Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/31/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/31/2009Pakistan’s Christians are being increasingly targeted under the country’s blasphemy laws, which forbid any defamation of Islam or the Koran. Pakistani Christians — who form a small minority in the country — suspect that the authorities intend to eliminate Christianity entirely.

In other news, a Spanish company has discovered large oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico, and will develop them as part of a consortium with other companies.

Thanks to Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Insubria, JD, JP, KGS, Paul Green, REP, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Market Cheers Over Ugly GDP Report
 
USA
Ethics Panel Scrutinizing Dozens of House Members
Investigate ‘Muslim Mafia, ‘ New Petition Tells Congress
Murdered Imam’s Followers Deny FBI Radical Claims
Republicans Warn: Rationing Medicine Has Already Begun
 
Europe and the EU
Agriculture: Portugal, Olive Oil Production Up 42%
Environment: EU, 6 Countries in Court for Industrial Permits
EU Leaders ‘Furious’ At David Cameron’s Bid to Scupper Lisbon Treaty
EU: Legal Steps Against Spain for Money Laundering Rules
France to Launch National Pride Campaign in Battle Against Islamic Fundamentalism
Halloween Dangerous Says Vatican
Islam: Paris Mosque, Late to Fight Against Full Veil
Italy: Magistrates Say “Courts Are Not Party Branches”
Merkel and Sarkozy Bury Blair EU President Idea
Poll Puts Geert Wilders Fourth in the Hague
Pope to Meet Anglican Chief
Spain: Ebro River, Cocaine Content Increases on Weekends
Spain: Barcelona Says Stop to Advertising Wars on Bus
UK: Cambridge University Allows Muslim Students to Wear Burkas Under Their Mortar Boards at Graduation
UK: Ed Husain Versus Melanie Phillips
UK: Gay Rights Campaigner James Rennie Jailed for Life Over Paedophile Ring
UK: Inside the Shadowy (And Very Lucrative) World of Blair Inc: How the Ex-PM Has Become a One-Man Multinational Money-Making Machine.
UK: Poppycock! Remembrance Day Collectors Banned From Shaking Tins to Avoid ‘Intimidating Shoppers’
UK: the Personal Jihad of Melanie Phillips
UK: Villagers Boycott Pub After Landlady Refuses to Sell Poppies
 
North Africa
Morocco: Jewish-Moroccan Music at Andalusias Festival
Morocco: Record Olive Production at 1.5 Mln Tonnes
Swiss Hostages Disappear in Libya
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Democarcy and Palestinian Statehood
 
Middle East
Gays in Lebanon: Discrimination at University
Iraq: Private Russian Security Guards Instead of the Foreign Armies
Italy-Syria: Minister Scajola Visit to Damascus From Tomorrow
Lebanon: New Sentence for Pro-Israeli General Lahad
Lebanon: Guards in Women’s Prisons Learn Human Rights
Lebanon: UNIFIL; Tensions Between Italy and Spain, El Pais
Lebanon: Scarce Interest on Issue of Command in Beirut, UNIFIL
Turkey-EU: Ankara Must Fulfil Commitments, Kyprianou Says
 
South Asia
15,000 Bibles in Malaysia Seized Over ‘Allah’ Reference
Afghanistan: Colonel Foresaw His Own Death: His Memo to Mod Warned Helicopter Shortage Would Cost Lives… Weeks Later He Was Dead
Pakistani Christians, From Freedom to Persecution
Pakistan: Blasphemy Law: A Long List of Injustices (An Overview)
Save Christians and Pakistan From the Blasphemy Law
What Can be Done to Abolish Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws
 
Far East
Hatoyama: Tokyo Will Review Alliance With the United States
 
Latin America
Chinese Goods Conquer Latin America
Oil: Repsol Announces 2 New Oil Fields in Mexican Gulf
 
Immigration
France: NGO Slams Conditions in Centres
Spain: Yes to Law Tightening Sanctions
Spain: 650,000 Immigrants Can Vote in 2011 Local Election
 
Culture Wars
Spain: Church to Basque Party, Don’t Back New Abortion Law
 
General
Amil Imani: Religion & the Marketplace
Swine Flu Vaccine Shots Eliminate Wrinkles, Bad Breath and Varicose Veins, Too

Financial Crisis


Market Cheers Over Ugly GDP Report

by Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Today the market is cheering over what is actually an ugly report.

A misguided Cash-for-Clunkers added a one-time contribution of 1.66 percentage points to GDP. Auto sales have since collapsed so all the program did is move some demand forward.

Government spending increased at 7.9 percent in the third quarter which is certainly nothing to cheer about.

Personal income decreased $15.5 billion (0.5 percent), while real disposable personal income decreased 3.4 percent, in contrast to an increase of 3.8 percent last quarter. Those are horrible numbers.

The savings rate is down, which no doubt has misguided economists cheering, but people spending more than they make is one of the things that got us into trouble.

The only bright spot I can find is exports. However, even there we must not get too excited as imports rose much more.

[…]

I am struggling to understand what is surprising other than how bad this all looks once you break down the numbers. The government sloshed trillions around and yet disposable income is down, jobs are horrendously weak, and the only reason GDP rose is wasteful government spending, cash-for-clunkers and extremely unaffordable housing tax credits whose effect is soon going to start diminishing even though the program was just extended.

I see plenty of chances for negative territory or at least extremely anemic growth starting in the second quarter of 2010, if indeed not the first quarter.

Let’s see what Christmas brings. I am expecting far weaker numbers than most. In the meantime, let’s party even if only for a day or two. Reality is likely to return soon.

           — Hat tip: REP [Return to headlines]

USA


Ethics Panel Scrutinizing Dozens of House Members

WASHINGTON — Dozens of lawmakers have drawn scrutiny from their ethics monitor this year for everything from financial dealings to travel and campaign donations, according to a leaked account showing an active House panel secretly at work.

Seven of the lawmakers — four not previously known — serve on a defense appropriations subcommittee that divvies up money for Pentagon contractors.

Most of the names and investigative subjects, mentioned in a summary of the ethics committee’s work last July, were known. But the summary — obtained by The Washington Post — shows the widespread scope of preliminary reviews and investigations the panel can have before it at any one time.

If anything, the document rebuts arguments of some watchdog groups that members of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — the ethics committee — do little to investigate their colleagues.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Investigate ‘Muslim Mafia, ‘ New Petition Tells Congress

‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,’ says longtime Arab television anchor

A former Arab news anchor-turned-national security advocate has created a petition demanding that the subjects of the new book “Muslim Mafia” be investigated.

“We call on the U.S. government to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the interest of national security,” says the new petition by Brigitte Gabriel, who now runs the ACT! for America organization.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Murdered Imam’s Followers Deny FBI Radical Claims

DETROIT — A mosque on Friday dismissed as “utterly preposterous” the FBI’s allegations that its murdered leader was part of a radical Islamic group.

Luqman Ameen Abdullah, the imam or prayer leader of Masjid Al-Haqq in Detroit, was a “recognized and respected member of numerous mainstream Muslim organizations and leadership bodies,” the mosque said.

Abdullah, 53, was fatally shot Wednesday as FBI agents tried to arrest him on several charges, including conspiracy to sell stolen goods. The FBI says he resisted arrest inside a warehouse and fired a gun.

A criminal complaint filed by the government describes Abdullah as a leader of a national radical Sunni group that wants to create an Islamic state within the U.S. The FBI says he had extreme anti-government views and encouraged followers to commit violence.

No terrorism-related charges were brought against any of the 11 people charged in the complaint, including Abdullah.

“The slanderous allegations of his being a national leader of a radical Islamic sect is utterly preposterous. … These allegations are contrary to what we as a community stand for,” the mosque said.

The statement was read by an assistant prayer leader, Mikail Stewart Sandiq, as many members milled outside the mosque after Friday prayers. He declined to answer questions.

Abdullah’s son, Omar Regan, 34, of Los Angeles said he helped prepare the body for a funeral Saturday. He said his father was shot multiple times, and called the killing “barbaric.”

“What’s done is done,” Regan said, standing across the street from the mosque. “He knew he was wronged. If God calls you home, you can’t help but answer.”

As for the government’s allegations, Regan said “they can hold up a piece of paper but show me you have proof. Where is it?”

FBI spokeswoman Sandra Berchtold declined to comment on how many times Abdullah was shot. She referred questions to police in Dearborn, the Detroit suburb where the shooting took place. A city spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an e-mailed message seeking comment, and the Wayne County medical examiner’s office did not immediately respond to phone messages.

Two of the 11 people named in the criminal complaint were still at large Friday. At least four men have been ordered held without bond; another is in a Michigan prison.

In Washington, a group called the American Muslim Taskforce on Civil Rights and Elections called for an independent investigation of Abdullah’s death.

The group is an umbrella organization whose members include the American Muslim Alliance, American Muslims for Palestine and Council on American-Islamic Relations.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]



Republicans Warn: Rationing Medicine Has Already Begun

Obama extends health care act blamed for costing AIDS patients their lives

President Obama today extended a federal AIDS program that an unlikely pair of Republicans — one blasted for being “anti-gay” and the other chairman of an organization for homosexual conservatives — criticized earlier this month as a foreshadow of the rationing and waiting lists sure to come if the U.S. adopts even more government-run health care programs.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Agriculture: Portugal, Olive Oil Production Up 42%

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 29 — Olive oil production in Portugal registered a 42% increase in 2008-2009, according to data from the Casa do Azeite association, which unites 65 businesses that represent about 95% of all olive oil bottled in Portugal. An increase which, underlined a statement from the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) office in Lisbon, exceeded expectations in the sector. The increase is also the result of a plan to increase the areas dedicated to intensive olive production, like in the Alentejo area, which will lead to a sharp increase in olive oil production. Data from the Portuguese Statistics Institute demonstrates that olive oil production totalled 53.8 thousand tonnes in 2008. The trend, both at a national level and for the regions in general, is continually on the rise. As for exports, Portuguese olive oil made gains in terms of its market share with a 19% increase in 2008, totalling 30,000 tonnes (22 thousand of which were exported to Brazil, where Portugal has a 50% share in the market). The great change in Portugal in terms of olive oil production is due to new technology, with the availability of water for irrigation and with the introduction of new olive varieties. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Environment: EU, 6 Countries in Court for Industrial Permits

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 29 — The European Commission has decided to refer six member states to the European Court of Justice for not issuing new permits or updating older ones regarding pollution emission regulations for over 1,500 industrial plants. The six countries are Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Denmark, and Holland. Brussels also decided to send a second warning to France, Austria, and Sweden for another 1,700 businesses that are operating without permits. The infraction has to do with a directive on integrated pollution prevention control (IPPC), which aims to control industrial emissions of the air, water, and soil. “Two years have already passed,” said European Environmental Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, “since the deadline to assign these permits expired.” According to the commissioner, this is an “unacceptable” situation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



EU Leaders ‘Furious’ At David Cameron’s Bid to Scupper Lisbon Treaty

David Cameron has been privately criticised by top European leaders for trying to sabotage the Lisbon Treaty, it emerged today.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy, German chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish prime minister Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero were said to have been angered by the Tory leader’s positioning.

They expressed concerns during this week’s European Union summit in Brussels after Mr Cameron wrote to Czech president Vaclav Klaus, who has so far refused to sign the treaty, according to The Guardian,

The letter was sent earlier this month and outlined the Tories’ commitment to hold a referendum on the treaty unless it had been ratified by all 27 member states before they won power.

With the Czech Republic the last EU nation needed to sign the treaty, Mr Cameron’s initiative was seen as an attempt to embolden Mr Klaus to hold firm against ratification.

Mr Sarkozy was also allegedly overheard telling Gordon Brown he was incensed by the letter.

Mrs Merkel and Mr Zapataro apparently made similar remarks, also in private.

The Tories’ relations with the governments of France and Germany have already been strained by Mr Cameron’s decision to quit the mainstream, but federalist, centre-right grouping in the European Parliament.

Mr Brown said: “The Conservative Party are standing apart from the mainstream in Europe.

“They are part of a very small group of minorities — of 23 people apart from the Conservative Party. They are standing on the fringes of Europe. That is a huge mistake for British interests.”

A Tory spokeswoman said there had never been any secret about Mr Cameron’s letter to Mr Klaus.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



EU: Legal Steps Against Spain for Money Laundering Rules

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 29 — The European Commission has decided to refer Spain to the European Court of Justice for failing to implement EU regulations on money laundering and the funding of terrorism. According to European legislation, money transfers must be accompanied by information on the identify of the person who executes the transfer. If necessary, this information must be made available to the police. Spain has not implemented “effective, dissuasive and proportionate sanctions” against those who do not submit to these regulations. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



France to Launch National Pride Campaign in Battle Against Islamic Fundamentalism

France is to adopt a series of measures to ‘reaffirm pride’ in the country and combat Islamic fundamentalism.

They include everybody receiving lessons in the nation’s Christian history and children singing the national anthem.

Using words which infuriated ethnic minority groups and Socialist opponents, immigration minister Eric Besson also said he wanted ‘foreigners to speak better French’.

He called for all recent arrivals to be monitored by ‘Republican godfathers’, charged with helping immigrants to integrate better.

His proposed measures contrast sharply with the situation in Britain where ‘citizenship education’ centres on multicultural diversity.

M Besson, who was born in the former French protectorate of Morocco, suggested a debate on national identity’ entitled ‘What does it mean to be French?’

He also reignited the debate about face and body-covering Muslim veils, saying they should definitely be banned.

As well as providing civic lessons for adults — including classes about the country’s Christian history and liberal political institutions — the government will encourage school children to sing the national anthem at least once a year.

His proposed measures contrast sharply with the situation in Britain where ‘citizenship education’ centres on multicultural diversity and the European Union, while ‘God Save The Queen’ is not even taught in schools.

In an interview broadcast on national TV, Mr Besson said : ‘It’s necessary to reaffirm the values of national identity and the pride of being French.

‘I think, for example, that it would be good for all young French people to have the chance to sing The Marseillaise at least once a year.’

Making clear that radical Islam was a threat, Mr Besson said: ‘In France, the nation and the republic remain the strongest ramparts against …. fundamentalist tendencies. France is diversity, and France is unity.’

Mr Besson defended a decision to send illegal Afghan immigrants — all of them Muslim — back to Kabul on charter flights organised in conjunction with the British government last week, saying there would be many more.

More than 21,000 people have been deported from France this year — with 27,000 the ultimate target, said Mr Besson.

He also reignited the debate about face and body-covering Muslim veils, saying they should definitely be banned.

‘For me, there should be no burqas on the street,’ said Mr Besson. ‘The burqa is against national values — an affront to women’s rights and equality.’

Explaining the apparent shift to the extreme right by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, Mr Besson evoked the legacy of Jean Marie Le Pen’s anti-immigration National Front party, which is struggling massively with huge debts and low electoral support.

Mr Besson said: ‘We should never have abandoned to the National Front a number of values which are part of the Republic’s heritage. I think that the political death of the National Front would be the best news for all of us.’

But Mohammed Moussaoui, a prominent French Muslim leader, said debates like the one about the burqa were stigmatising the country’s entire Muslim community, which at some five million is the largest in western Europe.

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



Halloween Dangerous Says Vatican

‘Undercurrent of occultism’ in ‘anti-Christian’ fest

(ANSA) — Vatican City, October 29 — Halloween is anti-Christian and sends dangerous occult messages, the Vatican reiterated Thursday.

In an article entitled Halloween’s Dangerous Messages, Holy See newspaper l’Osservatore Romano quoted liturgical expert Joan Maria Canals as saying “Halloween has an undercurrent of occultism and is absolutely anti-Christian”.

Father Canals, a member of a Spanish commission on church rites, urged parents “to be aware of this and try to direct the meaning of the feast towards wholesomeness and beauty rather than terror, fear and death”.

L’Osservatore praised a Spanish community’s decision to hold a prayer vigil on Saturday night and the Paris archdiocese’s idea of having kids play a lucky dip dubbed ‘Holywins’ instead.

These and similar initiatives in South America “allow Catholic communities to have an alternative to the feast, to bear witness to their faith and Christian hope in the face of death”.

The Catholic Church in Italy has taken a dim view of Halloween’s growing popularity for years.

Last year, the bishops daily Avvenire appealed for a full-blown boycott, describing Halloween as a “dangerous celebration of horror and the macabre”.

Warning parents of the dangers of children coming into contact with strangers during trick or treating, Anti-Occult Sect Service head Aldo Bonaiuto said the event “promotes the culture of death” and could spur “pitiless (Satanic) sects without scruples”.

He also argued that the spooky festival sets a bad example for young children.

“Halloween pushes new generations towards a mentality of esoteric magic and it attacks sacred and spiritual values through a devious initiation to the art and images of the occult,” he said.

“At best, it gives a big helping hand to consumerism and materialism,” he added.

POPULARITY RISING.

Halloween is not a traditional date on the Italian calendar but has been growing in popularity in recent years, with trick-or-treating becoming more common.

More than a million pumpkins are sold over the holiday while fancy-dress shops whose traditional bonanza came at Carnival time in February now make a killing in masks, costumes and accessories.

However, there is a small town in the southeastern region of Puglia, Orsara di Puglia, which has been celebrating Halloween for the past 1,000 years.

According to local historians, the only real difference between the American tradition and the town’s version of Halloween is the date.

Halloween, a secular take on All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day, is traditionally celebrated on the night of October 31, but in Orsara di Puglia the pumpkins come out on the evening between November 1 (All Saints Day) and Nov 2 (All Souls Day).

Hollowed-out and candle-lit pumpkins are placed outside homes on the evening of All Saints Day to keep away evil spirits and witches.

Townsfolks also light huge bonfires in the streets so as to illuminate the path of souls on their way to Purgatory.

Historians have traced Orsara’s tradition back to a short-lived 8th-century incursion by a Germanic people, the Longobards, who in more northern parts supplanted older civilisations and reigned as the Lombards.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Islam: Paris Mosque, Late to Fight Against Full Veil

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, OCTOBER 29 — “It is too late to fight against the full veil in France because the problem of fundamentalism was underestimated for too long,” said the rector of Paris’ Grand Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, speaking in Parliament where he was called by a commission dealing with the issue of the increased use of burqas and niqabs in France. A moderate representative of Islam, Boubakeur explained that the veil is not imposed by the Muslim religion, pointing out that on the contrary, the youngest wife of the prophet Mohammed, Aicha, did not cover her face to go to Mecca. “For a long time now there has been a need to be on guard against the growth of fundamentalism,” said Boubakeur, criticising a general apathy regarding the problem in France and other countries. For the rector of the Grand Mosque, it is necessary to understand the reasons for which women choose to wear a full veil and eventually deal with the problem case by case. And if a law is necessary, he said, it must be a public safety law associated in particular with the need to be identifiable. Something that is impossible if a women is covered from head to toe and if her eyes are also not visible, covered by a layer of fabric like for the Afghan burqa, or if they are wearing a niqab, which only leaves a thin slit open around the eyes. The issue of the full veil is controversial in a country like France that is particularly associated with secularism, where Muslim immigration is very high and the parliamentary commission was created in June to write up a report that will be handed to the government in January. In a speech in front of the national assembly in June, President Nicolas Sarkozy said that the burqa “is not welcome in France,” resulting in numerous protests in the Islamic world.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Magistrates Say “Courts Are Not Party Branches”

National Magistrates Association reacts to premier’s assertions on Ballarò: “Ridiculous words. No judicial office deserves them”

MILAN — “Every opportunity seems to be a good one to denigrate the judiciary and describe courts as political party branches, peopled by militant magistrates. No judicial office deserves these baseless, ridiculous definitions, least of all Milan”. The National Association of Magistrates (ANM) uses uncompromising language in a note issued in reply to the accusations levelled at Milan judges by the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Although no official decision has been taken, it is likely that the new clash over justice will lead to a strike by magistrates.

BALLARÒ — In an across-the-board attack on magistrates during a phone call to Ballarò, the prime minister pointed the finger at “communist public prosecutors who are the real opposition in this country”. The magistrates’ union found the charge hard to digest. “From Milan, and from the whole country, the magistracy reiterates that will continue to wear only the gown and answer only to the law. And above all, to the constitution” says an ANM document on the protest assemblies that will be held on Thursday all over Italy. The council explains that the assemblies “come from the deep, sincere concern over persistent attempts to undermine and intimidate both the magistracy as a whole and individual magistrates in relation to specific trials or sentences pronounced. The very relationship of institutions and guarantee bodies has been called into discussion”. The note continues: “while tension and attention focus on an improper conflict in which the magistracy is the victim, nothing serious, concrete or lasting is proposed to restore efficiency to the judiciary and return trials to a reasonable duration”. On Thursday, “the magistracy will be united, both in its membership and in its spontaneous, massive adherence to appeals in favour of our colleague Mesiano”.

ROBLEDO — “If our togas are red, it is with the blood spilled by magistrates who have paid with their lives for the defence of legality and constitutional values, starting with Falcone and Borsellino”, said Milan-based assistant public prosecutor Alfredo Robledo, who in the past has conducted investigations in which Mr Berlusconi was implicated, in reply to the claims made by the prime minister in his phone call to Giovanni Floris. “To call colleagues working assiduously in public prosecutor’s offices communists is unacceptable”, the chief public prosecutor in Siracusa, Ugo Rossi, chimed in from Sicily.

REACTIONS — The premier’s charges also solicited reactions of a more strictly political nature. “Today’s note from the ANM is yet more confirmation that certain sections of the magistracy behave as if they were political actors”, said People of Freedom (PDL) spokesman, Daniele Capezzone. “Yet again yesterday on Ballarò, Silvio Berlusconi was verging on the ridiculous when he accused Milan magistrates of being communists. As some of the papers note, judge Lapertosa, who convicted David Mills on Tuesday, is the same communist judge who acquitted him on appeal in the SME trial”, pointed out Felice Belisario, leader of the Italy of Values (IDV) group in the Senate.

BERSANI — Equally swift reactions came from the Democratic Party (PD) to allegations that it has turned into a new Communist Party (PCI). “Us, a new PCI? But he was saying we were communists even before I became secretary. He said it about Veltroni, about Franceschini… The prime minister should supply us with the right secretary”, responded Pier Luigi Bersani, the newly elected secretary of the PD.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Merkel and Sarkozy Bury Blair EU President Idea

France and Germany will join forces to choose a new-look European Union’s first big boss, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday, sweeping Tony Blair towards the Brussels exit.

The French head of state said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had agreed to back “the same candidate,” adding that the pair shared the same “vision” for two new top jobs to be created under the Lisbon Treaty, and their favoured runners.

Confirmation that Berlin and Paris were collaborating on arguably the biggest appointment in the bloc’s history came in the wake of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown campaigning personally on behalf of Blair.

And relations with the UK were further dented by an open attempt by Britain’s potential new leader to get the Czech president to delay ratifying the Lisbon Treaty — something Vaclav Klaus has just been persuaded not to do.

David Cameron, leader of the British Conservative Party, and widely tipped to oust Brown at the next general election, wrote a letter to Klaus spelling out his party’s plan to hold a referendum on the treaty should they enter government.

The British The Guardian newspaper reported that Sarkozy was incensed by the intervention, while Merkel was concerned by behaviour she considered untrustworthy.

The letter also seems to have been poorly timed, as Klaus, having secured his country’s exemption from a rights charter, to sign the treaty.

“I do not plan to impose any extra conditions,” Klaus said in a statement.

This opens the way to presidential nominations.

Sarkozy, who said Lisbon could now enter force as early as December 1, would not reveal the identity of his and Merkel’s preferred choice, but said Europe’s George Washington, in reference to the founding US father, would need to be both “charismatic” and a “consensus-builder.”

Without naming Blair, Sarkozy hinted at longstanding problems with a mooted but never declared candidacy.

“The names in the first wave are not necessarily the winners in the end,” he said.

Ironically, Sarkozy had been the first to suggest Blair as a contender — although he backtracked a couple of weeks ago citing a “problem” over a lack of British engagement with core EU policies.

Ignoring Brown’s stated wish for Blair to take the president’s job, Europe’s socialists are instead targeting the foreign policy position.

And in an intriguing British twist, Brown’s Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, could become the most popular candidate.

While Miliband has ruled himself out running for the second job, recent remarks he made, suggesting Europe should play a bigger global role, have been interpreted as a sign that the position appeals to him.

Dutch leader Jan Peter Balkenende is not officially a candidate, but on Friday suggested that this could change.

Former Latvian head of state Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who would satisfy a lobby favouring a woman, and ex-Irish leader John Bruton are also declared runners, albeit with longer odds.

But the other name in the ring, Juncker, was said by one diplomat to have launched the political equivalent of a “suicide pact” by going up against Blair.

All eyes therefore, rest on Merkel.

Online:

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



Poll Puts Geert Wilders Fourth in the Hague

Geert Wilder’s anti-Islam party PVV is trailing in fourth place in a TNS Nipo poll of local election voting intentions in the Hague, the Volkskrant reports on Friday.

The PVV said earlier it only plans to field candidates in the Hague and Almere because of a shortage of good candidates.

The PVV was the biggest party in the city at the European elections in June.

The TNS Nipo poll puts Labour in first place with 22%, followed by the two liberal parties D66 and VVD.

The local elections take place on March 3. All EU nationals, and non-EU nationals who have lived in the country for the past five years will also be able to vote.

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



Pope to Meet Anglican Chief

Williams to Vatican after conversion move

(ANSA) — Vatican City, October 30 — Pope Benedict XVI will receive the head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, on November 31, the Vatican confirmed Friday.

William was already scheduled to visit for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Catholic ecumenical pioneer Johannes Willebrands but his trip has assumed greater significance since an October 20 announcement that the Vatican was setting up a new section to help Anglicans who want to convert to Catholicism.

The new Apostolic Constitution will lay out the path for unmarried bishops, married and unmarried priests and other members of the Anglican Church to join the Catholic Church.

Many conservative Anglicans are unhappy with increasingly progressive moves like the ordination of woman bishops.

The new section, which would allow Anglicans to keep many of their traditions and practices, was set up in response to pleas from Anglicans, whose conversions were previously assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Some leading Anglicans have criticised the Vatican’s move.

Ex-archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey said the Anglican Church should not be treated as a “junior partner” and that the Vatican had only given Williams two weeks’ notice of its plan.

A conservative Anglican group called Forward With Faith has said many of its members are eager to convert because the Church of England was becoming “the church of political correctness”.

One of its leaders, Father Geoffrey Kirk, said they objected not only to the ordination of woman but also to “many attitudes on human sexuality” including divorce and homosexuality.

On the Vatican side of the question, meanwhile, some observers have speculated that the arrival of more married Anglicans might eventually open a chink in the Holy See’s ironclad insistence on celibacy for its own clergy.

The Church of England is regarded as the ‘mother’ of all the other churches in the worldwide Anglican Communion, which considers itself to be both a product of the Reformation and also Catholic.

With some 77 million members, the Anglican Communion is the third largest Christian communion in the world after the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.

The English church was under papal authority for nearly a thousand years before splitting from Rome in 1534 when King Henry VIII was refused an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: Ebro River, Cocaine Content Increases on Weekends

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 28 — A river of cocaine, and not figuratively, the Ebro River carried more than 630 kilos of cocaine annually and 430 kilos of other drugs after consumption. This is not an estimate, but empirical data from a study by the Centre for Scientific Research undertaken for a EU project according to a report today in El Pais. Between October 2007 and July 2008 the researchers found samples in seven areas of the river where about 950,000 people reside and the results indicate that the urban areas with Zaragoza in the lead, are the areas where the most drugs are consumed. The samples also indicate that consumption of illegal drugs practically doubles on the weekends compared to work days. “These are not estimates, it’s real data”, said the study’s co-author Damià Berceloò. The methodology used for the samples is more advanced that that used for the UN 2007 report which put Miranda de Ebro, in the province of Burgo, as one of the cities with the highest use of cocaine in the world. The Csic study lowers the 134 daily doses per 1,000 inhabitants reported in the UN report to 21 daily doses. The sample collection stations are in the purification plants to measure the residue left by drugs in human urine and based on this calculates consumption of illegal substances. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: Barcelona Says Stop to Advertising Wars on Bus

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 28 — After the anti-abortion bus, buses in favour of atheism, the ones responding to the E-Cristians association, and the most recent ones against “the death toll”, Barcelona has decided to say enough to advertising campaigns containing ideological messages on buses. The new criteria imposed by Promedio Esclusiva de Publicidad S.L., the company that has been managing all of the advertising for the Metropolitan Transport Bus fleet in Barcelona, has been “immediately applied”, as announced in a statement from the company. Any message or advertisement on “individual beliefs” will be excluded, even if included in campaigns aiming to raise social debate and media diffusion promoted by any person, group, or identity. The group wants to “preserve the proper use and prestige” of the public transport service and remove uses as a vehicle of interests “with no commercial aspects” from the transport agency. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: Cambridge University Allows Muslim Students to Wear Burkas Under Their Mortar Boards at Graduation

Cambridge University will allow female Muslim students to wear burkas at graduation ceremonies, it emerged yesterday.

By tradition, students are required to wear dark suits and white shirts under their graduation gowns.

Cambridge has clamped down on breaches of the rules after officials complained students were increasingly wearing casual clothes to ceremonies.

They warned the code ‘is strictly enforced at ceremonies, and if you do not observe it, you may not be permitted to graduate on a particular occasion’.

Yesterday it clarified that clothing linked to religious observance, such as burkas, would still be allowed.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Ed Husain Versus Melanie Phillips

Former Islamist stands up to Islamist obsessive

She once described ex-Hizb ut-Tahrir activist and self-confessed, one-time “Islamist”, Ed Husain, as a “brave Muslim” who should be “applauded for his courage…intellectual honesty and guts”, before turning on him for opposing the Israeli war on Gaza and accusing him of adopting “the very narrative and rhetoric that are driving Muslims to mass murder.” But now Melanie Phillips had had a taste of her own bilious medicine in the form of a harsh, biting and brilliant takedown from Husain himself in a piece entitled “The personal jihad of Melanie Phillips”.

Husain slams the Daily Mail columnist and Spectator blogger for her “zealotry and ignorance…anger, venom and hatred” and “ludicrous, illogical lines of thought” before accusing her of travelling on a “journey into darkness and ignorance”. His central criticism of the swivel-eyed Phillips revolves around her obsession with Israel, and the “Israel First” test that she sees fit to impose on self-described Muslim “moderates”.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Gay Rights Campaigner James Rennie Jailed for Life Over Paedophile Ring

The mother of a six-year-old boy who was subjected to what a judge described as “truly appalling” abuse from a man she had regarded as a close friend said yesterday that her child had been “shaped and moulded” for life by the experience.

Welcoming the life sentences passed on James Rennie and Neil Strachan, the woman said that she had moved on from feelings of anger. “My focus is about my son, about how to support him and loving him for who he is. And who he is now has been shaped and moulded by what’s gone on.”

Rennie 38, the former chief executive of a gay youth organisation, was responsible for “a colossal breach of trust”, Lord Bannatyne said at the High Court in Edinburgh. He had abused the boy — identified as Child F — almost from birth to the age of four years. He distributed images and films of his attacks to a gang of seven other men.

Strachan, 41, the only one of the gang with previous convictions for offences against children, was shown in background reports to display evidence of a psychopathic personality. One image that showed him abusing a baby left in his care displayed all his basest instincts, the judge said. “By its very nature what is shown in that photograph is utterly appalling and would shock to the core any right-minded person who has had to see it.”

Strachan was ordered to spend a minimum of 16 years in prison, while Rennie was sentenced to a minimum of 13 years.

Nearly 125,000 indecent images were seized during an 18-month police investigation, codenamed Operation Algebra. Six men were jailed in June for their involvement in the gang. All were respected members of the community, as was Rennie, and they included a civil servant, a bank clerk and a church bell-ringer.

The nine-week trial in the spring invoked conspiracy laws for the first time in a sexual offences case in Scotland, a precedent that prosecutors hope will have a profound effect on curtailing the making and distribution of images of child abuse by paedophiles.

“These offences involve real children and many of the photographs involve children being sexually abused, often in the most appalling ways. There are real victims of these offences, namely the children who were photographed and abused,” Lord Bannatyne said.

The judge reserved special praise for Detective Inspector Stuart Hood and the squad of 13 detectives who uncovered the gang.

Their investigations required an international operation that stretched from Lothian and Borders police headquarters at Fettes in Edinburgh and drew on the skills of Scottish and American academics, FBI agents and Microsoft personnel in San Jose, California.

As a direct result of Operation Algebra more than 60 individuals have been arrested in Britain, and according to police hundreds of offenders are believed to have been identified in Britain and around the world. Significant operations are continuing in central Scotland, Sussex, the Netherlands and the United States.

Strachan, convicted of eight charges in total, was also found guilty of repeatedly touching a six-year-old boy indecently. The jury found Rennie guilty of 14 charges, including one of procuring his best friend’s child for other men, an offer that Strachan took up.

The men — along with Ross Webber, 27, from North Berwick, Craig Boath, 24 from Dundee and John Milligan, 40, from Glasgow — were also found guilty of conspiring to gain access to a child or children to commit abuse.

After sentencing the mother of an 18-month-old boy abused by Strachan said that she would never be able to forgive him. “The anguish I feel towards Mr Strachan is indescribable,” she said.

“I feel that no matter what punishment is given to Mr Strachan, it will never be able to compensate for the hurt, devastation and great deal of stress brought to me and my family.”

Webber, Boath, and Milligan, along with Neil Campbell, 46, and John Murphy, 44, both from Glasgow, were sentenced to a total of 43 years in jail in June for their involvement in the paedophile ring.

[Return to headlines]



UK: Inside the Shadowy (And Very Lucrative) World of Blair Inc: How the Ex-PM Has Become a One-Man Multinational Money-Making Machine.

And so far this year, he’s been to more than 20 countries.

All of this activity is masterminded by an astonishing 80 staff, all working from a splendid suite in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, conveniently located near to the American embassy.

This seems appropriate because it is Mr Blair’s close connection with America, stemming from his support for them in invading Iraq and Afghanistan, that underpins much of his earning ability, not only as a lucrative speechmaker in the U.S., but because he is known to have the ear of those who run the world’s most powerful nation.

At the heart of his web of overlapping and conflicting interests is Tony Blair Associates, a consultancy, modelled on a foundation set up by Henry Kissinger, the former U.S. Secretary of State, which has made Kissinger very wealthy.

A friend told a Sunday newspaper recently: ‘TBA has been set up to make money from foreign governments and companies. There’s a focus on the Middle East, because that is where the money is.’

[…]

In addition to his TBA work, he is an adviser to U.S. investment bank JP Morgan, and Zurich Financial Services, on annual fees reported to be £2.5million. Incidentally, Jonathan Powell works for rival investment bank Morgan Stanley. No doubt they can compare notes.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Poppycock! Remembrance Day Collectors Banned From Shaking Tins to Avoid ‘Intimidating Shoppers’

Poppy sellers from the Royal British Legion have been banned from shaking their collection tins in case they are seen as a ‘public menace’.

Asking anyone if they want to buy one and even approaching people have also been declared illegal.

Instead volunteers have been told they must remain still and silent or face being removed from their stands or prosecuted.

This is despite it being within the law for ‘chuggers’ — charity workers who are often likened to muggers hassling people for money on high streets — to do the same. They ask people to donate from their bank accounts rather than giving cash directly.

The rules for poppy sellers, which have been drawn up by the Charity Commission but are enforced by local councils, state that it is illegal for collectors to ‘harass people’ or act in a way that could be seen as ‘aggressive’.

John Allen, member and former chairman of the Royal British Legion’s Berkhamsted branch, in Hertfordshire, said: ‘At this time we should be doing all we can to help our boys and their families at home who are fighting for our country in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

‘We only get a few weeks a year to raise money and we should be allowed to make as much noise as we can.’

The Royal British Legion head office has been hastily sending out newsletters and holding meetings to ensure members are fully aware of the rules.

Bill Copeland, chairman of the branch in Marlborough, Wiltshire, said: ‘The rules are very silly — but we have to be very careful we stick to them.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: the Personal Jihad of Melanie Phillips

by Ed Husain

Melanie Philips’s zealotry and ignorance frighten me. How did we produce a public commentator filled with such anger, venom and hatred?

I first met Melanie two years ago at the Richard and Judy show. Unaware that she was a last-minute, unexpected guest, and aware of the prejudiced views that she has expressed about Muslims in the past, I was unwilling to appear beside her as a complementary contributor; I made my excuses to Richard and left the studio.

However, I believe in the human ability to change and, in that hope of helping Melanie see the the flaws in her analysis, I met with her several times in private and appealed to her to stop blaming Islam and Muslim scripture for (the decidedly un-Islamic phenomenon of) terrorism. Why would she and her acolyte Douglas Murray not cease attacks on Muslim scripture that were based on bin Laden’s understanding of Islam? And why would they not support Islam’s inherent pluralism and recognise that Islam per se is not the problem, but iconoclastic interpretations of it.

With Melanie and Douglas, I probably failed. Just as humans can travel to enlightenment, they can also journey into darkness and ignorance.

Melanie has gone from being a tree-hugger during her Guardian days to ranter about climate change “totalitarian”. And worse, seeing conspiracies and dangerous links where there are none. What else explains her suggestion in last October’s Spectator magazine that President Barack Obama “adopts the agenda of the Islamists” and is “firmly in the Islamists’ camp”?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Villagers Boycott Pub After Landlady Refuses to Sell Poppies

Villagers are boycotting a pub after its landlady refused to allow a Poppy collection tray on her bar.

Landlady Bernice Walsh, of The Windmill, in Weald, Kent, told former RAF serviceman David Marchant that people could buy poppies ‘somewhere else’ when he asked her permission to leave a poppy tray in her pub.

Mr Marchant, who is a local parish councillor and school governor, said the whole village was shocked and upset at the decision.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Morocco: Jewish-Moroccan Music at Andalusias Festival

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, OCTOBER 29 — Jewish-Moroccan music will be the protagonist of the 6th Festival of the Atlantic Andalusias in Essaouira, which will start today and end on November 1. “This festival will be against historical amnesia and single-mindedness,” said André Azoulay, a Moroccan Jew, advisor to King Hassan and now to Mohammed VI. “We will sing and dance together with our poets, our musicians, and our Muslim and Jewish singers”. The Jewish-Moroccan art of ‘Matrouz’, a musical and linguistic fusion born in Morocco centuries ago will be performed by rabbi-singer Haim Louk, accompanied by Moroccan orchestra, Zyriab D’Oujda, Franco-Algerian pianist Maurice El Medioni, and singer Raymonde El Badaouia, both religiously Jewish. There will be a posthumous tribute to Zohria Fassia, a famous singer from the 50s, who always supported a pacific coexistence between Jews and Muslims in Morocco. “Jewish-Moroccan art is an important component of Moroccan culture and identity,” added Azoulay, originally from Essaouira,” and this is a response to politicians, an example to understand each other”. For centuries the Jewish community in Morocco was the most numerous in the Middle East and Northern Africa. According to official estimates in 1948, the year that Israel was created, the community was made up of 265,000 people, many of whom were descendents of Jewish families thrown out of Spain by Queen Isabella in 1492. Between 1948 and 1967, the year of the 6 Days War, many Moroccan Jews moved to Israel. There are currently only a few thousand in Morocco.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Morocco: Record Olive Production at 1.5 Mln Tonnes

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, OCTOBER 27 — Like the harvest for grains, vegetables, and fruit, olive production in 2009-2010 in Morocco is estimated at a record 1.5 million tonnes, up by 76% on 2008 and by 102% compared to the past 5 years. According to estimates by the Agriculture and Fishing Ministry, the harvest will result in 160,000 tonnes of olive oil, 40% more compared to last year. The production represents a total turnover that will range from 4.5 to 6 billion dirham (4-5.5 million euros), which will bring significant benefits to the 400,000 farmers in the sector. According to the ministry, the increase in production is due to abundant rainfall last spring and new olive groves planted in the past decade thanks to state support through an agricultural development fund. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Swiss Hostages Disappear in Libya

Typically, the humiliated Swiss are confused. Should they apply retaliatory sanctions? Those would anger Gaddafi. Whatever they do, the international community will not help them because Libya has oil money. Furthermore, no one wishes to irritate dictators unless they are directly involved. Who cares, unless he has to, about Lockerbie, the “nurses case” or bozo’s recent stand up comic show at the UNO? That being the case, a criminal regime is again “getting away with it.” That eggs on other similar systems to emulate the example. Just think of Iranian and North Korean promises and their ignored, consequence-free disregard that is followed by new demands and delays. The comportment jeopardizes everybody and signifies a crisis of the international order. The global order is being undermined by discrediting, through their misuse, the proven procedures that sustain it. The pattern that emerges promises to lead to more and more substantial violations. For those transgressions the now silent potential victim states and the “international community” (what a misnomer!) is responsible…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Democarcy and Palestinian Statehood

The claim that the Palestinian Arabs are entitled to independent statehood is based on the principles of contemporary or normless democracy. This claim, we shall see, can be refuted by those very principles. The same claim can be refuted by employing the principles of classical or normative democracy. What are the differences between these two types of democracy?

Although both normative and normless democracy emphasizes freedom and equality as basic principles, normative democracy derives these principles from the Genesis account of man’s creation in the image of God. As a consequence, freedom and equality in normative democracy have rational and moral constraints. This is not the case of normless democracy, where moral relativism flourishes and prevents those tainted by relativism from opposing a Palestinian nation-state on moral grounds.

