News Feed 20110609

Financial Crisis
» Berlin Warns of Possible Greek Insolvency
» Greece Needs a New Bailout
» Lagarde Backs Greater Role for China in IMF
» ‘New System of European Governance’ Demands Still Deeper Austerity
» Audio: Warning Issued That Islam is Coming
» Dozens of ‘Incubators’ For Jihad Found in U.S.
» Obama’s CIA Director Linked to Spies Through Communist Party Figure
» Sunlight on the American Mosque
» The Double Whammy
Europe and the EU
» Austrian Far-Right in Fresh Push for EU Respectability
» Berlin Enlists Foreign Help to Tackle Dog Dirt
» Bill to Stop Sharia Law Operating in the UK
» Blair: EU Should Have Elected Leader
» France Brought to Book for Neglect of Great Hamster
» German Carmaker in Trouble: GM Considers Sale of European Opel Unit
» Hamlet is Coming Home
» Italy: Police Seize Suspected Calabrian Mafia Assets Worth €70mln in Turin
» Italy: Waste Disposal Contracted Out Through Clans, 1 Arrest
» Italy Dismayed at Battisti Decision
» Naser Khader: I Feel More Distanced From Islam (Update: Considers Converting)
» Spanish Court Upholds Ban on Face-Covering Veils
» Spencer: “We Will Never Surrender”
» Typist of Schindler’s List Dies
» UK: Farhan Ahmed Jailed for Nelson Pensioner’s Rape
» UK: Fears Over Patient Data as NHS Computers Are Hacked Into by ‘Pirate Ninjas’
» UK: Swift Justice: Convicted Rapist on the Run for Four Years Caught Just Hours After Crimewatch Roadshow Appeal
» UK: Victory for Father After Autistic Son’s 12-Month Ordeal in the Clutches of Social Workers
North Africa
» Algeria: Anti-Riot Units Intervene Once Every Two Hours
» Berlin Open to Libyan Peacekeeping Role
» City of Gamblers: Libya’s Future to be Decided on the Streets of Tripoli
» Egypt: Muslim Says Chopping Off Hands ‘Compassionate’
» Libya: Thousands of Government Soldiers Marching on Misrata
» Libya: We Will Provide NTC With 300-400 Mln Euros, Frattini
Israel and the Palestinians
» PA Bans Journalists From Reporting Human Rights Abuses
Middle East
» Andy Carvin: Regarding #Amina, aka Gay Girl in Damascus
» Iran Taking Crash Course in Uranium-Hunting
» Iran Sends Submarines to Red Sea
» Iran: Advanced Centrifuges to be Set Up Soon at Qom Nuclear Site
» Is Erdogan’s Success Pulling Turks Away From Europe?
» Italy’s Frattini on Fractious Nature of Syrian Opposition
» Painful Doubts About Amina
» Spiegel Interview With Turkish Foreign Minister: ‘Turkey and Europe Need Each Other’
» Syria: Russia Against Any UN Resolution
» The Secret World of the Child Bride: Heartbreaking Pictures of the Girls as Young as Five Who Are Married Off to Middle-Aged Men
» US Backs UK-France Resolution Against Repression in Syria
» Azerbaijani Parliament to Discuss New, More Restrictive Rules on Religious Freedom
South Asia
» Afghanistan: Billions of Dollars of Development Programmes ‘At Risk’
» Al-Qaida Video: Zawahiri Vows to Continue Bin Laden’s Work
» Nepali Women Victims of Prostitution and Slavery in Arab Countries
» Pakistan: Punjab: Christian Cannot be Minister of Finance
Far East
» Fukushima: Official Suggests Japan Could Become ‘Uninhabitable’
Latin America
» Bolivia’s Stunning Salt Flats
» Algerian-Born Man Living in France is Refused French Nationality
» Boat With 52 on Board Intercepted Near Apulia
» Disturbing Language Reality Facing America
» Poles Still Heading Abroad Despite Economic Conditions
» UK: Temporary Migrants to Lose Right to Remain
» UN Bureaucrat Hack Wants Finns to Take in Libyans…
» Green Buildings Hazardous to Health? Report Cites Risks of Weatherization
» Scuba Spider Uses Web as Gill to Breathe Underwater

Financial Crisis

Berlin Warns of Possible Greek Insolvency

German Finance Minister Calls for Athens Debt Restructuring

In a letter sent to the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and euro-zone countries, Germany’s finance minister warns of the possibility of a Greek bankruptcy and concedes the current bailout plan has failed. Instead he is calling for a de facto debt restructuring. Resistance within Merkel’s conservatives is stewing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greece Needs a New Bailout

The troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank and IMF has prepared a sobering report on Greece’s efforts to combat a debt crisis. The document, which has been obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, concludes that Athens will not be able to return to capital markets in 2012 and further massive bailout will be needed soon.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Lagarde Backs Greater Role for China in IMF

French finance minister Christine Lagarde has backed a greater role for China in the International Monetary Fund, the Washington-based lender currently propping up a number of European economies.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

‘New System of European Governance’ Demands Still Deeper Austerity

EUOBSERVER / ANALYSIS — The European taskmaster has cracked the whip. However much austerity has been imposed by EU member states, it is simply not enough. That is the overriding message from the European Commission that runs through its recommendations for each of the 27 member states in the new, post-crisis system of radically centralised oversight and correction of national economic policies by the EU known as the ‘European Semester’.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Audio: Warning Issued That Islam is Coming

Goal is ‘grand jihad eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within’

Editor’s Note: This is the last of a three-part series about Kamal Saleem, a onetime terrorist who abandoned violence for Christianity.

“Islam is like a cancer. It grows and expands until it eventually consumes and suffocates the host.”

Those are the words of warning from Kamal Saleem, the former terrorist who left Islam and converted to Christianity.

Saleem was raised by his parents to be an angry, West-hating terrorist and he eventually came to the U. S. to work for the destruction of the country.

Saleem says his knowledge of the Muslim Brotherhood’s mission and methods compels him to warn Americans about what is happening under the radar in their own country.


Saleem adds by now Islam even has reached the sanctuaries of Christian churches and campuses of Christian colleges.

“Even in Christian schools today, you find Islamic history professors whose papers are done on the glory of Allah and Islam and Muhammad, right there on Christian universities,” Saleem said.


Saleem says one of the most insidious ways jihad and Shariah law is infiltrating the U. S. is through the courts. He cites the recent Florida case in which a judge ordered Shariah law be used to settle a mosque leadership dispute.

“What they’re trying to do is fake cases for Islam and these cases are done purposefully. We take an imam, there are two of them. They were fighting against each other and the fight was over a mosque,” Saleem explained.

“That is so devious and it is part of the culture of Islamic invasion. These two imams are fighting over a mosque in Florida. Each imam says it belongs to me,” Saleem said,

“One says I built it and I raised the funds. The other one says the Wahhabi government put me over here and they’re the ones who sent the money. Both of them are right,” Saleem continued.

“They went to the Supreme Court in Florida. What happened is that they said this was a Muslim matter and you need to judge us by Islamic Shariah law or you will not understand how these things work,” Saleem added.

“Both of them are demanding to be judged by Shariah so now the Supreme Court is learning how Shariah works. So, in turn, they have instilled and indwelt Islamic laws with our laws,” Saleem said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Dozens of ‘Incubators’ For Jihad Found in U.S.

More than 80% of mosques advocate or promote violence

Dozens of mosques around the United States have been identified in a new study as incubators for jihad against America, with more than 80 percent of those surveyed advocating violence.

“Of the 100 mosques surveyed, 51 percent had texts on-site rated as severely advocating violence; 30 percent had texts rated as moderately advocating violence; and 19 percent had no violent texts at all,” said the survey compiled by Mordechai Kedar and David Yerushalmi and published by the Middle East Quarterly.

“How’s this for a wake-up call?” asked Frank Gaffney, chief of the Center for Security Policy in a commentary today in the Washington Times.

“America’s most cherished civil liberties and the Constitution that enshrines them are enabling Muslim Brotherhood operatives and other Islamists who have the declared mission of destroying our freedoms and government ‘from within … by [our] hands.’ Specifically, our enemies are using our tolerance of religion to create an infrastructure of mosques here that incubate the Islamic holy war called jihad.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama’s CIA Director Linked to Spies Through Communist Party Figure

New research from writers and researchers Trevor Loudon and Cliff Kincaid shows that Leon Panetta, the CIA director being considered on Thursday for the position of Secretary of Defense, had a previously undisclosed personal and friendly relationship with Hugh DeLacy, a prominent member of the Communist Party USA. DeLacy visited such countries as China and Nicaragua and was himself a personal contact of identified Soviet spies Solomon Adler and Frank Coe and accused spy John Stewart Service. Panetta spoke at DeLacy’s memorial service, directed a series of letters to him personally as “Dear Hugh,” and placed a tribute to him in the Congressional Record.

