevent leaving such as member states as Italy, Malta, Greece and Spain — ever more involved in the troublesome handling of illegal immigration flows across the Mediterranean — on their own. The objective of the European Commission — which on Wednesday will be proposing a plan to distribute immigrants with the right to asylum out among all EU countries — is to bring in true joint action by launching an appeal to all European capitals for greater solidarity. While reiterating that the fight against immigration remains within the jurisdiction of individual members states, Brussels wants to show that the requests repeatedly made by Rome and Valletta have not fallen on deaf ears. It also wants to make sure that the ‘European Pact for Immigration and Asylum’, signed and strongly desired by French president Nicholas Sarkozy, does not remain on paper only. In any case, it will be an uphill battle, with declared resistance from such countries as Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, which have seen large-scale migration and are loath to take on quotas of immigrants from the southern edges of Europe. In addition, there is the overall indifference shown by the main capitals of Eastern Europe, which have not yet had to deal with the problem. However, the EU Commission — according to the draft statement written by those working under Jacques Barrot, who took Franco Frattini’s place as commissioner in charge of immigration issues — wants Europe to take on a more incisive role in the “orderly and secure” receiving of refugees, beginning with a more efficient system to verify those who have a right to asylum and those who don’t. Brussels stresses that this is also a way to discourage illegal immigration. Below are the five guidelines that the European executive wants to follow in bringing in a joint plan for all 27 members states: the participation of countries in the programme must be voluntary; the contribution of every state will be in relation to its real possibilities to take in refugees; there must be an annual revision of the refugee distribution system; international organisations will also be involved (such as the UNHCR and specialised NGOs) and the programme will have to be progressively developed in line with experience gained. There are currently 10 EU countries that regularly take part in a distribution of refugees on an annual basis: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Ireland, Portugal, France, Romania and the Czech Republic. However, in 2008 other countries such as Italy, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg pledged to take in some of the Iraqi refugees from Syria and Jordan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaddur: Now Monitor Libya’s Southern Border

(by Fabrizio Finzi) (ANSAmed) — ROME — The agreement between Italy and Libya to stop illegal immigration is working, but now further efforts are needed. Libya’s southern borders must be protected, where migrants enter through the desert and make it to the Mediterranean coast to attempt the voyage to Italy. This was the message launched by Libya’s Ambassador to Italy, Abdulhafed Gaddur, in an interview with ANSA on the occasion of the Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s visit to Tripoli. “The agreement on immigration works even if there are some points that have not yet been applied, like the reorganisation of the monitoring system for Libya’s southern borders,” explained Gaddur. Italian premier’s visit in Tripoli has been planned to celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty. A long-sought accord by Italy that definitively ended the dispute regarding the dark chapter of Italian colonialism in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. A “highly technological” monitoring system is needed as soon as possible that can easily screen the immense desert confines of southern Libya. Technology that could be made available, reported the diplomat, by Finmeccanica. A necessity that Italy seems to agree upon since Interior Minister Roberto Maroni sent a letter to Libya stating his willingness to complete this agreement quickly. A complex technological system that should be 50% financed by Italy: “the other half,” specified Gaddur, “should by paid for by the EU because it is part of an agreement for the release of Bulgarian nurses” accused of inoculating hundreds of Libyan children with the AIDS virus, who were freed after long negotiations with various European countries. As for the visit on August 30, the program includes a meeting with the Libyan leader in Tripoli in the afternoon and the transfer to the point, 20km from Tripoli, where the coastal motorway should pass, whose construction is part of the accord. Berlusconi is expected to visit two special projects involving giant models of the future motorway that should join Egypt and Tunisia, as well as a railway line that has been partly built by Ansaldo. In the evening the visit should end with an iftar diner (which concludes the fast). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greece: UN Deplores Conditions at Migrant Detention Centre

Pagani, 28 August (AKI) — The United Nations refugee agency said on Friday it was shocked by the overcrowded and insanitary detention facility on the Greek island of Lesvos that is currently housing over 850 migrants including 200 unaccompanied children, many of whom come from war-torn Afghanistan.

Staff from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) visited the detention centre at Pagani, built to hold between 250 and 300 people, earlier this week, according to the agency’s spokesperson Andrej Mahecic.

“They were shocked at the conditions in the facility, where more than 850 people are held, including 200 unaccompanied children, mostly from Afghanistan,” he told told reporters in Geneva on Friday.

UNHCR staff described the condition of the centre as “unacceptable,” he stated, adding that one room houses over 150 women and 50 babies, many suffering from illness related to the cramped and unsanitary conditions of the centre.

UNHCR said it had received assurances from the the Greek government that all the unaccompanied children at Pagani will be transferred to special reception facilities by the end of the month, and some measures have already been taken to improve conditions at the centre.

But Mahecic noted the situation in Pagani is “indicative of broader problems relating to irregular migration and Greece’s asylum system,” especially its treatment of unaccompanied children, which UNHCR has been trying to assist with.

While nearly 2,700 unaccompanied children are known to have arrived in the country last year, many more are believed to have entered undetected, UNHCR noted.

“Greece has no process for assessing the individual needs and best interests of these children,” said Mahecic.

“While the government has made efforts to increase the number of places for children at specialized, open centres, arrivals outstrip these efforts and children remain in detention for long periods.”

The agency is involved in a project aimed at improving reception facilities on the islands of Samos, Chios and Lesvos and at the Evros land border, he added.

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



Italy: Indian Gang Arrested Over Passport Forgery

Rome, 28 August (AKI) — Italian police have arrested five Indian citizens in Rome suspected of earning hundreds of thousands of euros through a passport scam. The five are accused of fraudulently obtaining new passports from the Indian embassy in Rome and selling them to hundreds of Indian illegal immigrants.

The men, aged between 30 and 50, have been charged with forgery and abetting illegal immigration.

The gang allegedly counterfeited fake police reports in relation to what they claimed were ‘stolen passports’ and then applied for new passports issued by the Indian embassy.

The new passports were sold by the gang for between 100 and 300 euros each, according to investigators.

Police said the new passports, issued without the previous visas, gave the bearer the opportunity to obtain a longer permit of stay and to take advantage of a new government amnesty for illegal immigrants working as domestic workers.

From 1 September, Italian households can apply to legalise such workers on payment of a 500 euro fine, provided the home help has worked for the employer for at least three months since 30 March.

The latest arrests followed an eight-month criminal probe dubbed ‘Punjab’. Three of the men had previously been served with expulsion orders.

The five suspected gang members, who lived and operated in the Rome suburbs of Torpignattara and Centocelle, were making around 100,000 euros a month each from the scam, according to investigators.

The fraudulent reports of stolen passports and fake passport application forms were allegedly counterfeited by a printer whose Italian owner is accused of abetting the gang. He denies any wrongdoing.

There are around 25,000 to 30,000 Indians living in the province of Rome.

Most are employed as domestic workers and labourers, mainly in agriculture.

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



Maroni: We Will Continue to Send Them Back

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, AUGUST 31 — Italy’s Interior minister, Roberto Maroni, who this morning signed an agreement on the regularisation of domestic helps, has guaranteed that immigrants arriving on boats from Libya will continue to be sent back. Maroni has asked the press to use caution when revealing the origin of the immigrants. “The High Commissioner has its headquarters in Libya” Maroni explained “and the last time immigrants were sent back they were in international waters. I don’t know who has spread the news that those immigrants were from the Horn of Africa. The press should use care when spreading this news because, as was the case with the boat carrying 75 illegal immigrants a few weeks ago, the press wrote that they were Kurdish and Iraqi refugees. It turned out however that they were all Egyptians, they have all been sent back to their country of origin”. Maroni then underlined that sending back migrants to Libya “is part of a protocol signed by a previous government when Giuliano Amato was the Interior minister”. The home secretary explained that last year — between May 1 and August 31 — 14,000 illegal immigrants entered Italy, against 1,300 in the same period this year: “the system of sending them back is working and wéll continue”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: One Out of Every Five Killers is an Immigrant

Up to a fifth of killers in England and Wales are foreign, police figures suggest. Out of 371 individuals accused or convicted of murder or manslaughter last year, 79 were from abroad — more than 21 per cent.

Foreign immigrants make up only around a tenth of the UK population, meaning they are statistically twice as likely as native Britons to be charged with or found guilty of an illegal killing.

In London, almost 40 per cent of those in such cases in the past year were from overseas, or of unknown origin.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


Historical Facts About the Dangers (And Failures) Of Vaccines

(NaturalNews) Vaccines are the quackery of modern medicine. Mass vaccination programs not only fail to protect the population from infectious disease, they actually accelerate the spread of disease in many cases.

Many website have cropped up over the last few years to counter the pro-vaccine propaganda put out by drug companies (who profit from vaccines) and health regulators (who serve the drug companies). One of those sites is www.VaccinationDebate.com , which lists the following historical facts about vaccines:

• In the USA in 1960, two virologists discovered that both polio vaccines were contaminated with the SV 40 virus which causes cancer in animals as well as changes in human cell tissue cultures. Millions of children had been injected with these vaccines. (Med Jnl of Australia 17/3/1973 p555)

• In 1871-2, England, with 98% of the population aged between 2 and 50 vaccinated against smallpox, it experienced its worst ever smallpox outbreak with 45,000 deaths. During the same period in Germany, with a vaccination rate of 96%, there were over 125,000 deaths from smallpox. (

• In Germany, compulsory mass vaccination against diphtheria commenced in 1940 and by 1945 diphtheria cases were up from 40,000 to 250,000. (Don’t Get Stuck, Hannah Allen)

• In 1967, Ghana was declared measles free by the World Health Organisation after 96% of its population was vaccinated. In 1972, Ghana experienced one of its worst measles outbreaks with its highest ever mortality rate. (Dr H Albonico, MMR Vaccine Campaign in Switzerland, March 1990)

• In 1977, Dr Jonas Salk who developed the first polio vaccine, testified along with other scientists, that mass inoculation against polio was the cause of most polio cases throughout the USA since 1961. (Science 4/4/77 “Abstracts” )

• In the UK between 1970 and 1990, over 200,000 cases of whooping cough occurred in fully vaccinated children. (Community Disease Surveillance Centre, UK)

• In the 1970’s a tuberculosis vaccine trial in India involving 260,000 people revealed that more cases of TB occurred in the vaccinated than the unvaccinated. (The Lancet 12/1/80 p73)

• In 1978, a survey of 30 States in the US revealed that more than half of the children who contracted measles had been adequately vaccinated. (The People’s Doctor, Dr R Mendelsohn)

• The February 1981 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 90% of obstetricians and 66% of pediatricians refused to take the rubella vaccine.

• In 1979, Sweden abandoned the whooping cough vaccine due to its ineffectiveness. Out of 5,140 cases in 1978, it was found that 84% had been vaccinated three times! (BMJ 283:696-697, 1981)

• In the USA, the cost of a single DPT shot had risen from 11 cents in 1982 to $11.40 in 1987. The manufacturers of the vaccine were putting aside $8 per shot to cover legal costs and damages they were paying out to parents of brain damaged children and children who died after vaccination. (The Vine, Issue 7, January 1994, Nambour, Qld)

http://www.naturalnews.com/026940_vaccines_vaccination_health.html

[Return to headlines]



Unesco: Paris Will Not Declare Preference for Faruk Hosni

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 25 — The countdown has begun in the nominations for the new director general of Unesco, who will take over the post from Japan’s Koichiro Matsuura in November, and tensions have resurfaced over the candidacy of Egypt’s Culture Minister Faruk Hosni, who has the support of four countries (Egypt, Kuwai, Sudan and Libya), but who is opposed by several parties over his anti-semitic stance in certain matters, and his anti-Israeli declarations during the conflict in Gaza. Following harsh debate, Israel withdrew its veto, while several personalities, including winner of the Nobel Peace prize Elie Wiesel continue to strongly oppose his nomination. Paris will not express a preference, said Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner today, in its role as host country for the United Nations Organisation for Education, Science and Culture. Cairo had said that France was supporting his candidacy, but the French Presidency subsequently declared its intention of observing ‘a benign neutrality”. The Executive Council (58 members representing 193 Unesco countries) will make its decision on the nine candidates during its session of September 7 to 23, in a secret ballot. The list of candidates includes former Algerian minister Mohammed Bedjaoui (nominated by Cambodia), Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Alexandre Iakovenko, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



US Book on Mohammed Cartoons Stirs Frenzy

The cartoons that shocked the world will be discussed in great detail in a new book about the 2005 protests over Prophet Mohammed caricatures, but readers will have to use their imagination after Yale University Press refused to publish any of the 12 sketches over “security concerns.”

“There is a repeated pattern of violence when these cartoons have been republished,” University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said in an interview with Yale Daily News.The decision not to publish accompanying sketches in Jytte Klausen’s “The Cartoons That Shook the World” has drawn mixed reactions from Muslims, with prominent figures condemning the refusal as giving into censorship while others defended the author and the publisher for cultural sensitivity.

The 240-page book is due out in November, more than four years after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published offensive caricatures of the Muslim prophet sparked protests across the world and lead to almost 200 deaths.

A security riskYale University Press director John Donatich told the Boston Globe the university sought advice from security, counterterrorism and Islam specialists, who overwhelmingly agreed that publishing the cartoons could lead to life-threatening violence.

“The turning point for me was when I was able to see it less as an issue of censorship because we are not suppressing original material,’’ Donatich said. “We are just not reprinting what was available elsewhere. . . . At that point, it became a security issue and not a censorship issue.”

An “alarming” misinterpretationThe author, a Danish-born professor of politics at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, agreed to remove the pictures but has said that the matter had been “alarmingly” misinterpreted.

“I have a reputation as a fair and sympathetic observer,” Klausen told Yale Daily News. “There’s absolutely nothing anti-Muslim about my book.”

Klausen initially included the illustrations to help readers understand the story, but reluctantly agreed to pull them after Yale conveyed to her the expert opinions.

A perceived victory for extremistsEgyptian-American columnist Mona Eltahawy condemned in a Washington Post editorial Yale’s handling of the issue and noted that much of the violence did not start until four months after publication of the cartoons.

“Yale University Press has handed a victory to extremists. (…) I say this as a Muslim who supported the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten’s right to publish the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in late 2005 and as someone who also understands the offense taken at those cartoons by many Muslims, including my mother,” She said.

The violence was not “spontaneous but rather orchestrated by those with vested interests in elections in Denmark and Egypt and later by Islamic extremists seeking to destabilize governments.”

Islam scholar Reza Aslan, author of “No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam,” went so far as to pull his jacket blurb praising the book.

“It wasn’t just the cartoons, it was a deliberate attempt by the newspaper in Denmark to provoke the Muslim minority in Denmark, to give them a sort of citizenship test. The cartoons were seen by two polarized camps as an argument as to whether, A, Europe is Islamophobic or, B, whether Muslims have any place in Europe,” Aslan told AFP.

“The reason the anger erupted was because of the racism embedded in the cartoons, their deliberate provocation of the Muslim community and the way the cartoons were manipulated to say that Europe is racist. That’s where the mistake lies here, to think that the cartoons in and of themselves have the power to create this global crisis,” he added.

Sheila Blair, a Boston College specialist on Islamic art and one of Yale’s consulted specialists was also against Yale’s decision to remove the caricatures. Blair argued that “omitting the historical art was reinforcing the mistaken notion that all Muslims object to depicting the Prophet, when some cultures have rich traditions of doing so.”

Old woundsBut Newsweek international editor and journalist Fareed Zakaria, who was also one of the specialists consulted by Yale, said in an AFP interview he was “certain that the publication of the book would provoke violence.”

In an interview with the Boston Globe Zakaria added that “to revisit the same issue, to pick at the same wounds” would give phony religious extremists an opportunity to start wars.

Zakaria argued it was better for the University “to weather a little controversy about whether it drew the line right than to deal with the consequences of their actions leading to 20, 40, 60 or more dead.”

U.N. under secretary general Ibrahim Gambari was also quoted by AFP saying: “You can count on violence if any illustration of the prophet is published. It will cause riots I predict from Indonesia to Nigeria.”

Klausen called Yale’s assessment misguided, saying “it reflected an incorrect assessment of the causes of the controversy in the first place, and also failed to take into account the context in which (she) was reprinting the page from the newspaper.”

However, the author told the Boston Globe, in the end, she would have made the same decision as Yale.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Brother Tariq’s Hit Man

Tariq RamadanOur Flemish correspondent VH has compiled a report on the threatening words of a Dutch-Moroccan named Mohammed Jabri against Afshin Ellian and Leon de Winter, the Dutch politicians who dared to fire Tariq Ramadan. Mr. Jabri speaks out on behalf of Muslims who have been “provoked” yet again by the unjust treatment of Brother Tariq.

VH first gives us some general background on the situation:

Mohammed Redouan Jabri is a Moroccan Dutch (34) and has a job with the Dutch Ministry of Social Affairs as a “social investigating officer”. His parents, both Moroccan immigrants, traveled back to Morocco in 1975 so that he could be born there, and then brought him “back” to the land of milk and honey, free money, and freshly-cleansed lebensraum for unemployed Muslim immigrants: the Netherlands.

Jabri is a happy immigrant and one of those enrichments who are of the opinion that the Dutch lack awareness of their history, and view citizenship only as having a Dutch passport. Mohammed Jabri views the Netherlands as a country with “a very sneaky and xenophobic population who can not handle criticism and where foreigners do not know where they stand”.

Mohammed Jabri called Theo van Gogh (when he was still alive) “the pig”, and wrote after the slaughter of Van Gogh: “The murder of Van Gogh leaves us cold. Why is there not more attention for Muslim dead in Chechnya, Palestine or Afghanistan?

Nederland Bekent KleurIf there was any doubt left about his Muslim world-view, Mohammed Jabri is a member of the Committee of Recommendation for Nederland Bekent Kleur [“Netherlands Admits Color”] of the notorious Fortuyn-hater, Wilders-hater, anti-Semite, and subsidy sponge, the Left-wing extremist and a fifth column on his own, René Danen. Jabri put his signature on the Anti-Wilders list of the same René Danen, in support of the upcoming court case against Wilders, and wants see both Wilders and the PVV silenced. Freedom of opinion is not for the Dutch, but for himself and Tariq Ramadan.

In April 2009 he co-initiated — with the usual left-wing traitors and feminists like the anti-Semite Anja Meulenbelt (Socialist Party Senator) and other suspects — the committee known as Support Tariq to help Tariq Ramadan in his “struggle” against the “ongoing smear campaign against him”, and last week wrote a column in support of Ramadan, or better, threatened a few prominent Ramadan critics in his article A Dirty Game!. One may wonder whether he also speaks and threatens at the behest of Ramadan.

VH’s first translation is from Stan de Jong:

Mohammed Jabri is angry, and then just can’t help but threaten

By Filantroop

Mohammed Jabri is no longer capable of handling the sacking of Tariq Ramadan. On the [immigrant] blog “Wij Blijven Hier” [“We are staying here”], he announces his uncivilized behavior: “[Afshin] Ellian, [Leon] De Winter, [Paul] Cliteur, Erasmus University in Rotterdam and the city council, all of them have with the resignation of Tariq Ramadan — and their involvement therein — placed a new bomb under the social debate. A debate that has long since ceased being a debate but a unilateral proclamation of how inferior Muslims are. Afshin Ellian, Leon de Winter and the entire Rotterdam city council apparently do not want a civilized debate, but just foul play. Well, they can get that. Muslims should forget that eternal urge to prove how civilized we can be by responding to this in a very politically correct way. We know by now just how civilized we can be. And if your Dutch neighbor really wants the best for you, then he will know this by now, too. Afshin Ellian and Leon de Winter, however, should not expect civilized behavior when I run up against them. And I will run up against them.”

Jabri apparently wants to stay here, and at the same time wants to venture into the mode of Middle East. Thus, expressing your opinion by being uncivilized.

Unless better readers than I distill any different interpretation, I think that Jabri finally means to say here that once he runs up against Afshin Ellian and Leon de Winter, he will not behave in a civilized way.

Now uncivilized behavior is not unique among our fellow immigrants, and many types of behavior can be defined amongst them. A more specific interpretation of this would therefore not be an unnecessary luxury, because Afshin Ellian and Leon de Winter perhaps find themselves in the dark about what precisely is intended with that “uncivil behavior”.

Or maybe we should assume that it is just threatening? Or intimidation? Or perhaps a call for others to behave in an uncivilized fashion towards Afshin Ellian and Leon de Winter? In that case, that uncivilized behavior might get out of control.

- – - - – - – - -

Whatever this uncivilized behavior may be, it quite seems that Jabri cannot deal with thinkers like Afshin Ellian and Leon de Winter in line with the generally prevailing principles of civilization, and will thus run up against them with uncivilized behavior.

Because when you say: “And I will run up against them,” it does not seem an assumption, but a certainty, one that will occur.

And, well, what can you do then, being Afshin Ellian or Leon de Winter?

Here is the large part of Mohammed Jabri’s column:

A Dirty Game!

By Mohammed Jabri

In contrast with Erasmus University, the University of Oxford published a statement in which it is said that Tariq Ramadan will remain welcome at Oxford as a professor. The reason: Oxford university realizes that it is in a democracy, where freedom of expression must be guaranteed, regardless of whether you agree with it or not. That is the way it works in a civilized democracy. The content and color of the opinion does not matter. What matters is that it can be justified and discussed. But in the heads of Rotterdammers it apparently works differently.

[…]

Ramadan costs a lot of money. The municipality of Rotterdam took him on to start building bridges, and decided, after consideration, to accept the wages that Ramadan demanded for his services. Nothing wrong with that, you’d think. It is a matter of supply and demand. The need has been there since the first Muslim came walking into this country, because the Dutch people have in their DNA an ill-disposed response to alien matters. The supply fluctuates and currently there is a scarcity. Tariq Ramadan is almost the only one in Europe who has the capability to do what he does. Of course, there is other talent in formation, but it has yet to emerge. To those who want to know what he does, I recommend reading his books or just visiting one of his lectures. If you’re not interested in it, that’s fine, but then keep your mouth shut, especially on Tariq Ramadan.

[…]

Ellian suffers from a post-Khomeini syndrome, and pollutes the Dutch landscape with it. De Winter is an ordinary Zionist who by definition puts everything into question where the letter “M” appears and already screams “anti-Semitism!” when on your vacation in Haifa you do not smile at an Israeli lamp post. And Paul Cliteur, ah… that is pretty much parallel to Hans Jansen: because you call yourself an Arabist and are educated in the linguistic acrobatics of an Arab, you then sell yourself as Islam expert. Something like a snack bar, which suddenly starts interfering with any potato meal that exists, fried or not.

In the past they have been lucky that there were too many activists and too few intellectuals. So they have been able to do a little image building. Dyab Abou Jahjah [the Hizbollah volunteer of the Arab European League, of the Holocaust cartoons and anti Jewish riots in Antwerp —translator] for example, who has been in a discussion with all three gentlemen, and of course is very good in a debate, could deal with them somewhat but still remains an activist. And eventually did chat to them intellectually under the table. Smart guy, that Dyab. [Theo van Gogh called him “The Prophet’s Pimp” when Jahjah walked out a debate. —translator] But no intellectual. Tariq Ramadan, however, is one. He has chatted with many opponents under the table at an intellectual level. But with respect for those who took against him. You need only to be a bundle of vanity like poor old Frits Bolkestein who tried it recently. Hat off to Frits and his efforts. Your best was unfortunately not good enough.

[…]

The three musketeers of extremist atheism — Ellian, Cliteur, and De Winter — do not deserve that respect. They do not enter into a debate with Tariq Ramadan, but only paint him black. This has been done long enough to the Rotterdam city council, until it put the Erasmus University under pressure to dismiss Ramadan. This is the bottom line:

Tariq Ramadan says something, and some people disagree with it. They do not debate, but paint him black. On the basis of lies and ridiculous assumptions Tariq Ramadan has been dismissed. Certainly not based on facts and truths. This says nothing about Tariq Ramadan. It says everything about the “counter party”. This counter-party is full of how democratic freedoms must be defended everywhere and always. This counter-party has now raised itself as the regime of a banana republic. You know, the kind of country where your life is worth less than a potato if you find things that are not viewed well by that regime. In the Netherlands we are world champions at giving it out to countries like that. We say “that it cannot be that you can not say what you think”. Now Tariq Ramadan has not been not physically addressed. No, what happens is actually much worse. Apart from the denial of Tariq Ramadan’s economic rights — that he offers work for which he is paid and that he on the basis of falsehoods loses those rights — the name of Tariq Ramadan once again was pulled through the mud, as if he actually has done something that is totally unacceptable. While the opposite is true.

You read and talk about it with all kinds of people, with supporters and opponents. Only the sane ones know that Tariq Ramadan has been tricked here. In that dirty dark room in Bloemendaal, the house of Leon de Winter, there has been a toast to the victory over the yoke of Islam in the Netherlands. Intellectual opposition is cleared out of the way. Not with a sound and valid debate, but with lies and deceit. And, oh, who cares, the end justifies the means. As a Muslim you are provoked to the depths of your heart. The falsehood makes me so angry. It is unjust. You try to remain civilized, by thinking that the self-appointed guardians of democracy, in which you expect that the freedom of expression after November 2, 2004 [murder of Theo van Gogh] is valid for everybody, protect you against those who put those freedoms under pressure. We all know better, but on the surface you may imagine yourself in that security.

Ellian, De Winter, Cliteur, the Erasmus University in Rotterdam and the city council, all of them have with the resignation of Tariq Ramadan — and their involvement therein — placed a new bomb under the social debate. A debate that has long since ceased being a debate but a unilateral proclamation of how inferior Muslims are. Afshin Ellian, Leon de Winter and the entire Rotterdam city council apparently do not want a civilized debate, but just foul play. Well, they can get that. Muslims should forget that eternal urge to prove how civilized we can be by responding to this in a very politically correct way. We know by now just how civilized we can be. And if your Dutch neighbor really wants the best for you, then he will know this by now, too. Afshin Ellian and Leon de Winter, however, should not expect civilized behavior when I run up against them. And I will run up against them. [emphasis added]

Fjordman: A History of Beer — Part 3

Fjordman has posted the third installment of his history of beer at Atlas Shrugs. Some excerpts are below:

After having enjoyed a production boom in the Renaissance period due to the rise of urban brewing and the use of hops, by the seventeenth century beer met with new challenges. Rising incomes meant that more people could buy beer, but some chose to buy wine, which enjoyed greater prestige but had traditionally been too expensive for many consumers, at least in the north. Rising commerce in wine made the drink more available, and the greater use of bottles and the development of the corkscrew around 1700 made it easier to get, keep and drink wine. However, the introduction of entirely new drinks posed a challenge to both wine and beer, first with the tropical non-alcoholic beverages cacao, coffee and tea and then with the near-simultaneous rise of distilled alcoholic beverages.

The production of distilled gin, first in the form of genever or Geneva gin with its distinctive juniper flavoring, rose rapidly in the seventeenth century in Holland and England. With much stronger drinks followed more serious social problems related to the excessive drinking of alcohol. The sometimes unattractive spectacle of public drunkenness, which was and is more common among northern Europeans than among southern Europeans, increased greatly. The changes were expressed graphically in the English painter William Hogarth’s (1697-1764) prints of Gin Lane (1751) as a place of debauchery and the destruction of the family and public order compared to Beer Street, where all is peaceful and people appear healthy.

Through natural processes of fermentation the maximum alcohol content of a wine rarely exceeds 15%. To create beverages with 20% or more you need the aid of distillation. Distillation is a method for increasing the alcohol content of a liquid already containing ethyl alcohol by utilizing the different boiling points of water (100 °C) and alcohol (78 °C). The distillation process separates the alcohol from other parts of the solution by heating the liquid to 78° Celsius, a temperature sufficient to boil alcohol but not water. The resulting steam (vaporized alcohol) is collected and condensed, returning it to liquid form — but a liquid with a much higher proportion of alcohol than before. The resultant distillate is matured, often for years, before it is sold. Distilled spirits include aquavit, brandy, gin, rum, vodka and whiskey.

Some crude form of distillation was employed in the Near East and the Eastern Mediterranean in the production of perfumes. In 2007 a team of archaeologists in Cyprus discovered one of the world’s oldest perfume “factories.” Dozens of distilling stills, mixing bowls, funnels and bottles were found preserved at the site, dating from about 1850 BC. Cyprus in ancient Greece had the mythological status as the birthplace of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and the Greek equivalent of the Roman Venus. An early and crude form of distillation did exist in China and Egypt and was practiced by Greek alchemists in Alexandria. Nevertheless, I have found no convincing references to the existence of anything resembling beverages such as whiskey or brandy in either ancient Europe or Asia. Hugh Johnson, normally a well-informed man, is quite explicit in stating that distilled beverages were not known by Roman times:

- – - - – - – - -

“It was the mark of fine wine with the Romans, as it is with us, that it improved with age. Horace, in one poem contemplating his end, seems more concerned about parting from his cellar of wonderful old wine than from his wife. Very sweet wines will usually keep well without turning to vinegar, but the Romans had no means of increasing their alcoholic strength to preserve them. No yeast will continue to ferment when the alcohol level reaches fifteen or sixteen per cent of the wine. Distillation was unknown. This, then, was the strongest drink they knew.”