Now, it should be obvious that Arab-Islamic culture is utterly opposed to the basic principles of democracy however the term “democracy” is understood. But if this is the case, then the Palestinian Arabs, in this period of history, have no right to an independent and sovereign state anywhere—certainly not on Israel’s doorstep. Indeed, the creation of such a state, at this time, would serve neither the good of these Muslims nor the good of Israel. Any claim to the contrary by Arabs is but a ploy to truncate Israel and thereby facilitate its destruction. If such a claim is made by Jewish democrats, it merely reflects abysmal ignorance if not intellectual dishonesty.

That Arab-Islamic culture rejects the basic principles of democracy is so obvious that I must apologize to the reader for enumerating the following well-known facts:

1- Whereas, freedom, including freedom of speech, is one of the two cardinal principles of democracy, Arab-Islamic culture is strictly authoritarian, which is why its media are state-controlled.

2- Unlike democracy, whose other cardinal principle is equality, Arab-Islamic culture is strictly hierarchical. Top-down leadership is a fundamental principle of Islamic theology. Authority runs down from Allah to Muhammad and from Muhammad to the imam, the ruler of the regime.

3- Democracy is based on the primacy of consent or persuasion. This adorns democratic societies with a certain easy-goingness and civility. Not only are past grievances readily swept aside, but political opponents can be friends despite their differences. Differences are resolved by mutual concessions, and agreements are usually lasting. In contrast, Arab-Islamic culture is based on the primacy of coercion. Agreements between rival factions do not really terminate animosities, which is why such agreements are so short-lived.

4- Because democracy is based on the primacy of consent, the pursuit of peace is the norm of democratic states. In contrast, because Arab-Islamic culture is based on the primacy of coercion, the foreign policy norm of Arab-Islamic states is intimidation and conquest. Jihad (holy war) is a basic Islamic principle, which is why Muslim violence will be found throughout the world.

[Return to headlines]

Middle East


Gays in Lebanon: Discrimination at University

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 29 — In some university psychology textbooks homosexuality is described as a deviance, the Arab world’s first legally recognised association of gays and lesbians Helem denounced this morning. The issue was raised today during the presentation in Beirut of the book ‘Homosexuality and bisexuality: myth and reality’. Written by the Lebanese psychologist Mara Rabbath, the booklet deals with the issue from a scientific and clinical viewpoint. “We want to spread this book among students in particular,” executive director of Helem, Ghassan Makaram, told ANSA. He underlined the problems of homosexual students, who risk to be sent off from university with an excuse due to their sexual preference. Mira (21 years old), a student and Helem activist, says that she is not ashamed about her sexuality: “I’ve written on Facebook that I’m gay, for everybody to see!”. The young woman admits that there are problems in being this open in academic circles: “It costs a lot of money to go to university…. it’s not worth is to be sent off. So in the end I don’t talk about it”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Iraq: Private Russian Security Guards Instead of the Foreign Armies

Former Russian military troops guarantee the investment interests of the former Soviets in Baghdad. They boast of being “very diplomatic”, unlike the Americans. But carry more weapons into the country.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — As foreign troops engaged in Iraq gradually reduced their presence to make way for the Iraqi army and police, new contractor security companies are elbowing in. Proud of “not being like the Americans of Blackwater” — the U.S. private military company banned from Iraq for excessive use of force — the new security experts in Iraq are now the former Soviet Union.

According to reports from the TV channel Russia Today, a special group of former Russian commando in the employ of Oryol — one of the biggest security companies in the Federation — is undergoing intensive training in preparation for their deployment in torn Middle Eastern country.

“Oryol (“ Eagle “) — says the Russian broadcaster in, tied to the Kremlin — is composed of highly trained former military officers who are preparing to ensure the safety of Russian technical personnel, diplomats and commercial presence in Iraq”. Employees include former Russian secret service agents. “Despite the strong background of our military men — says the head of the Oryol training Centre, Sergey Epishkin — one of the particular strategies we have adopted is a form of diplomacy, which allows us to have good relations with Western forces, Iraqi forces and the population”.

But in a country like Iraq, where more than 150 deaths in the attack Sunday in Baghdad point out that the situation remains incandescent, diplomacy alone does not seem sufficient. So Oryol has asked the Kremlin for adequate legislative support for its operations abroad, or a regulation that gives its contractors more freedom of action.

Indeed, unlike the infamous Blackwater colleagues, from a legal standpoint, the men of Oryol are not considered a “private security force,” but mere advisers. “We have no status, no rights — said one of the Centre instructors, Oleg Pyrsin — and if someone asks us why we are armed, we can only respond that it is for self-defence.”

The need, explains Oryol, is for a legal framework that allows a softening of restrictions imposed on contractors on the use of weapons abroad. The Duma could consider the request soon, thus opening the door to other security companies.

Human rights activists, however, warn against the possibility that it may grant a summary “license to kill” not just terrorists but also innocent civilians. As was the case with Blackwater. Last year the Iraqi government declared the U.S. company “non grata” in the country, and did not renew its license for 2009, following the killing of 17 civilians in Baghdad in 2007 at the hands of its contractors.

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



Italy-Syria: Minister Scajola Visit to Damascus From Tomorrow

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 30 — For the occasion of the visit of the Minister of Economic Development, Claudio Scajola, which will begin tomorrow, the Italian Trade Commission (ICE) in Damascus has organised the first Italy-Syrian Economic Forum. The project, explains a note from ICE, aims at strengthening institutional bonds between the two countries and stimulating trade relations among business, offering meetings between Italian and Syrian mechanics firms. The ICE office in Damascus has organised 375 bilateral meetings between almost 30 Italian businessmen and local operators, potential clients and trade partners (an average of more than 21 meetings per company). In addition to that of Scajola, the presence of the Syrian Minister of Industry, Al Jouni, the president of ICE, Umberto Vattani, and that of the Federation of Syrian Chambers of Commerce, Ghreiwati, has been announced. The forum also intends to launch a new technological training centre to be built in Damascus equipped with Italian machinery, financed by both countries through public and private funding. A series of meetings has been scheduled for Sunday between an Italian delegation and officials from the Syrian Ministry of Industry and the associations of Syrian entrepreneurs to define the organisational details. The forum will see the combined signing of a memorandum which will define the roles of the single actors in the project and lay out the competencies and commitments of those involved. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: New Sentence for Pro-Israeli General Lahad

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 30 — A military court in Beirut issued a sentence in absentia of 15 years in prison to Antoine Lahad, the former commander of the South Lebanon Army (SLA), the pro-Israeli militia dissolved 9 years ago, reported the press today in Beirut. The Maronite general who fled to Israel in 2000 after Israeli troops withdrew after 22 years of occupation, has been accused of “collaborating with the State of Israel,” because he possesses Israeli citizenship. The 82-year-old general, who was sentenced to death some time ago, took the place of Major Saad Hadded in 1984 as the commander of the Lebanese militia, financed and trained by Israel. A sentence that he escaped, taking refuge first in France where the government denied him asylum, then in Tel Aviv in 2004. He still resides there today and manages a Lebanese restaurant. In 1988, the general miraculously survived an attack carried out in Beirut by a young Lebanese communist, Soha Bishara, who is still looked upon as a heroine. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Guards in Women’s Prisons Learn Human Rights

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 30 — Prison guards in women’s prisons are learning about “human rights”. The initiative has been taken by the Lebanese association of lawyers and the local charity organisation “The door to hope”, which has organised courses for prison guards on the rights and needs of inmates. “The main goal of detention must be the rehabilitation of the prisoner” said lawyer Elisabeth Siufi, quoted today by the Lebanese press. According to Siufi, it is important to know “the right balance between control and discipline on one hand, and respect for the inmates on the other”. Chief of Lebanese penitentiary police Gaby Khouri has pointed out that the main problems in the country’s prisons are overpopulation, a lack of medical and psychological support and the degradation of the buildings. Last week Lebanon’s interior minister Ziad Barud announced a prison reform, in response to the report of the chief of police, in which he denounced the dramatic conditions in which prisoners are living in the Rumie penal institution in Beirut. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: UNIFIL; Tensions Between Italy and Spain, El Pais

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 29 — The Spanish newspaper El Pais writes about tensions between Italy and Spain, regarding the command of UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. The daily writes that Italy would like to extend the mandate of General Claudio Graziano by six months after its expiration in February. A Spanish general is scheduled to succeed him. According to the socialist newspaper, a delay of the changing of the guard would be “a slap in the face of Spain”, especially because the “UNIFIL command is crucial to give expression to the role Zapatero wants to play during the Spanish EU presidency” in the first half of 2010. The Spanish contingent is the third-largest with 1100 men after Italy (2500) and France (1480). Spain has already presented the names of two high officials to the UN, with on top of the list, according to El Pais, General Alberto Asarta, former leader of the south-eastern brigade in Lebanon. But, according to the newspaper, “Italy has made a last-minute proposal to keep Graziano on for another six months”, explaining that “UNIFIL must go through an adjustment of its forces and this process should be managed by someone with experience”. According to El Pais, Spanish “military experts suspect that the move was made to make it possible for Graziano to end his career in Lebanon”. The newspaper specifies that Rome “hasn’t formally proposed the idea, only during informal consultations. The problem is, that Italy has told the UN about its plans to withdraw 1000 troops from Lebanon, but that the country is willing to wait until Graziano leaves his command”. “That is no blackmail, but it does look like it” El Pais concludes. Spain is willing to reinforce its contingent with 250 troops.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Scarce Interest on Issue of Command in Beirut, UNIFIL

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, OCTOBER 29 — Both Italy and Spain “are countries friendly to Lebanon and hold important contingencies” in the UN force deployed in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL) and it is not up to Beirut to indicate preferences on the change in command of the mission. This is what was confirmed today by political sources close to the elected Lebanese premier, Saad Hariri. Lebanon to the moment has not expressed interest in entering the presumed controversy between Spain and Italy on the future leadership of UNIFIL. “It is not Lebanon that must decide on this, but the UN”, they affirmed to ANSA on the condition of anonymity. These are decisive hours for the formation of the new government in Beirut after weeks of expectation. For this reason in the interview with ANSA some of the ministers of the current executive branch preferred not to comment on the news coming out of Madrid and Jerusalem, according to which Israel has asked Italy to remain in charge of the mission for “a few more months”. The term of the top commander of UNIFIL, the Italian general Claudio Graziano, ends on January 28 but UN diplomatic sources quoted by the Lebanese press affirm that the organisation based in New York has yet to begin the evaluation of possible Graziano successors. Ibrahim Mussawi, spokesman for the anti-Israeli Shiite movement Hezbollah, said that he “doesn’t have enough information at the moment on the issue”, assuring that he “wants to follow the events closely”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey-EU: Ankara Must Fulfil Commitments, Kyprianou Says

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, OCTOBER 29 — The Cyprus question cannot be postponed until some time after Turkey has joined the EU. This is one of the red lines to be observed during Ankara’s progress to integration in the European Union, says Markos Kyprianou, the Foreign Minister of Cyprus, explaining his country’s position to a conference held in Brussels by the European Policy Centre. “We must not wait for Turkey’s accession to the EU before we address the Cyprus issue” Kyprianou said. “In fact, Turkey cannot accede to the EU without a resolution to the Cyprus issue; and we don’t want accession to be turned into a condition for its resolution”. The present moment is the time both for talks on re-unifying the island, with the rapidly approaching elections of April 2010 in North Cyprus and their potential for changing the political balance, as well as for Turkey’s negotiations for its accession to the EU, with December 2009 the deadline set for the application of Ankara’s protocol with the EU. This includes conditions providing for the opening of Turkish sea-ports and airports to Greek Cypriots, a move that still appears far off. “These conditions are part of the accession process,” the Cypriot foreign minister said, “and their non-fulfilment will entail consequences, which have to come from a decision taken by the EU Council”. In Kyprianou’s view, “the myth has to be exploded of a Cypriot opposition to Turkey’s entry into the EU; but no accession candidate can set their own terms — it is up to the EU to do so. Ankara has to keep to all of the undertakings that have been laid down; it cannot make exceptions”. “Nonetheless, we want to see aN European Turkey,” the Cypriot minister continued, “not as a guest with limited rights, but as a member state, a democratic country that respects the rule of law — a partner to Cyprus bringing stability”. Meanwhile, on the front of the negotiations for re-unifying the island, “there has been some progress up to now,” Kyprianou stated, “especially on the constitutional issue, but there is still a long way to go: from the question of defence to the settlements, to the property belonging to Greek Cypriots abandoned in the north, to territorial questions, still open and to be discussed”. Therefore “we have to be realistic; there are still many matters to define, but we think that this window, between the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, presents the best opportunity for finding a solution we have as yet never had”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia


15,000 Bibles in Malaysia Seized Over ‘Allah’ Reference

Malaysian authorities have seized more than 15,000 Bibles that refer to God as “Allah” in recent months, said church officials Thursday.

About 10,000 Bibles from Indonesia were confiscated by authorities on Sept. 11, according to the Rev. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, according to The Associated Press. The other 5,100 Bibles, also from Indonesia, were seized in March, according to an official from the Bible Society of Malaysia, who requested that AP not identify him to avoid angering the government.

In Malaysia, Christian publications cannot use the word Allah to refer to God. The government contends the word “Allah” is exclusively for Islam, but church officials argue that Allah is not exclusive to Islam because it is an Arabic word that existed before the religion.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Afghanistan: Colonel Foresaw His Own Death: His Memo to Mod Warned Helicopter Shortage Would Cost Lives… Weeks Later He Was Dead

The most senior soldier to be killed in Afghanistan foreshadowed his own death in a damning memo about the shortage of helicopters.

Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe told his superiors that British troops would die because they were being forced to make trips by road.

Less than a month later, he was blown up by a roadside bomb.

In his final despatches to commanders in London, classified ‘Nato Secret’, he had dismissed helicopter operations in Afghanistan as ‘not fit for purpose’.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Pakistani Christians, From Freedom to Persecution

When Pakistan was created, its Founding Father Ali Jinnah endorsed the principles of religious freedom and equal rights for all, irrespective of caste or creed. The succession of constitutions that followed went counter to these ideals, and opened the door to persecution and violence against minorities. Beside blasphemy, Christians and members of other non-Muslim religions have to deal with the problem of forced conversions and marriages.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Pakistan is a plural society with a number of religious, sectarian and ethno-linguistic groups. It is nation of about162 million people where Muslims represent more than 90 per cent of the total, divided doctrinal lines. As a religious minority Christians face religious, social, constitutional, economic and educational discrimination. In addition to Christians, non-Muslim Pakistanis include Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Kalasha, Parsees and Sikhs.

Pakistan’s Founding Fathers envisaged a progressive, democratic and tolerant society that retained its Muslim character whilst giving equal rights to its non-Muslim citizens.

In his address to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947, Muhammad Ali Jinnah said: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in the State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State. [. . ..] We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not so in the religious sense because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the state.”

This speech sums up Jinnah’s views on the role of religion and the state; it is considered by many as the founding charter of Pakistan.

Islamisation of the country

However, in the subsequent decades, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, the Pakistani state, rather than guarantee equal rights and equal opportunities to all its Muslim and non-Muslim citizens, began instead to encourage extremist forces. This has allowed Islamist forces in Pakistan to rewrite South Asian history to suit their own religious biases. Consequently, today most Pakistani Muslims know nothing of the significant contributions made by minorities to the creation and the defence of Pakistan. What’s more, academics and journalists have largely failed to publicise this vital information.

Regrettably, the official history of Pakistan does not reflect the role Christians played in the establishment of the country. The historical facts regarding Christians and other minorities’ contribution are neither mentioned, nor highlighted.

The constitutions of Pakistan

In addition to the interim legislation of 1947 and the Objectives Resolution of 1949, Pakistan has had four Constitutions since its independence.

In 1973, then President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had the National Assembly adopt a new constitution that introduced a parliamentary form of government. To this day, this charter remains the only consensus-based constitution the country has ever known. However, after coming to power General Zia-ul-Haq made radical amendments to the constitution, affecting the civil rights of all Pakistanis, but especially non-Muslims.

Constitutional discrimination

The Constitution of Pakistan segregates its citizens on the basis of religion and provides preferential treatment to Muslims. For example, Article 2 of the Constitution declares Islam as “the State religion of Pakistan” and recognises the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah as “the supreme law and source of guidance for legislation to be administered through laws enacted by the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies, and for policy making by the Government”. Similarly, Article 41(2) says that only a Muslim can become president. Last but not least, Article 260 recognises two distinct categories of people, “Muslim” and “Non-Muslim,” thereby facilitating and encouraging discrimination on the basis of religion.

The constitution is so clearly one-sided in giving preferential treatment to majority Muslims that even a Hindu judge had to take the oath of office in the name of “Allah”. On 24 March 2007, Justice Rana Bhagwandas, as the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, was sworn in as Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan after the suspension of the incumbent Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. When Justice Bhagwandas was sworn in, he had to recite the Qur’anic prayer: “May Allah Almighty help and guide me, (A’meen)”.

The Pakistan Penal Code, in particular Section 295-A, Section 295-B, Section 295-C, Section 298-A and Section 298-B, imposes harsh punishment for alleged blasphemy. These blasphemy laws undermine other major provisions of the Constitution of Pakistan such as the fundamental right to “profess, practice and propagate” one’s religion (Article 20), the principle of equality before the law and the equal protection of the law to all citizens (Article 25), as well as the “legitimate rights and interests of minorities” (Article 36).

Blasphemy laws

Historically, the most far-reaching steps towards Islamisation were taken during President Zia-ul-Haq administration (1977 to 1988). Under his rule, a number of Islamic laws were introduced and a judicial body was set up to review all existing laws as to their agreement with Islamic principles. Laws and orders passed during the martial law years under President Zia-ul-Haq, including those governing religious offences, were placed outside the scope of judicial review by the Eighth Constitutional Amendment of 1985.

The blasphemy provisions of the Penal Code have been widely abused and misused to target minorities and sometimes settle personal scores among the Muslims. Even after acquittal by the courts, those who had to face blasphemy charges still live in fear.

Amendments of laws relating to religious offences in the Pakistan Penal Code brought about under President Zia differ significantly from earlier laws in at least four ways. They do not specifically mention malicious intent to hurt religious sensitivities as a condition for criminal offence and provide for significantly increased penalties. They make specific reference to Islam whilst earlier laws were intended to protect the religious sentiments of “any class of persons”. A distinct shift in emphasis is noticeable: the new sections of the Penal Code do not make it a criminal offence to injure the religious feelings of Muslims, but rather define the offence in terms of insult or affront to Islam itself. The offences consist in defiling or insulting the prophet of Islam, his companions and family members and desecrating the Koran.

Other forms of discrimination against Christians

The widespread economic, social, legal and cultural discrimination against Christians is the main issue that needs to be addressed in Pakistan.

Land and properties, including places of worship, owned by Christians have been forcibly seized. Minorities have been denied equal treatment and protection by law enforcement personnel.

Kidnapping, rape and forced marriage of Christian and Hindu girls is a common practice. Should a Muslim man be arrested for such a crime, all he has to do is produce a certificate issued by any Muslim seminary claiming that the kidnapped girls have voluntarily adopted Islam and married the accused. The courts generally do not consider the fact that most of the girls are under age and simply accept the validity of the certificate of conversion without making any additional inquiry.

In some areas of the North-West Frontier Province, various Taliban groups have started to apply the Jizya, a tax imposed only on non-Muslims. At the same time, members of the Sikh, Hindu and Christian communities have been kidnapped for hefty ransoms.

On 6 February 1997, a mob of about 30,000 Muslims attacked a Christian village called Shantinagar, near Khanewal City, in Punjab Province. They set on fire the whole village, including many Churches. The spark that caused the assault was a blasphemy case involving a Christian who was charged under Section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code.

On 12 November 2005, another angry mob of some 2,000 Muslims vandalised and set fire to three Churches, a nuns’ convent, two Catholic schools, the homes of a Protestant clergyman and a Catholic priest, a girls’ hostel and the homes of Christian residents in the village of Sangla Hill in Nankana District, in Punjab. The attack was sparked by an alleged case of blasphemy involving a local Christian, also under section 295-B of the Pakistan Penal Code.

On 8 May 200, many Christian families reportedly fled their homes after they received a threatening letter from Islamic militants at Charsada in the North-West Frontier Province. In it, they were summoned to convert to Islam within 10 days or face dire consequences. In June 2007, Christians in Shantinagar village, Khanewal District, in Punjab received similar threats. In such cases, police have often failed to provide adequate protection.

On 22 April 2009, a gang of armed extremists attacked a group of Christians in Tiasar Town, a Karachi suburb, setting six houses on fire and seriously injuring three Christians. One of them was Irfan Masih, whose injuries were serious from the beginning and who died five days later.

On 30 June 2009, angry Muslims attacked Christian homes in Bahmani wala village, Kasur District, in Punjab, after another Christian was accused of blaspheming against Islam’s prophet. They damaged about 100 houses and stole valuables (gold jewellery) and cash. The mob also smashed furniture and other household items.

On 1 July 2009, a Christian youth, Imran Masih, was tortured by a group of Muslims and then arrested by local police for allegedly burning pages of the Qur’an in Faisalabad’s Hajwary area.

On 30 July 2009, thousands of Muslim fundamentalists descended upon the village of Koriyan where they set 51 Christian homes on fire after another case of alleged blasphemy. Two days later, on 1 August, at least 3,000 extremists went after the Christian community in Gojra. Seven people were burnt to death (including two children and three women), and another 19 were injured. Dozens of houses were also set on fire.

These incidents illustrate the kind of abuse and the far-reaching consequences of the blasphemy laws; too many times, they have been used to justify violence against others.

These incidents tell us what can happen to particular sections of society. However, Muslims too have been victimised by these laws over the past 20 years. Therefore, the situation calls for a serious and long-term remedy.

According to data collected by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), a human rights organisation of the Catholic Church of Pakistan, at least 964 persons have been accused on the basis of these laws between 1986 and August 2009. They include 479 Muslims, 119 Christians, 340 Ahmadis, 14 Hindus and 10 of unknown religion.

Angry mobs or individuals were responsible for 32 extrajudicial killings.

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



Pakistan: Blasphemy Law: A Long List of Injustices (An Overview)

Under Sections 295 B and 205-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, anyone who desecrates the Qur’an or defiles the name of the prophet Muhammad is punished with death or life imprisonment. Implemented in 1986 by then dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, to woo the country’s fundamentalist faction, the laws have become a tool to persecute religious minorities and even Muslims. Almost a thousand people have been charged so far under the law, and hundreds have become its victims.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are the country’s worst instruments for religious repression. According to data collected by the Catholic Church’s National Commission on Justice and Peace (NCJP), at least 964 people have been indicted for desecrating the Qur’an or defiling the name of the prophet Muhammad between 1986 and this year, including 479 Muslims, 119 Christians, 340 Ahmadis, 14 Hindus and 10 from other religions. Since its inception, the law has been used a pretext for attacks, personal vendettas and extra-judicial murders: 33 in all by individuals or enraged mobs.

Since 2001, at least 50 Christians have been killed after being accused of blasphemy, the NCJP said. The list of victims of Muslim extremists also includes members of other religious minorities as well as Muslims. The Ahmadi community—a Muslim group that does not view Muhammad as the final prophet and is thus deemed heretical by Sunnis and Shias—has lamented the loss of at least 12 of its members this year. Since 1984, 107 Ahmadis have been murdered and 719 arrested.

Blasphemy laws were introduced in 1986 by then dictator Zia-ul-Haq to protect Islam and its prophet, Muhammad, from insults and slander. However, over time it has become an instrument of discrimination and violence. The laws are actually sections 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code, which respectively sentence anyone who desecrates the Qur’an or defiles the name of the prophet Muhammad to life imprisonment or death.

Charges against alleged blasphemers are often trumpeted up or motivated by malicious interests, ending in scandals that drive enraged mobs to seek justice on their own. Even if someone is arrested because of a single witness, the unfortunate suspect could become victim of police torture and violence.

In many cases, under the pressure of mobs stirred by local mullahs, judges have inflicted death penalties without a shred of evidence against defendants.

Together with the Hudood ordinances—Qur’an-inspired rules that impose flogging and stoning on actions deemed incompatible with Islamic law like adultery, gambling, drinking—,blasphemy laws are an example of extreme sectarian and fundamentalist legislation. Over time, they have contributed to the radical Islamisation of the country.

Here are few examples of people killed because of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws:

In July 2009, Rao Zafar Iqbal, a Pakistani Hindu activist and human rights lawyer, received death threats for its action in defence of minorities. One threatening letter came from Jan Nisaran-e-Nabuwat and Aqeeda-e-Tahafuz-e-Kathme Nabuwat. The activist filed a complaint with police; however, the latter refused to heed his request. Soon after, he was shot to death. This was followed on 4 August, by an announcement in the Daily Pavel that justified the murder of Rao Zafar as “legitimate” because his death did “a service to Islam.”

A police agent killed Samuel Masih in 2004 in a Lahore hospital. Mr Masih had been indicted on 23 August 2003 on the basis of Article 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code, for an offence punishable with up to two years in prison. According to the prosecution, the dead mad had allegedly sullied the wall of a mosque. Masih, who had been suffering from tuberculosis, was admitted in hospital on 21 May 2004. The next day, Fara Ali, the police agent charged with his security, hit him on the head with a chisel. Samuel Masih died on 28 May 2008 at Lahore General Hospital.

Muhammad Yousaf Ali, a Muslim, was shot to death on 11 June 2002 in Kot Lakhpat Prison, in Lahore, by Tariq Mota, a fellow prisoner and a member of Anjaman-e-Sipahe Sahaba, a banned extremist group. Yousaf Ali, 55, had been sentenced to death for blasphemy on 5 August 2000. Tharik-I-Khatmi Nabuwat, a Lahore-based Islamic extremist group, had originally reported the victim to the authorities.

Manzoor Masih, 37, from Gujranwala, was murdered by armed militants on 5 April 1994 at the entrance of the High Court building in Lahore. Three Christians were on trial for blasphemy, including Salamat Masih, a 14-year old teenager. The evidence provided by the accusers led the court to believe that since Manzoor Masih and Rehmat Masih were near Salamat, they must have instigated him to write derogatory graffiti on the wall of a mosque.

Our overview of the fight against the blasphemy laws cannot leave out of one its prophetic figures, Mgr John Joseph. In his case, the campaign for justice and peace in Pakistan became an all-consuming passion. Appointed bishop of Faisalabad in 1984, the 65-year-old prelate took his own life on 6 May 1998 in front of a courthouse where a young Christian had been convicted for blasphemy.

In addition to single individuals, many communities and Christian churches have become the victim of the violence that often follows blasphemy accusations.

On 30 July of this year, a mob of 3,000 Muslims attacked the village of Koriyan, setting it on fire to exact punishment for another alleged case of blasphemy.

On 1 August, a group of Muslim extremists attacked the village of Gojra, where they killed seven people, including women and children, burnt alive.

The history of the last few decades in Pakistan has seen many churches and Christian villages attacked on false blasphemy charges: Kasur (June 2009), Tiasar (Karachi, April 2009), Sangla Hill (2005) and Shantinagar (1997).

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



Save Christians and Pakistan From the Blasphemy Law

The blasphemy law — prison and death sentences for those who offend the Koran or Muhammad — is a tool to eliminate religious minorities. AsiaNews launches an awareness campaign for its repeal. Because of this law, since 2001 at least 50 Christians have been killed, families and entire villages destroyed. In the country Islamic and Christian voices appeal for its cancellation.

Rome (AsiaNews) — Robert Fanish Masih is the latest Christian victim of the blasphemy law in force in Pakistan since 1986. This law punishes with imprisonment or the death those who profane or desecrate the Koran or the prophet Muhammad. It’s enough to accuse a person of this to have him arrested and imprisoned. A aberrant law and harbinger of discrimination, which “legalizes” violence against religious minorities and whose perpetrators go unpunished in most cases, thanks to the connivance of police and government officials. 20 year old Robert from the village of Jaithikey, not far from the city of Samberial in the district of Sialkot (Punjab), was arrested on Sept. 12 on charges of blasphemy. The day before a crowd of Muslims had gathered around the local church first damaging the building, then setting it on fire. The extremists also looted two houses adjoining the church.

The youth was accused of having “provoked” a girl, of taking a Koran from her hands and “throwing it away”. The truth is that wrath of Islamic fundamentalists was provoked by the relationship between the Christian and the Muslim girl of twenty one, the witness who incriminated Fanish, in fact, is the young woman’s mother. Father Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church (NCJP), made it clear that fundamentalists “will not tolerate a Muslim girl falling in love with a Christian.” The night between 12 and 13 September Robert Fanish Masih died in prison, from violenceinflicted upon him. The body of the young man showed signs of deep wounds to the head, caused by an edged weapon. Shortly after the discovery of the corpse, Waqar Ahmad Chohan, an officer of the police district of Sialkot, reported that Fanish “committed suicide in his cell.” A theory that has been flatly rejected by many Christian leaders, some of whom saw the young man’s body before the funeral. Nadeem Anthony — a member of the National Commission for Human Rights (HRCP) — immediately filed a report of the case as “legalized homicide”, contradicting the police version of “hanging in jail.”

The activist then added that Robert “was tortured, after which he died. There are visible signs of beatings and wounds on his body, as is clear from the photographs. “ In the days following his death, AsiaNews has received photos of the corpse, confirming the torture inflicted, and that his death had nothing to do with signs of strangulation by hanging. Fanish Masih’s funeral, celebrated on 16 September, was marked by tear gas, many injuries and a series of arrests, the police charged the crowd of Christians gathered for the funeral, justifying the harsh attack, by saying that “they wanted to prevent further disorder “. The body was buried in a Catholic cemetery in Sialkot, the district of origin of the young man, where for several days an atmosphere charged with tension reigned.

The accusations of blasphemy often lead to decreeing the destruction of homes and Christian villages. On 30 July a crowd of 3 thousand Muslims attacked and burned the villages of Koriyan to punish an alleged case of blasphemy. On August 1 the fanatics attacked the village of Gojra, killing 7 people, including women and children, burning them alive. The history of recent decades in Pakistan is full of attacks on churches and Christian villages on the grounds of perfectly fabricated blasphemy scandals: Kasur (June 2009), Tias (Karachi, April 2009); Sangla Hill (2005); Shantinagar (1997). The Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights (JAC), a Pakistani non-governmental organization that campaigns for human rights in the country, expresses “great concern” about the increasing violence, while the Christian community through appeals — which have so far fallen on deaf ears — for justice to be done; promises of compensation remain unfulfilled

The list of incidence of violence against Christians by Muslim groups, citing a blasphemy, is long and concerns not only Christians but also other minorities, not just individuals but entire towns and villages. Faced with the growth of this gratuitous and petty violence, covered by the cloak of religion, opposing voices that are increasing in strength are beginning to emerge. On 6 October, the Lower House of Parliament Sherry Rehman, former Minister of Information, and Jameela Gilani, both Muslims, called for the repeal of the blasphemy law. The same day, the Christian MP Akram Masih Gill launched a provocation: “If there is life in prison — he says — for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran, why not introduce a similar punishment for those who shame the name of Christ and the Bible? !”. Confident of this interfaith support, on 25 October, the leaders of Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC), which gathers all the Christian organizations in the country, organized a conference in Rawalpindi under the threat of Islamic fundamentalists. The aim was “the total abolition of the blasphemy laws.”

In turn, on December 12 and 13 next, the International Minorities Alliance (IMA), a Christian-based organization, launched an “International Conference on Minorities” in Lahore to discuss the future of Pakistan and minorities. Pakistan, which in fact originated as a secular state in defence of all ethnic and religious communities, has become an Islamic republic, which gradually kills minorities, even those most devoted to building the nation. The abolition of the blasphemy laws and all laws against minorities are also the way to true progress of the entire population of Pakistan.

With this special issue, AsiaNews , which has always been attentive to issues of religious freedom and respect for human rights, aims to offer some tools for understanding and also to show solidarity with Christians, Ahmadis and Sikhs against this shameful law.

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



What Can be Done to Abolish Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

Christian activists and members of civil society groups call on Islamabad to repeal the relevant sections of the Pakistan Penal Code. The fundamental principles of an open and multi-confessional society must protect every individual. At the bottom, a list of Pakistani embassies and diplomatic representations is provided.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Pakistani Christians and members of civil society groups call on the Pakistani government and the international community to adopt appropriate steps to guarantee religious freedom in the country and protect the rights of minorities. Here is an 11-point list of demands to achieve an open and multi-confessional society where every individual is protected irrespective of caste, sex or religious creed.

  • The speech made by Muhammad Ali Jinnah on 11 August 1947 to the first Constituent Assembly of Pakistan should become an integral part of the constitution.
  • The constitution should define Pakistani society as multi-confessional.
  • The state should guarantee equal opportunities and equal rights to all its citizens, irrespective of faith, caste or religious creed.
  • Political parties should incorporate minorities and include members from religious groups in the various electoral colleges in accordance with their size.
  • The government should repeal Sections 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code because they are a source of constant fear and insecurity for religious minorities.
  • Laws based on the Sharia should not apply to non-Muslims.
  • Textbooks should be rewritten so that sections that fuel interfaith hatred are eliminated. Compulsory religious education should become optional in educational institutions.
  • Provision should be made so that students and prison inmates from religious minorities can obtain extra marks now available to Muslim students who memorise the Qur’an (hafiz-e-Qur’an) since it gives the latter extra credits useful for university entry or sentence reduction, at the expense of Christians. Alternatively, no concession should be made based on religion.
  • Minorities should be given equal space in media regarding religious programming and issues important to them.
  • Measures should be taken to rehabilitate bonded labourers working in the agricultural sector, small industry and brick kilns.
  • A new population census should be carried out with careful focus on finding the actual size of religious minorities in order to give them proportional representation in the country’s affairs.

We urge our readers to send these suggestions and requests via regular mail or e-mail to the Pakistan Embassy of their country.

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

Far East


Hatoyama: Tokyo Will Review Alliance With the United States

The opposition party asks him to for clarification ahead of Obama’s visit to Japan on 12 and 13 November. The Japanese would like to reduce the American military presence, which is estimated at 35 thousand units.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) — Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama reiterated today that his government “will review in full” the alliance between Japan and the United States, but will continue the relationship “on different levels”. Hatoyama said that he will review the alliance next year, 50 Years on from the revision of the bilateral treaty between Tokyo and Washington. Nevertheless, he reiterated before the parliament that “the Japan-US alliance is the cornerstone of our foreign policy.”

The Liberal Democratic Party, now in opposition, has accused the prime minister of having sent “wrong messages” to the United States and demand that Hatoyama clarify his plans before the U.S. president Barack Obama visits Japan on 12 and 13 November next.

The review of the relationship with the United States was one of the flagships of the Hatoyama campaign, and was also mentioned in his initial statements after his victory last August.

Among the issues the premier wants addressed is a review of U.S. forces on the Japanese soil. In 2007 there were 33,453 U.S. military in Japan, in addition to more than 5 thousand Ministry of Defence employees. Japan maintains this presence by paying about 32 billion dollars a year. Many Japanese citizens appreciate the presence of the U.S. for safety reasons (after the Second World War, Japan was ordered not to have a military attack force). But many others are critical and they want a reduction in numbers.

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

Latin America


Chinese Goods Conquer Latin America

Trade between China and the continent soars from US$ 10 billion in 2001 to 140 now. In Latin America, Beijing is seeking raw materials, new markets and ways to diplomatically isolated Taiwan.

Rome (AsiaNews) — After 30 years as the favoured car of the Cuban nomenklatura, the Russian-built Lada is getting some competition from cars made in China. Ministers, communist officials and police are giving up their Ladas for the Geely CK, symbol of the new alliance between the Castroite regime and Beijing.

China is now Cuba’s second-largest trading partner behind Venezuela, and second after the United States in Latin America.

All but invisible in Latin America a decade ago, China now is building cars in Uruguay, donating a soccer stadium to Costa Rica, and lending US$10 billion to Brazil’s biggest oil company. In fact, this year, China has replaced the United States as main trading partner of the continent’s major economy, Brazil.

Silently but aggressively, Beijing has been filling the vacuum left by the United States, as Washington focused on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the global economic crisis sapped its economy. Beijing is beefing up its embassies throughout Latin America, opening Confucian centres to expand Chinese culture, and sending high-level trade delegations throughout the region.

Quest for raw materials

Cooperation between China and Latin America is based on trade. One side, Latin America, ships raw materials, essential for the mainland’s continued economic growth, and provides new markets for Chinese manufactured products.

Between 2000 and 2008, trade between Latin America and China soared from US$ 10 billion to US$ 140 billion. This year, the figure is expected to top 150 billion despite the worldwide economic and financial crisis.

China is buying zinc from Peru, copper from Chile, and iron ore from Brazil. It has signed deals with large mining companies and is pouring huge amounts of dollars into the region, especially in Chavez’s Venezuela and Lula’s Brazil.

A deal worth US$ 4 billion was signed with Venezuela’s national oil company, PDVSA, to supply China with 500,000 barrels a day this year, and triple that number by 2012.

Brazil’s oil shipments to China are smaller, about 50,000 barrels a day to the China National Petroleum Corporation and another 60-120,000 to Sinopec, China’s main oil company.

To develop Brazil’s newly discovered offshore reserves vast investments are need. China and Brazil’s Petrobras signed a deal worth US$ 10 billion for such purpose.

New markets

Unlike Africa, Latin America represents an important market for Chinese goods. The mainland ships electronic equipment to Brazil, buses to Cuba, clothes to Mexico and cars to Peru.

Whilst Latin American nations have increased their exports towards China, China has begun flooding their markets with its own manufactured goods, displacing local production.

This has led to protest in Mexico and Argentina over the past year. Local manufacturers have been hard hit by low-cost Chinese imports. In Brazil, the garment industry is up in arms against Chinese companies for taking their place as the biggest exporter of clothing and textiles to Argentina.

Chinese direct investments in the region have also come under criticism because Chinese companies tend to bring Chinese labour, creating very few jobs for local.

Containing Taiwan

In Latin America, China’s objectives are not only economic but also strategic, namely isolating Taiwan.

Out of 23 nations with diplomatic ties with Taipei, 12 are in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Taiwan’s foreign policy has focused on providing material incentives, financial aid and economic assistance, to these countries in exchange of official recognition.

Beijing’s expansionist approach to the region is instead designed to provide an alternative to its long-standing rival. (MarAl)

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



Oil: Repsol Announces 2 New Oil Fields in Mexican Gulf

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 30 — The Spanish oil company Repsol, which has formed a consortium with BHP Billiton and Hess Corporation, has announced the find of two new oil fields in the Shenzi field, in the deep waters of the Mexican Gulf, sources in the company quoted by press agencies announced. The oil was found in the Shenzi-G104 and Shenzi 8 wells. It confirms, the sources say, “the high potential of the mega-field, which easily surpasses the expected output”. In the first wells a column of 170 metres of hydrocarbon compounds was found, 30 metres in Shenzi 8. Repsol participates with 28% in the consortium that operates the field in the Mexican Gulf. Hess Corporation also controls 28 and BHP Billton the remaining 44%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Immigration


France: NGO Slams Conditions in Centres

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, OCTOBER 29 — “Absurd” arrests, violence, ill people being expelled: strong condemnation of conditions for detainees in France’s centres for irregular immigranst has come from the La Cimade association, the only NGO allowed to enter the country’s centres for administrative detention (the CRAs). In 2008, a total of 32,284 immigrants from 163 different countries were sent to CRAs, among whom there were 118 families with 222 children, says la Cimade in a report published today. The association condemns the “politics of numbers” and the “bureuacratisation” hiding real harrowing human dramas. It also stresses that “tension is growing “ in the detention centres, with “collective revolts” occurring, especially in the Vincennes CRA near Paris, as well as in Bordeaux and Nantes. The NGO underlines how immigrants’ rights appear to have been “markedly reduced” on French overseas territories, and defines the conditions for detainees in Mayotte in the Indian Ocean as “unworthy”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: Yes to Law Tightening Sanctions

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 29 — In its plenary session, Spain’s Congress has today approved a legal reform on foreign residents which imposes tougher conditions on immigrants and increases the period that irregular immigrants can be detained in reception centres from 40 to 60 days limiting the right of families to reunite to immediate kin. The law recieved 185 votes in favour from the PSOE and from the Catalan, Basque and Canary nationalist parties, CiU, Pnv and CC; while the PP and the leftist IU-ICV and Erc parties voted against; four MPs of the mixed group abstained. During the debate on the reform, which now heads to the Senate, the PP announced that it would amend the law as soon as it is back in power. For his part, the country’s Secretary of State for Immigration, Consuelo Rumi, stated that the executive was already working on changing applicable regulations concering foreigners, which were approved in December 2004. The rights of irregular immigrants for family members to join them have also been cut back, limiting them to spouses and direct offspring or parents over 65 — with exceptions for humanitarian reasons. Some of those opposing the law asked what would happen when the mother of an immigrant was 62 and the father 68, a scenario the law doesn’t deal with. Sanctions against illegal immigration are also to be toughened along lines of proportionality, substituting a fine with expulsion from the country in cases of violation on the laws on overstaying. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: 650,000 Immigrants Can Vote in 2011 Local Election

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 29 — Around 650.000 foreign immigrants will have the right to vote in Spain’s local election in 2011. The Congress today unanimously approved the ten agreements signed by the government with several countries of origin, to favour the participation of immigrants in the election. Up to today, only citizens with the nationality of an EU country and Norway were allowed to vote in local elections in Spain. One year ago the socialist government negotiated mutual bilateral agreements with the countries of origin of migrants residing in Spain, including Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Iceland, Trinidad and Tobago, Ecuador, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chile, Paraguay, South Korea, New Zealand, Uruguay, Bolivia and Venezuela. No agreements were signed with some other countries, including Morocco, Brazil, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Spain: Church to Basque Party, Don’t Back New Abortion Law

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 29 — The decision announced by the Basque National Party to back the reform of legislation on abortion, now being examinated in Congress, has enraged the Spanish Church, which has asked the party to come back on its decision. The announcement was made by the auxiliary bishop of Bilbao, Mario Iceta, in a statement on Euskadi Radio quoted today by the press. He underlined that the reform “was not part of the electoral plan” of the Basque Nationalist Party, and asked the party to reconsider. “Many people have difficulties with it”, including “some leaders” consulted by the bishop. But the decision of the party, which also supported the government on the 2010 financial act, was taken unanimously. The reform includes the decriminalisation of abortion until the 14th week pregnancy and until the 22th week in case of malformation of the foetus or danger to the mother’s health. It also allows women of 16 and 17 years of age to have an abortion carried out without the permission of their parents, but the socialist government, which has proposed the reform, has plans to modify this point in parliament. Bishop Iceta has criticised the support announced by the National Party, which claimed that “abortion is a socially accepted practice”, saying that “it clashes” with the ideology of the Christian-democratic party and “with the thoughts of many of its voters”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

General


Amil Imani: Religion & the Marketplace

Islam is on its march of death on many fronts. A very dangerous front has been recently re-opened at the United Nations (UN) by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the largest group of nations within the UN, by introducing a new resolution.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani [Return to headlines]



Swine Flu Vaccine Shots Eliminate Wrinkles, Bad Breath and Varicose Veins, Too

(NaturalNews) The propaganda push for flu vaccines has reached a level of absurdity that’s just begging to be made fun of. Today, a flu vaccine story appearing in Reuters claimed that injecting pregnant women with flu shots would increase the birth weight of their babies by half a pound. That same story claimed flu shots are so healthy for pregnant women that they also prevent premature births.

