News Feed 20101115

Financial Crisis
» Eurozone Debt Crisis: Portugal Admits ‘It Could Need EU Bail-Out’
» Eurozone Talks Keep Irish Crisis in Focus
» Greece Blames Berlin for Irish Debt Crisis
» Greek Debt Higher Than Expected, EU Audit Reveals
» Herman Van Rompuy Wants Your Money
» Ireland and Greece Should Ditch the Euro
» Ireland in Talks Amid Eurozone Warning on Debt
» Pressure Building on Ireland to Seek EU Help
» Black Man Tied to Actions of White Supremacy Group
» BP Pays Stripper $80k, Fishermen Get Peanuts
» Frank Gaffney: (un)Welcome to Washington, Senators-Elect!
» Oklahoma’s Sharia Problem is Every American’s Problem
Europe and the EU
» Czech Republic: Historical Detectives Exhume a Mystery
» Danes Most Impudent, Study Finds
» Finns Desert Church in Record Numbers After Watching Gay Marriage TV Show
» German Ministers Demand Football-Free Weekend in May
» Germany: ‘Wetlands’ Author Offers Sex to President for Nuclear Extension Veto
» Merkel: Germany Doesn’t Have “Too Much Islam” But “Too Little Christianity”
» Northern German Accent in Its Last Generation, Experts Say
» The Mawkishness That Shows Britain No Longer Knows What Its Heroes Are Dying for
» UK: Blood-Clotting Drug Given to Wounded Soldiers Can Cause Heart Attacks
» UK: Government to Compensate Ex-Guantanamo Bay Detainees Continue Reading the Main Story
» UK: Happiness Index to Gauge Britain’s National Mood
» UK: Islam Channel to Appeal Against Ofcom Ruling
» UK: Woman Tied Up in Lancashire Home by Teenage Burglarsa Woman Was Tied Up in Her Lancashire Home by Two Armed Burglars — One of Whom is Thought to be 14 Years Old.
» ‘I Stopped World War Three by Refusing US Orders to Destroy Russian Forces, ‘ Claims James Blunt
North Africa
» Egyptian Al-Adel, New Al Qaeda Leader for West
Israel and the Palestinians
» Archbishop Bustros Clarifies His Words About Israel and the Promised Land
» Caroline Glick: What the Palestinians Buy With American Money
» Eid Al-Adha: Sheep Smugglers Kept Busy for Muslim Festival
» Hamas: Aid From Iran Without Any Political Price
» The Hour of the Hanging Judges: Demonizing Israel and Pretending it is Ordinary Criticism
» US Weapons for Settlement Moratorium, Israeli Press
Middle East
» Christians in the Middle East Essential for the Survival of the Arab World
» Hillary Clinton’s Silence on Iraqi Christian Genocide Must End
» Injured From Iraq Church Attack to be Treated in Rome
» Saudi Arabia: Man Jailed for Displaying Photo of Hezbollah Leader
» ‘Virginity Healer’ Seized in Saudi Arabia
South Asia
» Afghani Former Muslim May Get Death Penalty for Conversion
» India: Talaq Uttered by Muslim Man on Cellphone Valid: Deoband
» Pakistan: Persecution in the Name of Islam
» Qantas A380 Sustained Worse Damage Than First Thought
» Taliban Chief Mullah Omar Rules Out Afghan Peace Talks
» Your Signature to Save Asia Bibi and Pakistan
Far East
» Cote d’Azur: Second French Destination for Chinese
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Swedish Honeymooner Killed in South Africa
» Latino Kids Now Majority in California’s Public Schools
» Netherlands: VVD: Romania, Bulgaria Not in Schengen Yet
» UK: Home Office Sends Boy, 4, Letter Telling Him He and His Mother Will be Deported
Culture Wars
» Germany: Funeral Home Tries to Cater to Gay Funerals With Erotic Caskets
» World’s Oldest Embryo Fossils Shed Light on Dinosaur Parenting

Financial Crisis

Eurozone Debt Crisis: Portugal Admits ‘It Could Need EU Bail-Out’

Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, the Portuguese Finance Minister, has warned that the fall out from concerns over Ireland’s public finances could create a contagion effect among its neighbours.

“The risk is high because we are not facing only a national or country problem,” he told Dow Jones news wires, in reference to the possibility that Lisbon will need international financial assistance.

“It is the problems of Greece, Portugal and Ireland. This is not a problem of only this country. This has to do with the euro zone and the stability of the eurozone, and that is why contagion in this framework is more likely.

“It is not because markets consider we have similar situations. They are only similar in what concerns markets, but as I said they are very different.”

He added: “Markets look at these economies together because we are all in this together in the euro zone, but probably they could look different if we were not in the euro zone.

“Suppose we were not in the eurozone, the risk of the contagion could be lower.”

The Portuguese minister insisted that Portugal was improving its finances as it struggled with burgeoning public debt and deficit levels and later tried to back away from suggestions Lisbon was poised to call for help.

“Such a request is not imminent, there are no contacts, be it formal or informal,” he said. “The rest are rumours and speculation.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Eurozone Talks Keep Irish Crisis in Focus

Eurozone ministers are set to meet in Brussels as the debt crisis once again threatens the 16-member bloc’s economic stability.

The talks come as the spotlight once again falls on the weaker member countries, and whether they can manage their debt without help from European Union (EU) assistance funds.

The Irish Republic on Monday insisted it did not need EU help.

But there is intense speculation it may be forced to use EU bail-out money.

Dublin said it was in contact with “international colleagues” but the Prime Minister, Brian Cowan, dismissed talk of a bail-out by the EU or IMF.

“One of the great pejorative phrases that continue to be used is this thing of bail out which suggests that the country is in some way seeking not to meet its obligations to meet its own debts — that is not the case,” he said.

He added that his government had firm plans for sorting out the country’s problems.

“In the coming weeks will be putting forward the plans that show how we put our budget back into order as a member of the Euro area,” he said.

‘Theoretical’ Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, said the eurozone was ready to act “as soon as possible” if Ireland sought financial assistance.

But he stressed that “Ireland has not put forward their request”.

“As long as they don’t, we are not supposed to deal with a theoretical request,” he said.

A spokesman for Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said that pressure on Dublin to take a bail-out was not coming from the European Commissioner, but from “another player”…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Greece Blames Berlin for Irish Debt Crisis

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou blamed Germany on Monday for the spectacular rise in the borrowing costs of Ireland and Portugal last week, accusing Berlin of spooking the bond markets.

Both Ireland and Portugal saw the cost of their debt shoot up last week amid fears they might be forced to seek bailouts or even default, as Germany pushed for private lenders to contribute to future rescue packages.

“Some have suggested, such as the German government, that markets and banks that financed nations with high debts, should be prepared to take the cost of a possible default,” Papandreou told reporters in Paris.

“That created a spiral of higher interest rates for the countries which seem in a difficult position such as Ireland and Portugal,” he added, even as Greece’s own massive debt came under renewed pressure.

“This could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s like saying to someone: ‘Since you have a difficulty, I will put an even higher burden on your back.’ But this could break your back,” he charged.

Portugal and Ireland are struggling with burgeoning public debt and deficit levels and as a result have had to pay ever higher returns to bond buyers in order to raise funds.

Finance ministers from the 16 members of the eurozone single currency bloc are due to meet in Brussels on Tuesday for scheduled talks that are expected to focus heavily on the situation in Ireland and other big debtors.

Ireland is under pressure from some quarters to accept European Union aid to help it through its bad patch without further destabilising the currency.

European leaders agreed at a summit last month to discuss in December the issue of a permanent mechanism to replace the €440-billion ($607-billion) European Financial Stability Fund that expires in 2013.

Berlin is pushing for a procedure to be drawn up in case a eurozone country goes bankrupt, insisting that bondholders should take their share of the costs rather than the public picking up the tab.

While this future provision would not change the EU member’s commitment to the existing crisis fund, Germany’s position sent tremors through the bond markets, contributing to pressure on Ireland’s bond yields.

For his part, Papandreou said the long-term debt problems of EU member states exist because of a “lack of democratic control” on financial markets, and called the campaign for tighter regulation a “battle for civilization.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greek Debt Higher Than Expected, EU Audit Reveals

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Greece has incurred a much larger budget deficit and levels of public debt than the country had earlier estimated, EU audit figures revealed on Monday (15 November) morning, in an adjustment that could kick off another round of sell-offs not just in the Greek bond market but in those of other creaking eurozone peripheral states.

The republic’s budget deficit for 2009 amounted to 15.4 percent of gross domestic product, according to numbers from Eurostat, the EU’s audit office, sharply up on its earlier estimate of 13.6 percent, as government cuts and increased taxes fail to deliver growth.

The ratio of deficit to GDP for the country is the highest in the eurozone and the EU as a whole, even though Ireland is in 2010 expected to leapfrog Greece due to the cost of bank rescues.

The country’s overall public debt meanwhile amounted to 126.8 percent of GDP, also up from the 115.1 spring estimate from Eurostat.

The upward revision on both figures had been expected means that Greece is unlikely to be able to meet its promised deficit reduction for 2010 to 8.1 percent.

In April, Greece signed up to a three-year €110 billion bailout package from the EU and the IMF. In return for the cash, Athens agreed to impose a four-year austerity package of swingeing cuts under requirements that it chop its deficit to 8.1 percent in 2010, 5.6 percent next year and 2.8 percent in 2012.

In the wake of the news, the Greek finance ministry said in a statement that its deficit for 2010 will be 9.4 percent of GDP.

On the weekend, Prime Minister George Papandreou said the expected revision could mean a further round of austerity measures and the country may seek to extend the payment schedule of the EU bailout monies

However, with the existing austerity measures having provoked widespread social unrest, the government may be reluctant to impose reduce social services, slash wages or to increase taxes still further, so could instead delay infrastructure projects.

The 2011 budget is due to be presented to the parliament on Thursday, where the government is set to announce further cuts worth some €4.5 billion.

On Tuesday, the country is to hold an auction on some €300 million worth of 13-week bonds.

The grim news from Brussels came as the ‘troika’ of officials from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund descended upon the Greek capital as part of their regular inspections of the government’s implementation of the conditions of its loan agreement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Herman Van Rompuy Wants Your Money

The European president Herman van Rompuy offers a tempting target for jokers. But his call for for the imposition of a common economic policy, backed up with surveillance and punishments, has a decidedly sinister ring .

Mr van Rompuy’s “action on that fact” is something he and his supporters call “European economic governance” — essentially, a political semi-union giving the EU sweeping new powers to impose economic policy on its members. As he put it bluntly in Berlin, “one cannot maintain a monetary unity without a political union…”

Three weeks ago, almost unnoticed in Britain, a taskforce chaired by Mr van Rompuy called for a “fundamental shift” in this direction, with a “wider range” of sanctions, fines and other punishments for countries that do not follow economic prescriptions laid down by Brussels. Ultimately, some suggest, economic governance could mean the harmonisation of tax and benefit levels, and forced redistribution of funds from rich to poor EU countries on a scale far greater than now.

Fully fledged economic governance would apply only to members of the euro. But the van Rompuy taskforce also recommended that “all EU member states”, Britain included, should be subject to “deeper macro-economic surveillance”, including an “enforcement framework” of “corrective” measures “designed to enforce the implementation of remedies” for countries that stepped out of line. One of the members of the taskforce was George Osborne, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In his first six months as Prime Minister, David Cameron has largely managed to keep Europe out of the headlines. But now, with a series of Euro-issues lining up to face him, the E-word is back.

