News Feed 20101202

Financial Crisis
» Germany’s Image Suffers in EU Amid Debt Crisis
» Italy: Failure to Sell Military Property Damps Prospects for Further Real-Estate Sales
» US Ready to Back Bigger EU Stability Fund: Official
 
USA
» A Day in the USA
» Arsenic-Eating Bacteria Opens New Possibilities for Alien Life
» Cry Treason! For That is What it is
» Effort to Weaken Punishment for Rep. Charles B. Rangel Fails in House
» FCC Triggers Firestorm With ‘Net Neutrality’ Proposal
» House Reaches Vote Threshold to Censure Representative Charles B. Rangel
» Liberal Myopia and the Reality of Islam
» Mercury Causes Homosexuality in Male Ibises
» NASA Finds New Life (Updated)
» Socialist Regime Moves for Control of the Internet
» The Islamic Movement is Affecting America’s Population
» U.S. Jews Must Wake Up to Homegrown Terror Threat
» US Facing Attacks by Home-Grown Terrorists, Senior Adviser Warns
 
Canada
» The Apple That Never Goes Brown: Biotech Firm in Bid to Sell Genetically Modified Fruit for Lunchboxes.
 
Europe and the EU
» A New Dark Age for Germany?
» Foreigners Alarmed by Swiss Expulsion Vote
» German Jews Elect First Post-Holocaust Generation Leader
» Germans Less Tolerant of Islam Than Neighbours, Study Finds
» Here it Comes, Durban 3
» Italy: Mexican Women Fined for Night-Time Dip in Rome Monument
» Italy: ‘Third Pole’ Takes Shape With Berlusconi Challenge
» Moldovan Elections: A Deadlock on Europe’s Periphery
» Muslim Imam Who Lectures on Non-Violence in Germany is Arrested for Beating Up His Wife
» Netherlands: Nearly All Break-Ins and Car Thefts Go Unpunished
» Patten: The EU Will Never be a Real Power
» Survey Shows Germans Negative About Muslims and Jews
» UK Publishes Changes in War Crimes Arrest Law
» UK Tells Israel That Laws Will be Changed to Ensure Safe Passage for Officials
» UK: ‘We Let in Some Crazies’… David Cameron Claimed Labour Went Soft on Radical Muslims
» UK: Amnesty International Say Police Bill Will Let War Criminals Go Free
» UK: British Government Proposes Bill to Tighten Universal Jurisdiction Laws
» UK: Government Announce Universal Jurisdiction Law Change
» UK: Islamic Extremism: Is This the Year’s Most Embarrassing Academic Report?
» UK: Ken Livingstone Clutches Another Lead Lifebelt
» UK: London Placates Israel With War Crimes Arrest Law Change
» UK: Plug Pulled on Islam-Domination Fest
» UK: Stay-at-Home Britain: 40% of Workers Take the Day Off as Snow Storms Paralyse the Country… With More to Come Tonight
» UK: Scandal That Shames Britain: Join Our Campaign to End Appalling Treatment of the Elderly on NHS Wards as Complaints Reach Record High
» UK: Whitewashing a Neo Nazi: More Weirdness From Lambert and Githens-Mazer
» UK: Why We’re a Laughing Stock With the Rest of the World
» UK: Why Haven’t British Police Arrested Wikileaks Boss on Interpol Wanted List Even Though They Know Where He is?
» US Embassy: ‘Sweden No Longer Neutral’
 
Balkans
» Region Relatively Unscathed by Diplomatic Cables on Wikileaks
 
North Africa
» Algeria: AIDS: Courses for Imams on Culture of Prevention
 
Middle East
» A Commodity Still in Short Supply
» Turkey is Like Iran
» Wikileaks: Credibility in Doubt, Erdogan
 
Russia
» EU Neighbours Are ‘Mafia States, ‘ US Cables Indicate
» ‘Virtual Mafia States’
 
South Asia
» Afghanistan: ENI ‘Seriously Considering’ Investing in Northern Afghanistan Says Minister
» Biden: Berlin ‘Dropped the Ball’ In Afghanistan
» Cables Describe Scale of Afghan Corruption as Overwhelming
» The Other Conflict in Afghanistan
» US Army Charged Germany Fees for Afghanistan Donations
 
Far East
» Wikileaks: Completely Wrong on North Korea
 
Australia — Pacific
» Airbus: Investigators Find Potential Manufacturing Flaw
» Mystery of Green Fireball ‘UFOs’ Solved
 
Latin America
» Mexican Drug Gang Murders the Unarmed Woman Who Was Brave Enough to Take Police Chief Job Men Didn’t Want.
» Scientists Attempt to Crack Secret Code of the Axolotl
 
Immigration
» Denmark: EU Rule Exempts Turks From Immigration Test
» Major Drop in Asylum-Seekers in Turkey, Report
» The Enormous Folly and Cost of the Dream Act
 
Culture Wars
» Gay Rights Uneven Throughout Europe, Agency Says
» UK: There’s No Shame in Not Wearing a Cross
» UK: Why SHOULD Mums on Benefits Have Countless Children When I Can Only Afford Two?
» Was This the Video That Cost US? The Very UN-English Presentation Screened to FIFA Delegates
» When Making Friends, Gran Knows Best — Not the Facebook Generation
 
General
» EU Funding Offer Sparks Anger at Cancun
» Global Warming: Sea Level Could Rise in South, Fall in North
» Muslims Worldwide Say Respect is Key to Better Relations With U.S., West
» The Hypocrisy of Hatred

Financial Crisis


Germany’s Image Suffers in EU Amid Debt Crisis

Alarm bells are ringing in Berlin as Germany’s image suffers across the European Union, where it has increasingly been seen as a bully imposing its views on its partners during the eurozone debt crisis. AFP’s Patrick Rahir reports.

“The rest of Europe increasingly resents German policy and fears the emergence of a nationalist Germany,” warned Ulrike Guérot of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a think tank.

Tensions have worsened as the debt crisis threatens more eurozone countries, Portugal after Ireland with Spain appearing next in line.

And German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been blamed for spooking the bonds markets by insisting that private lenders contribute to future rescue packages.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the normally German-friendly premier of Luxembourg, has fretted publicly that Berlin is “slowly losing sight of the common European good.”

In Spain, “the prevailing feeling is one of frustration with Germany,” wrote the ECFR head of office in Madrid, Jose Ignacio Torreblanca, in the Financial Times.

Spain fears that “Ms Merkel’s proposal to have investors, and not only citizens, suffer the consequences of their investment decisions” is driving up its borrowing costs and endangering its recovery plan.

The editor-in-chief of the German daily Handelsblatt, Gabor Steingart, has accused Merkel of “being strong against the weak. Her policies lead to insecurity and strife,” he charged in a front-page editorial.

And Der Spiegel claimed in its edition this week that “Germany’s reputation in the EU has deteriorated dramatically.”

Berlin’s minister for European affairs Werner Hoyer told the weekly magazine that he is frequently asked by his colleagues in Brussels: “Do you still stand by Europe?”

“Strategically, what we’re doing is right, but we have a communication problem,” Hoyer said.

Germany has not turned anti-European, Almut Möller of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) told news agency AFP, but “the government’s communication strategy hasn’t always been sensible and it has often reacted too late.”

She wondered if Merkel and her advisers “are aware of the frustrations they create.” And she deplored that when confronted with their partners’ views, “the Germans react to every criticism without any tact, out of the moral conviction that they are in the right.”

“Germans are not ready to question themselves,” agreed Ulrike Guérot.

The Foreign Ministry has prepared a policy paper urging the government to remedy its image deficit and explain its policies.

“They have realised that the crisis has brought back old cliches,” commented a diplomat who insisted on anonymity. “The spectre of an ever-more-demanding Germany is being raised in a number of countries.”

“And that explains why Berlin is trying to coordinate its positions with France,” which can provide some kind of cover, he said.

But for Guérot the problem goes deeper. She sees a Germany that has “fallen out of love with Europe,” which has become more complicated, too tiresome and too expensive.

“Germany is now simply older and poorer, with social tensions that its neighbours do not see because it likes to celebrate itself as an export champion.”

“For most of Europe, Germany is the big winner of the euro … whereas many Germans today believe that they have always had to pay for the others and have always been cheated,” she added.

Germany is no longer ready to pay for each and every compromise and “this is legitimate,” she insisted.

But the rest of Europe has yet to get used it and Berlin’s attitude isn’t helping.

“The current German tone tends to be too sharp and is therefore inappropriate,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Failure to Sell Military Property Damps Prospects for Further Real-Estate Sales

Rome, 30 Nov. — (AKI/Bloomberg) — Italy failed to attract bidders for a military barracks in the north of the country, damping prospects for the sale of thousands of state-controlled properties set to begin next year.

The government set a minimum price of 40 million euros for the barracks in Albenga in the northern region of Liguria, the state property agency said in an e-mailed statement after Monday’s bid deadline. Albenga was the first of 11 military properties to be sold by 20 December that the agency said were worth a combined total of at least 100 million euros.

“For an investor, 40 million euros represents a significant commitment to an operation that includes an element of risk,” said Mario Breglia, head of real-estate research firm Scenari Immobiliari. “This site may be worth that much, but the market is clearly weak. Four years ago, investors may have lined up to put in an offer, but not now.”

European governments are looking to real estate sales to raise cash after the global financial crisis and economic recession led to higher public deficits and debt. The Italian government has been forced to cut funding to municipalities and proposed allowing local governments to keep as much as 3.6 billion euros in proceeds projected from the sale of 12,000 properties starting across the country next year.

Debt Crisis

The closing of the Albenga sale coincided with growing concern about investing in Italy, Europe’s second most-indebted nation, after the 85 billion-euro rescue of Ireland failed to convince investors that the region’s debt crisis was contained.

The broader program of real estate sales is part of Italy’s efforts to control its deficit and debt. The government this year cut funding to regional and local governments as it sought to rein in a budget shortfall that reached 5.3 percent of gross domestic product last year. To help compensate, the government proposed initially transferring thousands of properties to local authorities and allowing for their sale. The initial portfolio doesn’t include properties in Rome, and five regions, including Sicily and Sardinia, that will also be eligible for sale.

The government last year put properties valued at 229 million euros on the market, registering record sales of 165 million euros. Property transactions have raised 80 million euros this year on assets valued at 110 million euros.

Lower Proceeds

Still, Italy is facing more competition from other debt- burdened governments across Europe. Falling property values and tougher borrowing conditions cut proceeds from state-owned property sales in the European Union to 3 billion euros in 2008 and 2009, from 13 billion euros in the two years though 2007, according to a July report by London-based CB Richard Ellis Global Research.

“The trend on the part of governments in various parts of Europe to continue to look to raise capital by selling property assets will continue,” Richard Holberton, analyst at CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., said in a Nov. 26 interview.

Apart from barracks, the local authorities will sell former military firing ranges, roads, schools, warehouses, farms, industrial sites, parish buildings, canals and undeveloped land.

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



US Ready to Back Bigger EU Stability Fund: Official

The United States would be ready to support the extension of the European Financial Stability Facility via an extra commitment of money from the International Monetary Fund, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

USA


A Day in the USA

You see the unrest in Europe? Then watch it closely, because if we don’t change our direction, it’s coming here.