Distillation of nearly pure alcohol (ethanol) appears to have been a development of medieval times. Ironically, it is possible that alchemists in the Islamic-ruled Middle East contributed to its development. Middle Easterners in the Early Middle Ages employed a method that could produce a distilled beverage from wine. Jabir ibn Hayyan (Geber in Latin) around AD 800 developed new methods in alchemy and made experiments with heating wine, which were followed up by al-Razi (Rhazes) and other scholars whose work was later known in Europe.

In the Cambridge World History of Food, James Comer writes about distilled beverages. Several European alchemists, searching for the “elixir of life,” experimented with distillation. They believed that they had extracted the “essence” or “spirit” of wine and that repeated distillations resulted in aqua vitae — Latin for “water of life.” This substance was initially primarily used as a medicine. According to Comer, “both the Irish and the Scots claim to have produced liquor from grain (in contrast to brandy from wine) since the beginning of the last millennium; the Scots called it uisge beatha (pronounced wisky-baw) and the Irish called it uisce beatha. Both meant ‘water of life,’ and the English term ‘whiskey’ derived from them.”

The first real brandy that was not thought of as medicine is said to have been distilled around 1300 by Arnaldus de Villa Nova (ca. 1235-1311), a Catalan alchemist presumably familiar from Spain with writings in Arabic about distillation, who became professor at the medical school of Montpellier in France. During the fifteenth century, better methods for cooling the still’s head developed. This led to increased production of distilled beverages, which spread rapidly across Europe. France became an important center of the brandy industry. Vodka originated in Russia in the fourteenth century, its name deriving from Russian voda (“water”).

The first definitive proof we have of whiskey making comes from the fifteenth century in both Ireland and Scotland, although there are persistent yet still-unproven claims that production in this area dates further back in time. Whiskey is always aged in wooden containers, usually of white oak. In addition to Irish and Scotch whiskey, the United States and Canada are now large producers and consumers of whiskey. Whisky or whiskey (both spellings are used) is a distilled liquor made from cereal grains and could be called a distilled beer, whereas brandies such as cognac are made from grapes and could thus be labeled distilled wines. Cognac is named for the town of Cognac north of Bordeaux, France, one of three officially demarcated brandy regions in Europe; the others are the towns of Armagnac in France and Jerez in Spain.

A constant theme in the discussion of brandy was fire, because beverages are “burnt” or distilled over the flame of a still, because distilled alcohol is capable of combustion, and because of the “burning” sensation experienced by those who drink it. Comer again: “First called ‘brandy wine’ (from the Dutch brandewijn), brandy means ‘to burn’ or ‘burnt’ in Dutch as well as in other languages, such as the German Brand and the Middle English ‘brand.’ Brandy is more expensive to make than grain spirits because it must be distilled from fruit and, in the case of cognac, from wine (Ray 1974). As noted, brandy first emerged as medicine in the eleventh century and only later became popular as a beverage.”

According to James Comer, in the sixteenth century the prominent Swiss alchemist and physician Paracelsus “had employed the Arabic term alcool vini to describe spirits. But it was not until 1730, when the Dutch physician Herman Boerhaave used the word alcohol to mean distilled spirits, that it became commonly understood that ale, wine and distilled beverages all owed their mood-altering capabilities to this chemical.”

Read the rest at Atlas Shrugs. Parts 1 and 2 can be read here and here.

Sunni Toons

Our regular Swedish reader and commenter Robin Shadowes suggested that we might respond to the latest Motoon crisis by posting some new culturally enriched ’toons, and kindly sent us a batch translated from the Swedish. They were all drawn by the artist Hans Lindström.

Here’s the first of the series:

Hans Lindström cartoon #1


[Post ends here]

“The Forces That Continue to Cook up This Soup”

Our Danish correspondent Signe has translated an article from Jyllands-Posten about the latest Muslim offensive in the ongoing war of Islam against the Danes. She says, “We can never know what this will lead to, but the gang war, the burka ban proposal, and the deportation of Iraqis seem to be the major issues in Denmark right now.”

For the full text of the lawyer’s letter, see Saturday’s post.

Saudi Arabian lawyer: Ultimatum for Danish newspapers

An apology must be issued from those newspapers that reprinted cartoonist Kurt Westergaard’s famous drawing of the prophet Mohammed

The Mighty MoOn behalf of an unknown number of the prophet’s descendants, the lawyer, Faisal A.Z. Yamani in Jeddah has sent his letter to the editors-in-chief of the newspapers that published the cartoon. He demands that they apologize and publish a disclaimer by the end of September.

“It must be a clear, public and unconditional correction and apology for the offence and damage that Your newspaper caused, when it reprinted Mr. Westergaard’s cartoon last year,” says Faisal A.Z. Yamani.

Apology in four languages

- – - - – - – - -

He encloses the text for the apology that the newspapers must publish on one of the first three pages. It must be printed in as many as four languages: Danish, English, French and Arabic. Furthermore, there must be a front page link to the apology.

The lawyer also demands that the newspapers first and foremost remove the Mohammed cartoon from all websites that they own or control. Besides this, the editors-in-chiefs must promise that they will never again publish similar cartoons or material about the prophet Mohammed. Faisal A.Z. Yamani also mentions that obedience from Danish newspapers will help end the boycott of Danish products that is still occurring certain places in the Middle East.

No hesitation

Editor-in-chief Siegfried Matlok from Der Nordschleswiger merely shrugs at the demands. There will be no apology in his newspaper.

“We are not hesitating. The newspapers once decided independently from each other to publish the cartoon and I assume that we stand together concerning the principle behind the publication. However, I am worried that there are not only threats launched at the newspapers but also threats of new action against Denmark,” he says.

He is puzzled that the threat surfaces one and a half year after the publication.

There must be some forces that continue to cook up this soup. Respect for Muslims in Denmark and the world, but we cannot accept this,” says Siegfried Matlok. [emphasis added]



Previous posts about Saudi lawfare against the Danes:

2009   Aug   29   The Prophet Retains Counsel
        30   Danish Dailies Respond to Saudi Lawfare
        31   A Letter to Kurt from the Prophet

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/30/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/30/2009Half the doctors in Sweden are now immigrants. The medical “brain drain” is causing a shortage of qualified physicians in the Third World countries that send their med school graduates to Sweden.

In other news, former Prime Minister Olmert of Israel has been indicted on three charges of corruption.

Thanks to A Greek Friend, Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, VH, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

USA
Could Obama Rule the Web?
Doctor Admits Euthanizing Patients During Katrina
How a Detainee Became an Asset
How Safe Are Your Drinking & Agriculture Water Supplies?
Kennedy ‘Joked About Chappaquiddick’
Lyme/Autism Group Blasts GM Foods as Dangerous
Obama Administration Announces Not Enforcing Union Reporting Laws
Rally at the Capitol Sparks Talks of Secession
Rapper Snoop Dogg Embraced Islam and Says His First Salam Alaykum
‘Take That Thing Off Your Head’
Town-Hall Clash! Arrest Threat Over Obama ‘Joker’ Poster
Van Jones and His Stormtroopers Denounced America the Night After 9/11
 
Europe and the EU
Every Other Doctor in Sweden From Abroad
French Farmers Survive But Multinationals Cash in on EU Subsidies
Geert Wilders: Prophet Mohammed Acted Like a Pig
Palestinians on Hunger Strike in Rome, One in Hospital
Slovenia: Government Facing Crisis, Falling Public Consent
Sweden: Legislate Right to Full-Time Employment: Left Party
The Days Are Getting Shorter. Time for Another World War II Memorial?
UK: Lockerbie Bomber ‘Set Free for Oil’
UK: NM Rothschild Pitches Motorway Privatisation Plan
US Offered ‘Millions’ To Keep Bomber in UK
 
North Africa
Italy-Libya: Historian Del Boca, Censored by Those I Defended
Preacher’s Moses Story Controversial in Egypt
The NS Profile: Muammar Al-Gaddafi
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Arafat Arms Smuggler Imprisoned
Barry Rubin: Why Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State is a Prime Requirement for Israel-Palestinian Peace
Former Israeli PM Olmert Charged
Talks With BG Resumed for Natural Gas
 
Middle East
Al-Qaida Claims Responsibility for Saudi Prince Assassination Attempt
Jordan: No Water for Inmates on Hunger Strike, HRW Report
Jordan: Prisoners in Hunger Strike to Protest Abuse
Jordan: Regulations to Protect Foreign Domestic Helpers
Qaeda Attack on Prince Part of Wider Plot
The Saudi Plan is Really the US Plan
 
South Asia
India: In Wake of Election Defeat, The BJP is Crumbling
Jibril: “Mastermind” Of the Massacres Hotels in Jakarta, Is Linked to Al Qaeda
Pakistan: No Military Campaign Against the Taliban
U.S. Says Pakistan Made Changes to Missiles Sold for Defense
 
Latin America
Costa Rican President Calls for New Constitution
Noam Chomsky in Venezuela: ‘A Better World is Being Created’
 
Immigration
Frattini: ‘Saving Lives an Italian Priority’
Italy: Since May Irregulars Down by 92%, Minister
Italy: 1st Immigrant Sentenced, Fined But Not Deported
Italy: A Resource to be Managed, Bankitalia Governor
Why U.S. Is Flying Immigrants Back to Mexico
 
Culture Wars
Patriotism or Prejudice? Teen Suspended for Criticizing Muslim Student
 
General
Mandela Backs Lockerbie Decision

USA


Could Obama Rule the Web?

Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

They’re not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft, which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

CNet news link to pdf

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Doctor Admits Euthanizing Patients During Katrina

A doctor who was working the rounds at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center during Hurricane Katrina has admitted euthanizing patients during a crucial shortage of energy and supplies at the hospital.

Despite the revelations, the state prosecution service in Louisiana says it will not re-open an investigation into the matter, the Associated Press reports.

The doctor’s admission comes on the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall on the Gulf Coast, an event that would lead to the death of more than 1,000 people and the displacement of a city of one million.

It also comes at a time when the US is busy debating fundamental reforms to the country’s health system. The specter of “rationed health care” has been raised during the debate.

But in the panic and chaos of Katrina, the notion of “rationed care” was taken to a brutal new level.

Dr. Ewing Cook told ProPublica’s Sheri Fink that he gave the order to give an elderly patient a dose of morphine he knew would kill her.

“Do you mind just increasing the morphine and giving her enough until she goes?” Cook says he asked the patient’s nurse.

In a sign of his certainty the patient would die under the morphine overdose, Cook penciled in “Pronounced dead at” on the patient’s chart and left it blank to be filled in later.

“To me, it was a no-brainer, and to this day I don’t feel bad about what I did,” Cook told ProPublica. “I gave her medicine so I could get rid of her faster, get the nurses off the floor.”

He added, “There’s no question I hastened her demise.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



How a Detainee Became an Asset

Sept. 11 Plotter Cooperated After Waterboarding

After enduring the CIA’s harshest interrogation methods and spending more than a year in the agency’s secret prisons, Khalid Sheik Mohammed stood before U.S. intelligence officers in a makeshift lecture hall, leading what they called “terrorist tutorials.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



How Safe Are Your Drinking & Agriculture Water Supplies?

Drinking water quality is of primary importance to every citizen in the United States. The story below is just one of many being played out across the United States today. We all need to know what is in our drinking water and how it relates to public health. Everyone has the right to know what is in their drinking water not only at the drinking water tap, but what is in the water that irrigates our food crops and that our animals drink. We need to know just how safe bottled water is, if plastic baby bottles are safe, and if plastic water containers (and tin can linings), are leaching contaminants into the water we drinking.

Recently the Agriculture Defense Coalition obtained information regarding water quality in the City of West Sacramento, California, from the California State Department of Health, Drinking Water Division, in Sacramento, California. The State of California is the repository of all drinking water tests for every public water supply facility or public well in California. (The data is on CD and is free of charge to anyone who requests this information under the California Public Records Act.)

Stunned by the results of this inquiry it became very important that the public using this water for drinking and irrigation be informed of the startling results of this ongoing investigation. Clearly, even from the data in the 2008 West Sacramento “Consumer Confidence Report,” it is imperative that everyone who receives this water be informed of the alleged dangers in using this water for drinking, cooking, bathing, crop irrigation, and yard watering.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Kennedy ‘Joked About Chappaquiddick’

Biographer reveals deadly incident was a ‘favorite topic of humor’

One of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s favorite topics of humor was the incident at Chappaquiddick Island, Mass., in 1969 in which he drove off a bridge and left behind a 28-year-old woman who drowned, according to a biographer who reminisced about the iconic Democrat on a Washington, D.C., talk show this morning.

Edward Klein, speaking to WAMU guest host Katty Kay, said one of Kennedy’s “favorite topics of humor was, indeed, Chappaquiddick.”

“He would ask people, ‘Have you heard any new jokes about Chappaquiddick?’“ said Klein, a former Newsweek foreign editor and former editor in chief of the New York Times Magazine.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Lyme/Autism Group Blasts GM Foods as Dangerous

The five main GM foods are soy, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets. Their derivatives are found in more than 70% of the foods in the supermarket. The primary reason the plants are engineered is to allow them to drink poison. They’re inserted with bacterial genes that allow them to survive otherwise deadly doses of poisonous herbicide. Biotech companies sell the seed and herbicide as a package deal. Roundup Ready crops survive sprays of Roundup. Liberty Link crops survive Liberty. US farmers use hundreds of millions of pounds more herbicide because of these herbicide-tolerant crops, and the higher toxic residues end up inside of us. The LIA position paper acknowledges that “Individuals with infections that compromise immunity… and/or high toxin loads may also be especially susceptible to adverse effects from pesticides.”

Some GM corn and cotton varieties are also designed to produce poison. Inserted genes from a soil bacterium produce an insect-killing poison called Bt-toxin in every cell of the plant. Bt is associated with allergic and toxic reactions in humans and animals, and may create havoc in our digestive system (see below).

All GM crops, in fact, should be considered high-risk. Irrespective of which gene you insert, the process of genetic engineering itself results in massive collateral damage within the plants’ natural DNA. This can result in new or higher levels of toxins, carcinogens, allergens, or nutrient-blocking compounds in our food.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama Administration Announces Not Enforcing Union Reporting Laws

Are you a union member trying to find out information of the criminal actions and shady financial dealings of your union? Well don’t expect Obama and his toady in the Labor Secretary’s office, Hilda Solis, to help you uncover any illegalities perpetrated by your union bosses.

Solis’ department has just announced that it is suspending the stringent reporting requirements that labor unions must by law satisfy to assure that their financial dealings are legal and above-board. That’s right, unions have just been given a free pass for criminal actions by this president.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Rally at the Capitol Sparks Talks of Secession

Members and citizens supporting the Republican Party rallied against the Obama administration outside the Texas Capitol Saturday afternoon.

The Texas State Sovereignty or Secessions movement is backed by those who think the federal government is getting too involved in state and local government affairs.

One of the options they’re considering is seceding from the United States.

“They’re coming together to talk about the option of sovereignty, to rally support for state sovereignty, to encourage our state leadership, to exercise the sovereignty that Texas ought to be standing on,” Republican Gubernatorial Candidate, Debra Medina, said.

Medina said another way to allow state leaders to get around federal laws is to nullify and interpose laws coming from Washington.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Rapper Snoop Dogg Embraced Islam and Says His First Salam Alaykum

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



‘Take That Thing Off Your Head’

ROTC student suspended for telling Muslim to respect flag, remove hijab

Lawrence’s troubles with administrators at Springstead High School in Hernando Beach, Fla., began last Wednesday when she noticed a female Muslim student refusing to participate in the Pledge. The student was wearing a hijab, the traditional Muslim headscarf.

Later in the day, Lawrence encountered the student between periods and told her she should stand for the pledge, reported Hernando Today.

“Take that thing off your head and act like you’re proud to be an American,” Lawrence told her.

Although the student walked away and filed no complaint, a teacher overheard Lawrence’s comment and reported her to school administrators. On Friday, Lawrence was called to Assistant Principal Steve Crognale’s office and her father was called and informed she would be suspended for five days.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Town-Hall Clash! Arrest Threat Over Obama ‘Joker’ Poster

Officer to protester: This ain’t America no more

“This used to be America,” argued a protester outside a health-care town hall meeting in Reston, Va., after a security officer threatened him with arrest for holding up a sign with a picture critical of Barack Obama.

The officer’s response?

“It ain’t no more, OK?”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Van Jones and His Stormtroopers Denounced America the Night After 9/11

Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM), the revolutionary group formed by self-described “communist” and “rowdy black nationalist” Van Jones, held a vigil in Oakland, California, “mourning the victims of U.S. imperialism around the world” on the night after Sept. 11, 2001.

The reason this is important is because Van Jones is now President Obama’s green jobs czar. He does not appear to have distanced himself from his past communist activities and is now part of the Obama administration’s push to turn Sept. 11 into a National Day of Service focused on the promotion of the radical environmentalist agenda.

The vigil was reported by World Net Daily which excerpted parts of a history of the now-disbanded group.

Apparently, after the WND article was posted online, the website on which the original document was posted was overwhelmed by visitors and unavailable. I found the article in the “Way Back Machine” website (web.archive.org), an archival resource. The 2004 document, called “Reclaiming Revolution: history, summation & lessons from the work of Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM),” may be found on the archival site here. (In case that becomes unavailable, the document “Reclaiming Revolution” is available at the link embedded in this sentence.)

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Every Other Doctor in Sweden From Abroad

Sweden is attracting an increasing number of physicians from abroad. Almost every other new medical license is granted to someone who was educated abroad.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the brain drain of doctors to rich countries is threatening to cause the collapse of healthcare systems in poor countries.

“It is immoral that a rich country like Sweden is profiting from these poor countries,” Martin Stjernquist, programme director of the medical school at Lund University, told Sydsvenskan newspaper.

In 2007, 1,400 foreign physicians received medical licenses in Sweden — the equivalent of 60 percent of all new licenses granted that year, Sydsvenskan reports.

At the same time that there is a major shortage of doctors in poor countries, many countries such as France and the UK are recruiting healthcare workers from their former colonies.

“It’s a form of neo-colonialism,” Eva Nilsson Bågenholm, head of the Swedish Medical Association (Sveriges läkarförbund), said.

Many Swedes also choose to study medicine abroad. Every third Swedish medical student studies abroad, Yosef Tyson, head of the Swedish Medical Students Union (Medicine studerandes förbund), told Sydsvenskan.

Many Swedes attend medical school in Denmark, which has led Helge Sander, Danish Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation, to petition Sweden to increase its number of study places.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



French Farmers Survive But Multinationals Cash in on EU Subsidies

Stepping off his huge Renault tractor, Nicolas Galpin squinted in the August sun past his metal grain silos and towards the fields ploughed by his father and his father’s father before him.

Almost 550 acres of wheat, barley, peas and sugar beet stretch out behind the small stone farmhouse where he lives with his wife Claudine and their two children, Armand and Charlotte.

Mr Galpin, 32, is preparing to plant rape seed — the yellow flowered plant with a heady scent used to make rape oil — before the arduous October harvest begins; this is a month of seven day weeks and, for one exhausting week, 22-hour days to collect all the grain and beet ahead of winter.

Minimum tillage means maximum outputLooking at the crops on the edge of Auvernaux, population 317, it is hard to believe the farm is just a few miles south of the Paris metropolis and 15 minutes’ drive from the last overground suburban train stop.

But this is France, Europe’s agricultural powerhouse, where farms start at the gates of the capital and stretch around a country more than twice the size of Britain. These range from small, Jean de Florette-style farmlets to huge, highly efficient and mechanised operations.

Such agricultural might comes at a huge price, however, in the shape of European Union subsidies via the Common Agricultural Policy. At €55 billion (£48.5 billion), the CAP accounts for 42 percent of the EU budget, making it the largest agricultural aid programme in the world.

This is a price that many in Britain and other less farm-rich nations find too high to stomach, and one that developing countries and aid agencies say is wrecking world trade.

Anger in Britain over the billions forked out for the CAP has risen since The Sunday Telegraph revealed last weekend that the UK’s net contribution to the EU will rise by 60 per cent, from £4.1 billion this year to around £6.9 billion in April 2011.

The EU was supposed to beging reducing CAP subsidies to farmers at the same time. But the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, has fought a rearguard action to preserve the budget intact — and now EU officials are also about to abandon a promised wider review of all EU spending.

Surveying his farm, Mr Galpin picked what looked like an oversized parsnip but was in fact sugar beet. He sliced off a chunk with a small scythe, munched the earthy vegetable and smiled. “It’s a good year: the sugar level is high. With luck we’ll get 800 tons of sugar from our 60 hectares (150 acres) of beet.”

Like almost all French farmers, he receives direct EU aid, on average around €70,000 (£61,700) per year. Last year, more than half a million French farmers received a total of €10.39 billion (£9.15 billion) in EU subsidies — their sheer numbers meaning they receive about a fifth of the EU’s total kitty. On average, each farmer received just over €20,000 (£17,000), though one in 10 received more than €50,000 (£44,000).

“It’s a good life,” said Mr Galpin, “but don’t get the wrong idea, we’re far from rolling in it. People are under the illusion we earn a lot of money because they look at turnover, not what we get at the end of the day.”

His farm’s turnover was €350,000 (£308,000) last year, but Mr Galpin must pay the wages and national insurance of his one farm labourer, as well as insurance, pesticides, machinery, and rent for the use of the land — only a fraction belongs to him.

After all this, he is left with around €60,000 (£53,000) a year, half of which goes to his parents, who still help out. The profit is almost exactly what he receives in EU aid.

“Quite frankly, we would rather receive no subsidies and live entirely off our own produce. But given the price of wheat right now, we could not survive without this money,” he said.

Some 150 miles southeast, in Vigorny in the Haute Marne, Thierry Lahaye runs a 2,100-acre cereal farm with his two brothers. His farm received €220,000 (£194,000) in subsidies last year but he says he only took home €2,000 (£1,700) a month.

“We want to live off the fruit of our labour without help, but now that the flood gates of free exchange have opened without concern for how to keep us alive, they are vital. So I’m not ashamed to receive them,” he said.

It is easy to sympathise with Mr Galpin and Thierry, but far less so with France’s largest single beneficiaries — not struggling farmers, but individuals or companies with little connection to traditional farming. They include multinational companies like food conglomerates, sugar producers and spirit distillers.

Their identity was revealed for the first time this year when all 27 EU nations were forced to disclose how they distribute farm subsidies.

In France, not a single ordinary farmer is to be found among the top 24 beneficiaries. Top of the list is the chicken processor Groupe Doux, at €62.8 million (£55.3 million). The company, the largest poultry firm in Europe, had a turnover last year of €1.7 billion (£1.5 billion) — but does not raise a single chicken itself. Instead it outsources the job to thousands of contract breeders.

But, like other such companies across the EU, it qualified for agricultural export refunds under the CAP — designed to boost the sale of EU farm produce abroad, where prices are lower than in Europe.

Others include sugar manufacturers, some operating in France’s overseas “departments” such as Guadeloupe in the Caribbean and Réunion in the Indian Ocean.

Another top beneficiary is the cognac arm of LVMH, the huge luxury group owned by Bernard Arnault — the world’s seventh richest man, according to Forbes, whose myriad brands include Louis Vuitton, Moët & Chandon and Krug champagne.

Jack Thurston, whose website farmsubsidy.org first published the list of beneficiaries, said the purpose of aid has been warped.

“In the EU treaty and subsequent laws defining the CAP, it’s defined as an income support policy. The question is: why does it work in such a way that the bigger you are, the more income support you get?”

One possible reform would be to means test potential beneficiaries, but this idea has been staunchly opposed by France and Italy, among others.

The EU has made some changes to the CAP, shifting funds away from direct payments for straightforward farming towards “rural development” — spending €8.5 billion (£7.5 billion) last year on such activities as organic farming, tourism, infrastructure and renewable energy.

It has stopped simply handing out money to those who produce the most food — which led to vast surpluses in the 1980s — and to those with the most land. Now, grants are handed out even if no food is grown, on condition that owners “maintain the land in good agricultural or environmental condition”.

France stands to receive a lesser share of the total CAP kitty in future, as new EU member states in eastern Europe claim more. But the system is almost impossible to overhaul properly because of the vested interests involved.

French farmers have never been shy of taking of militant action to get their way, and politicians live in fear of modern day peasant revolts — with angry farmers dumping piles of manure outside government offices, or blockading towns with their tractors.

In the notoriously hot-headed southwest, wine growers regularly hijack tankers of foreign wine and empty the contents into the street.

Most are afraid to try to change the way CAP money is distributed. “To do so is to take money away from people who have become very used to having it, and have built up a lobby that’s very powerful and effective in defending what they’ve had in the past,” said Mr Thurston.

Mr Lahaye in Virogny agreed. “When we farmers go to see our politicians with a problem, we are listened to. I don’t get the impression the same can be said for the UK. We know how to make ourselves heard.”

And as he set off on his tractor in Auvernaux, Mr Galpin offered a final thought. “You British might protest, but these subsidies give France its wonderful landscapes. I don’t hear you complaining about them.”

[Return to headlines]



Geert Wilders: Prophet Mohammed Acted Like a Pig

by Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

[Arutz Sheva, Israel news] Dutch legislator Geert Wilders compared the prophet Mohammed with a pig after a report was published that Saudi Arabian authorities returned a runaway10-year-old bride to her 80-year-old husband..

Wilders asked Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen if he agrees that “this man is behaving like a pig, just like the barbarous Prophet Mohammed, who married” a six-year-old girl. Wilders wants the Foreign Minister to summon the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the Netherlands to express his disgust at the act.

Wilders has enjoyed growing support throughout Europe, as well as in his own country, for his outspoken statements against Muslim terror. He sparked furious protests two years ago when he disseminated his 15-minute film called Fitna, which exposes links between the Muslim religion and terror..

The Saudi Arabian Arab News reported the incident of the 10-year-old bride. It said the man denied he is 80-years old, as claimed by the girl’s family, which he accused of meddling in his affairs.

“My marriage is not against Shariah [Muslim law],” he told Arab News. “It included the elements of acceptance and response by the father of the bride.” The unidentified man explained that he had been engaged to his wife’s elder sister, who broke off the engagement. In return, her father offered his younger daughter. “I was allowed to have a look at her according to Shariah and found her acceptable,” said the elderly man.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



Palestinians on Hunger Strike in Rome, One in Hospital

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 26 — Ibrahim Salem Ubayyat, one of the three Palestinians who have been seeking refuge in Italy since 2002, was admitted to hospital in Rome yesterday. The three began a hunger strike eight days ago after the Italian government stopped giving them financial assistance and security as part of a programme of protection guaranteed by the European Union. “He could neither manage to walk or to speak”, Mohammad Said Salem, one of the other two asylum-seekers, told ANSA, pointing out that before they called for an ambulance, they had searched in vain for an Arab doctor. This afternoon the other two former militants are to receive a doctor’s visit: they have touched no food, drinking only water, and are sticking to their planned hunger strike. The three Palestinians, who are wanted by Israel on terrorism charges, have been in Rome since 2002 when an accord was signed between Italy, the EU, Syria and the PNA, putting an end to Israel’s siege of the Basilica of Christ’s Nativity in Bethlehem. Around thirty people had locked themselves inside the basilica in order to offer 12 militants protection and assistance in several EU countries. Since then, the three have been living incognito under a humanitarian residence permit, with a flat supplied to them and a monthly cheque of 1,300 euros from the Italian government. These were all reasons why the three felt welcome in Italy — but now they cannot understand the Interior Ministry’s cancellation of their benefits, which came in April this year. They apparently asked for assurances from the government on July 5, but as they haven’t had any further communication the three started their hunger strike eight days ago, locking themselves in the offices of the Palestinian delegation in Rome. They are asking for the accord to be renewed or, alternatively, to be allowed to return to their homeland without having to face trial. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Slovenia: Government Facing Crisis, Falling Public Consent

(ANSAmed) — LJUBLJANA, AUGUST 24 — Fifty-three percent of Slovenian citizens have a negative opinion on the centre-left government led by Social Democrat Borut Pahor, which almost reached the end of the first year of mandate. The data emerged from a monthly survey carried out by Ljubljana newspaper ‘Dnevnik’ and by POP-TV. Pahor’s government first obtained a majority of negative results last month, when 53% of those interviewed said they were disappointed by the government’s actions. During the last month, the number of those in favour of the Ljubljana government has fallen by 2%, reaching a mere 37% of public consent. In the event of an election, the opposition, led by former premier Janez Jansa, would gain the victory but 44% of those interviewed said they were not convinced that a centre-right government would better manage the economy, the aspect on which Pahor obtained the highest percentage of negative votes. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Legislate Right to Full-Time Employment: Left Party

The Swedish Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) wants to abolish several reforms adopted by the governing Alliance parties, according to a new report.