[Return to headlines]

Ireland and Greece Should Ditch the Euro

This is what the Spanish prime minister, Jose Zapetero, declared in an interview with the Wall Street Journal as recently as September 22: “I believe that the debt crisis affecting Spain, and the eurozone in general, has passed.”

Or let’s listen to Patrick Honohan , governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, who soberly informed the markets last week that surging yields on Irish government debt would soon be back to normal levels. Both men are deluding themselves — and us. From time to time, events take a turn which is too grave, unsettling and unfathomable for politicians to cope with. They enter a state of denial. We are now living through one of those times.

The European Single Currency cannot be saved. Yet the euro elite are unable to bring themselves to acknowledge the magnitude of this disaster. They have convinced themselves that all is well. The pattern is familiar and indeed we in Britain experienced something very similar in the months leading up to Black Wednesday and the eviction of sterling from the Exchange Rate Mechanism in September 1992.

First, the markets smell blood. Then the shoring-up operation begins, and finance ministers start to make statements of confidence. Ingenious financial devices are conjured up to avert disaster and, inside state chanceries, secret talks begin, to make contingency plans in case the worst happens. Only after a long, expensive and excruciating battle comes the ignominious exit.

So last week’s Irish humiliation — which has brought with it the extinction of the country’s economic sovereignty — is no more than a desperately sad moment in a much bigger story. And though the exact date of the final euro implosion cannot be predicted, a number of points can already be made with certainty.

The euro elite is utterly ruthless. In its mission to save the euro, it is ready to throw tens of millions out of work and in the process destroy businesses, lives and whole economies. Consider the terrifying facts. The Irish economy has gone through recession and entered what economists call a depression. Its output contracted by an extraordinary 10 per cent last year, and may well do so again over the next 12 months.

In Spain, unemployment stands at 20 per cent, and youth unemployment a horrifying and tragic 40 per cent. The depths of misery lying behind these statistics cannot be exaggerated. A friend of mine who lives in the Spanish province of Andalusia tells me that some children in his village cannot go to school. This is because their parents cannot afford to buy them shoes. Effectively large parts of Europe are de-industrialising. In Greece, the economy may contract by 15 per cent over the next two years as a result of massive cuts in state spending.

For Greece and Ireland, there is an absurdly easy way back to economic growth: return to the drachma and the punt. Such a move would enable national currencies to fall back to levels where they can be internationally competitive — which in the case of hapless Greece would be approximately one third of where it stands today.

Assertions by the big bankers and eurocrats that such a move is technically impossible are self-serving and false. It would of course be very messy in the short term, but there are many examples of countries pulling out of currency unions with no lasting ill-effect.

The peripheral eurozone nations are being prevented from taking this sensible move by a cynical alliance between the big banks and the Brussels elite. The banks cannot countenance any contraction of the eurozone because once Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain pull out, they will have no choice but to default on their debts. Such a move would bankrupt almost all European banks. Between them these four countries have a combined sovereign debt of well over £1 trillion. A very large part of this debt is owned by the major European banks. The Bank of International Settlements estimates, for example, that French financial institutions have lent the equivalent of 37 per cent of total French GDP to these failing countries.

However there are also hugely powerful political considerations. The collapse of the euro project will come as a shattering blow from which the European project cannot recover. That is why key members of the Euro elite are so determined to use this moment to press forward with their plans for political and economic integration.

Last May, as the storm clouds gathered, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former French finance minister who is now managing director of the International Monetary Fund, told a gathering of bankers that “crisis is an opportunity”, adding that there is now the chance to launch “a new global currency issued by a global central bank”.

This mad vision lies behind the decision to build a vast new set of offices for the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, which is due for completion in 2014. It is virtually impossible for the eurozone to last in its present form till then. If it does, its survival will only come at the price of untold economic devastation.

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

Ireland in Talks Amid Eurozone Warning on Debt

(DUBLIN) — Ireland said Monday it was in contact with “international colleagues” over its debt crisis but denied seeking a bailout as the EU warned that Dublin’s woes were a concern for the whole euro area.

Brussels and Dublin both insisted there were no formal talks despite persistent reports that Ireland was facing pressure to ask for help from a special European Union fund set up after the Greek debt crisis six months ago.

But with fears also mounting over the public finances in Greece and Portugal, Ireland said for the first time that it was in contact with international partners over its problems.

“Ireland has made no application for external support. Ongoing contacts continue at official level with international colleagues in light of current market conditions,” a Department of Finance spokesman said.

He said that Ireland was “fully funded till well into 2011.”

On the eve of a meeting of euro finance ministers in Brussels, speculation has reached fever pitch over a possible rescue for Ireland running up to 90 billion euros (123 billion dollars).

Ireland has been desperate to avoid a bailout, with Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s embattled government insisting it is a matter of sovereignty and planning more harsh austerity measures in the annual budget on December 7.

“We have to resolve our own problem,” Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche told Newstalk radio.

He branded reports of Dublin asking for a bailout as “frankly wrong and grossly irresponsible.”

The Irish Independent newspaper reported that the government was considering asking for money for Irish banks from the EU emergency fund to fend off a threatened bailout for the state.

Irish opposition finance spokesman Michael Noonan said the government had not briefed him on the situation but added that he believed media reports pointing to a bailout were true.

“I think there is European intervention under way … I believe things will come to a head in the next 24 hours,” he told BBC television.

The one-time “Celtic Tiger” economy is in deep trouble mainly due to the costs of dealing with a huge crisis in its banking system, which in turn was the result of its banks’ massive over-exposure to a busted property market.

The European Commission said it was in “close contact” with Dublin but the discussions stopped short of being talks on assistance, adding that it was an “exaggeration” to suggest there were pressures on Ireland from within the EU.

“Yes, there are concerns in the euro area about the financial stability of the euro area as a whole,” Amadeu Altafaj Tardio, a European Commission spokesman, said in Brussels.

The deputy president of the European Central Bank, Vitor Constancio, said it stood ready to help Ireland, but added: “If and when Ireland applies for help is a matter solely for the Irish government.”

The crisis has sent the Irish 10-year bond yields shooting through the roof but they stabilised at 7.839 percent on Monday, having hit 8.949 percent last week — the highest level since the creation of the European single currency in 1999.

Portugal said on Monday that Ireland needed to consider the needs of the eurozone as a whole, adding that it too was at a high risk of needing a bailout due to “contagion”.

“I want to believe they will decide to do what is most appropriate together for Ireland and the euro,” Portuguese Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos told Dow Jones newswires.

He later added that he felt his own country was at higher risk itself of needing a bailout given the problems in the eurozone.

Irish public deficit this year is set to be slightly more than 30 percent of gross domestic product — 10 times the EU limit and more than three times the massive Greek deficit for 2010.

British and Irish media said there were official talks late on Sunday involving officials from Ireland, Germany, the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

The pattern resembles the build-up in the spring to the 110-billion-euro (150-billion-dollar) EU-IMF rescue of Greece.

Greece acknowledged Monday it would breach conditions for a new installment of the bailout as public deficit and debt figures for the four years to 2009 were revised up sharply on Monday.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou blamed Germany on Monday for the soaring borrowing costs of Ireland and Portugal, saying Berlin’s push for private lenders to contribute to future rescue packages created a “spiral of higher interest rates.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Pressure Building on Ireland to Seek EU Help

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The European Central Bank told Ireland on Monday (15 November) that EU emergency funds can indeed be used to bail-out its debt-ensnarled banks, adding to the pressure on the country to finally access a European rescue mechanism.

Ireland continued to insist on Monday that it has no need of funding for government spending, but ECB vice-president Vitor Constancio said that a pool of monies set up by eurozone government for bailing out countries can be used for banks instead.

The EU facility was not set up to lend directly to financial insitutions, but the Irish government if it access the fund, can then decide to “use the money for that purpose,” Mr Constancio said from Vienna.

Frustration in other European capitals at Ireland’s reluctance to seek financial help from the EU and IMF also spilt out into the open on Monday as Portugal, trapped in its own debt whirlpool, all but demanded that Ireland reach out to Brussels.

Portuguese finance minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos said in Dow Jones Newswires that: “I would not want to lecture the Irish government” but added “I want to believe they will decide to do what is most appropriate together for Ireland and the euro. I want to believe they have the vision to take the right decision.”

For his part, Spain’s member of the European Central Bank council, Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez openly attacked Dublin for its reticence.

“The situation in the markets in recent weeks has been very negative due in some way to the lack of a final decision by Ireland,” he told reporters in Madrid on the same day.

Echoing the words of the Portuguese finance minister, he added: “It’s not me who should take a decision about Ireland, it’s Ireland that should take the right decision at the right moment.”

Portugal and Spain are petrified that Ireland’s stubbornness could lead to a contagion of lack of market confidence, as Spanish and Portuguese bond yields increase.

“From a strategic point of view, Madrid and Lisbon are worried that the uncertainty will spread to them, with ramifications for the euro as a whole,” Tom McDonnall, an economic policy analyst with Tasc, an Irish economic think-tank, told EUobserver. “The ECB believes that if Ireland was in the fund, the uncertainty could be removed and thus lower bond yields.”

“But for Ireland to go into the fund, this is effectively handing over sovereignty over fiscal levers. This is why you are seeing ministers making these comments about Ireland’s struggle for sovereignty and so on,” he explained.

On Sunday, enterprise minister Batt O’Keeffe said: “It has been a very hard-won sovereignty for this country and the government is not going to give over that sovereignty to anyone.”

For Ireland, a country that fought a long, bitter struggle to free itself of British rule, to surrender economic sovereignty to the troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as occurred when Greece tapped the EU fund, is an ignominious dishonour for any Irish government.

But for a one headed by Fianna Fail, whose full name in Irish translates as “Soldiers of Destiny — The Republican Party,” such a move would be a historic humiliation for the party of the first president of the republic.

The government does have enough money to fund public expenditure through till July next year, but the yawning debts of Irish banks is steadily undermining confidence that the government will not be forced to default.

On Friday, fresh data showed that outstanding loans to Irish banks, mostly coming from German, British and French banks, climbed to €130 billion at the end of October, up from €119 billion in September.

That Ireland would be giving up its economic sovereignty to in effect transfer funds to, amongst others, British bankers, can only add to the indignity.

Brussels however denied that EU officials were adding to the pressure on Dublin.

“As the Irish authorities have reiterated themselves over the last few days, they have not made any request for financial assistance. Further, Irish sovereign debt is fully financed till the summer of 2011, so there is no imminent need on that area,” commission economy spokesman Amadeu Tardio told reporters in the European capital.

“The commission is in close contact with the Irish authorities at the moment as you can imagine, but there is no news from that in itself.”

If Dublin were to apply for help, the troika would likely demand very significant reductions in public sector pay and social transfers, albeit likely in line with those under consideration by the government.

More controversially, there will be pressure for Ireland to raise substantially its ultra-low rate of corporation tax as part of the overall policy mix.

However, the troika will have difficulty pushing through such a move, as Ireland won a series of legal guarantees, including notably on tax sovereignty, attached to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in return for a second referendum on the text, which was ultimately approved.

However, as some might argue, the Irish guarantees have yet to be approved.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Black Man Tied to Actions of White Supremacy Group

BRIDGEPORT — One co-defendant in the trial of two avowed white supremacists will stand out Monday morning in a federal courtroom.

