News Feed 20101118

Financial Crisis
» Brussels, UK Readying ‘Oliver Cromwell Package’ For Ireland
» Eurozone Let Them Go Bust
» ‘Germany Has a Vital Interest in Ensuring Irish Solvency’
» Ireland: Was it for This?
» Airport Staff Warned They Face Prosecution if They Touch Passengers ‘Inappropriately’ As Backlash Over Pat-Down Security Checks Grows
» Barack Obama Under Pressure Over 9/11 Terror Trials
» Barack Obama ‘Determined to Close Guantánamo’
» Body Scanners Have ‘Mutagenic Effects’
» Essential U.S. Spy Satellite Launching Friday
» Expert: TSA Scans Would Let Al-Qaida Duplicate 9/11
» Napolitano Considering Allowing Muslim Women to Pat Themselves Down at Airports!
» Officials: Deerpark Middle School Bomb Threat Suspect a Juvenile Overseas
» Rattner is Sued by Cuomo, Settles With S.E.C.
» Soros Group Says Obama Can Use Armed Forces to Push “Progressive” Agenda
» USA/UK: Why Republicans and Tories No Longer See Eye-to-Eye
Europe and the EU
» Anti-Terror Police Probe Explosion Near Loch Lomond
» Churches Lose Their Vicars as Anglicans “Jump Ship” For Rome, Warns Rowan Williams
» Eastern Germany Confronts Skilled Labor Shortage
» EU Criticises New Immigration Regulations
» Germany Tells Al-Qaida ‘You Have No Chance!’
» Icelandic Minister Criticises ‘Kafka-esque’ EU Talks
» In Swedish Schools, Kids Can Listen to iPods and Use Mobiles in Class. And Anyone Who Protests is a ‘Nazi’
» Italy: Berlusconi Adds New Penis to Ancient Statue
» NATO Must Continue Operations ‘Beyond Our Borders’
» Secret Documents Group Was Like ‘Bad Le Carre Novel, ‘ MEP Says
» Suspected Bomb With Running Clock Found in Luggage on Air Berlin Flight From Namibia to Germany
» Sweden: Gothenburg Terror Trial Comes to a Close
» UK: Bomb in a Forest: Loch Lomond Blast is Linked to Al Qaeda
» UK: Cop Guard for Poppy Burner
» UK: Hague is No Longer the Right’s Standard Bearer [£]
» UK: Hague: Britain to Remain Closest US Ally
» UK: Hague Presses Clinton to Release Guantanamo Inmate
» UK: Police Arrest ‘Husband and Father-in-Law After Asian Woman is Found Stabbed to Death Following Family Row’
» UK: Schoolboy Who Received Death Threats From Muslim Gang After Supporting British Troops ‘Will Not Return to School’
North Africa
» Egypt: Increasing Tension Between Muslims and Copts. Burned Houses, Battle Over Church
» Elections: Egypt ‘Outraged’ By US ‘Interference’
Israel and the Palestinians
» Hebrew-Language Message Threatens Continued Fire Into Israel
Middle East
» Baghdad Church Attack Victims to be Honoured in St Peters’ Mass
» Iraq: Archbishop of Mosul Warns of Change in Strategy in Attacks on Christians
» Iraq: President Talabani Refuses to Sign Tariq Aziz Execution Order
» Iraq: President Talabani Has No Objection to Form Christian Province
» Ex-KGB Soldier Named as Double Agent Who Exposed Anna Chapman Spy Ring
» Fears of a Muslim Russia
» Dagestan’s Deadly Islamic Insurgency
South Asia
» Afghan Christian to Go to Trial on Sunday for His Faith
» Man Accused of Blasphemy Killed in Pakistan
» Pope Appeals for “Full Freedom for Asia Bibi”
» Pope Benedict XVI Calls for Release of Christian Sentenced to Hang in Pakistan
» Turkmenistan: Appeal Denied for Ilmurad Nurliev, Pentecostal Pastor Convicted by False Evidence
Far East
» China Denies ‘Hijacking’ Internet Traffic
Australia — Pacific
» Prove it Was Me in the Burqa, Says Accused Woman
Sub-Saharan Africa
» South Africa: Murdered Tourist Looking for ‘Real Africa’
» By 2066, White Britons ‘Will be Outnumbered’ If Immigration Continues at Current Rates
» Far-Right Fringe Exploits European Coalitions
» Spain Outrage Over Migrant Bombing Game
» Stop Being So Generous to Migrants: French Plea to Britain After Dunkirk Suburb is Over-Run
» UK: Darwen Dad Told His Opinion Doesn’t Count at Asylum Seeker Hearing
» UK: Government’s Own Immigration Watchdog Says Numbers Must be Cut by a Quarter
» UK: More Than 100 Failed Asylum Seekers Have Gone Missing in Six Months After Being Ordered to Leave the Country
» Breakthrough: Mysterious Antimatter Created and Captured

Financial Crisis

Brussels, UK Readying ‘Oliver Cromwell Package’ For Ireland

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Senior Irish politicians and officials conceded on Thursday (18 November) that Dublin is in talks over a massive EU-IMF rescue that will likely also involve some UK involvement, a bail-out one European official darkly dubbed the “Oliver Cromwell Package.”

As negotiators from the EU-ECB-IMF troika arrived in Dublin on Thursday to oversee the crafting of Ireland’s 2011 and four-year austerity budgets, Irish Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan said that he expects the government will take out a “very substantial loan” from the EU and IMF to fix its finances.

“It’s my expectation that [a multi-billion-euro loan] is what is definitely likely to happen. That’s why the large technical teams are sitting down discussing these matters,” he told Ireland’s public broadcaster, RTE.

“I think this is the way forward. Market conditions have not allowed us to go ahead without seeking the support of our international collaborators.”

“It will be a large loan because the purpose of the amount to be advanced, or to be made available, is to show Ireland has sufficient firepower to deal with any concerns of the market,” he added. “We’re talking about a substantial loan.”

Subsequently on Thursday, finance minister Brian Lenihan told the Dail, the Irish parliament, that the government will apply for a bail-out once talks with the troika team have concluded.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the bail-out could reach up to €100 billion, although Mr Lenihan said that any sums may not necessarily be immediately paid out but could be part of a facility that would be made available “but not drawn down,” similar to how a €110 billion bail-out operates for Greece.

Bail-out details trickling out

Meanwhile, more details about the outlines of a package are trickling out, along with the tasks being undertaken by the troika inspectors who arrived in Dublin on Thursday.

According to a commission source, who jokingly called a potential bail-out the “Oliver Cromwell Package,” after the Lord Protector of England who lead the reconquest of Ireland in 1649, two thirds of the monies contained in any eventual package would come from the EU and a third from the IMF.

“The [troika] team right now is there to make an assessment of how much money will be needed for the banks,” said the official. “At a later stage comes the conditionality, and the ‘last mile’ is always taken at a political level, not by the experts. It’s the member states that will have to decide.”

The stiff conditions attached to any rescue will be based around details of the four-year budget plan.

“This is a really massive amount of work that needs to be done,” continued the official. “A one-year budget is already an enormous amount of work, but we’re talking about a four-year budget outline that is dealing with a two-digit deficit and that needs to be sufficiently detailed to convince markets.”

The inspectors will also be parsing budget projections to ensure that any unwarranted optimism about economic growth is excised and prevent a fudging of the numbers.

However, despite the fine tooth-comb the inspectors are taking to Dublin’s spreadsheets, according to the official, reports suggesting that Ireland’s 2011 budget and four-year budget “are being written by the commission and the IMF are a bit exaggerated.”

Hiking taxes on low-income earners

A raising of the corporation tax however appears to be moving to the background, allowing Dublin to claim that it has won some concessions from the troika.

Irish government sources close to the discussions on what sort of conditionality could be imposed on the provision of funds say that there are in any case many other ways the state can broaden its tax base, notably an increase in property taxes and water rates. The government has already signalled that such moves are likely and have been suggested by a number of economic think-tanks.

In particular, there is also considerable room to manoeuvre in hiking taxes on low-income earners at the bottom of the tax pyramid. Ireland has a very high threshold before individuals begin to pay income tax, with almost half of all income earners paying nothing at all.

‘Britain ready to support Ireland’

The UK is also looking to participate in the bail-out, although whether this will be via a eurozone mechanism or direct bilateral loans remains unclear.

French finance minister Christine Lagarde told France Inter radio on Thursday said that the UK may do son on a bilateral basis.

On Wednesday, UK chancellor George Osborne met with his Irish counterpart and later said: “Britain stands ready to support Ireland.”

“I won’t speculate on what kind of assistance we might provide. There are options, and we are looking at all of those.”

“But remember, the Irish have not requested assistance and these are precautionary discussions,” he added.

The UK is more exposed in Ireland than any other EU state. A commission official told this website: “If Ireland does undergo a financial collapse, there is real exposure in the UK beyond the figures, assets — there would be a chain of events that would have serious implications.”

According to an analysis of data from the IMF and the Bank for International Settlements by UBS, UK banks’ claims in the country amount to $195 billion, equalling more than half of all Europe’s exposure in Ireland. German and French combined claims amount to just €50 billion.

With a number of prime UK banks nationalised, any fall-out from Ireland that leads to uncertainty in British financial institutions could ultimately require a cash injection from Her Majesty’s Treasury — essentially the same situation Ireland is in at the moment, at a time when London has announced its own swingeing cuts to public services.

A UBS analyst, Geoffrey Yu, recently wrote of the fears stalking Westminster: “The UK’s financial supervision authorities will … probably need to run a new round of stress tests to simulate the cost of serious problems in Ireland and associated contagion. It is probable that these costs will dwarf the cost of a UK financial contribution to a bail-out scheme by far.”

Already some Tory eurosceptics are demanding that the UK remain aloof from what they see as purely a eurozone crisis.

While the Irish foreign office is denying that any co-ordination between London and Dublin is occurring, and the UK Treasury “will not comment any private discussions that may or may not be ongoing between governments,” other sources report that a “very tightly restricted” conversation is indeed taking place between the two capitals over the issue.

200-year Irish struggle

Across the Irish Sea, citizens are awakening to the scale of the potential loss of sovereignty. A major demonstration in Dublin against the EU-ECB-IMF troika and the government has been called by trade unions and left-wing groups for Saturday 27 November, and early reports from organisers suggests the march could be the biggest yet seen since the advent of the crisis.

Even the legendarily sober Irish Times on Thursday published a blistering editorial pillorying the government.

“Having obtained our political independence from Britain to be the masters of our own affairs, we have now surrendered our sovereignty to the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund,” the editors of the paper wrote.

“Irish history makes the loss of that sense of choice all the more shameful,” the editorial continued. “The desire to be a sovereign people runs like a seam through all the struggles of the last 200 years. ‘Self-determination’ is a phrase that echoes from the United Irishmen to the Belfast Agreement.”

“To drag this state down from those heights and make it again subject to the decisions of others is an achievement that will not soon be forgiven.”

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

Eurozone Let Them Go Bust

Greece is building new mountains of debt. Ireland is expecting to go to the wall. Europe’s taxpayers fear they’ll have to club together again for another bailout. Things can’t go on like this, fumes Der Standard. Investors have got to pay their fair share of state and bank bailouts.

András Szigetvari

Josef Pröll is a good actor. On Tuesday the finance minister put on quite a one-man show playing the stern creditor upbraiding his debtors. Greece has fallen behind on the retrenchment schedule that was hammered out with the EU and the International Monetary Fund: Athens is running up more debts than allowed under the terms of the bailout deal.

Pröll threatened to withhold the next aid instalment for Greece. That’s what creditors generally do in normal cases, whether they’re dealing with states or banks. They badger and browbeat, though at the end of the day they usually extend the deadline: better a battered debtor than a dead one.

Irish bonds on a par with Pakistan and Venezuela

Unfortunately, however, the debt crisis in the eurozone is no longer a normal case, as Pröll knows all too well. Based on the latest updates to his deficit figures, Greek debt now comes to nearly 130% of its GDP. By 2015 Greece will have to repay debts of €140 billion, plus €90 billion in interest. And all that against the backdrop of a shrinking economy. One needn’t be a prophet to predict that this probably won’t work.

And this isn’t the only looming bankruptcy on the eurozone’s horizon. Ireland is also teetering on the brink. In the wake of its bank bailouts, the country’s debt ratio is due to soar to 150% of GDP by 2016. The markets are rating Irish bonds on a par with those of Pakistan and Venezuela. Irish economists are reckoning with default, with or without a bailout. Under these premises, policymakers can’t do much for now but buy time, so Pröll’s act is not unreasonable.

Liquidation for states

But the eurozone had better brace itself for the next wave of bankruptcies. And that means roping creditors in to share the cost of bankruptcies. Now that sounds simple, but it would mean breaking with current practice. First the banks were going under, till the taxpayers fished them out. Then the states got into hot water. And once again the taxpayers — from other countries —had to leap to their rescue.

That has got to stop. The G20 are already trying to come up with a workable model for international bank liquidation. The same is needed for states. In regular bankruptcy proceedings in a market economy, some of the debts simply get written off. Those who invest unwisely may lose their money, that’s the way it is.

We will probably never see some of our money again

Ironically enough, it was the Irish who most vehemently opposed Germany’s pitch for a law to cover state bankruptcies. In all likelihood, Ireland would have been among the main beneficiaries of such a scheme. But the very debate drove Irish interest charges up and knocked the nation further off-balance. And yet, much as we empathise, when should the matter be debated if not now? The debt crisis is going to last. How do we know the market won’t panic exactly the same way two years from now? It’s a shame Berlin backpedalled and is now saying creditors won’t be tapped in state defaults till some time in the distant future.

Well, that’s not enough. The charade can’t go on forever. Moreover, politicians will at some point have to begin admitting that we, too, as Greece’s creditors, will probably never see some of our money again. That’s a bitter pill, but nothing compared to what lies ahead for the Irish and the Greeks.

Translated from the German by Eric Rosencrantz

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

‘Germany Has a Vital Interest in Ensuring Irish Solvency’

First the Greeks, now the Irish. A second euro-zone country looks likely to need an EU bailout. Leading German economist Peter Bofinger says the crisis in Ireland is “very dangerous” for Germany. And he has deep concerns about the euro.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Bofinger, is the euro foundering?

Peter Bofinger: I have deep concerns. If the currency union is to have a future, then above all the strong member states have to do everything so that the weaker ones can succeed in reducing their debts. Countries like Ireland and Greece will have to cope with enormously difficult adjustments over the coming months and years.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How bad are things in Ireland? As bad as in Greece earlier in the year?

Bofinger: The situation in Ireland is very different from that in Greece. The Irish state does not have to take on any new debts until the middle of 2011. There is, therefore, far less of a danger of a state insolvency. However, Irish companies and banks are very highly indebted to foreign banks — three times more than the Greeks.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: According to Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, German banks are Ireland’s biggest creditors, to the tune of €166 billion ($226 billion), and that includes hundreds of short-term loans to Irish banks. How dangerous is the Irish crisis for Germany?

Bofinger: The situation is very dangerous. The German government has a vital interest in ensuring the solvency of the Irish state and its banks.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan is to enter talks about a possible European Union bank rescue package. Should Germany now save the Irish banks too?

Bofinger: The rescue of Irish banks would also mean the rescue of German financial institutions. The arrears that Irish debtors owe to foreign banks amount to around 320 percent of Ireland’s gross domestic product. One has to ask oneself if the Irish state would ever be in a position to meet such huge commitments.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ireland has ruled out direct aid to the state — despite the massive public deficit of over 30 percent for 2010. Is this sensible?

Bofinger: I can understand their position. The EU rescue fund is conceived in such a way that it has a certain punitive character, in particular via higher interest rates than the normal rates states with a higher degree of creditworthiness face. And in addition, the government would be subject to very strict supervision by the International Monetary Fund.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The German government would like to see punitive interest rates linked with any EU aid payments — a sort of disciplinary method to force indebted states to save. What do you make of that suggestion?

