News Feed 20110422

» Intelligence Agent Pleads Guilty to Accessing Restricted Hezbollah Files
» Obama’s NLRB Attacks South Carolina and the US Constitution
» Pastor Defends Mosque Protest
» Pastor Terry Jones Released From Custody After His Bond is Posted
» Westboro Baptist Church Goes to Mississippi — And Loses
Europe and the EU
» Belgium: Former MP Running for Turkish Parliament
» Berlin ‘La Belle’ Disco Bombings: Victims Request Damages From Frozen Gadhafi Assets
» English No Threat to Danish
» France Seeks to Ban Street Prayers
» Germany: Firebrand Politician Can Remain a Social Democrat
» Rabbis Denounce EU Meat Label Bid as ‘Insult’ To Jews
» Sweden: Four Wounded in Gothenburg Shootout
North Africa
» Caroline Glick: Obama’s Altruistic Foreign Policy
» Muslim Brotherhood Calls for Sharia Law, ‘Punishments’ In Egypt
» Panic in Egypt Over Muslim Brotherhood’s Call for Islamic Rule
Middle East
» Lebanon: The Respectable Father of Four Whose Commerce is the Tools of Death
South Asia
» Diana West: Why Did the Pentagon Listen to Greg Mortenson?
» In the ‘Rome of Pakistan,’ Christians Say They Fear Speaking Out, Worry About the Future
» ‘My Life is in Danger’: Fears of Pakistani Woman Gang-Raped on Orders of Village Elders as 13 Out of 14 Men Are Cleared
» A Further 181 Tunisians Leave Cagliare After Permits Issued
» Smuggling Workers to the German Promised Land
» Trapani Shelter Facilities Convert to Holding Centres
» UK Will Not Take in Migrants Fleeing Northern Africa, Insists May
Culture Wars
» UK: Hallelujah! An Easter Victory as Christian Electrician Wins Battle to Display Cross in His Van
» Mars Orbiter Finds Massive Stores of Dry Ice


Intelligence Agent Pleads Guilty to Accessing Restricted Hezbollah Files

A former FBI agent and CIA analyst has pleaded guilty to secretly accessing restricted government files, including files on an ongoing investigation into the terrorist group Hezbollah.

Nada Nadim Prouty, 37, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Detroit on November 13, 2007, to conspiracy to defraud the U.S., accessing unauthorized computer files and naturalization fraud. Prouty, a Lebanese national, admitted to fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship in order to work for the FBI and CIA, and to secretly searching restricted FBI databases.

Prouty first entered the U.S. from Lebanon in 1989 on a student visa, and a year later paid U.S. citizen Chris Deladurantaye to enter into a false marriage so she could gain U.S. citizenship, according to court documents. Prouty divorced Deladurantaye in 1995, a year after she gained citizenship.

While attending school in Detroit, Prouty worked at a La Shish restaurant owned by Talal Chahine, currently a fugitive wanted in the U.S. on five counts of income tax evasion and funneling more than $20 million in cash to individuals in Lebanon. Prouty’s sister, Elfat El Aouar, is married to Chahine and is serving an 18-month sentence for aiding her husband in his tax evasion scheme. Aouar reportedly attended a fundraising event in Lebanon in 2002, where Chahine and Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a top Hezbollah spiritual leader based in Lebanon and U.S.-designated global terrorist, were the keynote speakers.

In 2000, while employed as a special agent of the FBI, Prouty accessed the FBI computerized Automated Case Support computer system to obtain restricted information on herself, Aouar and Chahine. In 2003, Prouty used the same system to access information on a national security investigation on Hezbollah, according to the plea agreement.

Some authorities reportedly suspect that Prouty was a mole and passed along information to Chahine, who may have forwarded the information to Hezbollah. Other authorities, including several CIA officers, believe that Prouty accessed files simply to look out for her sister, because of her husband’s alleged involvement with Hezbollah.

Prouty left the FBI and joined the CIA as an analyst in 2003. She resigned from the CIA as part of her plea agreement.

The plea agreement recommends that Prouty face a prison sentence of six to 12 months and pay a maximum fine of $250,000. As a result of her guilty plea, Prouty’s U.S. citizenship has been automatically revoked.

           — Hat tip: RE [Return to headlines]

Obama’s NLRB Attacks South Carolina and the US Constitution

The Obama Administration is attacking not only Boeing, but also the State of South Carolina and the US Constitution:

On Wednesday, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing, seeking to prevent the aircraft manufacturer from opening a second production facility in Charleston, South Carolina for its new 787 Dreamliner.

The NLRB alleges that Boeing violated the law, opening the non-unionized South Carolina plant in retaliation against union workers for past strikes at its facility in Everett, Washington and also as part of an effort to discourage future strikes. The NLRB wants an administrative court to force Boeing to relocate its second production line back to a unionized plant in Washington…

           — Hat tip: 1389AD [Return to headlines]

Pastor Defends Mosque Protest

DEARBORN, Mich., April 22 (UPI) — Florida pastor Terry Jones defended his right to protest outside a Michigan mosque Friday, promising not to burn Korans.

Jones acted as his own attorney in a Dearborn, Mich., court to fight the city’s refusal of a permit for a rally, The Detroit News reported.

“We are not criminals. All we want to do is exercise our First Amendment rights,” he said.

His rally was scheduled for late Friday afternoon.