That’s because David Sutton is a black man — caught up in a conspiracy to sell homemade hand grenades to what his co-defendants believed was a member of the powerful Imperial Klans of America.

For the next three weeks, Sutton will be there, with his lawyer, Frank Riccio II, listening to a litany of evidence, recordings and videotapes involving Kenneth Zrallack, the 29-year-old Ansonia man the government claims is the leader of the Connecticut White Wolves — now known as Battalion 14 of North East White Pride — and Alexander DeFelice, a 33-year-old Milford man described by investigators as the “dealmaker” in this case.

Prosecutors intend to call 29 witnesses and play 101 excerpts from video and audio recordings that could take about two and a half hours during the trial, which begins Monday.

Even Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry Kopel concedes, in court papers, that he has “no evidence to suggest” that Sutton, 46, of Milford, “was associated or supportive of the white supremacist movement … He was not a member or participant.”

Still, Sutton will be there — with Zrallack and his lawyer Nicholas Adamucci to his right and DeFelice and his lawyer, Michael Hillis, to his left.

Sutton’s name is the fifth of five on a federal grand jury indictment where he is charged only in the conspiracy.

Two other defendants, William R. Bolton, 31, a reputed member, and Edwin T. Westmoreland, 27, a participant, both of Stratford, pleaded guilty to charges and are awaiting sentencing.

So how does a black man find himself on trial with members of a white supremacy group, particularly in a case where Kopel claims the Wolves are attempting to bolster their presence in the white supremacy world by becoming arms suppliers to their bigger and badder brother groups?

Riccio, Sutton’s lawyer, said his client “strenuously denies being part of such a conspiracy … He hopes to be vindicated after trial.”

One theory, Kopel raises in court papers, is that Sutton became involved in the hopes that his brother-in-law could buy guns from DeFelice.

None of this shocks Rachel Ranis, an emeritus professor of sociology at Quinnipiac University.

“There are always people who act as individuals,” said Ranis. “They do things for individual reasons. Maybe he doesn’t care about who the target is.”

Clearly, Ranis said a group like the White Wolves would like having a black man as an associate.

Riccio raised the race issue during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in which he asked his client be tried separately.

“His appearance in court with the others cuts both ways,” Riccio told the judge.

The Bridgeport lawyer conceded that, in one respect, having a black man on trial with white supremacists could lead to the jury to asking themselves what’s wrong with this picture.

“How could a black man be involved in any respect in a conspiracy with white supremacists,” he asked. “It’s so night and day.”

On the other hand, Riccio said his client could suffer “the spillover effect” of seeing and hearing two and a half hours of tape-recorded evidence against the others.

“He could suffer prejudice, not only legally but literally,” Riccio said…

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]

BP Pays Stripper $80k, Fishermen Get Peanuts

Adding insult to physical and mental injuries in Gulf Coast communities where destitute residents are struggling with unpaid claims, BP paid $80,000 to a stripper recently, but nothing to many fishermen. One Gulf Shores, Alabama fisherman has only been paid $15,000. — in six months. Living without meals, electricity and even a home because of unjust government and BP systematic abuse are realities for many Gulf Coast families, a reality that hits even harder at holiday time, such as Thanksgiving.

To prevent starvation, families in Alabama fishing communities are forced to rely on eating Gulf seafood. They are out of work; many BP claims are not honored; and many who worked for VOO, BP’s “Vessels Of Opportunity” cleaning toxic waters and beaches, have not even been paid.

An estimated 10-25% of legitimate BP claims by Gulf Shores fisherman have not been paid according to one couple there. Along with neighbors, they are outraged over learning what pbrcoastie’s November 12th post on WKRG News forum exposed:

“So….take this for what you will. A good friend of mine who works at a credit union here in town said an “employee” of cookies and cream walked in and cashed a $80K check for her claim against BP. She was due to a drop in business. I am so sick at some of these outlandish claims. This is disgusting considering the number of legit claims that are still waiting to be paid.”

[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: (un)Welcome to Washington, Senators-Elect!

President Obama has set the stage for an acrimonious relationship with the newly elected Senators of the 112th Congress. As they come to Washington this week for freshman orientation, his welcome message amounts to: “I want to disenfranchise you.”

This unwelcome applies especially to those occupying six new Republican seats in the Senate come January. And it bears most particularly on two issues that will affect U.S. security profoundly over the next six years of these newly minted Senators’ terms in office and far beyond: the so-called “New START” Treaty and the repeal of a statute prohibiting homosexuals from serving in the armed forces.

New START is a seriously defective bilateral arms control agreement with the Russians, one that would make dramatic and ill-advised cuts in the number of U.S. strategic weapons and delivery systems. To be ratified, such a treaty needs the affirmative votes of 67 Senators. President Obama believes he may be able to secure those votes if he makes utterly incredible promises to yesterday’s Senate, the one now running out the clock in a post-election “lame-duck” session.

Specifically, Mr. Obama is reportedly prepared to pledge to spend nearly $90 billion over the next ten years on long-overdue improvements to the nation’s nuclear weapons industrial base. Even if he were committed to such a worthy investment, much of it would be made towards the end of what would be his second term (should he be reelected) or later — hardly a bankable proposition. That is all the more true since the President is determined to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Does anyone really think he will sink vast sums at a time of acute fiscal distress in an enterprise he wants to dismantle, not preserve?…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Oklahoma’s Sharia Problem is Every American’s Problem

In a particularly egregious example of a Muslim group’s self-serving, manipulative distortion of Western democratic principles — a trend we are seeing more and more of lately — the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) last week filed suit against the state of Oklahoma, declaring that a proposed ban on the use of sharia law in the Oklahoma courts violates the First Amendment.


Let’s go over this again. The First Amendment, as a reminder, is the one that states that government shall make no laws establishing religion. The purpose of this, of course, was to ensure that this newly-created, democratic nation called “America” would impose no state religion: that all religions — including no religion — would be held equal, and would be handled equally under the law. By extension, this meant, too, that no religious precepts would determine what the laws of the land would be. That is the very basis of the democratic, secular state — that entity, that concept, that we as Americans hold most dear.

That is, it is the concept held most dear by those Americans who support a secular democracy, rather than an Islamic theocracy. Apparently, CAIR is not among them.

Yet herein lies the critical distinction between Muslims who happen to be American, and Americans who happen to be Muslim. It is a vitally important difference.

True, the wording of the proposed amendment to Oklahoma’s state Constitution — known as “State Question 755” — is poor. The proposal does single out Islamic law, rather than religious law in general, and does so with such bold strokes as to make it difficult even to uphold secular laws that bear similarities to the laws of sharia. But this is not what really is at issue.

A bit of background: Concerned about the growing encroachment of sharia law tribunals on communities in the UK, Canada, and elsewhere in the West, Oklahoma passed a referendum earlier this month seen as a “pre-emptive strike” against the creation of such tribunals in that state, and against the incorporation of sharia law or principles in legal decisions issued by the Oklahoma courts. And, I might add, with good reason.

Indeed, Muslim groups in Canada have, in recent years, actively fought against such tribunals and sharia involvement in Canadian courts, which have repeatedly been shown to violate Canadian laws protecting women’s rights.

Logically, of course, such a ban should not even be necessary in Oklahoma; a judge who made a decision on the basis of sharia law would, ipso facto, be violating the US constitution.

Which takes us back to the absolute insanity of Oklahoma CAIR and its manipulative executive director, Muneer Awad, who has the temerity to maintain that a ban on sharia law in the US court system is racist, that it isolates and vilifies Islam. With utter self-aggrandizement and an egotistical positioning of himself in the center of the universe, Awad declared in the (at times incoherent) suit documents: “Surely, people will whisper, there must be something deeply threatening about Muneer’s faith. For why else would the great state of Oklahoma allocate space in the state’s most cherished document to burden Muneer’s faith and no other.”


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Czech Republic: Historical Detectives Exhume a Mystery

Scientists hope to put an end to conspiracy theories about astronomer’s death

Some mysteries refuse to remain buried. Today, Danish scientists reopened the grave of the astronomer Tycho Brahe, dead now for over 400 years.

According to the Prague Daily Monitor, after removing the remains from Brahe’s tomb on Monday, scientists will study the samples at the anthropological depository of the National Museum of Prague until Friday, before returning the remains to the astronomer’s resting place in Tyn Church.

Born Tyge Ottesen Brahe in 1546, Brahe was an astronomer, an alchemist, and one of the brightest scientific minds of the Renaissance. In 1572, he detected a new star in the constellation Cassiopeia, a shocking discovery at the time, given the prevailing notion that the heavens were perfect and unchanging. The following year, he became the first person to describe a supernova.

Brahe attended a Prague dinner party on 24 October 1601, shortly afterwards he fell ill and died eleven days later. The cause of death was written up as a urinary infection, but rumours of something more sinister persisted.

Suspicion that Brahe may have been murdered persisted through the centuries and this is not the first time the theory has been scientifically tested. In 1901, a study of hair from his moustache showed high traces of mercury, adding weight to the argument that he might have been poisoned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Danes Most Impudent, Study Finds

Danish informality perceived by others as insensitivity

Danish people are best at dealing with mockery by other people, a new study shows. But others may well view this characteristic as a sign of insensitivity, concludes psychologist Martin Führ, whose specialist research area is humour.

Führ’s study forms part of an international research project in which 72 countries have measured their population’s fear of being mocked — a social phobia known as gelotophobia.

“We run a great risk of being perceived as impudent,” Führ told Berlingske Tidende newspaper. “We need to understand that other cultures have different values and different rules of interaction.”

Führ is not suggesting that we should change the way we communicate, but he points out that we need to be more aware of how our signals are interpreted by other cultures.

This view is supported by former foreign affairs minister Uffe Ellemann Jensen, who said that ridicule and mockery are a natural part of Danish banter.

“But our little ‘tribe’ needs to understand that other cultures may not find this funny. It is naïve to think that we can thrust our unique sense of free speech onto others,” he said, referring in particular to the Mohammed drawings.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Finns Desert Church in Record Numbers After Watching Gay Marriage TV Show

A RECORD number of Finns quit the Evangelical Lutheran Church this week after seeing negative religious attitudes towards gays in a TV programme. Those who ditched the church carried out their mass exodus via an online service, the standard procedure used nowadays.

According to this report, information Officer Heikki Orsila, of, which facilitates the secession process, thought that the spike resulted from the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE’s current affairs programme Ajankohtainen Kakkonen, aired on Tuesday.

The show entitled Homoilta (Gay Night) was a panel discussion dealing with gay rights issues, including the question of the rights of same-sex couples to marry in church. The panel included Christian Democrat MP Päivi Räsänen, who has been fiercely critical of same-sex marriages and was a principal opponent in the Parliamentary debate on adoption rights for registered same-sex couples; and the Bishop of Tampere Matti Repo.

More than half of Tuesday’s 372 resignations were sent while the programme was running.

According to the website, the total number of people to make their exit was 2,633. This was not merely around 1,500 more than the previous daily high, but greater than the total number in the entire month of July.

The previous record of 1,049 individuals parting ways with the state church in the space of one day occurred on the last day of 2008.

According to Orsila, around 90 per cent of all the resignations from the church now happen via the Internet.

The site also noted that women have normally made up roughly 44 percent of church-leavers, but that this ratio rose on Wednesday to 48 percent, and that those announcing their departure were also older than the norm.

