Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/31/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/31/2009News continues to trickle in from Afghanistan about the murder of seven CIA personnel by a suicide bomber at an American base in Khost. The latest reports indicate that the bomber wore an Afghan army uniform, was not searched when he entered the base, and was brought onto the base to be interviewed as a potential informant. All of this points to massive and sophisticated infiltration of Afghan institutions by the Taliban. The CIA has vowed that it will avenge the attack, but how many agents does it have who are fluent in Pashtun? By drawing heavily on “native stock” we have put ourselves at high risk, and this will not change overnight.

In a separate incident, five Canadians were killed in Afghanistan, including a journalist from Calgary.

In other news, the Chinese are downplaying the fact that they paid ransom to the Somali pirates in order to secure the release of one of their ships.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Insubria, JD, Paul Green, Sean O’Brian, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
To Continue Growth, China Refuses to Reevaluate the Yuan
 
USA
Flight 253 Passenger Kurt Haskell: ‘I Was Visited by the FBI’
Flying High
Hillary Clinton’s Agency Issued the Terrorist’s Visa
The ‘Fire Napolitano’ Debate [Andy McCarthy]
What Was the Most Covered-Up Story of 2009?
 
Europe and the EU
Finland: Gunman ‘On the Run’ After Killing Four in Finnish Shopping Centre Massacre
France: Constitutional Court Rejects Sarkoxy’s Carbon Tax
France: Sarkozy Stands Firm on Carbon Tax
Italy: Fashionistas Get Upmarket Swap Store
Lithuania Nuclear Shutdown to Test EU-Russia Relations
Policeman Who Shot Husband of Dresden ‘Veil Martyr’ Cleared
Scotland: Another Anthrax Case Confirmed in Glasgow
UK: Al-Qaeda ‘Groomed Abdulmutallab in London’
UK: England Set to Miss First Commonwealth Games in 80 Years Amid Delhi Terror Fears
UK: Half of Army’s Heavily-Armoured Vehicle Fleet ‘Not Fit for Purpose’
 
North Africa
Tunisia: Le Temps, Thousands of Conversions to Islam Since2000
 
Middle East
Agriculture: Turkey Plans Restart of Hazelnut Sales
Iran’s Opposition Leader ‘Flees’ As Tens of Thousands of Government Supporters Swarm Tehran Chanting ‘Death to Mousavi’
Iranian Mullah: Kill the Protesters
Obama’s 2010 Policy and Iran: Misconceptions Guarantee Failure
Peter Moore’s Kidnapping ‘Was Masterminded by Iran’
Trade: Turkey and UAE to Seek New Cooperation Areas
Turkey: 22.8 Pct Big Corporations’ Management Women
Turkey and Syria to Cooperate in Different Areas
 
Russia
Vladimir Putin Says Russia’s Population Rising
 
South Asia
8 CIA Agents Killed in Afghan Suicide Bombing
Afghan Suicide Bomber Killed C.I.A. Operatives
Afghanistan: Taliban Claims Attack Against CIA Officials
Afghan Base Hit by Attack Has Pivotal Role in Conflict
Indonesia: Terror Attack Warning in Bali
Indonesia: Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, A Friend of Christians, Dies
Malaysian Court Rules Non-Muslims May Call God Allah
Pakistan: Taliban Claims Deadly Attack on Karachi Procession
Source: 2 Killed in Afghanistan Bombing Were Security Contractors
Sources: Bomber Was Invited on Base
 
Far East
Execution Underscores ‘China’s Contempt for the West’
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Africa: US Cooperation, Countries in ‘Democratic Crisis’ Are Suspended
Chinese Downplay Somali Pirate Ransom
Somalia: NGO Official Killed in South, Fighting in Different Areas
Somali Man ‘Tried to Take Bomb Onto Plane’
 
Immigration
Australia a Magnet for People Smugglers: Opposition
USA: Survey Shows ‘Pew-Versus-Pulpit Divide’
 
General
Wikipedia Meets Its Own Climategate

Financial Crisis


To Continue Growth, China Refuses to Reevaluate the Yuan

According to official data industrial profits are recovering. Premier Wen says now necessary to contain inflation, especially in real estate, and that a “stable” Yuan is beneficial for the world economy. Meanwhile, the government can not even contain corruption.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) — China says that in 2010 it aims to keep inflation at levels “reasonable”, even curbing rising rapidly property prices and “resisting” pressure to revalue the Yuan. This was the content of an online interview given by Premier Wen Jiabao to the official state Xinhua news agency on 27 December. Meanwhile, Zhong Shan, vice-Minister of Commerce, has estimated that “probably” in 2009 China will become the world’s largest exporter overtaking Germany.

The country fears the return of high inflation, which was announced by increases in the prices of raw materials, and in November, consumer prices rose by 0.6% after 9 months of deflation. Fro this reason Wen said that the conditions to revalue the Yuan “are still missing”. The United States and European Union accuse Beijing of keeping the currency artificially low to encourage the sale of its goods to the detriment of those of other countries. But Wen insists that “a stable Yuan has made an important contribution” to global economic stability. China always insists that the low prices of its products are a great help to the family economies of other countries.

The premier added that it would be “a mistake” to remove the strong state funding provided to businesses too quickly. In the first 11 months of 2009, Beijing has provided funding for 9,200 billion Yuan (over 920 billion euros) to support companies in crisis, following the collapse of exports. Zhong has indicated as “probable” that “China will overtake Germany as the largest exporting country”, although its sales abroad decreased by 18.8% according to official data, the maximum decline by at least 30 years. The National Bureau of Statistics said that profits for the industrial companies still rose by 7.8% in November 2009 from a year earlier. Although this data raise concerns among experts, given that from January to August, the NSB had indicated a loss of 10.6%.

Other experts note that these statistics are not verifiable and that China, to combat the global crisis, needs to face major changes in its internal system, with less room for state-owned enterprises and greater administrative transparency. Yesterday the Central Investigation Bureau said that in 2009 public officials have stolen or misused 234.7 billion yuan (about 23.5 billion euros). Each year, the Inspection Office announces that it has identified dozens of dishonest officials and the government declares zero tolerance against corruption. But the situation is not improving Liu Jiayi chief inspector said yesterday in a conference, that “despite some improvements, theft of funds, waste and falsification of tax information still exists in the central offices”.

Moreover, the Office for inspection has not indicated the names of those responsible, who Beijing often prefers to charge in secret and without making the news public.

Wen expressed particular concern about the rapid increases in property prices “in some zones” and announced his intent to “stabilize” them especially with interventions “on taxes and interest for loans”, but also with the construction of low price housing in order to counter speculation making it less attractive for investments.

In November, property prices in 70 major cities rose by 5.7% compared to November 2008, a record increase from July 2008. Experts believe there is a real property bubble.

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

USA


Flight 253 Passenger Kurt Haskell: ‘I Was Visited by the FBI’

Following up on a visit from FBI officials about an eyewitness account first described to MLive.com, Michigan attorney Kurt Haskell described the visit in comment sections across MLive on Wednesday.

Haskell and his wife, Lori, were aboard Flight 253 when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to destroy the plane. They say another man tried to help Abdulmutallab board the plane in Amsterdam.

Haskell had two detailed posts in two different stories. Here is Part One, originally posted here (Nothing below in the indent has been changed. Only links have been added.):

Today is the second worst day of my life after 12-25-09. Today is the day that I realized that my own country is lying to me and all of my fellow Americans. Let me explain.

Ever since I got off of Flight 253 I have been repeating what I saw in US Customs. Specifically, 1 hour after we left the plane, bomb sniffing dogs arrived. Up to this point, all of the passengers on Flight 253 stood in a small area in an evacuated luggage claim area of an airport terminal. During this time period, all of the passengers had their carry on bags with them. When the bomb sniffing dogs arrived, 1 dog found something in a carry on bag of a 30 ish Indian man. This is not the so called “Sharp Dressed” man. I will refer to this man as “The man in orange”. The man in orange, who stood some 20ft away from me the entire time until he was taken away, was immediately taken away to be searched and interrogated in a nearby room. At this time he was not handcuffed. When he emerged from the room, he was then handcuffed and taken away. At this time an FBI agent came up to the rest of the passengers and said the following (approximate quote) “You all are being moved to another area because this area is not safe. I am sure many of you saw what just happened (Referring to the man in orange) and are smart enough to read between the lines and figure it out.” We were then marched out of the baggage claim area and into a long hallway. This entire time period and until we left customs, no person that wasn’t a law enforcement personnel or a passenger on our flight was allowed anywhere on our floor of the terminal (or possibly the entire terminal) The FBI was so concerned during this time, that we were not allowed to use the bathroom unless we went alone with an FBI agent, we were not allowed to eat or drink, or text or call anyone. I have been repeating this same story over the last 5 days. The FBI has, since we landed, insisted that only one man was arrested for the airliner attack (contradicting my account). However, several of my fellow passengers have come over the past few days, backed up my claim, and put pressure on FBI/Customs to tell the truth. Early today, I heard from two different reporters that a federal agency (FBI or Customs) was now admitting that another man has been held (and will be held indefinitely) since our flight landed for “immigration reasons.” Notice that this man was “being held” and not “arrested”, which was a cute semantic ploy by the FBI to stretch the truth and not lie.

Just a question, could that mean that the man in orange had no passport?

However, a few hours later, Customs changed its story again. This time, Mr. Ron Smith of Customs, says the man that was detained “had been taken into custody, but today tells the news the person was a passenger on a different flight.” Mr. Ron Smith, you are playing the American public for a fool. Lets take a look at how plausible this story is (After you’ve already changed it twice). For the story to be true, you have to believe, that:

1. FBI/Customs let passengers from another flight co-mingle with the passengers of flight 253 while the most important investigation in 8 years was pending. I have already stated that not one person who wasn’t a passenger or law enforcement personnal was in our area the entire time we were detained by Customs.

2. FBI/Customs while detaining the flight 253 passengers in perhaps the most important investigation since the last terrorist attack, and despite not letting any flight 253 passenger drink, eat, make a call, or use the bathroom, let those of other flights trample through the area and possibly contaminate evidence.

3. You have to believe the above (1 and 2) despite the fact that no flights during this time allowed passengers to exit off of the planes at all and were detained on the runway during at least the first hour of our detention period.

4. You have to believe that the man that stood 20 feet from me since we entered customs came from a mysterious plane that never landed, let its passengers off the plane and let this man sneak into our passenger group despite having extremely tight security at this time (i.e. no drinking even).

5. FBI/Customs was hauling mysterious passengers from other flights through the area we were being held to possibly comtaminate evidence and allow discussions with suspects on Flight 253 or to possibly allow the exchange of bombs, weapons or other devices between the mysterious passengers from other flights and those on flight 253.

Seriously Mr. Ron Smith, how stupid do you think the American public is?

Mr. Ron Smith’s third version of the story is an absolute inplausible joke. I encourage you, Mr. Ron Smith, to debate me anytime, anywhere, and anyplace in public to let the American people see who is credible and who is not.

I ask, isn’t this the more plausible story:

1. Customs/FBI realized that they screwed up and don’t want to admit that they left flight 253 passengers on a flight with a live bomb on the runway for 20 minutes.

2. Customs/FBI realized that they screwed up and don’t want to admit that they left flight 253 passengers in customs for 1 hour with a live bomb in a carry on bag.

3. Customs/FBI realize that the man in orange points to a greater involvement then the lone wolf theory that they have been promoting.

Mr. Ron Smith I encourage you to come out of your cubicle and come up with a more plausible version number 4 of your story.

Haskell continued his comment in a different post on MLive.

For the last five days I have been reporting my story of the so called “sharp dressed man.” For those of you who haven’t read my account, it involves a sharp dressed “Indian man” attempting to talk a ticket agent into letting a supposed “Sudanese refugee” (The terrorist) onto flight 253 without a passport. I have never had any idea how it played out except to note that the so called “Sudanese reefugee” later boarded my flight and attempted to blow it up and kill me. At no time did my story involve, or even find important whether the terrorist actually had a passport. The importance of my story was and always will be, the attempt with an accomplice (apparently succesful) of a terrorist with all sorts of prior terrorist warning signs to skirt the normal passport boarding procedures in Amsterdam. By the way, Amsterdam security did come out the other day and admit that the terrorist did not have to “Go through normal passport checking procedures”.

Amsterdam security, please define to the American public “Normal passport boarding procedures”.

You see the FBI would have the American public believe that what was important was whether the terrorist in fact had a passport.

Seriously think about this people. You have a suicide bomber who had recently been to Yemen to but a bomb, whose father had reported him as a terrorist, who supposedly was on some kind of U.S. terror watchlist, and most likely knew the U.S. was aware of these red flags. Yet, he didn’t go through “Normal passport checking procedures.” What does that mean? Maybe that he flashed a passport to some sort of sympathetic security manager in a backroom to avoid a closer look at the terrorist’s “red flags”? What is important is that the terrorist avoided using normal passport checking procedures (apparently successfully) in order to avoid a closer look into his red flags. Who cares if he had a passport. The important thing is that he didn’t want to show it and somehow avoided a closer inspection and “normal passport checking procedures.” Each passport comes with a bar code on it that can be scanned to provide a wealth of information about the individual. I would bet that the passport checking procedures for the terrorist did not include a bar code scan of his passport (which could have revealed damning information about the terrorist).

Please note that there is a very easy way to verify the veracity of my prior “sharp dressed man” account. Dutch police have admitted that they have reviewed the video of the “sharp dressed man” that I referenced. Note that it has not been released anywhere, You see, if my eye witness account is false, it could easily be proven by releasing the video. However, the proof of my eyewitness account would also be verified if I am telling the truth and I am. There is a reason we have only heard of the video and not seen it. dutch authorities, “RELEASE THE VIDEO!” This is the most important video in 8 years and may be all of two minutes long. Show the entire video and “DO NOT EDIT IT”! The American public deserves its own chance to attempt to identify the “sharp dressed man”. I have no doubt that if the video indicated that my account was wrong, that the video would have already swept over the entire world wide web.

Instead of the video, we get a statment that the video has been viewed and that the terrorist had a passport. Each of these statements made by the FBI is a self serving play on semantics and each misses the importance of my prior “sharp dressed man” account. The importance being that the man “Tried to board the plane with an accomplice and without a passort”. The other significance is that only the airport security video can verify my eyewitness account and that it is not being released.

Who has the agenda here and who doesn’t? Think about that for a minute.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]



Flying High

It’s getting to the point where the twin news stories more or less write themselves. No sooner is the fanatical and homicidal Muslim arrested than it turns out that he (it won’t be long until it is also she) has been known to the authorities for a long time. But somehow the watch list, the tipoff, the many worried reports from colleagues and relatives, the placing of the name on a “central repository of information” don’t prevent the suspect from boarding a plane, changing planes, or bringing whatever he cares to bring onto a plane. This is now a tradition that stretches back to several of the murderers who boarded civilian aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001, having called attention to themselves by either a) being on watch lists already or b) weird behavior at heartland American flight schools. They didn’t even bother to change their names.

[…]

Why do we fail to detect or defeat the guilty, and why do we do so well at collective punishment of the innocent? The answer to the first question is: Because we can’t—or won’t. The answer to the second question is: Because we can. The fault here is not just with our endlessly incompetent security services, who give the benefit of the doubt to people who should have been arrested long ago or at least had their visas and travel rights revoked. It is also with a public opinion that sheepishly bleats to be made to “feel safe.” The demand to satisfy that sad illusion can be met with relative ease if you pay enough people to stand around and stare significantly at the citizens’ toothpaste. My impression as a frequent traveler is that intelligent Americans fail to protest at this inanity in case it is they who attract attention and end up on a no-fly list instead. Perfect.

It was reported over the weekend that in the aftermath of the Detroit fiasco, no official decision was made about whether to raise the designated “threat level” from orange. Orange! Could this possibly be because it would be panicky and ridiculous to change it to red and really, really absurd to lower it to yellow? But isn’t it just as preposterous (and revealing), immediately after a known Muslim extremist has waltzed through every flimsy barrier, to leave it just where it was the day before?

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



Hillary Clinton’s Agency Issued the Terrorist’s Visa

Why is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton silent on this issue?

Over the past couple of decades, our nation has been attacked on numerous occasions both within our nation’s borders as well as outside our nation’s borders by adherents to radical Islam. In the name of “national security,” we have witnessed and been subjected to, a continual erosion of our expectations of privacy and freedom.

Yet the most commonsense measures that would require our government to do a more effective job of administering the program by which our government provides aliens with visas to enter the United States and make certain that credible information concerning terror suspects is transmitted quickly to appropriate personnel is still not being done.

What is particularly disturbing about all of this is the simple fact that the 9/11 Commission identified visa fraud and immigration benefit fraud as major areas of concern where the entry and embedding of terrorists in our country are involved, yet virtually nothing has been done to address these major holes in the fence that is supposed to keep those individuals out of our country who are determined to do us such harm!

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



The ‘Fire Napolitano’ Debate [Andy McCarthy]

A couple of months back, Sean Hannity invited me on his nightly panel on a special show that was dedicated to ten of the more problematic figures in the administration — Van Jones, Kevin Jennings, Carol Browner, John Holdren, and some others. (Napolitano was not egregious enough to be included.) Sean pressed me on whether this one or that one should be fired, and I just shrugged my shoulders. The suggestion (not by Sean, but in a lot of the public debate) had been that these people had not been properly vetted. My reaction was that they had been extensively vetted — the “czars,” like Jones, were made czars rather than cabinet nominations precisely because they were the people President Obama wanted but he knew they’d never get through a confirmation hearing. Sure, you could fire those ten, but the same guy who picked them would be picking their replacements.

I never thought we should have created a Department of Homeland Security. People’s memories are short. The original idea behind DHS was to solve “the Wall” problem — the impediments to intelligence-sharing that were making the FBI, our domestic intelligence service, ineffective. But while DHS was being debated and built, the FBI and the intelligence community furiously called on their allies on Capitol Hill and protected their turf. By the time DHS formally came into being, they made sure it had no intelligence mission — in fact, it had no real clear mission at all except to be the unwieldy home of a huge agglomeration of federal agencies. Basically, we moved the deck chairs around on the Titanic but did nothing to improve homeland security.

Napolitano is an apt representation of Obama-style detachment from national security: She doesn’t know where the 9/11 hijackers came from; she doesn’t know illegal immigration is a criminal offense; she won’t utter the word “terror” (it’s a “man-caused disaster,” just like, say, a forest fire); she thinks the real terrorists are “right-wing extremists” aided and abetted by our soldiers returning home from their missions; when a jihadist at Fort Hood massacres more people than were killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, she won’t call it terrorism and worries mostly about racist blow-back against innocent Muslims; she doesn’t see any indications of a larger terrorist conspiracy even after a captured — er, arrested — terrorist tells agents he was groomed for the airplane operation by al Qaeda in Yemen; she thinks the “system worked” on Christmas when every element of it failed; and even her walk-back on the “system worked” comment — i.e., that it worked after the fact because all the planes then in the air were notified to take extra precautions “within 90 minutes” of the attack — is pathetic. You may recall that on 9/11, the first plane hit the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. and the second at 9:16 a.m.; the Pentagon was struck at 9:37 a.m., and, thanks to the heroic passengers of Flight 93, the last plane went down a little after 10 a.m. — about 20 minutes from its target in Washington. A lot can happen in 90 minutes.

When DHS came into being, a good friend of mine put it perfectly: “We already have a Department of Homeland Security and its address is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” It is there, not at DHS, that the problem resides. The President has in place exactly the team he wants. To clamor for Napolitano’s firing when she is just carrying out the boss’s program is to shift the blame from where it belongs.

[Return to headlines]



What Was the Most Covered-Up Story of 2009?

WND editors join with readers to determine the year’s top 10

Overwhelming evidence Fort Hood mass murderer was an Islamic terrorist who considered himself part of a greater plan to bring the U.S. under Saudi-style Islamic law tops the list of the 10 most “spiked” or underreported stories of the last year, according to an annual WND survey.

[…]

WND’s editors, however, have long considered it far more newsworthy to publicize the most important unreported or underreported news events of the year — to highlight perhaps for one last time major news stories that were undeservedly “spiked” by the establishment press.

Here, with our readers’ help, are WorldNetDaily editors’ picks for the 10 most underreported stories of 2009:

1. Overwhelming evidence the Fort Hood mass murderer was an Islamic terrorist acting as part of a larger, radical Islamic movement bent on infiltrating, subverting and ultimately conquering the U.S…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Finland: Gunman ‘On the Run’ After Killing Four in Finnish Shopping Centre Massacre

A gunman has shot dead at least four people in a Finnish shopping centre.

Police have told Finnish media they fear ‘many victims’ have been gunned down in the attack at the Sello shopping centre in the town of Espoo, close to the capital Helsinki.

A witness claimed the gunman, dressed in black, opened fire on the second floor of the complex. There are no reports of him being stopped.

Officers said three men and one woman were killed.

Police identified the shooter as 43-year-old Ibrahim Shkupolli and said that he was still on the loose.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



France: Constitutional Court Rejects Sarkoxy’s Carbon Tax

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 30 — With a decision that will surely not please president Nicolas Sarkozy, the French Constitutional Court announced last night that it had rejected the carbon tax, a measure that Sarkozy wanted very much to institute and that was to become effective as of January 1st. According to a press release, the judges of the Conseil constitutionel think that the regulation allowed much too many exemptions and that its current formulation is not in line with the goal of fighting for environmental changes. Furthermore, it would also bring about tax disparities. Judges had been called to sentence in an appeal presented on December 22nd by the socialist parliamentary group at the opposition. After the sentence,the premier Francois Fillon hurried to declare that on January 2th the Cabinet would examine a new disposition that will take into account the observations made by the Court. The tax had been put forth by Sarkozy as a “fiscal revolution” and as an important turning point that was to alter the habits of the French. Imposing a tax on CO2 emissions, making them cut down on damages to the environment. Thanks to the contemplated exemption system, nevertheless, according to the Conseil less than half of the greenhouse gases would be subjected to the tax. In its sentence, the Court stated that the new regulation would have excluded some major polluters, such as refineries, and that 93 percent of CO2 emissions of industrial origin would have been practically excluded. The president had announced that the tax was to be a part of a wider government strategy aimed at reducing current greenhouse gases by a fourth within 2050. In order not to weigh negatively on family’s spending power, the government had planned a system of tax relief related to the residence and number of people dependent on the taxpayer. The taxe carbone, as the French say, was to cost in its first phase 17 euro per ton of CO2 (rising in the years to come). For consumers this was to mean a 4 cent increase in the price of petrol and 4.5 cents for diesel. Compensations included a tax deduction of 46 euro per adult living in an urban area and 62 euro for those who live in rural areas. The tax had raised much criticism regarding its actual effects on the environment. Which some experts considered as much too soft.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



France: Sarkozy Stands Firm on Carbon Tax

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 30 — French president Nicholas Sarkozy is “determined” to impose a carbon tax, which he considers “one of his top commitments”. This was announced by French Secretary of State for Ecology Chantal Jouanno, after having spoken over the phone with the president, who is on holiday in Morocco. Yesterday evening the French Constitutional Court voted down the tax aiming to cut CO2 emissions, which was to have come into force on January 1. Sarkozy “will surely abide by his commitment. He sees the environment as a priority, even if it is difficult and even if we are only three months away from an election deadline,” added Jouanno, noting that the government would be submitting a new proposal on the matter on January 20. Meanwhile, the opposition has praised the annulment of the tax which was to have come into effect and which would have led to a 4-euro-cent increase per litre of petrol, 4.5 for diesel. In the eyes of socialists, promoters of the appeal to the constitutional court, the new tax would have been “ineffective and unfair”. Also the centrist leader Francois Bayrou used the words “partial and unfair” when referring to the tax, while according to the Greens the judges confirmed that “Sarkozy’s version of a carbon tax” was “smoke in our eyes”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Fashionistas Get Upmarket Swap Store

Discreet outlet aimed at upper classes hit by credit crunch

(ANSA) — Treviso, December 31 — Italy’s well-heeled fashionistas have been given the chance to continue indulging their passion despite the credit crunch, with the opening of the country’s first-ever ‘designer swapping store’.

The wealthy northern city of Treviso is now home to ‘Luxury Swapping’, where elite clients can trade in their Dolce and Gabbana dresses for Gucci shoes. “Our clients are people who enjoy luxury, and when they tire of a coat, a piece of jewelry or a rug, they want to give it away in exchange for something else,” explained store owners Ilaria Bramezza and Francesca Ladisa. Bramezza and Ladisa have designed a system whereby they allocate each item brought in by clients a number of stars between 1 and 10. This can then be exchanged for one or more other items worth the same number of stars. The system is not without problems, however, local daily La Tribuna di Treviso reported on Thursday. Most clients tend to overvalue their own items and believe those they are acquiring are worth less than their marked ‘price’. “But this is why we make it absolutely clear from the outset that the final decision on the ‘price’ classification is ours alone and not up for discussion,” Ladisa said. The store owners take a commission on each successful swap, starting at 20 euros for a one-star piece. Unlike many Anglo-Saxon countries, where thrift and charity shops are hugely popular, the stigma attached to second-hand clothing has traditionally been a strong one in Italy.

But the trend for swap parties sweeping the US and the UK, where participants bring their unused items to trade with others, has recently caught on in Italy.

An online swap club was launched by Bologna-based fashion-lover Tamara Nocco in 2007, and now boasts over 500 members. This year, Nocco teamed up with Francesca Caprioli, founder of the Green-Think organization, in order to jointly organize ethical and sustainable events.

Their first Swap Party was staged in Rome and more are now taking place across the country, with left-over clothes donated to charity.

However, the Treviso store is the first initiative aimed specifically at the upper echelons of Italian society, where the second-hand taboo remains strong.

Recognizing this, the owners chose a small alleyway that is not obvious to anyone passing by.

“The fact it is a little hidden affords our clientele greater discretion,” Bramezza explained to the Treviso daily. And despite this taboo, the three-storey business has enjoyed a thriving trade since opening. Ladisa and Bramezza are confident its popularity will grow further and have plans for a nationwide chain of stores, bringing luxury to struggling upper-class fashion fans across Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lithuania Nuclear Shutdown to Test EU-Russia Relations

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — One of Russia’s fiercest critics in the EU, Lithuania, will at the turn of the New Year switch off a nuclear power station, in a move set to test the theory that Russia uses energy as a political weapon.

The shutdown of the Ignalina plant — at 11pm local time on 31 December — is being carried out in line with Lithuania’s EU accession promise following concerns that its Chernobyl-type reactor is unsafe.

The small, post-Soviet country is building a new reactor expected to go online between 2018 and 2020 and will from 2015 and 2016 benefit from new electricity supply “bridges” to Poland and Sweden.

The interim period is set to see power prices spike by up to 70 percent at a time of recession, however.

It will also see Lithuania almost entirely reliant on imports of energy from Russia amid the prevailing belief in former Iron Curtain countries that Moscow uses gas and oil cut offs as a tool of political pressure on its former vassals.

Russia in 2006 shut off oil supplies to Lithuania via the Druzhba pipeline after Vilnius sold a petrol refinery to a Polish bidder instead of a Russian state-owned firm. The dispute saw Lithuania threaten to veto a new EU-Russia treaty unless the EU commission intervened on its side.

Relations on the Russia-Lithuania-EU axis were again tested in 2008 when Vilnius urged the EU to impose sanctions on Russia following its military attack on Georgia, another small, former Soviet country.

Lithuanian president and former EU commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite has in recent days tried to reassure people that the Ignalina closure will not alter relations with its neighbour.

“The Lithuanian energy system was and is dependent on Russia, because our energy sources, our supply of gas and power, are tied to that country,” she told the Baltic News Service.

But with the political climate set to sharpen in early 2010, as Lithuania gears up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union, others in the administration are not so sure.

“If our parliament issues a declaration …which they don’t like, they will punish us, as they did Ukraine,” a senior Lithuanian diplomat recently told EUobserver, referring to Russia’s gas cut-offs during the term of office of Moscow-critical Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko.

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



Policeman Who Shot Husband of Dresden ‘Veil Martyr’ Cleared

German investigators have dropped an investigation into a policeman who shot an Egyptian trying to save his pregnant wife being stabbed to death in a Dresden courtroom in July.

The policeman, who has not been named, shot Elwy Okaz in the leg because he mistakenly believed that Okaz was the attacker, prosecutors said Wednesday.

In fact, Okaz was trying to protect his wife Marwa El-Sherbini, 31, later dubbed the “veil martyr”, from a frenzied knife attack by Russian-born Alex Wiens.

Wiens, now 29, was jailed for life on November 11 for the racially motivated murder as well as the attempted murder of Okaz. The couple’s three-year-old son was also in the courtroom.

The situation “was particularly hard to assess since Elwy Okaz and Alex Wiens were both covered in blood and Elwy Okaz had just managed to grab the handle of the knife with his hand, making it appear as though he was the attacker,” prosecutors said in a statement, before emphasising that it was a “highly dramatic” and “unclear situation.”

“The actual attacker Wiens was holding the blade of the knife, which added to the impression that he was the one being attacked,” prosecutors said.

They added that the policeman, who was not in the Dresden courtroom when the attack began, only had seconds to act after entering the room and that he had warned several times that he was going to shoot.

“It must also be noted that the murderous attack on Marwa El-Sherbini and Elwy Okaz was only stopped by the courageous actions of the policeman and that without his intervention there might have been further attacks on Elwy Okaz and his family,” the statement said.

The killing, as well as the slow reaction of Germany’s politicians and media, sparked outrage in Sherbini’s home country and in the wider Muslim world.

Wiens and Sherbini were in court because Wiens was appealing against an earlier fine for calling the headscarved Sherbini a “terrorist”, an “Islamist” and a “whore” in a playground in August 2008.

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



Scotland: Another Anthrax Case Confirmed in Glasgow

A further heroin user in Glasgow has tested positive for anthrax.

The man is said to be responding well to treatment at Monklands District General Hospital in Lanarkshire.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said this took the total number of confirmed anthrax-linked cases to six, which included three people who have died.

The health board said they are continuing to investigate whether contaminated heroin or a contaminated cutting agent may be responsible.

A spokesman for the health board said that two other confirmed patients, continue to respond well to treatment.

They include a male at Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary and a male at Monklands District General Hospital in Lanarkshire.

The health board is awaiting confirmation of results on a seventh patient, a woman, who is being treated for the infection at the Southern General.

Extremely risky

Consultant in Public Health Medicine, Dr Syed Ahmed, said: “Drug injecting is extremely risky and dangerous.

“The possible presence of a batch of heroin contaminated with Anthrax makes drug injecting even riskier and even more dangerous.

“I urge all drug injecting heroin users to be extremely alert and to seek urgent medical advice if they experienced an infection.

“While this section of the community need to be on their guard the risk to the rest of the population — including close family members of the infected cases — is negligible.

“It is extremely rare for anthrax to be spread from person to person and there is no significant risk of airborne transmission from one person to another.”

“As part of ongoing inquiries, any drug injecting heroin users who present with serious soft tissue infections now or during the last four weeks is being investigated”.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]



UK: Al-Qaeda ‘Groomed Abdulmutallab in London’

The Christmas Day airline bomb plot suspect organised a conference under the banner “War on Terror Week” as he immersed himself in radical politics while a student in London, The Times has learnt.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a former president of the Islamic Society at University College London, advertised speakers including political figures, human rights lawyers and former Guantánamo detainees.

One lecture, Jihad v Terrorism, was billed as “a lecture on the Islamic position with respect to jihad”.

Security sources are concerned that the picture emerging of his undergraduate years suggests that he was recruited by al-Qaeda in London. Security sources said that Islamist radicalisation was rife on university campuses, especially in London, and that college authorities had “a patchy record in facing up to the problem”. Previous anti-terrorist inquiries have uncovered evidence of extremists using political meetings and religious study circles to identify potential recruits.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: England Set to Miss First Commonwealth Games in 80 Years Amid Delhi Terror Fears

Sports stars are abandoning the England team for the Commonwealth Games in India next year amid security fears.

Some of the nation’s greatest medal hopes are citing excuses ranging from ‘bad timing’ to ‘the risk of tummy bugs’ to avoid going to the tournament in Delhi.

There are even reports that the entire England squad could pull out over worries that the athletes could become a target for terrorist attacks.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Half of Army’s Heavily-Armoured Vehicle Fleet ‘Not Fit for Purpose’

The Ministry of Defence has admitted more than half of its fleet of armoured vehicles is out of service.

Just 134 of the defence force’s 271 Mastiff armoured vehicles are ‘fit for purpose’, according to figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats in written Commons answers.

The harsh desert conditions in Afghanistan have also taken their toll on the Ridgeback fleet, being used for the first time by 11 Light Brigade.

Nearly 40 per cent of Ridgebacks are not currently operational, with just 73 of 118 in service.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Tunisia: Le Temps, Thousands of Conversions to Islam Since2000

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, 30 DEC — Approximately three thousand foreigners, mostly Catholic, were converted to Islam in Tunisia between 2000 and 2007. Their number would be even greater given the high number of conversions that took place during the month of Ramadan 2008. So said the French-speaking newspaper Le Temps, quoting these numbers as opposed to the ones (for which no data is available) regarding conversions in the other sense. The latter are conversions that are the “result of a vast campaign of low-key evangelisation carried out on all fronts, in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco and which therefore regards the Maghreb sphere”. Such conversions involve mostly young Tunisians who convert to Christianity, carry a cross, go to church and become in turn ‘missionaries’, and this also thanks to a “financial and scholastic aid, up to the attainment of a scholarship and a visa for studying in France, promises which may or may not be kept” Leaving it open to the interpretation of said conversions being solely opportunistic. As to conversions to Islam, according to Le Temps, many of them are due to the in-depth study of religious texts, but many also related to sentimental reasons (mixed marriages). (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Agriculture: Turkey Plans Restart of Hazelnut Sales

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 29 — Following a decision to halt its hazelnut sales in August in a bid to maintain price stability in the market, the Turkish Soil Products Office (TMO) is planning to restart sales in the new year, as Today’s Zaman reports. The office, in this regard, is monitoring the latest market developments. The office announced in August that it would not intervene in the market by selling hazelnuts until January 2010. The TMO, which currently has 480,477 tons of hazelnuts in reserve, will decide whether to restart sales, in line with market developments. Producers and dealers currently comment that the TMO’s recent move to curb speculation has been successful as prices are hovering around fair levels. According to latest reports, Turkey’s hazelnut exports in the first three months of the export season, which kicks off on September 1 every year, declined to 83,486 tons from 112,255 tons in the same period of 2008. Hazelnut exporters earned $509 million in the months of September, October and November of this year. Producers currently are holding an estimated 100,000 tons of hazelnuts in reserve. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Iran’s Opposition Leader ‘Flees’ As Tens of Thousands of Government Supporters Swarm Tehran Chanting ‘Death to Mousavi’

Tens of thousands of hard-liners poured into the streets in support of Iran’s clerical rulers at state-sponsored rallies on Wednesday.

Some of those protesting chanted calls for the execution of opposition leaders as the country’s internal strife turned more bitter.

Others held anti-Western signs while others wore white funeral shrouds to symbolize a willingness to die in defense of the ruling system.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Iranian Mullah: Kill the Protesters

In a television appearance shocking in its candidness, a leading Iranian ayatollah says that it would be far better for the Islamic Republic to simply murder those protesting against the regime, rather than arrest and beat them. Meanwhile, an unknown group claiming to represent Iranian soldiers threatens to take up arms against the regime.

[…]

Perhaps in reaction to the increasing levels of violence by government forces, on December 26 a previously unknown anti-regime group calling itself the National Iranian Armed Resistance Forces (NIRU) “declare our readiness to rise to the armed defense of our nation against the forces of the criminal, illegitimate, transgressing and occupying current Government of Iran…” The group “accuses the current government and the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Mr. Sayyed Ali Khamenei of legal transgressions and high treason of nation and homeland.”

NIRU claims to be made up of “a number of officers, soldiers and personnel of the armed forces”, calling for “support” and “cover… in this moral and nationalist act” from “our brothers and sisters serving with the armed security forces of Iran…”

Iranian pro-democracy activists in contact with Israel National News said they are hesitant to believe in the authenticity of the organization until there is some external evidence of its activities beyond email and Web postings.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama’s 2010 Policy and Iran: Misconceptions Guarantee Failure

by Barry Rubin

A friend of mine is angry, saying I’m too tough on President Barack Obama and that nothing he does pleases me. Well, I wish he’d do more that pleases me, and disconcerts America’s enemies.

True, he has done three good things lately: his Nobel speech, which sounded like it was actually given by a U.S. president; his remarks on the demonstrations in Iran (better six months late than never), and his tough verbal stance about investigating the mistakes that led to the near disaster (though I worry they’re less about dramatic change and more just a show to reassure the public that something will be done). I also pointed out that the administration’s relationship with Israel was pretty good overall.

Yet on the single most important Middle East issue, Iran’s nuclear program and its aggressive ambitions, hints about his policy are getting worrisome both because of what this administration isn’t doing and what it’s obviously thinking. The year has now ended with no major public move toward imposing serious sanctions. True, there are a few statements you can dig out indicating a turn in that direction. Yet what should have happened was a major public speech by December 31 about the administration’s sanction plans. After all, it set that date as a deadline for action ten months ago yet let it pass with no visible action.

There are other bad signs that the administration still doesn’t comprehend the problems it faces…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



Peter Moore’s Kidnapping ‘Was Masterminded by Iran’

Freed hostage Peter Moore and his fellow Britons were taken in an operation led and masterminded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, it was claimed last night.

The five men were taken to Iran within a day of their kidnap from a government ministry building in Baghdad in 2007, according to the Guardian.

