Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/9/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/9/2009There’s an overwhelming number of news items here tonight — almost a hundred. If you all think that this operation is becoming unmanageably large, please let me know.

With all the juicy items that people send me, it’s hard to pick which ones to leave out.

Thanks to Abu Elvis, C. Cantoni, CSP, heroyalwhyness, Holger Danske, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, KP, Reinhard, TB, TC, The Frozen North, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Euro Finance Chiefs: No Sign of Economic Turnaround
India: Exports Collapsing, at Least 10 Million Jobs at Risk
Recession Knocking at Indonesia’s Door, Exports Drop by 30 Per Cent
World’s Biggest Banks to Meet in London
 
USA
Catholics Angry Over Proposed Law
Embrace Enemies, Slap Friends
FBI Director Mueller: a Mumbai-Style Attack Can Happen in the U.S.
Frank Gaffney: Farewell to Britain
Minn. State Agency Offers Islamic Mortgages
Obama is Addicted to the Teleprompter
Sara Jane Olson is Ready to Come Home
US Public Schools Teaching Children Pro-Islamic Propaganda
When Obama Talks to the Taliban
Wikipedia Scrubs Obama Eligibility
Yes, We Did Plan for Mumbai-Style Attacks in the U.S.
 
Canada
Canada: Caf Chief Alleges ‘Zionist Campaign’
 
Europe and the EU
“Friday Prayers Should be Said in Two Languages”
Academics Warn MPs That British Universities Are Dumbing Down Degrees
Climate ‘Denial’ is Now a Mental Disorder
Cyprus: Lack of Energy Policy Will Cost Millions, Report
Czech Republic: a Few Good Speeches From Pres. Vaclav Klaus This Weekend
Denmark: F-16s Triple Airspace Defence
Denmark: Increase in Illegal Knife Charges
Denmark: Copenhagen Residents Intimidated by Gangs
France: Wine? No Thank You, Consumption to Drop by 2012
Italy: Man Sentenced for Immigrant Attack
Italy: Messina Bridge; Works May Begin in 2009, Minister
Living Will: Franceschini, PDL Barracks Divided
Lufthansa Challenges Alitalia With Three New Routes
Nearly 3, 000 March in Brussels for Catalonia’s Independence
Sharia’s Inroads in Europe — Italian Court: ‘Beaten Up for “Her Own Good”‘
Spain: Madrid Court Says Franco Statue Removal Illegal
Spain: Bishop, Don’t Remove Cross, Not Symbol of Franco
Sweden’s Anti-Israel Apartheid Policy is About More Than Sport
Sweden ‘Anti- Semitic’ for Tennis Fan Ban
Sweden: Crowd Ban ‘Risks Bolstering Extremists’
Sweden: ‘Baby Bonus’ Would Pay Swedish Parents to Have Children
Sweden Looks to Toughen Conditions for Development Aid
Tourism: Italy Guest of Honour at Brussels Vacation Expo
UK: Care Blunders ‘Failed to Stop’ Knifeman Who Went on Stabbing Spree
UK: How Will the Tories Fill Our Power Shortfall?
UK: Muslim PC Sues After Workmates ‘Laughed at His Beard’
UK: Nearly 7m Maths Dunces Are Baffled by Sums That a Child Could Do
UK: Sensitivity to Religion Cannot Dictate the Course of the Law
UK: the Children Who Think That Auschwitz is a Brand of Beer
UK: Women Should be Hit for Wearing Sexy Clothing in Public, One in Seven Believe
Vatican Paper: Washing Machine Liberated Women Most
 
Balkans
Bosnia: Bosnian-Serb Arrested Over Srebrenica Massacre
Indian Companies Seek to Manufacture Tractors in Serbia
Serbia: Russia’s Gasprom to Open Bank
 
Mediterranean Union
Cooperation: Delegation From Lazio in Western Sahara
Cooperation: Partnership Agreements for Sicily and Algeria
Energy: Algeria, Italy Guest of Honour at ‘Electro’ Show
Energy: Sicilian Consortium at Tripoli Oil&gas Fair
Equal Opportunities: New Programme for Mediterranean Started
EU-Turkey: Three Grants to Support Occupation to be Launched
Italy-Tunisia: Electricity, Elmed Station Online by End 2016
 
North Africa
A Special Form of Islamic Feminism
Egyptians Stone Anti-Israel British MP Galloway
Egypt: George Galloway Stoned
 
Israel and the Palestinians
300,000 Israeli Settlers to Move Into Territories
Gaza: Senior Hamas Leader Unsure if Shalit is Dead or Alive
Israel: Fake Wedding Cerimony Ends in Real Marriage
Israel: Olmert: Divide Israel’s Capital
 
Middle East
Building: Dubai, Initiatives to Safeguard Investments
Health: Turkey’s Infant Mortality Highest in OECD Countries
Iraq: Tareq Aziz’s Acquittal Upholds the Rule of Law, Says Iraqi Christian
Lebanon: Crosetto, 360 Degree Appreciation for Unifil
My Fellow Arabs
Saudis Order 40 Lashes for Elderly Woman for Mingling
Turkey: Politician Speaks Kurdish, State TV Cuts Broadcast
Turkey: Marriages on the Rise Despite the Crisis
UAE: Hookah Pipes Banned in Dubai’s Public Places
 
Caucasus
Chechnya Asks Newborns be Named Mohammad
 
South Asia
India: Orissa: Violence Continues, Another Christian Killed
Indonesian Porn Law Turns Off Folk Dancers
Islam: Italy and Indonesia Hold Joint Inter-Faith Conference
Singapore: Repatriation of Workers Foiled
Sri Lanka: President Rajapaksa Launches Campaign Against Use of Child Soldiers
 
Far East
Asia: N. Korea Warns Intercepting ‘Satellite’ Will Prompt Counterstrike
Beijing on Alert Against Revolts in Tibet and Xinjiang
China Emerges as Threat to U.S.
 
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Websites Sell Fake Aussie Passports
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Mauritania: Junta Supports Black-African Victims Solutions
 
Latin America
This is What a Collapse Looks Like
 
Immigration
Canada: Ottawa Urged to Review Immigration Board Cases
Finland: Most Finnish Municipalities Get Migration Surplus
Helping Migrants Live Their Faith
Illegal Immigrants Might Get Stimulus Jobs, Experts Say
UK Migrant Total is ‘Three Times the World Average’
UK: Illegal Immigrant Numbers Higher Than Official Estimates
UK: Labour Runs Away From Consequences of Immigration Policy
 
General
Lorne Gunter: the Real Deniers
Netherlands: ‘White Male’ Kept Out of Police Chief Job
Out of Chaos, a New World Order
Steve Janke: Um, You Know All That Stuff About Global Warning? Nevermind.

Financial Crisis


Euro Finance Chiefs: No Sign of Economic Turnaround

BRUSSELS, March 9 (Reuters) — There are no indications of a turnaround in the euro zone’s deep recession and downside risks to growth are materialising, top officials from the 16-country currency bloc said on Monday.

“We have seen a considerable deterioration in the economic situation since (our) February meeting and no … indicator gives reason to believe the situation is turning around,” the chairman of euro zone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, said.

“All forecasts available are extremely gloomy. This is a deep recession, deeper than at the beginning of the 1990s,” he told a news conference after a monthly meeting of ministers from the countries sharing the single currency.

The European Commission forecast on Jan. 19 that the euro zone economy would shrink 1.9 percent this year. The European Central Bank, however, forecast last Thursday the contraction could be between 2.2 percent and 3.2 percent.

The bank cut interest rates by 50 basis points to 1.5 percent, the lowest level ever, to support sagging demand amid waning inflationary pressure.

“Since the January 19 forecasts, downside risks have increased,” EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told the news conference.

“There are problems on one hand concerning the situation in credit markets with very low flows of credit and tightening of credit conditions, and on the other hand with weakness of the real economy,” he said.

“In other areas, external demand has weakened so the recovery will take longer than we expected a few months ago.”

Almunia said he now believed a gradual recovery would take place only in 2010 rather than late 2009 as forecast earlier.

But the euro zone finance ministers rejected calls from the United States to boost the fiscal stimulus packages already announced in the 27-nation European Union, which currently amount to between 3 and 4 percent of EU gross domestic product.

“Europe and the Eurogroup have done what they needed to do .. we take the view that we don’t need to make a further effort for the moment. We are going to see the effect of the recovery package. These are effects that will only come to light gradually,” Juncker said.

“It will be possible to gauge the effect during 2010, we mustn’t pile deficit upon deficit,” he said.

He said the ministers agreed they needed a strategy to bring public finances back in order after the extra recession-related spending boosted budget deficits in many EU countries to above the bloc’s ceiling of 3 percent of GDP.

“We agreed to say again that we need an exit strategy to move away from this downward spiral in our public finances. We are working very hard (so) that by the end of the first half of the year we can be a little bit more precise on exit strategy,” Juncker said. (Editing by Dale Hudson)

           — Hat tip: Reinhard [Return to headlines]



India: Exports Collapsing, at Least 10 Million Jobs at Risk

In recent months, the country has suffered the effects of the global economic crisis to a much greater extent than predicted. Now there are questions about the consequences for the farming industry, and for the 220 million people already under the poverty level.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Contraction continues in India’s exports, which in January fell by 15.9% compared to January of 2008. Experts are already speaking of the worst crisis in decades, while government initiatives are not showing concrete effects.

Exports in January totaled 12.3 billion dollars, compared to 14.7 billion one year ago. But what is especially worrying is the rapid deterioration in the figure, after the decline of 12.1 in December of 2008 and 9.9 in November of 2008. India mainly exports textile products, clothing, jewelry, and other manufactured products. A drop in orders from abroad will have serious effects on employment. The Federation of Indian Exporters Association expects a loss of at least 10 million jobs in the export sectors by March 31.

Imports have fallen by even more, down by 18.2% in January. Experts predict that exports will remain low for a number of months, as a result of lower foreign demand, especially from the United States and Europe.

The main concern is that government efforts to foster exports, including tax breaks and incentives for the hardest hit sectors, seem to be having no effect. New Delhi has announced robust investments to support production: in January, it announced investments to support production, employment, and infrastructure totaling 200 billion rupees (4 billion dollars) for 2009. But it has difficulty providing further subsidies, because it has to deal with a budget deficit estimated at 11.4% of gross domestic product.

The Indian economy grew by 5.3% in the third quarter of the fiscal year (from October to December), compared to 8.9% in the same period in 2007. It expanded by 7.6% in the quarter from July to September of 2008. It is the lowest rate in six years, after three consecutive years of growth above 9%. The result has disappointed expectations that the country might be more resistant to the global crisis because it has an economy aimed mainly at production for domestic demand.

Analysts observe that the real rate of growth is even lower, since the estimate is based on the previous year. In reality, in the past quarter the manufacturing sector saw a decline of 0.2%, and agricultural production dropped by 2.2%. About 60% of the 1.2 billion inhabitants live in villages of less than 5,000 people, with an economy that is primarily agricultural, and experts are still uncertain about the effects this crisis will have on them.

Also worrying is the effect on the many people living in poverty: in February, the World Food Program of the United Nations estimated that 220 million people in the country are still suffering from hunger, with 56% of Indian women anemic, and about half of the children underweight.

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



Recession Knocking at Indonesia’s Door, Exports Drop by 30 Per Cent

Government forecasts maximum 4 per cent growth. Exports decline, pushing up unemployment. In August 2008 almost 10 million people were jobless, a number bound to rise. Finance minister calls for urgent measures to check currency depreciation.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — With sharply decreasing exports and troubled credit loans, Indonesia is now facing a possible recession. Economists from the Bank of Indonesia (BI), Indonesia’s Central Bank, have warned that economic growth might not exceed 4 per cent in 2009.

The downturn in the economy is due to a variety of factors, first of all the drop in exports, down by 30 per cent between January and April, mostly in commodities and manufacturing items.

According to Toto Dirgantoro, the secretary general of the Association of Indonesian Exporters, orders from importing countries has sharply decreased for a wide range of Indonesian products including crude palm oil, rubber, textiles, garment, footwear, fishery product and furniture.

Unemployment has mirrored declining exports, rising to 9.39 million people in August 2008. and due to ailing economic growth, the figure is feared to be rising again.

Falling prices have led China and Pakistan to cancel contracts signed last year.

The Indonesian Textile Association reported slower exports, consequence of a sharp drop of 20 per cent this year from US$ 10.48 billion.

The textile industry is the country’s largest employer with an estimated 3.5 millions workers in more than 4,500 factories.

The Indonesian Statistics Bureau (BPS) recorded fewer foreign orders in January with a drop in 17.7 per cent. It was the biggest month-to-month decline in more than 22 years.

The most significant component to suffer from decreasing export volume was oil and gas exports, which fell by 23.85 per cent, whilst non oil-gas exports decreased by 16.67 per cent.

Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani expressed concern about the impact on the value of Indonesian rupiah, down 12.033 against the US dollar.

He urged the Bank of Indonesia governor to intervene to protect the national currency and avoid further depreciation.

Meanwhile Indonesia was able to secure US$ 5.5 billion in loans from Australia (US$ 1 billion), Japan (US$ 1.5 billion), the World Bank (US$ 2 billion) and the Asian Development Bank (US$ 1 billion).

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



World’s Biggest Banks to Meet in London

TOKYO (Reuters) — Chief executives of leading Japanese, European and U.S. banks will meet in London to discuss the future of the financial system, the Nikkei newspaper reported, as the global financial crisis prompts a barrage of new regulatory proposals for the sector.

Invitations to the meeting of bankers had been sent to leading institutions including JPMorgan Chase and HSBC, the newspaper said, without naming any sources.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA


Catholics Angry Over Proposed Law

Lawlor said the bill would revise a 1955 religious corporation act by requiring churches to open up financial records, if the parish set up its own board of directors. If passed into law, parishes would be governed by an elected board of laypersons that would have the power to establish and approve church budgets, manage all financial affairs, provide for auditing of financial records, develop and implement strategic plans and develop outreach programs.

The pastor of the congregation would report to the board of directors on all “administrative and financial matters,” the proposed bill reads.

According to the measure, the bishop and priests would remain in charge of “matters pertaining exclusively to religious tenets and practices.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Embrace Enemies, Slap Friends

As the new president and the Democrat-controlled Congress take an inherited recession and turn it into a depression, a parallel meltdown is occurring in matters of foreign policy.

The core of Obama’s foreign policy can be expressed simply as “Embrace enemies, slap friends.”

Examples of this are legion in just the first 50 days of this administration. While Obama embraced Hamas, Russia, Cuba, Iran and the Taliban, Israel and Britain got the slap.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



FBI Director Mueller: a Mumbai-Style Attack Can Happen in the U.S.

How many cities around the world could fall prey to a Mumbai-style attack? How many cities here in the United States? Could a similar attack happen in Seattle or San Diego, Miami or Manhattan?

These were the questions posed by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III in an address before the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. last week.

Muller said that the terrorist attacks that killed more than 170 and wounded more than 300 others in Mumbai three months ago “reminds us that terrorists with large agendas and little money can use rudimentary weapons to maximize their impact” and that “the simplest of weapons can be deadly when combined with capability and intent.”

Mueller warned that while the United States continues to face threats from al Qaeda, we must also focus on lesser-known terrorist groups—particularly extremists from ‘visa-waiver countries,’ who are “merely an e-ticket away from the United States.”

In the aftermath of September 11th, the United States was principally focused on al Qaeda, Mueller said. He emphasized that our primary threat continues to come from the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan but noted that “we are seeing persistent activity elsewhere, from the Maghreb and the Sahel to Yemen.”

The FBI is increasingly concerned with pockets of people around the world that identify with al Qaeda and its ideology although they have little or no actual contact with—or connection to—al Qaeda. Mueller went on to say that there is a real threat from “homegrown” terrorist activities, and that a balance must be struck between acting early to disrupt a plot in its planning stages, and “continuing to investigate until we are certain that the individuals in question are poised to attack.”

“In each of the plots the FBI has disrupted since September 11th,” Mueller said, “some have asked whether the individuals in question had the intent and the capability to carry out their plans. Take the planned attack against Fort Dix, for example. The men we convicted had engaged in target practice in the woods of Pennsylvania. They had watched Al Qaeda training videos. They had a map of the base, and a plan to get in. And they had purchased semiautomatic weapons from an FBI sting operation.”

Like the attackers in Mumbai, the men who plotted to attack Fort Dix wanted to inflict as much damage as they could, Mueller said.

While the FBI continues to work closely with intelligence partners around the world, Mueller said that the agency is redoubling its efforts here in the United States. He said that part of that effort involves breaking the barriers that exist between law enforcement and the community it serves, particularly within immigrant communities where young men are likely to become indoctrinated and radicalized and then carry out attacks either here or overseas.

“Too often, we run up against a wall…based on myth and misperception of the work we do. We know that the best way to tear down that wall is brick by brick, person by person. Yet we understand the reluctance of some communities to sit down at the table with us. They may come from countries where national police forces and security services engender fear and mistrust.”

           — Hat tip: KP [Return to headlines]



Frank Gaffney: Farewell to Britain

London: The British are understandably mystified. Long accustomed to a “special relationship” with the United States, they are trying to figure out why the latter’s likeable new president would be going to such lengths to distance himself from the country that has for generations been America’s closest ally.

First, there was Barack Obama’s decision to return the Churchill bust that had graced the Oval Office since then-Prime Minister Tony Blair gave it to George W. Bush as a post-9/11 gesture of solidarity. Then, there were the successive affronts during the visit by Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, to Washington last week: A seemingly thoughtless official gift (a set of DVDs of popular American films); a painfully chilly and brief press availability before the start of the two men’s private meeting; and no formal joint press conference of the kind Bush afforded Blair on all but one of numerous visits to Washington (the exception a hastily arranged trip right after the September 11 attacks).

The British press has offered several face-saving explanations for these serial rudenesses. Perhaps Obama is “exhausted.” Alternatively, he is simply “focused elsewhere” in the midst of cratering capital markets, collapsing automakers and skyrocketing unemployment.

The real answer, however, was supplied by an unnamed State Department official whom London’s Sunday Telegraph reported on March 8th “reacted with fury” when asked by the paper why the Brown visit was so, er, “low-key.” According to the Telegraph: “The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship. ‘There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.’“…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]



Minn. State Agency Offers Islamic Mortgages

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For many Minnesota Muslims, it’s been virtually impossible to buy a home, because Islamic law forbids the paying or charging of interest. To help close the home ownership gap among Muslim immigrants, the state’s housing agency has launched a new program offering Islamic mortgages.

Islamic law does make exceptions to the ban on interest, if one’s family is at stake. But the exceptions are open to interpretation and for many observant Muslims, conventional mortgages are strictly taboo.

Nawawi Sheikh is one of them. The Somali-American said he and his wife just couldn’t go against their beliefs, even if it meant giving up their dream of owning a home. Still, he grew tired of moving from one rented apartment to another.

“One thing I hated was moving. I don’t like to move all the time,” he said.

He has no plans to move again anytime soon. Sheikh is the first home buyer to get a loan through the state’s New Markets Mortgage Program. That’s because, program manager Nimo Farah said, he has all the makings of a successful homeowner.

“I had lots of applications, but he’s the first one, because really, he was ready. He has been working at the same job for quite a while; he took care of his credit; he had the right size family, and he had all his documents together,” she said. “He was basically ready to go.”

The program is targeted at low-to-moderate income families. Qualified applicants have to complete first-time home buyer education classes. The goal is to help Muslim home buyers build wealth and reap the benefits of home ownership.

Here’s how the mortgage, known as Murabaha financing or “cost plus sale,” works:

The state buys a home and resells it to the buyer at a higher price. The down payment and monthly installments are agreed to up front at current mortgage rates.

The deal is identical to a thirty-year fixed-rate loan, except there’s no additional interest, because the higher up-front price factors in payments that would have been made over the life of a traditional mortgage.

A handful of private banks and lending institutions offer Islamic mortgages in the U.S., but Minnesota Housing is the first state agency to offer such a product. The program is the brainchild of Hussein Samatar, director of the African Development Center in Minneapolis.

“The process is different, but the outcome will look the same,” Samatar said. “We wanted to be as conventional as possible, while respecting the tenets of Islam.”

Samatar, who used to work for Wells Fargo, tried for years to launch Islamic financing. He said the fact that Minnesota Housing has agreed to participate is a nod to the Muslim community’s growing economic power.

Chicago-based Devon Bank is underwriting the loans for the New Markets program. Devon is one of the largest Islamic lenders in the country. Corporate Counsel David Loundy said he expects the demand for Islamic financing to grow as more Muslims make their home in the U.S. Loundy said Muslims tend to be good risks.

“If they worked so hard to get to this country, they don’t want to screw it up now that they are here, so they tend to pay their debts pretty promptly,” said Loundy. “In addition, you have a population that is religiously and culturally predisposed against having debt, so they want to pay down their debts as quickly as they can.”

The numbers back this up. In its five and a half years offering Islamic lending, Loundy said Devon Bank hasn’t lost a penny, though he admits the recession could make that record difficult to sustain as more borrowers face job loss.

But the bad economy is also offering opportunity. With housing prices at rock bottom, officials say the timing couldn’t be better to match first-time Muslim buyers with foreclosures that need new owners.

Nawawi Sheikh’s new three-bedroom south Minneapolis home is a former foreclosure. The African Development Center’s Hussein Samatar said there are thousands more potential buyers like Sheikh out there. He said the New Markets Mortgage Program will help the Minnesota Muslims community put down strong roots.

“It is great news for the country, and it really sends a great signal that the United States is our country,” he said.

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



Obama is Addicted to the Teleprompter

Barack Obama may soon be known as the Teleprompter President as his dependence on his teleprompters get more notice every day. He goes nowhere without them and is not usually seen speaking without their help.

Onlookers have found that Obama with and without his teleprompter becomes two different men. While the President is fluid in his speech and shows total poise in a prepared speech, his unscreened answers or extempore speech are too full of the universal filler “umm”. It has become obvious that he cannot go beyond the scripted words without a good deal of stuttering, causing a fresh wave of criticism of the president who cannot speak off the cuff.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Sara Jane Olson is Ready to Come Home

Olson, 62, is to be released from a central California prison on March 17, nearly a decade after she was arrested in her minivan in St. Paul for militant acts committed during the tumultuous 1970s in California.

After hiding in plain view in St. Paul for many years, the onetime Symbionese Liberation Army radical spent the last seven years in prison for plotting to bomb Los Angeles police cars and for taking part in a bank robbery near Sacramento in which one woman was killed.

Whether she’ll be on parole for one year or three remains under debate.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



US Public Schools Teaching Children Pro-Islamic Propaganda

By Marc Sheppard

Christianity was started by a young Palestinian named Jesus and the 9/11 murderers were not Islamic Fundamentalists but simply a generic “teams of terrorists.” That’s the caliber of politically corrected crap many of our children are being taught in American public schools — and it’s past time all parents took serious notice.

A five year study by Gary Tobin and Dennis Ybarra of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research cites hundreds of such errors and distortions found in “28 of the most widely used social studies and history textbooks in the United States.” Their book, The Trouble with Textbooks: Distorting History and Religion, examines the pro-Islamic disinformation they uncovered, including the assertion that Jesus was a Palestinian, not a Jew.

Ybarra claims that the textbooks also treat Islam with special privilege and tend not to criticize or challenge it, as they do Judaism and Christianity. He offers this example…

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]



When Obama Talks to the Taliban

The imagined dialogue between Obama and the Taliban begins with the demands that all Westerners leave Afghanistan and Pakistan, that all Israelis be marched into the Mediterranean Sea and drowned, and that insults to Islam be made a capital crime worldwide. Then, there’s this:

[Taliban rep.] President Obama, thank you for setting up this meeting so that we could voice our demands. Frankly, we thought you knew. Now, we are prepared to hear your demands.”

Sitting cross-legged on a blanket in a tribal village square, President Obama looks around and mentions how the bright sunlight at the 8,ooo-foot level forces his eyes to water.

“I want to help the Taliban make the changes necessary to take full advantage of the richness of modern life. I offer you hope for the future.”

At a White House press briefing later, it’s announced that talks with the Taliban are going smoothly…

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]



Wikipedia Scrubs Obama Eligibility

Mention of citizenship issues deleted in minutes, ‘offending’ users banned

Wikipedia, the online “free encyclopedia” mega-site written and edited entirely by its users, has been deleting within minutes any mention of eligibility issues surrounding Barack Obama’s presidency, with administrators kicking off anyone who writes about the subject, WND has learned.

A perusal through Obama’s current Wikipedia entry finds a heavily guarded, mostly glowing biography about the U.S. president. Some of Obama’s most controversial past affiliations, including with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and former Weathermen terrorist Bill Ayers, are not once mentioned, even though those associations received much news media attention and served as dominant themes during the presidential elections last year.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Yes, We Did Plan for Mumbai-Style Attacks in the U.S.

Why the latest assault on Bush antiterror strategy could make us less safe.

Suppose al Qaeda branched out from crashing airliners into American cities. Using small arms, explosives, or biological, chemical or nuclear weapons they could seize control of apartment buildings, stadiums, ships, trains or buses. As in the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, texting and mobile email would make it easy to coordinate simultaneous assaults in a single city.

In the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, strikes on New York City and Washington, D.C., these were hypotheticals no more. They became real scenarios for which responsible civilian and military leaders had to plan. The possibility of such attacks raised difficult, fundamental questions of constitutional law, because they might require domestic military operations against an enemy for the first time since the Civil War. Could our armed forces monitor traffic in a city where terrorists were preparing to strike, search for cells using surveillance technology, or use force against a hijacked vessel or building?

In these extraordinary circumstances, while our military put al Qaeda on the run, it was the duty of the government to plan for worst-case scenarios — even if, thankfully, those circumstances never materialized. This was not reckless. It was prudent and responsible. While government officials worked tirelessly to prevent the next attack, lawyers, of which I was one, provided advice on unprecedented questions under the most severe time pressures.

Judging from the media coverage of Justice Department memos from those days — released this week by the Obama administration — this careful contingency planning amounted to a secret plot to overthrow the Constitution and strip Americans of their rights. As the New York Times has it, Bush lawyers “rush into sweeping away this country’s most cherished rights.” “Irresponsible,” harrumphed former Clinton administration Justice Department officials.

According to these critics, the overthrow of constitutional government in the United States began with a 37-page memo, confidentially issued on Oct. 23, 2001, which concluded that the September 11 attacks triggered the government’s war powers and allowed the president to use force to counter force. Alexander Hamilton saw things differently than critics of the Bush administration. He wrote in Federalist 74: “The direction of war implies the direction of the common strength, and the power of directing and employing the common strength forms a usual and essential part in the definition of the executive authority.”

Congress agreed with Hamilton. Restrictions on deploying the military for domestic law enforcement (originally passed to end Reconstruction in the South) did not apply to self-defense of the nation. Congress blessed military action on Sept. 18, 2001, when it authorized President Bush “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons” connected to the September 11 attacks, “in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States.” Passed as the sound of Air Force combat air patrols flew over the Capitol, Congress must have understood that its words included stopping domestic attacks, since the hijacked airliners of 9/11 took off and crashed on American soil.

The government faced another fundamental question, which we addressed in our memo. Does the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a search warrant based on probable cause regulate the use of the military against terrorists on our soil. In portraying our answer, the media has quoted a single out-of-context sentence from our analysis: “First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully.”

This line deliberately misrepresents the memo. The sentence only summarized a 1931 holding of the Supreme Court in the case of Near v. Minnesota concerning press freedom: “When a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight and no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right.” The Court continued: “No one would question but that a government might prevent actual obstruction to its recruiting service or the publication of the sailing dates of transports or the number and location of troops.”

Our memo had nothing to do with the First Amendment. It only referred to the case to show that constitutional rights apply differently during the exigencies of warfare than during peacetime. The 1931 case bolstered a point that the Supreme Court recognized in 2000 in Indianapolis v. Edmond, striking down random traffic stops to search for illegal drugs. “The Fourth Amendment would almost certainly permit an appropriately tailored roadblock set up to thwart an imminent terrorist attack,” the Court wrote. Courts have understood that law-enforcement standards could not govern military operations against wartime enemies. They have rejected, to take one example, claims that the Constitution required compensation for the destruction of oil facilities before the invading Japanese in World War II.

Imposing Fourth Amendment standards on military action would have made the Civil War unwinnable — combat occurred wholly on U.S. territory and enemy soldiers were American citizens. The military does not have the time to obtain warrants before soldiers fire upon enemy targets and personnel; the battlefield does not provide the luxury to collect evidence needed to meet probable cause standards in civilian courts. Even if the Fourth Amendment applied, we believed that courts would judge military action under a standard of “reasonableness” — as they might review a police officer who fires in self-defense — rather than demand a warrant to use military force to stop a terror attack.

In releasing these memos, the Obama administration may be attempting to appease its antiwar base — which won’t bother to read the memos in full — or trying to look good for the chattering classes.

But if the administration chooses to seriously pursue those officials who were charged with preparing for the unthinkable, today’s intelligence and military officials will no doubt hesitate to fully prepare for those contingencies in the future. President Obama has said he wants to “look forward” rather than “backwards.” If so, he should not restore risk aversion as the guiding principle of our counterterrorism strategy.

Mr. Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and a visiting professor at Chapman Law School. He was an official in the Justice Department from 2001-03 and is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Canada


Canada: Caf Chief Alleges ‘Zionist Campaign’

E-mailed message cites attempts to ‘demonize’ Canadian Arabs, Muslims

TORONTO — The Canadian Arab Federation says it is the victim of a “well-planned Zionist campaign” to intimidate and silence Arab Canadians, according to an e-mail obtained by the National Post.

The CAF has found itself embroiled in controversy recently over remarks made by its president, Khaled Mouammar. Mr. Mouammar, a defender of Hamas and Hezbollah, two groups on Canada’s terrorist list, recently called Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, a “professional whore” over his support for Israel. Ottawa has threatened to cut the group’s funding.

Mr. Mouammar sent the e-mail to about 20 Arab organizations across Canada at the end of last week, in a bid to marshal forces against the alleged campaign.

“The Zionist campaign is being waged by the Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith supported by some politicians,” his e-mail said, adding that the movement “was developed after the Lebanon war of July, 2006, to suppress all criticism of Israel and equate it with anti-Semitism.”

Since Mr. Mouammar’s assumption of leadership of the CAF, the organization has taken a more hardline stance on the Arab-Israeli conflict. The federal government now considers it a mouthpiece for anti-Semitism and unworthy of receiving public funding. The CAF had frequently worked with Jewish groups on issues of mutual concern in the past.

“This e-mail, by specifically naming the Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith, again shows he does not just disdain Zionists, but the Jewish community as a whole,” said Alyhhan Velshi, a spokesperson for Mr. Kenney, who did not receive a copy of the e-mail.

“It’s the ugliest, most vile sort of language. It’s not surprising to us that he is again engaged in this sort of reprehensible rhetoric trying to pit community against community.”

Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, called Mr. Mouammar’s comments disturbing and “bizarre.”

“Jews are all too familiar with conspiracy theories, we have been the victims of conspiracy theories for a long time in history,” he said. “I speak more out of sadness than anger. This was a once-proud organization that has turned into nothing but a group whose sheer focus seems to be to attack Jews and Israel.”

In the e-mail, Mr. Mouammar called for an emergency conference to bolster a strategy to confront the alleged campaign. Mr. Mouammar told the National Post that a statement will soon be released to the media.