Former Washington State Rep. DeLacy, named by Communist Party lawyer John Abt as a fellow member of the party, remained a communist operative until his death in 1986.

One “Dear Hugh” letter from then-Rep. Panetta to DeLacy offered a summary of a report on U.S. military operations that Panetta said was “unavailable for distribution.” Panetta concludes the March 24, 1977, letter, “If there is anything I can do for you in the future, Hugh, please feel free to call on me.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sunlight on the American Mosque

by Diana West

My best guess is the sun is hot. I feel its heat. I see by its light. I understand its role in the growth of crops and other living things. If I were to come across scholarly data attesting to its high temperatures, I would probably look at the fiery pictures (if there were any) and turn to something else.

On one level, I approach a new study on violence and Islam in the Middle East Quarterly in much the same way. That is, I’ve lived through 9/11 and the 17,298 Islamic terror attacks since (as tabulated by the website I’ve seen pictures of Muslims rampaging around the world over a cartoon. I also understand Islam’s animating role in the terror and subversion designed to extend Islamic law (Shariah) to a point where an Islamic government, or caliphate, rules the world.

But there is something transfixing about the new study, “Shari’a and Violence in American Mosques.” The authors have amassed a solid bank of peer-reviewed data attesting to the presence and promotion of literature advocating violence in the majority of 100 randomly selected American mosques. And yes: that’s majority of “American” mosques. Not Saudi mosques. Not Pakistani. Not Iranian. Not Turkish. Not even British mosques.

American mosques.

There goes that post-9/11 myth — the one that tells us that American Islam is a happily assimilating creed, wholly different from the aggressive Islam transforming Europe…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

The Double Whammy

How the Corps of Engineers and FEMA Administer the Coup de Grace to Citizens Along the Missouri.

After saving the plover, failing to anticipate that which any reasonable person would—that is, that the record snowfall this past winter in the ten states and two Canadian provinces that drain into the Missouri River Basin might just fill up all the reservoirs from Montana to South Dakota when it all melted (See: “I Hope the Plover are Happy”—Protecting People from Flooding by Flooding People, and Stoos Views)—and just when you thought that things could not get worse, FEMA and the Corps have now teamed up in an effort to deny folks insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

In a move that can only be described as cruel, incredibly ill timed, and unwelcome, FEMA has announced that the release of water from the Garrison Dam in North Dakota on June 1, 2011 was the official start of this government-initiated, intentional “flood in progress” [sic], thereby invoking an exclusion in the National Flood Insurance policy which precludes coverage for flood losses if the policy was not in effect prior to the government’s arbitrarily picked date for the “flood in progress.” In other words—whether you knew it or not—you were officially flooded on June 1, 2011 by government fiat. Put simply, the Corps set folks up for the sucker punch and FEMA has now delivered it. The Corps has decided to release record amounts of water which promise to inundate a good chunk of the Missouri basin, with little or no notice to the tens of thousands of folks down stream (“Oh, by the way folks we are increasing the volume of the river to 1.6 times its normal flow— thought you would want to know—and it is coming in a week.”) And FEMA says you should have had flood insurance by June 1, 2011 because, after all, you were flooded on that date. Officially.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austrian Far-Right in Fresh Push for EU Respectability

Buoyed by their recent success in the polls, the Austrian and French far right have made a fresh push for respectability in the European Parliament. A blurring of the ‘softer’ far right with eurosceptic parties may be in the offing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Berlin Enlists Foreign Help to Tackle Dog Dirt

Fifty-five tons of dog dirt are deposited on the streets of Berlin each day and most owners don’t bother to pick up the mess. Now, experts from Vienna and Lucerne have been invited to the German capital to talk about the successful measures taken in their cities to combat the problem.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Bill to Stop Sharia Law Operating in the UK

Baroness Cox introduced a new Bill to the House of Lords on 7 June which is intended to curb the increasing use of sharia law in Muslim communities. The plans come amid increasing concern about the discrimination suffered by Muslim women in decisions made by the courts.

On 7 June 2011 Baroness Cox introduced a new Bill in the House of Lords intended to outlaw the use of Sharia law where it conflicts with English law. In proposing the new Bill she said:

“Equality under the law is a core value of British justice. My Bill seeks to preserve that standard. My Bill seeks to stop parallel legal, or ‘quasi-legal’, systems taking root in our nation. Cases of criminal law and family law are matters reserved for our English courts alone.

“Through these proposals, I want to make it perfectly clear in the law that discrimination against women shall not be allowed within arbitration. I am deeply concerned about the treatment of Muslim women by Sharia Courts. We must do all that we can to make sure they are free from any coercion, intimidation or unfairness. Many women say, ‘we came to this country to escape these practices only to find the situation is worse here’.”

The Bill has arisen over concerns about the discrimination suffered by Muslim women under the Sharia system. The Bill proposes to protect women by stopping discriminatory rulings that are contrary to UK law and ensuring that Sharia law does not appear to have jurisdiction where it does not.

Sharia law is a detailed system of Islamic law. It is used in both Sharia Councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals in the UK. The first Sharia Council was established in 1982 in Birmingham. A recentCivitas report suggested that there are now at least 85 such entities operating in the UK and that the Islamic Sharia Council has made over 7,000 judgments. There are currently at least five Muslim Arbitration Tribunals in Britain (Birmingham, Bradford, London, Manchester and Nuneaton).

Rulings under Sharia law are enforced through the 1996 Arbitration Act, which states that any form of agreement can be used if both parties agree to adhere to its decision. But Civitas found that the decisions of Sharia courts in the UK are likely to be unfair to women and backed by intimidation, and that Sharia rulings transgress human rights standards as applied by British courts.

The Bill’s proposals include:..

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom [Return to headlines]

Blair: EU Should Have Elected Leader

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the European Union must have an elected leader to give it the “clear leadership” to successfully spar with rising powers such as China in the future. Previously touted as a potential candidate for European Council President, Blair said the fundamental reasons behind European integration had altered.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France Brought to Book for Neglect of Great Hamster

France has failed to protect the Great Hamster of Alsace, a cute fur-ball facing extinction with fewer than 200 remaining, Europe’s top court said Thursday. “Protection measures for the Great Hamster put in place by France were insufficient at the date of August 5, 2008, to ensure the strict protection of the species,” the European Court of Justice ruled. The European Commission brought the case before the court, arguing that France has not applied European Union law covering protected species.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

German Carmaker in Trouble: GM Considers Sale of European Opel Unit

US car giant General Motors appears to be ready to sell its subsiary Opel once again, amid continuing losses at the German firm, SPIEGEL has learned. When GM abandoned a 2009 effort to sell the firm, the decision caused deep-seated tensions between the American company and the government in Berlin.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Hamlet is Coming Home

British theatre company will stage performance at Kronborg Castle

Over the last 400 years, Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ has seen countless performances. With each realisation, a different director has imprinted his own interpretation on the tragedy. This summer, ‘Hamlet’ is coming to Kronborg Castle, where it will be staged by a company from Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Police Seize Suspected Calabrian Mafia Assets Worth €70mln in Turin

Turin, 8 June (AKI) — Italian tax police in the northern city of Turin impounded 70 million euros of assets believed to belong to the Calabrian mafia or ‘Ndrangheta on Wednesday and 150 people were arrested in an anti-mafia operation across the country.

Italian tax police seized 127 villas, apartments and plots of land in Turin and the surrounding province. They also impounded suspected “Ndrangheta assets in other areas of the northern Piedmont region as well as the Lombardy and Liguria regions and the southern Calabrian region.

Police also seized 10 companies and more than 200 current bank accounts and several safes as part of the operation, which was coordinated by anti-mafia magistrates in the northern city of Turin.

The 150 ‘Ndrangheta suspects face charges that include mafia association, drug trafficking, carrying and possessing illegal weapons, fraudulent bank transfers, usury and extortion.

Billions of suspected ‘Ndrangheta assets have been seized and hundreds of people arrested in the Italian government’s crackdown againt organised crime since it took office in May, 2008.

Despite the government crackdown, the ‘Ndrangheta, considered Italy’s most powerful and dangerous mafia organisation, is continuing to expand, Italy’s national anti-mafia directorate said in a March report.