Last night I was reading through a few different news sources of the daily happenings in our country. First, I was shocked, though in reality I shouldn’t have been, by the amount of news I’d consider to be depressing to a large number of the citizens of our country, but then I was taken by the fact that so many of these stories are actually a part of the same, or bigger story. The parallels of which continually point to the progressive attitude and agenda taking place in our country today and quite frankly, is becoming sickening in its content and purpose.

Depressing may be too strong of a definition for this, so let’s use a word description that is quite a bit milder for the sake of our liberal friends, how about …APPALLING!

Through the progressive attacks on religion, capitalism, conservatism, and the environment, among others, we here in the United States are experiencing a “watered down” version of the freedoms and liberties we have taken for granted in our country for so long. This trend will continue as long as “we the people” allow them to twist and bend our laws to their benefit, under the guise of political correctness.

In reality people, there are only two main types of society world-wide, capitalism, or communism. So you tell me where we’re headed. “Oh no, we’re not socialists,” the progressives cry! Uh, huh… well let’s take a quick peek at what the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have to say about this progressive denial of being socialists. Read it for yourself, then make an honest judgment.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Arsenic-Eating Bacteria Opens New Possibilities for Alien Life

One of the basic assumptions about life on Earth may be due for a revision. Scientists have discovered a type of bacteria that thrives on poisonous arsenic, potentially opening up a new pathway for life on Earth and other planets.

If you thumb through an introductory biology textbook, you’ll notice that six elements dominate the chemistry of life. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen are the most common. After that comes phosphorus, then sulfur. Most biologists will tell you that these six elements are essential; life as we know it cannot exist without them.

The recent discovery by Felisa Wolfe-Simon of an organism that can utilize arsenic in place of phosphorus, however, has demonstrated that life is still capable of surprising us in fundamental ways. The results of her research will appear in Dec. 2 issue of the journal Science. [Photo of the arsenic-friendly bacteria]

The organism in question is a bacterium, GFAJ-1, cultured by Wolfe-Simon from sediments she and her colleagues collected along the shore of Mono Lake, Calif. Mono Lake is hypersaline and highly alkaline. It also has one of the highest natural concentrations of arsenic in the world.

Life-form’s toxic food

On the tree of life, according to the results of 16S rRNA sequencing, the rod-shaped GFAJ-1 nestles in among other salt-loving bacteria in the genus Halomonas. Many of these bacteria are known to be able to tolerate high levels of arsenic.

But Wolfe-Simon found that GFAJ-1 can go a step further. When starved of phosphorus, it can instead incorporate arsenic into its DNA, and continue growing as though nothing remarkable had happened.

“So far we’ve showed that it can do it in DNA, but it looks like it can do it in a whole lot of other biomolecules” as well, says Wolfe-Simon, a NASA research fellow in residence at the USGS in Menlo Park, California.

“It is the first time in the history of biology that there’s been anything found that can use one of the different elements in the basic structure,” says Paul Davies, the director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

Wolfe-Simon’s finding “can only reinforce people’s belief that life can exist under a much wider range of environments than hitherto believed,” Davies said. He sees the discovery of GFAF-1 as “the beginning of what promises to be a whole new field of microbiology.”

Michael New, NASA’s astrobiology discipline scientist, agrees.

“The discovery of an organism that can use arsenic to build its cellular components may indicate that life can form in the absence of large amounts of available phosphorous, thus increasing the probability of finding life elsewhere,” he said. “This finding expands our understanding of the conditions under which life can thrive, and possibly originate, thereby increasing our understanding of the distribution of life on Earth and the potential habitats for life elsewhere in the solar system.”

In case you’re not impressed yet, here’s a quick refresher:

The DNA molecule is shaped like a spiral ladder. The “rungs” of the ladder are comprised of pairs of nucleotides, which spell out the genetic instructions of life. The sides of the DNA ladder, referred to as its backbone, are long chains of alternating sugar and phosphate molecules. A phosphate molecule contains five atoms: one of phosphorus, four of oxygen. No phosphorus, no phosphate. No phosphate, no backbone. No backbone, no DNA. No DNA, no life.

GFAJ-1 apparently didn’t read the manual.

When Wolfe-Simon starved GFAJ-1 cells of phosphorus, while flooding them with arsenic, far more than enough arsenic to kill most other organisms, it grew and divided as though it had been offered its favorite snack.

Arsenic-loving bacteria

Wolfe-Simon, with assistance from colleagues in Ron Oremland’s group at the USGS in Menlo Park, California, has grown generation after generation of these bacteria. [The Weirdest Life on Earth]

The bacteria continue to swim around in their test tubes, unconcerned, despite the fact that, since Wolfe-Simon first collected them more than a year ago, the only phosphorus they have had access to was whatever was present in the original colony of cells, plus tiny traces, far too little to sustain ongoing growth and cell division, present as impurities in the cells’ growth medium.

And you thought arsenic was poison, right? To most living organisms, it is. Arsenic is chemically similar to phosphorus, so it can sneak its way into living cells, as if wearing a disguise. But it is more reactive than phosphorus, in ways that tend to rip apart life’s essential molecules. DNA, for example.

Somehow, GFAJ-1 appears to have found a way to overcome this problem.

As a control, a second culture of GFAJ-1 cells was fed phosphorus instead of arsenic. They, too, grew and divided. GFAJ-1 seems able to switch back and forth, depending on how much phosphorus is available.

“I have no idea how they’re doing what they’re doing,” Wolfe-Simon says.

Once she realized that GFAJ-1 was capable of growing when starved of phosphorus, Wolfe-Simon set about finding out in more detail what was going on inside its cells. Could it be, perhaps, that she had found a microbe that, rather than incorporating arsenic into its biological structures, was instead exceptionally good at recycling extremely limited amounts of phosphorus?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Cry Treason! For That is What it is

From Alaska to Florida, offshore of California or any of the East Coast States, Obama is destroying America’s energy future in the same fashion his administration has done everything in its power to shut down the nation’s coal mining industry.

Here are the statistics that demonstrate how dependent we are on fossil fuels: In total they provide 84.9% of the energy Americans use. Of that, coal provides 22.4% and oil represents 39.2%, while natural gas accounts for 23.2%. Other energy sources include nuclear power at 8.3%, hydroelectric at 2.4% and the least efficient and dependable, wind at 0.3% and solar at 0.08%. (Data source: the Institute for Energy Research) President Obama has made his intentions to bankrupt the coal industry clear

In March, Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat, said, “President Obama has made his intentions to bankrupt the coal industry clear. EPA’s actions this week demonstrate that he will wage a war against the energy source that generates half of America’s electricity and is our nation’s most abundant, reliable, and affordable energy sources.”

Gov. Manchin said that estimates were that the administration’s actions would affect 65,000 members of the Appalachian workforce who would lose some of the highest-paying jobs available in the region. At least $12 billion in lost economic development was forecast.

Nor is the Obama attack on the nation’s energy supply restricted to coal and oil.

In October, the Obama administration demanded $880 million in exchange for a $7.5 billion loan guarantee necessary to the construction of a Maryland nuclear facility. The plant would have generated thousands of jobs as well as needed megawatts of electricity for that State’s residents. The project was cancelled.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Effort to Weaken Punishment for Rep. Charles B. Rangel Fails in House

The House of Representatives Thursday voted down an amendment that would have softened the punishment of Representative Charles B. Rangel from censure to reprimand.

The House still has to vote on the censure measure that was recommended by the Ethics Committee.

[Return to headlines]



FCC Triggers Firestorm With ‘Net Neutrality’ Proposal

By David Hatch and Eliza Krigman

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission unveiled a new initiative today he said would preserve the openness of the Internet but that critics attacked on two fronts, with watchdog groups saying it watered down the Web’s egalitarian roots and conservatives saying it opened the door to excessive regulation.

In essence, the plan requires Internet Service Providers not to block or degrade online competitors. But the proposal, scheduled for a December 21 FCC vote, also could allow for different levels of service at different pricing.

[…]

Marvin Ammori, a telecom professor at the University of Nebraska and the former general counsel for Free Press, called the proposal “garbage.”

The proposal split the agency along party lines, with the five-member commission’s two GOP members quickly condemning it and setting the stage for a partisan vote that could draw a backlash next year from the GOP-controlled House.

“I strongly oppose this ill-advised maneuver. Such rules would upend three decades of bipartisan and international consensus that the Internet is best able to thrive in the absence of regulation,” wrote Robert McDowell, the FCC’s senior Republican.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



House Reaches Vote Threshold to Censure Representative Charles B. Rangel

A majority of House members voted Thursday to censure Representative Charles B. Rangel for ethics violations, despite a last-minute plea for mercy from some of his colleagues.

[Return to headlines]



Liberal Myopia and the Reality of Islam

Portland, Oregon, dodged the bullet last week when a Somali born American was arrested for planning to commit a horrendous atrocity during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Square.

Thousands of people attending the ceremony would have been slaughtered and maimed if the FBI had not replaced the enormous quantity of explosives inside a parked van with fake ordnance.

But it was the grotesquely liberal Portland city council itself that five years ago made Portland the sole city in America refusing to be part of the FBI Terrorism Task Force, which works with local police. In so doing, the chickens came home to roost in the person of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali who had come to America at the age of five with his family as a refugee from the hell that is Somalia.

Mohamud grew up as an American Muslim, was educated in the greater Portland area and given a wonderful new life in the United States. In return, he showed his gratitude by embracing violent jihad and by attempting to kill as many Americans as possible — specifically at a Christian celebration.

As a result of the refusal by Portland to be part of the FBI Terrorism Task Force, the present mayor, Sam Adams, admitted that he did not know anything about the FBI investigation. Now the failed attack has city officials wondering whether or not to now rejoin the task force.

Portland is served by one of the most liberal newspapers in America: The Oregonian. In its front page story in the Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 edition, Nancy Haught wrote an article titled: “Muslims respond to criticism of Islam stirred up by Portland bomb plot,” in which local Muslim leaders responded to charges that Islam is not a peaceful religion.

Ms. Haught herself wrote that: “After all, the word “Islam” shares a root with the Hebrew word “shalom” and means — no matter what you hear or read — “peace attained by submission to God.”

This is patently untrue. Islam means submission, not peace. And it refers to submission to the will of Allah. The word shares a root with the Arabic for peace, which is ‘salaam.’ However dictionaries show no similar meaning. She then quotes from a professor of Islam at Portland’s extremely liberal Reed College, Prof. Kambiz Ghanea Bassiri, who states that, “There’s no part of the Quran that says killing people is okay.”

He went on to say that, “The Quran gives permission to fight to those who have been wronged or persecuted, to those who have been driven unjustly from their homes.” It allows killing — if it is justified —and imposes limits. In fact, the Quran instructs Muslims to live peacefully as long as their enemies are “inclined” to peace. And the prophetic tradition of Islam forbids killing innocents — women, children or any living thing.”