The e-mail contains what appears to be a working version of this statement, referencing “Islamophobia” and expressing concern over Mr. Kenney’s “inflammatory remarks” which have “inflamed a campaign to marginalize and demonize the already targeted Arab and Muslim Canadian communities.”

The e-mail, which singles out the two Jewish groups, Mr. Kenney, and the National Post, states that the alleged campaign has targeted other organizations including CUPE Ontario, CUPW, and the Canadian Federation of Students.

“The campaign of intimidation launched by the Israeli lobby and their supporters is seeking to de-legitimize Arab Canadian institutions, services, access to public funds and to silence all criticism of Israel,” the e-mail said.

The message concluded with a call to the Prime Minister to “restrain” Mr. Kenney and “put an end to his dangerous campaign of attacking CAF with slanderous and damaging accusations for which he has provided no evidence.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


“Friday Prayers Should be Said in Two Languages”

Mohamed Bechari (President of the FNMF) talks to Marco Cesario

“Friday prayers should be said in two languages, in Arabic and in the language of the country in which Muslims live. If the message is spread in an incomprehensible language the objective of the Friday sermon is not achieved.” This is the opinion expressed by forty-two year old Mohamed Béchari, President since 1992 of one of Islam’s most important organisations in France, the Fédération Nationale des Musulmans de France. Former Vice-President of the French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM) and Secretary General of the European Islamic Conference, Bechari has also published a book entitled “L’image de l’islam dans les médias occidentaux” [Islam as seen by the Western Media]…

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



Academics Warn MPs That British Universities Are Dumbing Down Degrees

A group of university lecturers have painted a bleak picture of the falling standards of British higher education in a 500-page dossier presented to an MPs’ inquiry.

The academics warn of an across-the-board dumbing down with degrees becoming increasingly easy, widespread plagiarism and institutional pressure from university bosses to award students higher grades than they deserve.

The lecturers come from a wide range of universities including Oxford, Birmingham, Cardiff, Sussex and Manchester Metropolitan, reported The Sunday Times.

The aim of the dossier, which blames the problems on university expansion without adequate funding, is to force Universities Secretary John Denham to take action to safeguard standards of higher education.

One academic to give evidence is Stuart Derbyshire, a senior lecturer in psychology at Birmingham University.

‘When I complained, he [an external examiner] stated that it was no longer 1986 and that we cannot mark like we did in the past.

‘“We must,” he said, “look harder for excellence.”‘

Alan Ryan, warden of New College at Oxford University said: ‘Anyone who remains awake and is tolerably well-organised can get a 2:1.’

He also described university education as ‘remedial secondary education passed off as something else’.

Peter Dorey, a politics academic at Cardiff University, blames the students themselves.

He said: ‘They often sit in seminars with only their mobile phone in front of them on the desk… but no books or notepads. Many of them are semi-literate.

He added that he sometimes feels ‘as if I am wasting my time with todayâ€(tm)s students’.

Sue Evans, an economics lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, recalled an incident when a student begged her: ‘Donâ€(tm)t dumb down the subject any more than you already have.’

Another time an underwhelmed Slovakian student approached the veteran academic and said: ‘This university is like high school in Slovakia.’

Miss Evans gives examples of numerous occasions when exam paper marks were increased without justification. She alleges that her many complaints to university authorities went without one reply.

However a spokeswoman for Manchester Metropolitan said: ‘Miss Evans expresses a lot of very personal views but presents very little objective information.

‘There is no evidence staff are put under any pressure to bump up grades. We are extremely disappointed and upset that a colleague has chosen to raise these issues externally.’

Shadow universities secretary David Willetts said: ‘A lot of students who get in touch with me are raising issues such as how crowded their seminars are, how rapidly they get work returned with a mark.

‘Those are the types of issues students and parents really worry about. Universities have to listen.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



Climate ‘Denial’ is Now a Mental Disorder

How odd that, last Monday, none of our media global warming groupies should have bothered to report what was billed to be “the largest ever demonstration for civil disobedience over climate change”. There was talk of hundreds of thousands of protestors converging on Washington to hear Jim Hansen, the scientist who talks of coal-fired power stations as “factories of death”, call yet again for all coal plants to be closed. Perhaps the lack of coverage was due to the fact that, before Hansen arrived to address a forlorn group of several hundred hippies, Washington was blanketed in nearly a foot of snow.

It was generally another bad week for the warmists. The Met Office, which has been one of the chief pushers of the global warming scare for 20 years, had to admit that this has been “Britain’s coldest winter for 13 years”, despite its prediction last September that the winter would be “milder than average”. This didn’t of course stop it predicting that 2009 will be one of “the top-five warmest years on record”.

US climate sceptics such as those on the Watts Up With That website, for whom the predictions of the UK Met Office have become a regular source of amusement, recalled its forecast that 2007 would be “the warmest year on record globally”, just before global temperatures dived by nearly a full degree Celsius, cancelling out the entire net warming of the past 100 years.

Ever wilder wax the beleaguered warmists in their rhetoric. Our science minister Lord Drayson said last week he was “shocked” to find how many of the captains of industry he meets are “climate deniers”. This was the same Lord Drayson who, as our defence procurement minister, assured Parliament in 2006 that Snatch Land Rovers afforded “the level of protection we need”. The continuing death toll of soldiers in these unprotected vehicles approaches 40.

Even Drayson is outbid, however, by the groupies in The Guardian, who now suggest that people like Christopher Booker should no longer be compared to “Holocaust deniers” but consigned to even more outer darkness by branding them as climate “Creationists”, the dirtiest word they know. Meanwhile at the University of the West of England in Bristol this weekend, a conference of “eco-psychologists”, led by a professor, are solemnly exploring the notion that “climate change denial” should be classified as a form of “mental disorder”.

I myself am off this weekend to New York, to join all the top “deniers”, “creationists” and victims of psychic disorder at a conference organised by the Heartland Institute. It is an honour to be asked to speak alongside such luminaries as Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, Dr Fred Singer, founder of the US satellite weather forecasting service, and the Czech President, Vaclav Klaus (not to mention those two revered climate bloggers, Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit and Anthony Watts). I shall report on this historic event next week.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Cyprus: Lack of Energy Policy Will Cost Millions, Report

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, FEBRUARY 23 — Cyprus’ lack of a satisfactory energy policy is set to cost taxpayers hundreds of millions, Scientific and Technical Chamber ETEK has warned. According to the Chamber’s predictions, 400million euro will be lost through lost energy savings and EU fines for violating C02 emissions laws, as Sunday Mail reportd. ETEK has called on the government to apply a proper energy-saving policy as soon as possible so as to ease the blow. Regarding delays in supplying the island with natural gas, ETEK projects the most conservative scenario, which is that Cyprus will lose 12 million euro for each year’s delay. In total, Cypriot consumers will be called to pay at least 48 million euro. In an announcement on Friday, the Chamber explained that the initial plan was to have natural gas in Cyprus by 2009. This date was expanded to 2013 and recently, when the government started taking real action to prepare the grounds for its arrival, state officials said it could even be 2015. And it doesn’t end there. If the state had applied its policy for buildings’ heating insulation in time, it would have saved 150 million euro. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Czech Republic: a Few Good Speeches From Pres. Vaclav Klaus This Weekend

www.klaus.cz/klaus2/asp/clanek.asp?id=mbjBqLuA8THt

Mar 6: Notes for Santa Barbara: “Is Environmentalism a Bigger Threat to Humanity than Global Warming?”

www.klaus.cz/klaus2/asp/clanek.asp?id=ZwzUbvi1gcxw

Mar 7: Is Capitalism in Crisis?

www.klaus.cz/klaus2/asp/clanek.asp?id=oWwyM2CjH0OG

Mar 9: No Progress in the Climate Change Debate

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Denmark: F-16s Triple Airspace Defence

The country has now taken over defence of a third independent air space, making the country the Nato member with most international air defence operations

Denmark became the only Nato country to be responsible for surveillance of three countries at once when four of its F-16 fighters took over air monitoring duties for Iceland today.

The three-week mission officially began at 8 a.m., with Denmark paying a large part of the operation’s costs due to Iceland’s economic crisis.

In addition to surveillance of Iceland and of Denmark itself, the Danish Air Force is also currently patrolling the skies of Lithuania.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Police: Anti-Gang Efforts Working

After several weeks of shootings in Copenhagen, there has been a week of calm in the capital.

Four people have been remanded in custody in the past week on charges of weapons possession and police are finding fewer weapons when they search people on the streets, according to Copenhagen Police Spokesman Flemming Steen Munch after a week without a gang-related killing.

Fewer weapons Munch says police efforts appear to be working.

“We will continue the operations we started last week. Our investigations are in top gear and it has begun to help. We are finding fewer weapons when we search people and we have a big presence in the area. We believe it will work,” he tells politiken.dk.

Special Gang Crime Unit Investigation Chief Henrik Svindt is also guardedly optimistic.

“We have a major presence in the city. We find weapons and are investigating. We believe it is having an effect. But so far it’s a week, so we will be continuing with our presence,” he says.

Killers at large A week ago, a 30-year-old man was shot and killed at a café in Amager. According to the police he had no connection to the ongoing gang war.

A week previously another man was shot and killed in Mjølnerparken in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen. He too was an innocent victim who police said was unconnected to the Copenhagen criminal environment.

The killers of both men are still at large.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Increase in Illegal Knife Charges

There has been a heavy increase in the number of charges for illegal knife possession in the first two months of 2009.

The Copenhagen Police has never charged as many people with carrying illegal knives as in the first couple of months of 2009.

Some 126 people were charged with carrying illegal knives in public in January and February, compared with only 19 charges in the second half of 2008.

Visitation zones “I see this as an indication that the visitation zones throughout the city centre, which enable police officers to search people for weapons without due cause, have played a major part in explaining why we have charged so many in the first couple of months,” Copenhagen Police Chief Prosecutor tells 24timer.

The law forbids carrying knives with a blade of over seven centimetres in public.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Copenhagen Residents Intimidated by Gangs

Residents have become more fearful in light of gang conflict, despite a recent government gang package introduced to crackdown on crime

A new poll from Gallup for Berlingske Tidende newspaper shows that the gang conflict in Copenhagen is frightening people away from some of the most affected districts.

Sixty percent of the 1,016 Copenhagen respondents said the conflict had created certain ‘off-limit’ areas in the city, with women feeling particularly unsafe. Almost half of all female respondents said their movements had changed directly as a result of the fighting, which has seen 30 shooting incidents and three dead.

Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard called the effect on ordinary citizens ‘unacceptable’. ‘It’s clear that all the weapons and shooting in the streets have left people worrying that they will end up in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ said Bjerregaard.

And it does seem that local residents have had enough of the gang conflict and are now planning a protest march for this coming Sunday.

Residents of Nørrebro and local interest organisations will march at 1pm from Blågårds Plads Square to City Hall Square, where they will hold a concert under the name ‘Music for Peace’.

‘We think it’s important to get out on the streets and show that we mean it when we say that enough is enough. It’s important to show that we want to take the streets back,’ said Anne Alstrup Avnby, one of the organisers of the event.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



France: Wine? No Thank You, Consumption to Drop by 2012

(ANSAmed) — PARIS — It looks like hard times are ahead for the French wine market. According to a recent survey carried out by Vinexpo/Iwrs, reports the Italian Foreign Trade Commission (ICE) office in Paris, consumption is expected to fall by 2.2% between 2008 and 2012, after declining by 1.1% between 2007 and 2008. The decline will be more significant for still wines (-2.9% volume between 2008 and 2012). Consumption of sparkling wine and rose’, which together represent 22% of the market, is expected to rise by 4.5% from now to 2012. For spirits, a 3.1% rise is expected between 2008 and 2012. France remains the biggest consumer of scotch whisky, while vodka and rum should also increase their market share and national spirits continue to see a decline in consumption, with an forecasted -4.4% for 2012. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Man Sentenced for Immigrant Attack

Rome, 6 March (AKI) — An Italian man who was accused of a racist attack against Bangladeshi immigrants has received a one-year suspended sentence and will serve no time in prison for the crime. According to Italian media reports 20-year-old Ivan Balzanella was sentenced for making threats and drug possession charges.

However, the prosecutor dropped additional racism charges, a move backed by public prosecutor Erminio Amelio and court president Paolo de Fiore, who said the incident was related to drug trafficking and a territorial dispute.

Amelio also said that Balzanella had many immigrant friends, especially in the neighbourhood where he lives.

“They were the ones who attacked me,” said Balzanella told Italian daily, Corriere della Sera. “I am not a racist, my room is full of anti-fascist stickers.”

Balzanella plans to appeal his one-year suspended sentence.

Following the attack in February, Italian media reports claimed that Balzanella and two others tried to set alight three teenage migrants with a spray can and a lighter using it as a flame-thrower in what was described by the police as a racist attack.

Balzanella was arrested by police and accused of making threats and attempting to carry out racially motivated violence. The attack took place in the multi-ethnic Esquiline neighbourhood in central Rome.

Balzanella had reportedly ‘warned’ the same migrants last November to leave the area.

In February, the alleged attacker returned, with two others. The Bangladeshi migrants quickly called the police, but Balzanella fled.

“Go away immigrants or I will burn you,” Balzanella reportedly told the migrants.

One of the victims of the attack, described only by his first name, Naimal, told an Italian newspaper that Balzanella also tried to attack them with a fork. But police arrived and intervened.

When Balzanella was arrested, he reportedly told police, “You are not supposed to take me, you are supposed to arrest those immigrants.”

Balzanella — who had been previously arrested in December for racially motivated attacks — was released. He claimed he had been attacked by the Bangladeshi migrants.

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



Italy: Messina Bridge; Works May Begin in 2009, Minister

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 25 — “The vast majority of works provided for in the 16.6-billion-euro plan approved by the government may begin by the end of 2009, even the bridge over the Strait of Messina”. This was the announcement made by Infrastructure Minister Altero Matteoli to Radio Anch’io, adding that the Interdepartmental Committee for Economic Planning (CIPE) will be deciding on the matter on Friday. The minister warned that “if we begin with works costing 16.6 billion, there will be 140,000 more jobs. Otherwise 65,000 jobs will be at risk.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Living Will: Franceschini, PDL Barracks Divided

(AGI) — Rome, 26 Feb. — The PD (Democratic party) has chosen the ‘‘fair line’’ on living wills. These were the words of Dario Franceschini, at the end of a meeting with the PD Senator Umberto Veronesi, as he compared the situation of the PD and the PDL and confirmed that the splits are only in the mid-right. “There must be freedom of conscience on ethical issues”: this is the PD line and the fact that it is a fair position is being shown in the fact that the central right is experiencing great division”. The PD secretary said that in fact, “you cannot follow the party whip line on themes like this, you can obey the party line but you have to listen to your own conscience.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Lufthansa Challenges Alitalia With Three New Routes

Flights to link Milan with Rome, Naples and Bari.

ROME — Lufthansa is taking on Alitalia in Italy, and specifically on the Milan-Rome route. The German airline is about to open three new Italian services, all based at Milan Malpensa. The new flights will start operation in April.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Nearly 3, 000 March in Brussels for Catalonia’s Independence

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Anyone have insights on this one? I hear a lot about the Basque movement, but this is a first for me on Catalonia.]

Some 2,900 supporters of independence for the Spanish region of Catalonia marched through Brussels on Saturday to draw international attention to their cause, police said.

BRUSSELS — While most the marchers were from the northeastern Spanish region, the demonstration also drew supporters of independence movements elsewhere in Europe such as Spain’s Basque region, Venice, Corsica and Scotland.

Some marchers bore signs saying “Catalonia, the next state in Europe” or “Catalonia is not Spain” while one said: “Freedom cannot be stopped: 1944 Iceland, 1990 Lithuania, 2006 Montenegro, 2008 Kosovo, 2014 Catalonia”.

A police spokesman said that the demonstrators marched from the Brussels North train station to the Brussels South station without any particular incidents.

Catalonia’s independence movement seeks a state running from the French border to the coastal city of Valencia, and including the Balearic Islands as well as the wealthy and populous region’s main city of Barcelona.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sharia’s Inroads in Europe — Italian Court: ‘Beaten Up for “Her Own Good”‘

(Mar. 2) — Pakistan recently gave in to the pressure of Islamist militants. Indeed to buy off peace, Pakistani authorities allowed the imposition of Sharia (Islamic law) in the Swat valley.

How long the cease-fire Swill last is anyone’s guess. But Pakistan has allowed a precedent that could extend to other provinces; in fact the Swat valley is only about 100 miles away from Islamabad, the capital.

But Sharia is not just making inroads in Pakistan but actually creeping in the West — particularly in Europe.

One area especially touched by this phenomenon is the judicial system in Europe. Two recent cases in Italy and France are particularly troublesome. First, in Italy, three members of a Brescia-based Maghrebi family (father, mother and eldest son) were accused of beating up and sequestering their daughter/sister Fatima because she wanted to live a “Western” life.

In the first trial, the three were sentenced for sequestration and bad treatment. The court acknowledged that the teenager was “brutally beaten up” for having “dated” a non-Muslim and in general for “living a life not conforming with the culture” of her family. But on appeal, the family was acquitted because the court deemed that the young woman was beaten up for “her own good.” The Bologna public prosecutor’s office then disputed the acquittal of the three accused parties, but the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation dismissed it and ruled in favor of the charged parties.

Interestingly two Italian political leaders on the opposite side of the political spectrum, Isabella Bertolini, vice president of the MPs of the right-wing party Forza Italia, and Barbara Pollastrini, a post-communist former minister agreed to condemn the Supreme Court decision: “This verdict writes one of the darkest pages of history of the law in our country.”

Isabella Bertolini was upset that the court “allied itself with radical Islam” and Barbara Pollastrini is pushing for parliament to pass as soon as possible a law condemning violence against women: “Now more than ever, it is urgent to defend the rights of a large number of immigrant women victims of an intolerable patriarchal culture.”

Muslim women were quick to denounce the supreme court’s decision. Among them, Souad Sbai, president of the Organization of Moroccan Women in Italy.

She said, “It is a shame, this verdict is worthy of an Arab country where the Sharia would be in vigor. In the name of multiculturalism and respect of traditions, the judges apply two kinds of rules: one for the Italians and one for the immigrants. A Catholic father that would have acted this way would have been severely sentenced.”

According to her organization, recently at least nine Muslim women have been killed in Italy by one of their close relatives. The number of young girls forced to wear the hijab “as early as eight or 12” is on the rise as is the number of female teenagers fleeing home and “lots of them are looking to flee to France.”

But France might not be the panacea either. Indeed in one very publicized case, last June, a French judge ruled in favor of a Muslim man who wanted the annulment of his marriage because his wife turned out not to be a virgin. What this decision amounted to was the endorsement of the repudiation concept.

This decision triggered a huge outcry from politicians, and various organizations. In November, a French court of appeal overturned the decision. Interestingly, a large majority of French Muslims, about 80 percent are very secular and totally reject any kind of Sharia law being implemented in the homeland of human rights.

But the United Kingdom is a different story, indeed there close to 40 percent of young Muslims are in favor of Sharia law being implemented in Britain. The idea seems to be also making headway among non-Muslims. So, last year, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, gave his support for the courts in Britain, saying that the legal recognition of them “seems unavoidable.” He added, the United Kingdom has to “face up to the fact” that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system.

Williams argued that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion. For example, Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt within a Sharia court.

But contrary to what Williams advanced, Sadiq Khan, a British Muslim MP said that Sharia courts would discourage Muslims from developing links with other cultural and ethnic groups. He feared also that women could be “abused” by Sharia courts, which may give unequal bargaining power to the sexes.

In Switzerland, echoing Williams, Christian Giordano, an anthropology professor at the Fribourg university wrote that a special jurisdiction for Muslims could be envisioned in Switzerland. He added that including elements from Islamic law could allow to better manage the multiculturalism issue. Other occurrences of Sharia law taking precedence over the law of the country have been reported: For example, in Denmark, some imams have allegedly sentenced delinquent Muslims, hence bypassing Denmark’s judicial system.

Islamists, much to the detriment of the majority of Muslims in Europe seem to be making headway in Europe in pushing Sharia law into the judicial system.

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



Spain: Madrid Court Says Franco Statue Removal Illegal

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 4 — The Superior Court of Justice of Madrid has ruled that the removal of the equestrian statue of Francisco Franco from Nuevos Ministerios Square in the Spanish capital null and void. The removal of the equestrian statue in March 2005, was the first removal of a Francoist symbol shortly after the approval of an historical memory law. According to legal sources cited by the EFE press agency, the court ruled in favour of an administrative appeal presented at the time of the National Francisco Franco Foundation. Citing administrative infractions by the Infrastructure Minister, who ordered the statue to be removed, the high court ruled the full “invalidity” of the order, but did not order the statue to be returned to its former location, which was requested by the foundation, because “it lacks a practical purpose”. The equestrian statue, 6.5 metres in height, was located on a pedestal for 46 years, and was removed amid the protests of nostalgic Francoists, and placed in a warehouse in March 3 years ago, immediately after a historical memory law became effective, which gave administrative powers’ to remove symbols that exalted the Francoist period. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Spain: Bishop, Don’t Remove Cross, Not Symbol of Franco

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 5 — The removal of Civil War symbols unleashed a harsh reaction in Cuenca, where the archbishopric filed a complaint with the Guardia Civil (the civil guard) relating to the removal of a cross that was located next to the San Miguel Arcangel church by the Municipality of Mota del Cuervo (Cuenca). The cross was inscribed with the names of people who faced the firing squad during the civil war for religious reasons. The cross was removed on Tuesday in accordance with an order that had been unanimously approved by the town hall in full session. The municipality, governed by a Isquierda Unida/Psoe coalition, applied the Law on heritage. The order provides for the “removal, in all public spaces, of any remaining symbols of Franco still existing in the municipality”. The municipality, which counts 6,500 inhabitants, experienced tense moments when a substantial group of citizens attempted to oppose the removal of the cross by stepping between the monument and the large vehicles sent by town authorities. In the end, with the help of a police line, the operation was carried out and the cross was removed to a town storage unit. On December 14, according to a press release by the archbishopric cited by Efe agency, the order to remove the symbol was notified to church authorities, with the remark that the cross was standing “in the public path located right next to the church”. According to the archbishopric, “the removed monument can in no way be construed as an exaltation, be it personal or collective, of the military uprising, the Civil War, the dictatorship or even of Franco’s repression”, as provided by the law. Hence the complaint against the town authorities was filed with the Guardia Civil, and the archbishopric reserves the right to exercise ‘any legal recourse that it may deem necessary’’. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Sweden’s Anti-Israel Apartheid Policy is About More Than Sport

Neutral Sweden’s mixed World War II legacy is still debated by historians. On the one hand it supplied Nazi Germany with iron ore and ball bearings and allowed the Wehrmacht to use the Swedish railway system to transport soldiers. On the other hand, spurred on by the Danes, it accepted Danish Jews marked for mass murder by the Nazis. Ultimately, the good name of Sweden was redeemed by the unparalleled heroics of one of its own — Raoul Wallenberg, who, using the cover of a Swedish diplomat, helped save tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews destined for Auschwitz, only to disappear into the Soviet Gulag. For decades, no Swedish government had the courage to demand his return from the jaws of the neighboring Russian bear.

Masked anti-Israel protestors clash with police outside the Baltic Arena in Malmo, Sweden, Saturday.

While this Swede will forever be revered by the Jewish nation, it is brutally clear in 2009 that Jews and especially those uppity ones from Israel are of little concern to Swedish authorities, as their policies become more reminiscent of apartheid South Africa or Berlin in the 1930s than a 21st-century Scandinavian democracy.

           — Hat tip: Reinhard [Return to headlines]



Sweden ‘Anti- Semitic’ for Tennis Fan Ban

Sweden has been accused of anti-Semitism in a leading Israeli newspaper, following the weekend’s Davis Cup tennis match between Israel and Sweden, which was held behind closed doors in Malmö.

In an article in the Jerusalem Post, writers Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman say the decision not to allow spectators at the match was dictated by biases “that have echoes in Nazi Europe’s anti-Semitism.

The writers accuse politicians on Malmö Council’s sports and leisure committee for giving in to pressure from the city’s anti-Israeli Muslim minority by refusing to allow spectators into the match.

“The security card was invoked not to protect but to stigmatize Israeli athletes as pariahs,” they write, adding: “None of this is about sports. It’s about Jews.”

Malmö’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, said the criticism was unwarranted.

“It’s absurd. We’ve made it clear from the outset that this was about security, not about Jews. And after what happened on Saturday it is clear to everyone that a dangerous situation could have arisen if we had been forced to evacuate 4,000 people from the hall into what was going on outside, with stones being thrown at the police,” Reepalu told news agency TT.

Nine people were arrested in the disturbances outside Baltiska Hallen, where the match was being played. A 22-year-old man was detained on suspicion of attempted serious assault.

Police say that several of the masked activists who took part in the disturbances have now been identified.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Crowd Ban ‘Risks Bolstering Extremists’

The City of Malmö’s decision to hold the Sweden-Israel Davis Cup tennis match behind closed doors is ill-conceived, short-sighted and potentially dangerous, argues freelance Israeli journalist David Stavrou.

I have never been a big tennis fan. In fact, the odds are that I wouldn’t even have heard of the Davis Cup match between Sweden and Israel, taking place this weekend in Malmö, if it wasn’t for the “Stop the Match-Boycott Israel” campaign which has been underway since December. The campaign organizers are doing their best to mobilize thousands of demonstrators to Malmö this weekend and according to Malmö police chief, Håkan Jarborg Eriksson, some extremists have stated that they want to “stop the match at any cost”.

Like it or not, sporting events are part of our culture and official matches between national teams often become political events. This is particularly true in Sweden. Many Swedes were in favor of boycotting the Olympic Games in China, for example. Others wanted to boycott the 2006 Football World Cup because it promoted prostitution and human trafficking in Germany. The Davis Cup itself has also been a source of controversy in the past. When Sweden played Rhodesia and Chile in the late sixties and early seventies there were many calls for cancellation and mass demonstrations were organized.

Many sports fans may object to it, but in reality sports and politics are both part of the public arena, and cannot always be separated. In a democracy people have the right to mix them together, to demonstrate and even call for boycotts. Still, municipal officials are expected to live up to their minimal responsibilities even in the face of an angry crowd. This is the reason that the decision made by Malmö’s sports and recreation committee, to hold the Israel-Sweden match behind closed doors is so outrageous.

According to Bengt Forsberg, chairman of the committee, there was no political motive behind the decision. Though police had said the match could go ahead and that the public could be admitted, Forsberg’s committee decided not to take the chance. “This is absolutely not a boycott”, he explained, “We do not take political positions on sporting events. We have made a judgment that this is a high-risk match for our staff, for players and for officials”. In other words, someone made a threat and the city of Malmö decided to cave in.

To many this may seem reasonable at first sight. Why take unnecessary risks? If there are concrete threats, it could be claimed, everything must be done to avoid casualties. But in this age of terror and violence where does this end?

Anyone who has been anywhere near a Stockholm derby football match, for example, couldn’t miss the extensive police presence. Policemen on foot, on horse and in helicopters above try to maintain the peace, at an enormous cost to the tax payer, while large groups of drunken young men throw objects at the field, terrorize other spectators and get involved in large scale fights. The authorities, quite rightly, have decided time and again to fight hooliganism and protect peaceful football fans. It is, after all, a basic civil right to engage in sporting activities without being subjected to threats and violence. There has been talk of anti-hooliganism legislation, and the National Council for Crime Prevention even proposed treating hooliganism as organized crime. But in the case of the tennis match in Malmö, the combative rhetoric disappears and the ones who are punished are the fans instead of the hooligans. Why is this?

One explanation is that Mr. Forsberg and his committee aren’t being entirely honest or they may be extremely naïve. Despite their claims, any decision at this level is political. Obviously, no one will stop the money making and extremely popular football league because of threats. In this case, freedom and democracy will prevail against the dark forces of violence. But when it comes to a tennis match against Israel the attitude changes. Mr. Forsberg obviously doesn’t care much about a match against a team from a country that a large part of his constituency hates anyway. I wonder if the good citizens of Malmö would approve of banning fans from a Malmö FF game because someone said he’s so pissed off that he might hurt someone.

At the risk of being accused (yet again) of promoting paranoid theories of Anti-Semitism I’ll add the following point: after giving in to threats such as the ones made by angry Anti-Israel demonstrators, why shouldn’t the City Council of Malmö close down the Jewish cemetery and synagogue since they were already attacked and are definitely at a high risk of being attacked again? Why shouldn’t pro-Israel demonstrations be banned since demonstrators are often met by angry stone-throwing mobs? In fact, why shouldn’t local authorities close down the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm or the Jewish centre in Helsingborg, both of which have recently been attacked?

This scenario may have sounded unrealistic a few months ago, but the decision to ban the public from the Davis Cup match shows that it is more than possible. A few Jewish or Israeli targets may not affect most Swedes but it’s a slippery road. If a few threats on a relatively minor sporting event can empty a 4,000 seat arena, just imagine what a real terrorist attack would do to Swedish society. Would a terrorist attack on a local bus close down the public transport system? Will night clubs and restaurants lose their licenses if they are targeted by terrorists? Will municipalities say they prefer not to risk going on with daily life even when the police clearly say they can handle the work load? Regardless of political convictions, there must be a consensus that a modern freedom loving democracy has to protect itself against violent extremists. In the post 9/11 world, perhaps it’s time for local authorities to realize that the times, they are a’changing.

Another explanation for Malmö’s City Council decision may derive from the very nature of the objections to the match. It’s a discriminating decision that is a result of a discriminating campaign. Make no mistake, “Stop the match — Boycott Israel” is a legitimate campaign. I don’t agree with what they say or with their political allies but no one can take away their right to express their objections to Israeli policies or to publicly sympathize with the Palestinians in Gaza. It’s true, some of them have said terrible things and spread vicious lies (such as comparing Israel to the Nazis); some have actively supported terrorist organizations, but their right to express themselves remains. Still, anyone who wants to see the bigger picture should be careful with boycotts. They are seldom effective and tend to end up hurting the wrong people, and although it is tempting to make comparisons to boycotts like the one against South African apartheid, the analogy is wrong.

The conflict in the Middle-East is nothing like that in South Africa and a boycott policy against one side in it is simplistic at best and biased, unbalanced and hypocritical at worst. This is not to say that Israel cannot be criticized, but Swedes should be careful when using a tool as powerful as boycotts. Sweden had no problem participating (and winning twenty medals) in the 1936 Berlin Olympics under Hitler or participating in the Beijing games despite China’s massive violations of Human Rights. Hundreds of demonstrating students were killed by government forces just days before the 1968 Mexico-City Olympic Games, but that didn’t “Stop the Match” for Swedish athletes just like the British soldiers who shot unarmed civil right activists in Derry, Northern Ireland didn’t bring about any boycotts against English products or English cultural and sporting events. Does this make the calls for boycotting the Davis Cup match against Israel invalid? Of course not. But it would imply that Israel is worse than Nazi Germany and that Israeli policies brought about events more severe than the Irish Bloody Sunday, the Mexican Tlateloco Massacre and the events of Tiananmen Square all combined! It is clear what kind of people make claims like this.