The ‘Ndrangheta has ‘colonised’ the wealthy north of Italy owing to its ‘unlimited financial resources’, the report said.

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

Italy: Waste Disposal Contracted Out Through Clans, 1 Arrest

(AGI) Naples — The Guardia di Finanza arrested entrepreneur Ludovico Ucciero in Mondragone. He is the owner of one of the largest waste disposal plants in the Caserta area called ‘La Castellana’. The agents impounded the plant and also 35 apartments thanks to an order of attachment. The investigations, which were expedited after declarations by collaborators associated with the clan of the super-killer Giuseppe Setola, revealed that Ucciero had been awarded tendering contracts from 2000 up to now for the draining of sewer systems, the transport of sludge and the deposit of waste during emergencies thanks to the clan.

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

Italy Dismayed at Battisti Decision

Rome to appeal to Hague court after ex-terrorist’s release

(ANSA) — Rome, June 9 — Italy on Thursday voiced dismay at Brazil’s refusal to extradite ex-terrorist Cesare Battisti and said it would take the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi expressed “keen regret” at the Brazilian supreme court’s decision to release Battisti, who was convicted of four murders in the 1970s.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said: “This does not end here”.

President Giorgio Napolitano said he would “fully support” Italy’s moves to try to get Battisti back.

Both he and Frattini argued the decision breached treaties between the two countries.

Several ministers including Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa said they were sorry for the relatives of Battisti’s four victims.

In its ruling, the supreme court voted six to three to uphold a decision by Brazilian ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in one of his last acts in office at the end of last year.

Napolitano wrote to Lula’s successor, Dilma Rousseff, in January to try to get the decision reversed.

“The need for justice of my country and the victims’ families has not perhaps been fully understood,” Napolitano wrote at the time.

He said it was not possible to “deny” or “read romantically” Italy’s years of militant terror.

Napolitano’s letter came a day after Brazil’s justice minister, Jose’ Eduardo Cardozo, reiterated that Lula had been right to grant Battisti asylum for fear of persecution if sent back to Italy.

It also came a day after the European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a motion presented by all Italian parties urging the European Union to back Italy’s bid to get Battisti back.

Frattini said recently that bringing Battisti back was “a moral duty”.

The son of one of Battisti’s victims, Alberto Torregiani, has called Lula’s decision “absurd, hypocritical and ignoble”.

Torregiani, who was paralysed from the waist down in the 1979 attack that killed his jeweler father Pierluigi, has galvanised public opinion in the case.

In January the relatives of Battisti’s victims staged street protests outside the Brazilian embassy in Rome and consulates and offices elsewhere in Italy, while militants from Berlusconi’s key government ally the Northern League called for a boycott of Brazilian goods.

Berlusconi has stressed the affair is purely judicial and will not prejudice ties with Brazil while Frattini has clarified that the ratification of an important military accord will merely be held up, partly because of current difficulties in getting business through parliament.

Battisti was arrested in Brazil in April 2007, some five years after he had fled to that country to avoid extradition to Italy from France following the end of the Mitterrand doctrine which gave sanctuary to fugitive leftist guerrillas.

He had lived in France for 15 years and become a successful writer of crime novels.

In January 2009 the Brazilian justice ministry granted Battisti political asylum on the grounds that he would face “political persecution” in Italy.

The ruling outraged the Italian government who demanded that it be taken to the Brazilian supreme court, which in November 2009 reversed the earlier decision and turned down Battisti’s request for asylum.

However, the court added that the Brazilian constitution gave the president personal powers to deny the extradition if he chose to.

After Lula’s controversial ruling, the matter was again put to the supreme court.

On Thursday one of Battisti’s layers said his client had decided to continue to live in Brazil.

“He has a lot of friends here. He’ll probably work as a writer”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Naser Khader: I Feel More Distanced From Islam (Update: Considers Converting)

Last Sunday, Danish Constitution Day, Naser Khader (Conservatives) spoke at the Maarum Church in North Zealand. This despite various criticisms based on his Muslim background. Khader used the opportunity to speak of his personal dilemma between Islam and Christianity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spanish Court Upholds Ban on Face-Covering Veils

MADRID (AP) — A Spanish court has upheld a ban by a city on face-covering Islamic veils worn in municipal buildings.

In 2010, the city of Lleida became the first Spanish one to impose such a ban. But the Catalan regional Superior Justice Tribunal suspended it following an appeal by a Muslim association that claimed it violated basic rights.

The court ruled Wednesday that the northeastern city was within its rights to ban the clothing in municipal buildings for security and identification purposes. It also backed Lleida’s argument that the veils are discriminatory.

Other Spanish towns have taken similar steps but their burqa bans have yet to take effect.

Lleida’s one is largely symbolic since only about 3 percent of Lleida’s population is Muslim and very few wear face-covering garments.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

Spencer: “We Will Never Surrender”

Beside the foundation ceremony of DIE FREIHEIT’s state association in Baden-Wurttemberg, PI-Blogger Frank Furter met with Robert Spencer to conduct an interview in which the famous American author and scholar explained about his impressions from the Great Islam-Critic Weekend in Stuttgart, the current situation in the US and the content of his upcoming book. Finally, Spencer gave a confirmation for another visit to Germany in the beginning of September.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Typist of Schindler’s List Dies

The man who typed up Oskar Schindler’s list that helped save 1,200 Jews from the Nazis, Mietek Pemper, has died in Germany aged 91, the Bavarian city where he lived said Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Farhan Ahmed Jailed for Nelson Pensioner’s Rape

An 18-year-old man has been sentenced indefinitely for the knifepoint rape of a pensioner in her Lancashire home.

Farhan Ahmed of Park Avenue, Barrowford, was found guilty at Burnley Crown Court of raping the 64-year-old.

The court heard he broke into her home in Nelson in the early hours of 28 October 2010 and threatened her with a knife while raping her.

The judge said that Ahmed would not be eligible to be considered for parole for five years.

‘Exceptional bravery’

Speaking after the sentencing, the victim said: “My trust remains and I have faith that when he is sentenced it will give the young man time to reflect on what he did and hope he can one day feel remorse.”

Det Supt Ian Critchley said: “This was a nasty, unprovoked attack on a vulnerable and defenceless elderly lady.

“Specially trained officers have worked with the victim right through this case and she has shown exceptional bravery and courage throughout the process.

“I can’t imagine just how traumatic and distressing this has been for her.

“I am pleased that members of the community have come forward and given evidence in this case.”

           — Hat tip: Lawman [Return to headlines]

UK: Fears Over Patient Data as NHS Computers Are Hacked Into by ‘Pirate Ninjas’

Computer hackers have penetrated NHS systems, triggering fears that the security of highly sensitive patient records is at risk.

The hackers are part of the same online gang that recently hacked into electronics giant Sony, accessing the images of a million users.

The self-styled ‘pirate ninjas’, known as Lulz Security, sent a warning to the NHS that its computer networks were vulnerable to cyber attack.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Swift Justice: Convicted Rapist on the Run for Four Years Caught Just Hours After Crimewatch Roadshow Appeal

A convicted rapist on the run for four years has been caught just hours after an appeal on BBC1’s Crimewatch Roadshow.

Turkish national Tolgay Istek was one of the country’s most wanted men after he skipped bail before going on trial for the rape of a woman in 2007.

In his absence, Liverpool Crown Court convicted the 24-year-old and sentenced him to eight years in prison.

A warrant was issued for his arrest and Interpol, the UK Border Agency, and the Turkish authorities all attempted to track him down.

But it was only on Tuesday that he was caught after the Crimewatch Roadshow — a day time spin off of the main programme — issued an appeal to viewers.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Victory for Father After Autistic Son’s 12-Month Ordeal in the Clutches of Social Workers

A father wept yesterday as a judge vindicated his crusade to free his autistic son from a year-long ordeal in the clutches of social workers.

Mark Neary was praised for refusing to give up on 21-year-old Steven who was ‘unlawfully’ kept from his family by heavy-handed council officials.

Steven had only gone into care for three days to give his father a chance to recover from flu, but social workers flagged up the young man’s behaviour as ‘challenging’ and decided to keep him permanently.

He was upset at being parted from his father, and had a habit of tapping people on the shoulder to attract their attention. Absurdly, Steven’s shoulder-tapping was recorded in the respite centre’s daily log as a series of ‘assaults’.