It claimed the men were held in prisons run by the Al Quds brigade, a unit specialising in foreign operations on behalf of the Iranian government.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Trade: Turkey and UAE to Seek New Cooperation Areas

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 30 — Turkish State Minister Zafer Caglayan said on Wednesday that Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) decided to prepare a joint delegation to assess new investment and cooperation areas and carry out joint projects. Speaking to journalists aboard the plane on his return from UAE, Caglayan said he met Abu Dhabi’s Emir Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan. Caglayan said Turkey was endeavoring to boost relations with UAE in social, economy and trade areas, “there are very important investment opportunities in the UAE,” he added. Caglayan said Al-Nahyan thanked for the support of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan yet noted that economy and treasury of the United Arab Emirates was very strong. Turkish minister said Al-Nahyan told him that 300 billion USD would be invested for infrastructure in UAE in the next five years, Al-Nahyan also expressed readiness to assess investment opportunities in Turkey noting that UAE could cooperate with Turkey in areas of energy, food, tourism, construction and agriculture. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey: 22.8 Pct Big Corporations’ Management Women

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 29 — Women managers constitute 22.8% of the total top-level administrative staff of Turkeys large private sector corporations, as Today’s Zaman reports quoting a recent survey by the Turkish Confederation of Employers Unions (TISK). The Female Managers Survey was conducted among 111 companies, which are members of 11 different unions of the confederation. As of the end of September 2009, the total workforce — including white-collar and blue-collar workers — in the companies surveyed amounted to 85,427. Female workers accounted for 14.4% of this combined figure. In terms of administrative staff, however, the share of female recruits rose to 22.8%, with 163 female managers among a total number of 714. Among 65 chairpersons, 9 were female and 11 of the 52 deputy chairpersons were women. Of the 239 board members in these 111 companies, 54 were female. The number of the general managers, general coordinators and CEOs was 122, with 34 of them women. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey and Syria to Cooperate in Different Areas

(ANSAmed) — DAMASCUS, DECEMBER 30 — Turkey and Syria will begin cooperating with each other in different areas, Anatolia news agency reports quoting Muhammed Adak, chairman of the Turkish Foreign Relations Department of the Directorate General for Youth and Sports. “An agreement was signed during the high-level ministerial meeting between Turkey and Syria last week. Turkey will share its experiences with Syria. We also help training of Syrian coaches and referees,” Adak said. Meanwhile, the cooperation agreement signed by Turkish and Syrian health ministries will begin yielding results. Syria will purchase flu and pneumonia vaccines to be manufactured in Turkey. Also, Turkey will assist Syria in its efforts to run hospitals, and re-arrange its health regulations. Under the cooperation in media, Turkish state-run TV and Radio Corp. (TRT) and Syrian state-run TV channel are expected to sign a cooperation agreement. Earlier, Anadolu Agency and the Syrian official news agency SANA signed a similar agreement. After signing of the agreement, TRT and Syrian state-run TV channel are expected to make joint productions. Meanwhile, rectors from 12 Turkish universities are expected to visit Syria in the coming days. Rectors will meet with their Syrian counterparts and discuss several issues such as exchange of students. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russia


Vladimir Putin Says Russia’s Population Rising

Russia’s population statistics are rising for the first time since 1995, says Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Mr Putin said that for the past five years the number of deaths had declined, while births had risen.

He said statistics to be released shortly would show life-expectancy had almost reached the age of 69.

As president, Mr Putin brought in policies to stop population decline, which has been blamed on emigration, alcoholism, and poor health care.

‘Symbolic amount’

“We can say with a high degree of confidence that Russia will register a growth in population for the first time since 1995,” said Mr Putin at an end-of-year government meeting broadcast on state television.

His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the total anticipated population growth in 2009 was only about 20,000 — but he said this was a “symbolic” amount.

Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said the first month of population growth in 15 years came in August this year, when the birth rate increased by 1,000.

Figures published in November said Russia’s population stood at 141.9 million.

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

South Asia


8 CIA Agents Killed in Afghan Suicide Bombing

WASHINGTON, Dec 30 (Reuters) — The eight American civilians killed in a suicide bombing at a military base in southeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday were all CIA agents, U.S. officials said.

CIA officials were not immediately available to comment, and the U.S. officials said they could not provide details pending notification of the agents’ families.

The explosion, at a military base in Khost province near the border with Pakistan, caused one of the highest foreign civilian death tolls in an insurgent strike in the eight-year war.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]



Afghan Suicide Bomber Killed C.I.A. Operatives

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest killed at least eight American civilians, most of them C.I.A. officers, at a remote base in southeastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, according to NATO officials and former American intelligence officials.

Afghans Say Inquiry Shows Boys Were Killed in Allied Action (December 31, 2009)

Army History Finds Early Missteps in Afghanistan (December 31, 2009) The attack at the C.I.A. base, Forward Operating Base Chapman, in Khost Province appeared to be the single deadliest episode for the spy agency in the eight years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It also dealt a significant blow to the often insular, tight-knit organization, which has lost only 90 officers in the line of duty since its founding in 1947.

One former C.I.A. official said that eight agency employees had been killed but cautioned that early reports from the field were often incorrect. The official, who spoke anonymously because the agency had not commented publicly on the attack, said the final number of dead could be higher because at least six American civilians were wounded. It was unclear how many of the dead were full-time C.I.A. officers and how many were contract employees.

A C.I.A. spokesman did not return calls seeking comment. Previously, the spy agency has revealed that four of its officers have been killed since the Sept. 11 attacks, all of them memorialized with stars carved into a marble wall at C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Va.

The attack occurred as the agency has steadily increased its presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past year, sometimes sending operatives to remote bases instead of to heavily fortified embassies in Kabul and Islamabad, Pakistan.

In recent years, the C.I.A. has been at the forefront of American counterterrorism operations in South Asia, launching a steady barrage of drone attacks against Qaeda and Taliban operatives in the mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Khost Province, bordering Pakistan, has been a prime area for militants with links to the Taliban and Al Qaeda who use Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas as a base to stage their insurgency.

Bases on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan gather intelligence in both countries and generally have ready access to local operatives who can move seamlessly across the border. The Khost area has been one of several throughways that Al Qaeda has used since the 1990s to move back and forth between the two countries.

There was a large Qaeda camp south of Khost until August 1998, when its inhabitants were forced to move into Pakistan after the United States, using cruise missiles, bombed the camp in response to the attacks on American embassies in East Africa, believed to have been planned by Al Qaeda.

There have been frequent attacks against American bases in Khost, but rarely, if ever, do suicide bombers make it past a main gate. Wednesday’s attack was particularly audacious because the bomber managed to breach a secure base assigned to potentially sensitive operations.

A NATO official said the bomber managed to elude security and reach an area near the base’s gym. It was not clear whether the bomber, who apparently died in the blast, entered the gym. Among other questions raised was whether the bomber worked at the base and had clearance, or if a security slip allowed him to gain entry, and whether other operatives had access to the base.

“You are always looking at techniques and procedures, and if you think a place is wrapped up tight and then it’s not, it’s concerning,” said a NATO official, who spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of the matter.

The former C.I.A. official said the agency was in the process Wednesday of notifying family members of the officers killed in the attack. The names of some of those killed might never be publicly disclosed, because several of the C.I.A. officers may have been working undercover.

American bases in Khost, particularly Camp Salerno, one of the largest in the country, have been the targets of frequent attacks. Dozens of Afghan laborers have been killed in bombings over the past several years.

In May, a suicide attacker exploded a car bomb near the main gate, killing 7 civilians and wounding 21. The bombing took place a day after a coordinated Taliban attack inside the city of Khost, the provincial capital, that left at least 7 civilians and 8 insurgents dead.

In June, a man riding a motorcycle detonated explosives near a densely crowded intersection in the city, killing 7 Afghan civilians and wounding 44, including 7 children.

Last week, heavily armed insurgents entered a police headquarters in Gardez, to the north of Khost, and battled Afghan and American security forces for more than three hours. That attack was attributed to the Taliban network run by Sirajuddin Haqqani, which bases itself just south in Pakistan’s tribal area of North Waziristan.

In recent weeks, American officials have stepped up pressure on Pakistan to root out the Haqqani network, whose fighters pose one of the greatest threats to American forces and hold sway over large parts of Afghanistan, including Paktika, Paktia and Khost Provinces.

Pakistani officials and diplomats have said the demand was rebuffed by the Pakistani military, which is already fighting Taliban militants who threaten Pakistan’s government and which has long considered the Haqqanis assets to influence the future shape of Afghanistan once the Americans leave the region.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]



Afghanistan: Taliban Claims Attack Against CIA Officials

Kabul, 31 Dec. (AKI) — The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack which killed eight Americans who reportedly worked for the CIA in Afghanistan — the worst against US intelligence officials since 2001. Five Canadians were killed in a separate attack, officials said on Thursday.

The Taliban attack was carried out at a US base in the eastern province of Khost when the bomber, dressed as an Afghan soldier, entered Foward Operating Base Chapman near the Pakistani border wearing an explosive vest.

“This deadly attack was carried out by a valorous Afghan army member when the officials [Americans] were busy gaining information about the mujahadeen,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said in an email.

The suicide bomber reportedly evaded security at the base and detonated an explosive belt in a room used as a fitness centre on Wednesday.

The attack is one of the most ambitious conducted by the Taliban and a sign of its sophistocated coordination at a time when violence has reached its highest levels since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001.

In a separate incident, four Canadian soldiers and a journalist died in a roadside bomb attack in Kandahar province.

It was the worst fatal incident affecting Canadians in Afghanistan for more than two years.

US president Barack Obama is sending 30,000 extra troops to tackle the increasing violence and NATO allies are contributing thousands more.

An Afghan army official said on Wednesday that Washington had pledged 16 billion dollars to train the army and air force.

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



Afghan Base Hit by Attack Has Pivotal Role in Conflict

KABUL, Afghanistan — The operatives killed in a suicide attack at a C.I.A. base in southeast Afghanistan were responsible for collecting intelligence on militant networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and plotting missions to kill their top leaders, American officials said Thursday.

Seven of the eight Americans killed in the attack Wednesday afternoon at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost Province were C.I.A. officers, and one of the victims was the base chief, the officials said. Another six agency employees were wounded, the agency said.

The attack was the single deadliest episode for the spy agency in the eight years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It was carried out by a bomber wearing a suicide vest under an Afghan National Army uniform, NATO officials said Thursday, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack.

The use of an army uniform raised the possibility that the uniform was stolen or that the Afghan National Army ranks had been infiltrated by insurgents, a potentially more serious and pervasive problem.

The attack happened close to dusk, when some people on the base were finishing their daily work and relaxing or taking a break before dinner or before returning to their offices for the evening.

A NATO official said the bomber managed to elude security and reach an area near the base’s gym. Among other questions raised was whether the bomber worked at the base and had clearance, or if a security slip allowed him to gain entry.

An American intelligence official said that the C.I.A. would be conducting an investigation onto how the attacker managed to breach the base’s perimeter security and detonate his explosive vest.

The attack dealt a significant blow to the often insular, tight-knit intelligence organization, which has lost only 90 officers in the line of duty since its founding in 1947.

Previously, the spy agency has revealed that four of its officers have been killed since the Sept. 11 attacks, all of them memorialized with stars carved into a marble wall at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va.

“Yesterday’s tragedy reminds us that the men and women of the C.I.A. put their lives at risk every day to protect this nation,” Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, said in a message to the spy agency’s work force.

The attack occurred as the agency has steadily increased its presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past year, sometimes sending operatives to remote bases instead of to heavily fortified embassies in Kabul and Islamabad, Pakistan…

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]



Indonesia: Terror Attack Warning in Bali

Jakarta, 31 Dec. (AKI) — The United States embassy in Indonesia has issued a warned of a possible New Year’s Eve terrorist attack on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. The embassy has sent emails to US citizens quoting Bali Governor Mangku Pastika as saying there is an indication of an attack to Bali.

It has also posted a statement on its website in which it said the Bali Tourism Board had widely distributed a warning of an attack.

“The Governor of Bali, Mr Mangku Pastika, wishes to share a message with all of us: There is an indication of an attack to Bali tonight,” the statement said.

“Extremists may target both official and private interests, including hotels, clubs and shopping centres.

The embassy urged American travellers to be “vigilant and prudent at all times”.

“While Indonesia’s counter terrorism efforts have been ongoing and partly successful, violent elements have demonstrated a willingness and ability to carry out deadly attacks with little or no warning.

“US citizens must consider the security and safety preparedness of hotels, residences, restaurants, and entertainment or recreation venues that they frequent.”

The Australian government has also renewed its travel warning amid concern about a renewed terror threat.

“We advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Indonesia, including Bali, at this time due to the very high threat of terrorist attack,” the department of foreign affairs said on its website.

The warning came six months after twin suicide blasts killed seven people at luxury hotels in the capital Jakarta.

“On 17 July 2009, terrorists detonated bombs at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta (photo). Australians were among those killed and injured,” the website said.

“There is a possibility of further terrorist attacks in Jakarta and elsewhere in Indonesia, including Bali.”

Indonesia’s counter-terrorism unit has confirmed it received the warning.

Bali has been hit hard by Islamic militants in the past, with more than 220 people killed in suicide bombings in 2002 and 2005 targeting Westerners, including Australians

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



Indonesia: Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, A Friend of Christians, Dies

He often defended the freedom of Christians. Has guaranteed full citizenship to ethnic Chinese in Indonesia following the violence in the days of Suharto. It was the first Indonesian president elected by the people. The organization of which he was president, the Nahdlatul Ulama, is the most ecumenical of the Islamic world.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — This afternoon, at the age of 69, the former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, known by the nickname “Gus Dur” died. He was born September 7, 1949 in Jombang (East Java) and is the figure who most contributed in recent years to dialogue between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia.

Of mixed ethnicity (Indonesian and Chinese), Gus Dur has also earned the esteem among the Chinese communities of the archipelago by revoking the ban forbidding the use of Mandarin and Chinese traditions in place at the time of Suharto (1967-1998) .

Under Suharto, the Chinese were regarded as second class citizens, accused of being “traitors” and often used as scapegoats in the crisis that erupted in the country. The Chinese, the richest part of the population, were seen as the cause of poverty of others (Indonesians) and the source of all social tensions. Ethnic clashes with the Chinese took place in ‘78 and 80, with killings and the burning their homes. The most violent clashes were 14-15 May 1998, when during looting and fires, thousands of Chinese women were raped by gangs of criminals. As a result thousands of Chinese fled from Indonesia, but Suharto was forced to resign on 21 May ‘98.

Gus Dur, became president in ‘99, the first to be elected after long years of dictatorship and challenging Suharto’s successor BJ Habibie, rejected by the parliament. On 21 January 2001 the ban on the public use Chinese language and Chinese cultural traditions was lifted, and the celebration of the Chinese New Year was made a national holiday. The strength of this decision matured more respect, tolerance and democracy in the country.

Abdurrahman Wahid was forced to resign in July 2001 when he also fell out of favour with parliament.

Gus Dur to his credit sought peace with the Islamic rebels in Banda Aceh and always supported the religious freedom of Christians. In times of crisis, the possibility of terrorist attacks against churches, he urged members of his Muslim organization, the Nahdlatul Ulama to promote protection and vigilance, to defend the Christian communities. Thanks to him the Nahdlatul Ulama has become the most important (and largest) Islamic organization, open to dialogue with other religions.

Having previously studied in Egypt and Iraq, Gus Dur always had good relations with the Muslim world internationally. Several kidnappings of journalists in Indonesia, the Philippines and the western part of Iraqi extremists and fundamentalists have been solved thanks to him. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — who was his collaborator, but often the subject of his criticism — sent his condolences to the family of Wahid. He had visited the former president in hospital shortly before his death.

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



Malaysian Court Rules Non-Muslims May Call God Allah

A court in Malaysia has ruled that Christians have a constitutional right to use the word Allah when referring to God.

The High Court said a government ban on non-Muslims using the word was unconstitutional.

The court was ruling on a lawsuit filed by the Herald, a publication of the Catholic Church in Malaysia, in 2007.

The authorities had insisted that Allah was an Islamic word which could only be used by Muslims.

The BBC’s Jennifer Pak in Kuala Lumpur said some Muslim groups suspect the Catholic Church is seeking to encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity — a move which is illegal in Malaysia.

‘Glorious new year’

The issue had become a symbol of a growing number of religious grievances among minority groups, in a political environment often divided along racial and religious lines, our correspondent adds.

The Herald filed for a judicial review after it was temporarily ordered to stop publishing in 2007 for referring to “Allah”.

The publication said it had been been using the word for decades, and had a constitutional right to do so.

The Herald welcomed Thursday’s ruling, saying it would be a “glorious new year for some 850,000 Catholics in Malaysia”.

More than half of Malaysia’s population is Muslim but the large Chinese and Indian communities are mainly Christian, Buddhist or Hindu.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Taliban Claims Deadly Attack on Karachi Procession

Islamabad, 30 Dec. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing that killed 43 people in Karachi on Monday and vowed to carry out more attacks. Taliban commander Asmatullah Shaheen claimed the suicide attack as Pakistani intelligence agencies revealed that various organisations had conspired in the southern port city to destabilise Pakistan.

According to an intelligence dispatch, the Shia militant group, Sipah-e-Mohammad, which is said to be closely allied with Iranian intelligence ministry VEVAK, was expecting the attack on the mourning procession and had armed their men with phosphorous chemical and petrol bombs.

As soon as the attack occurred, Sipah members, mostly trained in Iran, spread through the nearby downtown market and threw the bombs which immediately gutted buildings and shops.

When fire fighting vehicles tried to approach the buildings to extinguish the fire, the youths opened fire on the vehicles and prevented them from doing their work.

Karachi has been at the centre of a proxy war between pro-Iranian and anti-Iranian elements.

Abdul Malik Rigi, the leader of Sunni militant group Jundullah, also known as the People’s Resistance Movement of Iran, which was behind several recent attacks in Iranian Baluchistan, also operated through the Baluchi slum of Lyari, in the south of Karachi.

Iran blamed Pakistan for the recent instability in Iranian Baluchistan and alleged that Pakistan provides sanctuaries to the Iranian dissidents.

After Monday’s riots, an uneasy calm prevailed in the city but many fear another incident could ignite serious conflict in the sprawling city where there are different ethnic and sectarian groups.

Pushtuns are the second largest ethnic community in Karachi and run most of the 3000 Islamic seminaries, including several pro-Taliban seminaries including Binori Town, Jamia Binoria and Jamia Farooqia.

Any new attack in the city may spark retaliation against Sunni religious groups and since most of the teachers and the students happened to be Pushtuns, the situation could have an ethnic element.

Dozens of people were injured in the bomb attack which struck as Shias marked the climax of the holy month of Muharram.

After the explosion, marchers turned their anger on ambulance workers, security forces and journalists.

The Taliban identified Monday’s suicide bomber as Hasnain Muwiya.

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



Source: 2 Killed in Afghanistan Bombing Were Security Contractors

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — Two of the seven CIA officers killed Wednesday in a suspected terrorist attack on a U.S. base in Afghanistan were contractors for Xe, a private security firm, a former intelligence official said Thursday.

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack. A senior U.S. official said information suggested that a bomber walked into a gym facility at Forward Operating Base Chapman — in Khost Province, near the border of Pakistan — and detonated bombs in a suicide vest.

Another six CIA employees were wounded, another official said. It is not known how the bomber got past security.

A U.S. intelligence official on Thursday vowed to avenge the attack.

“This attack will be avenged through successful, aggressive counterterrorism operations,” the intelligence official vowed.

Former CIA official Robert Richer called it “the greatest loss of life for the Central Intelligence Agency since the Beirut Embassy bombing” in 1983, which killed eight agents.

“These brave Americans were part of a long line of patriots who have made great sacrifices for their fellow citizens, and for our way of life,” President Obama said in a written statement Thursday.

“The United States would not be able to maintain the freedom and security that we cherish without decades of service from the dedicated men and women of the CIA.”

Richer, who retired from the agency in 2005 as the associate deputy director for operations, knew many of Wednesday’s victims personally. In a written statement Thursday, he called on the public to “remain mindful that our great country is served well by those in and out of uniform. That officers like those lost in this attack placed themselves in harm’s way, at a critical and dangerous crossroads in the war on terror.

“We should be thankful for the service and sacrifice of these fine Americans. They and their colleagues, who compose the very thin line of Agency officers working in the shadows at the very tip of the war on terror, are a national asset; an asset often misunderstood and under appreciated.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta said in a statement Thursday that “those who fell … were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism.”

A U.S. military source noted that Chapman was originally a base for the Khost Provincial Construction Team, but the team left some time ago. A U.S. intelligence official would not discuss the specific mission of the base but acknowledged that it was a crucial CIA post and a “hub of activity.”

Authorities believe that the suicide bomber might have attacked just after a convoy was ending or beginning, which would account for the high number of casualties.

Eight Americans were originally believed to be killed in the bombing.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]



Sources: Bomber Was Invited on Base

The Associated Press has learned that the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees at a remote outpost in southeastern Afghanistan had been invited onto the base and was not searched.

A former senior intelligence official said the man was being courted as an informant and that it was the first time he had been brought inside U.S. Forward Operating Base Chapman at the edge of Khost city, the capital of Khost province, which borders Pakistan and is a Taliban stronghold.

The official says a senior and experienced CIA debriefer came from Kabul for the meeting, suggesting that the purpose of the meeting was to gain intelligence.

The former senior intelligence official and another former official with knowledge of the attack spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The CIA has declined to comment on the report.

The Taliban on Thursday claimed responsibility for infiltrating the base with a suicide bomber who got into a gym and set off an explosion that killed seven Americans and an Afghan and wounded six others. The Associated Press has learned that one of the dead was the chief of the CIA’s post in southeastern Khost province.

Harold E. Brown Jr., a State Department employee of Fairfax, Va., died in the attack, his father, Harold E. Brown Sr., told the Associated Press on Thursday. The younger Mr. Brown, 37, who grew up in Bolton, Mass., served in the Army and remained a major in the reserves. He is survived by a wife and three children ages 12, 10 and 2.

Wednesday’s assault on the base was a blow to the CIA, which previously had lost only four operatives in Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said Thursday in a message to agency staff that the casualties sustained in Wednesday’s strike were the result of a terrorist attack…

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]

Far East


Execution Underscores ‘China’s Contempt for the West’

Chinese justice officials executed British national Akmal Shaikh using a lethal injection on Tuesday.

Coming on the heels of its efforts to derail climate change talks in Copenhagen and the stiff prison sentence handed over to a political dissident popular in the West, German newspapers see the handling of the prosecution and execution of a British citizen in China as the latest example of the country’s “immature” behavior on the global political stage.

Few issues are as sensitive in Europe than that of capital punishment. The death penalty is banned in each of the 27 European Union member states and media coverage is often highly critical of state-ordered executions in the United States and China.

Tuesday’s execution by lethal injection in China of Akmail Shaikh, a 53-year-old British national with an alleged history of mental illness who was busted in 2007 for smuggling 4 kilograms (around 9 pounds) of heroin, is no exception. But coming just days after China stalled global climate negotiations in Copenhagen and issued a stiff, 11-year sentence against Liu Xiaobo, a dissident well known in the West, tensions between Europe and China have clearly been exacerbated.

Shaikh’s family, politicians and British rights group Repreive, which mounted a Web campaign this month in an effort to save the condemned man, claim that the Chinese justice system brushed aside requests that he be given a psychiatric evaluation. Helen Pidd, a journalist with Britain’s Guardian newspaper, meticulously profiles the man’s apparent slide into mental illness — a world where he suffered under the delusion he was about to become a pop star with his out-of-tune song “Come Little Rabbit,” which he thought could help bring about world peace.

Family and friends claim he was duped by Eastern European criminals who he believed had connections to music producers and promoters into unwittingly smuggling drugs into China. Those familiar with Shaikh — both in Britain and where he later lived in Poland — described a man who behaved erratically, became estranged from his wife and showed signs of mental illness, including hundreds of delusional e-mails he apparently sent to the British embassy in Warsaw.

The outrage in Europe is centered on the question of why a man who appeared to be mentally ill was not given proper treatment. Under Chinese law, the prospect of mental illness must be considered before capital punishment may be applied.

In Britain, where Prime Minister Gordon Brown had personally intervened to seek clemency for Shaikh, the government summoned China’s ambassador to a 45-minute meeting on Tuesday with Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis, who said the diplomat had been called to “hear of the government’s regret that Akmal Shaikh’s mental health had been ignored by the Chinese judiciary despite repeated interventions by those with an interest in his case.” Such criticism extended across Europe, including Germany.

“To the Chinese leadership, this was about a demonstration of power rather than rule of law,” said Günter Nooke of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats, who is the government’s top human rights official. For a number of years, Germany and the European Union have held a dialogue with China on the rule of law and human rights. In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Nooke indirectly suggested those talks could be jeopardized. He said Shaikh’s execution showed “what wobbly legs our dialogue about greater rule of law and human rights in China are standing on.”

Meanwhile, Renate Wohlwend, an official at the Council of Europe, the powerful European human rights watchdog, criticized the execution. “Capital punishment has a brutalizing effect in society,” she said. “It must be totally removed once and for all from the legislation of all countries which strive to uphold democracy, the rule of law and human rights.”

German commentators on Wednesday are universally critical of Beijing, with one of the country’s largest newspapers accusing China of unacceptable immaturity on the global stage.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“The execution of a British citizen in China is causing far greater disturbance than it normally would, even if it were a European getting the death penalty in the United States. In the Chinese justice system, excessive killing isn’t the only problem, and the execution of Akmal Shaikh is now drawing attention to that here at home. More than anything, the system lacks transparency and that makes it seem arbitrary. In the case of Shaikh, it is especially outrageous because even in China, the fact that he was mentally ill should have been treated as a mitigating factor. Was his mental state even examined? Were dozens of petitions taken seriously? In this case, the Chinese system also showed itself to be unrelenting politically, and that will have consequences.”

“It is highly unusual for the prime minister, foreign minister and even the opposition leader to make a plea to a foreign government and then to be brushed off the way they were by China. Their pleas were ignored by the Chinese government and that points to a fundamental problem that is becoming increasingly frequent in dealings with China. China is a hypersensitive behemoth. Any time the country is criticized for its foreign policy (relations with rogue states, for example) or its domestic policies (its treatment of minorities in Tibet or Xinjiang, or human rights policies), it reacts aggressively. In simple political disputes, like currency policies or its obstructive moves during climate negotiations, it responds brusquely and with hostility. In its international dealings, China shows an immaturity that is no longer appropriate given its size and importance in the world. China warns against interference into internal matters, but that’s an absurd, empty phrase in an interwoven world in which domestic situations indeed play a role in decisions on investments and political cooperation.”

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“China has taken a liking to ignoring Western wishes and input. At the global climate conference in Copenhagen, it was the main saboteur. A dissident who found resonance abroad received a long prison sentence. And now a British citizen has been executed, despite several pleas for mercy by Gordon Brown and his government.”

“The man was condemned for drug smuggling in a hasty trial in which the court coldly brushed aside objections that the accused was mentally ill. What kind of person would come to the idea that if he smuggled 4 kilograms of heroin into China for two Polish drug smugglers that they would make him a pop star there?”

“The leaders in Beijing appear to be brimming with confidence, and Americans and Europeans are feeling it. And when they actually do dare to raise their voices, the Chinese comeback line is always ‘respect our sovereignty.’ The execution underscores the massive difference in the legal systems — and China’s contempt for the West.”

The center-left Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel writes:

“China has executed a drug smuggler and the fact that the man was British is incidental — no foreign passport can protect someone who has crossed a border with 4 kilos of heroin. But the situation isn’t as simple as it appears at first glance. It also has historical resonances. When the Brits used their power (close to 200 years ago) to destroy the Chinese empire through forced opium imports, China was powerless to act. So China’s insistence to refuse to tolerate external interference today is even louder in a case where a Brit has been condemned for smuggling in enough drugs to ‘kill 26,000 people.’ One could even follow the reasoning there.

“But China’s position highlights less of a legitimate consciousness of history than a revanchist national consciousness. If Akmal Shaikh had just been convicted as a straightforward drug dealer, the outrage in the West would have been limited. But if an apparently mentally ill man, whose culpability is questionable, was convicted as an historical scapegoat, then China shouldn’t expect any understanding.”

The conservative daily Die Welt, under the headline, “State Murder,” writes:

“The real reason for the outrage in London and the West is not the detestable death penalty itself … but rather the lack of transparency in the case. Akmal Shaikh was no political incident. Why didn’t the court allow doctors to examine him? If it is true that the man suffered from serious psychiatric problems, it also would have been a crime under Chinese law to execute him. If he wasn’t mentally ill, nobody in Europe would have applauded his death penalty … but they also wouldn’t have been as loud in their denunciation of China.

“The answer is simple: China didn’t want to set a precedent for a foreigner. The Chinese justice system issues more death penalties each year than any other country in the world. But it is too cowardly to provide proceedings that are transparent or anything close to adhering to the rule of law.”

— Daryl Lindsey

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

Sub-Saharan Africa


Africa: US Cooperation, Countries in ‘Democratic Crisis’ Are Suspended

Niger, Guinea and Madagascar, countries that have been embroiled for months in internal political crises have been formally suspended from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which provides for economic assistance and collaboration from the United States to countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. “Each one of these countries has experimented a move toward non-democratic power, which is incompatible with the progress needed toward the rule of law or political pluralism,” states a White House communiqué, which has the final word on which countries may, or may not, benefit from AGOA. The US Department of State has also announced that it would stop non-economic aid to Niger and imposed sanctions to a travel ban against some government personalities. Mauritania, however, has now been included in the AGOA and it will thus be able to benefit from preferential tariffs. [AB]

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



Chinese Downplay Somali Pirate Ransom

Failed military action could reflect on combat capabilities

A ransom paid just days ago for the crew of the Chinese-flagged merchant vessel De Xin Hai has delayed for now a Chinese choice of continuing to patrol off of Somalia as part of an international array of warships or risk the lives of ships’ hostages, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

While there has been no official Chinese government mention of a ransom payment — said to be some $4 million — Chinese warships were seen escorting the vessel which had been in the hands of Somali pirates.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Somalia: NGO Official Killed in South, Fighting in Different Areas

Unidentified gunmen shot dead an official of a local NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) in his home in Balad Hawo town, in the southern Gedo region, witnesses said. The episode is merely the latest of a string of violence over the past days in the country, theatre to a conflict between regular soldiers and armed insurgents, who aim to seize control of the territory. According to the Somali media, at least 15 people were killed and some thirty wounded between Thursday and Friday, including numerous civilians, in fighting between insurgents and troops of the transitional federal government, backed by African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM), whose barracks were targeted by heavy shellings sparking the fighting. Another three people were killed and five wounded on Saturday when their home was accidentally hit by a mortar. Fighting erupted yesterday between soldiers and insurgents also in nearby Beledweyne, in central Somalia, leaving dozens dead. Over 20,000 people, for the most part civilians were killed in the past year and a half, and some 1.5-million fled just from the Somali capital Mogadishu.

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



Somali Man ‘Tried to Take Bomb Onto Plane’

A Somali man is in custody in Mogadishu, suspected of trying to take explosives onto a plane in November, officials have revealed.

He had chemicals, liquid and a syringe — materials similar to those used by the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.

The Daallo Airlines plane was due to fly to the northern Somali city of Hargeisa, then to Djibouti and Dubai.

The airport is in one of the few areas controlled by the Somali government.

Much of the country is in the hands of radical Islamist groups, accused of links to al-Qaeda.

‘Red-handed’

But this is the first time that an attempt to blow up a commercial flight in Somalia has been reported.

“We don’t know whether he’s linked with al-Qaeda or other foreign organisations, but his actions were the acts of a terrorist. We caught him red-handed,” police spokesman Abdulahi Hassan Barise told the Associated Press news agency.

Despite the lack of law and order in Somalia, there are daily flights to neighbouring countries such as Djibouti and Kenya.

The African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia works with the government on security in the Mogadishu airport.

US officials have learned about the Somali case and are investigating any possible links with the attempted attack in Detroit, AP reports.

Somalia has not had an effective national government for almost 20 years.

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

Immigration


Australia a Magnet for People Smugglers: Opposition

The federal opposition says the arrival of another boatload of asylum seekers shows that Australia has become a favoured destination for people smugglers.

A boat carrying 11 suspected asylum seekers was intercepted near the Ashmore Islands off northern Australia late on Monday by Border Protection Command.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says the continuing arrival of boat people is putting the assessment system under too much pressure.

“The government’s indifference and weakness, both in their border protection policies and the decisions they’ve taken, have ensured that Australia has become a magnet for people smugglers,” Mr Morrison told ABC radio on Tuesday.

“So we’re now left with a situation where we have Christmas Island full, boats arriving pretty much at will and this must be putting extraordinary pressure on the processing systems that need to be undertaken under such overcrowded conditions.”

The latest suspected asylum seeker arrivals will be taken to nearby Christmas Island for questioning and to undergo security, identity and health checks.

The interception comes only days after the federal government rejected claims overcrowding in detention facilities on Christmas Island had forced it to move 30 Afghan asylum seekers to Melbourne for processing. It is the 59th asylum seeker boat to have been intercepted in Australian waters so far this year.

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



USA: Survey Shows ‘Pew-Versus-Pulpit Divide’

A new poll shows disparity between religious leaders and those in the pews on the issue of illegal immigration.

According to the poll conducted by Zogby International — a research group that has been tracking public opinion since 1984 in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Europe — many church members strongly disagree with their leaders’ contention that more immigrant workers need to be allowed back into the United States.

The survey also showed that most parishioners advocated for more enforcement to cause illegal workers to return home while the majority of religious leaders were calling for illegal immigrants to be put on the path to U.S. citizenship.

Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, feels that many religious leaders are focused on advancing an agenda. “It seems that the evangelical elites, like the mainline Protestant elites, are growing almost calloused and very comfortable with disregarding the views of their own church members in their pursuit of their own fairly liberal political agenda,” he notes.

The survey of Catholic, mainline Protestant, born-again Protestants, and Jewish voters was one of the largest polls on immigration ever conducted. Dr. Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), says it shows that there is a huge divide between rank-and-file Jews and Christians and many of their leaders on the issue.

“The major religious denominations, and even the National Association of Evangelicals, have all essentially endorsed the position that the illegal aliens in the United States need to all be legalized,” Camarota reports. “And yet what we found in the poll was that it is diametrically opposed to what most of their actual members want. There’s a real pew-versus-pulpit divide here.”

The researcher notes that the largest non-Catholic denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, did not support amnesty for illegal aliens.

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

General


Wikipedia Meets Its Own Climategate

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, had an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal drawing attention to the rise of “online hostility” and the “degeneration of online civility.” He (and coauthor Andrea Weckerle) suggested ways in which we can “prevent the worst among us from silencing the best among us.”

I agree with just about everything that they say. But there is one problem that Mr. Wales does not go near. That is the use of Wikipedia itself to inflame the political debate by permitting activists to rewrite the contributions of others. All by itself, that surely is a contributor to online incivility.

The issue that I am particularly thinking about is “climate change” — or global warming as it was once called (until the globe stopped warming, about a decade ago). Recently the Financial Post in Canada published an article by Lawrence Solomon, with this remarkable headline:

How Wikipedia’s green doctor rewrote 5,428 climate articles

Solomon draws attention to the online labors of one William M. Connolley, a Green Party activist and software engineer in Britain. Starting in February 2003, Connolley set to work on the Wikipedia site.

[…]

“All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Closing Out a Multicultural Year in Denmark

Cultural Enrichment News


In a fitting farewell to 2009, or Danish correspondent TB has translated a series of cultural enrichment news stories from Denmark. They probably aren’t the very last incidents of the year — during the dark waning hours on New Year’s Eve, somewhere on the mean streets of Nørrebro or Gellerup, chances are that some “youths” are enriching Danish culture even further.

TB says:

I have translated some ethnic-cleansing news articles from today’s papers in this country formerly known as peaceful little Denmark. Being little is the only word that is still correct in that last sentence of mine, since both peaceful and Denmark have passed into history.

The most catastrophic political decision that was ever made in Danish history — to open up our borders for these wild animals — takes its toll every day now. I will celebrate tonight, even though I anticipate that 2010 will be worse than 2009 which was worse than 2008 which was worse than 2007 which was worse than…

The first article is from Jyllands-Posten:

Threatened with pistol to withdraw money

At 5 o’clock on Thursday morning a 34-year-old man from Thisted was accosted by two masked men as he was walking to the baker in Hurup. The two men wanted the 34-year-old man to deliver up his cash, and forced him towards a cash dispenser so that he could withdraw his money.

First they tried to collect 3000 kroner at Nordea Bank in Bredgade in Hurup, but when it failed they took him to Danske Bank in Jernbanegade. Here they collected 1000 kroner before they ran off.

Before they ran they stole the man’s wallet, which also contained his girlfriend’s credit card. Injured by blows and kicks, the man was taken to the hospital in Thisted.

The police search for witnesses to the episode. There is only a vague description of the two:

“28-35 years old, 180 cm high, dark clothes, black hoods, and they spoke Danish with a foreign accent.”

From Berlingske Tidende:

Drinking party ended in knife assault

Two Rumanian men — 41 and 42 years old — were imprisoned on Wednesday, charged with violence.

The two men ran amok while participating in a party for six Rumanians in an apartment on Skovvej, Nørresundby. The drinking ended when a 33-year-old man was stabbed in the stomach with a knife.

“During the party they started a discussion and it ended when the two men stabbed the third in the chest,” police officer Bjarne Maeng states.

Present in the apartment were also two other men and a woman. They did not get away unharmed, and were hit in the face by the two perpetrators.

In the apartment police have found the knife that was used, and the attack was so violent that the knife had broken.

Next, a little love from Somalia:
- – - - – - – - -

30-year-old man imprisoned after home robbery

The court in Aarhus has imprisoned one of the three men who on Sunday committed a violent robbery in an apartment in Lystrup. The two other robbers are still at large.

The police state that the man is a 30-year-old Somali who is being charged with violent robbery.

The three robbers threatened the people in the apartment to force them to hand over an unknown amount of money, and they also hit the inhabitants during the robbery. Two of the men were armed with guns.