It even quotes a team of experts who claim that injecting an expectant mother with a flu shot would reduce the hospitalization of her infants, explaining: “Flu vaccine given to women during pregnancy is 85 percent effective in preventing hospitalization in their infants under 6 months of age.”

This conclusion was derived from a study of pregnant women in Bangladesh, by the way, and it didn’t even use randomized, placebo-controlled study protocols, meaning the conclusions of the study are highly unreliable (more vaccine quackery).

Speaking of bizarre claims, another Reuters report appearing this week claims that statin drugs prevent flu deaths!

This story reports, “Patients taking statin drugs were almost 50 percent less likely to die from flu, researchers reported on Thursday in a study providing more evidence the cholesterol-lowering drugs help the body cope with infection.”

How was this “science” conducted? There wasn’t even a clinical trial at all. Researchers simply checked the medical records of people who died from seasonal flu infections and found that 3.2% of the patients who weren’t taking statin drugs died from flu complications while only 2.1% of the patients who were taking statin drugs died. Since 2.1% is roughly 50% less than 3.2%, they leaped to the conclusion that “statin drugs prevent flu deaths by 50 percent!”

[Return to headlines]

Walking the Tightrope

I’m in the process of collating my notes and writing up a report on the International Legal Conference on Freedom of Speech and Religion that I attended earlier this week.

Before we get down to all those nitty-gritty details, I’d like to discuss some meta-issues that arose in the comments thread on the interview with Lord Pearson. Some of the commenters expressed dissatisfaction with Lord Pearson for proposing that gays and feminists needed to be mobilized to support the anti-jihad cause, and for suggesting that a less-than virulent form of Islam — what he called “mild” Muslims — exists.

The cavalier dismissal of the possible participation of gays and feminists in our movement prompted me to say this in the comments:

Actually, there were conservative gay people present at the conference, people who are just as vehemently opposed to Islamization as you and I are. They also have a personal stake in the outcome, much more so than I do. So including them in political coalitions is meaningful and effective.

FunambulistThe doctrinaire feminists will never get on board, but there is another kind of feminist — my wife is one — who is glad that women have achieved equal rights with men under the law, and who does not want to see those rights threatened.

Once again, there were any number of women who fit that description at the conference. They, too, have a personal interest in making sure that Islam does not triumph, and their commitment is just as strong as my own.

Part of my job is to work with these various groups and help coordinate common action among them. This isn’t theoretical for me; it’s quite real and practical. It’s also very difficult.

Those who denigrate what Lord Pearson is doing have probably never attempted to walk the same tightrope that he is now on.

Issues like these surface repeatedly in discussions about anti-jihad strategy and tactics. At one extreme are the doctrinal purists, who condemn or hold in contempt those who advocate anything less than deportation of all Muslims, or who want to form alliances that include left-of-center opponents of Islamization. At the other extreme are the squishy politically correct folks who oppose radical Islam, but tie themselves in knots trying to reach out to “moderate” Muslims and avoid anything that might earn them the “racist” soubriquet.

Most of us are somewhere in between. We’re willing to compromise on side issues in order to build a broad Counterjihad coalition, but refuse to budge on our core principles, which — unfortunately for the squishes — are most emphatically politically incorrect.

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Some critics are adamant that the current situation vis-à-vis Islam in the West has no political solution, and is doomed to end in violent confrontation, civil war, and mass bloodshed.

One senses an element of schadenfreude in this assessment. After all these years of betrayal and invasion, and in the face of the imminent destruction of Western culture, the desire for catharsis is understandable.

It’s also easier than all the alternatives. Since nothing can be done, just stock up on weapons and ammo and be ready for the moment when things go sideways. Why attempt the hard slog towards a political solution when you know for certain that such a course is futile? Better to wait for the inevitable explosion, and then join the fighting in the streets.

Although I can sympathize with such sentiments, I find myself unable to share the enthusiasm for these chiliastic scenarios. It’s important to remember the hideous reality that would result if such events were ever to unfold: the disappearance of civil society, mounds of rotting corpses in the streets, looting, rape, random murder, famine, epidemics — this is what awaits us if we abandon the search for alternative solutions.

I’m not sanguine about the apocalypse, because my family members and friends would likely be among the corpses. And I’m under no illusions about my own physical prowess or skill with weapons, so I’m certain to be lying out there covered with flies and being pecked by vultures like so many others.

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However satisfying it is to contemplate civil war as a solution, the reality of that result is something that very few of us would actually want to face. So I will continue to look for alternative futures. I believe that other solutions are possible, but they will require patience, hard work, flexibility, and compromise.

Unfortunately, they will also include at least some violent confrontations. The Western Disease has progressed to the point that a completely peaceful resolution is no longer available to us. However, we don’t have to opt for the apocalyptic solution, even if it is more satisfactory and requires less effort.

So what are the alternatives?
- – - - – - – - -
Mr. SnoidOur current political establishments are not uniform, but every nation in the West is possessed by the politically correct multicultural demon to a greater or lesser degree. The political classes, the academics, the media snoids, the leaders of mainstream religious denominations — all require exorcism.

Virtually all of them would recoil in horror at any solution that might conceivably turn back the tide of Islamization.

Most of them would literally rather die — and see their own civilization destroyed — than be viewed as “racist” or “intolerant”. We are tolerating ourselves to death.

This means that a political solution is not possible within the existing governing structures and under the current paradigm. How, then, do we create a climate in which change might conceivably occur? Yes, revolution would do the job. But how do we overthrow the dominant paradigm and create a new one without mass fratricidal bloodshed?

Obviously there are no easy answers. A political solution will require time and patience, and we have very little of the former, while most people lack the latter.

If there is to be non-revolutionary and (mostly) non-violent change, it must come from incremental grassroots organizing. I know from experience that building a grassroots network is a tedious, thankless, time-consuming, and unromantic operation.

It involves real tolerance, not the PC kind. It demands listening to different points of view, understanding them, and accepting them, even if full agreement can never be reached.

It means keeping the larger goal in mind while consciously avoiding any focus on points of difference.

For example: I believe in God, but many of the people I deal with are atheists. Some of them are of the orthodox variety, which means they proselytize for their faith and are angry at those who don’t share their beliefs. I have to put aside my annoyance and avoid taking offense, because orthodox atheists are an invaluable asset to the Counterjihad.

On the other side are the Christians who oppose any accommodation with homosexuality or abortion. They, too, are bastions against the Islamization of the West.

This approach contains something to offend virtually everyone. Most groups in such a coalition have reason to hate one another. Keeping them together under a single umbrella is a Herculean task, but it is something we must strive for if we intend to win this struggle.

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One of the common problems within the Counterjihad is what I call the “we statement”. Here are some examples:

  • We need to deport all Muslims to their countries of origin.
  • We should take strong military action against countries that support Islamic terrorism
  • We must hold our traitorous politicians to account
  • We should nuke Mecca and Medina
  • We need to forbid the construction of mosques in Western countries
  • We must eradicate Islam from the face of the earth

…and so on.

OK, I agree with at least some of these ideas. But to what effect?

Take a look at the political situation in the West right now. The real one, that is, not the one you wish we had.

The leftmost wing of the Democratic Party in the United States holds power, and will control the permanent bureaucracy for the foreseeable future.

Social Democrats are in control of most European countries, and the Center-Right alternative is only microscopically better. With the exception of the Netherlands — which may change drastically after the next elections — there is no hope that things will change within the existing political structure. When the Lisbon Treaty takes hold and codifies the EUSSR, matters will become even worse.

The situation in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is similar. No matter which party holds power, the general direction of affairs remains the same.

Throughout the West, the political elite have created a system which assures them of continued power, but also completely forbids them to roll back Multiculturalism or do anything to stop the Islamic juggernaut.

We are locked into our present course unless the system itself changes.

And the only way the system will change — assuming we forego the option of bloody revolution — will be through the grassroots. Change cannot and will not come from the top down.

Like it or not, if you want to avoid both sharia and corpse-strewn streets, you will have to undertake the tedious, difficult, and thankless task of building a broad coalition.

Forget what “we” should do. “We” can’t do any of those things.

But there are things that can be done, and I prefer to concentrate on those.

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The first thing we must eschew is the pronouncing of anathema against those with whom we disagree. Instead, let’s focus on what we can agree on.

It’s important to remember the core objectives and principles that must not be compromised. They are few and easy to enumerate:

1.   We categorically refuse to accept sharia law in any form and to any degree.
2.   Mass immigration, especially from Muslim countries, must cease.
3.   No special provisions for Islam in the West are acceptable. Muslims must be subject to the same laws and restrictions as the rest of us, no matter how much they are offended by them.

Those are straightforward and easy to understand. Any person or group who adheres to these three objectives should be welcome in a coalition — provided that they are willing to work with different groups with which they may disagree on other issues.

And there’s the rub. What we see to an alarming degree today is that people refuse to work with one another, to the detriment of all who oppose Islamization.

Atheists won’t work with Christians.

Evangelical Christians won’t work with gays.

Libertarians won’t work with Socialists.

People who believe there are no moderate Muslims won’t work with those who believe the opposite.

And on and on and on.

This constant energy-draining intramural fighting will literally be the death of us. When the mujahideen roll up to our doorsteps and put their knives to our necks, at least we can reassure ourselves that we never for an instant wavered from the correct ideology.

We may be dead, but by God, our doctrine remained pure right up until the very end.

Once again, I’ll ask the same question I’ve asked so many times before:

Would you rather be right, or effective?

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To return to Malcolm Everard MacLaren Pearson, Baron Pearson of Rannoch.

Lord Pearson wants to have an effect on “mild” Muslims. But you don’t think that mild Muslims exist.

So what?

Lord Pearson is staunchly against sharia, vehemently opposes further immigration, and insists that Muslims in the UK must submit to the same rules as native Britons.

Would you rather remain pure, forego an alliance with him, and lose any chance of working with thousands of people who support him and UKIP?

If you encounter groups of homosexuals or feminists who vigorously resist Islamization, would you refuse to have anything to do with them? Why?

It reminds me of the old Kingston Trio song:

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don’t like anybody very much

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off, and we will all be blown away

We’re headed for that punch line unless we can figure out how to find common ground with one another and work together.

Building workable coalitions is a hard enough job in itself, but after that comes the really difficult work: designing a plan for effective action.

I want to concentrate on accomplishing Step One so that we can move on to Step Two, which is a long and dangerous task.

Gathering in Piccadilly to Oppose Sharia

Update: a photo of the Piccadilly demo has come in:

Piccadilly demo


Anjem Choudary has canceled his March for Sharia in the UK, but the counter-demonstration organized in London by opponents of sharia is continuing as planned.

The ICLA media team reports live from Piccadilly Circus:

There are about 200 anti-sharia activists in Piccadilly Circus and lots of press and photographers. It is a multi-racial gathering, and there are many Union Jacks on display.

Obviously, there are no Muslim demonstrators to counter, but people are showing their opposition to sharia law in Britain. The protest is very peaceful and good-spirited.

We will have some photos later on.

Steve Gash of SIOE is present, as is another English Democrat member of UKIP, Magnus Nielsen (updated).

Some placards that are being carried by the crowd:

- – - - – - – - -

  • Debate those who insult Islam you might change a mind
  • Liberal democracy will rule the world
  • Freedom is here to stay
  • Free speech will dominate the world
  • Pluralism the true solution

Some of the organisations and groups represented:

  • Iranian TV
  • Iranian activists
  • March for England
  • Mild Muslims

As of right now, there are about 200-300 demonstrators present.

Choudary has organised another event but the protesters at Piccadilly are waiting to find out the venue, and then will then go to that location.

I’ll post new reports as they come in.

Amnesty and Pardon for White Folks Redux

From Walter Williams, the economist at George Mason University, a gift to all the worried whiteys out there.

I post this Proclamation occasionally to remind you that all has long been forgiven. Go have a beer on Dr. Williams and ignore the President’s attacks.

Remember cries of “raaacism” are so…so utterly 2007. Time to move on.

Walter Williams says so.

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Walter Williams header


Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon Granted to All Persons of European Descent

Whereas, Europeans kept my forebears in bondage some three centuries toiling without pay,

Whereas, Europeans ignored the human rights pledges of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution,

Whereas, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments meant little more than empty words,

Therefore, Americans of European ancestry are guilty of great crimes against my ancestors and their progeny.

But, in the recognition Europeans themselves have been victims of various and sundry human rights violations to wit: the Norman Conquest, the Irish Potato Famine, Decline of the Hapsburg Dynasty, Napoleonic and Czarist adventurism, and gratuitous insults and speculations about the intelligence of Europeans of Polish descent,

I, Walter E. Williams, do declare full and general amnesty and pardon to all persons of European ancestry, for both their own grievances, and those of their forebears, against my people.

Therefore, from this day forward Americans of European ancestry can stand straight and proud knowing they are without guilt and thus obliged not to act like damn fools in their relationships with Americans of African ancestry.

Walter E. Williams, Gracious and Generous Grantor

[Proclamation Ends Here]

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/30/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/30/2009The appalling, disgusting, shameful administration of President Barack Hussein Obama has pressured Honduras into accepting the return of ousted President Mel Zelaya. If there was ever an indication of the depths to which our foreign policy has sunk, this is it.

In other news, about a hundred illegal Kurdish immigrants have landed by boat on the coast of the Italian province of Calabria.

Thanks to Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, Diana West, Fausta, Insubria, JD, KGS, LN, NRTW, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

Financial Crisis
Central Banks Chill Asset Rally
Italy: Recovery Not Certain, Draghi Warns
 
USA
Jamie Glazov: Sean Penn’s Cuba Odyssey
‘Muslim Mafia’ Linked to Detroit FBI Shootout
Muslim Congressman Defends CAIR
Proof! White House Part of Push for ‘Obama Art’
Sting: Obama is ‘Sent From God’
Terror Arrests Compel US Muslims to Talk About Their Faith
Why Your Representatives Should Make You Mad as Hell
Worker Advocate Calls on Newt Gingrich to Rescind Endorsement of Big Labor Ally Dede Scozzafava
 
Europe and the EU
Berlusconi Tells Ballarò — “The Opposition in Italy is the Communist Judiciary”
England Chief Medical Officer Calls H1N1 Vaccine Resistors “Extremists”
Europe’s Obama Fatigue: Bush Was Better for Europe. No, Seriously.
Europe Puts Figure on Green Aid to Push Climate Change Deal
Germany: Infamous Islamist Imam Forswears Terror
Italy: Foreign Missions: 224. 8 Mln Allocated
Italy: Al-Qaeda Linked Terror Suspects Go on Trial
Italy: Northern City Ban ‘Sex Shops’, Laundrettes and Kebabs
Italy: Modena Cherry Jam Gets EU Label
Italy: Marrazzo Resigns After Sex Scandal
Marrazzo: Berlusconi, Gave Him Number of Agency With Film
Mentally Ill Man Behind Gothenburg Bomb Scare
Spain ‘Angry’ At Israel’s Move to Extend Italy’s UN Command
Swiss Summon Italian Ambassador
The Arctic Sea Ends Mystery Voyage in Malta With Russian Guards
UK: Boney Blair’s EU Bid in Crisis: Brown in Angry Clashes as Even Socialist Allies Will Not Back Ex-PM
UK: New Vetting Checks Designed to Protect Children Have Gone ‘Too Far’, Judges Rule
 
Balkans
Serbia-Law Enforcement Cooperation Accord Signed
 
Mediterranean Union
France: Audit Board, Spending ‘Deviations’ For EU Presidency
 
North Africa
Tunisia: Reporter Claims Thugs Beat Him for ‘Offending’ Leader’s Wife
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Hamas: Fatah and Islamic Movement Behind Clashes
TV: Abbas Disappointed by Obama, Resignation Possible
U.N. Probe of Israel ‘Used False Witnesses’
Video Message From Obama: Don’t Forget Rabin’s Pledge
 
Middle East
Amil Imani: Saluting Cyrus the Great on His Day
Economy: Turkish Businessmen Complain for Syrian Bureaucracy
In the Muslim World, Creationism is on the Rise
Iran Rejects Deal to Ship Out Uranium, Officials Report
Iran-Turkey: Erdogan in Teheran for Trade and Atomic Crisis
Kuwait: Veil No Longer Required for Women Deputies
Lebanon: Israel for Extension Italian UNIFIL Command, Press
New Al-Qaeda Video May Show First Footage of Terror Chief Since 2007
The Vessel of Turkey’s Muslim Brothers Has Surfaced in Calm Waters
Turkey-USA: PM Erdogan to Meet Obama in December
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Hero Contractor Recounts Fighting Off Taliban
Clinton Questions Pakistan’s Willingness to Go After Bin Laden
Diana West: Which Target is Our Own Bullseye?
Indonesia: Women Banned From Wearing Trousers and Jeans
Jakarta: More Violence Against Students of Christian Theology
Pakistan Army Picks Up Trail of Al-Qaeda Operative Wanted for 9/11
Sumatra: Muslims Protest Against a Catholic Chapel
 
Far East
Philippines: Jolo: Fear of Attacks, Masses Cancelled for the All Saints and All Souls
 
Latin America
Chavez: Sean Penn May Make Film in Venezuela
Honduran Government Caves in to US Pressure, Agrees to Zelaya’s Restitution
 
Immigration
Around 100 Kurds Land in Calabria
Italy: Immigrants Now 7.2% of Population
Italy-Greece: Mixed Patrols at Ports
UK: A-Maize-Ing Cargo! 14 Illegal Immigrants Caught Sneaking Into UK in Tanker Carrying 25 Tonnes of Starch Powder
 
Culture Wars
Muslim Advocacy Group Also Blasts ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Episode

Financial Crisis


Central Banks Chill Asset Rally

The liquidity tide is turning. Authorities across large parts of the world have either begun to tighten the spigot or are taking steps to wean their economies off emergency stimulus. This is a treacherous moment for markets.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Italy: Recovery Not Certain, Draghi Warns

Bank of Italy governor says country needs reforms

(ANSA) — Rome, October 29 — While the global economic free-fall appears to have stopped, it is not for certain that a long-lasting recovery has began, Bank of Italy Governor Mario Draghi said on Thursday.

In an address marking World Savings Day, Draghi explained that a real recovery needed to be “based on factors other than special economic policy measures” adopted to deal with the crisis.

Draghi, who is also chairman of the Group of 20’s Financial Stability Board (FSB), observed that in regard to the Italian economy, “the acute phase of the crisis is over and gross domestic product was back on the rise in the third quarter after declining for over a year”.

Nevertheless, he warned, while some factors did appear favorable, others remained critical including the slump in domestic consumer demand.

The employment picture also remained gloomy, he added, with a 3.3% year-on-year drop in people holding jobs in September, a trend expected to continue for the rest of the year.

After this past year’s global financial crunch and subsequent economic downturn, Draghi observed, “nothing will be the same again and all players on financial markets, starting with banks, should accept this fact”.

According to the FSB chairman, “the market place should not forget that that the crisis was the consequence of its own imprudence”.

New market rules to ensure that a similar situation does not occur again, Draghi said, “must be introduced gradually in order not to hinder the economic recovery”. Looking at Italian banks, Draghi observed that “our banking system weathered the crisis better than many others. But we must not let our guard down because the system remains very fragile”.

Evidence of this, the governor added, was the fact that “the quality of credit continues to deteriorate sharply and the effects of the recession have already cut significantly into bank profits”.

In order to meet the challenges of the future, Draghi said, Italy “urgently needs to get back on the road to reforms to create the conditions for a greater economic growth, which is the foundation of financial stability”.

“We need to tackle our economy’s structural weaknesses in order to foster a lasting recovery, one which is not just based on exports,” he added.

GOVT TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES WITH CREDIT, TREMONTI SAYS.

Also marking World Savings Day was Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti who in his address said that the Italian government was examining ways to help small businesses obtain and manage credit once the current one-year moratorium on loan payments expires.

“We are thinking about one or more assistance funds, the structure of which need to be compatible with the market,” the minister explained.

The moratorium, he added, “was good but it is not enough”. The Italian Banking Association (ABI) and associations representing small businesses and other enterprises, including farms, signed an accord in August to suspend payments on borrowed capital for one year, although interest on the capital will still have to be paid. The accord also suspended payments on capital included in leasing agreements, for both real estate and non-real estate assets, and extended by 270 days the deadlines for the prepayment of short-term loans. One approach the government may take, Tremonti said, could be adjusting taxation, granting greater deductions, “because personally I prefer to help businesses directly rather than work through the banks”. “In any case, there will probably be a combination of approaches”,” he added. In his address, Tremonti also spoke about Italy’s pension system which he said “is one of the most stable in Europe”. This stability was obtained, he explained, “thanks to the consent of our institutions and a responsible position adopted by the social parties”. Looking at Italy’s position in Europe, Tremonti said “we are on the same level as France and Germany and in a more solid position than Britain, Ireland and Spain. In fact, in many ways we are better off than Germany and France”.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi sent a message to mark World Savings Day in which he said “the worst part of the financial crisis would appear to be behind us and, while slow, a recovery has begun”. According to Berlusconi, the economic downturn is being overcome “thanks to the decisions made on a global level as well as the fact that all institutional, social and economic players in this country fulfilled their roles in a positive way”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

USA


Jamie Glazov: Sean Penn’s Cuba Odyssey

Sean Penn is in Castro’s Cuba on another one of his political pilgrimages. This time he’s seeking an interview with his hero, the communist despot Fidel Castro.

Penn scored interviews last year with two of his other secular gods: Cuban president and executioner Raul Castro and Marxist tyrant Hugo Chavez. Now he is apparently on assignment for Vanity Fair to meet and interview Castro.

This is only to be expected from Penn, of course, since few Hollywood stars represent liberal Hollywood better in terms of venerating communist and Islamist butchers than Penn. A member of leftist anti-war organizations Not In Our Name and Artists United to Win Without War and an avid supporter of MoveOn.org, he has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war, a leader in fellow traveling and a champion of jihadi terrorists.

Let’s take a little look back at Penn’s romance with tyranny and terror:

[…]

Penn continued his anti-war activism throughout the war and after, which included another trip he took to Iraq in late 2003, during which he demonized U.S. efforts to defeat the jihadists and bring stability to the country. During that trip, Penn had to be saved by U.S. soldiers while conducting interviews in unsafe places. He did not reflect, naturally, on whether he owed any gratitude to the U.S. — or on why he was being attacked in the first place and by whom. In other words, moral clarity eluded him even when he himself was saved by his own nation from those who hated him and wanted him dead.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



‘Muslim Mafia’ Linked to Detroit FBI Shootout

Book: CAIR chief gave thousands to cop-killing jihad cell leader

Already under increased scrutiny after revelations in a new book, the Council on American-Islamic Relations now is defending itself against documented links to a federal case that drew national attention this week when an indicted Detroit imam was killed in an FBI raid.

Internal documents from an undercover investigation by the authors of “Muslim Mafia” show CAIR helped finance the legal appeal of Muslim cop-killer Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, who is named in the Detroit criminal complaint as the spiritual leader of a radical group that calls for violent action to establish a sovereign Islamic state within the U.S.

The federal complaint also states one of the 11 indicted followers of the imam who was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the FBI Wednesday, Luqman Ameen Abdullah, attended a mosque “affiliated with CAIR” in Windsor, Ontario, just across the Canadian border from Detroit.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Muslim Congressman Defends CAIR

‘We should be encouraging all Americans to engage in the U.S. political process’

A Muslim congressman says there is no need to investigate interns who may be placed with members of strategic security committees by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who took his oath of office holding his hand on a Quran instead of a Bible and had CAIR staff members working on his campaign, read a statement in Congress criticizing the call for an investigation.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Proof! White House Part of Push for ‘Obama Art’

Judicial Watch obtains e-mails from NEA on controversial call to artists

Freshly uncovered e-mails detail White House involvement in the National Endowment for the Arts’ controversial conference call encouraging artists to create work that promotes the Obama agenda.

[…]

“These e-mails shed new light on a very serious Obama administration scandal,” Judicial Watch said in a statement. “The NEA is supposed to foster the arts, not serve as a propaganda machine for the Obama White House. We will continue our investigation so we can provide the truth to the American people about this scandal.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Sting: Obama is ‘Sent From God’

Pop singer: ‘We are here to evolve as 1 family, and we can’t be separate anymore’

British recording artist Sting says President Barack Obama could be the answer to the world’s problems — the divine answer.

“In many ways, he’s sent from God, because the world’s a mess,” he said in a new interview with the Associated Press.

The comments from The Police’s lead singer, whose real name is Gordon Sumner, are just the latest in a long series of statements suggesting Obama’s connection to the supernatural.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Terror Arrests Compel US Muslims to Talk About Their Faith

The surge in arrests is setting off alarms among both native-born Muslims and immigrants groups. In some cases, these people say, federal authorities have overstepped their bounds.

“The FBI has shown that they consider it prudent from their point of view to be more aggressive with the Muslim community, and I think that’s largely because they can get away with it and there’s not going to be too much of an uproar,” says Ihsan Bagby, general secretary of the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA). Mr. Bagby finds the practice of sending informant agents into mosques without any provocation “well past acceptable.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Why Your Representatives Should Make You Mad as Hell

On top of their six-figure salaries and the millions in taxpayer dollars spent to maintain offices in their home state and in the nation’s capital, Congress also enjoys other benefits such as free life insurance, a generous retirement plan for life, 32 fully reimbursed road trips home a year, and travel to foreign lands. Then there are the ‘extras,’ including discounts in Capitol Hill tax-free shops and restaurants, free reserved parking at Washington National Airport, use of the House gym or Senate baths for $100 a year, free fresh-cut flowers from the Botanic Gardens, and free assistance in the preparation of income taxes.

Unfortunately, there’s more. While more than 15 million Americans are currently out of work and the rest of the nation is laboring longer hours for less pay, Congress enjoys a three-day, Tuesday-to-Thursday work week. Believe it or not, since returning to session, the only time the House of Representatives has actually voted on a Friday was when they approved a 5.8 percent increase in their own budget.

Then there’s the way Congress manages the nation’s checkbook, running up deficits and spending outlandish sums of money on pork barrel projects. If you or I were to manage our finances this way, we’d quickly find ourselves out on the streets.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Worker Advocate Calls on Newt Gingrich to Rescind Endorsement of Big Labor Ally Dede Scozzafava

Gingrich accused of hypocrisy, asked to apologize to concerned Americans who signed his anti-Card Check Forced Unionism petition

           — Hat tip: NRTW [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Berlusconi Tells Ballarò — “The Opposition in Italy is the Communist Judiciary”

Premier’s phone call to RAI3 programme: “Publicly owned television puts prime minister on trial without right of reply”

MILAN — In a surprise phone call to the Ballarò TV programme, the prime minister Silvio Berlusconi again attacked judges — on the eve of the Mills appeal verdict — and publicly owned television. He also referred to his phone call to Piero Marrazzo about the video of the Lazio regional president.

ATTACK — Silvio Berlusconi’s intervention arrived at the end of the discussion programme in which Rosi Bindi and Pier Ferdinando Casini debated current affairs issues, including cuts to the IRAP regional business tax and the crisis, with ministers Ignazio La Russa and Angelino Alfano. But Mr Berlusconi’s first thrust was aimed at the judiciary: “The Italian anomaly is not Silvio Berlusconi. It’s the communist public prosecutors and magistrates in Milan who have been attacking Berlusconi in every way they can since he entered politics. Public prosecutors are the real opposition in Italy”. The premier then berated presenter Giovanni Floris over the programme’s content and repeated the attack on public television he has made on other occasions: “You put me on public trial without right of reply on television paid for by all Italian citizens. I remind you that television is not your property. I have seen the contributions of leftwing politicians. I have observed this festival of falsehoods and defamation. Italy’s publicly owned television has an absolute predominance of leftwing journalists and leftwing programmes, and it attacks the government”. The situation is “unique in the whole of the western world”. Mr Berlusconi went on: “The latest poll, which I have here in front of me, says that the government has a 54% approval rating, the prime minister is on 68% and the Democratic Party, which has gone back to being the Communist Party with Bersani’s election, is on 25%”.

QUESTIONS AND QUIP — After this outburst, Giovanni Floris managed to offer some sort of right of reply and the atmosphere became more relaxed. Mr Berlusconi replied to several questions on Giulio Tremonti (“We have cleared up all the misunderstandings with certain members of the government and the policy of rigour continues”), on the reduction of IRAP (“It will be done as soon as possible and this will depend on how the crisis evolves”) and one from Concita De Gregorio, editor of l’Unità newspaper, on the Marrazzo affair. The premier replied: “My daughter told me about the Marrazzo video speaking as daughter to father. Mondadori turned it down because Mondadori is not La Repubblica or l’Espresso. I phoned Marrazzo and gave him the agency’s phone number, leaving it up to him whether to make a statement about what had happened”. As the programme closed, there an exchange of banter with Floris: “Prime minister, how is your scarlet fever going?” the presenter asked. “Come to my home and I’ll be happy to infect you”, quipped the premier.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

Article in Italian

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



England Chief Medical Officer Calls H1N1 Vaccine Resistors “Extremists”

The Chief Medical Officer in England has described those who are speaking out against the mass swine flu vaccination campaign as “extremists”.

England Chief Medical Officer Calls H1N1 Vaccine Resistors Extremists 301009vaccineThe comment made by Sir Liam Donaldson, the government’s senior advisor on health matters, was highlighted in a Times of London article today.

“We have had a lot of unfair public criticism and attacks in an attempt to scare people about a vaccine that’s potentially life-saving,” Donaldson said in reference to anti-vaccination posters depicting the H1N1 shot as a “weapon of mass destruction”.

“We have seen it before with vaccines like MMR [the combined jab for measles, mumps and rubella], and now extremists are doing the same thing again.” he added.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary added:

“Vaccination is our best defence against this virus and I urge everyone who is in the priority groups to accept the vaccine when invited to do so.”

Donaldson’s remarks are ill thought out considering the fact that senior neurologists have voiced concerns over the adjuvants in the H1N1 flu vaccine and the fact that it has been rushed through safety procedures, with manufacturers provided with blanket immunity from potential lawsuits.

In addition, multiple opinion polls have revealed that half of GPs in Britain have severe reservations and doubts over the safety of the shot.

[Return to headlines]



Europe’s Obama Fatigue: Bush Was Better for Europe. No, Seriously.

U.S. President Barack Obama is so beloved in Europe that he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize (which he later won) just 12 days after taking office for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples.” A Pew survey this summer found that 93 percent of Germans, 91 percent of French people, and 86 percent of Brits believed Obama “will do the right thing in world affairs,” a stunning turnaround from their views on the last administration. Yet, this perception belies the reality that Obama has done much less for Europe than his predecessor.

Despite George W. Bush’s defiant “you’re with us or you’re against us” public stance, he actively solicited advice and input from his NATO partners. Obama, by contrast, is saying all the right things in public about transatlantic relations and NATO but adopting a high-handed policy and paying little attention to Europe. And Europe is taking a hint.

The signs are telling, the most important but least reported of which are Obama’s choice of staffing. To be sure, there are some very prominent Atlanticists in the administration. Gen. James Jones, the previous chairman of the Atlantic Council and former supreme allied commander, is national security advisor. And current Atlantic Council Chairman Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) has just been appointed as co-chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board. But many important working-level posts in both the State Department and the National Security Council (NSC) are unfilled. Most notably, the EU portfolio at the State Department has been treated as a political hot potato, currently being handled as an additional duty by the Balkans director.

With such a dreadfully weak human infrastructure at home, it’s no wonder next week’s U.S.-EU summit is expected to be a non-event. The preparations have thus far mostly focused on protocol rather than policy. The Europeans are particularly irritated that the luncheon will be hosted by Vice President Joseph Biden rather than the U.S. president himself. Under the previous administration, Bush regularly presided.

On Afghanistan, which all agree is the alliance’s most critical mission, the Europeans are also feeling a bit lorded over. As Jackson Diehl put it, the region’s leaders are “frustrated that they must watch and wait — and wait and wait — for the [U.S.] president to make up his mind.” Mark Mardell, BBC’s North America editor, reported “a growing sense of frustration” at the NATO defense ministers meeting in Slovakia last week over being held in limbo.

Even in Britain, where the public loves Obama, the government has been obsessed, after repeated slights — the infamous CD set gifted to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a press conference canceled due to light snow (or was it fatigue?), being denied a private meeting with Obama at the Pittsburgh summit, etc. — with the notion that the two countries’ “special relationship” is over. To be sure, some of this is overblown — and hardly new — but Obama has been less solicitous of his country’s most natural ally than any U.S. president in memory.

America’s relationship with France bounced back markedly after Nicolas Sarkozy was elected to replace Jacques Chirac. But there have been more than a few bumps since Obama took office. “Obama’s policies are not the Atlanticism that Sarkozy was expecting,” Macleans quotes Hall Gardner, a professor of international politics at the American University of Paris, as saying. “There’ve been several elements of disagreement between the two.”

Some of this can surely be attributed to Sarkozy’s personal pique over upstart Obama stealing some of his thunder — what the press has dubbed his “Obama complex” — as the U.S. president did by swooping in to take credit for China’s concessions at the G-20, for example. But there is legitimate frustration over the handling of issues as well. Most famously, of course, Sarkozy complained at the United Nations that “President Obama dreams of a world without weapons but right in front of us two countries [Iran and North Korea] are doing the exact opposite.” There are also sharp differences over troop levels and strategic objectives in Afghanistan, Turkey’s candidacy for the European Union, and the future of the French nuclear arsenal.

But if Obama’s ratings are slowly falling on the continent, one place where they are already low — lower than Bush’s, certainly — is in the countries that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dubbed “New Europe.” While Bush made Eastern and Central Europe a top priority — as evidenced by the missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic and the push for NATO expansion for Georgia and Ukraine — his successor is clearly more concerned about relations with Russia, the very country whose influence New Europe is trying to avoid.

Obama’s handling of the policy reversal on missile defense, in particular, has drawn sharp rebukes from the region, mostly on the execution rather than the policy itself. A Polish official was quoted by United Press International proclaiming that, “Waking Czech Prime Minister Fisher at midnight European time, and calling President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Tusk — who refused to take the call — 70 years to the day that Russia invaded Poland — is politically inept and very offensive.” Another official added, “this simply confirms how unimportant Europe is to the U.S., despite President Obama’s words to the contrary.”

To be sure, this criticism is somewhat overstated. But, as Bush learned to his chagrin, perception can become reality.

And indeed, while most European heads of state dutifully congratulated Obama after the surprise announcement of his Nobel win, the European press was as stunned as their American counterparts. The Independent’s Ian Birrell assessed that Obama was being “once again lauded for his symbolism and potential rather than his actual deeds.” Peter Beaumont of The Guardian equally snarked, “The reality is that the prize appears to have been awarded to Barack Obama for what he is not. For not being George W. Bush. Or rather being less like the last president.”

It would be ironic, indeed, if the Europeans started longing for the good old days of the Bush administration. But that nostalgia is closer than you might think.

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



Europe Puts Figure on Green Aid to Push Climate Change Deal

Europe is to breathe life into the faltering search for a new global deal on climate change by pledging billions of pounds in financial support for poor countries, the Guardian can reveal.

European heads of state will formally recommend this week that rich countries should hand over around €100bn (£90bn) a year to nations such as India and Vietnam by 2020 to help them cope with the impact of global warming. The pledge is expected to come at the end of a two-day summit of European leaders on Thursday and Friday, and before negotiations on a new climate treaty in Copenhagen in December.

[…]

Such a move would leave the US with a bill running to tens of billions a year, unlikely to go down well in Washington.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Germany: Infamous Islamist Imam Forswears Terror

In 2001, imam Mohammed El Fazazi of Morocco preached that it it is a Muslim obligation to “slit the throats of non-believers” in a Hamburg mosque. Among his listeners and star pupils were Mohammed Atta, Ramzi Binalshibh and Marwan al-Shehhi, three of the men who participated in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Today, eight years later, Mohammed El Fazazi has foresworn acts of terrorism against Western targets. “I admit that I went too far and overshot the target,” he wrote in an open letter to his daughter, who lives in Hamburg, and Muslims living in Germany.

Muslims living in Germany, he said, should draw attention to themselves and their issues through “peaceful demonstrations, strikes and protests that are far removed from indiscriminate attacks” and the “killing of innocent people with the argument of killing kuffar,” or non-believers.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Italy: Foreign Missions: 224. 8 Mln Allocated

(AGI) — Rome, 28 Oct — The decree law for refinancing of foreign missions until 31 December 2009 has set aside 224.8 million euros. “Compared with the 181 million already allocated,” said Defence Minister La Russa, “the rise in expenditure to 224.8 is justified by the additional 400 soldiers to Afghanistan and a slower than expected return of troops from Kosovo.” La Russa said that the difference between 181 and 224.8 million was the burden of the Foreign and Defence Ministries, and noted that in the November-December period soldiers in Afghanistan numbered 3150, those in Lebanon 2080.

La Russa said that “in Lebanon there has been a very small reduction in the form of 20 soldiers. The reduction of the contingent in Lebanon will be larger when we hand over the command. However, a brief lengthening of the Italian mandate is possible.”

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



Italy: Al-Qaeda Linked Terror Suspects Go on Trial

Bologna, 29 October (AKI) — The trial of five Muslim terrorism suspects has began in the northern Italian city of Bologna. The suspects were arrested in 2007 by Italian anti-terrorism police in the cities of Ravenna and Imola in the Emilia-Romagna region. They have been charged with subversion aimed at committing acts of international terrorism and fraud. An unnamed sixth suspect who is on the run is being tried in absentia.

The defendants are accused of plotting terrorist acts in Iraq and Afghanistan and recruiting other jihadist sympathisers to carry out the planned attacks, according to prosecutors.

Following a three-year investigation, prosecutors issued police with six arrest warrants in August 2007. The five suspects were named as: Khalil Jarraya, head of a suspected jihadist-Salafite cell with links to Al-Qaeda; fellow Tunisians Hecmi Msaadi, Mohamed Chabchoub and Chedli Ben Bergaoui; and Moroccan national Mourad Mazi.

Jarraya, known as ‘the colonel’ because he had fought on the side of Muslims during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, is an illegal immigrant from the Tunisian city of Sfax. He was living on ‘zakat’ or alms given to him by pious Muslims who attended the mosque in the city of Faenza, where he lived with his family, according to investigators.

Msaadi, aged 31 is a resident of Imola and according to investigators was at the time of his arrest poised to travel to Iraq. Chabchoub, 41, who like Jaraya is from Sfax, is married and has two daughters. An IT expert, he was allegedly in contact with other suspected terrorists via the Internet.

Ben Bergaoui, aged 34 anni, a resident of Imola, was arrested at Bologna’s train station as he was about to take a train to the northwestern port city of Genoa and board a ferry for Tunisia. Thirty-three-year-old Mazi, is also a resident of Imola.

Several witnesses have already been heard, including the imam of Imola’s mosque. The imam told the court on Wednesday that unauthorised funds had been gathered at the mosque to help the families of needy mosque goers.