Jones’ burning of a Koran in his hometown of Gainesville, Fla., in March led to deadly riots in Afghanistan

Jones and pastor Wayne Sapp faced off against Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad in court over his denial of a permit based on information that Jones might burn a Koran. The chief acknowledged that Jones never said he would do so.

“I have no evidence to back up my fears,” he said, “but your behavior in the past has led me to that fear.”

Haddad testified there is a risk of violence and two people are being investigated for threats against Jones.

Jones “has shown a careless disregard for loss of life,” the chief said. “He has shown a disregard for his own life.”

Dearborn lawyer Majed Moughni says the pastor has a right to protest outside the mosque.

Jones should be allowed to “speak as he wishes, which is his right under the Constitution,” Moughni told the Detroit Free Press Thursday.

Moughni is no Jones fan, though. He told the newspaper he burned Jones in effigy last year outside his Dearborn home after Jones threatened to observe the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by burning more than 200 copies of Koran, the sacred text of Islam, at his Florida church.

Jones, a non-denominational pastor, canceled the burning but oversaw the burning of a single Koran six months later after a mock criminal trial at his church March 20. That burning, which Jones called an “execution,” drew little response worldwide except in Afghanistan, where protesters overran a U.N. compound April 1, killing 12 people.

Even with that, Jones should be allowed to protest outside Dearborn’s Islamic Center of America, North America’s largest mosque, on Good Friday, Moughni said.

He called on local prosecutors to “withdraw their demands” that Jones pay a “peace bond” to cover the cost of police protection and let him protest for free.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

Pastor Terry Jones Released From Custody After His Bond is Posted

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Controversial Quran-burning Pastor Terry Jones was ordered taken to the Wayne County Jail after refusing to post a $1 peace bond. However, someone posted the bond on his behalf not long after he was taken into custody.

The development came after a jury found a proposed protest by Jones and his associate Wayne Sapp outside the Islamic Center of America, the largest mosque in the United States, was likely to breach the peace and incite violence.

The jury began debating the case at around 3:30 p.m. Thursday. The main issue of the one day trial was whether or not Jones’s main purpose was to say or do something that would incite violence. They came back with their verdict shortly after 6:30 p.m.

Based on the decision Jones was required to submit a peace bond. The judge set the bond at $1. He also ordered that neither Jones nor his associate could enter the property of the Islamic Center of America or the area surrounding it for 3 years.

The judge then asked both men if they were prepared to post their bonds. Both men refused and were taken into custody. They were due to be taken to the Wayne County Jail until their bond was posted. It is not known who posted the bonds.

At the start of Friday’s trial, prosecutors presented their arguments before the jury. They argued that a protest outside the mosque would pose a significant safety issue. They also argued that there is concern from authorities that someone may get hurt.

In addition to concerns of safety, prosecutors say the Florida pastor would not be following the law if he held a protest outside the mosque after he was denied a permit for that particular location. He was asked to hold his protest in a permit free zone, but insisted that they would still hold their protest outside of the mosque.

[Return to headlines]

Westboro Baptist Church Goes to Mississippi — And Loses


On Saturday USMC Staff Sgt. Jason Rogers, who was killed in action in Afghanistan April 7, was buried in Brandon, Mississippi.

That, by itself, is a sadly unremarkable — though certainly noteworthy and solemn — occasion for us to mark.

And in fact when Sgt. Rogers’ body returned to Brandon it was greeted by hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of well-wishers who gathered at the roadside to honor the fallen American hero. The dashboard camera from Mississippi state trooper Elmo Townsend’s cruiser gives an indication of the scene last Thursday.

What is most notable about Sgt. Rogers’ funeral in Brandon, however, is what didn’t happen.

You see, the troglodytes from Westboro Baptist Church had threatened to spew their poison at Sgt. Rogers’ funeral.

But the Westboro mob wasn’t on the scene, and Sgt. Rogers was laid to rest without incident — thank God.

Why weren’t there protestors?

Planning ahead by the locals, as it turns out.

A couple of days before, one of them (Westboro protestors) ran his mouth at a Brandon gas station and got his arse waxed. Police were called and the beaten man could not give much of a description of who beat him. When they canvassed the station and spoke to the large crowd that had gathered around, no one seemed to remember anything about what had happened.

Rankin County handled this thing perfectly. There were many things that were put into place that most will never know about and at great expense to the county.

Most of the morons never made it out of their hotel parking lot. It seems that certain Rankin county pickup trucks were parked directly behind any car that had Kansas plates in the hotel parking lot and the drivers mysteriously disappeared until after the funeral was over. Police were called but their wrecker service was running behind and it was going to be a few hours before they could tow the trucks so the Kansas plated cars could get out.

A few made it to the funeral but were ushered away to be questioned about a crime they might have possibly been involved in. Turns out, after a few hours of questioning, that they were not involved and they were allowed to go on about their business.

Fred Phelps, the disbarred lawyer and Democrat activist who leads the Westboro congregation, will undoubtedly pursue some form of legal action for the way his people were thwarted in Brandon.

Let him try.

There isn’t a jury in Mississippi which will see things his way.

This is a template for how to handle the Westboro people. If lawsuits don’t work, other means will. Whatever it takes to keep them from harassing bereaved military families on the day their fallen loved ones are laid to rest.