Nancy Haught may be persuaded, but empirical facts from the Koran and Hadith tell a very different story. Here are just a few Koranic injunctions to the Muslim faithful:

“Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them.” Koran 2:191 “Make war on the infidels living in your neighborhood.” Koran 9:123 “When opportunity arises, kill the infidels wherever you catch them.” Koran 9:5 “Any religion other than Islam is not acceptable.” Koran 3:85 “The Jews and the Christians are perverts; fight them.”… Koran 9:30 “Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam” Koran 5:33 “Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire, hooked iron rods, boiling water; melt their skin and bellies.” Koran 22:19 “The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them.” Koran 8:65 “Muslims must not take the infidels as friends.” Koran 3:28 “Terrorize and behead those who believe in scriptures other than the Qur’an.” Koran 8:12 “Muslims must muster all weapons to terrorize the infidels.” Koran 8:60

Ms. Haught then interviewed Wajdi Said, President and Co-Founder of the Muslim Educational Trust. According to Nancy Haught, Mr. Said told her, “There is no verse in the Quran that condones fighting any peaceful non-Muslim on the sole ground that he or she is a non-Muslim. If that were true,” he added, “what would explain the fact that religious minorities through 1,400 years of Muslim history not only survived, but also thrived and found freedom to practice their faiths under Muslim rule?”

Sadly, but predictably, Islamic apologists like Wajdi Said are disingenuous to put it mildly. In a recent article titled: Muslim Genocide of Christians throughout Middle East, Khaled Abu-Toameh, an eminent Israeli Arab writer and journalist, presents facts not myths. Part of Mr. Toameh’s article dated November 26th, 2010 reads as follows:

“Christians in Arab countries are no longer being persecuted; they are now being slaughtered and driven out of their homes and lands.

[…]

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Mercury Causes Homosexuality in Male Ibises

Environmental pollutant radically changes birds’ mating behaviour.

Exposure to mercury pollution could be hitting some wild birds’ reproductive prospects hard by causing males to pair with other males.

American white ibises (Eudocimus albus) from south Florida that consumed methylmercury (MeHg), the most toxic and easily absorbed form of mercury found in the environment, were more likely to engage in same-sex pairings — a phenomenon unknown in wild populations of this species with no exposure to the pollutant.

The main sources of mercury globally are coal-fired power plants and gold mining though in Florida, mercury was likely to have been released by the burning of medical and municipal waste. The metal is converted into methylmercury by some species of bacteria, usually found in wetlands that also tend to be home to many different bird species.

Peter Frederick, an ecologist at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and his colleagues collected 160 white ibis nestlings from breeding colonies in south Florida in 2005, and split them into four groups, each composed of 20 males and 20 females. Once the birds were 90 days old, the researchers began adding methylmercury to their feed. Three of the groups were given low, medium or high doses of mercury based on levels ranging from 0.05—0.3 parts per million recorded in the wild, while the fourth group were given no mercury.

Over the next three years, the researchers measured mercury levels in the feathers and blood of the ibises, and observed their mating behaviour.

Mismatched mates

The team found that the levels of mercury built up in the birds over time, and that exposure resulted in roughly 13—15% more nests failing to produce any offspring. A high proportion of these failed nests were found to be male-male pairings.

Birds exposed to any mercury displayed courtship behaviour less often than controls and were also less likely to be approached by females when they did. As the level of mercury exposure increased, so did the degree and persistence of homosexual pairing. Males that engaged in homosexual parings were also less likely to switch partners from year to year, which Frederick says ibises tend to do if they have been unsuccessful in mating during their first breeding season…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



NASA Finds New Life (Updated)

NASA has discovered a new life form, a bacteria called GFAJ-1 that is unlike anything currently living in planet Earth. It’s capable of using arsenic to build its DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes. This changes everything. Updated.

NASA is saying that this is “life as we do not know it”. The reason is that all life on Earth is made of six components: Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.

That was true until today. In a surprising revelation, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon and her team have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today, working differently than the rest of the organisms in the planet. Instead of using phosphorus, the newly discovered microorganism—called GFAJ-1 and found in Mono Lake, California—uses the poisonous arsenic for its building blocks. Arsenic is an element poisonous to every other living creature in the planet except for a few specialized microscopic creatures.

According to Wolfe Simon, they knew that “some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we’ve found is a microbe doing something new—building parts of itself out of arsenic.” The implications of this discovery are enormous to our understanding of life itself and the possibility of finding organisms in other planets that don’t have to be like planet Earth. Like NASA’s Ed Weiler says: “The definition of life has just expanded.”

Talking at the NASA conference, Wolfe Simon said that the important thing here is that this breaks our ideas on how life can be created and grow, pointing out that scientists will now be looking for new types of organisms and metabolism that not only uses arsenic, but other elements as well. She says that she’s working on a few possibilities herself.

NASA’s geobiologist Pamela Conrad thinks that the discovery is huge and “phenomenal,” comparing it to the Star Trek episode in which the Enterprise crew finds Horta, a silicon-based alien life form that can’t be detected with tricorders because it wasn’t carbon-based. It’s like saying that we may be looking for new life in the wrong places with the wrong methods. Indeed, NASA tweeted that this discovery “will change how we search for life elsewhere in the Universe.”

I don’t know about you but I’ve not been so excited about a bacteria since my STD tests came back clean. And that’s without counting yesterday’s announcement on the discovery of a massive number of red dwarf stars, which may harbor a trillion Earths, dramatically increasing our chances of finding extraterrestrial life.

           — Hat tip: Wally Ballou [Return to headlines]



Socialist Regime Moves for Control of the Internet

FCC will take first steps to control the Internet

It’s called “Net Neutrality.” Sounds fair, right? I mean — that’s what the liberal-socialist democrats are all about, right? Fairness is their utmost priority, right? Why, they’d never do anything to limit the freedom of Americans … riiiiight? If you believe all that, then prepare yourself for a rude awakening.

[…]

I am convinced this is the “foot in the door” for which the Obama Regime has been searching. But it is all about “fairness” … right? Allow me to ask this: How are conservative bloggers going to feel when they are ORDERED by the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to place links to opposing viewpoints, espoused by some left-wing socialist, on their blogs? Oh, its coming if the new Congress doesn’t bring the FCC to heel … and fast!

[…]

It is time to speak up for freedom of speech, once again. It is time to defend the Internet from those who intend to take it over and, ultimately use it to champion socialist, left wing causes and spread their liberal-socialist venom into practically every home in America.

[…]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]



The Islamic Movement is Affecting America’s Population

The urban planners of our day are busy planning the communities of tomorrow but few of them realize just how fruitless their visions may turn out to be. They believe that demographics predict a society of so-called TINK families (two incomes, no kids) of young professionals that demand more walkable communities and downtown housing. In one respect, they may be right. Though I disagree that children are somehow going to become obsolete, there are statistics that support the belief that if America’s population isn’t shrinking, its rate of growth is at least slowing down. What urban planners have not even considered, however, is the kind of population growth that is occurring, and what the demographics may actually be in twenty to thirty years. It is astounding that they have yet to realize how the existing cultural evolution to Islam will dramatically change their demographic models. Mark Steyn wrote about these changing demographics in his book America Alone, and now there is a video available on YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-3X5hIFXYU) that supports his beliefs about the growth of Islam. I urge you to read the book and watch the video, but here are some of the statistics and facts that you will see in the video. It explains that for a culture to maintain itself for over 25 years, it needs a fertility rate of 2.11 children per family, that no culture has ever survived a fertility rate of 1.9 and that a fertility rate of 1.3 is an irreversible condition. The average fertility rate for all the countries in Europe combined is 1.38, with France at 1.8, England 1.6, Greece 1.3, Germany 1.3, Italy 1.2 and Spain 1.1. However, the fertility rate for the Muslim population living in Europe is 8.1, which means that the actual fertility rate of indigenous Europeans is very, very low. Since urban planners like to base their concepts on the young adult population, consider this. In Southern France, 30 percent of the population of people 20 years old or less is already Muslim, and in major cities like Nice, Marseilles, and Paris, it is 45 percent. Projections are that by the year 2027, one out of every five of the French will be Muslim and in 39 years France will be a Muslim nation. In England, over the past thirty years, the Muslim population has grown from 82,000 to 2.5 million. In the Netherlands, half of all newborns are Muslim, and they believe that within 15 years half of the population will be Muslim. Russia already has 23 million Muslims, which is 20 percent of its population, and within a few years they believe 40 percent of the Russian army will be Muslim. In Belgium, a fourth of the population is already Muslim, and half of their newborns are Muslim. In Germany, they have already conceded defeat. The Germany Federal Statistics Office is reported to have said, “The fall of the German population can no longer be stopped. Its downward spiral is irreversible…It will be a Muslim state by 2050.” On average, by 2025, a third of all children born in Europe will be Muslim, and the combined total of 52 million Muslims in Europe will double over the next 20 years. Canada’s fertility rate is 1.6 and its population grew by 1.6 million between 2001 and 2006. 1.2 million out of the 1.6 were immigrants. In the United States, our fertility rate is 1.6, but when you include the Latino population, it is 2.11. In 1970, there were 100,000 Muslims in American. Now there are 9 million. The Catholic Church has stated that the number of Muslims has now exceeded the number of Catholics in the world, and that within 5 to 7 years, Islam will be the dominant world religion. So how will this affect the urban environment in America if we allow Islam to grow to the same degree as it has in Europe? That will depend on what kind of Islam is dominant, but regardless of whether it is the moderate or radical type, life will be much different, including the ways our cities are designed. The first infrastructure changes we will see will be just like in Europe; churches will be converted to mosques. Before there is Muslim majority in America, there will likely be a flood of Europeans leaving their countries to escape to America as their countries are slowly taken over by Muslims. They will need to leave because it will be far too dangerous for them to stay. The reality is that today’s ideals of urban planning will not matter much in the face of an Islamic majority. The culture is simply too different, and the priorities of today’s urbanites will be shunned by Muslims. And if you don’t believe our lifestyles won’t be changed, look at how much our lives have already changed due to Islam. Barring some miracle, Europe may be beyond redemption already, but America still has a chance to preserve its freedom, if only its citizens will recognize the danger and stand against Islam in all its forms.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



U.S. Jews Must Wake Up to Homegrown Terror Threat

While the nation’s attention is again focused on a foiled act of homegrown terrorism, this time in Oregon, the Jewish community has good reason to stay on high guard. A new FBI report on hate crimes shows that Jews are targeted more often than any other religious group in the United States.

While this is nothing new — since 2000, Jews have consistently comprised the majority of victims of such hate crimes — the new report reveals that this year, 71 percent of hate crimes based on religious bias targeted Jews, the highest percentage of such crimes directed at Jews in a decade.

According to the FBI, Jews are targeted 8.7 times more than Muslims, 18 times more than Catholics and 24.5 times more than Protestants.

If that wasn’t disturbing enough, al-Qaida now presents a new and more direct threat to the American Jewish community: One of the packages in last month’s foiled al-Qaida cargo bomb terror plot was addressed, accurately, to a Chicago synagogue. The plot is a reminder that al-Qaida, nine years after 9/11, continues to target the United States in every possible way. Significantly, this was the first time that al-Qaida directly targeted Jewish institutions in our country.

Why Jewish institutions? The most recent issue of Inspire magazine, published by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, explained: “Today we are facing a coalition of Crusaders and Zionists, and we in Al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula will never forget Palestine.” It went on to say that Chicago synagogues were targets because they are in “Obama’s city.”

This demonizing of Jews is nothing new for al-Qaida. In February 1998, Osama bin Laden and his associates made al-Qaida’s first public pronouncement, issuing a fatwa in the form of a news release that announced the establishment of a terrorist coalition called the International Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. It called on “every Muslim who believes in God and hopes for reward to obey God’s command to kill the Americans and plunder their possessions wherever he finds them and whenever he can.”