The trial has been adjourned until 20 January.

The police investigation of the suspected cell began after police found a box full of documents in Arabic and jihadist CDs at a property in Imola, according to local press reports.

The cell members are also accused of providing logistical and financial support to international terrorism although defence lawyers say the documents and CDs only indicate the suspects were interested in radical Islamic ideology.

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



Italy: Northern City Ban ‘Sex Shops’, Laundrettes and Kebabs

Prato, 29 October (AKI) — The northern Italian city of Prato has decided to ban the sale of sex-shops, laundrettes and the sale of kebabs in the city-centre. It claims the move is aimed at preserving Prato’s cultural, traditional and environmental heritage.

“Our intention is to contain the cases of urban decay which is being seen in many parts of Prato’s historic centre, and thus to improve decorum, which will upgrade the entire city,” said the municipality of Prato said in a statement.

The municipality has singled out certain businesses which it considers considered “incompatible” with this aim.

“Among the incompatible activities inside the Urban Pedestrian Zones (APU) are the handcrafted cooking of foods such as Kebabs and similar, which are different from those ‘traditional’ ones, as well as self-service laundrymats, game rooms, sex shops, discount and hard-discount stores, phone centres, Internet points and money transfer places,” said the note.

“Activities considered incompatible with the area’s cultural and environmental characteristics cannot be set-up.”

The move has already been approved temporarily by the district council and will become part of new regulations for the historic centre, to which the current centre-right administration will give final approval in the next few months.

Prato, located in the region of Tuscany and has a population of 185,000 inhabitants. Since the 1950s it has been a destination for immigrants from within Italy also a substantial number of Chinese immigrants in recent decades.

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



Italy: Modena Cherry Jam Gets EU Label

‘Amarene Brusche di Modena’ stretches Italy’s food lead

(ANSA) — Brussels, October 29 — A traditional sour cherry jam produced near Modena has become the latest Italian food speciality to obtain a European Union protected label for its unique quality.

The Amarene Brusche di Modena jam was awarded a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) seal by the European Commission on Thursday along with ‘grelos’ turnips from northern Spain and meat-and-vegetable-filled dumplings from Germany, ‘Schwabische Maultaschen’.

Some 850 European products have been awarded one of the EU’s three protected origin laurels, which aside from the PGI include the PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) and the TSG (Traditional Guaranteed Speciality).

The last Italian laureate was ‘Ciauscolo’, a large sausage from the Marche region, which got a PGI in August.

Italy far outdistances France and Spain for the number of its products which have qualified for one of the three EU quality seals, about 180.

Recent additions have included Sicily’s ‘Pagnotta del Dittaino’ bread with a PDO label; Roman suckling lamb, abbacchio romano, which earned a PGI label; and Modena’s balsamic vinegar with a PGI label.

Italian culinary glories like Parmigiano, buffalo mozzarella, mortadella, lardo di Colonnata, Ascoli olives, pesto sauce and Pachino plum tomatos have been protected for some time but lesser-known munchies like Mt Etna prickly pears and Paestum artichokes have also swelled the ranks along with saffron from San Gimignano and L’Aquila.

A range of salamis, rices, honeys and nuts are also on the protected list.

Some other notable recent Italian entries have been: a golden tench from Piedmont, the Tinca Gobba Dorata, which got a PDO; salty anchovies from the Ligurian Sea, which got a PGI; the Casatella cheese from Treviso, which got a PDO; a spring onion from Nocera Inferiore, which got a PDO; a chestnut from Roccadaspide, also in Campania, which got a PGI; bread from Matera in Basilicata, which got a PGI; an onion from Tropea in Calabria, which got a PGI; and a salame from Sant’Angelo in Sicily, which also got a PGI.

Several up-and-coming regional wines have earned TGIs.

PDO identifies a product whose characteristics are exclusively dependant on a geographical origin and whose productive phases all take place in the specified area.

PGI defines a product whose characteristics can be connected with its geographical origin and that has at least one productive phase located in the specified area.

TGS distinguishes a product, whose raw materials, composition or recipe, production method or transformation, are of a traditional type.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Marrazzo Resigns After Sex Scandal

Lazio president says ‘extreme suffering’ led to decision

(ANSA) — Rome, October 27 — Lazio Region President Piero Marrazzo handed in his resignation on Tuesday in the wake of a sex scandal which rocked the political establishment last week.

“As a result of my extreme suffering, I am no longer useful to the citizens of Lazio,” the former president said in an open letter to his staff.

“I have always worked for the good of the community and hope that I will be recognized for it regardless of my personal errors”.

Marrazzo, of the opposition Democratic Party (PD), became the subject of a sex scandal last Friday amid a probe into charges that four Carabinieri police had blackmailed him over a video showing him with a transsexual prostitute. On Tuesday, Deputy President Esterino Montino expressed concern for Marrazzo’s health and said he was in “worrying condition”.

Montino said Marrazzo made the decision “to cut all ties with his political life” in the hopes of putting the scandal behind him.

On Monday, Marrazzo checked into a Rome hospital where he was diagnosed with acute stress and ordered to take a month’s rest. His lawyer, Luca Petrucci, told reporters that the former president had gone to a religious retreat near the capital to recuperate.

He was forced to change locations, however, as his original retreat, the Abbey of Montecassino southeast of Rome, was besieged by an army of reporters.

Marrazo had initially suspended himself from office and appointed Montino to oversee the region’s administration in his stead.

The PD leadership hoped that Marrazzo would postpone his resignation until December, which would have avoided a snap election and given the PD time to find a replacement candidate for the regional elections next March.

However, center-right MPs argued that Lazio had no provision allowing the delegation of power to deputies and clamored for an early vote.

Marrazzo’s resignation means that elections in Lazio could now be held on March 9, but since regional elections are scheduled to take place in several Italian regions on March 28, many MPs urged the government to take that into consideration.

Meanwhile, prosecutors probing the case against the Carabinieri who blackmailed Marrazzo said the former president was not under investigation. Marazzo, 51, a former TV journalist for state broadcasting corporation RAI, won the Lazio regional elections in 2005.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Marrazzo: Berlusconi, Gave Him Number of Agency With Film

(AGI) — Rome, 28 Oct — In Vespa’s book “Donna di cuori”, Berlusconi returned to speaking about the Marrazzo matter, pointing out the methods of his intervention (the information of daughter Marina, and the refusal by Mondadori to buy the film). “I saw the video,” said the Premier, “I picked up the phone and called president Marrazzo. I told him that there were images in circulation that could harm him, I gave him the number of the agency that offered the video and he cordially thanked me.” Vespa observed: it was said that you could have bribed the governor. “I did the exact opposite,” responded Berlusconi, “of what left-wing leaders would have.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Mentally Ill Man Behind Gothenburg Bomb Scare

A man wearing a bomb belt paralyzed central Gothenburg on Thursday evening when he boarded a tram heading for the city centre and threatened to blow it up.

The belt was later shown to contain explosives.

The man has since been identified as a 61-year-old suffering from a psychological disorder and is known to the police.

Police were forced to close Linnégatan and evacuate restaurants in the vicinity at around 5.30pm on Thursday evening, after the man threatened to blow up the number 6 tram.

Police units were able to storm the tram carriage at the Linnégatan/Olivedalsgatan stop and promptly overpower the man.

They forced him to remove his clothing, arrested him and then took him to Sahlgrenska hospital.

“The passengers were evacuated without problems. No one was hurt,” Frans Dahlén at Västra Götaland police told the TT news agency.

Bomb technicians have been able to conclude that the belt contained explosives. It could not however be detonated as the necessary electrical cables had not been correctly attached.

Traffic was seriously disrupted as a result of the police cordons covering the streets south of Linnéplatsen, one of the main thoroughfares in the western Swedish city.

The cordons were lifted at around 10pm and the city returned to normal.

The man is now suspected of attempted devastation endangering the public. He was also charged a month ago with firearms offences, according to a report in local newspaper Göteborgs -Posten on Friday morning.

The charges date back to September 6th when police were called to the 61-year-old’s home and were met with a note on the door which read: “I do not want any visits from neighbours. The situation has intensified. 357 Magnum!”.

Police then persuaded the man to open his door, at which point he explained that he was not feeling too good and that he planned to commit suicide, reaching for a shotgun in his kitchen.

The man will be appointed with a public defender on Friday and a remand hearing will probably take place on Sunday, the newspaper reports.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



Spain ‘Angry’ At Israel’s Move to Extend Italy’s UN Command

Jerusalem, 29 October (AKI) — A decision by Israel to allow Italy to maintain control over a United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon has sparked a diplomatic row with Spain. Media reports said the Spanish government was ‘angry’ at the decision by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Italy is currently in charge of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

Netanyahu secretly asked Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to extend for at least six months UNIFIL military commander Claudio Graziano’s tour of duty rather than handing over control to Spain as previously planned, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.

Haaretz said the issue has turned “into a serious diplomatic incident” and that Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak was asked to explain Israel’s actions during his visit to Madrid earlier this week.

According to Haaretz, the Israeli Defence Forces said that although there was no problem with a Spanish command of UNIFIL in principle, the current situation in Lebanon is “very sensitive at this time”. The IDF said replacing Graziano could create coordination problems and “destabilise the situation.”

In late August, the UN Security Council extended UNIFIL’s mandate for an extra year, commending its role together with Lebanon’s armed forces in restoring calm in the south of the country.

However, Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini said that Italy has the intention of handing over the command of UNIFIL to Spain and that only the UN can ask Italy to continue in the command of the peacekeeping force.

“Nobody has made a request to us about it. The request must come from the UN, from the secretary general,” said Frattini who also denied claims made by Spanish daily El Pais of a possible reduction of troops in Lebanon.

“We have just confirmed the missions, and with the same numbers (of troops). Therefore I once again deny El Pais’s claims once again,” said Frattini.

UNIFIL, established in 1978, is tasked with ensuring that the area between the Blue Line — demarcating the border between Israel and Lebanon — and the Litani River is clear of unauthorised weapons, personnel and equipment. UNIFIL also helps Lebanese armed forces ensure security.

According to the UN, there are 12,235 military personnel, supported by some 321 international civilian and 653 local civilian staff.

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



Swiss Summon Italian Ambassador

Bern ‘concerned’ over raids on Swiss bank branches

(ANSA) — Geneva, October 28 — Swiss authorities on Wednesday summoned Rome’s ambassador to Bern to explain the raids carried out by Italian finance police on 76 branches of Swiss banks in Italy on Tuesday, a government spokesman said.

Swiss Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin defined the actions by the Finance Guard, backed up by revenue service agents, as “a discriminatory act” and said his government was “concerned” over the raids, the Swiss ATS news agency reported.

Tuesday raids were the latest and most high-profile development in Italy’s crackdown on tax evasion, which has also included offering a tax amnesty for Italians who declare their foreign-held assets.

The 76 Swiss bank branches and finance company offices were ‘visited’ to determine whether they were providing “prompt and correct information” to Italian authorities, a statement from the Finance Guard said on Tuesday.

Italy announced in August that it was investigating the financial positions of 170,000 Italians believed to have assets abroad.

Earlier this month, Italian tax authorities estimated that the amount of financial assets held abroad illegally by Italian was in the neighborhood of 300 billion euros.

The Finance Guard said it based this calculation on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and that it included 125 billion euros deposited by Italians in Switzerland and 86 billion in Luxembourg.

The Italian government is cracking down on tax evasion in order to compensate for falling state revenue caused by the global economic downturn.

The government also needs to raise cash to offset the cost of tax cuts it has promised.

In order to lure capital back to Italy, the government’s tax amnesty, approved at the start of the month, said Italians need only pay 5% of back taxes owed to the state and would be given immunity from related crimes, including false accounting and illegally exporting capital. The Treasury estimates that it will raise some 4.5 billion euros from the amnesty.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



The Arctic Sea Ends Mystery Voyage in Malta With Russian Guards

The cargo ship allegedly hijacked by pirates amid claims that it was smuggling missiles to Iran has ended its three-month odyssey in Malta after being tested for nuclear contamination.

The Arctic Sea was allowed to enter the Grand Harbour in Valletta last night after the Maltese Civil Protection Department declared it free of radiation and chemical hazards. The Maltese-registered ship had been the focus of speculation that it was carrying Russian S300 advanced air-defence missiles to Iran.

Despite repeated promises to take it into port, the Russian Navy had held the Arctic Sea in international waters since seizing it from suspected pirates on August 17 off Cape Verde near West Africa, 2,500 miles (4,000km) off course.

The ship had been under guard by two Russian warships since then. An attempt to dock at Las Palmas in Grand Canary failed last month after disputes over the presence of Russian military officers. Algeria also refused to allow the Arctic Sea to enter its waters.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Boney Blair’s EU Bid in Crisis: Brown in Angry Clashes as Even Socialist Allies Will Not Back Ex-PM

Tony Blair’s audacious bid to become Europe’s first president is in crisis today.

As even Labour’s socialist allies refused to back him, Gordon Brown clashed angrily with other EU leaders, telling them to ‘get real’ and support the Blair candidacy.

The Prime Minister, for years Mr Blair’s most bitter rival, effectively launched the former leader’s presidential campaign at a summit in Brussels, hailing him as a ‘hard-headed champion of Europe’.

But France and Germany — seen as holding Mr Blair’s fate in their hands — were ‘going cold’ on the idea of handing him the new position, according to well-placed diplomatic sources.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: New Vetting Checks Designed to Protect Children Have Gone ‘Too Far’, Judges Rule

Criminal record checks have gone ‘too far’ and must be tilted back towards those wanting to work with children, the new Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

In a victory for campaigners fighting the rise of the Big Brother state, the Justices ordered an overhaul of enhanced criminal records bureau checks against anybody seeking a job with a vulnerable adult or child.

In particular, the presumption in favour of disclosing ‘soft intelligence’ against an applicant came under attack.

Each year, around 20,000 people have details of this type of information disclosed to potential employers, in many cases scuppering their hopes of gaining a job.

But Lord Neuberger said soft intelligence may constitute nothing more than ‘allegations of matters which are disputed by the applicant, or even mere suspicion or hints of matters which are disputed by the applicant’.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Serbia-Law Enforcement Cooperation Accord Signed

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, OCTOBER 29 — Interior Minister Ivica Dacic and Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich signed an agreement on law enforcement cooperation, reports radio B92. The agreement, signed in Jerusalem is related to the fight against drug and human trafficking, terrorism and organized crime. After the signing, Dacic said that the agreement is very useful because both Serbia and Israel have gone and are still going through a very difficult period, which has forced both states to maintain strong police forces. Dacic went on to say there is a number of areas in which the police forces of the two countries can cooperate, especially the battle against terrorism and organized crime, as well as information gathering and telecommunications. Aharonovich stressed the need to extend cooperation with Serbia because organized crime knows no borders. The Israeli minister also emphasized his interest in “personnel exchange programs”. At the meeting, Lieberman said that Serbia’s path to EU membership could be a solution to the problem of instability in the Balkans. “Political relations between Serbia and Israel are good, but cooperation should be deepened in the economic and cultural fields,” Lieberman said, mentioning the recent annulment of visas between the two countries. During the day, the Interior Ministry delegation visited the Yad Vashem Memorial Museum dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


France: Audit Board, Spending ‘Deviations’ For EU Presidency

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, OCTOBER 29 — Controversy in France refuses to subside regarding the expenses sustained by the government during the 6-month term of the EU presidency for the country. The president of the State Audit Board, Philippe Seguin, in a radio interview with Europe 1, returned today to highlight the “deviations” and “errors” by Sarkozy’s EU presidency from a public finance perspective. “There are a certain number of deviations and a certain number of errors,” said Seguin, adding: “operations were poorly planned, there was no real strategy.” According to a report compiled over the past days by the State Audit Board, Paris reportedly spent a million euros per day during his 6-month term as head of the EU, for a total of just over 170million euros. In particular, the report highlights record spending to organise the Mediterranean Union summit (2008) on July 13 at the Grand Palais. Everything cost over 16 million euros, including more than one million euros just on dinner and 245,000 euros to install a shower requested by President Sarkozy. In Paris, there is no international convention centre, replied Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Bernard Valero, explaining that “in the absence of specific infrastructure, we had to adapt a place like the Grand Palais. This is why we spent so much”. UMP spokesperson, Frederic Lefebvre of the majority, spoke about “slander”. According to him, the cost of the shower “is the result of a large group of expenses” involving also “the preparation of 8 halls with toilettes for the heads of state.”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Tunisia: Reporter Claims Thugs Beat Him for ‘Offending’ Leader’s Wife

Tunis, 29 October (AKI) — A Tunisian journalist, Salim Bukhazir was admitted to hospital after allegedly being beaten up by three thugs near his home in the capital. He said his assailants told him he had “offended” Tunisian president Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali’s wife, the Quds Bars news agency reported on Thursday.

Bukhazir told Quds Bars the thugs threatened him and beat him up and said he believed they had been sent by the Tunisian government to intimidate him.

He said the thugs abducted him late on Wednesday in the capital’s Bardu district and took him to an unknown location before threatening him with a knife and beating him around the head and body.

Bukhazir received hospital treatment for a fractured nose, swellings to several parts of his body and damage to his left eye.

He said his assailants told him he had disrespected Ben Ali’s wife Leila al-Tarabulusi in comments he made to the BBC about a book about her, ‘The Queen of Carthage’ which was recently published in France.

The book describes the considerable power wielded by Tunisia’s First Lady and her family.

Bukhazir spent eight months in jail last year for assaulting several policemen. He has always denied the charges, and described his arrest as an act of revenge for several articles he wrote describing corruption in Tunisia.

Ben Ali, who has been in power since 1987, won a fifth term in office in multi-party elections in 2009. Human rights groups and the opposition criticised the polls as unfair.

Official results gave him ninety per cent of the vote and his party also won the majority of seats in the parliament.

Although freedom of opinion and expression is guaranteed by the Tunisian constitution, the government tightly controls the press and broadcasting. Discussion of corruption and human rights in the media is taboo.

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

Israel and the Palestinians


Hamas: Fatah and Islamic Movement Behind Clashes

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, OCTOBER 27 — Last Sunday’s chaos on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount has been masterminded by a “unified” Palestinian “command” including al-Fatah, Hamas and members of the Islamic Movement in Israel. The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot focused on the news today. The three organisations reportedly had set up a joint ‘operations room’ in the eastern part of Jerusalem. This explains, according to the newspaper, the arrest of Hatem Abdel Kader (a former PNA minister and well-known al-Fatah member in east Jerusalem) and a leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Israeli police sources have told Yediot Ahronot that in the past months the al-Fatah movement seems to have become more radical. Some of its members have expressed themselves in favour of armed battle against Israel. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



TV: Abbas Disappointed by Obama, Resignation Possible

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, OCTOBER 27 — Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), is said to have told Barack Obama in recent days that he intends to resign from office as he no longer considers a resumption of the peace process as viable due to the White House’s “surrender” to Benyamin Netanyahu’s government. The news was announced yesterday evening on Channel 10 on Israeli TV, reporting on leaks regarding the contents of a recent telephone call between Abbas and Obama. During the conversation, Abbas is said to have been utterly pessimistic about the prospect of a resumption of negotiations solicited in recent months by the advent of Obama, the US president’s statements and the latter’s initial attitude of putting more pressure on Israel. Pressure which has however not driven Netanyahu’s government to start freezing settlements in the Palestinian Territories, as set out in the accords signed in 2003 as part of the Road Map. As far as the Palestinians can see, this pressure now seems to have been weakened: so much so that Abbas described Washington as having surrendered. Thus the PNA leader — the only Palestinian representative to be recognised unanimously by the West despite his 74 years and his repeated moments of political weakness and who has recently been exposed to a wave of criticism from the most radical Palestinian factions and from the streets due to his alleged yielding to Washington — told Obama clearly that he is tempted to stand aside. He said that he did not want to stand in the elections that he himself had just announced for January 24 in an open challenge with Islamic rivals from Hamas (currently in power in the Gaza Strip).(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



U.N. Probe of Israel ‘Used False Witnesses’

‘Did you try to validate any of these invented details? Well you didn’t!’

A U.N. investigator who accused Israel of war crimes was misled by false witnesses and Palestinian misinformation, charged the chief medical officer of an Israeli army brigade that was previously falsely accused of committing a massacre.

“You have let yourself be misled by fabrications made by either terrorists or even doctors. … Did you by any chance try to validate any of these invented and inciting details? Well you didn’t!” wrote David Zangen, an Israeli reservist officer and physician.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Video Message From Obama: Don’t Forget Rabin’s Pledge

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, OCTOBER 29 — US President Barak Obama, in a video message that will be broadcast on Saturday at a mass gathering in Tel Aviv in remembrance of Premier, Yitzhak Rabin, killed by a Israeli ultranationalist 14 years ago, will urge Israelis to not forget their commitment to peace. According to reports today in Haaretz, with this gesture, requested by Dalia Rabin, daughter of Yitzhak Rabin, Obama wants to directly address the people of the Jewish state, considering his low popularity in the eyes of Israelis. This situation, reported the daily, worries Obama’s advisors, who believe that this low popularity could hinder the ability of the president to make progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. According to various surveys conduced in the past months in Israel, Obama has the support of 6-10% of Israelis, many of whom believe that he is hostile to their state. A visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, expected to arrive on Saturday night, would be, according to Haaretz, part of an attempt to favourable influence public opinion in the country. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Amil Imani: Saluting Cyrus the Great on His Day

October 29th has been designated as the international day of Cyrus the Great, a matchless king of Persia. Commemorating Cyrus the Great is synonymous with honoring the glorious ancient Iranians and Iranians’ way of life. Palpable reminders to Iranians and all liberty-loving people of the world of this just king’s reign stand in the field of Pasargad.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani [Return to headlines]



Economy: Turkish Businessmen Complain for Syrian Bureaucracy

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, OCTOBER 29 — As more Turkish entrepreneurs begin to do business with Syria as a result of recent improvements in bilateral relations between the two countries, difficulties and frustrations with Syria’s trade system are starting to come to light, Today’s Zaman reports. “The absence of Turkish banks in the country and the frequent cancellation of public tenders are the two greatest issues impeding Turkish businessmen’s entry into the Syrian economy”, Turkish Commercial Counselor in Damascus, San Kaan Ozdemir, said. “Turkish businessmen operating in Syria also face customs-related problems”, Ozdemir stated, explaining that “often different duties are charged for the same products and the bureaucratic process in customs also takes a long time causing great economic losses to businessmen attempting to transport perishable products”. “Obtaining work permits also takes a long time due to bureaucratic obstacles, which sometimes leaves Turkish investors waiting for months. Syrian regulations also restrict foreign workers”, the counselor declared. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



In the Muslim World, Creationism is on the Rise

It’s hard to say exactly how much support the theory of evolution enjoys in the world’s Muslim countries, but it’s definitely not very much. In one 2006 study by American political scientists, people in 34 industrial nations were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the idea that human beings evolved from earlier life forms. Turkey, the only Muslim country in the survey, showed the lowest levels of support — barely a quarter of Turks said they agreed. By comparison, at least 80 percent of those surveyed in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and France agreed. (The United States ranked second lowest, after Turkey, at 40 percent.) Turkey is widely seen as the most culturally liberal Muslim nation, and on attitudes about evolution, other polling has borne this out: A recent study of religious attitudes found that only 16 percent of Indonesians, 14 percent of Pakistanis, and 8 percent of Egyptians believed in evolution.

           — Hat tip: LN [Return to headlines]



Iran Rejects Deal to Ship Out Uranium, Officials Report

WASHINGTON — Iran told the United Nations nuclear watchdog on Thursday that it would not accept a plan its negotiators agreed to last week to send its stockpile of uranium out of the country, according to diplomats in Europe and American officials briefed on Iran’s response.

The apparent rejection of the deal could unwind President Obama’s effort to buy time to resolve the nuclear standoff.

[…]

A senior European official characterized the Iranian response as “basically a refusal.” The Iranians, he said, want to keep all of their lightly enriched uranium in the country until receiving fuel bought from the West for the reactor in Tehran.

“The key issue is that Iran does not agree to export its lightly enriched uranium,” the official said. “That’s not a minor detail. That’s the whole point of the deal.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Iran-Turkey: Erdogan in Teheran for Trade and Atomic Crisis

(ANSAmed) — TEHRAN, OCTOBER 27 — Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan has been in Tehran for a few hours, leading an economic delegation. He is set to meet, amongst others, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Turkey is a country attempting to alleviate tension in the Iranian nuclear crisis. The arrival of Erdogan in Iran was reported by the official IRNA press agency which also announced meetings with First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, President of Parliament Ali Larijani and Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki, who greeted Erdogan at the airport. The visit is destined to strengthen bilateral relations, writes IRNA pointing out that Erdogan is leading an important economic and trade delegation that includes ministers, MPs and businessmen. Trade between Turkey and Iran totals the equivalent of some 12 billion dollars and the two countries are looking to take it up to 20 billion dollars (equal to 13.2 billion euros). Official Turkish sources last week announced that during the visit “issues of regional and international order will be brought up.”(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Kuwait: Veil No Longer Required for Women Deputies

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, OCTOBER 29 — Women no longer have to wear a veil in parliament: Kuwait’s Constitutional Court took this decision, another victory for women in the oil State, after it was decided almost ten days ago that women no longer need the approval of their husband to get a passport. Islamist MP Hamad Abdulaziz Al-Nashi, explains the Kuwait Times, had denounced the illegitimacy of the election of Asil Al-Awadhi and Rula Dashti in parliament, because by not wearing a veil during their political activities outside the parliament or inside the parliament building, they violated the Muslim law. The Court has responded that the law is not specific on the issue and that the Constitution guarantees personal freedom and no discrimination based on gender or religion. “This is no personal victory, but a victory of the Constitution”, said Al Awadhi, underlining that “wearing or not wearing a veil has no impact on the quality of one’s political performance”. Women in Kuwait obtained full political rights in 2005, but only in May of this year four women were elected in Parliament. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Israel for Extension Italian UNIFIL Command, Press

(ANSAmed) — ROME, OCTOBER 29 — The Italian command of the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon will end soon, “but everybody is asking us for General Graziano to stay in the lead for some more time” said Italian Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa in a television interview. “People don’t talk much” about the mission, La Russa continued, “because our troops are doing an excellent job, much appreciated by others. Our task is to keep Hezbollah from receiving weapons, in support of the Lebanese government”. The minister will accompany Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on November 3 in his visit to the Italian contingent in Lebanon. The Israeli press focuses today on the issue of the extension of Italian UNIFIL command in the south of Lebanon. The newspaper Haaretz writes about a recent top secret meeting between Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, about the extension of Graziano’s command by another six months at least. Spain, Italy’s possible successor to lead the mission, may not agree with the idea. According to Haaretz, the Israeli military general staff agrees with Netanyahu’s initiative, convinced that the current situation in Lebanon — in which several incidents have taken place in the past weeks, including the launch on Tuesday of a new Katyusha rocket on Israel — is rather sensitive at the moment. Replacing UNIFIL command at this moment is feared to cause “instability”. This may explain the ‘secret’ telephone call to Berlusconi, to support a possible Italian request to extend Graziano’s command. Netanyahu’s move — bypassing the country’s foreign ministry which would have preferred to see Israel stay out of the issue — could lead to a “diplomatic incident” with Madrid, Haaretz claims. The Zapatero government does not seem to accept the form of the Israeli intervention, nor the “generic” explanations on the country’s preference. Now Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak is expected to explain the situation during his visit to Spain, originally scheduled to discuss routine bilateral cooperation.(ANSAmed).

2009-10-29 10:56

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



New Al-Qaeda Video May Show First Footage of Terror Chief Since 2007

The video is deliberately blurred, the view is only partial, and it lasts for just a few short seconds.

But that is enough for the tantalising question to be raised: Is this the first video footage of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to emerge in more than two years?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The Vessel of Turkey’s Muslim Brothers Has Surfaced in Calm Waters

By Soner Cagaptay

I am often asked these days why Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is so upset with Israel. “It’s so dramatic” people say, adding: “Why did the AKP uninvite Israel to Anatolian Eagle” (a NATO air force exercise held in Turkey)? “Is this the beginning of the end of Turkish-Israeli ties that go back to 1949 just as Israel is most worried about Iran?”

The AKP’s snub follows harsh anti-Israeli rhetoric by party leadership, and an incendiary television series on Turkey’s publicly funded TV network that depicts Israelis as cold-blooded and evil. So people ask: “Why is the AKP doing all this now?” My answer is simple: The AKP is doing and saying what it believes: the party, rooted in Turkey’s own Muslim Brotherhood movement, has always hated Israel, and now that the AKP is comfortably in charge in Turkey, it will oppose Israel with any means available as well as promote other aspects of the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda.

The AKP was born out of the Welfare Party (RP), the motherboard of Turkish Islamists since the 1980s. Islamism in Turkey, though traditionally nonviolent, possesses six virulent characteristics; it is anti-Western, anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli, anti-European, anti-democratic and holds anti-secular sentiments, all of which are adopted from the Muslim Brotherhood.

When RP came to power in a coalition government in 1996 it attempted to implement this Turkish Muslim Brotherhood agenda, but was opposed by a secular, pro-western bloc, which included various media outlets, opposition parties, NGOs, businesses and the military. When massive demonstrations and a well-coordinated public relations campaign brought the party down in 1997, the EU and the US stood aside.

The Islamists drew a valuable lesson from this experience as they rebranded themselves, turning away from the six-pronged Muslim Brotherhood agenda to become more likeable and gain popular support. The AKP emerged out of this rebranding in 2001 as it declared that it had jettisoned the six elements of the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood ideology.

In 2002, when the AKP came to power, the world and Turks alike celebrated the victory as a first instance of the Islamists’ moderation. But far from harboring a genuine desire to moderate, the Turkish Islamists simply caved to external pressures, including the courts, media outlets, businesses and the military, as well as the US and EU, which forced the AKP to abandon the Muslim Brotherhood ideology.

Yet the AKP did not forget its roots: once in power, it followed a two-pronged strategy to eliminate the domestic and external pressures that drove the RP from power in 1997. The party promoted EU accession while simultaneously cracking down on internal checks and balances, and maintained good ties with the West while nurturing anti-Western sentiments at home.

In due course the party successfully neutered the domestic forces that had forced its predecessor to step down from power. It used legal loopholes to pass the media into the hands of its supporters, resulting in half of the Turkish media falling into the hands of pro-AKP businesses and the rest facing massive putative tax fines. Large, secular Turkish businesses fear the AKP’s financial police and tax audits, while judges and generals have been targeted in the Ergenekon case for allegedly planning a coup against the AKP government. Illegal and legal wiretaps are now common, justified as necessary for collecting evidence for the Ergenekon case. Whether there was actually a coup plot, Turkey’s judges, opinion makers, generals, businessmen, political leaders and plain citizens are fearful of opposing the government because they worry that their private conversations will be wiretapped or they will be arrested for association with the alleged coup.

Just as it has nearly eliminated domestic checks, the AKP has also paralyzed external checks to its power. Although the party maintained amiable ties with Israel and the United States and even pushed for EU accession after coming to power, in reality the AKP’s rhetoric has demonized the EU, US and Israel. The party has labeled US and Israeli policies as “genocidal” and bashed the West for “being immoral.” Even though those who promoted the idea of the Islamists’ moderation dismissed such rhetoric as harmless domestic politicking, the rhetoric has had devastating consequences: today, few in Turkey care for the West, most people oppose EU accession, many Turks hate America and almost no one likes Israel.

Fast forward to the Anatolian Eagle incident. After paralyzing domestic opposition and planting the seeds of anti-western sentiments in Turkish society, the AKP now feels free from the checks and balances that have traditionally forced Turkey’s Islamists to behave. If the AKP is a political submarine that has cruised underwater, spotted by its rhetorical periscope, now this submarine is surfacing: the party is re-embracing the ideology of the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood.

We are witnessing the Muslim Brotherhood’s take on foreign policy, highlighted by its approach to Turkish-Israeli ties. After seven years of vehement anti-Israeli rhetoric, the Turkish public has now embraced the AKP’s position against Israel and the party is comfortably chipping away at the foundations of Turkish-Israeli ties, something it has always wanted to do. Today, it is Israel; tomorrow it is EU accession and cooperation with the United States, for instance on Iran. At this stage, the US, the EU and Israel have little leverage and few allies left in Turkey, and AKP policies, promoting the agenda of the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood and countering the US, EU and Israel, will find little resistance and much support inside Turkey. Turkey’s Muslim Brothers have played a smart game indeed, changing the color of their vessel, then sailing deep and surfacing only when the waters were calm and clear.

Soner Cagaptay is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the author of “Islam, Secularism and Nationalism in Modern Turkey: Who Is a Turk?” This commentary first appeared on bitterlemons-international.org, an online newsletter.

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



Turkey-USA: PM Erdogan to Meet Obama in December

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, OCTOBER 29 — Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on December 7, according to a statement by Erdogan’s office. Turkey and the United States have been working together in a wide range of cooperation areas from Iraq to Afghanistan, from the Balkans to the Middle East, from the East Mediterranean to the Caucasus, from fight against terrorism to energy supply security and global financial crisis, the statement said. At their meeting, the two leaders would discuss regional and global issues, as well as bilateral relations between Turkey and the United States who are two close allies and strategic partners, it added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan: Hero Contractor Recounts Fighting Off Taliban

For two hours, a civilian contractor held off Taliban commandos with an AK-47, saving the lives of 24 people in a Kabul, Afghanistan, guest house. But while others are praising Chris Turner’s courage, the 62-year-old former hippie refuses to be called a hero.

“The real heroes were the three U.N. guards and the Afghan guards who lost their lives defending all of us,” Turner told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Thursday from Kabul.

In the predawn darkness a day earlier, Turner and more than two dozen others who lived in a walled compound in Kabul were violently awakened by explosions and small-arms fire. The Taliban, who had been concentrating their attacks in the countryside outside the capital, had targeted the compound, where many United Nations workers were living while preparing to monitor a run-off presidential election.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Clinton Questions Pakistan’s Willingness to Go After Bin Laden

In her Toughest Talk Yet, Clinton Asserts That Al Qaeda Has ‘Safe Haven’ in Pakistan

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dropped the diplomatic language today and said she finds it “hard to believe” that Pakistan couldn’t get al Qaeda’s leaders “if they really wanted to.”

Clinton made her sharpest comments during a three day diplomatic offensive in Pakistan, a U.S ally where she has generally praised Pakistan and its military for its willingness to take on the Taliban along its rugged frontier with Afghanistan.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Diana West: Which Target is Our Own Bullseye?

Pakistani jihad death squads were much in the news this week. In Peshawar, Pakistan, they bombed a marketplace, claiming more than 100 lives, and in Chicago, they were thwarted, according to an FBI affidavit, from carrying out a planned attack on a newspaper in Denmark to kill two Danish journalists, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and cultural editor, Flemming Rose.

It’s important to link these events to put them into proper perspective. According to the FBI, the Danish operation — busted in Chicago with arrests of David Coleman Headley (aka Daood Gilani) and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, both of Pakistani origin with American and Canadian citizenship, respectively — was planned in conjunction with Pakistani jihadists. One is identified as Individual A, a member of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the jihadist group behind the 2008 Mumbai massacre, among other atrocities. The other is identified as Ilyas Kashmiri, operations chief of Harakat-ul-Jihad Islami (HUJI). Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal writes that Kashmiri is “considered by U.S. intelligence to be one of Al Qaeda’s most dangerous commanders.” Roggio further notes that LeT and HUJI, along with several other Pakistan jihadist groups, including Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, have merged with Al Qaeda in Pakistan and operate under the name Brigade 313.

While the triggermen behind the Peshawar carnage have not been identified yet, it is highly likely, to say the least, that they come from this same jihad network. So, let’s probe a little. Let’s think beyond the scenes of the Pakistani market-turned-charnel-house, and the newspaper office in Denmark spared from a similar fate. Let’s think beyond the “terror” to the point of the terror — a place we as politically correct multiculturalists are never supposed to go: The point of Islamic terror is to assert Islamic law. Period.

In the Pakistani case, the terror further enmeshes the United States in misbegotten efforts to “stabilize” the jihadist-riddled government, but that serves Islamic law as well. Such terror further asserts the power of those who bring Islamic law to a nation that already embraces its brand of “justice” as the findings of an August Pew poll confirm yet again. An overwhelming 78 percent of Pakistanis believe those who leave Islam should be killed, 80 percent favor whippings and cutting off hands for crimes like theft and robbery, and 83 percent favor stoning adulterers.

And how many billions did the Obama administration just shovel down that hole?…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]



Indonesia: Women Banned From Wearing Trousers and Jeans

Banda Aceh, 28 October (AKI/The Jakarta Post) — Women wearing jeans and other trousers in Indonesia’s West Aceh will now face Islamic Sharia police, as will clothes vendors selling slacks for women. West Aceh Regent Ramli M.S. issued the controversial regulation on Tuesday.

Those found wearing tight trousers, such as jeans, will have them cut by Sharia police, and will be forced to wear loose-fitting attire.

“We have issued the regulation to further enforce Islamic Sharia (law) granted by the central government,” Ramli told Indonesian daily The Jakarta Post by phone on Tuesday.

To anticipate the huge number of slacks to be cut by police during raids, the West Aceh regency administration has prepared around 7,000 long skirts, which will be provided for free to those caught wearing trousers.

According to Ramli, the new regulation will be effective as of 1 January, 2010.

The regulation also prohibits clothes vendors in the regency from selling slacks or jeans to women.

To implement the regulation, the West Aceh administration will issue an order for Sharia police to conduct raids and patrols in every district in the regency.

The raids will mainly target the regency capital of Meulaboh.

Ramli said he was positive the policy would spark some protest among residents across Aceh, especially in West Aceh.

However, he said he would insist on enforcing the regulation despite possible protests. Although it has yet to be implemented, women in Meulaboh have voiced objection to the ban.

As women, they slammed the regulation as discriminatory, saying it violated their right to freedom of expression.

“I’m surprised the mentality of the Aceh leader is so old-fashioned and primitive.

“There are many other things the administration should handle rather than regulating what women in the province should wear,” said a medical worker in Meulaboh, Lola Amalia.

She said the West Aceh administration may have suffered from the euphoria of Islamic Sharia without thinking about the reality of people’s conditions.

“I doubt the regulation is the wish of the West Aceh community at large. One of the regent’s tricks is to seek sensation,” said Lola.

Lola said she was confident the regulation would not be implemented effectively in Aceh society, adding that in principle she had no qualms about wearing clothing regarded as appropriate and in accordance with Islamic Sharia.

However, she said she was unaware which type kind of clothing the administration regarded as appropriate for women in West Aceh to wear.

“It will not be possible for the government to force every woman in West Aceh to wear long skirts.

“Not all women like to wear such clothing,” said Lola.

Ramli previously issued a regulation prohibiting government agencies from serving members of the public who wore “un-Islamic” clothing, such as tight jeans and slacks, to government offices.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia that strictly enforces Islamic Sharia law, a move that was implemented to suppress the separatist movement in the mainly Muslim region.

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



Jakarta: More Violence Against Students of Christian Theology

The police chased the students of Setia from the temporary seat set up in former town hall in West Jakarta. A group of students and teachers is under investigation, five arrested. In July 2008 a Muslim mob had attacked their school, forcing the students to flee. The Christian building wanted by a construction company.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Police in Jakarta has driven the students of Christian theological Institute Arastamar (STT Setia) from the land of the former town hall in West Jakarta. The students were holding their lessons there after they were forcibly removed — in July 2008 — from their campus in Kampung Makassar, east of the capital. The raid police started on 26 October. After three days of clashes and protests by Christians for their umpteenth banishment, a group of students and some teachers were indicted on charges of resisting a public officer. Five students were arrested, pending trial.

In the summer of 2008 a mob of angry Muslims stormed the original headquarters of the theological Christian Institute, in East Jakarta. The violence was sparked by accusations — perfectly fabricated- of the theft of a motorcycle by a student and the illegal construction of the Christian’s building. In Indonesia, in fact, stringent laws govern the construction of churches or non-Muslim institutions, for which a specific authorization is needed.

Following the assault, about 1,500 students have had to leave the building, initially taking refuge in the nearby police headquarters and the headquarters of a political party of Christian inspiration. The Setia, Protestant biblical studies institute, founded in 1987 by Pastor Mathew Mangentang, has over 29 branches around the country and the Jakarta branch hosted thousands of students.

Having escaped the violence of Islamic fundamentalists, students and professors set up a makeshift school at the site of the former government office in West Jakarta. But that building had long been disputed between the municipality and the Sawerigading foundation. Recently, the Indonesian Supreme Court ruled that ownership of land and the building belongs to the foundation. Following the ruling, the police implemented the measure to clear the site, despite the resistance of the young Christians.

Sukowaluyo Mintorahardjo, leader of Setia, strongly denies the charge that the institute falsified documents for the construction of buildings, as advanced by some Muslim personalities. “It’s a false and baseless charge — he says — as we had all the permits from the outset”. Referring to the attacks of July 2008, he adds economic issues are at the heart of the matter. “About 8 / 10 years ago a construction company approached us, and instead of engaging in a friendly deal — he explains — we were ordered to leave.”

The area where the Christian theological Arastamar Institute (STT Setia) is situated, in fact, has a high commercial value and is in the hands of a single construction company. The fact remains that — to date — the Christian students have no place to carry out the lessons, a group of pupils and teachers are under investigation, and five students have been arrested.