Whilst roughly eight out of ten Finns belong to the state church, actual attendance at services is at a much lower level. Many remain inside the church — something that also involves an obligation to pay an annual parish council tax — largely to be able to get married in church.

Numbers have been declining steadily as the society becomes increasingly secularised. However, sudden increases in resignations occur when fundamental differences of opinion on hot-button issues, such as gay rights or the ordination of women, arise.

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

German Ministers Demand Football-Free Weekend in May

German state officials want the country’s soccer league to cancel all first-division Bundesliga matches on the May 1 weekend next year. They fear that police won’t be able to provide game security and cope with traditional Labor Day riots at the same time.

German anarchists are sticklers for tradition — they do their rioting on April 30 and May 1, without fail, in an annual ritual of cobblestone throwing and automobile arson in Berlin and Hamburg.

Their punctuality allows police forces to plan their work schedules for the day, celebrated as Labor Day in Germany and many other European countries, years in advance. But next year, the day falls on a Sunday, which means authorities face the dual task of tackling rioters and policing Bundesliga football matches — something the interior ministers of Germany’s 16 states say will overstretch their resources.

SPIEGEL has learned that the ministers, meeting in Hamburg at the end of this week, plan to call on the German Football League (DFL) to cancel all Bundesliga matches on April 30 and May 1 next year.

Threatening Consequences

DFL has already agreed not to play matches on the Sunday, but insists it will be “very, very difficult” to cancel matches on the Saturday as well because clubs are locked into television broadcasting contracts and international match timetables.

But Ralf Jäger, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, has threatened the DFL with consequences if it fails to comply. “We will have to think about demanding money for policing games in the future.”

This isn’t the first demand for police to be relieved of their soccer duties during major events. Last week the chairman of the German Police Federation called for all Bundesliga matches on Nov. 13 and 14 to be cancelled because the nation’s police were too exhausted after spending days hauling thousands of anti-nuclear protesters off the train tracks to allow a shipment of radioactive waste to complete its trip to a storage site in Gorleben, northern Germany. His call went unheeded.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: ‘Wetlands’ Author Offers Sex to President for Nuclear Extension Veto

German writer Charlotte Roche offered in an interview Sunday to spend the night with President Christian Wulff if he votes against government plans to extend the lifetime of Germany’s nuclear reactors.

“I am offering to sleep with him if he does not sign,” the 32-year-old anti-nuclear activist told the weekly Der Spiegel. “My husband agrees. Now it is up to the First Lady to give her consent. I am also tattooed,” she said, referring to Bettina Wulff’s much-talked about body adornment.

Roche, British-born author of the sexually explicit 2008 bestseller “Wetlands,” took part in major demonstrations last week against the transport of radioactive waste that underlined unease in Germany over nuclear power.

Wulff has to decide this year if a law prolonging the lifetime of the country’s 17 nuclear reactors by up to 14 years should be enacted without the consent of the Bundesrat, the upper chamber of parliament that represents the regions.

The hotly disputed plans were approved by cabinet in September and will postpone by more than a decade to around 2035 the date when Europe’s biggest economy abandons nuclear power.

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

Merkel: Germany Doesn’t Have “Too Much Islam” But “Too Little Christianity”

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans debating Muslim integration to stand up more for Christian values, saying Monday the country suffered not from “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity.”

Addressing her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, she said she took the current public debate in Germany on Islam and immigration very seriously. As part of this debate, she said last month that multiculturalism there had utterly failed.

Some of her conservative allies have gone further, calling for an end to immigration from “foreign cultures” — a reference to Muslim countries like Turkey — and more pressure on immigrants to integrate into German society.

Merkel told the CDU annual conference in Karlsruhe that the debate about immigration”especially by those of the Muslim faith” was an opportunity for the ruling party to stand up confidently for its convictions.

“We don’t have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity. We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind,” she said to applause from the hall.

Germany needs more public discussion “about the values that guide us (and) about our Judeo-Christian tradition,” she said. “We have to stress this again with confidence, then we will also be able to bring about cohesion in our society.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Northern German Accent in Its Last Generation, Experts Say

The northern German accent is dying out. The quirky regional manner of speech has become more homogeneous and won’t be passed on to young people, language experts said Monday.

“It’s the last generation,” said Kiel German language professor Michael Elmentaler.

Characteristic to prominent Germans such as recently deceased Loki Schmidt, Heidi Kabel and Günter Gaus, the staccato dialect is most closely associated with Hamburg. Instead of the “sch” sound, speakers use simply an “s,” usually separated by a brief pause before the consonant that follows.

The accent, which is influenced by Plattdeutsch, or Low German, was spoken throughout the Hanseatic League and became the prominent form of speech for most of northern Germany before the 16th century.

But by the 19th century this began to change, says Elmentaler, who has just completed a 12-year study of the regional accent.

According to his findings, in 1998 almost all northern Germans older than 70 still spoke with northern inflection. Meanwhile only 30 percent of those under 61, and none younger than 40 were familiar with it.

The development is part of what Elmentaler calls a “de-regionalization” of the accent, though he said “it will never come to pass that everyone speaks the same” because many Germans are actively preserving their language.

“The tendency in the north as well as the south is heading toward a similar standard,” confirmed Augsburg professor Werner König, explaining that today the use of a clear German was more important at work than in the days when most tasks were completed by hand.

While the lilting southern German dialect is often looked down upon by northern Germans, whose speech is closest to the standard High German, König said the northerners make their own mistakes.

“Of course that is wrong according to articulation experts,” he said in reference to the northern German tendency to leave the “p” off of words like Pferd, or horse.

But König rejected placing value judgements on regional accents and dialects, citing Norway’s educational system as Europe’s best example for language preservation. Since 1878, teachers in the Scandinavian country have been forbidden from chiding students for their different regional accents, he said.

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

The Mawkishness That Shows Britain No Longer Knows What Its Heroes Are Dying for

They were words one hardly expected to hear from one of our most distinguished military figures — especially in the week of Remembrance Sunday.

However, that only makes the comments at the weekend of Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Fry, former commander of British forces in Iraq, all the more disturbing.

He said the British people had developed a dangerously ‘mawkish’ attitude towards the Armed Forces.

‘I think that the British people hold the Armed Forces in a state of excessive reverence at the present time. It is a greater infatuation than at any other stage of recent military history that I can recall,’ he said.

With these comments, he has put his finger on a subtle, but crucial and potentially catastrophic shift in our national psyche. So what’s wrong with ‘reverence’, you may ask. Well, General Fry is making a brutal and, indeed, shocking observation — that the British hold dead soldiers in deep esteem while despising the causes for which they are currently laying down their lives.

This is because fundamental assumptions about this nation and the wars fought on its behalf have been shattered.

For most of the past two centuries, he observed, there had been an unspoken agreement that any war fought by Britain would be based on acknowledged rules; this country would most likely win that war; and the outcome would be largely beneficial.

That consensus, however, was broken with the war in Iraq — and may never be repaired.

The result has been that the public now mourn excessively the soldiers who have fallen in battle — who are seen increasingly as the victims, not of the enemies of this country but of its government that commits Britain to fight wars its people no longer support.

That is an utterly devastating observation. Devastating because it is true — and because of its implications.

For Britain is a fighting nation. It is a land of historic and classic warrior heroes. Military power is part of its DNA.

For centuries, it has successfully used that power to advance its national interests abroad and defend them at home. From the Armada to Trafalgar to the Battle of Britain, military prowess has been synonymous with British greatness and is etched deep into the nation’s cultural memory.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Blood-Clotting Drug Given to Wounded Soldiers Can Cause Heart Attacks

Trials of NovoSeven, used to halt blood loss, suggest it is no more effective than placebo and raises risk of clots in arteries

A drug given to wounded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan may be putting their lives in further danger by causing heart attacks and strokes.

The treatment is used to stop serious bleeding in injured troops, but trials show the drug increases the risk of blood clots forming in arteries, which can kill or cause complications that result in amputation.

The dangerous side effects are all the more concerning because years of trials have yet to prove the drug is any better at saving the lives of injured soldiers than a placebo.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Government to Compensate Ex-Guantanamo Bay Detainees Continue Reading the Main Story

Former detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp are in line for UK government compensation totalling in the millions of pounds.

About a dozen former prisoners, including Binyam Mohamed, will be granted the out-of-court settlement.

They had alleged that British security forces were complicit in their torture before they arrived at Guantanamo.

The UK’s Cabinet Office has said a ministerial statement will be made on Tuesday.

It is believed the government wanted to avoid a lengthy and costly court case which would also have put the British secret intelligence services under the spotlight.

Avoiding costs

Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Binyam Mohamed, Martin Mubanga were among those who had begun High Court cases against the government.

In July, the High Court ordered the release of some of the 500,000 documents relating to the case.

BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins said that around 100 intelligence officers had been working around the clock preparing legal cases.

He said the government wanted to avoid the cost of the court case, and that the terms of the settlement would remain confidential — something wanted by both the men and ministers.

He added that the Intelligence and Security Committee and the National Audit Office would be briefed about the payments.

He said the government would now be able to move forward with plans for an inquiry, led by Sir Peter Gibson, into claims that UK security services were complicit in the torture of terror suspects.

The Cabinet Office said: “The prime minister set out clearly in his statement to the House (of Commons) on July 6 that we need to deal with the totally unsatisfactory situation where for ‘the past few years, the reputation of our security services has been overshadowed by allegations about their involvement in the treatment of detainees held by other countries’.”

Tuesday’s statement is expected to be made by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.

The UK security services have always denied any claims that they have used or condoned the use of torture.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols [Return to headlines]

UK: Happiness Index to Gauge Britain’s National Mood

The UK government is poised to start measuring people’s psychological and environmental wellbeing, bidding to be among the first countries to officially monitor happiness.

Despite “nervousness” in Downing Street at the prospect of testing the national mood amid deep cuts and last week’s riot in Westminster, the Office of National Statistics will shortly be asked to produce measures to implement David Cameron’s long-stated ambition of gauging “general wellbeing”.

Countries such as France and Canada are looking at similar initiatives as governments around the world come under pressure to put less store on conventional economic measures of prosperity such as gross domestic product.

British officials say there is still hesitation in some parts of Whitehall over going ahead with the programme during such difficult economic times, but Cameron is said to want to place the eventual results at the heart of future government policy-making.

On 25 November, the government will ask the independent national statistician Jil Matheson to devise questions to add to the existing household survey by as early as next spring.

It will be up to Matheson to choose the questions but the government’s aim is for respondents to be regularly polled on their subjective wellbeing, which includes a gauge of happiness, and also a more objective sense of how well they are achieving their “life goals”.

The new data will be placed alongside existing measures to create a bundle of indications about our quality of life.

A government source said the results could be published quarterly in the same way as the British crime survey, but the exact intervals are yet to be agreed.

The source said: “The aim is to produce a fresh set of data, some of it new, some of using existing data sets currently not very well used, to be published — at a frequency to be decided — that assesses the psychological and physical wellbeing of people around the UK. So that’s objective measurements of, for instance, how much recycling gets done around the UK, alongside more subjective measures of psychology and attitudes.”

There are currently different views within the government on whether all indicators should be shrunk into one single wellbeing indicator or simple happiness index.

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

UK: Islam Channel to Appeal Against Ofcom Ruling

Islam Channel is planning to appeal against Ofcom’s ruling that the satellite TV network breached the regulator’s broadcasting code for advocating marital rape and violence against women.