Bofinger: I think that is a dangerous fallacy. Euro-zone countries apply for help when they have extreme financial difficulties. It is certainly not helpful to then accentuate these difficulties by adding on further interest. It is also better for Germany when problem countries succeed in paying off their debts at relatively favorable interest rates, rather than pushing them into insolvency by adding a punitive surcharge of 3 percent.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Irish are furious with the Germans. They blame the German government for causing the interest rates on state bonds to soar, because of Berlin’s demand that investors also incur losses in the case of a state insolvency. Do we really share some of the blame for the Irish debacle?

Bofinger: Well, let’s put it this way: If a grandmother is lying in hospital and her family is already looking for a headstone — does that create trust?

SPIEGEL ONLINE: No, of course not. However, the German position is justified, is it not? At the moment speculators are profiting when their investments pay off, while the taxpayers are taking on the risks. That cannot continue.

Bofinger: I’m not saying that the idea of creditors sharing in the risk is fundamentally wrong. However, at the moment the most important thing is to calm the markets. And to scare them with vague suggestions for a long-term crisis mechanism is unwise.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You and your colleagues on the German Council of Economic Experts, which advises the government on policy, have had a similar debate. And you have also suggested that investors share in the risks.

Bofinger: We at least presented an overall plan, one that would combine the Stability and Growth Pact with a lasting crisis mechanism. It envisages a differentiated procedure in the case of a crisis. A restructuring of debt to include private creditor participation would only occur in euro-zone member states which have already been sanctioned for breaching the Stability Pact. Countries that have stuck to the pact should continue to receive unrestricted support through the crisis mechanism — with favorable interest rates…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Ireland: Was it for This?

IT MAY seem strange to some that The Irish Times would ask whether this is what the men of 1916 died for: a bailout from the German chancellor with a few shillings of sympathy from the British chancellor on the side. There is the shame of it all. Having obtained our political independence from Britain to be the masters of our own affairs, we have now surrendered our sovereignty to the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Their representatives ride into Merrion Street today.

Fianna Fáil has sometimes served Ireland very well, sometimes very badly. Even in its worst times, however, it retained some respect for its underlying commitment that the Irish should control their own destinies. It lists among its primary aims the commitment “to maintain the status of Ireland as a sovereign State”. Its founder, Eamon de Valera, in his inaugural address to his new party in 1926, spoke of “the inalienability of national sovereignty” as being fundamental to its beliefs. The Republican Party’s ideals are in tatters now.

The Irish people do not need to be told that, especially for small nations, there is no such thing as absolute sovereignty. We know very well that we have made our independence more meaningful by sharing it with our European neighbours. We are not naive enough to think that this State ever can, or ever could, take large decisions in isolation from the rest of the world. What we do expect, however, is that those decisions will still be our own. A nation’s independence is defined by the choices it can make for itself.

Irish history makes the loss of that sense of choice all the more shameful. The desire to be a sovereign people runs like a seam through all the struggles of the last 200 years. “Self-determination” is a phrase that echoes from the United Irishmen to the Belfast Agreement. It continues to have a genuine resonance for most Irish people today.

The true ignominy of our current situation is not that our sovereignty has been taken away from us, it is that we ourselves have squandered it. Let us not seek to assuage our sense of shame in the comforting illusion that powerful nations in Europe are conspiring to become our masters. We are, after all, no great prize for any would-be overlord now. No rational European would willingly take on the task of cleaning up the mess we have made. It is the incompetence of the governments we ourselves elected that has so deeply compromised our capacity to make our own decisions.

They did so, let us recall, from a period when Irish sovereignty had never been stronger. Our national debt was negligible. The mass emigration that had mocked our claims to be a people in control of our own destiny was reversed. A genuine act of national self-determination had occurred in 1998 when both parts of the island voted to accept the Belfast Agreement. The sense of failure and inferiority had been banished, we thought, for good.

To drag this State down from those heights and make it again subject to the decisions of others is an achievement that will not soon be forgiven. It must mark, surely, the ignominious end of a failed administration.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]


Airport Staff Warned They Face Prosecution if They Touch Passengers ‘Inappropriately’ As Backlash Over Pat-Down Security Checks Grows

Airport staff were warned today they face prosecution if they touch passengers ‘inappropriately’ as the national outcry over ‘pat-down’ security checks gathered momentum.

The move by the California District Attorney represents the first sign of authorities taking a tough stand against the controversial new security checks.

With millions of Americans preparing to travel for Thanksgiving, experts today warned the measures could trigger a deluge of lawsuits from angry passengers.

Yesterday the man in charge of the new security measures faced a grilling in Congress, with one Republican senator telling him: ‘I wouldn’t want my wife touched like that.’

Incoming San Mateo County DA Steve Wagstaffe said any complaints would land on his desk and staff could be charged with sexual battery.

He told ABC: ‘The case would be reviewed and if we could prove the elements of it, that it was inappropriately done with a sexual or lewd intent, that person would be prosecuted.’

He said that if the contact was skin-to-skin, it would be counted as a felony, while if it was done over clothing it would be a misdemeanour.

If convicted of a misdemeanour, screeners would face up to one year in jail, while offences involving skin-to-skin contact could be sentenced to up to three years in prison.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Barack Obama Under Pressure Over 9/11 Terror Trials

Leading Republicans have demanded that Barack Obama scrap plans to try the organisers of the 9/11 attacks in civilian courts after a New York jury acquitted an alleged terrorist of more than 200 murder charges over al-Qaida’s bombing of US embassies in east Africa.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani’s conviction on the sole charge of conspiracy to destroy government property in the 1998 bombings has reignited the bitter debate about Obama’s plan to move the alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and other Guantánamo detainees to the US and try them in civilian courts.

Ghailani was acquitted on 284 other charges, mostly murder and conspiracy, over the deaths of 213 people, including 12 Americans, in the attacks on the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. He faces imprisonment for 20 years to life.

Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate leader, said the verdict was “all the proof we need that the administration’s approach to prosecuting terrorists has been deeply misguided and indeed potentially harmful as a matter of national security”.

“Most Americans wondered why we would even take the chance. And now they’re wondering when the administration will admit it was wrong and assure us just as confidently that terrorists will be tried from now on in the military commission system that was established for this very purpose at the secure facility at Guantánamo Bay, or detained indefinitely, if they cannot be tried without jeopardising national security.”

Obama has argued that the military commissions were damaging to the US because much of the world regarded them as unjust. The military tribunals were tainted by the mistreatment and torture of prisoners.

The justice department says federal civilian courts have convicted more than 400 people on terrorism-related charges since 9/11. Military commissions have secured convictions for just five.

Peter King, who is expected to become head of the homeland security committee in the new Congress in January, said he would use that position to hold hearings into what he has called the administration’s “insane” handling of terrorism trials. “This is a tragic wake-up call to the Obama administration to immediately abandon its ill-advised plan to try Guantánamo terrorists [in civilian courts],” he said. “We must treat them as wartime enemies and try them in military commissions at Guantánamo.”

King blamed Ghailani’s acquittal on all but one count on rules of evidence in civilian courts which forced the judge, Lewis Kaplan, to exclude a witness who the US authorities learned about from information obtained during CIA interrogation. Ghailani’s lawyers claim he was tortured.

The witness, Hussein Abebe, was to have testified that he sold Ghailani the explosives used to attack the US embassy in Dar es Salaam. The judge ruled the information had been improperly obtained.

“Once the judge excluded the testimony of a witness who would have connected Ghailani to these horrible acts, which would have brought about a conviction, it became very, very difficult to convict him. This is the real danger, the real insanity if you will, of bringing these cases in a civilian court,” said King. “If this had been in a military commission, that evidence would have been allowed and I’m confident that Ghailani would have been convicted.”

However, Kaplan in his ruling on the witness said that the testimony would also have been excluded by a military judge because of restrictions on the use of evidence obtained through coercion.

But today, the nuances of legal procedure were largely drowned under a barrage of attacks on the president over the case. Keep America Safe, a rightwing group run by Liz Cheney, the former vice-president’s daughter, and other hardline conservatives, called the decision to try Ghailani in a civilian court “irresponsible and reckless”.

“The Obama administration recklessly insisted on a civilian trial for Ahmed Ghailani, and rolled the dice in a time of war,” it said. “It’s dangerous. It signals weakness in a time of war.”

King said he doubts Mohammed will go on trial in New York in the near future. “I doubt if he’s going to be tried in the next several years. I think the president has boxed himself in to a corner and I think you’ll find Khalid Sheikh Mohammed kept in Guantánamo along with the other 9/11 defendants and he’ll be held indefinitely and sometime after 2012, depending on what happens in that election, then the president will decide,” he said. “If they have a trial in Guantánamo it’ll look like too much of a reversal for the president. I think they’re just going to put everything on ice and let him sit there for the next several years.”


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Barack Obama ‘Determined to Close Guantánamo’

“The president remains committed to closing Guantánamo Bay to ensure that it is no longer the recruiting poster that it is right now for al Qaeda,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told a news briefing.

A civilian jury on Wednesday acquitted a man once held at Guantánamo of all but one charge related to the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani still faces a minimum sentence of 20 years for conspiring in the attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

Critics say the verdict raised questions over the administration’s ability to successfully prosecute remaining Guantánamo Bay terrorism suspects, and what that meant for the facility’s eventual closure.

Mr Obama has already failed to meet an election campaign pledge to shut it down in the first year of his presidency and transfer its inmates to prisons in the United States.

Republicans favour military trials for suspects.

Mr Gibbs said the future of these trials has yet to be determined, but the outcome of the prosecution of Ghailani would be among the factors taken into consideration.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Body Scanners Have ‘Mutagenic Effects’

A Californian university professor of biochemistry said the Obama administration’s claim that full-body scanners pose no health risks to air travellers is in “error”.

The administration’s defence of the controversial machines, which use x-rays to perform what critics have dubbed naked strip searches, has “many misconceptions, and we will write a careful answer pointing out their errors”, said John Sedat, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) professor of biochemistry and biophysics and member of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Because four people are working on this, it will not be done in one day,” Sedat said.

The scanners are being mulled by Australian officials and safety assessments will be conducted by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.

Earlier this week, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy posted a statement saying the x-ray scans are safe because “the issue had been studied extensively for many years” by federal agencies.

That post was a response to a letter (PDF) that Sedat and three other faculty UCSF members sent to White House science advisor John Holdren in April.

Their letter to Holdren said “it appears that real independent safety data do not exist”. In addition, the authors say: “There has not been sufficient review of the intermediate and long-term effects of radiation exposure associated with airport scanners. There is good reason to believe that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations.”

Air travellers over 65 years old are especially susceptible to the “mutagenic effects of the x-rays”, they say, as are HIV and cancer patients, children and adolescents, pregnant women, and men (because the x-rays can penetrate skin and put the testicles “at risk for sperm mutagenesis”). Eyes could also be at risk because x-rays can penetrate the cornea.

For its part, the administration rejects any health concerns. A letter last month from the FDA and the Transportation Security Administration responding to the UCSF researchers’ concerns says “the potential health risks from a full-body screening with a general-use x-ray security system are minuscule.”

The x-ray scanners have been used for years, but were turned on this week and are being used as the primary screening technique.

Anyone hoping to opt-out in favour of a manual pat-down may not like what happens. The TSA quietly changed its procedures a few weeks ago to what it delicately calls “enhanced pat-downs”, which involve screeners using their fingers — instead of the backs of their hands — to feel the outlines of male or female genitalia.

[Return to headlines]

Essential U.S. Spy Satellite Launching Friday

One cannot overstate the importance of Friday night’s Delta 4-Heavy launch from Cape Canaveral to national security, a mission by the massive rocket that will deploy “the largest satellite in the world” to hear the whispers of evil.

“Always vigilant, the NRO’s eyes and ears give America’s policy markers, intelligence analysts, warfighters and homeland security specialists the critical information they need to keep America safe, secure and free,” the agency says. The clandestine payload going up this time, known only by its launch identification number of NROL-32, is widely believed to be an essential eavesdropping spacecraft that requires the powerful lift provided by the Delta 4-Heavy to reach its listening post. In an address to the Air Force Association conference in September, NRO Director Bruce Carlson, a retired Air Force general, said this rocket launch would carry “the largest satellite in the world on it.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Expert: TSA Scans Would Let Al-Qaida Duplicate 9/11

A terrorism expert says the invasive screening procedures demanded by the Obama-run Transportation Security Administration would do almost nothing to stop a determined terrorist because they already are experimenting with inserting explosives in a body cavity or even surgically implanting the destructive charges.

The comments come from Brigitte Gabriel, who is the founder of Act! For America, a 150,000-strong group that works to warn Americans against the dangers of militant Islam and the Muslims who follow it.

She also is a member of the board of advisers for the Intelligence Summit, and she lectures internationally on global terrorism.

Join more than 17,000 others in a petition demanding action against the intrusive airport screening procedures implemented by Janet Napolitano and send a letter to Congress, President Obama and others telling them exactly what you think about the issue.

The issue has hit a flashpoint in the last few days as newly installed TSA procedures demand that airline passengers submit to a full-body scanning machine that generates an essentially nude image of the passenger for TSA workers to see, or a full-body pat-down that includes what critics have called “groping” of private parts of the body.

“These procedures are not effective at all with terrorists,” Gabriel told WND in an interview today. “If a true terrorist wants to go blow up an airplane, these machines will not detect it.”

She said like drug dealers already have proven, substances hidden inside body cavities or even embedded surgically remain undetected by any or all of the TSA’s procedures.

“If al-Qaida is planning against the U.S. multiple attacks in a day, in multiple airplanes, it could duplicate 9/11,” she told WND. “Al-Qaida is testing inserting breast implants, stuffing breast implants with explosives.”

She said a woman then could go into an airplane restroom and use a syringe similar to those used by diabetic patients to trigger an explosion that would disintegrate a modern jet.

“This is what al-Qaida is resorting to, and they’re exploring surgery for men,” she warned. “They want to implant explosives inside the body.

“Terrorists are conditioned and trained to blow themselves up, to become suicide bombers,” she said. “They are ready to die to go to heaven to meet Allah.”

It was last February that the special intelligence report Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin documented the same circumstances Gabriel described.

At that time, it was revealed in the special report that intelligence agents for Britain’s MI5 service found that Muslim doctors trained at some of Britain’s leading teaching hospitals had returned to their own countries to fit surgical implants filled with explosives.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Napolitano Considering Allowing Muslim Women to Pat Themselves Down at Airports!

With the holidays fast approaching, the Transportation Safety Agency has announced new security procedures requiring passengers selected for secondary screening to go through a machine that produces a full body scan producing a nude but grainy, black and white image. Passengers choosing to opt out of the scan will face a full body pat.

The head of Homeland Security has indicated the government is considering the request of an Islamic organization that has suggested Muslim women be allowed to pat themselves down during a full body search that is part of new enhanced procedures at airports.

Since implementing the procedures, numerous complaints have arisen that the search is not a “pat-down” but rather feeling and grabbing along a person’s genitalia and other areas until they meet resistance. Critics have said the pat-downs would be considered sexual assault if performed elsewhere.

The TSA defends the procedures as necessary in light of last years “underwear bomber” and the recent issues involving printer cartridges being used in an attempt to blow up cargo planes.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, has expressed concern with the TSA over the regulations and recommended special procedures for dealing with Muslim women. The organization issued a travel advisory for Muslims over the procedure.

In the advisory CAIR advises all Muslims to contact them and file a complaint with the TSA if they experience any “disturbing incidents” with the new procedures and they feel they have been unfairly singled out for screening.

It goes on to make special recommendations for Muslim women wearing a hijab covering their face. The advisory says women are to inform the officer they are only to pat down the head and neck and says “They should not subject you to a full-body or partial body pat-down.” They also recommend that women should be permitted to pat themselves down and “have the officers perform a chemical swipe of your hands.”

Barack Obama’s Homeland Security Czar, Janet Napolitano, is considering changes to the procedures to address the issues raised by CAIR.