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



Pakistan Army Picks Up Trail of Al-Qaeda Operative Wanted for 9/11

Pakistani troops fighting Islamist militants in the mountains of South Waziristan have picked up the trail of a leading al-Qaeda figure wanted in connection with the attacks on America on September 11, 2001.

The Times was shown yesterday the German passport of Said Bahaji, a close associate of the September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. The army said that it found the passport and other documents in a mud compound in the village of Shawangai.

The documents, which show that Bahaji, 34, has been in Pakistan since early September 2001, appear to provide the strongest evidence yet of a direct link between Pakistani militants and al-Qaeda’s high command.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Sumatra: Muslims Protest Against a Catholic Chapel

A few days after opening, the Muslim community in Pangkalan Kerinci launched a petition against the structure .. Building first started 2002 but protests only mounted in recent days. Thousands of faithful wanted a place to meet and pray.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A petition against the opening of a chapel, a protest movement that has also affected the local forum for interreligious dialogue and an injunction requiring the district chief to move the building. However, the tenacity of thousands of Catholics in Pangkalan Kerinci, Pelalawan district, Sumatra, has defeated Muslim resistance and the inauguration of the place of worship was held without incident.

On 18 October Mgr. Martinus Situmorang, bishop of Padang, presided at the official opening of the prayer hall of the Sacred Heart Parish in Pangkalan. During the ceremony, the bishop urged Catholics to maintain a strong faith and be patient, stressing that “the work of God the merciful always wins in the end.”

Mgr Situmorang celebrated a Mass in a soccer field adjacent to the chapel, for fear that the protests of the previous days could result in violence. The function — attended by at least 2,500 faithful — was concelebrated by Father sapto Nugroho, Provincial Superior of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who anticipated the “appointment of 100 local Catholics” wanted by the bishop, to whom “ the task of creating a new parish church” was entrusted.

The idea of opening a prayer room was first born in 2002, when three priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus — Fr. Titus Purbasaputra, Fr. Eko and Brother Johannes — were sent to Pangkalan Kerinci in Riau Province (Sumatra Island) for the care of the local faithful. The area is now famous for its wealth of oil and gas, still unknown at the time. The Church entrusted them the task of building a place of worship, not a real church, to avoid triggering protests from the Muslim community. The term “prayer room”, in fact, implies a more “neutral” exception in the eyes of the Islamists and local religious leaders.

Construction work started in 2002 without any sign of protest or anger from the Muslims. Fr. Titus explains that after seven years in the district town of Pelalawan, the number of believers has grown to 4500, with about 1,300 families. The problem, explains the priest, is that “we are scattered in four different districts. Each district may be up to 100 km distant”. For this reason he had decided to build the parish hall of prayer, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

With only a few days to go to its inauguration rumours spread that the Christians wanted to build a church. This started a massive campaign of protest by Muslims in the area, who have drawn up a petition and distributed posters with provocative slogans.

Local Islamic leaders, having collected more than 243 signatures, have appealed to the Forum for Interfaith Dialogue (Fkub), calling for the “demolition” of the building. It resulted in a meeting attended by the Pelalawan Chief District, who ordered the move. Despite the pressures and threats, the bishop was able to inaugurate the building, cutting the ribbon so that even the Catholics of Pangkalan Kerinci have a place to congregate and pray.

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

Far East


Philippines: Jolo: Fear of Attacks, Masses Cancelled for the All Saints and All Souls

Bishop Angelito Lampon “precautionary measure”. There will however be brief moments of prayer at the cemetery and the blessing of the graves. The decision follows attack on the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Caramel. On July 7 last another attack caused 6 deaths and 40 wounded.

Manila (AsiaNews) — Mgr Angelito Lampon, Apostolic Vicar of Jolo, has cancelled masses for the feast of All Saints and All Souls, 1 and 2 November. The decision was taken following an attack at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Caramel, October2 7. The launch of a grenade damaged the building. The prelate explains that this is a “precautionary measure” and the faithful can participate in “moments of common prayer.”

In a statement posted on the website of the Philippine Bishops Conference (Cpcp), Msgr. Angelito Lampon confirms the cancellation of the mass originally planned at the cemetery; instead he will lead brief moments of prayer for the dead and bless the graves. The Justice and Peace Commission of the Vicariate of Jolo said the attack on October 27 caused minimal damage to the roof and windows of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Caramel, but there were no injuries nor casualties.

The town of Jolo, the capital of the province of Sulu in southern Philippines, is a majority Muslim area, the scene of attacks and violence in the past. Abu Sayyaf gangs are active in the area, a Filipino Islamic fundamentalist movement linked to terror network al Qaeda.

On July 7, 2009 another attack targeted the cathedral of Mount Caramel: the launch of a grenade caused the deaths of six people, wounding forty others.

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

Latin America


Chavez: Sean Penn May Make Film in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez said he met privately with actor Sean Penn on Wednesday, and that the Oscar-winning celebrity may film a movie in Venezuela.

Penn may shoot a film based on a novel by Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier, which is set largely in the jungle along Venezuela’s southern Orinoco river, Chavez said. He appeared to be referring to Carpentier’s 1953 novel, “The Lost Steps,” about an American anthropologist and composer’s journey into the jungle region.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Honduran Government Caves in to US Pressure, Agrees to Zelaya’s Restitution

The BBC phrases it tactfully: Honduras rivals resolve deadlock

The interim leader of Honduras says he is ready to sign a pact to end its crisis which could include the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

Roberto Micheletti said the agreement would create a power-sharing government and require both sides to recognise the result of November’s presidential poll.

Mr Zelaya said the deal, which requires the approval of the Supreme Court and Congress, would be signed on Friday.

The opponents had earlier been told by US Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Shannon that they had to reach an accord in order to ensure international support for the election on 29 November.

Afterwards, Mr Micheletti announced that a power-sharing deal had been reached that included a “significant concession”.

“I have authorised my negotiating team to sign a deal that marks the beginning of the end of the country’s political situation,” the interim leader told a news conference.

“With regard to the most contentious subject in the deal, the possible restitution of Zelaya to the presidency” would be included, he said.

Mr Zelaya described the accord as a “triumph for Honduran democracy”, and said he was “optimistic” of returning to power.

Noticias 24, however, states it as it is: Micheletti sucumbe a la presión de EE.UU. y acepta la restitución de Zelaya (Micheletti caves under US pressure and agrees to Zelaya’s return). Noticias 24 lists the main points of the agreement…

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Around 100 Kurds Land in Calabria

(ANSAmed) — CROTONE, ITALY, OCTOBER 28 — Around one hundred immigrants of Kurdish ethnicity have disembarked on Italy’s Calabrian coast, between Steccato di Cutro and Botricello, near Crotone. The immigrants were on board an old fishing boat twenty metres in length, which came ashore overnight. They then left the area on foot. Their arrival was reported to the police by some passers-by. The immigrants were tracked by the Carabinieri and local police. They had divided into small groups and were scattered along the coast as far as Catanzaro. The last group was found near the station in the sea-front area. The immigrants, who include several women and girls aged between 9 and 17, are to be taken to the reception centre of Sant’Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto for identification. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Immigrants Now 7.2% of Population

Caritas says one in 14 residents a legal alien

(ANSA) — Rome, October 28 — There are over 4.5 million legal immigrants in Italy, amounting to one in 14 residents, according to a report released Wednesday by Catholic charity Caritas.

According to the report, legal aliens now account for 7.2% of the population, exceeding the European Union average of 6.2% for the first time ever.

Earlier this month, national statistics bureau Istat, placed the number of foreign residents at the beginning of the year at 3.8 million, amounting to 6.5% of the population.

Both organizations agreed that a surge in 2008 brought more than 400,000 new residents into the country.

According to Caritas, some 300,000 immigrants gained residency in the first nine months of 2009.

The coordinator of the group’s report, Franco Pittau, estimated that the number of legal aliens in Italy would top 12 million if current immigration trends continued.

“Istat estimates that the immigrant population will increase by 250,000 per year, but that’s less than what we’re seeing,” said Pittau.

Caritas said it expects immigrant workers to play an ever greater role in the Italian economy, where they are already a major help to the national pension plan and an important source of tax revenue.

According to the report, foreign workers pump over 7 billion euros per year into the national retirement fund and pay the government 3.2 billion euros in income taxes.

Moreover, just one in 25 foreign residents will be in retirement ten years from now compared to one in five Italians, a factor Caritas said will help to keep the Italian pension system afloat.

The report added that foreigners made up a growing portion of Italy’s tax base, with the number of immigrant workers rising by 200,000 last year.

There are a total of two million foreign workers in Italy, who produce some 10% of the country’s gross domestic product, the organization said.

According to Caritas, immigrant workers are more willing to move and accept a wider range of tasks than many Italians, and are at greater risk of work accidents.

Over 143,000 foreign workers were injured on the job last year and 176 killed.

The organization noted also that foreign-run businesses have demonstrated resilience to the economic downturn, increasing by 10% in 2008 and generating 6.4 billion euros.

Caritas is among Catholic human rights groups at odds with the government over its tough stance on immigration, which includes a bilateral arrangement with Libya adopted in May to forcibly escort migrants intercepted in international waters back to north Africa.

Last month, Italy enacted a law which makes illegal immigration a criminal offense, punishable by summary expulsion from the country and fines of up to 10,000 euros.

The law is now before the constitutional court following a ruling by a judge in Turin earlier this month who said it may be in violation of the Italian constitution.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy-Greece: Mixed Patrols at Ports

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, OCTOBER 28 — Mixed Italian and Greek patrols to inspect for illegal immigrants have entered into effect in Bari and Brindisi on one side and at the ports of Patras and Igoumenitsa on the other. The operation, which consists of test inspections for both passenger and cargo transit, aims to slow human trafficking to Italy and Europe, which occurs in particular with the transport of illegal immigrants in containers, trucks, or other vehicles leaving the ports in Greece. As for the Italian side, the mixed patrols are headed by the Central Management of Immigration and Border Police, and on the Greek end they are being organised by the Coast Guard. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants each year reach Greece mainly from Turkey, with the objective of reaching the rest of Europe, starting with Italy from the ports of Patras and Igoumenitsa, which connect the two countries regularly. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: A-Maize-Ing Cargo! 14 Illegal Immigrants Caught Sneaking Into UK in Tanker Carrying 25 Tonnes of Starch Powder

A tanker driver looked on in astonishment as he watched 14 illegal immigrants emerge from his cargo covered from head to toe in maize starch.

Frenchman Ludovic Buns had transported 25 tonnes of the powder from Calais, France, to a packaging company in Devizes, Wiltshire.

But when he pulled up at DS Smith Packaging on Tuesday evening he heard strange noises echoing inside the tanker drum.

He peered inside to find 14 stowaways — seven men and seven teenagers from Iraq and Afghanistan — caked in white powder.

They were all arrested and taken into custody that night.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Muslim Advocacy Group Also Blasts ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Episode

It’s not just Catholics who are causing a stir about the recent Curb Your Enthusiasm episode that featured Larry David’s character accidentally splattering urine on a painting of Jesus. The Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is now calling on HBO to apologize for the episode, in which Larry David’s character accidentally splattered urine on a painting of Jesus.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

No More Concessions Without Concessions in Return

In the following guest-essay, a reader named Robert Stansfield offers a suggested strategy for dealing with the ever-growing demands for accommodation by Muslims in the West.

Hijab is a human right


No More Concessions Without Concessions in Return
by Robert Stansfield

Muslims in the West are constantly making demands for freedom: freedom to build mosques, freedom to wear the burka and hijab, freedom to practice Sharia law. They generally present these demands as basic rights owed to them by the countries in which they live. And Western liberals — even those opposed to the Islamic agenda — are hard-pressed to rebuff them.

This is due to a faulty conceptualization of the issue. A new approach must be adopted. Let’s call it “Linkage”. The idea is simple: Muslims have no rights in Western lands as long as non-Muslims are being persecuted in Muslim lands.

Some simple examples:

1.   No more mosques in the West, until there is a church in Mecca.
2.   No freedom to wear Muslim clothing in the West, until all women have the freedom to wear whatever they want in Mecca.
3.   No more funding of Islamic education and proselytizing in the West, until all faiths are free to establish schools, libraries and missions in Mecca.
4.   No foot baths for Muslims, until there are holy water dispensers for Christians in Mecca.

etc.

We all know what’s going on in Mecca. Christians, Jews and other faiths are barred entry in a form of Islamic apartheid.

In Mecca, churches are illegal. The Bible and the cross are illegal. Priests are illegal. Preaching Christianity and other faiths is punishable by imprisonment, torture and death. Converting to Christianity or another faith is punishable by imprisonment, torture and death. In short, the heartland of Islam is one of the most appalling hellholes of religious intolerance in the world today.

Yet Muslims have the gall to demand footbaths and other frivolous perks in our lands. The hypocrisy reeks like a sewer. It’s obscene, and even the most unconcerned layman can immediately perceive the unfairness. Muslims are only concerned for freedom when they are on the receiving end.

This is my proposal: We in the anti-Jihad movement should adopt the principle of “Linkage” as a war cry. We should repeat it like a broken record. Advocate it relentlessly on blogs and in street demonstrations. Distribute flyers. Pressure politicians. Run television ads. Make it into T-shirts and hats and coffee mugs. Glue posters to walls with really stubborn glue. DEMAND fairness!

The principle of linkage is already making inroads. Last year, the Russians demanded a quid pro quo from the Saudis:
- – - - – - – - -

A Saudi Mosque in Moscow in Exchange for a Russian Church in Mecca?

The king of Saudi Arabia has announced that he is ready to support the construction of a mosque and Islamic cultural center in Moscow, a city with only four mosques for its more than two million Muslims. In response and probably to block this, Orthodox Christians in Russia have called for opening a church in Saudi Arabia.

[…]

After the Saudi offer was reported, three Russian Orthodox groups — the Moscow section of the Union of Orthodox Citizens, the Radonezh Society, and the Byzantine Club — released an open letter to Saudi King Abdullah suggesting that there should be another mosque in Moscow only after a Russian Orthodox church was opened in Mecca.

Jean-Louis Cardinal Toran, the head of the Papal Council on Inter-religious Dialogue, agrees:

If Muslims consider it correct to have a large and beautiful mosque in Rome, then it is equally correct for Christians to have a church in Riyadh.

Alison Ruoff, a prominent evangelical member of the Church of England’s General Synod, has applied linkage:

Mrs Ruoff, a former magistrate, said in an interview with London’s Premier Christian Radio that no more mosques should be built in Britain until all persecution of Christians in Muslim nations had ceased.

The British writer Adrian Morgan raises the same point:

Yet when one sees the number of mosques being erected in Britain, often with money from Saudi Arabia, I wonder why no Far Left individual raises the question of hypocrisy. Saudi Arabia funds the export of Islam around the world (even to Nepal), yet prevents any Bibles from being brought into their kingdom. No churches are allowed to be built in Saudi Arabia, and migrant workers who hold unofficial Christian services have been jailed.

Similarly in Pakistan, Christians are a minority group, yet they are persecuted mercilessly. In Malaysia, no one is allowed to leave Islam and Buddhists, Hindus and Christians are legally defined as second-class citizens, and yet Malaysia regards itself as upholding a “civilizational” form of Islam.

The principle of linkage is gaining momentum. With the help of everyone in the Counterjihad community, we can broaden it into an avalanche.

“NO MORE MOSQUES IN WESTERN LANDS, UNTIL THERE IS A CHURCH IN MECCA.”

Choudary Has Second Thoughts About Sharia

The Ummah Jack


Tomorrow was supposed to be the big day in London: under the leadership of Anjem Choudary and Islam4UK, British Muslims planned to march for sharia in the UK. Marchers were to begin at 1:00 pm at the Houses of Parliament, stop by 10 Downing Street, and finish up in Trafalgar Square at 4:00 pm.

However, Islam4UK abruptly announced this evening that it had canceled the march. Needless to say, it was all the fault of violent racist extreme right-wing infidels:

On 31st October 2009, Islam4UK in conjunction with al-Muhajiroun had planned to organise a unique march in Central London which aimed to highlight the superiority of the Shari’ah over that of British democracy and man-made law.

Alhamdulillah (all praise be to Allah), in the last two weeks there has been overwhelming support from the Muslim community, in relation to the March4Shariah campaign; furthermore, articles displayed on the Islam4UK website illustrating examples of what could happen to iconic landmarks under the Shariah in Britain, proved extremely popular and moreover created a great deal of awareness about the Islamic Shari’ah.

Unfortunately, in the run up to the planned event, it had also become apparent that certain right-wing/anti-Islamic organisations had become intent on preventing the march from going ahead, using threats of physical violence, including bomb and death threats to any member of the Muslim community who happened to attend the march.

In light of this, organisers of the March4Shariah campaign, after careful consultation, have decided to cancel the march in favour of securing the safety of the hundreds of Muslims who may have attended the march to voice their support for the Deen of Haq (Truth).

Consequently, we hereby request all Muslims in the UK, to desist from attending the march, and to furthermore prevent any other member of the Muslim community, who may have planned to attend, from doing so.

Mr. Choudary is offering believers an alternative to the March:
- – - - – - – - -

We would also like to announce that there will be an exciting Islamic Roadshow which will be taking place as a replacement to the March4Shariah, on 31st October 2009. This event will be at an undisclosed location, however if any member of the public would like to attend or enquire about it they are advised to contact Anjem Choudary, UK Head of Al-Muhajiroun and Principal Lecturer at the London School of Shariah on: 07956 600 569.

And Islam4UK is not giving up the good fight:

Finally, we would like to say that indeed we will never stop calling for the implementation of the Shari’ah in the UK, and that we will continue in our struggle to make the Deen of Allah (SWT) dominate all over the world.

One has to wonder what is actually going on here. Were the Legions of the Prophet really that afraid of the EDL and its associated groups? They never have been before, and — in alliance with the “anti-fascists” of the UAF — they have always significantly outnumbered any gathering of anti-jihad demonstrators.

Was the march a hoax all along, designed to divert money and energy from the EDL’s demonstration in Leeds tomorrow?

Or have the Muslims in London adjourned in order to reconvene tomorrow in Leeds and perhaps engage in a bit of bovver with the “persons of English background” who are planning to protest the Islamization of their country?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. But it will be interesting to monitor the events tomorrow in Leeds.



Hat tip: Gaia. Also, thanks to Henrik for the title of this post.

An Interview with Lord Pearson

During the lunch break on the second day of the International Legal Conference on Freedom of Speech and Religion, James Cohen of the Canadian chapter of IFPS interviewed Lord Pearson, a member of the House of Lords and a leader of UKIP, at the Capitol in Washington D.C.



More fully, Lord Pearson is Malcolm Everard MacLaren Pearson, Baron Pearson of Rannoch. Those who describe him as English are mistaken, for he is in fact a Scot. I asked him if he took offense at being called English, and he said no, that it didn’t bother him at all. That led us into a discussion about the movement for Scottish independence, which is a topic for another time.

[Post ends here]

Health Care Hell: The Worst of Both Worlds

From Americans for Tax Reform: [with my emphases - D]

Official scores of H.R. 3962 (the House Dem health bill) are out from the Congressional Budget Office (spending) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (revenues). A few highlights:

  • When the bill is fully phased-in, it will increase spending by approximately $150-$200 billion annually. Put another way, it will add about a percentage point to federal spending as a portion of the economy. Put yet another way, it will increase the historical size of the federal government by about 5 percent.
  • The bill won’t even come close to universal coverage. The bill reduces the number of the uninsured from 53 million to 18 million. It’s true that 96 percent of legal residents will be covered, but those 18 million uninsured will still be a huge drain on our health system. One would expect that $150 billion to $200 billion per year would get you universal coverage, at the very least.

  • By far, the largest tax hike will be the 5.4% surtax on millionaires and half-millionaires. Let’s also not forget that this should include about half of all small businesses in America. It raises taxes by $461 billion in the first ten years.
  • When the bill is fully phased-in, it will increase net taxes by approximately $200 billion per year. Put another way, it will add about a percentage point to federal taxes as a portion of the economy. Put yet another way, it will increase the historical federal tax burden by about 5.5 percent.

You know why the American people have been steam-rollered? Because that’s how our Soviet Democrat representatives work.

CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN WHY THIS WAS RAHMED THROUGH WITH SUCH FRENETIC HASTE WHEN IT WON’T TAKE EFFECT UNTIL 2013?

This is not a rhetorical question. I’d really like to know.

This administration and this Democrat Congress has not been tethered to reality. Now their bilious balloon is ascending, taking our hopes for a decent life and a workable health care system with it.

Kiss another freedom goodbye.

[post ends here. More later]

Contact Fright

Our Swedish correspondent LN reports that this op-ed by Lena Andersson, published on October 24th in Dagens Nyheter, is “the most-read piece in cultivated circles in Kretinostan.” Many thanks to LN for the translation:

Contact fright

Lena Andersson on selling out libertarian values

Lena Andersson Last Monday there was an obituary notice in this newspaper for Mohammed Knut Bernström, who died at the age of 89 in Morocco. Bernström was a former diplomat, a Muslim convert, and had translated the Koran into Swedish. One read that Bernström felt that language is the key to the culture, and he liked to quote an Arab proverb: “A nation is its culture. Losing the culture, the nation loses itself.”

It is curious how harmless such a statement sounds when it is made about Arab culture, or uttered at all about cultures other than one’s own. But is there any real difference? How did Bernström argue that a nation loses its culture? By its people losing its contact with their cultural heritage and the history of art, or through the effect of cultural influences that change the social norms of the society?

I do not know, but you must admit that Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats are following the same line — that must be said. But they do not enjoy the same respect as does the educated convert in Morocco.

Any visualization of monocultural, uniform, single-minded culture-preserving societies is daunting. They become unified and complacent. Without outside influences the result is spiritual inbreeding and desiccation. But all influences are not equally good — a society must keep the discussion of its own changes alive.

A good deal has been said in a hysterical tone about this week’s article by Jimmie Åkesson. The problem is that he is right on one point: the fact that the Swedish society has been influenced by Islam during the last twenty years can be considered good or bad or both, but true it is.

Some of the facts found in the article about Sweden’s development have not been rejected, but have been met with complete contact fright. This applies to requests for special laws and for segregated swimming, and that swimming baths offer separate hours for men and women because of Islamic gender segregation, the withdrawal of pork meat at nursery schools or pre-schools in Malmö, and death threats against artists who hold up religious symbols to ridicule.

- – - - – - – - -

It should not be difficult to see that these phenomena to a varying degree may be perceived as problematic. This does not cease to be so because someone whose ideology is undesirable gives expression to it. And the interpretations of Islam that gave rise to the phenomena are also rather undesirable.

It becomes quite baroque when Maud Olofsson [deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Centre (social liberals)] debates in the early morning television (SVT 20/10) and allows Åkesson to be the one who defends (1) women’s rights and (2) common laws that are the same for all citizens. Hissing with rage, Olofsson declares that surely we cannot have Sharia laws in Sweden. However, nothing is sure in a pluralistic democracy; everything can be subject to a slow change. That’s one reason for having a democracy.

We are in trouble if it is the Sweden Democrats — acting in the idea-tradition that female emancipation has hardly been high on their the agenda — who will plead the cause of enlightenment and of gender equality, while supposedly enlightened representatives of the media, the scientific community, and politics are unable to sort through the arguments, but instead with their silence are selling out libertarian values and pretending that everyone agrees on them, just to show how much they are opposed to SD.

The reactions to the populist parties in Europe are often emotional in this way. When, for example, they talk about the Islamization of Europe and the radicalization of Islam, you never get a clear vision whether they should keep quiet because they are factually wrong, or because they are factually right. Anything that is related to ethnic groups other than their own must simply never become a worry, even if it happens to be worrisome. If it does, the root of the worry must be located in one’s own group’s attitudes, never in the attitude of the minority. This may be right in order to avoid fragmentation and to prevent exposed groups from feeling unwelcome in their country of residence, but it will not promote a reasonable debate about the changes in society.

For my part, I oppose the influence that ideas held by any conservative religion concerning the relationship between the sexes, or regarding blasphemy and God’s role in society, might have on the liberal norms Sweden has painstakingly created for itself. It matters not at all if Jimmie Åkesson is of the same opinion. It is more important not to desert those who have fled from religious oppression by trivializing the practice of values causing repression and calling it tolerance, tradition, and warm religiosity.

It is increasingly common to regard the Muslims as an ethnic group, as the Sweden Democrats [the writer here is mistaken — translator], official Sweden, and some Muslims seem to do. But religion is something you choose. Muslims in Sweden are a group that also contains people who do not believe in God and people who devote their lives to fighting Islam.

To ethnify religions leads to errors, but fits the needs of the nationalists, the benevolent cultural relativists, and blunt statistics. It is also an excellent tactic for those who want to protect their doctrine from criticism to call criticism racism.

— Lena Andersson

lena.andersson@dn.se

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/29/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 10/29/2009The notorious radical British Muslim leader Anjem Choudary is calling for Buckingham Palace to be converted into Buckingham Mosque (Masjid). He contests the Queen’s historical right to live in the palace.

In other news, the majority of the Chinese are refusing to get the swine flu vaccination, because they doubt the quality of the vaccine, given their past experience with tainted food and medicine.

Thanks to Aeneas, C. Cantoni, CSP, Fjordman, Gaia, Insubria, JD, JP, Lurker from Tulsa, Sean O’Brian, The Observer, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

Financial Crisis
Rolling Up the Tarp
USA: Economy Growing But Recovery Could be at Risk
 
USA
Frank Gaffney: The Last Conference on Shariah’s Threat to Free Speech?
Future Speakers to Include Bernie Madoff, Osama Bin Laden and Roman Polanski
Gardasil Researcher Drops a Bombshell
Gunman Wounds Two in Los Angeles Synagogue
How Hate-Crime Law Works
I’ll Pass on ‘Opting Out’
Indian Man Charged in NY With Supporting Hezbollah
Interview With Charles Krauthammer
Mainstream Media Ignores Juicy ACORN Nuggets
Monsanto’s Mutated World and the FDA’s Human Experiment
Monsters Among Us
‘Muslim Mafia’ Media Blackout
Obama’s Media Control Strategy
Open Season on Jews: Two Men Shot at Prayer in Los Angeles
Rush Limbaugh Livid: GOP Has Death Wish
Shot Fired Into Home of Lou Dobbs
The Intelligent Student’s Guide to the New World Order
U.S. Official Resigns Over Afghan War
What Happened to Liberalism?
 
Europe and the EU
Britain’s Secret Mission to Expose Scientology Leader as ‘Fraud’
Brussels ‘Home Office’ Plot to Snoop on All of Europe
EU and US Seal Extradition Pact
Europe’s Leaders to Create EU Foreign Ministry
First Electric Police Cars Roll Onto Britain’s Streets… But They’d Be No Good in a High-Speed Chase
Hard-Working: Ambitious and Confident, Typical Spanish Woman
Italian Gov’t OKs the Italian-French Alpi-Med
Italy: Hungry Son Spoils Jewel Cake Heist
Italy: Fine Confirmed on Pasta Makers
Italy: Other Politicians ‘May be Being Blackmailed Over Sex’
L’Europe, C’est Moi, At £900,000 a Day
Sarkozy Leads the Charge to Strong-Arm Klaus Into Signing Lisbon
Spain: Basque Countries, Debate on Ending Armed Struggle
Spain: 60% of Workers Have Mental Health Problems From Stress
Spain: ETA Bans Women Who Want to Have Children
Tingbjerg: One Neighborhood’s Nightmare
UK: Buckingham Mosque …What Fanatics Want to Call the Palace
UK: City Christmas Tree Chopped Down
UK: Councils Get ‘Al Capone’ Power to Seize Assets Over Minor Offences
UK: Classroom Apartheid: Teachers Who Were Afraid to Discipline Thuggish Minority of Asian Pupils for Fear of Being Branded Racist
UK: Lesbian Police Officer Sues Force Over ‘Homophobia’ After Being Banned From Working With Her Girlfriend
UK: Parents Banned From Watching Their Children in Playgrounds… In Case They Are Paedophiles
UK: Schools Report 40,000 Cases of Racism a Year
UK: Schoolgirl, 14, Goes Missing After ‘Converting’ To Islam
UK: Secret Plan for Euro Income Tax
UK: The BBC’s Censors Risk Killing Off Comedy
UK: Thousands of Nursery School Children Branded Racist by Teachers… Before They Know What the Word Means
Vatican: Talks Begin With Ultraconservative Breakaway Group
 
Balkans
Serbia-Turkey: Relations at Historic Peak, Presidents Say
 
North Africa
Erick Stakelbeck: Al Qaeda in North Africa Threatens the West
Muslims Kill Believer Over Photos of Girlfriend
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Goldstone Challenges US Over Gaza Crimes, China Sides With Israel
Jerusalem ‘Chastity Guardians’ Appear on Streets
Water to Palestinians: Israel Rejects Amnesty Report
West Bank: PNA Forces Arrest Islamic Jihad Leader
 
Middle East
Audio: Hero Marine Recalls ‘Chaotic’ Battle of Fallujah
Baghdad Tired of Violence After Politically Motivated Double Attack
Bahrain MPs Press for Israel Ban
Escalating Anti-Semitism as Turkey Embraces Iran
My Bizarre and Terrifying Childhood With My Father, Osama Bin Laden
Rocket From Lebanon on Upper Galilee
Turkey: An Ally No More
 
South Asia
Bangladesh: Pressure on Catholic Family to Rob Them of House and Property
Bullets Used by British Soldiers ‘Too Small to Defeat Taliban’
Defect Armour Risk to Australian Soldiers Fighting in Afghanistan
Extra Italian Troops to be Withdrawn After Elections Says Minister
Indonesia: Ulema and Feminists Against Polygamy Club
Pakistan: Political Crisis Looms as Militancy Intensifies
The Courage of the Church of Pakistan, Against the “Islamization” Of Society
The Catholic Church in Pakistan (An Overview)
U.S. Set to Pay Taliban Members to Switch Sides
 
Far East
Korean Lecturer ‘Spied for North’
Majority of Chinese Refuse Vaccine Against Swine Flu
 
Australia — Pacific
Australians Could be Banned From Living on the Coast
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Beijing Continues to Colonise Africa, Signs New Deals With Guinea
Somali Man, ‘112’, Weds Girl, 17
 
Latin America
Honduras Takes Brazil to UN Court
Nicole Ferrand in the Americas Report: Who’s Behind the Obama Honduras Policy?
 
Immigration
Australia: Senior Lib Questions Muslim Immigration
Australia: Outcry as MP Calls for Debate on Muslim Enclaves
 
Culture Wars
NYT Dubs Man-Woman Union: ‘Opposite-Sex Marriage’
Obamacare to Put Planned Parenthood in Charge?
Obama Signs ‘Hate-Crimes’ Bill Into Law
Porn Practitioners Promoted to Children?
Time Again for the Feminists’ Rant
 
General
Controlling Climate? More Like Controlling Humans
Genes Drive Behaviour, But Culture Can Select Genes: Study
Islamic States Pushing for ‘Global Blasphemy Law’

Financial Crisis


Rolling Up the Tarp

The Troubled Asset Relief Program will expire on December 31, unless Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner exercises his authority to extend it to next October. We hope he doesn’t. Historians will debate TARP’s role in ending the financial panic of 2008, but today there is little evidence that the government needs or can prudently manage what has evolved into a $700 billion all-purpose political bailout fund.

We supported TARP to deal with toxic bank assets and resolve failing banks as a resolution agency of the kind that worked with savings and loans in the 1980s. Some taxpayer money was needed beyond what the FDIC’s shrinking insurance fund had available. But TARP quickly became a Treasury tool to save failing institutions without imposing discipline (Citigroup) and even to force public capital onto banks that didn’t need it. This stigmatized all banks as taxpayer supplicants and is now evolving into an excuse for the Federal Reserve to micromanage compensation.

TARP was then redirected well beyond the financial system into $80 billion in “investments” for auto companies. These may never be repaid but served as a lever to abuse creditors and favor auto unions. TARP also bought preferred stock in struggling insurers Lincoln and Hartford, though insurance companies are not subject to bank runs and pose no “systemic risk.” They erode slowly as customers stop renewing policies.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



USA: Economy Growing But Recovery Could be at Risk

WASHINGTON (AP) — Fueled by government stimulus, the economy grew last quarter for the first time in more than a year. The question now is, can the recovery last?

Federal support for spending on cars and homes drove the economy up 3.5 percent from July through September. But the government aid — from tax credits for home buyers to rebates for auto purchases — is only temporary. Consumer spending, which normally drives recoveries, is likely to weaken without it.

If shoppers retrench in the face of rising joblessness and tight credit, the fragile recovery could tip back into recession.

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

USA


Frank Gaffney: The Last Conference on Shariah’s Threat to Free Speech?

The Muslim Brotherhood Hopes So

The beautiful new auditorium in Washington’s Capitol Visitors Center was the site October 27-28 of an impressive two-day conference that sounded the alarm on our increasingly endangered liberties: freedom of speech and freedom of religion. If the Muslim Brotherhood and its associates like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) have their way, however, there will be far less of such freedoms and no such conferences in the future. CAIR would have open discussions, of freedom of speech and of religion, prohibited and even criminalized.

Incredibly, that would appear to be the aspiration of the U.S. government, as well. After all, as participants of the International Legal Conference on Freedom of Speech and Religion discussed, the Obama administration recently joined the Organization of the Islamic Conference in sponsoring a resolution that would require UN member nations to act to bar and penalize speech that offends Muslims or can be claimed to encourage discrimination, hatred or violence against them. Worse yet, with yesterday’s signature by President Obama of so-called “hate crime” legislation, a vehicle has been established for just such sanctions to be imposed in the United States, the First Amendment’s guarantees to the contrary notwithstanding.

In two days of addresses by U.S. Congressmen, members of the European Parliament and the U.K. House of Lords, prominent First Amendment experts in academia and the legal profession, investigative journalists, best-selling authors and nationally-known talk radio hosts, a compelling record was amassed showing that foundational liberties in the West are indeed imperiled. Specifically, the speakers reported the cumulative effect of Islamist “lawfare” — by which Muslim Brotherhood and other adherents to the theo-political-legal program authoritative Islam calls “Shariah” seek preferential treatment for their co-religionists. Lawsuits and political lobbying by Shariah proponents promote a virulent ideology masquerading as a faith, and suppress the practice of Christianity, Judaism and other faiths, both abroad and increasingly in the United States.

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]



Future Speakers to Include Bernie Madoff, Osama Bin Laden and Roman Polanski

Washington and and Lee University, in Lexington, Va., holds its 48th Journalism Ethics Institute next week. The Rockbridge Weekly describes the event:

The W&L Journalism Ethics Institutes, held twice each year, bring to campus top media professional and academics for two days of seminars with students from the University’s capstone journalism ethics class. The sessions deal with case studies of ethical dilemmas that the practicing journalists present.

So which top media professional is on tap for next week? If you’re drinking anything, swallow now, lest you soak your keyboard.

Jayson Blair!

Seriously:

“Inviting Jayson Blair to keynote this institute was definitely a departure for us,” said Edward Wasserman, the Knight Professor of Journalism Ethics at W&L. “In the past, we’ve brought heroes to Lexington, people of great accomplishment and stature, such as Hodding Carter, Helen Thomas and Lowell Bergman, and people who stood up to pressure in the name of principled journalism, such as Matt Cooper and my W&L faculty colleague Toni Locy, both of whom faced jail time because they refused to give up the names of sources they had promised to protect.

“Jayson Blair, on the other hand, was at the center of one of the signature journalism scandals of this still-new century, and there’s no way to imagine that his role in it was heroic,” Wasserman continued. “When I approached him with the invitation, he said that although he has not spoken publicly about the affair that led to his dismissal from the New York Times, this might be the right time and right occasion. My expectation is that he’ll talk not just about his own susceptibilities, but about the pressures and temptations that might induce ambitious and talented young journalists elsewhere in the business to do the wrong thing.”

In case you’ve forgotten, Blair lost his job when his editors discovered that he had been making stuff up. If the W&L faculty think this involved any sort of “ethical dilemma,” no news organization should ever hire one of their students.

[Return to headlines]



Gardasil Researcher Drops a Bombshell

Dr. Diane Harper, lead researcher in the development of two human papilloma virus vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, said the controversial drugs will do little to reduce cervical cancer rates and, even though they’re being recommended for girls as young as nine, there have been no efficacy trials in children under the age of 15.

Dr. Harper, director of the Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Research Group at the University of Missouri, made these remarks during an address at the 4th International Public Conference on Vaccination which took place in Reston, Virginia on Oct. 2-4. Although her talk was intended to promote the vaccine, participants said they came away convinced the vaccine should not be received.

“I came away from the talk with the perception that the risk of adverse side effects is so much greater than the risk of cervical cancer, I couldn’t help but question why we need the vaccine at all,” said Joan Robinson, Assistant Editor at the Population Research Institute.

Dr. Harper began her remarks by explaining that 70 percent of all HPV infections resolve themselves without treatment within a year. Within two years, the number climbs to 90 percent. Of the remaining 10 percent of HPV infections, only half will develop into cervical cancer, which leaves little need for the vaccine.

She went on to surprise the audience by stating that the incidence of cervical cancer in the U.S. is already so low that “even if we get the vaccine and continue PAP screening, we will not lower the rate of cervical cancer in the US.”

[…]

However, at this point, Dr. Harper dropped an even bigger bombshell on the audience when she announced that, “There have been no efficacy trials in girls under 15 years.”

[…]

When asked why she was speaking out, she said: “I want to be able to sleep with myself when I go to bed at night.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Gunman Wounds Two in Los Angeles Synagogue

Los Angeles police say two Jewish men in their 30s were shot in the legs as they were about to enter a synagogue in the North Hollywood section of Los Angeles Thursday morning. A man described as an African-American with a handgun entered the Adat Yeshurun Valley Sephardic synagogue at about 6:20 a.m. Thursday and opened fire. The victims were taken to a hospital in stable condition.

Police are investigating the shooting as a hate crime. The Los Angeles Times says police arrested a man near the synagogue, but the sources say they don’t believe he was the gunman.

The newspaper adds that police officials have alerted other synagogues around Los Angeles about the shooting, and police have stepped up patrols at Jewish religious institutions. Detectives are trying to determine if the gunman acted alone or as part of a larger group.

According to the Associated Press, the wounded people had just pulled into the synagogue parking structure for morning services. Investigators said no words were exchanged between the shooter and his victims.

“Grave and shocking”

Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein called the event “grave and shocking.”

The attack “reminds us that anti-Semitism is alive and kicking and has no hesitation in terrorizing the Jewish people’s holy of holies. We and the nations of the world must continue to fight anti-Semitism as it has already been proven that what starts with the Jews ends with other nations as well.”

The attack occurred about 16 km. away from a Jewish community center where, ten years ago, white supremacist Buford Furrow shot and wounded five people and later killed a letter carrier. Three children were among the wounded in that attack.

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



How Hate-Crime Law Works

The newly signed “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act” merely federalizes the unequal distribution of justice that has existed at the local level for years.

As such laws work, if your group lacks political and media influence, you can expect to be convicted of crimes you did not commit and receive longer sentences for those you did.

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Graphic content.]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



I’ll Pass on ‘Opting Out’

The Democrats’ all-new “opt out” idea for health-care reform is the latest fig leaf for a total government takeover of the health-care system.

Democrats tell us they’ve been trying to nationalize health care for 65 years, but the first anyone heard of the “opt out” provision was about a week ago. They keep changing the language so people can’t figure out what’s going on.

The most important fact about the “opt out” scheme allegedly allowing states to decline government health insurance is that a state can’t “opt out” of paying for it. All 50 states will pay for it. A state legislature can only opt out of allowing its own citizens to receive the benefits of a federal program they’re paying for.

It’s like a movie theater offering a “money back guarantee” and then explaining, you don’t get your money back, but you don’t have to stay and watch the movie if you don’t like it. That’s not what most people are thinking when they hear the words “opt out.” The term more likely to come to mind is “scam.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Indian Man Charged in NY With Supporting Hezbollah

NEW YORK (Reuters) — An Indian man pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to terrorism charges that include agreeing to sell guns and military equipment in a sting operation to Lebanese Shi’ite guerrilla group Hezbollah.

Patrick Nayyar, a 45-year-old Indian citizen is accused of meeting with an FBI informant posing as working for Hezbollah and agreeing to sell guns, ammunition, vehicles, bulletproof vests and night vision goggles, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Interview With Charles Krauthammer

‘Obama Is Average’

In a SPIEGEL interview, Charles Krauthammer, the leading voice of America’s conservative intellectuals, discusses Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, the president’s failures and the state of the United Nations and the international community.

SPIEGEL: Do you really believe that Obama deliberately wants to weaken the US?

Krauthammer: The liberal vision of America is that it should be less arrogant, less unilateral, more internationalist. In Obama’s view, America would subsume itself under a fuzzy internationalism in which the international community, which I think is a fiction, governs itself through the UN.

SPIEGEL: A nightmare?

Krauthammer: Worse than that: an absurdity. I can’t even imagine serious people would believe it, but I think Obama does. There is a way America will decline — if we choose first to wreck our economy and then to constrain our freedom of action through subordinating ourselves to international institutions which are 90 percent worthless and 10 percent harmful.