Five programmes broadcast on the London-based Islam Channel between 2008 and 2009 were in breach of Ofcom’s broadcasting code, the regulator ruled last week.

Islam Channel was censured for breaching impartiality rules in programmes on the Middle East conflict and for programmes appearing to advocate marital rape, violence against women and describing women who wore perfume outside of the home as “prostitutes”.

Ofcom launched its investigation into Islam Channel programmes in March, following a report by the Quilliam Foundation thinktank accusing the broadcaster of regularly promoting extremist views and regressive attitudes towards women.

The Islam Channel today said it will request a review of all five Ofcom rulings, claiming it must have been “particularly difficult” for the regulator to make an objective judgment about the broadcaster’s output given the “media frenzy and sensationalist headlines” that surrounded the Quilliam report earlier this year.

Islam Channel claimed in a statement that it was “no stranger to attacks from those who wish to discredit and undermine those of influence in the Muslim community”.

The broadcaster cited the Quilliam Foundation as one of its chief attackers, accusing the thinktank of being a “fundamentalist organisation whose corrosive techniques of misinformation” and “junk research” had served to discredit its work.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Woman Tied Up in Lancashire Home by Teenage Burglarsa Woman Was Tied Up in Her Lancashire Home by Two Armed Burglars — One of Whom is Thought to be 14 Years Old.

The pair forced their way in to a house in Shearwater Drive, Blackburn, at about 2045 GMT on Friday. One was carrying a knife.

They tied the 36-year-old woman’s hands before fleeing with jewellery and cash.

The pair are both described as Asian. One was aged 14 to 15, and 5ft 3in (1.6m) tall. The other was aged about 25 and 5ft 10in (1.8m).

‘Serious offence’

The teenager was wearing a hooded jacket with the hood up and the man had dark tracksuit trousers and a black hooded jacket, also with the hood up, police said.

Det Sgt Tim Brown, of Lancashire Police, said: “This is a very serious offence and must have been particularly upsetting for the lady involved.

“We know the two men left the house via the back yard or garden on to Shearwater Drive and, even though it was dark, I’m sure there were lots of people about at the time that may have seen something important.”

He urged anyone with information to contact police.

           — Hat tip: GB [Return to headlines]


‘I Stopped World War Three by Refusing US Orders to Destroy Russian Forces, ‘ Claims James Blunt

James Blunt’s refusal to obey orders during the Balkans war prevented the start of World War Three, the singer has claimed.

The 36-year-old chart-topping singer made the stunning claims in an interview with John Pienaar on Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics.

Blunt, a former cavalry officer in the British Army, was leading a NATO column under order to seize the Pristina airfield in Kosovo in 1999.

Facing a 200-strong Russian advance, the then- 25-year-old was given orders to ‘destroy’ the Russian troops by the Supreme Allied Commander of the NATO Forces in Europe.

‘I was given a direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there,’ the You’re Beautiful hitmaker has revealed for the first time.

‘I was the lead officer, with my troop of men behind us… It was a mad situation.’

‘The direct command came in from General Wesley Clark was to overpower them. Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as “destroy” came down the radio.’

He said his men were given orders by the American general to ‘reach the airfield and take a hold of it.’

But Blunt — who served under his real name James Blount — says: ‘We had 200 Russians lined up pointing their weapons at us aggressively.’

The singer, who has gone on to sell over 11 million albums since leaving the forces in October 2002, risked a court martial by refusing to go along with the orders to attack, a command he feared would spark a major conflict with Russia.

‘I was declining my order. I was very clear on that,’ he said.

‘There are things that you do along the way that you know are right, and those that you absolutely feel are wrong.

‘That sense of moral judgment is drilled into us as soldiers in the British army.’

Blunt’s instinct was backed by the commander of the British Forces. ‘Fortunately, the singer remembered, ‘Up on the radio came General Sir Mike Jackson, whose words were, “I’m not going to have my soldiers start World War Three.”

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Al-Adel, New Al Qaeda Leader for West

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 11 — The Egyptian national Saif Al-Adel, in Arabic “sword of justice”, is one of the most important al Qaeda members and — according to the Daily Telegraph — was appointed by Osama bin Laden as the new leader of operations in the West.

According to his profile published on the FBI website on most wanted terrorists, the man was born between 1960 and 1963 in Egypt. He is wanted for the 1988 attacks on the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and has a price of two million dollars on his head.

An expert in explosives, he has reportedly trained dozens of terrorists in Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan.

Globalsecurity reports that Al-Adel recruited suicide bombers by the end of the ‘90s, culminating in the attack in October 2000 in the Yemenite port of Adan on the US torpedo-boat destroyer USS Cole, in which 17 Americans were killed. He fled to Iran after the September 11 2001 attacks and was forced to stay in a villa in a well-known tourist resort on the Caspian Sea. The man is thought to be one of the al Qaeda leaders who were released by the authorities in April. He is in Yemen at this moment, according to the Arab press. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Archbishop Bustros Clarifies His Words About Israel and the Promised Land

During the Synod for the Middle East controversy was sparked between Israel and the Holy See over words pronounced by the Melkite bishop at a press conference. The bishop said that he was referring to the claim of the settlers to build on Palestinian land because they are part of biblical Israel.

Washington (AsiaNews) — Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, archbishop of the Melkite Rite in Newton, Massachusetts, in an interview with “Jihad Watch” has clarified the meaning of his words, the Holy Scriptures, Promised Land and the Palestinians, which stirred controversy from Israel on October 23 during the Synod of Bishops on the Middle East.

Archbishop Bustros was quoted this sentence: “The Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands,” adding, “we Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people— all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people”

The archbishop has now told “Jiahd Watch:” During the press conference which was held at the end of the Synod, I presented this message in my role as president of the commission that drafted the message. I stated that, Israel cannot use the Biblical concept of a promised land to justify its occupation of Palestinian territory and the expulsion of Palestinians who have been living there for centuries”. He added: “We Christians cannot now speak about the Promised Land for the Jewish people. With Christ the Promised Land became the Kingdom of God.” Bustros concluded: “In my answer I was thinking in particular of Jewish settlers who claim their right to build on Palestinian territory by saying it forms part of biblical Israel, the land promised by God to the Jews according to the Old Testament… The creation of Israel in 1948 is a political issue, not religious”. Bustros realls that we are dealing with two extremes: that of the settlers, claiming the land by referring to the Bible, and those of Muslim fundamentalists, who claim it as part of Islam. “The message of the Synod takes a moderate position and clearly suggests, as regards the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians, the two-state solution.”

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

Caroline Glick: What the Palestinians Buy With American Money

Two weeks ago, a Palestinian from Bethlehem was arrested by the US-financed and trained Palestinian Authority security forces. He was charged with “carrying out commercial transactions with residents of a hostile state.”

No, he was not buying uranium from Iran. His purported crime was purchasing wood products from an Israeli community located beyond the 1949 armistice lines.

Denied bail by the US-funded PA magistrate’s court in Bethlehem, he has been remanded to custody pending the conclusion of his trial.

This man’s arrest is part of what the unelected, US-supported Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has touted as his “National Honor Fund.” The goal of this project is to ban all economic contact between Palestinians and Jews who live and work beyond the 1949 armistice lines. As far as the supposedly moderate Fayyad is concerned, those Jews and Israel generally comprise the “hostile state,” that the Palestinians under Fayyad’s leadership are being compelled to boycott…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick [Return to headlines]

Eid Al-Adha: Sheep Smugglers Kept Busy for Muslim Festival

Eid al-Adha means “the festival of the sacrifice” and is the most important holiday in the Muslim calendar.

Palestinians crowded into Ramallah’s market to shop and prepare for the four-day holiday. In Gaza’s market, sheep were paraded through the streets as people chose their meat for the holiday.

Muslims traditionally slaughter an animal during Eid-al-Adha, splitting the meat between the needy and family members.

But many may face disappointment this year as Gaza experiences a large shortage of cows and sheep for slaughter.

Smugglers have started bringing in sheep and cows for slaughter, to supplement what’s coming in from Israel, where bottlenecks at the only cargo crossing mean supply hasn’t kept up with demand.

Israel imposed a tight blockade on Gaza after the militant group Hamas seized power in June 2007 with only humanitarian aid and limited commercial goods allowed in.

Eid marks God’s gift of a ram to substitute for Abraham’s impending sacrifice of his son and begins on the tenth day of the month of Thi al-Haja, the twelfth month of the lunar Islamic calendar.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Hamas: Aid From Iran Without Any Political Price

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 11 — Hamas receives aid from Iran “without paying any political price,” said a high ranking official from the radical Palestinian movement in an interview that appeared today in pan-Arab daily al Hayat. “Hamas receives support from Iran, which does not attach any political price tag in return,” assured Khalil Hayya, a member of the political office of Hamas and part of the Palestinian legislative council. “We thank anyone who supports the Palestinian people and the resistance, and we thank Iran in particular,” added Hayya, who reiterated that “we will not allow any other denomination other than the Sunni tradition to penetrate into our land”. Hayya also denied speculations that Iran and Syria, the two main regional allies of the radical Palestinian movement, asked Hamas to make reconciliation efforts fail with Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). “Iran and Syria encourage us in terms of reconciliation,” said the Palestinian official. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Hour of the Hanging Judges: Demonizing Israel and Pretending it is Ordinary Criticism

By Barry Rubin

This is getting to be a pretty common kind of story. The mayor of Frankfurt invites a Jewish intellectual whose family left Germany in 1932 to speak on the anniversary of Kristallnacht. The problem is that this man, Alfred Grosser, is a ferocious critic of Israel.

Grosser claims the Gaza Strip is a concentration camp (possibly true, but if so it is a concentration camp owned and run by Hamas); calls for ending Israel as a Jewish state; urges Germany to be more critical of Israel; and blames Israeli policies (rather than the deliberate lies about them) as being responsible for increasing antisemitism (isn’t that what George Soros said?)

All of this is interpreted by the Christian Science Monitor, and many others, as merely rejecting:

“…the notion that criticism of Israel is synonymous with anti-Semitism. If Germans want to criticize the blockade of Gaza or treatment of Palestinians, they should be able to without guilt, many say.”

This is the usual absurd response.

But one can criticize Israel’s “blockade” of Gaza (I won’t explain here why it is needed and, no doubt, the people who criticize it have never read these reasons) without calling it a “concentration camp,” which implies deliberate mass murder.

But it is possible to criticize Israel without calling for its extinction-since that is, in fact, what abolishing the existence of a Jewish state means.

But one can say that Israeli policy is an element in growing antisemitism while also listing other elements, including the lying demonization of Israel so prevalent today. Of course, one would then have to talk about all the concessions and risks Israel has taken on behalf of peace in the last twenty years.

And when someone systematically uses such exaggeration, obsessively promotes such hatred, seeks such extreme solutions, sympathizes with those using violence to murder Jews, and leaves out so many facts…it is possible to speak of antisemitism as an element in that overall approach, isn’t it?

At times, I reflect, one hears echoes in such rhetoric and activity of a brave, new slogan: Kill the Jews! They really deserve it this time!

Often, however, this kind of talk is actually a result of naiveté and ignorance. This is equally true for Jews who say such things. Being Jewish doesn’t make them experts on Israel. But there is also a strong element of opportunism in taking such highly rewarded positions. No Jew need ever starve since he can always make a career bashing Israel.

Yet there is also a remarkable detachment from the facts on the ground.