The questioning Thursday was held behind closed doors since the two other perpetrators are still at large.

Of the last one, TB says:

I can’t say for sure this was done by immigrants, but it has all the fingerprints of the Muslim jackals. I’ll follow the case, and if it turns out I was wrong I’ll of course notify you (but I’m ready to bet a lot of money on this one).

From Ekstra Bladet:

Priest assaulted by four youngsters

At around 8 o’clock a priest suffered an apparently unmotivated assault in Thorsgade [Nørrebro] in Copenhagen. The priest was walking with another man when four young men attacked them with blows and kicks.

The priest suffered the worst, since he was kicked several times in the face. He was later taken to hospital, where he received treatment.

The four perpetrators ran of before the police arrived and they are still at large…

Happy New Year, everyone!



For a complete listing of previous enrichment news, see The Cultural Enrichment Archives.

“Limits”… for New Year’s Eve 2009

Note: in my rush to post this poem, my intended dedication got left off. Here it is anyway, belatedly but not diminished for that:

My final post of 2009 is dedicated to Wretchard, a man of integrity, possessed of a finely discerning and analytical intelligence.

Wretchard never stoops to mockery or meanness to make his point.

In him you will find that rare combination of genuine goodness and the willingness to look evil in the face and name it.

He has grasped his own mortality by the hand and bid it (a restrained) welcome.

Wretchard is one of the Twelve Just Men who are the pillars holding up the world. How fortunate we are to actually know one of them.



So we come to the end of a tumultuous year. Some of us are glad to see it go, others would like to hold on a bit because the future seems so unsure.

A few weeks ago this poem by Jorge Luis Borges popped up again. Despite some of the warmth of his images, the mood is somber and reflective. It fits well into a season of cold and uncertainty.

Thus armed, we shall look forward to whatever that is slouching towards us.

Perhaps one of our readers would be willing to supply the poem in its original Spanish?

Limits

Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone

Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
for all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.

If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?

Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.

There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.

There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.
- – - - – - – - -
You will never recapture what the Persian
Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
You wish to give words to unforgettable things.

And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will be as lost as Carthage,
Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.

At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

…As they must leave us all…



The wiki for Borges is here.

Minarets: Expressions of Dignity, or Symbols of Domination?

A mosque in TelfsBelow is a recent debate-interview between Heinz Christian Strache, the leader of the FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria), and Carla Amina Baghajati of the Islamic Religious Society. The two discuss Islam, sharia, minarets, and new mosques in Austria.

Like the PVV in the Netherlands and Vlaams Belang in Belgium, the FPÖ says what others think but dare not speak, and is demonized for it.

The interview was posted in the online version of Kurier on December 30, 2009, after appearing originally on print on December 2, 2009. Many thanks to JLH for the translation:

Kurier:   Mr. Party Chief, after the Swiss “No” to minarets, you spoke of “effect by example”. What does that mean?
Strache:   For one thing, the great Swiss treasure is direct democracy. In contrast to Austria, the population is directly involved in important political decisions. For another thing, the referendum was not about religious freedom. The Swiss simply confirmed that you can have religious freedom without minaret and muezzin.
Baghajati:   Wrong! Of course it is about religious freedom. A minaret is not a symbol of domination. Like a church steeple, it is an expression of the dignity of a house of worship. Having the audacity to reinterpret it, I consider to be a rude intrusion in our internal affairs.
Strache:   It has been documented and openly addressed by the Turkish Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] that the minaret is a symbol of Islamic victory and domination. Erdoğan has explained that mosques are intended to be barracks and minarets to be symbolic bayonets.
Baghajati:   Please, let us not mix things up. They work with images of enemies and shortsightedness. They count on fear and stoke it with pseudo-arguments.
Strache:   That is not so! People in Austria live in religious freedom. In Turkey, there is a ban on building new churches.
Kurier:   Are you aiming for a ban on minarets in Austria too?
Strache:   We have a building ordinance in Vorarlberg and Carinthia that de facto disallows the building of minarets. This is a guide to how it can be assured at a federal level that the population cannot be steamrollered in the future.
Baghajati:   How often Muslims have been reproached: you hide because you have something to conceal. A visible mosque is an invitation. A minaret says: Come! We have nothing to hide.
Strache:   And yet, some hold sharia and the Koran above Western values. When we speak of religious freedom, that also means the individual is protected against religious fanaticism.

- – - - – - – - -

Baghajati:   You are trying to create a contradiction between Islamic theology and Western values. In Islamic religious instruction, it is important that the discourse is encouraged to reflect: Where does religion stand? Where does tradition stand in contrast to religion? Forced marriage, genital mutilation and honor killing are un-Islamic. We have the best arguments, based on Islam, to attack these things. I am concerned that the opposite is happening because of the policies of the FPÖ.
Kurier:   Is it not possible to discuss some unfortunate developments in Islam and still allow minarets?
Strache:   The faith is not the problem. The political misuse of it is.
Baghajati:   Whom are you accusing of that in Austria?
Strache:   We have seen parallel societies arise in Austria, in which Islam is radicalized. Muslims in Austria must give a sign of integration and say that they can do without minarets.
Baghajati:   The generalized suspicion nourished by the FPÖ against Muslims is problematic. Anyone who preaches hate in an Austrian mosque is removed from the pulpit by the community.
Strache:   I would be interested to know: Does sharia stand above the Austrian constitution? Yes or No?
Baghajati:   Wait a minute! Is it wise to ask whether your mother or your father is more important? Bible or constitution?
Strache:   The Ten Commandments are enshrined in the constitution. Thou shalt not kill.
Baghajati:   Thank you! I can underline that. You will find the Ten Commandments in the Koran too. What we share in values is strong enough to support a society for the good of all. I am so comfortable in Austria because we have found a wonderful balance between state and religion. There is no either/or. One cannot leave his religion at the door like his hat.
Strache:   In Europe, we are essentially Christian. Just as I condemn Christian proselytizing in the eastern world in ancient times, I also condemn the reverse process.
Baghajati:   Do you mean to say that we Muslims are pursuing conversion like the colonialists (did) in the past?
Strache:   Immigrants have ways of thinking that are surprising. And, of course, Islam is not native to Vienna. We don’t want to find ourselves becoming a minority in our own land. That, too, is a signal that is being sent to all of Europe from the Swiss vote.
Baghajati:   What is going on here — this pitting ourselves against each other — is a sign of an identity crisis in Europe. What do we stand for? What are our values? It is always easy to say: We are not like these Muslims.

I wish that someone from the Counterjihad could have consulted with Mr. Strache ahead of his interview and helped him plan his talking points. He made a few missteps here and there, which is understandable, given the professionally-trained opponent that he faced. Muslim spokespersons in the media are always slick and well-prepared when dealing with the infidel.

Did you notice how Baghajati dodged the question about whether sharia or the Austrian constitution was paramount? Mr. Strache missed a chance there to press his point home. Muslims in the West are very vulnerable on this issue, but you have to back them into a corner — a faithful Muslim can never publicly acknowledge that anything holds precedence over sharia law.

All in all, though, Heinz Christian Strache acquitted himself well. Having Switzerland as a next-door neighbor is waking Austrians up to what can and should be done.

Culturally Enriched Mass Murder in Finland

Cultural Enrichment News


A culturally enriched gunman named Ibrahim Shkupolli shot and killed five people today at a shopping mall in Finland, and then killed himself. The motive, at least at the start of his rampage, appears to have been jealousy, since the first victim was the shooter’s ex-girlfriend, and her boyfriend was one of the later victims.

Ibrahim ShkupoliI’ve included a lot of detailed material below, some in English, some in translation. The perp is alleged to be an illegal immigrant from Kosovo — make sure you scroll down to read some of VH’s material, especially the tantalizing hint of a KLA connection.

Every MSM story about the incident that I have seen so far focuses obsessively on the single issue that the elites consider important, and which resurfaces after any incident of this type: gun control. Finland has a firearms culture, controls are lax, there has been an alarming increase in gun crime recently, etc blah yak. That’s their story and they’re sticking to it. I chopped most of that kind of bumf out of the articles — you can take my word for it; it all sounded the same.

However, it’s notable that — as is usual in such cases — the killer had previously been guilty of firearms offenses, and had no qualms about breaking gun laws. In other words, new gun-control laws would have no effect on the likes of Ibrahim Shkupolli.

First, the bare bones of the story from Helsingin Sanomat:

Six Dead After Espoo Shopping Mall Shooting; Gunman Killed Himself

Police describe shooter as Ibrahim Shkupolli, a man in his early 40s; Sello shopping mall evacuated and cordoned off

Six people have been reported dead on Thursday morning in a shooting incident that took place at the Sello shopping mall in the Leppävaara district of Espoo.

Apparently a man in his early forties, whose identity is known to police, began shooting in the Prisma supermarket with a 9mm handgun at around 10 a.m. Police named the suspect as Ibrahim Shkupolli.

First reports indicated that three men and one woman were killed. A fifth victim was later found at a private apartment in Leppävaara, and is believed to be the gunman’s 42-year-old ex-girlfriend.

She was employed at the Prisma supermarket in Sello, and is thought to have been the primary target.

A restraining order had earlier been imposed on Shkupolli with regard to this woman.

The search continued for the gunman, and his body was eventually found a couple of hours later at an apartment in the Suvela district of Espoo. Indications are that he shot himself.

All of the victims at Sello were apparently members of the sales staff. One man was shot twice in the head. A woman was shot in the stomach and two other men were shot on a different floor of the mall complex, one of the largest in the Greater Helsinki area.

The male victims in the mall were born in 1969, 1975, and 1982. The woman was born in 1964.

No further details were given of other casualties.

The mall was emptied and police continued the search for the gunman in the shopping centre and the surrounding area, before extending the net to known addresses, where the man’s body was eventually discovered.

Prisma store staff and witnesses were taken to the public library on the premises.

The police held a press conference on the matter at 14:30, after a photograph of the suspect had been released to the media before the man was found dead.

Police had warned Shkupolli was armed and dangerous. He had previous convictions for firearms offences in 2004 and 2007.

Numerous police vehicles and ambulances attended the scene, and for some hours commuter trains were not stopping at Leppävaara station.

Police were not particularly forthcoming with details of the killings, or of whether others were hit by gunfire, but the impression given was that the primary target was the 42-year-old woman, and it is known that those killed in the shopping mall were her colleagues.

Whilst no specific reason has been given for why they were singled out by the gunman, the indications are that this horrible tragedy was not a “shooting-spree” killing of the kind that has made Finland internationally known in the past two years, following school massacres in Jokela and Kauhajoki by disaffected teenage pupils.

Nonetheless, it will inevitably reopen old wounds and will prompt further discussion on the large number of handguns owned in this country and on the tightening of restrictions on access to firearms

More on the perp’s previous record, also from Helsingin Sanomat:

Shooting Suspect Previously Convicted of Firearms Offences

Police have released the name and photograph of the suspect in the shooting at the Sello shopping mall in Espoo on Thursday.

The suspect is Espoo resident Ibrahim Shkupolli, who is believed to be armed and dangerous. He was born in 1966 and has lived in Finland for some time.

The suspect was convicted of assault in 2001, and of firearms offences in 2004 and 2007. He has also had a restraining order put against him.

Police are asking that those with more information on the events would call 071 873 8250.

Shkupolli was discovered dead in an apartment in Espoo in the early afternoon. It is believed he took his own life.

Our Danish correspondent TB (who supplied most of the tips for this post) says that Ekstra Bladet reports that the shooter was an Albanian Kosovar illegal immigrant.

Also from the Danish media: after the shooting, the Finnish chief of police stated that the big issue is integration, according to DR (translated by TB):
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Chief of Police: it’s all about integration

The Finnish inspector, Mikko Paatero, says that the tragedy in a shopping center near Helsinki shows that even in Finland anything can happen anywhere at any time.

In Finland guns are widespread but the chief of police does not think that the drama in Esbo raises the question whether weapons should be legal or not. It is more about the integration of immigrants and generally about how people adapt to society he explains.

“We have to be very thorough when deciding which asylum seekers who can be allowed to stay in Finland,” says Paatero in connection with the information that the perpetrator is not a Finnish citizen.

“I do not know whether he had tried to get a Finnish citizenship. But if he has why did he not get it?” says the question from the police inspector.

Shooting can damage peoples feeling of security

Paatero thinks that the bloody shooting that hit innocent bystanders and employees could have a negative influence on the Finns’ feeling of security, but he hope that the effect will only be temporary.

He thinks that the Finnish police have need to better inform the public and prevent further tragedies.

Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated an article about the incident from De Telegraaf:

Bloodbath in shopping mall in Finland

Muslim shooter in Finland is found dead

HELSINKI — The man who shot four people in a shooting in a shopping mall in the Finnish city Espoo [map] had probably killed his ex-wife several hours earlier. The offender, Ibrahim Shkupolli, was found dead.

Police in Finland have found the body of the 43-year-old man who is suspected of killing five people. Shkupolli has committed suicide, Finnish police report.

The shooting in the mall happened at around nine thirty in the morning in Espoo, a city of some 230,000 people west of the capital Helsinki. The black-clad Shkupolli suddenly started shooting around him, thereby killing three men and a woman.

Eyewitnesses stated that the offender killed a salesclerk in the electronics department by shooting two bullets into his head. The police suspects that jealousy was the motive for the murders. Ibrahim Shkupolli had in the past been convicted for abusing his ex-wife.

The man would also emptied the cartridge of a machine gun in the shop. He then fled amid shoppers, who were panicked by the shooting. The mall is closed and public transport is diverted.

Ex-wife found dead

The man, who was born in Kosovo, has probably also killed his ex-wife. The police reported Thursday a few hours after the shooting in a supermarket that the body of the woman was found in a house in Espoo, a suburb of Helsinki. The woman was probably the first victim of the offender. Later he went to the supermarket in Espoo, and at once shot another four people dead.

VH also includes this very intriguing post about a possible link to the KLA and Muslim terrorists:

kleviusnews.blogspot.com reports: “Alleged Saudi sponsored UCK (Kosovo muslim terrorist org.) mass murderer Ibrahim Shkupolli allegedly also murders at least five in Finland today”

The website kleviusnews found an anonymous posting on a Finnish website: “Ibrahim Shkupolli on UCK:n vanhoja veteraaneja. Tappoi Qelan kylässä 32 serbisiviiliä vuonna 1997. Osallistui myös taisteluihin serbipoliiseja vastaan. On ollut etsintäkuulutettu Serbiassa jo vuodesta 1995.”

Klevius translation: Ibrahim Shkupolli is a UCK/KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army — i.e. Muslim terrorists) veteran. He killed 32 Serb civilians in the Qela village in 1997. Also fought against Serb police. He is wanted in Serbia already since 1995.

Klevius comment: No matter how mentally disturbed these people are, Saudi Islamic hatemongering (infidel racism/sexism) offers an extra excuse to act!

Now for various MSM sources. First, from CNN:

Gunman is Sixth Victim in Finland Shootings Police Say

(CNN) — A black-clad gunman believed to have killed five people in busy shopping mall near Helsinki has been found dead, Finnish police said Thursday.

Police named the suspected gunman, who opened fire at a grocery store in the Sello shopping center in the town of Espoo, as Ibrahim Shkupolli, a 43-year-old said to have lived in Finland “for some time.”

Police said the shooting happened shortly after 10:00 a.m. (3:00 a.m. ET), leaving three men and one woman dead. Media reports said a fifth victim, a woman, was found at an apartment in Espoo.

The mall was thronged with shoppers when the gunman started shooting at a grocery store inside the mall, said Mika Pettersson, editor-in-chief of Finnish news agency STT.

“People saw a gunman, calm, walking out of the grocery store after shooting,” he said. “People first thought it was fireworks that had been exploding, but after they realized what had happened, there was a panic.”

State broadcaster YLE said the gunman used a 9mm handgun.

Initial reports that the gunman was still inside the mall were now unconfirmed, Pettersson said, and the gunman’s whereabouts were unclear.

There are rumors that the gunman was motivated by jealousy because of a relationship, reporter Pout Anan, from CNN affiliate MTV3, told CNN. Police did not immediately confirm a motive.

Restaurant manager Naresh Gaonkar, who runs the Intialainen Ravintola Curry Palace across the street from the mall, told CNN there were police helicopters overhead and many police cars driving past with armed officers.

Trains going through Espoo were stopped because of the shooting, Gaonkar said.

Employees of the grocery store where the attack happened were evacuated so quickly that they didn’t have time to put on their winter wear, Anan reported. They were waiting outside in T-shirts in temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius, or 14 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.

Gaonkar said many of them were inside his restaurant to stay warm.

From the BBC:

Gunman’s body found after Finland mall shootings

Finnish police have confirmed they have found the body of a gunman responsible for killing five people in a shooting rampage in the southern city of Espoo.

Investigators said 43-year-old Ibrahim Shkupolli shot dead three men and a woman with a 9mm pistol at a grocery shop inside the Sello shopping centre.

One of the shop’s employees, reportedly Mr Shkupolli’s ex-girlfriend, was later found dead at a flat in the city.

The incident is Finland’s third major shooting in the past two years.

Thursday’s bloodshed reportedly broke out at about 1008 local time (0808 GMT) inside the Prisma grocery store, on the second floor.

A witness told Finland’s state broadcaster, YLE, that the gunman appeared to have opened fire at random.

The victims were aged 27, 40, 42 and 45, and worked at the shopping centre, police said.

Another witness said chaos had ensued after the shots were heard.

“There were loads of people who were crying, and many vendors who were completely panicked,” the witness told Finnish radio.

The gunman was later seen walking towards another shop.

A fifth victim, a Prisma employee identified by YLE as Mr Shkupolli’s ex-girlfriend, was later found dead at a flat on the outskirts of Espoo. Investigators said the killing was believed to have had a “domestic” motive, and that there had been a restraining order in place against Mr Shkupolli.

When police then went to Mr Shkupolli’s flat, they found his body.

“The four victims in the shopping centre were, in a way, outsiders. It looks like the incident is linked to the fifth victim,” Chief Inspector Jukka Kaski told a news conference.

“She seems to have been the gunman’s main target and the whole shooting is tied up with the relationship between her and the gunman,” he added.

The Sello centre remains cordoned off, and trains are not stopping at the local railway station. Ambulances and police are still outside.

From the Times Online:

The body of a man who shot dead four people in a shopping centre after killing his ex-girlfriend has been found in an apartment on the outskirts of Helsinki.

Ibrahim Shkupolli, 43, killed his former partner before apparently hunting down her lover at the shopping mall where he worked.

He took out a 9mm pistol and started shooting early this morning as shoppers stocked up on food and drink for the new year holiday at the Prisma supermarket on the second floor of a mall in Espoo, a large town close to the capital Helsinki.

His body was found at his apartment in a suburb of Helsinki shortly after his ex-girlfriend was found dead in a house in Espoo. Police believe her killing had a domestic motive.

It is thought the woman worked in the mall where Shkupolli embarked on his rampage, and that he was subject to a restraining order.

“At first we thought it must have been a new year’s rocket that had been set off by mistake,” said one of the scores of shoppers who were evacuated from the supermarket when the gunman took flight.

Jyrkky Kallio, a local police chief, said there were hundreds of people in the mall at the time of the shooting.

One male victim had been shot twice in the head, said Stefan Soederstroem, head of Espoo police. It is believed that he was the lover of the gunman’s ex-girlfriend.

Altogether, four people appear to have been killed at the mall — three men and a female shop assistant who was shot in the stomach.

After the shootings, police launched a manhunt for Shkupolli, issuing a picture of the suspect and advising people not to attempt to overpower him. They were able to narrow down the prime suspect relatively quickly on the basis of witness testimony.

His name appears to be of Kosovan-Albanian origin and police said he was not born in Finland.

I’d like to offer special thanks to TB and VH, who rushed out their translated material on this story in record time.



For a complete listing of previous enrichment news, see The Cultural Enrichment Archives.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/30/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/30/2009An actor named Farshad Kholghi and Morten Messerschmidt, an MEP and member of the Danish People’s Party, have reported former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami to the Danish police in advance of the latter’s visit to Denmark. The two complainants accuse Mr. Khatami of “mass crimes” against the people of Iran.

In other news, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has been hospitalized in Hawaii with chest pains. As of this writing, the only information available is that he is in serious condition.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Diana West, Insubria, JD, Steen, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

Financial Crisis
As the World Waits for Hyperinflation and a World Government, Bernanke Becomes “Person of the Year
 
USA
Diana West: White House Stonewalling on Obama’s Executive Order Unleashing Interpol
More Guns, Less Crime in ‘09
Obama Slams Security Breach
Totalitarian Sentimentality
 
Europe and the EU
Former Iranian President Reported to Danish Police
France: Carbon Tax Arrives, Risk of Fiscal Inequalities
France: Taxes: Revenue From Enterprises Better Than Expected
Germany: Father and Brother Jailed for ‘Honour Killing’
Greece: Motor Vehicle Tax Increases, Many Turn in Plates
Italy: Brunello Authenticity Controls Continue
Italy: Tax Amnesty Nets 95 Billion Euros
Italy: ‘Seborga Principality’ Court Blow
Sweden’s Help Sought in Auschwitz Theft Probe
UK: Universities Are Now Hotbeds of Islamic Extremism
 
Balkans
Bosnia: Serb MPs Vote Against Foreign Prosecutors and Judges
Media: Greek Group Antenna Acquires Serbian Fox Televizija
 
North Africa
Algeria: Sonatrach Discovers 5 New Oil Fields
Egypt: Canal Authority Announces New Suez Tariffs
Gaza: Pacifists Stuck, No Italians in Incidents
Morocco: Two Journalists Convicted, Newspaper Closed Down
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Israel: Competitors Fear New Pro-Netanyahu Dailyfree
 
Middle East
Diana West: the “Surge” And “Success, “ Pt. 2
‘Hundreds of Al-Qaeda Militants Planning Attacks From Yemen’
Iraq: British Hostage Peter Moore Released Alive in Baghdad After ‘Unspeakable’ Two-and-a-Half Years
Kuwait Ruler Warns Against Chaos, Social Rift
 
Russia
Berlusconi Loses Bet With Putin
Putin: U.S. Shield Disrupts Balance of Power
 
South Asia
Indonesia: Muslims Attack and Set Fire to a House of Prayers
 
Far East
Iran Subs Get Boost From North Korea
Vietnamese Bishop: Government Permitted Christmas Celebrations for First Time
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Somali Arrested Last Month at Airport With Chemicals, Syringe
 
Immigration
UK: Margaret Thatcher Complained About Asian Immigration to Britain

Financial Crisis


As the World Waits for Hyperinflation and a World Government, Bernanke Becomes “Person of the Year

Time Magazine has made a premature choice. Economic recovery is either missing or else it is only due to spending cuts and layoffs. Unemployment in the United States and China is rising fast. A solution to the US public debt crisis can only come through hyperinflation, which will destabilise the world system.

Milan (AsiaNews) — US newsmagazine Time chose Ben Shlomo Bernanke, chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, as its Person of the Year for 2009. At face value, the choice can be seen in a number of ways. In fact, it could be due to the return of stock and security markets to almost normal levels. The rebound of the US stock market, which gained almost 60 per cent in the last nine months, was especially noteworthy.

From this angle, Time’s decision to put Bernanke on its front cover seems straightforward, in line with its official motivation. It recognises the man who, after Bear Stearns’ near death experience, the rescue of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, GMAC and AIG[1], and the isolated but traumatic collapse of financial services firm Lehman Brothers, saved with public monies[2] the bulk of the US (Citibank, Bank of America, etc.) and international banking systems from collapse (or the certainty that they would inevitably crumble). What better achievement to put in the resume of an otherwise average economics professor from Princeton, without much theoretical work or publications to his name. Hence, like Hector or Achilles in epic times, Bernanke is a hero of finance, a hero for our times, which is certainly not epic because it bases everything on economics and money.

Stunted or non-existent economic recovery

If this assumption is correct, Time’s choice is, to say the least, premature. The rebound of the US stock market makes little sense because, with few exceptions, most firms in the United States and the rest of the world are just limping alone. Corporate balance sheets have not yet been published, but few believe they will show such results as to justify the stock market rally.

In developed nations, those sectors that did not get any public aid have seen their output decline, 20-30 per cent on average, with peaks of 50 per cent in some cases.[3] However creative one can be with a company’s accounts, it is hard to see how the real economy can generate such profits as to justify current stock market levels. Even when firms are able to limit losses, any good result is less likely the result of higher sales than of lower costs. In fact, aggregate (household, corporate and public) demand declined; spending by middle- and lower-income households dropped an estimated 20 per cent.[4]

Unemployment in the United States and China

Cutting costs has meant limiting losses by slashing operational costs and product research and development budgets. It has also meant laying off workers. Despite Obama’s much-vaunted stimulus package, US unemployment levels have risen to 9 per cent according to official figures; to over 20 per cent if the more rigorous econometric criteria applied in the pre-Clinton era are used.

Things are not that much better in other countries. In China, for instance, migrant workers, who have borne the brunt of the crisis, have not benefitted in terms of employment. Their jobs were tied to high levels of exports made possible by a yuan renminbi deliberately undervalued against the US dollar and other convertible currencies.[5]

The two main stimulus packages of 2009, that of the United States and that of China, have had no real impact, at least on employment levels, which was their ostensible goal. No surprise here, since the two countries are in a symbiotic relationship. One is the “world’s workshop” because of an exchange rate arbitrarily set by the Chinese Communist Party. The other one is the world’s largest consumer. With about 70 per cent of the US GDP going into consumption paid on borrowed money, no wonder that the US foreign trade, public treasury, household savings and corporate foreign debt are in the red.

This was inevitable. On the surface, things might appear different and hopes rekindled because of the race of the new US president or the skyscrapers and modernisation of the Chinese regime. In reality, they are illusions created by the two countries’ propaganda machines for no one wanted or wants to change the system built-in distortions.

This was inevitable because globalisation could only lead to an unbalanced interdependence, a Hegelian synthesis of two “modern” antitheses, a legacy of the 19th century that gave us two opposite but equally unbalanced materialisms.

The ghost of hyperinflation

If at one level, the rebound of the US stock market makes no sense, it makes sense at another. However, this one has sinister implications because it suggests that financial markets are expecting and anticipating hyperinflation.

Let us be clear, a company’s worth is not only measured by its capacity to generate profits but also by the value of its tangible assets like land, buildings, etc. A company’s value in the stock market is thus a measure of its expected profits as well as its assets. Under the present circumstances, it is hard to imagine a 60 per cent rise in corporate profits in the near future; any rebound in the stock market can only make sense if the value of assets rises because of inflation. In that case, if market forecasts and stock market values are correct, inflation must jump quite a bit, much more than 60 per cent to meet current and future losses.

From an overall economic point of view, this means that a period of double, triple and even quadruple digit inflation is likely to follow the current phase of great depression. This is one of the most destructive social phenomena: economists call it hyperinflation. Historically, this brings back memories of the Weimar Republic, which led to Hitler’s regime, as well as the more recent disasters that befell Zimbabwe. However, this is no unwarranted gloom-and-doom scenario, but rather a way to interpret rationally the rise of the stock market, which cannot be explained by company profits.

If we assume that current stock values in the United States are inflated compared to profits, we might expect another great collapse just around the corner.

The sinkhole of the US public debt

Although AsiaNews does not pretend to be a journal of financial forecasting, this second proposition does not appear very convincing, and this even if we admit high market volatility. The reason lies in the abnormally high level of debt of the US financial system, both in terms of formally issued debt as well as debt covenants. In September 2008, after Bernanke’ initial financial rescue plans were put into place, AsiaNews estimated that the total US public debt, including state and local government as well public capital corporations, stood at “at 59.3 trillion dollars, meaning 200,060 in public debt per capita, including the elderly, disabled, and children: 429.37% of GDP.”[6] Other economists, like John Williams, have said the figure is even higher, around US$ 75 trillion[7], five times the US GDP.

If we consider that US household debt is among the highest in the world, at about 99 per cent of GDP, that US corporate debt is also the highest in the world at 300 per cent of GDP, and that 95 per cent of US foreign debt is held by foreign residents, about half in Japan and China, it is very likely that the US Treasury will not be able to meet its commitments by raising taxes but will have to print more money instead. Thus, the conditions for hyperinflation are already in place. Any political event, however minor it might be, could act as the trigger.[8] It is hard to see how it can be avoided. Should this happen, it will have momentous political consequences not only for the United States, but also for Europe, Asia and the rest of the world.

A world banking government to the “rescue”

The current crisis is not only worse than that of 1929-33, but if it leads to hyperinflation, it will wipe out public debt and private savings. More importantly, it will undermine existing institutional structures. Perhaps, this is the real secret goal Federal Reserve chairmen, including Bernanke, have pursued in the past 20 years.[9] Perhaps, they sought all along to lay the ground for hyperinflation, in the bipolar world when the USSR still existed, and later unilaterally in order to secretly impose a world central bank and create a world government. With more than six billion people in the world, the creation of a world empire can only mean the end to all illusions we might have had about democracy or freedom, however modest they might have been. Except for some unlikely last minute Thermopylae, Xerxes’ dream of world order, tolerance and harmony can thus become reality in our times.

Time’s decision to place Bernanke on its front cover could thus be seen as embodying a second proposition. Although not very likely, bestowing him such an honour is such a paradox that it leads one to think that it could be a warning to a world that has fallen under the dominion of deceit.

[1] These are private capital but government-sponsored enterprises set up under President Roosevelt 70 years ago. They guarantee mortgages in the United States, whilst the AIG ensured loans on financial markets.

[2] According Neil Barofsky, Special Treasury Department Inspector General in charge of Troubled Asset Relief Program, the total cost will reach US$ 23.7 trillion, or just under 165 per cent of the US GDP.

[3] This means that if output dropped 30 per cent in some cases, it could be 70 per cent in other. Such losses mean almost inevitable closing or insolvency for any company.

[4] See the latest Gallup poll, in Dennis Jacobe, “Upper-Income Spending Reverts to New Normal,” Gallup, 10 December 2009. Despite the rosy title, the author writes, “consumer spending by both income groups — middle and lower-income — continues to trail year-ago levels by 20 per cent. “

[5] For more on China’s domestic purchasing power parity, see Maurizio d’Orlando, “G8, toxic securities, US and Chinese addictions, in AsiaNews.it, 7 July 2009.

[6] See Maurizio d’Orlando, “Depth of the abyss of economic, social, political chaos,” in AsiaNews.it, 30 November 2008.

[7] See Phil Maymin, “We’re Screwed! Interview with John Williams,” in Fairfield County Weekly, 31 December 2009.

[8] In the case of the Weimar Republic, the trigger was the occupation of the Ruhr Valley by French and Belgian troops, starting in March 1921, in reaction to Germany’s failure to pay war reparations as required by the Versailles Peace Treaty signed after the First World War.

[9] See Maurizio d’Orlando, “War scenarios: Iran, oil embargo and the collapse of the world’s financial system,” in AsiaNews.it, 07 August 2006.

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

USA


Diana West: White House Stonewalling on Obama’s Executive Order Unleashing Interpol

“Why Does Interpol Need Immunity from American Law?” is the question Andy McCarthy asks in commenting on the Executive Order that President Obama issued on December 17 to lift restraints on the international police agency. Andy goes on to describe these restraints first put in place in 1983 by President Reagan to bring Interpol under key aspects of American law when investigating Americans and American interests:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]



More Guns, Less Crime in ‘09

Americans went on binges buying guns and ammunition in early 2009, worried that a radical leftist president and Democrat-dominated Congress would violate their Second-Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. The effects? Less murder, robbery, rape, and property crime, according to an FBI report released Monday. This gives the young president and Democrat Congress at least one proud but unintended accomplishment for which they’ll never claim credit.

Indeed, gun buyers were out in droves in late 2008 and early 2009. While it’s easy to infer that increased gun ownership figures align precisely with the drop in crime in the same calendar period, you won’t see that headline in the New York Times, despite their penchant for such inferences about increases in crime coinciding with increasing “guns on the street.”

[…]

(This is a good place to note that “new guns on the street” is just a liberal scare cliché we should not carelessly adopt. These statistics indicate the real dynamic: gun purchases and concealed licenses acquisitions are made predominantly by law-abiding citizens taking their guns home with them from the store, for self-defense, hunting, and target-shooting purposes.)

[…]

The newspapers west of the Hudson River are chock full of stories in which law-abiding citizens protected themselves by using guns. And these are just the incidents that are reported. The Armed Citizen blog does a great job of capturing these stories in their raw form, and every thinking American needs to make his own inferences about the value of guns in these situations: They prevent people from becoming statistics. Go through the news reports compiled on the Armed Citizen blog and make your own count of people who refused to become statistics.

For instance, in May, eleven students in Atlanta avoided becoming murder statistics thanks to the bravery of one among them who had a gun in his backpack. He used it to kill one robber and injure another. Chillingly, the news reports describe how the robbers were counting their bullets to make sure they had enough to kill their victims. One of the robbers was about to rape a woman as well. That’s at least thirteen fewer violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery) that did not need to be included in the FBI’s crime report for the first half of 2009.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama Slams Security Breach

Reports, Intercepts Suggested Attack Preparations; Multiple Agencies Had Warning

WASHINGTON — The U.S. had multiple pieces of information about alleged bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, according to senior U.S. officials, including intelligence reports and communications intercepts suggesting a Nigerian was being prepped for a terror strike by al Qaeda operatives in Yemen.

The intercepts were collected piecemeal by the National Security Agency, which has been monitoring al Qaeda militants in that country, including former Guantanamo detainees believed to be leaders there.

In addition, the father of Mr. Abdulmutallab met with the Central Intelligence Agency at the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, Nov. 19, and told of his son’s likely radicalization, U.S. officials say. That led to a broader gathering of agencies the next day, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department, in which the information was shared, a U.S. official said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Totalitarian Sentimentality

Conservatives recognize that social order is hard to achieve and easy to destroy, that it is held in place by discipline and sacrifice, and that the indulgence of criminality and vice is not an act of kindness but an injustice for which all of us will pay. Conservatives therefore maintain severe and — to many people — unattractive attitudes. They favor retributive punishment in the criminal law; they uphold traditional marriage and the sacrifices that it requires; they believe in discipline in schools and the value of hard work and military service. They believe in the family and think that the father is an essential part in it. They see welfare provisions as necessary, but also as a potential threat to genuine charity, and a way both of rewarding antisocial conduct and creating a culture of dependency. They value the hard-won legal and constitutional inheritance of their country and believe that immigrants must also value it if they are to be allowed to settle here. Conservatives do not think that war is caused by military strength, but on the contrary by military weakness, of a kind that tempts adventurers and tyrants. And a properly ordered society must be prepared to fight wars — even wars in foreign parts — if it is to enjoy a lasting peace in its homeland. In short conservatives are a hard and unfriendly bunch who, in the world in which we live, must steel themselves to be reviled and despised by all people who make compassion into the cornerstone of the moral life.

Liberals are of course very different. They see criminals as victims of social hierarchy and unequal power, people who should be cured by kindness and not threatened with punishment. They wish all privileges to be shared by everyone, the privileges of marriage included. And if marriage can be reformed so as to remove the cost of it, so much the better. Children should be allowed to play and express their love of life; the last thing they need is discipline. Learning comes — didn’t Dewey prove as much? — from self-expression; and as for sex education, which gives the heebie-jeebies to social conservatives, no better way has ever been found of liberating children from the grip of the family and teaching them to enjoy their bodily rights. Immigrants are just migrants, victims of economic necessity, and if they are forced to come here illegally that only increases their claim on our compassion. Welfare provisions are not rewards to those who receive them, but costs to those who give — something that we owe to those less fortunate than ourselves. As for the legal and constitutional inheritance of the country, this is certainly to be respected — but it must “adapt” to new situations, so as to extend its protection to the new victim class. Wars are caused by military strength, by “boys with their toys,” who cannot resist the desire to flex their muscles, once they have acquired them. The way to peace is to get rid of the weapons, to reduce the army, and to educate children in the ways of soft power. In the world in which we live liberals are self-evidently lovable — emphasizing in all their words and gestures that, unlike the social conservatives, they are in every issue on the side of those who need protecting, and against the hierarchies that oppress them.

[…]

Why am I repeating those elementary truths, you ask? The answer is simple. The USA has descended from its special position as the principled guardian of Western civilization and joined the club of sentimentalists who have until now depended on American power. In the administration of President Obama we see the very same totalitarian sentimentality that has been at work in Europe, and which has replaced civil society with the state, the family with the adoption agency, work with welfare, and patriotic duty with universal “rights.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Former Iranian President Reported to Danish Police

Nationalistic politician reports former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami to the police for crimes against humanity

Morten Messerschmidt, a European Parliament and Danish People’s Party representative, and actor Farshad Kholghi have reported former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami to the police.

Khatami is due to visit Denmark on 27 January to receive the Århus Global Dialogue Prize, worth 500,000 kroner. But he may risk being arrested due to Messerschmidt and Danish-Iranian actor Kholghi having reported him to the authorities for committing ‘mass crimes’ against the Iranian public.

‘We have asked the police director in Århus to ensure that Mohammad Khatami is arrested and detained when he arrives in this country,’ Messerschmidt and Kholghi write in a Jyllands-Posten newspaper column published today.

The pair is requesting a police investigation of Khatami’s role in crimes against the Iranian people under his leadership and has suggested using paragraph 8a, which gives the police power to arrest people for crimes abroad, so long as they are within the parameters of the International Court of Justice.

Messerschmidt rejected the notion that he was meddling with the high-profile dialogue prize.

‘They can give their prize to whichever criminal they like. But if Khatami comes to Denmark, he should be held accountable for his crimes. He has blood on his hands.’

The sponsor of the prize, Grundfos, has required that the prize recipient accepts the prize in person. Khatami still hasn’t confirmed his attendance, however. The company’s communications director, Kim Nøhr Skibsted, declined to comment on Messerschmidt and Kholghi’s indictment.

Global Dialogue Prize coordinator Dr. Johanna Seibt from Aarhus University is perplexed about Khatami being reported to the police.