           — Hat tip: McR [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Belgium: Former MP Running for Turkish Parliament

Cemal Cavdarli, former Belgian MP, wants to represent the Turkish AKP, according to Tanguy Veys of Vlaams Belang. Cavdarli is fourth on the party’s list for the Eskisehir Province for the upcoming elections. In the last elections the AKP won three of the six seats in the province. Cavdarli, imam of the Great Mosque of Ghent, represented the SP.A (Socialists) in the Belgian parliament between 2003 and 2007. In the 2010 federal elections he was an election candidate for the conservative Lijst Dedecker (LDD) in East Flanders, but was not elected. The LDD say Cavdarli is not a member of the party and never was, and shouldn’t count on being a candidate for the party in the future.

[Return to headlines]

Berlin ‘La Belle’ Disco Bombings: Victims Request Damages From Frozen Gadhafi Assets

German victims of the 1986 West Berlin disco bombing want funds frozen from Libyan accounts to be used to pay additional damages. The demands put the German government, which wants to transfer the money to the United Nations for use in Libyan humanitarian aid, in a tough position.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

English No Threat to Danish

Danish is among world’s sturdiest languages and can withstand the influx of English words, experts say

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France Seeks to Ban Street Prayers

French Interior Minister Claude Guéant has continued his assault on Islam by saying that he intends to ban prayer in the street. It’s the latest in a series of comments which many have considered to be discriminatory.

What many French people may not realize is that these outdoor prayers, as with any public gathering in France, always receive government approval beforehand.

Cairo is “the city of 1,000 minarets” but Paris is the city of 1 minaret, despite the fact that France has the largest Muslim population in Europe. The lack of mosque space forces Muslims to conduct their Friday prayers in the street, but only in a dozen or so places in all of France.

French politicians continually invoke the country’s 1905 secularism law to explain why the state cannot give financial assistance to build more mosques for their taxpaying citizens.

But even when they have the money, Muslims continually allege that right-wing mayors refuse construction permits and keep land in the hands of the municipalities to prevent the creation of mosques.

It’s said that France has 2,000 mosques nationwide, but the overwhelming majority of these are actually small prayer rooms. Just one large mosque is currently under construction in Paris and most say it still won’t be enough.

The French media often portrays these Muslims praying in the street as engaging in some type of provocative act, but the fact is they’d rather be inside in a mosque.

Analysts say that any lasting solution is going to require concessions from both the Muslim community and the state, but what won’t solve the problem is inflammatory rhetoric from politicians.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Germany: Firebrand Politician Can Remain a Social Democrat

Thilo Sarrazin, the German Social Democrat who attracted attention last year with his controversial book claiming that immigrants to Germany were dumbing down the country, will not be booted out of the party. He apologized on Thursday and the case against him was quickly abandoned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Rabbis Denounce EU Meat Label Bid as ‘Insult’ To Jews

European rabbis are up in arms over a bid to impose meat labels indicating how an animal was slaughtered, warning it could kill the kosher food business by portraying their ritual as “barbaric.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Four Wounded in Gothenburg Shootout

Four men were shot in Gothenburg on Friday, two of which were gunned down, on a busy street in Hisingen, a northern locale of Gothenburg.

The 2pm shooting occurred on Lantmätaregatan, a street with several restaurants and cafes, and in front of many eye-witnesses who were out in the beautiful Easter weekend weather.

Both managed to stay alive, according to Ulf Edberg, spokesperson for the Gothenburg police.

“It is unclear how seriously injured the men are but all are living,” he told the TT news agency.

“With some it was more urgent than with others.”

The two targeted individuals were shot in the same place but police won’t say exactly how many shots were fired.

Three of the gunshot victims were taken to Sahlgrenska Hospital, while the fourth was taken to Östra Hospital.

The police remain very tight-lipped about the incident.

“We ourselves do not yet have a clear picture of what happened. And we have yet to hear from any witnesses so therefore I cannot reveal what we know. Witnesses can be influenced by what they hear from other places,” Edberg said.

Shortly after 3pm police confirmed that a total of four people have been hospitalized, sustaining injuries related to the shooting.

“There are four people with various injuries,” Edberg said through the police website.

The area has been cordoned off with a large number of police officers grooming the site in search of the offenders.

No arrests have been made.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Caroline Glick: Obama’s Altruistic Foreign Policy

If only in the interest of intellectual hygiene, it would be refreshing if the Obama administration would stop ascribing moral impetuses to its foreign policy.

Today, US forces are engaged in a slowly escalating war on behalf of al-Qaida penetrated antiregime forces in Libya. It is difficult to know the significance of al-Qaida’s role in the opposition forces because to date, the self-proclaimed rebel government has only disclosed 10 of its 31 members.

Indeed, according to The New York Times, the NATO-backed opposition to dictator Muammar Gaddafi is so disorganized that it cannot even agree about who the commander of its forces is…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick [Return to headlines]

Muslim Brotherhood Calls for Sharia Law, ‘Punishments’ In Egypt

CAIRO — The Muslim Brotherhood has gone public with its stance on Islamic rule in Egypt.

Leading Brotherhood members have called for Egypt to come under Islamic law similar to that in Saudi Arabia. The appeal came during interviews as well as rallies by the Brotherhood just months after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February.

“The implementation of the Islamic Sharia punishments comes after taking over the territory,” Brotherhood deputy general guide Mahmoud Izzat said. “The punishments have to be implemented after Islam enters the lives, ethics, and dealings of the people.”