In recent years, the Jewish community has been threatened by homegrown terrorists inspired by al-Qaida and like-minded jihadist organizations. The foiled 2009 car bomb plot by four extremist Muslim converts to attack two synagogues in the Riverdale section of New York City’s Bronx borough is perhaps the best-known example. The four were convicted in October.

Less well known is the series of attacks against Jewish targets planned by Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a self-described jihadist who carried out the June 2009 shooting at an Arkansas military recruitment center, killing a U.S. soldier and wounding another before he was arrested. Muhammad had an ambitious plan to assassinate rabbis in Arkansas and Tennessee, and subsequently carry out a series of attacks on Jewish institutions in the Northeast.

In 2005, a Los Angeles homegrown terror cell of extremist Muslim converts calling itself Jamiat Al-Islam Al-Sahih plotted to attack synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and the El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles airport.

“This cell was closer to going operational at the time than anyone since 9/11,” Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Downing said.

Although Jews are top targets in the crosshairs of Islamist terrorists, many in the Jewish community have been slow to open their eyes to this reality. We are grateful for the responsiveness of the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to our security concerns, but American Jews also must take responsibility by instituting training for security awareness at Jewish institutions and working together with the Secure Community Network to introduce Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign within our community.

Failing to address the reality that Jews are being targeted places our community in further peril. As the great sage Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who am I? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



US Facing Attacks by Home-Grown Terrorists, Senior Adviser Warns

In unusually candid remarks, Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, said that the nation’s defences would be probably be breached by a home-grown radical, after a year-long period containing several failed or thwarted attacks that had seen the most intense terror activity since September 11, 2001. “Although we aim for perfection, perfection will not be achieved. Just like any other endeavour, we will not stop all the attacks,” he said. “If there is an attack, it may well be tragic. Innocent lives will be lost. But we still have to be honest, and we have to be honest that some things will get through.”

He said: “To say that we will not successfully defend against all attacks is certainly not to say that we are not trying to stop all attacks. We are.”

The FBI last week arrested Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old Somali-born American, for plotting to detonate a bomb as thousands of people attended the lighting of the Christmas tree in the centre of Portland, Oregon.

Speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Mr Leiter, who advises the US government on the terrorist threat, said: “In this era of a more complicated threat, a more diverse threat and lower-scale attacks to include individuals who have been radicalised here in the homeland, stopping all the attacks has become that much harder.”

The threat has risen in part because of the increased involvement of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born radical cleric.

Known as AQAP, it has pursued smaller attacks perpetrated by lone operators which have complicated the challenges facing the US security services still battling the threat of another attack on the scale of September 11.

AQAP and Al-Awlaki, now living in Yemen, have been linked to Maj Nidal Hasan, an army psychiatrist, is accused of killing 13 people during a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas in November, 2009, and to Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Nigerian student suspected of the failed attempt to blow up a flight headed for Detroit last Christmas.

Other “lone wolf” plotters based in the US have operated with a small amount of contact with any handlers in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where Osama bin Laden and the core leadership is now based.

In October Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen born in Pakistan, was sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to planning to blow up a car packed with explosives in New York’s Times Square. The FBI recently arrested a man who had allegedly surveyed train stations in the Washington area as potential targets of terror.

Conceding that the anti-terror services had made errors under President Barack Obama, particularly in the Christmas plot, Mr Leiter however asserted that hard work played a part in bringing about what critics have called lucky outcomes.

Having been nominated for his current role by George W Bush, he said neither Republicans nor Democrats should claim they had all the answers in protecting the country.

Offering some positive news, he said that the threat of a catastrophic attack on the US planned by the traditional al-Qaeda leadership had diminished, along with the likelihood of a chemical, biological or radiological attack.

In reacting to the next attack America should, he advised, avoid talk of a clash of civilisations between the West and Islam that merely feeds al-Qaeda’s propaganda, and should avoiding portraying terrorists as all-powerful.

“We should not assume that the terrorists are ten feet tall. The fact that they get through at times in a relatively free and open society does not mean that they are all-powerful. We have to be taller than them. We have to be more resilient than them,” he said.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Canada


The Apple That Never Goes Brown: Biotech Firm in Bid to Sell Genetically Modified Fruit for Lunchboxes.

A Canadian biotechnology company has asked the U.S. authorities to approve a genetically modified apple that will not brown soon after it is sliced.

The apple variety, which is being marketed as ‘Arctic’, has had the genes responsible for producing the enzyme that induces browning switched off.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits say the new type could boost sales of apples for snacks and salads and lower costs.

[…]

Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety said: ‘Scientists have been saying they’re only turning one thing off, but that switch is connected to another switch and another switch.

‘You can’t just do one thing to nature. It’s nice to think so, but it just doesn’t work that way.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


A New Dark Age for Germany?

Germany’s offshore wind power projects are paving the way to frequent blackouts.

Thousands of bureaucrats are preparing for another cushy climate confab in Cancun — while Senators Bingaman, Brownback and Reid are contemplating how to ram renewable energy standards through a lame-duck session. If they’re wise, American voters and congressmen will pay extra careful attention to the awful dilemma of German climate and energy policy, as exemplified by recent events, and make sure their country doesn’t make the same “green” mistakes that Germany did.

Barely two months after the inauguration ceremony for Germany’s first pilot offshore wind farm, “Alpha Ventus” in the North Sea, all six of the newly installed wind turbines were completely idle, due to gearbox damage. Two turbines must be replaced entirely; the other four repaired.

Friends of the project, especially Germany’s environment minister, Norbert Roettgen, talked of “teething problems.” The problem is far more serious than that, for wind turbines in the high seas are extremely expensive for power consumers, even when they run smoothly. When they don’t, the problem intensifies. Germany could face blackouts — a new dark age.

[…]

Monster turbines rated at 5 megawatt maximum power generation impose high costs even when — perhaps especially when — they are running full blast. Because each turbine costs $5,200 (€4,000) per kilowatt-hour in upfront investment, Euro legislators have decreed that turbine operators must be rewarded with 20 cents in incentives for every kWh generated on the high seas.

Therefore, Europe’s energy consumers must pay 20 cents per kWh generated, plus an additional 5 cents per kWh for transmission costs. They must pay this regardless of whether they need the electricity at the moment, and despite the fact that a kWh of wind electricity is worth less than 3 cents on the Leipzig Power Exchange, due to the intermittent and highly variable nature of wind.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Foreigners Alarmed by Swiss Expulsion Vote

Swiss voters’ decision to adopt tough new regulations on the deportation of non-Swiss convicted of serious crimes has provoked widespread concern among foreigners.

On Sunday some 53 per cent of voters backed a rightwing initiative for the automatic expulsion of non-Swiss offenders convicted of crimes ranging from murder to breaking and entry and social security fraud.

By accepting the initiative the Swiss people have sent a clear signal that foreigners are basically undesirable and suspicious, the Second@s Plus organization, which represents second- and third-generation foreigners, said in a statement.

“This is another sign that foreigners are tolerated but not respected,” Second@s Vice-president Ivica Petrusic told swissinfo.ch.

The People’s Party says immigrants to Switzerland are disproportionately responsible for crime but the figures are contested.

Second and third-generation immigrants are exposed, as the children of immigrants do not automatically get Swiss citizenship, so the rule would mean sending some people who were born and brought up in Switzerland to countries they know nothing of. Convicts would serve their sentence in Switzerland first and then be deported without appeal.

“We’re creating more laws for different classes and subgroups of people. We’re contravening our own Constitution which says that we are all equal — this is the end of integration,” said Petrusic.

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party, which launched the proposal, was behind last year’s initiative that imposed a ban on the building of Islamic minarets.

Petrusic said he was extremely worried what the People’s Party may have up its sleeve: “This kind of strategy of fear works well. I’m concerned that they might try to introduce a way of taking people’s Swiss nationality away from them. If it continues in this direction, it’ll end badly.”

Foreigners in Switzerland made their voices heard on the internet. “The sad result shows that popular fear-mongering is stronger than healthy common sense,” “very distressing,” “expected but not hoped for,” and “such initiatives only increase hatred and don’t get us anywhere” declared people on the “Nein, Nein” (no, no) campaign Facebook page.

Emotional reaction

José Raimundo Insúa Méndez, secretary of a Bern-based service for Spanish immigrants, said there was “lots of concern” among younger Spanish immigrants who may have been born in Switzerland and lived here all their lives without applying for Swiss nationality.

“It’s a very dangerous step,” he said. “Direct democracy is fantastic, but in recent years people are voting in a very instinctive way without reason. This is not normal.”

Paolo Da Costa, president of Comites Zurigo, an Italian government-backed organisation for Italians living abroad, agreed the vote had been an “emotional reaction”.

“We are upset by the vote,” he said. “We understand what the Swiss want, but this isn’t the solution. “

Tidiane Diouwara, president of the Forum des Etrangers in Lausanne, said members of the 52 foreigner associations he represented had expressed their “indignation” and “disbelief” about the deportation vote, which was “a threat to peace”.

“Foreigners make up 20 per cent of the population and they are largely integrated; where will this machine stop,” he commented, adding that in the future political parties and foreigner groups had to do a better job of explaining such votes to people.

Implementation

Bashkim Iseni, a 39-year-old political scientist from Lausanne University, said the vote was “regrettable” and underlined other political parties’ failures to cope with the People’s Party’s winning “anti-foreigner” strategy.

“There are problems of integration,” said Iseni, who was born in Macedonia to Kosovar parents, but grew up in Switzerland. “But denouncing foreign criminals is the wrong approach.”

But not everyone was unhappy with Sunday’s result.

“I think it’s good,” said Ferhat Aydin, who heads the Turkish association of the small town of Monthey in canton Valais.

“I would have voted the same. People need to adapt in the best possible way to a country. That’s the best thing for the country they are in and for the country they’ve come from. People who don’t integrate, particularly in the sense where one becomes aggressive and criminal, should be punished.”

One major unanswered question is how the vote will be implemented in practice.

“We hope that when it is translated in detail into law, they will make sure it doesn’t become automatic, particularly with regard to the secondos, for whom Switzerland is their home — their only home — that they make sure that they keep some kind of proportionality,” Petrusic told Swiss national radio.

Kahraman Tunaboylu, president of the Swiss-Turkish association, was not too concerned, however.

“I don’t see it as tricky. The other half of the population does not agree with this result… there’s an emotional mood which was exploited by those who initiated it. I think [new Justice Minister] Simonetta Sommaruga will deal with this correctly.”

Simon Bradley, swissinfo.ch

(With input from Jessica Dacey and Julia Slater)

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



German Jews Elect First Post-Holocaust Generation Leader

Germany’s Jewish community, which is thriving thanks to immigration from the former Soviet Union, has elected its first post-war leader who is not a survivor of the Holocaust.

Dieter Graumann, vice president of the Central Council of Jews, Germany’s main Jewish organisation with nearly 110,000 members, was the sole candidate to replace 78-year-old Charlotte Knobloch, who did not stand for re-election over the weekend.

Born in Israel in 1950 and raised in Frankfurt, Graumann said he wanted to let in a little “fresh air” to the council with an approach that served both old members and the new arrivals.

“We are building a whole new Jewish community,” he told reporters after his election. “Plurality is the new Jewish reality.”