And here’s one last thought for the demonstrators in Malmö who must be very proud of the exposure their campaign has received these last couple of months. They gained support, their case is all over the media and they even forced local officials to close the controversial match to the public. But here is a word of advice: don’t be too pleased with Malmö’s decision to give in to threats. The same authorities that cannot stand up to today’s threats will not stand up to those of tomorrow. What started as threats against tennis players and fans could easily lead to threats by ultra nationalists against immigrants or Neo-Nazi threats against Mosques and Madrasahs. “The ultimate weakness of violence”, Martin Luther King once said, “is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it”.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Sweden: ‘Baby Bonus’ Would Pay Swedish Parents to Have Children

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Is this likely to have the desired effect or simply to increase the welfare rolls?]

In an effort to boost Sweden’s birthrate, the Christian Democrats are considering a proposal that would pay families 10,000 kronor ($1,085) for every newborn child.

“There are simply too few children being born and that’s regrettable,” said Anders Sellström, a member of the Christian Democrats’ governing board, to the Svenksa Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Sellström also leads a working group within the party tasked with formulating a revised family policy ahead of the 2010 parliamentary elections.

According to figures from Statistics Sweden (SCB), 109,301 children were born in Sweden last year. But the Christian Democrats want to see that number increase.

“We want to find incentives and have looked at how it’s done in other countries. Many have some sort of baby bonus and society must send the signal that ‘We need more children,’“ Sellström told SvD.

Sellström hopes the 10,000 kronor handout will help give families “a good start”, and help defray the costs of expensive items such as strollers, car seats, and cribs.

The proposal would cost taxpayers about one billion kronor per year, but Sellström sees it as money well spent.

“From a national economic perspective, it’s money that we more than make back again, that’s something I’m convinced of,” Sellström told the newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sweden Looks to Toughen Conditions for Development Aid

Dismay over the how several United Nations (UN) organizations have used development aid from Sweden has led the government to propose tougher conditions for allowing aid groups to receive Swedish funding.

Sweden will not only finance international aid projects, but also wants the right to participate in how operations are managed, Minister for International Development Cooperation Gunilla Carlsson has proposed.

If aid agencies are ineffective or don’t work toward Swedish goals and priorities, Sweden will reconsider its support.

The government has reviewed roughly 20 of the organizations which receive the most support from Sweden, and several UN-related groups are in danger of losing Swedish funding.

In the review, particular importance was placed on how the groups prioritize democracy and human rights, the environment and climate, as well as gender equality and the role of women in development.

In addition, Sweden also assessed the efficacy and results of the various organizations.

According to Sweden’s review, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is in effective and suffers from too much top-down management.

However, as the FAO is currently in the midst of a reform, Sweden has elected not to withdraw its funding of the organization.

“In other cases where Sweden has been working for improvements but hasn’t been heard, we have reason to review both the size of our aid and the level of continued engagement,” writes Carlsson in an article in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

The government plans to follow several other organizations closely because of their lack of effectiveness.

If the groups don’t undertake reforms and changes to improve their performance, Sweden may decide against continued long-term cooperation.

The specific agencies in danger of losing financing from Sweden include the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), the UN Development Fund for Women, UNAIDS, and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Tourism: Italy Guest of Honour at Brussels Vacation Expo

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 13 — This year Italy is the guest of honour at the Brussels Vacation Expo which started on February 9. This role also conferred to Italy the privilege of appearing on the entry tickets to the event, another occasion, ENIT reports, to multiply the favourable echos which Italy has in the countries of Northern Europe, Belgium in particular. The regions of Lazio, Lombardy, Piedmont, Apulia, Sardinia, Umbria Valle d’Aosta and Friuli Venezia Giulia are hosted in an equipped area of 483 square metres, together with the city of Stintino and another six personalised spaces. The stand, inaugurated with the Italian ambassador to Belgium, Sandro Maria Siggia, is enriched by historic advertisements from past promotional campaigns that the institute organised, but also by symbols from design and made in Italy’ including a Fiat 500 and a Vespa Piaggio, cult objects that are repeatedly used in the world of cinema and fashion to invoke Italian style. The Brussels Vacation Expo, has taken on a more important role over the past few years, and is considered not to be missed. The last edition was host to 102,000 visitors and 742 exhibitors, with an increase of 30% over 2007, testimony to the complete success of the event. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: Care Blunders ‘Failed to Stop’ Knifeman Who Went on Stabbing Spree

A catalogue of damning failures in the treatment of a paranoid schizophrenic who embarked on a stabbing spree in London is exposed today.

An independent inquiry highlights the series of blunders that led up to the attacks which left one person dead and five others injured in the space of one hour.

It also accuses a psychiatric nurse of altering medical records at a later date.

Ismail Dogan, 32, from Tottenham, had stopped taking medication six months before going on a killing spree. Turkish-born Dogan, now in Broadmoor, claimed a bird had spoken to him telling him to carry out the attacks.

On 23 December 2004, between 8am and 9am, he killed father-oftwo Ernest Meads, 58, and stabbed five others around Tottenham, Wood Green and Edmonton.

He admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was found guilty of attempting to kill five others in March 2006.

A report into Dogan’s treatment is due to be published today as a result of pressure from the victims and their relatives.

The inquiry into Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust and Haringey Teaching Primary Care Trust is expected to reveal a number of opportunities missed by health professionals which could have prevented the stabbings taking place.

Dogan had been well known to mental health services. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2000 after suffering “persecutory and grandiose delusions” of being touched by spirits.

Six weeks before going on his rampage, Dogan attacked his mother at their home and the family tried to get help from social services.

They were referred to the family doctor but he refused to visit and told them Dogan should come to his practice. The GP, vilified at the time for refusing to make a home visit, is exonerated in the report.

But the report, commissioned by NHS London, identifies 23 “ critical junctures” in Dogan’s treatment including:

  • a failure to use the Mental Health Act effectively and to put in place a proper care in the community plan,
  • a lax attitude to monitoring whether Dogan was taking his medication,
  • poor communication between the police and various professionals supposed to be treating him,
  • ignoring pleas by Dogan’s parents as he became increasingly violent — not least because his mother spoke little English and translators were not routinely employed.

The psychiatric nurse who was Dogan’s “care co-ordinator” is accused of altering medical notes at a later date.

The report states: “The apparently amended notes … would lead the reader to think that Mr D received a more robust assessment and treatment package than the one he did actually receive.”

The inquiry concluded that Dogan’s care was “severely compromised by a lack of consistent medical management throughout the period of his care and treatment at Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust”.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: How Will the Tories Fill Our Power Shortfall?

When, as seems ever more likely, David Cameron enters Downing Street as prime minister, he will find himself facing two major national crises. One, our collapsing economy, he knows about, although it is not certain what he plans to do about it. To the other, however, he seems totally oblivious.

There is no secret about the fact that within a few years Britain will be faced with a terrifying and unprecedented shortfall in its electricity supplies. All but one of the nuclear plants which provide a fifth of our power are so old they will have to close. Nine more major coal and oil-fired power stations are rapidly running out of the hours they are allowed to remain open by Brussels.

The combined output of these plants is 22 gigawatts (GW). At peak demand we need 56GW. We thus face a 40 per cent shortfall in the supply needed to keep our economy functioning. There is no way that gap can be filled in time by new nuclear plants. Building more gas plants, when we are fast running out of our own gas and prices are likely to soar, all the experts agree is crazy.

So what does Mr Cameron propose? There is no more alarming gap in Tory thinking than the complete vacuum that represents their energy policy. For three years they have indulged themselves making “green” noises about the need for a “low carbon economy”, “smart meters”, more wind turbines, without giving any indication that they have the slightest practical knowledge of where our electricity actually comes from.

This was devastatingly brought home in January 2006 when the media were summoned to watch Mr Cameron and his shadow cabinet colleagues sitting in front of laptops to sign up with “green electricity” suppliers. Clearly they imagined that if you sign up to a “green” tariff, all your power will somehow come from nice eco-friendly windmills and solar panels. In fact it all still comes through the National Grid, where the derisory amount of power from windmills just gets mixed in with all that “dirty” electricity from grown-up power stations.

Mr Cameron himself signed up with a company called “npower juice”, which boasts that it gets most of its power from a windfarm off the north Welsh coast. The deal is fine for npower, which makes £9 million a year in subsidies from its turbines through selling Renewable Obligation Certificates, on top of much the same from the electricity itself. But most of the power entering Mr Cameron’s home via the grid is no more “renewable” than anyone else’s.

From the electricityinfo website we can actually see the sources from which supply companies derive their power. Npower gets 38 per cent from coal, 46 per cent from gas, only 3 per cent from renewables. Mr Cameron’s energy adviser Zac Goldsmith, also present in 2006, happily explained that he is signed up with Ecotricity, which likes to boast that it is the “greenest” of all supply companies. But even Ecotricity only derives 37 per cent from renewables, the remaining two-thirds coming from nasty, polluting, ungreen coal, gas and nuclear.

The point of this story is that it reveals the almost fathomless naivete of the Tory leadership about one of the two most serious issues which will confront them if they come to power. They babble on about the wind turbines which very intermittently provide barely 1 per cent of the electricity we need and are unlikely ever to produce significantly more. But they show not a glimmer of grasping the scale of the crisis now roaring down on us, let alone give any sign they have an answer to it, Unless they grow up very fast on this issue, Mr Cameron could go down in history as the man who left Downing Street shortly after the lights went out.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Muslim PC Sues After Workmates ‘Laughed at His Beard’

A Muslim police officer claims he was forced out of his job by colleagues who made fun of his beard and called him a ‘f***ing Paki’.

PC Javid Iqbal, 38, said white officers openly discussed in front of him how they were ‘ better’ than their ethnic-minority colleagues.

The married father of two also claims officers pulled faces at each other if told they had to go out on patrol with him and forced him to walk home from a job instead of picking him up.

PC Javid Iqbal: ‘My beard is an important part of my identity’

Mr Iqbal says he was sacked after fellow-officers in Luton launched a ‘smear and witch-hunt campaign’ during which they lodged a string of complaints about his performance.

He is taking the Bedfordshire force to an employment tribunal claiming he is the victim of racial and religious discrimination and unfair dismissal.

The claims will add to concern about institutional racism in police forces.

An employment tribunal in London recently heard evidence that an ‘apartheid culture’ was operated at Belgravia police station, with separate vans for white and black staff.

Mr Iqbal, who was born and raised in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, told the Daily Mail: ‘My beard is an important part of my identity which helps other Muslims relate to me.

‘I am disgusted that I was bullied by other officers because of my beliefs. I became a policeman because I believed in putting something back into society.

‘I have found that institutional racism is still very much around.’

Mr Iqbal was working in Hertfordshire County Council’s finance department when he became a special constable for the Bedfordshire force, one day a week.

Following the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, he volunteered to go on patrol every night after work for two weeks to help reassure the large Muslim population of Luton, who were concerned about revenge attacks.

In October that year he was accepted on to a training course to become a full-time constable.

He says the first racist incident came in early 2006. He claims he was in a van with seven PCs and three ‘tutor’ constables — including one other Muslim — which stopped for food at a shop which did not sell halal products. When he asked if they were stopping anywhere else, he was told: ‘This is it.’

One officer allegedly mimicked his accent and pretended to have a beard similar to his in an ‘ offensive’ incident.

Matters worsened in September 2006 when eight officers presented ‘negative statements’ to superiors about Mr Iqbal, including an allegation that he failed to help a colleague arresting a violent offender.

He said he was cleared the following June when CCTV showed he was dealing with other people at the time.

But relations with fellow officers hit a new low in February 2008, three months after he officially lodged his grievances. A sympathetic officer told him the document had been left in the duty room where anyone could read it.

Subsequently, he said, an officer had openly referred to him as a ‘f***ing Paki’.

Mr Iqbal had only recently returned to work after a ninemonth leave of absence on full pay owing to depression when he was sacked for poor performance in August last year. He says he was the victim of untrue allegations, such as failing to report a rape claim. He insists the woman complained only of harassment at the time.

Mr Iqbal’s wife, Surhya, 30, a preschool headmistress, said: ‘Javid has gone through depression quite badly. There were times when he was asleep continuously for three days. Previously, I felt if something was wrong we would be able to rely on the police. Now I know how it works on the inside I’ve lost faith.’

A source at Bedfordshire Police claimed Mr Iqbal was sacked because he was ‘not cut out to be a police officer’. A spokesman added: ‘We can’t comment on a case that is yet to be heard but the evidence will speak for itself.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: Nearly 7m Maths Dunces Are Baffled by Sums That a Child Could Do

Almost seven million adults have maths skills below the level of the average 11-year-old, a worrying survey has found.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: Sensitivity to Religion Cannot Dictate the Course of the Law

Consistency demands that Hizbollah’s spokesman be banned from entering Britain.

As The Sunday Telegraph reports today, the Government has yet to decide whether it will allow Dr Ibrahim Moussawi into Britain to give a talk at the University of London next month. Dr Moussawi is a spokesman for Hizbollah, the Islamist group responsible for a string of kidnappings, murders and bombings in Lebanon, and for violent jihad against Israel. He has yet to apply to the Home Office for permission to enter Britain for next month’s lecture, but he has applied for, and been granted, a visa to visit this country twice before.

Not surprisingly, there have been some profound objections raised to allowing him into Britain again. Baroness Neville-Jones, the Conservatives’ security spokesman, has noted in a letter to the Home Secretary that there should be “no double standards” on extremists, a view echoed by Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion. The Government, having banned Geert Wilders, the Right-wing Dutch MP who compares the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, from entering Britain, should not allow Dr Moussawi to come here.

As defenders of the right to free speech, we take the view that it would be better that both individuals should be allowed to speak in Britain, rather than that neither should. However, the objectors to Dr Moussawi are correct when they say that consistency in the application of the law is essential to its credibility and its justification. There can be no consistent justification for the Home Office allowing Dr Moussawi into Britain after it has prohibited Mr Wilders.

Inconsistency of that kind, however, seems likely. The Government has demonstrated before that it is reluctant to antagonise some of the more vociferous sectors of the British Muslim community. There was a particularly blatant example of that kind of behaviour two weeks ago, when the Charity Commission published its report into whether a London-based Palestinian charity, Interpal, had violated the rules governing charitable status. The report resulted from a BBC Panorama programme which alleged that Interpal donated money to causes linked to Hamas, the group designated as a terrorist organisation by the European Union. The BBC programme’s claim that Interpal donations were ending up with organisations affiliated to Hamas was emphatically denied by Interpal, but apparently confirmed last year by the US Treasury: it stated that the “Union of the Good” — a coalition of charities of which Interpal is part — “facilitates the transfer of tens of millions of dollars a year to Hamas-managed associations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

And yet the Charity Commission, despite a two year investigation, simply declined to scrutinise that evidence — although it would not merely breach charity guidelines if Interpal was donating money that found its way to Hamas: it could even be a criminal offence. Instead, the Commission contented itself with suggesting to Interpal that it “dissociate” itself from the Union of the Good. The contrast with the way the Charity Commission treats other British charities — private schools, for example — where a smallest infraction of the code is sufficient to generate the immediate threat that charitable status will be withdrawn, is obvious. The Commission insists it is not influenced by ministers. It is difficult to believe, however, that in this case, the importance to the Home Office of not offending a large and powerful part of the Muslim community did not dictate the outcome of the investigation.

This approach discredits the Government and it discredits the law. No group in Britain has the right to special treatment. We hope that, in future, the Government applies the law consistently and fairly to everyone.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: the Children Who Think That Auschwitz is a Brand of Beer

Some schoolchildren think the Nazi death camp Auschwitz was a brand of beer, a religious festival or a kind of bread.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: Women Should be Hit for Wearing Sexy Clothing in Public, One in Seven Believe

One in seven people believe it is acceptable in some circumstances for a man to hit his wife or girlfriend if she is dressed in “sexy or revealing clothes in public”, according to the findings of a survey released today.

A similar number believed that it was all right for a man to slap his wife or girlfriend if she is “nagging or constantly moaning at him”.

The findings of the poll, conducted for the Home Office, also disclosed about a quarter of people believe that wearing sexy or revealing clothing should lead to a woman being held partly responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted.

Although a majority of 1,065 people over 18 questioned last month believe that it is never acceptable to hit or slap a woman, the poll found that those aged 25-39 were more likely to consider that there were circumstances in which it was acceptable to hit or slap a woman.

Men and women over 65 and those in the lower social class groups D and E are more likely to believe that woman should be held partly responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted, Ipsos Mori telephone poll found.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, said: “Violence against women and girls is unacceptable in any form no matter what the circumstances are.”

Ms Smith said that more needed to be done to challenge attitudes that condoned violence against women and girls.

She was speaking as she launched a police lead review of whether new laws are needed to tackle serial domestic violence abuses and whether there is a link between the early sexualisation of young girls and violent abuse.

One idea being considered is to allow women to ask police if a new partner has a record of domestic violence. A pilot scheme that allows women to request information on whether a new partner has a history of child sex abuse is currently underway in four police force areas of England and Wales.

But Ms Smith was confronted at a working breakfast at which she launched the campaign by a veteran domestic violence campaigner.

Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, accused Ms Smith over breakfast at the Cinnamon Club in Westminster of using “gimmicks” and “spin”.

She said that government action so far had been “piecemeal” and condemned plans for a database of serial domestic abusers.

Ms Horley said: “We have had enough talking — we need action. As for the perpetrators’ register, it is a gimmick and doesn’t address the root problem.

“The majority of violent men don’t come to the attention of police and it won’t keep women safe.

“Police can’t be expected to monitor relationships and love lives of offenders.”

She went on: “The Government is hoping to get away with useless initiatives like this register and it is hypocritical to sound tough and do little.”

She said that the cases of Sabina Akhtar and Katie Summers showed that not enough was being done.

Ms Smith tried to interrupt the tirade but was shouted down before Vera Baird, the solicitor general, stepped in to argue the Government’s case.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Vatican Paper: Washing Machine Liberated Women Most

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) — Feminists of the world sit down before you read this. The Vatican newspaper says that perhaps the washing machine did more to liberate women in the 20th century than the pill or the right to work.

The submission was made in a lengthy article titled “The Washing Machine and the Liberation of Women — Put in the Detergent, Close the Lid and Relax.”

The article was printed at the weekend in l’Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, to mark international Women’s Day on Sunday.

“What in the 20th century did more to liberate Western women?,” asks the article, which was written by a woman.

“The debate is heated. Some say the pill, some say abortion rights and some the right to work outside the home. Some, however, dare to go further: the washing machine,” it says.

It then goes on to talk about the history of washing machines, starting with a rudimentary model in 1767 in Germany and ending up with today’s trendy launderettes where a woman can have a cappuccino with friends while the tumbler turns.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Bosnia: Bosnian-Serb Arrested Over Srebrenica Massacre

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, MARCH 4 — The Bosnian police has arrested Zeljko Ivanovic today in Pale, near Sarajevo, after a warrant for his arrest was issued three years ago by the State Prosecutor’s Office. Ivanovic is charged with genocide, reported the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Sarajevo. Ivanovic, 37 years old, known as Arkan, is accused of having participated in the summer 1995 massacre of more than 800,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, which has been defined as genocide by the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The tragedy took place after the city — which was a protected UN zone — was conquered by Serbian troops under general Ratko Mladic, who is now in hiding and wanted by international law on charges of genocide and war crimes, as well as crimes against humanity. Ivanovic, a former Bosnian Serb military policeman, is charged with participation in the murder of more than a thousand Muslim prisoners in the village of Kravica, on the road between Srebrenica and Bratunac. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Indian Companies Seek to Manufacture Tractors in Serbia

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 4 — Serbian Agriculture Minister Sasa Dragin said that Indian companies Mahindra and Sonalika are interested in tractor production in Serbia, reports BETA news agency. After signing an agreement on agricultural cooperation with the Indian Agriculture Ministry, Dragin said that the value of the greenfield investment is yet to be determined and that talks are under way. “We have held preliminary talks and have presented the Indian side with the terms on which Serbia enables investors to acquire land and infrastructure,” Dragin said. Head of the Indian delegation and Agriculture Ministry official Nanda Kumar said that the signed agreement envisages cooperation in science, the transfer of technologies and economic cooperation between the two countries. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Serbia: Russia’s Gasprom to Open Bank

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 6 — The head of Serbia’s Chamber of Commerce, Milos Bugarin said that Russia’s Gazprom will set up its own bank in the country to bolster and facilitate its operations in the Serbian energy sector, reports weekly Ekonomist. Following its 400 million euro acquisition of Serbia’s oil monopoly NIS through subsidiary Gazprom Neft, Gazprom has already initiated its 547 million euro investment program in NIS, seeking suppliers and contractors for one of NIS refineries. Gazprom Neft became the 51% owner of NIS, as part of a wider Serbian-Russian energy deal that will include Serbian territory in the Russian-backed South Stream gas pipeline project and also help upgrade Serbia’s main gas storage facility in Banatski Dvor. Serbia’s largely privatized banking sector has been dominated by the Austrian, German, Greek and Italian groups, with the first Russian venture in the sector launched only in the second half of 2008 when the Bank of Moscow requested and received a license to operate in the country. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Cooperation: Delegation From Lazio in Western Sahara

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 19 — Saharawi press agency SPS has reported that a delegation from the regional government of Lazio in Italy, led by Regional Council President Guido Milana, this week made a visit to the Saharawi camps near Tindouf in the Algerian Sahara, where they met with the president of the SADR (self-proclaimed Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic), Mohamed Abdelaziz. “I believe that the Saharawi people need more than humanitarian aid” said Milana at the end of the meeting, “also political aid, in particular from European countries”. The delegation also visited some of the projects that have been co-financed by the Lazio region in the five camps, that since 1975 have accommodated about 150 thousand refugees from the former Spanish colony of western Sahara now occupied by Morocco. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Cooperation: Partnership Agreements for Sicily and Algeria

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, MARCH 6 — A series of partnership agreements were signed today by Sicily and Algeria in the sectors of renewable energy, tourism, real-estate, food and agriculture, and cosmetics, during a series of international workshops, promoted by the Standing Committee for the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership of the Local and Regional Authorities (Coppen) and hosted by the Terre di Sicania Consortium. The objectives stated in the agreements include technology sharing, training in the renewable energy sector in Algeria, planning and construction of tourist infrastructure in the cities of Batna and Setif with Roman and Phoenician archaeological sites, training Algerian beauticians, in exchange for raw materials offered to Sicilians. This morning at Orleans Palace, the contents of the agreements were announced to Regional Vice-President Giovambattista Bufardeci, Coppen Secretary General Carmelo Motta, and the head of the Algerian delegation Noureddine Sbia. “One of the protocols that was signed,” said Bufardeci, “is focused on development in the tourism sector. Cooperation between Sicily and Algeria will involve not only training provided by Sicilian tourism workers, but also the realisation of tourism infrastructure in Setif and Batna and expert training for the preservation of Algerian cultural heritage. Sicily is to become a centre of congress tourism in the Maghreb.” (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Energy: Algeria, Italy Guest of Honour at ‘Electro’ Show

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 19 — Italy will be “guest of honour” at the international Electro-Automation-Energy show in Algiers from February 22 to 25. A note issued by the Ice (Italian Institute for Foreign Trade) office in Algiers explains that fifteen Italian companies will present their recent innovations in the sectors of power production, electrical components, automation, lighting and security systems during the “Italian day”. In the first 10 months of 2008, Italy exported high-precision machinery and electrical appliances to Algeria for more than 186 million euros, 44% more than in the same period in 2007. Exports also increased for power lines (20 mln euros, +425%), engines, generators and transformers (74.5 mln euros, +218%), electronic distribution and control instruments (44 mln euros, +120%) and instruments for the production and use of mechanical energy (337 mln euros, + 63%). In 2008, Italian companies signed contracts for over 120 million euros in this sector. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Energy: Sicilian Consortium at Tripoli Oil&gas Fair

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 19 — Sicily, and in particular the Sicilian Mechanical Zone consortium (bringing together over 160 companies on the island), is looking towards the Libyan market as the land of future opportunities. The consortium’s designs on the Libyan market were made obvious in its first and much-trumpeted attendance at the Oil&Gas and Infrastructure Fair which opened in Tripoli on February 16 and closes today. The consortium, which was established in the province of Siracusa and has been declared a Production Zone in the framework of European regulations, brings together companies involved in the planning, supply, assembly, installation and maintenance of industrial plants as well as methane, oil and gas pipelines, in addition to hydro networks and quality, security, software and logistics. In Tripoli representatives of the zone have already begun their first official meetings with members of the Libyan government in charge of awarding contracts, and have also discussed water treatment and industrial and urban waste management plants. Simona Falsaperla, from Confindustria Sicilia (the Sicilian branch of the Confederation of Italian Industry), defines the fair as “an initiative which arose from the combined efforts of the Chamber of Commerce, Confindustria (Confederation of Italian Industry) and the Province of Siracusa.” The director of the zone, Francesco Piluso, explained that “Libyans are more open towards us because they are aware of our forty-year experience in the Oil&Gas sector. For our part, we are ready to welcome opportunities and to satisfy all the requirements of Libyan bureaucracy.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Equal Opportunities: New Programme for Mediterranean Started

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 2 — The new programme for equal opportunities for men and women in the Euromed region funded by the EU focuses on countries in the southern Mediterranean. The new initiative is based on another Euromed programme, ‘The Role of Women in Economic Life’ (RWEL), which ended in January 2009. The new programme has a budget of 3,342,000 million euros. Its goal is to involve Euromed countries in projects that have equal opportunities as basis for development. The programme also wants to come to a consensus on the concept of ‘violence against women’ and it wants to develop appropriate plans to fight this phenomenon.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



EU-Turkey: Three Grants to Support Occupation to be Launched

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 26 — The European Union and Turkey have joined forces to increase employment and facilitate continuing education for adults in Turkey. EU and turkish partners will launch soon three grant programmes worth more than 30 million euro, to support activities of Turkish non-profit organisations that promote women’s employment, registered employment and lifelong learning. Organisations such as NGOs, local authorities, trade unions, employers’ organisations and universities can apply for the grants. The purpose of the grant programmes is to support activities that foster cooperation between employers and the institutions providing education and consultancy services to the labour force. The programmes cover three areas of activity: promoting women’s employment; supporting actions aimed at improving women’s employability, supporting women’s entrepreneurship and diminishing cultural and other obstacles that hinder the participation of women in the labour market. Second area wants to promote registered employment through innovative measures and the third area wants to promote lifelong learning in line with EU practices and to increase access to education and employment opportunities for Turkish citizens. The grants will benefit 43 provinces of Turkey with the goal of eliminating regional disparities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy-Tunisia: Electricity, Elmed Station Online by End 2016

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 20 — The electricity power plant planned by the Elmed project is to go online between 2015 and 2016, combining the efforts of Tunisia’s Steg and Italian company Terna. An occasion to present an update on the project has been provided by a forum in Tunis on matters Euro-Mediterranean. The 1,200 MW station will dedicate 800 MW of its output to the Italian market, with the rest going to Tunisia. The fuel — which is to be chosen by the Tunisian partner — could be either gas or coal. The two points’ on the production line will be the Tunisian coast and Sicily, where a sub-station is to be constructed, supplied by electric power along an undersea cable around 200 km in length. Among Elmed’s objectives are the development of electricity exchanges between Italy, the Maghreb and Europe and the creation of a technical environment for a future integration of the North African and European electricity markets.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


A Special Form of Islamic Feminism

Die Zeit 05.03.2009

In an interview with Gerhard Haase-Hindenberg, Egyptian jurist and preacher Suad Saleh describes a special form of Islamic feminism. As one of the first women to study at Cairo’s Al Azhar University, she obtained the right to issue fatwas — for example, the death sentence against Mohammed Hegazi and his wife for their conversion to Christianity: “If someone converts to Christianity — or vice versa — without causing a disturbance in the society, that’s his right. The death sentence stems from the social unrest he caused. Mohammed Hegazi used the media to declare his conversion to Christianity publicly, and in doing so, he attacked Islam.”

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



Egyptians Stone Anti-Israel British MP Galloway

(IsraelNN.com) Egyptians stoned a humanitarian convoy at Rafiah that was led by anti-Israel British Member of Parliament George Galloway on Sunday. The incident occurred at El Arish, approximately 28 miles from the Rafiah border at Gaza. Vandals also wrote dirty words and anti-Hamas slogans, and several people in the convoy were injured in the attack, according to convoy organizer Yvonne Ridley, quoted by French news agency AFP.

The convoy included 110 vehicles carrying nearing $2 million worth of goods. Egyptian officials delayed the convoy because it was carrying non-medical supplies that officials said must pass through Israeli crossings. Ridley said that MP Galloway is negotiating with officials and that its non-medical aid might be forwarded to Gaza through the Egyptian Red Crescent agency.

The convoy left Britain under police surveillance following MP Galloway’s attempt to include three terrorists in a convoy

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]



Egypt: George Galloway Stoned

A convoy led by the maverick MP George Galloway carrying supplies for Gaza has been attacked in Egypt, apparently injuring several people travelling in his party.

The convoy, carrying aid worth £1 million, was pelted with stones and vandalised with anti-Hamas slogans after it stopped overnight in El-Arish, a small town around 28 miles from the Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

The attack comes weeks after Mr Galloway, of the Respect party, described Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak as a “tyrant” and “criminal” and demanded that he be overthrown by his country’s armed forces.

Mr Galloway’s party confirmed that Egyptian officials had also become embroiled in a dispute with the party over what type of goods they would be allowed to take into the territory through the Rafah crossing.

They were due to cross over into the Hamas-run territory today, but were so far believed to have been detained at Rafah this morning for more than an hour.

The biggest attack faced so far by the the 110-vehicle convoy, organised and led by the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, came after it arrived in El-Arish on Saturday.

During a power cut — which is a frequent occurrence in the town — children had pelted the convoy with stones, a security official said.

“It’s an absolute disgrace,’’ convoy organiser Yvonne Ridley told the AFP news agency. “The power was cut. Under cover of darkness members of our convoy were attacked with stones.

“Vandals also wrote dirty words and anti-Hamas slogans. Several people in the convoy were injured in the attack.”

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


300,000 Israeli Settlers to Move Into Territories

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, MARCH 2 — According to the Israeli peace movement Peace Now, the Israeli Ministry for Construction is planning to build housing in the West Bank and Jerusalem for an overall 300,000 people. If the plan goes through, the number of settlers in the Territories will double. Peace Now has said that there are to be a total of 73,300 housing units, 15,000 of which have already been authorized. The movement added that thousands of homes are to be built in the E-1 zone between Jerusalem and the Maaleh Adumin settlement in the West Bank, in the direction of Jericho. The plan has given rise to alarm within the Palestinian leadership, since in its opinion the project would bring in a de-facto separation between the northern and southern parts of the West Bank. In an interview with the military radio station, Peace Now leader Yariv Oppenheimer said that if the plan were to be authorised and carried out, then “it will no longer be possible to build a Palestinian state” in the Territories. However, Peace Now believes that it is still possible to put a halt to the plan while the latter is still undergoing the necessary bureaucratic procedures. The Ministry for Construction claims that Peace Now has not understood the information which came into its hands, and said that for all Israeli territory plans for potential development are drawn up for the following ten years, and that the settlement plans in question had existed for a number of years. Whether they are actually carried out (even in partial manner) or shelved is a government prerogative. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaza: Senior Hamas Leader Unsure if Shalit is Dead or Alive

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MARCH 9 — Hamas second-in-command, Mussa Abu Marzuk, who lives in exile in Damascus, has denied news that he delivered a video of Ghilad Shalit, a prisoner of Hamas in Gaza since June of 2006, to the Syrian Foreign Minister. “I do not have any information on Shalit. I do not know if he is dead or alive,” he said, adding that those who are holding him prisoner will not provide any information about him “for free”. News on the delivery of the video was circulated in the press after Marzuk’s visit to Gaza at the end of last month. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel: Fake Wedding Cerimony Ends in Real Marriage

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 26- An Israeli boy, who jokingly held a fake wedding ceremony with his 14 year-old girlfriend found that he was legally married and was forced by his parents to divorce the girl. According to reports in the Israeli press today, the 17 year-old boy had jokingly recited the Hebrew ritual wedding vows before his girlfriend, and even put a wedding ring on her finger in front of two witnesses. It was intended to be a joke, but it ended up being a real wedding, since the Rabbi experts declared that the wedding was valid to all purposes, especially as the wedding’ was consummated afterwards by the young spouses. The boy’s parents, shocked to learn about the wedding, wasted no time in forcing boy to divorce his young wife, who apparently only reluctantly granted the divorce in exchange for 10,000 shekels (about 2,000 euros). (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel: Olmert: Divide Israel’s Capital

Says no peace unless Jewish nation splits holiest city

JERUSALEM — There can be “peace” between Israel and the Palestinians unless the Jewish state is willing to divide Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said this past weekend.