The Left Party wants to abolish the childcare allowance (vårdnadsbidrag), the equality bonus (jämställdhetsbonus), and tax deductions for household services. The childcare allowance is currently paid to parents who remain out of the labour market to care for their children, while the equality bonus is paid to couples who equally split parental leave between both the mother and father.

The Left Party would also consider legislation to ensure the right to full-time employment.

More women than men work part-time, as well as take up fixed-term employment. The Left Party therefore believes that women would benefit if more people had the right to work full-time as well as had access to permanent employment.

The Left Party would achieve this by making employers fees for fixed-term (visstidsanställning) employment higher than those for permanent employment (tillsvidareanställning).

The party is also prepared to enact legislation to ensure the right to full-time employment if the social partners are unable to reach agreement, according to Left Party members Ulla Andersson and Josefin Brink in a report outlining the party’s gender equality policies.

There are too few men who take advantage of paternity leave, Andersson and Brink said. Parental leave should therefore be individual, so that each parent may take half, which may not be transferred to the other parent.

The Left Party would also seek to re-establish the position of a dedicated gender equality minister, as well as abolish the childcare allowance, which is described as a “direct anti-feminist reform that encourages women to stay at home and be supported by their husbands.”

In addition, the party would abolish tax deductions for home services, the so-called “maid deduction” (pigavdraget).

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



The Days Are Getting Shorter. Time for Another World War II Memorial?

Why European leaders can’t resist celebrating the Sept. 1 anniversary—again.

Seventy years ago next week—at 4:45 a.m. on Sept. 1, 1939, to be precise—the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein began to shell the Polish military base at Westerplatte. For the Germans, for the Poles, and for the British and French, who immediately declared war on Germany, this was the beginning of World War II. The Soviet Union, having signed a secret agreement with Nazi Germany, did not declare war but was itself preparing to invade Poland and the Baltic States. Which it did, two and a half weeks later, on Sept. 17.

None of these basic facts is in dispute. Nor can they be rightly described as “current events”: Two generations have passed, yet those signature events nevertheless continue to be remembered, contested, and commemorated in every anniversary year ending with five or zero. I remember joking with a friend on May 8, 1995, the 50th anniversary of the Nazi capitulation, that now, finally, we had reached the end of the anniversaries. But we had not. Next week, on Sept. 1, 2009, the prime ministers of Russia, Poland, and France; the foreign minister of Britain; the chancellor of Germany; and more than a dozen other European leaders will meet at Westerplatte to launch the cycle of 70th anniversaries—barely on the heels of the 65th. Why?

The answer cannot lie in the personal experiences of any of the statesmen involved, since none was alive at the time. It lies, rather, in the way that memories of the war have come to be central to the national memory, and therefore to the contemporary politics, of so many of the countries that fought in it.

Everything about modern Germany, for instance, is the way it is because of the war, from its pacifism and its devotion to the European Union to the architecture of its capital city. War guilt is built into the political system and becomes controversial only when it seems some Germans want to abandon it: The new wave of interest in the fate of Germans who fled or were expelled from Central Europe after the war, or the popularity of books about Allied bombings of German cities, worries many in the region. Hence Angela Merkel’s presence at Westerplatte. (She was the first to confirm she would attend.) No German chancellor wants any of Germany’s neighbors to doubt that Germany is still very sorry about 1939 (even if some are rather indifferent). And none wants Germany’s neighbors to fear German aggression today.

For the Poles, this 70th anniversary has a different significance: It’s the first time this particular event has been commemorated by a Polish government that is firmly a member of both the European Union and NATO. The British and the French will be there for the same reason—Central Europe in general and Poland in particular now have a large number of votes in European institutions and generally have to be taken more seriously than they used to be. Top-level U.S. politicians will presumably be absent because they, by contrast, have no special reason to take Central Europeans seriously. Generally speaking, the former Allies prefer to remember the bits of the war—D-Day, for example—that contribute to their memory of the 1945 Triumph of Democracy, preferring to forget that the war’s initial raison d’être, the independence of Poland and the freedom of Central Europe, was not really achieved until 1989.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will attend for slightly different reasons, or so it would seem. Last weekend, Russian state television ran a long documentary essentially arguing that Stalin was justified in ordering the 1939 invasion of Poland and the Baltic states—and in doing a secret deal with Hitler—on the grounds that Poland itself was in a secret alliance with the Nazis. Putin himself probably will not defend this startling and ahistorical thesis, although—judging from an article he has written for the Polish media—he may well try to “contextualize” the Hitler-Stalin pact by comparing it with other diplomatic decisions. Lately, other Russians have lately expressed similarly positive views of 1939 in a well-coordinated attempt to justify the Hitler-Stalin pact. (If they have any views: The majority of Russians, a recent poll shows, do not know that the USSR invaded Poland in 1939.)

But from the point of view of the Russian ruling elite, such interpretations make sense: By praising Stalin’s aggression toward the USSR’s neighbors 70 years ago, the current leaders help justify Russia’s aggression toward its neighbors today, at least in the eyes of the Russian public. Certainly, they serve to make Russia’s Central European neighbors anxious—precisely the opposite effect of that which Merkel hopes to achieve. Thus can the same event have multiple meanings, thus do the Germans and the Russians express their radically different feelings about their places in Europe—and thus do the anniversary celebrations carry on, every five years, without fail.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



UK: Lockerbie Bomber ‘Set Free for Oil’

by Jason Allardyce

The British government decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, eligible for return to Libya, leaked ministerial letters reveal.

Gordon Brown’s government made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.

The letters were sent two years ago by Jack Straw, the justice secretary, to Kenny MacAskill, his counterpart in Scotland, who has been widely criticised for taking the formal decision to permit Megrahi’s release.

The correspondence makes it plain that the key decision to include Megrahi in a deal with Libya to allow prisoners to return home was, in fact, taken in London for British national interests.

Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: “This is the strongest evidence yet that the British government has been involved for a long time in talks over al-Megrahi in which commercial considerations have been central to their thinking.”

Two letters dated five months apart show that Straw initially intended to exclude Megrahi from a prisoner transfer agreement with Colonel Muammar Gadaffi, under which British and Libyan prisoners could serve out their sentences in their home country.

In a letter dated July 26, 2007, Straw said he favoured an option to leave out Megrahi by stipulating that any prisoners convicted before a specified date would not be considered for transfer.

Downing Street had also said Megrahi would not be included under the agreement.

Straw then switched his position as Libya used its deal with BP as a bargaining chip to insist the Lockerbie bomber was included.

The exploration deal for oil and gas, potentially worth up to £15 billion, was announced in May 2007. Six months later the agreement was still waiting to be ratified.

On December 19, 2007, Straw wrote to MacAskill announcing that the UK government was abandoning its attempt to exclude Megrahi from the prisoner transfer agreement, citing the national interest.

In a letter leaked by a Whitehall source, he wrote: “I had previously accepted the importance of the al-Megrahi issue to Scotland and said I would try to get an exclusion for him on the face of the agreement. I have not been able to secure an explicit exclusion.

“The wider negotiations with the Libyans are reaching a critical stage and, in view of the overwhelming interests for the United Kingdom, I have agreed that in this instance the [prisoner transfer agreement] should be in the standard form and not mention any individual.”

Within six weeks of the government climbdown, Libya had ratified the BP deal. The prisoner transfer agreement was finalised in May this year, leading to Libya formally applying for Megrahi to be transferred to its custody.

Saif Gadaffi, the colonel’s son, has insisted that negotiation over the release of Megrahi was linked with the BP oil deal: “The fight to get the [transfer] agreement lasted a long time and was very political, but I want to make clear that we didn’t mention Mr Megrahi.

“At all times we talked about the [prisoner transfer agreement]. It was obvious we were talking about him. We all knew that was what we were talking about.

“People should not get angry because we were talking about commerce or oil. We signed an oil deal at the same time. The commerce and oil deals were all with the [prisoner transfer agreement].”

His account is confirmed by other sources. Sir Richard Dalton, a former British ambassador to Libya and a board member of the Libyan British Business Council, said: “Nobody doubted Libya wanted BP and BP was confident its commitment would go through. But the timing of the final authority to spend real money was dependent on politics.”

Bob Monetti of New Jersey, whose son Rick was among the victims of the 1988 bombing, said: “It’s always been about business.”

BP denied that political factors were involved in the deal’s ratification or that it had stalled during negotiations over the prisoner transfer talks.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman denied there had been a U-turn, but said trade considerations had been a factor in negotiating the prisoner exchange deal. He said Straw had unsuccessfully tried to accommodate the wish of the Scottish government to exclude Megrahi from agreement.

The spokesman claimed the deal was ultimately “academic” because Megrahi had been released on compassionate grounds: “The negotiations on the [transfer agreement] were part of wider negotiations aimed at the normalisation of relations with Libya, which included a range of areas, including trade.

“The exclusion or inclusion of Megrahi would not serve any practical purpose because the Scottish executive always had a veto on whether to transfer him.”

A spokesman for Lord Mandelson said he had not changed his position that the release of Megrahi was not linked to trade deals.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



UK: NM Rothschild Pitches Motorway Privatisation Plan

A radical plan to raise £100 billion by privatising the motorway network has been presented to the three main political parties by NM Rothschild, the influential investment bank.

Rothschild, an architect of several privatisations, made its pitch in the weeks running up to the summer recess on July 21, Whitehall sources said. Bankers told leading politicians that the sale of the roads overseen by the Highways Agency — all motorways and most big trunk roads — could help revive battered public finances.

Toll-road companies and infrastructure funds would compete to operate and maintain stretches of the network.

In one version of the scheme, the government would pay for upkeep through a system of “shadow” tolls. A more radical, and less politically palatable, option would be for companies to charge motorists directly through toll booths or electronic card readers. The RAC Foundation, a motorists’ group, advocated privatisation in a report last week.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



US Offered ‘Millions’ To Keep Bomber in UK

Revealed: Britain and America’s major disagreement over where Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi should end his days

Scottish ministers went ahead with the controversial decision to send the Lockerbie bomber back to Libya despite an American offer to bankroll his “house arrest” in the UK, it emerged yesterday.

US officials had “very reluctantly” backed a proposal to move Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi from Greenock Prison into some kind of high-security accommodation elsewhere in Scotland, senior government sources on both sides of the Atlantic confirmed. But the Americans had only consented to the option in a desperate attempt to deter the Scottish Executive from releasing Megrahi on compassionate grounds — due to his terminal prostate cancer — and sending him home to die.

They also made it clear that the US would be willing to contribute millions of dollars to a complicated house arrest operation that would have demanded round-the-clock security to keep the prisoner under guard and protect him from attack.

But the Scottish National Party government in Edinburgh eventually chose the option of compassionate release, claiming police chiefs had ruled that the security implications of house arrest would be “severe”. However, Strathclyde Police denied last week that they had made any judgement on the proposal, and claimed they had only told the Scottish government how many officers would be needed.

“Our position has consistently been that we wanted to see Megrahi serve out his sentence in Scotland,” an official within the US administration said yesterday. “It got to the stage [during talks over the release] where we would have agreed to anything that would have kept him under Scottish jurisdiction.”

Details of the transatlantic diplomatic efforts that followed the revelation that Megrahi could be freed early came as the convicted bomber called for a public inquiry into the Lockerbie atrocity.

In an interview with The Herald, a Glasgow newspaper, he said he was determined to clear his name — and that an inquiry would help families of the victims know the truth.

“It [an inquiry] would help them to know the truth. The truth never dies. If the UK guaranteed it, I would be very supportive.”

The Americans indicated their willingness to see Megrahi released into “secure custody” in Scotland during preliminary discussions of the case with politicians in Westminster and Scotland over the past two months. The remarkable concession is believed to have been referred to in letters between Washington and Kenny MacAskill, which could be published this week.

A BBC poll published on Friday suggested that releasing the prisoner into “community custody” would have been a hugely unpopular move in Scotland itself.

The survey revealed that more than half of Scots believed that Megrahi should never have been released. However, while just 29 per cent of Scots supported the decision to release Megrahi and send him home, only 15 per cent believed that he should have been moved into house arrest.

Megrahi ultimately served eight years of a minimum 27-year sentence for murdering 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over the town of Lockerbie, southern Scotland, in December 1988.

After Megrahi returned to a hero’s welcome in Tripoli, President Barack Obama said he should at least be subjected to house arrest in Libya during his final days.

A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said yesterday it was up to the US to comment on their own position.

The far-reaching implications of the Megrahi affair were underlined last night, when the Sunday Times claimed letters from the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, to Mr MacAskill prove the British Government had decided it was “in the overwhelming interests of the United Kingdom” to make the bomber eligible for return to Libya. The leaked letters reportedly revealed that Mr Straw made the decision after discussions between Libya and BP over a multi-million-pound oil exploration deal had hit difficulties. These were resolved soon afterwards.

[Return to headlines]

North Africa


Italy-Libya: Historian Del Boca, Censored by Those I Defended

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 26 — “I confirm that I no longer want to think about Libya” was the bitter statement by historian Angelo Del Boca — one of the fiercest critics of Italy’s colonial policy — who today condemned Libya’s “censorship” of his latest book ‘One step away from the gallows’ (published by Baldini Castoldi Dalai), about the acts of Mohamed Fekini, one of the heroes of the anti-Italian resistance in Tripoli. And although he was contacted today without success by the Libyan ambassador in Italy, after his article in the Manifesto, he will not give up his protest. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the document sent to me by the Fekini family, in which the Main Press office of the Libyan General Popular Committee for Culture and Information justified the confiscation of the book and the circulation of the text. They are banal and unjustified reasons, like the one which says I praised the Senussi and their role in independence: I would like to point out that Omar Al Muktar, whose image was pinned to Gadaffi’s chest during his visit to Rome, was the Chief of the Senussia and future king of Libya, Mohamed Idris’s deputy at the time of his arrest”. “They are pulling my leg: on one hand Libya is offering me a decoration and on the other hand they have banned my book. Maybe Ambassador Ghadur wanted to apologise, or tell me he didn’t know anything about it. The fact is that there seems to be some confusion among the heads of the Jamahiriya, “ says Del Boca. He points out that the censorship of his books is an old story: “for example, they removed the chapter in my book published by Laterza on the history of the country from fascism to Gaddafi, whom I interviewed at length, in which there were unpleasant things written about the Colonel. I defended Libya at length, as it was right and proper to do. But now I am extremely angry about this censorship”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Preacher’s Moses Story Controversial in Egypt

In the program Min Qasas al-Quran (Stories of the Quran), which has aired on several satellite channels since Ramadan began, Khaled discussed how the Pharaohs slayed male Jews during the time of Moses.The famous preacher prepared the story earlier this year and posted it on his website in May with questions that he asked visitors to respond to.

“Think about these questions,” he wrote on the website. “You will not find their answers in any book. They just need brains and imagination.”

Among the questions posted were those asking: Why did the Pharaoh order male Jews to be killed? What do you think was Moses’ political goal? Was it saving the Israelites or talking the Pharaoh into believing in God? Why didn’t Moses call upon Egyptians to join his faith?

The responses were remarkable because the majority linked the story of Moses to the current political situation in Egypt and viewed it as an incentive to rebel against repressive leaders.

The website discussion was not welcome by state officials, unnamed security sources told Al Arabiya.

A report by a state security officer about Khaled alleged the story was a means of arousing sympathy for Jews as well as attacking the Egyptian government.

Report 314 also referred to Khaled’s other program al-Insan (The Human Being), which tackles difficult issues in poor villages and launches campaigns to assist residents by building them new houses.

The initiative was regarded as a rival to the Alf Qaria (A thousand villages) project, sponsored by Gamal Mubarak, the Egyptian president’s son. The report was then submitted to the Minister of Interior and Khaled was asked to tone down his activities. When he did not, he left for London.

Dr. Mohamed Fathi, a journalist and one of Khaled’s closest friends, denied allegations that the Ministry of Interior was involved in Khaled’s departure and stressed that he intended to return to Egypt during Ramadan.

“He is currently in Saudi Arabia performing the Lesser Pilgrimage,” he told Al Arabiya. “He will also fly to the UAE to take part in the international Quran competition then come to Egypt.”

Not a Jew sympathizerFathi denied that Khaled sympathized with the Jews.

“The program lashes out at Israeli policies, and this will be made clear in the next episodes. There is one episode about al-Aqsa Mosque and how Israelis do not have the right to claim it and another about the way Jews started sneaking into Arab land.”

As for political connotations, Fathi stressed that Khaled’s program has nothing to do with the current political situation in Egypt.

“This is a religious program and the story was mentioned in the Quran. It is just that Moses was sent by God to resist oppression,” he explained.

Fathi pointed out that Khaled uses the latest technology in his program and has thus initiated a significant change on religious shows and stated that the program has received some of the highest viewer rates.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



The NS Profile: Muammar Al-Gaddafi

Shortly before he died in 1970, the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser said: “I rather like Gaddafi. He reminds me of myself when I was that age.” As a teenager growing up in the desert outside Sirte, Gaddafi had been an avid listener to Nasser’s inflammatory Arab nationalist broadcasts on Radio Cairo. His school had even expelled him for organising a student strike in support of the Egyptian leader. Here was the “leader of the Arabs”, who had humiliated the old colonial powers during Suez and brought the promise of unity to the region, giving his blessing. To the young colonel, still not 30, there could have been no greater compliment.

Gaddafi seemed worthy of the older man’s mantle when he came to power in Libya on 1 September 1969, deposing the weak, pro-western king Idris while the monarch was receiving medical treatment abroad. By the end of 1970, he had expelled between 15,000 and 25,000 of the despised Italians who had occupied Libya from 1911-41, removed the US and British military bases, and turned Tripoli’s Catholic cathedral into the Gamal Abdel Nasser Mosque.

Forty years on, Gaddafi is the object of international vilification once again. Yet America’s fury at the Lockerbie bomber’s triumphant repatriation does not change the fact that the Libyan leader is now a friend of the west. He has held meetings with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and Silvio Berlusconi greeted him with a warm embrace when his plane touched down at Ciampino Airport in Rome in June. [Note: Gaddafi also shook hands with Barack Obama at the G8 summit in Italy. — Sean] The former “mad dog of the Middle East”, as Ronald Reagan called him, is even due to address the UN General Assembly in New York on 23 September. He has stopped offering sanctuary to and sponsoring terrorists, and traded his WMD programme for the normalisation of relations with the west.

None of this would have been conceivable during Gaddafi’s early years in power. By the late 1960s, oil revenues were rapidly increasing — Libya overtook Kuwait as the world’s fifth-largest exporter in 1969 — and Gaddafi played an important role in the 1973-74 oil crisis in which Opec cut production and raised prices, by leading the embargo on shipments to the US. At the same time as making good on his promises to provide free education and health care (as well as subsidised housing) for Libya’s small population, he could back his ambition for regional hegemony with money, providing subsidies to Egypt and to others he saw as allies in the fight against Israel.

But Gaddafi did not limit his aid to Israel’s enemies. Over time, it seemed any group that styled itself as a freedom movement could call on the Libyan state purse, from the IRA to the Moro National Liberation Front in the Philippines. Although his dreams of a pan-Arab merger with Tunisia, Egypt and Syria failed, Gaddafi’s influence was felt far and wide. This frequently alarmed his neighbours, as did his erratic behaviour. In 1973, for instance, the QEII set sail from Southampton to Haifa full of Jewish passengers celebrating the 25th anniversary of the State of Israel. According to Nasser’s successor Anwar al-Sadat, Gaddafi ordered an Egyptian submarine temporarily under his command to torpedo the liner: a directive countermanded only when Sadat ordered the sub to return to base in Alexandria.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Arafat Arms Smuggler Imprisoned

An Israeli military court has sentenced a former aide of the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, to 20 years in prison for weapons trafficking.

Fuad Shubaki organised and financed an arms shipment on the Karine-A cargo ship that was intercepted by Israeli forces in 2002, the court ruled.

Shubaki, who was head of finance for the Palestinian security services, denied the charges.

He said his job only involved carrying out orders from Mr Arafat.

The Karine-A was stopped by Israeli commandos 500km (300 miles) off the Israeli coast in the Red Sea on 3 January, 2002.

Israel said at the time that the ship was carrying 50 tonnes of Iranian-made weapons, including Katyusha rockets, ammunition and explosives.

The incident threatened attempts by the US to implement a ceasefire between the two sides.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Barry Rubin: Why Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State is a Prime Requirement for Israel-Palestinian Peace

One of Israel’s highest priorities in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority (PA) is recognition by the PA and Arab states as a “Jewish state.” The purpose of this demand is to ensure a lasting peace with Israel as it exists rather than some formal declaration which would thereafter be subverted in every possible way.

[For Israel’s peace plan go here; for a summary of the two sides’ negotiating positions, go here]

Remember, after all, that the Middle East is full of countries which, when you recognize them, you accept their self-definition. Here are some of the names of countries which you accept when you recognize them: The Arab Republic of Egypt, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran, or even—as in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan or Saudi Arabia—designating them as being under the rule of a single family.

The Palestinian Authority’s constitution for a Palestinian state—which will probably have the word “Arab” and possibly “Islamic” in its name—states that country is Arab in nationality and that the official religion is Islam.

But the most important reason is to counter various tricks like that of the “Right of Return,” which is based on a false reading of a single non-binding UN document that the Palestinians and Arabs rejected more than fifty years ago. Note that this demand—that all Palestinians who ever lived in what is now Israel or are descendants of such people—can come and live in Israel. Naturally, there first goal would be to destroy that country and the result would be horrible violence, bloodshed, and instability…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



Former Israeli PM Olmert Charged

The former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been indicted in three corruption cases, the attorney general’s office says.

Mr Olmert has been embroiled in a number of corruption scandals but denies any wrongdoing in all the cases.

The former head of the Kadima party was replaced as prime minister by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu following general elections in February.

The series of probes was a key factor in Mr Olmert’s resignation last year.

The charges relate to the periods when Mr Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and a cabinet minister, but before he became prime minister in 2006.

On Sunday he issued a statement through a spokesman that said: “Olmert is convinced that in the court he will be able to prove his innocence once and for all.”

Talansky case

The office of Attorney General Menahem Mazuz confirmed in a statement he had decided to press charges and that the charge sheet had been presented on Sunday in Jerusalem district court.

The 61-page charge sheet lays out accusations of “fraud, breach of trust, registering false corporate documents and concealing fraudulent earnings”.

Mr Olmert is the first former prime minister in Israeli history to face criminal charges, the office said.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Talks With BG Resumed for Natural Gas

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 17 — Despite the huge offshore natural gas finds near Israel’s Mediterranean coast, and the increased purchases of gas from Egypt, Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) is keeping all its options open. IEC representatives are due to fly to London to continue negotiations with BG Group plc for the purchase of natural gas, Globes online reports. IEC said in response, “The company does not disclose information about its business proceedings.” On the instructions of the government, IEC renewed negotiations with BG Group in early 2009 to buy natural gas from the company’s reserves offshore from Gaza. The talks were renewed before the discoveries at the Tamar and Dalit natural gas fields. BG’s opening position was to double its asking price for natural gas from its previous offer of $4-5 per million British Thermal Units. However energy market sources believe that BG has since softened its position. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Al-Qaida Claims Responsibility for Saudi Prince Assassination Attempt

Al-Qaida on Sunday claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that lightly wounded a senior Saudi prince largely credited with the kingdom’s aggressive anti-terrorism program.

The terrorist organization’s branch in the Arabian Peninsula said Sunday the attacker traveled from Yemen to Saudi Arabia on a plane sent by Saudi’s assistant interior minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, because the militant said he wanted to surrender.

Prince Mohammed, who sustained minor injuries to his hand when the bomber detonated his explosives, has said he ordered his guards not to search the militant when he arrived at his home in Jiddah for a gathering celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Yemen’s foreign minister said Saturday that the militant came from the Yemeni province of Marib.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]



Jordan: No Water for Inmates on Hunger Strike, HRW Report

(by Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) — AMMAN, AUGUST 26 — The New-York based Human Rights Watch today accused Jordanian police authorities of turning water off from cells of political prisoners to force them break a hunger strike over arduous incarceration conditions in a run down prison near Amman. The group decried police for giving what it said was false promises to improve their human rights record, pointing out to the a recent example of “denying water to 10 Islamist prisoners in Juwaida prison,” said the group in a report posted on its Website. “The authorities have turned off the hunger strikers’ water taps, placed them in solitary confinement, and prevented visits from their families, Human Rights Watch said. A group of political prisoners started a hunger strike a five days ago in an old prison in Amman demanding better conditions and an end to abuse by prison authorities. They were later joined by other political prisoners in Swaqa prison, the largest in the Kingdom. “Denying drinking water to prisoners can amount to cruel and degrading punishment, and can even lead to death, Human Rights Watch said. Authorities also practice other types of maltreatment to prisoners, according to the report, including the use of castor oil to flush out drugs and weapons arriving with new inmates. Prisoners are forced to swallow up to eight castor oil pills and sit naked on buckets to await the rapid onset of violent diarrhea, leaving some of them extremely weak for days,” said the group in a previous report. Prisoners say the practice is still ongoing, but officials in the public security department, the body overlooking prisons deny such accusations. Prisoners in the strike complain of small size of their cells, which hold three or four prisoners and are uncomfortably hot in the summer, as well as unpalatable food, short visiting times, seizure of their books and personal belongings, and the absence of a mosque and an exercise area. “Islamist prisoners in Juwaida are kept in a separate wing and are not allowed to exercise with others, even fellow Islamist prisoners, and spend all of their time, including exercise time, with their two or three cellmates in small-group isolation,” said the group. Prisoners who are isolated are fund to be suffering depression, anxiety, and deteriorating eyesight, physical and psychological symptoms as an effect of small-group isolation, according to HRW. “Jordan has broken its promises on prison reform even on easy-to-fix issues like providing drinking water, stopping the castor oil treatment, and ending isolation,” said Stork. “The treatment appears as inhumane as ever.” Ten of the hunger-striking prisoners were transferred from Swaqa prison to Juwaida but were severely beaten before the transfer, according to family members. It was promised that there would be an investigation. The investigation, conducted by police officials, absolved prison guards of all wrongdoing, saying forensic exams conducted later did not show definite signs of beatings, according to the group. There has been rising calls that police should stop supervising prisons, giving this authority to the judicial powers, following ongoing claims that police often pay little attention to human rights, in prisons and on the streets of the kingdom. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Jordan: Prisoners in Hunger Strike to Protest Abuse

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, AUGUST 25 — Dozens of political prisoners are staging a hunger strike at two prisons to protest against abuse by security guards and improper incarceration conditions, activists and officials said today. The first strike began at a notorious prison inside the capital, Jweideh, where thousands are held behind bars awaiting trial. Islamist activists say police abuse them and deprive them from basic rights. Inmates in Swaqa prison, the largest, also started a strike in support of other prisoners, according to activists and police officials. Human rights activists said they have been denied access to the prisons, despite repeated requests to meet the inmates in order to convey their message to concerned authorities. “Prisoners have sent a letter to their families saying they are being kept in difficult conditions, not allowed to mix with other inmates and refused to pray in the mosque,” said Abdul Kareem Shreideh, an activists from the Arab organization for human rights. According to police spokesman Muhanad Khatib, the strike started three days ago. Jordanian authorities have been criticised by international human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for abusing prisoners, physically and mentally. Last year, hundreds of prisoners in a facility near Amman rioted to protest abuse, leading to the death of many inmates. Most prisoners are Islamist activists, held behind bars following trials at the military run state security court. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Jordan: Regulations to Protect Foreign Domestic Helpers

(ANSAmed) AMMAN, AUGUST 27 — The Jordanian government has moved to curb growing violence and abuse to foreign domestic helpers by endorsing regulations that grants them more rights when working for a local employer, an official said today. In a cabinet meeting, the government set a number of rules to apply to foreign workers including allowing them religious freedom, healthcare, and a one day weekend, according to the official news agency Petra. Domestic helpers will not be required to work more than 10 hours a day, contrary to current practices where most workers end up working between 15 and up to 20 hours a day. Labour Minister Ghazi Shbeikat said the new instruction “will help address several problems that used to appear in the past and will also protect workers’ rights in accordance with international human rights standards. The measures come after an increased number of complaint by foreign expatriates of persistent abuse by local employers, particularly Asians working as domestic helpers. Many countries, including the Philippine, Sri Lanka and Indonesia lodged official complaints to authorities over lack of support by authorities to expatriates and ongoing physical and psychological abuse. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Qaeda Attack on Prince Part of Wider Plot

By Abdullah Al-Orefij

The suicide bomber was recruited by Yemeni Nasser Al-Wohaishi, known also by the nom de guerre Abu Baseer, the sources said.