Graumann said the council must evolve to grapple with the breathtaking transformation of the community since Germany threw open its borders to Jews from the ex-Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall 21 years ago.

“We stand before major challenges,” he said. “We want to make the Central Council fit for the future.”

Before 1933, Germany had one of Europe’s strongest Jewish communities with about 600,000 members.

Since 1989, when there were about 30,000 Jews living in Germany, some 220,000 Jews have arrived from the former Soviet Union. In the early 1990s, more Jews were immigrating to Germany than to Israel.

Graumann arrived in Germany at the age of 18 months. His experience of the Nazis’ genocidal campaign was limited to his parents’ accounts of the concentration camps where they were imprisoned.

“My generation always had the feeling it could not burden its parents too much,” he told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung in its weekend edition.

Knobloch faced criticism that she did not do enough to assist the newcomers, many of whom spoke no German when they arrived and are less observant of Jewish theology, and make the council attractive to its diverse constituency.

But Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle praised her efforts in a letter congratulating Graumann on his election.

“(The council) is an outstanding institution whose absence would be inconceivable in public life,” he said. “It has made an invaluable contribution in the areas of integration, education and the peaceful co-existence of religions.”

The outgoing leader was born just months before Adolf Hitler rose to power in January 1933 and survived the Holocaust in hiding with a Roman Catholic family.

Knobloch, who had led the council since 2006, said she was confident Graumann would help keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.

“He did not experience the horrors of National Socialism himself but he grew up with the stories of his parents,” she told Saturday’s Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper. “That is why I do not see this (his election) as a break with the past.”

She said she hoped Graumann could motivate the younger generation to become active members of the Jewish community and the German political scene.

“Young people must urgently help shape the political future of their country because they have every reason to treasure this country, to honour this country and even to love this country,” Knobloch said.

AFP/ka

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



Germans Less Tolerant of Islam Than Neighbours, Study Finds

Germans are more critical of Islam and less tolerant of building mosques than their neighbours in France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal, a new survey has found.

Despite the other European countries’ often fractious relationships with their Muslim communities, people there were relatively positive about Islam and its followers compared to Germany, according to the survey commissioned by a research group based at the University of Münster.

According to weekly Die Zeit, which reported on an advance version of the study on Thursday, four out of 10 Germans in the former west of the country and 50 percent in the former east feel threatened by foreign cultures.

“Compared with the French, Dutch and Danish, a rigid and intolerant grasp of foreign religions predominates in Germany,” said the head of the project, sociologist Detlef Pollack. “The statement that Islam is part of Germany is completely disregarded in the opinions of Germans.”

The polling firm TNS Emnid, on behalf of the Münster researchers, surveyed 1,000 people each in the former west and former east Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal. The study will be officially released later on Thursday in Berlin.

Fewer than 5 percent of Germans, compared with more than 20 percent of Danes, French and Dutch consider Islam to be a tolerant religion, according to the study.

Each of the other countries has had high-profile conflict with their Muslim communities — such as the Prophet Mohammed cartoons in Denmark, head scarf controversies in France and the murder of anti-Islam filmmaker Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands, as well as the rise of far-right politician Geert Wilders.

Nevertheless, a clear majority of people in those countries have a positive view of Muslims. By contrast, just 34 percent of western Germans and 26 percent of eastern Germans are positive about Muslims.

Most Germans saw barely any positive side to Islam, Pollack said. Less than 30 percent in the former west supported the building of mosques, while in the former east the figure was less than 20 percent. The acceptance of minarets or the adoption of Muslim holidays received even less support.

In Denmark, by comparison, more than half of respondents supported the building of mosques, while in France and the Netherlands the figure was about two-thirds and in Portugal it was nearly three quarters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Here it Comes, Durban 3

Il Giornale, November 23, 2010

The UN never ceases to amaze. Just when we thought we had become immune to all the poisonous concoctions that get dished out, once again, ten years down the road, we are being offered a remake of the notorious “Durban 1”, the UN conference against racism which—to everyone’s horror—was transformed into a racist conference against Israel and the Americans. At that time, incredulous after the speeches by Mugabe, Fidel Castro and Arafat, who condemned in chorus the colonialist West and racist Jews, the Canadians, Americans and Israelis walked out. Later on, in 2009, when the UN organized “Durban 2” in Geneva, the Italian government, which had learned its lesson, refused to send a delegation. And, in fact, our entire parliament, from left to right, voted a resolution rejecting any anti-Semitic and anti-West sideshow. The protagonist this time was Ahmadinejad who took the opportunity to repeat his denial of the Shoah and promise to exterminate all Jews. Backing him was a plethora of NGOs who, undaunted, assisted the UN in its “anti-imperialist” campaign, as they had done with the violence in Durban in 2001.

So here we are again. According to the UN schedule, as Anne Bayefsky in “Eye on the UN” warns us, today the Third Committee of the General Assembly must vote on a resolution proposed by Yemen specifying all the details (including the date set probably for September 21, 2011, namely the day before the General Assembly annual opening in order to have the greatest number of heads of state) of a decision already passed by the General Assembly in 2009. It provides for the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Durban 1 and reconfirms its extremely violent platform. In 2009, Italy voted against it, as did Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Romania and the United States. But a majority of 128 countries, backed by the entire Muslim world, non-aligned countries and a good number of African countries, kicked again the ball toward the net, through the “Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration” which, having met in Geneva October 11-22, decided that this General Assembly will bring back the epic of Durban.

It is a saga that, as journalist, I remember well, as I covered the conference in South Africa in 2001. Those were just the days before the attack on the Twin Towers and never was a hate scenario better laid. Durban was the premise to Ground Zero. While from the podium speakers heaped on the US and Israel all the sins of the world and demanded that they pay the penalty, Jews wearing kippahs had to protect themselves against the demonstrators touting portraits of Bin Laden (which at the time I saw and reported on) and hounding the Jews. The Jewish centers in the city were stormed and closed and the press conference of the Israeli delegation was violently assaulted and interrupted. Israel was compared to Nazism and accused of apartheid in order to claim, particularly in South Africa, its lack of legitimacy. At the same time, Americans were demanded to handsomely recompense Africa for damages from slavery. The fact that, for centuries, the Arabs were cruel slave traders who deported Blacks from Africa, had become a memory denied and forgotten.

The Durban declaration that they now want to resurrect and celebrate again, singles out Israel as a racist state, without naming any other country in the world. The myriad types of ethnic and religious discrimination that infests the world, for the declaration does not exist and it doesn’t even say a word about the thousands of massacres that have bloodied the globe for reasons of the color of one’s skin or beliefs: not the 165,000 Christian victims per year, for 80% in the Muslim world, are mentioned; not the tragedy of the Tutsi in Rwanda nor that in Darfur and not that of the Uiguri or Kurds, let alone the persecution and discrimination of Jews in numerous Eastern countries and the growing anti-Semitism now being seen again in the West. Re-approving the Durban document means rekindling, with the elephantine power of the UN General Assembly, a whole series of institutional initiatives giving rise to cultural and economic boycotts, discrimination against athletes, artists and scholars and proliferating the accusations of war crimes to any Israeli official in sight. It means reviving manifestations of hate in which the swastika and the Star of David overlap and the hunting season on Jews is declared open, the result being an exponential growth in anti-Semitic incidents. This makes many people happy, very happy.

Above all, it means dragging the UN into cultural and political disgrace, making any real possibility for anti-racist initiatives even more remote. Who could imagine this organization fighting against ethnic and religious discrimination if the opportunity to do so is used to persecute Israel and satisfy the enemies of the West? We can only hope that Yemen’s resolution will be voted down, but we’re not counting on it. In the meantime, in any case, Patrick Ventrell, spokesman for the US delegation to the UN, said that the United States is against the proposed date, September not being “an appropriate time”.

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



Italy: Mexican Women Fined for Night-Time Dip in Rome Monument

Rome, 29 Nov. (AKI) — Municipal police in Rome fined two Mexican women tourists 160 euros each after they took a prohibited overnight dip in Rome’s famous 17th-century Trevi fountain at the weekend. It was the latest apparent bid to recreate the iconic scene from Federico Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita when Anita Ekberg and Marcello Matroianni frollicked in the fountain at night.

One of the young women took of her shoes, and other, her boots, and both waded in to the cold water of fountain, one wearing a skimpy black dress, and the other, a short skirt. A crowd of their friends reportedly cheered them on and took pictures.

The stunt came to an end when police ordered the women out of the fountain. They appeared not to speak Italian and only managed to say: “Felllini!”.

Police said the women both paid their fines on the spot — apparently a rare occurrence. The Fellini-style dip reportedly caused no damage to the fountain.

Earlier in November, a homeless Romanian, dubbed ‘Attila the Hun’ was also fined 160 euros by police after he staged a spectacular diving display in the historic fountain.

The Trevi fountain is Rome’s most popular for dips, followed by Piazza Navona’s Four Rivers fountain designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and the museum housing the ancient Ara Pacis monument, according to data cited by Rome’s Il Messaggero newspaper.

The Trevi fountain was designed by architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762. Pope Urban VIII originally commissioned Bernini to create the celebrated work.

Salvi used many of Bernini’s touches in the fountain’s design.

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



Italy: ‘Third Pole’ Takes Shape With Berlusconi Challenge

Fini loyalists, Catholic UDC to present no-confidence motion

(ANSA) — Rome, December 2 — A new ‘third pole’ at the centre of Italy’s political spectrum moved closer to becoming reality Thursday when House Speaker Gianfranco Fini and the Catholic UDC party decided to present a motion of no-confidence in the government.

The move also confirmed expectations that Fini’s Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) party will not back Premier Silvio Berlusconi in a December 14 confidence vote crucial to the government’s survival.

Fini created FLI with his loyalists after splitting earlier this year from the PdL he co-founded with Berlusconi, leaving the government at risk of collapse as it is no longer sure of a majority in the Lower House.

Berlusconi has repeatedly said elections should be called if his coalition loses the vote.

But Fini and UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini want Berlusconi to quit to make way for the formation of a so-called government of ‘national responsibility’.

This would seek to keep a firm grip on Italy’s public finances and pass key reforms, including a revamp of a widely criticized electoral law, before the current parliamentary term elapses in 2013.

They did not say who they would want to lead this administration.

They are cool about the prospect of Berlusconi heading it, although experts do not rule this out.

Casini and Fini decided to present the no-confidence motion along with former Rome Mayor Francesco Rutelli, the head of the small API party, and a handful of tiny groups.

“In the light of the current executive’s proven inadequacy, we call on the premier to quit to facilitate the opening of a new phase and avoid more political and institutional attrition and pointless maneuvering,” read a statement by the parties. “To this end a no-confidence motion signed by the MPs of the area of responsibility will be deposited in the next few days”.

Berlusconi blasted the move as reckless. “It’s irresponsible not to maintain Italy’s stability,” the premier told reporters at an OSCE summit in Astana Kazakhstan.

“I’m continuing to work for the country’s interests”.

FLI House Whip Italo Bocchino said opposition groups now have one vote more than they need to defeat the government in the confidence vote when the centrists’ numbers are combined with the MPs of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Italy of Values (IdV), who have signed a separate no-confidence motion.

The agreement between Fini, Casini and Rutelli may form part of a strategy aiming to break the existing bipolar system, dominated by Berlusconi’s PdL and their Northern League allies on the centre-right and the PD and IdV on the centre-left.