Since announcing the rules, several organizations have expressed concern over the procedures. Pilots and flight crews have expressed concern about constant exposure to the low level radiation generated by the machine, but the government denies any danger from having the scan done. The U.S. Airline Pilots Association has issued instructions to members to call in sick and not board a flight if they are too upset to fly after a pat-down. The Allied Pilots Association has urged members to boycott the body imaging machines.

At least one website has recommended Americans boycott the body scans by recommending everyone chosen for additional screening on Nov. 24 to opt out of the body scans and choose the pat down. Some have expressed alarm over the recommendation saying it could slow down or halt the security process on the day before Thanksgiving.

New Jersey lawmakers have pending resolutions demanding Congress tell the TSA that people must not be forced to give up their fourth amendment rights when they choose to travel by airline.

A Reuters poll asking if individuals were less likely to fly as a result of the new procedures revealed 96 percent of respondents affirming they would make alternate travel plans to avoid intrusive security and pat-downs.

John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, said the regulations came straight from the President himself.

In a recent commentary Whitehead said “legislation has been proposed to mandate full-body scanners and make them the primary screening method in all U.S. airports by 2013, but Congress has yet to act on it. So we can thank Barack Obama for this frontal assault on our Fourth Amendment rights.” He went on to say “Yet in the wake of the bumbling underwear bomber’s botched Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane, Obama directed the Homeland Security Department to acquire $1 billion in advanced-technology equipment, including body scanners, for screening passengers at airports.”

The machines have been purchased from California based Rapiscan Systems. The company is a client of the Chertoff Group, a security consulting agency headed by former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff who has lobbied for the need for installing the machines in airports.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Officials: Deerpark Middle School Bomb Threat Suspect a Juvenile Overseas

A bomb threat that forced the evacuation of a Round Rock middle school this week has been traced back to a juvenile living in Saudi Arabia, according to the Williamson County sheriff’s office.

The juvenile befriended several dozen Deerpark Middle School students through the social media website Facebook in recent days, said spokesman John Foster.

By Tuesday, the communications with the students turned threatening, with the juvenile issuing threats he would blow up the school, Foster said.

“If there is anything to learn from this … don’t befriend people you don’t know,” Foster said. “Use extreme caution when using any kind of social media. This is the worst thing that could happen, but the best because he was not living here, he is a juvenile and there was no (real) threat.”

The bomb threat forced the midday evacuation Tuesday of 1,600 students from Deerpark and nearby Live Oak Elementary School, and pulled in resources from the sheriff’s office, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Texas Department of Public Safety. For hours, students and staff were not allowed to retrieve items from the school as investigators cleared the school of any bomb threat before classes resumed again Wednesday.

The juvenile, who is not being identified because he or she is under 17 years old, posed as a Deerpark Middle School student online, Foster said. However, the student has no apparent connection to the school, and has never lived in the United States, Foster said.

The juvenile was identified with the assistance of several agencies, including the FBI, who will now take over the investigation of the case, Foster said.

The juvenile is said to be continuing his contact with students through Facebook, but it’s not exactly clear what online persona or personas the juvenile may still be using, Foster said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Rattner is Sued by Cuomo, Settles With S.E.C.

Andrew M. Cuomo, the attorney general of New York, on Thursday sued Steven L. Rattner over his role in kickbacks to secure investment business from the New York State pension fund.

The attorney general filed two lawsuits, seeking at least $26 million from Mr. Rattner and a lifetime ban from the securities industry in New York. Mr. Rattner was also added to a forfeiture action against Hank Morris, a top adviser to a former New York State comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi.

The lawsuits came as the Securities and Exchange Commission announced a settlement with Mr. Rattner in which he agreed to pay $6.2 million in disgorgement and penalties. He will also be banned from “associating with any investment adviser or broker dealer” for two years.

[Return to headlines]

Soros Group Says Obama Can Use Armed Forces to Push “Progressive” Agenda

John Podesta from the Center for American Progress released a report this week that, among other things, suggested that Obama can use the US Military to push the president’s radical totalitarian agenda.

The Blaze reported:

The liberal Center for American Progress doesn’t believe significant GOP gains in the House and Senate should stop the President from implementing more of his polices. The group released a report Tuesday suggesting ways Obama can bypass Congress to accomplish a progressive agenda, and it cites the president’s power as commander-in-chief to make its point.

“I think most of the conversation since the election has been about how President Obama adjusts to the new situation on Capitol Hill,” Center for American Progress head and former Bill Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta told the Daily Caller. “While that’s an important conversation, it simply ignores the president’s ability to use all levels of his power and authority to move the country forward.”

How does one “move the country forward”? In the center’s report, Podesta explains that Obama can use executive orders, rulemaking, and even the armed forces “to accomplish important change” and that such means “should not be underestimated.”

What exactly does Podesta think the president should use such powers to “accomplish”? Among others, the report suggests “job creation,” “quality affordable health care,” “sustainable security,” and “a clean energy future.”

The report cites specific goals such as mitigating the effects of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, supporting a Palestinian state, and reducing greenhouse gasses by 17 percent by 2020.

The Center for American Progress was given a 3-year $3,000,000 grant by George Soros’ Open Society Institute in 2006.

Media Matters, the communication wing of the Center for American Progress, was given a $1,000,000 grant by George Soros in October.

[Return to headlines]

USA/UK: Why Republicans and Tories No Longer See Eye-to-Eye

by Michael Goldfarb

Once upon a time, and not so long ago in political terms, the Anglo-American world was joined at the hip, and the surgical pin that held the two together was “conservatism”. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and the “isms” attached to their name were so close you could hardly understand why there had ever been all that commotion in 1776.

The recent mid-term election demonstrates that is no longer the case. A lesson from British history illustrates my point: from the time the welfare state was created, Britain ran a three-level secondary education system. The top level was the grammar school — entry was gained by outstanding performance on a test given at the age of 11. State-funded grammar schools opened the door to elite education for many working-class and lower-middle-class kids. If you’ve seen Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, you know the story.

Throughout the 1960s, Harold Wilson’s Labour government brought changes to the education system, the old elite versus equal argument was deployed. Grammar schools were forced to close, or accept pupils regardless of their academic ability. If you are a conservative by preference you are probably snorting as you read this. That’s socialism for you, you are probably thinking, reduce everything to the lowest common denominator.

Undoing what’s done

In 1970, the Conservative Party under Edward Heath won the election and took office. The newly appointed education secretary did not reverse the Labour Government’s policy and allowed grammar school closures to continue. The name of the education secretary was Margaret Thatcher. Yes, the distaff patron saint of modern conservatism ended up overseeing more grammar school closures than her socialist predecessor even though she, and Mr Heath, had both attended grammars. The reason I tell you this story is that it shows how Margaret Thatcher — the conservative’s Conservative — believed that in order for democracy to work, new governments cannot come into office and simply spend their time undoing what the previous government has done.

Yet in the wake of their victories in the mid-term election, the Republican Party has nailed its colours to repealing the health legislation passed earlier this year. Ohio Republican John Boehner, who will be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives said after election night: “We have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill.” Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky plans to file a friend-of-the-court brief in Florida supporting states who want to repeal the act. There is also a contrast with how the Conservatives have behaved on their return to power this year, after 11 years out of office.

Getting the house in order

With their Liberal Democrat coalition partners, they are focused on getting Britain’s financial house in order, not undoing the legislation passed during the Blair-Brown years. Structural deficit reduction — double quick, inside four years — is the goal of Prime Minister David Cameron’s government. American conservatives would say deficit reduction is our goal as well. But British Conservatives are putting up taxes, to get the deficit down, as well as making cuts to government spending across all departments except one: the National Health Service.

Republicans want to repeal health legislation, Conservatives know they would not have been returned to office without Mr Cameron’s eloquent commitment to the NHS. This is only one of many examples of how “conservatism” no longer means the same thing among people who call themselves “conservative” on either side of the Atlantic.

Culture wars

Cameron and Co are cutting defence spending. Yes, cutting defence, by 8%. The coalition government has not challenged the view that this means Britain will no longer be able to march to war with America the next time the US wants to fight in the Middle East. Welfare is being cut — dramatically — but it is not being eliminated. It is being reformed. To the chagrin of some of its old guard, Britain’s Conservative Party would not waste a moment campaigning against the idea of man-made climate change — indeed it campaigned last spring on how to grow the economy by funding solutions to the problem. Compare that to the Tea Party/Republican Party view on climate change.

To modern British Conservatives fighting culture wars seems a waste of political time. Gay lifestyles? That’s a non-issue, there are a number of out gay men in the British cabinet. Science using stem cells derived from human foetuses? Prime Minister David Cameron’s son suffered horribly in his brief life from a variety of nervous system disorders. Mr Cameron would not stand in the way of any research that might help future sufferers of Ivan’s myriad problems.

Perhaps the most profound difference today between British and American Conservatives is in the response to terrorism. British Conservatives are libertarian in striking the balance between security and personal liberty when it comes to living in a world where al-Qaeda operates. They have stopped funding for national ID cards — an expensive programme of the Labour government — and shut down many of Britain’s CCTV cameras. Critically, they are considering repealing Britain’s 28-day detention law for terror suspects. This law allows police to hold those suspected of plotting terrorism for 28 days without charging them. No other Western democracy gives the police this kind of power.

Republicans have been against shutting down Guantanamo and trying those detained there in civilian courts. I cannot see them renouncing a law allowing police to detain a suspect for a month without charge. Unlike Margaret Thatcher, British Conservatives no longer echo Ronald Reagan’s view that government is the problem not the solution. But the important point is this: Mrs Thatcher and Mr Reagan shared a governing philosophy: ideology and pragmatism. Ideology was great for speech-making and letting people know what you thought, pragmatism was necessary for governing. As American and British Conservatives drift apart, like Gondwana and Pangaea, it seems that American Republicans have let go of their pragmatic inheritance. Without pragmatic respect for what previous governments have done, can they really be considered “conservative” in the true meaning of the term?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Terror Police Probe Explosion Near Loch Lomond

Anti-terrorism police and bomb disposal units have been called to a wooded area in West Dunbartonshire which is thought to have been damaged in an explosion.

Strathclyde Police were called to reports of an explosion in Garadhban Forest, near Gartocharn, at about 1200 GMT on Wednesday.

The area, to the south east of Loch Lomond, has been sealed off.

Police said enquiries were ongoing to establish the full circumstances surrounding the incident.

Speaking at a media conference Ch Sup Calum Murray, of Strathclyde Police, said: “As you would expect, when we are dealing with a situation where we suspect that explosives may be involved, it is our immediate priority to assess the situation and to call on expertise where we think it is appropriate.

“By its very nature, this type of assessment and investigation is complex and does take time. I can confirm that we are currently being assisted by agencies from across the UK.

“I would stress that the site is secure and that there is no risk to public safety.”

Ch Sup Murray said that several other agencies — including the Metropolitan Police — were involved in the investigation.

He said the investigation team was “not ruling anything in or out” at this stage, which he described as “the assessment phase”.

Ch Sup Murray also said the damage in the woodland was “not an expansive area”.

Officers are also collecting CCTV footage from local businesses within the general area of the explosion…

           — Hat tip: 4symbols [Return to headlines]

Churches Lose Their Vicars as Anglicans “Jump Ship” For Rome, Warns Rowan Williams

Dr Williams acknowledged that traditionalists who cannot accept Church of England plans to ordain women bishops were in “considerable confusion and distress”.

But the Pope’s offer to accommodate disaffected Anglicans would leave the Church with “practical challenges” as vicars resign and churches lose worshippers, he said.

Dr Williams’s comments came in his first media interview since The Daily Telegraph disclosed that five Anglican bishops were to join a new section of the Roman Catholic Church established by Pope Benedict XVI.

The new structure, known as the English Ordinariate, is expected to begin operation early next year. It will allow traditionalist Anglo-Catholics who oppose recent liberal reforms in the Church of England to enter into full communion with Rome while retaining some of their Anglican traditions.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Dr Williams insisted that there was “no ill feeling” between him and the five bishops leading the exodus of Anglicans to Rome.

“Obviously my reaction to the resignations is one of regret but respect — I know the considerations they’ve been through,” he said.

“There are still a great many Anglicans in the Church of England who call themselves traditionalist who have no intention of jumping ship at this point, who are at the moment in considerable confusion and distress.

“But they don’t necessarily think if the Church of England isn’t working for them that the only option is Rome.”

For the first time, the Archbishop suggested that worshipers who join the Ordinariate could be allowed to stay in their Anglican churches under a plan to let Roman Catholics share Church of England facilities.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Eastern Germany Confronts Skilled Labor Shortage

For years, demographers have been warning that Germany could face a labor shortage as its population ages. In eastern Germany, such scarcities have already become reality. Competition for talent is fierce — and businesses are becoming more generous.

Olaf Kühn is happiest about his job when he is driving along the pearl necklace in the morning. That’s what locals call the A73 autobahn, which fills with cars in the morning and the evening, with their glittering headlights strung tightly along the highway like pearls on a necklace.

Thousands of commuters use the route, which stretches from Arnstadt in the eastern German state of Thuringia to Coburg in Bavaria and on to Nuremberg. “The traffic jams can go on for kilometers, but I just drive past,” Kühn says with a smile. His commute, after all, takes him from west to east, the opposite of the prevailing trend. Every morning at about six a.m., Kühn drives to work from Bavaria to Thuringia.

Kühn works as a CNC programmer at Analytik Jena, a company that emerged from optical instrument maker Carl Zeiss, in Eisfeld just southwest of Leipzig. The 48-year-old lives near Coburg in Upper Franconia, where he also worked until 2008. But then Reinhard Jacob, the Analytik Jena plant manager, recruited him. “I spent a year trying to convince him to work for us,” says Jacob. “We just didn’t have enough good people here.”

Kühn earns just as much as he did in Bavaria, even though salaries in eastern Germany generally remain significantly lower than in the West. With the emergence of a new economic boom in Germany, specialists like Kühn are more in demand than ever, and they are being courted and recruited accordingly. To attract employees like Kühn, companies have to come up with attractive incentives.

Stopgap Solution

Businesses in the states of the former East Germany have to be especially creative. The eastern states are ahead of the rest of the country in at least one respect: From Rügen in the north to Plauen in the south, the lack of skilled workers that western states will not fully experience until about 10 years from now has already become reality.

In the third quarter of 2010, the number of open positions throughout Germany grew to 986,000, a 19 percent increase over the same period last year, and the trend will only intensify in 2011. Although some three million people are also registered as unemployed, this doesn’t solve the problem.

Labor market experts use the term “mismatch” to describe a situation in which an unemployed person is not offered any of the unfilled positions on the market. Either the job seeker has the wrong qualifications or none at all, is too old, is insufficiently mobile or is unsuitable for other reasons. Additional job training and costly qualification measures are a stopgap solution at best.

So far, there has been little agreement among experts on the question of the lack of skilled workers. In a new study, the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) even characterizes the issue as a “Fata Morgana.” According to the DIW, there is “no evidence” pointing to a general lack of available workers. For example, say DIW experts, salaries for skilled workers have hardly increased, and the number of qualified unemployed people exceeds the number of available jobs.

The DIW also points out that in light of the growing numbers of students pursuing degrees in science and technology, a shortfall is not to be expected. However, the DIW study also acknowledges that bottlenecks could develop in high-growth regions, as well as in large parts of eastern Germany…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

EU Criticises New Immigration Regulations

Points system the worst of its kind in Europe, say EU parliamentarians

The new points system for foreign spouse immigration is the worst of its kind in Europe, according to 185 members of the European Parliament.

The statement came from the red bloc of the EU in the wake of yesterday’s agreement between the government and the Danish People’s Party (DF) on changes in immigration legislation that will lead to the implementation of a point system.

“The Danish People’s Party is being blatantly ultra-nationalistic and hostile to foreigners. They divide people into first and second-rate citizens,” Martin Schulz, Leader of the Party of European Socialists, said yesterday at a conference in Budapest, where EU’s red bloc passed a confrontational declaration against the “extreme right forces” in the EU.