The suicide bomber was recruited by Yemeni Nasser Al-Wohaishi, known also by the nom de guerre Abu Baseer, the sources said.

Al-Wohaishi is the head of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which had announced in an Internet posting last January the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al-Qaeda.

The merger was seen by analysts as an attempt to consolidate after the Saudi branch of Al-Qaeda was practically wiped out following a vigorous counter-terrorism campaign led by Prince Muhammad.

According to Okaz sources, the bomber who detonated himself only a meter away from the Prince was part of a terrorist cell formed to target oil installations and public figures.

The sources said the bomber stayed in an apartment on Sari Street, northwest of Jeddah, Thursday.

The sources said the bomber stayed in an apartment on Sari Street, northwest of Jeddah, Thursday.

He had slipped into the Kingdom from Mareb, east of Sana’a, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abu-Bakr Al-Qirbi told The Associated Press.

“He was in Yemen,” said Al-Qirbi. “He claimed that he was going to hand himself over to Saudi authorities and make a statement to his followers to abandon Al-Qaeda principles.”

Okaz sources said the bomb was implanted in the attacker’s rectum, which could explain why he refused to drink coffee at the Prince’s Court.

The bomber had sent word he wanted to surrender personally to the Prince who had ordered that he not be searched to encourage others to come forward.

At the Prince’s home in Jeddah’s north Obhur beach area Thursday night around 11.30 P.M., the attacker was in line to enter a gathering of well-wishers for Ramadan when he blew himself up. The Prince was lightly injured in the attack. The bomber died.

Saudi authorities have so far not announced the identity of the attacker who along with his brother was on the Interior Ministry’s list of 85 most wanted militants.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has made several unsuccessful attempts to strike inside the Kingdom.

In April, Saudi authorities discovered a cave in the remote Saudi mountains near the Yemeni border that was a way station for the militants. Saudi police seized 11 suspected Saudi militants planning armed robberies, kidnappings and other attacks. Earlier this month Saudi authorities announced the arrest of 44 militants and the seizure of explosives, detonators and guns.

Thursday’s bombing was the first assassination attempt against a member of the royal family in decades and was also the first significant attack by militants in the Kingdom since 2006.

Saudi Arabia has waged a fierce crackdown on Al-Qaeda militants in the country. It has killed or captured most of their leaders after a string of attacks that started in 2003.

However, Thursday attack raises concerns that Yemen’s instability could allow Al-Qaeda to carry out cross-border attacks. The Yemeni army is on a near three-week-long offensive on strongholds of Zaidi rebels, also known as Huthis, in lawless swathes around Saada city in the Mareb region. The security forces are stretched by the tribal revolt in the north and separatist unrest in the south. — Okaz/ SG/ Agencies Qaeda attack on Prince part of wider plot

By Abdullah Al-Orefij

The suicide bomber was recruited by Yemeni Nasser Al-Wohaishi, known also by the nom de guerre Abu Baseer, the sources said.

The suicide bomber was recruited by Yemeni Nasser Al-Wohaishi, known also by the nom de guerre Abu Baseer, the sources said.

Al-Wohaishi is the head of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which had announced in an Internet posting last January the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni branches of Al-Qaeda.

The merger was seen by analysts as an attempt to consolidate after the Saudi branch of Al-Qaeda was practically wiped out following a vigorous counter-terrorism campaign led by Prince Muhammad.

According to Okaz sources, the bomber who detonated himself only a meter away from the Prince was part of a terrorist cell formed to target oil installations and public figures.

The sources said the bomber stayed in an apartment on Sari Street, northwest of Jeddah, Thursday.

The sources said the bomber stayed in an apartment on Sari Street, northwest of Jeddah, Thursday.

He had slipped into the Kingdom from Mareb, east of Sana’a, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abu-Bakr Al-Qirbi told The Associated Press.

“He was in Yemen,” said Al-Qirbi. “He claimed that he was going to hand himself over to Saudi authorities and make a statement to his followers to abandon Al-Qaeda principles.”

Okaz sources said the bomb was implanted in the attacker’s rectum, which could explain why he refused to drink coffee at the Prince’s Court.

The bomber had sent word he wanted to surrender personally to the Prince who had ordered that he not be searched to encourage others to come forward.

At the Prince’s home in Jeddah’s north Obhur beach area Thursday night around 11.30 P.M., the attacker was in line to enter a gathering of well-wishers for Ramadan when he blew himself up. The Prince was lightly injured in the attack. The bomber died.

Saudi authorities have so far not announced the identity of the attacker who along with his brother was on the Interior Ministry’s list of 85 most wanted militants.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has made several unsuccessful attempts to strike inside the Kingdom.

In April, Saudi authorities discovered a cave in the remote Saudi mountains near the Yemeni border that was a way station for the militants. Saudi police seized 11 suspected Saudi militants planning armed robberies, kidnappings and other attacks. Earlier this month Saudi authorities announced the arrest of 44 militants and the seizure of explosives, detonators and guns.

Thursday’s bombing was the first assassination attempt against a member of the royal family in decades and was also the first significant attack by militants in the Kingdom since 2006.

Saudi Arabia has waged a fierce crackdown on Al-Qaeda militants in the country. It has killed or captured most of their leaders after a string of attacks that started in 2003.

However, Thursday attack raises concerns that Yemen’s instability could allow Al-Qaeda to carry out cross-border attacks. The Yemeni army is on a near three-week-long offensive on strongholds of Zaidi rebels, also known as Huthis, in lawless swathes around Saada city in the Mareb region. The security forces are stretched by the tribal revolt in the north and separatist unrest in the south.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]



The Saudi Plan is Really the US Plan

The Saudi Plan was introduced prior to the Gulf War. After the war began, the Roadmap was unveiled which included the Saudi Plan and now we are stuck with it.

In the article which follows written just after the Roadmap was introduced, I reasoned that the Saudi Plan was really the State Department Plan negotiated for the Saudi support for the US invasion.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

South Asia


India: In Wake of Election Defeat, The BJP is Crumbling

The party is losing popularity among the young and the urban middle class, where before it was strong and which represent India in the 21st century. In order to regain popularity among these social strata and devise a winning strategy the party should concentrate on the future and not look back. The crux of its relationship with RSS.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — After the defeat in the general election in India, the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) kept postponing a discussion on the causes of the defeat till the chintan baithak (introspection session) of last week in Simla, but the result had been a series of expulsions and resignation of the critics.

On the eve of the meeting in Simla a senior member, Jaswant Singh, was expelled for writing a book praising Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. During the meeting, Sudheendra Kulkarni, (former political aide to senior BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani) resigned from the party for ideological differences. After the meeting, former minister Arun Shourie launched a furious attack on the entire top brass of the party and called for the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) to “bombard the party headquarters” and replace the brass by 10-15 nominees of its choice. While Shourie hopes for a takeover by the RSS, Jaswant Singh says that the party should cut the umbilical cord with RSS.

After the defeat of the party in Rajasthan the central leadership had asked the former chief minister, Vasundhara Raje, to resign as leader of the opposition in the local parliament, but she refused and called a meeting of all her supporters raising the chance of a separation. Encouraged by this opposition also BC Khandhuri, who was asked to resign as chief minister of Uttarkhand after the defeat in the election, accused the leadership of acting in haste and making him a scapegoat. For his part, the leader of RSS, Mohan Bhagwat, said that there is “too much factionalism in BJP and it should be stopped”.

When Jaswant Singh was asked to comment on the different measures, for him, “expulsion”, and for Shourie, “a simple clarification”, he said: “I have never been a member of RSS. I would like the BJP to be a party of the 21st century. But there are obviously double standards” and he also dared to compare the BJP to the Ku Klux Klan. “The BJP increasingly resembles a ship without a compass. The captain seems to have lost control and the crew is restless”

The BJP has a history of ambitious state leaders taking on the central leadership and splitting the party. Stalwarts like Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharati couldn’t make a mark as independent leaders but their rebellion hurt the party in their stronghold.

Internal criticism within the BJP have brought out that it is loosing popularity among youth as well as among urban middle classes, two segments where it had been strong earlier and which represent the emergent India of the 21st century. To reconnect with these segments and devise a winning strategy, it needs to focus on the future rather than obsess with the past.

After two consecutive defeats which also signal the end of the Vajpayee-Advani era, the BJP has to take decisions of policy and of leadership. Confronted with adversity, ideological parties, like the BJP, are often inclined to retreat in their political ghettos. The assumption is that the fall in electoral support is linked to a loss of ideological purity. But India is changing. There is a sense of self-confidence among the youth and a belief that their country can face the world on its own term.

A political observer, Swapan Dasgupta, gives these suggestions: “The BJP must candidly recognize that assertive Hindutva marked by hate speeches and moral policing is seen as ugly mirror images of the Taliban. Today, Hindutva has become an etymological obstacle in the BJP’s path, diverting attention from the party’s impressive record in governance. The party should consider freezing it in the way Jawaharlal Nehru quietly shelved Gandhism after independence. Enlightened nationalism, good governance and modernity must become the party’s priorities”.

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



Jibril: “Mastermind” Of the Massacres Hotels in Jakarta, Is Linked to Al Qaeda

Confirmation from the head of the Indonesian police that the man may soon be indicted as a “suspected terrorist”. Jibril, trained in Pakistan, dealt with terrorist recruitment and fundraising. International Crisis Group report: the terror network in Jakarta “widespread and complex.”

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — The Indonesian terrorist Mohamad Jibril Abdurrahman, August 26 arrested on suspicion of being the “brains” behind the massacres in Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotel in Jakarta on 17 July, is linked to al Qaeda. It was revealed today, by the Indonesian police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri, who explained that the man — also known as Muhamad Ricky Ardhan — is an “ex-member of the international terror network” of Osama Bin Laden.

“ Yes, it is right,” admitted the chief of police, after Friday prayers, spurred by questions from journalists. “ However, — continued general Danuri — all these alleged statement should be based on legal evidence”. Asked to what is, at present, the legal status of Jibril, he annotated: “Inshallah (God willing, ed), he may soon be declared a terrorist suspect.”

Investigators also believe that Jibril — with time spent in Pakistan, where he received training — is an agent of the wealthy Saudi smuggler Ali Al Khalil. He apparently received a large sum of money to finance attacks on the hotels from Saudi tycoon, which cost the lives of nine people, in addition to 50 wounded. Earlier this week the security forces arrested Ali, who is under the investigation of the anti-terrorism special units.

Jibril Ali and thanks to huge amounts of money, also dealt with the recruitment of suicide bombers. Terrorists targets included Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Anonymous sources reveal that Jibril, in the years spent in Pakistan, joined a local terrorist group called Al Ghurab, known to be a mediator between al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia.

The charges against Jibril have sparked harsh reactions from family and colleagues at Arrahmah.com, a web portal committed to the propaganda of radical Islam of which he is director. Fackhry Mohammad, chief editor of the online journal, called the allegation “ridiculous” and stressed that “it must be attested by evidence and not based on suspicion”.

In a document released today the International Crisis Group (ICG) reports that the terror network in Jakarta is more diffused and complex “than first thought”. Experts say that it is very easy for the Malaysian terrorist Noordin Moh Top, one most wanted by the police, to recruit “potential suicide bombers in every corner of the country.”

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



Pakistan: No Military Campaign Against the Taliban

Despite strenuous entreaties by top U.S. officials, Pakistan has abandoned plans to mount a military offensive against the terrorist group responsible for a two-year campaign of suicide bombings across the country. Although the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been in disarray since an Aug. 5 missile strike from a CIA-operated drone killed its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani military has concluded that a ground attack on its strongholds in South Waziristan would be too difficult.

The Pakistani military has choked off main roads leading out of South Waziristan, and the country’s fighter jets have been pounding targets from the air (an operation Islamabad insists it will continue). But that falls short of the military campaign the U.S. desires. Instead, Pakistani authorities are hoping to exploit divisions within the TTP to prize away some factions, while counting on the CIA’s drones to take out Baitullah’s successors. (See pictures of refugees fleeing the fighting in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.)

U.S. counterterrorism officials worry that a failure to capitalize on the post-Baitullah confusion within the TTP will allow its new leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, to consolidate his position and reorganize the group. Officials in Washington say special envoy Richard Holbrooke and NATO commander General Stanley McChrystal have pressed the Pakistanis to strike while the iron is hot. But after initial promises to launch a ground offensive in South Waziristan, the Pakistanis have backed off.

A top Pakistani general, Nadeem Ahmed, recently said preparation for such an operation could take up to two months. Now there will be no ground assault at all, according to a senior Pakistani politician known to have strong military ties. Instead, the politician tells TIME, the military will try to buy off some TTP factions through peace deals.

This alarms U.S. officials, who point out that terrorist leaders have previously used peace deals to expand their influence. Such deals have been “abject failures that at the end of the day have made the security situation in parts of Pakistan worse,” says a U.S. counterterrorism official. “Why the Pakistani government keeps returning to this strategy is a mystery.” (See pictures of Pakistan beneath the surface.)

A senior Pakistani military official tells TIME a ground operation in the mountainous wilds of South Waziristan would be too difficult and would risk triggering a “tribal uprising” in a region over which Islamabad has little control.

That assessment is shared by some Pakistan experts in Washington, who say the country’s military, despite some success against militants in the Swat Valley, simply doesn’t have the ability to confront the TTP head-on. A ground operation would leave the Pakistani army “with its nose bloodied,” says Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations. Having “come out of Swat looking reasonably good,” Pakistan’s generals don’t want to risk “taking a morale hit.” (Read “Are Pakistan’s Taliban Leaders Fighting Among Themselves?”)

But the experts — like some U.S. officials — suspect the Pakistani military lacks the desire to eliminate the TTP entirely. Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution, who conducted the Obama Administration’s review of Afghanistan and Pakistan policy, says the military may simply want “to get the TTP back to where it was two years ago — a malleable force that doesn’t attack the Pakistani state, and particularly not the army.” A somewhat tame TTP is a useful bogeyman “to keep civilians appreciative of the need for the army to be getting resources and priority attention,” Riedel adds.

For the Obama Administration, the Pakistani military’s reluctance to take on the TTP doesn’t bode well for the pursuit of U.S. interests. Washington would like Islamabad to confront the groups that pose a direct threat to NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan — the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network. But “it’s not clear that the Pakistanis are prepared to pay more than lip service to that,” says Riedel.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



U.S. Says Pakistan Made Changes to Missiles Sold for Defense

The United States has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying American-made missiles to expand its capability to strike land targets, a potential threat to India, according to senior administration and Congressional officials.

[…]

While American officials say that the weapon in the latest dispute is a conventional one — based on the Harpoon antiship missiles that were sold to Pakistan by the Reagan administration as a defensive weapon in the cold war — the subtext of the argument is growing concern about the speed with which Pakistan is developing new generations of both conventional and nuclear weapons.

“There’s a concerted effort to get these guys to slow down,” one senior administration official said. “Their energies are misdirected.”

[…]

American military and intelligence officials say they suspect that Pakistan has modified the Harpoon antiship missiles that the United States sold the country in the 1980s, a move that would be a violation of the Arms Control Export Act. Pakistan has denied the charge, saying it developed the missile itself. The United States has also accused Pakistan of modifying American-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions, another violation of United States law that the Obama administration has protested.

Whatever their origin, the missiles would be a significant new entry into Pakistan’s arsenal against India. They would enable Pakistan’s small navy to strike targets on land, complementing the sizable land-based missile arsenal that Pakistan has developed. That, in turn, would be likely to spur another round of an arms race with India that the United States has been trying, unsuccessfully, to halt. “The focus of our concern is that this is a potential unauthorized modification of a maritime antiship defensive capability to an offensive land-attack missile,” said another senior administration official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter involves classified information.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Latin America


Costa Rican President Calls for New Constitution

President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica has joined the trend in Latin America of calling for a new constitution that would expand executive powers and get rid of “unnecessary checks” on the president’s authority. Although Arias has less than 9 months left in office and can’t run for reelection, his brother and current minister of the presidency — a primer minister of sorts — has openly said he’s interested in running for president in 2014. A new constitution with expanded executive powers would fit him just fine.

Arias’ call has been received with broad skepticism. La Nación, Costa Rica’s leading newspaper, said that trying to make the government more efficient through a constitutional convention was like “killing a mouse with cannon fire.” The newspaper also said that the idea of dismantling the checks and balances on executive power sounds like an effort to create an “imperial presidency.” Maybe we should send our colleague Gene Healy to study the case.

However, the most disturbing aspect of Arias’ call was his harsh criticism of the media. Borrowing from the script of Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Hugo Chávez in Venezuela, Arias described news outlets as “corporations interested in making a profit” that don’t necessarily pursue the “public good.” He asked the media to “tone down” its criticism of government officials, and said that journalists “should understand their role within a higher framework.” He complained that news outlets claim to represent the public interest, without any control or accountability.

That a politician with a thin skin complains about media criticism is hardly news. However, the fact that Arias did it while calling for a new constitution that would change the institutional and legal framework of Costa Rica (including the role of the media) should be interpreted as a threat to freedom of the press.

Most people outside Costa Rica see Arias as an accomplished democrat who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring peace to Central America during the 1980s. Most recently he attempted to mediate the conflict in Honduras after Manuel Zelaya was (legally) removed from office. However, many people in Costa Rica fret about what they perceive as an increasingly controlling style of governing by Arias and his brother, intimidating the media, bullying the opposition, crowding key government posts with allies and cronies, and now hoping for a dynastical succession in 2014.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Noam Chomsky in Venezuela: ‘A Better World is Being Created’

U.S. author, dissident intellectual, and Professor of Linguistics at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology Noam Chomsky met for the first time with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas and analyzed hemispheric politics during a nationally televised forum on Monday.

Chomsky is well known in Venezuela for his critiques of U.S. imperialism and support for the progressive political changes underway in Venezuela and other Latin American countries in recent years. President Chavez regularly references Chomsky in speeches and makes widely publicized recommendations of Chomsky’s 2003 book, Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance.

“Hegemony or survival; we opt for survival,” said Chavez in a press conference to welcome Chomsky. He compared Chomsky’s thesis to that of German socialist Rosa Luxemburg in the early 1900s, “Socialism or Barbarism,” and referred to Chomsky as “one of the greatest defenders of peace, one of the greatest pioneers of a better world.”

Through an interpreter, Chomsky responded, “I write about peace and criticize the barriers to peace; that’s easy. What’s harder is to create a better world… and what’s so exciting about at last visiting Venezuela is that I can see how a better world is being created.”

During Monday’s forum, which was broadcast on the state television station VTV, Chomsky pointed out that the ongoing coup in Honduras, which began on June 28th, is the third coup the United States has supported in Latin America so far this century, following the coup against Chavez in 2002 and Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004…

[Return to headlines]

Immigration


Frattini: ‘Saving Lives an Italian Priority’

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 24 — Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has made use of Rimini ‘Comunione e Liberazione’ meeting to reiterate the government’s line on emigration, responding to journalists’ questions after the tragedy off Lampedusa in which 73 migrants are thought to have died, saying that the Italian government “profoundly believes that human life is worth more than anything else and that, when it is in danger, one must do all one can to save it — since rescue operations cannot be renounced nor put in question”. Frattini underscored that in Europe “Italy is the country which is most involved in saving lives at sea”, with “thousands being saved only last year. Immigration policy is not the same as the rescue of human beings. The latter is an absolute duty. Immigration policy is much more complex and means ensuring countries from which immigrants come, especially those of Sub-Saharan Africa, an alternative to immigration due to desperation”. A true policy on immigration, said the foreign minister, must ensure those fleeing from wars and desperation a future of development, including “collaboration with countries of origin and transit, and that there be regulation of the immigration flows.” The alternative, is “to leave desperate people at the mercy of human trafficking, slavery of the XXI century.” Frattini also spoke on contact between Italy and Malta as concerns immigration. Italy continues to believe that the talks “with Malta for the past ten year” to restrict the Maltese-controlled area of the sea are “indispensable for the entire international community”. Despite the “no” in no uncertain terms sent in a letter by Malta’s foreign minister, Tonio Borg, Frattini said that this belief has been held by the Italian government for over a decade, even though “to negotiate both sides need to be involved”. The minister said that “our patrol boats are already monitoring the part of the sea between Libya, Malta and Italy, and Italians are by far the ones who have saved the most lives at sea. However, it is clear that beyond immediate rescue operations there are international obligations to be met. It is a Maltese zone — called, appropriately, a ‘search and rescue’ one — which must be covered by Valletta and which is the size of almost the entire Italian territory, 250,000 square kilometres of sea.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Since May Irregulars Down by 92%, Minister

(ANSAmed) — CORTINA D’AMPEZZO (BELLUNO, ITALY), AUGUST 26 — Since May 5, when the first repulsion of migrants took place, 1,345 irregular immigrants have arrived in Italy, said Italy’s Minister of the Interior, Roberto Maroni, “In the same period of last year, there were 14,220. This is a reduction of 92%”. “Of these,” Maroni went on, citing 2008 figures “14 thousand had made their way from Libya. This year, around 1,300 have come via Libya. This means that our accord with Libya is working excellently: it works, and the results are there to be seen”. “Repulsion,” the Interior Minister noted, “is the same as saying taking the irregular migrants back to their place of departure. Repatriation means sending them back to their countries of origin, with all the bureaucracy that involves. And at our own cost”. In Maroni’s view: “it is necessary to give the European Union an alarm call so that it does what it has not done. Frattini is an excellent minister. Yes, and he has made himself heard. Together wéll work as a team when we go to the countries to get an immigration agreement signed”. Maroni concluded: “The EU has to make common regulations to prevent countries warring with those who repulse the most migrants. And furthermore, the principle of solidarity between countries should be applied”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: 1st Immigrant Sentenced, Fined But Not Deported

(ANSAmed) — FLORENCE, AUGUST 25 — The first sentencing (reported) for the new crime of illegal immigration has been issued by a justice of the peace in Florence against a Jordanian citizen, who has been fined 5,000 euros. The judge upheld the public prosecutor’s request and inflicted a monetary punishment on the non-European immigrant instead of opting to deport him. At the moment the immigrant is being held in the Sollicciano jail after being arrested on August 15 by Italian semi-militarised police (Carabinieri) for having stolen a bicycle — a crime for which, in different judicial proceedings, he plea bargained over the past few days for three-months in jail. Yesterday the Jordanian was escorted to the hearing by penitentiary police with his court-assigned lawyer. He told the judge that he had been in Italy for four years and that he worked in a leather goods shop owned by his cousin. In light of this sentencing to pecuniary damages, doubts remain as to possible deportation proceedings which may be set in motion after he serves his sentence in jail for theft. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: A Resource to be Managed, Bankitalia Governor

(ANSAmed) — RIMINI, AUGUST 26 — Italy has a resource at its disposal of “potentially major significance for our economy: the availability of foreign labour”. The Governor of the Bank of Italy, Mario Draghi, was addressing the Meeting dell’Amicizia di Rimini. He continued with the warning: “we will be able to use it only if the serious problems it poses in terms of social and cultural integration are managed”. With “4.3 million” foreigners, that is estimating those who are not officially registered and are here without permits of abode, Draghi noted that “the foreign nationals in Italy are younger on average and less skilled than are Italians, but they play a greater role on the job market and often do work that is important both for Italian society and for the country’s economy, even though it is low-paid”. Furthermore, said Draghi, they do not pose a threat to Italians’ jobs: “There are no appreciable negative consequences for the job prospects of Italians: this result emerges from the overwhelming majority of studies undertaken in countries with high rates of immigration”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Why U.S. Is Flying Immigrants Back to Mexico

Illegal immigrants are being flown deep into Mexico to discourage dangerous desert crossings in the heat as well as to cut down on re-entry, federal officials say.

Twice-daily flights from Tucson to Mexico City are intended to keep immigrants away from border towns where they would likely run into smugglers who want to sneak them back into the U.S.

“This is where the probability of losing their lives can really increase. We offer that opportunity for them to get out of that cycle,” said John Torres, a special adviser to the assistant secretary of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security flights began last week for the sixth consecutive summer and will end Sept. 28.

Tucson is the only spot in this country where the flights depart. Arizona is the busiest illegal entry point into the United States.

Since 2004, more than 82,000 Mexicans have been returned as part of the repatriation program. The number, however, represents just a small portion of illegal immigrants in this country.

Hundreds of illegal immigrants die crossing the border each year from heat exposure, vehicle and train accidents, fatigue, banditry and other causes.

Smugglers, who can earn an average of $1,500 for each customer, use remote and dangerous migration routes where enforcement is weaker, a tactic that contributes to the deaths.

The Mexican government picks up some costs of the program, while the U.S. pays $6 million under a contract with carrier Miami Air.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Patriotism or Prejudice? Teen Suspended for Criticizing Muslim Student

SPRING HILL, FL — While showing off her JROTC uniform, 16-year-old Heather Lawrence told us joining the army is her next big goal, to follow in the footsteps of her father and grandfather.

“Our flag represents everything that our country is,” she said.

The teen says an issue over the American flag is why she was written up and handed a five-day suspension from Springstead High School this week for criticizing a Muslim student. Heather says the other girl was sitting down during the Pledge of Allegiance.

“You know, I made a not-so-kind remark, and I do sincerely apologize for referring to the thing on her head because that had nothing to do with it.” Heather told us, “But I told her, ‘Why don’t she act like she’s proud to be an American?’“

Despite the open apology to the girl who wears a hijab, Ahmed Bedier, President of the Tampa/Hillsborough County Human Rights Council, says Heather’s actions were harmful and the school was right for taking action.

“But whether standing up or not, this issue’s not about the pledge of allegiance or anything else.” Bedier said. “This is about bullying and it’s about discrimination.”

Bedier says the Muslim student’s family contacted him and claims she did stand up for the pledge.

Meanwhile, Hernando school board member Pat Fagan says he doesn’t want to comment about the school’s decision to suspend Heather, but told us people, in general, should think before they speak.

The Muslim student walked away from Heather’s confrontation. A school staff member then reported the incident.

Heather’s dad, Mark, told us his family is not racist nor prejudice and hopes school officials will reduce his daughter’s punishment.

“Respect one’s rights is the most important thing today for us as Americans to be appreciative of our nation,” Fagan said.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

General


Mandela Backs Lockerbie Decision

Nelson Mandela has backed the Scottish Government’s controversial decision to free the Lockerbie bomber.

The former South African president has expressed appreciation for the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

US President Barack Obama is among those who have criticised the decision to free Megrahi, who is terminally ill.

But Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said there was huge support internationally for the move.

Megrahi, who has prostate cancer, was released eight years into his 27-year sentence for the murder of 270 people in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103.

Hundreds of people were waiting in Libya to welcome Megrahi home as his plane landed in Tripoli, some of them waving Saltire flags.

Mr Mandela’s support came in a letter to the Scottish Government from Prof Jake Gerwel, chairman of the Mandela Foundation.

“Mr Mandela sincerely appreciates the decision to release Mr al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds,” it stated.

‘Humanitarian concern’

The letter went on: “Mr Mandela played a central role in facilitating the handover of Mr al-Megrahi and his fellow accused to the United Nations in order for them to stand trial under Scottish law in the Netherlands.

“His interest and involvement continued after the trial after visiting Mr al-Megrahi in prison.

“The decision to release him now, and allow him to return to Libya, is one which is therefore in line with his wishes.”

Responding to the letter, Mr Salmond told the BBC News Channel: “We have seen today that Nelson Mandela has come out firmly in support, not just as the towering figure of humanitarian concern across the world in the last generation, but of course somebody who brokered the agreement that led to the Lockerbie trial in the first place.

“Many people believe that you will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.”

Mr Mandela visited Megrahi in Glasgow’s Barlinnie Prison in 2002.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

The Swedish Mohammed Crisis, Jew-Hatred, and Anti-Semitism

The following is from Mrutyuanjai Mishra’s blog, translated from the Danish by TB:

The Swedish Mohammed crisis, Jew-Hatred, and Anti-Semitism

By Mrutyuanjai Mishra

Those who want to understand the anti-Semitism of today should read the story about a fine young journalist from The Wall Street Journal, Daniel Pearl. Daniel Pearl was a correspondent in Mumbai when he was lured to Karachi where he was kidnapped and later murdered. The Islamists videotaped the decapitation and forced him to say:

“My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish and I am Jewish”

Daniel Pearl left a pregnant girlfriend and never lived to see his own child.