‘It must stem from ignorance. I simply don’t think Morten Messerschmidt and Farshad Kholghi have looked into who Mohammad Khatami is. If they had, they would not report him to the police,’ she said.

Jørgen Ilum, commissioner of eastern Jutland police, confirmed Khatami had been reported, but he refused to comment on what the police in Århus plan to do about it.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



France: Carbon Tax Arrives, Risk of Fiscal Inequalities

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — The carbon tax has arrived in France, adopted by Nicolas Sarkozy’s government to combat global warming and to try to achieve the goal of reducing current emissions levels by one-fourth by 2050. The new tax, which will be effective on January 1, risks creating inequalities among taxpayers. The idea is to make citizens pay for their CO2 emissions, produced mainly by their cars and heating, in order to provide them with incentives to pollute less. Avoiding the new tax from having negative effects on French consumers purchasing power, which vary based on residency and the number of dependants does not always translate into the zero impact that has been promised for household budgets. The taxe carbone, as it’s called in French, will cost 17 euros per tonne of CO2 produced (a figure that is destined to increase in the coming year) and for the consumers this will translate into an increase in the price of petrol of 4 cents per liter, and 4.5 cents for diesel fuel. To deal with these increases, compensations include a 46-euro tax deduction for each resident adult in urban areas and 62 euros for those living in rural zones. Another 10 euros will be added to this for each dependant, while non-taxable individuals will benefit from a green check. According to calculations made by the Environmental Ministry in Paris, a couple with two children living in the countryside in a 160-square meter house heated with diesel fuel that drives 18,000km per year with a diesel fuelled car will pay 143 euros per year for their CO2 emissions. The state will reimburse them 142 euros. One less euro will certainly not make the difference, but a comparison shows that a single person living in the city in a 60-square meter apartment heated with gas, who goes to work on the bus, will pay 31 euros for the carbon tax and will benefit from a 46-euro tax break. Those who pollute less gain more according to the regulation, although the government promised to not increase taxes in France. There will be effects on purchasing power: the national statistics institute (INSEE) calculates that first it will increase by 0.7% thanks to the tax credits included in the compensation plan, but in the second half of 2010, purchasing power will decline by 0.3%.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



France: Taxes: Revenue From Enterprises Better Than Expected

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 29 — Fiscal revenue from the tax on enterprises (IS) in France was larger than expected due to a recovery in the financial sector, announced Budget Minister Eric Woerth in confirming the data released in advance by the economic paper Les Echos. The figures (not yet definitive) cite revenue of between 20.5 and 21 billion euros, compared with a previous forecast of 19. The figures are encouraging but in any case less than those in 2008, when revenue reached 50 billion euros. According to the ministry, it is a “positive sign” for the state balance sheet, but it is still too soon to say whether this will enable it to keep the deficit under the record high expected of 141 billion euros.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Germany: Father and Brother Jailed for ‘Honour Killing’

A 50-year-old Turkish man was jailed for life in Germany on Tuesday over the brutal “honour killing” of his 20-year-old daughter, a murder carried out together with the victim’s twin brother.

Gülsüm Semin’s brother was sentenced to nine and a half years behind bars, while a 32-year-old Russian accomplice was given seven and a half years by the court in Kleve, western Germany, a spokeswoman said.

On March 2 the young woman, who had recently had an abortion, was lured to a patch of wasteland where her brother and the accomplice strangled her with a cord and beat her in the face with a club and a tree branch, the court found.

The father, who was not named, was found to be the main instigator.

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



Greece: Motor Vehicle Tax Increases, Many Turn in Plates

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS DECEMBER 29 — Thousands of Greek citizens who own private automobiles have recently been flooding into government offices to turn in their license plates in order to not have to pay the 2010 motor vehicle tax, which was increased to deal with the environmental protection expenses, which many believe are not economically sustainable. These are mainly owners of older automobiles, registered before 1999, but also others who have two or more cars and have decided to do without their oldest vehicle. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Brunello Authenticity Controls Continue

Agriculture ministry initiative ensures exports to the USA

(ANSA) — Rome, December 29 — The agriculture ministry will continue to be responsible for guaranteeing the authenticity of the prized Italian wine Brunello di Montalcino at least until June 30 of next year, Italian Agriculture Minister Luca Zaia said on Tuesday.

“We decided to extend our controls on Brunello for a further six months to ensure the flow of exports to the United States,” Zaia explained.

The ministry took over responsibility for certifying Brunello after the US threatened to block imports of the wine because some producers were apparently blending in theirs grapes other than Sangiovese grown inside of Montalcino in Tuscany.

This meant that the wine would not qualify for the official Brunello DOCG designation, established by the consortium of Brunello producers, and could represent a case of fraud.

In order to appease American authorities, Italy last year stripped the Brunello consortium of its power to certify the authenticity of the wine, a task which was passed to the agriculture ministry’s department of inspectors.

Italy also introduced a certificate of label approval (COLA) which states that the product’s vintage and brand meet the requirements for Brunello di Montalcino DOCG denomination and respects all standards for sale in Italy.

Although it no longer has the authority to certify the wine’s authenticity, the Brunello producers’ consortium can change the requirements for the wine’s DOCG denomination should it decide to officially recognise that Sangiovese grapes other than those grown in Montalcino can be used.

Brunello di Montalcino is perhaps Italy’s finest wine and certainly among the best in the world.

Its popularity has been rising steadily in the US which, despite a weak dollar, consumes 25% of the Brunello on the market and some 45% of all quality wine produced in Tuscany, the so-called ‘Super Tuscans’.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Tax Amnesty Nets 95 Billion Euros

Treasury expects 98% of assets to be repatriated

(ANSA) — Rome, December 29 — Italians have already declared at least 95 billion euros in assets hidden abroad thanks to the government’s tax amnesty plan of which 98% is expected to be repatriated to Italy, the Treasury reported on Tuesday.

The amount, calculated as of December 15, far surpassed the forecast made by Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti last week that over 80 billion euros would be declared and is equal to more than 6% of Italy’s GDP.

The amnesty allows Italians a chance to legalize their hidden assets and accounts without having to pay back taxes, only a one-off 5% penalty fee on their value.

The controversial initiative also shields them from prosecution for related crimes like accounting fraud and illegally exporting capital.

The government hopes that the assets repatriated to Italy will give a boost to the national economy, which has only recently begun to recover from the recession brought on by the global economic downturn.

The measure was originally set to expire on December 15 but the deadline was extended this month to April 30, a date which the Treasury said in a statement on Tuesday was “definitive and final”.

Tremonti explained last week that the move was necessary “because the amount of assets being declared and the paperwork involved was too much for us to process in time”.

According to the Treasury, the success of the amnesty was in part thanks to efforts of leading countries in the Group of 20 to work together in cracking down on tax havens.

“The era of tax havens is over forever. To hold assets in these havens is no loner convenient, neither economically nor in regard to taxes. The return is too low and the risks too high,” the statement observed.

Based on the figures released on Tuesday, the Treasury stands to receive upwards of five billion euro from the penalty fees, more than the 4.5 billion euros it had originally expected.

The terms of the amnesty deadline extension raises to 6% the penalty on assets declared by the end of February and 7% until the end of April and Treasury sources believe a further 30 billion euros in assets will be declared.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: ‘Seborga Principality’ Court Blow

Ruling against tiny self-proclaimed state after 2 deaths

(ANSA) — Seborga, December 29 — The tiny, self-proclaimed principality of Seborga has suffered a further blow to its ambitions for independence, after a court ordered the eviction of its government from a local building. The rulers of the ‘principality’, a small village in the northern region of Liguria, have been told to return the rented building to its owner at the end of a long-running dispute over the tenancy contract.

The news comes after a month in which both Seborga’s prince and the man tipped as his successor died. Giorgio Carbone, a former flower grower, was elected to the post by the 364 inhabitants of Seborga in 1963.

His death at the end of November after a long illness was followed two weeks later by that of Seborga’s ‘foreign minister’, 61-year restaurant owner Walter Ferrari, who suffered a fatal heart attack.

But Seborga ‘Secretary of State’ Alberto Romano, who has assumed temporary leadership of the self-declared principality ahead of elections, said inhabitants were not daunted by the court’s decision. “We have already rented another building, a few dozen metres away,” he said.

“Besides, the former building was run down and needed maintenance work”. Romano also recalled he had lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights, asking it to consider the principality’s fight for independence. Seborga was a principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1079 until 1729, when it was acquired by Vittorio Amedeo of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont and King of Sardinia.

The Seborgans still have the luigino, which is accepted in the village shops and bars, as well as their own stamps and their own flag — a white cross on a blue background.

A sign at the entrance to the village reads ‘Principality of Seborga’. Carbone, whose official title was His Tremendousness Giorgio I, boasted that Seborga was the oldest independent principality in Europe and made numerous attempts to obtain international recognition for his breakaway principality.

He claimed Seborga was not listed as a Savoy possession when Italy was united under the Savoy dynasty in 1861 and had therefore never been part of the modern Italian state.

But the people of Seborga continue to pay taxes to the Italian state and the village has a mayor, Franco Fogliarini, who like all other Italian mayors swears allegiance to the Republic.

He had taken a laissez-faire attitude towards the activity and proclamations of Carbone, partly because so many of the inhabitants seemed to be behind him. “If it helps bring in tourists, then it’s fine by me,” Fogliarini said, adding that there might well be some truth in the historical claims.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Sweden’s Help Sought in Auschwitz Theft Probe

Polish authorities investigating possible Swedish ties to the theft of the Auschwitz “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign planned to formally ask for help from the Swedish justice ministry, the Polish justice ministry said on Wednesday.

Polish Justice Minister Krzysztof Kwiatkowski spoke with his Swedish counterpart Beatrice Ask, the Polish ministry said in a statement.

“Their discussion focused on a request for judicial assistance being drawn up by regional prosecutors in Krakow,” the southern Polish city where the probe is being steered, it said.

The relatively rare step of involving ministers came “because of the importance of the case”, it added.

Earlier, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office in Krakow, Boguslawa Marcinkowska, said the request would be made on Wednesday, but declined to provide any further details, the Polish PAP news agency reported.

Five men are currently being held in Poland in connection with December 18th theft of the iconic, five metre long sign, which translates from German to “Work sets you free”.

Polish police are also hunting for a sixth person, reportedly based in Sweden, who they believe may have acted as an intermediary for whoever ordered the theft of the sign, an unnamed source told PAP.

Sources close to the investigation added that four of the thieves now in custody claim they were unaware of the sign’s historical significance.

While Polish investigators said the mastermind of the theft lived abroad, they have consistently refused to confirm media reports that the individual is in Sweden.

They have also refused to say whether his or her name is known to Polish justice authorities, or that they plan to ask the Swedes for an arrest.

Poland had contacted Interpol and its European Union equivalent Europol in the wake of the theft at the former World War II death camp, on the edge of the southern Polish city of Oswiecim.

Police recovered the metal sign two days later in northern Poland, charging the five suspects with theft and damage. If convicted, they face up to 10 years in prison.

The men, aged 20 to 39, have criminal records for theft or violence, but none appeared to be neo-Nazis although they may have been working for neo-Nazis, police have said.

According to the BBC, police began to suspect the theft had a Swedish connection following the arrest of two of the suspects in the Polish port of Gdynia, which has ferry connections to Sweden.

Unconfirmed reports that the theft was carried out at the behest a Swedish collector surfaced at the same time that the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet reported last week that an extremist group was plotting a politically-motivated attack against the Swedish parliament, the foreign ministry, and the prime minister’s residence.

Citing unidentified sources, the tabloid said the attack was meant to be financed by the sale of the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign.

Swedish intelligence agency Säpo said last Thursday it was investigating a far-right attack plot on the Swedish parliament and prime minister’s residence.

“I can confirm the fact that we have some information about alleged plots on the parliament and prime minister’s residence,” Säpo spokesman Patrik Peter told AFP.

However, Peter couldn’t confirm whether there was a connection between the plot and the theft of the sign from the main gate of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

“I have no information to give you about that,” the intelligence agency’s spokesperson said.

When it was recovered, the sign had been cut into three pieces, with the letter “i” from “Frei” abandoned at the camp, a Polish state-run museum and memorial since 1947.

The sign has long symbolised the horror of the camp, created by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland in 1940 and run until Soviet troops liberated it in 1945.

This was where 1.1 million mainly Jewish prisoners from across Europe died during World War II: some from overwork and starvation, but mostly in the camp’s notorious gas chambers. Among the other victims were non-Jewish Poles, Roma and captured Soviet soldiers.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



UK: Universities Are Now Hotbeds of Islamic Extremism

WE like to think of our universities as havens of reflection and study — institutions in which our brightest youngsters can prepare for the rest of their lives.

So it’s shocking to discover that universities can harbour the likes of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be Nigerian plane bomber who, it emerges, graduated from University College London in 2008 and was president of its Islamic Society.

But no one should be shocked because the role of British universities in breeding andfomenting extremism is one of our country’s most shameful secrets.

Take the shady area of Islamic study centres linked to British universities. According to a report by the terror expert

Prof Anthony Glees, since 1995 eight universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have accepted more than £233.5million from Saudi and Muslim sources to operate study centres, by far the largest amount of external funding given to UK universities.

Although both universities and donors say that they are simply promoting understanding between the West and the Islamic world, Prof Glees claimsthat the study centres lead to the propagation of one-sided views of Islam and spew out anti-Western propaganda.

This, even if unintentionally, softens up students for recruitment by extremist groups with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fuelling the radicalisation of many undergraduates.

In a recent interview a student member of the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir described universities as “bread-and-butter” recruiting grounds for extremist groups.

This is the most dangerous aspect of all. According to an earlier report, up to 48 universities have been infiltrated by

fundamentalists. UCL was not named as one of those 48, which shows that even in universities not previously thought of as harbouring extremists, the threat exists.

And it’s not just the obviously radical students who are a problem. Yesterday the Provost of UCL Malcolm Grant said of Abdulmutallab that: “There was nothing about his conduct that gave his tutors cause for concern.”

Last year, the Government issued new guidance to universities urging academics and students to report suspicionsover extremism. The then Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said it was a “real and serious threat”.

A poll by the Centre for Social Cohesion last year found that almost one in every three Muslim students in the UK said that killing in the name of religion was justified.The same number also believed in a worldwide Islamic caliphate (a united Islamic state), based on sharia law.

But when the Government asked the university authorities to vet speakers and to look out for student societies which could be used by radical preachers, the response from the universities was to complain

about government interference and the threat to free speech.

Universities have traditionally been places where hotheaded students can demonstrate their radicalism, often to

the anger of the rest of society.

But it’s critically important to distinguish between radical student politics and the extremism of militant Islam.

Not that the Government itself can claim to take terror seriously. It refuses to outlaw Hizb ut-Tahrir, one of the main

groups that infiltrates student societies and then preaches the takeover of its form of Islam.

And its willful failure to take any action over the abuse of student visas is one of the biggest factors behind the

UK’s status as a fulcrum of extremism. Take Dhiren Barot, described as Osama bin Laden’s “UK general”, who in 2006 was jailed for 40 years for planning terrorist attacks. He used a false identity in order to study at Brunel University.

In 2008, the UK issued almost a quarter of a million student visas. A further 144,000 studentswere admitted as student “visitors” and almost the same number were allowed to extend their stay.

Though procedures have been tightened almost anyone who wants a visa can get one by ticking a few boxes on a form. With universities desperate for the cash from foreign students, it’s effectively open house for all sorts to come to study here.

So when we read about Mr Abdulmutallab we should place him in this context. His is thename we now know. But the extremists are working to ensure that while he may have failed, others will succeed. And the authorities still — despite 9/11, despite the 2005 Tube bombings, despite other terrorist plots — refuse to root out extremism.

Barely a week goes by without an extremist preacher being allowed into the UK. On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, for example, two Saudi Imams, Sheikh Faisal al-Jassim and Sheikh Abdul Aziz As-Sadhan, spoke at Green Lane mosque in Birmingham, despite having a record of anti-Semitism and regularly calling for holy war.

The Home Secretary knew full well what they stood for. He chose to allow them in.

As for those already resident here, the cry of “human rights”goes up whenever anyone suggests that they should be

returned to their own country.

The extremists may be the enemy of Western civilisation but in our failure to take the threat seriously, we are our own worst enemy.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Bosnia: Serb MPs Vote Against Foreign Prosecutors and Judges

Banjaluka, 29 Dec. (AKI) — The Bosnian Serb parliament has moved to remove foreign judges and prosecutors from Bosnian war crimes courts. A majority of Bosnian Serb MPs voted late Monday to reject a decision by Valentin Inzko, the international community’s top representative in Bosnia, to keep foreign judges and prosecutors in Bosnia’s courts for another three years.

Opposition leaders rejected Monday’s largely symbolic vote, saying it had no legal validity.

A number of foreign judges and prosecutors currently sit on Bosnian war crimes courts. But Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik (photo) claims the jurists have displayed anti-Serb bias.

Bosnian courts have sentenced local Serbs to 1,470 years in jail for war crimes, compared to Muslims who got a total of 40 years.

This showed Bosnian courts are “political, not judiciary organs,” Dodik claimed.

Dodik also claimed the presence of foreign judges and prosecutors was unconstitutional and showed Bosnia wasn’t an independent state, but an “international protectorate”.

Dodik, who is prime minister of Bosnian Serb entity, proposed to hold a referendum on the issue of foreign jurists staffing Bosnian courts.

Opposition leaders accused Dodik of political point-scoring, saying a referendum on the presence of foreign judges and prosecutors had no legal basis and there were more pressing issues at hand.

Mladen Bosic, president of the opposition Serb Democratic Party, said a referendum should be held on Bosnia’s membership of NATO and on Dodik’s longstanding vow to secede from Bosnia.

Dodik has threatened for the past several years to hold a referendum on independence if the central authorities continued to strip away powers granted to the Serb entity and Muslim-Croat federation under the Dayton peace accord that ended Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war ..

The Dayton accord divided Bosnia into two entities, the Serb entity and a Muslim-Croat federation with most state prerogatives.

But the international community, which still safeguards peace in Bosnia, has in recent years reduced the entities’ powers in a bid to strengthen Bosnia’s weak central government.

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



Media: Greek Group Antenna Acquires Serbian Fox Televizija

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 29 — The Antenna group has reached an agreement with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation group for the acquisition of 49% of the Serbian television network Fox Televizija. According to an Antenna group statement, the agreement is an important step in the realisation of strategic investments of the group in European media. The Antenna group’s decision to expand in Serbia is based on the conviction that the television market is in rapid growth and reflects a positive outlook for further development in all sectors, especially that of the media. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Algeria: Sonatrach Discovers 5 New Oil Fields

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, DECEMBER 29 — Algerian hydrocarbon group, Sonatrach, has announced the discovery of five new oil fields in southern Algeria in the Berkine, Illizi, and Amguid/Hassi Messaoud basins. Three discoveries, said a statement made by the group, were made while surveying in the perimeter of Menzel Ledjmet and Zemoul El Kbar II in the Berkine basin. A fourth oil field was discovered in the El Ouar II perimeter in the Illizi basin and a fifth in the Hassi Dzabat perimeter. The number of oil fields located by Sonatrach is up to 16 since the beginning of 2009, 5 of which were discovered with foreign companies: three with Spanish consortium Repsol Exploration Algeria-Edison international, one with the Repsol-Gas Naturel group and one with Shell. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egypt: Canal Authority Announces New Suez Tariffs

(ANSAmed) ISMAILIA (EGYPT), DECEMBER 29 — In 2010 transit tariffs for the Suez Canal will be changed. According to reports from its president, Ahmed Ali Fadel, the Suez Canal authority is looking into the possibility of new tariffs to apply in early 2010. Every year the authority established the new tariffs on the basis of international trade flows. Variations to the tariffs will be presented by the authority president in a press conference to be held in the first half of January. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: Pacifists Stuck, No Italians in Incidents

(ANSAmed) — ROME, 29 DEC — A new day of protest for the 1,400 pacifists who reached Egypt from all over the world to join the “Freedom March” towards the Gaza Strip, one year after the Israeli military operation Cast Lead. They were stopped by the authorities of Cairo, who have again not allowed any transit into Gaza. On the day in which the Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu is to meet the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in order to discuss the prospects of peace talks between Israel and Palestine, the delegations of activists, arriving from 43 countries, have given life to a number of protests in front of their respective embassies. Roberto Andervill, president of a Varese-based NGO, and Paola Mattavelli, part of the delegation — interviewed by ANSA over the phone — have said that none of the incidents involved Italians (who number about 140, from both Forum Palestina and Action for Peace), meeting in a permanent assembly under the diplomatic legation. The delegation has once again met with the first secretary of the Italian embassy in Cairo, proposing that at least a small delegation be allowed to go through in order to get the aid through for the structures and Palestinian population in Gaza: especially since Italy has pledged to help out the Palestinian hospital Al Awda in Jabalya, a wide-ranging commitment involving dozens of cities and associations. US activists have been beaten by Egyptian police, and have been entirely surrounded in front of their embassy. The French, instead, have sought refuge inside their diplomatic headquarters.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Morocco: Two Journalists Convicted, Newspaper Closed Down

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, 29 DEC — A sentence of four years imprisonment for each journalist, with a conditional suspension of the sentence and a fine to pay. Such was the sentence issued by the Appeal Court of Casablanca for the editor of the Moroccan newspaper ‘Akhbar Al You’, Taoufiq Bouachrine, and for journalist-caricaturist Khalid Gueddar. The appeal sentence thus confirms the original one. According to the charges, the newspaper had published a caricature depicting a member of the royal family, a cousin to king Mohammed VI, prince Moulay Ismail, who will also receive 270,000 euro for damages. The court has further decide to close the newspaper down for good. Yesterday another two journalists writing for the newspaper ‘Al Jarida Al Aoula’, the editor Ali Anouzla and the writer Bouchra Eddou, had been found guilty by the Appeal Court of Rabat to a year and three month’s imprisonment respectively (with suspended sentence) for having published “false and untrue news” regarding king Mohammed VI’s state of health. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Israel: Competitors Fear New Pro-Netanyahu Dailyfree

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV — Soon, Israel ha-Yom will be the top daily in Israel, said American businessman Shedon Edelson to his workers, the owner of a new free newspaper that is raising fears about the fate of informational pluralism and growing anxiety in the publications direct rivals, Yediot Ahronot, which has registered a decline in sales, and Maariv, which recently feared closing down. Believed to be one of the richest Jews in the world, Edelson, who is a personal friend of Premier Benyamin Netanyahu, believes that the Israeli press is not sufficiently patriotic and that it is necessary to create a newspaper that never forgets that we are Jews and Israelis. However, Edelson does not have Israeli citizenship: a situation that is creating increasing uneasiness. In Parliament, several MPs are now asking if it is acceptable for the owner of such an influential element in the media to live abroad. In one and a half years, Israel ha-Yom (Israel Today) has become the second leading newspaper in the country, according to a study published in July by TGI. Yediot Ahronot is still the top daily, with 34.2% readership, among those who read at least one newspaper per day. Israel ha-Yom is inching closer, with 26.9%. Maariv dropped to third place with 14.4%, while Haaretz is at 7.5%. To spread the new publication throughout Israel, Edelson chose a prestigious manager with significant experience in the sector, Dan Margalit, and working-class readers, mainly the commuters entering into Tel Aviv. In November the newspaper inaugurated a weekend edition, which is also free, with three supplements. Over 250,000 copies are in circulation. We are read each day by one million readers, said the editing office. At bus stations and on trains, the revolution is already palpable: many passengers show off their copy of Israel ha-Yom, a flashy newspaper with a modern graphic design, which can be read in a half an hour and is then left on the seat without regrets. Writers include left-wing representatives, but the daily mainly reflects Edelsons principles. In an attempt to curb the attack, in some areas, Yediot Ahronot and Maariv are already distributed for a nominal fee or even free of charge. The common fear is to lose a slice of the advertising market in 2010 due to Israel ha-Yom, which for both represents pure oxygen. Freedom of expression and democracy are now exposed to an unprecedented and destructive threat, warned columnist Ben Caspit in Maariv. Israel ha-Yoms goal is to destroy the free press in Israel, forcing it to compete in unfavorable conditions (due to competition from the internet and TV) with a free newspaper. At this point, according to Maariv, it is Knesset’s duty to adopt the necessary measures to protect the sector.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Diana West: the “Surge” And “Success, “ Pt. 2

So much for the lack of post-surge U.S. business benefits in Iraq, as I wrote last week. Now, what kind of post-surge ally is Iraq?

No kind.

I write in wonder that the ultimate failures of the surge strategy — which include the failure of anything resembling a U.S. ally to emerge in post-Saddam Iraq — have never entered national discourse. Rather, the strategy that “won Iraq” has been mythologized as a “success” to be repeated in Afghanistan.

It’s not that there aren’t hints to the contrary — as when U.S. ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill arrived at the Iraqi parliament in early December and “some deputies,” the New York Times reported, “demanded he be barred from the building.” Or when 42 percent of Iraqis polled by the BBC in March 2008 still thought it “acceptable” to attack U.S. forces. Or when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, as U.S. forces transferred security responsibilities to Iraqi forces in June, obstreperously declared “victory” over those same U.S. forces! Such incidents convey hostility toward the United States inside Iraq, but there’s more. Of greater consequence are the positions against U.S. interests Iraq is taking in world affairs.

Take the foundational principle of freedom of speech, continuously under assault by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in the international arena. The OIC includes the world’s 57 Muslim nations as represented by kings, heads of state and governments, with policies overseen by the foreign ministers of these same 57 nations. Describing itself as the “collective voice of the Islamic world,” the OIC strives to extend Islamic law throughout the world, and to that end, is the driving force at the United Nations to outlaw criticism of Islam (which includes Islamic law) through proposed bans on the “defamation of religions” — namely, Islam. This is a malignant thrust at the mechanism of Western liberty. Where does post-surge Iraq come down in this crucial ideological struggle?

An OIC nation, Iraq is, with other OIC nations, a signatory to the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam. This declaration defines human rights according to Islamic law, which prohibits criticism of Islam. Indeed, Iraq’s U.S.-enabled 2004 constitution enshrines Islamic law above all. Little wonder Iraq consistently votes at the United Nations with the OIC and against the United States on this key ideological divide between Islam and the West, most recently in November.

Then there’s Iran…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]



‘Hundreds of Al-Qaeda Militants Planning Attacks From Yemen’

Hundreds of al-Qaeda militants are planning terror attacks from Yemen, the country’s Foreign Minister said today.

Abu Bakr al-Qirbi appealed for more help from the international community to help to train and equip counter-terrorist forces.

[…]

The United States, Britain and the European Union could do a lot to improve Yemen’s response to militants on its own soil, he added.

“We have to work in a very joint fashion in partnership to combat terrorism,” he said. “If we do, the problem will be brought under control.

“There is support, but I must say it is inadequate. We need more training, we have to expand our counter-terrorism units and provide them with equipment and transportation like helicopters.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Iraq: British Hostage Peter Moore Released Alive in Baghdad After ‘Unspeakable’ Two-and-a-Half Years

Mystery surrounds release as Miliband says ‘we did no direct deal’

A British man held hostage in Iraq for more than two-and-a-half years has been freed.

Computer expert Peter Moore, 36, was seized along with his four British bodyguards at the finance ministry in Baghdad on May 29, 2007.

Fears for his safety grew after the bodies of three of the security guards — Jason Swindlehurst, Jason Creswell and Alec MacLachlan — were handed over to the UK authorities.

The body of the fourth security guard, Alan McMenemy, is still missing.

It is not clear what deal led to Mr Moore’s release, or who was responsible for securing the deal.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband denied any direct deal had been done.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Kuwait Ruler Warns Against Chaos, Social Rift

Kuwait’s Emir on Tuesday warned against chaos and social divisions amid heightened political turmoil and tribal and sectarian tensions that have rocked the oil-rich Gulf state.

“Democratic practice has its principles and limits … If it exceeds that it turns into chaos,” Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah said in televised speech, adding that such chaos is a threat to Kuwait’s security and stability.

“We must be aware of the dangers of hateful rifts … There are no winners in strife and the loser is always the nation,” he said.

But, he noted that the Kuwaiti constitution ensures the freedom of expression and speech, and correct parliamentary practices, leading up to the fulfillment of the public interest.

“We, in this country, firmly believe in the constitutional principles that should deepen sound practices through constitutional tools and under the dome of the National Assembly, rather than through stirring up sentiments and using sensational ways, intimidation and skepticism via speeches and diverse mass media,” he said.

Tensions have surfaced in OPEC’s fourth-largest producer over the past few weeks, with the emirate’s tribes staging two massive rallies last week to protest a controversial television program.

Opposition MPs, who earlier this month grilled the prime minister and three other cabinet members over allegations of corruption, have again threatened to grill the premier and other ministers.

“Recent regrettable practices in Kuwait have crossed all limits … they opened the door for chaos and fuelled tensions,” said the Emir, while appealing for national unity.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Russia


Berlusconi Loses Bet With Putin

Premier forced to buy Russian plant’s first SUV

(ANSA) — Vladivostok, December 29 — A lost bet against Vladimir Putin will cost Premier Silvio Berlusconi the price of a mid-sized SUV, the Russian prime minister said Tuesday.

While visiting a new car plant in Siberia which builds the UAV Patriot, Putin told autoworkers he had made a bet with Berlusconi that the factory would be able to start production before the end of the year.

The wager arose from a conversation about the new UAZ plant in Vladivostok, a joint venture with Italian auto giant Fiat, during Berlusconi’s visit to St Petersburg in October.

“I told him we’d be turning out Patriots by New Year’s, but he didn’t believe me,” Putin said. Berlusconi was so convinced the Siberian plant would take longer, that he agreed to buy its first model if it came off the assembly line by New Year’s Day.

Putin said the premier’s new car was on the lot and ready to drive by early December.

Marketed as an affordable car for families, UAZ Patriots sell for less than 12,000 euros.

Putin said that while the Italian premier had graciously conceded defeat, “he immediately asked for a discount”.

“So we decided to take 10% of the price tag,” Putin said, underlining that “this isn’t a present, it’s business”.

In Berlusconi’s absence, Putin took a test drive of the premier’s new Patriot, a metallic gold model with velvet seats, a sunroof, automatic windows and power locks. Putin said he was sure the premier would be pleased by the car, but did not elaborate on how he could get it to Italy from the eastern edge of Siberia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Putin: U.S. Shield Disrupts Balance of Power

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday U.S. plans for a missile defense system were the main obstacle to reaching a new deal on reducing Cold War arsenals of nuclear weapons.

[…]

“If we are not developing an anti-missile shield, then there is a danger that our partners, by creating such ‘an umbrella’, will feel completely secure and thus can allow themselves to do what they want, disrupting the balance, and aggressiveness will rise immediately,” Putin said.

“In order to preserve balance … we need to develop offensive weapons systems,” Putin said, echoing a pledge by Medvedev last week to develop a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Indonesia: Muslims Attack and Set Fire to a House of Prayers

The attack by unknown assailants occurred in early December in the village of Tlogowero, Bansari sub district (Java). Police issued a statement on the matter only yesterday. For residents, the incident was caused by Muslim objection to the presence of Christian buildings in their villages.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A group of unknown assailants attacked and set fire to a house of prayer in early December in the village of Tlogowero in Bansari sub district (Java), local Police Chief Anthony Augustine Koylal said. “The motive is not yet known. We are still investigating the case with local authorities,” he added,

Police sources said the attack occurred late at night when a group of people stormed the building. After breaking windows and doors, they set fire to the building, which was razed to the ground. The attackers fled the scene when the house began burning.

The police chief also said that a similar incident occurred two years ago in the same area.

Local sources said that the main reason for the attack was the objection by local Muslims to the presence of a praying house for Christians near their villages.

So far, the authorities conducted out a cursory inquiry into the facts. No one who might have information on what happened has been interrogated.

This attack is just the latest in a long series of aggressions against Christians in Indonesia.

The most recent one dates back to less than two weeks ago. On 18 December in Begasi Regency, a mob of about a thousand people, including women and children, attacked Saint Albert’s Catholic Church.

Construction on the building started in 2008 after authorities issued a building permit to the local Catholic community. In this case, the reasons for the attack remain unknown.

However, there are signs of confessional détente in the village of Karangayar, Wiradesa district, also in Java.

On Christmas Day, District Chief Hajjah Siti Khomariyah paid a visit to the local Protestant and Catholic communities to deliever her Christmas greetings.

Ms Khomariyah expressed her personal support for local Christians who want to build their own places of worship.

“This official visit strengthens good relations between Christians and Muslims,” said Father Mardius from Wiradesa district, in what for him is a rare example of interfaith dialogue and good relations between Christians and Muslims.

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

Far East


Iran Subs Get Boost From North Korea

U.S. Navy confirms rogue nation working on underwater stealth technology

The U.S. Navy, worried by Iran’s increasing underwater capability, has revealed for the first time that the rogue nation has acquired its submarine technology largely from North Korea, which has provided both mini-submarines and manufacturing know-how, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The revelation comes as the Office of Naval Intelligence, or ONI, recently released its latest report on Iran’s conventional navy, with the observation that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, is working on programs to achieve an underwater stealth capability.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Vietnamese Bishop: Government Permitted Christmas Celebrations for First Time

A Vietnamese bishop is reporting that the government for the first time has permitted the free celebration of Christmas in three northwestern provinces. “I am very happy that local Catholics have the freedom to celebrate Christmas this year,” said Bishop Antoine Vu Huy Chuong of Hung Hoá, who ministers in an area of the nation where only 3.1% of residents are Catholic.

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Somali Arrested Last Month at Airport With Chemicals, Syringe

A man tried to board a commercial airliner in Mogadishu last month carrying powdered chemicals, liquid and a syringe that could have caused an explosion in a case bearing chilling similarities to the terrorist plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner, officials told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The Somali man — whose name has not yet been released — was arrested by African Union peacekeeping troops before the Nov. 13 Daallo Airlines flight took off. It had been scheduled to travel from Mogadishu to the northern Somali city of Hargeisa, then to Djibouti and Dubai. A Somali police spokesman, Abdulahi Hassan Barise, said the suspect is in Somali custody.

“We don’t know whether he’s linked with al-Qaida or other foreign organizations, but his actions were the acts of a terrorist. We caught him red-handed,” said Barise.

A Nairobi-based diplomat said the incident in Somalia is similar to the attempted attack on the Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day in that the Somali man had a syringe, a bag of powdered chemicals and liquid — tools similar to those used in the Detroit attack. The diplomat spoke on condition he not be identified because he isn’t authorized to release the information.

Barigye Bahoku, the spokesman for the African Union military force in Mogadishu, said the chemicals from the Somali suspect could have caused an explosion that would have caused air decompression inside the plane. However, Bahoku said he doesn’t believe an explosion would have brought the plane down.

A second international official familiar with the incident, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to discuss the case, confirmed that the substances carried by the Somali passenger could have been used as an explosive device.

In the Detroit case, alleged attacker Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab hid explosive PETN in a condom or condom-like bag just below his torso when he traveled from Amsterdam to Detroit. Like the captured Somali, Abdulmutallab also had a syringe filled with liquid. The substances seized from the Somali passenger are being tested.

The November incident garnered little attention before the Dec. 25 attack aboard a flight on final approach to Detroit. US officials have now learned of the Somali case and are hastening to investigate any possible links between it and the Detroit attack, though no officials would speak on the record about the probe.

US investigators said Abdulmutallab told them he received training and instructions from al-Qaida operatives in Yemen — which lies across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. Similarly, large swaths of Somalia are controlled by an insurgent group, al-Shabab, which has ties to al-Qaida.

Western officials say many of the hundreds of foreign jihadi fighters in Somalia come in small boats across the Gulf of Aden from Yemen. The officials also say that examination of equipment used in some Somali suicide attacks leads them to believe it was originally assembled in Yemen.

Law enforcement officials believe the suspect in the Detroit incident tried to ignite a two-part concoction of the high explosive PETN and possibly a glycol-based liquid explosive, setting off popping, smoke and some fire but no deadly detonation. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, is charged with trying to destroy an aircraft.

A Somali security official involved in the capture of the suspect in Mogadishu said he had a 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) package of chemical powder and a container of liquid chemicals. The security official said the suspect was the last passenger to try to board.

Once security officials detected the powder chemicals and syringe, the suspect tried to bribe the security team that detained him, the Somali security official said. The security official said the suspect had a white shampoo bottle with a black acid-like substance in it. He also had a clear plastic bag with a light green chalky substance and a syringe containing a green liquid. The security official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to release the information.

The powdered material had the strong scent of ammonia, Bahoku said, and samples have been sent to London for testing.

The Somali security officials said the Daallo Airlines flight was scheduled to go from Mogadishu to Hargeisa, to Djibouti and then to Dubai.

A spokeswoman for Daallo Airlines said that company officials weren’t aware of the incident and would have to seek more information before commenting. Daallo Airlines is based in Dubai and has offices in Djibouti and France.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Immigration


UK: Margaret Thatcher Complained About Asian Immigration to Britain

Margaret Thatcher thought it was “quite wrong” for immigrants to get council houses ahead of “white citizens”, previously unpublished government papers show.

[…]

“People are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture,” she told World In Action.

“If we do not want people to go to extremes we ourselves must talk about this problem and we must show that we are prepared to deal with it,” she added. “We are not in politics to ignore people’s worries. We are in politics to deal with them.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Burqa Don’t You Come Around Here Anymore

Our expatriate Dutch correspondent H. Numan sends this report about a recent racist xenophobic incident in the Netherlands:

Doctor refuses burqa wearing mother

Burka Free ZoneA 23-year-old Muslim mother wearing a burqa will sue a doctor in the medical court, for being refused entrance on Christmas by a physician. Her child was treated anyway, but the doctor refused her presence during the child’s examination because she was wearing a burqa. This offended the mother, so she filed two complaints: one in the medical court and one with the anti-discrimination board (Commissie Gelijke Behandeling)

Exhausted

According to the Muslim mother, who came to the doctor to have her sick son treated, the doctor refused help because she wore a burqa. Later the doctor responded that his reaction was because he was exhausted. He didn’t refuse to help the child, it was the presence of the mother that mattered to him. The father was present during the examination.