To 52-year-old Mr Neary’s horror, he was informed his son was not allowed to return to his family home in North-West London but would instead be placed in a care home 150 miles away in Wales.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Anti-Riot Units Intervene Once Every Two Hours

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JUNE 9 — The social tensions that have been felt in Algeria for months now become evident from the fact that the anti-riot groups, the Algerian police elite units that can be recognised by their white truncheons, have intervened 2,777 times since January 1 to repress protests, which means one time every two hours. This figure was released today in a report in newspaper el Watan, which often criticises the government.

According to the newspaper, which mentions one of the unit’s barracks as an example, the one in the Algiers Bouba district, the elite troops are literally pampered by the police commands.

In fact the compound of the barracks in Algiers includes wide roads, gardens, recreation spaces, dormitories, clinics, an internet cafe and a library.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Berlin Open to Libyan Peacekeeping Role

Germany has so far refused pressure from its NATO allies to join the militarily mission against Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, but Berlin said Thursday it might send troops to the North African country after he’s been deposed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

City of Gamblers: Libya’s Future to be Decided on the Streets of Tripoli

At night, NATO bombs strike strategic targets in Tripoli. During the day, pro-Gadhafi loyalists battle it out against pro-democracy insurgents. Amid the turmoil, a Frenchman is trying to save his business, and to get the two sides to the negotiating table in Paris.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Muslim Says Chopping Off Hands ‘Compassionate’

Advocates Islamic law as standard for all Egyptians

Some Western analysts suspect the “democratic” revolution in Egypt is a front for an Islamic takeover, and now a report has surfaced that a key Egyptian cleric, Mas’oud Anwar, has advocated for adoption of Islamic law as the nation’s new standard.

WND previously has reported how Muslims in Egypt are becoming more aggressive in their attacks on Christians and Christian churches.

The presentation by Anwar, on Al-Rahma Television, explains how imposing draconian penalties such as chopping hands off suspected thieves and stoning for adultery is “compassionate.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Libya: Thousands of Government Soldiers Marching on Misrata

(AGI) Misrata — There are reports of a new and massive counteroffensive of government troops against the Libyan insurgents’ main stronghold in Tripolitania. According to the insurgents’ spokesman, Hassan al-Misrati, “thousand of troops loyal to Gaddafi are advancing on the city from all directions and are attempting to enter Misrata,” The spokesperson added that Misrata is being attacked heavily from the east, the west and the south.

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

Libya: We Will Provide NTC With 300-400 Mln Euros, Frattini

(ANSAmed) — ABU DHABI, JUNE 9 — “Italy has pledged to provide the NTC with 300-400 million euros in cash and 150 million in fuel”, backed by the Libyan assets that have been frozen in Italy. So announced Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in an interview with Reuters from a meeting in Abu Dhabi. The FM underlined the promise he made during his visit to Benghazi last week, when he announced that credit lines could be opened by Unicredit for “hundreds of millions of euros” and that Eni could supply refined oil products for 150 million euros to the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC). The financial support will be backed by frozen Libyan assets and by future oil supplies from Libya.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

PA Bans Journalists From Reporting Human Rights Abuses

The Palestinian Authority has banned Palestinian journalists from reporting about the findings of the Independent Commission for Human Rights concerning abuse of human rights by the PA and Hamas.

In its most recent annual report, the commission said that Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were subjected in 2010 to an “almost systematic campaign” of human rights abuses by the PA and Hamas, as well as by Israeli authorities.

According to the report, security forces belonging to the PA and Hamas were responsible for torture, arrests and arbitrary detentions.

Palestinian journalists complained that the PA leadership issued instructions to their editors forbidding them from reporting about the findings of the report.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Andy Carvin: Regarding #Amina, aka Gay Girl in Damascus

Regarding #Amina, aka Gay Girl In Damascus, here is what I know and don’t know. Earlier this week I got a tip from an LGBT Syrian source who didn’t believe Amina existed. They had told me they had asked around other members of the LGBT community and they couldn’t find anyone who knew her. They also were very concerned that her blog posts were drawing attention to Syria’s LGBT community in ways that could be dangerous for them.

Independently of this, two other Syrian sources I knew mentioned similar speculation to me. They didn’t say she was fictitious, per se, but they were skeptical of the circumstances described in her My Father The Hero blog post. My first source also expressed similar skepticism. Given their collective experiences with Syrian security services, they simply did not believe it was possible her father could protect her by shaming them into leaving the house. They said the men would have dragged her way no matter what. It didn’t pass their personal sniff tests.

I began to ask around on Twitter if anyone had met her in person, and I couldn’t find anyone who had. Given that I only started exploring this question this afternoon, there is always the possibility that I simply haven’t been talking to the right people yet who can confirm having real-world interactions with her. I then asked if anyone knew of anyone else who had met her in person, and heard from several people who all mentioned the same person: a friend of hers in Canada. I tried contacting her online and didn’t hear back for a while. (She has since emailed me back in the last hour but we haven’t had a chance to speak yet.) I also reached out to an editor at the Guardian, which ran an interview with her last month. He said he’d put me in touch with the editor who handled the story, so I can find out if the interview was conducted in person. That answer might clear up a lot of this, but I’m still waiting to hear back from him.

Regarding the friend in Canada, a producer at BBC World Have Your Say contacted me publicly over Twitter and said they had interviewed her on air this morning, and he said that she had only been in contact with Amina via Skype. A Canadian journalist who also had interviewed her told me the same thing, adding that video skype isn’t available in Syria, so the friend in Canada only knew her via text chat.

While all of this was going on, I contacted another Syrian contact who has connections with two prominent opposition members. He was under the impression that one of these people had indeed met her once, but in an email that this person sent me this evening, he denied this. Supposedly the other opposition activist was aware of her, but I haven’t heard from him directly, so I can’t speculate either way. Another contact who was friends with Amina on Facebook (but not in person) sent me a collection of some of the photos of Amina from her page. They were all clearly of the same woman whose picture has been circulating as Amina. Many of them are picture of her alone, but some of them appear to be posed with friends or family.

Finally, yet another source told me to take a look at a previous blog she had allegedly written several years ago:

The blog explicitly stated it was her intention to post both real stories and fiction on her blog — and not tell readers which was which. To quote the blog:

This blog is …

… where I will be posting samples of fiction and literature I am working on.

This blog will contain chapters and drafts.

This blog will have what may sometimes seem likely deeply personal accounts. And sometimes they will be. But there will also be fiction. *And I will not tell you which is which.* (emphasis mine)

This blog will sample what I’m writing.

This blog is not a diary.

This blog is not about politics.

This blog invites your comments.

So where does this leave us? I still have many more questions than answers, but I currently believe Amina is a real person, but one who is much more expressive about herself online than offline. It is possible that Amina Arraf is a pen name, to protect herself in Syria, but so far I can’t prove it one way or another. If it is just a pen name, that might explain why the sources I talked to said they’d never met a person by that name. Even so, I wouldn’t be surprised if I indeed found people who know her in person. It’s just taking longer time than I would have liked. Much of this could be sorted out by contacting her reported American mother, but I hadn’t been able to do that yet, which is why I haven’t had much to say about the topic for the last few hours. I also felt that I didn’t want to send people on a wild goose chase when it’s quite possible she is indeed detained under very harsh conditions.

Despite all the questions I have, I am deeply worried that this discussion about her identity could distract people from the possibility that should might be being brutalized in detention, and in dire need of support from friends and strangers alike. Having a pen name and writing occasional fiction on an otherwise real blog, if that is indeed true, is an academic discussion when compared with what she might indeed be going through.

Whoever she is, wherever she is, I hope she is well and with us again online soon. -andy

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

Iran Taking Crash Course in Uranium-Hunting

Disregards international sanctions to pursue nuclear fuel

Disregarding international sanctions against its budding nuclear development program, Iran is on a crash course to obtain uranium from Africa and Latin America to mine into yellowcake, and eventually use as fuel for its nuclear reactors, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

The United Nations last year announced the sanctions over Iran’s nuclear enrichment program because many Westerners believe it is intended to develop nuclear weapons.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Iran Sends Submarines to Red Sea

Iran has sent submarines to the Red Sea, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Tuesday, citing an unidentified source, in a move that could anger Israel.

“Iranian military submarines entered the Red Sea waters with the goal of collecting information and identifying other countries’ combat vessels,” Fars said.

It did not specify the number or type of vessels involved but said they were sailing alongside warships of the Navy’s 14th fleet.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Iran: Advanced Centrifuges to be Set Up Soon at Qom Nuclear Site

Iran shifting its higher grade uranium enrichment work from Natanz site to Fordo near Qom and aims to triple the production capacity of nuclear fuel.