DF leader Pia Kjærsgaard called the statement an “intolerable intrusion into Danish affairs”.

“Social Democrats throughout Europe are crackling as a result of foreign policy. That’s why they’re attacking Denmark in panic by mistaking patriotism for xenophobia,” she said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Germany Tells Al-Qaida ‘You Have No Chance!’

Security has been stepped up across Germany after Wednesday’s warning of an imminent terrorist attack. German media commentators encourage the populace to stay calm and continue with their daily lives as normal. Changing their behavior would amount to giving in to the terrorists, they argue.

Unlike his predecessors Otto Schily and Wolfgang Schäuble, the current German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière is considered restrained when it comes to his statements on terrorism. That is all the more reason why his warning on Wednesday that Germany may be the target of a terror attack in the near future has received so much attention.

At a hastily convened press conference, de Maizière told reporters that security officials both in Germany and abroad have information that an attack might be in the works for the end of November. For the first time, he said, there are “concrete investigative leads.”

De Maizière called on Germans to be vigilant but not to panic. “We will show strength and will not allow ourselves to be intimidated,” he said. “We will not allow international terrorism to limit our lifestyles nor our culture of freedom.”

Security precautions have been stepped up across Germany as a result of the warning. Armed police are patrolling at airports and train stations, and border controls have been tightened.

The interior ministers of the country’s 16 states will be discussing how to proceed at a conference on Thursday. Karl Peter Bruch, the interior minister of the state of Rheinland-Palatinate, said Thursday that Germany’s major cities were particularly at risk, saying there were “concrete indications” relating to Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and the Ruhr conurbation.

Police under Strain

Meanwhile Germany’s two main police unions have warned that the security forces are already massively overworked. The Federal Police, which is responsible for anti-terror operations and border security, already does not have enough officers to carry out its normal daily work, said Josef Scheuring from the Union of Police (GdP) on Thursday. The additional duties as a result of the terror warning means even more strain on the force’s resources, he said.

Rainer Wendt, the head of the German Police Union (DPolG), made similar comments to the German news station N-TV. “The security forces are already under a great deal of strain,” he said. “There are not many reserves left.”

The head of the GdP, Konrad Freiberg, also warned of a lack of security precautions. The population was not sufficiently prepared for the consequences of an attack, he told the newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt. “If an attack happens, it is also important to know how to deal with it and manage the situation.”

Data Debate

As part of the debate on how Germany can best protect itself, politicians from Germany’s two main parties, the center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats, have called for the reintroduction of telecommunications data retention. Under a law which came into force in 2008, the government could store data relating to telephone calls, e-mails and Internet usage for up to six months for possible use by law enforcement. That law was, however, overturned by a ruling by Germany’s Constitutional Court in March of this year. Since then, telecommunications data has not been stored.

“Anyone who still argues against data retention has not understood the current threat level,” said Hans-Peter Uhl, an expert on domestic affairs for the Christian Democrats, in remarks to the Financial Times Deutschland.

Suspicious Package Found at Airport

Also on Thursday, it was revealed that a suspicious item of luggage had been discovered on Wednesday while a Munich-bound plane was being loaded in Namibia. The Federal Criminal Police Office in Berlin said in a statement that the package contained batteries connected to an ignition device and a clock. It was not immediately clear if the device was capable of exploding, the police said.

The airline, Air Berlin, contradicted the police’s assertion that the package was intended for Germany. A spokesperson said that the item had been found in a hall at Windhoek airport where luggage for the Air Berlin flight was being processed, but that it was an “undeclared” object that was not addressed to a specific destination.

According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, there are indications that the package could have been a test device designed to check airport security.

Commenting on the new terror warning in their Thursday editions, Germany’s main newspapers reiterate de Maizière’s exhortations for ordinary Germans to keep calm and carry on, with one newspaper suggesting that Germans seek inspiration in London’s famous “Blitz spirit” during World War II…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Icelandic Minister Criticises ‘Kafka-esque’ EU Talks

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Iceland’s justice minister, who last weekend called for stripped-down accession negotiations with Brussels that could be completed in just two months, has stepped up his criticisms, calling into question the need to make “Kafka-esque bureaucratic” changes to national law if the people are likely to ultimately reject joining the bloc in a referendum.

“Brussels has to understand that we have had a massive economic crash, and yet such changes are obviously an enormous burden of bureaucratic work that would cost a lot of money and energy,” the minister, Ogmundur Jonasson, told EUobserver.

“So it is a waste of time to go ahead with this if in the end we do not get a deal that is acceptable to Iceland and is then rejected by the people.”

Mr Jonasson, who hails from the Left Green Movement coalition partners of the governing Social Democrats, wants talks to proceed in the same way that the ultimately failed negotiations did with Norway.

In an opinion piece in Icelandic daily Morgunbladid last Saturday, he wrote that he wants the two sides to sit down for what he called “real negotiations” and reach an offer they can give to the Icelandic people to consider in a referendum.

Only after a Yes vote, should the country then begin to adjust its laws, and not during the negotiation process itself, he said.

If talks were stripped down to this, rather than the lengthy time it takes to change domestic laws, the negotiations could be concluded in two months, he said.

“In the early 1990s, Norway’s negotiations with Brussels on EU accession were conducted on exactly the same basis as I am suggesting now,” he clarified to this website. “That is to say, we negotiate over certain key, fundamental issues — in our case, fisheries, farming and some others — which we can then refer to our people, and put the question to the people before having to reform the sectors to be in alignment with the EU.”

He explained that this approach was no longer allowed: “But for some reason around the turn of the century, eastern European nations negotiated access under a completely different structure, a structure that is now being applied to us.”

“But we have been members of the European Economic Area since the 1990s. I don’t understand how it should be different for us than it was with Norway.”

“When they say that we have to accept 100 percent EU law, that we have to be 100 percent ready beforehand, this is so inflexible, this is beyond my understanding,” he continued.

“Why can’t we get these issues out into the open before setting to work on these Kafka-esque bureaucratic changes? Why on earth can Brussels not reconsider this?”

However, EU enlargement spokeswoman Angela Filota, responding to the minister’s complaints, told EUobserver that neither Iceland nor any other country can be treated in the same way as Norway was two decades ago, as a result of changes made to accession rules as a result of issues resulting from eastern European negotiations.

“There was a renewed consensus in 2006 as the basis for all new negotiations. It would be very difficult to depart from this agreed consensus,” she said.

She said that talks also begin on the basis of a negotiated framework that Iceland has already agreed to.

“It’s basically a set of rules on how the negotiations are to be conducted, between the member states and the country concerned. And Iceland agreed to this framework. They can’t go back on it now.”

“In some [negotiating] chapters, there has to be a good track record of matching EU law if you haven’t implemented anything. But actually in the Icelandic case, this is largely theoretical, because of course there is a track record because has implemented most EU law already.”

She said that the discussions “are actually quite likely to go faster for Iceland than other candidate countries,”

An EU source close to the talks said: “I think he’s just worrying unnecessarily over this. We really don’t expect any excruciating, long drawn-out negotiations at all.”

“I mean, there will certainly be a couple of rough spots eventually, but it’s been very positive so far compared to any other countries,” the source continued.

But a stripped-down, two-month process, as hoped for by the minister, is not on the cards.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

In Swedish Schools, Kids Can Listen to iPods and Use Mobiles in Class. And Anyone Who Protests is a ‘Nazi’

As I wander around this Swedish Free School, I note the windowed classrooms, so that anyone can see inside, the wooden walls with the alphabet painted in bright colours and the very warm and carefree feel of the place. The kids are a multicultural mix, though few are black, and they are working sensibly. They move with order around the building and they seem happy.

I’m talking with one of the teachers and I ask why she left the Swedish state school system.

“Because of the chaos,” she says. “There is no discipline. The students do what they want. They listen to their iPods and mobiles in class.”

My eyes open wide. “They have their mobiles out in lessons?”

She nods. “Yes. There is nothing the teacher can do about it. There are no punishments like detention in Sweden.”

I literally stop walking. “There are no detentions?”


I hold my hand up. “Wait a minute, you’re saying that in all the state schools in Sweden, there are no detentions?”

The teacher smiles. “Well, that’s my experience and that of my friends. In Sweden, we don’t like discipline. In fact, we [this school] cannot even use the word in our brochures.”

I frown. “But here, it’s different, yes?”

She nods. “Oh yes. Here we’re all about order. They call us the Nazi school.”

I look around at the lovely wooden lockers and paintings on the walls and wonder how on earth this school could be described in this way. I should say, however, that “Free School” in Sweden does not necessarily mean “school with discipline”. Many Free Schools in Sweden follow the trend of the Swedish state sector. It is simply that this one has decided to take a radical stand against liberalism — banning phones, hats, iPods and the like, in lessons.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Adds New Penis to Ancient Statue

Rome, 18 Nov. (AKI) — Italy’s premier Silvio Berlusconi ordered controversial repairs to a 2nd century AD marble statue at his Rome office, which included adding a new penis. Critics say the repairs, which cost Italian taxpayers 70,000 euros, amount to ‘aesthetic surgery and ‘alter the authenticity of the work’.

Restorers replaced the long-lost penis of ancient Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who is portrayed in the priceless statue as the god of war, Mars, and replaced his missing right hand.

The restorers also replaced the missing right hand and nose of the emperor’s wife Faustina the Younger, who is portrayed as Venus, the goddess of love.

The statue has been placed against a ‘kitsch’ blue backdrop, at the request of the architect who oversaw the work, Mario Catalano, according to Italian daily La Repubblica.

Catalano hit back at criticism that he had ignored traditional restoration techniques. The statue’s restoration was fully authorised and body parts were “removable,” he said.

The costly repairs were carried out as the government planned to cut Italy culture budget for 2011 by 46 percent, La Repubblica noted.

Opposition centre-left Democratic Party MP Manuela Ghizzoni described the restoration of the 175 AD statue as “aesthetic surgery”.

“This is real aesthetic surgery carried out at prime minister’s personal whim,” Ghizzoni stated. She asked Italy’s culture minister Sandro Bondi to report on the case.

Berlusconi sparked earlier controversy when he moved the 1,400 kilogramme statue from Rome’s Terme di Diocleziano museum to his office at the 17th-century Palazzo Chigi.

Some commentators have dubbed sex-scandal plagued Berlusconi as ‘priapic’, after the ancient Greek fertility god Priapus whose permanent, throbbing erection gave rise to the medical term priapism.

Berlusconi is currently embroiled in several new sex scandals involving a prostitute and a teenage nightclub dancer who says she attended after-dinner sex games at his villa in Arcore, near Milan. He was earlier linked to a teenage underwear model and another prostitute.

The 74-year-old premier has decried what he calls “indecent attacks” against him.

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

NATO Must Continue Operations ‘Beyond Our Borders’

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said alliance members must be willing and able to exercise military power “beyond our borders” to combat threats such as terrorism and missile attacks.

Mr Rasmussen spoke to The Daily Telegraph as Nato members prepared to gather today in Lisbon to plan the future role of the alliance.

After almost a decade of military operations in Afghanistan, some European Nato members have suggested that the alliance should focus on defending its home territory.

By contrast, Britain and the US believe that to remain relevant, Nato must be prepared to tackle potential security threats beyond its members’ borders.

Mr Rasmussen supported that view, urging alliance members to accept that new security threats may have to be met.

“Our core function will remain territorial defence of our populations,” he said. “But we must realise that in the modern world we have to go beyond our borders to actually protect and defend our borders.”

Afghanistan could serve a template for future threats and Nato’s response to them.

“After the Cold War, we have seen a number of new threats emerge,” he said. “Terrorism is one of them.”

The Lisbon summit will adopt a “strategic concept” or mission statement in a post-Afghanistan world.

“The purpose of the new strategic concept is to prepare the alliance to address the new security challenges — missile attacks, cyber attacks, terrorist attacks,” Mr Rasmussen said.

He also promised that a reform of Nato’s command structures will make alliance forces “more flexible”.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Secret Documents Group Was Like ‘Bad Le Carre Novel, ‘ MEP Says

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The European Parliament’s Special Committee, which is to have access to classified documents on EU foreign relations, is getting ready to start work. But its previous incarnation, under ex-EU-foreign-affairs chief Javier Solana, fell short of expectations.

The outfit, an offshoot of the larger foreign affairs committee (Afet), will have five members: Italian centre-right Afet chairman Gabriele Albertini; German centre-right deputy Elmar Brok; Spanish centre-right member Jose Salafranca; Romanian centre-left MEP Adrian Severin; and Italian centre-left member Roberto Gualtieri. Belgian liberal MEP Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck is to be a substitute.

On the basis of a recent agreement with European External Action Service (EEAS) chief Catherine Ashton, the EU parliament president and other Afet deputies drafting reports on specific topics will also be given access on a temporary basis.

And members of the parliament’s trade committee (Inta) will get their hands on the European Commission’s negotiating mandates for international trade agreements, on the same temporary basis.

Every MEP to benefit from privileges first has to gain security clearance from their country of origin, a process which involves filling out a long questionnaire and then waiting for six to 12 months.

Mr Salafranca and Ms Neyts-Uyttebroeck still have valid clearance from their time in a similar body under Mr Solana. Mr Gualtieri obtained his in recent weeks. Mr Albertini and Mr Brok expect to get theirs in time for the committee to start work in early 2011, just as the EEAS itself gets up and running. The situation on Mr Severin is unclear.

The cell’s official purpose is to improve Afet decision-making by giving it access to top information. In practice, the MEPs are to have regular briefings on sensitive subjects by EEAS staff and then request secret papers that they read in a “Class I” secure room in the Council of Ministers building in Brussels after leaving recording devices, such as mobile phones, and paper and pens at the door.

The committee can appear like a form of democratic oversight on the EEAS and the Joint Situation Centre (SitCen), the member states’ intelligence-sharing bureau in the external service. “It’s important that people know what we are not doing, that we are not opening their post, reading their emails,” a contact familiar with the work of SitCen said.

But it will not be an oversight body in the strict sense of oversight committees in national parliaments because SitCen does not have a mandate to do real intelligence-gathering operations.

On paper, the MEPs are to have access to all levels of EU classification: Tres Secret UE; Secret UE; Confidentiel UE; and Restreint UE.

Tres Secret UE documents tend to deal with “life and death” subjects, such as military targets or assets in war zones. Secret UE documents are defined as being liable to “seriously harm the essential interests of the European Union or of one or more of its member states” if disclosed. Leakage of the lower-graded papers is deemed to do less harm.

In practice, very few Tres Secret UE documents exist in the EU institutions in the first place. The SitCen contact also noted that there is a difference between people who have clearance and people who “actually get stuff.” “What I can say is that for really top-level — Tres Secret UE — we are talking about a handful in the commission and a handful in the Council,” the source explained.

On top of this, MEPs’ access will be limited on the basis of the “originator principle” under which EU capitals which share intelligence with SitCen can stipulate who can and who cannot see it.

“We have to create an atmosphere of trust,” German MEP Mr Brok said. Italian deputy Mr Gualtieri noted that the time it takes to gain national security clearance could be “a real problem” for Afet and Inta rapporteurs who may find their report is due before they get the green light.

Meanwhile, Belgian MEP Ms Neyts-Uyttebroeck, a former foreign minister, said the quality of information under Mr Solana was variable.

“Sometimes when a document is stamped ‘super secret’ it’s not as sexy as you’d imagine. Sometimes it bordered on the ridiculous, like a bad Le Carre novel. We’d have to leave our mobiles and so on before entering the reading chamber. Then you saw a document that was, for example, the mission statement of Eulex, which was the same as we already had in the newspapers,” she said, referring to British spy novelist John Le Carre and the EU police mission in Kosovo.

“At other times it was really interesting, like the rules of engagement for UN troops in Lebanon. When you are operating in a war zone, there’s no need to tell the enemy what your rules of engagement are.”