However, the burqa mama was furious, and will go to court. The medical post regrets the incident, and is investigating the matter.

Humiliated

The woman got quality ranting time in Het Algemeen Dagblad. “Humiliated, spat upon, immensely sad”: so she describes this seemingly horrible experience. “I can’t really believe someone refuses me because of my physical appearance,” said the Muslima.

Sources: Elsevier and AD.nl.

H. Numan adds these comments:

People, we are now in a new phase of the ongoing jihad: this time we won’t chop off heads, but we’ll show them what we can do in their courts. Those dhimmis have to know their place. Why blow yourself up, if you can humiliate them and make them pay in their own courts, no less?

Why do Muslim women wear scarves, head cloths, or complete tents? Because they want to show they are proper women who do not want to be serviced by any other men apart from their owner. Dhimmis (that is, you and I, who are do not follow Mohammedanism) should respect women dressed like that. But then again: they should not. Pending the (hidden) woman’s pleasures. In this case the doctor should have allowed the woman’s presence during the examination.

In other cases doctors have been physically molested or at least threatened by the rightful owners of such women, for possibly indecent behavior. The presence of a male not married or family related to the property in question is taken as indecent behavior.

In this case, the doctor behaved in as politically correct a fashion as one might expect: he admitted the child and his father. He didn’t admit the mother, as this very likely would be taken as indecent behavior. Unfortunately the woman, and probably her owner as well, had different ideas. In America one might call this “lawsuit happy”.

- – - - – - – - -

This case is not unique. A few months ago a fundy Mohammedan wannabe lawyer Mohammed Enait created a stir by refusing to stand up when the court adjourns or remove his woolen cap. According to him, this was in accordance with his religious beliefs. Everybody in Mohammedanism is equal, so he doesn’t have to show his respect for a judge by standing up. His woolen cap was worn by the great Mohammed (VSOP) himself, and that was enough reason. The court didn’t agree, and had this case judged by an internal court for lawyers and judges. Enait lost. In appeal, Enait won. Ignorance and cowardice won.

Now, I’m not an expert on Mohammedanism. Neither am I an expert on manure but all the same it stinks to me. If a woman wears a scarf, a veil, or a complete tent, that is to me a sign she does not want to interact in any way with a male not owning her. Such a male is not supposed to talk to her, touch her, or merely be unchaperoned in her presence. She herself is supposed to refrain from interacting with males not owning her. That is clearly written in the Koran. Punishment ranges from being beaten to pulp by the owner up to stoning the culprit.

I don’t see how wearing a burqa or a scarf in any way helps integration. Other than slowly training dhimmis to respond with correct behavior. How can a woman dressed in a burqa get a job? Theologically, she can’t even work in a supermarket cleaning the aisles.

With regard to this Mohammedan lawyer, he has even less legal ground. If there is one society where social differences are gigantic, it is within Mohammedan societies. All the cowardly ignorant judges had to do was look at court proceedings in Mohammedan countries. Are lawyers allowed to sit there? No. Are they allowed to wear knitted caps? Again, no. In other words, this wannabe lawyer should have been thrown out of court together with his case. Not that it matters what is allowed in Mohammedan countries. In Iran people are hanged for being gay. Is that a reason for a Dutch court to allow hangings too?

What we see now is a different way to enforce Mohammedanism upon our society. By (ab)using the courts to their advantage.

What Would Israel Do?

***UPDATE***

A former El Al Security head talks about their procedures:



Joshua Pundit posted a Tweet from Bill Maher:

“Guys, I can tell u what to do about this security thing: just ask ‘what wld Israel do?’ and do that.”

To which J.P. responded:

Unfortunately Bill, your friend Barack Obama would never do that in a million years. He’d rather you keep risking your life than take a chance of offending Muslim sensibilities.

As I’ve mentioned before, the very idea of kufar breathing in and out “offends Muslim sensibilities” which are paper thin, spread everywhere, and as easily messed up as anything made in China. In fact, you have as much chance of avoiding their offended responses as you do finding something not made in China.

Still, the advice is sound, no matter that Obama will never even consider consulting the most successful air counterterrorism that the West has managed to produce. The difference between Israel and the dilettantes of the West is that the Israelis are determined to survive. Or at least they are determined that their demise will not be due to the actions of a bunch of homicidal maniacs dressed up in doctrinal disguise. The West, meanwhile, lives to avoid offending people: a sure recipe for cultural suicide.

I wish we had just a few of the Israeli techniques for ferreting out the dangerous and deluded.
- – - - – - – - -
For example, they have people who are trained to read facial expressions down to the minute, fleeting micro level. Reading faces is a real art, but it can be taught to anyone who has enough native ability to pay close attention. The card dealers in Las Vegas have this skill developed in spades, so to speak. You can google something like microexpressions security training and get a general idea.

They also aren’t tied to some politically correct doctrine that prevents them from acting on the behalf of the safety of those flying on El Al. No crippled grandma hassling just to conform to p.c. guidelines. In fact, they don’t need p.c. guidelines, given the reality they’ve lived with for sixty years. During that same time frame, our reality has become more and more skewed by the Gramscians in charge of everything in our culture. Israel doesn’t have that spoiled-brat luxury; living with their backs to the wall, facing down the world, gives them an advantage in survival.

One advantage the Israelis have (which we won’t have until the financial Armageddon reduces the average individual income to the point that flying anywhere becomes a rare event) is the scale of their interventions. El Al and the other Israeli airlines are small; their passenger load is also. This advantage allows them to be more thorough. However, even if they had the numbers of people that the US does, if the same level of terror existed with a larger population, they’d find a useful work-around. Otherwise, Hamas et al would quickly reduce the Israeli population right back down to its present levels.

Our current situation is a joke, thanks to the reigning mantra of political correctness unto death. Yes, al Qaeda is enraged at what we did in Yemen and they’re determined to get some payback. The jockey shorts bomb didn’t work, so they’ll explore other avenues, all of them designed to make you feel “unsafe” and to disrupt your daily life. That’s the whole point, aside from mass slaughter: a culture-wide sense of insecurity.

Our response to September 11th was to create an incompetent bureaucracy devoted to informing us of our level of security. Notice that even the Twin Towers’ collapse and death could not change the overarching p.c. rules. Thus this “security” bureaucracy runs on the fumes of p.c. emanations from those on high.

To all TSA Personnel: Don’t rock the boat even if you rile the proles; don’t do clothing or personal searches with any common-sense rule of thumb. After all, we don’t pay you people enough to think, but we do give you enough power to enjoy flexing the occasional sadistic muscle. Feel free to let the Arabs walk on by while you go after the elderly, the businessman, the babies.

Actually, there is some sense in checking out the babies, but only in certain circumstances. I remember reading about El Al’s security checks one time and was impressed by its careful drill down to the essence of the matter. In this case, it was a young mother with a child. The security folks spent quite a bit of time on her, checking her bag, the baby and his belongings, etc. Something didn’t feel right. So they asked her about the baby’s father. Turns out he was a Palestinian and very proud of his baby son. They asked her who packed her bag. The baby’s father had; her loving boyfriend who couldn’t wait for her return.

That was enough right there. They slit the lining of her suitcase and found the explosive designed to detonate in mid-air. Loving boyfriend, indeed.

The story never said what happened to the young woman and baby. I hope she was smart enough to take her child and skedaddle. If “daddy” ever found her she’d have been toast.

A prediction: al Qaeda is annoyed, very annoyed, for the bombs in Yemen. While airplane explosions are dramatic, look for more ground-based work in the future. A public building or two. In fact, our Attorney General has given al Qaeda a golden opportunity by placing those Gitmo terrorists in New York City for their civilian trial. There will be angry demonstrators, many of them survivors of 9/11 or the families of those who didn’t survive.

But they won’t be the only ones demonstrating. There will be lots of angry Muslims, too, and those crowds will make a perfect cover for any jihadist who decides to leave this mortal coil whilst taking as many kufar as possible. How wonderful for them if they can manage to take some they didn’t get in 2001!

As for the Muslim slaughter when they detonate themselves in that crowd? Collateral damage. They all go to Paradise, ready or not.

Interpol: The International Enforcement Arm of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Andy McCarthy asks an important question about President Obama’s notorious order to grant immunity to agents of Interpol: “Why Does Interpol Need Immunity from American Law?”

Being constrained by the Fourth Amendment, FOIA, and other limitations of the Constitution and federal law that protect the liberty and privacy of Americans is what prevents law-enforcement and its controlling government authority from becoming tyrannical.

On Wednesday, however, for no apparent reason, President Obama issued an executive order removing the Reagan limitations. That is, Interpol’s property and assets are no longer subject to search and confiscation, and its archives are now considered inviolable. This international police force (whose U.S. headquarters is in the Justice Department in Washington) will be unrestrained by the U.S. Constitution and American law while it operates in the United States and affects both Americans and American interests outside the United States.

Interpol works closely with international tribunals (such as the International Criminal Court — which the United States has refused to join because of its sovereignty-surrendering provisions, though top Obama officials want us in it). It also works closely with foreign courts and law-enforcement authorities (such as those in Europe that are investigating former Bush administration officials for purported war crimes — i.e., for actions taken in America’s defense).

Why would we elevate an international police force above American law? Why would we immunize an international police force from the limitations that constrain the FBI and other American law-enforcement agencies?

Why, indeed?

Here’s one possible explanation: Interpol is acting as the international enforcement arm of the terrorist regime known as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Agents for the mullahs would not enjoy the esteem and confidence of the average American citizen (or law enforcement officer), so granting them immunity is a necessary step that will allow them to operate efficiently and effectively on American territory. The Obama administration has been doing its best to suck up to Tehran, and the immunization of Interpol looks to be part and parcel of the program.

According to The Local:

Iran Puts Ten Swedes on Interpol Wanted List

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Ten Swedes of Iranian descent are named on Interpol’s list of criminals wanted for terrorism and international organized crime.

The men, all of whom hail from Iran’s Kurdistan province, came to Sweden as political refugees twenty years ago, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports.

Despite being active critics of the Iranian regime for more than thirty years, the men’s names and pictures only recently appeared on Interpol’s list of wanted fugitives, following a request from Iran.

“I was obviously surprised that Interpol would simply describe us using the same words as the Iranian police. It seems very strange to me,” Khaled Haji Mohammadi, one of the men now labeled as a fugitive by Interpol, told The Local.

Mohammadi is one of twelve members of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran — Hekmatist whose names were posted on the Interpol list.

“I don’t know what sort of political or economic agreement Iran may have with Interpol, but it’s very surprising that Interpol would abide by the demands of a request from a regime that has executed so many of its critics.”

Mohammadi doesn’t deny he has long been critical of the Islamic regime in Iran, which he claims has imprisoned and killed many fellow activists in the years since he left the country to seek political asylum in Sweden.

“I’m used to being harassed and criticized by the Islamic regime in Iran,” he said.

But Interpol’s decision to agree to Iran’s request to list him and his colleagues as organized criminals and terrorists left him puzzled.

While Mohammadi has no plans to back down from supporting human and workers’ rights in Iran, he remains concerned that by enlisting a respected international policing body, Iran may add legitimacy to its claims.

“Obviously it’s a problem because it’s Interpol,” he said.

“No one cares what Iran says, but if it’s on Interpol, that’s something different.”

Mohammadi has long been in the crosshairs of the Iranian authorities, having supported a number of pro-human rights campaigns over the years, most recently spearheading a campaign to support student demonstrators who clashed with authorities in 2007.

He suspects that the regime in Iran, under mounting pressure from demonstrators within the country, sees Interpol warrants as a new avenue for silencing its critics.

“One way they think they can stop demonstrations in Iran is to target well known activists,” Mohammadi explained.

“If the Iranian regime succeeds in doing something against such popular rights activists, then perhaps the people fighting for freedom in Iran will get scared.”

He also wondered why Iran chose him and his colleagues to appear on Interpol’s wanted list.

“I’m not exactly sure why they chose us here in Sweden. There are critics of the regime in Iran in a number of western countries,” he said.

“I guess they had to start somewhere.”

If Iran succeeds in extraditing any of the men currently listed on Interpol’s list, Mohammadi fears it may embolden the regime to put more names up the list.

“At this point, Interpol is responsible for what happens next,” he said, adding that he remains skeptical that any extraditions will actually take place

“I think people and authorities around the world are smarter than that,” he said.

So far Swedish authorities have not acted on the warrants.

According to chief public prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand, simply issuing a warrant isn’t enough to justify launching an investigation, explaining that his office would only get involved if Swedish police believe the country issuing the warrant has enough evidence to prove the case is worth pursuing.

“Then we’ll see what the Iranians want. It’s usually the case that to get people extradited to sue them, or in a request for legal assistance, that we question the people involved and so on,” he told DN.

Arezo Julie Jacobsson, a lawyer leading efforts to help Mohammadi and his colleagues clear their names, also believed Iran’s decision to issue warrants was a scare tactic meant to silence its critics.

She too was critical of Interpol for publishing the men’s names at Iran’s request and vowed to explore all available legal options to have the names removed.

“They feel offended and want to do everything they can to fix this,” she told DN.

Mohammadi said it would likely “take some time” but is hopeful his name will eventually be removed from the Interpol wanted list.

In the meantime, he has no plans for cutting back on his efforts supporting Iranian activists fighting for their rights.

“I’ve been active and will continue to be active defending human rights in Iran,” he said.

In an open letter to Interpol dated December 21st, the Worker-Communist Party of Iran — Hekmatist said it was shocked by the inclusion on Interpol’s list of members who were “all veteran and popular political activists and respected figures within the Iranian opposition movement.

“They are all recognised political refugees and are engaged in open, public and transparent political activities against the Iranian government. […] We believe you should remove this list and your call immediately,” the party wrote.



Hat tips: Diana West, C. Cantoni.

Countdown to the Wilders Trial

Free Geert banner


Three weeks from today, Geert Wilders will go on trial in Amsterdam for defaming Islam.

From the point of view of the Counterjihad, this is the trial of the century. No matter which way the case is decided, the outcome will profoundly influence the struggle against Islamization over the entire continent of Europe, and even across the rest of the Western world.

Our Flemish correspondent VH has dug through the official material available online and prepared a translated package of relevant information for media people and other interested parties who might want to attend Mr. Wilders’ trial.

Important points to note are:

  • Spectator seating is be quite limited, and will be made available on a first-come-first-served basis.
  • Press seating is limited, and will be assigned in advance, one representative per outlet.
  • Press must be accredited in advance.
  • No video recording, audio recording, or photography will be permitted except by the state broadcasting service.

I recommend that bloggers and forum administrators cover this trial in depth, because Mr. Wilders can expect no favorable coverage whatsoever in the major media. If prior experience is any indication, everything possible will be done to use carefully selected sound-bites and biased reporting to paint the accused as a “racist” and a “neo-Nazi”.

Wilders court case preparations / Press info

Consideration of objection to subpoena

On Wednesday, January 13, 2010 the Amsterdam court will deal with the appeal against the summons to Mr. Wilders. He takes the view that he should not have to be summoned by the Public Prosecutor [OM, “Openbaar Ministerie”] for the facts that are charged against him. The law states that the treatment of such objection must be made behind closed doors, therefore this session is not open to the press and public.

If the objection to the subpoena is declared inadmissible or unfounded, then a directional hearing will follow on Wednesday, January 20, 2010. That session will start at 09.00 hours and takes place in the Amsterdam court, Parnassusweg 220, Tower E [“Toren E”].

Map

If the objection to the subpoena is (or is in part) upheld, then by law the Amsterdam Court will have to give an opinion as soon as possible on the decision of the court. It is then uncertain whether the directional hearing will continue on January 20.

Services open to the public during directional meeting [regiezitting]

The public can follow the hearing in court on January 20 via a direct video link to the courtroom. There are 100 places available. It is not possible to make reservations. Those who arrive first will be allowed in first, until the number of seats available are taken. Everyone will be searched at the entrance for safety and they should be able to identify themselves [passport]. The courtroom will open at 08.00 hours in the morning.

It is prohibited to film, take photographs, and make sound recordings inside the courthouse. The directional hearing will be entirely recorded by the NOS.

Press services accreditation scheme

- – - - – - – - -

For journalists there are a limited number of places available in the courtroom. The media will therefore get one seat for one representative assigned to each, but only if accredited with the presentation of a valid press card.

One must report before Tuesday, January 12, 2010, 12:00 am via e-mail or by means of the attached accreditation form [pdf].

On Friday afternoon January 15 at around 15.00, the department of Communication will announce which media are accredited.

The press room at the court at the Parnassusweg is available as workspace for the accredited press; there is a direct audio connection to the courtroom.

Services for audiovisual media during and after hearing

If the directional hearing is held on the 20th, then the NOS [National Public Broadcaster] will arrange the pool assignments on January 20, 2010. The entire session may then be recorded. Representatives of radio and television can contact the production department of the NOS — tel: +31 (0)35 677 8052.

After the session the accredited radio and television reporters may arrange interviews in court. NOTE: The personal information of the camera and soundman should therefore be enlisted on the accreditation form.

Information

For further information you can contact the Department of Information and Communication of the Amsterdam Court: +31 (0)20 541 2882.

E-mail: [email protected]

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/29/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/29/2009President Obama has acknowledged that there was a catastrophic US intelligence failure that allowed the Nigerian lap bomber to board Flight 253 on Christmas without triggering any warning bells. The CIA possessed information that Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab might pose a terrorist threat, but the information was not shared with other agencies, including those that compile the “no-fly” list.

News about Mutallab continues to emerge from the UK. University College London, where Mutallab studied while living in his parents’ opulent flat, was repeatedly criticized for allowing radical Islamic speakers onto its campus. There is speculation that Mutallab was radicalized and started down the path to jihad while at the University.

In other news, the Austrian Women’s Minister says that she is considering imposing a ban on the public wearing of burkas and other full-body coverings.

The most sensational news of the day comes from Denmark, where a Politiken editorial proclaims that Obama is “greater than Jesus”. This is in Denmark, mind you — surely hell must have frozen over! The Vikings have evidently been drinking the kool-aid instead of Carlsberg.

Thanks to Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, CSP, ESW, Gaia, GB, Insubria, JD, Paul Green, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

USA
Awlaki Personally Blessed Detroit Attack
Frank Gaffney in Newsmax: Freeze Gitmo Now
Imposing Sharia in America: Somali Muslims “Out for Blood” At Minnesota High School
Obama Gives Foreign Cops New Police Powers in U.S.
Obama: U.S. Intel Had Info Ahead of Airliner Attack
US Group to Protest Terrorism in Name of Islam
 
Canada
Family Flees ‘Horrific’ Abuse
 
Europe and the EU
Austria: Murder at Lebanese Ambassador’s Villa
Austria: Women’s Minister Considering Burka Ban
Christmas: CAI: Made in Italy Toasts Increase 3.2% From 2008
Czech Wounds Still Open, Communists Face a Ban
Denmark: Editorial: Obama Greater Than Jesus
Detroit Terror Attack: British University ‘Complicit’ In Radicalisation
Finland: Olympic Hero Arrested Over Christmas Day Assault on Wife
Italian Bubbly Exports to USA Overtake French Champagne
Netherlands: New Period of Snow and Ice is Forecast
Polanski Thanks Supporters
Swiss Help Put Palestinian Produce on the Table
Turkish Tycoon’s School Opens in French Banlieue
UK: Detroit Terror Attack: A Murderous Ideology Tolerated for Too Long
UK: Jan Moir Talks to Baron Pearson of Rannoch, The Gloriously Eccentric and Accident-Prone New Head of UKIP
UK: Police Hunt Motorist Who Blew Up Speed Camera With a Bomb
UK: Revealed: Muslim Bomb Plot Gang’s Links to ‘Mega-Mosque’ In East London
 
Balkans
Serbia: IMF Approves 350 Mln Euro Loan
 
North Africa
Detained Swiss in Libya Hampered by Legal Fog
Egyptian Opposition Requests Netanyahu’s Arrest
Morocco: More Tourists But Fewer Overnight Stays
Morocco: Five Foreign Evangelists Expelled
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Hamas’s Rhetoric of Resistance Masks New Stance a Year After Gaza War
Mordechai Vanunu Arrested Again
Study Says Economy in Few Hands, Threat to Democracy
UK Govt Allocates 50mln Pounds for Palestinians
 
Middle East
Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Attempted Bombing of U.S. Plane
Is Regime Change Coming to Iran? — An Interview With Amil Imani
Lebanon: Anti-Aircraft Fire on Israeli Jets
Nuclear: Paris Disappointed, Loss of Abu Dhabi Mega-Contract
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Two Italian Soldiers Shot
 
Far East
China Set to Execute Briton Many Say is Unstable
North Korea Link to Detroit Attack Investigated
Switzerland Joins Protests Against China
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Mauritania: Al-Qaeda Claims Kidnap of Italians
Nigerian Muslims Fear Witch Hunt

USA


Awlaki Personally Blessed Detroit Attack

The Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner had his suicide mission personally blessed in Yemen by Anwar al-Awlaki, the same Muslim imam suspected of radicalizing the Fort Hood shooting suspect, a U.S. intelligence source has told The Washington Times.

The intelligence official, who is familiar with the FBI’s interrogation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, said the bombing suspect has boasted of his jihad training during interrogation by the FBI and has said it included final exhortations by Mr. al-Awlaki.

“It was Awlaki who indoctrinated him,” the official said. “He was told, ‘You are going to be the tip of the spear of the Muslim nation.’“

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took credit Monday for the Christmas Day attack on Northwest Airlines 253, an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight. The al Qaeda group and U.S. officials both say Mr. Abdulmutallab was able to smuggle explosive powder in his underwear and only a detonator failure prevented him from blowing up the plane and killing almost 300 passengers and crew.

Mr. al-Awlaki, an American-born imam who formerly led a large Northern Virginia mosque but now lives in Yemen, has gained considerable public notoriety in recent months because of his influence on Maj. Nidal Hasan, another U.S.-born Muslim.

Mr. al-Awlaki had e-mail contact with Maj. Hasan as many as 20 times from December 2008 until the Fort Hood shootings, where Maj. Hasan is accused of killing 13 people. Mr. al-Awlaki praised Maj. Hasan’s actions as a “hero” and said all Muslims in the U.S. military should “follow the footsteps of men like Nidal.”

Several British news sources, including Sky News and the Daily Mail, have reported, in vague terms, that authorities suspect unspecified links between Mr. Abdulmutallab and Mr. al-Awlaki. Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has said an al-Awlaki/Abdulmutallab link “appears” to be the case.

“It appears that just like with Major Hasan, Awlaki played a role in this,” he told ABC News. “All roads point back to Yemen; they point back to Awlaki. I think it is a pretty deadly combination.”

According to the U.S. intelligence official, Mr. Abdulmutallab cited Maj. Hasan in his interrogations, but only to praise his religion’s diversity, as “an example of how Islam accepts even American soldiers.”

Mr. Abdulmutallab did not show any operational knowledge of the Army major or the Fort Hood attack.

In his FBI interrogation, according to the U.S. intelligence official, Mr. Abdulmutallab spoke of being in a room in Yemen receiving Muslim blessings and prayers from Mr. al-Awlaki, along with a number of other men “all covered up in white martyrs’ garments,” and known only by code names and “abu” honorifics.

The official said such clothing and the lack of familiarity among the men suggests al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula intends to use the men in that room in suicide missions.

The intelligence official’s description comes in the wake of several reports that Yemen is breeding scores of jihadists ready to strike the West.

Yemen’s top diplomat said Tuesday that hundreds of al Qaeda militants are in his country and pleaded for foreign help and intelligence in rooting them out.

They may actually plan attacks like the one we have just had in Detroit. There are maybe hundreds of them — 200, 300, Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi told the Times of London

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]



Frank Gaffney in Newsmax: Freeze Gitmo Now

ABC News reports that “Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al-Qaida plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007, according to American officials and Department of Defense documents.”

If true, any further action to close the state-of-the-art detention facility popularly known as Gitmo and transfer its occupants elsewhere — particularly to Yemen — must be suspended at once. Should President Obama fail to do so, such direction must be adopted by Congress, possibly followed with a resolution of impeachment.

According to Defense Department records cited by ABC, these two terrorists were Saudi nationals, Muhamad Attik al-Harbi (Guantanamo prisoner #333) and Said Ali Shari (prisoner #372). They were released from Gitmo on November 9, 2007 by the George W. Bush administration and sent to Saudi Arabia, “where they entered into an ‘art therapy rehabilitation program.’“ Afterwards, according to U.S. and Saudi officials, “they were set free.”

Al-Harbi subsequently changed his name to Muhamad al-Awfi. ABC reported: “Both Saudi nationals have since emerged in leadership roles in Yemen, according to U.S. officials and the men’s own statements on al Qaeda propaganda tapes…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]



Imposing Sharia in America: Somali Muslims “Out for Blood” At Minnesota High School

This is sharia. Do not insult Islam. Non-believers forced to live in dhimmitude. This is not racial. This is Islamic supremacism. And this type of takbir is a terrible trend: Muslim Gangs Get Foothold in Minnesota.

[…]

This is not just in Minnesota. Look at Somali Muslims in Maine: Muslim Youths Wilding in Maine.

[Comments from JD: Atlas has all the links and more details.]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama Gives Foreign Cops New Police Powers in U.S.

Sovereignty apparently set aside as agency exempted from law

A little-discussed executive order from President Obama giving foreign cops new police powers in the United States by exempting them from such drudgery as compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is raising alarm among commentators who say INTERPOL already had most of the same privileges as diplomats.

At David Horowitz’s Newsreal, Michael van der Galien said the issue is Obama’s expansion of President Ronald Reagan’s order from 1983 that originally granted those diplomatic privileges.

Reagan’s order carried certain exemptions requiring that INTERPOL operations be subject to several U.S. laws such as the Freedom of Information Act. Obama, however, removed those restrictions in his Dec. 16 amendment to Executive Order 12425.

That means, van der Galien wrote today, “this foreign law enforcement organization can operate free of an important safeguard against government and abuse.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Obama: U.S. Intel Had Info Ahead of Airliner Attack

President Obama said Tuesday that a “systemic failure” on multiple levels allowed a passenger armed with explosives to board a Detroit-bound flight last week.

The U.S. government had intelligence from Yemen before Christmas that leaders of a branch of Al Qaeda there were talking about “a Nigerian” being prepared for a terrorist attack, the New York Times reported Tuesday. The newspaper said the information did not include the name of the Nigerian.

A senior official told the Times that President Obama was told in a private meeting Tuesday while vacationing in Hawaii that the government had a variety of information in its possession before the thwarted bombing on a Detroit-bound flight last week that would have been a clear warning sign had it been shared among intelligence agencies.

Sources said the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, spent time in Yemen and may have been groomed for the mission. The suspect was on a terror database of more than a half-million people. He also reportedly paid for his airline ticket in cash and brought no check-in baggage with him. He ultimately cleared security at Amsterdam but the explosive mixture failed to properly detonate.

Abdulmutallab has since been charged in connection with the failed plot.

The president had acknowledged Tuesday that a “systemic failure” on multiple levels allowed a passenger armed with explosives to board the flight, amid growing evidence of missed warning signs.

related links

TSA Looks to Expand Use of Full-Body Scanners at U.S. Airports

Terror Plot Provides Snapshot of Struggle Between Security, Privacy

The president, in his most extensive comments so far on what went wrong in the security process, said information about the terror suspect was not properly shared among agencies. He said that information, particularly a warning to authorities from the 23-year-old suspect’s father in Nigeria, should have landed him on a no-fly list well before he boarded the Northwest Airlines flight in Amsterdam.

“The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America,” Obama said. “A systemic failure has occurred, and I consider that totally unacceptable.”

Senior U.S. officials told The Associated Press that intelligence authorities are now looking at conversations between the suspect in the failed attack and at least one Al Qaeda member. They did not say how these communications with the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, took place — by Internet, cell phone or another method.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the conversations were vague or coded, but the intelligence community believes that, in hindsight, the communications may have been referring to the Detroit attack. One official said a link between the suspect’s planning and Al Qaeda’s goals was becoming more clear.

Obama said a mix of “human and systemic failures” contributed to what could have been a “catastrophic breach of security.”

A senior administration official, speaking with reporters on condition of anonymity, said enough was known about the suspect to stop him, but the government didn’t connect the dots.

“It is now clear to us that there were bits and pieces of information that were in the possession of the U.S. government in advance of the Christmas Day attack — the attempted Christmas Day attack — that had they been assessed and correlated could have led to a much broader picture and allowed us to disrupt the attack,” the official said.

The CIA also acknowledged that it had Abdulmutallab on its radar.

“We learned of Abdulmutallab in November, when his father came to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria and sought help in finding him,” Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman said Tuesday. “We did not have his name before then. Also in November, we worked with the embassy to ensure he was in the government’s terrorist database — including mention of his possible extremist connections in Yemen. We also forwarded key biographical information about him to the National Counterterrorism Center.

“This agency, like others in our government, is reviewing all data to which it had access, not just what we ourselves may have collected, to determine if more could have been done to stop Abdulmutallab.”

The suspect was not on the “no-fly” list or a separate list that would have required secondary screening at an airport.

Obama said there were several “deficiencies” in the intelligence-gathering process, and that information about the suspect “could have and should have been pieced together.”

“It’s becoming clear that the system that’s been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have,” Obama said.

The comments come as the administration launches a review of airport screening and the terror watch list system. The president said a preliminary review is due to him by Thursday.

“We need to learn from this episode and act quickly to fix the flaws in our system because our security is at stake and lives are at stake,” he said.

[Return to headlines]



US Group to Protest Terrorism in Name of Islam

A Detroit-based American attorney told Al Arabiya on Tuesday he is organizing a peaceful protest against terrorism in the name of Islam on the day the U.S. District Court has scheduled a hearing for the Nigerian who attempted to blow up a Delta airlines flight.

“For eight or nine years Muslims are attacked by the media and by terrorists who pretend to represent us. It is time we take a stand and show Islam is not an evil religion, it is a religion of peace. Those who would commit terrorism do not represent Islam,” Majed Moughni, organizer of the Dearborn Area Community Members, told Al Arabiya.

The Detroit bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, is accused of trying to attack Northwest Airlines flight 253 en route to Detroit Metro Airport on Christmas Day, by attempting to detonate an explosive device on board. He claimed he was acting on al-Qaeda orders.

Moughni’s Facebook group, the Dearborn Area Community Members, called for local Muslims and other citizens to join the protest and take a strong stand against Abdulmutallab’s actions.

One post read: “Please bring your signs, and American flags: theme: “NOT IN THE NAME OF ISLAM.”

Support

The group’s motto is to “provide a network of support for a stronger country, one community at a time,” and it seems to be working as both Muslim and non-Muslims posted comments showing their support for the Muslim community.

One member wrote; “Marhaban! I am not Muslim(…), but I attend the University of Michigan-Dearborn and definitely understand that Islam is not about anything this terrorist has done. I hope this protest can show the rest of the world and help them understand.”

Other members showed enthusiastic support for Moughni’s protest.

“It is time for American Muslims to stand up and protest against all the violence and actions taken by people who pretend to be Muslims. Islam is about peace, love and faith not about violence, terrorism and destruction,”stated another post.

So far the group has 380 members, a number that Moughni says is continuously increasing with media attention.

“We hope to have thousands of people at the protest,” the Dearborn attorney said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Canada


Family Flees ‘Horrific’ Abuse

Given asylum in Canada after couple’s daughter was raped as toddler in Pakistan

A seven-year-old Pakistani girl and her family have been given asylum in Canada after reports the child was raped and left to die when her Christian father refused to convert to Islam.

The identities of Baby Neeha and her family are being protected by immigration officials, said human rights lawyer Chantal Desloges and One Free World International, a church that was instrumental in getting the family here.

The family arrived in Canada on Dec. 12 after a three-year battle by organizers to spirit them out of danger in Pakistan.

They are living in the Mississauga area and will be visited next month by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who was so touched by the family’s plight that he doled out a ministerial permit, of which he has only issued two.

Church founder Rev. Majed El Shafie said the family of seven have been hiding from extremists in Pakistan for about three years.

Baby Neeha, at the age of 21/2, was raped by the son of her father’s employer and left to die by the roadside, he said. No one was arrested for the crime.

“These horrific events took place because her father, who was Christian, refused to give in to pressure from his Muslim employer to convert to Islam,” El Shafie said.

The family went underground in Pakistan to hide from Muslim extremists who were seeking revenge for their non-conversion, he said.

“The family has lived for years in hiding and in constant fear of being discovered by the employer’s family or Islamic extremists,” El Shafie said. “We are thrilled that she’s finally in Canada.”

Organizers said the case touched Kenney who decided to help the family.

“This case truly broke his heart and he (Kenney) considers himself lucky to have it within his powers to intervene,” Kenney’s spokesman Alykhan Velshi said yesterday. “Fortunately, they are now safely in Canada.”

Kenney found out about the family’s plight six months ago, Velshi said.

“He personally issued a special ministerial permit,” he said. “There were significant difficulties in getting them out of Pakistan.”

The family can now apply for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, Velshi said.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Austria: Murder at Lebanese Ambassador’s Villa

Police have launched a murder investigation after a woman was found stabbed in the Lebanese Ambassador’s private residence in Vienna.

Vienna police said the dead body of Ishaya El-Khoury’s 30-year-old Philippine housekeeper was found in the cellar of the Ambassador’s villa in Gymnasiumstraße in Vienna-Währing by his chef at around 10am this morning (Tues).

Speaking to the Austrian Times, an Embassy official said El-Khoury was not in Vienna and declined to say when he would return.

           — Hat tip: ESW [Return to headlines]



Austria: Women’s Minister Considering Burka Ban

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Women’s Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek said in several media interviews today (Weds) she supported a ban on burkas or garments covering women’s bodies entirely.

She added, however, there was not problem in Austria but, if one developed, she would ban burkas in public places to see if a ban would work.

“I consider the burka as a sign of the submission of women. It greatly hinders women from finding jobs in the labour market. If more women wearing burkas appear in Austria, I will test a ban on them and enact administrative fines for women wearing them in public buildings,” she said.

As for head scarves, the minister said it was up to women to decide whether to wear them even if they were also a sign of the submission of women to men.

She added that Islam was a danger to women’s rights when it led to “politically fundamentalist-oriented policies” such as the mandatory wearing of burkas.

The SPÖ had protested when People’s Party Science Minister Johannes Hahn suggested a ban on burkas last year.

Support of a ban on burkas has been growing in Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland.

           — Hat tip: ESW [Return to headlines]



Christmas: CAI: Made in Italy Toasts Increase 3.2% From 2008

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 21 — The Christmas holidays are good news for the production of Italian bubbly wines: this year more toasts will be made, and more of them will be “made in Italy”. Counting Christmas, New Year and the Epiphany, some 90 ‘spumante’ corks will be popped, representing a 3.2% increase in quantity and a 2.4% increase in expenditure (820 million euros) compared to last year. The statement was made by CAI (the confederation of Italian farmers), which added that “the success is given by the great price to quality ratio”. CIA claimed that 7 out of 10 bottles on Italian tables will be of Italian spumante, especially the sweet one (57%, followed by dry, brut and champagne), and that from early December to the Epiphany some 112 million Italian bottles will be consumed along with 5.5 million foreign ones. Then again this success does not stop at the Italian borders: Italy, with more than 172 million bottles is, according to estimates provided by the forum of Italian spumanti, the worlds second largest exporter of bubbly, following France which exports 196.5 million bottles. CIA believes that Italian spumante, especially appreciated in Germany and the USA, is rapidly gaining space to the detriment of the French”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Czech Wounds Still Open, Communists Face a Ban

Two decades after the Velvet Revolution overthrew Communist rule here in 1989, a group of Czech senators is pressing to ban the Communist Party, the only surviving one in the former Soviet bloc in Europe and, to its many critics, a national embarrassment and aberration.

“The Communists ruined this country and oppressed freedom and yet here they are 20 years later in our Parliament,” said David Cerny, the iconoclastic Czech artist, who in 1991 painted a Soviet tank pink, transforming a memorial to the liberation of Czechoslovakia by the Red Army in 1945 into the equivalent of a large toy. “It is a national disgrace. The Communists are endangering the country. The Czechs need to wake up.”

This month senators took the first step, petitioning the government to file a legal complaint with the Supreme Administrative Court, the country’s highest electoral authority, for suspension of the Communist Party’s activities.

[…]

Unlike the Communist parties in countries like Poland and Hungary, which transformed themselves after 1989 into more mainstream center-left parties, the Czech Communist Party has studiously avoided a comprehensive overhaul. Yet it is still flourishing and gained nearly 13 percent of the vote in the last parliamentary elections in 2006. Its supporters are mostly those fed up with politics as usual and regime nostalgics, many of them elderly pensioners, for whom life before 1989 seems better than life today.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Editorial: Obama Greater Than Jesus

The U.S. president — the practical saviour of our times

He is provocative in insisting on an outstretched hand, where others only see animosity.

His tangible results in the short time that he has been active — are few and far between. His greatest results have been created with words and speeches — words that remain in the consciousness of their audience and have long-term effects.

He comes from humble beginnings and defends the weak and vulnerable, because he can identify himself with their conditions.

And no we are not thinking of Jesus Christ, whose birthday has just been celebrated — – but rather the President of the United States Barack Hussein Obama.

For some time now, comparisons between the two have been a tool of cynical opinion that quickly became fatigued of the rapture that Obama instilled prior to and after the presidential election last year.

From the start, Obama’s critics have claimed that his supporters have idolised him as a saviour, thus attempting to dismantle the concrete hope that Obama has represented for most Americans.

The idea was naturally that the comparison between Jesus and Obama — which is something that the critics developed themselves — would be comical, blasphemous, or both.