In an interview, Grosser explains:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

US Weapons for Settlement Moratorium, Israeli Press

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, NOVEMBER 11 — A sign of a partial resumption of the moratorium on building in Israeli settlements in the West Bank in exchange for more US security aid to Israel is reported today by Israeli press sources, according to which Washington has already decided to increase its stock of weaponry in Israel. The press leak, which has not yet received official confirmation, has come out a few hours before a delicate meeting in New York between Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, overshadowed by the Israeli announcement of a new building plan for East Jerusalem.

According to the daily paper Haaretz, Washington — despite the irritation over East Jerusalem — is prepared to increase the value of its armaments kept in Israel by 400 million dollars (from the current 800 million to 1.2 billion) as a sort of guarantee against threats to regional security. It is a move which seems targeted at softening the Netanyahu’s position on the settlement issue. On this subject Yediot Ahronot added that the premier may announce a much-hoped for extension of the moratorium on settlement building (with the exclusion of certain compact blocks of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem) in exchange for a new agreement with the US for security and real time access to data from US satellites for Israeli anti-missile defense. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Christians in the Middle East Essential for the Survival of the Arab World

For the Saudi journalist Mshari Al — Zaydi, fundamentalism and the economic crisis have overshadowed the importance of Christians to Muslims in the construction of their countries. Arab society is self-destructing and attacks against minorities are an excuse to vent the blame on someone for the failures of the Islamic world. “Pluralism is the best protection against ignorance and intolerance.”

London (AsiaNews / Agencies) — “Christians are an essential part of the Middle East. Jesus himself was born in Palestine and was baptized on the banks of the Jordan. The Arab nations should co-exist with them and defend them. “ This, the assertion of Mshari Al — Zaydi, Saudi journalist and expert on Islam in Asharq Al-Awsat Arabic newspaper based in London.

In an article entitled “Our citizens Arab Christians” published today, Mshari examines the plight of Christians in the Middle East, starting with the recent attack against the church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. He writes”The bloody assault on Baghdad’s Church of Our Lady of Salvation has opened the door to a bigger question about the fate of Christian citizens in Middle Eastern countries, and the future of their presence there. Furthermore, it has exposed an Arab and Islamic wound, and we must get to the source of this crisis”.

Mashari stresses that recent events in Iraq is just the latest chapter in a campaign of murder that has as its goal to drive all Iraqi Christians from Mosul to Baghdad. “What is happening in Iraq — he continues — cannot be exclusively attributed to the deterioration of the security situation and the stagnation of the political condition. We cannot say that the attacks on Iraq’s Christians is a direct result of American incitement in the region, or part of some secret plan to drive a wedge between the people Iraq. “ The journalist mentions, in addition to the episodes in Iraq, attacks and other situations of intolerance against Christians and other minorities in Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and other Muslim-majority countries.

Citing the Lebanese intellectual Radwan al-Sayyid, Mshari points out that the situation experienced by Christians does not depend only on the growth of Islamic extremism and its rhetoric against the West. He points out that the economic crisis contributes to the exodus of Christians and is often the real excuse for the attacks against minorities.

“We suffer from a self-consuming syndrome in our Arab societies — he says -, and a desire to search for a scapegoat to blame for our general failure and decline. The minorities have always represented this scapegoat to the radicals and extremisms; with these minorities becoming the object of condemnation, taking the blame for polluting our nations. The idea that there is a pure untainted national identity with its own unique characteristics is a form of intellectual naivety. However the most dangerous thing about this is that it is an idea that resonates with the instincts of the general public who are looking for a demon to blame for society’s ills”.

Mshari stresses that Christians have taken part alongside the Muslims in the construction of the various Arab nations. “The ideas of those years — he says — served — and continue to serve — as categories for political identity, which have included many Arab intellectuals under non-religious and non-sectarian banners”. For the journalist the nature of the Arab world must be reconsidered starting from those ideas which previously succeeded in removing the influence of religious extremism, taking the best from various faiths. “If the Christian presence is removed completely from the Arab world — he concludes — this region will be characterized solely by Muslims and lose its Arab identity.” “Pluralism — Mshari insists — is the best protection against ignorance and intolerance.”

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

Hillary Clinton’s Silence on Iraqi Christian Genocide Must End

Iraq’s 2,000-year-old Christian community is on the brink of extinction, its members targeted by al Qaeda attacks and fleeing abroad. But Hillary Clinton, the one person who could force the Iraq government to act, is keeping her mouth shut.

A full-scale genocide is under way in Iraq: a well-planned, well-financed, deliberate plot to cleanse the country of its Christian citizens. And thus far, neither the Iraqi government nor the United States is doing anything to stop it.

On Wednesday, al Qaeda militants launch a synchronized bombing attack on 11 Christian communities throughout Iraq, killing six and wounding more than 30. That attack followed on the heels of the ghastly assault last month on Christian worshippers attending a service at Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad, in which 58 people were brutally murdered and another 60 wounded.

After that attack, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement condemning the violence: “Those with deviant thoughts from al Qaeda and their allies belonging to the followers of the ousted regime targeted our Christian brothers in a terrorist crime that aims at undermining security and stability, inciting strife and chaos and sending Iraqis away from their home.”

Yet beyond these empty words, the Iraqi government has done absolutely nothing to protect the besieged Christian community from further attack, despite a promise from al Qaeda in Iraq that “all Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for Mujahedeen wherever they can reach them.” Indeed, just a couple of days after Maliki’s speech, three more bombs aimed at Christians went off in western Baghdad.

But now this historic community is on the brink of extinction. Since the American invasion in 2002, more than half of Iraq’s Christians have fled the country. The Christian community, like everyone else in Iraq, was caught up in the ethnic war that erupted in 2004 between the Shiites and Sunnis, and they have frequently been targeted both by Iraqi militants and by the mostly foreign fighters who constitute al Qaeda in Iraq. But Iraq’s Christians have not experienced anything like the deliberate targeting of their community over this past year. Hundreds of Christians have been murdered in 2010 and thousands more have left the country, fearing for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Despite this unprecedented bloodshed, little effort has been made by the Iraqi or U.S. governments to secure the livelihoods of Iraq’s Christians. “I blame the government for all these attacks. It’s a very weak government and it can’t protect us,” Zeya Moshi, an Iraqi Christian, told the Christian Science Monitor. After meeting with Maliki, the Syrian Archbishop Matti Shaba Matoka sounded less than confident in the government’s ability to protect his congregation. “The security authorities promised to protect us, but we don’t know what kind of procedures they’ve put in place,” he told the Christian Science Monitor.

The silence of the Iraqi government has led to calls from the U.K.-based Syriac Archbishop Athanasios Dawood for Iraq’s Christian community to flee the country. “The Christian people should leave their beloved land of our ancestors and escape the premeditated ethnic cleansing,” he said in a statement to CNN. “This is better than having them killed one by one.” Many Christians have already left Iraq; almost 150 were recently granted asylum by the French government. Those who cannot afford to do so have found some measure of refuge in the Kurdish north.

Maliki has not taken kindly to the offers of international organizations and foreign governments to take in Iraq’s beleaguered Christian community. “The countries that have welcomed the victims… of this attack have done a noble thing,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse. “But that should not encourage emigration.”

The prime minister is right. Emigration is not the answer. Christians were residing in Mesopotamia more than 500 years before Muslims arrived in the region. This sacred land belongs as much to them as to anyone else, and it would be a tragedy if it were stripped of its Christian presence. But without a concerted effort to protect the Christian population, the Iraqi government will be complicit in what is fast becoming a catastrophic act of ethnic cleansing.

Now that a new government has finally formed, it is time for Maliki to switch his focus from trying to remain prime minister to fulfilling his duty as head of state to protect the most vulnerable among his population. But let’s be honest—without enormous pressure from his backers in the U.S., Maliki has little incentive to turn his attention to this problem. And yet the U.S. and the international community thus far have barely managed to muster the most muted response to anti-Christian violence in Iraq. This week the United Nations Security Council and the United States released a bland and utterly ineffectual statement condemning the attacks on Iraq’s Christians “in the strongest terms,” while at the same time reaffirming its support “for the people and government of Iraq.”

That is not nearly enough to get the attention of the Iraqi government. What is needed is a firm condemnation by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacting specifically to al Qaeda’s explicit plans to rid Iraq of its Christian communities and warning the Iraqi government that there will be dire consequences to its continuing inaction on this urgent matter. A number of online petitions have sprung up on the Internet urging Clinton to do just that, but so far there has been no official statement by the U.S. government.

This silence cannot stand. Americans of all faiths must band together and pressure the State Department to do something about the wanton murder of Iraqi Christians before it’s too late and there are no more Christians in Iraq to protect. What is happening in Iraq is genocide, plain and simple. It must be stopped now.

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

Injured From Iraq Church Attack to be Treated in Rome

Rome, 12 Nov.(AKI) — More than two dozen Iraqis wounded in an deadly attack on a Christian church in Baghdad are expected to arrive in Rome on Friday for treatment, the Italian Foreign Ministry said.

Italy transported 26 wounded aboard a military aircraft after Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, asked Italy to treat survivors of the assault on Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation church which left 58 people dead and 78 wounded on 31 October, according to the Friday statement.

The attack — the deadliest against Christians in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq — was condemned by Pope Benedict XVI as “senseless” and “ferocious”.

Many Muslims also denounced the killings.

Militants have carried out further bombing assaults targeting Iraqi Christians following the church attack.

The injured will be transferred to a Rome hospital after arriving at a military base near the Italian capital.

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

Saudi Arabia: Man Jailed for Displaying Photo of Hezbollah Leader

Riyadh, 15 Nov. (AKI) — A Saudi court has sentenced a Shia man to 15 days in prison for displaying a photo of a Lebanese Hezbollah leader in his office in the al-Ahsa governorate, according to Arab-language news service Al-Rased.

Samir Ahmad al-Hamadi was arrested for having a photo of Hassan Nasrallah — the current secretary general of the powerfulLebanese political and paramilitary organisation Hezbollah.

Security forces have in the last few days arrested other members of the minority Shia community for fixing a sticker of Nasrallah onto a car window.

Shias make up only a tiny minority of the overwhelmingly Sunni Saudi Arabia.

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

‘Virginity Healer’ Seized in Saudi Arabia

Saudi authorities have arrested an Arab woman who had claimed she can restore lost virginity for girls by simply inhaling burning incense, the Saudi Arabic language daily Okaz reported on Saturday.

The unidentified woman had lured many girls into her house in Makkah and made them inhale burning acacia wood, the paper said.

The woman had charged SR200 for each treatment session and required victims to undergo many sessions for a full cure, the paper said.

A female relative was acting as the woman’s secretary by giving appointments by mobile phone to patients seeking to recover their lost virginity, it said.

“We have arrested this woman because her activities are mere deception and have no medical basis,” said Abdul Rahman Al Ruwais, head of the Arab Medicine Section at Health Department in Makkah. “We have handed her over to the concerned authorities to take the necessary measures against her.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghani Former Muslim May Get Death Penalty for Conversion

Our soldiers die for them and they kill Christian converts.

Celebrating Veteran’s Day is an important reminder that our soldiers die for our freedom and often the freedoms of others. So how should we respond when a country we have set free from tyranny is murdering their people that leave Islam for Christianity? That has been happening in Afghanistan and may happen again after a judgment today in an Afghani court.