However, Fini previously said he was not interested in being part of a ‘third pole’ and the positions he has taken on some issues, such as coming out against Italy’s restrictions on assisted fertility, could conflict with the Catholic sensibilities of other centrists.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will decide whether to call early elections or ask someone to try to form a new majority in parliament if the government loses this month’s confidence vote. photo: House Speaker Gianfranco Fini (centre), UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini (right) and Francesco Rutelli (left).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Moldovan Elections: A Deadlock on Europe’s Periphery

by Srdja Trifkovic

Occupying some two thirds of the old czarist province of Bessarabia, with the rivers Dniester to the east and Prut to the west, the Republic of Moldova is a small, poor, landlocked state. Its parliamentary election, held on November 28, should have been irrelevant to anyone except the faraway country’s three and a half million people, of whom we know but little.

There is more than meets the eye, however. A strategically significant strip of Moldova’s territory along the east bank of the Dniester has been under effective control of the breakaway government of Transnistria since 1990. The conflict has been safely frozen for 18 years, but Romania—since 2007 a member of the European Union—now wants to involve “Europe” in resolving it to its satisfaction. Bucharest has an irredentist agenda in the territories which had belonged to the Greater Romania (Romania mare) between 1919 and 1940, with an assertive posture in Moldova topping that agenda. The potential for regional instability is considerable.

In a joint statement, issued on 30 November, Baroness Ashton, the E.U. foreign-affairs chief, and Stefan Füle, the commissioner for enlargement, said that the elections give Moldova “an opportunity to consolidate political stability.” In fact they do nothing of the kind: with most of the votes counted, the “pro-Western” Alliance for European Integration (AEI) has won a half of the vote but remains three parliamentary seats short of the 61 needed to elect the new president. The Communists, who are morphing into Social Democrats and advocate accession to the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, won 42 seats. Their leader and former president Vladimir Voronin remains Moldova’s most popular single politician. The “Europeans” are troubled by the animosity between Vlad Filat, the prime minister, and Mihai Ghimpu, the country’s acting president.

Another prolonged stalemate is now likely, reflecting Moldova’s old divisions and dilemmas. Up to a half of its people see themselves as Romanians, and perhaps a third favor unification. The rest say that they belong to a distinct nation, however, and would be loath to sever the ties of long standing, cultural as well as economic, with the Russian-dominated space further east. As for the view from Bucharest, it is that Moldovans east of the Prut speak are Romanians, period. Last January Romania’s president Traian Basescu declared in Moldova’s capital Kishinev, of all places, “I will never confirm that Romania’s border passes on the Prut.”

President Basescu regularly talks of reunification, and he is eyeing not only Moldova but also Ukrainian territories in the Danube Delta and in North Bukovina, annexed by the USSR in 1940. (He calls his vision “undoing the fruits of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact”). In May he warned that if Kiev has pretensions to Transdniestria, then Ukraine may face demands for the return of Southern Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina.

Romania’s national objectives and state interests, as articulated by its postcommunist political elite, are inseparable from the Moldovan problem.. Its key element is the claim that Romanians are civilizationally an outpost of “the West” amidst the “Eurasian” Slav-Magyar sea. Even in the 21st century they remain—in the words of historian Lucian Boia—Europe’s “last bastion before the immense, vague and unsettling space” left behind on the ruins of the USSR.

The parochial and quaintly ridiculous 19th-century myth of the Romanians as linguistic and cultural heirs to Rome has morphed, under the EU guise, into potentially destabilizing attempt to draw “the West” into disputes unworthy the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]



Muslim Imam Who Lectures on Non-Violence in Germany is Arrested for Beating Up His Wife

A Muslim imam who lectures on non-violence and advises the German government on interfaith issues has been arrested in Germany for beating up his wife.

Sheikh Abu Adam, 40, is now on remand in Munich while his wife, 31, is being guarded by police.

She was allegedly assaulted so badly that she suffered a broken nose and shoulder and numerous cuts and bruises.

Media reports claimed the woman, who has borne one of his ten children, wanted to live a more ‘western’ lifestyle and was allegedly attacked after telling her husband.

The police said they received a call from a lawyer hired by the victim.

Adam is alleged to have shouted a verse from the Koran at his wife as he beat her.

The line said: ‘Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them.

‘As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.’

The imam is said to have refused to let police officers into his home, but they forced their way past him because they feared the woman’s life was in danger.

Sheikh Adam is the Egyptian imam of the Darul Quran Mosque in Munich.

He is facing charges of causing grievous bodily harm and could face a jail term if convicted.

A week ago, he held a lecture at the city’s Catholic University entitled ‘An Islam which distances itself from violence’.

He also spoke at a recent conference called ‘meeting Islam in Europe’ and met German justice Sabine Leutheusser Schnarrenberger there.

Adam was assigned bodyguards on the outside because of his calls for Muslims to reject radical Islam. He is also being guarded while on remand from racist prisoners.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Netherlands: Nearly All Break-Ins and Car Thefts Go Unpunished

THE HAGUE, 02/12/10 — Less than 5 percent of break-ins and car thefts lead to any form of punishment, according to a calculation by civil servants’ journal Binnenlands Bestuur.

The police do not have more recent detection figures than those of the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS), which reported last week that the perpetrator of armed robberies was only punished in 16 percent of cases. Binnenlands Bestuur now reports, based on CBS figures for 2007, that 95.8 percent of cases of break-ins and car theft did not lead to any form of punishment.

A much-repeated complaint by victims of break-ins is that the police do not turn up to follow up on tracks and that the perpetrators are therefore not tracked down. This feeling chimes with the figures; of the 340,020 crimes of theft in 2007, 320,618 were unsolved. This is 94.3 percent. Among crimes of theft come break-ins and car thefts, the most frequently occurring crimes which face the Dutch.

The concepts used by the police of ‘clarified’ (one suspect in the picture) and ‘solved’ (one suspect questioned) say little about what happens in court. A very large portion of the suspects of ‘solved’ cases are not punished because the case is dropped.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Patten: The EU Will Never be a Real Power

The British commissioner oversaw EU external relations in 2000-2004 and is currently the chancellor of Oxford University (Photo: European Commission)

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Former external relations commissioner Chris Patten in a 2004 conversation with US diplomats explained why the EU will never be a “real power,” mused on the shady past of some EU leaders and said that Russian leader Vladimir Putin has “the eyes of a killer,” a cable published by WikiLeaks reveals.

Under the headline “Dining with Chris: Random thoughts from Relex commissioner Patten” US ambassador to the EU Rockwell Schnabel on 28 April 2004 penned down the comments made by the commission official “over rubbery fish.”

A British Conservative, Mr Patten expressed his scepticism that the EU will ever become “a real power,” because “there is always someone in the room who is overly cautious, and will insist on looking at matters ‘sensibly’,” the cable reads.

“To be a real power, Patten said, a country must be ready and able to adopt and implement a policy, even if the rest of the world considers it unwise. Europeans may agree or disagree with US policy, but they admire that the US is ready to carry out the policies it thinks best, no matter what the rest of the world thinks.”

On Russia, from where Mr Patten had returned a week before, he said Vladimir Putin, who was president at the time, had done a good job mainly due to high world energy prices, but he had serious doubts about the man’s character…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Survey Shows Germans Negative About Muslims and Jews

A survey recently conducted by the University of Muenster has found that Germans are considerably more negative in their views about Muslims and Jews than their European neighbors. Germans view Muslims and their religion, as well as Jews, more negatively than their European neighbors, according to sociologist Detlef Pollack, who led a study on religious tolerance by the University of Muenster in north-western Germany.

“Compared to France, the Netherlands and Denmark, there is a more rigid and intolerant understanding of extrinsic religions in Germany,” Pollack said.

Most Germans entirely disagree with a recent statement by President Christian Wulff that Islam “belongs to Germany,” he added.

The study also revealed a more prevalent anti-Jewish undercurrent in Germany than in other western European countries.

A little more than 28 percent of West Germans and 29 percent of East Germans had negative attitudes about Jews, the survey found. This compared to about 10 percent in the Netherlands, 12 percent in Denmark, and nearly 21 percent in France.

The figures and comparisons were also similar for other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

Germans view Islam as ‘intolerant’

The representative survey, which polled 1,000 people in each of the four countries mentioned, found that fewer than five percent of Germans thought Islam was a tolerant religion, compared to roughly 20 percent for the Danes, Dutch and French.

Germans are critical of women’s rights in Islam

While 50 percent of Danes and two-thirds of the French and Dutch respondents approved of the building of mosques, fewer than 30 percent of Germans said they did.

In Denmark, France and the Netherlands, a clear majority of respondents viewed Muslims positively.

In Germany, however, only 34 percent of those surveyed in the west of the country and 26 percent in eastern Germany had a positive view of Muslims.

When asked what they associated with Islam, more than 80 percent said discrimination of women, 60 percent said fanaticism, and only eight percent of West Germans and five percent of East Germans said that Islam was peaceful.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK Publishes Changes in War Crimes Arrest Law

LONDON: The British government on Wednesday published legislation designed to amend a law that puts visiting officials at risk of arrest for alleged war crimes, after the issue strained ties with Israel. The amendment would ensure that any private arrest warrants issued for an offence under certain international laws, including the Geneva ConventiZon, would first have to be approved by the chief prosecutor. Israel has postponed all strategic dialogue with Britain in protest at its law on ‘universal jurisdiction’, which has prompted a number of foreign politicians to postpone trips to Britain for fear of arrest. During a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Israel last month, Foreign Secretary William Hague pledged to act fast to amend the law, which he had previously denounced as ‘indefensible’. The existing law empowers courts to issue warrants against people accused of offences such as certain war crimes, torture and hostage-taking, even if they were committed outside the country by someone who is not a British national. It will be debated in parliament in the coming weeks. afp

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK Tells Israel That Laws Will be Changed to Ensure Safe Passage for Officials

The UK has moved to restrict arrests for war crimes after a demand from Israel. The British Prime Minister said on Wednesday that politicians and officials from Israel would soon no longer be targeted by warrants. David Cameron said under a proposed new law the Director of Public Prosecutions would have to agree to an arrest warrant being issued against foreign officials. Under existing British law, private individuals can start criminal prosecutions, including for international war crimes. All they have to do is apply to a magistrate for a court summons or an arrest warrant. Britain has been trying to appease Israel by making the change to the law after Israeli politicians and officials were targeted by warrants brought by pro-Palestinian campaign groups. Ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni was one official who reportedly cancelled a trip to the UK in December due to a British court issuing a warrant for her arrest over Israel’s 2008-2009 war on Gaza. The arrest warrant had been applied for by Palestinian activists. Visits by other Israeli officials have since been delayed.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘We Let in Some Crazies’… David Cameron Claimed Labour Went Soft on Radical Muslims

David Cameron told the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan that the Labour government ‘let in some crazies’, leaked diplomatic documents have revealed.

In secret meetings before becoming Prime Minister, he promised the Americans he would toughen policy towards Pakistan.

Mr Cameron and George Osborne met Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks.

The American put them under pressure to do more to combat terrorism by making use of the ‘striking connections’ between the Pakistani community in the UK and militants in their ‘home country’.