The well-known French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy has written a much-discussed book, Who Killed Daniel Pearl? The book should be mandatory reading if one wants to understand the connection between Islamism and anti-Semitism today. And I can contribute by saying that if one wants to know the connection between anti-Semitism and the extreme left, one should read the Swedish paper Aftonbladet.

The man who was responsible for the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl is Omar Sheikh, an Islamist born and raised in Great Britain who had been a student at nothing less than the elite London School of Economics. And he was not the only one from his family to have studied at the country’s finest universities. Despite that he chose to become a member of a jihadist organization.

On November 28, 2008 when India experienced its 9/11, the Islamists had as their specific and declared goal to kill as many Westerners as possible. Indian police released documentation to the world by publicizing the conversations between the terrorists and their leaders, but out of PC considerations not even The New York Times would report on the statements whose message was that everybody who was not Muslim should be killed.

The Daily Telegraph and the Huffington Post later reported that a Jewish rabbi and his wife and other Jews present in a local Jewish cultural center in Mumbai were killed. But they were not only killed, they were also tortured. The terrorist attack in Mumbai will not only be remembered as an attack against the Indian democracy which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. It will also be remembered as a terrible anti-Semitic attack on Jews.

What is the overall reason for these Islamists’ anger towards Jews? The best answer to that question was given by the American commentator Thomas Friedman in The New York Times, who on the 4th of July 2007 wrote:

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“The Islamic understanding of itself is that it is the most perfect and complete expression of the Monotheistic message, and the Quran is God’s last and most perfect word. Said in another way, Young Muslims are brought up with the notion that Islam is God 3.0, Christianity is God 2.0 and Judaism is God 1.0. Hinduism and all other religions are God 0.0”

Hindus and other polytheists cannot even reach dhimmi status in Islamic societies.

Now politically correct Sweden has got their own international case to deal with. In the middle of the Swedish EU-leadership the country has found itself in the world’s spotlight, and the discussion has exploded here in the North after a scandalous newspaper article in Aftonbladet written by Donald Boström on August 18, 2009, in which he, without any documentation, accused Israel of stealing organs from Palestinians.

The strong reaction from Israel is to be expected. It was in the heart of Europe that six million Jews were killed and their culture almost eradicated by the Nazis. But people do not get the idea of attacking a whole ethnic group in a single day’s time span. It always starts small.

In Europe it has again become acceptable to initiate smear campaigns against Jews and Israel — without documentation, that is. Understandably, Israel protests, and all should do the same.

I find it incredibly hard to understand this smear campaign against the Jews in Europe. Is it even possible today to get your high school diploma without having read Sigmund Freund, Karl Marx, and Albert Einstein? Einstein is not easy to understand, but everybody knows that he changed science just as much as Karl Marx changed sociology and Freund changed our views on sex and psychology.

What is common to these three is that they were all Jews. Just as one third of the Americans who have been given the Nobel Prize in science have a Jewish background. Compared to other minorities, the Jews are the one group to have the highest rate of University education. I think that we should respect the Jews as the industrious and science-loving people they are.

Israel is accused of many things. Even the writers who strongly opposed the foolish and undocumented article in Aftonbladet accuse Israel of having turned to the right. But dear Europeans, try to imagine being surrounded by Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and even Omar Sheikh with a Pakistani background, all of whom want to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth.

During his global travels and media appearances the American president Barack Obama has been speaking to Arabs, Muslims, Eastern Europeans, Russians, and Africans. He has become a very respected politician, especially in Europe. But he has yet to talk directly to the Israelis and the Indians. The mistrust in both countries is strongly on the rise.

Obama is so busy winning the good opinion of the Muslim world that he is ready to neglect Israel. The reason that Sweden started to pressure Israel might be that they were inspired by Obama. Sweden in general and Malmö specifically have one of the fastest-growing populations of people with an immigrant background. If there is one country where Muslim immigration is changing society completely, then it is Sweden. The Swedes do not want to discuss this. In the housing complex of Rosengård, which was built to house a few thousand inhabitants, the population has now quadrupled. The ghetto is a reality. Take a trip to Rosengård. My neighbor told me that he had helped a woman who had lived in Sweden for 35 years without having learned a single Swedish word.

Sweden is by no means an ideal country. Were it not for Copenhagen, unemployment in Skåne would be far worse than it already is. Now the Swedes use the argument that they have freedom of speech. But have we forgotten the Swedish reaction during the Mohammed Crisis? The former Swedish Foreign Minister, Laila Freivald, removed the drawings from a web page. Luckily she did not get away with it and she was sacked.

It is possible that this is controversial, but it is my perception that modern anti-Semitism is on the rise, especially in those neighborhoods in Europe that house many with a Muslim background. I do not want to make any generalizations, but we have to acknowledge that the number of Nazis in Europe today is very small. They are almost non-existent. Because of the new immigration of people who watch Al Jazeera, however, immigrants have come who blame Israel for all the troubles in the Middle East.

I see the very worrying tendency in European countries that leftist-oriented parties have started pandering for Muslim votes.

Anti-Semitism, Islamism, Nazism, and Racism are all threats to a pluralistic society. The op-ed writer Flemming Bengtsson asks a very important question in Jyllands-Posten on August 27, 2009:

Why do the elites not talk about Jew-hatred?

Flemming Rose on Swedish Freedom of the Press

A notorious article about the alleged Israeli practice of harvesting organs from Palestinians recently appeared in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. Under pressure from the Israeli government (totally improper, in my opinion), the Swedish government used freedom of the press to justify its failure to condemn the newspaper for its article. The discrepancy between this “principled” stance and the same government’s response to the Danish Mohammed cartoon crises has drawn widespread criticism and ridicule.

Flemming Rose is the opinion and culture editor at Jyllands-Posten, and was responsible for commissioning the Mohammed cartoons back in the autumn of 2005. Mr. Rose is well-acquainted with what true freedom of the press means, and has some well-chosen words to say about the latest incident.

Our Swedish correspondent CB has kindly translated article featuring Flemming Rose that was published last Friday at the Swedish website Newsmill:

Flemming Rose on the Swedes’ selective defense of freedom of expression:

Swedish press can criticize Israel but not Islam

During the Mohammed crisis, the Swedish press lay low and tended to justify Muslim wrath, while viewing the Jyllands-Posten cartoons as a serious infringement of religious freedom. In the Israel affair the Swedish press disregards the legitimate part of Israel’s dissatisfaction, and too few have condemned Boström’s undocumented statements. That is pathetic, writes Jyllands-Posten‘s opinion and culture editor Flemming Rose, who was harshly criticized in Aftonbladet, among other places, for his publication of the now world-famous Mohammed cartoons.

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In February 2006, when the Mohammed crisis was at its height, with death threats against artists and editorialists, with demands from the Muslim world that the Danish government act against Jyllands-Posten and limit the constitutionally-protected freedom of speech, Swedish editorialists were asked about their view of the cartoons. Of course none of them was against freedom of speech as such, but on a practical level it was so, such was the support. Sweden was one of the countries in Europe in which the newspapers refused to reprint the cartoons so the readers themselves could make up their minds about them. Some editorials maintained that the issue wasn’t a question of free speech. Peter Melin, at the time chief editorialist for Sydsvenska Dagbladet, said:

“I already decided in September not to publicize the cartoons, since I viewed them as a provocation by Jyllands-Posten. I mean, that is not a question of freedom of speech. I consider the pictures to be blasphemy and provocation, and have no reason to follow that.”

The British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie, who received a death sentence from the ruling Iranian clergy because of passages in the novel The Satanic Verses, was of another opinion. He held that all papers should have printed the cartoons because — and here Rushdie spoke from his own experience — when you cave in to threats it will not lead to fewer threats, but to more, because you have shown that threats work. Rushdie apologized for having insulted Muslims at an early stage, but that apology just led to more demands for compliance, and today Rushdie bitterly regrets that apology.

The political editorialist for Aftonbladet, Helle Klein, was of the view that the Mohammed cartoons could be equated with scenes from the Iraqi jail Abu Ghraib, where American soldiers abused and humiliated Muslims. Klein didn’t make any distinction between a critique of religious symbols and ideas — an absolutely central part of the European history of thought, and a prerequisite for the democracies of the West — on the one side, and physical punishments of living individuals on the other. Helle Klein’s reasoning was a stunning example of a total moral and intellectual collapse.

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After the recently publicized article in Aftonbladet with serious allegations against the Israeli army, without any documentation or sources, it is for the same Helle Klein foreign to see anything problematic with Aftonbladet‘s editorial choices, while at the same time there are no limits to how stupidly she thinks the Israeli government has acted.

There’s no doubt that the Israeli government has acted unwisely, but the differences in the reactions of the Swedish press to both affairs provides a pattern and deserves some reflection. During the Mohammed crisis they lay low and tended to justify Muslim wrath, while viewing the cartoons of Jyllands-Posten as serious infringement of religious freedom. In the affair with Israel the Swedish press ignores the legitimate aspects of Israel’s dissatisfaction, while no one — if one disregards a few exceptions — has condemned Boström’s undocumented statements.

That is pathetic. In Sweden the issue has instead been solely about freedom of speech. And many have drawn parallels to the Mohammed crisis. The differences between the two stories are greater than the similarities, but before commenting on them I want to say a few words about priorities in the general debate about freedom of speech.

Somewhat simplistically, one can talk about three levels: most important is the right of expression itself. If journalists and papers are exposed to threats, harassment, and violence to silence them, what has been said is secondary, as long as it’s within the boundaries of the law. Therefore it is important to defend Geert Wilders in Holland when his life is threatened, even if many perceive his views as idiotic. For corresponding reasons many Swedish editorialists, including Aftonbladet, acted perfidiously during the Mohammed crisis.

The second level is the judicial limits of freedom of speech. What statements should be protected? Should blasphemy laws be reinforced or abolished? Should it be punishable to issue xenophobic statements and denials of the Holocaust? Does freedom of speech include the wearing of the burka? This debate is important — it is about how we co-exist in a globalized world.

Finally, on the third and lowest level, are the editorial decisions. Was it right or wrong of JP to publish the Mohammed cartoons? Should Aftonbladet‘s culture editorial office have refused Boström’s article on the grounds that it is an absurd conspiracy theory, or asked for documentation and sources? What demands should one have on publications when it comes to honesty and facts?

The Israeli government certainly made fools of themselves by first demanding an apology and then a condemnation from the Swedish government for the notorious article. That is no way for a government to behave in an open and democratic community, even if in contrast to the Mohammed crisis there hasn’t been any demand for intervention against Aftonbladet or criminalization of the current utterances. Contrary to this, that is what happened in Denmark, where local imams tried to fuel Muslim wrath against Denmark, which was slandered by the publicizing of deceitful stories in the Arabic press.

Compare that with the Jewish community in Sweden which has criticized the Israeli government, contributed to informing the Israeli public about how things work in Sweden, and supported how the Swedish government has handled the issue.

In the Muslim world editorialists who published JP’s cartoon were taken to court, while Israeli papers supporting the Swedish government haven’t been subjected to any threats. Israel is an open society with nine million inhabitants; the Muslim wrath is dominated by a closed community and a culture of threats. Danish embassies were set on fire and targeted by terror attacks. Danish citizens feared for their safety while Swedish interests aren’t threatened to the same extent.

Jyllands-Posten‘s cartoons were taken hostage in a debate about overarching self censorship in Europe, confirmed by daily examples, while Aftonbladet‘s article is a story using wild claims without any documentation, which should have started a debate about journalistic quality and ethics. Something the Israeli government prevented. However, it can take place anyway.



Hat tip: TB.

A Letter to Kurt from the Prophet

Farshad Kholghi has posted an unusual find at Europe News: a letter from beyond the grave written by the Hon. Mr. Pbuh himself and addressed to Kurt Westergaard. Here’s what Mr. Kholghi discovered:

Note:

I was on my way to Skanderborg to attend the opening of an exhibition of pictures by Kurt Westergaard when I was stopped by an elderly gentleman. He handed me a letter explaining that it was a letter from a prophet to the caricaturist. The letter read as follows:

Dear Kurt

An explosive prophetI hope you are well and enjoying life. I do not know if you know, but I have been dead for many years. In spite of that, I am well, considering the circumstances. Unfortunately I am not — as many believe — surrounded by 72 virgins. This thing about the virgins was just something I made up in order to motivate my fellow fighters.

It is always hard to motivate others to die for oneself. For this reason, I had to come up with a little white hallal-lie, promising that everything I claimed to be haram or unclean here on Earth would be given them by God in great abundance, such as wine and women. Obviously, they had to die first. It was quite fortunate that Hitler didn’t come up with the same trick, for otherwise he would most certainly have won the war. Oh, mentioning Hitler: He lives in the basement of my house and follows the career of Ahmadinejad with great interest.

- – - - – - – - -

So here I am — unfortunately — along with all the radical mullahs, ragged and bloodied terrorists, Lenin, Stalin and all the other useful idiots, who for some unfathomable reasons love the mullahs. I fear for my life. For they are much like Danish converts — void of humour and even more fanatical than myself in my wild prophet-days, where I rode a camel to chop the head off all those poets who would ridicule my poorly told stories.

Anyway, I am writing because I wanted to tell you a few things. First and foremost: Thank you for that wonderful caricature! That was hilarious as well as clever…

Read the rest at Europe News.



Farshad Kholghi (born 1971) is an actor, author, writer, debater and a lecturer in high demand. He has participated in several Danish movies and television series and has authored two books. He is a consistent critic of religious fanaticism and speaks his mind freely against the challenges to freedom of expression.

Danish Dailies Respond to Saudi Lawfare

Boom Allah!I reported last night about the legal action mounted by a Saudi law firm — at the behest of Mohammed’s descendants — against the Danish newspapers that published Kurt Westergaard’s famous “Turban Bomb” cartoon.

A Danish newspaper industry association, acting on behalf of major dailies, is now swinging into action and will consult with the government about the issue. Our Danish correspondent TB has translated an article on the topic from today’s Ekstra Bladet:

DDF gets into Muhammad case

The Organization of Danish Dailies (DDF) will consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice after Saudi Arabia demanded an unconditional apology for the drawing.

DDF now get involved the latest incident of the Muhammad crisis, and will, during the coming week, make contact with both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice, the CEO of the organization Ebbe Dahl states.

A Saudi lawyer demanded in a letter sent to about twelve Danish editors that they should by the end of September publicly regret and apologize for reprinting the controversial cartoon of the most well-known Muslim prophet back in February 2008. The reprint followed the revelation of murder plots against the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

The papers in a huge set-up must publish an unconditional apology in four languages —Arabic among others — because they have apparently hurt the feelings of the alleged descendants of the prophet Muhammad, the lawyer Faisal A.Z. Yamani from Jeddah demands. He suggest that it will damage Danish interests in the Middle East if the editors-in-chief do not obey. They must also promise that they will never again publish similar drawings or other material about the prophet Muhammad.

- – - - – - – - -

On Monday, Ebbe Dahl will try to get an overview of how many editors have been contacted by Mr. Yamani and whether the letter is authentic.

“Everything will be studied, and it is clear that we, in a case like this, will have to talk to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice. But I have not opened the case for them yet since we need to have an overview first,” Ebbe Dahl says.

Concerning the matter, however, he describes the demands from Saudi Arabia as “clearly unacceptable” and he has no doubt that the papers will stand as firm and united as the last time when they decided to reprint the famous drawing last year on February 13.

“It is a completely natural thought that you as a medium bring ‘the subject of the party’, when something like this comes up,” Ebbe Dahl says.

Chief editor Siegfried Matlok from Der Nordschleswiger [a German/Danish newspaper from the border area between Denmark and Germany — translator] says unconditionally “no” to the ultimatum.

“There will be no wavering from us. Respect for Muslims in Denmark and in the rest of the world — but this we cannot accept.”

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/29/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 8/29/2009A North Korean ship loaded with munitions bound for Iran has been intercepted by the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf. The ship was very multicultural — it was Australian-owned, was flying a Bahamas flag, was controlled by a French conglomerate, and the actual export was arranged by the Shanghai office of an Italian company.

And all that when there are UN sanctions barring any weapons shipments to Iran. Hmm…

In other news, Indonesian police claim to have uncovered a plot to assassinate President Obama when he makes his next visit to Indonesia.

Thanks to A Greek Friend, Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

Financial Crisis
Federal Reserve Board Fights to Keep Its Secrets
 
USA
Crown Heights, NY — Anti-Semitic Attack Against 11-Year-Old Girl, Mom Claims
Obama Consolidating Power Over Americans
The Defining Issue of Our Time
The Powerful Un-American Media
To Enslave a Nation
Wake Up, America: Forced Vaccinations, Quarantine Camps, Health Care Interrogations and Mandatory “Decontaminations”
 
Europe and the EU
Blair’s Libya Talks ‘Included Prisoner Deal’
Cyprus: Society Must Change Attitude to Gays, Ombudswoman
Germany: Terrorist Suspect Arrested En Route to Islamist Training Camp
Greece: 21,000 Hectares Burned, Talk of Reshuffle
Guantanamo Inmates’ Portugal Move
Italy: Berlusconi and Tremonti Meet: Relations With Lega Solid
Italy: Berlusconi Cancels Dinner With Vatican No.2
Italy: Berlusconi to Sue Left-Wing Daily for Over €1 Mln
Netherlands: ‘Apartheid at Islamic Schools’
Netherlands: State Secretary: Islamic School Can Never be Closed
Norway Allows Burkini Swimsuits in City Pools
Rotterdam Police in Two Shooting Incidents
Sweden: Serial Rapist Sentenced to Prison
Sweden: Gothenburg Arrests Made Over Disturbances
Sweden: Firemen Injured by Projectile Rocks
 
Balkans
Croatia: Anti-Smoking Laws and Crisis Hitting Restaurants
EU: Serbia Fit to Apply, Italian Ambassador Says
Serbia: Voters Care More About Economy Than Politics
 
Mediterranean Union
Environment: France to Create Exclusive Fishing Zone in Med
 
North Africa
Algeria: Tibhirine, French Judges Want Access to Documents
Cinema: After Indigenes, Bouchareb Shoots Film on Algeria
Egypt Arrests Protesters Against Bahai Neighbors
Egypt Preparing New Health Insurance Law
Italy-Libya: USA, Berlusconi Can Visit Whoever He Wants
Libya: Revolution Anniversary, Megrahi Will Not Attend
Libya: Tripoli Sources, Green Smoke From Frecce Tricolori?
Libya: 40th Anniversary; Tunisian Army to Join Parade
Ramadan: Watermelon Trafficking Between Algeria-Tunisia
Steep Drop in Marseilles — Algeria Goods Traffic
Tunisia: Increased Popularity Among the English
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Economy: Israeli-Palestinian Trade Growing
Gaza: Footage of Hamas-Salafite Shooting on the Web
Hamas Resumes Kassam Rocket Attacks
Hezbollah: Israeli Had Escaped From Mental Hospital
Netanyahu: PNA Must Recognise Israel as Jewish State
West Bank, PNA Removes Hebrew Road Signs
 
Middle East
American Donut & Coffee Chain to Enter Turkish Market
Amil Imani: A Call to New Resolve
Gulf: Women’s Revolt, Violence and Revenge Increasing
Islam: From Youtube to Naqatube, The Islamic Alternative
Netanyahu Talks of Peace, Wants Sanctions for Iran
Qatar Buys Into VW
Ramadan: UAE: 2,000 Euros Reward for People Who Quit Smoking
Thousands Mourn Iraqi Shia Leader
Turkey: Thirty-Percent of Households Have Internet, Survey
Turkey: Hunger and Poverty Lines Up in August, Report Shows
UAE Seized N.Korea Arms Shipment Bound for Iran
 
South Asia
Bangladesh: Muslims Threaten Catholic Women of Dewtola Village
Fury at NATO’s Afghan Clinic Raid
Indonesia: Militant Fugitive ‘Thrives’ With Islamist Support
Indonesia: Christians Call for Rejection of Sharia-Inspired Bills
Indonesia: Military Commander: ‘Report People With Sorban and Jubah’ [Islamic Outfit]
Pakistan: Court Frees Khan From House Arrest
Terrorists to Kill Obama in Indonesia?
U.S. Says Pakistan Altered Missiles Sold for Defense
 
Far East
Tokyo-Vote: Towards a Political Earthquake
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Ethiopia ‘Seizes’ Town in Somalia
Two Peacekeepers Seized in Sudan
 
Culture Wars
More Students Wear ‘Islam of the Devil’ Shirts to School
 
General
The Next 100 Years

Financial Crisis


Federal Reserve Board Fights to Keep Its Secrets

Warns disclosing where money went would cause ‘irreparable harm’

The Federal Reserve Board, despite being ordered to disclose to whom it awarded roughly $2 trillion in discount “stimulus” loans, is fighting to keep the information under wraps as a protected “trade secret.”

Earlier this week, a U.S. district court judge rejected the Fed’s argument that the names of borrowers are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act and ordered the board to release the information by Monday, Aug. 31.

The Fed’s board of governors, however, has now filed a motion asking the judge to delay enforcement of the order, seeking time to appeal and arguing that disclosing which banks borrowed the funds could lead to a backlash from the banks’ customers and stockholders.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA


Crown Heights, NY — Anti-Semitic Attack Against 11-Year-Old Girl, Mom Claims

Crown Heights, NY — An 11-year-old Jewish girl was attacked at a Crown Heights playground by a band of black youths who slammed her into a metal slide, kicked her repeatedly — and pelted her with anti-Semitic invective, the girl’s mom said.

“Dumb Jew! B——! Why are you here? Why are you in this world?” the boys screamed as they pummeled Nechama Benjamin at a Montgomery St. playground.

The shocking attack by at least three boys is being investigated by police. The beating caused Nechama to black out and left her with a bloody nose — and a terrible fear of leaving home, her mom said.

“My daughter told me she is afraid to go out, to go to the park — to go anywhere,” said Elka Benjamin, 31.

Nechama went to the local park with her 6-year-old brother around 6 p.m. Although Crown Heights has long been plagued by racial and religious tension, Nechama’s mother thought it was okay for her kids to go to the playground alone because the family lives on the same block.

Trouble started when one of a group of boys playing soccer tossed the ball at Nechama, hitting her in the leg, her mother said.

She tossed it back — and an argument ensued. The boys surrounded Nechama, taunting her mercilessly, her mother said.

Then the boys grabbed her by the hair and dragged her from the bench to a playground slide.

Nechama spoke to cops Tuesday at the NYPD’s 71st Precinct stationhouse, where a boy who witnessed the incident was also questioned.

No arrests have been made, a police source said last night.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]



Obama Consolidating Power Over Americans

Congressman Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) is mad as hell and he’s speaking out. In an exclusive with NewswithViews.com, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, spoke out regarding President Barack Obama’s decision to supervise interrogations of terrorists from the White House.

“At the same time the situation in Afghanistan is getting decidedly worse and the Taliban is advancing, the Obama Justice Department is launching [a plan] that risks disrupting CIA counterterrorism initiatives. This is the last thing that should happen when the president is sending more troops into harm’s way, and the nation’s top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, said over the weekend that AlQaeda still remains a threat to America and our interests abroad,” the veteran lawmaker said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Defining Issue of Our Time

Exclusive: Henry Lamb pegs health-care debate as ‘fulcrum upon which rests the future’

Everyone agrees that the nation needs health-care reform. If this is true, why can’t one side or the other actually win the battle for congressional votes and reform the health-care system?

The progressives in Congress, mostly Democrats, want a system in which the government provides health care to everyone. Some go so far as to claim that health care is a basic human right. This side of the debate believes that it is immoral for people who need health care not to get it, and that government is the only entity with the money to provide it.

The conservatives in Congress, mostly Republicans, realize that before government can provide health care for anyone, the money to pay for it must first be taken from the people who earn it. This raises a question: If the money to pay for health care must first be taken from the people, why not let the people keep their money and pay for their own health care?

The answer is this: Some people earn enough money to pay for their own health care, and some don’t. Therefore, government must take enough money from those who earn it to pay for the health care needed by those who cannot pay for their own care.

The progressives in Congress, mostly Democrats, consider this to be a perfectly legitimate function of a socialist government: Take from those who have, and redistribute to those who have not.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Powerful Un-American Media

What happened to integrity, honesty, fairness, truth, reality, and the old-fashioned love of America and what is best for her citizens? While all of us were listening intently for one simple, honest question from our news media, why did a man named Joe the Plumber have to birth the only real question? Why did the majority of the media, while telling us that Joe seemed well spoken and sort of smart for a plumber, begin immediately drawing our attention away from his simple, honest question, digging like badgers for the devious, dark side of this unsuspecting American? Does the media think that Americans are stupid? There are millions of smart Joes, and many of us are like-minded when it comes to our conclusion of what the media has become. Doesn’t the media think of their viewers as partners in American business who have a huge stake in what happens to our beloved country? What is the agenda of this dishonest un-American group of powerful information gatherers? What gives them the right to pressure and confuse us with an overabundance of misstatements and to constantly bombard not-so-truthful allegations every minute of every day on the not-so-lucky Americans that aren’t grounded within themselves?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



To Enslave a Nation

How do you enslave a whole nation, even the whole world? In ancient Egypt the people paid 20% of everything they earned each year to the government and they called it bondage, but in many countries of the “world” today the people pay far more to their governments each year and they call it freedom. There has been a plethora of theories as to why and how governments obtain the legal power to compel people to labor without pay under the enforceable authority of statutory systems of public service.[1] The answer is rather straightforward, but most people will not want to hear the truth of it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Wake Up, America: Forced Vaccinations, Quarantine Camps, Health Care Interrogations and Mandatory “Decontaminations”

(NaturalNews) The United States of America is devolving into medical fascism and Massachusetts is leading the way with the passage of a new bill, the “Pandemic Response Bill” 2028, reportedly just passed by the MA state Senate and now awaiting approval in the House. This bill suspends virtually all Constitutional rights of Massachusetts citizens and forces anyone “suspected” of being infected to submit to interrogations, “decontaminations” and vaccines.

It’s also sets fines up to $1,000 per day for anyone who refuses to submit to quarantines, vaccinations, decontamination efforts or to follow any other verbal order by virtually any state-licensed law enforcement or medical personnel. You can read the text yourself here: www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/186/st02pdf/st02028.pdf

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Blair’s Libya Talks ‘Included Prisoner Deal’

The son of Colonel Gaddafi has said his father targeted the transfer of the Lockerbie bomber more than two years ago during talks with Tony Blair.

In early 2007, the then prime minister met with the Libyan leader in a desert tent to discuss trade and oil.

Although Abdelbaset al Megrahi’s name was never mentioned, Gaddafi’s son said a prisoner transfer arrangement agreed as part of the “deal in the desert” deliberately targeted the convicted Libyan.

But Saif al Islam al Gaddafi said those discussions had nothing to do with Megrahi’s eventual, controversial release on compassionate grounds last week.

His comments were reported as an opinion poll showed many Britons believed the decision to release the bomber was connected to British oil interests in Libya.

Of those questioned, 45% thought Megrahi’s return had more to do with oil than his terminal illness — a statement only 24% disagreed with.

The Populus poll for The Times found 61% of the 515 people quizzed disagreed with the decision to free Megrahi, compared to 27% who agreed.

In an interview with The Herald newspaper, Mr Gaddafi said: “For the last seven to eight years we have been trying very hard to transfer Mr Megrahi to Libya to serve his sentence here.

“We have tried many times in the past to sign the PTA (prisoner transfer agreement) without mentioning Mr Megrahi, but it was obvious we were targeting Mr Megrahi and the PTA was on the table all the time.”

He added: “It was part of the bargaining deal with the UK. When Blair came here we signed the agreement.

“We didn’t mention Mr Megrahi. We signed an oil deal at the same time. The commerce and politics and deals were all with the PTA.”

The release of Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, from Scotland’s Greenock prison caused a storm of controversy on both sides of the Atlantic.