SPIEGEL: And there is not even 1 percent that is constructive?

Krauthammer: No. The UN is worse than disaster. The UN creates conflicts. Look at the disgraceful UN Human Rights Council: It transmits norms which are harmful, anti-liberty, and anti-Semitic among other things. The world would be better off in its absence.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Mainstream Media Ignores Juicy ACORN Nuggets

The “Pimp and Pro” story, exposing ACORN’s willingness to advise a prostitute on tax evasion and child sex trafficking, hit America a few weeks ago. There were a myriad number of angles to report, yet the Mainstream Media’s favorite approach seems to be the method in which James O’Keefe and I orchestrated and gathered the information.

It’s like going fishing, but instead of taking a picture and raving about the 750lb Mako shark you caught, you blather on about the bait that was used.

What happens when people get bored? They stop paying attention. What happens when people stop paying attention to an already suffering press industry? We’re seeing that happen now.

Rather than simply complaining about the MSM’s negligence on the story, here are some loose ends the media ignored, from our footage alone, that warrant attention.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Monsanto’s Mutated World and the FDA’s Human Experiment

America’s sugar crop is under GMO assault and the FDA has begun a new era of human experimentation. America is in dire need of a new super hero — and he has arrived. It is Larry Leptin, defending your right to be healthy.

See Larry Leptin’s first episode: Halloween fun as he takes on the GMO mutated sugar beets.

Monsanto’s Toxic and Mutated World — Is Sugar Safe to Eat?

It should come as no surprise when a Monsanto product poisons the earth and our food. Our planet has never recovered from the forty-year Monsanto-led PCB contamination that was banned in the U.S. in 1977. To this day environmental PCBs continue to degrade into highly toxic furans and dioxins, wreaking all manner of human health problem. The new case in point involves several aspects: 1) the bizarre alteration of the nature of food itself by splicing viral, bacterial, and other life forms into the DNA of food (GMO seeds and crops), and 2) the massive increase in the use of glyphosate pesticide (Round Up), which is polluting the water, soil, and food across the globe. Both issues are extremely problematic to human health.

On September 21, 2009 a stunning shot was fired across the bow of Monsanto and its new legion of Frankenfood sugar beet growers. Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco said the Agriculture Department should have done an environmental impact statement as required by law. He said it should have assessed the consequences from the likely spread of the genetically engineered trait to other sugar beets or to the related crops of Swiss chard and red table beets. He said that the potential elimination of farmer’s choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer’s choice to eat non-genetically engineered food constituted a significant effect on the environment that necessitated an environmental impact statement. The case is ongoing, with the next phase scheduled for October 30.

Meanwhile, Monsanto is attempting damage control during the second growing season of this genetic monstrosity masquerading as food. The judge hasn’t banned the current year’s crop or the sale of Halloween candy which is now full of GMO sugar. Of course, GMO sugar, like other GMO “foods,” doesn’t need to be labeled as such (because nobody in their right mind would buy it if it were). Half the refined sugar in the U.S. is from beets — and insiders say the industry has quickly converted to the GMO Frankenfood beets, estimating up to 95% of farmers are now using them.

[…]

The FDA’s Peramivir H1N1 Swine Flu Experiment

Like Tamiflu and Relenza, Peramivir is a neuraminidase inhibitor. Neuraminidase (the N part of H1N1) is a viral protein that must be active in order for new viruses to emerge from a virally infected cell. If it can be blocked, then viral spreading can be reduced.

Tamiflu and Relenza only bind to neuraminidase for a brief period of time, limiting their biological activity against a virus. In contrast, Peramivir binds very tightly to neuraminidase and is longer lasting — meaning it is a much more potent drug. The FDA has approved it for use in advanced Swine Flu cases that are not responding to Tamiflu or Relenza.

On the one hand, this sounds like a reasonable approach to helping people with extreme Swine Flu. What is likely to happen in actual practice is another matter entirely. Doctors will hear on the grapevine how well Peramivir seems to work and it will be used on more and more patients. And what’s wrong with that?

It is a human experiment. Human experiments are against the Nuremberg code, which has been agreed to by the world following the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Human experiments run counter to the basic decency and morality of any culture — except the culture of the FDA and its profit-driven pharmaceutical allies.

The problem with neuraminidase blocking is that there are four known human genes that utilize neuraminidase for normal and healthy cell function (NEU1, NEU2, NEU3, NEU4). The next problem is that these genes are not passive and secondary in cellular function. They regulate carbohydrate-related communication taking place on human cell membranes (glyconutrition and glycobiology). In other words, they are instrumentally involved in how cells talk to each other, as well as in many processes of a cell’s internal communication. Any neuraminidase blocking drug runs the risk of interfering with general communication needed for healthy cell function.

The adverse side effects of Tamiflu are in many cases rather extreme and include panic attacks, delusions, delirium, convulsions, depression, loss of consciousness, and even suicide. Oxford researchers have publicly warned that Tamiflu is not for children. Tamiflu is a relatively weak binder of neuraminidase.

What is going to happen when a strong binder of neuraminidase, Peramivir, latches on to the human cellular communication system based on neuraminidase genes? The FDA has no idea, but their unelected bureaucratic management team has decided in their infinite wisdom that the benefits outweigh the risks, even though they have no way of knowing. The era of sanctioned human experimentation is upon us.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Monsters Among Us

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Disturbing content.]

Her name is Somer Thompson. She was 7 years old. She’s dead.

In her last minutes of life, this beautiful little girl suffered inhuman acts of brutality. She was taken and murdered by one of the monsters who live and work among us — one of the pieces of human debris, the living mounds of filth, who are allowed to breathe the same air, live in the same apartment buildings and work the same jobs as genuine human beings. They look like us, but they’re not human at all; they’re animals who walk on two legs, with hearts full of black emptiness and minds full of perversion and violence.

Somer Thompson disappeared a week ago last Monday. She left school to walk home and was never seen alive again. By Wednesday of last week, ABC News was reporting that the density of registered sex offenders living within walking distance of Somer’s home is so great that “when their homes are represented by pins on a digital map they create a cluster so thick it overlaps in places.” On Thursday, searchers found Somer’s body in a Georgia landfill. By Friday, authorities had interrogated and ruled out as suspects all 161 sex offenders living in a five-mile radius of the house that will never again feel like a home to Somer Thompson’s parents.

Let me write that out: There are ONE HUNDRED SIXTY-ONE sex offenders living within five miles of this little girl’s house. What’s more, that density of legally registered perverts, child molesters, rapists, flashers and whatever else, is considered average. ABC quoted a Florida lawyer named Ron Book, a legal activist who fights for stricter sex-offense laws. “In spite of appearing … to be a lot, that’s about average. Some areas have hundreds of offenders.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



‘Muslim Mafia’ Media Blackout

As a result of a daring undercover operation lasting six months, a Muslim Brotherhood front group — one already identified by the U.S. Justice Department as an unindicted terrorist co-conspirator — has been revealed as an active front for jihadist activity.

This group, the Council on American Islamic Relations, still sports a 501(c)3 tax-exemption from the Internal Revenue Service. It still has broad access to the “mainstream” media. And it boasts about lobbying the Congress of the United States, though such activities are strictly limited by its tax-exempt status.

Despite the following well-documented findings of this undercover investigation in which thousands of incriminating internal documents were collected, not one major news agency besides WND has picked up the voluminous stories revealed in “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama’s Media Control Strategy

You may not have noticed that the Obama Administration, in addition to trying to seize control of the health care and energy sectors, is implementing a national “broadband plan” to redefine the media and transform America’s system of government. It’s designed, they say, to provide “open government and civic engagement.” But it looks increasingly like an excuse for the federal government to control the Internet and access to information and even tell us what is truth.

Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute recently explained at a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “National Broadband Plan Workshop” that it is necessary to have “a common space with shared facts.” Armed with $7.2 billion of “stimulus” money, the federal government is going to provide this. It looks like various progressive groups are lining up at the public trough for their share of the loot. They have in mind what the George Soros-funded Free Press calls “an alternative media infrastructure.”

If you think we already have that, with public TV and radio, think again. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which has received $8 billion in federal tax dollars since it was created in 1967, is not considered radical enough by these folks. The Free Press favors an additional $50 billion “Public Media Trust fund” financed by a tax on home electronic devices. It also wants the federally-funded AmeriCorps to finance jobs for journalists.

[…]

While the Internet is apparently confusing people with too much information, Ornstein said that the Internet also offers “multiple opportunities” to “develop a public square.” He made these remarks at an event presided over by Obama’s FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. The assumption of the exercise was that the federal government, under the cover of a national broadband plan, should not only regulate the Internet but provide new media for the public.

Assisting Genachowski is Mark Lloyd, Associate General Counsel and chief diversity officer at the agency. Lloyd used to work at the Benton Foundation, which is assisting this effort and previously issued a report recommending that the Obama Administration “should adopt policies to ensure that all Americans” have the ability to:

* “Know when you need information to help resolve a problem; * “Know from whom, when, where, and how to seek that needed information; * “Know how to differentiate between authentic and unauthentic information; * “Know how to organize information and interpret it correctly once retrieved; and * “Know how to use the information to solve the problem or make the decision.”

The idea of the federal government telling people how to “differentiate between authentic and inauthentic information” is frightening. But this is part of Benton’s “Action Plan for America.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Open Season on Jews: Two Men Shot at Prayer in Los Angeles

by Phyllis Chesler

Early this morning, as Jewish men gathered for their morning prayers, a lone gunman entered the Adat Yeshurun Valley synagogue in North Hollywood (or entered it’s parking lot) and shot and wounded two men. The gunman, described as an African-American teenager wearing a hood, apparently fled. The police arrested an African-American man who may or may not have been the shooter. The police are calling this a “hate crime” since no other motive appears to have been involved. Thankfully, the wounded men were hospitalized and will recover.

Yesterday there was a shootout in Detroit at a mosque largely peopled by African-American converts to Islam and led by the former Black Panther H. Rap Brown, who converted to Islam in jail while serving a life sentence. If a convert to Islam was involved in the LA synagogue shooting (and it is totally unclear whether this is the case), I would view this shooting as one lone individual’s version of “political” payback. Recently, in 2009, four African-American prison converts to Islam plotted to blow up two Riverdale synagogues and an American military base.

Blame the Jews, target the Jews—even when they are not involved, especially when they aren’t. Even when the Jews are not Israelis and are not necessarily “Zionists.” Even when the Jews may themselves be Arabs of many skin-colors. (The Los Angeles synagogue is Sephardic and Orthodox). A true anti-Semite makes no distinction between Jews and Zionists, and between Jews of color, who may also be Arabs, and Jews of European extraction. Such fine distinctions are not made in the West or in the Arab world…

[Return to headlines]



Rush Limbaugh Livid: GOP Has Death Wish

Republicans ‘as dangerous to this country as the Democrat Party is’

Talk-radio icon Rush Limbaugh says the Republican Party has a death wish — and is as dangerous to the United States as the Democrat Party and its czars.

Limbaugh’s comments came today as he was discussing the race for Congress in New York’s 23rd district, where the GOP picked a liberal nominee to oppose a liberal Democrat, passing over a conservative candidate who wanted to represent the GOP, a candidate now pursuing the seat as a third-party candidate.

“They have a death wish. The Republican Party has a death wish. Gallup: 40 percent of Americans now say they are conservative, 20 percent say they’re liberal, 36 percent say they’re moderates. And of those three groups, which one is being ignored — not just ignored — which one is being attacked by the Republican Party? The conservatives! “ Limbaugh said today.

“It’s worse than I thought. I thought this was just based on elitism and northeast moderate liberalism, and embarrassment of the people that the social issues attract to the party. But now it’s just plain stupidity,” he continued.

“The Republican Party, as constituted is as dangerous to this country as the Democrat Party is. ‘But Rush, party loyalty is party loyalty, and the local Republican committee up there has endorsed Scozzafava .’ So? I’m saying the two parties are the same. I guess I need to amend it a little bit, but, man, when I saw that they were running ads, as I say, ruined two hours of my day,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Shot Fired Into Home of Lou Dobbs

Pro-Illegal alien Amnesty supporting groups have been spreading lies about Lou Dobbs of CNN, trying to get him fired to censor his free speech, and foment hatred towards him because he stands against illegal immigration and Amnesty. Now, those lies and hatred have manifested in gunfire into the home of Lou Dobbs near his Hispanic wife!

[Return to headlines]



The Intelligent Student’s Guide to the New World Order

What is the New World Order? How does it affect you?

The essence of the New World Order or WORld Management System (WORMS) is that it is management by social engineers, rather than government based on a written constitution. How you are affected by this management system, depends on what the social engineers decide the system should do for you and require of you. The social engineers and system managers think of themselves as scientists applying the scientific method to the control of group behavior. Your behavior and relationships are regarded as subjects of investigation and control by those who call themselves ‘social scientists.’ You are among their test animals, and you have no say in, and often no knowledge of experiments that involve you.

[…]

The planners of the New World Order know they must use, influence, and cater to all of these groups to accomplish the goals they are seeking, which are:

(1) Claim everything. (2) Classify everything. (3) Commercialize everything. (4) Consolidate everything. (5) Control everything.

We might call these goals the five C’s of the World Management System.

[…]

To quote Auguste Comte, one of the most significant early planners of the world management system,

“The only real life is the collective life of the race; individual life has no existence except as an abstraction.”[1]

He also wrote,

“When the system is fully regulated, the effect of this will be to secure greater unity, by diminishing the influence of personal character. “[2]

This means that to the WORld Management System planners you, as an individual, are considered to be without character or personality. Your personal life and personal goals are unimportant to them, unless those goals are consistent with the sociological and economic goals of the New World Order.

Public schools and The New World Order

To demonstrate how NWO sociological and economic goals are being brought about we can look first at the public schools.

[…]

An organization called the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) which is an offshoot of the National Education Association and a promoter of the New World Order, has CLAIMED power to determine what you should learn and what you should not learn in history, geography, government, economics, religion, psychology, etc. These subjects were CONSOLIDATED decades ago so they could be treated together under one agenda called, social studies. The leaders of NCSS CLAIM the right to decide what you should be taught, how you should be taught, and how your achievement will be evaluated.

In addition to the National Council for the Social Studies the various states have state councils for the social studies. What is passed down from the National Council can then be programmed into the states. Through the efforts of state members, bills are presented to legislators to make NCSS curriculum standards legal requirements in states. From then on your local school board and your parents have had little to say about what you should be expected to learn. NCSS CONTROLS what you should know, when you should know it. If you, your school or community have different standards and do not try to live up to NCSS standards for the New World Order, your schools can be closed or your community punished by depriving it of federal, foundation, and state money.

[…]

Goals 2000 — Control is the object

Most of the governors of the United States are members of the National Governor’s Association. They have national meetings to CONSOLIDATE their policy decisions. In 1990 a policy was declared to promote the adoption of national educational goals. The Republican Bush Administration had endorsed the idea in 1989. The U. S. Chamber of Commerce and multinational corporations supported it. Then in 1992 Congress (Democrats and Republicans) passed and funded the Goals 2000: Educate America Act.

Originally social studies were not included, but the NCSS saw to it that social studies were annexed to the national agenda. Then they appointed a task force to develop CONSOLIDATED curriculum standards. These were later adopted in most states as part of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Eight goals were chosen and publicized.

The eight educational goals of the Goals 2000 were not the important part of this operation. Any goals that sounded good, along with the money promised, could have enticed governors and state legislators to pass enabling legislation in their states. The real object was to CONSOLIDATE leadership in education, CLAIM jurisdiction over curriculum, and to further CONTROL what you and other students learn.

It is no surprise to find now that the eight goals have not been reached—and were not reached by the Year 2000. Does this mean that CONSOLIDATED goal setting and visioning will be discontinued? On the contrary! To the goal-setters it meant merely that the Goals 2000: Educate America should be renamed, ‘America’s Education Goals’, and should be extended beyond 2000 without a specific deadline. Even when failure is obvious and promises are not fulfilled, CONTROL, once gained, is never willingly relinquished by the WORMS promoters.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



U.S. Official Resigns Over Afghan War

Foreign Service officer and former Marine captain says he no longer knows why his nation is fighting

A former Marine Corps captain with combat experience in Iraq, Hoh had also served in uniform at the Pentagon, and as a civilian in Iraq and at the State Department. By July, he was the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul province, a Taliban hotbed.

But last month, in a move that has sent ripples all the way to the White House, Hoh, 36, became the first U.S. official known to resign in protest over the Afghan war, which he had come to believe simply fueled the insurgency.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



What Happened to Liberalism?

On Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2009, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., appeared opposite Ralph Nader on “The Ed Schultz Show.” When Nader questioned Frank’s far-left bona fides, Frank quickly responded, “We are trying on every front to increase the role of government.

This is what today’s liberal movement has become. Stripped to its essentials, modern liberalism is now a nakedly ambitious power grab by corrupt officials, their union allies and faux-victimized purloiners of the taxpayer till. Its underlying premises — the ultimate goodness of government, the ultimate evil of the American population — are plainly inconsistent with the foundations of constitutional philosophy.

It was not always thus. Over the weekend, I had a chance to re-read one of my favorite authors, John Steinbeck. Steinbeck was considered for decades the leading authorial spokesman for the blue-collar left. “The Grapes of Wrath,” his most famous work, is undoubtedly a liberal tract — it condemns the harshness of unbridled capitalism and asks (literally) for the milk of human kindness.

Whereas today’s liberal spokespeople have been infected by a virulent anti-Americanism that sees all businessmen as profiteers and all public workers as saints, Steinbeck was a patriot. He worried about the lack of kindness he saw in his fellow men, particularly the willingness to cut corners to make a buck — but at the same time, he saw the virtue of freedom.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Britain’s Secret Mission to Expose Scientology Leader as ‘Fraud’

British diplomats compiled evidence 30 years ago that the founder of Scientology, L Ron Hubbard, was a “fraud”, according to National Archive papers.

Whitehall officials discovered the science-fiction writer, who invented a religion now followed by celebrities such as Tom Cruise, awarded himself a PhD from a sham college he had acquired in California.

The information was gathered in secret by workers at the British consulate in Los Angeles on behalf of the government, which feared a libel action following its 1968 decision to ban followers from entering Britain to visit the sect’s headquarters in East Grinstead, West Sussex.

The documents show Britain was not alone in probing Scientology. The dossier of evidence, gathered during the 1970s, included the extraordinary claim by an American official that the sect had sent bogus doctors to hypnotise a legal investigator and declare him ‘mentally ill’ to thwart his inquiries into their activities.

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



Brussels ‘Home Office’ Plot to Snoop on All of Europe

Brussels bureaucrats are plotting a massive expansion in the use of surveillance and controversial extradition powers, a report warned last night.

At the same time they will also increase their meddling in Britain’s justice system, it was claimed.

The EU wants to create its own version of the Home Office to oversee the policy changes, and even has plans to train a third of the police service to create a Blocwide ‘common culture of policing’.

There would be an increased sharing of British DNA, health and tax records with foreign governments and investigators, as well as the introduction of new Big Brother surveillance techniques.

Cash from the EU’s £1billion justice and home affairs budget is being used to look at whether CCTV cameras can be installed to predict whether somebody is about to commit a crime — not just to catch them if they do so.

The report, by the Open Europe think tank, details how the EU has already adopted swathes of surveillance powers. But it says once the Lisbon Treaty has been ratified this will increase dramatically.

Analyst Stephen Booth said: ‘How can citizens expect their fundamental rights to liberty and independence from the state to be protected by unaccountable institutions which have a vested interest in creating more laws?

‘We are fast approaching a situation where the EU will have the full coercive machinery of a state but without the proper democratic controls or robust checks on power that citizens should expect.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



EU and US Seal Extradition Pact

The EU and the US have signed a judicial co-operation agreement allowing European countries to refuse to extradite criminals who may be sentenced to the death penalty.

“We are establishing a joint ambition to continue our co-operation to fight gross international crime. But equally important is that we are agreed on strengthening the protection of the rights of the individual,” Swedish justice minister Beatrice Ask, on behalf of the EU presidency, said at a signing ceremony with US attorney general Eric Holder at the Swedish embassy in Washington on Wednesday (28 October).

A long-time critic of the death penalty in the US, the EU began negotiating the extradition agreement after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on US soil.

This is the first agreement on extradition between the United States and the European Union. It will enter into force in February 2010, after EU justice ministers ratified the deal earlier this month.

Under the deal, existing bilateral extradition treaties between the US and each member state will be streamlined and modernised, clarifying for instance the kind of offences that are extraditable, rules surrounding the exchange of information and transmission of documents and transit rules.

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



Europe’s Leaders to Create EU Foreign Ministry

Europe’s leaders will on Thursday agree to create a ‘foreign ministry’ under Lisbon Treaty plans to make the European Union a world power to rival the United States and China.

Confidential plans to form the new European External Action Service (EEAS) by next spring will be agreed by Gordon Brown over dinner at the start of a two-day summit in Brussels.

But rather than a simple reorganisation of existing EU diplomatic activity, the new institution will take on the trappings of a fully fledged ministry such as the Foreign Office or America’s State Department.

The Conservatives have attacked the Prime Minister for signing up to the plan, which follow weeks of secret negotiations, without public scrutiny or any debate in the House of Commons.

According to a restricted document, seen by The Daily Telegraph, the new Brussels institution will take responsibility for the “strategic direction” of EU foreign policy and will have its own independent budget.

It will be headed by a “High Representative”, or EU foreign minister, who will take over key military, crisis planning and intelligence bodies previously controlled by national governments.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



First Electric Police Cars Roll Onto Britain’s Streets… But They’d Be No Good in a High-Speed Chase

West Midlands Police will be taking to the streets of Birmingham in Mitsubishi all-electric MiEV city cars from December.

The £30,000 car has a range of 100 miles from a full battery charge but a top speed of 81mph meaning high-speed chases are out of the question.

The new blues and twos can carry four adult passengers and equipment in comfort and best of all it will help to keep streets clean as it has zero emissions.

The force is running a new CABLED (Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Demonstrator) scheme to trial the car for a year.

The initial cost of the Mitsubishi car is too high to be considered for any large scale switch-over but by paying a heavily -subsidised monthly rental during the trial, officers say it will more than pay its way.

Andy Kelly, head of the force’s Fleet Services, said: ‘We are keen to look at all aspects of our fleet’s carbon footprint whilst balancing any emerging products against our operational requirements.

‘The arrival of these type of vehicles by many manufacturers is something we will monitor very closely in the years ahead, because they are very much the future.’

Police will give the new car, which costs a fraction of the cost per mile to run compared to a petrol car, to a Community Support Officer to carry out work in his or her neighbourhood.

Two dozen of the vehicles will be distributed to other public sector partners in the West Midlands area following the Birmingham launch.

‘Clearly our priority is to ensure that the vehicle fits in neatly with the role our officers perform in the community, and it more than does that,’ said Mr Kelly.

The i MiEV in full police livery was showcased at the National Police Show in September, where it was an instant show stopper.

Since then, Mitsubishi Motors has been inundated with requests from UK Police Forces to trial the i MiEV but West Midlands Police are the first to make one fully operational in the fight against crime.

Mitsubishi’s Managing Director, Lance Bradley, said: ‘The i-MiEVs have been in the UK on trial for almost a year now and we are delighted that police forces in the UK are able to see that the future of zero emissions driving requires no compromise.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Hard-Working: Ambitious and Confident, Typical Spanish Woman

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 26 — Women workers, intellectually restless, ambitious and satisfied with herself, but above all critical of what she considers to be unjust: this is today’s Spanish women, according to an investigation carried out by the Cimop Institute for weekly magazine Mujer Hoy, in a survey of 25,000 women, asked 62 questions. A foretaste of the results, which will be published in Friday’s edition, shows the great steps made by Spanish women on the road to emancipation in the last decade: only 13.8% are solely housewives, and 18% of these at the request of their husbands. But a mass entrance into the world of work in the last decades has not freed women from domestic tasks, 62.35% maintain that work and family are difficult to reconcile and only 8% believe that the Equality laws passed by the Zapatero government help them in this. Many stereotypes of Spanish women are destroyed by the survey. Above all the stereotype that they are dedicated to the family to the point of always putting the family before work: over half of those interviewed said that they were ambitious, a percentage which rises to 68.2% in the case of women without children. The main problem for women is not so much the working hours, as the organisation of the daily routine. Love too, for the ‘passionate’ Spanish — as the cliche goes — is not a priority: in fact it is not the issue which women feel is most important in their lives, compared to money, work and health, 62.5%, 57.1% and 54.6% of interviewees respectively. Love is in fourth place. Spending time with family and friends during their free time is the choice of the majority of Spanish women, followed by reading books, magazines and newspapers. Spanish women are most sceptical about the institutions, with 80% of those interviewed confirming that they have no faith in the justice system or Parliament. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority say that they are happy with themselves on a personal level, especially older women. Some 53.6% prefer to increase their knowledge than their physical appearance with plastic surgery; and 85.3% says that they take care of themselves and make themselves beautiful for themselves, not for other people. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italian Gov’t OKs the Italian-French Alpi-Med

(ANSAmed) — TURIN, OCTOBER 26 — After lengthy and complicated talks, the Italian government has given its official authorisation for the Alpi-Med European region, which will include 17 million inhabitants from Italy and France and bring together five cross-border regions: the Italian ones Piemonte, Liguria and Valle d’Aosta, and the French ones Rhone Alpes and PACA (Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur). The announcement was made by the president of the Piemonte region Mercedes Bresso, who gathered together representatives from the five regions in Turin for the beginning of the 6-month Piemonte Alpi-Med presidency. The new public body is the first European group of territorial cooperation (GECT) authorised in Italy, and will speed up access to EU funds for all projects common to the five regions, since from now on the relationship will be managed by a sole legal entity and not by the five that constitute it. The headquarters of the EU region, which will follow French law, will be in Nice starting from 2010 for 3 years. Even given their different situations and powers, the Italian regions and their French counterparts have identified a number of issues on which they intend to work together, from initiatives in research to infrastructure development, from environmental protection to tourism. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Hungry Son Spoils Jewel Cake Heist

Carer put lady’s valuables in ‘homecoming’ confection

(ANSA) — Perugia, October 29 — A hungry son spoiled a Romanian carer’s plan to take an old lady’s jewels back home hidden in a cake.

The carer baked what she said was “a special cake” for her relatives in Romania but made the mistake of putting it in the fridge before she set off, Umbrian media reported Thursday.

The son arrived by chance, opened the fridge, spotted the cake and took a big slice to find “a rich filling” of bracelets, earrings, necklaces and other jewels.

The carer lost her job in the village of Sanfatucchio on Lake Trasimeno.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Fine Confirmed on Pasta Makers

Leading producers found to have created price cartel

(ANSA) — Rome, October 29 — The Lazio regional administrative court (TAR) on Thursday upheld fines totalling 12.5 million euros slapped on 26 pasta producers and the national producers’ union Unipi for creating a cartel with the aim of stifling competition and driving up prices.

The fines were imposed last February by Italy’s anti-trust authority which examined price trends from October 2006 through March 2008.

“Today is a great day for the anti-trust authority because we beat all the appeals lodged at the TAR,” the chairman of the market watchdog, Antonio Catricala’, said. The producers fined by the anti-trust authority accounted for some 90% of the domestic market.

Pasta prices soared by two-digit percentages in 2008 to the outrage of consumers and dismay of farmers, who have seen wheat prices at the farm fall while their production costs rocketed.

Also fined by the anti-trust authority were the national food market association Unionalimentari and the national union of small and medium-sized food businesses Unpmia, for issuing orders to their members to uniformly raise prices.

In reply to protests by consumer groups and farmers’ associations, Italy’s leading pasta makers in February admitted that prices on the farm for wheat had declined, but justified their price hikes on the grounds that while prices had been stalled for years, on the commodities market wheat prices had soared due to speculation on biofuels.

They also said that their costs had been driven up by higher fuel prices, which affected production and transport, and increased labor costs.

Unipi reiterated this position even after the anti-trust authority’s action and added that in the sector “there has never been any speculation nor tacit accord to damage the interest of consumers”.

The cause for the hike in pasta prices, Unipi explained, “is more linked to factors related to production costs than the cost of the raw material, durum wheat, even though in the first half of 2008 it was 220% higher than the average for all of 2005”.

Unipi said it was “bitter and concerned” over the decision by the anti-trust authority and would file an appeal against it in the proper seat.

CONSUME GROUPS AND FARMERS APPLAUD DECISION.

Consumer groups applauded the fines which they said sent “an important signal on the need for transparency on our market. It was inadmissible that pasta prices continued to climb while the cost of raw materials declined,” .

“It is only through free competition and combating speculation that we can guarantee real price controls for the consumer,” the Unione Consumatorigroup added.

The anti-trust action was also welcomed by farmers who said that, while it was impossible for them to be reimbursed, consumers should now be compensated by a slash in retail pasta prices.

“This whole affair has made it perfectly clear that greater transparency in pricing is urgently needed. We believe that our proposal of double prices, displaying both producer and retail prices, is extremely valid and we think it would be opportune for the government to adopt this,” the Confederation of Italian farmers said.

One of the repercussions of the surge in pasta prices was that Italians in 2008 for the first time began buying and eating less pasta and many turned away from the healthy, Mediterranean diet.

The 26 pasta makers fined were: Amato, Barilla, Colussi, De Cecco, Divella, Garofalo, Nestle’, Rummo, Zara, Berruto, Delverde, Granoro, Riscossa, Tandoi, Cellino, Chirico, De Matteis, Di Martino, Fabianelli, Ferrara, Liguori, Mennucci, Russo, La Molisana, Tamma and Valdigrano.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Other Politicians ‘May be Being Blackmailed Over Sex’

Rome, 27 October(AKI) — Lazio governor Piero Marrazzo may not be the only politician who is being blackmailed over his sex life, according to Rome prosecutors. They believe at least two other politicians who allegedly frequented transsexual prostitutes may have been victims of blackmail.

The prosecutors have already questioned dozens of transsexual prostitutes in Rome who claim Marrazzo was far from being their only ‘VIP’ customer, said Italian daily La Repubblica. These include politicians, lawyers, footballers, businessmen, and journalists, the prostitutes have said.

However, none of these alleged clients were named in news reports.

Marrazzo suspended himself from his post on Saturday after a video emerged that apparently showed him with a transsexual prostitute. The video was allegedly shot by four policemen arrested last week for trying to extort up to 80,000 euros from Marrazzo to keep the video secret.

Marrazzo has said he paid 5,000 euros to the transsexual prostitute, whom he in early August encountered in a Rome apartment. The fee Marrazzo paid is far above the average price of 200 euros per encounter, said La Repubblica.

Prosecutors suspect that Marrazzo also paid for cocaine, a line of which can allegedly be seen beside the bed in the video. Marrazzo claims police stole the 5,000 euros when they burst into the apartment and shot the video.

Marrazzo is also due to be questioned by prosecutors about his alleged use of government vehicles and drivers on his visits to the transsexual prostitutes, some of whom have claimed he left his driver waiting through the night during his encounters.

Doctors have certified that 51-year-old Marrazzo is suffering from acute “psycho-physical stress” and cannot resume his duties for 30 days.

Marrazzo, who is married with three children has admitted to “a weakness in my private life and said he made “a terrible, terrible mistake” in not reporting his blackmailers to police.

He was on Tuesday reported to have checked into a religious institute in the Rome area “for several days’ rest and reflection.”

The ruling centre-right has called for Marrazzo’s resignation and a snap regional polls, hoping to make electoral gains amid the turmoil into which the affair has thrown Italy’s centre-left opposition. Marrazzo was once tipped as a future leader of the centre-left Democratic Party.

Last Friday, he at first strongly denied the claims of the existence of a video, saying it was a smear campaign against him ahead of regional elections due to take place next year.

However, he was forced ‘suspend’ himself from his duties as president of the Lazio region after reports about another, longer video of him surfaced, involving the use of cocaine.

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



L’Europe, C’est Moi, At £900,000 a Day

It’s been pretty clear for some time — well, clear to me at least — that there is one overriding reason why President Sarkozy of France has been pushing for Tony Blair to be made the first President of the European Council, in effect, to be made the first head of state of this new country called the EU.

It is because Blair is the only European politician whose vanity Sarkozy can count on to aggrandise the office. I’m dead sure Sarkozy reckons that after he is through being president of a country which is second-rate in terms of international influence, he can become President of Europe. That would let him claim to be the equal to the American president and the Chinese dictator.

But he wants to make sure that no dull Dutch or Finnish technocrat takes the job first and shapes it into not much more than a five-year term as a conference-convener.

Sarko intends to inherit a presidency with grandeur, and he knows that among European politicians he has only one equal in the love of the gilded life: Tony Blair. If the French president can get Blair into the office first, he can be sure that Tony and Cherie between them will inject enough limousines, private jets, state banquets and ceremony to keep him happy when he arrives to take over.

What Sarko dreams of is being the 21st century Sun King. He knows Tony will lay out a path to euro-Versailles for him.

Just how much grandeur does Sarkozy imagine Europe owes him? Yesterday the EU Court of Auditors published their accounts of his spending during the six months France held the rotating EU presidency last year. The accounts show the French president was spending European taxpayers’ money at the rate of about £900,000 a day, making the total spend for the 26 weeks in which France held the presidency equal to £154m.

Among the most absurdly immoderate of the spending binges by Monsieur le Roi Soleil-Rotating President was his EU-Mediterranean summit, which cost £15m for two days’ frolics. Calculations for the cost per head of the big-event dinner was £4,500.

Imagine Sarkozy having the run of the European president’s entertainment budget for a full five years.

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



Sarkozy Leads the Charge to Strong-Arm Klaus Into Signing Lisbon

The FT reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has described Czech President Vaclav Klaus’ refusal to sign the Lisbon Treaty as “unacceptable”. “Decision time is coming for him and it will not be without consequence,” Mr Sarkozy said in an interview with Le Figaro. “And whatever happens, this issue will be resolved by the end of the year.”

The FT quotes a French official saying, “The Czech government has signed it, the Czech parliament has signed it. We don’t expect the Czechs’ president to put himself in a position where he breaks the word of the Czech Republic. The EU runs on people holding to their word. There would be serious consequences.”

The article notes that France regards Mr Klaus’s bid for an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights, over concerns about Sudeten German property rights in the Czech Republic, as “artificial” but that it would accept a political declaration if it led to speedy ratification of the Treaty.

In a press release from the French Foreign Office, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is quoted saying, “Above all, it is President Vaclav Klaus’ attitude, a convinced and perseverant eurosceptic, [which is] the main problem.” He adds, “Some recommend not provoking President Klaus, hoping that he will find himself incapacitated of continuing with his project [delaying the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty until the British elections]. Personally, I believe we ought to keep a firm hand since everyone has already voted, including the Czech Republic. A single man will not know how to oppose the will of 500 million Europeans. The European Council that will take place at the end of the month will be the right occasion to test the determination of Europeans and to put pressure on the Czech President.”

A WSJ leader writes, “Having browbeaten Ireland into reversing its verdict on the Lisbon Treaty earlier this month, Brussels is now trying its Sopranos act on the Czech president, the last treaty hold-out…[Commission President Jose Manuel] Barroso does himself and the institution he represents no favors by trying to strong arm yet another small country.” In the Sun, Trevor Kavanagh argues, “The Czechs have a well-run economy. They cannot be bounced like recession hit Ireland.”

The BBC notes that former Czech President Vaclav Havel has called on Klaus to sign the Treaty and Czech paper Novinki reports that Alena Gajduskova, Vice-Chairwomen of the Czech Senate has said that she will try to deprive Klaus of the powers of the Head of State, which would transfer certain Presidential powers to the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament.

Meanwhile, PA reports that Irish President Mary McAleese has signed the Irish Bill of the Lisbon Treaty, making the Yes vote in the referendum legally binding.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Spain: Basque Countries, Debate on Ending Armed Struggle

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — Madrid, OCTOBER 26 — A document drawn up by the historic leaders of the Basque radical left independence movement entitled Gakoa (Key), asks for a debate to be opened in the Basque countries on whether to continue the armed struggle and that ETA should disband. The document, reports El Pais, defines the armed organization as “an obstacle for politics” that impedes following the Irish strategy or Catalan independence. It is the first time an internal ETA debate has been considered which calls terrorism into question. “If we don’t plan the armed fight as theme for debate for the assembly, the debate will die stillborn”, reads the document. The reference is the initiative of the leader for the former Batasuna, Arnaldo Otegi, and Rafael Diez Usabiaga, arrested ten days ago, for an independence party to be formed, the Bateragune (meeting point), to catalyze the Basque radical independence forces with the exception of the PNV. According to Judge Garzon, Bateragune is the organ designated by ETA to start a strategic political military and start an independence front in order to participate in the 2011 municipal elections, getting around the law, which prohibits illegal organizations, like Batasuna, to participate in political life. Despite the arrests, the pro-independence left is moving ahead with the project, which substantially re-proposes the so-called Anoeta proposal in 2005 which led to the opening of talks between ETA and the government. However, the main targets are no longer in agreement, the nationalist ELA union and the pro-independence parties Eusko Alkrtasuna (EA) and Aralal, refuse unless ETA withdraws from the scene first. Thursday ELA published a document that urges ETA to take “unilateral steps” to put an end to terrorism because “the state will not give anything in exchange”. The new document takes a further step, stigmatizing ETA terrorism and calling for the disbanding of the group. The example to follow, say left wing exponents, is the Irish road or Catalan independence. “The fact that other national liberation movements leave behind their military strategy; especially the IRA has strengthened the fight for the political approach”. And without having to pay “the social costs that arms struggle means”. Meanwhile ETA has drawn up new directives regarding access to the members of the organization, according to sources from the Interior ministry and cited today on Radio Cadena Ser. The new regulations are contained in a manual taken from ETA member Ekaitz Sirvent. Standing out among the instructions, is the prohibition for women intending to have children to belong to the organization because “currently it is impossible to give birth and take care of children in clandestine situations”. ETA allows its members in hiding to meet their families every five years for two weeks. Other rules have to do with the selection of affiliates, up to now recruited in prison from young people convicted for urban guerrilla warfare or acts of vandalism. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: 60% of Workers Have Mental Health Problems From Stress

(ANSAmed) — MADRID — 60% of Spanish workers suffer from mental health problems according to research carried out at the University of Leon, assuring that 28% of the working European population suffers from stress, “the new organisational epidemic of the XXI century”. Entitled “Psychological Health of Workers: Triggering mechanisms for deterioration and prevention strategies for mental illness”, the research highlights that, together with stress, work causes tiredness, anxiety, headaches and sleeping disorders. Workplace pathologies have come to a head in recent years, like the “burnt-out” syndrome, work dependency or “yuppie fever”, which is stress dependency. The latter, according to the research “does not only have serious repercussions for health of the working population, but also significant social and business costs”. Tiredness, anxiety, headaches, irritability and sleeping disorders are the most common among Spanish workers. The profile of the people who suffer from them are “very active, competitive, aggressive, hostile, fighter persistent and tenacious subjects, who attempt to reach the highest level and the largest number of objectives in the least amount of time possible”. According to the authors of the study, there is a series of emerging factors in the current workplace scenario which act as stress agents, like job stability, precarious contracts, feelings of job insecurity, long hours, high emotional demands and difficulty in reconciling personal and family life. According to the study, 30% of employees work over 10 hours at least one day per month and 14% work more than 45 hours per week, while 20% work on shifts. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: ETA Bans Women Who Want to Have Children

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, OCTOBER 26 — The management of ETA, the armed separatist organisation of the Basque Country, allows its underground members to meet their families once every five years, whilst women who want to have children must leave the group, “because it is currently impossible to give birth to and look after children underground.” These are the new guidelines for entrance into the armed organisation, contained in a manual confiscated from Ekaitz Sirvent, considered to head of the forgery unit of the organisation, who was arrested in April. According to reports today on Radio Cadena Ser, there are also instructions regarding the selection process for new recruits. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Tingbjerg: One Neighborhood’s Nightmare

By Bruce Bawer, HRS

Few people outside of Denmark have heard of Tingbjerg. It’s a residential neighborhood in northwestern Copenhagen. About 6500 people live there, down from about 10,000 in the 1970s. Today the great majority of those residents are Muslims. As the neighborhood has become increasingly Muslim, it’s also been increasingly plagued by gang violence, burglaries, car-burnings, vandalism, and other offenses. Over the years, the members of Tingbjerg’s non-Muslim minority have come to feel increasingly vulnerable and ill at ease in their community. Many have moved out.

Among the latter is Ulrich Vogel. He is German and gay — and until recently he also happened to be the pastor at Tingbjerg Church. But now, after seventeen years in that position, he’s fled — moved out of the church residence, gone underground, taken sick leave, and begun psychological treatment.

Why? Because in recent years Vogel has been the repeated target of crime and harassment by local Muslims. Vogel refused to discuss his situation with Uwe Max Jensen, who reported on the story for sappho.dk on October 6. But Jensen found police reports in local newspapers that describe acts of vandalism at the church on March 26 and August 5 of this year and a break-in at the church residence on August 16. The latter crime involved the destruction and robbery of much of Vogel’s personal property, including his computer. And this is apparently only the tip of the iceberg: a member of the church congregation told Jensen that the residence has been broken into “countless” times.