As practiced in Saudi Arabia, Sharia mandates such punishment as cutting off arms for stealing as well as beheading for a range of non-violent offenses.

Brotherhood spokespeople have disputed the latest statements and said the movement continued to oppose the imposition of Islamic law in Egypt.

“During this period, we would like to lead the society to achieve its Islamic identity in preparation for the Islamic rule,” Saad Al Husseini, a member of the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau, said.

The pro-Sharia statements by the Brotherhood leaders have alarmed other members of the opposition that helped topple the Mubarak regime. In response, Izzat has denied that he supports Sharia in Egypt.

“The implementation of the punishments is considered the crowning and the completion of fundamental issues, the most important of which is the fulfillment of the needs and requirements of the people,” Izzat said. “These issues require work, effort and a long time, and cannot be that simple.”

But Izzat’s clarifications have not assuaged non-Islamist elements of the opposition movement. Organizers said the statements highlight the Brotherhood departure from the pro-democracy agenda of the rest of the opposition.

“Every time we try to reassure the public opinion about the desire of the Muslim Brotherhood to join a civil movement, we are shocked by statements from this one or that one,” George Ishaq, a leading member of the opposition National Society for Change, said.

The pro-Sharia statements were said to have divided the Brotherhood leadership itself. Members of the Brotherhood’s young guard said they were concerned over the statements, stressing that this did not reflect any formal consultation.

“We stress that such statements have come at an inappropriate time,” Mohammed Qassas, representative of the Brotherhood’s youth wing, said. “We ought to read the statements carefully, and ensure their truth, and the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood Group ought to be more careful at this critical stage.”

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

Panic in Egypt Over Muslim Brotherhood’s Call for Islamic Rule

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Statements by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Deputy General Guide Dr Mahmoud Izzat about the implementation of Islamic Shariaa and punishments in Egypt has aroused strong fears among the liberal and left-wing political powers. They consider this to be a dissent from the national unanimity and a violation by the Muslim Brotherhood of its public stance and a wriggling out of the commitment to the civil state.

Statements by a number of Muslim Brotherhood leading members have revealed that the group pursues the establishment of an Islamic government system, and to implement the Islamic Shariaa punishments in Egypt.

Al-Misri al-Yawm last week reported statements by Saad al-Husseini, member of the Guidance Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood, at a popular rally organized by the group in Bulaq District in which he said: “At this period, we would like to lead the society to achieve its Islamic identity in preparation for the Islamic rule.” The newspaper also said that Dr Mahmoud Izzat, deputy general guide of the group, stressed: “The implementation of the Islamic Shariaa punishments comes after owning the ground. The punishments have to be implemented after Islam enters the lives, ethics, and dealings of the people.”

However, Dr Izzat has denied what was published in the newspaper. In a statement, Dr Izzat said: “These words are pure lies, fabrications, and deception.” Izzat stresses that what he said at the rally when asked about the implementation of the punishments was: “The word Islamic punishments [Arabic: Hudud; is the same as borders] is linked to the existence of land, and this land is the society, its ethics, and its dealings.” Izzat emphasizes: “The Muslim Brotherhood members believe that the implementation of the Islamic punishments is the responsibility of the executive authority and the state, and no one else.” Izzat explains that such reports are part of a suspicious campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood Group.

Dr Izzat has rejected the claim that the Muslim Brotherhood Group currently is pursuing the establishment of an Islamic rule in Egypt, and the implementation of the Islamic Shariaa punishments. In exclusive statements to Asharq Al-Awsat Izzat says: “The implementation of the punishments is considered the crowning and the completion of fundamental issues, the most important of which is the fulfillment of the needs and requirements of the people.”

Izzat explains: “Before talking about the implementation of the punishments, we ought to pursue the fulfillment of the basic requirements of the people, guide them to what is good, and support them. These issues require work, effort, and a long time, and cannot be that simple.”

Izzat points out that that these punishments are part of Islam, and we cannot deny this. However, how can we punish someone who has done wrong without preparing for him the environment suitable for implementing these rulings? He stresses that there are many issues and priorities required now for which the Muslim Brotherhood group works; these issues and priorities are related to the way the nation can rise. The Muslim Brotherhood Group is not preoccupied with such controversy [the implementation of punishment] at the current times, and considers it not to be a priority.

Izzat says: “Islam itself has drawn up specific steps so that we can reach the implementation of these punishments. We are very far from these steps.” He says that preparing the conditions and achieving the plan for this rising require effort and a long time that can take years. Izzat considers the talk about implementing the punishments now as media noises aimed at distracting the public opinion from the main concern of building the state.

Commenting on Izzat’s statements, George Ishaq, political activist and leading member of the National Society for Change, of which the Muslim Brotherhood is one of the pillars, says: “These are grave statements. Every time we try to reassure the public opinion about the desire of the Muslim Brotherhood to join a civil movement, we are shocked by statements from here-and-there.”

Ishaq, former general coordinator of Kifayah Movement, continues: “As a national group, we are going through a sensitive and critical stage, and it is not appropriate to hear such comments from the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood ought to present immediately a clear and specific meaning of their understanding of the civil state in which they say that they believe. This is so that we can hold them to account if they retreat from such concept.” Ishaq adds that Izzat’s statements represent a threat to the Muslim Brotherhood staying within the national group, which, as Ishaq says, “will be a loss for both sides.”