She added that the set-up has questionable value for Afet because Special Committee members cannot tell their colleagues what they know and cannot claim a superior status in decision-making. “We can express our opinion on this or that. But we have to resist the temptation to try to substitute ourselves for the rest of Afet. That would not be a good thing,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Suspected Bomb With Running Clock Found in Luggage on Air Berlin Flight From Namibia to Germany

Namibian police intercepted a suspicious object with a detonator and a running clock in luggage on an Air Berlin plane from Windhoek to Munich, Germany’s Federal Crime Office (BKA) said on Thursday.

The BKA said it was not clear if the object found during loading of the Airbus jet was an ignitable explosive.

The discovery came after Germany stepped up airport and railway security measures on Wednesday.

Germany has received intelligence pointing to a planned attack in the country towards the end of this month.

The flight left Wednesday after a six-hour delay after all of its cargo had been removed, the company said in an e-mailed statement from the capital, Windhoek.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Wednesday that the threat against the country from ‘Islamic groups’ had become ‘more serious’.

He said information had emerged following a spate of parcel bombs sent from Yemen to US targets at the end of October, coinciding with parcel bombs sent by Greek militants to targets including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

‘The security situation in Germany has become more serious,’ Mr de Maiziere told a news conference.

‘We have concrete indications of a series of attacks planned for the end of November.’

Mr de Maiziere said ‘a tip from an international partner after the Yemen incident’ warned of an attack planned later this month.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Gothenburg Terror Trial Comes to a Close

The Gothenburg trial of two Swedish citizens charged with “planning terrorist crimes” in Somalia ended Wednesday.

A clerk at the district court in the southwestern city of Gothenburg confirmed to AFP that the trial had ended and that both men, aged 22 and 26, would be remanded in custody until a verdict is rendered on December 8th.

Prosecutor Agnetha Hilding Qvarnstroem asked for at least three years in jail for Mohamoud Jama and Bille Ilias Mohamed, who were arrested in Gothenburg and Stockholm in May and June this year.

“A terrorist crime has such tremendously grave consequences, not just for individuals but society,” she said in her closing statement, according to Swedish news agency TT.

According to the charge sheet the two men are members of the Somali Islamist movement al-Shabaab, which has declared allegiance to Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network and controls most of southern and central Somalia.

The two men, one arrested in Gothenburg in May and the other in Stockholm the following month, are suspected of having plotted suicide attacks in Somalia, with the aim of “murder” or “maiming” a large number of people and causing “massive damage to property,” the charge sheet said.

The prosecution based its case on interrogations of the two suspects, witness accounts and a long line of tapped telephone conversations, claimed to have proof the two men had been in contact with al-Shabaab leader Yassin Ismail Ahmed.

The recorded telephone conversations also showed that Mohamed had attended an al-Shabaab training camp in Somalia and that he aimed to “return to Somalia and wanted to become a martyr,” while Jama “was preparing for a future suicide mission,” the charge sheet said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Bomb in a Forest: Loch Lomond Blast is Linked to Al Qaeda

An explosion on the shores of Loch Lomond is being investigated as a possible Al Qaeda bomb test.

The blast, which was reported by walkers and workmen, damaged a large area of woodland on the south-west edge of the lake.

Police are believed to have found several suspicious devices at the site, which is being examined by bomb disposal officers and divers.

Explosives experts from Scotland Yard’s Counter Terror Command have travelled to the Garadhban forest near the village of Gartocharn to assess the scene.

They are investigating whether it might have been the site of an Al Qaeda training camp or a bomb testing and storage site.

Islamic extremists are known to use remote locations to store bomb-making materials and train in terror tactics.

The 7/7 London bombers were photographed on a training camp in the Lake District and other fanatics have trained in the New Forest.

The terrorists convicted of the plot to bring down transatlantic planes with liquid bottle bombs stored their materials in woodland near High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire.

There were claims that camps were held in remote parts of Scotland in the run-up to the terror attack on Glasgow airport in 2007 — including one close to the scene of yesterday’s explosion.

No one is thought to have been injured in the blast 20 miles north-west of Glasgow.

The divers at the scene belong to the Northern Diving Group — the Royal Navy’s equivalent of the bomb disposal squad. Calum Murray, Strathclyde Police Chief Superintendent, said officers were looking at the possibility that the bomb was detonated by members of Al Qaeda.

‘We are investigating all lines of inquiry and have ruled out nothing,’ he said.

‘There is no risk to public safety but the public expect us to treat this seriously and we are doing so.

‘We are working with other experts to try to determine what caused this.

‘As people would expect when we are dealing with a situation where we suspect explosives may be involved it’s our immediate priority to call on experts to help where we feel it’s appropriate.

‘We have a number of Metropolitan police officers working with us and we are being assisted by agencies from across the UK.’


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Cop Guard for Poppy Burner

A MUSLIM fanatic who torched a wreath of poppies on Armistice Day was given a police guard to protect his home, The Sun can reveal. Taxpayers paid to cover the cost of placing two officers and a patrol car outside the house of Abu Rahin Aziz.

The zealot was part of a 40-strong mob who insulted Britain’s war dead on November 11.

We can reveal that the car was sent to his flat in Luton, Beds, last Sunday night and stayed at least 48 hours.

A police source said the move came as senior officers began fearing for Aziz’s safety — adding: “They were just taking precautions.”

Aziz and his group, calling themselves Muslims Against Crusades, also yelled vile insults during the two-minute silence and held placards saying: “British soldiers burn in hell.”

He, mob leader Abu Assadullah and organiser Abu Ubaidah were named and shamed by The Sun after the demo near London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Detectives are continuing to investigate the poppy-burning outrage.

Two men were arrested for insulting behaviour after the flowers were set alight.

The suspects, aged 25 and 30, were bailed until mid-December pending further inquiries.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Hague is No Longer the Right’s Standard Bearer [£]

by Tim Montgomerie [Editor, ConservativeHome]

The Foreign Secretary’s former supporters feel let down over Europe, Israel and defence


It is not just Mr Hague’s European views that have unsettled Tories. Two other important constituencies are also disappointed with him. The party’s Friends of Israel have never trusted Mr Hague since his declaration in 2006 that the Middle East’s only mature democracy had been “disproportionate” in fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon. They also were disturbed by his decision later to question President Bush’s troop surge and instead endorse the Baker-Hamilton plan that would have given Iran and Syria a big say in Iraq’s future.

Tories who worry about national defence also feel let down. They feel Mr Hague sat on his hands when Liam Fox was fighting to protect the MoD budget. “Detached” is a word many now use to describe Mr Hague. Tory insiders are wondering if his heart is still in politics. Whispers of early retirement are circulating.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Hague: Britain to Remain Closest US Ally

William Hague insisted today that Britain would remain America’s most important military ally despite swingeing cuts to the defence budget. In a speech in Washington, the Foreign Secretary sought to allay concerns that the UK’s ability to respond to future threats would be diminished and the “special relationship” undermined.

Mr Hague also met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the nation’s capital. He maintained that Britain “still packs a punch” and that the coalition Government would not allow any decline in the UK’s role in the world. “We are confident that Great Britain is equipped to face the security challenges of the next decade and beyond, and to stand firm with its allies,” he said at Georgetown University. We have a clear long-term vision of Britain as an active global power and the closest ally of the United States..” He added: “Britain will remain a first rate military power and a robust ally of the US and in Nato well into the future.”

Last month’s strategic defence and security review was studied carefully in Washington amid fears about its implications for future conflicts. It heralded an 8% reduction in defence spending over the next four years, which will see 17,000 armed forces personnel cut, Harrier jets scrapped and the HMS Ark Royal decommissioned. Mr Hague said there was a “mistaken idea” that the Government was sacrificing national defence to reduce the UK’s massive budget deficit. Instead, the cuts would enable the UK to be even stronger in the future as its economy grows, he said. “This should be good news for our allies, and a timely reminder to potential adversaries that Britain still packs a punch on the world stage.”

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition would never “shirk” its international responsibilities, he said. “Our government is determined to stand foursquare with the United States and our allies to confront the security challenges of the 21st century as robustly as we faced those of the past,” he said.

The Foreign Secretary said the relationship between the US and Britain was “still special” and that their counter-terror co-operation saved lives. “As the minister responsible for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service and our signals intelligence agency GCHQ, I witness every day, and sometimes every hour, that our relationship saves lives and is indispensable to the security of both our countries,” he said. He warned that Britain and America had to be seen to “stand up” for its values if they wanted to maintain their security over the long-term.

But that also meant maintaining “the moral advantage”, he said, referring to allegations of complicity with torture and mistreatment by security services. Former US president George Bush claimed last week that waterboarding had saved British lives. “If we are to maintain our influence in the world, we must always seek to retain the moral advantage,” Mr Hague said.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Hague Presses Clinton to Release Guantanamo Inmate

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Wednesday he urged the United States to send Guantanamo Bay inmate Shaker Aamer, the last British resident at the U.S. military prison in Cuba, back to Britain.

According to rights group Amnesty International, Aamer is a Saudi who moved to Britain in 1996 and was in Afghanistan doing voluntary work for an Islamic charity when he was captured by Northern Alliance fighters in 2001 and handed to U.S. forces. The group said he was later transferred to the prison camp for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay naval base. President Barrack Obama has pledged to close the detention centre.

Aamer, who has not been charged with any crime, is married to a British national and lived with their four children in London before he was detained in Afghanistan. Asked about the case in a speech at Washington’s Georgetown University, Hague said he had raised it with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “I have been discussing that with Secretary Clinton today and reiterated our position that we would like to see this gentleman returned to the United Kingdom and that is under consideration by the United States,” Hague said.

Aamer is one of about 180 prisoners left at the Guantanamo prison. Obama’s pledge to close the military prison within a year of taking office in January 2009 was derailed by political, legal and diplomatic problems.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Police Arrest ‘Husband and Father-in-Law After Asian Woman is Found Stabbed to Death Following Family Row’

A husband was remanded in custody under the Mental Health Act today after a pretty young woman was knifed to death in a car in what was believed to be a violent family argument.

The 27-year-old victim bled to death on the back seat of the vehicle after the bloody attack which severed an artery was launched while she was travelling with two men, believed to be her husband and father-in-law.

Detectives found a bloodstained knife alongside the body of the young woman in the Volkswagen Passat car which was parked on the road outside the family’s semi-detached home.

A post mortem examination revealed that the mother-of-one, who has not yet been formally identified, bled to death after her femoral artery was severed.

Today a 30-year-old man, arrested on suspicion of murder, was detained in a hospital secure unit under the Mental Health Act.

His father, aged 51 years, has been released on police bail to return to Crawley police station on January 25.

Police confirmed that the victim and the two men arrested were all Asian and known to each other.

Neighbours identified them as the Baig family and said that they had been celebrating Eid, the Muslim equivalent of Christmas, last night when the killing happened.

The alarm was raised when ambulance controllers and police received a 999 call from the family home in, Crawley, West Sussex.

Two paramedic rapid response cars and an ambulance were sent to the scene but there was nothing the medics could do to save the woman who had been stabbed to death.

Police from the Sussex Major Crime Team were contacted immediately by the first officers to arrive at the scene and a major murder investigation was launched.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Schoolboy Who Received Death Threats From Muslim Gang After Supporting British Troops ‘Will Not Return to School’

A mother has vowed to remove her son from his local school after he received death threats from a gang of Muslim teenagers.

The students involved — five Muslim boys and one non-Muslim girl — have been suspended and may now be expelled from the Sidney Stringer Academy in Coventry after their chilling response to Darius’ patriotic online message.

And after the online revenge campaign — by a group calling themselves the ‘Muslim Defence League’ — Darius’ mother has removed him permanently from the West Midlands school.

‘I will never let Darius go back to that school,’ said Clare Allington, 42. ‘I fear for his life if he goes back.

‘The threats which were dangerous and terrifying, no child should have to put up with that treatment.

‘Darius and I have had a long talk about it and we’ve both decided that he won’t be going back.

‘I wouldn’t go back if I was him and I’d always be worrying if it happened again. Darius needs a fresh start.’

Darius — whose father is Muslim — had posted pictures of British troops on Facebook on Remembrance Day and wrote a message of tribute to the Armed forces, saying: ‘RIP TO ALL THE LADS WHO NEVER MADE IT HOME.’

Yet Darius’ patriotic message was met with hate, with pupils branding him ‘racist’ and threatening to attack Darius at school on the following Monday.

One of the online messages — which were littered with spelling mistakes — read: ‘Fight on Monday gonna be heavy knuckle dusters and knifes hopefully I don’t die.’

Another pupil added: ‘ill bang [attack] him ma slef [myself] am a terrorist.’

The Facebook profile of one of the pupils — an Iraqi — shows a picture of him posing with an AK47 rifle and features a poem about hijacking a plane.

On November 12, he wrote: ‘You better watch what the **** flies outta ya mouth. Or I’ma hijack a plane and fly it into your house.

‘Burn your apartment with your family tied to the couch. And slit your throat, so when you scream, only blood comes out.’

Five Muslim boys and one white girl — all aged just 12 — now face expulsion from the Sidney Stringer Academy, which has a 65 per cent Muslim student population.

The academy’s principal Wendy Tomes said: ‘We are very disappointed that Darius has chosen not to return to the school.

‘We can appreciate how upsetting this has all been and we are appalled by the behaviour of the students involved.

‘All the students are being dealt with very seriously by the school but not all of the Facebook comments are Sidney Stringer students, some are from other schools or even young adults who are friends with some of our students.

‘We have contacted all of our parents by text and sent letters to ask them to support us by being vigilant over Facebook and other social networking sites.’

Darius’ mother Clare said she is also considering moving house as she and her family are ‘genuinely scared of reprisals’.

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police said: ‘The school has informed us of the incident.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Increasing Tension Between Muslims and Copts. Burned Houses, Battle Over Church

Muslims set fire to ten houses and a shop in southern Egypt. In Talby, near the Pyramids, hundreds of Coptic Christians patrol the land for a church whose construction was opposed by fundamentalists.

Cairo (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A love story between a young Christian and a Muslim girl has sparked violence in a small town 465 km south of Cairo, security forces intervened to take control of the situation and prevent that the violence spreading to nearby towns. Several people were arrested. The attacks were launched after a young Copt and a Muslim girl were seen together at night in the village cemetery. Both are now under police custody. After the intervention of the police, and after the local religious leaders appealed to the faithful of the two communities, peace returned. Clashes between Christians and Muslims are not uncommon in southern Egypt, many over issues of land, or because of the construction of churches. In recent months, however, the clashes have begun to spread in the capital.

The most recent example is a current tug of war over the construction of a church. Thousands of Copts have been guarding the site of the church of Santa Maria in Talbiya, in the area of the Pyramids, since 11 November to protest the raid made by dozens of police officers to stop the construction and demolish a ladder and some toilets constructed inside the church, despite the necessary permits given by authorities. On hearing of the police raid, hundreds of Copts gathered on the site, to prevent it from being sealed off. They said they will not give up their church, and nobody will prevent them from praying there. “Even if President Mubarak himself came here, the construction will go on. They’re just looking for excuses to slip inside and begin to demolish the church, “said one of their leaders, Mansour el-Sharkawy.

More than a million Copts live in the Talbiya, without even a church, and must travel several km every Sunday to attend religious services. The area is full of mosques built without permission, say the Copts, but when it comes to Christians, it takes years to obtain the necessary permits, and then the authorities find some excuse to stop everything. “When they saw the dome of the church, the Muslims went mad,” said one of Christian leaders. And when they learned of the construction of the church, they began to throw garbage. A jihadi forum “Atahadi” (Challenge) which is said to have connections with Al Qaeda, published a story on its website called: “Images of the church building at the pyramids, and how to demolish it.” And it said: “An easy and effective way which does not need weapons or explosives: just pour t sugar into the moulds of the columns, because the sugar chemically reacts with cement and sand”.