If such a comparison were to be made, it would, of course, inevitably be to Obama’s advantage.

Today, his historic Health Reform is being passed through the American Senate — a welfare policy breakthrough that several of his predecessors have been unable to manage.

Despite all the compromises, it has finally been possible to ensure something so fundamental, as the right of every American not to be financially shipwrecked when their health fails them. Add to that the biggest ever financial support package in America’s history, a major disarmament agreement and the quickest-ever re-establishment of American reputation.

On the other hand, we have Jesus’ miracles that everyone still remembers, but which only benefitted a few. At the same time, we have the wonderful parables about his life and deeds that we know from the New Testament, but which have been interpreted so differently over the past 2000 years that it is impossible to give an unequivocal result of his work.

Obama is, of course, greater than Jesus — if we have to play that absurd Christmas game. But it is probably more meaningful to insist that with today’s domestic triumph, that he has already assured himself a place in the history books — a space he has good chances of expanding considerably in coming years.

Without, however, ever attaining the heavens….

[Return to headlines]



Detroit Terror Attack: British University ‘Complicit’ In Radicalisation

The London university where Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab studied has been accused of being “complicit” in the radicalisation of Muslim students.

University College London, where Abdulmutallab was recently president of the Islamic Society, has been criticised for “failing grotesquely” to prevent extremists from giving lectures on campus.

UCL has been heavily criticised in the past for its relaxed attitude to radical preachers, and security agencies are investigating whether it was there that Detroit bomber Abdulmutallab was recruited by al-Qaeda sympathisers.

As recently as last month, Abu Usama, who teaches that homosexuals and apostates should be killed, was due to speak at UCL until the university finally bowed to pressure and cancelled the event.

In 2007, when Abdulmutallab was still a student at UCL, the Islamic Society held a five-day series of lectures and seminars about the War on Terror which have been criticised as anti-Western propaganda. The lectures were advertised with a special five-minute video on YouTube.

Anthony Glees, professor of security and intelligence studies at the University of Buckingham, said UCL had no excuse for failing to root out extremism on campus.

He said: “I believe Abdulmutallab’s radicalisation from being a devoted Muslim to a suicide bomber took place in the UK and I believe al-Qaeda recruited him in London. Universities and colleges like UCL have got to realise that you don’t get suicide bombers unless they have first been radicalised.

“UCL boasts on its website that it has 8,000 staff for 22,000 students, which is an enviable staff/student ratio. What have they been doing?

“All British universities must look at their Islamic Societies and demand assurances that no radicalisation will be allowed. If they can’t give those assurances, they should be disbanded.”

UCL has confirmed that Abdulmutallab was president of its Islamic Society from 2006-07, but has insisted he “never gave his tutors any cause for concern”.

Douglas Murray, of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said: “UCL has not just failed to prevent students being radicalised, they have been complicit. If any other society at UCL invited someone to speak who encouraged killing homosexuals, that society would be banned immediately, but academics are afraid of taking action when it involves Islamic societies in case they are accused of Islamophobia.

“It’s time that Islamic societies on campus were treated like everyone else and by everyone else’s standards, and by everyone else’s standards they have failed grotesquely to clamp down on extremism.”

UCL is by no means the only British university to invite firebrand preachers to give talks. Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemen-based preacher who provided spiritual guidance to both Abdulmutallab and the Fort Hood assassin Nidal Malik Hasan, has given several talks at British campuses in the past and earlier this year a lecture by Abu Usama was allowed to go ahead at London’s City University.

Among the other terrorists who have graduated from British universities are former London School of Economics student Omar Sheikh, who beheaded the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, and former Kings College London students Asif Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif, who carried out a suicide bomb attack on a bar in Tel Aviv in 2003. Abdullah Ahmed Ali, the leader of the 2006 liquid bomb plot to blow up transatlantic airliners, was a graduate of City University in London.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]



Finland: Olympic Hero Arrested Over Christmas Day Assault on Wife

Finnish ski-jumper Matti Nykanen, 46, reportedly tried to stab sausage millionairess Mervi Tapola and strangle her with a bathrobe belt.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Italian Bubbly Exports to USA Overtake French Champagne

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28 — Exports of Italian sparkling wines to the United States this year overtook those of French champagne in volume and narrowed the gap in terms of value, according to the Italian Wine & Food Institute (IWFI).

The volume of spumante and prosecco exports in the first ten months of the year jumped by 13.4%, for a total of 137,810 hectoliters, compared to the same period in 2008, IWFI said.

The increase in the value of these exports was put at 7.6% to $87.66 million.

At the same time, exports of French Champagne dropped 27.8% in volume and 41.5% in value. However, the high price of the French wine kept the value of 2009 exports at $225 million, down from $384.77 million in 2008.

Despite the exploit by spumante and prosecco, the economic downturn cut into overall Italian wine exports to the USA which for the first ten months to the year fell 4.6% in volume, to 1.712 million hectoliters, and 14.9% in value, for a total $966.19 million.

Production of Italian bubbly also overtook that of champagne this year for the first time.

Italian vineyards are expected to yield 300 million bottles of bubbly this year against 260 million bottles of champagne, according to the Italian farmers’ union Coldiretti.

In 2008, for the first time ever, Italy exported more spumante and prosecco than it consumed.

The vast majority of Italian bubbly is made using the Charmat Method, as opposed to the traditional Champenoise Method.

The Charmat Method, invented in the early 1900s by Eugene Charmat, involves putting bubbles in wine by adding sugar to a sealed tank, letting a second fermentation take place and then transferring it to a bottle under pressure.

In the Champenoise Method, invented by the French monk Dom Perignon in 1640, the wine is fermented in the same bottle in which it will eventually be served.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: New Period of Snow and Ice is Forecast

The weather forecast for the coming two weeks indicates that Holland is in for another period of snow with temperatures dropping to as low as minus 15, report several newspapers on Tuesday.

And there is a warning that the freezing weather will once again result to chaos for rail travellers.

Rob Hageman, spokesman for rail management company ProRail, says that while the company will do its best to ensure trains run on schedule, he could not give any guarantees, reports the free newspaper Sp!ts on Tuesday.

According to the Terlegraaf, the northern province of Friesland is already speculating that the ice will be hard enough for the famous long distance ice skating marathon, the Elfstedentocht, to be held.

The weather office Meteoconsult says there is an 80% chance that people will be able to skate on natural ice as from next Sunday, reports the Telegraaf.

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



Polanski Thanks Supporters

Roman Polanski has thanked people who have sent messages of support during his battle to avoid extradition from Switzerland to the United States.

“These messages have come from my neighbours, from people all over Switzerland and from beyond Switzerland — from across the world,” the Oscar-winning film director wrote in an open letter published on the website of French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy.

Polanski, who holds dual French and Polish citizenship, was arrested at the request of US authorities when he flew into Switzerland on September 26 to receive a lifetime achievement award at a film festival.

“I would like every one of [those who sent messages] to know how heartening it is, when one is locked up in a cell, to hear this murmur of human voices and of solidarity in the morning mail,” he wrote.

The 76-year-old director is now under house arrest at his chalet in the ski resort of Gstaad, facing extradition to the US where he could be sentenced for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

He fled the country in 1978 on the eve of sentencing because he believed a judge might put him in jail for 50 years, despite a plea bargaining agreement.

The Swiss Justice Ministry has said it would decide next year whether to extradite the director, whose films include “The Pianist”, for which he won an Academy Award, “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Chinatown” and “Ruplusion”.

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



Swiss Help Put Palestinian Produce on the Table

Palestinians returning from a shopping trip are more likely to be carrying home a basket full of Israeli produce than local goods.

Around one-third of the West Bank is farmed, yet most meat, fresh fruit and vegetables are imported because the quantity of local produce is insufficient and many people do not trust the quality.

A Swiss-sponsored project is for the first time bringing together producers and retailers to try to change the negative perceptions of Palestinian products and help farmers raise their share of the local market.

swissinfo.ch attended an official ceremony in Ramallah in December for the launch of the In Tajuna (Our Production) project, at which the Palestinian minister of agriculture, Ismail De’aq gave the keynote speech.

De’aq outlined two main problems faced by the agriculture sector: lack of water and inadequate marketing. While In Tajuna cannot help with the former, it can help producers promote their goods through targeted advertising and branding.

Once the goods are packaged, a quality seal — a white triangle with red outline — will help consumers identify local produce that complies with high food safety and hygiene standards.

“Buy Palestinian”

“The pilot phase of the project concentrated on promoting Palestinian consumer goods in the local market. The message was, ‘buy Palestinian because it’s good for you, your health, the economy, and by doing that you will not be buying Israeli products, which are really on all shelves in Palestine,” explained Giancarlo de Picciotto, the head of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Office in Jerusalem.

But this was not enough, de Picciotto said, because when people were asked why they would rather buy foreign products the answer was always that the quality was better, there was an expiry date and you could read the nutritional values on the labels. In short, there were standards.

“So the answer to that is, ok maybe producers and consumers should be brought together in order to assess what is really expected by the Palestinian consumer so that the producers can match this demand. That is the philosophy of the project,” he added.

Six cooperatives and three private agricultural companies signed up to the project at the ceremony in Ramallah. Directly beforehand swissinfo.ch had the chance to visit one of the cooperatives.

In Tajuna aims to put Palestinian fresh produce on the table (swissinfo)

Bread basket

The fertile lands of Jiftlik lie in the central Jordan Valley near to the ancient city of Jericho, where Joshua fought his famous battle recorded in the Bible.

Approaching the village from Jerusalem you come close to the lowest point on Earth — the Dead Sea, which marks the border with Jordan. The landscape is rocky and barren and the air smells sulphurous. A sign at the side of the road indicates that we are at 300 metres below sea level. Then the road rises and green fields come into view.

This area is the bread basket of the West Bank and traditionally an important exporter of fruit and vegetables. Blazing hot in the summer, the main planting and harvesting time is from September to June.

Where two large trees mark the turn-off, a dozen or so men, smartly dressed ahead of the signing ceremony, sit in a circle in front of farm buildings. The fields round about are yellow with ripening squash.

This is the Cooperative of Agricultural Land; Jiftlik. Collectively the 200 farmers cultivate 30,000 dunums (one dunum equals 1,000 square metres) of land, producing tomatoes, squash, cucumber, aubergines, and all colours of pepper.

The farmers list the problems they encounter on a daily basis, from lack of fresh water to grow profitable citrus fruits to no access to farm roads at night. Most of Jiftlik is in Area C, where the Palestinian authority has responsibility for civil life such as health and education while Israel retains full control over security and administration related to territory, including land.

There are several Israeli settlements in the area — illegal under international law — and many of the farmers are forced to hire themselves out as labour because their own output is not enough to sustain them.

One main problem which In Tajuna will address is that of the packaging and marketing of their produce. Collaboration with a Palestinian packaging company means they will no longer have to rely on the Israelis.

“If I produced cherry tomatoes I was obliged to sell for four shekels a kilo although production-wise it was costing me seven shekels per kilo,” a farmer explained. “I was paying the Israeli packaging house to package my tomatoes so I could access Israeli or international markets through Israeli wholesalers.” Due to Israel’s full control over borders, the farmers have no option but to sell their produce to Israel.

Reaching new markets

One of the aims of In Tajuna is to make the farmers’ produce available to a wider market, through better distribution.

“Cooperatives have never attempted to collectively market their own product. Therefore this will make it more cost efficient to put all the produce in one truck and distribute it to one geographical area,” said Nahed Freij, project manager with Solutions for Development, which came up with the In Tajuna concept.

The project developers believe they can reach two million consumers, and that In Tajuna will not only open up the domestic market to local producers, but also eventually allow them to export their produce abroad.

While there are clear benefits for the producers, they are also running a risk by committing to the project, Freij admits.

“We are trying to make a good return on the investment of the producer who’s picking up extra costs. They are taking a risk. This has never happened before.

“First of all it’s new for them to market, second it’s new for them to distribute the merchandise on their own and third it’s new for them to attempt to make the consumer aware of who they are.”

But she points out that the project is providing the support in terms of increasing output and mass media and merchandising aimed at winning consumer loyalty.

“We have also succeeded in gaining the commitment of points of sale to directly buy from the farmers versus the traditional channel where a wholesaler was in the middle,” she adds.

The farmers of the Jiftlik cooperative are optimistic.

“In Tajuna is part of something positive because it will increase our share in the local market. Especially as Israeli produce is infiltrating our market and if we cannot compete in our market there is a problem,” said the spokesman.

“We think that this is the first step in a road of one million steps. But at least it’s the first step.”

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



Turkish Tycoon’s School Opens in French Banlieue

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, 29 DEC — The Turkish Nurculuk confraternity, headed by the Turkish billionaire and spiritual Muslim leader Fetullah Gulen, accused in his Country of promoting the Islamization of society, has opened a high-school at Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, in the Paris area. Gulen’s network already owns 2000 such institutes throughout 110 Countries, many in Europe and some in the USA, but the “College Educative” was the first one to be opened in France. According to its web site, the Villeneuve school promotes “an active and multilingual education”, with the foal of “fostering the social, cultural and artistic development of each student”, “ensuring a continuous dialogue with parents” and “educating students for citizenship”. “Ours is a lay and republican institute. We wish to educate good citizens, not promote Islam”, declared one of the founders, Nihat Sarier, 35 years old, when interviewed by Le Monde, pointing out that since the school opened last September it had to deal “most of all with prejudice”.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: Detroit Terror Attack: A Murderous Ideology Tolerated for Too Long

Telegraph View: Jihadist Islamism is comparable to Nazism in many respects. The British public realises this; so do the intelligence services.

Friday’s attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner by a British-educated Islamist was foiled by the bravery of its passengers and crew. We cannot assume that we will be lucky next time. And the indications are that there will be a next time. According to police sources, 25 British-born Muslims are currently in Yemen being trained in the art of bombing planes. But most of these terrorists did not acquire their crazed beliefs in the Islamic world: they were indoctrinated in Britain. Indeed, thousands of young British Muslims support the use of violence to further the Islamist cause — and this despite millions of pounds poured by the Government into projects designed to prevent Islamic extremism.

Is it time for a fundamental rethink of Britain’s attitude towards domestic Islamism? Consider this analogy. Suppose that, in several London universities, Right-wing student societies were allowed to invite neo-Nazi speakers to address teenagers. Meanwhile, churches in poor white neighbourhoods handed over their pulpits to Jew-hating admirers of Adolf Hitler, called for the execution of homosexuals, preached the intellectual inferiority of women, and blessed the murder of civilians. What would the Government do? It would bring the full might of the criminal law against activists indoctrinating young Britons with an inhuman Nazi ideology — and the authorities that let them. Any public servants complicit in this evil would be hounded from their jobs.

Jihadist Islamism is also a murderous ideology, comparable to Nazism in many respects. The British public realises this; so do the intelligence services. Yet because it arises out of a worldwide religion — most of whose followers are peaceful — politicians and the public sector shrink from treating its ideologues as criminal supporters of violence. Instead, the Government throws vast sums of money at the Muslim community in order to ensure that what is effectively a civil war between extremists and moderates is won by the latter. This policy — supported by all the main political parties — does not seem to be working. The authorities, lacking specialist knowledge, sometimes turn for advice to “moderate” Muslims who have extreme sympathies; supporters of al-Qaeda are paid to disseminate their ideology to young people.

Radical Islamist leaders are not stupid: they know how to play this system. The indoctrination of students carries on under the noses of public servants who are terrified of being labelled Islamophobic or racist. Therefore they fail to do their duty, which is to protect Muslims and non-Muslims alike from a terrorist ideology. If providing that protection requires fewer “consultations” with “community leaders” and more arrests, then so be it.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Jan Moir Talks to Baron Pearson of Rannoch, The Gloriously Eccentric and Accident-Prone New Head of UKIP

Oh, Lordy, Lordy. This is not going exactly to plan, is it? Lord Pearson of Rannoch, the newly elected leader of the UK Independence Party has had, to say the least, a rocky few weeks in office.

He had only been in the job 24 hours when he ignited a row that still threatens to tear UKIP apart, he has been drawn into the expenses debacle and then there is the small matter of allegations of his involvement with a corrupt South American regime.

‘Yes, yes, yes. It has been an interesting time. Not exactly a bed of roses, no,’ he says, with a cheerful nod.

On his first day in office, Lord Pearson annoyed many in the Right-wing, anti-Europe UKIP by saying that if the Tories promised a referendum on Britain’s continued membership of the EU, he would disband his own party.

‘A rather original approach to leadership,’ as Glenys Kinnock dryly noted in the House of Lords recently.

It has also come to light that Pearson has received £100,000 over six years by claiming that his £3.6million house in London was his second home.

‘For tax purposes. That’s not fibbing or anything. You know, the point I find impossible to get over to critics is what I have actually given up to do this,’ he sighs, estimating that entering the House of Lords at Margaret Thatcher’s behest 20 years ago has impoverished him to the tune of £200,000 a year in lost earnings.

He says he is also losing money by selflessly leading UKIP. If he carries on down this spiral, he’ll be as poor as a church mouse.

Or perhaps not. Pearson’s critics would argue that, to the contrary, all he has done is indulge himself by funding his pet hobby; politics.

And as a millionaire insurance broker, he could well afford to take the drop anyway. ‘No, I am not rich enough,’ he says.

‘And that’s it!’ he cries. ‘The house is worth £1.2million. Scotland is probably worth about £3million or £4million — but not unless you sell it. And then what do you do? Nothing? Lie on a beach? Oh, everyone is so anti-rich these days, aren’t they?

‘Andrew Neil was going on about my wealth the other day when I was on his television programme. I should have said: “Mr Neil, if being rich was a crime in this country, then you would have been behind bars years ago.”‘

Why didn’t you? ‘I’m just not quick enough, I’m afraid.’ How glad the uber-modern Conservatives must be that Pearson left their party years ago!

At a time when David Cameron — rightly or wrongly — seems obsessed with de-toffing his party, the last thing he wants is someone like the flamboyant anti-Europe, pro-hunting, outspoken millionaire Malcolm Everard MacLaren Pearson, Baron Pearson of Rannoch, rocking the careful carpentry of his egalitarian boat.

Small of stature, ruddy of cheek but loud of opinion, Pearson is the kind of unreconstructed Old Etonian dinosaur — ‘My nickname at Eton was Malc The Knife,’ he says, without a blush — who must give the Tory leader nightmares.

He even says yah! when he means yes; practically a hanging offence in the modern political world.

‘At least I am who I am,’ says Pearson. ‘David Cameron has given up shooting and hunting and he has resigned from White’s. I mean, it is absurd.

‘He is trying to show that he is something that he isn’t — or isn’t something that he is, let’s put it that way. I am not going to do that. I can’t be bothered to pretend. If people don’t like it, then tough,’ he adds, brushing the arm of his charcoal pinstripe suit.

Even at the age of 67 he still has his suits made by the Eton tailors Tom Brown because: ‘I am a very awkward shape; low-slung, with thick legs and rather short arms.’

His shirts are handmade for the same reason.

‘From Turnbull & Asser, I’m afraid. Whoops, there goes another headline,’ he says.

We meet in Pearson’s South London home, a perfect Georgian town house in a perfect Georgian square and practically next door to one of the original 18th century sites of the House of Bedlam, where fashionable Londoners used to come to stare at the inmates.

However, this is not Pearson’s famously flipped home; this is the one he moved to in 2007 to save money.

Lord Pearson and his third wife, the much younger, poetically named Caroline St Vincent Rose, ‘downsized’ here from his much grander, Grade II listed stucco house in Belgravia, situated in a square where Ian Fleming and Michael Portillo once lived.

Part of the £2million the Pearsons made on the property deal was ploughed back into the running of Lord Pearson’s ruinously expensive Scottish estate.

‘The thing about a deer forest,’ he says, ‘is that the income can’t possibly meet the expenditure.’

It must be appalling. ‘Yah. However, it is worth it. We have a lot of people to stay in Scotland in the summer. And a lot of them wouldn’t get that sort of holiday if they didn’t come.’

Who are they, orphans? ‘Important people. We refresh a lot of really good people who come to stay,’ he says. ‘People we put together who wouldn’t otherwise meet. People who do really good work and of whom you would approve.’

The ground floor of the Pearsons’ London home is all pale wood and white walls, with light pouring in from a conservatory-type extension to the rear. I count at least nine oil portraits of groupings of short-haired German pointers; a rapt audience of adoring doggy eyes which track your every move around the room.

‘That’s Jock, that’s Fred who ran away, that’s Suchard [named after the chocolate], that’s Jock Junior, that’s Fred’s grandfather. ..’ says Pearson, going on to point out the hunting dogs who live on his Scottish estate in a manner of which they would no doubt approve.

In the dining area, there is also a huge landscape of gloomy Glencoe, featuring some Highland cattle grazing in the foreground.

‘Oh, that’s just Malcolm! He always likes to imagine he is in Scotland,’ says Lady Pearson.

Willowy and rather lovely, she pads around in her tight green jeans and furry Uggs, keeping a watchful eye on proceedings. She has no intention, she says, of being a ‘political wife’, but she wants to support her husband as much as she can.

‘This has been his absolute obsession for years,’ she explains.

How does she think it is going so far? ‘Interesting,’ she says, and puts the kettle on.

For his part, the leader of UKIP feels that he has three main problems.

‘Expenses, disband and Costa Rica,’ he says, cheerfully counting them off on his fingers. ‘Costa Rica, disband and expenses. Disband is my big one. I mean, did I really say the word “disband”? I guess I must have done. Bit of a cock-up, really.’

What he actually meant, he now says, is that his party would merely stand aside at the next General Election to avoid any potential split of the Tory vote and to help put David Cameron’s Conservatives in a more powerful position.

In return, they would get their beloved referendum, and once they got that, they would reform themselves once more. Disband didn’t come into it.

‘I didn’t think I was suggesting anything particularly naughty as far as the membership was concerned. If we got the referendum, we are confident that we would win it.

‘Then we would be out of the EU and there would be a complete re-alignment of British politics. Perhaps even the start of a new party, like the Common Sense Party, co-operating with activists and real people in all the other parties.’

The Common Sense Party? ‘Yes, something like that. That is just an idea.’

Then there is Costa Rica. Malc The Knife faces fresh questions about bribery allegations against his company Pearson Webb Springbett — the insurance brokers he co-founded 45 years ago — when it was operating in Costa Rica in the 1990s.

Pearson sold the company last year, but has been helping an official investigation into allegations that PWS had bribed the then president of Costa Rica while allegedly overcharging the country for its insurance premiums.

In his defence, Pearson has said his company operated by the normal South American business practices adopted by all international insurance companies at the time and that PWS had done nothing wrong.

‘I knew my weak spots before I became leader of the party,’ says Pearson, who also courted controversy earlier this year when he invited Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders to show the anti-Islam film Fitna before the House of Lords.

In the end, Wilders was prevented from entering the UK on the instructions of the then Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith. In response, Pearson accused the Government of ‘appeasing’ militant Islam. Now he is cheered by other recent news from Europe.

‘God bless the Swiss. Look at what they did the other day; they knocked out the wretched minarets. Wonderful!’ he cries.

At other moments, he just sounds rather terrifyingly like the major in Fawlty Towers and he concedes: ‘I am a sort of loony. A rebel, a maverick. I was brought up in the wilderness of Rannoch which teaches you to think for yourself.

‘I spent all my school holidays there, wandering the hills and that made me an original thinker. I think I am even cursed with a little vision. No, not a seer. I wouldn’t go as far as that.

‘But as soon as I read the Treaties of Rome, I did see that this was a project heading in the wrong direction. I saw it very, very clearly.’

Pearson was elected to office when former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who is also a member of the European Parliament for the South-East, resigned in September to concentrate on his efforts to become an MP at Westminster.

‘He is a Derby winner and I am a carthorse who puts his hooves in it sometimes, I’m afraid,’ says Pearson.

‘Be careful what you are saying, darling,’ calls his wife.

The Pearsons married in 1997, after knowing each other ‘for ages’. They have no children together, but he has three daughters; one from his first marriage to Francesca Frua de Angeli and two from his second marriage to the Hon. Mary Charteris.

His middle daughter has Down’s syndrome and lives in a sheltered community. Over the years, Pearson has done much campaigning and political work on behalf of those with mental health problems.

‘Being divorced twice has been very sad, but I remain on good terms with both former wives and our children. I don’t make a very good husband, obviously, although Caroline and I are perfectly happy. I’m not all bad, though, am I?’ he wonders. ‘I do a few a chores.’

Such as? ‘Such as the breakfast washing-up when we are in Scotland. I cook a bit. I make the finest cheese omelette in the land. I put the rubbish out.’

As if to emphasise his lordly domestic credentials, he has a minor fit when his wife serves coffee in mugs.

‘A mug! Haven’t we got a cup and saucer for our guest?’ he cries, before absent-mindedly helping himself to one of my biscuits.

‘Oh, I am not really a politician,’ he sighs. ‘To be honest, I did not want to be UKIP leader, but I came to see that I ought to try to do it.

‘When I looked at the likely contenders for the leadership — (‘Darling! I said be careful,’ says Caroline) — ‘I worried that if one or two of them won it, it would be very difficult to hold the party together because of factions and personal divides. UKIP is not for sheep, you know, it is not for lemmings. It is a party for individual thinkers and strong characters.’

Indeed. Three years ago, David Cameron described it as a party of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists . . .

‘A somewhat puerile statement and churlishly rude of him, I think,’ he says. ‘But it helped us, in a way. It helped to bring a lot of people into the party.’ It did?

In many ways I can’t help liking this terrifyingly accident-prone, self-consciously eccentric aristocrat. However, the question is, will anyone take this seer of a peer Malc The Knife, his ideas and his wealth, seriously?

‘If you are wealthy, you are, apparently, rich and evil these days. My message to everyone is that, yes, I did go to Eton, but my father died in debt. I am where I am today because of what I made myself. So get out and do it yourself, for goodness’ sake.’

And what is he going to get up and do for the rest of the day?

‘Just take the flak on my mobile,’ he shrugs.

‘Oh, do be careful, darling,’ says Lady Pearson.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Police Hunt Motorist Who Blew Up Speed Camera With a Bomb

Many a miffed driver has received a fine in the post after being photographed breaking the speed limit.

But one motorist has taken his dislike of speed cameras to the extreme by attaching a bomb to one in the dead of night and blowing it to pieces.

Police were today hunting the person who blew up a yellow roadside camera, leaving parts strewn across a road in Eastleigh, Hampshire.

Residents living along the Bishopstoke Road were woken up by the sound of an explosion in the early hours of Christmas Eve.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Revealed: Muslim Bomb Plot Gang’s Links to ‘Mega-Mosque’ In East London

Ministers should review plans to build a “mega-mosque” in the East End in the wake of the airline bomb plot trial, the Tories urged today.

Shadow security minister Dame Pauline Neville-Jones said the case had shown that the group behind the mosque may have given cover to extremist activity.

Tablighi Jamaat, which describes itself an Islamic missionary organisation, is pushing for the mosque to be built next to the 2012 Olympics site in Stratford.

But the group was revealed in court as having links to some of the terror suspects, with several having passed through other mosques run by the group.

The organisation, which has 80 million followers worldwide, insists it is a peaceful, apolitical revivalist movement that promotes Islamic consciousness among individual Muslims.

But intelligence agencies have cautioned that its ability to radicalise young men could lead to jihadist terrorism.

The London Markaz, which some say will be the largest place of worship in Europe, has faced criticism of its backers and allegations of Saudi funding since it was first mooted three years ago.

The complex will include a three-storey Islamic centre able to hold at least 40,000 worshippers and up to 70,000 if necessary.

The plans will have to go before Newham council but Mayor Boris Johnson may have a say and, in theory, it could be called in by the Government.

Dame Pauline, former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, said today: “The news that the terrorists convicted of the liquid bomb plot attended Tablighi Jamaat mosques is very disturbing. This is not the first time this has happened.

‘Those convicted of the 7/7 bombings read Tablighi Jamaat sermons. Tablighi Jamaat claims to be solely a missionary organisation with a religious and charitable purpose.”

But Dame Pauline believes it gives cover to extremist activity.

She said: ‘This must be taken into account when considering the planning application for the Tablighi-Jamaat mosque in east London.’

Kafeel Ahmed, who died from burns last year after trying to set off a car bomb at Glasgow airport, is among —terrorists whose radicalisation has been blamed on Tablighi Jamaat.

Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, two of the 7/7 suicide bombers, attended the European headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat in Dewsbury, West Yorks, while Muktar Ibrahim, leader of the failed 21 July bomb plot in 2005, attended a Tablighi Jamaat mosque in east London.

The group belongs to the ultra-conservative Deobandi branch of Sunni Islam, whose adherents run more than 600 of Britain’s 1,350 mosques.

Critics include the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford. It claims the mosque will attract “religious fundamentalists and cultural supremacists”.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Serbia: IMF Approves 350 Mln Euro Loan

Belgrade, 24 Dec. (AKI) — The International Monetary Fund has approved a 350 million euro loan to Serbia to aid its economic recovery amid the global recession, officials said on Thursday. The IMF and Serbia signed an agreement for a 2.9 billion euros loan expiring in 2011, but only the first tranche of 788 million has been drawn so far.

IMF executive board chairman Takatoshi Kato was quoted as saying Serbia had met the restrictive monetary and budgetary policy needed to qualify for the loan.

The IMF has demanded a drastic cut in public spending, but has approved an increase of 4.5 per cent in Serbia’s budget deficit for this year.

Kato said that the effects of the world financial and economic crisis on Serbia have been “successfully contained”, inflation has been kept in single digits and the slump in industrial production has been arrested.

Serbia’s foreign debt has tripled to almost 30 billion euros since democratic governments came to power.

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

North Africa


Detained Swiss in Libya Hampered by Legal Fog

The upcoming trial of two Swiss men held in Libya for more than 75 weeks will offer clues as to whether Tripoli is exacting revenge or just upholding its laws.

Max Göldi and Rachid Hamdani are scheduled in early January to be tried for a second time in Libyan court, this time over business and tax violations. One thing is already evident: the Libyans have ignored their own laws handling the case.

“The rules for a fair trial are very clear,” said Daniel Graf, a spokesman for Amnesty International’s Zurich office. “Libya says this case is not about politics but so far there are more signs of it being a political trial than a fair trial. The next few days will offer hints as to which way this will go.”

Göldi and Hamdani were arrested in July 2008 just days after Geneva police briefly detained Hannibal Gaddafi, a son of leader Moammar Gaddafi, and his wife on charges they abused their domestic staff while at a luxury hotel in the city. The charges were later dropped and the Swiss apologised, hoping Göldi and Hamdani would be set free.

Instead the men were found guilty in absentia of violating Libya visa laws and were sentenced to 16 months in jail. The trial was speedy and closed to the public. The men’s lawyers were given little time to prepare and still do not know exactly which laws the Swiss allegedly broke.

The businessmen have been confined to the Swiss embassy in Tripoli and plan to appeal against the ruling. The appeal date has been pushed back until later in 2010.

Good news

Diana Eltahawy, human rights researcher on North Africa with Amnesty International’s headquarters in London, told swissinfo.ch the delay is good news for the Swiss. The extra time should help the men’s lawyers prepare a defence while also giving Bern and Tripoli some room to work out a settlement.

But fault for the lawyers not being prepared in the first place lies with Tripoli, Eltahawy said. While the Libyans have a right to charge the men, they have never produced written documents outlining the exact accusations. The defence lawyers have also been denied access to many documents.

“The Libyan code of criminal procedures carries some safeguards in accordance to international standards for defendants,” Eltahawy said. “But from what we’ve seen those safeguards are not always implemented.”

Under Libyan law, the men have the right to know immediately what they are being charged with, to speak with a lawyer freely and to have their case heard in an independent court. Those conditions were not met satisfactorily, she said.

“When this next trial over business and tax violations begins it will be a very intense time for the men and their families,” Graf said. “If the trial is unfair and results in an unacceptable sentence, we might move toward escalation.”

The Libyans meanwhile blame the Swiss for escalating the affair and have issued a 27-point list to make their case. It includes the Swiss leaking a photo of Hannibal Gaddafi taken during his arrest to the press and talking about a military operation to free the men by force.

Libyan system

So what exactly are Göldi and Hamdani up against? Eltahawy says it is difficult to draw comparisons between legal systems, but Libya, as with any country, has a judicial branch with its good and bad points.

The country considers itself a direct democracy like Switzerland. It is also a state signatory of international covenants on civil and political rights.

Libya is one of the few countries in the region that did not modify its laws to extend how long a person suspected of acts of terrorism can be held incommunicado. It is during that time a detainee suffers the greatest risk of being tortured.

But there are harsh penalties — even death — for speaking out against the government or for organising political protests. People accused of threatening national interests have hearings before a special state security court that observers say is basically a parallel legal system with few safeguards to protect human rights.

“Others have faced immigration charges but they were mostly from sub-Saharan Africa,” Eltahawy said. “This is a very particular case with the Swiss businessmen and it can’t be disassociated from the difficulties between the Libyan and Swiss governments.”

Libyan law says the men do not have to be present at the trial over business and tax issues, now scheduled for early January. But they do need to be present to appeal against the visa charges that brought the 16-month sentence. Otherwise the punishment will stick.

“Of course the problem is whether they risk going out of the embassy and being taken away,” Graf said. “It’s a very difficult decision. Even if the first trial had been fair, the sentence was not.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egyptian Opposition Requests Netanyahu’s Arrest

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 29 — Representatives of the Egyptian movement Kefaya and the Muslim Brotherhood have today submitted a petition to Prosecutor General Abdel Meguid Mahmoud for the arrest of Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu, currently in Cairo on an official visit, for war crimes. According to the president of the Al-Karama opposition party, Amin Iskandar, the request was submitted by Kefaya leader Abdel Halim Kandil on behalf of Egyptian intellectuals to express their rejection of Israel’s actions in the occupied territories. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Morocco: More Tourists But Fewer Overnight Stays

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, 29 DECEMBER — There were 7.7 million tourists who in the first eleven months of the year visited Morocco — a 7% increase compared with the same period of 2008 — according to the latest statistics released by the Tourism Department and Observatory. As concerns nationality, in first place are the French (2.9 million, +5%), followed by the Spanish (1.7 million, +12%), Belgians (463,000, +14%), the Dutch (410,000, +14%), Germans 391,000, +2%), the English (330,000, -8%) and Italians (289,000, +11%). Down, on the other hand, was the data for overnight stays, which dropped by 2%, with 15.1 million overnight stays compared with 15.5 million the previous year. According to the Tourism Department, the data is due to the “negative performance of the three main destinations for tourism”: Marrakech (-2%), Agadir (-4%), and Casablanca (-2%), which account for 71% of the total overnight stays. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Morocco: Five Foreign Evangelists Expelled

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, DECEMBER 29 — Five Evangelist foreigners (two South Africans, two Swiss and one Guatemalan) have been expelled from Morocco accused of “unauthorised gathering and evangelist proselytism”. Twelve Moroccans who were taking part in the meeting were arrested and eventually released after being questioned. The order of expulsion was issued by the Prefecture of Oujda (in the country’s north-east). Last March, fiver missionaries (four Spaniards and one German) were expelled accused of “gathering with Moroccan citizens living abroad for the purpose of proselytism”.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Hamas’s Rhetoric of Resistance Masks New Stance a Year After Gaza War

Palestinian Islamist movement celebrates 22nd birthday amid drop in rocket attacks and prisoner negotiations but vowing never to recognise Israel

When Hamas held its annual anniversary celebrations in the centre of Gaza City it looked like a defiant and celebratory show. There was a male choir in camouflage fatigues singing on the stage, a sea of green flags in the crowd and wave after wave of self-congratulatory chanting: “Far and wide, Hamas is shaking the ground.”

A year after Israel’s devastating three-week war in Gaza, the Palestinian Islamist movement which controls the strip is still very much in charge and unbowed.

“No one imagined that after such a crucial war against our people and our resistance that anyone could plan such a proud anniversary as this,” Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader and former prime minister, told the crowd.

His defiant rhetoric celebrated the movement’s 22nd year, pledged never to recognise Israel and claimed the whole of historic Palestine for the Palestinians. “Palestine from the sea to the river, we won’t surrender it,” he told the crowd.

But his words barely captured the reality of Gaza today. Israel launched its war a year ago, saying it was compelled to act to halt militant rocket fire from Gaza. After three weeks, 1,387 Palestinians were dead, most of them civilians, according to the Israeli rights group B’Tselem, although Israel disputes those figures.

Thirteen Israelis were killed. Thousands more Palestinians were left homeless and hundreds of factories were destroyed. Israel has kept up its economic blockade, which has prevented imports of reconstruction materials. Earlier this month the UN Relief and Works Agency, the main aid agency in Gaza, presented a family with a new home. It was built from mud bricks.

For Hamas, the war itself has brought other changes. Despite Haniyeh’s constant talk of resistance, the number of rockets fired out of Gaza has fallen dramatically this year. Hamas has announced that nearly all factions have agreed to halt the rockets and one Israeli paper reported this month that rocket fire from Gaza was down 90% compared to last year. Haniyeh himself hinted at this new stance in his anniversary speech. “The resistance is strong and hitting everywhere, but we are more wise and more managed,” he said.

Mustapha Sawaf, a former editor of a Hamas newspaper, said this was simply a decision made “in the national interest”. Others put it differently.

“When Hamas entered the Palestinian legislative elections their slogan was a mix of resistance and politics. It has completely failed,” said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at al-Azhar University in Gaza. “Hamas knows resistance is going to cost them their regime in the Gaza strip.”

As Hamas has moderated its militancy so it has faced internal challenges from hardliners in Gaza demanding the movement take a tougher stance and institute a more rigidly Islamic code. Hamas has tried to reimpose control, often earning the rebukes of fellow Gazans.

Although Hamas will not recognise Israel, it is deep into indirect negotiations over a prisoner swap that would see an Israeli soldier captured three and a half years ago freed in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. At the same time, while Haniyeh said Hamas would never recognise Israel he also repeated a previous call for a Palestinian state in the occupied territories alone.