“There will be no peace if a significant part of Jerusalem is not the capital of the Palestinian state,” Olmert declared at a speech in front of residents of the Israeli north.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Building: Dubai, Initiatives to Safeguard Investments

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 26 — RERA, the Dubai building authority, has announced the launch of an online programme to safeguard purchasers and investors, says daily newspaper The National. From March the RERA website (www.rpdubai.com) will provide a monthly report on the house building situation in the Emirates and the progress of projects which are under way, with information about expirations, delays and photos of building sites to document the status of the works. The report will only include projects with guarantee accounts, 695 out of a total of 875 registered with RERA. The authority also said that builders must own the land 100% before being able to sell ‘on paper’’ and must make a down payment of at least 20% of the value of the finished project before starting work. This measure is aimed at protecting buyers, hundreds of whom poured enormous sums into projects in the past without the property ever being built. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Health: Turkey’s Infant Mortality Highest in OECD Countries

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 20 — A report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has revealed that Turkey still has the highest infant mortality rate among OECD countries, Hurriyet Daily reported. “Infant mortality rate in Turkey has fallen dramatically over the past few decades, down from about 190 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1960 to 22.6 deaths in 2006. Nevertheless, the rate of infant mortality in Turkey remains four times higher than the OECD average of 5.2”, OECD said in a report titled “OECD Health Data 2008: How Does Turkey Compare”. Life expectancy rates have increased in Turkey in recent years, narrowing the gap with the average across OECD countries, but not surpassing it. In 2006, life expectancy in Turkey was 71.6 years, just seven years less than the OECD average while this gap was 20 years in 1960. Among the problems in the Turkish health care system noted in the report were a low-level of health care spending and a low number of physicians per capita, both of which were the lowest seen in the OECD. Turkey also has fewer nurses than many other OECD countries, with 2.1 nurses per 1,000 population compared to an OECD average of 9.7. According to the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of Turkey, Professor Mehmet Ceyhan, the activities of “infection control committees” established at State hospitals two years ago have not developed to the desired level and this plays an important role in the spread of infectious diseases. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Iraq: Tareq Aziz’s Acquittal Upholds the Rule of Law, Says Iraqi Christian

Special Iraqi court rules that there is no evidence of Aziz’s direct involvement in massacre. The decision shows a desire to “uncover the facts” without “political pressures”. Saddam’s former deputy is in danger of possible vendettas. Many Shias are angry at the verdict.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — Tareq Aziz was acquitted because there is “no direct evidence that he was materially involved in the murders,” a Catholic Chaldean told AsiaNews. It is also a signal that the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal wants to “uncover the facts’ without “political pressures”. Tareq Aziz, the source pointed out, “used to send people before a court for judgement and never took on the onus of killing or ordering mass killing.”

A former deputy prime minister, and a one time foreign minister under Saddam Hussein, the close loyalist of the late Iraqi leader was acquitted for his alleged role in a brutal crackdown against Friday prayer protesters that followed the assassination of a Shia cleric, Muhammad al-Sadiq al-Sadr, and his son in 1999. The action by security forces left 42 people dead, gunned down; their bodies removed and found only in 2003 after the fall of Hussein’s regime.

Conversely, Saddam’s cousin, Ali Hasan Majid, a former Baa’th chief in northern Iraq known as ‘Chemical Ali’, was sentenced to death.

The source said that the court tried to “find the truth of the facts” based on the principles of “honesty and transparency.”

“Tareq Aziz,” he said, “was a special case. Everyone knows that he is Christian. In reality he was not that interested in religion. He was closely associated with the Socialist-Marxist movement and was always loyal to the party. He was a political figure, prone to dialogue and thinking, but saw very little action. For this reason he was never directly involved in killings. Saddam Hussein himself did not see him as the right man for punitive raids.”

Born in a village near Mosul in 1936, Tareq Aziz has always lived in the shadow of his master. So far he is the only Saddam loyalists to have been acquitted.

He surrendered to allies forces on 24 April 2003 after the fall of Saddam’s regime. Since the start of his trial he has tried to move public opinion, appearing in court in pyjama, looking sick, contrite.

He still faces two more trials and could still be the target of attacks or retaliation.

“In Middle Eastern and Arab culture, vengeance is sacred. If he were to be freed and left on his own, without protection, he could get killed,” the source said.

“Even if he is acquitted in the other cases, he will ask for political asylum in a Western country with which he had good relations, or will ask for protection from the Iraqi government. Many Shia leaders reacted angrily to his acquittal.”

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



Lebanon: Crosetto, 360 Degree Appreciation for Unifil

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 2 — A three day visit to Lebanon by Undersecretary for Defence Guido Crosetto ended today; the aim of the visit was to get an overview of the situation and an exchange of ideas between the Commandant of the UN force in Southern Lebanon (UnifiL) and the Italian military who are part of the force, parliamentary leaders and the Lebanese armed forces. “It was important to hear their thoughts about the prospects, work and objectives of the Unifil mission”, in the light of the coming campaign for the elections in June, Crossetto told ANSA before leaving for Rome. “Of course, I’m going back with a 360 degree appreciation for Unifil’s activities in general, and for those who are responsible for it (General Claudio Graziano, ed.), and for the Italian contingent in particular” and also “with informal messages of friendship towards Italy” he added. Following yesterday’s visit to the Unifil bases, Crosetto went with Italy’s Ambassador to Lebanon Gabriele Checchia, Commander of the interforce operation Giuseppe Valotto, and an Italian military delegation to Beirut for institutional meetings with Vice Commander of the Lebanese armed forces, General Chawki Al Masri, and the Defence Commission of the Lebanese Parliament, led by the Honourable Samir Jisr. “We have given our willingness to continue to contribute to the formation of their armed forces” he said, adding that Italy “is well aware that they have a very important part to play in Lebanon’s stabilisation process”. He concluded that “we have received an invitation to the Security Middle East Show (Smes)”, which is the first trade fair in the Middle East dedicated to internal and border security, infrastructure and anti-terrorism, and takes place in Beirut on April 20 and 22. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



My Fellow Arabs

by Sami Alrabaa

Arab regime leaders and their affiliates swim in wealth (luxury private palaces with the finest and mot expensive man has ever produced, private jets, i.e. flying palaces), ignore the poor, repress the population, blame local backwardness on the West, and support fundamentalist Muslims.

Arab regimes have always been despotic and totalitarian. They have never believed in egalitarianism, economic opportunity, religious tolerance, and self-criticism. They have used medieval forces of governance: tribalism, especially in the Arabian Peninsula, authoritarian traditionalism, and most recently Islamic fundamentalism. Arab schools and universities turn out more graduates in Islamic studies, falsified history, and void nationalism than in science, engineering, and medicine. Critical studies and scientific research have screeched to a halt. The majority of Arab professors translate works and research done in the West and claim they are their own. Empirical work is almost non-existent. Students graduate without having the slightest clue about what is really going on in the Western world. The only things the majority of them know about the West is that it produces good car, but it is decadent; people drink much alcohol and women sleep with everybody.

Billions of barrels of oil, fertile land along the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates valleys, which in the past helped creating great civilizations, yield an excess of misery rather than riches like in North Korea or Hong Kong, for instance. Billions of dollars are squandered on armament and a lavish life-style enjoyed by corrupt despotic rulers of the Arab world and their affiliates. Totalitarian oil rich Arab grandees from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Emirates, and Qatar, who plunder their countries’ resources, invest their billions of dollars in the West. Countries like Egypt and Jordan, which receive billions of dollars as aid from the America and Europe, spend the money on strengthening their regimes.

Tragically, prospects of improvement are dismal. Arab government spokesmen and the predominantly state-owned media entertain the illiterate and semi-literate population with anti-Western and anti-Israel propaganda.

The Arab media are a great charade and a simulacrum of the West. They lack life-giving spirit and self-criticism. The state-controlled media and the private ones, owned by rich Arabs affiliated to Arab regimes, like the Saudi tycoon Al Waleed Bin Talal, give the appearance of being modern and Western. But their reporters and anchormen and women are by no means journalists by Western standards of free and truthful inquiry.

For example, while BBC makes a point of talking to the victims of a suicide bomber in Baghdad and Kabul, al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and the other Arab TV stations would never interview the mother of an Israeli blown apart by a Palestinian terrorist. To add insult to injury, Arab journalists call Palestinians who clash with Israeli forces and die: Martyrs.

Most Arab television stations would never broadcast freewheeling debates, like Meet the Press style talk show permitting criticism of the government, or critical, liberal interpretation of Islam. Commercial TV stations quibble over a high degree of anti-Americanism and anti-Israelism and obfuscate criticism of official Islam.

Creative novelists, cartoonists, and bloggers like Najeeb Mahfouz, Salman Rushdie, Flemming Rose, and Alaa Fattah received death Fatwas (ruling) for blasphemy. Four Egyptian editors of four Egyptian newspapers, Ibrahim Issa, Adel Hammouda, Wael el-Ebrashi and Abdel-Halim Qandil were sentenced to a year’s hard labour for offending the president, Hosni Mubarak. Instead of getting a prize for literary creativity and civic courage, critics receive a prison or death fatwa and a mob at their courtyard.

No wonder that a culture of zero-creativity and silence is pervading the Arab world. On the other hand, a culture of demagogy is spreading across the Arab world. Prime examples are the Islamist preacher Amr Khaled and the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darweesh. The Arab current furor is scripted, whipped up, and mercurial.

The Arab regimes and their media focus on and exaggerate the number of Arabs killed in clashes with the Israeli army and the coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, they deliberately ignore the thousands of Shiites, and Kurds butchered by Saddam Hussein and Hafez Asad of Syria.

The murder of some100.000 Muslims in Algeria by fellow Muslims, not by infidels, did not provoke so much indignation and violent demonstrations among Muslims as the so-called “Mohammed cartoons” did, although according to the holy Koran, “If someone kills a human being, it is as if he had killed the whole mankind.”

All the conferences held in the Arab world about alleged Western bias and media distortion, and all those open-letters signed by Muslim leaders to Christians for dialogue cannot hide the self-inflicted catastrophe — and the growing ostracism and suspicion towards Arab regimes and evil forces in the Middle East. The Arab-Muslim message: “You accept our Shari’a or die” will never be accepted by the world community. The gloat over that Islam is engulfing the world is mere self-deception, vulgar and hallucination, at best. What is engulfing the world is extremism and terrorism. And the world will never accept a religion that approves of bloodshed and carnage.

Yet, in sum, Arab regimes remain objectively powerful, at least in one respect, not because of greater courage, higher IQs, or stronger economy, but because of their unique skills in cultivating fanatics and breeding terrorists. The cultivated West has not yet been able to find an antidote to the culture of terrorism. That is an area where Arabs and Muslims have proved to be superior.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Saudis Order 40 Lashes for Elderly Woman for Mingling

(CNN) — A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a 75-year-old Syrian woman to 40 lashes, four months imprisonment and deportation from the kingdom for having two unrelated men in her house, according to local media reports.

According to the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Watan, troubles for the woman, Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, began last year when a member of the religious police entered her house in the city of Al-Chamli and found her with two unrelated men, “Fahd” and “Hadian.”

Fahd told the policeman that he had the right to be there, because Sawadi had breast-fed him as a baby and was therefore considered to be a son to her in Islam, according to Al-Watan. Fahd, 24, added that his friend Hadian was escorting him as he delivered bread for the elderly woman. The policeman then arrested both men.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism and punishes unrelated men and women who are caught mingling.

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, feared by many Saudis, is made up of several thousand religious policemen charged with duties such as enforcing dress codes, prayer times and segregation of the sexes. Under Saudi law, women face many restrictions, including a strict dress code and a ban on driving. Women also need to have a man’s permission to travel.

Al Watan obtained the court’s verdict and reported that it was partly based on the testimony of the religious police. In his ruling, the judge said it had been proved that Fahd is not the Sawadi’s son through breastfeeding.

The court also doled out punishment to the two men. Fahd was sentenced to four months in prison and 40 lashes; Hadian was sentenced to six months in prison and 60 lashes. In a phone call with Al Watan, the judge declined to comment and suggested the newspaper review the case with the Ministry of Justice.

Sawadi told the newspaper that she will appeal, adding that Fahd is indeed her son through breastfeeding.

A top Saudi human right lawyer, Abdulrahman Al-Lahem, has volunteered to defend the woman and the two men and has been given power of attorney by them. He told CNN he plans to file an appeal in the case next week.

Efforts to reach Saudi officials at the Justice Ministry, religious police and other agencies were unsuccessful. A spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington said he had no details on the case.

The case has sparked anger in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s made everybody angry because this is like a grandmother,” Saudi women’s rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider told CNN. “Forty lashes — how can she handle that pain? You cannot justify it.”

           — Hat tip: The Frozen North [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Politician Speaks Kurdish, State TV Cuts Broadcast

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 24 — Turkish state television TRT cut its live broadcast from the parliamentary group meeting of pro-Kurdish party DTP on Tuesday after the party leader Ahmet Turk continued his speech in the Kurdish language, NTV private television reported. Pro-islamic ruling party AKP labeled Turk’s move as a “provocation” against democratic reforms. TRT said under the law no language other than Turkish could be used when making parliamentary speeches or group addresses. “The constitution and the law on political parties prohibit the usage of any language other than Turkish in the parliament and in the group meetings. Therefore we had to cut the live broadcast and we apologize for this,” a TRT announcement made on the incident said. A former deputy from a pro-Kurdish party had been jailed in 1995 for speaking Kurdish at an inauguration ceremony in parliament. Ahmet Turk said in his address in the meeting that he will continue his speech in Kurdish “in the name of the brotherhood and beauty of the languages”. Turk told reporters after the meeting that he did not inform the parliament speaker about the issue ahead of time. “If it is not allowed to speak in a native language, then women in chadors should not be allowed in parliament as well,” he added. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Turkey: Marriages on the Rise Despite the Crisis

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MARCH 3 — Despite the global economic turmoil, marriages are on the rise in Turkey where 650,000 weddings have been celebrated in 2008 with an increase of 4% if compared to previous year’s figures, daily Todays’ Zaman reported. According to data from Interior Ministry’s General Directorate of Population and Citizenship Affairs, 98,495 wedding ceremonies were performed in Istanbul in 2008 with a 3% increase if compared to 2007. According to figures produced by the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) at the beginning of 2009, the average age for women who get married is 23 while for the men is 26. Marriage, including the expenses of setting up house, costs in Turkey between 15,000 TL (7,500 euros) and 50,000 TL (25,000 euros) and the wedding industry is a sector that brings together a number of separate sectors by creating demand for event planning, furniture, jewelry and wedding dresses. Representatives at wedding planning companies seem to be responding to couples’ preferences for cheaper weddings and people with marriage plans have started to look to spend less money and so prefer more unpretentious weddings due to the impact of the crisis.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UAE: Hookah Pipes Banned in Dubai’s Public Places

Dubai, 6 March (Aki) — The emirate of Dubai on Friday banned smoking — including the popular hookah water pipe — in public places, the UAE’s official news agency WAM reported. The ban covers parks and and beaches in Dubai, and will force local people to change their smoking habits, WAM said.

“The anti-smoking campaign we began in May, 2007, is now complete. We decided to extend the smoking ban to parks and beaches, because families go to these places,” WAM quoted a senior city council official, Salim Muhammad bin Mismar as saying.

The ban will protect children from the harmful effects of passive smoking and stop them picking up the “bad habit” at an early age, bin Mismar claimed.

Tobacco mixed with molasses and fruit flavours is smoked in hookah pipes.

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

Caucasus


Chechnya Asks Newborns be Named Mohammad

The southern Russian republic of Chechnya has asked parents of boys born on Prophet Mohammad’s birthday to name their children after the Muslim prophet, Russian media reported on Monday.

Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov added that every boy born on March 8 and March 9 will also receive 50,000 roubles ($1,394) — a hefty sum more than double Russia’s average monthly wage.

State television channel Vesti 24 showed rows of newborn babies sleeping in a hospital in Chechnya’s capital Grozny who will be named Mohammad on Monday. Earlier, the capital sent fireworks into the early morning skies around a lit-up mosque.

I ask their parents to name the boys after Mohammad,” Interfax news agency quoted former rebel turned Kremlin-loyal leader Kadyrov as saying.

Some analysts say that in return for quelling rebel attacks, the Kremlin has let Kadyrov usher in some Islamic-inspired rules, such as requiring women working in government offices to wear headscarves and long skirts, and imposing periodic alcohol bans.

Chechnya, on Russia’s southern border, is now relatively peaceful after two wars fought by separatist rebels and militants against Moscow’s rule in the area.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

South Asia


India: Orissa: Violence Continues, Another Christian Killed

Hrudayananda Nayak, 40, disappeared Wednesday evening. His lifeless body was found in the forest near the village of Rudangia whose residents are predominantly Christian. Eyewitnesses say that a group of Hindu extremists stopped him on his way home. This is the third murder since October after widespread anti-Christian violence in August and September of last year.

Bhumbaneswar (AsiaNews) — Another Christian has been killed in the State of Orissa. The lifeless body of Hrudayananda Nayak was found yesterday in the forest near the village of Rudangia, near Ghumusar Udayagiri, a city in the district of Kandhamal. The 40-year-old man had disappeared the day before.

Sajan George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told AsiaNews that after Nayak accompanied his sister to a place five kilometres from the city he was stopped on his way back by a group of Hindu extremists and vanished thereafter.

Yesterday afternoon around 4 pm some Christian residents from local villages walking along the path Nayak had taken saw some blood and a slipper in a roadside bush.

Aware that a man had disappeared they informed police who came to investigate.

After a brief search by police and the Christians, Nayak’s body was found, lifeless.

Rudangia is a predominantly Christian village, some 260 kilometres from the State capital of Bhubaneshwar

Rudangia was the scene of a lot of violence and was virtually under siege at the height of the campaign of persecution against Christians in Orissa in August and September of last year.

On 30 September a mob of some 3,000 people was able to storm the village, torching houses and the local church.

A Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) platoon was dispatched to the village which was turned into a fortress. Christian residents have not dared leave it for fear of attacks.

Despite tight security measures violence has not ebbed in the area. Nayak’s death is the third such incident since 30 October.

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



Indonesian Porn Law Turns Off Folk Dancers

BANDUNG, Indonesia (AFP) — Gyrating her hips to traditional gamelan music on a makeshift village stage, Indonesian folk dancer Sri Wulandari ignores the leers and wolf whistles of the drunk men below as she plucks grimy rupiah notes from their outstretched hands.

Her nightly routines rage into the wee hours in villages across West Java province but the 30-year-old dancer said the excited punters respected the golden rule of “look but don’t touch.”

“The men say naughty things and ask me to marry them but I’m a professional dancer, not a prostitute. Dancing jaipong is not a dirty job,” she said.

The jaipong dance is one of several Indonesian art forms in the sights of social and religious conservatives after parliament passed a controversial anti-porn law in December.

West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan raised hackles when he warned dancers — who perform mainly at official ceremonies and cultural festivals — to tone down their provocative moves and hide their underarms to comply with the law.

But while artists, audiences and civil society groups are appalled at such comments, Islamic parties trying to boost their popularity ratings ahead of April general elections have championed the anti-porn campaign.

“The dance shouldn’t be too erotic,” said Tifatul Sembiring, a senior leader of the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party.

“It’s true that in the 80s the jaipong dancers danced on tables in seedy places. Even now you can see them wearing tight clothes dancing at roadside bars,” he told AFP.

“The worry is that once the anti-porn bill is fully implemented, the dance may be banned because it’s too erotic.”

Outraged and insulted, professional dance groups have called on Indonesians to teach the self-appointed guardians of morality a lesson at the ballot box come April.

“What are they talking about? The dancers are all covered up in long-sleeved traditional kebayas, not sexy tubes,” said Mas Nanu Muda of the Jaipong Care Community, representing 20 dance groups.

“The dance is fast and energetic… If dancers limit their moves and do everything in slow-motion, wouldn’t they appear lewd instead?” he asked, swivelling his hips in a slow, exaggerated manner to illustrate his point.

The West Java dancers are not alone in their battle against the anti-porn law.

From animist Papuan highlanders wanting to protect their right to wear “koteka” gourds on their penises, to Hindu Balinese opera dancers worried about their shoulder-showing outfits, and Christian Minahasa people from North Sulawesi fearing an intrusion of Islamic values — many people across Indonesia’s cultural and religious melting pot want the law scrapped.

Even the sultan of Yogyakarta has declared his opposition.

“The leader of our nation must be able to build tolerance between the citizens so they live side by side in peace. For me, this cannot be negotiated,” Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, a candidate for presidential elections in July, told foreign journalists.

The anti-porn law was “the most terrible thing in the process of building our nation,” he said.

The law criminalises all works and “bodily movements” including music and poetry that could be deemed obscene and capable of violating public morality, and offers heavy penalties.

The Constitutional Court threw out a petition against the law by the Minahasa people in February, but the ruling was based on a technicality and the Christian plaintiffs are expected to try again.

Wulandari said politicians should keep their noses out of art and repeal the law immediately.

“Just kill it. The jaipong dance reflects our culture and there’s nothing pornographic about it,” she told AFP in the home of her choreographer in Bandung, south of Jakarta.

“I’m angry at officials who misuse the law to attack us and our art.”

Created by Sundanese artist Gugum Gumbira in the 1960s, Jaipong is a mix of older forms of community folk dances and the Indonesian martial art of pencak silat.

To untrained eyes, it combines the graceful arm and hand movements of Thai classical dance with hip gyrations reminiscent of Turkish belly dancing. It is not meant to be sexy, and the dancer’s full-length kebayas reveal little.

“It’s a popular dance performed at prestigious events in hotels and malls. Even children are taking lessons,” said Bandung tourism and culture chief Askary, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.

“Without shaking and gyrating, you can’t call it jaipong. I don’t consider it erotic, titillating or lustful. That’s all in the mind. If people want to think of something as erotic, it will be erotic,” he added.

Yusoff Hamdani, a teacher of Islamic studies, said jaipong was “a good form of exercise” for young girls — including his five-year-old daughter.

“It’s not just about understanding and preserving culture. My daughter used to be sick all the time but has become fitter after taking jaipong lessons,” he said outside a school in Bandung.

“I don’t know why anyone would view the dance so negatively.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Islam: Italy and Indonesia Hold Joint Inter-Faith Conference

Rome, 4 March (AKI/The Jakarta Post) — The Indonesian and Italian governments and an Italian Catholic lay organisation were to hold a cultural conference on Islam and coexistence in Rome on Wednesday.

Musurifun Lajawa, a counsellor at the Indonesian Embassy in Rome, told Indonesian state news agency Antara that the conference, themed “Unity in Diversity: The culture of coexistence in Indonesia”, was aimed at introducing Indonesia as model for a moderate Muslim country where people of religious beliefs and culture can live side by side.

Lajawa said that the conference, hosted by the Communita di Sant’ Egidio, was expected to help create dialogue between representatives of Indonesian Muslim organisations and Italian experts.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini and his Indonesian counterpart Nur Hassan Wirajuda were scheduled to give speeches at the conference’s opening session.

There were to be two main sessions in the conference, one themed “Christianity and Islam for a culture of coexistence” and “Civil Society, Islam, Coexistence.”

Among the main Indonesian speakers at the event were Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of the country’s largest Islamic organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, and Bachtiar Effendi and Azyumardi Azra of the State Islamic University.

Indonesia is an archipelago with more than 17,000 islands and 240 million people from 45 ethnic groups who practise all of the world’s major religions.

However, more than 85 percent of the country’s inhabitants are Muslim

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



Singapore: Repatriation of Workers Foiled

POLICE on Monday moved in to stop a group of nine foreign workers from being repatriated. All packed and ready, they were barred from leaving for the airport. A representative of their employer, marine services company K7 Engineering, told police that the men were being sent home because they had refused to work.

The workers had a different story: They claimed there had been no work for up to five months.

They told The Straits Times they did not want to leave before collecting the salaries due to them.

K7 had planned to repatriate a dozen men on Monday. It engaged repatriation company UTR Services, which managed to move nine workers from their dormitory in Jurong to K7’s Serangoon Road office. Three workers fled.

The Straits Times understands that K7 cancelled the permits of these workers, some of whom had gone to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) last week over allegedly unpaid salaries.

A K7 spokesman told police he was unaware of a pending MOM case.

The ministry said it will call K7 soon regarding the workers’ claims, and that it takes a serious view of employers who repatriate workers without settling their outstanding salaries.

Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, employers convicted of doing so may be fined up to $5,000 and jailed up to six months.

They could also be barred from hiring foreign workers.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Sri Lanka: President Rajapaksa Launches Campaign Against Use of Child Soldiers

The government and Tamil rebels are accusing each other of enlisting minors. The Catholic Church and civil society assert that 60% of the combatants for both factions are children with an average age of 16.

Colombo (AsiaNews) — A national campaign against the exploitation of child soldiers. The “special initiative” is promoted by the government of Colombo. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, illustrating its contents yesterday, asserted that it is “necessary for preventing child recruitment, in tandem with the freeing of all children already recruited and brutalized.” For the leader of the Sri Lankan government, this campaign “is at the core of our final thrust to eradicate the scourge of terrorism from our nation.” The aim of the initiative is to put an end to the forced enlistment of minors, and create programs to recover and reintegrate former child soldiers.

The use of adolescents in the conflict between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is an issue about which the two factions have repeatedly exchanged accusations. The international community, on a number of occasions, has also warned the army of Colombo and the Tamil rebels against using child soldiers. Recently, UNICEF claimed that the LTTE has intensified its recruitment work in recent months, and released figures according to which, from 2003 to 2008, the rebels forcibly enlisted at least 6,000 adolescents. The figures provided by the UN agency confirm the repeated accusations from various organizations of civil society on the island, and the various Christian Churches of Sri Lanka.

Referring to the UNICEF data, Rajapaksa’s government accuses the rebels of instituting a genuine “Baby Brigade,” and says that 6,288 children under the age of 18 had been enlisted by the LTTE as of December of 2008. The Tamil Tigers respond to Colombo by saying that they have sent home more than 2,000 adolescents among their ranks, and accuse the army of recruiting minors itself, and using them for paramilitary brigades. The Catholic Church and organizations of civil society in the country assert that 60% of the combatants in both factions involved in the conflict are children with an average age of 16.

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

Far East


Asia: N. Korea Warns Intercepting ‘Satellite’ Will Prompt Counterstrike

PYONGYANG/BEIJING, March 9 (AP) — (Kyodo)—North Korea warned Monday that any move to intercept what it calls a satellite launch and what other countries suspect may be a missile test-firing would result in a counterstrike against the countries trying to stop it.

“We will retaliate (over) any act of intercepting our satellite for peaceful purposes with prompt counterstrikes by the most powerful military means,” the official Korean Central News Agency quoted a spokesman of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army as saying.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Beijing on Alert Against Revolts in Tibet and Xinjiang

by Wang Zhicheng

Accusations of separatism against the Dalai Lama and the Uyghurs. Soldiers, policemen, security personnel on the increase to prevent any attempts at uprising. The foreign minister criticizes countries that welcome the Dalai Lama, seen as merely “a political leader.” The Dalai Lama is asking only for autonomy in order to save the Tibetans from cultural genocide. An Uyghur academic asks for more help for the Muslim group, in the grip of unemployment.

Beijing (AsiaNews) -The Chinese authorities have deployed troops and strategies to prevent any revolts in Tibet and Xinjiang, both of them guilty, together with “hostile forces,” of wanting to destroy “national unity.” The Dalai Lama says he is concerned about the tension; moderate Uyghurs accuse the government of impoverishing the population.

In a study group connected to the National People’s Congress (NPC), underway at the capital, the governor of Tibet, Qiangba Puncog, stated yesterday that his government has implemented preventive measures to monitor any threat against security in the region. “There won’t be another riot as big as what happened on March 14 last year . . . That said, it is still likely that some individual supporters of the Dalai Lama may take the risk of making reckless moves.” Qiangba Puncong has continued to criticize the Dalai Lama and his government in exile, saying that they constitute a threat to stability in the region. Today, foreign minister Yang Jiechi also accused the Dalai Lama of not being “by any means a religious leader, but political,” who is seeking to “separate Tibet from China.” Yang also criticized those countries that invite the Tibetan religious leader. “Other nations,” he said, “should not permit visits by the Dalai, and should not permit him to use their territory for secessionist activities.”

For years, the Dalai Lama has reiterated his desire to return to Tibet, asking only for cultural and religious autonomy in order to save the Tibetans from cultural genocide, but Beijing accuses him of separatist activities. In recent weeks, the Tibetan religious leader has often said that he is concerned about the increasing tension in Tibet, which could lead to clashes and more deaths and arrests, as happened last year. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan revolt in 1959, which was suffocated with military repression and led to the exile of the Dalai Lama. “It’s necessary to increase the number of the armed police, police, firemen, border forces and public security,” Qiangba Puncong says.

In Xinjiang as well, where the Uyghur community is asking for greater autonomy, Beijing is providing extra military control. This year, China wants to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the “peaceful liberation” of Xinjiang, with the entry of the Chinese army into the region. But many Uyghurs see this as an invasion. Yesterday, again during a study group at the NPC, the governor of Xinjiang, Nur Bekri, said that “the task of security will be more arduous, and the struggle more fierce in the region this year . .. . It’s a time of celebration for Xinjiang people, but hostile forces will not pass on such an opportunity to destroy it.” Last year, in order to prevent “terrorist attacks” at the Olympics, Beijing arrested more than 1,000 Uyghurs.

But personalities of this Muslim ethnicity accuse the Chinese government of being insensitive to the group’s basic economic necessities. According to Ilham Tohti, professor of economics at the central university for the nationalities in Beijing, the most serious problem for the Uyghurs is unemployment. This is due to the marginalization of the group from administrative structures and state industries, and to the policy of colonization, which every year transfers thousands of Han Chinese to the region. In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Tohti accused Governor Behkri of insensitivity toward the Uyghurs: “He’s always stressed the stability and security of Xinjiang and threatened Uyghurs. Xinjiang has developed, but the people are living in poverty, especially Uyghurs.”