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

Elections: Egypt ‘Outraged’ By US ‘Interference’

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 18 — Today Egypt expressed its ‘outrage’ over what it called ‘interference’ by the USA in its internal affairs, especially as regards the request of checks by international observers over the legislative elections that will be held on November 28. Egypt’s foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit stated that “The US interference in the Country’s internal affairs raises the outrage of Egypt”, in reference to a recent meeting between some of president Barack Obama’s advisors.

In a statement, Abul Gheit defined as “absolutely unacceptable” Washington’s requests concerning the sending of foreign observers to ensure transparency in the elections. Objection to the presence of foreign observers was also stated yesterday by Rafwat el Sherif, the general secretary of the National democratic party that is in power. The previous day the Department of State had emphasised that the USA “are still committed to supporting free and impartial elections in Egypt”, pointing out that this would entail the performance of peaceful political meetings during the electoral campaign, ample coverage by the media and even the presence of international observers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hebrew-Language Message Threatens Continued Fire Into Israel

A day after a senior figure in a Gaza-based Islamist group was slain in an Israeli targeted killing, another militant organization has released a Hebrew language audio message threatening continued rocket fire into Israel.

The message, addressed to “the attacking Jews”, was posted on website used by Islamic radical groups and came from a Gaza-based organization calling itself the Jemma Ansar al-Sunna or the Community of Sunna Supporters.

In Arabic accented Hebrew the speaker on the tape warned “the killing of our brothers will not stop us from continuing the Jihad …and our rockets will continue if you do not leave the land of Palestine.”

The message referenced the killing of Islam Yassin the day before in Gaza City. Yassin and his brother were driving Wednesday afternoon when their car exploded.

In a joint-statement released shortly after the explosion, Israel’s air force and internal security organization, known as the Shin Bet, acknowledged carrying out the strike claiming the target was a member of a known radical group.

“Islam Yassin was a senior operative in the Army of Islam terror organization…” the statement said.

“Most recently, Yassin had been personally involved in planning and directing a terror attack in which Israelis would be kidnapped from the Sinai Peninsula. “

The strike against the Army of Islam marks the second time this month that Israel has employed targeted killings against the group which it considers a radical Salafist organization with ideological ties to al Qaeda.

On November 3, in a similar strike, another Army of Islam leader, Mohammed al-Namnam was killed by Israel. A military spokeswoman at the time called him a “ticking bomb” who was involved in attacks against Israeli and American targets in the Sinai Peninsula.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Baghdad Church Attack Victims to be Honoured in St Peters’ Mass

Vatican City, 17 Nov. (AKI) — The Vatican announced a mass will be held in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome on 25 November to commemorate the 58 people including two priests who died in an attack against the Syrian Catholic cathedral in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad last month.

The pontiff has frequently deplored attacks and discrimination against Christian minorities in Muslim countries. He condemned the Baghdad assault as “absurd” and “ferocious” and called for an end to sectarian violence in the war-wracked country.

Many Muslims denounced the attack, which was claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked group, the Islamic State of Iraq. Besides the 58 people who died in the attack, 80 were injured.

Iraq’s approximately 500,000 remaining Christians fear pograms after further deadly bombings targeting Iraqi Christians since the attack on Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, one of the city’s main churches.

Most want to flee the country, observers say.

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

Iraq: Archbishop of Mosul Warns of Change in Strategy in Attacks on Christians

The United Nations should “put pressure on the Iraqi government,” therefore investigate attacks and killings “in depth”, says Mgr. George Basile Casmoussa, Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul. With the murder of two Christians, in their own homes, we are witnessing an escalation of attacks against the Christian minority in Iraq. Families are leaving the country.

Mosul (AsiaNews) — After the church attack in Baghdad that killed 55 people, and the statement of Al Qaeda that Christians are “legitimate targets”, there has been no end to the violence against the Christian minority in Iraq. On November 15, in Mosul, two other men were killed in their homes. According to the statements of police, some unknown persons broke into homes and gunned them down with automatic weapons before fleeing. The victims were Nabil Ghanem and Nashwan Khoder, both 36 years old. The first, Syrian Catholic, worked for the provincial unit of the organization to combat corruption, the second, a carpenter of Armenian origin.

This latest attack — a real execution- seems to indicate a different strategy in the attacks against Christians. Mgr. George Basile Casmoussa, Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, is convinced of this and spoke to AsiaNews about the dramatic situation of the Christian community in Iraq:

Do you believe, we are seeing a surge in attacks against the Christian minority in Iraq?

Yes and a new, dangerous growth: the novelty is that the terrorists are attacking people directly in their homes. There is a change in strategy.

Are these latest attacks — including that of 31 October against the church in Baghdad, claimed by Al Qaeda — pushing the Christian community to flee Iraq? And in this case, to where?

Many Christian families are leaving or would like to leave the big cities, Baghdad and Mosul in particular. The first step is to leave their homes. But some of them try to go abroad.

Would you like to make an appeal for Christians in Iraq through AsiaNews?

We are asking the United Nations to seriously discuss the issue of Iraqi Christians. To send a real commission for an inquiry. To put pressure on the Iraqi government to ensure attention and the highest security to churches and Christian villages. And to pursue the murderers, to the very end.

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

Iraq: President Talabani Refuses to Sign Tariq Aziz Execution Order

Iraqi president Jalal Talabani is refusing to sign the execution order for Tariq Aziz, former deputy prime minister under Saddam Hussein.

Aziz, 74, was condemned to death last month by an Iraqi court for persecution of religious parties.

Mr Talabani told France 24 television he would never sign the order because of Aziz’s age and because he is an Iraqi Christian.

The president is known for his general opposition to the death penalty.

Our correspondent in Baghdad, Gabriel Gatehouse, said that in 2006 Mr Talabani refused to sign a warrant ordering the execution of Saddam Hussein.

Instead, the order was ratified by one of Mr Talabani’s two deputies, and the former Iraqi president was hanged all the same.

It is not clear what will happen in this case.

Iraq is in the middle of a drawn-out process of government formation.

Our correspondent says the constitution requires executions to be ratified by the presidency, and carried out within 30 days of the sentence being confirmed.

Mr Talabani was re-appointed last week after more than eight months of political wrangling. At the moment, he has no formal deputies who could authorise the death penalty in his place.

As Iraq’s foreign minister, as well as deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz was the face and voice of Saddam’s government on the world stage.

He had been previously convicted for his role in the execution of dozens of merchants for profiteering and for his role in the displacement of the Kurdish minority in northern Iraq.

He is also reported to be seriously ill.

The European Union, the Vatican and Russia have called on Iraq not to execute Aziz on grounds of age and ill health.

When he was sentenced last month, the BBC’s Jim Muir says, Aziz was not widely seen as one of Saddam’s evil insiders, and a lobby could spring up to prevent him being sent to the gallows.

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

Iraq: President Talabani Has No Objection to Form Christian Province

BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said on Wednesday that he has no objection to form a special province for Christians in Iraq.

“There are regions with Christian majority in Iraq and we do not have an objection regarding forming a special province for Christians in Iraq,” the president told France 24 television.

“Protecting Christians is a holy duty for Iraqi government and all political blocs,” he continued, asserting that Shiites have expressed their readiness to form armed teams to help and protect Christians.

The past few days have seen attacks with improvised explosive devices and rockets on houses inhabited by Christians in several neighborhoods of Baghdad, where dozens were killed or wounded and the houses severely damaged.

The attacks followed a raid by gunmen on the Church of Sayedat al-Najah (Our Lady of Salvation) in Baghdad on October 31 during which they kept dozens of worshippers during a Sunday mass hostage.

Security forces stormed the church, resulting in the death of 58 people, including five gunmen and seven security personnel. The wounded reached 75, including 15 army and police personnel. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the attack and pledged to target Christians in Iraq again.

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


Ex-KGB Soldier Named as Double Agent Who Exposed Anna Chapman Spy Ring

Russian intelligence sources told local media that the traitor who gave away Anna Chapman and nine others was Colonel Alexander Poteyev who served in the KGB’s elite ‘Zenith’ Special Forces unit during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

A criminal case for ‘state treason’ had been opened against him and he will be tried in absentia like other traitors before him, they said.

The scandal caused huge embarrassment in Russia and triggered the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.

In its wake, President Dmitry Medvedev ordered an internal investigation at the SVR foreign intelligence service, the agency that ran the compromised agents.

Fyodor Yakovlev, a KGB veteran who said he served with Colonel Poteyev in Afghanistan, told the Regnum news agency that he now regarded his former comrade as a “non-person”.

“This non-person will live a lonely life until the end of his days in fear,” he said. “Lonely because his relatives and loved ones will not be by his side. Either his children will have to alter their appearances or else they will be doomed to the same nightmarish existence as their father.”

Colonel Poteyev is believed to have fled to the United States in June through his native Belarus days before the ten agents were arrested in America. He was reportedly deputy director of ‘Department S’ inside the SVR, the unit which coordinates the work of illegal agents in the United States.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Fears of a Muslim Russia

Ravil Gainutdin, the head of the Union of Muftis of Russia (SMR), says that opposition to the construction of mosques in Moscow shows that “in the subconsciousness of the contemporary urban residents of the titular nation, the Russians, there is a fear that on one fine day, they will wake up in a Muslim country.”

Such people, the Muslim leader said on the occasion of Kurban Bayram, are “seeking to frighten believing Muslims, to sow fear in the Muslim mmilieu, to spread doubts about the sincerity of the respect and attention to Muslims from the side of the power structures of the government by defining the question as is it necessary to build a mosque in Moscow?”

That is a dangerous step, he continued, because it could generate support for radical nationalists among Russians and for Islamist fundamentalists among Muslims, all the more so since “Moscow is not only the capital of the Russian state, not only an enormous megapolis … but also a mirror whose actions serve as a model for other regions of Russia.”

Indeed, Gainutdin said, “the real basis for extremism and terrorism is created by cultural and religion illiteracy, including on questions about the cultural heritage of other peoples and ethnic groups,” especially when those groups are not arrivals from somewhere far away but indigenous citizens.

The SMR leader’s remarks reflect the growing anger of many Muslims in the Russian Federation to the way in which they are being treated not only directly by the powers that be but also by extremist anti-Islamic groups that the regime is doing relatively little to restrain and that have been encouraged by recent anti-Muslim statements by European leaders.

Moreover, the anger Gainutdin expressed would undoubtedly have been even greater had it come after two developments reported today. On the one hand, Vladimir Zorov, prefect of the South East District of Moscow, announced that “no construction of a mosque [in Tekstilshchiki] is going on or being planned.

And on the other hand, the New Region news agency is reporting that some Russian nationalists are now saying that “there is only one means of forcing Muslims to take us into consideration and that is called deportation,” the kind of language that will only further enflame the situation.

Aleksandr Belov, the former leader of the openly xenophobic Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI), told the news agency that Russian officials must “carefully study the results of the celebration of Kurban-Bayram [in Russian cities] and drawn corresponding conclusions for the future.”

“Thank Allah,” Belov continued, “that there is such a holiday. In one place and at one time all the illegals have assembled. “It only remains for the militia to detain them and rapidly deport them according to the existing legal order. The holiday is a beautiful moment for the identification of all migrants.”

For Belov, the distinction between illegal migrants and Muslims in this case is less hard and fast than it may be for other. Muslims, he said, “love to say that in Moscow there live 1.5 million of the faithful. But this is not so. … In the best case, there are 100,000 Muslims in all of Moscow. There is no Muslim community of a million here and never was one.”

“The basic mass of these uneducated people [who took part in the slaughter of animals for Kurban-Bayram] are not local Muslims, not Tatars, but rather arrivals from Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus who interfere with the local Muslims who conduct their religious holiday in a normal way.”

But Belov then made a broader point: “I do not know a single country where Islam peacefully coexists with other religions. And that includes not only countries which have a predominantly non-Muslim population, but even in lands with a Muslim population such as Pakistan for example there are constant terrorist acts.”

“Among Muslims,” the nationalist continued, the phenomena of fanaticism and radicalism are very widely spread and if something isn’t just so, then let’s blow up a mosque. Therefore all this is a functional danger, a threat for the entire society. Consequently, the fewer of them, the more peaceful” for everyone else.

Another radical Russian nationalist, Dmitry Demushkin, the head of the banned Slavic Union, advocates equally harsh measures against not only immigrants but Muslims as such. “Why must we think about the national feelings of Muslims. They are in our country as guests, is it not true? They must observe our laws, our traditions, and our way of doing business.”

If they want to do otherwise, he continued, then let them do it in turkmenistan, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan. “We won’t go into their monastery with our rules.” But while they are in our country, Demushkin said, they need to follow “our rules.” If they don’t, “deportation” is the answer, lest windows be broken and sheep sacrificed in public.

The Moscow militia, if it had been doing its job, the Slavic Union leader says, would have been able to send “two thirds” of those taking part in Kurban-Bayram celebrations in Moscow “immediately” out of Russia and back to their homeland where they could do as they please.

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


Dagestan’s Deadly Islamic Insurgency

Magomed has one of the most dangerous jobs in Russia. He is a policeman — in Dagestan.

“Police here are constant targets,” he tells me as we drive through the capital, Makhachkala.

“Whenever I get out of the police car, I always wonder if the insurgents will see my uniform and will shoot me. Six of my colleagues have been killed this year. At night you won’t find any policemen on the streets — we’re all too frightened.”

From the car window, Makhachkala looks like a normal, bustling city.

The roads are full of traffic, the streets bristling with pedestrians hurrying home from work. With its stunning backdrop of the Caucasus mountains on one side, and the Caspian Sea on the other, the place almost feels like the Russian Riviera. But an Islamic insurgency has turned a potential resort into a war zone.

Nearly every day, the rebels attack police and local officials. In one shooting spree last week, seven Dagestani policemen were killed. On Monday, a gunman burst into a hospital and murdered a traffic policeman who had been recovering in bed.

The Russian security forces respond by carrying out “special operations” in towns and villages across Dagestan. Acting on intelligence, they seal off streets, whole neighbourhoods, and open fire to root out rebel fighters.

But who are the insurgents? And what are they fighting for?

‘Foreign training’ “The aim of the extremists is to tear the Caucasus away from Russia,” Dagestan’s President, Magomedsalam Magomedov, tells me.

“Many of them are mercenaries who’ve undergone instruction in Taliban training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“They have links to al-Qaeda and to other terrorist groups across the Caucasus which share the same goal.

“They want to turn the whole region into an Islamic state based on sharia [Islamic] law but we will defeat them.”

Moscow sees this is as a battle it cannot afford to lose — not only if it is to retain control of the North Caucasus, but also provide security for the whole country.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Christian to Go to Trial on Sunday for His Faith

Said Musa was arrested on 31 May. He is set to appear before a judge without legal counsel and without knowledge of the charges against him. Many fear he might be made an example to show that Sharia is the law of the land.

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) — An Afghan national, in prison since May because of his religion, will be put on tried this Sunday. However, he has been denied legal counsel. Local sources say no one knows what charges will be laid against him when he goes before a judge.

The authorities arrested Said Musa, 45, on 31 May, a day after a local station, Noorin TV, broadcast images of Christians praying after being baptised. This was followed by a wave of arrests against Christians in what local sources describe as a manhunt. Apparently, Said Musa is the only Christian to go on trial.

Leaving Islam for another religion is a capital offence under Afghanistan’s Islamic law, despite the fact that the Taliban lost power in 2001.

In June, the authorities forced Musa to abjure his Christian faith publicly, on television, but still kept him in prison without informing him of the charges against him.

In prison, Musa said he was a follower of Jesus, local sources report.

Last month, Musa was able to get a letter out, addressed to the world’s Churches, to US President Barack Obama and the chiefs of NATO forces in Afghanistan.

In it, he wrote that he was “physically and verbally abused” by his captors and other prisoners at Ouliat Prison in Kabul.

He alluded to the lack of justice he faced, saying that the prosecutor had given the judge a false report about him and had demanded a bribe.