Sayed Mossa, an Afghan convert from Islam to Christianity, has been scheduled to stand trial today and most likely will be sentenced to death. His trial for apostasy will probably be televised in the war-torn country, and it appears Mossa may not even have adequate representation. Every lawyer, all Muslims, that has been appointed by the courts to represent Mossa have refused. They dare not defend someone who converted to Christianity.

Mossa is a 45 year old, married, father of six children. His youngest is 8 and he has one disabled child. Mossa is an amputee and has spent 15 years of his life helping others with the International Red Cross. However a co-worker turned Mossa in for being a Christian convert — a crime in most Muslim nations practicing Sharia law.

In October Mossa gave a letter to a Western visitor so others may hear his story. Mossa said he has been imprisoned since May “due to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, saviour of the world.” He went on to describe much of what he has gone through while in prison.

The government appears to have been promoting such ill treatment. Many outside observers wonder how the courts could condemn Mossa considering some of the country’s commitments in UN statements and their own Constitution. The Karzai government is a signatory of the UN Declaration on Human Rights. That document calls for freedom of religion and equal access to “a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.” It also states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”…

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]

India: Talaq Uttered by Muslim Man on Cellphone Valid: Deoband

Talaq uttered thrice by a Muslim man on a mobile phone will be considered valid even if his wife is unable to hear it all the three times due to network and other problems, a fresh fatwa has ruled.

The fatwa was given by Darul-Ifta, the fatwa department of leading Sunni Islamic seminary Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband, in reply to a query by a man.

The man in his query had asked that in case no witness was present when he utters talaq thrice to his wife over phone whether it would be considered valid or not.

“I angrily said talaq three times to my wife on cell phone but she claimed that she didn’t hear it even once and nobody was around both of us. Please tell me whether talaq has taken place,” he asked.

In its reply, Dar-ul-Ifta said, “If you have given three talaqs to your wife, all the three took place and she became haram (forbidden) for you.”

The fatwa said the woman will be free to marry anywhere she likes after her iddat (three month period after divorce) is over.

“It is not necessary for talaq to take place that the wife hears it or the witnesses are present,” it ruled.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Persecution in the Name of Islam

Earlier this year the European Parliament passed a resolution highlighting the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan. For the European Union, and in particular for MEPs, the right to freedom of worship is fundamental, universal and non-negotiable. In Pakistan, however, the free practice of religion — at least for non-Muslims — is difficult, hazardous and rare.

Part of the problem of religious persecution in Pakistan stems from the establishment of the country itself in 1947 and the promulgation of its constitution in 1956. It is officially called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which, in effect, makes the state indivisible from Islam. Pakistan placed religion at the heart of its raison d’etre in order to distinguish itself from its rival India, from which it had been separated.

But whereas India has developed into a sophisticated democracy in which people of all religions and none live side by side in relative harmony, Pakistan has gone the opposite way. Indeed, Pakistan’s attitude to religious freedom stems also from its attitude to political freedom.

Democracy — at least as we in the EU understand it — remains elusive in Pakistan. For much of its history Pakistan has been ruled by military dictators, and even during periods of civilian government the army has maintained ultimate power, as regular coups d’état have shown. Moreover, the military has cynically used Islamisation as a means of controlling the population.

This process gathered pace under General Zia ul-Haq, who imposed draconian and disproportionately harsh laws during the 1970s and 1980s in order to enshrine the dominance of Islam.

The Hudood Ordinance was a law passed in 1979 that replaced civil sentences for various crimes with sharia punishments as mandated by the Koran. One of its consequences was to make it extremely difficult and dangerous for women to prove an allegation of rape. Pakistan’s own National Commission on the Status of Women estimated in 2003 that eighty per cent of women in prison had been incarcerated for adultery because they had failed to prove an allegation of rape.

This part of the Hudood Ordinance was repealed in 2006 by a law that made rape a crime prosecutable under civil law. However, the new law has proved extremely difficult to enforce in a country with such a weak government and conservative society. Islamist groups, which maintain a powerful grip over Pakistani society, have demanded the reintroduction of the Hudood Ordinance calling it God’s divine punishment and a victim of unjust propaganda by human rights organisations.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Qantas A380 Sustained Worse Damage Than First Thought

The exploded engine was scary enough. But in the days following the emergency landing of the Qantas A380 in Singapore, it has become clear just how dangerous the situation was. Multiple systems on the aircraft failed and a disaster was only narrowly avoided.

Rarely had so much flying expertise been assembled in one cockpit. A training pilot was sitting behind Captain Richard de Crespigny, who was completing his annual flight test. Sitting next to them was a third captain whose job was to supervise the training pilot. Together, the Airbus A380 operated by Australia’s Qantas Airways had a total of 100 years of flying experience sitting in its cockpit.

Four minutes after takeoff from Singapore, that accumulated expertise was suddenly in great demand. At an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,560 feet), engine two of the double-decker aircraft exploded. The loud bang of the detonation had hardly faded away before 53 error messages appeared on the monitors.

Upon reading the matter-of-fact messages, the five pilots realized immediately how serious the situation was. Kerosene was leaking from two of the 12 fuel tanks, which meant that the plane could catch fire at any moment.

“It was unbelievably stressful. But in a situation like that, you have no choice but to keep on going,” says Richard Woodward. The captain knows what he is talking about. He also flies the A380 for Qantas, is the vice president of the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and has looked after the crew since the near-catastrophe almost two weeks ago. “The crew has dealt with this situation extraordinarily well,” Woodward reports. “They’re like horseback riders who, after a fall, are eager to get back on their horses.”

Failed to Activate

The men have given him their accounts of those dramatic moments in the air. There were no warnings before the engine exploded — no change in oil pressure, no unusual vibrations, nothing. When the explosion occurred, the captain quickly pressed an emergency button that activates an automatic extinguishing system when there is an engine fire. But the system failed to activate. “It was clear to him at that point that there must have been more damage,” says Woodward.

One of the training pilots ran back into the cabin, where he saw the holes in the wing caused by loose metal parts from the turbine. As a result, De Crespigny could not dump fuel properly to reduce the weight of the fully fueled aircraft for an emergency landing. He was also unable to pump kerosene from the back to the front of the aircraft, causing it to become increasingly unstable as kerosene escaped.

The incident raises serious questions for both engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and Airbus. “How could there have been this much loss of function?” asks Woodward.

One of the two hydraulic systems failed and important connecting cables were severed, including those leading to the outer engine one. Although the pilot could still control the engine manually, it could no longer be shut off, so that firefighters had to smother it with extinguishing foam after the emergency landing.

Bad Brakes

“This raises the question of whether the aircraft is improperly designed,” says Woodward. “Apparently certain connections are not redundant; or the two cables are positioned so close together that the shrapnel destroyed them simultaneously.”

The aircraft manufacturer is defending itself against such accusations. The aircraft, says Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath, was “controllable until the landing,” and the autopilot continued to function. “There are two separate hydraulic and electrical systems,” Schaffrath adds.

But some of the brakes were no longer working properly. Luckily, the pilots were able to land in Singapore, which has a very long, 4,000-meter runway.

Another dramatic aspect of the emergency landing was that an anti-lock system also stopped working. Three tires burst when the plane touched down as a result, sending sparks into the air. “And that was with two holes in the tank!” says Woodward…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Taliban Chief Mullah Omar Rules Out Afghan Peace Talks

In a statement, Mullah Omar said “rumours of negotiation” were a ploy by Western powers to “cover up” their military defeat in Afghanistan.

A BBC correspondent says some insurgents — including some Taliban — have spoken to the Afghan government.

But Western diplomats say there have been no high-level talks.

Mullah Omar’s wordy statement was released to media outlets and jihadist websites on the eve of the Muslim holiday Eid.

It comes four days before Nato leaders gather in the Portuguese capital Lisbon for a summit set to be dominated by the Afghan conflict.

Withdrawal In his statement, Mullah Omar says: “The enemy is retreating and facing siege in all parts of the country day in and day out. Their life casualties are spiralling up.

“It is because of this pressure that the enemy has resorted to spreading the misleading rumours of peace talks.”

Mullah Omar, who is rumoured to be in Pakistan, says the “sole way for our salvation is the armed jihad”, or holy war.

The “solution of the issue lies in withdrawal of the foreign invading troops and establishment of a true Islamic and independent system in the country,” he adds.

Mullah Omar also addresses former jihadi leaders working with Hamid Karzai’s administration, urging them to join the struggle against the invaders.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Your Signature to Save Asia Bibi and Pakistan

An online petition (to be sent to AsiaNews, or directly to the President of Pakistan) for the revocation of the death sentence for a Christian woman sentenced to hang for blasphemy. But we are also asking for the cancellation or overhaul of the blasphemy law, which is destroying harmony and development in Pakistan.

Rome (AsiaNews) — At our reader’s request, AsiaNews has decided to launch an international petition to be sent to President Asif Zardari to save the life of Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to hanging for blasphemy. AsiaNews is also asking President Zardari to cancel or change the unjust blasphemy law, which kills many innocent victims and destroys coexistence in the country. We are asking you to support this initiative by sending a message to the following email:

Or you can send a message directly to the Pakistani President:

Our campaign is one of many being launched in Italy (with Tv2000), Pakistan, India and the United States.

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman of 45, mother of five children, was sentenced to death for blasphemy on November 7 last. A Punjab court in ruled that the woman, a farm worker, offended the Prophet Mohammed. But in reality, Asia Bibi was first insulted as “impure” (because not-Islamic), then forced to defend her Christian faith in the face of pressure from other Muslim labourers. The husband of one of them, the local imam, decided to launch charges and denounce the woman, who was first beaten, then imprisoned and finally, after one year, sentenced to death.

Asia Bibi and her husband Ashiq Masih have decided to appeal to overturn the ruling. Meanwhile, the mother now faces months of imprisonment at the mercy of prison guards or some fanatic who could kill her under the misguided belief that he is giving glory to Allah.

Up until now, the blasphemy law had not led to an execution of any accused or convicted. But 33 people charged with blasphemy were killed in prison by guards, or in the vicinity of the court. The latest such case involved two Protestant Christians, Pastor Emmanuel and his brother Rashid Sajjad, shot at point blank range as they left the court in Faisalabad on 19 July. However we can group these deaths with those killed in the massacres of entire villages, in Gojra, Korian, Kasur, Sangla Hill, where hundreds of houses belonging to Christians were burned and where women and children were killed or burned alive, just because one member of the village had been accused of blasphemy.

It is now startlingly clear that this law has become a tool in the hands of fundamentalists that pit Muslims against Christians in order to measure the extent of their power over Pakistani society. It is also clear that almost all the accusations of blasphemy are born from envy, revenge, competition, and that the arrest of the accused is but the first step to allow the expropriation of land, looting and theft.

We desperately want to save Asia Bibi. But we can not content ourselves with this alone. We must strive so that this law, defined by the Pakistanis themselves as “obscene”, is changed or better yet, revoked. It was desired by the dictator Zia ul-Haq in 86, in exchange for the Islamic community’s support. But in doing so he laid the foundation for the destruction of Pakistan. This country, founded as a secular republic and neutral toward religion, has become an Islamic state that kills its own people, destroys its own social fabric and is of major concern to the international community.

The blasphemy law has become a sword of Damocles over every person’s head and especially those belonging to minorities, who are paying dearly; Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus, Muslims but also Shiites and Sunnis.