Izzat’s statements also have been reflected on the stance of the Muslim Brotherhood youths within the Egyptian Revolution Youths Coalition as they have aroused worries of some sides within the coalition. Muhammad al-Qassas, representative of the Muslim Brotherhood youths at the Egyptian Revolution Youths Coalition says that a number of the leaders of the coalition telephoned him to ask for an explanation of the situation, and expressed their concern over the statements of the deputy general guide; however, this concern and question marks will not affect the coalition.

Al-Qassas adds: “We explained to them our viewpoint of the issue, and we said that the implementation of the punishments is not the Islam. Anyway, we stress that such statements have come at an inappropriate time. We ought to read the statements carefully, and ensure their truth, and the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood Group ought to be more careful at this critical stage.”

In his turn, political activist Dr Omar al-Hamzawi says: This stance is not compatible with the public stance of the Muslim Brotherhood Group, which it always emphasizes, namely that it is pursuing the establishment of a “civil state” even if it has religious authority. This indicates the existence of disharmony within the group.

Al-Hamzawi considers this stance as extremely grave, and as a dissent from the national unanimity, which stipulates the establishment of a civil state that respects the citizenship rights without discrimination.

Al-Hamzawi considers such talk as dissent from the spirit of the Egyptian revolution, which raises the slogans of freedom and democracy, and we have not heard that one of the demands of the revolution has been the implementation of Islamic Shariaa. Al-Hamzawi says: These most certainly are statements that worry the other political powers in Egypt. Al-Hamzawi wishes that this is a personal stance far-removed from the official stance.

Muhammad Mustafa Shurdi, spokesman of Al-Wafd Party, also expresses his concern because of such statements at this time. Shurdi says: “We should not talk about things that frighten the people.” He stresses: “The important thing at this stage is to bring out the political face of Egypt first, and there is no objection to the implementation of the spirit of the Islamic Shariaa as seen through a modern vision.”

           — Hat tip: AA [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Lebanon: The Respectable Father of Four Whose Commerce is the Tools of Death

BEIRUT: The Beiruti arms dealer Abu Jihad is more than an hour late to our pre-arranged meeting.

“I’m very sorry for the delay,” said the balding father of four when he finally appeared.

“On the way here I made an unexpected sale: two M16s.”

Wearing green camouflage pants and a black parka, Abu Jihad sits down and reaches for the Smith & Wesson revolver strapped to his ankle.

“I normally carry three weapons,” he says, emptying the revolver of its bullets.

He unzips his parka to reveal the other two, both semi-automatic pistols, a Spanish-made Star, and the latest model Glock, from Austria.

His loaded M4 carbine, the American-made successor to the MI6, is in his car outside, lying on the back seat for easy access.

“This is the most popular gun on the market,” says Abu Jihad, holding up the Glock. “They are selling here for about $US2000 to $US2100 at the moment.”

Abu Jihad’s business is death, and, with the turmoil swirling through the Middle East, business is thriving. He is the most sought after weapons dealer in Beirut, a fractious city of nearly 2 million people divided into 17 officially recognised religious sects.

“I only supply the home market, not the bigger organisations,” he says.

By organisations Abu Jihad means the militia groups that dominate Lebanese politics such as the dominant Iranian-backed Shia party, Hezbollah, and less powerful groups such as the mainly Christian outfit known as the Lebanese Forces.

As a Shiite muslim, Abu Jihad says he generally only supplies to fellow Shia. He has a strict policy of keeping his weapons out of the hands of Sunni extremists. “If anyone like this approaches me,” grunts Abu Jihad, “I kill them.”

While his arms trading business is officially illegal, it is tolerated.

“This can be a very dangerous country in times of instability. People need to feel secure.”

What can the discerning, security-conscious man or woman buy from Abu Jihad’s storehouse? The two M16 automatic rifles that were traded before our interview went for $US1850 each, while the more proletarian Kalashnikov-style rifle sells for $US1200-$US1300. Bullets for both kinds of rifle sell for about 65¢ each.

His other best sellers include the M4 assault rifle ($US5000), and the G3 assault rifle from Heckler & Koch. Rocket-propelled grenade launchers will set you back about $US800, plus $US120 each for the grenades themselves.

Even larger model artillery pieces, such as the B10 and M67 recoilless rifles, are available for those who worry about the neighbourhood being overrun by tanks. Stock standard hand-grenades go for $US10 each, or $US100 by the dozen “Most things that kill, you can find it in my back shed,” Abu Jihad boasts.

Now selling around 40 to 50 different kinds of pistol a week, he believes the local weapons business is a useful barometer of how secure people are feeling.

“Lebanese people are always on edge, and buying a gun for the home is as normal as buying a television set, but in these last few months everything seems even more uncertain and dangerous than usual.”

Over the past few weeks he has been unable to keep up with demand. Abu Jihad says his main worry at present is the unfolding events in Syria, where the 40-year regime of the ruling Assad family is being challenged by a surging pro-democracy movement.

“Assad has very large weapons stores and if the same thing happens in Syria that has happened in Libya, then the market here will be flooded with weapons.”

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Diana West: Why Did the Pentagon Listen to Greg Mortenson?

This is “postcard” from Afghanistan by Paul Avallone, someone who has drunk more than his share of cups of tea there. first as a Green Beret and later as a photojournalist. Readers will recall his pungently evocative writings and photos from his “Flirting with Afghanistan” series published here in 2010.

It is a most fitting image to illustrate this week’s syndicated column on “Three Cups of Tea.”