Jubilant scenes at Tripoli airport for the man convicted of murdering 270 people in the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 sparked international condemnation.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he had been “repulsed” by the hero’s welcome Megrahi received in Libya.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]



Cyprus: Society Must Change Attitude to Gays, Ombudswoman

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, AUGUST 18 — In her capacity as head of the Anti-Discrimination Body, the Cyprus’ Ombudswoman Iliana Nicolaou has said that the society of the island must change its attitude to homosexuality and the state must stop behaving as though homosexual couples do not exist. According to Nikolaou — as Cyprus Mail reports today — the government is guilty of discrimination by not recognising the rights of married gay couples to reside in EU states with their spouses even if they are from countries outside the bloc. The Ombudswoman said that the state has an obligation to make it easier for partners to enter and reside in Cyprus, according to EU law. The lack of legal recognition of same-sex partnerships means that non-EU nationals with Cypriot or EU partners are not granted residency and are often deported. This happens despite the EU directive that Member States must facilitate entry and residence for people who are included in the definition of ‘family members’. This should not be limited only to relations based on traditional marriage but also include people who live together. Member States must facilitate the right of residence of these partners, including spouses of a different sex, and must justify any refusal to grant entry or residence. Nicolaou submitted her report to the Interior Ministry, requesting measures to stop all discrimination against gay couples. The report was based on two cases. One case involved an Iranian man in a relationship with a Cypriot man. The Iranian was denied political asylum even though he faced execution in Iran. The second case involved a Canadian man in a civil marriage with a Cypriot man. The authorities have refused to grant him residency but only a visitor’s visa. As a result of this he cannot work, making life in Cyprus very difficult for him. A 2006 poll showed that 75% of Cypriots still disapprove of homosexuality, with only 14% in favour of same-sex marriage. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Germany: Terrorist Suspect Arrested En Route to Islamist Training Camp

Police have arrested a 24-year-old suspected of helping the Sauerland terrorist cell currently on trial in Düsseldorf. He was reportedly on his way to an Islamist training camp.

Federal prosecutors believe the Turkish-German, named as Kadir T., allegedly supported the four-member Sauerland cell by purchasing a video camera and night-vision goggles in June 2007 for the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) in Pakistan. Cell member Adem Yilmaz is thought to have worked with the extremist group, which has been linked to al-Qaida.

Yilmaz allegedly used his brother Burhan Yilmaz to hand over the items, the Karlsruhe-based federal prosecutors said.

According to daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Friday, Kadir T. was travelling to the Afghan-Pakistan border to attend a terrorist training camp when he was arrested on Thursday.

The Sauerland cell is currently on trial after being arrested in September 2007 for planning attacks on Americans in Germany.

Earlier this month 29-year-old mastermind and German Islam convert Fritz Gelowicz admitted in court that he and the three other defendants had aimed to kill as many US soldiers based in Germany as possible. The planned attack was meant to warn Germany to remove its troops from Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Greece: 21,000 Hectares Burned, Talk of Reshuffle

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, AUGUST 26 — Twenty-one thousand hectares of forest went up in smoke and 150 houses were destroyed in fires raging across the Greek region of Attica over the past few days, and the opposition has requested that Costas Karamanlis provide an explanation — while the press is predicting an imminent reshuffle. This morning fire fighters have said that “no fires are active in Greece at the moment”, and the government has announced a plan to replant forestland in Attica and impede any sort of speculation concerning the building sector, after accusations by communists who said that the blazes were a case of “organised arson”. Also, compensation has been promised for economic losses suffered. The main opposition party, the Socialist PASOK, has harshly attacked the centre-right government, joining the ranks of the rest of the opposition and calling the fires “a preventable catastrophe”. The press continues to ask for an explanation. “Ministers, you have also been burnt” was the headline on today’s left-wing daily Elephterotypia, alluding to recurrent speculation — which was strengthened after the fires — on a government reshuffle. The conservative paper Kathimerini, instead, explicitly forecast a reshuffle before the international exhibition in Thessaloniki, set to get underway on September 5 and to be inaugurated by Karamanlis. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Guantanamo Inmates’ Portugal Move

Two Syrian nationals held at the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay have been transferred to Portugal.

The two detainees from the Cuban facility, who arrived in Portugal on Friday, have not yet been named.

The US has asked European countries to accommodate former inmates who cannot return to their countries of origin because of the risk of persecution.

France, Germany and Italy are among some of the countries that have agreed to take them in.

The two Syrian detainees “are not subject to any charge, they are free people and are living in homes provided by [the] state,” Portuguese officials were quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

US President Barack Obama has promised to close Guantanamo Bay facility by January 2010. It was opened by the Bush administration in 2002 to house suspected terrorists.

Although more than 540 detainees have departed Guantanamo for other countries, some 220 reportedly remain in the Cuban facility.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Italy: Berlusconi and Tremonti Meet: Relations With Lega Solid

(AGI) — Rome, 27 Aug. — This morning Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the Minister for the Economy, Giulio Tremonti met at Arcore, the Prime Minister’s Milan residence.

According to a note from the Prime Minister’s office, the most important issues of the political season to come were discussed in the meeting, “Prime Minister Berlusconi and Minister Tremonti stated that the relationship between the Lega Nord (Northern League) party and the government coalition is solid, ready for the upcoming regional elections and parliamentary proceedings which are due to start.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Berlusconi Cancels Dinner With Vatican No.2

Rome, 28 August (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday cancelled plans to attend a religious service for the remission of sins in the quake-hit city of L’Aquila and a dinner with the Vatican’s secretary of state, Tarcisio Bertone. Berlusconi and Bertone were due to head to the city for the annual “Perdonanza” or festival of forgiveness, instituted by the 13th-century Pope Celestine V.

The scandal-plagued Berlusconi was to have been accompanied by his equal opportunities minister, Mara Carfagna, a former model to whom the premier once professed: “If I weren’t married, I’d marry you.”

But at the last minute Berlusconi’s office announced he would not be attending the event to “avoid exploitation” and would send his top aide, Gianni Letta, instead.

The prime minister “has delegated as representative of the Italian government, Gianni Letta, undersecretary of the cabinet to avoid exploitation”.

Earlier on Friday, the Vatican released a statement saying that Cardinal Bertone “went to the city of L’Aquila today to renew the warm feelings and affection of the Holy Father for the people hit by the earthquake”.

Berlusconi has been largely out of public view for weeks following the scandal over his liaison with young women, including a high-class prostitute, that prompted his wife to announce she was divorcing him.

The premier was to have joined Bertone at the Santa Maria di Collemaggio basilica, the symbol of L’Aquila, to take part in a religious procession that ends with the ceremonial opening of the basilica’s doors.

Letta has reportedly been waging an intense diplomatic campaign with the Vatican to obtain an audience for the prime minister with Pope Benedict XVI — a request that has yet to be granted.

According to the newspaper, Berlusconi is said to still be reeling from a searing editorial published in mid-August by the Catholic bishops’ daily Avvenire deploring his “arrogant omission of sober conduct.”

Vatican officials and the Catholic weekly La Famiglia Cristiana have in recent months strongly criticised Berlusconi amid allegations he gave parties filled with attractive young women and slept with a prostitute at his Rome residence last November.

Eyebrows have also been raised by Berlusconi’s attendance in late April at the 18th birthday party of Naples lingerie model Noemi Letizia, who calls him ‘Daddy’ and said she visited him in Rome and Milan whenever he telephoned her.

Pope Celestine issued a papal edict, in 1294 granting a plenary indulgence, or the remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, to anyone who entered L’Aquila’s basilica between the nights of August 28 and 29 and was “truly repentant and had confessed.”

Each year, thousands of the faithful flock to the basilica to participate.

This year, the observance has particular resonance following the April earthquake, which killed nearly 300 people in L’Aquila and surrounding areas, drove some 50,000 from their homes. The basilica was severely damaged in the quake.

In addition, this year marks the 800th anniversary of the birth of Celestine, a hermit and saint who was the only pope to have resigned.

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



Italy: Berlusconi to Sue Left-Wing Daily for Over €1 Mln

Rome, 28 August (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is suing the left-wing daily La Repubblica for one million euros plus unspecified damages for posing questions about his relationship with teenage model Noemi Letizia and other aspects of his private life.

Berlusconi claims the 10 questions the newspaper published in an article on 26 June are “highly slanderous” and “rhetorical”, his lawyers said.

“The damage done to Mr Berlusconi is massive, due to his high public profile and the extensive readership of La Repubblica,” they stated.

The premier this week also began libel proceedings against La Repubblica over a second article it published on 6 August about negative international press coverage of him entitled “Berlusconi can be blackmailed now — foreign media still on the attack”.

Berlusconi has never answered the list of questions which the paper demanded him to answer in the public interest over his relationship with Letizia.

He attended Letizia’s 18th birthday party in Naples, she calls him ‘Daddy’ and has said she visited him in Rome and Milan whenever he called her.

La Repubblica has frequently re-published its 10 questions for Berlusconi, which demand him to reveal how he met Letizia and where, why he has contradicted himself repeatedly and whether he has frequented other minors.

But the questions also asked him to justify selecting numerous showgirls as candidates for his conservative People of Freedom party, and asked if he was really unaware that 42-year-old escort Patrizia D’Addario who says she slept with him last November and dozens of others he allegedly entertained were prostitutes.

He is said to be especially outraged by an article published by French weekly Le Nouvel Observateur cited in La Repubblica’s 6 August article.

The French article alludes to the existence of a tape that allegedly implicates Italy’s equal opportunities minister and former showgirl Mara Carfagna and education minister Mariastella Gelmini on Berlusconi’s sexual antics.

In an exclusive interview earlier this month with the weekly magazine, Chi, Berlusconi denied allegations of sexual misconduct saying he never had “relations with minors” and only attended parties and dinners that were morally acceptable. Chi is published by his own media conglomerate.

Letizia claims to be a virgin and alleges her relationship with Berlusconi is platonic.

But D’Addario has supplied prosecutors with audiotapes and photos which she says prove her claims that Berlusconi slept with her.

La Repubblica and its sister weekly L’Espresso in July published a series of excerpts from the audioptapes and transcripts on their websites.

Spanish daily El Pais in June published several compromising photos taken by Sardinian paparazzi Antonello Zappadu at Berlusconi’s Costa Smeralda villa.

They included topless young women and a nude man, believed to be former Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, cavorting poolside.

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



Netherlands: ‘Apartheid at Islamic Schools’

AMSTERDAM, 18/08/09 — Orthodox Islamic schools treat Dutch teachers who are not Muslims as inferior beings. They have to have their meals separately and cannot be greeted in the same way as Muslims, says a former teacher at the As Siddieq school in Amsterdam.

Hennie Metsemakers was suspended by the school a year and a half ago because she spoke of religions other than Islam in the lessons. “I had drawn a timeline and shown the most important events of a number of beliefs on it.” Not only was that forbidden, but she was also ordered to teach the children that Christianity would be abolished, she told Het Parool newspaper.

A few years ago, a number of teachers had already left the As Siddieq school due to the extremely orthodox attitude of its management. According to Metsemakers, the board has meanwhile succeeded in imposing the orthodox signature on all staff members, even though half the team consists of non-Muslim teachers.

Non-Muslim teachers at As Siddieqschool and other schools are treated kindly, but not as full-value colleagues. Metsemakers had gone to work at the school full of integration ideals. “The leadership was attentive and nice, but turned out to have a hidden agenda. In the breaks, we had to eat separately. We were not allowed to be greeted in the same way as Muslim teachers, not with the word salaam, peace, because non-Muslims cannot know what peace is.”

According to Metsemakers, the school wants to teach children that they are not allowed to be friends with non-believers. “Only Muslims can after all be good people.”

Metsemakers has meanwhile warned the Education Inspectorate about the school. The As Siddieq is subsidised by the Dutch government.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: State Secretary: Islamic School Can Never be Closed

THE HAGUE, 29/08/09 — There are no conditions under which a government-subsidised school can be closed down. An extremely poor quality of education or the brainwashing of children are not criteria that make closure legally possible, according to Education State Secretary Sharon Dijksma.

In TV talk show Knevel & Van der Brink, the Labour (PvdA) state secretary responded to criticism that her ‘rigorous measures’ against an ultra-orthodox Islamic school went no further than a five percent subsidy cut. Islamic primary school As Siddieq in Amsterdam faces this reduction in subsidy until 1 March. In the meantime, the Education Inspectorate will check to see if things improve. If not, subsidy will be squeezed further.

According to the Inspectorate, the education offered by the school falls short in ‘essential areas’. Dijksma confirmed that the school teaches 6 and 7 year olds that only Muslims can be good people. “The school actively thwarts integration”. As Siddieq has around 900 pupils.

A Christian woman who briefly worked at the school for idealistic reasons recently stated in newspaper Het Parool that she was not allowed to be greeted with ‘Salam’ (peace) like the other teachers because non-Muslims cannot know peace. She also had to eat her meals separately.

When Knevel & Van der Brink asked Dijksma why she does not simply close the school down she replied that there is nothing in Dutch law that makes this possible . The only measure she can take is to raise the pressure by threatening with increasing subsidy cuts, she said. The 4.5 million euro subsidy is being cut by only 5 percent “because the sanction needs to be proportional”.

Amsterdam municipality also subsidised the school but has now discontinued the subsidies entirely. Alderman for education Lodewijk Asscher (PvdA) has requested the board to step down, but to no avail. “They will not accept criticism of any kind. They blame everything on everybody else”, as the frustrated alderman stated after a meeting with the school. Incidentally, the chairman of the board of As Siddieq was not present at this talk; he has been staying in Egypt for weeks.

           — Hat tip: A Greek Friend [Return to headlines]



Norway Allows Burkini Swimsuits in City Pools

“Some people say they need to cover up,” Jan Zander, responsible for sports and recreation, said. “We think it is important that those who live in this city can bathe and use the pools.”

The ruling comes as Oslo’s neighboring European country’s crack down on the swim attire, which resembles a wetsuit with built-in hood. Recently, a Paris swimming pool refused entry to a young Muslim woman wearing burkini.Officials cited hygiene rules, adding to tensions over Muslim dress in France and sparking a threat by the woman of a lawsuit.

The anti-immigration mayor of the northern Italian city of Varallo Sesia has also barred Muslim women from wearing the swimsuit and said they risk paying a fine of €500 ($700) if spotted at swimming pools or riversides.

“The sight of a ‘masked woman’ could disturb small children, not to mention problems of hygiene,” mayor Gianluca Buonanno was quoted as saying.

The new Oslo regulations quoted by the radio said swimmers who cover their bodies for cultural and religious reasons have to wear clean clothing designed especially for bathing.

Zander denied that such garments were necessarily unhygienic.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Rotterdam Police in Two Shooting Incidents

Beach shooting

Souces say the youth was probably shot by police. Six people were also injured when a gang of around 80 youths began causing trouble at the free Sunset Grooves festival.

Officers involved in breaking up the fighting say in today’s AD that the crowd was after their blood.

‘It was as if we entered an arena filled with lions,’ one experienced officer told the paper. ‘Hundreds of people were chanting ‘there you have the cancer Jews’. Everyone was pushing at us, throwing sand in our eyes…. it was war, really war.’

The trouble reached a climax when five police officers had been isolated by a group of youths and the first warning shots were fired, the paper says.

‘Some of the group stormed towards us. Fences were being thrown at us. I thought ‘we are not going to make this’,’ another officer told the paper. ‘I was sweating from fear and I could smell it.’

Other officers claim the dead youth, Robby van der Leeden, was literally thrown at them. ‘We tried to help him, we took hold of his arms but we had to flee. We dragged him along for some 500 m,’ one officer told the AD.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Serial Rapist Sentenced to Prison

An 18-year-old man was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison for assaulting and raping two young women in northwestern Stockholm.

Earlier in the summer, the man was suspected of being behind a series of violent rapes in the Stockholm suburb of Tensta. However, police could only connect the man to two of the cases, a brutal attack of a young woman in Spånga on May 3rd and a similar attack of another young woman in Spånga on May 25th.

The man has now been convicted of aggravated rape and attempted rape. He has also been ordered to pay 182,000 ($26,000) to both victims. After serving his sentence, the man may not return to Sweden prior to 2024.

The man is an international fugitive and has an extradition request has been filed by authorities in Belgium, where he is suspected of raping at least five women.

In the attack on May 3rd, the man broke into the woman’s residence, hit her 30 times in the head, got a stranglehold on her neck and violently forced her to perform oral sex.

During the trial, the woman testified about the humiliation, the brutal violence and the fear she felt. She was convinced that the man was going to kill her.

The second attack occurred in a similar manner, but the woman was able to yell for help and put up so much resistance that the man gave up and fled.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Gothenburg Arrests Made Over Disturbances

Police in Gothenburg have arrested eight young people connected to one of the areas affected by disturbances over the past ten days.

Police, fire fighters and ambulance crews have all come under attack by stone-throwing young people over the past ten days in different parts of Gothenburg. The latest incident happened on Thursday night when fire fighters, called to extinguish a blaze in a newspaper storage box in the district of Väst Frölunda, were set upon by a gang of youths pelting them with rocks. They ran off when police arrived on the scene.

Police say they don’t know the reasons behind arson attempts on various cars, mopeds and buildings, including a nursery, and subsequent stone throwing attacks. They do suspect however that criminal gangs, prevalent in the Gothenburg area, are exploiting the social unrest to drain police resources as well as to recruit new members.

In turn, several young people have complained to the local newspaper “Göteborgs-Posten” about what they feel is police harassment in the area, commenting as well that the unrest is also a protest over high levels of youth unemployment.

On Friday, the newspaper reported that police had arrested eight youths in connection with earlier disturbances in the Hisingen area, the oldest was 22 years of age, and the youngest 14.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Firemen Injured by Projectile Rocks

Disturbances related to several fires continued on Friday night in Gothenburg in western Sweden.

“Objects were also thrown at busses and trams; among other things a windshield was broken,” said deputy police commander Sven Persson.

Rocks were also thrown at emergency response workers. On the way to a fire in the neighbourhood of Gällbo, a firetruck was hit by a large rock that broke the windshield. Two firemen were injured.

“One guy had glass splinters in his eye and another had an injured arm,” Bo Holmlund of the greater Gothenburg Fire and Rescue Service (Räddningstjänsten Storgöteborg) told TT news agency.

The firemen were treated on the scene by paramedics and were then taken to the hospital, but neither of them were seriously injured.

Two cars caught fire on Friday night in the neighbourhood of Västra Frölunda in Gothenburg. Police said that when they arrived a lot of people were out on the street to see what had happened.

“The fire had evidently started in one car and then spread to the other,” Persson said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Croatia: Anti-Smoking Laws and Crisis Hitting Restaurants

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, AUGUST 25 — The ban on smoking in closed spaces, which was introduced in Croatia in May, together with the recession, has hit restaurants and bar owners particularly hard, recording increased losses of sometimes over 50% compared to last year, according to a report by the Association of Restaurateurs which was published today in the Zagreb press and in which they appeal to the Government to ease the situation by modifying the anti-smoking laws. The effects are especially visible in the big shopping centres where there are no balconies or open-air terraces for smokers, and where the first bars have closed in recent weeks. “They can’t claim that it is just the fault of the recession, seeing as despite the difficulties, shopkeepers are not closing like we are being forced to” observed President of the Association, Miroslav Folnegovic Kulec. Since the beginning of the year retail sales in Croatia have fallen by 16.6%, while turnover in bars and restaurants in non-tourist areas has fallen by between 50 and 60%. At the end of summer and the tourist season the same trend will be seen along the coast, says the report. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



EU: Serbia Fit to Apply, Italian Ambassador Says

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, AUGUST 28 — According to Italy’s Ambassador in Serbia, Armando Varricchio, “Italy believes that Serbia should be assigned candidate nation status, as an applicant to join the other members of the European Union, and that the time has arrived for Belgrade to make an application to join the EU”. In an interview in today’s edition of the city’s most widely sold newspaper, Vecernje Novosti, the Ambassador stated that Italy is making great efforts to free up Serbia’s process of integration with Europe, and that the Belgrade government is on the right track to succeed over the coming months. Ambassador Varricchio noted that Italy was giving its full backing to starting the Agreement of Stabilisation and Association (ASA) with Serbia, both within the EU and in its individual contacts with European partner states. The arrest of the former commander of the Serb-Bosnian forces, Generale Ratko Mladic, would have had a further positive impact on European public opinion, the ambassador added. Brussels gave a positive assessment of the latest report by its Head Procurator of the International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague, Serge Brammertz, on Belgrade’s level of collaboration with the Tribunal. Varricchio also pointed out that Italy’s Foreign minister, Franco Frattini, has proposed a summit of EU and US government heads dedicated to the Western Balkans, which may be held next year, ten years after the Zagreb summit which started the process of integration of the countries of the Balkans with the EU. The Italian diplomat concluded by announcing that an Italo-Serb summit is to be organised for September and that a visit to Belgrade by Italy’s deputy minister for economic development, in charge of foreign trade, Adolfo Urso, has been scheduled for September. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Serbia: Voters Care More About Economy Than Politics

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, AUGUST 27 — Serbian voters are more interested in economic and social issues than political ones, according to a survey carried out by the highly-respected public opinion institute CESID. The survey, according to the TV broadcaster B92, showed that 30% of voters support the Democratic Party (DS) under president Boris Tadic and 30% the Serbian Progress Party (SNS) under Tomislav Nikolic, a conservative who left the Serbian Radical Party (ultranationalist) a few months ago to found a more moderate political party in favour of EU membership. The next general elections in Serbia are set to take place in 2012. “The deciding factors for voters are work-related problems and those related to unemployment, living standards, how to get out of the crisis, economic stability, social stability and concerns, and the struggle against the constant spread of corruption in Serbia,” said Professor Zoran Stoiljkovic, an expert on sociological issues quoted by B92. “Whoever manages to send more convincing messages on these issues and proves that he is not corrupt will be supported by Serbian voters,” he added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Environment: France to Create Exclusive Fishing Zone in Med

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 24 — The French government has decided to set up an exclusive economic zone (ZEE) in the Mediterranean to protect its fish stocks. The announcement was made by the country’s Ecology Minister, Jean-Louis Borloo, following an excursion on the sea off Cassis, in the South. The decision, he said, has been taken “because the strain on the resources, especially fish stocks, made by vessels coming from across the globe and without any controls except those in the 15 miles of territorial waters, are no longer sustainable”. The ZEE is to have a circumference of a roughly 70 miles, corresponding to the present ecological protection zone. The idea of a ZEE, which is regulated by a United Nations convention on rights at sea (the so-called Montego Bay Convention) of 1982, allows coastal states to extend their prerogatives beyond the 12 miles of their territorial waters, up to a maximum of 200 miles. France has already created an ecological protection zone in the Mediterranean in connection with the fight against pollution at sea, while the ZEE will concern fishing and all marine resources. By decreeing an exclusive zone, France accords itself the right to regulate fishing activities, but also to exploit the sea bed’s resources (oil, wave energy, minerals, etc). “This is a change in strategy, aiming to protect French fisheries and avoid the arrival of mighty fishing fleets in the Mediterranean”, the minister said, “in general, we hope that within the framework of the Mediterranean Union, more and more countries will decree their own exclusive zones. If everyone did it, every point in the Mediterranean would be under the control of a single state.”. “If the ZEE is created, the Libyans will no longer be able to come and fish here, especially not for red-fin tuna, in French waters”, Olivier Laroussinie, the director of the Agency for Protected Sea Areas, pointed out. French fishery associations have been heartened by the decision, which they say they have been pushing for since 2006. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Algeria: Tibhirine, French Judges Want Access to Documents

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 27 — Judges working on the enquiry into the murder in Algeria in 1996 of the seven monks of Tibhirine have asked the French Minister for Defence, Hervé Morin, the Minister of the Interior, Brice Hortefeux, and Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, for the documents held by the various ministries be released from the French official secrets act. Anti-terrorism judges Marc Trevidic and Yves Jannier would particularly like access to a report by General Francois Buchwalter, who was the French military attaché in Algeria at the time. According to Buchwalter, the monks were killed a short time after being kidnapped, by shots fired from Algerian army helicopters, and not by the Islamic terrorists who claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. On June 25 the general, now retired, confirmed that he had found out from an Algerian friend, an officer in the army whose brother was at the command of one of the helicopters, that they started firing on the tents in Medea, believing that they were wiping out a group of fundamentalists. The former officer said that he had informed the head of the army and the ambassador of the time, writing them a report, to which he “never received a reply because an information black-out was requested by the diplomat in order to avoid damaging relations between the two countries.” The request for the documents to be made public also concerns documents which may be held by the French authorities, particularly the secret services, regarding links between fundamentalists and the Algerian secret services. President Sarkozy has already said that he is in favour of such a decision, but it will be the job of the CCSDN (Commission consultative du secret de la défense nationale) to decide whether to release the documents or not, on the basis of requests from ministers. The monks were kidnapped in the night of March 26 — 27, 1996. Their heads were found two months later, while their bodies were never recovered. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Cinema: After Indigenes, Bouchareb Shoots Film on Algeria

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 28 — Rachid Bouchareb is busy shooting the film ‘Hors la loi’, a kind of sequel to ‘Indigenes’, which opens with the bloody repression which took place at Setif, in eastern Algeria on May 8 1945, showing Algeria’s process of de-colonialization up to independence in 1962 through the stories of three brothers as well as evoking the war in Indochina and the October 17 1961 repression in Paris of an independence demonstration. With its budget of around 19 million euros, filming began in Setif at the end of July, and continues in Tunisia, France, Belgium, Germany and the USA, at the United Nations headquarters. The cast is almost the same as that of Indigenes — the forgotten story of 130,000 African soldiers conscripted by France during the Second World War — which in Cannes was awarded the male actors’ prize for the five actors: Sami Bouajila, Roschdy Zem, Bernard Blancan, Jamel Debbouze and Samy Naceri. The latter, who has legal problems in France, declined the invitation, while Debbouze’s participation in the ceremony gave rise to controversy in Algeria where the Franco-Moroccan actor is considered persona non grata for his pro-Rabat stance over the issue of the former Spanish Sahara and his pro-Israel attitude, especially since his visit to the Wailing Wall with his head covered by a kippah. The Algerian authorities denied him a visa in both 2006 and 2007, but this time he was granted one, despite a protest in Algeria’s daily L’expression. The production team attempted to keep his arrival in Setif a secret, despite its being announced on Algerian sites and blogs, due to the actor’s unpopularity in the country. A photo of him wearing a kippah on his head has appeared in the guise of a “wanted” poster on the Internet. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egypt Arrests Protesters Against Bahai Neighbors

Egypt protestors opposing relocation of 25 Bahai families

Egyptian police arrested 70 villagers on Thursday who were protesting against the relocation of Bahai families to their area after they were chased out of another village in southern Egypt, security sources said.

About 150 people from Ezba and surrounding villages in Sohag province gathered outside regional government offices to voice opposition to the relocation of 25 Bahai families to government-sponsored housing near their homes, the sources said.

Bahais, who number between 500 and 2,000 in Egypt, call their faith’s 19th-century founder a prophet — anathema to Muslims who believe Mohammad was God’s final messenger.

Rights activists say Bahais face systematic discrimination in the conservative Arab country, which does not officially recognize the faith.

In April, Muslims attacked houses belonging to Bahai residents of another village in Sohag over a period of three days, forcing 30 families to flee the mainly Muslim village of Shuraniya.

Some villagers from Ezba said the protesters had gathered from Wednesday after word spread that some of those displaced from Shuraniya had settled in the area two weeks ago.

However a rights group advocating on behalf of the Bahai families said no permanent homes had been found for them.

Soha Abdelaty, the deputy director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the families were still negotiating with the government.

Bahais, in an important ruling for members of unrecognized religions, last year won the right to obtain government identity papers so long as they omit any reference to their faith. But the faith is still vilified by some media, activists say.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Egypt Preparing New Health Insurance Law

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, AUGUST 27 — Egyptian Finance Minister announced that a working group comprising the Ministries of Finance and Health is currently preparing the final draft of the new health insurance law to refer it to the Cabinet. The law will be referred to Parliament in its upcoming session. The new system aims to reduce the amount of disposable income spent on health care to around 35% only. One of the most important benefits in the new law is the expansion of health insurance coverage to include less privileged citizens, in return for a small amount of money, with the government bearing the cost of the poorer individuals, estimated to be 20% of Egypt’s population. The new law has identified additional sources for funding for the new health insurance system, including levying a sales tax on tobacco products.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy-Libya: USA, Berlusconi Can Visit Whoever He Wants

(ANSAmed) — WASHINGTON, AUGUST 26 — For the American State Department “Italy is a sovereign country, the prime minister can meet with whoever he wants to”, therefore the United States “has no comment” about Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s imminent visit to Tripoli, reported a State Department spokesperson today to ANSA. “Our position on the issue of the release of Mr. al-Megrahi is clear and we have expressed it over the past days,” said a spokesperson for the US State Department, referring to the release by Scottish authorities of Libyan terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was convicted in Scotland for the Lockerbie attack and returned to Tripoli on August 20. The United States said that the release of al-Megrahi was “disturbing” and defined the images of the triumphal welcome that was reserved for him in Libya as “shameful and disgusting”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Libya: Revolution Anniversary, Megrahi Will Not Attend

(ANSAmed) — LONDON, AUGUST 28 — The Lockerbie bomber, Abdebaset Al-Megrahi, who was released in Scotland for humanitarian reasons and has since gone back to Libya, will not take part in the official ceremonies planned to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s rise to power. The news was announced by the Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, in an interview released to Scottish newspaper The Herald. “On September 1, Megrahi will be in hospital,” he said, “and he will have no role in the ceremonies”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Libya: Tripoli Sources, Green Smoke From Frecce Tricolori?