Local Christians, human rights observers and religious freedom monitors fear that Musa might be made an example to show that Sharia rules in Afghanistan rather than international agreements.

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

Man Accused of Blasphemy Killed in Pakistan

A man accused of blasphemy was shot and killed near his home in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore shortly after being granted bail by a court, according to a media report.

Imran Latif, 22, was accused of burning pages of the Quran in a case registered at Sherakot police station in Lahore and spent five months in jail.

He was released on bail on November 3 after the man who filed the complaint of blasphemy told the court he was not sure that Latif was guilty.

Latif was shot by armed men near his home on November 11 but police learnt only later that he had been accused of blasphemy, the Express Tribune newspaper reported.

Inspector Rafique Ahmed, who is investigating the murder, said Latif’s killing was likely linked to the blasphemy case. “No Muslim tolerates a man who commits blasphemous acts,” he said.

Latif’s family had not mentioned the blasphemy case when they reported the murder, he said.

Latif’s 60-year-old mother Sharifan said two men armed with pistols had knocked at the door of their house near Pir Makki shrine on November 11 and asked Latif to accompany them.

“A few yards from the house, they suddenly opened fire,” she said. She said her son was shot five times and the attackers fled on a motorcycle.

“There were policemen present in the street but no one tried to stop them,” she said.

Latif’s brother Haider Ali said he was innocent in the blasphemy case.

He suspected that Ijaz Ahmed, a man who had a dispute with his brother over the ownership of a shop, had had Latif killed with the help of two other men.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Pope Appeals for “Full Freedom for Asia Bibi”

Appeal of Benedict XVI for the woman who lives in a country where Christians are “often the victims of violence or discrimination.” Respect for human dignity. In his speech during the general audience, the Pope illustrates the figure of Saint Juliana of Liège. In the Church there is a “new Eucharistic springtime”.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) — An appeal for the restitution of “full freedom” to Asia Bibi was launched today by Benedict XVI, at the end of the general audience. He noted that “the international community is following with great concern the difficult situation of Christians in Pakistan, often victims of violence or discrimination.” The Pope expressed his “spiritual closeness” to Asia Bibi and her family and called for the liberation of women. “I pray — he concluded — for those who are in similar situations that their human dignity and their fundamental rights be fully respected.”

Before the appeal, in his address to the 40 thousand people in St. Peter’s Square, Benedict XVI said the church is undergoing a “springtime of the Eucharist”, with many people, even young, “stopping in silence before the tabernacle to spend time with Him” . It is a “wonderful development” of Eucharistic worship for which the Church is particularly indebted to St. Juliana of Cornillon, from Liège a nun who lived between1191 and 1258 to whom Benedict XVI dedicated his general audience.

The Pope, continuing in his series of lessons on the great female figures of the medieval Church said that Jiuliana was born into an environment, that of Liege, which was “a true Eucharistic Cenacle, theologians had illustrated the supreme value of the Eucharist and there were women’s groups generously dedicated to the worship of the Eucharist and fervent communion. “

Orphaned at 5, Juliana, with her sister Agnes, was entrusted to the Augustinian nuns, whose orders she entered at 18. She was a woman of “high culture to the point that she cites the works of the Latin Fathers, especially Augustine and Bernard.” She had a “lively intelligence” and “propensity for contemplation.” At 16 she had her first vision that repeated itself several times. The vision represented “the moon in its full splendour with a diametric dark stripe. The Lord made it clear that the Moon was the life of the Church on earth and the dark line represents the absence of a liturgical feast” in which “believers could worship the Eucharist to increase faith in the practice of virtue and advancing reparation for the offenses of the Blessed Sacrament. “

It became the purpose of her life. Together with two other women, “Blessed Eve, who lived a hermit’s life, and Isabella, who had entered the monastery of Mont-Cornillon”, she created a kind of “spiritual covenant”. They also questioned “theologians and clergy on what was in their heart. The responses were positive and encouraging. “ This “appears frequently in the lives of saints: to confirm that an inspiration comes from God, they must always be immersed in prayer, they must know how to wait patiently, to seek friendship and comparison with other good souls, and submit everything to the judgement of the pastors of the Church”. And it was the bishop of Liege, Robert of Thourotte, who welcomed the proposal of Juliana and her companions, and instituted for the first time, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in his diocese. Later, other bishops followed suit.

The Lord, however, often ask the Saints to pass tests, so their faith may grow. This was also the case with Juliana, who had to suffer the bitter opposition of some members of the clergy and the same leaders from which her monastery depended. “ Juliana, then “voluntarily” left the convent, and for ten years, from 1248 to 1258, was the guest of various monasteries of Cistercian nuns. She died in 1258 in Fosses-la-Ville, Belgium. “In the cell where she was lying, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, in the words of the biographer, Juliana died contemplating a last outburst of love for Jesus in the Eucharist, which she had always loved, honoured and adored.” James Pantaléon of Troyes also joined in the “good cause of the feast of Corpus Domini, who had met during his ministry the Holy Archdeacon of Liege and who became Pope Urban IV in 1264, establishing the feast of Corpus Christi as a feast of obligation for the universal Church. It was he who wanted to take the lead in celebrating the feast of Corpus Domini in Orvieto, the city where he then lived and that still custodies the famous coporal with traces of the Eucharistic miracle” that had occurred ‘ years earlier, in 1263, in Bolsena. A priest, as he consecrate the bread and wine, was taken by strong doubts about the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. Miraculously, a few drops of blood began to flow from the consecrated host, confirming that way what our faith professes”.

Urban IV also asked one of the greatest theologians of history, St. Thomas Aquinas to compose the texts of the liturgical office of this great feast. “They still used today in the Church, they are masterpieces, which combine poetry and theology. They are texts that pull on the heart strings in an expression of praise and gratitude to the Blessed Sacrament, while the intelligence, entering into the mystery with surprise, in the Eucharist recognize the true and living presence of Jesus, his sacrifice of love that reconciles us with the Father, and gives us salvation. “

Remembering Saint Juliana of Cornillon, the Pope concluded, “we also renew our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.” “Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way with his body and his blood, his soul and his divinity. In it he is thus present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and man. “

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

Pope Benedict XVI Calls for Release of Christian Sentenced to Hang in Pakistan

The Pope told his weekly public audience in the Vatican of his “spiritual closeness” to Asia Bibi, a mother of five children, who is accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Last week The Daily Telegraph revealed that she had been sentenced to death after a mob of angry villagers, spurred on by clerics, tried to attack the 45-year-old over a dispute about whether a Christian should be allowed to handle a container filled with drinking water for Muslims.

The Pope said that Christians in Pakistan often faced violence or discrimination as he called for Mrs Bibi’s “full freedom”

.”I pray for those who are in similar situations that their human dignity and their fundamental rights be fully respected,” he said.

Supporters of Mrs Bibi said she had fetched water for other women working in fields in Punjab province, sparking a row over whether the water was still fit for Muslims to drink.

The dispute escalated a few days later, when she was accused of making derogatory remarks against the Prophet Mohammed. She has been in prison for the past one and a half years and is thought to be the first woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Similar convictions are usually overturned by higher courts and Mrs Bibi’s family have already lodged an appeal.

However, the verdict has drawn attention to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, which human rights campaigners believe are used to persecute the country’s religious minorities and to settle personal rivalries.

Although governed by a secular party, Pakistan’s conservative clerics wield considerable influence and few political leaders are willing to risk their ire by repealing the blasphemy laws.

However, Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s minister for minority affairs, said the government was working to reform the law so that it could not be abused.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Turkmenistan: Appeal Denied for Ilmurad Nurliev, Pentecostal Pastor Convicted by False Evidence

Sentenced to four years for fraud, in a closed door trial, access denied to diplomats, his wife complains that the witnesses testimony was false. Fears he will be sent to a labour camp that forcibly administers psychotropic substances for Christian prisoners. Now his last hope is international mobilization.

Ashgabat (AsiaNews/F18) — A sentence of 4 years in jail on false evidence for pastor Ilmurad Nurliev, in a court sentence that has been “hidden” to prevent an appeal. Fears are mounting that he will be sent to a labour camp known for its use of psychotropic substances on inmates. His wife Maya Nurlieva launches an appeal to denounce the persecution

The woman told Forum 18 that the court refused to give her a copy of the ruling issued on October 21, needed for an appeal to be lodged within 10 days, saying it would only be given to her husband, by court order of Judge Agajan Akjaev . Not even his lawyer has been given access to the written sentence.

Thus it has not been possible to appeal against the sentence to four years in prison for aggravated fraud, a charged based solely on very dubious testimonies of people who say they entrusted money to him. One of the witnesses, Aybolek Akmuradovna Gurbanov claimed to have given Nurliev money on January 1, 2010, but F18 found that on that date he was in prison on a previous conviction.

The trial was held behind closed doors, not even a single representative of the U.S. Embassy was allowed to attend.

Nurliev Light to the World Pentecostal Church, which the state has repeatedly refused to register. In the country unregistered religious groups can not hold activities, or even meet to pray.

The pastor is in jail since Aug. 27. The ruling also ordered that he be submitted to “forced medical treatment” like that of a drug addict, despite medical tests performed on October 5 showing that he does not need it. The fear is that he and Jehovah’s Witness Ahmet Hudaybergenov, also convicted, will be sent to Seydi labour camp, where there is evidence of torture against Baptist Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses prisoners with psychotropic drugs.

A letter dated October 21, 2010 from Doctor G. Gurtykov of Mary District Hospital says that Nurliev is registered as a blood donor, who are subjected to analysis and are not accepted if drug addicts.

The ruling also ordered the man to pay over 1,300 manat fine, equal to about two months of his salary. His wife was forced to immediately pay the sum.

Human rights activist Natalya Shabunts in an article published on November 2 in the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, has called Nurliev’s arrest and conviction “illegal”. The article praises the members of the Church because none of them have betrayed the pastor on false charges, despite the pressure received from police. “I hope — she says — to attract the attention of international organizations towards the arbitrary justice, for which anyone can be convicted on false charges”.

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

Far East

China Denies ‘Hijacking’ Internet Traffic

China today denied US allegations that it “hijacked” highly sensitive internet traffic — including emails sent to and from US military websites — earlier this year.

A state-owned telecoms company in China had access to 15% of global internet traffic, including confidential emails from Nasa and the US army, for 18 minutes in April, according to an annual security report delivered to the US congress on Wednesday.

The report warned that the capture “could enable severe malicious activities” by China. The state-owned company accused of “hijacking” the encrypted information, China Telecom, today denied “any hijack of internet traffic”.

Online security experts say the capture represents “one of the biggest hijacks” of sensitive information in the history of the internet.

Relations between China and the US — number one and two in the world, respectively, in terms of internet users — have long been fraught when it comes to the web.

Earlier this year US technology giant Google said it was to stop censoring results on its Chinese search engine, following a sophisticated and allegedly state-sponsored cyber attack directed at the company. China earlier accused the US of making “groundless accusations” about restrictions on internet freedom against the country.

The US report said that some 15% of global internet traffic was routed through Chinese servers earlier this year, prompting worries that the country now has access to sensitive correspondence from US government bodies. US commissioner Larry Wortzel raised concerns on Wednesday that China would now “get the internet addresses of everybody that communicated” with the US armed services’ chiefs of staff.

The rerouting began at a smaller Chinese ISP called IDC China before being passed on to China Telecom, the report compiled by the US-China economic and security review commission claimed. Encrypted correspondence from the US senate, the department of defence and “many others” were among the huge amount of traffic captured by China.

Dmitri Alperovitch, a threat research analyst at internet security firm McAfee, said the capture “is one of the biggest — if not the biggest hijacks — we have ever seen”.

“No one except China Telecom operators” know what happened to the traffic during those 18 minutes, Alperovitch added. “The possibilities are numerous and troubling, but definitive answers are unknown.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Prove it Was Me in the Burqa, Says Accused Woman

COVERED from head to toe in a burqa, with just a slit through which to see, a Muslim woman charged with making a false complaint to police now argues she has been a victim of mistaken identity.

Carnita Matthews was charged in June after allegedly falsely claiming that a highway patrol officer handled her in an attempt to see her burqa-hidden face during a random breath test.

She has pleaded not guilty.

After arriving at Campbelltown Local Court, in Sydney, yesterday with an identically dressed friend, Ms Matthews watched the in-car police video of her being pulled over and asked to lift the burqa so the officer could verify her licence photo.

The court was told that after being issued an infringement notice for not properly displaying her P-plates, the 46-year-old branded the officer “a racist” and claimed he only booked her because of what she was wearing.

“I’ve got my P-plates on my car … there was nothing wrong with how they were displayed,” Ms Matthews said on the video.

“You look at me and see me wearing this and you couldn’t handle it. All cops are racist.”


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

South Africa: Murdered Tourist Looking for ‘Real Africa’

Cape Town — The husband of murdered tourist Anni Dewani says she made the fatal decision to go into Gugulethu last Saturday night because she wanted to see the “real Africa”.

Speaking to UK tabloid The Sun, Briton Shrien Dewani, 31, revealed on Monday that his Swedish wife said she wanted a change from the “safe” region around their hotel, Cape Town’s luxury Cape Grace, where they were staying for their honeymoon.

“She had never been to Africa before, so she suggested that we should have a look at the ‘real Africa’,” Dewani told the newspaper.

“Anni grew up in Sweden, and she felt as if the area around the hotel was like at home, so clean and safe, and maybe a bit sterile.

According to The Sun, Anni was killed by a bullet which had severed an artery. She is also believed to have been sexually assaulted.

Township tourist hotspot

The couple are believed to have been heading to township tourist hotspot Mzoli’s Meat in Gugulethu at about 23:00 on Saturday night.

But an employee of Mzoli’s told News24 that they close at 19:00 every day.

Thabo Mbilatshwa of tour company Direct Action Centre for Peace and Memory said this is because even the owner of Mzoli’s is aware of the dangers in Gugulethu at night.

The restaurant was recommended by UK celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in his magazine last year, when he described the food as “heaven” and “totally sexy”.

The couple were travelling in a shuttle car with a driver when they were stopped at traffic lights by two hijackers.

“The men kept saying, ‘We are not going to hurt you. We just want the car’. That was a lie,” Dewani told The Sun.

The attackers then dumped their driver and drove off with the couple.

‘We begged them to let us go’

He and Anni apparently begged their attackers to dump them together, but after about 20 minutes Shrien ended up being pushed out of the car.

Anni’s bloody body was later found in the car, which was in Khayelitsha.

Shrien said: “I don’t want to go into detail about what happened during the attack, because I will probably start crying. But they were so cold. They put a gun in my ear and pulled back the trigger — it really was the stuff of movies.

“Most of the conversation was us pleading to be dumped together. I held on to Anni as I said to them ‘Look, if you’re not going to hurt her, let us go’.”

Western Cape Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said that police are close to catching the killers.

“We have found positive forensic evidence in the car and we know exactly who the person is,” Fritz said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


By 2066, White Britons ‘Will be Outnumbered’ If Immigration Continues at Current Rates

White Britons will be a minority by 2066 if immigration continues at the current rate, according to new research.

A leading population expert has warned that failure to deal with the influx of foreign workers would ‘change national identity’.

Professor David Coleman, of Oxford University, spoke out as the Migration Advisory Board recommended immigration levels from outside the EU be slashed by up to 25 per cent.

If immigration stays at its long-term rate of around 180,000 a year, the white British-born population would decline from 80 per cent of the total now to just 59 per cent in 2051, analysis of figures from the Office of National Statistics shows.

By then white immigrants would have more than doubled from 4 to 10 per cent of the total, while the ethnic minority population would have risen from 16 to 31 per cent.

Coalition told immigration levels should be slashed by up to 25%

If the trend continued, the white British population, defined as English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish-born citizens, would become the minority after about 2066.

The Migration Advisory Board suggested up to 12,600 fewer foreign visas should be handed out following complaints from businesses that the plans are hampering their ability to bring in key staff.