“Why Did the Pentagon Listen to Greg Mortenson?”

To say that the memoir “Three Cups of Tea” is the basis of the bitter pill that is American counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy in Afghanistan is a falsehood and gross exaggeration — like much of the book itself, as it turns out. But it is a fact that the 2006 mega-seller, “required” reading for the U.S. military in Afghanistan (not to mention a large chunk of the nation’s schoolchildren and college students), has washed that strategy down, swirled it around and given its key tenets a weird charisma in the person of author Greg Mortenson.

What — since “60 Minutes” unmasked Mortenson and his book as a colossal fraud — now?

I don’t mean what about the Montana Attorney General’s office inquiry into Mortenson’s Central Asian Institute (CAI), the tax-exempt charity he founded 15 years ago to build schools in AfPak, and which, according to Gordon Wiltsie, a former CAI board member who served as board treasurer, “Greg regards … as his personal ATM.”

Or the thumping, 75-page smackdown “Three Cups of Deceit” (wherein Wiltsie’s statement appears) that author-turned-whistleblower Jon Krakauer posted online to elaborate on the fabrications and Mortenson’s shocking financial practices…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

In the ‘Rome of Pakistan,’ Christians Say They Fear Speaking Out, Worry About the Future

KHUSHPUR, Pakistan (AP) — A church bell, not a mosque loudspeaker, calls people to prayer along the dung-lined streets and inside the crumbling houses of this village. The body of Pakistan’s most recent Christian martyr is buried in its graveyard.

Khushpur is almost entirely Catholic, and for decades it has been an oasis for Christians in a nation where 95 percent of people are Muslim and Islamist extremism is spreading. The village has produced so many priests and nuns that some call it the “Rome of Pakistan.”

But Islamist militants’ recent murder of federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian son of the village targeted for opposing Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws, has rattled the peace. As they prepare to observe Easter, many of the 5,300 villagers say Pakistan’s Christians face more pressure than ever.

“You live with fear,” said Rose Dominic, 45, a math teacher. “You can’t express yourself.”

Khushpur traces its roots to 1902 when the area was part of British India, decades before Pakistan was created in 1947 as a homeland for the subcontinent’s Muslims. The lead founder was Father Felix, a Capuchin friar from Belgium. Felix means “happy” in Latin, and the friar named Khushpur, which means “happy place,” after himself, according to research by the late scholar Linda S. Walbridge.

Today, Khushpur is in most respects a typical Pakistani village: Many residents are poor farm workers, the roads are decrepit, the electricity is out half the day, animals roam freely and clean water is a luxury. There are few local stores or other forms of commerce, and while the schools are considered good, many of the most educated Khushpuris leave to find work in the cities.

But the Christians here say they feel a deep affection for the land and the well-kept, red-brick Catholic church that looms over it.

On Palm Sunday, dozens of worshippers sang and marched to church through a muddy street holding palm leaves. Women and men crowded the church minutes later, sitting on separate sides, and wearing their Sunday best as light filtered through the stained-glass windows.

Khushpur has risen to prominence among Pakistan’s Christian villages partly because of its reputation for producing “martyrs.”

One of them was Bishop John Joseph, a human rights activist who shot himself in 1998 to protest the same blasphemy laws Bhatti wanted to change. The laws impose the death penalty for insulting Islam, and rights groups say they are frequently used to persecute religious minorities or settle personal disputes.

Joseph’s body is buried in the nearby city of Faisalabad, but his bloody clothes were interred in the graveyard in Khushpur under a large marble slab. Just a few meters away is Bhatti’s grave, topped with a cross bearing his picture, and still topped with fresh flowers daily.

Bhatti led the ministry for minorities, and what little political power Pakistan’s Christians had was almost entirely vested in him. Fliers left at the scene of his March 2 murder in Islamabad were signed by Taliban and al-Qaida militants who said they targeted Bhatti because of the blasphemy issue.

The mention of Bhatti’s name still brings tears in Khushpur, where one woman said people loved him more than their own sons.

“People feel and people think their hope died,” said Father Anjum Nazir, the parish priest. “If he is killed, what will be security for other people?”

The ruling Pakistan People’s Party, of which Bhatti was a member, has said repeatedly that it will protect minorities in the country. However, it has refused to change the blasphemy law in the face of Islamist furor over the matter.

Attention to the law rose last year after a Christian became the first woman to be sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Islam. Bhatti and Punjab Province Gov. Salman Taseer tried to secure a pardon for her and called for reforming the law. Taseer was murdered in January, and Bhatti in March.

According to a Freedom House review of data from non-profits and the U.S. State Department, 695 people were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan between 1986 and April 2006, of which about 12 percent were Christian. The Pakistani daily newspaper Dawn has reported that 964 people were charged with blasphemy from 1984 to 2004, with a similar percentage of Christians.

The blasphemy law hangs like a sword over Pakistani Christians’ heads, even in Khushpur where they dominate.

Earlier this month, two Muslim police officers stopped by the catechist training center in the village and asked if Christians worshipped images of Jesus Christ. The Christians declined to respond, worried that saying the wrong thing could get them accused of blasphemy, said Babar Peter, 27, a Bible teacher.

While Pakistan has never carried out a death sentence for blasphemy, people can lose months or years of their lives in prison. Dozens have been killed by extremists during the trial process or after they are released.