Mr Holbrooke reported to Washington: ‘On the radicalisation of British Pakistanis, Cameron said the UK had “gotten it wrong domestically”… he argued that PM Brown’s policy had been too willing to engage with radicalised but non-violent Muslim groups… “We let in some crazies,” Cameron said, “and didn’t wake up soon enough”.’

The Conservatives also promised the U.S. before the election that they would be tougher on Pakistan — because unlike Labour they did not depend on votes from people with Pakistani connections.

Liam Fox, who is now defence secretary, criticised Labour for their pro-Pakistan approach in cables given to WikiLeaks.

David Cameron has apparently has apparently shifted the UK’s stance towards Pakistan since he was elected.

He visited India on a trade mission in June before telling Pakistan ‘not to face both ways’ when it came to tackling terrorism.

U.S. ambassador to the UK Louis Susman was told that ‘the Conservatives are “less dependant” than the Labour party on votes from the British-Pakistani community.’

Mr Susman added in the cable: ‘Fox criticised the Labour government for policies which reinforce the Indian government’s long-held view that HMG’s (Her Majesty’s Government) foreign relations on the subcontinent are “skewed to Pakistan”.’

Britain has ‘deep concerns’ about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, WikiLeaks documents showed.

Fears: Britain was concerned elements of Pakistan’s nuclear programme would find its way into terrorist hands

Documents from the latest cache of leaked US cables demonstrate that the UK and the US have similar anxieties about Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal.

US officials are quoted citing the danger of Pakistani fissile material finding its way into the hands of extremists.

The UK’s concerns were communicated to the US by Mariot Leslie, then the Foreign Office’s director general of defence and intelligence, at a meeting in September last year.

Now Britain’s permanent representative to Nato, she is quoted as saying that ‘the UK has deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons’.

She goes on to say that China could play a ‘big role’ in ‘stabilising Pakistan’.

The Ministry of Defence’s director general for security policy, Jon Day, warned US officials separately that relations between Pakistan and India were especially strained.

He expressed support for the encouragement of a ‘cold-war’-like relationship’ between the two countries that would ‘introduce a degree of certainty’.

He apparently went on to say that Pakistan was ‘not going in a good direction’.

The disclosures could test relations between Britain and Pakistan, a vitally important regional ally and neighbour of Afghanistan.

The Foreign Office said it would not comment on the detail of the documents obtained by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks and published tonight by the Guardian.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Amnesty International Say Police Bill Will Let War Criminals Go Free

Law will make it harder to arrest Israeli officials in UK after critics said pro-Palestinian groups had been exploiting the system

Britain was accused by Amnesty International of handing a “free ticket” to suspected war criminals after the government published parliamentary legislation designed to make it more difficult to arrest Israeli officials and ministers on British soil. Kate Allen, the UK director of Amnesty International, warned that Britain had gone “soft on crime” after the government decided that the director of public prosecutions will have to approve arrest warrants of suspected war criminals. “This is a dangerous and unnecessary change,” Allen said of the measures, which were included in the police reform and social responsibility bill. “Unless a way of guaranteeing a means of preventing suspects fleeing can be built into the proposals, then the UK will have undermined the fight for international justice and handed war criminals a free ticket to escape the law.”

The goverment indicated over the summer that it would change the way in which arrests of suspected war criminals can be made in Britain under universal jurisdiction. Israel postponed a “strategic dialogue” meeting with William Hague during his first visit to the country last month in protest at the current rules, which allow magistrates to order the arrest of suspected war criminals.

Critics say that pro-Palestinian groups have used the system to target senior Israeli figures visiting Britain. Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister who now leads the opposition as leader of the Kadima party, was forced to cancel a visit to Britain a year ago amid fears that she would be arrested for alleged war crimes committed during the war in Gaza.

The Israeli government has been pushing Britain to amend the law since 2005, when a warrant for the arrest of Doron Almog, a former military commander, was issued for alleged war crimes in Gaza. Almog refused to leave his plane when it landed at Heathrow after he was tipped off about the arrest.

The government explained the change in the explanatory notes to the police bill. It says the legislative amendment will “require the consent of the director of public prosecutions (DPP) before an arrest warrant can be issued on the application of a private prosecutor in respect of offences over which the United Kingdom has asserted universal jurisdiction”.

Amnesty International said the current system allowed victims of crimes to act quickly against suspected perpetrators. It said there was no need to change the law because there is no evidence that magistrates, who have to screen each request for a warrant with care, have acted on the basis of flimsy evidence. Allen said: “This sends exactly the wrong signal. It shows that the UK is soft on crime if those crimes are war crimes and torture. It risks introducing dangerous delays that could mean people suspected of the worst imaginable crimes are able to flee from justice.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: British Government Proposes Bill to Tighten Universal Jurisdiction Laws

LONDON-Britain’s government has proposed a bill to tighten a law that allows private groups and activists to obtain an arrest warrant for visiting foreign officials associated with war crimes, officials said Wednesday. The bill aims to prevent activists from abusing the law, which is based on the principle of “universal jurisdiction” and allows British courts to prosecute foreigners for crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has promised for months to change the law after pro-Palestinian activists in Britain repeatedly used the law to seek the arrest of Israeli officials planning to visit Britain, causing tension between the U.K. and Israel. The Ministry of Justice said that the new bill would require the approval of government’s chief prosecutor to obtain an arrest warrant. Currently anyone can apply to a judge for a warrant. “The current arrangements for obtaining arrest warrants in respect of universal jurisdiction offences are an anomaly that allow the U.K.’s systems to be abused for political reasons,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said. “The proposed change is designed to correct these and ensure that people are not detained when there is no realistic chance of prosecution,” he said in a statement.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor welcomed the move. “We see this as a positive initiative, and we welcome this move that is in line with promises made by the British government in the past. We hope that this will be completed as early as possible,” he said. The threat of arrest under the existing universal jurisdiction law has strained Israel-Britain relations. The two countries relocated their periodic strategic dialogue away from London last month because of the threats.

Deputy Israeli Prime Minister Dan Meridor cancelled a trip to London last month, fearing arrest, and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni cancelled a trip to Britain earlier this year. Last year, Palestinian activists tried unsuccessfully to have Defence Minister Ehud Barak arrested during a visit to Britain. “The process should be completed quickly so that the two countries can put this affair behind them,” Livni said in a statement.

The bill is expected to be passed next year, officials said.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Government Announce Universal Jurisdiction Law Change

The government has at long last announced a change to Britain’s universal jurisdiction legislation. A year after Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni cancelled a London speech for fear of arrest the Home Office published details of alterations to the law on magistrates issuing arrest warrants for foreign politicians. The new Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill includes “a requirement for the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions to be given before an arrest warrant can be issued in a private prosecution for offences of universal jurisdiction.”

Although the reform will not stop war crimes being prosecuted in this country even if committed abroad by someone who is not a British national, it means that such prosecutions will no longer be at the whim of individual magistrates. After Ms Livni was forced to pull out of her British trip, and several other Israeli politicians either cancelled appearances or expressed concern about visiting, the then Labour government pledged to change the law but did not do so before their election defeat. Since gaining power in May the coalition government has also repeatedly promised to amend the law.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Islamic Extremism: Is This the Year’s Most Embarrassing Academic Report?

I’ve been in the Far East for a few days, so I missed the big launch of Robert Lambert’s Islamophobia report at the East London Mosque on Saturday. But now I’ve got back, what a very special treat it is!

Bob Lambert, as readers of this blog will know, is a former policeman who has turned himself into one of Britain’s most important fellow-travellers of Islamism. As head of the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit, he brokered the deal which turned over the North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park, to supporters of the terrorist group Hamas. He has also fiercely defended the hardline Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) and its East London Mosque.

He is now an academic, generously funded by various Islamist groups and specialising in pseudo-scholarly defences of his clients — at least for the moment. I say that because the report he produced last week, under the name of Exeter University, must surely cause the Exeter authorities to ask whether they can any longer afford to be associated with him.

Reading it, I felt almost embarrassed for Lambert and his co-author, Jonathan Githens-Mazer, at having produced something so hopelessly weak. Far from being an academic or even pseudo-academic work, it is a political rant, and not a sophisticated one.

What else are we to make of passages such as the following, from page 14 of the report, about the people, sorry the “extremists,” who argued that Tory politicians should not attend October’s Islamist “Global Peace and Unity” event, where material glorifying terrorism was openly on sale:

“We conceive these extremists as neo-conservative ‘Know Nothings’, who, like their earlier American mid-19th century namesakes, represent a narrow view on British politics. Membership is limited — by class, by network, by education, by ideological orientation, and mostly by cliquishness. …They alone seek to define membership in the British club — on their terms or no terms at all, and is [sic] more than vaguely reminiscent of Lord Tebbit’s ‘cricket test’.”

Or this, about the anti-Islamist think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation (page 136):

“[F]rom the guide books to colonial counter-insurgency and Cold War counter-subversion…government and police chiefs have created and promoted the work of the Quilliam Foundation. We therefore refer to the government’s support for the Quilliam Foundation as discrimination because it treats Muslims unfairly and in a way that would not be countenanced in respect of other minority communities in the UK.”

Or the extraordinary passage about the IFE’s former president, and current head of the East London Mosque, Mohammed Abdul Bari, that opens this “academic research report:”

“Dr Bari is not the first advocate of social justice to be attacked by extremists from opposing ideological standpoints. It is no co-incidence that old Labour socialists Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn were attacked as ‘sell outs’ by Frank Furedi, Claire Fox, Brendan O’Neil and Mick Hume when they were leaders of the vanguard Revolutionary Communist Party in the 1980s and then, in contrast, as ‘diehard socialists’ when the revolutionary communists re-invented themselves as extremist liberals in the 2000s. Unwittingly, [Quilliam Foundation researchers] [Ed] Husain, [Maajid] Nawaz and [Shiraz] Maher are following the same path as Furedi, Fox, O’Neil and Hume in wearing new ideologies like new coats. Significantly, in both instances, the switch from a revolutionary ideology in youth to a reactionary ideology in early middle age is advantageous in terms of political influence, personal pecuniary advantage and economic security.

“Just like Benn, Livingstone and Corbyn, Dr Bari has not moved an inch in his commitment to social justice while his arch detractors have undergone role reversals. Indeed, just as extremists like Husain and Fox often mature into reactionary scourges of their younger selves mainstream politicians like Benn, Livingstone, Corbyn and Dr Bari invariably stay true to their political principles throughout their mature years.”

This is semi-deranged, the stuff of Private Eye’s Dave Spart.

The “research report’s” core “findings” are equally preposterous. They are, inter alia, that there is at the moment an outbreak of what the authors quite seriously call “terrorism” against Muslims in Britain. They say:

“Terrorism and political violence against Muslims is our deliberate and considered choice of description for a range of serious threats faced by Muslim communities in the UK… Threats of political violence from a diverse extremist nationalist milieu are every bit as credible as those that fall under an al-Qaeda umbrella… the government should treat both terrorist threats with equal importance and in the same way… Violent extremist nationalists in the UK have a present capacity to inflict death and destruction on a scale that is broadly comparable to their UK counterparts who are inspired instead by al-Qaeda.”

I think “broadly comparable” in this context must mean “not comparable at all.” The number of Muslims killed by “violent extremist nationalists” in Britain is nil, or very close to it. The number of people killed by al-Qaeda is 52.