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, AUGUST 26 — The classic tricolour smoke or a single line of green smoke, in honour of the Libyan flag? Just days before the Frecce Tricolori’s display in Tripoli, on September 1, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the revolution in which Colonel Muammar Gaddafi overthrew King Idriss, the matter is still unclear. For several days the Frecce Tricolori’s (Italy’s equivalent of the Red Arrows) website reports that “an enormous Italian tricolour in the skies of Tripoli will be unfurled by ten Frecce Tricolori over Libya”. But from Libya’s point of view it is not to be taken for granted. According to local sources, the subject is still being discussed. Apart from the colours, the arrival of the Frecce is eagerly awaited by Libya; notwithstanding the debate in Italy over the appropriateness of their presence, they will land at the Maitiga military airport in Tripoli on August 30. PAN, the National Acrobatics Patrol, will take part in celebrations with 9 MB339 planes. They will not perform their usual flight programme, for “security reasons” explains a diplomatic source, but will limit themselves to two fly-pasts over Tripoli and will alternate with another sixty Libyan planes and planes from other countries during a parade to celebrate the anniversary. The Italian pilots are expected to return to the Rivolto base on September 2. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Libya: 40th Anniversary; Tunisian Army to Join Parade

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, AUGUST 26 — The Tunisian Army is to take part in the military parade in Tripoli to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Libya’s revolution. The Tunisian formation will comprise sixty members of its special forces. The Tunisian Army’s brass band is also in Tripoli as part of the International Festival of military music, scheduled to run from August 25 to September 4.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Ramadan: Watermelon Trafficking Between Algeria-Tunisia

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, AUGUST 27 — It was a well-known fact that smuggling was a lucrative and varied business on the Algerian borders: south and east, to Tunisia, and west, to Morocco. But this must be the first time that the annals of the Maghreb country’s customs report the confiscation of 2,500 kg of watermelon. The news was reported by APS. The confiscation, announced by the customs’ central offices, took place in Tebessa, along the Tunisian border, where hundreds of watermelons were being transported on the small goods vehicles usually employed by smugglers. This type of product, according to customs, is illegally introduced only during the Ramadan period, considering the good value for money of fruits and vegetables in Tunisia. Aside of the usual smuggled goods, such as weapons, petrol and drugs (which are all very popular throughout the year), new unusual movements across borders will be seen around Aid El Khebir, the Feast of Abraham’s sacrifice. On this occasion, smugglers will travel in the opposite direction, and the tasty Algerian muttons, highly regarded in the whole of the Maghreb region, will clandestinely enter Tunisia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Steep Drop in Marseilles — Algeria Goods Traffic

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, AUGUST 26 — The new tax regime imposed by Algeria in July, which was aimed at curbing imports, are wreaking havoc with goods traffic from the port of Marseilles to the country. This is the content of a complaint issued by the Maritime and River Union, (UFM) which represents port enterprises. These measures “directly threaten activities in the eastern basins by many of our members, where 35-40% is headed for Algeria” and “the turnovers of some of our companies are up to 75% dependent on these exports”, the UFM wrote in a letter addressed to Anne-Marie Idrac, the deputy trade minister, informing her of “the concerns of French professionals who work with Algeria”. Four fifths of traffic has evaporated, a UMF spokesperson noted, citing the case of the shipping company Marfret, whose General Director, Bernard Vidil, confirms: there has been a huge drop: goods are being held up with total disarray. In 2008 trade between Marseille-Fos and Algeria, its third most important trading partner, rose 8% to reach 8.7 tonnes, or 9% of the port’s total traffic. The new tax measures have tightened up import procedures for goods, with the objective of breaking the country’s dependence on foreign imports and boost national production. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: Increased Popularity Among the English

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, 21 AUG — Tunisia “is enjoying an increase in popularity among English families and couples,” Mark Littlefair, director of the Thomas Cook travel agency, was quoted as saying. Tunisia, in his opinion, offers an important additional value in money terms (because of the exchange rate) with prices in the north African country defined as “attractive” especially for all inclusive package holidays, Littlefair was quoted as saying by African Manager magazine. “Tunisia is also an important destination for golfers and is starting to be popular as a destination for long periods in the winter season,” Littlefair said. Another British agency that is especially attentive to Tunisia, Just Sunshine, publishes a catalogue with offers for the winter season. Its director, Chris Mannel, says Tunisia’s advantages include that of “being beyond the euro zone,” so that holidays, especially in the winter, are extremely good value. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Economy: Israeli-Palestinian Trade Growing

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 26 — Trade between Israel and Palestine is growing steadily, reaching 5.2 US dollars in 2008, reports economics daily Globes, which reported data from the Israeli Ports Administration today. Israeli trade with the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) grew last year by 28%, and from 2.4 to 3.6 billion dollars since 2006. Palestinian imports and exports to Israel are also up. Both grew by 12%, from 900,000 to 1 million dollars last year. Israeli-Palestinian commercial data was published by the Ports Administration on the occasion of a meeting of 40 Palestinian businesspeople and representatives from the Israeli Foreign Ministry at the border cargo terminal at the Allenby bridge. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: Footage of Hamas-Salafite Shooting on the Web

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, AUGUST 25 — The first images of the shooting on August 14 in Rafah (south of Gaza) between Hamas militia and the militia of Jund Nassar Allah (a local Salafite group modelled on al Qaeda) were released yesterday on the internet. During the fight, which lasted hours and in which 28 people were killed and more than a hundred injured, Hamas managed to keep the press and onlookers at a safe distance. The footage was filmed in secret near the mosque in which the leader of the Salafite group, Mussa Abdel Latif, had barricaded himself. Latif was killed in the battle. The images show several Salafite militiamen in line in the courtyard opposite the mosque, while the Hamas militia start shooting them. A local Hamas member, Ribhi Rantisi, denied on Israeli military radio that the militia of Jund Nassar Allah have been executed, underlining that they have been killed in combat. Rantisi also denied any presence of Al Qaeda in Gaza. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Hamas Resumes Kassam Rocket Attacks

Arab terrorists in Hamas-controlled Gaza resumed rocket fire on Israel the morning of the Sabbath, firing one rocket at the Sdot Negev region near northern Gaza crossings. The missile exploded in an open area, and no injuries or damage were reported.

At least 234 rockets and mortars have hit Israel since the end of Operation Cast Lead last January. Terrorists have escalated attacks over the past week, breaking a silence that had prevailed for several weeks.

Israel media generally have played down the attacks unless they cause damage or injuries.

Palestinian Authority media have increasingly reported false accounts of supposed Israeli incursions into Gaza. IDF spokesmen thoroughly dismissed Thursday’s account in the Bethlehem-based Maan news that Navy ships beheaded an Arab fisherman with artillery fire following a mortar shell attack and sniper fire at Israeli soldiers patrolling near Gaza crossings.

Incitement against Israel in PA media continues to be common despite the American Roadmap that specifically calls for the PA to halt provocations to violence and hatred.

South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu told Maan this week that Israeli must talk with Hamas because “you don’t make peace with friends; you negotiate with those who are regarded as pariahs.”

He also said that he previously has told de facto Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh that rocket attacks on Israel are violations of “the right to life.”

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Hezbollah: Israeli Had Escaped From Mental Hospital

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, AUGUST 28 — 30-year-old Igor Kagan, the man who escaped from “an Israeli mental hospital”, has been returned to Israel unharmed after crossing one of the “hottest” border in the Middle East and ending up in southern Lebanon, traditionally controlled by Shia anti-Israeli militia Hezbollah. The news was reported by the Hezbollah “Party of God”. The Al Manar TV news website belonging to Hezbollah reports that the anonymous man, “identified as Igor Kagan, an Israeli of Russian origins”, was delivered at dawn this morning by Beirut-based servicemen to UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. “He had escaped from a mental hospital,” explained the website. The young man was stopped on Tuesday by the Lebanese army in the vicinity of the border village of Aytarun, along the central section of the Blue Line of demarcation between the two countries, after he had managed to cross the electric fences and minefield on the Lebanese side, undisturbed by Israeli forces. An Israeli military spokesman had already announced the return to the country this morning, through UNIFIL, of a young man, resident south of Tel Aviv, and suffering from mental problems. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Netanyahu: PNA Must Recognise Israel as Jewish State

(ANSAmed) — BERLIN, AUGUST 27 — Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed today his request that Palestinians must acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. This, he said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, is a condition to reach the goal of peace in the Middle East. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



West Bank, PNA Removes Hebrew Road Signs

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, AUGUST 28 — Roadsigns written in Hebrew are gradually disappearing from the West Bank’s main road network, says today’s edition of the daily Maariv, stating that their removal has been ordered by the PNA’s minister of public works, Muhammed Ashtaye. In place of signposts written in three languages (Hebrew, Arabic and English) sign posts written in just two languages are being installed: Arabic and English. Minister Ashtayeh has also ordered improvement works to the West Banks principal roads. Maariv says that these provisions, which are partly financed by the US aid agency, USAID, are part of the Salam Fayyad government’s policy of creating a Palestinian state within the coming two years. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


American Donut & Coffee Chain to Enter Turkish Market

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 20 — “Krispy Kreme”, a popular U.S. and Canadian donut & coffee chain is getting prepared to enter the Turkish market with a 3.5 million USD investment by the Qatari Almana Group, as Anatolia news agency reported. The group, which aims to expand the donut market in Turkey, will open the first Krispy Kreme cafe at Istanbul’s famous Bagdat Caddesi by the end of August 2009. Krispy Kreme is a chain of donut stores based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, United States and sells a variety of donuts, among them is its traditional “glazed donut”. Select varieties of Krispy Kreme products are also sold in many supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas stations in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Amil Imani: A Call to New Resolve

Unlike anything encountered in recent memory, the formidably complex and unique situation present in today’s Iran poses an enormous challenge. It defies any conventional solution, and simply resorting to civil disobedience is the equivalent of fighting off a pack of hungry and blood-thirsty wolves with tooth-picks! The incredibly ruthless, deceptive, and cunning nature of the present regime, bundled together with an Islamic modus operandi, creates an enigma and a number of paradoxes.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani [Return to headlines]



Gulf: Women’s Revolt, Violence and Revenge Increasing

(by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI — The Kuwaiti wedding that ended in tragedy, when the ex-wife of the groom set fire to the tent where the ceremony was being held, killing 47 women and children, violently uncovered a reality which, according to sociologists and criminologists, is not as rare as previously thought. In fact, the trend of deranged wives deciding to have their revenge on former husbands, for the wrongs and humiliations suffered, is on the increase. “The reasons behind the strong increase in violent reactions to the loss of a husband are still unclear, but there is no doubt that it is a wide spread phenomenon”, said Hatu Al Fasi, professor of Women’s History at the King Saud University of Riad, Saudi Arabia. One of the factors influencing this behaviour may be linked to the emancipation of women in the region, which brings an increased awareness of their individuality and rights, often disregarded by men, which also reflects onto other social trends, according to sociologists. For instance, the ever-increasing number of divorces in all countries of the oil-Gulf area (46% in the United Arab Emirates, 33% in Qatar, 32% in Saudi Arabia), the number of single women (35% in the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain) and the increase of marriageable age. But, beyond all researches and hypothesis, the events are clear — and they are on the rise. In the Najran province, in Saudi Arabia, a divorced woman set fire to her ex-husband’s car, parked in front of the house where he lived with his new wife. Her original intention was to set fire to the house itself, but the woman apparently changed her mind at the last minute. Again in Saudi Arabia, another woman shot and killed her husband’s new wife (Islamic religion allows men to have as many as four wives) and she then gave herself up to the police. “The Kuwaiti tragedy is the most serious one we have had, in terms of innocent lives lost, but it is similar in nature and motive to the ones in Saudi Arabia,” said Saudi criminologist Ahmad Al Mahmoud. Meanwhile, men are starting to take precautions. Prevention is better than cure, and a few days ago a Kuwaiti man demanded police protection during his wedding celebrations while another one went to the police after his daughters from the first wedding threatened to kill his second wife, who was their same age. This particular incident divided the local blogger community, between those that supported the man’s right to a second wedding and those that criticized the indifference with which family divisions and the daughter’s grief was treated. The topic of an increased fighting spirit in women against men seems to be headline news also in Tunisia. In Tunisi, in fact, a shelter home, Le Refuge, has been set up to give protections to ten men that suffered abuse at the hands of their wives, and to whom the institution provides, on top of food and accommodation, also a psychological support system. Another organization, the Association Tunisienne des Hommes Battus, is being set up to bring support and solidarity to the male victims of domestic violence, According to the data published by Tunisian newspaper Le Quotidien, 10% of married men suffer from domestic violence while 30% is victim of heavy verbal abuse. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Islam: From Youtube to Naqatube, The Islamic Alternative

(ANSAmed) — ROME, AUGUST 28 — With the aim of preventing the youth from watching profane or sexually explicit video clips online, a group of young saudis have developed a “clean” alternative to YouTube called NaqaTube. According to daily Arab News, NaqaTube is simply an amalgamation of elements consider pure from islamic moral. The logo website is, “Partecipate with us in a clean website”, an inside, a clear and simply graphic, show material religiously inclined: is it possible to see, on over 10 channel, featurings from scholars, imams and preachers. One of the moderators, who did not wish to reveal his real name, said that clips on NaqaTube are religiously safe and often edited prior to being uploded. Women’s images are totally forbidden, along with non muslim music. Also censored clips that are against the saudi government and the political and cultural establishment. “Our dream is to decline the number of visitors to YouTube. Our website has received from 5.000 to 6.000 visitors since its launch two months ago”, underlined moderator — that also added — “We are promoting a moderate Islam, nothing extreme”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Netanyahu Talks of Peace, Wants Sanctions for Iran

(ANSAmed) — BERLIN — Benjamin Netanyahu went on the attack in a complex chess match to re-open the peace process in the Middle East, calling for “paralysing sanctions” against Iran to prevent the risk of possible nuclear aggressions. But the Israeli Premier was up against another talented player: German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened up to sanctions, asking however for progress in agreements for a settlement freeze in the Palestinian Territories. Netanyahu’s stop in Berlin on his European tour ended with a crowded press conference, during which the distance between the two sides was evident, however, on the chessboard that is the Middle East, important pieces were moved, which in the coming weeks could serve to quickly find a common starting point. “The most important thing that we can do is apply paralysing sanctions against Iran”, said the Israeli Premier, underlining that this “would make it possible to apply real pressure on the regime in Tehran”. Netanyahu also thought about Plan B, explaining that if the UN Security Council does not reach an agreement on stiffer sanctions, the US and EU would have to act. The Israeli Premier also confirmed his request for Palestinians to acknowledge the Jewish state and he found a willing interlocutor, who stood firm on her positions. “Time is running out” on the issue of Iran’s nuclear programme, said the chancellor, observing that with a lack of progress by September, “we will examine harsher measures in the energy and finance sectors”. Netanyahu’s request seems to coincide with a broader plan cited yesterday by British daily The Guardian, which would call for a sort of trade with Israel when negotiations resume: rigid sanctions against Iran ‘repaid’ with a partial freezing of building projects in the settlements. According to this plan, USA Presidente Barack Obama could announce that the peace process will resume already at the meeting of international leaders for the UN General Assembly on September 23 or the G20 summit on September 24-25 in Pittsburgh. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Qatar Buys Into VW

The Gulf state of Qatar has taken a 6.78-percent stake in Europe’s biggest carmaker Volkswagen as part of a plan to take over around 17 percent of the company, Volkswagen said on Friday.

Qatar’s investment will total some €7 billion and the country will become the third biggest shareholder in Volkswagen behind the Porsche and Piech families and the German state of Lower Saxony.

The agreement is part of a broader deal hammered out this month to merge Volkswagen with luxury sports-car maker Porsche, which incurred heavy debts in a recent failed bid to take over its far bigger rival Volkswagen.

Volkswagen shares were down 1.54 percent at €136.82 on the Frankfurt stock market on Friday afternoon. The company’s shares have fallen by 40 percent since August 13 when the Volkswagen-Porsche merger deal was announced.

Christian Wulff, state premier of Lower Saxony, said he was optimistic that the fusion of VW and Porsche would not cost any jobs in his state. “The deal is only worth it if it makes one and one equal three,” he said, hopeful that the merger would create more jobs.

Wulff also assuaged fears that the state of Baden-Württemberg would lose the Porsche headquarters, stressing that it was important that Porsche maintained its autonomy despite the merger.

“A Volksporsche would be a disaster,” Wulff said, hoping to quash rumours that VW were planning a budget Porsche model.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Ramadan: UAE: 2,000 Euros Reward for People Who Quit Smoking

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, AUGUST 27 — People who quit smoking are to be amply rewarded. This is part of the new anti-smoking campaign launched by the councillor’s office for Islamic Affairs of the emirate of Sharjah, which is offering 2,000 euros to anyone taking advantage of Ramadan to give up smoking once and for all. “We want to take advantage of Ramadan because if you can go a whole day without smoking then you go your whole life without smoking,” explained Twalib Ibrahim Al Merri. During Ramadan, followers are asked to refrain from smoking, as well as drinking and eating, between dawn and sunset. Some 100 people have already registered for the initiative — they will have medical tests when they join the campaign and when Ramadan ends. Those who manage to stop smoking (and who will be checked up on in future) will be rewarded 2,00 euros and another two rewards of 1,000 euros each. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Thousands Mourn Iraqi Shia Leader

Thousands of Iraqi Shias have turned out to mourn the powerful Shia Muslim leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim on the second day of funeral proceedings.

Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, died in Tehran on Wednesday of lung cancer, and his body was flown back to Iraq yesterday.

Hakim, an important power-broker, will be buried in the city of Najaf, where a large security operation is under way.

Separately, at least 15 people have died in two bomb attacks.

Tight security

As his funeral procession passed through the mainly Shia areas south of Baghdad, the route was lined with thousands of mourners, many wearing black.

After being taken to the important Shia shrines in Karbala, his coffin will be moved to the holy city of Najaf.

He is due to be buried there next to his brother, Muhammad Baqr, who was killed six years ago to the day in a suicide car bombing in the city.

Iraqi security forces have mounted a huge security operation in Najaf, with their performance under scrutiny after their failure to prevent a series of recent large-scale attacks.

North of Baghdad, there were two separate bomb attacks on Saturday, one targeting a police station. At least 15 people were killed.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Thirty-Percent of Households Have Internet, Survey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 19 — The results of a recent survey conducted by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) on information technology usage in households has shown that Internet usage in Turkey has increased this year compared to last year, as Today’s Zaman reports. Some 30% of households in Turkey currently have access to the Internet, up from 25.4% in 2008. ADSL is the most widely used method of connecting to the Internet, with 85.6% of the market share. The most popular activity among individuals surveyed was e-mailing (72.4%), while reading online newspapers and magazines came in second. A total of 56.3% said they mostly used the Internet to download music. The most common reason cited for not having access to the Internet at home was “lack of need,” with 30.1%. Some 50.5% of males use computers while the share of men who use the Internet is 48.6%. These numbers are 30% and 28% for females, respectively. Asked how often they use computers, 61.2% of computer users said every day, while 59.3% of Internet users surf the Internet every day. While 57.6% use the Internet at home, 32.4% have Internet access at work, and 24.1% visit Internet cafe’s, which are widespread in Turkey. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Hunger and Poverty Lines Up in August, Report Shows

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, AUGUST 28 — The monthly salary necessary in Turkey to adequately feed a family of four, referred to as the hunger line, has increased by 0.4% to TL 741 (about 350 euro) in August from TL 738 in the preceding month, Today’s Zaman reports quoting a survey by the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions (Turk-Is). The monthly Hunger and Poverty Line Survey, released by Turk-Is, also determined that the poverty line — the amount that a family of four should earn monthly in order to pay its rent and meet its basic needs, such as food, transportation, clothing and education — rose to TL 2,424 in August, up from July’s TL 2,404. Turk-Is reported that the hunger line is TL 195 higher than the current minimum wage and that TL 741 could feed a family of four for only 22 days, adding, “Considering the other expenditures such as rent and bills, things are becoming harder for people.” Noting that poverty is a fact of society, Turk-Is said this becomes more apparent, particularly through the efforts of charity organizations, during the holy month of Ramadan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UAE Seized N.Korea Arms Shipment Bound for Iran

  • Arms included rocket launchers, detonators, RPGs
  • Seizure of shipment took place on Aug. 14
  • Countries linked include Australia, France, Italy, China

(Adds details about weapons, countries involved)

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 28 (Reuters) — The United Arab Emirates has seized a cargo of North Korean weapons being shipped to Iran, which would have violated a U.N. embargo on arms exports from the communist state, Western diplomats said on Friday.

The weapons seized on Aug. 14 included rocket launchers, detonators, munitions and ammunition for rocket-propelled grenades, they said. The ship, called the ANL-Australia, was Australian-owned and flying a Bahamas flag.

Diplomats said the UAE reported the incident, which occurred two weeks ago, to the Security Council sanctions committee on North Korea. The committee sent letters to Tehran and Pyongyang on Aug. 25 informing them of the seizure and demanding a response within 15 days.

“Based on past experience … we don’t expect a very detailed response,” one of the diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

The diplomats said the Australian firm whose ship was seized is controlled by a French conglomerate and the actual export was arranged by the Shanghai office of an Italian company. The diplomats did not name any of the firms involved.

“The cargo was deceptively labeled,” said a diplomat “The cargo manifest said that the ship contained oil boring machines. But then you opened it up and you found these arms.”

Diplomats said both North Korea and Iran appeared to be in breach of Security Council resolution 1874, which banned all arms exports from North Korea and authorized states to search suspicious ships and seize and destroy banned items.

The resolution was imposed after North Korea’s second nuclear test in May. The council imposed sanctions on Pyongyang after its first test in October 2006, but the measures were never enforced, mainly because China showed no interest in seeing them implemented.

Diplomats said the UAE seizure, which was done on the basis of the country’s own intelligence reports, was an important success for the beefed-up North Korean sanctions regime and would hopefully deter further attempts at skirting sanctions.

Tehran has also been punished with three rounds of U.N. sanctions for its nuclear program, which Western powers fear is aimed at producing atomic weapons. Iran says it has a peaceful atomic program that will generate electricity, not bombs.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Bangladesh: Muslims Threaten Catholic Women of Dewtola Village

At the root of the tensions Christian ownership of stalls in the local market. The women are helpless because most of the men of the village have emigrated to Europe or moved to Dhaka to find work.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — Catholic women of the village of Dewtola can no longer go to mass because of continual threats from local Muslims. For the past several weeks tensions have been mounting around the parish of St. Francis Xavier in Golla, Nawabgonj district.

Michael Gomes, a local Catholic leader, tells AsiaNews that “defenceless women and children are being intimidated. Most of the men of the village have emigrated to Europe or moved to Dhaka to find work”.

The threats originate from disputes over the village market where many stalls are run by some of the more than 3 thousand 700 Christians living in the area. Muslim traders want to take possession of them and have already on several occasions tried to use force to expel the non Muslim owners.

Already in 2006, for the same reason, a crowd of 200 people attacked the Catholic faithful as they were going to church and destroyed some of their stalls at the market. “Now the climate is back to being that of three years ago — says Gomes — we live in a situation of deep insecurity and despite having alerted the local authorities nothing has happened.”

The story is further complicated by the private interest of local politicians. Gomes says that “the local union leader is linked to the Muslims and says that the market can not be the exclusive property of Christians”.

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



Fury at NATO’s Afghan Clinic Raid

A member of the Afghan parliament has criticised a Nato air strike on a clinic where a Taliban leader was being treated for his injuries.

US and Afghan forces attacked the clinic in the Sar Hawza district of Paktika province, eastern Afghanistan, on Thursday.

Khalid Faroqi, who represents Paktika province, said it was an offence to fire on such a facility.

Nato says that troops first made sure there were no civilians inside.

It says security forces were fired upon as they approached the clinic and responded by ordering helicopter strikes.

Amnesty International has called for an investigation into the attack, but added that if the Taliban fired first, they had committed a serious violation.

Nato said one soldier was killed and seven gunmen were arrested, but local officials said 12 militants died in the incident.

“After ensuring the clinic was cleared of civilians, an AH64 Apache helicopter fired rounds at the building, ending the direct threat and injuring the targeted insurgent in the building,” Nato said on Thursday, adding that there were no civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Nato troops and Afghan security forces say they have killed several gunmen, including a woman, in an exchange of fire with militants linked to the Taliban.

Officials said that the insurgents were killed in a gun battle in northern Kunduz province as troops approached a militant compound.

Nato said a number of weapons were recovered from the compound.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Indonesia: Militant Fugitive ‘Thrives’ With Islamist Support

Jakarta, 28 August (AKI) — Islamist militant Noordin Mohamed Top, considered the mastermind of several deadly bombings in Indonesia including attacks on two Jakarta hotels in July, has “survived” and “thrived” because of a strong network of support, according to a new report. The International Crisis Group said Noordin, one of the most wanted criminals in Asia, remains at large because of the strong support he draws from a southeast Asian network of militants.

The report, entitled Indonesia: Noordin Top’s Support Base, said Noordin, who in 2004 broke away from the Islamist Jemaah Islamiyah which has links to Al-Qaeda, relies on “an inner circle of long-term associates” linked to the group.

“His network is proving to be larger and more sophistocated than previously thought,” the report said. “Noordin retains an inner circle of JI militants who have been with him for the last four or five years.

“He can rely on many more, including teachers at JI schools and their students, to provide hiding places or logistical aid as needed.”

The July Jakarta hotel bombings have produced calls for greater security and harsher laws, but the Crisis Group said more urgent priority should be given to understanding the terrorists’ local support base.

“Most Indonesians are outraged by terrorist attacks on civilians, but the ideology that legitimises those attacks is hard to eradicate”, says Sidney Jones, the Crisis Group’s senior adviser to the Asia Programme.

“One individual with the right contacts can create a security cordon for Noordin that extends to several different towns and villages”.

Malaysian-born Noordin was a key figure behind the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings in Indonesia and remains one of Asia’s most wanted fugitives.

Noordin was thought to be a key recruiter and financier for JI, but analysts say he has now formed his own militant group. He has narrowly escaped capture several times.

Earlier this month, Indonesian security forces thought they had killed Noordin in a raid at a remote farmhouse in Central Java, but DNA tests later confirmed that the dead man was not him.

“When the police investigation of these attacks is finally finished, an independent evaluation of lessons learned would be desirable”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, South East Asia Project Director.

“The immediate task, however, is to capture Noordin and the other suspects — alive if possible”.

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



Indonesia: Christians Call for Rejection of Sharia-Inspired Bills

Church leaders fear legislation will lead to religious intolerance; church, orphanage opposed.

JAKARTA, August 19 (Compass Direct News) — The Indonesian Council of Churches (PGI) has called for the rejection of two bills inspired by sharia (Islamic law).

The Halal Product Guarantee Bill and the Zakat Obligatory Alms Management Bill, both under consideration in the Indonesian parliament, cater to the needs of one religious group at the expense of others, thereby violating Indonesia’s policy of pancasila or religious tolerance, said the Rev. Dr. A.A. Yewangoe, director of the PGI. “National laws must be impartial and inclusive,” Yewangoe told Compass.

“Since all laws are binding on all of the Indonesian people, they must be objective. Otherwise discrimination will result … The state has a duty to guard the rights of all its citizens, including freedom of religion.” Muslim groups, meantime, recently moved to close more Christian institutions.

On July 21, following complaints from community groups, police forcibly dismantled a church in West Java on grounds that it did not have a building permit — previously denied even though all requirements had been met — while similar groups in East Java successfully lobbied for the closure of a Catholic orphanage claiming that it planned to “Christianize” local children.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



Indonesia: Military Commander: ‘Report People With Sorban and Jubah’ [Islamic Outfit]

JAKARTA — Haryadi Soetanto, military commander of the Diponegoro division of the Indonesian army, has said that Indonesians should not be scared to report people that dress different than what is normal in the current Indonesian culture. “If there are foreigners wearing a sorban (Islamic headscarf or turban) or jubah (Islamic long robe) or even wear a beard, they should be reported to the local authorities. The people should be more direct in this kind of situations,” he said.