By eliminating this law — or at least curbing it — new impetus will be given to interfaith coexistence in Pakistan, to democracy and development. This will also give greater breadth to security and the international community, which views the spread of Taliban rule in a country that has nuclear weapons with concern.

We believe that the only bulwark to the growth of fundamentalism is to ensure equal coexistence between Christians and Muslims. For this reason we ask for the life of Asia Bibi to be saved. And with this we ask, we hope that Pakistan may also be saved.

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

Far East

Cote d’Azur: Second French Destination for Chinese

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, NOVEMBER 5 — The Cote d’Azur, where the Chinese President Hu Jintao is due to arrive this afternoon, is the second favourite destination for Chinese people visiting France, after Paris. The clientele (6%) has developed exponentially and is high-end,according to the head of tourism in Nice, Rudy Salles, especially if considered that tourism was practically non-existent ten years ago.

On the Cote d’Azur, Chinese tourists spend an average of 2’5 euros a day per person, less on organised trips and more individually or as part of family trips.

Nice hosts the majority of Chinese tourists (60%), who are particularly interested in shopping (60%), landscapes, monuments and museums (30%) and casinos (10%). Paris remains the favourite destination (80% of the market) and is the only French city directly linked to China. Salles has asked the Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific to extend one of its two flights from Hong Kong to Italy (Milan and Rome) as far as Nice. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Swedish Honeymooner Killed in South Africa

A Swedish woman on honeymoon in South Africa with her British millionaire husband has been found dead following a carjacking incident outside of Cape Town.

The 28-year-old Swedish woman, named by the Expressen newspaper as Anni Dewani from Mariestad in central Sweden, was traveling with her 31-year-old British husband, Shrien Dewani of Bristol, when two armed men stopped the minivan in which they were traveling, according to several media reports.

“It’s just terrible. She was the most beautiful girl in the world,” Dewani’s father, Vinod Hindocha, told Expressen.

Anni and Shrien Dewani had been married just three weeks ago in India and arrived in South Africa last week to celebrate their marriage.

The newlyweds had been out to dinner on Saturday night and taken a taxi from the restaurant when two men forced the driver out of the minivan and drove off with the couple around 11pm.

Upon being released by the kidnappers, Shrien Dewani called the police, who later found his wife murdered in the taxi.

“We know that a Swedish citizen has been found dead in South Africa and that the police are looking into it,” Swedish foreign ministry spokesperson Camilla Åkesson told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

According to the foreign ministry, the woman is from central Sweden.

The carjackling and murder has received a great deal of attention in the South African and British media. The Cape Town tourism office said that the murder was the first killing of a tourist since last summer when South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup football tournament.

The two men stopped the taxi as it was traveling in Guguletu, a township about 15 kilometres outside of Cape Town, the tourist office told the Sapa news agency on the news website.

After being released near the Khayelitsha shantytown, Shrien Dewani received a ride to a nearby police station from a passing motorist.

The police launched a search for Anni Dewani and later found the taxi in Lingelethu West. The murdered woman’s body was in the back seat. The killers disappeared without a trace.

Alan Winde, a tourism official for the Western Cape, theorised that the taxi driver may have gotten lost.

“They were returning to the city at 10pm and they asked the driver to take them to a very well-known hotspot in Guguletu,” Winde told SkyNews.

“It sounds as though they had gone a little off course when the carjacking took place.”

Police spokesperson André Traut refused to comment on how the woman was killed prior to an autopsy, he told Sapa.

But Anni Dewani’s father told Expressen his daughter had been shot.

“She took three bullets to the chest,” he told the newspaper.

“There aren’t words to describe her. She was a dream girl.”

According to Expressen, Anni Dewani grew up in Mariestad and studied engineering at colleges in Gävle in eastern Sweden and Halmstad in western Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Latino Kids Now Majority in California’s Public Schools

Latinos now make up a majority of California’s public school students, cracking the 50 percent barrier for the first time in the state’s history, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Education.

Almost 50.4 percent of the state’s students in the 2009-10 school year identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, up 1.36 percent from the previous year.

In comparison, 27 percent of California’s 6.2 million students identified themselves as white, 9 percent as Asian and 7 percent as black. Students calling themselves Filipino, Pacific Islander, Native American or other total almost 7 percent.

While the result was no surprise to educators, experts say the shift underscores the huge impact Latinos already have on California’s politics, economy and school system.

That influence will only grow as Latino parents — now in the majority — realize many of the schools their children attend are underfunded, said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley.

“It turns upside down how we think about California students,” he said.

“A lot depends on the extent to which Latino parents come together and organize,” Fuller added. “These are parents who historically have not had much political power. But as they are coming together and feeling their oats, they may organize around education.”

Corresponding growth

It’s no surprise that Latinos make up the new majority in California schools, considering that their numbers have grown by leaps and bounds in recent decades. In 2009, Latinos made up 37 percent of the state’s population, a number that continues to increase, according to the California Department of Finance.

But their electoral sway has not grown by similar amounts, because almost 40 percent of adult Latinos in California are ineligible to vote, said Lisa Garcia Bedolla, an associate professor at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education.

The challenge, she said, is finding ways to get Latino parents involved in schools when they cannot vote for members of their local school board.

“How do we come up with constructive ways to do that, considering the limitations on how these parents can participate? That’s the question from here,” she said.

In San Francisco, where an estimated one-third of public school students have a parent who was not born in this country, voters were asked this month to allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections. While Proposition D lost, 45 to 55 percent, the support the ballot measure received from civic leaders showed the growing concern about the role of immigrant parents in local schools.

Electoral clout

While underrepresented on the voting rolls, Latino voters are an increasingly important factor in California elections.

In this month’s gubernatorial election, Republican candidate Meg Whitman’s firing of an undocumented immigrant housekeeper who worked for her for nine years, and her handling of the controversy after the employment was disclosed, was seen as damaging her standing among Latinos and hurting her at the polls.

In that election, 16 percent of likely voters were expected to be Latino, according to a Field Poll released the day of the election. Latinos now make up 22 percent of the state’s registered voters, according to the same survey.

California schools need to do a better job of reaching out to that increasing number of Latino students, said David Gomez, president of the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators and a school superintendent in Ventura County.

Everybody bilingual?

Nearly 1.5 million students are English language learners, but many more still struggle in the classroom with difficult, subject-specific terms, he said.

“For example, if you are studying social science, understanding words like ‘justice’ and ‘beauty’ can be difficult,” he said. “In math, it can be even harder.”


[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: VVD: Romania, Bulgaria Not in Schengen Yet

AMSTERDAM, 16/11/10 — The conservatives (VVD) fear a flood of poor Romanian and Bulgarian fortune-seekers if these countries join the Schengen zone next year. The biggest government party wants the cabinet to follow the critical line that France has taken.

Citizens from Schengen counties can travel to other Schengen countries without passport control and visas. Romania and Bulgaria became EU members in 2007. Currently, their citizens are still subject to controls at the border of, for example, Hungary. But under current planning, they will become Schengen countries from March 2011.

For the VVD, a flood of poor East European fortune-hunters is a spectre of horror. The party has asked Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal and Immigration and Asylum Minister Gerd Leers to follow the French wish not to award Schengen membership for now and to link the question to the results of a report to be presented next summer by the European Commission on the progress in the fight against corruption and organised crime in Romania and Bulgaria.

French Economic Affairs Minister Lellouche said last week that he hoped to postpone the decision with Dutch support at least until the summer. According to VVD MP Han ten Broeke, the Dutch government shares the same wishes as Paris but The Hague must be “much more active and immediately seek to join up with France.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Home Office Sends Boy, 4, Letter Telling Him He and His Mother Will be Deported

A boy aged four has been sent a letter from the Home Office informing him that he and his mother are facing deportation.

British-born Cher Siyamuanya, and his mother Netsui Karota, 28, received separate letters telling them they were ‘liable to removal’ from the UK.

But Ms Karota fears if she is returned to her homeland of Zimbabwe she will be executed or jailed for speaking out against Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime.

This would mean that Cher could be thrown into prison with her, or forced to live as an orphan on the country’s lawless streets.

An immigration judge said her story was ‘a pack of lies’ and ordered her out of Britain.

In a heartfelt plea to Home Office officials, she said: ‘I can’t go back there, I don’t know what will happen.

‘They sent me and Cher letters last month saying we are ‘liable to removal’, he can’t read or understand his, but he is worried when he sees me worried.’

A Home Office spokesman said it was a legal requirement for all members of a family facing deportation proceedings to be served with such a notice.

Ms Karota came to the UK in 2006 after fleeing Zimbabwe via Malawi. Her parents were both murdered.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Germany: Funeral Home Tries to Cater to Gay Funerals With Erotic Caskets

A Cologne funeral home is hoping to draw in gay clientele by offering erotic caskets with nude renaissance imagery or rainbow-coloured urns, along with other tailored services for homosexuals and their mourners.

A casket featuring the figures of muscular young men in athletic poses has been in the display case at Königsfeld & Brandl for the last three weeks.

The operators of the funeral home Thomas Brandl, 32, and Michael Königsfeld, 34, are themselves are a couple and aim to cater to both gays and lesbians in addition to straight customers.

Their ad reads: “Those who want a warmer, somewhat more fantastical departure, will find us to be a sensitive partner.”

They put gay customers in contact with special speakers and religious leaders for funeral services, organise natural burials in places where only other gays or lesbians have been laid to rest, arrange for graveside champagne toasts and colourful balloon decorations.

“There is also a casket in rainbow colours, but I think it looks awful,” Brandl says.

The mortician couple hopes tap into the community needs in the Rhineland city, one of Germany’s centres of gay culture where every tenth resident is estimated to be gay.

“Naturally there were people who threw their hands up in horror in front of the display window,” said Königsfeld.

But most passers-by are delighted by what they call their “gay caskets,” including women of a certain age, he added.

“We had a widow in the office whose husband we buried and she was quite taken with the firm young men on the casket,” he said.

In particular, women between the ages of 60 and 80 seem particularly open to the model, he said.

But one rival undertaker has called the caskets “borderline,” while another said he wasn’t sure such a casket provided a dignified burial.

Still Brandl and Königsfeld believe they are on the right track.

“It’s not easy for gays and lesbians to tell an undertaker that they must bury their life partner,” they said together in an advertisement. “In this most difficult of situations it is easier for them to have a contact person who understands them.”


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


World’s Oldest Embryo Fossils Shed Light on Dinosaur Parenting

Fossilized dinosaur embryos, found still in their eggshells, have claimed the title of the oldest vertebrate embryos ever seen—they were fossilized in the early Jurassic Period, around 190 million years ago, researchers say. The embryos are from the species Massospondylus, a prosauropod, the family of dinosaurs which gave rise to iconic sauropods like the Brachiosaurus.

Robert Reisz and his team found the embryos when analyzing a clutch of fossilized eggs collected in South America in 1976. The find was just published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

“This project opens an exciting window into the early history and evolution of dinosaurs,” said Professor Reisz. “Prosauropods are the first dinosaurs to diversify extensively, and they quickly became the most widely spread group, so their biology is particularly interesting as they represent in many ways the dawn of the age of dinosaurs.” [BBC News]

The well-preserved embryos are about 8 inches long and are detailed enough to give researchers a good look at what the juvenile Massospondylus looked like. What they found wasn’t exactly elegant. The juveniles looked similar to adult sauropods like Brachiosaurus, with an oversized head and four-legged strut (unlike the adult Massospondylus, which walked on two legs).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]