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



China Emerges as Threat to U.S.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union as a superpower, we in the United States became complacent, at least to a certain degree. I think we have forgotten what it is like to live each day knowing that there is a nation on Earth working just as diligently against our interests as we work for them. In the post-Cold-War era, that nation is communist China. The battlegrounds on which we prosecute a not-so-cold war with China are not proxy conflicts in third-world nations; they are the twin fields of endeavor most vital to continued human progress. These are technology and industry.

Anyone familiar with the state of contemporary manufacturing is familiar with how things are done in China. From photocopiers to pocket knives, anything and everything that can be made is made by Chinese manufacturing facilities. For the longest time, the factor holding the Chinese back in the world market was the critical issue of quality control. The Chinese have largely overcome this, however, and now an American company farming out its manufacturing to China can essentially pay for the level of product quality it desires. The Chinese will simultaneously, quietly copy anything and everything submitted to them for manufacture, of course; this is expected and even tolerated, if not appreciated.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Australia: Websites Sell Fake Aussie Passports

WEBSITES are selling fake state-of-the-art Australian passports for as little as $1250, boasting they’ll pass the most rigorous border checks.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) says the sites are just another money-making scam but admit they are “the subject of ongoing discussions’’ with Australian Federal Police.

DFAT also warns that people who use such documents are guilty of a serious criminal offence.

One of the sites boasts it is a unique producer of quality fake documents.

“We offer only original high-quality fake passports, driver’s licences, ID cards, stamps and other products for following countries: Australia, UK, USA,’’ the site says.

Sample pictures of a blank Australian passport show where buyers’ personal details will be entered after supplying a digital photo, signature and other particulars.

The site asks for 750 euros ($1500) to be sent in instalments to Chisinau, Moldova via money order services, Western Union or money gram.

Australian passports on another site cost $US800 ($1250).

The website operator said via email that their passports would “successfully pass all existing tests, like UV-test, MRZ (Machine Readable Zone) check, machine check and so on’’.

“In fact we haven’t got any complaints from our customers on the problems with customs, airports or any other law authorities during travelling.

“‘We also provide (the ability) to affix almost all kind of stamps into the passports to make you feel more confident.’’

A DFAT spokesperson said making false or misleading statements in connection with Australian travel documents was a serious criminal offence.

The websites in question were the subject of ongoing discussions with Australian Federal Police.

“Websites that offer access to genuine Australian passports are typically scams, as all applications must be submitted through official channels and are subject to … (a) highly secure issue integrity process,’’ the spokesperson said.

“Australian passport documents are among the most technically advanced and secure in the world.’’

But as Australia’s passport security measures improve so too do the scammers.

An Australian Immigration Department spokesperson said intercepting travellers using fraudulent passports was part of Australia’s layered approach to border security.

“Effective document examination is a cornerstone of good border security,’’ the spokesperson said.

“Knowing how to spot a fake passport is crucial to maintaining the integrity of Australia’s border.’’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Mauritania: Junta Supports Black-African Victims Solutions

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, MARCH 9 — The military junta which has been in power in Mauritania since August 6 2008 has agreed to find a “speedy solution” to the issue of black-African victims of inter-racial clashes in the country between 1989 and 1991. So said the President of a victims’ group, Sy Abou. According to human rights NGOs the clashes caused hundreds of deaths among the black-African population, including soldiers accused by the then President Maaouiya Ould Taya (1984-2005) of planning a coup d’etat against his regime. Sy Abou said that a report containing the requests of the victims’ group had been passed to the President of the Higher State Council (the junta in power), General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, and that the General “is commited to finding a speedy solution which meets our requirements”. Several Ulema (Muslim scholars) and Islamic rights specialists worked with the group, giving them “their moral support for a fair solution”, according to Sy Abou; the victims are asking in particular for a recognition of the actions on the part of the State and moral and material compensation for the victims. “The procedure risks being extremely long in terms of getting a full and definitive agreement, which is why we decided to propose rulings in stages, starting with compensation for widows and orphans”, he added, saying that requests for the construction of a memorial to the victims and the exhumation of their bodies were declared inadmissible by the Muslim religion and had therefore been abandoned by the collective. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Latin America


This is What a Collapse Looks Like

Some of you may not realize that Argentina, a country rich in natural resources with a generally well-educated population, has undergone an economic collapse since 2001.

The primary reasons for this collapse are corrupt politicians, and fraudulent banking institutions that colluded to put the country into massive DEBT!

It is true that Argentina is much smaller than the United States, so I am not trying to say this is a perfect parallel to our current situation. What I am saying is that the root cause of our troubles appear to be similar to Argentina’s.

I am presenting for you three short clips from a documentary (there are 12 in total, but you need only watch the first three to get the idea) that graphically details what an economic and banking collapse looks like.

[Return to headlines]

Immigration


Canada: Ottawa Urged to Review Immigration Board Cases

Arab group’s chief accepted 100% of refugees from Middle East

The government is being urged to re-examine all refugee cases heard by Khaled Mouammar, the current president of the Canadian Arab Federation, following the revelation that his acceptance rates were nearly twice the national average during a decade-long stint on the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Mr. Mouammar, an outspoken supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, recorded an acceptance rate of 100% when it came to refugees from North Africa and the Middle East during his time with the IRB between 1995 and 2005, according to statistics obtained by the National Post. Although cases from the Middle East represented only a tiny fraction of his overall caseload, the 68-year-old orthodox Christian, who was born in Palestine, also accepted each claim he heard against Israel during the period, while the rest of the IRB accepted just 10% of Israel claims.

“I would like to see some close scrutiny of who this fellow accepted because his numbers are off the radar screen, even in comparison

to the generally questionable record of the IRB. Obviously no one was monitoring his performance because he was there for 10 years,” said Martin Collacott, a former diplomat who follows immigration and refugee issues for the Fraser Institute.

Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for Jason Kenney, the Minister of Immigration, said the government acknowledges those concerns.

“Without knowing the full details of the individual cases, I can’t comment beyond saying that the numbers speak for themselves,” Mr. Velshi said.

“I think it’s fair for Canadians to ask why Mouammar’s acceptance rate was so much higher than the IRB average for the same countries, as well as whether he was letting people in who he shouldn’t have.”

When contacted at home, Mr. Mouammar referred all questions to the IRB. “I have nothing to add to that,” he said. A spokesperson for the IRB said the board did not comment on the performance of past or current members. “However, statistics on individual acceptance rates cannot be used to draw conclusions or inferences.”

Mr. Mouammar has found himself in hot water in recent months because of his support for Hamas and Hezbollah. The CAF advocates both be taken off a list of banned organizations because they are “legitimate political parties,” while it considers Israel a genocidal regime, guilty of “war crimes.”

Mr. Mouammar also hit the headlines for calling Jason Kenney, the Minister of Immigration, a “professional whore” over his support of Israel, a move that prompted Mr. Kenney to say he intends to review the CAF’s public funding.

The Post reported this week that Mr. Mouammar spent much of the late 1990s and early 2000s sitting on the refugee protection division of the IRB. He was appointed when Sergio Marchi was the Liberal immigration minister in Jean Chretien’s first term in 1994 and reappointed on four successive occasions.

Sources have forwarded statistics on the number of cases he handled during that period and the number of refugees that were admitted to Canada as a result.

In his first few years with the IRB, the norm was for two or three members to sit on a panel and hear refugee cases. In those years, Mr. Mouammar heard 912 cases, recording an acceptance rate of 50%, compared to an IRB average of 30%.

One person who heard cases alongside Mr. Mouammar on the refugee board said that when he presided over a case, he routinely accepted claims, and it was only when the other member presided that he would agree to deny claimants.

After the IRB streamlined the hearing process to one member, Mr. Mouammar’s acceptance rate rose dramatically. Of the 1,092 cases he heard on his own, he accepted 88%, compared to a 49% average for the rest of the IRB. When it came to cases from Algeria, Iraq, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia, that number rose to 100%.

“My conclusion is that, statistically, you definitely wanted him in the room with you if you were from Algeria or Iraq, or if you were making a claim against Israel,” said immigration policy analyst and lawyer Richard Kurland.

Mr. Collacott noted that Canada accepts three times as many refugees as most other countries.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Finland: Most Finnish Municipalities Get Migration Surplus

One third of people moving from abroad are returning Finns

full 94 per cent of Finnish municipalities are getting more inhabitants coming from abroad than they lose to emigration. “Immigration seems to be the key anchor of population development in the 21st century, at least in many municipalities”, says population researcher, Dr. Timo Aro. Aho was asked by Helsingin Sanomat to analyse what impact immigration has had on individual municipalities between 2000 and 2008. He used data from Statistics Finland as his resource material. The immigration statistics also include information about Finns who have moved abroad, and Finnish citizens who have returned to Finland after living outside of the country; the latter account for about a third of all immigration, although there is great variation from one year to another.

Of Finland’s 414 municipalities, 389 experienced net growth in the migration statistics from 2000 to 2008. There were 24 municipalities that experienced a net loss in immigration, and in one community the number of immigrants and emigrants were the same. For many communities, immigration has been the only way to maintain overall population growth, and in some communities, like the cities of Kotka, Kajaani, Mikkeli, and Kouvola, the population declined in spite of the immigration surplus.

When the number of emigrants is subtracted from the number of immigrants, Finland had a net population gain of 73,147 people during the period studied. The immigration surplus has grown in recent years. In 2008 it was many times greater than it was in 2000. Advance figures by Statistics Finland indicate that last year, 27,147 people moved to Finland, and 13,411 emigrated from Finland. Among those leaving Finland, 8,986 were Finnish citizens. The figure among the arrivals was 8,199.

The Helsinki region — Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa — accounted for a third of all immigration. The population of the three cities grew by 63,539 in 2000-2008. A third of the increase is attributable to growth in immigration. “The main part of immigration flows targeted large cities, for understandable reasons. However, migration does not extend to the communities surrounding large cities, contrary to what is the case in migration inside the country”, Aho points out. In his view, population gains from immigration are spread evenly throughout the country, but eventually he expects immigrants to start moving to the same areas, which will be emphasised further in the internal migration flows of cities with a migration surplus.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Helping Migrants Live Their Faith

Bringing foreigners together, but allowing them to live their own faith, is a big challenge for the Swiss Catholic Church, says its director of migration Marco Schmid.

Integration is not always easy, Schmid tells swissinfo, which is why the church has opted for creating more than 100 foreign language parishes within the country.

These missions hold their own masses and often have their own priests. The largest ones come from southern Europe, but eastern Europe and Asia are also represented.

There are around 1.7 million foreigners in Switzerland, and 50 per cent of them are Catholics, making them an important group for the Church, says Schmid.

As head of the Swiss Bishops Conference Migratio commission, 33-year-old Schmid is in charge of coordinating pastoral care for foreigners and dealing with social and ethical migration issues. A second-generation immigrant himself, Schmid took up the post last September…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Illegal Immigrants Might Get Stimulus Jobs, Experts Say

LOS ANGELES — Tens of thousands of jobs created by the economic stimulus law could end up filled by illegal immigrants, particularly in big states such as California where undocumented workers are heavily represented in construction, experts on both sides of the issue say.

Studies by two conservative think tanks estimate immigrants in the United States illegally could take 300,000 construction jobs, or 15% of the 2 million jobs that new taxpayer-financed projects are predicted to create.

They fault Congress for failing to require that employers certify legal immigration status of workers before hiring by using a Department of Homeland Security program called E-Verify. The program allows employers to check the validity of Social Security numbers provided by new hires. It is available to employers on a voluntary basis.

“They could have deterred this, but they chose not to,” said Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies…

           — Hat tip: TC [Return to headlines]



UK Migrant Total is ‘Three Times the World Average’

The proportion of people living in Britain who were born overseas is more than three times the international average, it emerged last night.

Eleven per cent of British residents were born abroad, against the global figure of 3 per cent.

The campaign group Migrationwatch UK said the findings dispelled the Government’s ‘misleading’ claims that very high levels of immigration to Britain had been consistent with world trends.

Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migrationwatch, says that Labour is to blame for out of control migration.

It said Labour had been using the claims as a ‘smokescreen’ to disguise policy failures, such as its inability to get a grip on the asylum system.

Chairman Sir Andrew Green said: ‘The Government seems to make a habit of blaming current ills on “global forces”, but our analysis shows this problem is almost entirely home grown. It could, and should, have been more competently managed, so preventing the rising tide of resentment among the public.’

A report by the group shows the percentage of the world population who are international migrants rose from 2.5 per cent in 1960 to 3 per cent in 2005 — the most recent global figure. In Britain, it went from 4.5 per cent in 1961 to 9.3 per cent in 2005.

According to the Office for National Statistics, it now stands at 11 per cent — one in nine of the population and the equivalent of 6.49million people born overseas living here.

Sir Andrew said the Government was to blame for outofcontrol migration for a number of reasons.

These included the policy, adopted by Labour in 1997, of trebling the number of work permits handed out every year to a record of 150,000 last year.

Overall, net migration — or the number of people arriving compared to those leaving each year — has trebled from 107,000 to 317,000 in that time.

He highlighted the loss of embarkation controls, which count migrants in and out of the country, and Labour’s decision in 1997 to axe the Primary Purpose Rule — a requirement for people seeking to enter by getting wed to show that the marriage was not a ruse to get into the country.

Immigration by spouses has increased by more than 50 per cent since then.

Sir Andrew also said control of the asylum system was lost for several years, ‘so contributing considerably to net immigration’, and that the Government had failed to predict the influx from Eastern Europe.

Ministers did not impose any restrictions on citizens of the Eastern Bloc states, unlike most of our EU neighbours.

Sir Andrew added: ‘The Government has held public opinion in contempt for years.

‘Despite having dismantled border controls, they deliberately encouraged immigration, partly to make the economic growth figures look better.’

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: ‘We’ve always said that we would run our immigration system for the benefit of the UK.

‘We have put in place the biggest shake-up of immigration in over a generation, including the introduction of the points-based system.

‘This means only foreign workers we need — and no more — can come here.

‘The number of Eastern Europeans coming here to work is falling and research suggests many have gone home.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



UK: Illegal Immigrant Numbers Higher Than Official Estimates

There are nearly three quarters of a million illegal immigrants in Britain, research has suggested.

A study by the London School of Economics suggests that the number of people living in the UK without permission is much higher than previously thought.

The last official estimate of illegal immigration, a Home Office report in 2001, put the figure at 430,000.

Because of the nature of illegal immigration, accurately charting numbers is difficult. The LSE team said the figure lies somewhere between 524,000 and 947,000, with a “midpoint” figure of 725,000.

The LSE study was commissioned by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, who is advocating a form of amnesty for illegal immigrants, something both the Government and the Conservative Party leadership oppose.

Many illegal immigrants work without paying taxes. Mr Johnson said that it is not realistic to try to find and expel all illegal immigrants, so it is better to try to bring them into the system and make them pay taxes.

“What I am trying to get people to recognise is that there are limits to what the policy to expulsions is able to achieve at the moment. Failing that, and it is failing, we need to think of a better alternative,” Mr Johnson told the BBC.

“If people are going to be here and we’ve chronically failed to kick them out it’s morally right that they should contribute in their taxes to the rest of society.”

He said that illegal immigrants would have to meet “tough” criteria before being made legal. No one with a criminal record would be eligible, and applicants would have to show they were able to support themselves and their family, and to demonstrate a long-term commitment to British society.

Mr Johnson is the most senior politician to support an amnesty, which has also been backed by trade unions and Church of England bishops.

But Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, rejected the “earned amnesty” plan, saying it would only lead to more illegal immigration.

“What unfortunately would happen is that people traffickers and others would see that as a pull factor to get people to the United Kingdom illegally and we would end up with a bigger problem not just for our society, but for the people themselves involved,” Mr Woolas said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Labour Runs Away From Consequences of Immigration Policy

The tirade by Phil Woolas , the Immigration Minister, against the Office for National Statistics, must rank as one of the most gratuitous pieces of government bullying seen in many a year.

Mr Woolas said he was “appalled” by the decision of Karen Dunnell, head of the ONS, to release figures last week showing the proportion of foreign born people living in Britain. He said he found this “politically embarrassing”. He called the decision to release the data as “at best naive or, at worst, sinister”. He even admitted he sought to block the publication of the data on the grounds that they were “neither new nor informative”. How does he explain, in that case, why every newspaper and media outlet found the figures both sufficiently new and informative to give them prominent coverage?

The statistics were included in the general run of population statistics that are routinely published by the ONS. Mr Woolas appears to believe that their publication resulted in the government being accused of “whipping up anti-foreign sentiment when it is the independent ONS who are playing politics”.

Why is it “playing politics” to issue this figure? Does the Government want to conceal it? It is, after all, the direct result of the immigration policy the Labour party has pursued since taking office in 1997. Why are ministers no longer prepared to defend it? Mr Woolas was given his current portfolio not to manage immigration but to try to defuse its potential for causing political damage to the Labour party. He has been encouraged to show that the Government shares the concerns of voters over the number of foreign workers taking jobs in a recession and about the impact on infrastructure and social cohesion of a growing foreign population in the inner cities. Labour is rightly worried that extremist political groups like the BNP will step into this breach if it is not filled by mainstream parties.

But it is, frankly, extraordinary to find the Government trying to disavow the ramifications of its own actions. What did it think would happen as a result of an open-door immigration policy? To try now to browbeat the independent ONS into covering up the consequences of the Government’s own policies is, in Mr Woolas himself might put it, “at best naïve or, at worst, sinister.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

General


Lorne Gunter: the Real Deniers

William Happer is hardly a climate change “denier.” A physics professor at Princeton, he is a former director of energy research for the U. S. Department of Energy, where he supervised work on climate change between 1990 and 1993. He is also one of the world’s leading experts on “the interactions of visible and infrared radiation with gases,” and on carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect. Two weeks ago, he told the U. S. Congress, “I believe the increase of CO2 (in the atmosphere) is not a cause for alarm.”

Claims that an increase of atmospheric CO2 will lead to catastrophic warming “are wildly exaggerated,” according to Prof. Happer. While a doubling (we have seen about a 35% rise since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution) might lead to a 0.6C rise in global temperature, he told Congress, “additional increments of CO2 will cause relatively less direct warming because we already have so much CO2 … that it has blocked most of the infrared radiation that it can.”

Prof. Happer added that while CO2 concentrations have risen steadily for more than 100 years, warming began before that — 200 years ago — and even during the time when temperatures and carbon concentrations have risen together, the link has hardly been consistent. For instance, while CO2 was rising rapidly from 1950 to 1970, temperatures were going through an especially cold period.

Over the past decade, while carbon dioxide concentrations have continued to grow, there has been “a slight cooling,” according to the Princeton physicist. Any warming in recent decades, then, “seems to be due mostly to natural causes, not to increasing levels of carbon dioxide.”

Why then do organizations such as the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) continue to put faith in climate supercomputer models that show disastrous warming in the coming century? Because, as Prof. Happer explained, the IPCC believes in what is called a “positive feedback loop.”

In short, water vapour and clouds account for about 98% of the greenhouse effect versus less than 2% for CO2. The IPCC believes, though, that a doubling of CO2, while not significant on its own, will trigger a huge increase in the greenhouse impact of water vapour. But so far, in the real world, “the feedback is close to zero and may even be negative.” Prof. Happer testified.

The significance of Prof. Happer’s statement is not that it proves global warming is false, but rather that it shows there is no consensus among respected scientists. The notion that the “science is settled,” as claimed by global warming advocates, is not true.

Also, two weeks ago, three of five independent scientists asked by Japan’s Society of Energy and Resources to assess the current state of climate science concluded that global warming, to the extent it is still occurring, is a natural phenomenon, not manmade.

In his official contribution, Kanya Kusano, program director at the Earth Simulator at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, called the IPCC’s warming theories “an unprovable hypothesis” and likened the current supercomputer models to ancient astrology.

Even the Discovery Channel, never a fan of scientists who dissent from climate orthodoxy, reported last week on a University of Wisconsin study that shows global temperatures have at least flatlined during the past decade and that that trend could continue for another 30 years. The authors of that report — Kyle Swanson and Anastasios Tsonis — think rapid warming could resume after that. But for now, warming has ceased.

Against this legitimate scientific doubt, recent statements by environmentalists and alarmist scientists sounds positively hysterical.

Robert Kennedy, Jr. called coal companies “criminal enterprises” and demanded their CEOs be jailed “for all eternity.” Michael Tobis, a climate modeller at the University of Texas labelled as “palpably evil” anyone who questioned the wisdom of former U. S. vice-president Al Gore and suggested that doubting Mr. Gore was “morally comparable to killing 1,000 people.”

U. S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu claimed warming will lead to “no more agriculture in California.” Meanwhile Susan Solomon, of the U. S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and lead scientist with the IPCC, said even if carbon emissions are stopped, temperatures around the globe will remain high until at least the year 3000 and within 10 years “the oceans will be toxic, and all life in them will die.”

Ironic, isn’t it, that those who doubt the warming theories are the ones called the “deniers.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: ‘White Male’ Kept Out of Police Chief Job

Home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst has refused to name a new police chief in the Zuid-Holland Zuid region because officials want the job to go to a white male, various newspapers report on Monday.

Ter Horst has agreed with the mayors of the big cities (who are effectively the head of police in their area), that 25% of the police force’s top jobs should be held by women within four years.

‘If you don’t resist the automatic reflext to name men, white men, you will never get a diverse police force,’ Ter Horst told tv show Buitenhof on Sunday.

Since the target was set, 17 men and three women have been appointed to senior functions. ‘If we carry on at that speed, we will never reach 25%,’ the minister said.

But many MPs are unhappy with the minister’s decision. ‘It is all about the best man in the right place,’ said Christian Democrat MP Coskun Çörüz in the AD. ‘We are already finding it hard to get good people for police vacancies.’

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Out of Chaos, a New World Order

Henry Kissinger wrote a very important article in the International Herald Tribune Jan. 12.

I believe it was meant as a signal — marching orders, if you will, for a disparate band of elitists determined to bring about a new form of global rule that will supersede our notions of national sovereignty, limited government and personal freedom.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Steve Janke: Um, You Know All That Stuff About Global Warning? Nevermind.

As many people have heard, a new study admits that the Earth has not been warming as predicted, but actually cooling off.

Originally reported on Discovery News, the study admits that the Earth is, in fact, not warming as environmentalists have feverishly hoped:

[According] to a new study in Geophysical Research Letters, global warming may have hit a speed bump and could go into hiding for decades.

Earth’s climate continues to confound scientists. Following a 30-year trend of warming, global temperatures have flatlined since 2001 despite rising greenhouse gas concentrations, and a heat surplus that should have cranked up the planetary thermostat.

“It is possible that a fraction of the most recent rapid warming since the 1970s was due to a free variation in climate,” Isaac Held of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Princeton, New Jersey wrote in an email to Discovery News. “Suggesting that the warming might possibly slow down or even stagnate for a few years before rapid warming commences again.”

“Free variation” is the code phrase for “can’t be blamed on industrial economies of the West”.

In other words, just regular climatic change that the Earth undergoes.

But the funniest bit is the prediction for the future:

[Kyle Swanson of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee] thinks the trend could continue for up to 30 years. But he warned that it’s just a hiccup, and that humans’ penchant for spewing greenhouse gases will certainly come back to haunt us.

“When the climate kicks back out of this state, we’ll have explosive warming,” Swanson said. “Thirty years of greenhouse gas radiative forcing will still be there and then bang, the warming will return and be very aggressive.”

So let me get this straight. Climate scientists are puzzled that their precious models have not successfully predicted the non-warming (ie, cooling) that has happened over the last few years, but they expect us to believe yet another prediction, this one being a full thirty years into the future?

Right.

And this one has global warming just popping up out of the ether. How does that work again?

But when you think about it, this thirty-year prediction makes a lot of sense. For the next three decades, if these people are to be believed, global warming will be lurking on the sidelines, waiting to pounce on us. We won’t actually see any warming, but apparently that’s now to be expected.

If in thirty years, the temperature spikes, then these guys win!

And if, as I suspect, nothing notable happens in thirty years? Well, then all that means is that all the money spent on semi-plausible carbon dioxide reduction programs, as well as all the money transfers to third world countries, did the trick, and that’s why the temperature has remained stable.

Gee, good thing we listened to them, eh, instead of spending thirty years on something like increasing the food supply or wiping out childhood diseases.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Who’s Watching “The Watchmen”?

A Gates of Vienna reader named Gryffilion sent us this movie review. We don’t get out to the movies very often, so posting a review of one counts as a vicarious thrill.



Who’s Watching “The Watchmen”? Why Watch “The Watchmen”?
by Gryffilion

The WatchmenThis weekend, I had the misfortune to watch the film adaptation of the famous graphic novel The Watchmen. It was a movie I had every intention of enjoying — the trailers looked fantastic and everything pointed to it being a thrilling, if gruesome, ride through yet another untapped franchise. Sadly, it proved to be nothing more than a pretentiously dark and high-mindedly nihilistic piece that would be more forgettable if its images weren’t so pervasively disturbing.

This abominably empty film is set in an alternate 1985 during which Richard Nixon is serving his fifth term as president. How exactly he got Congress to repeal the 22nd Amendment is never explained, but don’t let’s fret our pretty little heads about that. American scientists and military leaders have put together a Doomsday Clock which counts down towards inevitable nuclear war with the Soviet Union. (The method by which the clock is turned towards Midnight — Mutually Assured Destruction — is another plot device left maddeningly unexplained.) Former superheroes, hamstrung by a bill (the Keane Act) which prohibits anonymous vigilantism, have turned reclusive, like the terminally nice Nite Owl/Daniel Dreiberg, or gone rogue, like the raspy, violent Rorschach/Walter Kovacs. All in all, it is — was — a nice set-up for a grimy crusade through a Gothamesque New York, with the idea of superheroes made obsolete providing the bittersweet leitmotif.

However, it all goes downhill pretty damned fast as we find out more about superheroes past and present:
- – - - – - – - -
The aging Comedian, thrown out of his apartment window in the first scene of the movie, is revealed to be a sexually and physically abusive, murderous scumbag who began working for right-wing nationalist third-world governments (the worst kind) after the Keane Act restricted his ability to beat up on hippie scum with impunity.

Rorschach was designed by his writers (both film and print) to be a “realistic” interpretation of what a Batman-type character might have turned out like — sociopathic, merciless, scornful of the very people he allegedly protects.

The Silk Spectre is an aging, promiscuous lush living in a retirement home, and her daughter, the Silk Spectre II, has basically no other purpose than to be The Girl Superhero. Jokes are made about her latex costume, but they would ring truer if said outfit were less ridiculously revealing in the most stereotypical way imaginable.

Dr. Manhattan has been stripped of his humanity by a scientific accident that left him gigantic, blue, and imbued with godlike powers; however, his bald pate and robotically tormented demeanor evoke images of a fretfully indecisive Charlie Brown.

Dan Dreiberg, as the Nite Owl, comes close to being a sympathetic character. Like the rest of the movie, however, he tries too hard and ultimately fails, often sounding less like a retired superhero struggling to find his way in a world that doesn’t want him and more like a parody of Jughead saying “Aw, jeepers!”

That’s the rub of this entire movie — the world doesn’t want its superheroes. And who would want this motley crew, anyway? All of them are fascistic embodiments of the ultimate abusive parents — brutalizing and beating the people who supposedly look to them for protection, and then bitterly lamenting the fact that hey aren’t loved and idolized. The graphic portrayals of violence reach several ham-fisted climaxes throughout the movie. One scene in an alleyway that results in Nite Owl and the Silk Spectre II maiming or killing an entire Asian street gang was probably intended to be balletic and artistic, but instead comes across as embarrassingly pornographic, and raises the question of whether violence is just another form of foreplay for these purported superheroes.

I could go on for hours about the ways in which this movie displays an apparent contempt for humanity. Out of all of them, however, I was the most disgusted by the lack of any characters with whom we can empathize. One of the “heroes” is murdered, quite violently and graphically (and in the least subtly ironic way possible), towards the close of the movie, and I found myself thinking that I cared as little about his death as I would about the death of pretty much any of the rest of the main cast. My sympathies, such as they were, lay with the Unnamed Public, on whom the unasked-for “protection” of these “heroes” was foisted the way similar “protection” was foisted on Chicago shopkeepers by the mob.

Attempts to make the surviving main characters more likeable and human are much too little and far too late, and come across as implausible and forced. The Silk Spectre, justifying her rape and impregnation by the misogynistically violent Comedian, says to her daughter and successor, “I can’t hate him for what he did because he gave me you.” In a movie as devoid of the milk of human kindness as this one, one can only assume that some hack assistant writer got his scripts mixed up. It’s less insulting to our intelligence as viewers than assuming the directors and producers thought we’d buy such a mawkish line after having pure, distilled nihilism shoved down our throats for almost three hours.

It is necessary to pause here and answer the unheard-yet-foreseen voices, crying out in indignation that while everything I’ve said is true, my arguments are rendered moot by the fact that the writers of both the graphic novel and the movie set out to do just what has been described. It’s just like every other apocalyptic story: create a terrifying future by turning an established norm (in this case, the superhero as a projected ideal of human virtue) on its head (the superhero as a fascist enforcer of Order at any cost). To which I would reply: if you set out to make a salad out of broken glass, garbage, and the tears of infants, you still have a depressing meal that no one wants to eat. Even if it’s the BEST salad made out of refuse and lachrymation, and moreover made in an ironic way.

Somewhere in the interminable middle of this movie, the Keane Act-flouting Rorschach is framed for murder and put in prison. He ends up foiling an attempt on his life by savagely beating and dumping hot grease all over an inmate who tries to stab him. As the guards drag him away, he yells “You all don’t understand! I’m not locked up in here with you! You’re locked up in here with me!”

Indeed.

And later on, when he is freed, the entire world is locked up with him. We are left to ponder the question: with heroes like these, who needs villains?

Taking on the Hindu Kush

The Hindu Kush


Dharmaveer, who blogs at “Thoughts of a nationalist Indian”, has written a compelling article laying out the rationale for a US/NATO invasion of the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Some excerpts are below:

The case for a massive US invasion of the Pak-Afghan border

I think it is time the US and Nato launched a massive invasion of the Pakistan-Afghan border areas. I will make the case for such a military action below:

1.   The Taliban-Al Qaeda combination attacked the US on its own soil on September 11, 2001. That itself would seem adequate for the US to go after the Taliban and not rest till this menace has been totally eliminated. When Japan attacked the US at Pearl Harbor, the US (a) identified the enemy and (b) went after it ruthlessly, not hesitating to even use nuclear weapons to force a full and unconditional surrender, followed by a total dismantling of the ideology of Japanese imperialism. Why is it hesitating now? September 11 took more US lives than Pearl Harbor. So why the US ambivalence?
2.   The Taliban represents the greatest danger to the ideal of women’s rights in the world today. Under the Taliban, women were reduced to nothing more than domesticated animals. Again, this reason by itself would suffice for a serious military strike. The world cannot watch indifferently when women are degraded this way, and humanity is mocked.
3.   The Taliban is gaining strength (their own words — see the video above), and preparing essentially for a total takeover of Pakistan. They have already brought significant parts of Pakistan under their control. Pakistan is a nuclear power. The Taliban having nuclear capability does not seem far fetched anymore. Another 10 years? And then what are we going to do? The time to act is NOW.