In any case, Vogel has given up. And so, apparently, has the church council: instead of opening up a search for a substitute pastor who’s willing to live in the church residence at Tingbjerg, they’ve decided to sell it…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



UK: Buckingham Mosque …What Fanatics Want to Call the Palace

A FANATICAL Muslim group campaigning to impose sharia law on Britain wants to turn Buckingham Palace into a mosque, it was revealed last night.

Days before a potentially incendiary rally in central London, the hardline Islam4UK group claims to have uncovered historical evidence which challenges the right of the Queen to live at the royal property.

Notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary is calling for the palace to be renamed Buckingham Masjid, the Arabic word for mosque.

The Mall, which approaches the palace, would become Masjid Road.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: City Christmas Tree Chopped Down

A Christmas tree which was put up in Leeds city centre two weeks ago has been felled amid safety fears about a demonstration planned for the weekend.

The tree, which cost taxpayers £2,000, went up in City Square on 18 October.

However, the council and police agreed it could pose a risk to the public during a planned rally by the English Defence League on Saturday.

Surprised commuters looked on as workmen used a chainsaw to cut down the 30ft tree early on Thursday morning.

A Leeds City Council spokesman said the tree would be used elsewhere and a new one would be put up in the square before Christmas.

“We have agreed with the police to remove the tree due to an event taking place on the site at the weekend involving a mass gathering of people,” a council statement said.

“We… cut the tree down in such a way that it can be reused elsewhere in the city.

“We will replace the City Square tree as soon as we can after the event.”

A council employee, who did not wish to be named, sent an email to the BBC saying: “With the tree costing in excess of £2,000 I think it is, diabolically, to be replaced with another tree after the protest has finished at more cost to the taxpayer.”

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]



UK: Councils Get ‘Al Capone’ Power to Seize Assets Over Minor Offences

Draconian police powers designed to deprive crime barons of luxury lifestyles are being extended to councils, quangos and agencies to use against the public, The Times has learnt.

The right to search homes, seize cash, freeze bank accounts and confiscate property will be given to town hall officials and civilian investigators employed by organisations as diverse as Royal Mail, the Rural Payments Agency and Transport for London.

The measure, being pushed through by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, comes into force next week and will deploy some of the most powerful tools available to detectives against fare dodgers, families in arrears with council tax and other minor offenders.

The radical extension of the Proceeds of Crime Act, through a Statutory Instrument which is not debated by parliament, has been condemned by the chairman of the Police Federation. Paul McKeever said that he was shocked to learn that the decision to hand over “intrusive powers” to people who were not police was made without consultation or debate.

“The Proceeds of Crime Act is a very powerful tool in the hands of police and police-related agencies and it shouldn’t be treated lightly,” Mr McKeever said. “There is a behind the scenes creep of powers occurring here and I think the public will be very surprised. They would want such very intrusive powers to be kept in the hands of warranted officers and other law enforcement bodies which are vetted to a very high standard rather than given to local councils.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Classroom Apartheid: Teachers Who Were Afraid to Discipline Thuggish Minority of Asian Pupils for Fear of Being Branded Racist

He gave his name as Henry Webster when he stepped into the witness box at the High Court in London last week. But he wasn’t the Henry Webster his family and friends remember.

The real Henry Webster was a strapping 6ft 2in rugby player, not someone who struggled to string sentences together and had to be given painkillers to complete his evidence.

Instead of preparing for college or university, he has been left with learning difficulties, short-term memory loss, and epilepsy. Henry will settle for that because the alternative would have meant not being here at all.

This is the only upside of being attacked with a claw hammer that left an inch-deep impression on his skull.

One claw hammer and 12 teenage thugs versus one young man. Those were the odds when a gang of Asian youths ambushed him.

More…

After their work was done, his attackers punched the air in triumph — ‘that’s what you call Paki bashing,’ they yelled.

The thugs have all been jailed. Not all the culprits, however, have been brought to book — not in the eyes of Henry’s family, anyway. They believe teachers at his school, near Swindon — where the assault took place in 2007 when Henry was just 15 — are as guilty as the actual perpetrators themselves.

Why? Because, they say, the school allowed ethnic minority pupils to get away with flagrant misbehaviour, and then handed them less severe punishments than their white classmates because staff feared they might otherwise be accused of racism.

In other words, a culture of ‘ educational apartheid’ prevailed in all but name at Ridgeway School.

Had this not been the case, Henry’s parents insist, their son would probably not have sustained brain damage outside the school tennis courts one day in January nearly three years ago.

They have now brought a civil action against Ridgeway and are seeking compensation of up to £1 million. The allegations amount to a devastating indictment not just of Ridgeway, but of policies that were supposed to lead to integration, not segregation, in our schools.

Our own investigation into the events which culminated in Henry Webster being left for dead within walking distance of his classroom does little to counter that view.

Remember, this is not some inner city hell hole. Swindon (population 200,000) is often used for market research purposes precisely because it is considered to be a typical British town; neither the best nor the worst place to live, just average.

Ridgeway School, too, is average. Only about 70 — 5 per cent — of the 1,400 or so pupils are from ethnic minorities.

Exam results are good, and the school continues to receive glowing government reports. Only last year, Ridgeway’s headmaster Steven Colledge, who took over in September 2006, was praised by Ofsted inspectors as ‘Outstanding’ for his ‘leadership and management’ skills.

But anyone who saw his performance on Channel 4 News the day after Henry Webster was attacked might beg to differ.

‘I think there is always a danger where there is a mixture of races and peoples which reflect the community we live in that any tension that might exist, any little scuffle or fight, can be twisted to be much more of a major thing than it really is,’ he told the cameras.

No, this is not a misquotation. He really did use the words ‘little scuffle’ to describe the attack in which Henry Webster was left brain damaged.

Furthermore, in the immediate aftermath, neither the ‘outstanding’ Mr Colledge nor any of his colleagues visited the Webster family or even sent a get well card. Mr Colledge later told a governors’ inquiry that gestures such as sending cards or flowers ‘were not in his nature’.

Parents and former staff say that multiculturalism at Ridgeway, under his leadership, meant pupils on both sides of the religious and cultural divide breathing the same air but sharing very little else.

Asian youngsters, we have been told, had their own officially designated meeting room which, to all intents and purposes, became the unofficial base for a 30-strong crew known as the ‘Asian Invasion’ and the ‘Broad Street Massive’.

Many, if not all 12, of those convicted of assaulting Henry belonged to the gang and lived mainly in the vicinity of Broad Street in Swindon. Four of them were still pupils at Ridgeway. They would often call older relatives and friends from outside school to settle disputes.

One such was Wasif Khan, then 18, who was the person who wielded the claw hammer. He was a ‘wannabe militant’, according to the police, and carried on his mobile phone a screensaver of the collapse of the World Trade Centre. A number of accomplices used social networking sites to communicate their message.

One said: ‘Play with a gun, play with a knife, play with a Bangli [Bangladeshi] and you’ll lose your life.’ A second posting featured a soundtrack with anti-Western lyrics.

There’s no suggestion that these poisonous views were shared by the majority of the Asian pupils at Ridgeway — in fact, bar the members of the gang who attacked Henry, there were generally very good relations between the Asian and white pupils.

Most have no interest whatsoever in violence. Equally, there are inevitably white children at the school who have been guilty of reprehensible behaviour.

But the disturbing, and disproportionate, influence the Broad Street Massive is said to have exercised over the life of Ridgeway School is revealed in statements summarised in court papers obtained by the Mail, from parents, pupils and former staff.

All are expected to give evidence for the Websters in the High Court over the next few weeks. Racial intimidation and violence, they say, was commonplace and escalated into a mass fight on the school tennis courts after Asian gang members threatened ‘warfare’ against white pupils.

Yet the school’s extreme sensitivity on ethnic issues allegedly allowed the thuggish minority to believe they were ‘untouchable’.

One parent, Donna Burnett, said that when her son Alistair got into a fight with a member of the ‘Asian Invasion’, Alistair received a longer suspension. When she reported her fears about the Asian gang causing racial tensions to teacher Dawn Blackler, her reaction, she claimed, was abrupt to the ‘point of being rude’.

Another parent, Gail Rich, tells in the court papers how her son Taylor was assaulted by Asian gang members — who filmed the attack. Those responsible, she claimed, were not disciplined, which meant they continued to pick on her son.

Taylor, on the other hand, was disciplined for wearing an England football shirt to school — because it contravened the rules on uniform — while pupils from ethnic minorities, she says, were not punished for wearing hoodies or listening to music on their mobile phones.

On one occasion, one youngster turned up for class wrapped in a Pakistani flag. When the head, Mr Colledge, was questioned by the school governors about this, he said it was no different from a Welsh governor wearing a daffodil.

Yet another parent, Ashley Thorne, tells in the court papers how he was on his way to collect his son David and his friend Sam Barrington when he realised they had been injured.

Both the boys, he was told, had been set upon by older Asian pupils wearing knuckledusters in front of the school, while two teachers stood and watched.

Mr Thorne claims he heard Mr Matthews say he could not intervene for insurance reasons because the incident had not occurred within the school grounds..

According to the court papers, Charlotte Benhalilou, a pupil at Ridgeway, was also threatened outside the school by a young Asian man. ‘I’m going to slash you up,’ he told her.

One of the mothers stepped in to help her and suggested that the police should be called. Instead, she said in the court papers, Christopher Walton, the acting head prior to Mr Colledge’s appointment, simply told Charlotte to get on her bus without even asking her if she was OK.

And so it goes on; more than 50 pages of what is, on the face of it, damning evidence. One of the parents who has already given evidence at the High Court is Neil Grabe.

Mr Grabe’s account cannot be easily dismissed; he’s a serving police officer. His son Charlie, who is now 18, only recently left Ridgeway.

‘There were racial tensions, and I felt I had to go to the school and express my concerns about it and the safety of my son. I told the teachers there’s a problem with the group of boys who called themselves the “Asian Invasion” and they’re picking on people like Charlie. I was so concerned with the way the school was handling the situation that I was prepared to take him out of school.

‘The teachers more or less tried to dismiss me. Mr Walton made me feel as if I was wasting his time.’

Some teachers, though, shared his concerns. One of them was Rachel Barker, who also gave evidence earlier this week.

Ms Barker, a trainee teacher at the school for three months in 2005, said that when she first heard a pupil had been attacked in Swindon she ‘knew instinctively’ that it had to be at Ridgeway. ‘

I think staff found it relatively easy to cope with the unruly white pupils, but the Asian pupils were in a league of their own. I think one of the reasons there were such problems with discipline was because the school did not promote a positive culture of cohesion and integration.

‘I felt the school was letting down its pupils; all that was needed was some education for the pupils in terms of respect and good discipline. The Asian pupils at the school were allowed to think of themselves as superior. This was partly the fault of the school because the Asian pupils would never be disciplined or, if they were, they would receive a lesser punishment than the white pupils.’

Again, it cannot be stressed too strongly that the majority of Asian pupils at Ridgeway are entirely guiltless in this affair, and should not be tarnished by the thuggery of a minority.

But Ms Barker said that even during her short period at the school she could feel the tensions increasing between white and Asian children, and that the school allowed male Asians to separate themselves from the mainstream.

‘In my opinion, the school did not deal with the problem effectively because they were fearful of being accused of racism,’ she said.

‘After the riot [when a mass fight broke out on the tennis courts], I remember the reluctance of the school to contact the police, and their insistence on playing down what was obviously a racial incident.’

Indeed, the nearfatal attack on Henry Webster on January 11, 2007, was not racially motivated in the eyes of either the school or the police.

It was triggered by a confrontation in a corridor with a 14-year-old Asian boy, which led to a challenge to a ‘one- on- one’ fight on the school tennis courts after classes had ended.

When Henry — who had no record of disciplinary problems — arrived, he was ambushed by three car loads of mostly older teenagers who had been mobilised by 59 mobile phone calls in the space of an hour.

Callers passed on the message that one of the ‘gora’ [whites] wanted a fight. The 14-year- old who had tangled with Henry earlier in the day then pointed him out.

In a video interview filmed six days after the attack, Henry said: ‘I heard screams, then I was punched in the back of the head. I was curled up on the floor, but they repeatedly kept hitting me. Then I felt the hammer hit the back of my head.’

Just to repeat — the scene of the attack was not outside a bar on a Saturday night, nor a sink estate, but by the school tennis courts.

Henry has now moved to another school, where he has fallen a year behind and is struggling to catch up. He and his younger brother Joseph, 14, live with their mother Elizabeth Walker, 46, who runs a nanny recruiting business, and stepfather Roger Durnford, 44, boss of a building company.

Ridgeway School disputes the allegations against it, and says blaming it for an attack outside school hours is ‘unprecedented and far-fetched’.

After all, it would no doubt argue, a recent Ofsted report concluded: ‘Students feel safe in school and they show respect and consideration for each other.’

Sadly, Henry Webster and his family would beg to differ.

[Return to headlines]



UK: Lesbian Police Officer Sues Force Over ‘Homophobia’ After Being Banned From Working With Her Girlfriend

A lesbian police officer accused her former bosses of homophobia yesterday after being banned from working on the same shift as her girlfriend.

Sergeant Jasmine Stewart is suing British Transport Police for sexual discrimination, claiming she was picked on by colleagues who called her a ‘poof’.

The 39-year-old mother of two, who has since been sacked from her job, told an employment tribunal yesterday that the force was riddled with homophobia.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Parents Banned From Watching Their Children in Playgrounds… In Case They Are Paedophiles

Parents are being banned from playing with their children in council recreation areas because they have not been vetted by police.

Mothers and fathers are being forced to watch their children from outside perimeter fences because of fears they could be paedophiles.

Watford Council was branded a ‘disgrace’ yesterday after excluding parents from two fenced-off adventure playgrounds unless they first undergo criminal record checks.

Children as young as five will instead be supervised by council ‘play rangers’ who have been cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau.

Councillors insist they are merely following Government regulations and cannot allow adults to walk around playgrounds ‘unchecked’.

But furious parents attacked the move and threatened to boycott the playgrounds.

Concerns were raised last night that other councils around the country are adopting similar policies amid confusion over Government rules and increasing hysteria over child protection.

It comes amid an escalating row over the Government’s new anti-paedophile database, which will contain the names of more than 11million adults cleared to work with children and vulnerable adults.

Mother-of-five Marcella Bergin, 35, from Watford, who has been visiting the play areas for many years, said: ‘It’s like they are branding all parents potential paedophiles, which is disgraceful.

‘Ninety-nine per cent of people are great parents and certainly not child abusers.’

Mother-of-eight Jenny Abbasi, 41, whose children also use the playgrounds, said the new rules were ‘a disgrace’.

Miss Abbasi, from Garston, Hertfordshire, said: ‘I have been using the playgrounds for 18 years and it’s a sad day when parents cannot be involved with the enjoyment of their children.’

The rules were imposed at Harwoods and Harebreaks adventure recreation grounds from this week.

Activities on the half-acre sites include a skateboard half-pipe, a zip line and rope swings.

Play rangers patrol both parks — which are for children aged five to 15 — and are fully qualified with CRB checks.

Parents already have to ‘register’ their child on arrival so staff have their contact details in the event of an accident. But now only those who have been selected for CRB vetting by the council can enter the sites.

Mayor Dorothy Thornhill argued the council was merely enforcing government policy at the play areas.

‘Sadly, in today’s climate, you can’t have adults walking around unchecked in a children’s playground and the adventure playground is not a meeting place for adults,’ she said.

But the Tories claimed the row showed the Government’s ‘ heavy- handed’ approach to safeguarding was ‘completely out of control’.

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



UK: Schools Report 40,000 Cases of Racism a Year

Primary school pupils and toddlers in nurseries are being punished for making racist insults, according to a report, even if they don’t understand the terms they use.

Teachers are being treated like counter staff in police stations as they have to fill in forms detailing name-calling and jokes.

Meanwhile diversity “missionaries” are said to be increasing the divide between white and black children by forcing them to see everything through the prism of race.

Adrian Hart, the author of the report published by the Manifesto Club, a civil liberties group, said: “The obligation on schools to report these incidents wastes teachers’ time, interferes in children’s space in the playground, and undermines teachers’ ability to deal with problems in their classrooms.

“Worse, such anti-racist policies can create divisions where none had existed, by turning everyday playground spats into ‘race issues’.

“There are a small number of cases of sustained targeted bullying, and schools certainly need to deal with those. But most of these ‘racist incidents’ are just kids falling out. They don’t need re-educating out of their prejudice — they and their teachers need to be left alone.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Schoolgirl, 14, Goes Missing After ‘Converting’ To Islam

A girl of 14 has gone missing after developing a ‘keen interest’ in Islam, police said yesterday.

Sarah Dunn — who had spoken of converting to the faith just days before her disappearance — vanished after a row with a friend.

The schoolgirl, who was last seen buying a prayer mat, had grown ‘ increasingly obsessed’ with reading the Koran, friends claim.

It is believed she could be staying with friends she has made in the Asian community.

A police spokesman said Sarah had disappeared after a row with a schoolfriend during a work experience-type placement at a business unit in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, on September 28.

She told a carer: ‘That’s it. I’ve had enough’, and then left, claiming she planned to visit an auntie.

Later that day, the schoolgirl was captured on CCTV in Wellington, Shropshire, buying a prayer mat — the last time she was seen.

It is believed she then travelled around 25 miles to Dudley, in the West Midlands, where she grew up, although it is unclear how she did so.

The town and surrounding area has a large Asian community.

Detective Inspector Jon Roberts, from West Mercia Police, said: ‘We are particularly appealing to the Asian community who may have a white female with them.

‘We know Sarah was looking at converting to Islam, was reading the Koran, had purchased a prayer mat and was praying.

‘But there is no evidence that she has come to harm and is under the influence of anything apart from her own free will.

‘Sarah is quite streetwise, but at 14 she should not be out there on her own. It is just a question of trying to find her and putting things right.’

Sarah had gone missing in the past and was discovered on each occasion in Dudley, he added.

Yesterday, a friend said: ‘No one has heard anything from her. She was really into Islam and was really interested in the Koran.

‘I think it became a bit of an obsession but whenever anyone tried to talk to her about it she would get very defensive. We’re really worried about her.’

Although Sarah was in foster care in Leintwardine, Herefordshire, she regularly visited her mother Christine at her home in Dudley.

At a press conference last week, Mrs Dunn, 40, said: ‘Just give me a ring or make contact in whatever way you can.

‘There are lots of people out there with your best interests at heart, looking for you to make sure that you are safe and well.’

A friend of Mrs Dunn said that the teenager had been placed in care because her mother found it difficult to cope, but that the pair remained ‘very close’.

The friend added Mrs Dunn was ‘concerned’ about her daughter’s interest in Islam.

Sarah is white, 5ft 2in tall, of slim build and with dark, medium-length hair.

Although she is 14, her family said she can pass for somebody older and often changes her hairstyle and colour.

She was last seen wearing white jeans, a white short-sleeved T-shirt with a thick black-and-white jacket, which had a dice motif on it, and black ballet shoes.

She did not have any cash or her mobile phone with her when she disappeared.

A spokesman for the Dudley Muslim Association said: ‘Muslims are peace loving and respect the importance of family values.

‘We urge anyone who has any information about the missing girl to cooperate with the police.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Secret Plan for Euro Income Tax

SECRET plans to seize more than £4billion a year from Britain and make its citizens pay taxes direct to Europe emerged last night.

The leaked proposals, seen by the Daily Express, state that Britain should lose the billions of pounds in rebate that was agreed by Margaret Thatcher 25 years ago.

The plans — with a foreword by European Union Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso — would cost every British family at least £155 a year.

They would also mean Brussels being given the power to dip straight into taxpayers’ pockets.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: The BBC’s Censors Risk Killing Off Comedy

The BBC’s guardians of political correctness have taken the biscuit. To be specific, they’ve taken the biscuit off-air. Last Thursday, on This Week, Andrew Neil jokily referred to his co-hosts Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo as “the chocolate Hobnob and custard cream of late-night telly”. A few viewers decided that the word chocolate was a racist reference to Miss Abbott’s skin colour. Instantly, the BBC cancelled a repeat of the episode and erased it from its online iPlayer. Inviting the leader of the BNP on to Question Time was one thing, but the corporation was damned if it was going to have its good name besmirched by a bigoted comestible.

A year ago, the BBC’s course of action would have seemed startling. Now, though, it seems characteristic, because some people at the BBC apparently view humour in the way the rest of us view swine flu. This month, it decreed that comedy must not be “derogatory”. Last Tuesday, the BBC Trust criticised the panel show Mock the Week because one of its stars, Frankie Boyle, joked about the facial features of Rebecca Adlington, the Olympic swimmer.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Thousands of Nursery School Children Branded Racist by Teachers… Before They Know What the Word Means

As many as 40,000 youngsters a year are being wrongly branded racists as new rules force schools to investigate every playground spat, according to a new report.

Children in nurseries and primary schools are being disciplined over racist insults even before they know what the terms mean, it claimed.

A growing army of diversity ‘missionaries’ who scrutinise children’s relationships with each other may be fuelling tensions instead of easing them, warned the report from the Manifesto Club civil liberties group.

These race advisers and bureaucrats are said to be increasing the divide between white and black youngsters by forcing them to see the world through the filter of race.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Vatican: Talks Begin With Ultraconservative Breakaway Group

Vatican City, 26 October (AKI) — A joint panel of experts set up to study relations with the ultraconservative Roman Catholic Society of Pius X met in the Italian capital, Rome, on Monday, the Vatican said. The Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson is a member of the Pius X society, which rejects key reforms passed by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.

The “Ecclesia Dei” panel met “with the aim of examining the doctrinal differences still outstanding between the Society and the Apostolic See,” said the Vatican statement. It described the climate of the panel’s first meeting as as “cordial, respectful and constructive” and said it identified “the main doctrinal questions”.

Religious freedom, the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council reforms, in keeping with Catholic doctrinal tradition, the unity of the Church and ecumenism and the relationship between Christianity and non-Christian religions are among the issues to be studied by the joint panel in weekly or even twice-weekly meetings over the next few months, the panel said.

In January, Pope Benedict XVI provoked outrage from Jews and Catholics worldwide by lifting the earlier excommunication of the Saint Pius X society’s four bishops, including Williamson, who has denied the World War II Nazi Holocaust when six million Jews were exterminated.

The Vatican subsequently rejected the ordination of priests by the hardline Catholic fraternity and reiterated that it had no status within the Catholic church.

Benedict’s predecessor Pope John Paul II excommunicated Williamson and three other bishops. The move came after traditionalist leader and Fraternity of Saint Pius X founder Marcel Lefebvre ordained them as bishops of his separatist church in 1989.

The fraternity rejected reforms passed by the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, including a declaration which ended a church doctrine under which the Jews were held responsible for killing Jesus Christ.

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

Balkans


Serbia-Turkey: Relations at Historic Peak, Presidents Say

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, OCTOBER 26 — In a joint statement from Belgrade today, the presidents of Turkey and of Serbia, Abdullah Gul and Boris Tadic, stated that their two countries now have the best relations ever, having attained the level of a strategic partnership. Following talks, the Turkish president said in a press conference that despite thr fact that the two countries “do not share a border, they count themselves neighbours”. Gul said that Turkey is greatly interested in investing in the Serb economy, especially in its infrastructure projects, adding that Ankara and Belgrade have a strategic position regarding the Balkans. “While relations between Serbia and Turkey remain so good, there is no need to be concerned about stability in the region,” the Turkish president said on the first of his two days in Serbia. For his part, President Boris Tadic said that although the two countries have no common line on Kosovo, (whose independence Turkey has recognised), this should present no obstacle to a strengthening of bilateral relations. Before the press conference, the two delegations signed five bilateral accords. The two presidents are also due to attend a commercial meeting. Gul has brought with him a 115-strong delegation of politicians and businesspeople. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Erick Stakelbeck: Al Qaeda in North Africa Threatens the West

Much like a corporation, al Qaeda maintains regional franchises around the world.

One of the terror group’s most active “branches” is based in the Maghreb region of North Africa — and Europe and America are in its crosshairs.

You can watch my new piece about Al-Qaeda’s growth in North Africa, and it implications for the West, at the link above.

[Return to headlines]



Muslims Kill Believer Over Photos of Girlfriend

‘Increasingly, Egypt is not a safe country to be a Christian’

Tensions and the threat of confrontation remain high in the central Egyptian village of Dairut after Muslims killed a Christian man whose son had taken photos of a Muslim girl he was dating, fomenting Muslim rioting against Christian targets.

Police say they have arrested four men in connection with the shooting death of Henry Atallah, who was attacked allegedly because his son took “illicit” photos of a Muslim girl he was dating and distributed them with his cell phone.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Goldstone Challenges US Over Gaza Crimes, China Sides With Israel

For South African jurist, “the overwhelmingly majority of critics have not read the report” and “the level of criticism does not go to the substance of the report”. China reassures Israel that the report will not be discussed in the Security Council.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Richard Goldstone, the jurist who authored a UN report accusing Israel of war crimes and crimes against humanity during its war on Gaza, has challenged the US. “I have yet to hear from the Obama administration what the flaws in the report that they have identified are. I would be happy to respond to them, if and when I know what they are,” Goldstone said.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Goldstone lamented Washington’s ambiguous position, that on the one hand, an inquiry is important for Israel and Gaza, and that on the other the report is flawed.

Both sides have accused the South African jurist of bias. In his defence, Goldstone said, “many of the critics—the overwhelmingly majority of critics—have not read the report” and “the level of criticism does not go to the substance of the report”.

On 16 October, the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva approved by a majority of 25 votes out of 47 a resolution to send the Goldstone report to the UN Security Council. But the South African former judge is pessimistic about how his report will fare at the United Nations.

A US veto at the Security Council is all it would take to kill it. However, it might never get to that since China has refused to have the report even discussed in the Council.

After voting in favour of the resolution in Geneva, Beijing has in fact reassured Jerusalem that the vote in the Human Rights Commission is the last chapter in the Goldstone report story.

The Chinese statement came during a visit of members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee to Beijing last Thursday. Speaking about the issue, the Committee’s chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi said, “Right now, China, Russia, and other states that endorsed the report [in Geneva] understand that this must be the end of the road, because if the Security Council refers the matter to the International Criminal Court, it would have dire consequences for peace talks.”

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to set up a task force of legal experts to review evidence gathered by the Israel Defence Forces on operation ‘Cast Lead’. He did not heed however the request made in the Goldstone report to open an investigation.

In the meantime, Israel is trying to undermine the report by drumming up support among as many other countries as possible.

Israel’s strategy is designed to raise doubts about international laws on war, and justify its actions as necessary in the fight against terrorism.

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



Jerusalem ‘Chastity Guardians’ Appear on Streets

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, OCTOBER 26 — Squads of self-appointed “guardians of chastity” have started to patrol the streets of Beit Israel, the Jerusalem suburb mainly inhabited by Jews of Sephardi origins. They are on the prowl for sinners who they will proceed to lambast with varying degrees of severity. According to residents’ eye-witness reports on the online Ynet agency, patrols of improvised defenders “of modesty” have appeared of late among the growing numbers of adherents of the area’s ultra-Orthodox community, attacking people who in their view are guilty of immoral behaviour or lifestyles. One of their victims, a young divorcee, was scalded with boiling water and beaten in public some days ago. But there are also reports of raids on apartments belonging to US students, who were said to have been blinded by teargas and robbed of their computer, apparently used for downloading pornographic films. There have also been frequent instances of intimidation — with warnings written on walls and doors smeared with paint — actions against ‘reprobates’ who are suspected of scandalous living, or of in some way having shown a lack of respect for the more draconian strictures of orthodox morals. It is not known whether the young activist who recently patrolled the streets aggressively forcing men and women to walk separately belongs to the same group. Different sexes were ordered to walk on opposite sides of the street, or face punishment by being sprayed with irritant substances. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Water to Palestinians: Israel Rejects Amnesty Report

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — There have been indignant reactions to the new Amnesty International report in Israel today. According to the report, Israel is allowing Palestinians in the West Bank access to just a fraction of the water that comes from the mountain aquifer that the two parties share, mostly located in occupied Palestinian territory. According to the Israeli Authority for Water Resources, “Palestinians’ water consumption has constantly increased in recent years.” The difference between Israeli and Palestinian water consumption does exist, admits the Israeli Authority, “but certainly not to the extent described by the report.” According to the Israeli army, which has control in the West Bank, “it is a unilateral report, full of unfounded aspersions, drafted without giving Israel the opportunity to assess the accusations.” “Israel sees water as an fundamental resource and it does not spare itself efforts,” explained the army, “to give assistance to the Palestinian National Authority.” The reaction from the minister for Infrastructure, Uzi Landau (Israel Beitenu), was harsh. According to Landau, the Amnesty report can be put side by side with the Goldstone Report on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. “They’d made their conclusions before they even started researching,” said the minister controversially. In its report Amnesty International says “Israel uses more than 80% of the mountain water table which is the main source of underground water in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories while limiting Palestinian access to less than 20%”. According to Amnesty, the discrimination is more than evident considering “the illegal Israeli settlements (in the West Bank) receive unlimited water supplies. The already desperate situation in Gaza has gotten even worse”. The 450,000 Israeli settlers (including those living in East Jerusalem) consume an amount of drinking water equal to or greater than that available to the 2.3 million Palestinians. The daily pro capita consumption of an Israeli is 300 litres of water, while only 70 litres for a Palestinian. In some rural Palestinian communities pro capita consumption drops to 20 litres, the minimum estimate for domestic use in emergency situations. In the Gaza Strip, continues Amnesty, “90-95% comes from a coastal water table with contaminated water not suitable for human use”. Israel also has put restrictions in the last few years on material and equipment being brought into Gaza necessary to repair and develop infrastructure “. Amnesty asks that Israeli put an immediate stop “to its discriminatory practices and the restrictions imposed on Palestinians for access to water”. According to Amnesty researcher Donatella Rovera, “water is a fundamental necessity and a right but for many Palestinians even obtaining the basic amount needed to survive has become a luxury they can just barely afford”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



West Bank: PNA Forces Arrest Islamic Jihad Leader

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, OCTOBER 27 — A top ranking official of the Islamic Jihad group, one of the major radical Palestinian factions, was arrested today in the West Bank by PNA security forces loyal to moderate president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). The man who was arrested, report the local press, is named Sharif Tahaina and was captured in Jenin, one of the towns in the Palestinian Territories traditionally suffering from tensions, among the stands of the city market. Considered to be one of the leaders of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank, Tahaina has been wanted by PNA security forces and Israeli police for some time. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Audio: Hero Marine Recalls ‘Chaotic’ Battle of Fallujah

‘Fanatical all-star team of insurgents came from all over the Middle East to fight us’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Baghdad Tired of Violence After Politically Motivated Double Attack

The provisional death toll now stands at more than 160 with more than 540 people wounded. The massacres are said to be linked to “disagreements” within the ruling political class, which are settled “outside” through violence.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — Bagdadis are still under shock after yesterday’s attacks; and Iraqis as a whole “are tired for the endless series of violence” that hit the “tormented country,” a Christian source in Baghdad told AsiaNews. In his opinion, yesterday’s attacks are due to “disagreements within the political class” over issues like the “election law, oil and Kirkuk’s status.”

In the meantime, the provisional death toll from yesterday’s double attack against the Green Zone climbed to more than 160 dead and 540 wounded. The Green Zone houses the government quarters and foreign embassies.

A car bomb exploded at 10.30 am near an intersection, not far from the ministries of Justice and of Municipalities and Public Works. A second bomb went off shortly afterwards, near the Baghdad Provincial Council. The suicide bombers are said to have carried out the attacks using a car and a truck.

The government declared three days of national mourning.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the scene and blamed al-Qaeda and supporters of former president Saddam Hussein. “These cowardly terrorist attacks must not affect the determination of the Iraqi people to continue their struggle against the remnants of the dismantled regime and al-Qaeda terrorists,” he said.

The source, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews that disagreements among Shia, Sunni and Kurdish factions “are settled on the outside,” with attacks and violence.

“Al-Qaeda is a criminal organisation, working for everyone. Someone pays; they act,” the source added.

One of the targets of the attack was the Justice Ministry, which is held by Kurds. In the North, they are involved in a tough fight with Sunnis for the control of Kirkuk and Mosul.

“This is the price people have to pay for the political battle,” he added. However, “people are tired of violence and attacks. Iraqis want peace, but are afraid of other massacres.”

US President Barack Obama condemned the attacks. But Iraqis are tired of Washington’s “senseless” policy.

“The United States began a war it now wants to leave behind. It is only thinking about pulling out; washing its hands of all responsibilities,” and “the population continues to pay for its consequences.”

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



Bahrain MPs Press for Israel Ban

Bahrain’s parliament has approved a bill banning its citizens from having relations with Israel.

The elected lower house passed the bill but it needs to be ratified before becoming law by the upper house, whose members are chosen by the king.

There has been popular criticism of the Bahraini government’s recent moves to establish ties with Israel, which are strongly backed by the US.

Analysts say the bill is likely to stall at the secondary approval stage.

Jalal Fairooz from the al-Wefaq bloc said the bill laid out a fine or up to five years in jail for Bahrainis found guilty of holding talks with Israelis.

Conservative lawmaker Nasser al-Fadhallah said it would be “embarrassing for the government” if the bill was postponed or blocked because it would be obstructing the will of the Bahraini people.

Bahrain does not have diplomatic relations with Israel but Bahraini officials visited Israel in July.

The country’s foreign minister caused a stir in 2008 when he suggested the creation of a regional organisation including Israel and Iran where the two could discuss their differences.

US President Obama’s administration has been encouraging Arab governments to make steps towards normalising ties with Israel to encourage it to agree to a peace deal with the Palestinians.

In 2005 the Bahrain government closed its office that oversaw compliance with an Arab League boycott of Israeli goods as part of a free trade agreement with the United States.

Bahrain is a majority Shia Muslim country, ruled by a Sunni Muslim executive government and has a very small Jewish population.

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



Escalating Anti-Semitism as Turkey Embraces Iran

For over 500 years, from the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 to the horrific years of the Nazi Holocaust, Jews have found a safe haven among the Turkish people.

Tehran — October 27, 2009 — President Ahmadinejad said he “appreciates” Turkish PM Erdogan’s support for Iran’s nuclear program.

Now a series of developments have created fear among Turkey’s Jews and has led to a deterioration in relations between Jerusalem and Ankara, and a crisis within NATO.

•Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan publicly expressed support for Iran — “There is no doubt he [President Ahmadinejad] is our friend” even as he accused Israel’s Foreign Minister Lieberman of threatening to nuke Gaza.

•Turkey barred Israel from a planned NATO military exercise on Turkish soil over “sensitivity on Gaza, East Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque.”

•”Separation”, a miniseries about Palestinians (see below), broadcast on Turkish state-run TV and also seen throughout Europe, depicts young Israeli soldiers as Nazi-like murderers gunning down a Palestinian infant, and young children.

The SWC has protested directly to the Turkish Prime Minister.

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]



My Bizarre and Terrifying Childhood With My Father, Osama Bin Laden

He swapped their luxury home for a cave, killed his puppies to test his poison gas and tried to make him a suicide bomber. Here, one of Osama bin Laden’s sons tells of his bizarre and terrifying childhood.

Asleep in the guest room at his grandmother’s home in Jeddah, a 20-year-old man is woken from a deep sleep by a wailing from another room.

Seconds later, his door is thrown open and his uncle comes rushing in. ‘Come quickly!’ he cries.

‘See what your father has done! He has ruined all our lives! He has destroyed us!’

Not yet fully awake, the young man soon finds himself in front of a television screen where he can scarcely believe the images unfolding before his eyes.

[…]

‘We were at his feet, and my father said: “My Sons, there is a paper [a list of potential martyrs] on the wall of the mosque. This paper is for men who volunteer to be suicide bombers. Those who want to give their lives for Islam must add their names to the list.”

‘He looked at us with anticipation in his eyes. Certainly, he had the power to inspire young men to give up their lives,’ admits Omar. ‘But I was furious. I finally knew exactly where I stood. My father hated his enemies more than he loved his sons. That’s the moment I felt I would be a fool to waste another moment of my life.’

[…]

Omar’s life, meanwhile, has been in stark contrast to what went before. While still married to his first wife, with whom he has a son, he met a British grandmother, Jane Felix-Browne, from Cheshire, while travelling in Egypt — and they fell in love.

The story hit the headlines after they married in 2007 and Omar was refused entry to the UK. The couple moved to Qatar, but, according to the book, Omar is back in Saudi Arabia, where he campaigns for peace.

Omar also claims to have had no contact from relatives he left behind in Afghanistan and says he has no idea whether they are dead or alive.

[…]

‘I am nothing like my father. While he prays for war, I pray for peace. And now we go our separate ways, each believing that we are right. My father has made his choice, and I have made mine. I am, at last, my own man.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Rocket From Lebanon on Upper Galilee

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, OCTOBER 27 — A “katiusha” rocket shot from southern Lebanon fell this evening on an unspecified town in Upper Galilee. There is no news about any victims. This was reported by the Internet media Israel and pan-Arab TV station, al Jazeera. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey: An Ally No More

by Daniel Pipes

“There is no doubt he is our friend,” Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says of Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, even as he accuses Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman of threatening to use nuclear weapons against Gaza. These outrageous assertions point to the profound change of orientation by Turkey’s government, for six decades the West’s closest Muslim ally, since Erdogan’s AK party came to power in 2002.

Three events this past month reveal the extent of that change. The first came on October 11 with the news that the Turkish military — a long-time bastion of secularism and advocate of cooperation with Israel — abruptly asked Israeli forces not to participate in the annual “Anatolian Eagle” air force exercise.

Erdogan cited “diplomatic sensitivities” for the cancelation and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke of “sensitivity on Gaza, East Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque.” The Turks specifically rejected Israeli planes that may have attacked Hamas (an Islamist terrorist organization) during last winter’s Gaza Strip operation. While Damascus applauded the disinvitation, it prompted the U.S. and Italian governments to withdraw their forces from Anatolian Eagle, which in turn meant canceling the international exercise.

As for the Israelis, this “sudden and unexpected” shift shook to the core their military alignment with Turkey, in place since 1996…

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Bangladesh: Pressure on Catholic Family to Rob Them of House and Property

Muslim groups have shot at the house and have built a wall to expropriate the land, while the police fails to intervene. “Allah Akbar” in place of the cross. Other Christian families have had to leave the area.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — A Catholic family in the parish of St. Lawrence is receiving threats and being shot at to force it to abandon the area so the house and surrounding land can be taken.

On 22 October around 19.30, a group of local Muslims fired several gunshots at the house of the family of Sunil Gomes. Two weeks earlier, on October 8, 150 Muslims invaded the home of Gomes family and under the threat of violence annexed part of the garden building a dividing wall. Mrs. Rita Gomes, the eldest daughter of Sunil (pictured), who tried to stop them, was beaten. Everything happened in front of the detached gaze of the police, who did not intervene. The Muslim group has removed the plaque with the name of the Gomes family and a small cross and put in its place a plaque with the inscription “Allah Akbar” (God is great).

Ms Gomes said that the attacks were instigated by some Muslim neighbours, particularly the Kazi family, who along with other Muslims in the neighbourhood have been trying for over a year to expel the Catholics from their home.

Some time ago other Catholic families in the same neighbourhood have suffered the same fate and emigrated to India.

Mrs. Gomes told AsiaNews that the Muslim neighbours “have been pushing us to sell the house for a long time.” But the family includes very old and sick parents who could not endure a forced relocation.

“Because we are Christians — says Ms Gomes, — nobody comes to help us. Muslims have wealth and power from the political point of view. They have strong links with the ruling party, the Awami League”.

Rita Gomes is the eldest daughter of the family. She has a younger sister, Jhuma who will soon enter a convent.

Seizures of land and houses are very common in Bangladesh. The victims are usually members of ethnic religious and tribal minorities. The parish of St. Lawrence in Dhaka is home to over 1000 Catholic families.

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



Bullets Used by British Soldiers ‘Too Small to Defeat Taliban’

Bullets used by British soldiers are too small to defeat Taliban fighters, according to a report of a study of ammunition used on the front line.

A survey of more than 50 servicemen who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan concluded that the 5.56mm calibre rounds used by British soldiers ‘tailed off’ after 300 metres yet half of all Helmand firefights are fought between 300 and 900 metres.

It came as the wife of a British soldier who died in hospital weeks after being injured in a blast in Afghanistan paid tribute to her “best friend and wonderful husband”.

The study, co-written by Nicholas Drummond, a strategy consultant and ex-Welsh Guards officer, described British soldiers’ rifles as “not much more useful than a peashooter”.

Taliban marksmen use powerful 7.62mm ammo for their AK47 machine guns, according to a report of the study in The Sun.

Mr Drummond told the newspaper that a British soldier couldn’t attack the Taliban “with any certainty that if he hits the enemy he will kill or incapacitate him.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Defect Armour Risk to Australian Soldiers Fighting in Afghanistan

DEFENCE chiefs were told more than a year ago about serious safety concerns with combat body armour worn by Diggers in Afghanistan.

Federal Government documents obtained by The Daily Telegraph confirm troops were issued with armour with “known defects”.

The documents also show that top brass knew in April this year that troops were forced to use split pins and nails to prevent quick release catches on the armour from failing.

The military ordered 14,688 sets of the suspect armour under a $24 million project and by May this year more than 8400 had been delivered.