In Israel, meanwhile, there is a sense that the war was their success, but that another round of conflict is inevitable. Yoav Galant, the general in charge of Israel’s southern command, noted recently how the rocket fire has dropped off. “I can say that this has been the quietest year for the south in the past decade,” he was reported as saying. “It can last for months or years, but ultimately it is going to be broken.”

For Israeli analysts the diplomatic fallout for Israel that followed the war, including accusations against both sides of war crimes by Judge Richard Goldstone’s UN report, is manageable and has not affected Israel’s most important international relationship, with the US. Still, many Israelis are frustrated that their military was singled out for criticism, even as civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan are dying at the hands of western armies. Others worry that Israel’s strategy towards Gaza is still unclear and undetermined.

“What will happen is that we will muddle through as usual,” said Shlomo Brom, a retired general and an analyst at the Institute for National Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv. “Eventually it is going to explode. Nobody will do anything, but when there will be a crisis we will deal with the crisis.”

For those living in Gaza today, the strip is already in crisis as a result of Israel’s siege. Hamas has allowed a tunnel smuggling economy under the Egyptian border to develop, skimming a profit off for itself and preventing outright economic collapse.

But it has brought de-development: most of the strip’s factories are still empty and unused, the population is increasingly aid dependent and there are barely any long-term development projects. Nearly $5bn(£3.13bn) was pledged by the world for the Palestinians after the Gaza war. On the ground here there is little evidence of it.

“We are moving backwards. Now we depend completely on what we receive from Egypt,” said Amjad Shawa, a Palestinian aid agency co-ordinator. He talks about the hidden traumatic cost of the blockade and the sense of powerlessness many Gazans now feel.

At the same time he fears the growing detachment from the West Bank and the disintegration of the Palestinian national movement. “The issue for Gazans is not only humanitarian,” he said. “It’s not that we need food only. Gazans are looking for their freedom.”

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



Mordechai Vanunu Arrested Again

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, 29 DECEMBER — Yesterday Israeli police arrested Mordechai Vanunu, the former technician of the Dimona (Negev) nuclear plant who in 1986 revealed secret declarations by the Israeli military. The announcement of the arrest was made by a police spokesman, who said that Vanunu is suspected of having met with foreign nationals. After having spent 18 years in prison, Vanunu was released in 2004 but placed under a number of strict restrictions due to concerns that he might reveal other classified information, including being denied permission to travel abroad or to give interviews. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Study Says Economy in Few Hands, Threat to Democracy

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, DECEMBER 28 — The concentration of wealth in the hands of only a few families is a threat to the quality of the democratic system in Israel. This was stressed, in a survey carried out by the Israeli Institute for Democracy (a summary of which appeared in today’s economic daily The Marker), by Professsor Assaf Hamdani, an expert on commercial law of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. Hamdani has said that “the capital market in Israel is in the hands of a limited number of families: 52% of the 100 largest quoted companies in the country are controlled by only a few families; the percentage rises to 75% if we take into consideration only the 25 Blue Chip companies on the Tel Aviv stock exchange. Hamdani believes that bringing in wide-ranging policies is necessary, in part through the adoption of appropriate juridical and fiscal instruments to resolve the problem of wealth concentration and its influence on political power. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK Govt Allocates 50mln Pounds for Palestinians

(ANSAmed) — LONDON, DECEMBER 28 — A year after the Israeli offensive in Gaza, and just after the murder of six Palestinians including three civilians by Israelis, the British government has announced that it will allocate 50 million pounds to assist the Palestinian people. A large part of the aid will be given to the Palestinian National Authority in Ramallah, while seven million pounds will be used to support the inhabitants of Gaza for the winter. Another five million pounds will pay the salaries of 562 teachers of the United Nations UNRWA agency, which works in the Palestinian Territories. The UNRWAs goal is to combat the spread of extremism among the 260,000 child refugees by offering them a higher level of education. A good education, not influenced by extremists, is the key to the future of the region, said British Minister for International Development, Douglas Alexander. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Al Qaeda Claims Responsibility for Attempted Bombing of U.S. Plane

CAIRO — Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula on Monday claimed responsibility for the attack on a U.S. airliner bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, saying it was retaliation for a U.S. operation against the group in Yemen.

Federal authorities met Monday to reassess the U.S. system of terror watchlists to determine how to avoid the type of lapse that allowed a man with explosives to board the flight in Amsterdam even though he was flagged as a possible terrorist.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Is Regime Change Coming to Iran? — An Interview With Amil Imani

by Amil Imani with Jerry Gordon (January 2010)

Introduction: Since the fraudulent June 12th Presidential elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), an increasingly emboldened opposition, the green movement, has arisen to demand the overthrow of the IRI. The green movement refuses to desist from launching massive street protests in Tehran, Qum, Isfahan and other major Iranian cities. All this is occurring despite violence wreaked upon thousands of valiant regime opponents by the ruling Mullahs and President Ahmadinejad. As of this writing more than 15 have been killed in clashes with Iranian security services including the nephew of reformist Presidential candidate Mir Mouhammed Mousavi, former IRI Prime Minister. Moreover several dissident leaders have been jailed. Something major is brewing in Iran — possibly revolution…

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Anti-Aircraft Fire on Israeli Jets

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, 29 DECEMBER — The Lebanese army has opened anti-aircraft fire on four Israeli war planes flying low over southern Lebanon this morning. Reports were from the Lebanese army by way of a statement released by the official agency NNA, according to which “at 9.00am four Israeli enemy war planes flew low over the Hasbaya region, where several army posts opened fire on them, forcing them to fly at a higher altitude.” Almost every day Israeli violations of national air space are reported by the Lebanese army — which, however, rarely makes use of fire from its outdated anti-aircraft artillery. According to the United Nations, low flying over Lebanon is a violation of Resolution 1701, which in 2006 put an end to the conflict between Israel and guerrilla from the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah after 34 days of conflict. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Nuclear: Paris Disappointed, Loss of Abu Dhabi Mega-Contract

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 28 — France is disappointed over losing a 40-billion-dollar contract for the construction of four nuclear plants in the United Arab Emirates. Over the French Edf-Gdf Suez-Total-Areva-Vinci-Alstom consortium, the Abu Dhabi Nuclear Energy Agency chose the offer made by a consortium under the South Korean state-owned Kepco — including Samsung, Hyundai, Doosan Heavy Industries, Westinghouse, and Toshibapour — for a 20.4 billion-dollar contract, the first segment of an order which rise to 40. The disappointment was expressed by the secretary general of the French president’s office, Claude Gueant, who told the daily paper Les Echos that “lessons will have to be learnt” from the incident. In his eyes, the French consortium “took too long to get into the fight”, and “South Korea won thanks to electricity prices: the consequence of the price over the thirty years of its project price were lower than those of the French project. It is a decisive factor for Abu Dhabi, where electricity prices are very low.” However, the door is not yet entirely closed: the UAE agency has said that it may yet order other nuclear plants. The candidature of Areva, GDF Suez and Total for the construction of two 1,600 MW third-generation nuclear reactors (EPR) in Abu Dhabi dates back to January 2008. On the request of the French president’s office, EDF joined and took the lead on the consortium alongside GDF Suez. In addition to the high costs, according to the specialised press, the French candidature was damaged by the reserves expressed in November by British, French and Finnish nuclear security authorities on the ‘control-command’ system of the EPRs. It is a system which may not be independent enough of the safeguarding one which is activated in emergencies. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan: Two Italian Soldiers Shot

Afghan army regular opens fire on ISAF troops, US soldier killed

(ANSA) — Rome, December 29 — Two Italian soldiers were slightly injured in Afghanistan Tuesday when an Afghan soldier taking part in an allied operation opened fire, killing one American soldier, the defense ministry reported here.

The incident was said to have taken place in Bala Morghab, in the western province of Herat, while members of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), together with Afghan army regulars, were unloading a supply helicopter.

The injured Italians were treated for their wounds by medics on hand and returned to duty, the defense ministry said. The Afghan soldier who shot the Italians and killed the American, and was himself injured when ISAF force returned fire, was arrested, according to reports from Afghanistan.

The ISAF has opened a probe into the dynamics of the incident, sources with the Italian contingent in Herat told ANSA.

Italian Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa was immediately informed of the incident and issued a statement praising the Italian solders “who despite their injuries promptly returned to duty”.

Italy, which commands the ISAF force in western Afghanistan, currently has a contingent of close to 2,800 men in the country and has agreed to deploy another 1,000 next year as part of the troop surge in the new Afghan strategy drawn up by US President Barack Obama.

An additional 200 Carabinieri military police will also be sent in to help train Afghan security forces.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Far East


China Set to Execute Briton Many Say is Unstable

URUMQI, China — China says Akmal Shaikh is a drug smuggler and must be executed Tuesday morning. But family and acquaintances say the 53-year-old Briton is mentally unstable and was lured to China from a life on the street in Poland by men playing on his dreams to record a pop song for world peace.

Shaikh first learned of his death sentence Monday from his visiting cousins, who made a last-minute plea for his life. Prime Minister Gordon Brown had spoken personally to China’s prime minister about his case, but there’s little to suggest Beijing will relent.

“I believe we have done everything we possibly can,” said Ivan Lewis, a Foreign Office minister, after meeting with the Chinese ambassador in London late Monday. “We urge at this very late stage the Chinese government to do the right thing.”

Shaikh would be the first European citizen to be executed in China in half a century.

Two years ago, the man who relatives say used to be hardworking and devoted to family, was apparently living on the streets of Warsaw. But Gareth Saunders, a British teacher who lives in Poland, told The Associated Press Shaikh nonetheless maintained an “exaggerated positivism” that Saunders called both endearing and sad.

Saunders, who was one of the last people to see Shaikh before his arrest and who knew him as a colorful local character, said he helped out the fellow Brit by buying him coffee and singing backup when Shaikh insisted on recording his song for world peace, “Come Little Rabbit.”

“He thought he had a gift with his voice, but it was clear to anyone listening he had no sense of timing, nothing,” said Saunders, who was put in contact with reporters by Reprieve, a London-based prisoner advocacy.

The group, which has been lobbying for clemency for Shaikh, said he was duped into trafficking drugs to China by men promising that he would attain fame with a hit single.

“He would’ve believed that for sure, about having a big hit in China,” said Saunders.

The two last ran into each other in a Warsaw underpass when Shaikh told Saunders that he was going to a country in central Asia and would be back in a couple of weeks.

“I think it’s absolutely disgraceful,” Saunders said of the death sentence. “I don’t think he’s in a position to defend himself.”

Shaikh was arrested in 2007 for carrying a suitcase with almost 9 pounds (4 kilograms) of heroin into China on a flight from Tajikistan. He told Chinese officials he didn’t know about the drugs and that the suitcase wasn’t his, according to Reprieve.

He was convicted in 2008 after a half-hour trial. In one court appearance during his trial and appeal process, the judges reportedly laughed at his rambling remarks.

“We strongly feel that he’s not rational and he needs medication,” one of his cousins, Soohail Shaikh, said. “We beg the Chinese authorities for mercy and clemency to help reunite this heartbroken family.”

The planned execution of Shaikh, who has no prior criminal record, is the latest in an extraordinary series of Chinese actions that have led to widespread outrage, including Friday’s sentencing of a literary critic who co-wrote a plea for political reform to 11 years in prison.

“It certainly does send a message, intended or not, that China doesn’t really care what the international community thinks about how it handles criminal cases,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, research manager for the U.S.-based human rights group Dui Hua Foundation.

China had planned to tell Shaikh of his sentence 24 hours before it was to be carried out, Reprieve said. It’s not unusual for China to wait until the final hours to notify inmates of their fate.

But his cousins, who visited the prison hospital in far western China where he is being held Monday, broke the news first.

“He was obviously very upset on hearing from us of the sentence that was passed,” said Soohail Shaikh.

He told reporters at the Beijing airport late Monday that Shaikh, who is of Pakistani descent, used to be a hardworking family man. “Then we lost track of him.”

Last-minute appeals are almost never granted in China, which executes more people each year than all other countries combined.

“Drug smuggling is a grave crime. The rights of the defendant have been fully guaranteed,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news conference last week.

By now, any decision to stay Shaikh’s execution would be a political one, taking into account the damage his death could do to relations with Great Britain, the European Union and others, Rosenzweig said. But chances were slim.

Though China is gradually switching to executions by lethal injection, Rosenzweig said he would likely be shot in the head.

The cousins were given a bag of Shaikh’s belongings Monday.

Two British diplomats accompanied the cousins but said they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

“The Prime Minister has intervened personally on a number of occasions: He has raised the case with Premier Wen, most recently at the Copenhagen summit; and has written several times to President Hu,” said an e-mail from the British government.

Britain has accused Chinese officials of not taking Shaikh’s mental health concerns into account, with a proper psychiatric evaluation, as required by law.

“They’re not even pretending to protect his rights,” Rosenzweig said. “That really baffles me.”

In London, some of Shaikh’s family joined a vigil outside the Chinese Embassy. A cousin, Latif Shaikh, said Shaikh’s mother, who is in her 80s, knows he’s in prison but doesn’t know he faces execution.

He said the shock could kill her. “This execution will take two lives without a doubt,” he said.

           — Hat tip: GB [Return to headlines]



North Korea Link to Detroit Attack Investigated

Investigators suspect closed regime may have provided trigger technology

LONDON — One of the links being investigated regarding a terror attack on a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day is whether al-Qaida got help from North Korea in setting it up, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Switzerland Joins Protests Against China

The Swiss foreign ministry says it’s “very concerned” about the situation of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, sentenced by the Beijing authorities to 11 years in prison.

Switzerland has joined a host of other countries in condemning the sentence which was handed down for Liu’s part in organising a petition demanding political freedoms.

The Swiss foreign ministry said that it regretted that requests by diplomats to attend the hearing and the sentence were denied.

Liu’s crime was to publish six articles on the internet, including on the BBC’s Chinese service, and organise the Charter 08, a petition inspired by the Charter 77 dissident movement in communist Czechoslovakia. About 10,000 people have signed it

.

Among the demands of Charter 08 was the abolition of the law on subversion. The petition read: “We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes.”

The human rights group Amnesty International has also condemned the sentence, saying freedom of speech was at stake.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Mauritania: Al-Qaeda Claims Kidnap of Italians

Dubai, 28 Dec. (AKI) — Al-Qaeda’s North African branch has allegedly claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of two Italians in Mauritania in mid-December. In an audiotape released on Sunday, The Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb said it had kidnapped Sergio Cicala and his wife Philomene Kabouree “in retaliation for crimes committed by the Italian government in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

The audio message, broadcast by Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Arabiya, purportedly contained the voice of Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb’s spokesman Salah Abu Mohamed. Al-Arabiya also published photos of Cicala and his wife sitting on the ground.

In the photos, the face of Kabouree’s face is obscured, as required under Islamic Sharia law. Five masked, rifle-toting men can be seen standing behind the couple.

Sixty-five-year-old Cicala is unshaven, wearing a tracksuit and holding his Italian passport.

Kabouree is from Burkina Faso. She has dual Italian and Burkina Faso citizenship.

There had been no news on the fate of the two tourists for the past ten days.

Italian foreign affairs minister Franco Frattini last week spoke by telephone to his Mauritanian colleague, Naha Mint Mouknass, who assured him authorities were doing everything possible to locate the hostages.

Mauritania’s government has increased security for tourists in the country following the Cicala and Kabouree’s abductions from their jeep in an area of Mauritania where diplomats say armed groups with links to Al-Qaeda are known to operate.

The couple’s driver, from Ivory Coast, was also reportedly missing from their bullet ridden vehicle, which was discovered 1,000 km south of the Mauritanian capital, Noakchott on the road to the city of Kobeny.

Cicala and Kabouree had been travelling to visit members of Kabouree’s family when they were seized by a group of armed men.

The couple lives in the Sicilian city of Carini, near Palermo.

It is suspected the couple was smuggled over the border into Mali.

The Malian authorities were reported on Sunday to be moving closer to a deal with AIQM to free three Spanish aid workers and a French citizen kidnapped there by the group in late November.

A former Tuareg rebel who had been involved in previous hostage negotiations was involved in the case but it was still impossible to say when the foreigners might be freed, Mauritania’s Al-Akhbar news agency said.

In a statement posted on its website late on 19 December, the Italian foreign ministry asked for media discretion to guarantee the safety of the hostages and to promote a positive solution to the case.

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



Nigerian Muslims Fear Witch Hunt

LAGOS — While condemning the terrorist plot in the strongest terms, Nigerian Muslim leaders are warning against the exploitation of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s case to mount a witch hunting against Muslims.

“The Nigerian Muslim community has always been dedicated to the protection of our national security locally and the global security and peace,” Disu Kamor, Media & Communications Director for the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), told IslamOnline.net.

“It is therefore important that law-abiding Nigerian Muslims should not be targeted or singled out because of their faith or national origin.”

Nigeria has ordered a top-level probe after Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-old son of a prominent Nigeria banker, was arrested and later charged with trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic Northwest Airlines plane over Detroit, US.

The family has promised full cooperation with the authorities.

Mutallab, the septuagenarian father who is a household name in the Nigerian banking industry, had alerted Nigerian security agencies and US consular services centre in Abuja about the extremist tendencies of his young son months ago.

Nigerian Muslim leaders have described the terrorist plot as criminal, inhuman and outright negation Islamic teachings.

“MPAC strongly condemns any and all act of terrorism as a complete violation of the teachings of Islam,” asserted Kamor.

“All attacks that threaten peace, or that are aimed at civilian targets, even in a state of war, are terrorism,” he added.

“MPAC has consistently condemned all acts of terrorism, whether carried out by individuals, groups or states. We repudiate anyone or any group that plans or carries out a terrorist act.”

Professor Lakin Akintola, director of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) and lecturer at the Lagos State University, was equally critical.

“[It was] very callous and thoughtless to attempt to destroy a plane carrying more than three hundred innocent people. This action stands in contradiction to the teachings of Islam on interpersonal relations which must be based on love, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.”

Over-reaction

Nigerian Muslim leaders have nonetheless cautioned the security agencies against witch-hunting Muslims on account of the terror incident.

“There can be no question of defending, approving or justifying terrorism attempts or attacks, yet it is important, based on past counterterrorism cases that did not lead to terror convictions, that we withhold judgment until all the facts of this case come to light,” said Kamor.

“We also ask public officials, the media and commentators to avoid using stereotypical, speculative, dramatic and ill-defined terminologies when referring to this and similar cases.”

In sad reminiscences of the backlashes of the Boko Haram crisis earlier this year, Muslims expressed concern that the Detroit incident might put innocent Muslims at risk of random harassment or illegal arrest by security operatives working to stamp out such terror act in the future.

The caution followed what Muslim organisations call the penchant of security operatives to want to single out Muslims for routine harassment under the guise of preventing fresh terror plot.

Professor Akintola advised Nigerian security agencies against “over-sensationalising the incident.”

“Any attempt to capitalise on it by witch-hunting innocent Muslims in the country will definitely backfire,” he told IOL.

“Nigeria needs peace to develop.”

Akintola urged Western nations to take urgent steps to reduce tension around the world.

“Events in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, etc, are radicalising Muslim youths around the globe. We affirm clearly, unequivocally and unambiguously that justice is the soul of peace.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

The Vlaams Belang Jinx

I’ve been banging the pan for several years now about Vlaams Belang, but to no great effect — everyone knows that those Vlaams Belang guys are bad, bad, bad neo-Nazis! It doesn’t matter what evidence there is to the contrary. It doesn’t matter that Filip Dewinter has been a staunch defender of the Jews of Antwerp. It doesn’t matter that Vlaams Belang was the only party in Belgium to publicly speak up in outrage against the vile Jew-hatred that went on in Brussels and Antwerp last winter during Operation Cast Lead.

Facts don’t matter. Evidence doesn’t matter. We know what we know, and nothing will change that. We don’t need no stinkin’ facts!

So it’s no surprise that once again Vlaams Belang is being smeared by Jews who should know better by now.

Back in October I reported on a complaint lodged with the European Commission by an Israeli lawyer and a Vlaams Belang politician. Their aim was to use the time-hallowed tactics of the Left, and hold the EU to account for failing to protect its citizens in Israel from rocket attacks by Hamas.

Now we have a follow-up to this story, which concerns an initiative by the European pro-Israel lobby “European Friends of Israel”, EFI. Dire warnings are being issued by liberal Jews in Israel and elsewhere against any association with the dreaded Vlaams Belang.

Hamas mural


Our Flemish correspondent VH has kindly collected and translated a batch of material on this issue. First, from Het Laatste Nieuws:

Israelis file complaint with Belgian judiciary against Hamas

Fifteen Israeli Belgians who were either injured or lost a relative in the war in Gaza (late 2008 — early 2009) are filing a complaint with the Belgian court against ten political and military leaders of Hamas. The fifteen are living in the vicinity of Gaza. This is what several Israeli newspapers have reported.

The complaint names Hamas leaders like Khaled Mashaal, who lives in Damascus, Prime Minister Ismaaïl Haniyah in Gaza, the former Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, plus the military chiefs Ahmed Jabri and Mohammed Def.

Six applications for an arrest have been submitted, after six months of legal preparations. The complaint is based on “strict proof that links leaders of Hamas with terrorist attacks involving Belgian citizens who have suffered from it” as the papers quote lawyer Roel Coveliers. “I do not think that Belgium will lay the complaint aside,” he added.

Second legal complaint against a terrorist

Besides the Goldstone report, the complaint cites reports of international human rights organizations, Ha’aretz reports. It is the second legal complaint in recent months against a “terrorist organization” for attacks on Israelis, The Jerusalem Post writes.

On April 30 there were thirty Israelis who had been hit during the second war in Lebanon who filed a complaint with a court in Washington against North Korea and Hezbollah.

Also from Het Laatste Nieuws:
- – - - – - – - -

Roel Coveliers has already received five Israeli cases

The Belgian lawyer Roel Coveliers has already received five cases from Israelis who want to file a complaint with the Belgian courts. “The Israeli lawyers with whom we work have fifteen cases, but for the present I have as yet only received five. The other cases will follow,” said Coveliers.

Rocket Attacks

The complainants live in Israel, but have Belgian nationality. “In the period between June 18, 2008 and January 18, 2009 they became the victims of rocket attacks. Two complainants were slightly injured thereby. All people had to flee their homes and have remained in camps since then, with all the attendant emotional and psychological problems. Their normal daily life is thoroughly disrupted,” the lawyer Coveliers explains.

War Crimes

The filing of the complaint is a first step. It is now up to the federal prosecutor to determine whether the complaint is admissible. Should that be the case, he must appoint an investigating judge. Coveliers points out that attacks which do not distinguish between military targets and civilian targets can be seen as war crimes. “But it is for the courts to decide. Whether we can actually manage to get one person to Belgium to be sentenced is questionable, but it will be an important step if an investigating judge were to investigate the matter.”

And a print article from an unspecified source, with no online link available yet:

Israelis file complaint against Hamas with Belgian judiciary

Fifteen Israelis with the Belgian nationality have filed a complaint with the Belgian courts against the radical Islamic movement Hamas, accusing it of committing war crimes by firing rockets from the Gaza Strip. That is what their lawyer Roel Coveliers made known this Thursday.

The complainants say they have become victims in varying degrees. Since Hamas took over power in Gaza in June 2007, thousands of stove-pipe projectiles have been fired on southern Israel, causing seven deaths.

The impetus for the legal action comes from the European pro-Israel lobby “European Friends of Israel” [EFI] and is a response to the attempts to try to bring Israeli leaders to international tribunals.

The complaint is based on the report of the South African judge Richard Goldstone. He accuses the Jewish state and Palestinian armed groups of “war crimes” during the Israeli Gaza offensive about one year ago. According to the Palestinians, there were 1,400 dead on their side, as they claim, mostly civilians.

The Belgian law provides that international crimes can be judged by Belgian courts when the victims are Belgians or at least had been living in Belgium for three months before the acts were committed.

Until 2003, the Belgian courts had universal jurisdiction in relation to alleged war crimes, thus without the suspected perpetrators or victims having a relationship with Belgium. But after a tsunami of complaints against, for instance, the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and former U.S. president George Bush, this caused such a diplomatic storm that the Belgian Parliament abolished the law, although some elements have been included now in the criminal code.

Now comes the jellyfish:

Complaint by Israelis in Belgium: “PR disaster” due to involvement of Coveliers (Ha’aretz)

Belgian Jewish Organizations in Antwerp [actually, only one] and Israel strongly criticized the involvement of a leader of Vlaams Belang in a complaint by Israeli Belgians to the Belgian judicial authorities against Hamas, as the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported on Friday. The organizations warn of a “public relations disaster”.

At the initiative of a pro-Israeli lobby, the law office of Hugo Coveliers (Vlaams Belang) has filed the request with the Belgian court to sentence Hamas leaders in Gaza because Israel they have caused damage to Belgians living in Israel.

“The involvement of (Coveliers) […] is very stupid,” said Eli Ringer, Vice Chairman of the Forum of Jewish Organizations in Belgium. “From a PR perspective in Belgium this is a catastrophe”. VB is no movement with which Israel should be associated in the Belgian political discourse. From a practical point of view, the initiatives of Vlaams Belang guys are not taken seriously.”

“[…] The idea has little chance of success in Belgium, even without the involvement,” of VB, said David Lowy, founder of a group of Belgian immigrants, “Jobi”. “To involve them with this is like shooting yourself in the foot or making an own-goal. Having Vlaams Belang out there defending the Israeli position only makes this more difficult to defend.”

On behalf of the lobbying group European Initiative, Director Uri Jablonka contended that the “only link” to Coveliers and his lawyers is that they “represent our lawsuit,” on a strictly professional basis.

VH notes:

It’s not “VB out there”, as Eli Ringer, Vice Chairman of the Forum of Jewish Organizations in Belgium says, suggesting that the law firm and VB are the same — although VB may indeed be the only party in Belgium (together with LDD of Dedecker) defending Israel. Even the left-wing Roth Institute on anti-Semitism in Tel Aviv, which also denounces VB, states:

In September 2008, MEP Frank Vanhecke, one of the leaders of Vlaams Belang, was interviewed by Israel’s Ha’aretz after the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs decided to lift his immunity (see below). Vanhecke said he was aware that many Jews viewed Vlaams Belang as anti-Semitic, but that this “misconception” was due in part to a “grave error” on the part of some Flemish secessionists who had sided with the Nazis in the 1940s “only as a misguided and naïve attempt to achieve independence.” He also referred to “the unacceptable behavior of a few weeds” who associated themselves with the party, adding: “They say I’m anti-Semitic when the truth is I am one of Israel’s staunchest defenders in the European Parliament.” Unlike its Flemish counterparts, the French-speaking right has never put anti-Semitism on hold.

The same Roth Institute thus also criticizes the VB background of the director of Coveliers’ law firm, finally discovering in 2008 that “Among all progressive and leftist circles, the Jew who does not openly disown the State of Israel is considered the enemy of humankind. Indymedia Belgium […] is one of the vectors of radical anti-Zionism and the new anti-Semitism. […] For contemporary Belgian opposition to Israel serves the interests of many components of its society, on the left as well as on the right. […] Unlike its Flemish counterparts, the French-speaking right has never put anti-Semitism on hold.”

In 2008 Eli Ringer, the Vice Chairman of the Forum of Jewish Organizations [FJO] in Belgium, stated to Ha’aretz that “should Vlaams Belang visit Jerusalem [Filip Dewinter was invited by Professor Eldad for a conference], there will be a real mess, because it will break the Jewish boycott of this problematic and xenophobic entity.”

However, Hans Knoop, the FJO Forum-partner of Eli Ringer, states: “I have lived twenty years in Belgium,” said Knoop [who emigrated there from the Netherlands]. “When I came here, the Jewish community then viewed the Vlaams Blok, now Vlaams Belang, as a great danger because they were against foreigners. Now everything is seen as a threat except Vlaams Belang, which on the basis of the anti-Islam agenda clearly makes overtures.”

Not to mention Eli Ringer’s counterpart in the Netherlands, “Een Ander Joods Geluid” [Another Jewish Voice], which openly sides with left-wing and extreme left-wing Hamas supporters like the anti-Wilders “Netherlands Admits Color” [international Socialists, supporters of Hamas], Netherlands Palestine Committee [supporters of PLO and Hamas] and Vrouwen in het Zwart [Woman in Black, left-wing pro-Hamas group] who demand that Israel to withdraw fully and unconditionally from all occupied [sic] Palestine territories.”

HoeiBoei wrote: “Too bad in the case of Another Jewish Voice (EAJG) that in their criticism of Israel they are blind to the anti-Semitism of fundamentalist terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas.”

Finally, VH includes some additional information about EFI:

There are pictures and material on this page, and activities are listed here.

From the activities list:

Israeli Ambassador Gideon Meir makes no apology for his government’s hard-handed approach towards the Palestinians. He tells Kurt Sansone that Israelis are fed up with ceding land for peace and getting war in return.

Finally someone who says what should be said — this is the Wilders tone, a splendid interview with Gideon Meir here:

There is a new government that was elected by the Israeli people and it is the people who have made it clear that they are fed up. For 16 years we made concessions, giving up land for peace and peace did not come. The key word is negotiation. This means that the two parties talk and both make concessions. But what do we have until now? Israel gave up land and in return all it got was more war, more terror.

There is also an excellent article by Magdi Christiano Allam.

Nose, Meet Grindstone

A ScholarSeveral people have written me in the last few days to express their concern at the relative lack of posts recently at Gates of Vienna.

It’s true that posting has been light lately, but there’s a good reason: I have undertaken the editing of a book — an actual paying job! — and the task is absorbing all my time. As a result, since Dymphna is not feeling well, posting here has indeed been lighter than usual.

For the duration of this job, I’ll try to post at least one substantive piece each day, and of course the news feed will continue as scheduled.

In the meantime, you will find all the important news that I miss at one or more of the following sites:
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Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/28/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/28/2009A man named Mohamed Ibrahim threatened to blow up several businesses in Memphis, and announced that he was going to start a jihad. When police arrested him he had a butcher knife concealed up his sleeve. He attempted to kick out the windows of the police car, and officers were forced to suppress him with pepper spray. He was charged with terrorism and released on $100 bond.

In other news, a poll taken in Sweden reveals that 56% of the public feel that immigration for the most part has been positive for the country.

Thanks to CSP, Esther, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
- – - - – - – - -

USA
Dearborn: US Muslim Capital
Do You Feel Safe Now?
Frank Gaffney: Jihad 101
Let My Terrorists Go
Memphis Man Out on $100 Bail After Threatening Jihad in Memphis; Update: $50,000 Bail Now
Memphis Man Arrested: Accused of Making Bomb Threats & Threatening to Start “Holy War”
Memphis Man Faces Terrorism Charge After Threats
Men Believed Behind Airplane Plot Were Freed From Gitmo
Officials: Only a Failed Detonator Saved Northwest Flight
Security Questioned After Jet Scare
US Orders Body Searches After Botched Airline Attack
 
Europe and the EU
Afghan Teens Dumped in Swedish Forest
Dutch Probe Claims of Nigerian Bomber Accomplice
Fiat: Termini Imerese Faces Sale, Chinese Chery Interested
France: South Stream: EDF Towards Payment in Electricity
Italy: Baroque Spectacular in Naples
Spain: Anchovy Fishing Resumes in Bay of Biscay
UK: ‘There Are Many More Like Me’: Jet Bomber’s Chilling Warning as MI5 Hunt Terror Cell Behind Failed Attack
UK: Bomb Plotter: ‘More Like Me’
UK: Escaped Criminal Taunts Police on Facebook as He Enjoys Christmas on the Run
UK: To Our Eternal Shame, Britain is Still a Hub for Islamic Terror
 
Balkans
Croatia: The Presidential Candidates
Croatia: Official Data Confirm Run-Off in Presidential Vote
 
North Africa
Archaeology: Tunisia, Former Foreign Minister’s Son Arrested
French Protestors Camp Out in Front of Cairo Embassy
Golf: 5 New Courses in Tunisia
Joint OIC-Arab League Committee Develops a Plan to Correct the Image of Arabs and Muslims in America
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Chutzpah! U.S. Demands Israel Explain Terrorists’ Deaths
Lieberman: No Peace Deal in Next 10 to 20 Years
‘Uprising’ Planned to Target West Bank Jews
 
Middle East
Al-Qaeda Warned of Imminent Bomb Attack
Chevrolet Increases Turkish Market Share by 82%
Gaza Aid Stuck in Jordan Amid Turkish Mediation
Lebanon: Chamber Speaker Fini Visits UNIFIL Mission
Stop Building Steel Wall, Nasrallah Tells Egypt
Swedish Ambassador on Iranian Protests
Turkey Seeks Return of Santa Claus’ Bones
U.S. Widens Terror War to Yemen, A Qaeda Bastion
 
Far East
Vietnam Sentences Democracy Activist to Prison
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Abdulmutallab’s Bomb Plans Began With Classroom Defence of 9/11
Mauritania: Al Qaeda May be Behind Kidnapping of Italians
UN: Ugandan Rebel Attacks May Have Been War Crimes
 
Latin America
Brazil: More Halal Beef for Arab Countries
 
Immigration
Swedes Positive About Immigration: Poll
Video: Latin America See Influx of African Immigrants
 
Culture Wars
Spain: Law on Abortion Gains Large Majority in Congress
 
General
“Avatar”: The Suicide Fantasy

USA


Dearborn: US Muslim Capital

When the American car-maker Henry Ford opened his plant in Dearborn, Michigan, his legacy was more than an industrial one — he contributed to the formation of one of United States’ largest Middle Eastern communities.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]



Do You Feel Safe Now?

If you have traveled by airline lately — domestically or internationally — you know the meaning of the word “hassle.”

Ordinary people who pose no possible threat to life and limb are forced to take off their shoes, their belts, walk through metal detectors, get their bags X-rayed and stand on long security lines.

Meanwhile, as we saw last weekend, a man with “significant terrorist connections” boards a plan in Nigeria with the components of a bomb and nearly succeeds in detonating it as it approached Detroit.

In other words, all the best efforts of government’s politically correct, non-profiling of airline passengers proves worthless once again.

In fact, if it hadn’t been for the alert passengers on Flight 253, all 278 of them might have perished in the latest act of Islamic terrorism. Passengers, not crew members, jumped over one another to subdue the fiend. There was not a TSA agent or a sky marshal in sight.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Frank Gaffney: Jihad 101

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano came in for some well-deserved criticism for declaring over the weekend that “the system worked” with respect to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s effort to blow up the plane he was flying from Amsterdam to Detroit. By Monday, she was backpedalling, acknowledging that “our system did not work in this instance.”

In truth, for a lot of Americans, Ms. Napolitano has not had much credibility since she tried to ban “terrorism” from the official lexicon of her department. But arguably the most serious indication that she is wholly ill-equipped to carry out her present responsibilities can be found in another — as yet uncorrected — statement she made on Sunday. She told CNN’s “State of the Union” that, “Right now, we have no indication [that Abdulmutallab’s actions were] part of anything larger.”

Not “part of anything larger”? Is she serious? Does she take us for fools?

Read my lips, Secretary Napolitano: Abdulmutallab’s actions were absolutely, positively part of something larger. What they were part of is the comprehensive theo-political-legal program that authoritative Islam calls Shariah.

This supremacist program requires its adherents to engage in jihad, or holy war, to bring about the triumph of Islam under a global theocracy, one that will impose Shariah on Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Pursuant to Shariah, jihad should — wherever practicable — be pursued through the terrifying use of violence. Where violent jihad is impractical or would be counterproductive, Shariah directs faithful Muslims to use other means to advance the same goal. Koran expert Robert Spencer calls the latter “stealth jihad.”…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]



Let My Terrorists Go

The Bush Administration, that for all its faults that had at least cared about protecting Americans against Islamic terrorism, under pressure from the courts gave in, and when the official candidate of Islamic terrorists, MSNBC commentators and ACLU lawyers took office, it was all over but the suicide bombings. Barry Hussein signed the order closing Guantánamo Bay, released many of its residents, and gave civilian trials to others. And thus far of the terrorists who have been released, one in seven has returned to terrorist activity. And that number likely underestimates the true picture by quite a lot.

In 2006 Thomas Wilner, the lawyer for a number of the terrorists, penned an emotional article for the Los Angeles Times calling Gitmo, an American Gulag and a living nightmare. Naturally of course all his Kuwaiti clients were innocent little lambs who just happened to be hanging around Afghanistan before being snatched up into the cruel and unfeeling maw of the US military industrial complex, inhumanly tortured and deprived of their humanity.

Two years later after his release, one of Wilner’s innocent lambs, Abdallah al-Ajmi, hailed as the “Lion of Guantanamo” murdered 13 Iraqi policemen in a suicide bombing. Naturally instead of admitting that he had worked tirelessly to release a Jihadi terrorist from Gitmo, leaving him free to kill, Wilner instead blamed the US government for turning his formerly lamb-like client who had been picking flowers in the valley of Kandahar into a violent terrorist by imprisoning him in Guantánamo Bay.

[…]

The suicide bombings of Muslim terrorists today, like the Red Terror, are one of those necessary murders being committed by the Jack Abbotts with beards and keffiyahs running around the world today. After 13 dead in Mosul whose families he has never visited, his lawyer of course has no regrets. “Guantanamo took a kid—a kid who wasn’t all that bad—and it turned him into a hostile, hardened individual,” Wilner said. The kid in question being Abdallah al-Ajmi, a Jihadist who had tried to fight in Chechnya and then Afghanistan, threatened his own lawyer and on release, went to fight in Iraq and murdered 13 Iraqi police officers.