- – - - – - – - -

[three more reasons are listed]

The world must not wait on this threat any longer. Every day that we wait, this threat grows, and increases its power to douse civilization. A forward policy is needed — one where we (a) call this threat the pure evil that it is (b) declare total war upon it and (c) chase it from all its hideouts, including Swat, Waziristan, and all the rest. It can be done. The myth of these tribesman being able to face up to the US war machine is just that — a media myth. Remember the Taliban was routed in 2002 when the US only gave some support to the northern alliance. It is because the US looked the other way after that that the Taliban regrouped. 2002 showed that the Taliban are weak, and can be destroyed, but it will take sharp focus to finish the job.

The time to finish the job has come.

Read the rest at “Thoughts of a nationalist Indian”.

The might of the British and Russian empires broke on the Hindu Kush and dissipated like a sea wave against a jetty. The American wave is even now being humbled on the Afghan side of the barrier.

What will improve our chances this time around? Does Bharat Rakshak — the Defense of India — stand ready to assume a full partnership in this initiative?

Free Speech in Ireland

I’ve undertaken the task of surveying the state of free speech in the parts of Europe that haven’t been covered here previously.

This is the first of an occasional series on instances of official repression wielded to combat “racism”, “discrimination”, and “incitement to hatred” in European countries.

Islam O’Phobe is a regular reader and commenter from Ireland, and I asked him for information about the state of free speech in his country. Here’s what he had to say.



There was a significant controversy involving the Irish Independent columnist Kevin Myers a few months ago.

Before I delve into that I should first provide you with some context relating to the “bastard” controversy. Kevin Myers wrote an article in the Irish Times in 2005 criticising girls who bore children out of wedlock as conceiving “bastards”. He used the word “bastards” in the column repeatedly (about 20 times) which set off a firestorm of criticism.

The national outrage that ensued was not manufactured. All the radio talk-in shows were deluged non-stop with complaints — not just from the usual complainers but people from every aspect of life. It upset a lot of people. I heard anecdotally from my Aunt that someone scratched into his car “Who’s the Bastard Now?” The car-scratching incident never made it into the media as far as I know.

He lost his job at the Irish Times (technically speaking he resigned) and was subsequently scooped up by the Irish Independent, for which he now writes.

Fast forward three years later to 2008 and this article in which Myers criticises aid to Africa, the dismal wasteland that is African culture, and his fellow journalists for their dishonesty in not reporting the facts on the ground.
- – - - – - – - -
He was heavily criticised by the left-wing media such as the Irish Times and the Metro, a free daily staffed almost entirely by African immigrants and dedicated to promoting multiculturalism. Most Irish people either agreed with Myers or didn’t notice the fuss.

Myers was reported to the Press Council, who have the power to penalise journalists if it is decided that they are guilty of “incitement to hatred”.

Myers was exonerated of “incitement to hatred” but, as he explains in this article, he was misrepresented by the Irish Times legal correspondent when the verdict was reported.

The upshot is that, having won the case, he can more or less write whatever he wants. His article comparing mass immigration into Britain to the fall of Constantinople being a case in point. On the BNP website the commenters complain that the link to this article gets deleted from the Sun newspaper’s site.

So this debacle was the significant episode of Irish free-speech crackdown in recent years, and it happily resulted in an (unofficial) precedent of Danish-like levels of free expression. No doubt in my mind. However, that there will be other charges of “racism”/”hatred” to answer in the future.

I recall debating the creation of the Press Council several years ago. It was argued to me that in return for

stricter controls on offensiveness there would be a relaxation of libel laws. Talk about a bad trade!

In any case, I will keep you updated on any future inquisitions presided over by the Press Council. The equally odious Equality Authority has sadly been drained of funds lately due to the recent recession. What a pity.



Cross-posted at the International Free Press Society.

The Battle of the Headlines

Of course, I believe the first one, don’t you?

That unarmed ship was probably full of drunken sailors…

China’s Navy expansion “no threat to others”

U.S. watching, not worried about China carrier-admiral

Pentagon: Chinese vessels harassed unarmed ship

[nothing further]

Oh, wait, I just thought of something!
- – - - – - – - -
Here’s some blab from the third story. Sure do wish they’d supplied pictures:

The Pentagon charged Monday that five Chinese ships shadowed and maneuvered dangerously close to a U.S. Navy vessel in an apparent attempt to harass the American crew.

The Obama administration said the incident Sunday followed several days of “increasingly aggressive” acts by Chinese ships in the region.

[…]

A Chinese intelligence ship and four others surrounded the USNS Impeccable, an unarmed vessel with a civilian merchant marine crew, as the craft conducted ocean surveys in international waters in the South China Sea, the Defense Department said in a statement.

The Impeccable sprayed one ship with water from fire hoses to force it away. Despite the force of the water, Chinese crew members stripped to their underwear and continued closing within 25 feet, the Defense department said.

Whowee! Underwear shots!

Then there is this howler from a Pentagon spokesman:

“We expect Chinese ships to act responsibly and refrain from provocative activities that could lead to miscalculation or a collision at sea, endangering vessels and the lives of U.S. and Chinese mariners…”

Sure we do. We were just saying that the other day. The Baron, munching on crumpets, opined, “isn’t it wonderful how responsibly the Chinese have acted down through the ages? Pass the cream, please.”

I did as he requested, but I was inscrutable about it.

Why Asians Didn’t Invent Space Travel

The Fjordman Report


The noted blogger Fjordman is filing this report via Gates of Vienna. It will be included in his history of optics and other sciences.

For a complete Fjordman blogography, see The Fjordman Files. There is also a multi-index listing here.


Han Dynasty rocketThose who claim that the West owes much to the East are right in many cases, but also exaggerate this debt in others. Space travel was not so much a “mutual exchange of ideas” as an overwhelmingly European and Western creation based on science and technology that did not exist nor develop anywhere else in the world. It is true that the concept of a “rocket” was invented in Asia. The Chinese used rockets for military purposes for centuries, and they were known in other regions such as the Indian subcontinent, where Europeans encountered them.

Wan Hu’s rocket chairAccording to Arnold Pacey in his book Technology in World Civilization, “British armies on the subcontinent encountered rockets, a type of weapon of which they had no previous experience. The basic technology had come from the Ottoman Turks or from Syria before 1500, although the Chinese had invented rockets even earlier. In the 1790s, some Indian armies included very large infantry units equipped with rockets. French mercenaries in Mysore had learned to make them, and the British Ordnance Office was enquiring for somebody with expertise on the subject. In response, William Congreve, whose father was head of the laboratory at Woolwich Arsenal, undertook to design a rocket on Indian lines. After a successful demonstration, about 200 of his rockets were used by the British in an attack on Boulogne in 1806. Fired from over a kilometre away, they set fire to the town. After this success, rockets were adopted quite widely by European armies.”

Rockets were not totally unknown in Europe prior to this, but the major introduction of them to the West happened during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s. When the English civil engineers George (1781-1848) and Robert Stephenson (1803-1859) built their famous steam locomotive Rocket in 1829, rockets were still something of a novelty. Nevertheless, by the twentieth century they had developed into devices which in size and complexity differed so much from traditional Asian rockets that they had little in common apart from the name.

V2 at PeenemundeSpace travel depended upon a host of scientific and technological innovations and in many ways represented the culmination of centuries of Western advances in these fields. It is unthinkable that you could have had space travel without the European Scientific and Industrial Revolutions. The chemical revolution which facilitated the discovery or invention of the materials and fuels needed for space technology started in the eighteenth century or earlier. The first device for generating an electrical current was created by the Italian Alessandro Volta in 1800. Electromagnetism was discovered by a Dane, Hans Christian Ørsted, and developed by people from Germany, Britain, France and other European nations.

Asian rockets were powered by gunpowder and weighed a couple of kilograms at most. None of them would have been able to challenge the Earth’s gravity, leave the atmosphere and explore the Solar System. The huge Saturn V multistage rocket, which was designed in the USA under the leadership of the rocket scientist Wernher von Braun (1912-1977) and allowed the astronauts Neil Armstrong (born 1930) and Buzz Aldrin (born 1930) to land on the Moon on July 20 1969, had a million times more mass and employed liquid oxygen and hydrogen.
- – - - – - – - -
As we recall, oxygen was discovered independently by Carl Wilhelm Scheele in Sweden and Joseph Priestley in England in the 1770s. Henry Cavendish had discovered hydrogen a few years before. Both gases were studied and named by the Frenchman Antoine Lavoisier. The Englishman Michael Faraday liquefied a number of gases in the 1820s, but not oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen. Small droplets of oxygen and nitrogen were obtained by the physicist Raoul-Pierre Pictet (1846-1929) in Geneva, Switzerland and the physicist Louis-Paul Cailletet (1832-1913) in Paris, France in 1877. Liquid oxygen in a stable state and in appreciable quantities was created by the Polish chemists and physicists Karol Olszewski (1846-1915) and Zygmunt Wróblewski (1845-1888) in 1883. The German engineer Carl von Linde (1842-1934) and the British chemist William Hampson (1859-1926) made improvements to the apparatus for reaching low temperatures. Liquid hydrogen was produced by the Scottish chemist Sir James Dewar (1842-1923) in 1898 and solidified the year after. The Dutchman Heike Kamerlingh Onnes liquefied helium in 1908 and discovered superconductivity in 1911.

Mars RoverWhile the materials and electrical equipment needed to launch human beings into space, communicate with them and bring them safely back home could not have been made without prior advances in electricity, electromagnetism, chemistry and other fields, we must not forget the importance of mathematical tools as well. Without modern branches of mathematics such as calculus it would have been more or less impossible to bring people to the Moon and back, or to send robotic probes to Mars and other planets. Indeed, the very concept of “gravity” was only developed in Europe during the Scientific Revolution, by Sir Isaac Newton in England.

It is fashionable these days to claim that there were a number of “alternative paths” to modern science, which was born more or less independently in several regions of the world. Yet there was no alternative Mayan, Maori, African, Chinese or Indian path to space travel. A number of Asian countries such as Japan, China and India in the early twenty-first century have ambitious space programs of their own and will undoubtedly leave their mark in the field in the coming generations. If the Western world continues its current cultural decline, perhaps Asian countries will even play the leading role in future space exploration. This is certainly conceivable. Yet their space programs were initially established on the basis of wholesale borrowing from Western or Russian technology and did not have an independent local basis.

From The Earth to the Moon by Jules VerneThe developments which would lead to space travel began in the late nineteenth century. Writers such as the Englishman H. G. Wells (1866-1946) and the Frenchman Jules Verne (1828-1905), the fathers of the science fiction genre, inspired many people, including scientists who would develop practical rockets, to envision visits to the Moon and elsewhere. Rocket technology developed so much that space travel went from science fiction to fact.

The great American rocket scientist Robert Goddard (1882-1945) launched the world’s first successful rocket powered by liquid fuel in 1926. He used a steam turbine nozzle invented by the Swedish inventor Gustaf de Laval (1845-1913) a few years before. His rocket flight in 1929 carried the first scientific payload, a barometer and a camera. Robert Goddard was both a theoretical visionary as well as a practical engineer, a rare combination. He developed the mathematical theories of rocket propulsion, but his proposal for a rocket flight to the Moon received much ridicule in the media at the time. Like so many other pioneers, his genius was only fully appreciated after his death. He responded by stating that “Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace.”

Telescopic astronomy in the Russian Empire began for real with Mikhail Lomonosov. Serious ideas about space exploration began with Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), Russian scientist and visionary, the son of a Polish father and a Russian mother. In 1903 he published the article Exploration Of Space With Rocket Devices and drafted the design of a rocket powered by liquid oxygen and hydrogen. He calculated that a single-stage rocket would have to carry too much fuel to reach escape velocity and concluded that a multi-stage rocket would be more efficient. He once stated that “The Earth is the cradle of the mind, but we cannot live forever in a cradle.” Tsiolkovsky’s theoretical work about space travel was not well known in the West initially, but he had a major impact on some of those who would later become leading figures in the Soviet space program, among them Valentin Glushko (1908-1989).

The Ukraine-born Sergey Korolyov (1907-1966) was the leading Soviet rocket designer during the rapid developments of the 1950s and 1960s. He experienced triumphs such as the launch of the world’s first artificial satellite, the Sputnik 1, and the first human in space, the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968) in April 1961. Sergey Korolyov died from failing health just before the Americans launched their successful missions to the Moon, perhaps due to his long stay in the Siberian Gulag during the ruthless purges of Communist dictator Stalin.

The German rocket pioneer Hermann Oberth (1894-1989) published the book The Rocket into Interplanetary Space in 1923, which explained mathematically how rockets could achieve a speed that would allow them to escape the Earth’s gravitational pull. He organized enthusiasts into a society for space flight, to which the young Wernher von Braun belonged. During the 1930s they were very interested in Robert Goddard’s efforts in the USA and copied some of his ideas. Von Braun worked with military rockets during World War II, among them the V-2 rocket used against Allied targets. He engineered his own surrender to the Americans after the war together with some of his top scientists. Hermann Oberth worked for his former assistant von Braun both in Germany and in the USA.

A number of scientists and experts were captured by Allied forces. The Soviet Union, too, captured a number of the engineers who had worked in the German rocket program, the most sophisticated in the world by the 1940s, but the most important person by far was Wernher von Braun himself. His background from Nazi Germany was obviously controversial, but he eventually became a naturalized American citizen and a driving force behind the American space efforts, including the Apollo Program which would lead to the first successful manned missions to the Moon. His skills as an engineer and visionary were certainly considerable, and Wernher von Braun is considered one of the greatest rocket scientists of the twentieth century.

SputnikWhen the Soviet Union with Korolyov launched the Sputnik 1 into orbit in October 1957, they ignited the Space Race between the two superpowers within the Cold War. The Americans responded quickly and established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958. There was a large military component to this as rockets and missiles could be equipped with nuclear warheads, but the Space Race was also a competition for global prestige which generated peaceful benefits such as weather and communications satellites, too. Above all, it opened up the possibility of placing observatories outside of the Earth’s atmosphere and of sending probes to explore other bodies in our Solar System.

Among the most successful interplanetary space probes were the American Voyager 1 and 2, launched in 1977, whose data collected by their cameras and other instruments provided us with a great deal of new information about the gas giant planets. Voyager 2 in the 1980s became the first spacecraft to visit Uranus and Neptune, and both probes continue to transmit information about the far outer reaches of our Solar System.

The American Cassini orbiter, named after the Italian-French astronomer Giovanni Cassini, carried the European Huygens probe which in 2005 landed on Saturn’s largest moon Titan. Titan was discovered in 1655 by Christiaan Huygens and is the only moon with a dense atmosphere and a surface shaped by rivers and lakes of liquid ethane and methane. This was the first landing on a body in the Outer Solar System. Other probes have been sent or are being planned to study comets, asteroids, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Pluto, Jupiter and above all Mars, in the anticipation of a possible manned mission to that planet later this century.

The idea of putting a telescope in orbit above the Earth’s atmosphere was suggested in 1923 by Oberth. However, the first person to suggest this and live to see his vision implemented was the American scientist Lyman Spitzer (1914-1997). He proposed a large telescope in space in 1946 and was analyzing data from the Hubble Space Telescope the day he died. The Hubble Space Telescope, named after the discoverer of the extragalactic universe, Edwin Hubble, has been one of the most successful scientific instruments in recent years. NASA named its infrared space observatory the Spitzer Space Telescope in Lyman Spitzer’s honor.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/8/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/8/2009Now even Donald Luskin is sounding apocalyptic.

Normally he’s a cheerful, optimistic sort of fellow when it comes to capitalism and the American economy. But after watching the new administration’s ineffectual and damaging responses to the economic crisis, Mr. Luskin offers the opinion that this will be worse than the Great Depression.

Crankdom is certainly spreading — it’s not nearly so lonely an occupation as it was five or six months ago.

It’s now generally acknowledged that we are facing a financial catastrophe. The only question is: how bad will it get?

In any case, we are about to witness the end of one era and the beginning of a new one. What will the dislocation be comparable to?

  • The American Civil War?
  • The English Civil War?
  • The Russian Revolution?
  • The French Revolution?
  • The fall of Byzantium?
  • The fall of the Roman Empire?
  • The fall of Babylon?

Stick around. We’ll soon learn the answer.

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

Financial Crisis
Balkans: Economic Growth Not Before 2011, Vienna Experts
Even Worse Than the Great Depression
 
USA
Habitat for Humanity Homes Built by Hollywood Start to Crumble
Habitat for Humanity: Roiled by Harassment Claims
How the US Forgot How to Make Trident Missiles
Local Organizations Say Feminist Group’s Statement is Damaging
Thoughts of Storm Troopers Filling Spy Case
Vaccine Maker’s Snafu Sparks Pandemic Scare
 
Europe and the EU
Baby Vika’s Parents Acquitted — Acted Out of Necessity
Cyprus: Real Estate, Foreigners Shun Property
Denmark: Fear of Ethnic Riots
Italy: Muslim Leader Calls for Religious Tolerance
Malta: Italian Company Wins Cittadella Masterplan Contract
Serbia-Slovenia: Cooperation in Field of European Businesses
Serbia-Slovenia: Belgrade, Ljubljana Announce Town Twinning
UK: the EU Equality Law That Will Let ‘Upset’ Atheists Sue Companies That Hang Up Crucifixes
 
Balkans
Serbia: President, Fierce Fight Against Organised Crime
Serbia: Foreign Countries Allowed to Acquire Property
 
Mediterranean Union
Cooperation: Agreement Between Palermo and Tunisia
EU Funds for Projects in Southern Mediterranean
EU: Tajani Meets Tunisian Minister, Boost to Coast Motorways
Regions: Sicily, Lombardo Meets Moroccan Ambassador
 
North Africa
Gaza: Unione Forense Requests UN Investigative Commission
Islam: Kairouan, History Art and Light in 2009 Capital
Tunisia: Leila Ben Ali President Arab Women’s Organisation
Tunisia: Sicily on Show With Art, History and Cooking
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: 400 NGOs Accuse Israel of War Crimes at ICC
Israel: White House Mum on Jerusalem Attack
 
Middle East
Defense: Turkish Industries Sign Contracts With Foreign Firms
Defence: US Approves 30 Fighter Jets Sale to Turkey
Dubai Thinks of the Future, Goes Back to Pearl Cultivation
Iran Test-Fires New Missile
Iraq: War Reparations, 13 Billion Dollar to Kuwait
Jordan: Mobile Unit for Women’s Rights Culture
Real Estate: Sharjah Rejects Foreign Ownership
UAE: Kate Moss and Wilbur Smith at Dubai’s Literary Festival
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: Report Stresses Worsening Human Rights Situation
Malaysia: Christians Launch Petition for Use of the Word “Allah”
 
Far East
Pirate Attack in Philippines
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Demands Inquiry Into Crash That Killed His Wife
 
Immigration
How Rotten Apples in Government Endanger America
Upstate Assemblyman Gregory Ball Finds Dead Goat With Menacing Note Signed by M-13 Gang Outside Home
 
General
An Islamic World in Crisis, Anti-Americanism and the Fight Against Israel
Arabic: 9/11 a Turning Point in Study of Arabic, Experts

Financial Crisis


Balkans: Economic Growth Not Before 2011, Vienna Experts

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 5 — Due to transition process, Southeast European countries are especially subjected to consequences from international economic and financial crisis, Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies experts assessed in Chamber of Commerce in Austria, reports weekly Ekonomist. Global financial crisis will result in decrease of activities of economies in Southeast Europe during this year, stagnation in 2010 and economic growth not before 2011, they assessed. The expert for the Balkans Vladimir Gligorov expects numerous rebalances of the budgets in the Balkan countries due to difficult influx of tax funds, whereat reduction could be between 10 to 15%. “Based on the data in the first two months in 2009 it can be said that the crisis deepens compared to first quarter of last year”, Gligorov said, pointing out as an example the January decrease of industrial production in Serbia by 17%. Gligorov said that import decreases faster than export, implying that import is reduced by 40% in Croatia and Serbia. He assessed that International Monetary Fund will be stronger engaged in the Balkan region, adding that the Serbian government already announced to request USd 2 billion loan from IMF, and it expects financial aid from the EU, WB and international institutions. Scientific Director of Vienna Institute Michael Landesman said that the negative balance in Southeast Europe is a result of the fact that in the past in these countries “import exploded” which was mainly financed by credits and revenues from money transfers of the diaspora and foreign direct investments. Institute data show that Croatia (5.4 from GDP) and Albania (53.5% from GDP) had the biggest state debt by the end of 2008. Landesman said that countries that have fixed rates of their national currencies as Baltic states could fight against crisis by import reduction. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Even Worse Than the Great Depression

by Donald Luskin

Over the last couple years I loved to ridicule all the scaremongers who always said this, that or the other thing is “the worst since the Great Depression.” I stand by my ridicule, for the most part — those prophets of doom were mostly broken clocks who look right now just by sheer luck. But there’s no question now that things have gotten quite bad in the economy and the markets.

So let me do the preachers of Armageddon one better. Today’s stock market isn’t just the “worst since the Great Depression,” like they’re so fond of saying. No, it’s even worse than the Great Depression.

Take a look at the chart, below…

[Return to headlines]

USA


Habitat for Humanity Homes Built by Hollywood Start to Crumble

RESIDENTS of a model housing estate bankrolled by Hollywood celebrities and hand-built by Jimmy Carter, the former US president, are complaining that it is falling apart.

Fairway Oaks was built on northern Florida wasteland by 10,000 volunteers, including Carter, in a record 17-day “blitz” organised by the charity Habitat for Humanity.

Eight years later it is better known for cockroaches, mildew and mysterious skin rashes.

A forthcoming legal battle over Fairway Oaks threatens the reputation of a charity envied for the calibre of its celebrity supporters, who range from Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt to Colin Firth, Christian Bale and Helena Bonham Carter.

The case could challenge the bedrock philosophy behind Habitat for Humanity, claiming that using volunteers, rather than professional builders, is causing as many problems as it solves.

April Charney, a lawyer representing many of the 85 homeowners in Fairway Oaks, said she had no problems taking on Habitat for Humanity, despite its status as a “darling of liberal social activists”. She said the charity should have told people that part of the estate had been built on a rubbish dump.

One man pulled up his floorboards to find rubbish 5ft deep under his kitchen. Other complaints include cracking walls and rotting door frames that let in rats and ants. Many residents have complained of mildew and mysterious skin rashes.

One resident said her children were suffering from skin complaints. “The intentions are good, but when the politicians and big-shot stars have left we’re stuck with the consequences. This house looks pretty but inside it either stinks or sweats,” she said.

Judy Hall, the charity’s local development director, said recently that it had been dealing with about 30 complaints. She added that skilled work was carried out by professionals.

Some residents dismiss their neighbours’ worries. Diennal Fields, 51, said people did not know how to look after their homes: “It’s simple stuff: if there is mildew, don’t get a lawyer, get a bottle of bleach.”

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]



Habitat for Humanity Homes Faulted in Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When Habitat for Humanity built the Fairway Oaks development here seven years ago, Mary Zeigler thought, “This is a blessing.” In just 17 days, an army of 10,000 volunteers, including former President Jimmy Carter and first lady Rosalynn Carter, built 85 low-cost houses, one of the nonprofit group’s biggest “blitz build” projects.

“I could have something to call mine,” recalled Ms. Zeigler, now 63, sitting in the coolness of her house’s central air conditioning. In a lifetime of work, she had never been able to afford her own home.

Seven years later, Ms. Zeigler is one of more than 50 Fairway Oaks homeowners who have problems with their houses and say they fear that the blitz construction was shoddy and that their land, adjacent to two former town dumps, is unstable or contaminated.

“My pride is gone,” Ms. Zeigler said, pointing to cracks in her house’s ceiling and its concrete slab foundation. “I’ve got a 25-year mortgage, and I’ve got stuff that needs to be addressed or I’m just paying my mortgage in vain, because I won’t have a house in 25 years because it will be falling apart.”

The Fairway Oaks owners took their complaints to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, and of 56 who answered a survey for Legal Aid, 41 reported cracked concrete slabs, 22 had cracked walls and 48 said their houses were infested with insects or rodents, presumably because of the cracks. Others reported mold or mildew, nails popping out of plasterboard and other problems. The Habitat for Humanity local affiliate, HabiJax, maintains that the land at Fairway Oaks is stable and that most problems there are housekeeping issues, not structural. City inspectors this month examined six houses and found no violations. But in a vulnerable population, the perceptions have a life of their own. A project built with sweat equity and good will has had unintended consequences, and costs.

Jacksonville, in the northeast corner of the state, is a struggling former paper-mill town with one of the nation’s highest rates of home foreclosures. Rumors about contamination at the Fairway Oaks property began long before HabiJax got involved.

In the early 1990s the land held a blighted public housing complex, built on land that had been used, in isolated pockets, as a dump. After complaints by residents, the Environmental Protection Agency tested the soil for contamination. The E.P.A. concluded that the land was safe but noted that two buildings had been demolished because of soil settling, possibly caused by debris decomposing under the soil. A later soil test found elevated levels of arsenic, but the Florida Department of Health determined there was no significant health risk.

Ronnie A. Ferguson, president of the Jacksonville Housing Authority, said the two buildings had been damaged by water runoff, not because of soil instability associated with buried debris.

As the complex deteriorated, the housing authority offered the land to HabiJax for one dollar. For HabiJax, the land fit their mission, said Mary Kay O’Rourke, the HabiJax president. The project would remove a public blight and replace tax-subsidized housing with homes for people who could not otherwise afford them.

The first residents, mostly single women who had never owned homes, bought in for $500 down, 300 hours of sweat equity, and no-interest mortgages of around $45,000 to $61,000. Monthly payments, including insurance, are generally less than $300. HabiJax ran bus tours to show off the new community.

But when homeowners started having problems, several of them said the organization was aloof and unresponsive…

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]



Habitat for Humanity: Roiled by Harassment Claims

As Founder’s Supporters Rally, New Allegations Emerge

AMERICUS, Ga. — Since Habitat for Humanity fired its founder and president, Millard Fuller, for sexual harassment six weeks ago, his supporters throughout the giant nonprofit housing organization have campaigned to reinstate him.

Calling the accusation unsubstantiated and the punishment excessive, Fuller’s allies have created a Web site and an online petition signed by more than 3,600 donors and volunteers who work in many of Habitat for Humanity’s 2,300 independent affiliates around the world. They have conducted weekly prayer vigils in Americus, organized symbolic work stoppages at Habitat construction sites and urged major contributors to withhold gifts.

Yesterday, Habitat’s international board of directors unanimously reaffirmed Fuller’s dismissal at the beginning of a three-day meeting in Cape Town, South Africa. Despite that vote, supporters said they will continue to push for Fuller’s rehiring.

But the outpouring of sympathy for Fuller, 70, has also had a reverse effect. After years of silence, several former employees and close associates of Fuller — including three ordained ministers — have come forward to say they have inside knowledge of numerous prior allegations of sexual misconduct and workplace harassment by him, beginning before he founded Habitat for Humanity here in 1976.

The seven-member executive committee of Habitat for Humanity’s board of directors removed Fuller as president on Jan. 31 after an accusation that he inappropriately touched and made suggestive comments to a female employee during a ride to the Atlanta airport in 2003. The committee also fired his wife, Linda Fuller, who had helped him run the organization for 29 years.

The question posed by Fuller’s defenders is how an organization that describes itself as a Christian ministry could dishonor a man who gave away a personal fortune and built a movement to help low-income families buy decent homes.

The question posed by his accusers is how an organization devoted to the dignity of all people could, for many years, hush up allegations that its leader was demeaning women on his staff.

The controversy threatens not only to sully the reputation of one of the nation’s most prominent charities but also to embroil its most famous volunteer, former president Jimmy Carter, who lives nine miles west of here in Plains, Ga.

Carter declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the allegations. But according to the Fullers and Habitat board members, the former president tried twice in the past year to broker an agreement to keep the latest accusation quiet and allow Fuller to retire honorably with his $79,000 annual salary for life.

Carter also rose to Fuller’s defense on the only previous occasion when sexual harassment charges against him became public. In 1990-91, five women who were current or former employees of Habitat told the board of directors that he had subjected them to unwanted sexual advances — including kissing them on the mouth and touching their buttocks — as well as vindictive behavior when he was rebuffed.

Board members said they came close to firing Fuller. But they said that after Carter warned in a confidential letter that a “national scandal” could ensue, the directors allowed Fuller to work for a year from an outside office and then restored his duties as chief executive…

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]



How the US Forgot How to Make Trident Missiles

PLANS TO refurbish Trident nuclear weapons had to be put on hold because US scientists forgot how to manufacture a component of the warhead, a US congressional investigation has revealed.

The US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) “lost knowledge” of how to make a mysterious but very hazardous material codenamed Fogbank. As a result, the warhead refurbishment programme was put back by at least a year, and racked up an extra $69 million.

According to some critics, the delay could cause major problems for the UK Trident programme, which is very closely tied to the US programme and uses much of the same technology. The US and the UK are trying to refurbish the ageing W76 warheads that tip Trident missiles in order to prolong their life, and ensure they are safe and reliable. This apparently requires that the Fogbank in the warheads is replaced.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Local Organizations Say Feminist Group’s Statement is Damaging

Groups including the Network of Religious Communities, Western New York Peace Center and the Erie County Coalition Against Family Violence say a statement by the New York president of the National Organization For Women is damaging to women and to Muslims.

“To associate something that’s going to happen to 1,300 women this year in this country with one religion not only does a disservice to her faith, but it also does a disservice to women who suffer abuse at the hands of men of many faiths and no faith,” Mihou says. The Network of Religious Communities is calling upon people to focus attention on domestic violence, rather than Islam.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Thoughts of Storm Troopers Filling Spy Case

Legal scholars, the blogopshere and the twitterati have been scratching their heads for a week following the Obama administration’s assertion that it might “withdraw” (.pdf) classified documents at the center of a closely watched spy case.

Some are wondering whether the feds will use storm-trooper-like tactics to physically remove the data from the case. Others suggest the Obama administration’s threats portend a constitutional showdown between the judicial and executive branches.

[…]

The classified data the administration is threatening to withdraw from the spy case shows that the U.S. government eavesdropped without warrants on the 2004 telephone conversations of two lawyers for a now defunct Saudi charity called the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation that the United States had designated as a terror group.

Without the classified documents, the aggrieved lawyers cannot establish a legal basis to earn them a day in court.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Vaccine Maker’s Snafu Sparks Pandemic Scare

Officials say release of live virus should not be allowed to happen

An Illinois-based vaccine manufacturer is being investigated after an experiment gone very wrong led scientists to discover the company had released a contaminated product feared capable of starting a world-wide avian flu pandemic.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Baby Vika’s Parents Acquitted — Acted Out of Necessity

Family hid Belarussian girl for 20 days

GENOA — It took the single judge sitting in Genoa in this first stage of the legal process only about 20 minutes to close the case of Vika, the allegedly abducted Belarussian girl, and acquit the Cogoleto family, which fostered her for the summer holidays.

Charges of abducting a minor were dropped against stand-in parents Chiara and Alessandro Giusto, grandfather Aldo and the “two Marias”, as grandmothers Maria Elena Dagnino and Maria Bondi are known, for hiding Vika at a spiritual retreat in Valle d’Aosta. The prior in charge of the retreat, Francis Darbellay, and the Cogoleto parish priest, Danilo Grillo, were also acquitted. All were acquitted on the grounds that there was no charge to answer since they had acted “out of necessity”. The ruling, which will be followed by a full statement of grounds, backs up the Giusto family’s claim that “Vika was being abused at the Belarussian orphanage. We had to save her, whatever the cost”.