Despite two years of field testing by the army, the body armour, known as the modular combat armour system (MCBAS), will now be replaced by a lightweight system called American Eagle that is worn by special forces troops.

The documents show serious failures in the original armour were identified in September 2008 and in February and April this year.

Amid concerns about the impact of weight and a dodgy quick-release mechanism, the armour put soldiers at risk as they attempted to drag the body of Corporal Mathew Hopkins to safety during an ambush in Afghanistan in March this year.

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



Extra Italian Troops to be Withdrawn After Elections Says Minister

Rome, 27 October (AKI) — Italy’s defence minister Ignazio La Russa said on Tuesday that at least 400 Italian soldiers sent as reinforcements for the Afghan presidential election would return to Italy by Christmas. “Around 400 Italian soldiers sent to monitor the electoral process will return to Italy before Christmas,” said Italy’s defence minister Ignazio La Russa, quoted by Italian radio news CnrMedia.

Around 500 extra Italian soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan ahead of the presidential election on 20 August.

La Russa (photo) also underlined the importance of a free and democratic electoral process in Afghanistan.

“The purpose of the vote is just and fair. The purpose is to offer Afghans a government which is credible and capable of giving them answers. It must be a legitimate government chosen by the people. We cannot think of any other solution if they want to defeat the Taliban. The ballot box offers the opportunity of the stabilisation of the country,” said La Russa.

There are around 3,000 Italian troops serving in Afghanistan, mostly in the west of the country.

Last week, Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission announced a presidential runoff election would be held on 7 November, saying no contender had won an outright majority in the fraud-tainted presidential vote.

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



Indonesia: Ulema and Feminists Against Polygamy Club

by Mathias Hariyadi

Many Muslim authorities calling for a fatwa to ban the spread of this practice. According to the promoters polygamy nears one to “love of God.” But according to women the practice humiliates wives and is a source of domestic violence and abuse. Suharto was anti-polygamy; Sukarno had many women.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Groups of Muslim leaders are furious with a club that promotes polygamy and has asked the National Council of Ulema (MUI) to issue a fatwa banning it. Even the Indonesian feminists are up in arms against the club because polygamy “is a violence against women”.

The Global Ikhwan polygamy Club was opened on 18 October in Bandung (West Java) in the Grand Aquila Hotel, with the participation of 150 guests. Among the guests was the founder of the club in Malaysia, Chodijah Binti Am. The purpose of the club is to promote and disseminate polygamy. The theme of the evening was in fact “Polygamy, a powerful solution to meet the love of God.” “By adhering to the philosophy of the club and practicing polygamy — explained Am — people experience the merciful love of God When the wives are not good, they will pray to ask God’s help. If a woman is married to a polygamist, the use of praying for God’s help will be continuous”.

Such affected religiosity is unconvincing for Muslim leaders. Kiai Hajj Bunyamin, Bandung Islamic leader, says that the club of Malaysian origin is “immoral” because its purpose is to “inflate carnal desire among males”. “I am totally opposed to the club,” he said. The Head of Ulema of West Java, Kiai Hajj Hafidz Usman asks “What is the benefit of this controversial club “; academic Jujun Junaedi, warns against instrumental use of Islam made by the club. “According to me — he says — the Ulema Council should block it”.

The polygamy club of in Bandung was founded by Mohammed Umar, of Malaysian nationality, according to whom the club just wants to “promote the moral value of the practice of polygamy.” To find new members, the club has opened an account on Facebook, with 302 new members so far, 32 other Indonesian families intend joining.

There are three directors of the club: Mohamad Safir, Latifah Abd Al Qohar and Andrew Fah Tan. They require only one condition from new members: the wives of polygamists should not be more than four.

Hedi Muhammad, head of Indonesia’s West Java Muslim called on the Ulema Council to ban the club to prevent possible conflicts between husbands and wives. The opening of the club has in fact caused a wave of resentment and outrage among the women of Bandung. The director of the Women’s Institute, Elin Rozana, in a press conference declared her categorical rejection of the club. “The presence of this group — she said — not only hurts women from Indonesia, but also produces moral violence against women.”

According to the Rozana, by promoting polygamy, the club violates the basic human rights of women. “Polygamy is one of the most widespread violences against women. It has always created conflicts between family members and produces domestic violence such as sexual abuse, physical attacks, psychological pressure, etc… “

She is echoed by Abdul Hamim Yauza, Head of Legal Division of the Institute of Indonesian Women for Justice: “the practice of polygamy — he says — will only result in a number of sad stories in the home: abuse and strained relations among members.” In his opinion, polygamy is against the spirit of Indonesian Law No. 7 / 1984, that ratifies the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Hegel Tarom, of the Woman Group Kalyanamitra, is fighting for the closure of the club. “Every marriage — she says — must be based on the philosophy of equal status between man and woman.”

According to traditional Islamic law, Muslims can have up to 4 wives. Some personalities from Indonesia, pro-polygamy and rich, say that they should have more than four wives.

Under President Suharto (1967-1998), Indonesia adopted an anti-polygamy stance. Each representative of the government and bureaucracy who practiced polygamy was immediately fired. To make things clearer, Suharto has also launched the Law no. 1 / 1974 which prohibits members of the government apparatus from practicing polygamy. According to Indonesians, Suharto’s strong stand was inspired by his wife, Tien Suharto, a woman from Java, very traditional, but who did not see anything positive in polygamy, only “family disputes and domestic abuse.”

The first Indonesian president, Sukarno, known as a megalomaniac and a womaniser, had practiced polygamy.

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



Pakistan: Political Crisis Looms as Militancy Intensifies

Islamabad, 27 October (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — A political crisis in Pakistan is looming as Taliban-led militants continue to step up their campaign of violence. Two suspected Taliban gunmen on a motorbike on Tuesday tried to kill an army brigadier in the capital, Islamabad when they opened fire on his vehicle before fleeing the scene.

The attack came a day after a meeting between Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday in Islamabad which failed to resolve the rift between their two parties.

The meeting between Zardari, who is co-chairman of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, and Sharif, who heads the largest opposition party, Pakistani-Muslim-League-N party, took place in Islamabad.

The Pakistani army helped arrange the meeting. It was brokered during a recent visit by American officials, who urged Zardari and Sharif to give the Pakistani armed forces their full backing in fighting the Taliban-led insurgency.

Zardari and Sharif did not discuss the National Reconciliation Ordinance, a decree issued by former president Pervez Musharraf in October 2007 to scrap pending corruption cases against civil servants and politicians.

A Pakistani court has urged the parliament to determine the fate of the controversial ordinance, which resulted from a political deal between Musharraf and slain former Pakistani prime minister and PPP leader Benazir Bhutto.

Under the deal, Musharraf agreed to pardon corruption cases against her and her husband, Zardari.

Scrapping the NRO is one of the main issues between Zardari and Sharif. It would amount to the revival of all corruption cases against Zardari and his possible disqualification from the post of the president of Pakistan.

It would also mean abolishing the 17 Amendment of the constitution, which makes the parliament subordinate to the parliament.

Although Zardari and Sharif did not agree on any major issue, they agreed on more meetings in the future to prevent a political deadlock in the country.

Tuesday’s attack was the latest in a wave of attacks on Pakistani cities that have killed over 180 people this month. The attack took place in Islamabad’s busy and densely populated sector 1-9 . No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

The brigadier survived the attack, while the gunmen managed to flee the scene. Last week, a Pakistani army brigadier and his driver died in a shooting incident in Islamabad.

The recent spate of terror attacks included last week’s deadly twin suicide bombings last week on the campus of an Islamic university in Islamabad that killed seven people, including three female students, and injured dozens.

In the northwest tribal areas, the Taliban led insurgency has taken on a new dynamic. While the Pakistani army offensive in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan is still far from capturing the militants’ headquarters in Makeen and Ladha, the Taliban have opened up a new front in Mohmand and Bajaur tribal areas.

Early this year, Pakistani armed forces on the Pakistan side and the US troops on the Afghan side of the border announced they had carried out successful military operations against the Taliban in Mohmand-Bajaur and in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.

They claimed to have eliminated all the Taliban sanctuaries in these areas. Yet the Taliban have once again regrouped in the region and appear to have shifted their bases from Waziristan to Kunar-Nuristan (Afghanistan) and Mohmand and Bajaur (Pakistan) situated near the Hindu Kush mountains.

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



The Courage of the Church of Pakistan, Against the “Islamization” Of Society

Vatican figures speaks to AsiaNews about their impressions from a recent trip to Pakistan. Christians are persecuted; the blasphemy law is used to target the faithful and their businesses. But signals of hope are also emerging: the Church is “young, vibrant and courageous.”

Delhi (AsiaNews) — In Pakistan there is an ongoing attempt to bring about the “complete Islamization of society” by a “fringe fanatics”; Christians are subjected to “humiliations” but the church, even though a “cultural and numerical minority” is while “young, vibrant and courageous.” This was the statement made to AsiaNews by Father Theodore Mascarenhas, of the Pontifical Council for Culture, delegate for Asia, Africa and Oceania, who returned recently from a trip to the Asian nation.

Fr. Mascarenhas says that the “minority of fanatics” does not represent “the average Pakistani society”, but still manages to force the hand of those in authority to impose a radical vision of Islam and religion. Among several examples, the priest mentions the “nationalization of Christian educational institutions” carried out by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the former president and prime minister, later repudiated by General Musharraf, who “returned the property to the Christians.” And yet he points to the “license to sell alcohol”, where it is unclear whether it was “a sign of tolerance” toward a different faith or another way to “consider people infidels” and, therefore, persecute them.

The main form of repression of minorities, however, remains the infamous blasphemy law, which according to the Pakistani penal code stipulates life imprisonment or the death penalty for those who desecrate the Koran or profane the name of Mohammed. “The dreaded blasphemy law — says the priest — is one of the most powerful weapons and is used not only for issues related to the religious sphere, but according to eyewitness accounts, is exploited by jealous people to target Christians who get rich” through the their hard work and trade. He adds that President Zardari, “promised the pope to repeal the law,” but “nobody believes that indeed he will”.

The representative of the Pontifical Council for Culture says: “The process of Islamization began in schools, where textbooks deleted the “moderate visions” of religion to “replace them” with elements fomenting “sectarian divisions”. The country has also “deviated from the secular vision enshrined by the founding father” Ali Jinnah and exerts pressure to “change the cultures of minorities.” Among many examples, the conversion from Christianity to Islam of cricket champion Tinu Yohannan and voice of the muezzin, from loudspeakers, five times a day calling the faithful to prayer, according to the dictates of the faith of Muhammad.

However there are also signs of hope emerging from Pakistan, however, launched by the very Church that the fundamentalists want to annihilate. “The most encouraging note — explains Fr. Mascarenhas — is that the Church, its leaders and the faithful are admirable. They live their faith with courage. They suffer the difficulties of every Pakistani citizen in a country burdened by corruption, violence, terrorism. Bishops and priests, he says, have “a heart full of God” and loving “zeal for the Church and the people.” “I also want —he added — to express a word of appreciation for the Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr. Adolfo Tito Yllana, who has a vast knowledge of the country, people and the socio-economic and cultural situation”.

The survival of Christian culture in Pakistan — an originally multicultural nation, where Buddhist temples, Zoroastrian temples and churches lived side-by-side — is entrusted to institutions and schools, who are doing “outstanding work” for all students “regardless of their religious belief.” The Indian priest recounts the experience at the major seminary of philosophy, in Lahore, where “I had the opportunity to interact with 55 students and the rector, Fr Khalid Yusaf. They represent the future of the Church in Pakistan […] in the footsteps traced by the patron of the seminary, St. Francis Xavier”.

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



The Catholic Church in Pakistan (An Overview)

Catholics are less than 1% of a total of over 160 million inhabitants. There are two archdiocese in the country, four dioceses and an apostolic prefecture. A small minority but active and appreciated for efforts in education, helping the poor, health care and emergency interventions.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Pakistan has just over 160 million inhabitants and is the second largest Muslim country in the world, after Indonesia. About 95% of the population professes Islam, with 75% Sunni, and 20% Shiite, Christians are approximately 2% of the total (less than 1% Catholic), 1.8% are Hindus, the remaining 1.2% profess other religions, including Sikhs, Parsis, Ahmadis, Buddhists, Jews, bah’ai and animists.

The largest Catholic presence is in the diocese of Lahore, in Punjab, with 390 thousand faithful out of a total of 26 million people; 26 parishes. Following this, the diocese of Faisalabad, with 189 thousand faithful out of about 33 million people, distributed in 28 parishes. Third in the diocese of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, with 174 thousand faithful out of 32 million inhabitants for a total of 19 parishes. Then Karachi, with 145 thousand faithful and 15 parishes out of a total population of 15 million people. Pakistan has two archdiocese, four dioceses and one apostolic prefecture, all of the Latin rite.

In this country there are many Christian schools, institutes and hospitals, that are considered prestigious and are appreciated by local authorities for the quality of the work they carry out in favour of the local populations, regardless of their faith. However, religious freedom, as in other Muslim-majority nations, is not guaranteed and cases of harassment, death threats and assassinations are a constant companion.

The activities of the Church of Pakistan cover various sectors including: education and formation, aid to the poor (one third of the population is at risk from hunger), projects to support agriculture, health care and interventions in cases of emergency or natural disaster. Among the numerous works carried out by Caritas Pakistan, along with Christian-based NGOs of mention is their assistance to victims of the earthquake that struck the country in 2005, killing 75 thousand people and making at least 3.5 million homeless. The organization relies on the collaboration of 500 people and voluntary work of about a thousand volunteers, to assist approximately 500 thousand people across the nation.

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



U.S. Set to Pay Taliban Members to Switch Sides

(CNN) — There is a well-known saying in Afghanistan: “You can rent an Afghan, but you can’t buy him.”

Some experts on the region believe a U.S. program to pay Taliban fighters to quit the organization is buying temporary loyalty.

President Obama on Wednesday signed a $680 billion defense appropriations bill, which will pay for military operations in the 2010 fiscal year. The bill includes a Taliban reintegration provision under the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which is now receiving $1.3 billion. CERP funding also is intended for humanitarian relief and reconstruction projects at commanders’ discretion.

The buyout idea, according to the Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is to separate local Taliban from their leaders, replicating a program used to neutralize the insurgency against Americans in Iraq.

“Afghan leaders and our military say that local Taliban fighters are motivated largely by the need for a job or loyalty to the local leader who pays them and not by ideology or religious zeal,” Levin said in a Senate floor speech on September 11. “They believe an effort to attract these fighters to the government’s side could succeed, if they are offered security for themselves and their families, and if there is no penalty for previous activity against us.”

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

Far East


Korean Lecturer ‘Spied for North’

A South Korean university lecturer has been charged with espionage after allegedly passing military information to the North.

The man, identified only by his surname Lee, is said to have been recruited by the North while studying in India.

Prosecutors says he used his post on the state-run unification council to access sensitive military data.

The 37-year-old man is also alleged to have made unauthorised visits to the communist North.

The authorities and National Intelligence Service in Seoul said Mr Lee began spying for the North in 1992, after being approached while studying at the University of Delhi.

They say he had “vast amounts of confidential military information” on computers and storage devices.

The information found included army manuals and the location of South Korean government and military buildings.

Mr Lee is alleged to have received $50,000 (£30,000) from the North to fund his activities and to have travelled over the border to join the communist party.

South Korean prosecutor Yoon Kap-geun told the Yonhap news agency the fact that an “opinion former” could be a spy “tells our country to check its security system”.

South Korea has reported several cases of espionage in recent years.

Among them was a woman posing as a defector from the North who was jailed in 2008 for obtaining secret information from South Korean military officers in exchange for sexual favours.

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



Majority of Chinese Refuse Vaccine Against Swine Flu

Parents do not trust the quality and effectiveness of the vaccine. Suspected because of past scandals over drugs and foods. But many can not even pay for the vaccination. China fourth last place for the distribution of medical resources.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — More than half of Chinese people will not allow themselves to be vaccinated against the A/H1N1 influenza. Officially it is because they are not sure of the quality of this vaccine. The China Daily today published a survey of over 2 thousand people showed that 54% of respondents do not want to be vaccinated. Only two months ago in another poll the website sohu.com n showed that 74% wanted to be vaccinated.

On October 22 the city of Beijing launched the campaign for free vaccinations for students of primary and secondary schools, with the consent of parents. But some parents are refusing to subject their children to the injections. One of the survey respondents said: “The vaccine has been developed and distributed so quickly that I doubt its quality and effectiveness.”

Suspicions about medicines produced in China are due to the numerous scandals of recent years, linked to medications and foods (melamine milk, poisoned toothpaste, diluted medicines ;…).

The investigation of the China Daily did not say if among the respondents there are people who do not want to pay to receive the vaccine. So far the government has promised to inject children free of charge but not adults. Many people in China, particularly farmers, can not afford even ordinary medical care. According to government figures, between 40 and 60% of the farmers could never afford medical care, for the same reason between 60 and 80% of Chinese die without being able to go to hospital.

A joint study by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Chinese Center for Research and Development — shows that China is the fourth last place for the fair distribution of medical resources. Until now the country has registered 33 thousand cases of infection with A/H1N1 and 2 deaths. The WHO said that by 18 October there have been 5 thousand cases of death due to swine fever.

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

Australia — Pacific


Australians Could be Banned From Living on the Coast

Australians could be banned from living on the coast under a radical environmental plan to protect the population from rising sea levels.

The National Sea Change Taskforce, a parliamentary committee, spent 18 months examining the effect that changing climate could have on coastal Australia and concluded that urgent action was needed to safeguard the coast from seas that are expected to rise more than 31 inches this century.

Among the panel’s recommendations were forced evacuations from coastal areas and a ban on new homes in regions considered to be at risk from flooding and rising seas.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Beijing Continues to Colonise Africa, Signs New Deals With Guinea

The Chinese government signs contracts worth US$ 7 billion to explore for mineral resources, and this despite protests by local residents who are against the coming of the Chinese. A month ago, the ruling junta killed 157 people protesting against the dictatorship.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China’s march towards Africa’s economic “colonisation” continues. A US$ 7 billion mining deal between Guinea and little-known China International Fund (CIF) underscores Beijing’s rush into Africa. The deal, which includes both exploration and mining rights, was confirmed last week by the African country’s iron-fisted military junta.

Under the terms of the deal, the CFI will have unfettered access to bauxite and other minerals in exchange for major revenues to the government of military leader Dadis Moussa Camara (pictured).

According to various human rights groups, the contract was signed despite strong protests by the local population fearful that a Chinese invasion might affect local markets and reinforce the dictatorship.

Back in September, the army opened fire against peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators, killing 157 and wounding about 1,200.

Beijing refused to make any comments about the episode or the contract. The CIF also adopted the same posture.

Some analysts are concerned that China might even sell weapons to Guinea. Europe, the African Union and ECOWAS have imposed an embargo because of the massacre.

In many ways, the Guinea deal perfectly reflects established Chinese business practices in Africa, characterised by huge investments in a poor continent but also secrecy and scant regard for human rights.

Investors from the West, Japan, India and the United States are also major economic partners with less than democratic African governments. But China has given direct assistance to more than 17 African nations, among them violence-plagued Congo and the Sudan

“There’s obviously mixed emotions with regard to China-Africa relations,” said Kellie Jane Whitlock, from the magazine Corporate Africa. There are “Chinese companies that are still growing and looking into investing further into Africa”, she added.

Sino-African trade has risen ten times since 2001, passing the US$ 100 billion mark last year.

China wants oil, gas, and other key resources for its resource-hungry economy. In exchange Chinese companies (mostly private but with strong government involvement) build infrastructures.

The CIF is a case in point. Registered in Hong Kong, the company has done big deals with the government of Angola. Privately owned, its share structure is like Chinese boxes. In Angola, it is building housing, highways and the capital’s airport. In exchange, Angola’s government has pledged to ship 70 per cent of its oil production to China.

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



Somali Man, ‘112’, Weds Girl, 17

Hundreds of people have attended a wedding in central Somalia between a man who says he is 112 years old, and his teenage wife.

Ahmed Muhamed Dore — who already has 13 children by five wives — said he would like to have more with his new wife, Safia Abdulleh, who is 17 years old.

“Today God helped me realise my dream,” Mr Dore said, after the wedding in the region of Galguduud.

The bride’s family said she was “happy with her new husband”.

Mr Dore said he and his bride — who is young enough to be his great-great-grand-daughter — were from the same village in Somalia and that he had waited for her to grow up to propose.

“I didn’t force her, but used my experience to convince her of my love; and then we agreed to marry,” the groom said.

Goat-skin documents

The BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu says the marriage, in the town of Guriceel, is being described by Somali historians as the first of its kind in the Horn of Africa nation for more than a century.

Our reporter says reaction to news of the marriage has been mixed.

Some people said while it was allowed under Islamic law, they were concerned about the age gap, but others were happy that age was not a barrier to love.

Mr Dore told the BBC he was born in Dhusamareeb in central Somalia in 1897 — and has a traditional birth certificate, written on goat skin by his father.

Our correspondent says he has an interesting history — in 1941 he joined the British colonial forces as a soldier for 10 years and then served as a police officer after Somalia won independence in 1960.

Altogether, Mr Dore has 114 children and grandchildren. His oldest son is 80 years old and three of his wives have died.

He says he hopes his new bride will give him more children.

“It is a blessing to have someone you love to take care of you,” he said.

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

Latin America


Honduras Takes Brazil to UN Court

The interim government of Honduras has taken Brazil to court for allowing ousted President Manuel Zelaya to remain in its embassy.

Mr Zelaya has been inside the embassy since he secretly returned from a three-month exile on 21 September.

At the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Honduran officials said Mr Zelaya had threatened the “peace and internal public order of Honduras”.

Brazil said the interim government had no authority to lodge such proceedings.

The interim government wants the court to order Brazil to stop providing refuge for Mr Zelaya.

‘Illegal activities’

Mr Zelaya was sent into exile on 28 June after trying to hold a non-binding vote on whether a constituent assembly should be set up to look at rewriting the constitution.

His opponents said his actions were in violation of the constitution and aimed at removing the current one-term limit on presidents — a charge Mr Zelaya has denied.

Brazil said the case had no basis as the current government, led by Roberto Micheletti, was illegitimate.

“The de facto Honduran government has no legitimacy to lodge a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Brasilia said.

Proceedings at the UN court usually take years to settle, but “provisional measures” can be handed down much faster if requested, as Honduras is considering doing, according to Reuters news agency.

In its filing, Honduras requested the court declare that Brazil did not have the right to allow its Tegucigalpa embassy to be used to promote “manifestly illegal activities” by Honduran citizens.

Honduran elections are due on 29 November, with Mr Zelaya’s term of office due to end at the end of January.

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



Nicole Ferrand in the Americas Report: Who’s Behind the Obama Honduras Policy?

Why is this administration siding with Zelaya and his main supporter, Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez? Chavez is known to be hostile towards the U.S while working closely with Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is on the brink of obtaining a nuclear weapon and has established a bank in Venezuela with Chavez to avoid the sanctions already imposed against Iranian financial institutions responsible for transferring funds to Tehran’s nuclear program. Actually, the Obama Administration and the Chavez regime sponsored a UN resolution that condemned the government of Honduras for legally removing Chavez’s puppet “Mel” Zelaya.

What is even worse, the State Department has suspended $30 million in aid to Honduras for standing by their constitution and has stripped current President Roberto Micheletti and fourteen members of the Supreme Court who ruled against Zelaya of their U.S. visas.

Since people are often policy, who are the individuals on the Obama team responsible for shaping our Latin American policy and specifically for the misguided decisions made regarding Honduras…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Australia: Senior Lib Questions Muslim Immigration

FORMER Howard government immigration minister Kevin Andrews says Australia should have a serious discussion about the growth of its Muslim population.

“To have a concentration of one ethnic or one particular group that remains in an enclave for a long period of time is not good,” the federal Liberal MP said this morning.

Asked about the growth of Muslim population in Australia, he said it was a topic that had to be discussed.

“You should be able to talk about it … It’s ridiculous if you can’t talk about any subject,” he said.

“When a subject becomes politically incorrect to talk about, then it ends up with a backlash.

“I think part of the (Pauline) Hanson movement in the early 1990s was because some subjects were simply said to be off the table, they couldn’t be discussed and a lot of Australians wanted to discuss them.

“Whether they were right or wrong is not the point. In a democracy you should be able to discuss them.”

There was a 70 per cent increase in the number of Australians of Islamic faith between 1996 and 2006 — during the Howard government’s term in office — census data shows.

The 2006 Census showed about two in three Australians identified themselves as Christian.

The most popular non-Christian religion was Buddhism (2.1 per cent or 418,757), followed by Islam (1.7 per cent or 340,390), Hinduism (0.7 per cent or 148,127) and Judaism (0.4 per cent or 88,826).

Earlier, Outspoken Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey flagged the possibility of using the military to forcibly move 78 asylum seekers off an Australian Customs vessel moored off an Indonesia island.

The government has not ruled out using force to disembark the group of Sri Lankans who are refusing to leave the Oceanic Viking.

Some reportedly have threatened to kill themselves if forced ashore at Bintan island.

Mr Tuckey upped the ante on Thursday morning by suggesting the prime minister could send in the army.

“He can ask the army to go up there and take those people off,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“He can send that vessel back.”

Opposition immigration spokeswoman Sharman Stone said the stand-off was hurting Australia’s relations with Indonesia.

“It (is) going to very soon, if not now, seriously stress that relationship,” she told reporters.

“This is a serious regional issue in terms of co-operation and long-term collaboration.”

Senior Liberal senator Eric Abetz said the government would be embarrassed if it had to use force to end the stand-off.

“If you’re soft on border protection you then become hostage to situations like this,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had to explain how it was humane (humane) that Australian officials would have to forcibly remove the group, Senator Abetz said.

“(He) now has to acknowledge his policy failures and put in proper measures that will ensure that we don’t continue to have this flood of arrivals.”

           — Hat tip: The Observer [Return to headlines]



Australia: Outcry as MP Calls for Debate on Muslim Enclaves

THE Australian Greens have described as “despicable” a suggestion that Australia needs to have a serious discussion about the growth of its Muslim population.

At least one Liberal frontbencher has distanced the party from the views Kevin Andrews, the last immigration minister in the previous Howard Government.

Mr Andrews said the issue of a growing Muslim population was a topic that had to be discussed.

“To have a concentration of one ethnic or one particular group that remains in an enclave for a long period of time is not good,” the Liberal backbencher told Macquarie Radio Network today.

“You should be able to talk about it … it’s ridiculous if you can’t talk about any subject.”

Greens leader Bob Brown said the comments reflected the racist political agenda of former One Nation MP Pauline Hanson.

“(It’s) a pretty despicable comment,” he said.

“We are seeing a far right, pretty disgusting point of view.”

Opposition frontbencher Greg Hunt distanced himself from Mr Andrews’ comments.

“Our approach should be colour-blind, ethnicity-blind, background-blind and simply focused on their ability to contribute,” he said.

“I believe in a diverse and multicultural Australia.”

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

Culture Wars


NYT Dubs Man-Woman Union: ‘Opposite-Sex Marriage’

‘Politicization of language is nothing new, but this is particularly disturbing’

“Is this the start of one more round of corrupting the English language?” Donohue asked in an editorial on the Catholic League website.

He said use of the term reveals a distressing pattern.

“Here’s how it will play out in the classroom: kindergartners will be told that some adults choose same-sex marriage and some choose opposite-sex marriage,” Donohue wrote. “There is no moral difference — it’s just a matter of different strokes for different folks. Not mentioned, of course, will be that some male-on-male sex practices are dangerous. Nor will it be pointed out that only so-called opposite-sex marriages are capable of reproducing the human race.

“In other words, the kids will be lied to about what nature ordains.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obamacare to Put Planned Parenthood in Charge?

Provision for ‘pregnancy resource centers’ appears to benefit abortion industry leader

The largest grassroots Catholic pro-life group in the nation is warning of a perfect storm of circumstances that could set up Planned Parenthood as a quasi-governmental entity with the power to establish as law its declaration of a universal right to tax-paid abortions and autonomous rights to sexual “pleasure” for children.

The warning is being issued by the American Life League, which has been trying to protect life from the moment of creation to natural death since its founding in 1979.

The organization now is warning about a new International Planned Parenthood Federation document called “Sexual Rights: An IPPF Declaration,” detailed by ALL’s Michael Hichborn as containing those rights, as well as provisions for child predators to conceal past criminal sexual histories.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama Signs ‘Hate-Crimes’ Bill Into Law

‘It’s a very sad day for America and for religious liberties’

American Family Association President Tim Wildmon warned that the new law “creates a kind of caste system in law enforcement, where the perverse thing is that people who engage in non-normative sexual behavior will have more legal protection than heterosexuals. This kind of inequality before the law is simply un-American.”

Wildmon said the legislation creates possible situations where pastors may be arrested if their sermons on sexuality can be linked in even the remotest way to acts of violence.

“It threatens free speech and freedom of religion and is totally unacceptable,” he said.

[…]

The Alliance Defense Fund blasted the “hate-crimes” bill, calling it “another nail in the coffin of the First Amendment.”

“All violent crimes are hate crimes, and all crime victims deserve equal justice,” ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley said in a statement. “This law is a grave threat to the First Amendment because it provides special penalties based on what people think, feel, or believe. ADF will be on the front line to defend those whose free speech or free exercise of religion rights are violated by this unconstitutional law and to ultimately overturn this attack on freedom.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Porn Practitioners Promoted to Children?

Group set up by Obama’s safe schools chief recommends ‘Gay Pioneers’

An organization founded by Kevin Jennings, President Obama’s chief of the safe schools office in the Department of Education, has recommended a movie promoting several practitioners of pornography as part of its plans for teaching school children about homosexuality, according to a new report.

A report from Mass Resistance, a pro-family organization that has battled homosexual activists, says Jennings’ Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network has included in one of its “lesson plans” for school children a recommendation for the film “Gay Pioneers.”

[…]

Research from Linda Harvey of Mission America also has documented over the years GLSEN’s teaching lessons recommended for schools.

The lesson including the recommendation for “Gay Pioneers” is suggested by GLSEN for grades 7-12. It also includes “Out of the Past” which tells of a student’s campaign to have a homosexual club in her school.

The lesson “provides a fun and interactive way to increase students’ understanding of LGBT history and raise awareness of LGBT people and their contributions,” the promotion said.

Harvey’s research shows that a review of GLSEN recommendations as early as 2002 found there were instances where the group “implicitly condones criminal sexual contact between adults and minors.”

Harvey’s report said GLSEN “believes the early sexualization of children can be beneficial. This means that virtually any sexual activity as well as exposure to graphic sexual images and material is not just permissible but good for children, as part of the process of discovering their sexuality.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Time Again for the Feminists’ Rant

Women’s percentage in the labor force keeps rising because of who is going to college. Thirty years ago, the ratio of males to females on college campuses was 60 to 40; now it’s 40 to 60, and women receive the majority of college degrees.

But the feminists are griping because women students choose humanities majors that lead to lesser-paid jobs than male students, who in larger numbers choose math and science. The feminists want government to remedy this gender difference by bribing women with taxpayers’ money to make other choices.

Joanne Lipman, who has held several of the biggest jobs in publishing but still whines that “progress for women has stalled,” nevertheless makes a couple of sensible comments. She writes that feminists defined “progress for women too narrowly; we’ve focused primarily on numbers at the expense of attitudes.”

She’s right about that. Attitude is the problem with feminists — as long as they believe they are victims of an oppressive patriarchy, they will never be successful.

Women won’t be happy as long as they believe the false slogan (repeated in most of these current articles) that women make only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. The Equal Pay Law was passed in 1963, but it requires only equal pay for equal work, and women in the labor force don’t work nearly as many hours per week as men do.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


Controlling Climate? More Like Controlling Humans

Gore and the U.N.’s call for “global governance” echoes former French President Jacques Chirac’s call in 2000. On Nov. 20, 2000, then-President Chirac said during a speech at The Hague that the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol represented “the first component of an authentic global governance.”

Former EU Environment Minister Margot Wallstrom said, “Kyoto is about the economy, about leveling the playing field for big businesses worldwide.” Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper once dismissed U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol as a “socialist scheme.”

In addition, calls for a global carbon tax have been urged at recent U.N. global warming conferences. In December 2007, the U.N. climate conference in Bali urged the adoption of a global carbon tax that would represent “a global burden sharing system, fair, with solidarity, and legally binding to all nations.”

[…]

But even more chilling than a global regime set up to “solve” global warming is the personal freedoms that are under assault. In September, a top German climate adviser proposed the “creation of a CO2 budget for every person on planet.” Hans Joachim Schellnhuber told Der Spiegel that this internationally monitored “CO2 budget” would apply to “every person on the planet, regardless whether they live in Berlin or Beijing.”

Czech physicist Dr. Lubos Motl, formerly of Harvard University and a global-warming skeptic, reacted to Schellnhuber’s CO2 personal “budget” proposal by citing tyrannical movements of the past. “What Schellnhuber has just said is just breathtaking, and it helps me to understand how crazy political movements such as the Nazis or communists could have so easily taken over a nation that is as sensible as Germany,” Motl wrote on Sept. 6, 2009.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Genes Drive Behaviour, But Culture Can Select Genes: Study

Culture, not just genes, can drive evolutionary outcomes, according to a study released Wednesday that compares individualist and group-oriented societies across the globe. Bridging a rarely-crossed border between natural and social sciences, the study looks at the interplay across 29 countries of two sets of data, one genetic and the other cultural.

The researchers found that most people in countries widely described as collectivist have a specific mutation within a gene regulating the transport of serotonin, a neurochemical known to profoundly affect mood.

In China and other east Asian nations, for example, up to 80 percent of the population carry this so-called “short” allele, or variant, of a stretch of DNA known as 5-HTTLPR.

Earlier research has shown the S allele to be strongly linked with a range of negative emotions, including anxiety and depression.

Critically, it is also associated with the impulse to stay out of harm’s way.

By contrast, in countries of European origin that prize self-expression and the pursuit of individual over group goals, the long or “L” allele dominates, with only 40 percent of people carrying the “S” variant.

The study, published in Britain’s Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, offers a novel explanation as to how this divergence might have come about.

Setting aside discredited ideas linking genetics and race, the researchers suggest that culture and genes may have interacted over time to shape the process of natural selection, helping individuals — and the societies in which they lived — to survive and thrive.

Ancient cultures in Asia, Africa and Latin America highly exposed to deadly pathogens, they conjecture, may have tended toward collectivist norms in order to better combat disease.

That social transformation, in turn, could have favoured the gradual dominance of the risk-avoidance S allele.

“We demonstrate that evolution is operating at least two levels,” said Joan Chiao, a professor at Northwestern University in Chicago and lead author of the study.

“One is biological, which is well understood. But there is also a level where cultural traits may have been selected for themselves, emerging in congruence with the selection of different types of genes,” she explained by phone.

One well known example of so-called “culture-gene co-evolutionary theory” has to do with drinking cow’s milk, something humans are not intrinsically adapted to do.

Over time, milk consumption led to both the genetic selection of protein genes in cattle, and a gene in humans that encodes lactase, an enzyme that can break down the otherwise indigestible lactose in dairy.

In the case of collective cultures and the S allele, “we don’t make a strong claim on the chicken-or-egg problem” of which came first, said Chiao.

“What we are proposing is that cultural and genetic selection actually operate in tandem, and that you can view human behaviour as a product of culture-gene co-evolution,” she said.

The study also argues that collectivist cultures may help protect against the genetic risk of depression that comes with having the S allele.

“Such support seems to buffer vulnerable individuals from the environmental risks or stressors that serve as triggers to depressive episodes,” said Chiao. The fact that the United States and Europe have higher rates of anxiety and mood disorders despite having the L allele may come from the stress of living in highly individualistic cultures, she suggested.

“People have treated natural selection as a rationale for looking for universal traits, across populations and species.”

“But what really matters is the diversity across populations and species which may help us better understand how natural selection has operated at both individual levels and ecosystem levels,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Islamic States Pushing for ‘Global Blasphemy Law’

Opponents say real goal is crackdown on Christians, members of other faiths

A resolution pending in the United Nations in one form or another since 1999 is being pushed again by the Islamic nations that originally proposed the plan they called “Defamation of Islam,” which would ban criticism of the beliefs of Muhammad worldwide.

The proposal, sought by the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, now has be renamed “Defamation of Religions,” but officials with Open Doors, an international Christian ministry operating in many of those Islamic states, is warning about its potential impact.

If fully implemented, the resolution would ban “criticism” of religions worldwide.

But Vessey told WND the real agenda was revealed by the original title of the resolution, “Defamation of Islam,” which would “criminalize people who criticize a religion.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Growing Influence of Political Islam in France

I posted a couple of weeks ago about the emergence in France of a new group called Truth, Values, and Democracy (Vérité Valeurs et Démocratie) whose mission is to force the French political establishment to confront the danger posed to the Republic by Islamization.

VV&D logo


A follow-up interview with VV&D was recently published at Bivouac-ID, and has also been translated by l’échappée belle:

Bivouac-ID: Ten days after the publication of the article on our site, in which you described to our readers your plan of action to counteract the effects of the growing influence of political Islam in France (link), you have kindly returned to present your first public action. Tell us about it.

VV&D: I must first of all thank everyone for the avalanche of messages of solidarity and encouragement, and for the offers of assistance coming from all over France and abroad. We expected that our ideas were shared by many, but to see this thirst to finally do something manifested in so many messages has reassured us that we are on the right track and that we are not alone in wanting to take concrete action to defend the values of the Republic from the menace of Islamic ideology.

Our first public action is in line with the objectives of our association: to educate our government.

In effect, if our country finds itself confronted by an alarming and more and more oppressive introduction of Sharia in many aspects of daily life, this is largely because our elected representatives have failed to see the influence of political Islam and its sad progression of mental violence, discrimination, a regression in women’s rights, and its attempts to impose totalitarian and primitive rules on our society.

If the guardians of our society, the defenders of public order, who are supposed to protect us, remain passive or seem unable to master the situation, it is because practically none of them have ever opened a Koran, nor even heard of the Sunna. From the bottom of their blissful ignorance, they still currently maintain that “Islam is a religion like any other”, and with a clear conscience (often colored by a certain electoral calculation) invoke “freedom of religion” to authorize (and often finance) the construction of buildings which serve the antidemocratic, discriminatory, and divisive teachings of Islam.

In order to for this ignorance to disappear, we must ask that the French political class open the books of Islam. They will therefore discover that these writings have a political aspect of extraordinary violence. They will discover the words of a prophet, who, in the name of his god, is the only one chosen to instruct his faithful — who have the status of slaves — to dominate the world and to install, where he can, a society based on the oppression and negation of humanist values.

This is why Truth, Values and Democracy proposes that the Parliament organize an inquiry into the political content of Islam. This inquiry will finally allow our representatives to face Sharia in its multiple manifestations, and to understand its intrinsic political nature and the danger that our institutions are under.

Bivouac-ID: Do you make a distinction between political and religious Islam, in demanding only an analysis of the political aspects?

- – - - – - – - -

VV&D: The spiritual side of Islam has nothing to do with the Republic. Personal faith is protected and the Republic must respect that, insofar as the expression does not disturb the public order. But all that which is political is the domain of the State and its representatives, not of religion. After such an inquiry, the Republic will finally have the means to reaffirm her principles and to take measures to stem the anarchic flood of Islamic ideology. This will once again allow all people who respect democracy, whatever their religious beliefs might be, to live peacefully without fearing the pressure of aggressive proselytizing or the activity of sectarian fanatics.

Bivouac-ID: How do you intend to put your plan into action?

VV&D: We have distributed this proposal as far and wide as possible and have asked for support from everyone. It is very simple. You can just go to our website (link) and post a comment which supports this proposal. Literary efforts are not at all necessary, it is enough to only write “I support you”. These messages of support will show our representatives that the French finally want the political class to wake up and act in a responsible manner against Islamic activism, and the first step is to inform them. Nothing is possible without that.

These messages of support are very important, they show to government that the citizens of this country are expecting them to act. They are the concrete proof that it is not just a paranoid Islamophobic fringe, but indeed their entire electorate, those who brought them to the seats that they occupy, who want their concerns taken into account and insist that the political class do its job in defending our democracy and the values of the Republic.

I call on all those who read this; your support is of the utmost importance. Post your comments and tell people about this movement. It is just a matter of asking our representatives to examine the texts, which can be found in a bookstore or on the internet. The study of the books of Islam is not in any way a stigmatization of the Muslim community, but rather a way of protecting it as well, against the actions of individuals and organizations, hypocrites who use religion as an shield.

If we can, with your help, convince any representatives to bring this before the assembly, it could have a considerable impact on society as a whole.

It is now time to act to defend our rights, and those of our children, to live in a society where they are allowed to think as they like and to express their opinions freely.

Our proposition

Given the fact that:

1.   French society has been now for years a victim of specific perversions of behavior which imperil the core principles of the Republic, which are Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.
2.   These behavioral perversions are done in the name of Islam.
3.   The political content of Islam is an unknown component for almost all of our representatives.
4.   The role of the Parliament is to pass laws aimed at protecting French society from attacks against Democracy and human rights.

Truth, Values and Democracy asks for the establishment by Parliament in its entirety of an inquiry into the political content of Islam.



Hat tip: Gandalf.