While many of those accused under the law are Muslim, Christians are disproportionately targeted. Already, Christians in this nation of 180 million face daily discrimination and often hold low-level jobs, such as street sweeping.

“We explain to our children that the blasphemy law is against Christians and to be careful, but that they should not lie about being a Christian,” said Mariam Moghal, a 60-year-old mother of nine.

A few dozen Khushpur households are Muslim, and both Christians and Muslims said the two communities get along well. They attend each other’s festivals and weddings and bury their dead in the same graveyard. Christian leaders said they gave money to help the Muslims build their mosque, a polished structure with a soaring minaret.

Haji Mohammad Latif, the mosque imam, said he wept when he heard of Bhatti’s assassination.

“He always talked about love, peace and harmony. That’s why I loved him,” said Latif, 52, a portly man with wavy, jet-black hair whose family has lived in Khushpur for generations.

Khushpur’s Christians say they feel safer in the village than elsewhere in the country because they are the majority, as opposed to the many Christians who live in slums in the cities. Some Khushpuris speak of “Pakistan” as if it were another country altogether.

Still, occasionally there have been threats — or at least rumors of threats — against Khushpur. After Bhatti was killed, talk of a potential bombing swept the village. For a couple of days, residents manned 24-hour watch posts, bearing what few weapons they had, said Ijaz Masih, 42, a farmer.

A handful of police show up to guard religious events now and then, and the Bhatti family and his office have security guards provided by the government. Still, Khushpur Christians said they doubt police would intervene if they were attacked.

“We can just hope,” said Sehrish Rafiq Sindhu, 19.

As Father Nazir, the parish priest, crafts his message for Easter Sunday, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he keeps returning to the theme of renewing the spirit.

“Old things are gone, new things are coming,” Nazir plans to tell his still-grieving flock in Khushpur. “Make your today better than yesterday.”

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

‘My Life is in Danger’: Fears of Pakistani Woman Gang-Raped on Orders of Village Elders as 13 Out of 14 Men Are Cleared

A Pakistani victim of a village council-sanctioned gang rape, who became a symbol of the country’s oppressed women, says her life is in danger after the Supreme Court acquitted 13 men accused of the crime. Mukhtaran Mai was attacked on the orders of a village council nine years ago as a punishment because her brother — who was 12 at the time — was judged to have offended the honour of a powerful clan by allegedly having an affair with one of its women. Mai was an illiterate villager at the time but she defied taboos and shot to global fame by speaking out about her ordeal and taking her attackers to court.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


A Further 181 Tunisians Leave Cagliare After Permits Issued

(AGI) Cagliari — Air force premises hosting some 700 Tunisians immigrants are gradually being emptied. The immigrants had been transferred to Cagliari from Lampedusa and have been allowed to leave after the issue of 6-month transit permits. A total of 181 left today, after yesterday’s 135 departures. All parties leaving the premises, police confirm, have been granted electronic travel permits.

[Return to headlines]

Smuggling Workers to the German Promised Land

Modern human traffickers are supplying the German market with workers from Bulgaria, who can expect to earn three euros an hour and sleep in a basement. A journey with day laborers who see Germany as a land of milk and honey.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Trapani Shelter Facilities Convert to Holding Centres

(AGI) Trapani — Authorities are to replace the current shelter facility in Trapani’s Kinisia district with immigration facilities. The site has to date been used to shelter as many as 700 Tunisian migrants.

[Return to headlines]

UK Will Not Take in Migrants Fleeing Northern Africa, Insists May

Theresa May has insisted she will not take in any of the migrants fleeing turmoil in northern Africa as concerns grow that they could head for UK shores.

The Home Secretary has told her EU counterparts that Britain is not prepared to join any “burden sharing” as tens of thousands of people cross in to Europe, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Italy, where the refugees are arriving on a daily basis, has urged its EU partners to help ease the pressure by accepting some of the migrants.

But at a meeting of her justice and home affairs counterparts last week Mrs May said Britain will only offer support to Italy to help deal with the issue there.

She will repeat her firm stance when the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council meets again next month.

It came as British MEPs warned migrants could head for Britain because it is seen as a soft option and called for action to stop camps building up at Calais.

A borderless scheme on mainland Europe is already under threat amid growing tensions over the plight of the fleeing refugees and migrants.

More than 25,000 Tunisians have arrived in Italy since unrest there and thousands of Libyans are expected to try to head for Europe. More than 14,000 crossed in to Tunisia in the last two weeks alone.

More migrants from sub-Sahara Africa are also likely to cross because Col Muammar Gaddafi is no longer stopping them in Libya.

A row developed between France and Italy earlier this week when the former stopped a train carrying Tunisians migrants at the border.

Under the so-called Schengen agreement, citizens in 25 EU nations are allowed to travel across borders without having their passports checks.

The UK and Ireland are not part of the agreement and control their own borders.

However, Italy has caused angry among its neighbours by handing temporary permits to more than 25,000 Tunisians after other EU countries declined to help accommodate them.

It effectively gives them unobstructed travel around the union.

Gerard Batten, the Ukip MEP for London, said: “People are going to gravitate to Britain.

“Britain is top of the list because we have one of the most generous welfare benefits systems and we are famous for being a soft touch.

“I don’t have any confidence in the authorities doing anything to stop them coming in.

““There is a human crisis, but the approach of giving people residence permits will make things permanent, rather than encourage people to return home when peace in Libya and the whole of north Africa finally returns.