Iran’s nuclear energy chief and Vice President Fereidoun Abbasi was quoted Wednesday by the official Iranian IRNA news agency as saying Tehran plans to soon set up the more advanced type of centrifuges, suitable for higher-level uranium enrichment, at the Fordo site near the holy city of Qom in central Iran.

Fordo was long kept secret and was only revealed in 2009. It was built next to a military complex to protect it in case of an attack.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Is Erdogan’s Success Pulling Turks Away From Europe?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to win a third term in Sunday’s election. His hunger for power may be bad for Turkey’s democracy, but he has helped transform the country into an economic powerhouse. The once-promised EU membership seems increasingly irrelevant for the rising power.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy’s Frattini on Fractious Nature of Syrian Opposition

(AGI) Baghdad — In Baghdad, Italy’s Frattini characterised events in Syria as more complex compared to Libya’s. Speaking from the Iraqi capital where he is taking part in government level talks, foreign minister Franco Frattini clarified that “Syria’s opposition lacks a clear leadership,” unlike Libya’s opposition “which has a clear set of names to pit against Gaddafi.” .

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

Painful Doubts About Amina

Posted on June 7, 2011 by Liz Henry

This morning I woke up to reports that Amina Abdalla, aka Amina Abdallah Arraf al Omari, who blogs on Gay Girl in Damascus had been detained in Syria. Her cousin posted to give the details, and people were twittering and blogging about the situation, there was a Facebook page and a #freeamina hashtag and people talking about what to do as activists to pressure for her release. At work in the morning, I let people at BlogHer know, since we featured her post some months ago, My Father, the Hero. My coworkers were very concerned, Heather Clisby posted about Amina’s situation, and our entire community of women bloggers geared up to support her. I wrote to one of my senators and signed some online petitions in her support, and sent out messages to everyone I know to try to help her.

Over the course of the day as I tracked the stories about Amina I noticed that all the articles sourced her blog, and then her other blog from 2007. I started looking for traces of her elsewhere. She has a Facebook page, but not a lot of other presence. It looked to me like her 2007 blog was a few chapters of experimentation with a memoir or a novel. Then she abandoned that and brought it back in mid-February on a new site. Not uncommon. But I started having doubts based on some of her patterns of talking about personas and fiction. Back when people were talking about My Father, the Hero, I heard people doubting Amina’s existence simply based on her being an out lesbian in Damascus. I argued against that doubt and would not doubt someone based on their identity. But now began to feel differently.

As the afternoon wore on I felt that (even sluggish as it is) mainstream media should by now have found people who were personal friends, family, fellow students or co-workers of Amina from her time in the U.S. if not contacts in Syria. Again.. a day went by and all the sources and quotes were from two blogs by the same person, about that person. Interviews surfaced but they were all interviews by email. Then as I questioned things on my blogs and on twitter, in some phone calls to activists and journalists, I saw that Amina’s friend Sandra Bagaria in Montreal was twittering about her and was beginning to give interviews. She was reported as close friend, girlfriend, and partner in different sources. Sandra Bagaria, unlike Amina, had a clear presence on the web. That put my fears partly to rest. But I wondered a bit about Bagaria’s aliases: her twitter description read: “aka Marjane, aka Lisbeth and a Syrian lover.” Really… Hmm.

I would hate to have my existence doubted and am finding it painful to continue doubting Amina’s. If she is real, I am very sorry and will apologize and continue to work for her release and support.

But it now turns out that Bagaria has never met Amina in person. They had an online relationship. As I see it, this could indicate various possibilities:

– Amina is as she appears to be, a talented writer living in Syria; perhaps with a different name and with the names of her family members obscured.

– Amina is someone else entirely in Syria.

– Amina is someone else; anything goes. Amina could be Odin Soli for all I know. In fact, wouldn’t it fit all too neatly?

– Amina is Sandra Bagaria.

In 2007 I gave a talk at SXSWi on Fictional Blogging. I talked about astroturfing, sockpuppets, deep cover established online over time, and hoax bloggers who turned out to be not what they seemed. My own blogging community in around 2003 included a charismatic blogger named Plain Layne. Her life as a bisexual young woman was full of drama; she was goodhearted, generous, incredibly engaging, a fabulous writer, and would sometimes get herself into situations that would just make you stay awake at night worrying about her life, her cousin who had a baby, her upcoming dates, who she was going to sleep with… it was quite incredible. I’m sure many bloggers and blog readers have gone through this cycle of becoming fascinated with another person’s life through their textual output. Plain Layne had fans. When she wrote about being a rape survivor, many of us emailed and IM-ed her to offer long nights of support, or told our painful stories of trauma or abuse so she’d know she wasn’t alone.

Well… to make a long story short Plain Layne turned out to be this middle aged guy named Odin Soli who had also won blog awards years before as Acanit, a young lesbian Muslim girl with a Jewish girlfriend. Despite watching many of my close (in person and online) friends feel that their basic trust in humanity was damaged from this hoax, I invited Odin to come speak with me at SXSWi about blogging under a persona and how his “experimental fiction” had gone too far. We had a fantastic public discussion that stretched (at the audience’s request) an hour past our allotted panel time. I liked Odin a lot. He was fun to be around, as well as being a good writer and superb online performer of identity. His Layne stories evolved later into a novel, The Mexican Year… which by the way were about a Muslim woman. If you read all three of these writing projects, you may see some stylistic and thematic similarities with Amina. I believed in Amina, up till the spark of doubt I began feeling this afternoon. But… I believed hard in Layne too.

One of the high points of the discussion at SXSWi was talking with Ethan Zuckerman about political and government uses of “fictional” blogging. It would certainly be easy to imagine disinformation campaigns — say, a refugee camp blogger who reported on conditions in some way that was false and aimed at discrediting a political movement or government either because they were believed, or because they were revealed as fakes. What we thought was that if we could imagine it, someone else had probably already thought of it and was doing it.

In this case, how could I tell from this distance? I hope you can see why my spidey sense went off for Amina. I don’t disbelieve in her becuase she’s a great writer with a sense of drama and rhetoric, or because of her sexual orientation or her activism. For example, I don’t for a second doubt the existence of Riverbend, who blogged so eloquently and for so long from Baghdad and then fled to Syria with her family. But I start to really, really, want some trustable and deep sources for Amina. How can an activist whose life is in danger provide that credibility? It’s a very hard question. There have been good experiments done of inventing credible people — inserting them into conferences by having them tweet a lot and write about what they’re doing, then have them friend everyone they “met” at the conference — 9 times out of 10 I would friend that person back even if I couldn’t remember meeting them. Then I’d “know” them on Facebook and Twitter and in the blog world, and they’d be friends with lots of my real life friends. I would not at all be surprised if some of my social media contacts were complicated fictional creations — either literary experiments, or politically motivated cyber-infiltrators.

Like I said, not only was I imagining how to do this well back in 2005 or so, other much more powerful — or much more creative and weird — people than me were likely imagining it — and doing it. We saw with the HBGary case that there is software to manage a stack of complicated online personas and their social media presences and keep their backgrounds and relationships straight. Of course. Right?

At one point in 2008, I busted an entire fake astroturf political community, PumaPAC. That was fun.

In this situation, if I were Sandra Bagaria, and if I weren’t Sandra/Amina, I’d be taking my computer to a friendly hackerspace and get an expert vouched for by the community there to look at my email headers and whatever other records of contact I had with Amina. >From that it should be possible to tell something of her location. I would believe a fair bit of sophistication in hiding that location and identity is realistic of course. But it might not hold up to scrutiny.

Andy Carvin has been twittering all afternoon trying to find someone who has met Amina in person and has not succeeded.

If this is a hoax, I feel for everyone involved whose emotions were brought to a pitch and who stepped up to try and support Amina Araf. It also must be really infuriating for the LGBT people actually in Syria and for many other activists and bloggers who have been detained for their online writing.

If I’m wrong then I am being very rude to Amina and I am terribly sorry for that. But, I feel that it’s incredibly important to maintain some skepticism when sources are so thin.

Please change my mind with evidence and good sources. On the other hand, I’d like it if Amina didn’t exist, because then she wouldn’t be in jail and in danger, though other people are who need our support.

Update: Andy Carvin just posted with his thoughts. He is leaning towards believing that Amina is real, but doesn’t know a lot of people in person and lives her social life online. That is plausible, and I’m sure we’ll find out more over the next couple of days. Someone must have known her in Atlanta, for example… Meanwhile, I hope she is safe.