But even if the Coalition gets net immigration down to 80,000 a year, Prof Coleman says white Britons would be outnumbered by 2080.

In an article for Prospect magazine, he writes: ‘The 50 per cent benchmark has no special demographic significance, but it would have a considerable psychological and political impact.

‘The transition to a “majority minority” population, whenever it happens, would represent an enormous change to national identity — cultural, political, economic and religious.

‘In Britain, judging by the opposition to high immigration reported in opinion polls over recent years, it seems likely that such developments would be unwelcome.’

He warned that the relative youthfulness of the immigrant population means that the 50 per cent milestone will be passed much quicker among ‘schoolchildren, students and young workers’.

The ethnic minority population expanded by almost two million between 2001 and 2007, from 13 per cent to nearly 16 per cent of the total.

Immigration accounted for 57 per cent of population growth in this time, and foreign-born mothers now account for a quarter of births in England and Wales.

Both Leicester and Birmingham are expected to become ‘majority minority’ during the 2020s. Two London boroughs were already majority non-white in 2001.

Tory MP Nicholas Soames, who runs the cross-party group Balanced Migration, said: ‘Immigrants over the years have made a great contribution to British life but it’s now really out of control.

‘We must break the link between the right to work here and the right to settle here.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Far-Right Fringe Exploits European Coalitions

In the first of a series on the politics of immigration in Europe, Ian Traynor reveals how mainstream European parties appear paralysed by populism, unable to halt the rise of the far right

Europe’s mainstream political parties are engaged in a worsening feud over how to deal with the growing power of extreme rightwing anti-immigrant movements. Amid a backlash against immigration that has shaken Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden in recent months, governments of the centre-right or centre-left appear at a loss to counter the appeal of extremist populists who have moved from the madcap fringes of national politics into government, or propping up minority centrist coalitions.

A liberals-led coalition has just taken office in the Netherlands dependent on the parliamentary support of Geert Wilders, Europe’s leading Islam-baiter. In Denmark, another liberals-led government also relies on the anti-immigrant nationalists of the Danish People’s Party for survival. Last week, the DPP won a tightening of the most draconian immigration laws in Europe in return for agreeing to the government’s budget for next year.

Alarmed at the growing appeal of the far right, leaders of the centre-right and centre-left are struggling to form a coherent response. Attempts to construct a cross-party European anti-extremism pact are falling victim to the expediencies of national politics. “This is becoming a very hot political issue,” said a spokesman for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, a large grouping in the European parliament.

Last week Wilfried Martens, a former Belgian prime minister who leads the European People’s party which groups ruling Christian democrats in most of the EU, made approaches to social democrat and liberal leaders with the aim of forging a joint anti-extremist position.

“Martens wants a common approach of the political parties,” said his spokesman, Kostas Sasmatzoglou. “The phenomenon is growing and these far-right parties are getting stronger and stronger. We all face the same issue, but we should not be trying to score political points.”

The overture looks doomed. “I don’t see a solution in going hand-in-hand with the conservative parties,” said Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the former Danish prime minister who heads the pan-European association of social democratic parties, the Party of European Socialists (PES). “The conservatives are saying, ‘If you can’t beat the far right, join them,’“ he said.

Leading social democrats are to meet in Budapest on Wednesday to issue an appeal against deal-making with the far right. “It’s not about a cordon sanitaire,” said Rasmussen, referring to past failed policies of ostracising and ignoring the populists, particularly in Belgium and Austria. “It’s about confronting them.”

Last month, Europe’s social democrats endorsed a policy ruling out coalitions or electoral pacts “with a party inciting or attempting to stir up racial or ethnic prejudices and racial hatred at European or national levels”. The policy also rejected the forging of tacit parliamentary alliances with such parties, and the adoption of far- right policies that are proving popular. It demanded that all mainstream parties sign up to the principles.

But conservatives and liberals are already in bed with the far right in Denmark, Netherlands, and Italy. “We can’t dictate or intervene in domestic politics,” said Sasmatzoglou for the centre-right. “They are all different situations.”

Critics say that until earlier this year, Rasmussen and the PES were supporting a centre-left government in Slovakia that was in coalition with the extreme Slovak National party. Last week Turkey’s ambassador in Vienna denounced Austria’s governing social democrats for being too timid to attack the militant and increasingly popular anti-Muslim policies of the far-right Freedom party.

“There is a strong need for real political leadership to resist the ‘fortress Europe’ temptation and to avoid extremism and demagogy,” said Cecilia Malmström, the European commissioner for home affairs. “In a time of economic crisis, migrants are among the most vulnerable groups.”

The centre-left is losing support across Europe to the extreme right. Recent gains for the extremists have been at the expense of Sweden’s and Austria’s social democratic parties and the Dutch Labour party, with the far right prospering in cities with significant immigrant populations that traditionally voted for the left.

The anti-immigrant policy gains made in recent months look likely to continue. In Switzerland polls show majority support for a referendum this month demanding summary deportation of foreigners sentenced for petty crimes, not just for more serious crimes as up till now. The plebiscite is being organised by the rightwing Swiss People’s party, which a year ago won another referendum banning minarets.

In France there are growing calls within President Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party for a merger with Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front. A poll last month showed one-third of UMP voters backed joint electoral pacts with the National Front. In Italy, where Silvio Berlusconi is in coalition with the far-right Northern League, the interior minister has announced a new crackdown on expelling EU citizens who cannot support themselves, a policy aimed at east European Roma and aping Sarkozy’s summer expulsions in France. Denmark’s tightened immigration laws should deploy a new weapon — bare breasts — to deter newcomers, the far-right People’s party said last week. A documentary film on Denmark that is shown to immigrants as part of the test for entry should include topless bathers, said Peter Skaarup, the party’s foreign affairs spokesman. “If you’re coming from a strict, religious society that might make you stop and think: ‘Oh no,’“ he told the newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. “Topless bathing probably isn’t a common sight on Pakistani beaches. I honestly believe “

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spain Outrage Over Migrant Bombing Game

Spain’s main opposition party has provoked howls of outrage for producing a video game which invites players to bomb illegal immigrants.

The video game, Rescue, was launched on the website of the conservative Popular Party as part of the party’s campaign for regional elections in Catalonia.

It was removed hours after its launch, with the PP saying the developer did not follow instructions properly.

But opponents say the party has betrayed xenophobic leanings.

In the game, Alicia Sanchez-Camacho — the president of the PP branch in Catalonia — is depicted riding a white seagull called Pepe. She is dubbed Alicia Croft, in a reference to Lara Croft, the heroine of the popular video game Tomb Raider.

Points are awarded to players when they direct the bird to bomb aircraft containing illegal immigrants or symbols of Catalan nationalism.

Thousands of web users signed up to play the online game — which was also available in a mobile version — when it was launched on Tuesday, crashing the site, reported El Pais newspaper.

But only hours later it was removed from the website, and on Wednesday the PP issued a statement blaming the manufacturer for failing to follow directions.

Instead of bombing migrants, the PP said, the seagull should have targeted the organised crime groups that traffic them.

Popular Party spokesman Esteban Gonzalez Pon said the “realisation” of the video game “had not been as good as the original idea”.

“It was a mistake,” AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

“The idea was to have Sanchez-Camacho confront Catalonia’s problems, which are unemployment, the independentist fever at the situation of many people without work, and the mafias that brought them here and keep them here,” he told reporters.

“It’s just a game,” Ms Sanchez-Camacho was reported as saying, but her political opponents have lined up to condemn the party over the incident.

The deputy general secretary of the ruling Socialist Workers’ Party, Jose Blanco, has urged the party not to associate itself with a “xenophobic current” or become an apologist for violence, reported Spanish news agency Efe.

Montserrat Tura, a member of the Catalan parliament, said it was “unacceptable that in such serious matters the PP makes video games which incite violence against and the elimination of those who are not them”.

Artur Mas, the candidate for the Catalan nationalist party Convergence and Union, commented that “who plays with fire ends up getting burned”, Efe said, while fellow rival candidates in the 28 November elections also denounced the game.

Immigration is a sensitive issue in Spain.

Migrants flocked to Spain to take up jobs created in the construction boom, but nearly one in three are now estimated to be jobless following the collapse of the industry amid the global recession.

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

Stop Being So Generous to Migrants: French Plea to Britain After Dunkirk Suburb is Over-Run

The mayor of a French village invaded by migrants has called on Britain to halt handouts to deter them from crossing the Channel.

His comments came after makeshift tents appeared in the Dunkirk suburb of Teteghem, which is less than five miles from the main port.

Fears are growing there that it could become the site of a new ‘Jungle’ — the infamous ghetto in nearby Calais which was torn down last year.

Franck Dhersin, a former MP and adviser to President Nicolas Sarkozy, says his village cannot cope, and pointed the finger at Britain’s benefits system. e told the Daily Mail: ‘The reason the migrants keep coming to France and slipping over the Channel is because the UK is too generous with them. Stop giving them money and a place to live and they will soon go somewhere else. End of problem.’

He revealed that his village was currently home to 200 Afghans, Iraqis, Kurds, Sudanese, Vietnamese, Eritreans and Palestinians.

‘For the past four weeks, numbers of migrants camping out have been increasing by 50 per week. At this rate within a month we will have another Calais Jungle on our doorsteps,’ he said.

‘I regularly visit the migrants and they all tell me they want to go to England.

‘Why? The reason is simple. They have money and a place to stay as soon as they arrive.

‘England has done a lot to help the situation by setting up police and Customs over here, but the problem still remains.

‘Since they razed the Calais Jungle last year the situation has changed,’ added Mr Dhersin.

‘Now, instead of choosing Calais, the migrants are trying Dunkirk and the Belgian ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend.’

He said that Teteghem was an ideal squat location for migrants because it is next to the motorway linking France to Belgium and very close to the port of Dunkirk.

‘The reason they are here is because the people-smugglers have charged them money to camp here. The smugglers are dangerous and very violent. Last week a Vietnamese man stabbed another man and the week before that there was a shooting.’

Already migrants have been knocking on doors asking for water and power to charge their mobile phones, said the mayor.

‘We are a small village with a population of 7,500. The migrants are hardened people. They have travelled thousands of miles to get here.

‘They have nothing to lose and will stop at nothing to get what they need’, he added.

‘Something has got to be done, but in the long term the problem must be solved in Britain. We are just victims of a British problem here.’

Francoise Lavoisier, of the Salam migrant charity, said: ‘Lots of the migrants used to live in the Jungle. They are trying to go to Britain because they think it’s an Eldorado.’

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Darwen Dad Told His Opinion Doesn’t Count at Asylum Seeker Hearing

A GRIEVING dad was told his views ‘would not count’ over whether the asylum seeker who left his daughter dying in the road will be deported.

Paul Houston attended the immigration hearing today hoping to read a letter explaining the impact on his family since 12-year-old Amy’s death in November 2003.

But he was left in tears after being denied the chance to express his views.

After seeing how upset Mr Houston, 41, was, senior immigration judge Deborah Taylor agreed to take the letter but told him it would not count in her judgment.

Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, an Iraqi, left Amy dying under the wheels of his Rover car in Blackburn after she ran into the road.

Ibrahim was disqualified from driving and had already exhausted all his appeals to stay in the country.

After the hearing, Mr Houston, an engineer from Darwen, said: “I hope the letter means something to them.

“Amy was my only child. She was my family.

“My life has been destroyed by what’s happened.

“But I still have to keep the faith that this appeal can be won.”…

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Government’s Own Immigration Watchdog Says Numbers Must be Cut by a Quarter

Tens of thousands of students and foreign workers must be refused visas every year if the government is to meet its promises on immigration, experts said yesterday.

A report for the Home Office showed the huge challenge ministers face in slashing net migration — the difference between the numbers arriving in the UK and those leaving — by around 150,000 by 2015.

The number of non-EU students arriving each year will need to be cut by almost 60 per cent — with around 87,000 fewer visas issued.

Between 13 and 25 per cent fewer work permits will have to be given to non-EU workers, the report said.

The Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee also warned there will need to be sharp reductions in immigrants allowed into the UK for ‘family reunion’ reasons — such as marriage.

[Return to headlines]

UK: More Than 100 Failed Asylum Seekers Have Gone Missing in Six Months After Being Ordered to Leave the Country

At least 100 failed asylum seekers have gone missing after being ordered to leave the UK since May, figures showed today.

A total of 176 unsuccessful asylum applicants absconded after authorities served them with removal notices, and a maximum of 75 have been tracked down since.

But the figure of 101 unaccounted for may be higher because of the way records are kept.

Tory MP David Nuttall, who uncovered the figures, said there could be ‘hundreds’ of failed asylum seekers in the country and that it was ‘pointless’ to tell people to leave if they could not be forced to do so.

The UK Border Agency said it makes ‘strenuous efforts’ to stop failed asylum seekers from absconding and that measures are in place to try and track them down.

In a written parliamentary reply to Mr Nuttall (Bury North), immigration minister Damian Green said 176 failed asylum seekers absconded between May 1 and October 31 this year after being served with removal notices.

Home Office figures showed 32 had subsequently been detained, 19 removed or embarked, and 24 had subsequently lodged a new application for asylum. But officials said the same individuals could be counted in more than one of the categories.

In the same period for 2009, 265 absconded with 94 subsequently detained, 43 removed or embarked, and 66 new applications lodged — leaving at least 62 unaccounted for.

‘This is evidence that there are hundreds of failed asylum seekers somewhere in the country and we know not where,’ Mr Nuttall said. ‘The vast majority of my constituents expect that once asylum seekers have exhausted the appeals process, and it has been determined that they do not have the right to be here, that they would properly be removed.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]


Breakthrough: Mysterious Antimatter Created and Captured

Scientists have created antimatter in the form of antihydrogen, demonstrating how it’s possible to capture and release it.

The development could help researchers devise laboratory experiments to learn more about this strange substance, which mostly disappeared from the universe shortly after the Big Bang 14 billion years ago.

Trapping any form of antimatter is difficult, because as soon as it meets normal matter — the stuff Earth and everything on it is made out of — the two annihilate each other in powerful explosions.

In a new study, physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva were able to create 38 antihydrogen atoms and preserve each for more than one-tenth of a second. The project was part of the ALPHA (Antihydrogen Laser PHysics Apparatus) experiment, an international collaboration that includes physicists from the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

The antihydrogen atoms are composed of a positron (an antimatter electron) orbiting an antiproton nucleus.

“We are getting close to the point at which we can do some classes of experiments on the properties of antihydrogen,” said Joel Fajans, a University of California, Berkeley professor of physics, and LBNL faculty scientist. “Since no one has been able to make these types of measurements on antimatter atoms at all, it’s a good start.”

Antimatter, first predicted by physicist Paul Dirac in 1931, has the opposite charge of normal matter and annihilates completely in a flash of energy upon interaction with normal matter. Antimatter is produced during high-energy particle interactions on Earth and in some decays of radioactive elements.

In 1955, University of California, Berkeley physicists Emilio Segre and Owen Chamberlain created antiprotons in the Bevatron accelerator at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (now called Lawrence Berkeley), confirming their existence and earning the scientists the 1959 Nobel Prize in physics.

To create antihydrogen and keep it from immediately annihilating, the ALPHA team cooled antiprotons and compressed them into a matchstick-size cloud. Then the researchers nudged this cloud of cold, compressed antiprotons so it overlapped with a like-size positron cloud, where the two particles mated to form antihydrogen.

All this happened inside a magnetic bottle that traps the antihydrogen atoms. The magnetic trap is a specially configured magnetic field that uses an unusual and expensive superconducting magnet to prevent the antimatter particles from running into the edges of the bottle — which is made of normal matter and would annihilate with the antimatter on contact.

“For the moment, we keep antihydrogen atoms around for at least 172 milliseconds — about a sixth of a second — long enough to make sure we have trapped them,” said Jonathan Wurtele, a University of California, Berkeley professor of physics and LBNL faculty scientist.

The team’s results will be published online Nov. 17 in the journal Nature.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]