The public prosecutor Paola Calleri, who had requested eight months’ imprisonment, will appeal because she believes the sentence sets a precedent in the minefield that is fostering. For 20 days from 7 to 27 September 2006, the Giustos hid Vika from Carabinieri and Interpol as the Belarussian authorities blocked travel to Italy by Chernobyl children. When Vika was traced, she was sent home by an order of the juvenile court. Alessandro Giusto was in court at Genoa yesterday morning with two statements in his pocket, one for a conviction and one for acquittal. After the ruling, he said: “Although we knew we would pay a very high price, we obeyed our consciences and saved the life of a ten-year-old girl, rescuing her from a living hell and making sure she was given to a foster family that would look after her with affection”.

The Giustos have an 18-month-old son: “Vika is our first daughter”, said Alessandro, “and we will never cease from our struggle to be able to embrace her again. For her, we are mummy and daddy”. Custody of the girl, who is now 12, has been awarded to the family that adopted her brother and has two other children. “Wonderful people”, say the Giustos, for whom justice will be done only when they can see Vika again. Mr Giusto called the trial “paradoxical” and accused the Italian legal system of “incredible harassment of honest people”. Maria Elena Dagnino said: “Vika is a political prisoner. Her brother was able to come to Italy on holiday but she has never been out of Belarus again”. Belarus did not appear as co-plaintiff. Investigations conducted by magistrates in Minsk ended with the dismissal of all charges against the director of the orphanage.

Erika Dellacasa

English translation by Giles Watson

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Cyprus: Real Estate, Foreigners Shun Property

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, FEBRUARY 20 — Cyprus property sales to foreigners in 2008 fell sharply by 41% to 6,636 from 11,281 sales in 2007, taking the level back to 2005 levels when property sales amounted to 6,485, according to Land Registry data. The situation, as the Financial Mirror reports, is even worse in the new year, since according to preliminary data for January 2009, property sales to foreigners is down 72% to 131. Paphos is the worst hit with property sales to foreigners declining on average 54% to 2,273 units in 2008 from 4,971 in 2007. The free Famagusta area follows with a 48% decline to 1,285 from 2,480 while the other areas are all showing declines averaging 20%. Specifically, property sales in 2008 to foreigners in Nicosia fell to 390 from 483 in 2007, in Larnaca to 1,605 from 1,950 and in Limassol, where there is a very strong Russian community and interest, property sales fell to 1,083 units in 2008 compared to 1,397 in 2007. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Denmark: Fear of Ethnic Riots

With forty shootings and three dead, the gang-war in Copenhagen is causing concerns that it would escalate into ethnic riots.

MS-NBC published a report on the gang wars. Politiken reports on thegovernment’s anti-gang package, which includes deportation of criminal immigrants. The shootings have meanwhile forced the closure of a library, culture center and sports hall on Blågårdsgade (Blågård street), and stopped deliveries by a meal-on-wheels company (see here and here)

In the past, btw, immigrant gang Black Cobras stopped riots, noting that it’s bad for business. Riots brought in the police, who conducted more thorough searches.

Below I’ve summarized several articles on this subject…

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]



Italy: Muslim Leader Calls for Religious Tolerance

Rome, 4 March (AKI) — The leader of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, Hasyim Muzadi, has called for greater religious tolerance and understanding at an interfaith conference held in the Italian capital, Rome, on Wednesday. Muzadi, president of Nahdlatul Ulama, was at the conference organised by the Indonesian and Italian governments and a Catholic charity on Islam and coexistence.

The conference, entitled “Unity in Diversity: The culture of coexistence in Indonesia”, was designed to improve dialogue with Indonesia, which is regarded by many as a model for a moderate Muslim country.

“Today’s meeting lays a fundamental basis for balancing faith and tolerance,” Muzadi told Adnkronos International (AKI).

Muzadi, whose organisation boasts more than 14 million members, joined intellectuals, religious and government officials, at the Rome conference.

“Fundamentalism creates conflict between religions, while liberalism creates confusion. Because this it is important that each religion has its own faith,” he told AKI.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous nation with 200 million Muslims. Siti Musdah Mulia, president of the Indonesian Conference on Religion for Peace, said it was important to remember that only one in five Muslims in the world come from an Arab country.

Stefania Craxi, undersecretary for foreign affairs and president of the Catholic charity, Sant’Egidio, said Indonesia was an important symbol in the Islamic world.

Craxi is due to visit the Indonesian capital Jakarta during 2009 after the country’s forthcoming presidential elections.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini and his Indonesian counterpart Nur Hassan Wirajuda were to give speeches at the conference’s opening session.

Indonesia is an archipelago with more than 17,000 islands and 240 million people from 45 ethnic groups who practise all of the world’s major religions.

However, more than 85 percent of the country’s inhabitants are Muslim.

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



Malta: Italian Company Wins Cittadella Masterplan Contract

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, FEBRUARY 20 — An Italian company has been awarded a 264,000 euro contract to draw up a masterplan for Gozo’s Cittadella (Citadel). Gozo Minister Giovanna Debono said the company ‘Politecnica Ingegneria e Architettura’ has already engaged a number of foreign and local experts in different disciplines. It is holding meetings with interested stakeholders and organisations ahead of a broader cosultation period. The masterplan will be concluded by August 2010. She said the first phase of the drawing up of the masterplan will see the collection and evaluation of data regarding different aspects of the Cittadella. Conservation of the site and its cultural and ecological assets are among the topics being studied. These include issues of a geo-technical nature related to the stability of the monument, the condition and restoration of the Cittadella’s fortifications and its internal built-up fabric, archaeology, identification, recording and protection of flora and fauna. The masterplan is also addressing issues related to tourism and amenities for visitors, land use, social and economic issues, traffic management, services and infrastructure and proposals for an adequate management structure. The project is being co-financed by the European Economic Area, with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein as the donor countries. Also currently under way is a 7 million euro multi-year for the consolidation of the bedrock and restoration of the bastion walls. This project is being co-financed by the European Union and co-ordinated by the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs and the Ministry for Gozo. A tender for a photogrammetic survey is being evaluated and another tender for the services of a geo-technical consultant is being prepared. A bid will then be issued for the restoration and consolidation of the bastion walls. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Serbia-Slovenia: Cooperation in Field of European Businesses

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 6 — The prime ministers of Serbia and Slovenia, Mirko Cvetkovic and Borut Pahor respectively, signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the two governments on technical cooperation in the field of European businesses, reports Tanjug news agency. After the signing ceremony, Cvetkovic pointed out that Pahor’s visit had a symbolic meaning as well, since Serbia was the first country he had come to since his appointment to the post. Cvetkovic thanked Slovenia for the support it had been giving to Serbia’s European commitment and the country’s wish to join the white Schengen list as soon as possible. Pahor underlined that the fact that he had chosen Serbia as his first destination proved that Slovenia viewed the country as an important factor for the stability of the region. He expressed hope that with all the efforts the Serbian authorities and the European Union were making, Serbia would manage by the end of the year to fulfill all the conditions that were required for the liberalsation of the visa regime. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Serbia-Slovenia: Belgrade, Ljubljana Announce Town Twinning

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 6 — The mayors of Belgrade and Ljubljana, Dragan Djilas and Zoran Jankovic respectively, announced today a further improvement of all-field cooperation between the two cities, as well as the signing of a town twinning agreement, reports Tanjug news agency. At a press conference in the Serbian parliament building, Jankovic pointed to the successful many-field cooperation between the inhabitants of the two cities, and said that after the Friday visit of a Slovenian delegation, headed by Premier Borut, their cooperation would get even better in future, particularly in respect of economy. I hope that the cooperation we will agree upon in the next couple of days will contribute to the further enhancement of the two-way cooperation, and I also hope that we will sign an agreement on the twinning of the two cities, the mayor of Ljubljana said. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: the EU Equality Law That Will Let ‘Upset’ Atheists Sue Companies That Hang Up Crucifixes

Organisations which hang crucifixes on walls could be sued if they upset atheists under equality laws proposed by the European Union.

Any group offering a service to the public, including hospitals, charities, businesses and prisons, would be at risk.

Legislation may also allow Christians to bring an action against a hotel if it displayed something they deemed offensive — such as a poster for the 1979 Monty Python film The Life Of Brian.

There are already laws banning harassment in the workplace, but the new Brussels regulations are designed to offer people protection from providers of goods and services.

However, they are so broad that critics say they could lead to a spate of civil cases by anyone claiming their dignity has been violated by the ‘hostile environment’ of an organisation.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Serbia: President, Fierce Fight Against Organised Crime

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 5 — Serbian President Boris Tadic said that the “most fierce and most complex” fight would be launched against organised crime in this decade, reports Tanjug news agency. Opening the 6th ministerial conference on border security cooperation in South-East Europe, Tadic pointed out that Serbia would engage all of its national resources to fight organised crime. “Our efforts gave results in the very first months of the government’s work, but this battle will not mean anything if the neighbouring countries do not fight crime with the same intensity as well”, President Tadic said. According to him, the decriminalisation of the South East Europe society is not possible without the support of the EU, its institutions and capacities. Serbia’s objective to join the EU is no more important than its goal to destroy the crime in our country, to build our infrastructure, or to achieve the rule of law, he said. “Only once we have achieved these aims shall we want to become a member of the EU, but in order to achieve all this, we need the EU to help us”, Tadic said. As he pointed out, the societies in the region are faced with a profound reform process, which also implies a reform of the system of value, both in respect to the citizens and the institutions of the state.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Serbia: Foreign Countries Allowed to Acquire Property

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, MARCH 5 — Serbia’s Constitutional Court evaluated that the constitutional provision of the Law on the Elements of Property Law Relations which enacts that foreign countries can acquire property in buildings, appartments and construction sites for the purposes of diplomatic and consular premises, reports Tanjug news. The court refused to accept several initiatives for starting the procedure to determine the unconstitutionality of this provision. Constitutional Court Judge Marija Draskic stated that the disputed provision envisages that foreign countries, organizations and UN Specialized Agencies, are allowed to purchase buildings and appartments for the purposes of diplomatic and consular premises, as well as building sites for the construction of those facilitites, with a previous approval from the federal organ authorized for legal affairs. The Constitution of Serbia envisages that foreign civil and legal entities are equallized with the domestic entities on the market and that they can acquire real estate property pursuant to the law or the international agreement. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Cooperation: Agreement Between Palermo and Tunisia

(ANSAmed)- PALERMO, FEBRUARY 27 — As part of the Italy-Tunisia 2009/2013 partnership programme, a cooperation agreement was reached today between the Accademia Nazionale della Politica, a policy association based in Palermo, and the Tunisian government, represented by the Minister for Public Function and Administrative Development, Zouhaier M’Dhafer. The agreement, to be officially signed in Tunisia in three weeks, includes exchanges and collaborations in various sectors, from cultural to agro-industrial policies, renewable energy, and tourism. “With the Academy”, affirmed the Tunisian minister Zouhaier M’Dhafer, in these days in Palermo, “we have made a verbal agreement that contains numerous common initiatives from organizing seminars, to professional training, environmental protection, and social policies”. “Thanks to this agreement”, said Bartolo Sammartino, president of the National Academy for Policy and former AN regional parliamentarian, “we intend to promote projects between the two countries and better utilize EU funds, which amount to 30 million euros for common initiatives”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



EU Funds for Projects in Southern Mediterranean

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 4 — More financial support from the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) of the European Commission for projects on dialogue between different cultures. Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and the Palestinian Territories are among the countries involved this year, as well as in 2010. The objective of the initiative is to support cultural cooperation between EU countries and third countries which have made association and cooperation agreements with the European Union. Public or private bodies may apply for up to half of the necessary funds for a project, from 50,000 euros to a maximum of 200,000 euros by May 1. The EU agency’s initiative is part of the 2007-2013 cultural programme on neighbourliness, dedicated to countries which have ratified the Unesco Convention on the protection and promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions and which have signed an association or partnership agreement with the European Union. With a total budget of 400 million euros for the 2007-2013 period, the programme will enable around 230 different initiatives to be co-financed each year.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



EU: Tajani Meets Tunisian Minister, Boost to Coast Motorways

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 20 — A meeting in Brussels today between the European Commissioner for Transport, Italy’s Antonio Tajani, and Tunisia’s Minister of Transport, Abderrahim Zouari, has concentrated on giving a boost to coastal motorways in a pilot programme due to benefit from a regional Euro-Mediterranean project. Other matters on the agenda, a note says, was a joint effort for connecting Africa to the trans-European transport network. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Regions: Sicily, Lombardo Meets Moroccan Ambassador

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, FEBRUARY 26 — The president of the Sicily Region, Raffaele Lombardo, today received the Moroccan ambassador to Italy, Mohammed Nabil Benabdallh, accompanied by the general consul, Youssef Balla, at Palazzo d’Orleans. A note explains that the meeting focused on several economic questions which are particularly important for trade between Sicily and Morocco, especially regarding agriculture, technological and cultural development. “Sicily and Morocco” said Lombardo “cooperate closely thanks to the geographical and cultural vicinity that forms a bond between us and the Moroccan people. We are ready to continue this collaboration, making available the knowledge and experience of our entrepreneurs in the sectors we believe are most strategic”. Ambassador Benabdallh, the note concludes, said he appreciates Sicily’s autonomy and has invited president Lombardo to visit Morocco. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Gaza: Unione Forense Requests UN Investigative Commission

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 6 — The Unione Forense per i Diritti Umani (Forensic Union for the safeguarding of Human Rights) has launched an appeal to the UN and to Libya as holder of the rotating presidency of the Security Council, to set up an investigating commission into the war in the Gaza Strip. “Today we submitted to the Libyan Ambassador in Rome an appeal for the establishment of an independent investigative commission on possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the recent crisis in Gaza,” reads a note issued by Mario Lana, President of the Unione. “A previous request with the same scope was rejected in recent weeks due to negative vote from Canada and the abstention of the European nations,” continued Lana, “but during the international conference, which was held in Algiers from February 28 to March 1, we created a committee to exert greater pressure on the authorities to reopen possibility of forming an investigating commission and to create an ad hoc court to express a judgement.” “Libya,” the lawyer pointed out, “holds the presidency of the UN Security Council and can operate to promote the reestablishment of the rule of law in the Middle East, while bearing the new political situation in the United States in mind. Barack Obama’s victory could favour a peaceful solution in the region or at least impose some fundamental conditions.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Islam: Kairouan, History Art and Light in 2009 Capital

(by Angela Virdò) (ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 5 — Sent by the Ommayyadi dynasty to conquer the Maghreb in 670 BC, Arab general Oqba Ibn Nafi tripped on a gold cup that had been lost in Mecca, and as soon as he picked it up, water sprang from the earth. Thus, legend has it, is how Islam’s fourth holy city Kairouan in Tunisia was founded. It has been proclaimed capital of Islamic culture for 2009. From March 8 until June pilgrims and visitors can relive the last thirteen centuries from the time when Roman Africa became Ifriqya, and continued its history with the Islamic civilisation. To celebrate the city which Unesco declared a world heritage site in 1988, Tunisia is putting on art exhibitions, literature and poetry competitions, round tables and shows. The celebrations begin with a homage to the mystical art of the Sufis, with demonstrations of the holy chants, which accompany the whirling dances of the dervishes, and an exhibition of ancient Arabic manuscripts followed by a course in restoration and preservation techniques. An art show will include dozens of paintings and drawings by Tunisian and foreign artists, prominent among whom is Paul Klee, who visited Tunisia at the beginning of the 1900s and left several famous oil paintings and watercolours of Kairouan: in particular the “Gate of Kairouan”, which shows the fascination that the light and colours of the city held for the Swiss artist. The history of Kairouan in Islam will be covered during seminars and round tables, and is an important part of the expansion of Islam. It was from Kairoun in fact that general Tarak Ibn Ziad departed in 712 AD, leading his army to conquer Spain. Just over one hundred years later, in 828, it was the turn of Assad Ibn El Fourat to cross the Mediterranean to conquer Sicily, which would remain under the rule of Kairouan until 1090. Islamic architecture will be discussed during seminars and round tables, in a city that can boast the precision and elegance of its Great Mosque, which was commissioned by the Aghlabite dynasty in the 9th century, in a style comparable in western art to Romanesque. With its past influences like the 414 columns in the prayer room which come from Roman and Byzantine sites such as Carthage and Sousse, each one differing from the others. Seven visits to the Great Mosque are equal to a pilgrimage to Mecca for Muslims, and are one of the five pillars of the Islamic religion. The fourth holy city after Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem, Kairouan has some important cultural places such as the Bir Barouta monument built in 1676 by Ottoman emperor Mohammed Bey in the place where general Nafi stumbled upon the golden cup. Believers say that the well discovered in 670 is connected to the Zem Zem spring in Mecca. Just as the with the coins thrown into the Trevi fountain, they say that whoever drinks the water from Bir Berouta will one day return to Kairouan. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: Leila Ben Ali President Arab Women’s Organisation

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 3 — Leila Ben Ali, the wife of the president of Tunisia, has been appointed as president of the Organisation of Arab Women, beginning in March and for a period of two years. Sarra Kanoun Jarraya, minister of women’s and family affairs, said in a press conference that she will do more for women’s rights in the coming two years using her positive experience in the national sphere. She continued by promising coordination between specialised Arab organisations and a boost to economic, social, cultural and sportive activities “in order to consolidate the position of Arab women in several sectors”. These programmes, she noted, “show Tunisia’s devotion to solidarity, dialogue, protection of women’s rights as part of the development and modernisation of the Arab community”. During Tunisia’s 2-year presidency the minister mentioned that the country will organise the fourth session of the High Council of the Organisation of Arab Woman (June 2009), the seventh special session of its executive council and the third congress of the Organisation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Tunisia: Sicily on Show With Art, History and Cooking

(ANSA) — TUNIS, MARCH 6 — Sicily is back on show in Tunisia with ‘Saperi e Sapori’, (Cultures and Flavours), a week of literature, history and art, but also cooking and the area’s typical products and its speciality, artistic ceramics, which after ten centuries still show the influences that a period of Arab occupaion has left on the land. Now in its fifth year, from March 9 to 15, the show is to rerun the history shared across both sides of the Mediterranean, following ‘the salt routes, thirty centuries of white gold’, with the participation of Sebastiano Tusa, Head of Marine Archeology for the Sicilian region, and Enrico Caruso, the president of the Centre for Phoenician, Punic and Roman Studies, and Giacomo d’Ali from the University of Palermo. This year’s literature showcase is dedicated to Vitaliano Brancati. The author’s works, from ‘Don Giovanni in Sicilia’, a satire of Sicilian maschismo, to ‘Bell’Antoniò, his most famous novel, will be on show at the Casa Sicilia, an old Arab residence in the heart of the Medina in Tunis. Alongside the texts will be the screenplays adapted from his work that so heavily influenced Italian cinema of the 1950s, including ‘Guardie e Ladri’ by Monicelli and ‘Viaggio in Italia’ by Rossellini. Accompanied by the Terra group, Mario Incudine will present the show ‘Abballalaluna’ at the city theatre in Tunis, and in the Casa Sicilia an exhibition will remain open until March 22 containing works by the sculptor Mariano Brusca, watercolours by Marcella Tuttobene and salt jewels by Daniela Neri as well as ceramics by Caltagirone, Patti and San Vito Lo Capo. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Gaza: 400 NGOs Accuse Israel of War Crimes at ICC

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 6 — “On January 22 2009, over 400 non-governmental organisations from all over the world, represented by a team of 40 lawyers, registered an official condemnation to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), concerning Israel’s aggression against the people of Gaza between December 27 2008 and January 18 2009.” The report comes from a statement issued by French lawyer, Gilles Devers, representative of the NGOs to the Court in the Hague and who will be in Italy on Monday to present the initiative. “The official condemnation has been registered in relation to war crimes and crimes against humanity, in line with the definitions of the Statute of Rome, which established the ICC, and refers specifically to the leaders in Israel and to all the officers who actively took part in these criminal actions,” the statement continues, explaining that the official condemnation was drawn up on the basis of all general information, accessible to the greatest number of people, and will be supplemented by reports from the UN, from NGOs and the many eye-witness reports gathered on site.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel: White House Mum on Jerusalem Attack

Departs from practice of immediately condemning terrorism against Israelis

JERUSALEM — Officials in Jerusalem are quietly scratching their heads in wonderment as to why the White House did not release an official statement condemning yesterday’s tractor terrorist rampage here, the third attack of its kind in recent months.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Defense: Turkish Industries Sign Contracts With Foreign Firms

(ANSAmed) — ABU DHABI, FEBRUARY 24 — Turkish defense indutries firms participated in an international defense industry fair in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and signed contracts with foreign firms. The Ninth IDEX International Defense Exhibition and Conference began in Abu Dhabi on Sunday and will end on Thursday, as Anatolia agency reports. Turkey’s Roketsan firm reached a rocket launcher system manufacturing deal with Al Jaber firm. The project is worth 90 million USD. Turkey’s National Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul also participated in the signature ceremony. A part of the rocket launcher system will be produced in Turkey, and a part of it will be manufactured in the UAE. The system will be integrated and assembled in the UAE. Roketsan executives said that their company would also sign an agreement with Burkan firm in the first half of 2009 to jointly manufacture rockets. Also, Turkey’s Yonca-Onuk partnership signed a deal with Critical National Infrastructure Authority to sell 34 rapid intervention boats. The project is worth 100 million Euros. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s largest defence exhibition and conference IDEX is the ultimate event for government officials and military personnel to source technology and equipment for all defence environments: land, sea and air. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Defence: US Approves 30 Fighter Jets Sale to Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 26 — The U.S. Air Force said on Tuesday that it has approved a USD 797 million modified contract, that allows US based Lockheed Martin to sell fighter jets to the Turkish government, as the financial website Reporter.Net wrote. Under the deal, Lockheed will sell 14 F-16C fighter aircraft and 16 F16 D jets. The Pentagon originally approved the sale of 30 fighter jets, engines, radar and electronic warfare equipment, a deal valued at USD 2.9 billion if all options are exercised, in September 2006. The U.S. military frequently acts as an intermediary for weapons sales to overseas governments. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Dubai Thinks of the Future, Goes Back to Pearl Cultivation

(by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 17 — Having been a strategic centre for the gathering and trading of pearls in past centuries, Dubai, today a rich oil emirate with economic policies aimed at diversification, is bidding to recoup this chapter from its past. The most recent stage in its campaign has been the organising of the first World Pearl Forum, a global summit gathering the top operators in the sector to discuss “a collective strategy for growth” for an industry currently worth 1.5 billion dollars and with double-figure short-term growth potential despite global financial turbulence. “Like any other crisis-hit sector, at times like these the luxury goods sector is seeing buyers concentrate on classic items with an attractive price/quality ratio”, said Gaiti Rabbani, director of the pearls and precious stone division of the Dubai Multi Commodity Centre (DMCC). Dubai created the Dubai Pearl Exchange back in 2007 as a trading platform with the idea of promoting a renaissance in the peal sector and of reclaiming for the Emirate the central place it once occupied in the network of pearl trade and exchange. Then, precisely one year ago, the ‘Pearls of Arabia’ project was announced: six square kilometres of pearl industry structures created on ‘Antartica’, one of the thirty artificial isles forming the ‘World’ archipelago. A space to exhibit, and to sell, the best selections, the most exclusive jewellery and lines of pearls created especially for Dubai. Historically, the world’s most precious pearls have been gathered in the Arabian Gulf, above all in the waters around Bahrein, thanks to the unique mixture of fresh and salt water surrounding the island. With the discovery of oil, pearl gathering went into decline, but the Gulf states are now attempting to re-instate a pearl sector which promises sizeable economic margins and that, as Rabbani says: “is yet to reach its potential in the region”. The Gulf produces around 15% of the world’s finished pearl products, a significant piece in an industry that is somewhat fragmented worldwide across various key geographical areas of production and distribution, such as Hong Kong and Japan. The World Pearl Forum, which takes place today and tomorrow at Palm Jumeirah, will thus set itself the target of establishing relations of synergy between different international operators in the sector, from producers to designers, in the absence of a world body regulating and coordinating production and trade across the globe. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Iran Test-Fires New Missile

Iranian media reported on Sunday that Iran had test-fired a new missile, but differed over its range and purpose.

The state-run Press TV said a long-range missile had been tested. But the semi-official Fars News Agency said it was an air-to-surface missile with a range of 110 km designed for use by military aircraft against naval targets.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Iraq: War Reparations, 13 Billion Dollar to Kuwait

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, FEBRUARY 24 — To date, Kuwait has received 13.3 billion dollars in reparations from Iraq for its invasion and occupation of the country in 1990-91, according to a press released issued by the tiny Gulf emirate this morning. Citing the annual report for the public body for war reparations, (EPR), daily newspaper al-Qabas has specified that the amount indicated is just that received up until the end of 2008, and that the Baghdad government still has to hand over “tens of billions of dollars”. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in 2003, Baghdad has been calling on Kuwait and the international community to cancel the request for reparations on the part of the wealthy Gulf emirate. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Jordan: Mobile Unit for Women’s Rights Culture

(by Luciana Borsatti) (ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 5 — Training courses for judges and lawyers, direct information campaigns targeting women, and even mobile units travelling from town to town to encourage victims of domestic violence to report their situation, will all be part of a project, in which Italian NGO, the Italian Consortium of Solidarity (ICS) will participate in Jordan. The project has just obtained financing from the European Institute of Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), along with another 9 local NGOs. The project, which is about to begin in collaboration with local partner Mizan, aims to promote the effective application of the UN convention to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), which was formally implemented in recent months in Jordan. Barbara Lilliu, the coordinator of the project says that one of the critical issues to be faced will be trials for honour crimes, where in the majority of cases the guilty party gets away with a lenient sentence, where judges grant extenuating circumstances to men who are believed to have been motivated by honour, even though they are guilty of homicide,. For this reason, training is needed for judges and prosecutors in the legal principals upheld by the convention. But the main focus of the project, underlined Barbara Lilliu, are lawyers, whose who have the most contact with society and are best able to spread a new culture of rights. They will be the ones to start a series of training courses and campaigns to raise awareness targeted directly at women, which will cover a large part of Jordan. “The use of a mobile unit is also expected, in order to carry out the project,” continued Lilliu, “which will go from town to town and will give those who have been the victims of violence the opportunity to have legal counselling on how to report their cases. We will also prepare informational material on the convention and on Jordanian law”. Direct contact with women will be fundamental, as they are the main victims of domestic violence in the country. Last month in a conference in Amman supported by Queen Rania of Jordan, it was learned that the National Institute of Forensic Medicine registered 600 cases of abuse on women in 2008. A study carried out by the Minister of Social Development highlighted that 80% of domestic violence victims are married women. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Real Estate: Sharjah Rejects Foreign Ownership

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 23 — The new building and real estate code currently being examined in Sharjah has upheld the prohibition of land or real estate ownership by foreigners, as reported in today’s Emirates Business. Shajah benefits from the economic abundance and glowing tourism of nearby Dubai, and though one of the most conservative and inflexible Emirates, it attracts a large quantity of expatriates due to living costs well below those of its fellow Emirate. The new law, however, shows once more the traditionalist attitude held by Sharjah, even in the economic sphere, and is tantamount to a crackdown on non-local real estate brokers. In order to get a license to work in the Emirate, the latter will have to be citizens of Sharjeh and not be involved in any other sort of entrepreneurial activity. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UAE: Kate Moss and Wilbur Smith at Dubai’s Literary Festival

(ANSAmed) — ROMA, 27 FEB — Sixty-five writers from 20 countries, including Britain and the United States, are participating in the four-day Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature (EAIFL), said festival director Isobel Abulhoul as reported by Middle East Online. Festival participants include American Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt, veteran BBC war correspondent Kate Adie as well as authors Louis de Berniere, Kate Mosse, and Wilbur Smith who is due to launch his new novel Assegai during the festival. Also taking part is Saudi female writer Rajaa al-Sanea, who authored the widely published controversial novel, ‘Girls of Riyadh’, which recounts the live lives of four girls in the ultra-conservative kingdom. A giant cut-out of a book was opened onstage as part of the launch, and children dressed as some of the world’s most beloved fictional characters stepped out through its pages, in tribute to the world of literature. The fictional characters later led a parade around various venues of the event, with flag-bearers representing the nationalities resident in Dubai. Sponsored by Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Culture and Art Authority. It will continue until Sunday 1st March. (ANSAmed).

2009-02-27 18:42

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan: Report Stresses Worsening Human Rights Situation

New York, 6 March (AKI) — A new report highlights a worsening human rights situation in Afghanistan marked by a rise in civilian casualties, setbacks for women, mounting attacks on freedom of expression and crimes going unpunished.

“Afghans have continued to suffer significant rights deficits that pose serious challenges to the enjoyment of their human rights and to the country’s long-term prospects for peace, stability, democracy, development and the rule of law,” said the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ annual report on Afghanistan.

“Gross human rights violations remain a serious threat to continuing efforts to transform Afghan society,” the report continues.

“A culture of impunity prevails, and is deeply entrenched; this is manifested in the lack of political will to advance the transitional justice process to address past abuses as well as the absence of accountability for current human rights violations.”

The report criticises Afghanistan’s “weak, corrupt and dysfunctional judicial system” and tribal justice mechanisms that do not meet international standards for fair trials.

“Justice is effectively denied to the vast majority of Afghans,” the report states.

It urges the government to take action to address this situation which “has also eroded people’s confidence in government and public institutions.”

It urges pro and anti-government forces to ensure greater respect for the protection of civilians, including women and children.

Turning to the situation of women, the report notes that violence against women such as rape, ‘honour killings’, early and forced marriage, sexual abuse, and slavery remain widespread, despite constitutional guarantees.

The report calls for the protection of women and girls in both the private and public sphere and policies and concrete programmes to ensure this.

The report also notes curbs on freedom of expression last year, with threats and intimidation directed against non-governmental organisations and the media, including the killing of journalists.

It also condemns the Afghan government’s use of the death penalty in 2008, which ended a de facto moratorium that had lasted from 2004 to October 2007.

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



Malaysia: Christians Launch Petition for Use of the Word “Allah”

Support is expected from Muslims, in addition to Jews and Christians around the world. The petition can also be signed via the internet, at the address www.PetitionOnline.com/sabahan/petition.html. The diocese of Kuala Lumpur continues its legal battle against the government, to use the word “Allah” in Catholic publications.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) — A group of Christians in Sabah has launched a petition drive to force the government to lift its ban on the use of the word “Allah,” which according to the interior ministry should be used only by Muslims.

The campaign was launched last March 4, and will continue until March 29. In a few days, the website has gathered thousands of signatures, including from local Muslims and Hindus. In April, the signatures that have been collected via the internet and on paper will be presented to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The author of the campaign is Jeffrey Kitingan, brother of the deputy prime minister of Sabah, Joseph Pairin Kitingan. Sabah and Sarawak, the Malaysian provinces on the island of Borneo, are the area with the largest concentration of Catholics. Out of 900,000 faithful in all of Malaysia, at least 600,000 live in Sabah and Sarawak.

Ronnie Klassen, a businessman and one of the other organizers of the campaign, says that he hopes the online version will bring support from the international community and from the Vatican. This, he says, is “an issue that is very dear to all Christians as it is to members of the two other Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Islam.”