According to Soetanto Indonesians are still far to easy in this kind of things. However the Indonesian army is already protecting Indonesia, it still needs information from the Indonesian public in case of threats. But awareness is still way to low, he said. “Over and over again there are bomb explosions, but Indonesians get to see this as something normal instead of reacting to it in a direct way,” Soetanto said.

“The people of Indonesia have to be aware that they too are responsible in creating a safe nation. Terrorism can come from many different ways and we have to be aware,” said Soetanto. The Indonesian army already checks those who enter Indonesia through various entry points. They also work together with the Immigration Offices. “We can not prevent foreigners from coming in, because most don’t have anything bad in their mind, but if people act strangely, people should not hesitate to report that to the local authorities.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Court Frees Khan From House Arrest

Islamabad, 28 August (AKI) — A Pakistani court on Friday ordered the government to lift any remaining restrictions on a scientist alleged to have shared nuclear technology with Iran, North Korea and Libya, his lawyer said. The ruling in the case of scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan is certain to provoke alarm from India and the United States, which still regards him as a proliferation risk.

Khan’s lawyer, Ali Zafar, said the Lahore High Court had ruled that “nobody can restrict the movement of A.Q. Khan” and that notices had been issued to the government and police to explain their action.

“It is excellent and heart warming and very gratifying,” Khan told reporters at his home. “I think the people who have been involved in playing mischief with me will get the message and allow me live a peaceful, private life as a citizen.”

It was unclear whether authorities would abide by the decision. Judges and government officials were not available for comment on Friday.

Khan admitted on television in early 2004 that he operated a network that spread nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.

He was pardoned by then president Pervez Musharraf, but immediately placed under de facto house arrest.

In February, the Islamabad High Court announced he was a ‘free citizen’.

Since then, he has had to tell authorities of his travel plans and gain permission for guests to visit him at home.

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



Terrorists to Kill Obama in Indonesia?

Terrorists in Indonesia are said to have detailed plans to stage a terrorist attack on American president Barack Obama. The attack should be carried out by sharp shooters. This information was made public by a safety expert in Indonesia. Obama is expected to bring a visit to Indonesia in November this year.

The Indonesian police has released pictures of two out of four suspected sharp shooters. They are said to be located to a movement that has close ties with terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah. The plans for the murder were found during the investigation of the attacks on two hotels in Jakarta last month. Five suspects in this case have been captured while three others were killed by the police.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



U.S. Says Pakistan Altered Missiles Sold for Defense

WASHINGTON — The United States has accused Pakistan of illegally modifying American-made missiles to expand its capability to strike land targets, a potential threat to India, according to senior administration and Congressional officials.

The charge, which set off a new outbreak of tensions between the United States and Pakistan, was made in an unpublicized diplomatic protest in late June to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and other top Pakistani officials.

The accusation comes at a particularly delicate time, when the administration is asking Congress to approve $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan over the next five years, and when Washington is pressing a reluctant Pakistani military to focus its attentions on fighting the Taliban, rather than expanding its nuclear and conventional forces aimed at India.

While American officials say that the weapon in the latest dispute is a conventional one — based on the Harpoon antiship missiles that were sold to Pakistan by the Reagan administration as a defensive weapon in the cold war — the subtext of the argument is growing concern about the speed with which Pakistan is developing new generations of both conventional and nuclear weapons.

“There’s a concerted effort to get these guys to slow down,” one senior administration official said. “Their energies are misdirected.”

At issue is the detection by American intelligence agencies of a suspicious missile test on April 23 — a test never announced by the Pakistanis — that appeared to give the country a new offensive weapon.

American military and intelligence officials say they suspect that Pakistan has modified the Harpoon antiship missiles that the United States sold the country in the 1980s, a move that would be a violation of the Arms Control Export Act. Pakistan has denied the charge, saying it developed the missile itself. The United States has also accused Pakistan of modifying American-made P-3C aircraft for land-attack missions, another violation of United States law that the Obama administration has protested.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Far East


Tokyo-Vote: Towards a Political Earthquake

On August 30, the country faces its most important election in 60 years. Liberals, who have had almost continuous control since 1958, risk being voted out of government. The sunset of the alliance between politicians, industry and bureaucracy. The severity of the economic crisis and the new international role of the country.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) — On 21 July, Prime Minister Taro Aso dissolved the lower house and called elections for August 30. Japan is now faced with the most important elections in the last 60 years. The birth of a new Japan, capable of dealing positively with the challenges that history poses, depends on the results.

The protagonists of the vote are the Jiminto (Liberal Democratic Party, LDP) and Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan, DPJ), the first has governed the country almost uninterruptedly since 1958, the second is the largest opposition party, founded in 1998. According to inquiries conducted by the newspaper Asahi, in Sunday’s elections, the opposition party (DPJ) might gain as many as 320 seats, two-thirds of the 420 of the lower house, while the ruling party (LDP) would get around 100. A revolutionary reversal. At the time of the dissolution of the House, the LDP had 300 seats while the DPJ only 120.

Sun sets on ‘55 system

Two expressions help to focus the historical uniqueness of the event: “System ‘55” and “iron circle”. The first refers to what political analyst Shingo Ito described as follows: “Japan is a rich nation, with a modern and stable democracy and peace. So why for half a century has it looked almost like a one-party state, lasting as long as that of Communist China?”. The answer lies in the long electoral success of the Liberal Democratic Party and the ‘iron triangle’ that has forged with industry and with the powerful bureaucracy”. This unique democratic structure is referred to by historians, precisely as “System ‘55” because it was formed in 1955 when the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party joined giving rise to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Curiously, its brilliant founder, Ichiro Hatoyama (1883-1959) is the great-grandfather of Yukio Hatoyama, the current president of the DPJ.

Yoshikazu Sakamoto, professor emeritus of political science at the prestigious Tokyo University, said that “the (Liberal Democratic) party focused on pragmatism rather than on ideals or political philosophies in what can be described as a form of economic nationalism”. To achieve this pragmatism, or, in more concrete terms, a global economy, the group at the top of the LDP forged links with the captains of industry and an efficient bureaucracy, forming a strong group of national power set, precisely described as “the iron circle”. The most famous districts of Tokyo, after that of the Imperial Palace and those adjacent to it, are Nagatacho, home of the official residence of the Prime Minister and the headquarters of the LDP and Kasumigaseki, where the buildings of the ministries are situated, ie the bureaucrats, who are in continuous dialogue with the creators of the economy.

An abundant and continuous flow of money from large companies to Nagatacho was used by the party leadership to support its provincial organizations. Meanwhile, diligent bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki, in dialogue with industry, prepared bills that the government presented to parliament and, without fail, were approved of by the absolute majority of the governing party. “Japan probably would not have become an economic power — writes Takehito Yamamoto, professor of economics at Waseda University (Tokyo) — if it had not forged the so-called ‘iron triangle’ with business leaders and bureaucrats”.

The leading role of citizens

In this election the alternative is not between one party and another but between a clear and strong government and a weak government, manipulated by a hidden group of powers. In other words, the Japanese people of 2009 is not the same people of the sixties.

The popularity of Junichiro Koizumi, prime minister from 2001 to 2006 confirms this. Koizumi was a dyed in the wool conservative nationalist. This is seen in the break in relations with China over his repeated visits to Yasukuni Shinto shrine, a symbol of militarism in the ‘40s, and to an undermining of the pacifist Article 9 of the Constitution by sending national defence troops to Afghanistan. But he proved he both wanted and knew how to govern independently of the gray eminences of the LDP. Hence the high popularity that he has earned.

When in 2005, his bill for privatizing the post office (the most “Bank” powerful in Japan) was rejected by the opposition of some high ranking members of the LDP (his party), he dissolved the House, expelled the rebels, called elections and swept to victory.

The two prime ministers who succeeded him: Shinzo Abe (26 wk. 2006-12 wk. 2007) and Yasuo Fukuda (23 wk. 2007 — 1 week. 2008) resigned after less than a year in office and the current leader Taro Aso was put on the ropes by a steady decline in popularity.

“Instead of appealing to popular opinion — says Tanefuchi Etsushi, professor at Waseda — the Liberal Democratic Party idly changed leaders from Abe to Fukuda to Aso. The people now think it is time for a radical change. They do not really have high expectations of the DPJ. People very simply, but with great determination, want a change in power “, ie they want leaders who can govern.

The seriousness of the challenge

The Japanese people are highly mature. In saying this we do not refer to the older generation who, not without good reasons, supported the “system 55”, or to young people who, unfortunately, are fearfully without ideals, but to men and women of middle age. Many of them have an excellent intellectual formation and given the high quality of Japanese media, are aware of the seriousness of the challenges that Japan must face without further delay.

We will indicate one on a national level that, if not the main issue, is without doubt the most urgent, that being the economic crisis. Twenty years ago 80% of Japanese population belonged to the middle class, today the percentage has dropped to 47%.

The positive legacy of the LDP

The collapse of the “system ‘55” does not mean the end of the party that created it. Some believe that its likely election defeat may be a good lesson for its “rebirth”. Kazuhisa Kawakami of Gakuin University observes: “Even if it goes to the opposition, the LDP can use its great organizational power, which is higher than that of the DPJ, and enhance its efforts to listen to public opinion” and, we add, effectively collaborate with the political group that will be chosen to govern.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa


Ethiopia ‘Seizes’ Town in Somalia

Ethiopian troops have seized control of a strategic town in Somalia, eyewitnesses say.

Belet Wayne is near the Ethiopian border and the Ethiopian troops are reported to have taken control of the town without a fight.

Ethiopian troops intervened in Somalia in 2006 and removed Islamists from power. They officially left Somalia in January as part of a peace deal.

The Ethiopian government has denied that their troops have returned.

In recent months, there have been frequent reports that the Ethiopian soldiers are back.

While eyewitnesses say they have taken control of the town of Belet Wayne, this has been denied by the government spokesman in Addis Ababa, Bereket Simon.

Rebellion fears

Christian Ethiopia does not want hardline Islamist insurgents in charge of territory near the common border.

It fears that this could fuel the rebellion in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia which is inhabited by ethnic Somalis.

Recently there were reports that a large number of Ethiopian soldiers had entered Somalia at a time when Islamist forces had taken control of part of Belet Wayne.

Eyewitnesses say that as the Ethiopians moved in the Islamist troops left the town without a fight.

In 2006, Ethiopia invaded Somalia and defeated the Islamists who had seized control of much of the country.

This caused a great deal of resentment in Somalia and helped the Islamists gain support.

They returned with a more extremist agenda and in recent months have been fighting the interim government for control of the country — a conflict which has forced more than a million people to flee their homes.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]



Two Peacekeepers Seized in Sudan

Two members of the joint UN/African Union (Unamid) peacekeeping force have been kidnapped in Sudan’s western Darfur region, officials say.

A Unamid spokesman said the pair — a man and a woman — were abducted in the western town of Zalingei.

The victim’s nationalities have not been made public.

It comes two days after the UN’s military commander in the region said the six-year war there between the government and rebels was over.

The UN says 300,000 people died in the conflict in Darfur, but the Sudanese government puts the figure at 10,000.

Almost three million people are said to have been displaced by the fighting.

The commander, Gen Martin Agwai, said the region now suffered more from low-level disputes and banditry than the violence of recent years.

Spokesman Noureddin Mezni said armed men attacked the Unamid staff residence in Zalingei at 0430 (0130 GMT) and abducted the pair, whom he described as civilians.

Mr Mezni said the abductions were the first of Unamid members, although there have been a series of kidnappings of aid workers in the region.

He said contact had been made with the captors, but did not give any further details.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


More Students Wear ‘Islam of the Devil’ Shirts to School

More children from the Dove World Outreach Center arrived Tuesday at area public schools with shirts bearing the message “Islam is of the Devil” and were sent home for violation of the school district’s dress code when they declined to change clothes or cover the anti-Muslim statement on their clothing.

School district staff attorney Tom Wittmer said the shirts violated a district ban on clothing that may “disrupt the learning process” or cause other students to be “offended or distracted.”

“Students have a right of free speech, and we have allowed students to come to school wearing clothes with messages,” Wittmer said. “But this message is a divisive message that is likely to offend students. Principals, I feel reasonably, have deemed that a violation of the dress code.”

Wittmer said the school district allows students to express their religious beliefs but also must protect other students, such as members of the Muslim faith, from discrimination based on their religious beliefs.

He said there also has to be equal treatment of different faiths.

“The next kid might show up with a shirt saying ‘Christianity is of the Devil,’“ Wittmer said.

First Amendment scholars said the school district’s policy is likely legal and constitutional. Ron Collins, a scholar with the nonprofit First Amendment Center in Washington D.C., said courts give public school officials a “significant amount of latitude” in regulating student dress that could disrupt the classroom or a school function.

“Here, it’s not only a religious expression,” Collins said. “It’s a religious expression that is hostile to other forms of religious expression.”

Collins did note that student speech is afforded more protection at the college or university level.

Catherine Cameron, a faculty member at the Stetson College of Law, said the school district “likely has a good leg to stand on from a First Amendment standpoint” because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in several cases that public schools may quash speech deemed disruptive “even if it steps on the other child’s free speech rights.”

On their front, the T-shirts had a verse from the Gospel of John: “Jesus answered I am the way and the truth and the life; no one goes to the Father except through me,” and this statement, “I stand in trust with Dove Outreach Center.” The message “Islam is of the Devil” is on the back of the shirt.

On Monday, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Talbot Elementary was sent home because of the shirt. On Tuesday, two Eastside High students and one Gainesville High student were sent home and a student at Westwood Middle had to change clothes because of the shirt, according to members of the Dove congregation.

Dove Senior Pastor Terry Jones said no local company “had the guts” to print the shirts. Dove member Wayne Sapp said he then ordered the shirts over the Internet from a company that allows individuals to design their own shirts. His daughter, Faith Sapp , 10, was the Talbot Elementary student sent home Monday. She said she was allowed to wear the shirt to school on Tuesday — with the Gospel message on the front visible but the anti-Islam message on the back covered.

Wayne Sapp’s daughter, Emily Sapp, 15, was the student sent home from Gainesville High on Tuesday. Both Faith and Emily Sapp said it was their decision, not that of their parents, to wear the shirts to school in order to promote their Christian beliefs. Emily Sapp said the “Islam is of the Devil” statement was aimed at the religion’s beliefs, not its members.

“The people are fine,” she said. “The people are people. They can be saved like anyone else.”

Wayne Sapp said he believed the school district’s dress code allowed too much room for subjectivity when principals and school administrators determine what is offensive or distracting clothing.

He added that his children decided it was time to “stand up for what they believe instead of saying the rules might not let me do it” and said that society has grown “so tolerant of being tolerant” that free speech is eroding.

Jones said that, to him, spreading the church’s message was “even more important than education itself.”

All of the Dove members interviewed said that, while they would not like a student wearing a shirt with an anti-Christian message on it to school, they believed students have the right to do it.

Saeed R. Khan, president of the Muslim Association of North Central Florida, said the anti-Islam message should not be accepted when “schools are supposed to be teaching tolerance for others.”

“It’s pretty offensive, isn’t it?” Khan said of the message on the back of the shirt. “Particularly in a school setting where you are trying to create an atmosphere where people are supposed to respect each other and live with each other, where we have people of every ethnicity and every religion.”

Jones and Wayne Sapp said congregation members have not decided whether their children will be allowed to continue to go to school with “Islam is of the Devil” visible on their clothing because they want their children to get an education — and that does not happen when they are sent home for violating the dress code.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

General


The Next 100 Years

Japan and Turkey form an alliance to attack the US. Poland becomes America’s closest ally. Mexico makes a bid for global supremacy, and a third world war takes place in space. Sounds strange? It could all happen. . .

[…]

This is not an Americentric view of the world. The world is Americentric. The US marshals the economic resources of North America, controls the world’s oceans and space, projects force where it wishes — wisely or not. The US is to the world what Britain once was to Europe. Both nations depended on control of the sea to secure their interests. Both nations understood that the best way to retain control of the sea was to prevent other nations from building navies. Both understood that the best way to do that was to maintain a balance of power in which potential challengers spent their resources fighting each other on land, rather than building fleets that could challenge their control of the sea.

The US is doing this globally. Its primary goal is always to prevent the emergence of a single power that can dominate Eurasia and the European peninsula. With the Soviet Union’s collapse, China’s limits and the EU’s divisions, there is currently no threat of this. So the US has moved to a secondary goal, which is to block the emergence of any regional hegemon that could, in the long term, grow into something more dangerous. The US does what it can to disrupt the re-emergence of Russian national power while building relations with bordering countries such as Poland and Turkey. It encourages unrest in China’s border regions, using the ideology of human rights as justification. It conducts direct or surrogate wars on a seemingly random basis, from Somalia to Serbia, from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Many of these wars appear to go badly. However, success is measured not by the pacification of a country, but by its disruption. To the extent that the Eurasian land mass is disrupted, to the extent that there is perpetual unrest and disunion from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the US has carried out its mission. Iraq is paradigmatic. The US intervention resulted in a civil war. What appeared to be a failure was, in fact, a satisfactory outcome. Subjectively, we would think George W Bush and his critics were unaware of this. But that is the point of geopolitics. The imperatives generate ideologies (a democratic Iraq) and misconceptions (weapons of mass destruction). These, however, are shadows on the wall. It is the geopolitical imperatives, not the rhetoric, that must be understood in order to make sense of what is going on.

Thus, the question is how these geopolitical and strategic realities shape the rest of the century. Eurasia, broadly understood, is being hollowed out. . .

[…]

The ultimate prize is North America. Until the middle of the 19th century, there were two contenders for domination — Washington and Mexico City. After the American conquest of northern Mexico in the 1840s, Washington dominated North America and Mexico City ruled a weak and divided country. It remained this way for 150 years. It will not remain this way for another hundred. Today, Mexico is the world’s 13th-largest economy. It is unstable due to its drug wars, but it is difficult to imagine those wars continuing for the rest of the century. The heirs of today’s gangsters will be on the board of art museums soon enough.

Mexico has become a nation of more than 100 million people with a trillion-dollar economy. When you look at a map of the borderland between the United States and Mexico, you see a huge flow of drug money to the south and the flow of population northward. Many areas of northern Mexico that the US seized are now being repopulated by Mexicans moving northward — US citizens, or legal aliens, or illegal aliens. The political border and the cultural border are diverging.

Until after the middle of the century, the US will not respond. It will have concerns elsewhere and demographic shifts in the US will place a premium on encouraging Mexican migration northward. It will be after the mid-century systemic war that the new reality will emerge. Mexico will be a prosperous, powerful nation with a substantial part of its population living in the American south-west, in territory that Mexicans regard as their own.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Cultural Enrichment in Flanders

Cultural Enrichment News


Our Flemish correspondent Y_not has translated three cultural enrichment news stories. The first two concern incidents in Brussels, and the third involves an enriched encounter on public transportation in Mechelen.

First, the two articles about riots in Brussels. From De Standaard:

Collision between youth and police in Anderlecht [municipality in Brussels]

Wednesday August 26, 2009

ANDERLECHT — Close to the metro station Aumale in Anderlecht last Wednesday there was a collision between a group of twenty young people and the police. The incident occurred around 17.00 hours, when agents of the Federal Police were checking the identities of two people following a violent robbery that had occurred.

These checks led to a gathering of about twenty young people. They insulted the officers and pelted them with projectiles. The agents called for backup and police dogs from the federal police.

The police then wanted to determine the identity of some of these youngsters. A 25-year-old man grabbed one officer and also hit two others several times, while he tried to rob them of their weapons. He was bitten in the thigh by a police dog, carried to the hospital, and then put in jail.

Eventually the officers left the scene of the incident under a rain of projectiles. A policeman was hit in the neck.

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Here’s another source with the same article but a different title: “Youth in Anderlecht expel police with projectiles”.

From Het Laatste Nieuws:
- – - - – - – - -

Heavy riots between youth and police in Anderlecht and Molenbeek

Thursday August 27, 2009

During the riots last night in the Brussels municipality of Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, the police of the Brussels Area West arrested two youths. This was reported by the Brussels public prosecutor today.

The two, 18 and 21 years old, were administratively detained, not suspected of any crime. They have been released. The police of the southern zone Brussels (Anderlecht / Sint-Gillis / Vorst) meanwhile reported that on their territory last night no incidents took place, contrary to what was previously reported. [Note: this is not about the riot described in the above article; that happened the day before.]

Metro Station Aumale

Wednesday in Anderlecht, at the Aumale metro station, there were indeed collisions between the police and youths as agents wanted to arrest some pickpockets. During the night a subway escalator was set on fire with a Molotov cocktail. This morning there were several media reports of new incidents in the territory of Anderlecht, but the local police denied that any incidents occurred.

Tires on fire

In neighboring Sint-Jans-Molenbeek the police had a restless night, especially around the Ribaucourtstraat. It began at 22.15 when a police car got a brick through the windshield. It became really serious about 23.30 hours. Young people had set fire to tires, and when the firemen arrived, they were pelted with rocks. The police reacted and were soon confronted with a hundred youngsters.

Some of them crawled over the fence of a building, penetrated the courtyard, and set two cars on fire. Four other cars were also damaged, in addition to four doors.

Passersby attacked with pepper spray

Two passersby, who asked a group of youngsters what was going on, were attacked with pepper spray and received several kicks and blows. Their attackers also went off with the wallet of one of the victims.

The Brussels West police were strengthened by other local police zones of the Brussels Capital-Ixelles and by two water-cars of the federal police. At 2.15 am there were three charges by the police, then calm gradually returned. At 3 am agents noticed at the Zwarte Vijversplein fifteen young people who looked like rioters. On seeing the police they ran away, but the officers managed to arrest two young people. The 18-year-old Abdelkader and the 21-year-old Salih were administratively detained and released after several hours.

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Here’s another source (a shorter article which does not mention the above two names).

[Note: we all know what it means when the MSM talks about young people, youngsters, etc., especially in that neighborhood.]

One last small article from De Morgen:

Woman (21) hits elderly woman on bus in Mechelen

The local police in Mechelen have arrested a 21-year-old immigrant woman after an incident on a bus. She had hit an elderly woman several times.

The young woman from Kontich stepped on the bus without paying. When the driver wanted to call her back, she pretended she did not hear him. A 71-year-old female from Mechelen who was also on the bus wanted to alert her that the driver called her. This caused a minor altercation between the two women, and then the young woman struck a few blows to the elderly woman.

The victim suffered only several minor injuries in the face.

Y_not adds these thoughts:

Note the fact that there were “only” several injuries to the woman’s face.

It touches me deeply that elderly persons, who worked their entire lives, are literally hit in the face by mass-immigration in Europe. Not only that, a lot of these elderly persons are frequently the victims of pickpockets and robberies, often with severe injuries as a consequence.

In July there was a report about four elderly people between 70 and 90 years old (!) severely beaten up during and after robberies.



For a complete listing of previous enrichment news, see The Cultural Enrichment Archives.

Swedish Gang Supports Hamas

Our Swedish correspondent CB sends this brief report on a Swedish immigrant gang known as “Support Hamas”

It’s questionable how much one should make of this at the moment, but it’s worth following Support Hamas in the future to see if they develop into something more than a Sharia-gang; that is, a gang with Islamic motives and a specific agenda to support the terror organization it derives its name from.

But the fact that a gang chooses Hamas as part of its name does signal some admiration for the real organization. At least for Hamas’ methods of getting their way, one can assume.

Here’s CB’s translation of a post on Gudmundson’s blog:
- – - - – - – - -

Sharia-gangs for real

Sharia-gäng is the Danish word for organized crime with a background in Arab or Muslim immigrant groups. In Rosengård they seem to have taken it to its logical conclusion.

Kvällsposten/Expressen reports about which criminal gangs that were visible during “Reclaim Rosengård”:

“There were three gangs involved. Lions family, who were against the reclaim, and Black cobra, and a gang called Support Hamas who was for,” says one person.

The Prophet Retains Counsel

On behalf of Mohammed’s myriad descendants, a Saudi law firm has brought legal action against all the Danish newspapers that published the Motoons.

It’s important to bear in mind that this is another probe, like the “Flying Imams” in the USA several years ago. The Islamic world just keeps pushing and pushing against the kuffar to see how far they can get.

Every line of civilized defense is probed — military, police, media, social, legal, political — and if any weakness is found, the push in that direction is intensified. Or, if they meet resistance, they withdraw and push somewhere else.

This process continues all the time, patiently and relentlessly, never ceasing. It’s designed to wear the infidel down.

Allah go boom!We’re fortunate that, out of all the infidel nations, Muslims have chosen Denmark as their test case. If there is any place in the West that will flip the bird to the Ummah over this issue, it is Denmark.

And it is precisely for that reason that Islam has chosen Denmark to probe. They’re well aware that the Danes are the epicenter of Western resistance to Islamic intimidation. If a crack is found in the Danish armor, then the whole of Dar al-Harb may thereby be brought down.

Berlingske Tidende has published the version of the letter that was sent to their Editor-in-Chief. Fortunately, it’s in English:

AHMED ZAKI YAMANI
Lawyers and & Legal Consultants
Since 1956

By fax 0045 3375 2020 and e-mail likn@berlingske.dk

Berlingske Tidende
Pilestræde 34
1147 København K
Denmark

Att.: Ansvarshavende Chefredaktør Nis, Lisbeth Knudsen

Jeddah, 28 August 2009

Dear Ms. Lisbeth Knudsen,

Re.: Mr. Kurt Westergaard’s drawing of the Prophet Mohammed

I am writing to you in relation to your newspaper’s re-publication, on 13 February 2008, of Mr. Kurt Westergaard’s drawing of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him).

Over the past months my law firm has been contacted by several thousand descendants of’ the Prophet, who have learned about your newspaper’s re-publication of the drawing, depicting their esteemed ancestor as a terrorist suicide bomber with a bomb in his turban.

As descendants of the Prophet, these individuals feel personally insulted, emotionally distressed and defamed by your newspaper’s re-publication of the drawing. They have therefore retained my law firm and instructed me to approach you, as well as the editors of other Danish newspapers, which re-published the drawing last year.

Accordingly, I am now contacting you with the request that you, first of all, remove the drawing of the Prophet Mohammed from any Internet websites, which your newspaper owns, controls, or have [sic] posted the drawing on. The drawing must be removed before the end of September 2009.

- – - - – - – - -

I secondly request that you, on behalf of your newspaper, before the end of September 2009, issue a clear, public and unconditional correction and apology for the insult and injury which your newspaper committed when it re-published the drawing by Mr. Westergaard last year. The correction and apology must be announced in a “teaser” on the front page and printed on one of the first three pages of your newspaper in all four of the English, French, Danish and Arabic texts that are contained in the appendix attached to this letter. These four texts must furthermore be published on the Internet version of your newspaper as one of the top headline stories. which must be available for at least 30 days from the date of the publication.

Thirdly, my clients have instructed me to request you to confirm and undertake that your newspaper will not again print or otherwise make public any similar drawings or materials concerning the Prophet Mohammed, since they affect my clients directly and personally due to their common ancestry and their status in the Muslim world. The apology in the attached appendix contains wording to this effect, as you can see.

If you fulfil these conditions before the end of September 2009 my clients will be satisfied and refrain from taking further legal action against your newspaper.

Furthermore, it is my belief that your newspaper’s fulfilment of the above-mentioned conditions would be perceived as a sign of respect and understanding throughout the Muslim world in general, and your newspaper might thus help resolve the severe conflict, which your re-publication of the drawing has created. As you may be aware, this conflict is still affecting Danish and Arab interests, in particular in the Middle East, where a number of Danish products are still being boycotted.

I invite you to respond to this letter at your earliest convenience and in any event before 30 days from the date of this letter by informing me whether you intend to fulfil the above-mentioned conditions.

If you decide not to fulfil the above-mentioned conditions, please note that this letter is by no means a waiver of any legal rights of my clients, including in particular their fight to bring a lawsuit against you and your newspaper for defamation. Accordingly, I reserve all rights of my clients in this matter.

Sincerely yours,

[signature]

Faisal A. Z. Yamani
Attorney-at-Law

[seal]

Appendix

Correction and Apology

Allah go boom![Name of newspaper] hereby unconditionally apologises for the insulting, malicious and defamatory re-publication of Mr. Kurt Westergaard’s drawing of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), which appeared in [name of newspaper] on 13 February 2008. We regret our decision to re-publish the drawing, which has insulted so many people across the world, and we hereby undertake to refrain from printing or otherwise making public any defamatory drawings or materials concerning the Prophet Mohammed in the future.

[Danish, French, and Arabic versions of the apology follow]

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Update: Eric MacLeod points out that a “pbuh” after the prophet’s name was left out of paragraph four. The horror!

Surely that is an infidel plot, too…?



Hat tip: TB.