The real story of course as always is behind the scenes. Thomas Wilner and his prestigious law firm, Shearman & Sterling, are not some gang of bearded radicals huddling in an East Village basement office. They’re a prestigious law firm whose bill was footed by the Kuwaiti government. Shearman & Sterling did not simply have managing partners like Wilner represent captured terrorists, they launched a massive lobbying campaign on their behalf.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Memphis Man Out on $100 Bail After Threatening Jihad in Memphis; Update: $50,000 Bail Now

Let’s play a little game of You’re The Judge. Police arrest a man who has told seven Memphis businesses that he would “blow [them] to pieces” if they didn’t close. When police pulled him over, they discover three cassettes with Islamic instruction on them, and discover that the suspect, Mohamed Ibrahim, has been telling people that he wants to conduct jihad in Memphis. When they arrest him, he kicks out the window of the police cruiser and has to be subdued with pepper spray.

Ibrahim is charged with commission of an act of terrorism, filing false reports, and disorderly conduct. Would you release him on $100 bond?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Memphis Man Arrested: Accused of Making Bomb Threats & Threatening to Start “Holy War”

MEMPHIS, TN — Tonight, Mohamed Ibrahim is out after posting $100 bond. Earlier in the day, he was arrested after police say he walked into several Memphis businesses and threatened to blow them up.

Court records show Ibrahim was also telling people he was Muslim, and wanted to start a jihad, or holy war, in Memphis.

Police say when they arrested him, he had a butcher knife hidden in one of his jacket sleeves.

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



Memphis Man Faces Terrorism Charge After Threats

Arrested after saying he’d bomb 7 businesses

A Memphis man was arrested Friday after he walked into seven local businesses and announced that he would bomb them if they didn’t close, according to a police affidavit.

The report states that Mohamed Ibrahim, 35, threatened businesses on Poplar Avenue, Summer Avenue, Mendenhall, Perkins and Danny Thomas Boulevard.

“If you don’t close this place up, I’m going to blow it to pieces,” Ibrahim told customers at the BP Gas Station on the 300 block of Poplar, according to the report.

A police officer pulled over the suspect’s black PT Cruiser on Poplar and arrested Ibrahim, who was “very nervous” and appeared as if “he was trying to hide something,” the report stated.

The suspect tried to kick out the windows of a patrol car during the arrest and police said they had to use pepper spray to subdue him.

The FBI found three Islamic cassette tapes and miscellaneous papers in the suspect’s car, which were removed for additional study, according to the affidavit. Police charged Ibrahim with commission of an act of terrorism, filing false reports and disorderly conduct. He posted $100 bond and was released, pending his court date on Monday.

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



Men Believed Behind Airplane Plot Were Freed From Gitmo

Two of the four leaders allegedly behind the al Qaeda plot to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet over Detroit were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007, ABC News is reporting, quoting American officials and citing Department of Defense documents.

American officials agreed to send the two terrorists to Saudi Arabia where they entered into an “art therapy rehabilitation program” and were set free, according to U.S. and Saudi officials, ABC News reported.

Guantanamo prisoner #333, Muhamad Attik al-Harbi, and prisoner #372, Said Ali Shari, were sent to Saudi Arabia on Nov. 9, 2007, according to the Defense Department log of detainees who were released from American custody. Al-Harbi has since changed his name to Muhamad al-Awfi.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]



Officials: Only a Failed Detonator Saved Northwest Flight

Screening Machines May Need to Be Replaced; Al Qaeda Aware of ‘Achilles heel’

Officials now say tragedy was only averted on Northwest flight 253 because a makeshift detonator failed to work properly.

Bomb experts say there was more than enough explosive to bring down the Northwest jet, which had nearly 300 people aboard, had the detonator not failed, and the nation’s outdated airport screening machines may need to be upgraded.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Security Questioned After Jet Scare

Privacy advocates have attempted to stop or at least slow the introduction of advanced checkpoint screening devices that use so-called millimeter waves to create an image of a passenger’s body, so officers can see under clothing to determine if a weapon or explosive has been hidden. Security officers, in a private area, review the images, which are not stored.

Law enforcement officials say Abdulmutallab hid a condom or condom-like pouch below his torso containing PETN, the primary ingredient in detonating cords used for industrial explosions.

Legislation is pending in the House that would prohibit the use of the millimeter wave equipment for routine passenger screening.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]



US Orders Body Searches After Botched Airline Attack

New security measures introduced by the US Transport Security Administration for all flights into the US include pat-down searches at the airport gate, physical inspection of all bags and requiring passengers to stay in their seats without access to any personal items or overhead lockers for the final hour before landing.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Afghan Teens Dumped in Swedish Forest

Five chilled and hungry Afghan teenagers stumbled into a southern Swedish town on Christmas Eve after being left by smugglers in a deserted stretch of forest days earlier, a priest who had taken them in said Sunday.

A member of the church had found the five boys, aged 14 to 18, in the southern town of Sävsjö on Thursday, Christmas Eve, local pastor Jonas Nyström told AFP.

Nyström said the police had asked the local Högland parish to look after the teenagers until the social services opened on Monday following a Christmas break.

“They were cold, they were tired and they were starving,” Nyström said.

The group had been “abandoned in the forest by a smuggler who did not want to be seen with them, and they were able to get to Sävsjö by following a railway line,” he said.

A Swedish radio report said they had travelled across Europe hidden in a container.

Nyström said the Afghans did not speak English and he had communicated with them using translation software and through other Afghans in Sweden.

“Some of their parents had been killed by the Taliban,” he said.

Many Afghans use illegal people smugglers to flee their dangerous and destitute country, with Europe the main destination.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Dutch Probe Claims of Nigerian Bomber Accomplice

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) — Dutch military police are investigating the possibility that an accomplice may have helped the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, a spokesman said on Monday.

A U.S. couple on the flight, Kurt and Lori Haskell, told Reuters and other news agencies that they saw a tall, well-dressed man aged about 50 with the suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on Friday morning at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

The Haskells have claimed the man spoke for Abdulmutallab and attempted to get him aboard Northwest flight 253 without a passport.

“At this moment we have no information on whether there was another guy,” the military police spokesman said. “We are checking all clues and information we get.”

The spokesman added that the military police and the counter-terrorism agency NCTb were reviewing CCTV video and other evidence to see if the accomplice story bears out.

The military police have already said Abdulmutallab did not go through passport control at Schiphol when he arrived from Lagos.

But the spokesman said it would be unlikely the man could board the plane without showing his passport at some point in the boarding process.

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



Fiat: Termini Imerese Faces Sale, Chinese Chery Interested

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, DECEMBER 23 — Chinese group Chery is willing to evaluate the Termini Imerese dossier if Fiat puts the Sicilian factory on the market, after a decision to discontinue car production from 2012 at the industrial site, say union sources, the day after the meeting at Palazzo Chigi, where managing director Sergio Marchionne presented Fiat’s industrial plan. Various government representatives confirmed outside the meeting that the Chery groups interest is real. The factory in Sicily represents an outpost for the Chinese for producing cars in Europe, and above all, because of its geographical position, an important junction for the north African market, an area which Beijing is extremely interested in. The plan presented yesterday by Fiat to the government and unions is an ambitious one for Italy, with investments worth 8 billion in the next two years, an increase in car production which could rise to one million, with the launch of 17 new products and the upgrade of 13 existing models. The plan also brought confirmation of the most negative news: Termini Imerese will cease production in December 2011 because the competitive disadvantages and structural difficulties mean the factory continues to make a loss. At the Pomigliano factory, where the new Panda could be produced, the change in production will not be painless: the factory in Campania requires considerable resources and will bring further inactivity for workers. Today the workers at the two factories are on strike. Termini Imerese must not close said national secretary of the Ugl mechanics union Giovanni Centrella. This is the only economic source for the whole territory and a stop in production is unthinkable.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



France: South Stream: EDF Towards Payment in Electricity

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 23 — The French energy company EDF could “pay in electricity” for its stake in the South Stream company, charged with the construction of the underwater tract of the gas pipeline of the same name and today held in an equal term joint venture with Gazprom and ENI, as well as “for the gas that will be supplied through the new conduits”, maintains the French economic newspaper Les Echos, quoting sources close to the dossier. The mechanism, the same source explained, would bring notable advantages to the French group, which on the basis of the agreement signed at the end of November should acquire between 10 and 20% of South Stream, with an investment superior to 2.5 billion euros. By paying through what it produces and not in capital, it would avoid making its high debt at the moment even worse. Gazprom, on the other hand, from a similar system would obtain access to the French electricity market: with energy purchased from EDF it could serve new clients in France, obtain drawing rights or even purchase stakes in nuclear power plants. The possibility has not been affirmed by the company, but coherent with the diversification strategy that has characterised its activities in recent months, with the acquisition of 4 Russian electricity companies and the coal producer Siberian Energy and Coal Company. It remains to be understood, the source went on to specify, in which measure the Russian giant will seek to profit from this payment mechanism. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Baroque Spectacular in Naples

Sweeping initiative encompasses 13 exhibitions

(ANSA) — Naples, December 23 — Naples is celebrating the Baroque movement with a sweeping initiative encompassing 13 exhibitions and hundreds of artistic and decorative masterpieces. Six of the southern city’s museums are each hosting shows spanning a period of 150 years in total, starting with Caravaggio’s arrival in Naples in 1606.

Over 350 items are on display in the exhibitions, many of which recently restored or rarely shown pieces. In addition to artwork, including paintings, drawings and sculpture, the initiative features jewellery, fabrics, furniture, ceramics and porcelain.

The centrepiece of the event is an exhibition at Naples’ prestigious Capodimonte Museum, showcasing a selection of paintings by some of the most famous Baroque names, including Caravaggio, Luca Giordano and Francesco Solimena.

Covering the period 1606 to 1750, it includes works by artists operating in all the main strands of Baroque: Caravaggio-inspired naturalism, classical and Rococo.

The Capodimonte will also host a side event devoted entirely to drawings by famous Neapolitan painters of the era, with rarely shown pieces on loan from public and private collections, held both in Italy and abroad.

Castel Sant’Elmo is showing two exhibitions. The first of these features 17th-century paintings, sculptures and furniture from local churches and museums restored over the last decade but which, for various reasons, have not gone on show before. The second event spotlights images by contemporary photographer Luciano Pedicini, who has documented the Baroque aspects of Neapolitan architecture, from hidden decorative detail to the showily grandiose. The Certosa di San Martino complex is itself an architectural temple to Baroque, which is explored in the first of three initiatives on show there.

The second event is a series of paintings by Italian and international artists detailing the city’s Baroque style, with work by Gaspar van Wittel, Didier Barra and Antonio Joli among others. A selection of sculptures by Francesco Celebrano and Giuseppe Sanmartino, on loan from churches around Naples, make up the third event The Duca di Martina National Ceramics Museum focuses on the decorative aspects of Baroque and their interplay, displaying painting, sculpture, applied art, furniture, porcelain and silverwork. The Pignatelli Museum spotlights Baroque’s persistent links to still life, from its roots in naturalism, through its development into a full-blown exuberant movement, and then during its later transition towards neo-naturalism and rococo.

Luca Forte and Jacopo Nani are among the artists on show here. Palazzo Reale plays host to three exhibitions. The first comprises an array of maps, drawings and photography charting the development of the city, and examples of Baroque architecture over the centuries. The second carries visitors through rooms that were once royal apartments, with furniture, frescoes and wall hangings created by the greatest names of their day. The third event is a spectacular 210-figure nativity scene created in the 1700s by leading sculptors, while a selection of paintings from the same time recount the nativity story.

The initiative, Ritorno al Barocco (Return to Baroque) runs until April 11. For more information visit www.ritornoalbarocco.com. photo: Luca Giordano, The Rape of Europa.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: Anchovy Fishing Resumes in Bay of Biscay

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 16 — Anchovies will be back on Spanish and French markets after the four-and-a-half-year ban on fishing in the Bay of Biscay, which had been decided by the EU to reconstitute the resources of the species that was considered an endangered species. The Spanish fleet will be able to catch 5,400 tonnes of the total quota of 7,000 tonnes annually set in the agreement approved yesterday unanimously by EU Fisheries Ministries, stated the Minister for the Rural and Marine Environment, Elena Spinosa, to the press. Anchovy fishing will resume on January 1 2010, but fishermen will not be able to begin their activities until March 1, as was decided yesterday by France and Spain, the two countries affected by the measure. The 7,000-tonne quoted will be reviewed in the spring after the examination of scientific reports on the fish. The French-Spanish agreement, which allowed the European Commission to put an end to the ban, has established a division in the share of Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in the Bay of Biscay of 80% for Spain and 20% for France, plus a 200-tonnes compensation for French fishermen, compared with the previous division of 90% and 10%, respectively. In any case, it is a provisional quota — as Espinosa underlined — given that the definitive one will be established after the coming spring in the last council meeting of EU fisheries ministries under the Spanish presidency in June 2010. In outlining the agreement, the European Commissioner for Fisheries, Joe Borg, was quoted by the media as having warned that anchovy fishing will be closely monitored to prevent excessive exploitation and to achieve a reconstitution of the endangered species by 2015. More in general, the agreement finalised by the EU-27 provides for a 7% increase in the cod fishing in the north, in the Gran Sol region west of Scotland, Ireland and France, for which the European Commission had proposed a 10% reduction, while the status quo for fishing of the same species in southern European waters has remained unchanged. In the Gran Sol region, according to minister Espinosa, the quota of anglers has been increased by 10% and that of sole and bass has been upped by 5%. The quota of anchovies in the Gulf of Cadiz will remain at the same level as that seen in 2009. The initial proposal to reduce the fishing of squill by 30%, anglers by 25% bass and horse mackerel was in the end reduced to 10% for the first, 15% for anglers and 5% for the other species, according to the Spanish minister. Espinosa noted that the reopening of cod fishing in North Atlantic waters was positive, after 10 years in which it had been halted and after a great deal of effort to restore previous levels of the resource. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘There Are Many More Like Me’: Jet Bomber’s Chilling Warning as MI5 Hunt Terror Cell Behind Failed Attack

The would-be bomber accused of trying to blow up a flight to the U.S. on Christmas Day has declared there are ‘many more like me’ who are ready to strike.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who has been charged with the attempting bombing of the Amsterdam-Detroit flight, warned FBI agents there are other terrorists waiting in Yemen, according to ABC News in the U.S.

His claims bolster fears of a link to a wider terrorist cell operating out of the Arabian country.

U.S. officials, who today released the first picture of Abdulmutallab since his arrest, say he told them he was trained on how to detonate explosives by Al Qaeda operatives in Yemen.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Bomb Plotter: ‘More Like Me’

The 23-year-old Nigerian has told security chiefs of a sinister network in Yemen who are ready and waiting to strike.

The reports come after The Sun revealed that cops fear that 25 British-born Muslims are plotting to bomb Western airliners.

The fanatics, in five groups, are now training at secret terror camps in Yemen.

[…]

The British extremists in Yemen are in their early 20s and from Bradford, Luton and Leytonstone, East London.

They are due to return to the UK early in 2010 and will then await internet instructions from al-Qaeda on when to strike

[…]

The 25 suspects, of Pakistani and Somali descent, were radicalised in UK mosques.

Some had been to university and studied engineering or computer sciences.

Others were former street gang members…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Escaped Criminal Taunts Police on Facebook as He Enjoys Christmas on the Run

An escaped prisoner has celebrated his first Christmas on the run by taunting police with photos of himself on Facebook.

On Christmas Day, Craig ‘Lazie’ Lynch, 28, even posted a photo of himself adorned in tinsel, making a rude gesture and holding a turkey.

Lynch has been on the run from Suffolk’s Hollesley Bay Prison since September but rather than hide from police he has regularly updated them on his movements via the social networking service.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: To Our Eternal Shame, Britain is Still a Hub for Islamic Terror

Who can be surprised? After all, this is ‘ Londonistan’ — the contemptuous term coined by the French security service back in the Nineties as they watched Britain become the central hub of Islamic terrorism in Europe.

Radicals flocked to the UK, attracted by Britain’s toxic combination of criminally lax immigration controls, generous health, education and welfare benefits and the ability to perpetuate their views through the British veneration of the principle of free speech.

Despite 9/11, the 2005 London Tube and bus attacks and the dozens of other Islamist plots uncovered in Britain, the astounding fact is that Islamic extremist networks are still allowed to flourish in Britain, largely through the obsession of its governing class with multiculturalism and ‘human rights’.

As a result, Britain remains — to its eternal shame — the biggest hub of Islamic radicalisation outside the Arab and Muslim world.

Extremists are still slipping into the country. The courts are still refusing to deport terrorists in order to protect their ‘human rights’ abroad.

[…]

Not only is no action taken against extremist mosques and madrassas, but many British universities have been turned into terrorism recruitment centres.

More than four years ago, the intelligence expert Professor Anthony Glees listed 24 British universities which he said had been infiltrated by militant jihadists.

[…]

The root cause of this madness is that British ministers and officials refuse to accept that what they are facing is religious fanaticism.

They insist that Islamic extremism and terrorism have got nothing to do with Islam but are rather a ‘perversion’ of Islam. And they believe that the antidote to this is ‘authentic’ Islam — which they then use taxpayers’ money to promote.

But what they fail to grasp is that ‘authentic’ Islam is currently dominated by a deeply politicised interpretation which promotes holy war to conquer ‘infidels’ and insufficiently pious Muslims.

And although many such Muslims abhor this and have nothing to do with violence or extremism, it is an interpretation backed up by Islamic theology and history and currently supported by the major religious authorities in the Islamic world.

That is what the government often ends up inadvertently funding — with catastrophic results. For when exposed to this, even many hitherto secular Muslims become radicalised.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Croatia: The Presidential Candidates

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, DEC 28 — Ivo Josipovic, who won 32.44 pct of the votes in the first round of presidential elections in Croatia, represents the moderate left, the middle class, young people and the country’s most developed urban areas. He managed to win a third of the total votes tank to his reputation as a calm man devoted to safeguarding legality and fighting corruption. Josipovic is a professor of International law at Zagreb’s University and a classical music composer. He has served as a lower house deputy of the Social democrats (Sdp) for a number of terms. According to polls, he is likely to win also the decisive second ballot scheduled for January 10. His opponent, Milan Bandic, is well-known for his determination to promote economic prosperity both in Zagreb (the city where he has served as mayor for years) and the whole country which is soon to gain full membership of the EU. Thanks to a populist door-to-door campaign, especially in the poorest areas, he managed to overcome ideological differences and collect votes from both sides of the electorate. He is considered as the centre-right alternative to Josipovic, although, as late as two months ago, he was one of the most prominent members of the Sdp from which he was expelled following arguments with the party’s leadership. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Croatia: Official Data Confirm Run-Off in Presidential Vote

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, DEC 28 — The centre-left candidate in Croatia’s presidential elections, Social democrat Ivo Josipovic, has won 32.44 pct of the votes yesterday, but will have to face his former party colleague, Zagreb’s mayor Milan Bandic (who claimed 14.84 pct of the votes) in a run-off. That was clear after last night’s exit polls and was confirmed by the official data provided by the electoral commission after almost all votes have been counted. The turnout reached 44.07 pct. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Archaeology: Tunisia, Former Foreign Minister’s Son Arrested

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, DECEMBER 28 — As part of an inquiry into the international trafficking of Tunisian archaeological finds, the son of a former foreign minister has been arrested, though his name has not yet been released. The National Guard inquiry has led to the arrest of 25 people, some of whom are Italians with criminal records. Money laundering is another of the charges, in addition to that of trafficking in archaeological finds. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



French Protestors Camp Out in Front of Cairo Embassy

French protesters camped out in front of the their embassy in Cairo to protest a ban on them from travelling from Egypt to Gaza for a march in support of the blockaded Palestinian enclave.

About 300 protesters set up tents and blocked a road in front of the mission after buses they had rented to take them to El-Arish, a town close to the border with Gaza, never came.

They said they were told by the bus company that security authorities had banned the trip.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]



Golf: 5 New Courses in Tunisia

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, DECEMBER 28 — Five new golf courses will be build as part of the national strategy to promote tourism in Tunisia. Golf is an important sector for the country, especially from the economic standpoint, and contributes to the diversification of the tourist sector for the entire year. The golf courses will be in a Raoued (Tunisi), Hergla (Sousse), Zarzis and Djerba, and will be in addition to the ten existing ones. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Joint OIC-Arab League Committee Develops a Plan to Correct the Image of Arabs and Muslims in America

The first meeting of the Joint High-level Committee of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the League of Arab States (LAS) convened over 23rd and 24th December 2009 at LAS headquarters in Cairo, to discuss the best ways and means to correct the stereotyped image of Arabs and Muslims. The meeting, which brought together Arab and Islamic institutions, discussed OIC reports on Islamophobia as well as documents prepared by LAS General Secretariat and by other institutions on the cultural and media activities that have been conducted or could be implemented in the future to respond to the media spin campaigns targeting Islam and Islamic civilization.

The work program of the meeting included examination of documents on the ways and means likely to help correct the stereotypical image of Arabs and Muslims in the West, particularly in the US. The documents included notably a concept paper that laid forth the motives and background of existing stereotypes and a roaster of proposals for across-the-board action.

Participants in the meeting agreed on a principles paper on the key themes and components of the action plan to be undertaken in the US in terms of implementing an Arabo-Islamic cultural and media program in a bid to correct the image of Arabs and Muslims. The Joint Committee will meet in the near future at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to carry through its work.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Chutzpah! U.S. Demands Israel Explain Terrorists’ Deaths

Suspects were heavily armed, murdered Jewish civilian two days before

JERUSALEM — The Obama administration yesterday demanded the Israeli government explain why its military eliminated three terrorists in an operation this weekend.

“This is sheer chutzpah and is an unprecedented and strange request,” said an Israeli security official familiar with the U.S. request.

Over the weekend, three terrorist suspects, all members of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization, were killed in an Israeli raid intended to arrest the suspects upon information they killed an Israeli civilian last Thursday. The three Fatah terrorists were heavily armed and refused to surrender to the Israeli soldiers, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

[…]

All three terrorists were members of the U.S.-trained and funded Fatah security forces.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Lieberman: No Peace Deal in Next 10 to 20 Years

Even as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is trying to lure the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that he does not see any chance for a comprehensive agreement in the next 10 to 20 years.

“We think that if we make more concessions everything will work out,” he said at a speech to the country’s 140 ambassadors and consul-generals who are participating in a conference this week in Jerusalem.. “Even if we return the last grain of sand, and divide Jerusalem, and agree to all the demands, nothing will change and we will be in the same situation.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]



‘Uprising’ Planned to Target West Bank Jews

Violent campaign comes amid U.S. pressure for Israel to evacuate territory

JERUSALEM — The Palestinian Authority has decided to support and encourage a “low-level” popular uprising in the strategic West Bank, according to Palestinian and Jordanian intelligence sources.

The decision comes at a time of increased international pressure, including from the Obama administration, for Israeli-Palestinian talks aimed at an eventual Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank. The determination also comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been enforcing a 10-month freeze on Jewish West Bank construction in line with U.S. demands.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Al-Qaeda Warned of Imminent Bomb Attack

An al-Qaeda terrorist in Yemen warned the United States “we are carrying a bomb” in a video posted online four days before the attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight bound for Detroit.

“We are carrying a bomb to hit the enemies of God,” the speaker said. “O soldiers, you should learn that we do not want to fight you, nor do we have an issue with you. We only have an issue with America and its agents, and beware of standing in the ranks of America.

“You should not defend these regimes. The soldiers and even Obama cannot put out the light of Islam.”

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]



Chevrolet Increases Turkish Market Share by 82%

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 24 — Chevrolet increased its market share by 82% in Turkey, as Anatolia news agency reports. Chevrolet announced Thursday that it was among Turkey’s fastest growing automakers, dedicated to the goal of becoming the most dynamic auto brand in Turkey. The company said it was the best selling auto brand in Turkey with an annual sales exceeding 10,000 vehicles. It said it’s ‘Cruze’ model reached a sales number of 4,000 in only seven months, and Chevrolet “Captiva” was the best selling 4WD SUV in the Turkish market with 1,700 vehicles sold in 2009. The company said it was getting ready to put new “Spark” — its latest model — on the market by February 2010. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza Aid Stuck in Jordan Amid Turkish Mediation

An aid convoy trying to reach the blockaded Gaza Strip through Egypt was still stranded in Jordan on Sunday amid Cairo’s refusal to let it cross through its territory.

Members of the convoy, which is led by British MP George Galloway, were however hoping for a solution thanks to mediation by Turkey to enter Gaza through the Red Sea port of Nuweiba, the most direct route.

“We are still stuck in Aqaba, awaiting a solution to this problem, which was unfortunately created by Egypt,” Zaher Birawi, spokesmen for the convoy, told AFP.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]



Lebanon: Chamber Speaker Fini Visits UNIFIL Mission

(ANSAmed) — SHAMA (LEBANON), DECEMBER 28 — Italy’s Chamber of Deputies speaker Gianfranco Fini has arrived in Shama on a visit to the Italian contingent of the UNIFIL mission in the strip of land separating Lebanon from Israel. Fini will be having lunch with 500 of the 2,200 Italians taking part in the UNIFIL task force. The latter counts 12,000 men from three nations sent by the United Nations to the border between Lebanon and Israel after the conflict which broke out in July 2006 to keep the territory free of conflict and weapons, guarding it alongside Lebanese armed forces. The Chamber of Deputies speaker, after the welcoming ceremony, will meet with the commander of the Italian base, Luigi Francaville, and General Claudio Graziano, who for the past three years has been at the head of the UNIFIL mission and who will soon — at the end of January — be handing over the command of the general operations to Spanish general Alberto Asarta Cuevas. Accompanying the Chamber speaker, in the very days in which UN forces have seized 250 kilos of explosives in southern Lebanon, is General Tommaso Ferro, commander of the inter-forces operating command, and representatives from the Defence Committee, Federica Mogherini of the PD and Gianfranco Paglia of the PDL, as well as the international affairs advisor to Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, Alessandro Ruben.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Stop Building Steel Wall, Nasrallah Tells Egypt

Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah has called on the Egyptian government to halt the construction of a huge steel wall along its border with the besieged Gaza Strip meant to cut supply tunnels.

“In addition to the siege, there has been news about [building] a steel wall … to terminate the thin veins which are giving some life and some hope to Gaza,” Nasrallah said in an address to thousands of people in Beirut on Sunday as part of ceremonies for Ashura, which is the anniversary of the martyrdom of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Imam Hussein (PBUH).

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]



Swedish Ambassador on Iranian Protests

The Swedish Ambassador to Teheran, Magnus Wernstedt, has told Swedish Radio news that he was a witness to new, violent clashes near the university between anti-regime demonstrators and Iranian police using clubs and tear gas. He estimates that the demonstrators totalled 10,000, adds that he is not surprised over reports that four people have been shot to death, and that he fears that the violence will continue.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]



Turkey Seeks Return of Santa Claus’ Bones

A Turkish archaeologist has called on his government to demand that Italy return the bones of St Nicholas to their original resting place.

The 3rd Century saint — on whom Santa Claus was modelled — was buried in the modern-day town of Demre in Turkey.

But in the Middle Ages his bones were taken by Italian sailors and re-interred in the port of Bari.

The Turkish government said it was considering making a request to Rome for the return of the saint’s remains.

While Christmas is by and large not celebrated in Muslim Turkey, the Christmas figure of Santa Claus certainly is in the Mediterranean town of his birth.

He was born in what was then the Greek city of Myra in the third century, and went on to become the local bishop, with a reputation for performing miracles and secretly giving gold to the needy — on one occasion being forced to climb down a chimney to leave his donation.

After his death he was canonised as Saint Nicholas, and venerated in much of the Christian world. But when Myra was occupied by Arab forces in the 11th Century, Italian sailors came and took the saint’s bones to the port of Bari, where they remain interred to this day.

Prof Nevzat Cevik, head of archaeological research in Demre, says Saint Nicholas had made it clear during his life that he wanted to be buried in his home town.

Even without the bones, the town of Demre has not been shy about cashing in on its most famous native son — today visitors to the Byzantine church there are greeted by a large, plastic Santa statue, complete with beard and red snow-suit.

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



U.S. Widens Terror War to Yemen, A Qaeda Bastion

WASHINGTON — In the midst of two unfinished major wars, the United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al Qaeda in Yemen.

A year ago, the Central Intelligence Agency sent several of its top field operatives with counterterrorism experience to the country, according a former top agency official. At the same time, some of the most secretive Special Operations commandos have begun training Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism tactics, senior military officers said.

The Pentagon is spending more than $70 million over the next 18 months, and using teams of Special Forces, to train and equip Yemeni military, Interior Ministry and coast guard forces, more than doubling previous military aid levels.

[…]

The country has long been a refuge for jihadists, in part because Yemen’s government welcomed returning Islamist fighters who had fought in Afghanistan during the 1980s. The Yemen port of Aden was the site of the audacious bombing of the American destroyer Cole in October 2000 by Qaeda militants, which killed 17 sailors.

But Qaeda militants have made much more focused efforts to build a base in Yemen in recent years, drawing recruits from throughout the region and mounting attacks more frequently on foreign embassies and other targets. The White House is seeking to nurture enduring ties with the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and prod him to combat the local Qaeda affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, even as his impoverished country grapples with seemingly intractable internal turmoil.

With fears also growing of a resurgent Islamist extremism in nearby Somalia and East Africa, administration officials and American lawmakers said Yemen could become Al Qaeda’s next operational and training hub, rivaling the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan where the organization’s top leaders operate.

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

Far East


Vietnam Sentences Democracy Activist to Prison

A Vietnamese court has sentenced pro-democracy activist Tran Anh Kim to five-and-a-half years in prison for subversion against the communist state.

The former army officer was a member of the Democratic Party of Vietnam and the pro-democracy Bloc 8406, both of which are banned.

He was accused of publishing pro-democracy articles on the internet.

Four other activists are to be tried on similar charges in the latest round of dissident trials in Vietnam.

A number of other democracy activists have already been jailed this year in what some analysts say is a crackdown ahead of the next Communist Party Congress scheduled for early 2011.

‘Serious violation’

The 60-year-old Kim was arrested in July on charges of conducting propaganda against the state.

He was later indicted with the more serious crime of “conducting activities to overthrow the people’s administration” — charges that carry a maximum penalty of death.

“I joined the Democratic Party of Vietnam and Bloc 8406 to fight for democratic freedom and human rights for the Vietnamese nation through peaceful dialogue and non-violent means,” he said.

Journalists were allowed to cover the four-hour trial at the court house in the northern town of Thai Binh.

Judge Tran Van Loan said Kim’s activities had amounted to a “serious violation of national security”. He said he had worked with “reactionary Vietnamese and hostile forces in exile”.

The trial of four other pro-democracy activists — Le Cong Dinh, Nguyen Tien Trung, Tran Huynh Duy Thuc and Le Thang Long — on similar charges is to begin in Ho Chi Minh City on 20 January.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa


Abdulmutallab’s Bomb Plans Began With Classroom Defence of 9/11

The son of one of Africa’s richest families was called “Imam” by fellow students as he descended into fanaticism

The rich kid with a brilliant school record was a ticking time bomb even before he turned up as an international student living in his father’s mansion block apartment in Britain.

Classmates remember Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as such a pious youth that he was nicknamed “the Pope”.

Suicide bombers typically take half a dozen years to descend from religious fanaticism to “martyrdom”, which appears to be the case for this young Nigerian, a security expert said.

[…]

Their son was sent to the British International School at Lomé, in Togo, where he is remembered for his religious fervour. During Ramadan he declined to join fellow pupils going to a disco, telling them that it would be un-Islamic. He defended 9/11 as an act of war, saying that it might have been necessary because there were American troops on Saudi soil.

“He did have this saintly aura,” said Michael Rimmer, a Briton who taught Mr Abdulmutallab history. Mr Rimmer added that sometimes he expressed religious opinions that were “a bit over the top”.

“In 2001 we had a number of class discussions about the Taleban. All the other Muslim kids thought they were a bunch of nutters, but Umar spoke in their defence.”

[…]

The rift with his family worsened because of his “extreme views about religion”, according to a brother quoted by the Nigerian newspaper This Day. He told his family that he wanted to go to an Arab country to learn Arabic.

For a while he was in Egypt, but his family encouraged him to take a postgraduate degree in business studies in Dubai. They hoped that the cosmopolitan atmosphere would prevent him from becoming even more extreme.

However, he abandoned the United Arab Emirates, saying that he had found an alternative course in Yemen that would take seven years to complete. When his mother asked him to reconsider, he told her to stay away because he had found a new life and was breaking all family ties.

“We know Farouk’s extreme views and were always apprehensive of where it may lead him to,” the unidentified brother said. “He has maintained his distance from us and we never bothered him much. He always wanted to be left alone, so we respect his wishes.” The brother said that the bomb suspect was “quiet, nice and gentle” and “morally upright”.

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



Mauritania: Al Qaeda May be Behind Kidnapping of Italians

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, Dec. 28 — Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of the Italian couple in Mauritania in an audio message dated December 27 and broadcast today by satellite TV channel al Arabya. In the message, Slah Abu Mohammed, who says to be responsible for the media of the Qaeda group for Maghreb, explained that the kidnapping is a response to the “crimes committed by the Italian government in Afghanistan and Iraq”. The website of Al Arabyia also shows a photograph of the spouses taken in a desert area: behind them are with five men with covered faces and armed with machine guns. The face of Sergio Cicala (64-year-old from Sicily) is visible, while his wife Philomene Kabore’s is blurred. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UN: Ugandan Rebel Attacks May Have Been War Crimes

GENEVA — The U.N. on Monday accused the Ugandan-based Lord’s Resistance Army of killing, mutilating and raping villagers in Sudan and Congo in what may have been crimes against humanity.

The rebels killed at least 1,200 people and abducted 1,400, including children and women, in northeastern Congo from September 2008 to June 2009, said a report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

A separate report by the U.N.’s rights office said that, in at least 27 attacks on villages in southern Sudan, the Lord’s Resistance Army killed more than 80 civilians and kidnapped many others to use as child soldiers, sex slaves and spies.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Latin America


Brazil: More Halal Beef for Arab Countries

Arab countries in North Africa, such as Egypt, Libya and Algeria, should contribute to the recovery of Brazilian beef exports in 2010, said the president of the Brazilian Beef Industry and Exporters Association (Abiec), Roberto Giannetti da Fonseca, in an interview to ANBA, after a press conference at the organization’s headquarters.

Fonseca explains that exports to Egypt, one of the five leading buyers of Brazilian beef, have decreased due to the crisis this year, but started to recover in the second half. “I believe that in 2010 we are going to export a similar or even slightly higher volume than in 2008, before the crisis,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Esther [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Swedes Positive About Immigration: Poll

A majority of the Swedish population is positive about immigration, according to a new Sifo opinion poll. Members of the Left Party were the most positive, while Sweden Democrats were the most negative.

Fifty-six percent responded in the affirmative to the question of whether or not immigration has been for the most part positive for Sweden. Around 30 percent answered that immigration was negative and 14 percent were doubtful or didn’t know.

With 76 percent its members responding that immigration had been good for the country, the Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) was by far the most positive towards immigration.

The Sweden Democrat Party (Sverigedemokraterna) was the most pessimistic, with 93 percent answering that immigration had been negative for Sweden.

There was little variation between the other parties and small differences between the left and right.

The study, involving 1,000 randomly selected respondents, was commissioned by Riksdag & Departement magazine.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Video: Latin America See Influx of African Immigrants

An increasing number of African immigrants are arriving in Latin America as European countries tighten border controls.

Many head to Mexico and Guatemala as a stepping stone to the United States, others land in the ports of Chile, Argentina, and Brazil.

Candace Piette reports from Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires.

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

Culture Wars


Spain: Law on Abortion Gains Large Majority in Congress

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 17 — The reform of the abortion law was approved today in Spains Congress with positive votes cast by Psoe, Pnv, Erc, Bng, Ium Icv and Na-Bai, and negative votes cast by PP, parts of Upn and by UpyD. The framework law on reproductive and sexual health and on the voluntary interruption of pregnancy gained 184 votes for, 158 against, and two abstentions. The law will not be examined by the Senate. The approved text includes the amendments proposed by Pnv to the article which allows girls under the ages of 16 and 17 to abort without parental permission. It is expected that in the final draft they will have to inform their parents or legal guardians, except in cases when there is reason to believe that the decision will lead to violence or that the minor will be abandoned by the family. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

General


“Avatar”: The Suicide Fantasy

As quoted by Steyn, George Monbiot snarls, “Goodbye Africa, goodbye south Asia; goodbye glaciers and sea ice, coral reefs and rainforest. It was nice knowing you. Not that we really cared.” Meanwhile, Polly Toynbee shrieks, “What would it take? A tidal wave destroying New York maybe — New Orleans was the wrong people — with London, St. Petersburg, and Shanghai wiped out all at once.”

Avatar is the CGI-enhanced, $400 million version of the dark dreams peddled by Monbiot and Toynbee. It’s a suicide fantasy, the Hollywood blockbuster equivalent of a troubled teenager’s notebook sketches, scribbled by someone who hates himself only marginally less than he hates the rest of the world. To elaborate further, I must include some mild spoilers from the movie’s plot — although, really, if you’re more than twelve years old, you already know exactly what happens in this film. The only element of mystery awaiting you is finding out who kills the bad guy. I promise not to ruin that.

Science fiction and fantasy provide a storyteller with the fantastic power of an infinite blank canvas, upon which any setting can be created, to sustain any sort of plot. In Avatar, James Cameron has created a world that justifies the smug arrogance and bitter alienation of the radical environmentalist.

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No ambitions, no failures, no questions, no achievement, no future. These giant blue aliens leave absolutely no carbon footprint.

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During the big battle scene, as dinosaurs were chowing down on soldiers, the middle-aged couple seated next to me were grinning happily… delighted by the defeat and destruction of their own miserable species. The dialogue in Avatar makes it clear that humanity’s future depended on the success of the Pandora mission. “We sent the aliens back to their dying world,” intones the hero, narrating scenes of the defeated humans as they’re perp-walked off the planet, just the way environmentalist radicals have dreamed of handling the executives of Exxon-Mobil. Earlier, the hero tells Pandora’s nature spirit about the evil of his fellow man: “They killed their mother, and they’ll kill you.” Good thing for the universe we’re doomed!

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]