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

Spiegel Interview With Turkish Foreign Minister: ‘Turkey and Europe Need Each Other’

Elections are looming in Turkey and, once again, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party is expected to emerge victorious. SPIEGEL spoke with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, 52, about Turkey’s disappointment over Europe and Ankara’s influence in the Arab world.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Syria: Russia Against Any UN Resolution

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 9 — Russia is against any UN resolution on Syria, said a spokesman of the Russian Foreign Ministry. The spokesman underlined that a resolution could worsen the situation in the country, and that the current situation in Syria is not so bad enough to justify measures that could threaten security and peace worldwide. The draft resolution that is studied by the Security Council asks for the end of violence and wants humanitarian agencies to have access to the country. It also calls for political reforms and an independent inquiry. The text, studied by the Fifteen for the first time last night in the UN Headquarters, had been drafted by the UK and was presented on behalf of all European countries in the Council: UK, France, Germany and Portugal.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Secret World of the Child Bride: Heartbreaking Pictures of the Girls as Young as Five Who Are Married Off to Middle-Aged Men

Wide-eyed and haunted, the heartbreaking expressions on these young girls’ faces hint at an innocence cruelly snatched away.

They should be playing, learning and enjoying their childhood. But instead these youngsters, some as young as five, are being married off in secret weddings. It is estimated that every year this happens to ten to 12 million girls in the developing world.

In India, the girls will typically be attached to boys four or five years older, an investigation in the June issue of National Geographic magazine has found. But in Yemen, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and other countries with even higher rates of marriage at an early age, the husbands may be young men, middle-aged widowers or even abductors who rape first and claim their victims as wives afterwards.

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Some of these marriages are business transactions or to resolve a family feud.

Forced early marriage thrives in many regions, often in defiance of national laws. Whole communities often prescribe to the notion that it is as an appropriate way for a young woman to grow up when the alternative is the risk she loses her virginity to someone before she marries.

Wedding ceremonies are often held in the middle of the night, with the whole village keeping the secret for fear there might be a police raid.

In a project for National Geographic magazine, journalist Cynthia Gorney and photographer Stephanie Sinclair travelled to Yemen and Rajasthan in India to investigate the extent of this shocking practice.

In India girls may not legally marry before the age of 18 — but ceremonies involving girls in their teens may be overlooked. The younger daughters, some aged five, tend to be added on discreetly, their names kept off the invitations.

In one case in Rajasthan where her teenage sisters were also being married, a five-year-old bride named Rajani fell asleep before her wedding ceremony began.

An uncle lifted her from her cot and carried her in the moonlight toward the Hindu priest and future husband — a ten-year-old boy. Although child brides tend to remain with their families until they are older, this is not always the case.

Three years ago, the case of Nujood Ali came to worldwide attention. The ten-year-old Yemeni girl managed to escape her home and made her way to a courthouse to request a divorce from the man in his 30s her father had forced her to marry and who beat her.

She became the poster girl for children in her position around the world and a recent book, translated into 30 languages — I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced. She is now back with her family and has returned to school.

Not all girls have such a lucky escape. Few who are married off as children have any chance of an education but there are far worse consequences.

Many are raped and have a low life expectancy due to the number of children they carry at such a young age.

Girls suffer physical abuse and are too frightened to escape because they are threatened with death.

In another case in Yemen, it was discovered that a ten-year-old girl Ayesha had been married off to a 50-year-old man.

The journalists were told by her sister Fatima that ‘little Ayesha screamed when she saw the man she was to marry’.

Someone alerted the police, but Ayesha’s father ordered her to put on high heels to look taller and a veil to hide her face.

He warned that if he was sent to jail, he would kill Ayesha when he got out. The police left without troubling anyone and Ayesha now lives in a village two hours away with her husband.

‘She has a mobile phone,’ Fatima said. ‘Every day, she calls me and cries.’

The medical consequences are also extremely serious and in some cases fatal.

One doctor based in the Yemeni capital Sanaa listed some of the medical consequences of forcing girls into sex and childbirth before they are physically mature — ripped vaginal walls and internal ruptures called fistulas which can lead to life-long incontinence.

Girls are often too young to understand the concept of reproduction. The doctor said: ‘The nurses start by asking, “Do you know what’s happening?” “Do you understand that this is a baby that has been growing inside of you?”

Few are equipped with the information of how to care for themselves or their babies after childbirth leading to high infant mortality rates.

The people who work full-time trying to prevent these illegal marriages, and to improve women’s lives, know that it is a far from simple plan of rescuing girls.

Molly Melching, the founder of a Senegal-based organisation Tostan, told National Geographic: ‘If we separate a girl and isolate her from her community, what will her life be like?

‘You don’t want to encourage girls to run away. The way you change social norms is not by fighting them or humiliating people and saying they’re backward. We’ve seen that an entire community can choose very quickly to change. It’s inspiring.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

US Backs UK-France Resolution Against Repression in Syria

(AGI) New York — The US will back a draft UN resolution put forward by the UK and France condemning Syria’s crackdown on protests. Today’s UN Security Council meeting is scheduled to start at 9pm, Italian time, but the United States has already expressed its support for the new draft resolution put forward by the UK and France. The document condemns the Syrian regime’s violent repression of popular protests in the Asian country that have been going on for 12 weeks.

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


Azerbaijani Parliament to Discuss New, More Restrictive Rules on Religious Freedom

Religious groups now need 50 founding members (it was 10) to set up a religious communities. All activities, including Bible reading, will need prior authorisation. Religious leaders are very critical of the bill.

Baku (AsiaNews/F18) — Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has sent new amendments to a proposed religion law to the country’s parliament, the Milli Mejlis, which is due to consider them on 10 June. Local religious leaders have criticised the proposed changes as more restrictive than what was originally proposed, especially for groups that have already difficulty in obtaining state recognition.

Under the draft law, 50 adults (against 10 at present) would have to state that they are founders for a religious community to apply for state registration, news agency Forum 18 reported. The bill would require a religious group’s central body to have jurisdiction over all its communities.

“Courses by religious communities for young adults and adults to study holy books” would be allowed only if prior authorisation were obtained. That means that even catechism and Bible reading would require a permit.

Muslim communities must obtain prior authorisation and submit regular reports on their activities to the authorities. They must also be “created in mosques by citizens of the Azerbaijani Republic”.

“These amendments are anti-constitutional and violate the European Convention on Human Rights and United Nations human rights provisions,” Muslim activist Ilgar Ibrahimoglu Allahverdiev told Forum 18.

Iqbal Agazade, an opposition lawmaker, is even more critical. “The amendments restrict human rights and are not in accordance with Azerbaijani law and international standards,” he said.

Following the adoption of a new religious law in 2009, all religious groups had to re-register, even those that were already registered.

However, many did not receive any response and so had to operate without authorisation, “illegally” so to speak, with the possibility of further sanctions.

For many, by increasing the number of founding members required for registration, the authorities are forcing all groups to re-register and undertake once more the long and complex procedure of registration.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Billions of Dollars of Development Programmes ‘At Risk’

Washington, 8 June (AKI/Washington Post) — The hugely expensive U.S. attempt at nation-building in Afghanistan has had only limited success and may not survive an American withdrawal, according to the findings of a two-year congressional investigation to be released Wednesday.

The report, by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Democratic staff, calls on the administration to rethink its multi-billion dollar assistance programmes as US president Barck Obama prepares to begin drawing down the number of US troops in Afghanistan this summer.

The report, prepared by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Democratic majority staff, comes as Congress and the American public have grown increasingly restive about the human and economic cost of the decade-long war and reflects growing concerns about Obama’s war strategy even among supporters within his party.

The report describes the use of aid money to stabilise areas the military has cleared of Taliban fighters — a key component of the administration’s counterinsurgency strategy — as a short-term fix that provides politically pleasing results. But it says that the enormous cash flows can overwhelm and distort local culture and economies, and that there is little evidence the positive results are sustainable.

One example cited in the report is the Performance-Based Governors Fund, which is authorised to distribute up to 100,000 dollars a month in US funds to individual provincial leaders for use on local expenses and development projects.

In some provinces, it says, “this amount represents a tidal wave of funding” that local officials are incapable of “spending wisely.”

Because oversight is scanty, the report says, the fund encourages corruption.

Although the US plan is for the Afghan government to eventually take over this and other programmes, it has neither the management capacity nor the funds to do so.

The report also warns that the Afghan economy could slide into a depression with the inevitable decline of the foreign military and development spending that now provides 97 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The “single most important step” the Obama administration could take, the report says, is to stop paying Afghans “inflated salaries” — often 10 or more times as much as the going rate — to work for foreign governments and contractors.

Such practices, the report says, have “drawn otherwise qualified civil servants away from the Afghan government and created a culture of aid dependency.”