Anyone can sign the petition by going to this address: www.PetitionOnline.com/sabahan/petition.html.

The problem emerged at least two years ago, when the security ministry banned the use of the word “Allah” (God) in the Malay language insert in the Catholic weekly “Herald,” citing “reasons of security” and of “possible confusion” among Muslims, which “could harm public order.” The Catholic Church has used the word “Allah” to refer to God for centuries.

The ban also applies to publications, songs, and ceremonies in all other Christian Churches. There is confusion in the government, and subservience toward groups of Muslim voters. The security ministry recently revisited and reconfirmed its decision against the “Herald.” In the same way, the interior ministry last February 16 gave permission to use the word “Allah,” as long as it is clearly displayed that the publication is “for Christians only.” But at the end of February, it backtracked on the permission and reaffirmed the ban, threatening to take measures.

The archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur has taken the government to court, insisting that the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The first hearing in the case was held last February 27, and was adjourned until May 28.

Referring to the recent events, Klassen says: “We feel hurt, insulted and ridiculed by a government that only believes in its righteousness.”

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

Far East


Pirate Attack in Philippines

Pirates have attacked a fishing boat in the southern Philippines, killing three crewmen and taking two others hostage as they fled with the vessel.

The pirates opened fire on the unidentified vessel late Thursday off the island of Basilan before they boarded it and killed the three crewmen.

Authorities have not yet named any suspects in the case, but the area is a known stronghold for Muslim extremist groups like the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Demands Inquiry Into Crash That Killed His Wife

Police arouse MDC suspicions by placing truck driver who caused collision in ‘protective custody’

Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, left hospital in Harare yesterday and flew to Botswana for further treatment as his party called for an independent inquiry into Friday’s fatal crash that killed his wife.

US authorities have confirmed to officials from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that the truck that hit the premier’s car, causing it to roll three times, was carrying Aids drugs donated by the American government. It was driven by a local contractor.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Immigration


How Rotten Apples in Government Endanger America

This news report appeared this past Friday in the Detroit News and while it is a disturbing story as it stands, what was left out of the story was an even bigger story- how a corrupt INS official enabled a once illegal alien to become an FBI special agent and then an employee of the CIA!

[…]

Among those who gave Bailey gifts and received favors from Bailey were immigration attorney Namir Daman, who was earlier sentenced to three years’ probation; LaShish Restaurants owner Talal Chahine, a fugitive believed to be living in Lebanon; and Leon’s Family Dining restaurants owner Samir Leon, who has not been charged with a crime, according to court records filed Friday.

Talal Chahine is indeed a fugitive. He was the person who arranged the marriage fraud than enabled a woman by the name of Nada Nadim Prouty to acquire resident alien status by engaging in a marriage fraud after her student visa under which she had been admitted to the United States in 1988 expired. Having acquired lawful immigrant status as a result of that marriage fraud, she ultimately became a United States citizen and then went on to secure a job with the FBI as a special agent! She had a gun, a badge and a security clearance that she apparently put to good use, accessing databases on informants and investigations into Hezbollah, a pernicious terrorist organization. She similarly accessed databases at the CIA when she left the FBI for a job with the CIA. The problem is that in government, it is not enough that you possess the requisite security clearance before you access sensitive files and databases, you must also have the “need to know.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Upstate Assemblyman Gregory Ball Finds Dead Goat With Menacing Note Signed by M-13 Gang Outside Home

A dead goat with a menacing note around its neck — signed by a notorious Central American gang — was left outside an upstate lawmaker’s house.

Cops are investigating the bizarre Putnam Lake incident — which Assemblyman Gregory Ball is taking very personally but doesn’t think the MS-13 gang orchestrated.

The hand-written note accompanying the goat’s corpse appeared to refer to Ball as “a [expletive] American” — possibly suggesting the author was opposed to the legislator’s tough stance on illegal immigrants.

But Ball said he doubts MS-13 was actually behind the threat because the Spanish in the note was misspelled.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


An Islamic World in Crisis, Anti-Americanism and the Fight Against Israel

by Samir Khalil Samir

Arab and Muslim countries are trying to find ways to reassert their dignity and uphold human rights but are increasingly turning inward, inching closer to Islamism and its calls for Sharia and caliphate. US support for Israel and corrupt Arab states fuel fundamentalism. The Islamic world is thus still waiting to reconcile its religion with modernity.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — Fundamentalism is growing in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Increasingly it is seen as a solution to their problems, this according to a world survey that was reported by AsiaNews (cf Islamic countries reject al Qaeda, but also American policy, AsiaNews, 4 March 2009). The results show that a majority of people in eight predominantly Muslim countries reject al-Qaeda and attacks on civilians but also oppose US policies in the Middle East and the world.

1. No to bombs or murderers

The study indicates that “a very large majority, between 67 and 89 per cent, condemn the use of bombs and killing for political and religious purposes; more than 70 per cent are against attacks on civilians (specifically Americans).”

This means that common sense is still alive and well in the Islamic world. But it is food for thought that at least 30 per cent of respondents are in favour of “bombs and murderers” who strike at civilians.

2. No to US military bases

Answers to the second question show that a large majority supports al Qaeda’s goal to “push the US to remove its bases and its military forces from all Islamic countries,” including 87 per cent of Egyptians, 64 per cent of Indonesians, and 60 per cent of Pakistanis.”

Such attitudes towards the United States are not unexpected. Many wonder why the Americans should have military bases around the whole world. I too do not know why. No country, or almost no country—not Italy, not Japan, not Great Britain—has bases with territorial concessions around the world.

This can only be because the United States claims to be the ‘world’s policeman’ with the right to act anywhere.

Any nation would feel hurt by this: 87 per cent does in Egypt, so does 84 per cent in Indonesia and 60 per cent in Pakistan.

What gives the United States this right? By virtue of its might; and this makes the Americans unpopular, even if they do not get it.

3. Sharia and the caliphate

The study also vetted attitudes towards Islamic law and unity, asking how desirable were the “strict application of Sharia Law in every Islamic country” and, in the long run, the unification of “all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state or Caliphate.” Many like it: 65 per cent in Egypt; 48 per cent in Indonesia and 76 per cent in Pakistan and Morocco.

Both the strict application of Sharia and the establishment of a caliphate are very serious issues, but they are also a sign of the crisis that is affecting the Islamic world.

The caliphate was abolished on 3 March 1924. Since then the Islamic world has seen itself as rudderless and sought something to fill the vacuum without finding it. The Muslim Brotherhood was created in 1928 for that purpose. Many other groups have set up their own ‘caliphate’ in a token attempt to carve out some territorial enclaves, ostensibly under the rule of Islam. Unfortunately, this is not a solution for all it does is project a need for unity. Instead we must realise that in this day and age a single Islamic state is not possible. It makes no sense.

Religion does not dominate the world. There is a plurality of interests even in the most Islamised countries. Case in point: AsiaNews has reported that Saudi and Egyptian leaders have called on fellow Arabs to form a united front to resist Iranian expansionism and oppose its interference in the Palestinian issue, which in their view is an ‘Arab issue’ (cf Saudi minister calls for joint strategy to confront “Iranian challenge” AsiaNews, 4 March 2009). In doing so they draw a line between what is Arab and what is Iranian with the Islamic element taking the backseat. Of course, the Sunni-Shia divide could be the main reason, but still that will not change the fact the world is not ruled by religion, or religion alone. Seeking one Islamic state for all is absurd.

I am not the only one saying so; history is my witness. Arab states have never been able to achieve unity; no two Arab states have successfully merged. Egypt tried to create a United Arab Republic first with Libya, then Syria and Iraq, but failed.

In Arabic a proverb says “Ittafaqa l-’Arab ‘ala allâ yattafiqû“, which means “Arabs agree to disagree.”

The only time when they do agree on something is when they are agree on going against (and losing to) someone else (like Israel).

4. Searching for a lost dignity

The desire for unity among Muslims is an absolute, but it is an error to think that unity lies in a single state. Something else is needed.

There is the Organisation of the Islamic Conference with its 57 member-states, but it is not very effective.

Muslims should not seek political unity, an area where their interests are divergent, but should look for it at another level, that of principles and normative values.

As for the strict application of Sharia, that too is a dream. It is but an attempt to find dignity and international stature in a way that includes religion. Why? Because all of our countries feel humiliated; they elicit very little respect. Some are very rich but are beset by rampant corruption. Others are ruled by dictators, violence, etc. We Arabs are not proud of our countries and we are looking for something that would allow us to hold our heads high, proud to say, “I am and Egyptian,” “I am Saudi;” “I am Libyan.”

Implementing Sharia seems like a solution because then we can call ourselves “real Muslim.” Such a trend is spreading, fast (cf. Fareed Zakaria, “Learning to Live With Radical Islam,” Newsweek, 28 February 2009), encouraged in part by Western governments, because, increasingly, people around the world are thinking that some form of Sharia is a price worth paying for peace. It is something that is happening in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also in Great Britain, Spain and even Italy.

This will mean closing many girls’ schools; a ban on mixed schooling, even for children; no more music; a family law that is unjust for women, etc.

Sharia covers all aspects of life but it was established in another time when things were different. It does not take into account changes in outlook, culture and ethics.

There is a desire for ethical improvement and better principles, and Islam seems the solution.

The reality is different. Where Sharia is enforced people see that it is not a solution. Iranians know that; after an early enthusiasm for its reintroduction, many became disillusioned with it.

Reintroducing Sharia is the wrong thing to do. Instead what we must do is reassert broader ethical principles that respect an Islamic perspective, but one that is distinct from the many cultures that make up the Muslim world.

How can Islam’s uniqueness be reconciled to the plurality of cultures and the diversity of political and economic choices made by Islamic states? This is the real question that is never answered or answered ineffectually.

Deep down no one is dreaming about the caliphate or Sharia, even if the latter appear to offer some justice, honesty and democracy. It is these values that people dream about and it is they which are missing in our countries.

5. Feeling bad about the West, feeling good about Bin Laden

The survey found that “Western values” are widely rejected; by 88 per cent in Egypt, 76 per cent in Indonesia, 60 per cent in Pakistan and 64 per cent in Morocco.

It is odd that values should be rejected because they are Western in origin. All this is symptomatic of a malaise in the Islamic world, which is still searching for its own identity, independent and not subordinate to that of others.

I hope we can find this identity without being against someone else, which is an attitude usually related to adolescence (when teenagers assert their identity in opposition to others). Indeed we have been trying to find ourselves for a long time, for decades actually.

We must go back to our recent past to do this. We must rediscover the early part of the 20th century, when our grandparents chose to take what was good in the West, not only its technology but also its quest for human rights, equality, democracy, freedom of thought and speech. These are values born in the West but which are universal in scope, not specifically Western, but which impressed great Egyptian thinkers like Imam Muhammad ‘Abdoh, Sheikh Abd al-Razeq, Minister Taha Hussein, and many others.

At the same time, let us not forget that there are other universal values, which might be scorned by the West, like moral values, respect and love for the poor and the old. We need a synthesis.

6. What about Bin Laden then?

The fifth question looked at positive or negative feelings towards Bin Laden. The highest support for him was in Egypt (44 per cent), followed by the Palestinian territories (56 per cent). In Indonesia 14 per cent view him positively; that number is 25 per cent in Pakistan; 27 per cent in Morocco; 27 per cent in Jordan; 9 per cent in Turkey; and 4 per cent in Azerbaijan.

What does all of this mean? It means that for many Muslims, Bin Laden is “a good Muslim,” someone who is convinced that he is putting into practice Islam.

In the West one often hears that “Bin Laden” has nothing to do with Islam.” But in the Islamic world he is seen as someone who is trying to really apply Islam. Those Muslims who like him the least are those who have experienced other ways of life, in Turkey and Azerbaijan, two highly secularised countries.

Feelings about Bin Laden are also negative in many Arab countries (17 per cent in Egypt, 20 per cent in the Palestinian territories; 21 per cent in Morocco; 20 per cent in Jordan).

Overall, we can see that views about al-Qaeda’s leader are conflicted but relatively similar across the board. It goes to show how important fundamentalism and Islamic terrorism are.

It also shows that what might be viewed as a bane on the world in one place is seen as the “defender of Islam” in many Arab countries.

7. US and Israeli policies

Finally, a last point with regards to the United States and its policies towards Israeli expansionism. In Egypt 86 per cent of the respondents believe that US policy favours Israel’s expansion; in Turkey they are78 per cent; in Morocco, 64 per cent; in Pakistan 52 per cent; in Indonesia, 47 per cent; and Azerbaijan, 43 per cent. In the Palestinian territories the proportion reaches 90 per cent and even in peaceful Jordan it stands at 84 per cent.

And it is true. Irrespective of what US leaders may want US policy favours Israeli expansionism. The new US administration will thus have to take this into account because US policies are fuelling anti-US resentment and strengthening anti-Western terrorism.

On the other, about 59 per cent of Palestinians believe that US policy is in favour of the “creation of an independent and economically viable Palestinian state.” Elsewhere in the surveyed countries, only 30 per cent agree. Still it is something.

At the end of its mandate, the Bush Administration reiterated its support for a “two peoples, two states” solution. In its first moves Obama Administration has done the same (or at least, let us hope so). But if the Americans really want two states, they must actually be two and legitimate. Israeli expansion at the expense of the Palestinians is not legitimate. As long as it goes on, a Palestinian state will not see the light of day and war will continue for centuries.

This ambiguity makes it hard to be friends with the United States. In our countries people are attracted by America but also turned off by it.

The new administration has an opportunity to wipe the slate clean of these ambiguities; it can redefine America’s close relationship to Israel, which hitherto has meant ignoring the rights of others. If this does not happen, it bodes ill for everyone. The Americans will be fought and peace will remain distant. This is an issue that the Arab and Islamic worlds must confront. Not that many Arabs are truly willing to give their life for Palestine or come to its defence, but the Palestinian question remains for all an unbearable injustice. What is needed is not a courageous decision in favour of the Arabs, but one in favour of justice and peace, so as to avoid double standards.

Conclusion: healing the wounds

What the survey shows is that Islamic fundamentalism is growing at all levels. For more and more people it is a solution to the troubles facing the Arab and Muslim worlds. Yet the same troubles are a consequence of Islamism, i.e. Islamic fundamentalism. For this reason there is no solution other than closing the book on fundamentalist Islam and opening another one in which Islam is open to modernity and democracy.

Sadly our governments, even if they do not want to turn Islamist, have no models to use as reference points. Something new might be developing in Dubai. Here an effort is being made to project an image that reconciles Islam and modernity. But it is a small country, a young country, with a largely foreign-born population, and which does not have to tackle problems of poverty.

It is worth pointing out facts about Egypt, a country increasingly undergoing Islamisation. Although its leaders are not Islamist, they have built an authoritarian regime that has become unbearable to many.

What might happen to Egypt gives scary thought to many people because it is mot populous Arab country (almost 80 million), a leader in the Arab world, and one of the few Arab countries to have relations with Israel. Here too fundamentalism is expanding, growing in reaction to the country’s elites, whose power is almost absolute.

Islam is being used as a tool against the ills that afflict us. But these ills exist, not because “we are not Muslim” but because in our countries there is no justice, democracy, and respect for human rights. In fact Muslims want human rights but we do not know how to put them into practice them. Instead whilst we ponder about them, we turn to Sharia, which denies them, at least in part.

It is time we remove this ambiguity.

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



Arabic: 9/11 a Turning Point in Study of Arabic, Experts

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 26 — The attacks on September 11 2001 marked “an important turning-point” in the history of Arabic language studies in the western world, and especially in the United States, according to delegates at the International Conference on the modernisation of the Arabic language and its role in relation to other languages, taking place in Algiers. “Until September 11” said Walid El Anati, a professor at the University of Petra in Jordan, “with a few exceptions, Arabic did not interest Western governments or their populations. The political and social consequences of that day have pushed many Americans to study the language in order to understand the Muslim religion better.” Arab and American researchers found that “for 66% of students the spread of English does not impact negatively on the importance of Arabic”, and “38% are convinced that the study of Arabic will help their employment prospects”. The ‘Arabisation’ of the internet is fundamentally important for the researchers at the Conference. Only 3% of Internet content is related to the Arab culture, according to the latest study carried out by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. The reason for this, explained Mohamed Boultif of the Algerian University of Msila “is the dominance of the English language, as well as the lack of financial support and interest on the part of Arab-speaking nations, and the extremely difficult nature of the language”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Investigating Communist Atrocities in Slovenia

Janez, a Gates of Vienna reader from Slovenia, volunteered to translate an article from 24ur.com about the recent discovery of the remains of Slovenian victims murdered by the Communists.

Janez includes this prefatory note:

I must state that I added a few bits of information. For instance, the article never openly states that these were communist atrocities, because it is common knowledge here, but I thought it would be good to clarify. I also added the number of dead found in Slovenska Bistrica and in Maribor, and I added the number of estimated mass graves in Slovenia.

If you would like to see some more photos from the mine, they are here.

And now for his translation:

Mummified corpses found in mine shaft in Slovenia — victims of communist atrocities

Corpse unearthed in SloveniaHistorians have found a mass grave in Huda Jama near the town of Laško, Slovenia. The victims were supposedly killed on the spot, but it isn’t yet known where they were brought from.

The only eyewitness found so far, the driver who drove the victims to the mine, claims they were Slovenians, while locals believe they were Croats. Further investigations will try to establish the nationality of the victims.

The authorities say that they started work on the location last August and it took them seven months to dig through the concrete walls and the scree that were put there by the perpetrators of the crime in order to prevent the discovery of the bodies. The site has long been on the list of about 600 mass graves of communist atrocities in Slovenia. Work on mass graves and communist killings after WW2 in Slovenia is done by a special team of historians and forensic detectives.

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Reconciliation — code name for investigating communist atrocities in Slovenia after WW2

The Slovenian police started investigating communist atrocities that took place in Slovenia after WW2 in 1994. At first they mostly worked on the concentration camp Teharje near the town of Celje, but the investigation soon died down. In 1997 about 1,100 corpses were found in approximately a hundred metres of antitank trenches while a road was being built around the city of Maribor. The police tried to identify the victims as well as the perpetrators, but without success, so the investigation stalled again. In 2001 around 400 corpses were found in a bomb shelter near Slovenska Bistrica — they were killed in 1946 — and at that time the police authorities and the attorney general demanded the investigation be restarted. So the special team was formed for the task. It is estimated that about 100,000 people were killed in Slovenia in 1945 by communist forces. No one has been indicted for these crimes so far.

The U.S. Army: Security Guards for the PRC

I admit the title is a bit of a stretch: American soldiers aren’t really acting as hired gunsels for the People’s Republic of China, at least not intentionally. It’s just a side effect of the war in Afghanistan.

But the end result is the same: with the help of the military might of the United States, the ChiComs stand to make a fortune in Afghanistan. We’re securing billions of dollars in Chinese investments by protecting their mining operation from the Taliban.

According to The Arizona Daily Star:

GIs guard huge Chinese mine project in Afghanistan

JALREZ VALLEY, Afghanistan — In this Taliban stronghold in the mountains south of Kabul, the U.S. Army is providing the security that will enable China to exploit one of the world’s largest unexploited deposits of copper, earn tens of billions of dollars and feed its voracious appetite for raw materials.

U.S. troops set up bases last month along a dirt track a Chinese firm is paving as part of a $3 billion project to gain access to the Aynak copper reserves.

Some troops made camp outside a compound built for the Chinese road crews, who are about to return from winter break. American forces also have expanded their presence in neighboring Logar province, where the Aynak deposit is.

The U.S. deployment wasn’t intended to protect the Chinese investment — the largest in Afghanistan’s history — but to strangle Taliban infiltration into the capital of Kabul. But if the mission provides the security that a project to revive Afghanistan’s economy needs, the synergy will be welcome.

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[…]

Beijing faces enormous challenges in completing the project and gaining access to the estimated 240 million tons of copper ore that are accessible through surface mining. Taliban-led insurgents operate in large parts of Logar and Wardak; the area is sown with mines; and China must complete an ambitious set of infrastructure projects, including Afghanistan’s first national railway, as part of the deal.

The site was discovered by an Afghan-Soviet team in 1974. But in the face of armed resistance during their 1979-89 occupation of Afghanistan, the Soviets were never able to develop the site.

The main challenge to the state-owned China Metallurgical Construction Corp. is the Taliban, who moved into Kabul’s southern fringes after China clinched the deal, prompting the January deployment in Logar and Wardak of more than 2,000 troops from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb injured three policemen protecting a crew building an access road to Aynak.

[…]

Other challenges include transporting equipment and materials into the landlocked nation from Pakistan and Central Asia; Kabul’s inexperience in handling massive projects; endemic corruption; lax enforcement of laws; and the global economic meltdown.

Moreover, China must deliver the infrastructure projects that helped it snag the deal.

These include an on-site copper smelter; a $500 million generating station to power the project and augment Kabul’s electricity supply; a coal mine to fuel the power station; a ground-water system, roads, new homes, hospitals and schools for mine workers and their families; and a railway line from the country’s northern border with Uzbekistan to its southeastern border with Pakistan.

The deal, Ashraf said, is structured so that by the seventh year, the entire work force will be Afghan. Beginning in 2010, 60 Afghan engineering students a year will study in China, he said, adding that Chinese language courses have begun at Kabul University.

Employment projections vary, but there is general agreement that as many as 10,000 workers could be hired at Aynak and the coal mine in central Afghanistan, which the Jalrez Valley road project will link to the copper field. The railway will need thousands more.

China may hope that the Aynak deal will help position it to compete for more projects in Afghanistan. The region is thought to hold some of the world’s last major untapped deposits of iron, copper, gold, uranium, precious gems and other raw materials.

Consider the list of beneficiaries mentioned above:

  • China
  • Afghanistan
  • The local economy south of Kabul
  • The workforce of Aynak
  • For the Jalrez Valley: new roads, railways, water systems, power plants, schools, and other infrastructure
  • Chinese universities
  • Afghan universities
  • And presumably even the Taliban, who are sure to rake in piles of protection money once the mines are a going concern

But there’s nothing in it for the United States of America. None of our soldiers will carry home suitcases full of newly-smelted copper.

The only thing we will get out of the deal is that the Muslims will love us and forgive us, and terrorism will finally disappear from the face of the earth.

That’s what John Kerry says, so it must be true.

The Chinese Communists will make an enormous amount of money, and in return we will have the privilege of borrowing some of it.

The entire United States military is now China’s Blackwater — only the pay isn’t as good.



Hat tip: Zenster.

Goodbye To All That

Takuan Seiyo has published part 9 of “From Meccania to Atlantis” at the Brussels Journal. It’s entitled “Goodbye To All That”, and below are some excerpts:

Almost half of Americans want to live somewhere else, but the country is running out of somewhere else. Body Snatchers have taken over the Federal Government, the administration of every significant city in the country, and most of the administrations of the 50 states. What remains of America is still in the Northwest away from the Pacific Coast, and in the Red (i.e. Right-leaning) counties of many states regardless of their ruling elites’ orientation. The sluggish economic activity and lack of high culture make these places difficult to move to, but as we will argue later, it may be inevitable.

Americans don’t leave the United States in great numbers. If they do, they have reasons not usually related to politics or livelihood. I habitually inquire of Americans living in East Asia why they have moved. Two of the most common responses are (a) to live in a country where there are (relatively) no lawyers, and (b) to be able to take a walk safely in the middle of the night. Unsaid are the “sensitive” reasons why it’s unsafe to take such a walk in America.

West Europeans cannot “vote with their feet” as easily as Americans can. To emigrate from one Western European country to another is redundant, except for some idiosyncratic reasons such as climate preference, job offer or romance. Emigration to Eastern Europe does take one to a zone of relative sanity, but that too, like a “Red-zone” move in the U.S., entails an economic risk and cultural isolation.

- – - - – - – - -

There is no dearth of sophisticated culture in Eastern Europe, but the languages are difficult to learn and English is not widely spoken. Still, it’s probable that just as the “Red” states in America will gain as “Blue” Pod states like California depopulate, Eastern Europe — a haven from dhimmitude and multiculti idiocy — will gain at the expense of Pod states like Sweden. I’ve been told that already British homesteaders may be seen on Romanian farmland. In time, English may replace the Schwäbisch of the earlier West European settlers in those areas.

For now, however, the lines of emigrants in the Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany et al. stand in front of the Australia, New Zealand and Canada consulates. They would probably in front of American consulates too, except the country founded by English, Dutch and German settlers has little interest in white immigrants of compatible culture, high education and great chances of contributing far beyond what they take. America is far more interested in immigrants who have never seen a toilet or driven a car, and who look like extras in Lawrence of Arabia. A week after their landing in New York, you’ll find them driving a taxi there.

Read the rest at the Brussels Journal.



Hat tip: Fjordman.

The Failure of Big Government — Reason for Concern or Great Opportunity?

Fjordman points out an intriguing post at Samizdata, and has this to say about it:

An interesting thread here. Will the increasingly obvious failure of Western elites cause ordinary people to turn to a Great Leader who will “fix” the problems by even more government and state intervention, or will the crisis turn out to be an opportunity for more liberty, a blessing in disguise? My one fear with the optimistic scenario is that we have a large bunch of Muslims as well, at least in Europe, and that the internal ethnic tensions in the Western world caused by mass immigration could lead to further chaos.

The post is entitled “A quick question”, and was written by James Waterton:
- – - - – - – - -

Are you optimistic about the future? Several months ago I was not, but I am now. From what I can see, governments are walking down the path of their complete moral and financial bankruptcy far more quickly than I ever imagined they would. I thought that it would take our overmighty governments several slow, demoralising decades of decline and eventual collapse to completely discredit their authority and control in the eyes of the people. However, our governments appear to be going supernova right now and I suspect they will burn themselves out over a few painful and tumultuous years — destroying a great deal of wealth in the process, no doubt. However, as worrying as that prospect is, it was always going to be that way. And in spite of that, I feel particularly upbeat about the longer term future. Those who know nothing more (and expect nothing less) than widespread government authority and control over all aspects of our lives will have their imbecile — sorry, umbilical — cords to the State cut sooner than expected, thanks to the overwhelmingly reckless (but entirely predictable) government response to the current financial crisis. I really do believe that future historians will pinpoint this crisis as marking the beginning of the end of the big-government era.

Putting Words in His Mouth

Free Geert!
In a bizarre twist, it now appears that some of the “hate speech” quotes used to prosecute Geert Wilders were not originally uttered by him — they were written by the late Oriana Fallaci.

I’m sure Mr. Wilders is flattered. But his lawyer is using the prosecution’s embarrassing error as a part of his client’s defense.

According to De Telegraaf, as translated by our Flemish correspondent VH:

Amsterdam Court ascribed statement by Oriana Fallaci to Geert Wilders

Moszkowicz is fighting against the prosecution

Wilders’ quotes have been distorted by Amsterdam Court

By Joost de Haas

The Court in Amsterdam has made mistakes in the decision to prosecute Geert Wilders. The PVV leader has had attributed to him statements that he never made. Also, the court relied on incomplete and distorted quotes of statements.

That is according to Wilders in a petition his lawyer Abraham Moszkowicz presented yesterday to the highest court of our country. Moszkowicz asks the Attorney General of the High Council to establish a “cassation appeal in the interest of the law” to contest the order of the court. The lawyer wants prosecution to be nullified.

Wilders calls it a serious matter that they have used incorrect quotes: “This is a very fundamental issue that exceeds the importance of my case. Mr. Moszkowicz has put all errors in order, one by one, and deals out a sledgehammer blow with that.”

- – - - – - – - -

The judges Tom M. Schalken, J.P. Splint and F.A. Hartsuiker of the Amsterdam Court ruled earlier this year that Wilders has to be prosecuted because of the incitement to hatred and discrimination. Also, the politician has to go to court for “insulting a group” of Muslim believers because he has described the Koran as an “Islamic Mein Kampf.” In this high-profile case, which has attracted worldwide attention, the prosecution according to Moszkowicz and Wilders has even made use of the statements of a deceased person. This is about a quote on the Koran by the writer Oriana Fallaci. The quote is put forward by the court as a quote of a statement by Wilders.

In related news, the strength of Geert Wilders’ party, the PVV, continues to grow. According to the PVV website, also translated by VH:

Poll: PVV would gain eleven seats in Rotterdam City Council

If there were municipal elections in Rotterdam today, the PVV of Geert Wilders would win 11 of the 45 seats on the Rotterdam City Council. This is evident from a survey by the free newspaper Metro. “I am really happy about this,” responds Wilders, who has some idea why so many Rotterdammers are supporting the Party for Freedom. “Because the PVV is a sincere citizens’ party that stands for the Netherlands and the common man and woman, who stand firm and tell it like it is.”

The decision to have the PVV actually join the municipal elections in Rotterdam depends on finding the suitable candidates. “We are busy recruiting candidates and assessing them.”

According to MegaStad FM, the poll shows that the PvdA in Rotterdam would lose six seats and go down from 18 to 12 seats; Leefbaar Rotterdam (the party of the late Pim Fortuyn) would also lose seats and go from 14 to 8.

Elsevier.nl reports that Wilders is seriously considering joining the municipal elections in The Hague, Rotterdam, Den Helder and his birthplace Venlo. “The municipal elections will be held next year, but we are busy looking into it to see whether we at least will join in a few cities in the municipal elections,” Wilders added to DePers.nl.

Burning the Hijab

Remember the bra-burnings back in the 1960s? Well, that’s so 20th-century!

As a symbol of her liberation, the modern woman burns her hijab.

At least that’s what a Norwegian ex-Muslim did today to celebrate International Women’s Day. Her name is Sarah Azmeh Rasmussen, and here’s the video of her transgressive act:



I’m certain that modern feminists — wedded as they are to the Left and its unholy alliance with radical Islam — would not approve of such “insensitive” and “discriminatory” tactics.

Here’s what the blurb for the video says about the event:
- – - - – - – - -

Sarah Azmeh Rasmussen, a Norwegian lesbian ex-Muslim of Syrian origin burns a hijab in March 2009 on International Women’s Day to protest against repression of women in Islam.

[…]

After the official ceremony marking International Womens Day in Oslo, Sara Azmeh Rasmussen burned a hijab in front of the crowd. The burning was announced beforehand in the media by Rasmussen. Although she was hit in the head with a snowball, she said she had been expecting much worse.



Hat tip: Steen, via TB.

Peace for All

We just received an interesting email from someone called “Rock City Funk Crew”, who was reacting to (of all things) my post from more than two years ago speculating on what the true number of Muslims in Europe might be. Here’s what he/she/it said:

Hi
i was on ur page
i found it very misleading
i have 1 thing to say to you and remember this ISLAM WILL RULE THE WORLD whether you like it or not
the truth will always hurt people just like they blamed islam on 911 only to turn people against Islam
but that didn’t work islam it started to grow even more
also i see you support Israel that’s just great tells me enough about you shame on you
thats all
peace never was and never will be in the lands of Arabia because of ppl like you

anyway peace for all

Just for the heck of it, I did a brief internet investigation of Rock City Funk Crew.
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It seems to be an Australian hip hop crew, and is listed variously as a “graff crew” in Sydney or in Melbourne, depending on which sources you believe.

Some of our readers are from Melbournistan. Does anybody know anything more about Rock City Funk? Are they Lebanese, African, Pakistani, white Australian converts, or what?