“The problem here for us is the European borderless state.”

Richard Ashworth, the Conservative MEP for South East England, added: “The Calais authorities have recently taken action to remove the immigrants in the town intending to enter the UK.

“Both the French and British authorities need to remain vigilant to ensure this bottleneck does not occur again if large numbers of people from North Africa enter France.

“The sad days of squalid camps in the woods and British hauliers running the Calais gauntlet must not be allowed to happen again.”

The growing tensions in Europe has put the Schengen agreement under threat.

Along with France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and Germany are understood to be considering reintroducing some border checks.

A Home Office spokesman said: “A common asylum system or new laws will not resolve the unprecedented influx of migrants at Europe’s Mediterranean border.

“Britain has offered Italy practical assistance to help maintain their border controls and asylum processes. Those seeking international protection are expected to claim asylum in the first safe country they enter. Those who have no genuine claim to protection should be returned to their home countries quickly.

“We retain the right to not opt into any agreement which will weaken Britain’s borders.”

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Hallelujah! An Easter Victory as Christian Electrician Wins Battle to Display Cross in His Van

The dramatic climbdown by Wakefield District Housing came after senior church figures were joined by Hindu, Muslim and Sikh leaders in condemning his employers.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey had described the 64-year-old grandfather’s plight as ‘scandalous’ and Housing and Planning Minister Grant Shapps said WDH’s action was ‘wrong’.

Last night Lord Carey said: ‘I’m so glad. All that was needed was a little bit of compassion and understanding. Where there is a bit of common sense we can find a resolution.’

WDH caved in and agreed to let Mr Atkinson display his cross in an effort to end the embarrassing row.

The U-turn came at a ‘confidential and unminuted’ meeting between Mr Atkinson, his Unite union rep Terry Cuncliffe, WHD executive director of people Gillian Pickersgill and a senior manager at the organisation’s headquarters in Castleford, West Yorkshire, on Wednesday.

During the hour-long meeting WDH managers put a series of proposals to Mr Atkinson — all of which would allow him publicly to display the cross.

Mr Atkinson has agreed with managers not to reveal the details of the compromise agreement. But he had maintained all along his right to display the cross publicly was ‘non-negotiable’.

He has been supported throughout his 18-month battle to keep his cross by Mr Cuncliffe.

Yesterday Mr Cuncliffe told the Mail: ‘The issue is about Colin’s ability to demonstrate his faith.

‘And any proposals to resolve this issue must allow Colin to display his faith in the way he is comfortable.

‘I believe the situation is up for resolution.

‘It is now time to calm things down and apply some common sense.’

He added: ‘This was a private and confidential meeting. Minutes were not taken so there could be a frank exchange of views between parties.

‘Both parties put forward suggestions to provide solutions and we worked jointly towards reaching a resolution.’

Mr Atkinson is expected formally to agree to WDH’s plan that will allow him to display his cross next week.

He told the Mail: ‘I just want this all over so I can get back to work and provide for my wife and family.

‘This is important. Christians across the country are being persecuted because of their faith.

‘Christians across the country are being persecuted because of their faith’’I did not ask for this fight but I have been forced to join it.

‘I have every right to manifest my faith. That is all I have done.

‘I have not bashed anybody with my Bible. I simply want to be able to demonstrate my faith.’

Yesterday WDH declined to comment on the climb-down. Lord Carey thanked the Mail for championing Christians’ right to worship.

He said: ‘I am grateful to the Daily Mail for highlighting this case. Christians in this country are under pressure.’

Former Home Office Minister Ann Widdecombe, a devout Christian, added: ‘At last, a victory for common sense and tolerance. It is hugely symbolic that this has come so close to Good Friday.’

Mr Atkinson faced the sack after he refused to take the small palm cross off the dashboard of his company vehicle. WDH told him it was ‘unacceptable’ to display the 8in symbol of his Christian faith in the van for fear of upsetting ‘diverse’ tenants in the organisation’s 31,000 homes.

However, a Muslim worker is allowed to display a Koranic verse in the car she uses for work and staff are allowed to wear specially made company burkas.

The obvious injustice led WDH to be branded ‘anti-Christian’ as the dispute sparked anger across the country.

Mr Atkinson has also been supported by Muslim, Hindu and Sikh leaders. The electrician from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, is married to Geraldine, 61. They have five children from previous marriages and three grandchildren.

His ordeal began after bosses received an anonymous letter claiming tenants may be offended by the cross in the van.

He refused to remove it and was accused of rejecting a ‘reasonable’ management complaint.

Mr Atkinson and his union rep argued there was nothing in company rules prohibiting the cross.

Hindu and Sikh colleagues appeared as witnesses in his defence. WDH promotes its inclusive policies and allows employees to wear religious symbols — including burkas — at work.

But it changed company policy on Christmas Eve last year to ban all personal effects in its vehicles.

In January Mr Atkinson was reported for continuing to display the cross and last week WDH concluded he had breached company rules.

On Monday he was thrown out of his workplace and told he had violated his contract by revealing his ordeal.

Mr Atkinson, who is currently on ‘gardening leave’, expects to return to work on Tuesday — and display his cross in public.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]


Mars Orbiter Finds Massive Stores of Dry Ice

Radar readings suggest that frozen CO2 covers 10,000 square kilometers—as a gas in the atmosphere, as it might once have been, it would have warmed Mars enough for liquid water to exist

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]