Even when US development experts determine that a proposed project “lacks achievable goals and needs to be scaled back,” the US military often takes it over and funds it anyway, the report says.

It also cites excessive use and poor oversight of contractors. Although the report provides some examples of successful projects, it is critical overall of what one senior committee aide called the US focus on a rapid “burn rate” of available funding as a key metric for success.

The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the report before its release.

Debate has begun within the White House and in Congress over how quickly to begin withdrawing the 100,000 US troops in Afghanistan, with senior defence department figures cautioning against a precipitous drawdown this summer. Defence secretary Robert M. Gates has called for a “modest” decrease that would avoid jeopardizing recent combat gains.

Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters Tuesday that he would like to see a minimum of 15,000 US troops withdrawn by the end of the year. Senator John McCain (Ariz.), the committee’s ranking Republican, was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that he thought the number should be no more than 3,000.

But an increasing number of lawmakers on both sides have called for a more wholesale reconsideration of Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan, saying that the war’s cost cannot be sustained at a time of domestic economic hardship. They point as well to changing realities on the ground, including signs of growing extremist violence in Pakistan and the killing last month of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

The administration has requested 3.2 billion dollars for Afghanistan reconstruction projects in the coming fiscal year. The report argued that the foreign aid programme must continue because “the goal should be to reduce some of the political pressure to spend money quickly, especially when the conditions are not right.”

All US development projects in Afghanistan should be re-examined, it adds, to determine whether they are “necessary, achievable, and sustainable.”

The report recommends multi-year congressional funding for the aid programme that would plan ahead for the increased civilian responsibilities as the number of troops decreases and calls for “a simple rule: donors should not implement projects if Afghans cannot sustain them.”

Last week, the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan said in a separate report that billions of dollars in US-funded reconstruction projects in both countries could fall into disrepair over the next few years because of inadequate planning to pay for their ongoing operations and maintenance.

That report warned that “the United States faces new waves of waste in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Foreign aid expenditures by the State Department and the US Agency for International Development in Afghanistan, about $320 million a month, pale beside the overall $10 billion monthly price tag for US military operations.

But Afghanistan is the biggest recipient of US aid, with nearly $19 billion spent from 2002 to 2010. Much of that money has been expended in the past two years, most of it in war zones in the south and east of the country as part of the counterinsurgency strategy adopted by Obama just months after he took office.

The strategy, devised by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, calls for pouring US development aid into areas that the military has cleared of Taliban fighters to persuade the population to support the Afghan government.

But evidence of successful aid programmes based on “counterinsurgency theories” is limited, the Senate committee report says.

“Some research suggests the opposite, and development best practices question the efficacy of using aid as a stabilisation tool over the long run.”

“The administration is understandably anxious for immediate results to demonstrate to Afghans and Americans alike that we are making progress,” the report says.

“However, insecurity, abject poverty, weak indigenous capacity, and widespread corruption create challenges for spending money.”

The report is critical of the “whole of government” approach implemented by Richard C. Holbrooke, who served as Obama’s special representative for the region until his death in December.

Under Holbrookes’ tenure, control of all civilian operations on the ground were shifted to the US State Department from the USAID, the traditional manager of development assistance.

“This new approach,” the report says, “created new levels of bureaucracy, diminished USAID’s voice at the table, and put decision-making on development issues in the hands of diplomats instead of development experts.”

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

Al-Qaida Video: Zawahiri Vows to Continue Bin Laden’s Work

First he praised Osama bin Laden, and then he issued threats to Pakistan and the United States. One month after the al-Qaida leader was shot dead in Abbottabad, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri has promised that the group will stay the course. But he remained silent about the group’s new leadership.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Nepali Women Victims of Prostitution and Slavery in Arab Countries

Hundreds of women emigrated for work to Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and other Islamic countries, and have not been heard from for years. Those who succeed in returning home shows signs of physical exhaustion, injuries and are often infected with AIDS.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — Hundreds of Nepalese women who emigrate to Arab countries in search of better jobs and wages, are unaccounted for. According to husbands and relatives they become victims of prostitution and slavery. The migrants who manage to return, show signs of physical exhaustion, injuries, psychological damage and are often infected with AIDS. To resolve this tragic situation, the Government of Nepal wants to block migration to Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan where most cases are registered. In 2010, 242 women emigrated for work and were never heard of again.

Devi Lal Sunar, from the village of Sanoshree (Bardia district), has had no news of his wife Shanti in three years and is concerned about her safety. “Ten years ago — he says — a neighbour convinced my wife to leave for Kuwait, helping her to migrate across India.” Devi said that the last contact with his wife Shanti took place about three years ago. On the phone she said that the landlord did not allow her to leave, that he tortured and beat her when she tried to contact the house and did not give her a salary. “I called Kuwait several times — he says — a voice with an Indian accent always answers and refuses to let me speak to my wife.” The man claims to have done everything to bring his wife home, and in recent years has sold most of his property and now has no money to feed his two children.

Lila Thapa, a woman of 35, recently returned to her village of Katarn (Bardia), after seven years working as a maid in Kuwait. “Working in Arab countries is very risky and difficult — she says — cases of abuse and exploitation are rife.” The woman points out that she had never been sexually abused, however, she claims to have been exploited and poorly paid for all her stay in Kuwait.

According to Maiti Nepal, an association against the trafficking of women, alleged disappearance are still rising. In eight years we have gone from three cases in 2002 to 242 in 2010. The growth is mainly due to increased migration to the Arab countries that attract women aged 25 to 35 years with jobs as nurses, domestic helpers and caregivers. However, many of them are sold as prostitutes in brothels or are employed in private homes as domestic servants-slaves and subjected to constant abuse by employers.

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

Pakistan: Punjab: Christian Cannot be Minister of Finance

Post awarded to Muslim Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, already Minister of Education and Health. At first the post was to go to Kamran Michael, the current Minister for Human Rights. The Muslim members of the Provincial Assembly against the fact that a Christian presents the budget. Condemnation from minority leaders and civil society.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, leader of the pro-Muslim Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N), is the new finance minister of Punjab province. He already holds the portfolio for Education and Health and will be called in the coming days to submit the annual budget, before the members of the Provincial Assembly. In recent days the ministry post has been the focus of a fierce controversy given that it first seemed that the portfolio of Finance would be assigned to the Christian Kamran Michael (PML-N), former head of the ministry for human rights and minorities . However, the opposition of the radical wing of the party blocked the appointment.

Today came the appointment of Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rehman, a 44 year old businessman who graduated from the University of Lahore, a member of the Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz, a liberal party in economic terms, but radically conservative on social issues. As a new provincial minister of Finance, he shall be called by June 10 to submit the annual budget. This is the third portfolio to be allocated to the Muslim politician, the son of a prominent local politician and related to two members of the National Parliament.

The provincial government of Punjab wanted to end the controversy raised in recent days, when the Finance portfolio was assigned — at first — to the Christian political Kamran Michael (pictured), the PML-N leader and former head of the ministry for Human Rights and Minorities. The appointment followed the break-down of the coalition between the PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), leading to a reshuffle in the seats of provincial government. With the post of minister, the Christian politician was to present the annual budget.

However, a substantial fringe of his party was against the possibility that a Christian — and not a Muslim — would fill the post. Michael was also unable to attend the meeting of the provincial government — to discuss issues surrounding the economy — precisely because of his Christian faith.

Interviewed by AsiaNews on the latest case of discrimination against minorities, the bishop of Islamabad calls on the PML-N party “to decide what kind of message they want to send to the world community.” Accepting this kind of bigotry and intolerance, said Msgr. Rufin Anthony, “will confirm the worst impressions about Pakistan and the PML-N in particular.” He adds that the Christian politician is a citizen of Pakistan like everyone else, and therefore should enjoy equal rights.

Haroon Barkat Masih, president of Masihi Foundation strongly condemns the episode. His organisation accuses the party of giving in to the lunatic fringe, while the Anglican Bishop of Lahore Alexander John Malik talks of “shameful hypocrisy”. Rizwan Paul, Life for All, said that minorities “all contribute to the growth of gross domestic product and compares Raja Riaz, the leading exponent of the PPP and the chief minister of Punjab to the Taliban, for his “ extremist views “. Condemnation also comes from Mehfooz Ahmed Khan, a Muslim leader, contrary to this episode of “discrimination” who also urges the court in the city to “take action”.

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

Far East

Fukushima: Official Suggests Japan Could Become ‘Uninhabitable’

Worse than meltdown, government report says devastating ‘melt-through’ has occurred at Fukushima

(NaturalNews) Recent reports confirming that Reactors 1, 2, and 3 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility completely melted just hours after the devastating earthquake and tsunami hit the area on March 11 (link) have been trumped by even worse news that those same reactors have all likely “melted through,” a situation that according to Japan’s Daily Yomiuri DY is “the worst possibility in a nuclear accident.”

And senior political official Ichiro Ozawa suggested in an interview with The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) that the Fukushima situation could make the entire country of Japan “unlivable.”

A nuclear core meltdown involves nuclear fuel exceeding its melting point to the point where it damages the core, leaks out, and threatens to potentially release high levels of radiation into the environment. However, a nuclear melt-through is an even worse scenario, as nuclear fuel literally melts through the bottom of damaged reactor pressure vessels into out containment vessels — and possibly even melts through those outer vessels directly into ground, air, and water.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Bolivia’s Stunning Salt Flats

According to the latest report by the US Geological Survey, Salar de Uyuni contains 9 million tonnes of lithium, more than a quarter of the world’s known resources. This could rise to about 50 per cent if the lithium in more than 30 other salars and lagoons in south-western Bolivia is included. Lithium is increasingly required for the batteries that power phones, laptops, cordless tools and a range of hybrid and electric vehicles — so much so that there are fears that demand will soon outstrip supply. Talk that impoverished Bolivia could become “the Saudi Arabia of lithium” has encouraged its socialist president, Evo Morales, to keep this valuable resource under tight state control. The country has spent three years and more than $10 million on a pilot plant to extract the lithium. But according to Juan Carlos Zuleta, a lithium economics analyst based in the capital, La Paz, this has so far produced “only meagre results”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Algerian-Born Man Living in France is Refused French Nationality

Application turned down because of man’s ‘degrading attitude’ towards his wife

An Algerian-born man living in France has been refused French nationality because of his “degrading attitude” towards women.

The man, who has not been named, is married to a Frenchwoman, but does not allow her to leave the family home freely, it was claimed.

In what is seen as a legal precedent, his application for French nationality was turned down because “his idea of sexual equality is not that of the republic”, according to a high-ranking official quoted by French radio station Europe 1.

The French constitution states that the government can refuse nationality or strip nationality for a “lack of integration”. The interior minister, Claude Guéant, has made it clear he expects candidates for nationality to not only integrate but “assimilate” into French society.

A spokesman for the minister told the Guardian that concerns were raised when police interviewed the man as part of the application process. The refusal, she added, had been confirmed by the State Council — the legal body that advises the government on legislation — and was awaiting signature by the minister.

“The man was eligible for French nationality as he had been married to a French citizen for more than four years. In such cases, however, it can be refused by a disrespect of or lack of assimilation into the French community or if the person practises polygamy.

“In this case, during the interview at the police station his behaviour showed a lack of assimilation into the French community; it was incompatible with the values of the French republic, notably in respect to the values of the equality of men and women. This justifies the decision for not giving him French nationality. The case was examined by the State Council, which agreed and a decision to that effect was given.”

The case emerged a week after far-right leader Marine Le Pen wrote to French MPs asking them to support an end to dual nationality, claiming it “undermines republican values”. Le Pen has made no secret that her demand is aimed at people from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. A delegation of 50 MPs from the ruling right-of-centre UMP party met President Nicolas Sarkozy recently to press for an end to dual nationality. Afterwards one of the MPs said Sarkozy was “very favourable” to the idea.

Henry Guaino, one of the president’s closest advisers, told French radio: “It’s an idea that merits debate. Whatever the National Front’s position, it’s not wrong to discuss this issue.”

Socialist MP Manuel Valls, who chairs a parliamentary committee on nationality rights, said scrapping dual nationality would be counter-productive and that French expatriates with dual nationality acted as “ambassadors” for their country around the world.

Christophe Girard, the Socialist deputy mayor of Paris, wrote in Le Monde that the history of France and its mix of cultures was under threat. “This return to nationalism that locks and narrows pits citizens against each other in fear and hatred and is a proven risk,” he wrote. “The atmosphere fostered by the current government is even more revolting given that the current head of state himself is the son of an immigrant father and his third wife is French-Italian.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the backbone of France. We need to strengthen it. I would appeal to all those who are able to obtain a second citizenship to take the necessary steps now.”

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

Boat With 52 on Board Intercepted Near Apulia

(AGI) Lecce- A boat carrying 52 immigrants was intercepted off the coast of the Salento area in Apulia. Police helicopters and patrol boats spotted the 15 meter long vessel around 10 miles from Santa Maria dei Leuca as it sailed towards the coast; the boat was accosted by coastal patrol and escorted to the port in Otranto. The immigrants, among whom were 3 women and 9 minors who are presumed to be of Iranian and Afghan nationality so far, were then taken to the Don Tonino Bello reception centre in Otranto for identification procedures.

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

Disturbing Language Reality Facing America

Whether I write about Detroit, Michigan dropping a million people because of the crime, immigration, illiteracy and welfare issues—or I write about our culture and language spiraling into the toilet, year after year, not enough Americans will stand up and speak out.

The immigration issue continues to add 3.1 million people to this country every year, but Americans, much like sheep, watch it continue—without saying a stinking word. By the time it becomes uncontrollable, we will have lost our national language, culture or way of life. And, we won’t get it back!

If you haven’t seen Detroit, Michigan in pictures, please write me at and I’ll show you what all our cities face with relentless immigration from the third world. I don’t know how anyone thinks we’re going to survive the fracturing and Balkanization of our civilization. It’s headed for the toilet and cities like LA, Detroit, Chicago, Miami and Houston provide plenty of examples.

But once we lose our language, we face a nasty future. Rolando Neghme, South Padre Island, Texas gives us a glimpse of the Mexican invasion:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Poles Still Heading Abroad Despite Economic Conditions

EUOBSERVER / POLAND — Poland has been a relative bright spot in the dreary economic landscape of the European Union. But Poles have mixed feelings about life in their country and many are still going abroad to work. Poles emigrated in their droves when their country joined the EU in 2004. By 2007, the peak emigration year, almost 2 million of them had left to find work elsewhere in the EU.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Temporary Migrants to Lose Right to Remain

LONDON — Migrants who come to the UK to work on temporary visas will no longer be able to apply to remain here permanently, under plans announced by the government on Thursday.

The proposals are part of a package of reforms aimed at reducing immigration to “sustainable levels”, the Home Office said.

In 2010, 84,000 people who entered the UK for employment were granted settlement, compared to less than 10,000 who qualified for employment related settlement in 1997, government figures show.

Under the new plans visas would be reclassified as either “temporary” or “permanent”, with stricter criteria for those who want to stay.

There will also be a new English language test for adults wanting to remain in the country for good.

Immigration Minister Damian Green, launching a consultation on the plans on Thursday, said they were aimed at “breaking the link between temporary and permanent migration”.

“Settlement has become almost automatic for those who choose to stay,” he said. “This needs to change. The immigration system has got to be made to work properly.

“We want the brightest and best workers to come to the UK, make a strong contribution to our economy while they are here, and then return home.”

Anyone earning over £150,000 or whose occupation is of a “specific economic or social value” to the UK, will retain the right to settlement.

           — Hat tip: AC [Return to headlines]

UN Bureaucrat Hack Wants Finns to Take in Libyans…

On a visit to Helsinki, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees has called on Finland to take in Libyan refugees, while praising its refugee system.

High Commissioner António Guterres expressed concern on Thursday about the flow of refugees from Syria into Turkey. Within the past day alone, more than 1,000 people have fled the city of Jisr al-Shoughhour over the Turkish border, he noted. Up until now, Syria has been the most receptive country for refugees in the region, the former Portuguese prime minister told YLE.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]


Green Buildings Hazardous to Health? Report Cites Risks of Weatherization

“Even with the best intentions, indoor environmental quality issues may emerge with interventions that have not been sufficiently well screened for their effects on occupant safety and health,” the report said.

To save costs and cut down on emissions, building owners typically find ways to seal off potential leaks and conserve energy. But in “weatherizing” the buildings, they also change the indoor environment.

By making buildings more airtight, building owners could increase “indoor-air contaminant concentrations and indoor-air humidity,” the report said. By adding insulation, they could trigger moisture problems. By making improvements to older homes, crews could stir up hazardous material ranging from asbestos to harmful caulking — though that problem is not unique to energy improvements.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Scuba Spider Uses Web as Gill to Breathe Underwater

Using its web to replenish the oxygen in its air-bubble “tank”, the diving-bell spider can live underwater with only occasional visits to the surface

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]