Over the last ten years, half a dozen or so white right-wingers have indeed been convicted of possessing explosives and other weapons. But all were loners who were not acting in concert with any group, nor in most cases did they have any specific plans or targets. By contrast, there have over the same period been 127 convictions for Islamist-related terrorism in the UK, plus a number of other British subjects or residents convicted in other countries, and a number of further cases currently going through the British courts. Many of these convictions relate to serious and carefully-organised plots against specific targets involving substantial numbers of people.

The authors get round this little problem by redefining terrorism. In their words: “Terrorism cannot be understood only in terms of violence. It has to be understood primarily in terms of propaganda. Violence and propaganda, however, have much in common. Violence aims at behaviour modification by coercion. Propaganda aims at the same by persuasion. Terrorism can be seen as a combination of the two.”

Lambert and Githens-Mazer are undeniably well-qualified to talk about propaganda — but to equate, say, the anti-Muslim frothings of the English Defence League with the murder of people on the London Underground is an abuse of language that would not be tolerated in a tabloid newspaper, let alone an academic report.

Even on the actual violence side of their argument, there’s a problem. Lambert and Githens-Mazer claim in their report that there has been “an alarming rise in what can best be described as anti-Muslim hate crime.” They say that “violent attack[s]” against Muslim women wearing the niqab, burka or hijab “have become commonplace in parts of the UK.” They say that “intimidation and violence against Muslims has become warranted and routine” and that many Muslim communities are under a “state of siege.”

Though these are described as “research findings,” the report gives no research or evidence whatever to back any of them up, and no figures. Indeed, there are none to give. According to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), police have only been breaking down hate crime data into five strands, one of which is faith, since 2008.

We can, however, attempt to see whether Lambert and Githens-Mazer have a point by looking at overall hate crime figures in heavily-Muslim areas. Here, for instance, are the figures for race and/or faith hate offences in London’s main Muslim borough, Tower Hamlets. The majority of these, of course, would not have been crimes of violence.

2003/4 694

2004/5 600

2006/7 632

2007/8 440

2008/9 373

2009/10 353

I chose Tower Hamlets because the vast majority of its non-white population is Muslim, and therefore most of the victims here would have been Muslim. And the truth, in this borough at least, is the polar opposite of what Lambert and Githens-Mazer claim. In this Muslim area, there has been a 50% reduction in hate crime.

The figures for the first four years are from April to April and are from the annual reports of the Metropolitan Police Authority’s Race Hate Crime Forum. The figures for the last two years are October to October from the Met Police website.

In England and Wales as a whole, according to the latest Home Office statistics, the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences has fallen by 11.4 per cent over the last four years for which figures are available (page 20 of this PDF.)

As I say, statistics for purely faith hate crime alone going back over a long period are harder to find. But the latest online minutes of the Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum, for the meeting held on 5 October 2010, show that in the months of August and September there were — wait for it — a grand total of seven faith hate crimes reported to the police in the borough, not all of which from the description in fact appear to be faith hate crimes. The previous minutes, for the 15 June meeting, showed a total of eight faith hate crimes between April 1 and June 14, of which only two were against Muslims.

It is true that earlier this week new figures from ACPO showed a year-on-year rise in reported faith hate crimes in England and Wales as a whole. These numbers, however, were not available to Lambert and Githens-Mazer when they wrote their report, and are described by Acpo as having been published this week for “the first time.”

Nor is it clear what faiths the victims were — if Tower Hamlets is any guide, the majority will not have been Muslim — or whether the increase is a longer-term trend (the only two years for which figures are available are 2008 and 2009, and it is unwise to compare figures for two years in isolation.)

Finally, according to ACPO, the total number of reported faith hate crimes, for all faiths, across the whole country, over the whole of last year was 2,083 — or six a day — less than half the number of, for instance, homophobic hate crimes. And again, the vast majority of those 2,083 crimes would not have been violent.

Buried deep in Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s report is the coy admission that, for all the authors’ inflammatory claims about waves of Islamophobic terrorism and communities under siege, there is, ahem, “insufficient data to establish [the] scale of anti-Muslim hate crimes.”

Even Britain’s Muslims themselves have, it seems, been distressingly reluctant to furnish the authors with the longed-for apocalyptic picture. Quite the funniest part of the report is where Lambert and Githens-Mazer complain that with many Muslims they interviewed “anti-Muslim hate crime was implausibly denied or demonstrably neglected by Muslim interviewees who had direct knowledge of it,” accusing them of “wilfully burying their heads in the sand.” False consciousness, eh, lads?

Further evidence of the dynamic duo’s iron-hard scholarly rigour comes on page 32, where they claim that “since 9/11 arson, criminal damage, violence and intimidation against mosques, Islamic institutions and Muslim organisations has increased dramatically.” By page 104, however, they are stating: “How many out of approximately 1600 mosques, Islamic centres and Muslim organisations in the UK have been attacked since 9/11? Our research project aims to answer these questions…Much painstaking research lies ahead before we can provide an accurate picture” (my italics).

Deciding on the answer before you have done the research, or peddling false conclusions in defiance of the available evidence, are, of course, the most serious crimes in academia.

But the primary purpose of the Lambert- Githens-Mazer dodgy dossier is not academic; it is political. The authors’ real aim is not to defend Britain’s Muslims, but to defend their own paymasters, the Islamist leaders of the IFE and its allies. As they put it: “It is impossible to deal effectively with the multi-faceted problem of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred without grasping the nettle of neo-Conservative campaigning against effective, credible, politically-active Muslims like Dr Bari.”

The reason Islamists need to claim a rising tide of “anti-Muslim hatred,” however slender the evidence, is three-fold. First, it furthers their agenda of promoting distance between Muslims and non-Muslims. Second, it is aimed at frightening Muslims into their camp. Third, it enables them to stifle criticism; any attacks on Islamists can be dismissed as “Islamophobic” attacks against all Muslims.

Much of the report amounts to a cry of pain against the likes of me, Martin Bright, Qulliam and Policy Exchange who, the report flatteringly concedes, have helped weaken Islamism’s influence in the British state; and a call for Islamist and IFE-dominated bodies to be given back their “partnership relationships” with the authorities. (There’s also a whole chapter on my Dispatches documentary about the IFE; more on that tomorrow, but for now see Ted Jeory’s deeply-informed demolition of ithere.)

Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s client relationship is clear and direct. Their Exeter University unit, the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) — and this latest report — is funded by the Cordoba Foundation, which has been described by David Cameron as a “front for the [Islamist] Muslim Brotherhood.”

The Spanish city of Cordoba was, of course, the capital of the last European Islamic caliphate. The Cordoba Foundation’s director of research, Abdullah Folik, is a trustee of the IFE, which believes, in its own words, in creating a new caliphate in Europe and in transforming the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.”

The report and the EMRC are also funded by Islam Expo, one of whose directors is Mohammed Sawalha, described by the BBC’s Panorama as a former senior commander in Hamas and put in by Lambert as a trustee of his favourite North London Central Mosque (not coincidentally, there is also a frothing defence of the mosque in the report.)

Sitting on the EMRC’s advisory board, among others, are Bari and Bashir Nafi, accused by the US of being a senior terrorist in Palestinian Islamic Jihad (he denies this.)

The report is so transparently shrill and dishonest that I really don’t think the Islamists have got their money’s worth. Even the usual suspects online and in the press seem to have ignored it and the report is no longer available to download from the Cordoba website. Perhaps they’ve realised what an own goal it is.

The more important financial question is for Exeter University. I know universities need to get income from wherever they can these days, but the price of this particular funding in terms of political pain, media attention and academic credibility could turn out to be rather high.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Ken Livingstone Clutches Another Lead Lifebelt

One of the greatest peculiarities of Ken Livingstone’s campaign to be re-elected mayor is his determination to strap himself to some fairly non-vote-winning causes. He is backing the Tube strikers (indeed his campaign is based out of their offices), and fighting hard for various Islamic fundamentalists and their puppets. Today, to add to the collection, he also backs the students who have occupied various buildings of the University of London. Here’s a picture of him this morning addressing the occupation of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and here’s his statement a couple of days ago backing the occupation at University College London. Another great signal to the centre ground!

The intention, no doubt, is to build support among interest groups (union members, Muslims, students) who can be relied on to vote for Ken. It’s a classic Livingstone play but has proved a failure wherever it has been tried, by him and by others. The support generated may be deep, but it is also narrow; it can never substitute for broad support among non-activists; and it often alienates that broader support that you need to win.

For us students (of Kenology) the statement is interesting, since it focuses all its fire on the Tories — who were in fact relatively honest about the issue of tuition fees at the election — and none at all on the greatest targets of students’ wrath, the Lib Dems, who of course campaigned on a pledge to scrap fees, then did the exact opposite.

I dare say there is, as always with Ken, some kind of complicated tactical consideration here — perhaps he’s hoping for some Lib Dem second preferences — but it underlines the inadvisability of students looking to him as their champion. He’s interested in his future, not yours.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: London Placates Israel With War Crimes Arrest Law Change

LONDON — London sought Wednesday to soothe strained ties with Israel by publishing an amendment to a law that puts visiting officials at risk of arrest for alleged war crimes, sparking outrage from rights groups. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the change would ensure that private arrest warrants for offences under certain international laws, including the Geneva Convention, would first have to be approved by the chief prosecutor.

The move was welcomed by Israel, whose politicians and officials have been targeted by warrants brought by pro-Palestinian campaign groups, but Amnesty International said it gave war criminals a “free ticket to escape the law”. Ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni reportedly cancelled a trip here in December last year after a British court issued a warrant for her arrest over Israel’s 2008-2009 war on Gaza, following an application by Palestinian activists. The Jewish state also delayed a visit by senior military officers to Britain in January amid fears they could be arrested. Last month Israel postponed all strategic dialogue with Britain in protest at the so-called law of universal jurisdiction, prompting Hague to promise swift action on the issue. “

The UK is committed to upholding international justice and all of our international obligations. Our core principle remains that those guilty of war crimes must be brought to justice,” Hague said in a statement Wednesday. “This government has been clear that the current arrangements for obtaining arrest warrants in respect of universal jurisdiction offences are an anomaly that allow the UK?s systems to be abused for political reasons. The proposed change is designed to correct these and ensure that people are not detained when there is no realistic chance of prosecution.”

The existing law empowers courts to issue warrants against people accused of offences including certain war crimes, torture and hostage-taking, even if they were committed outside the country by someone who is not a British national. The amendment has been tacked on to the police reform and social responsibility bill, which outlines widespread reform of police forces in England and Wales. It will be debated in parliament in the coming weeks.

During a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel last month, Hague promised to act fast to amend the law, which he had previously denounced as “indefensible”.

Yigal Palmor, the spokesman of the Israeli foreign ministry, welcomed London’s move to fulfil that pledge. “We are pleased to see the English government lay down this legislation as promised and look forward to the swift adoption of this amendment,” he said.

In July Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke told parliament that Britain’s commitment to international justice was “unwavering”. But he warned that allowing universal justice cases to proceed without solid evidence risked “damaging our ability to help in conflict resolution or to pursue a coherent foreign policy”. Officials insisted Wednesday that the new amendment would not hinder private prosecutions that were well founded, but would block any spurious accusations.

However Amnesty International’s UK director, Kate Allen, said the move would help people trying to flee from justice. “The current process allows victims of crimes under international law to act quickly against suspected perpetrators who could otherwise enter and leave the UK before police and prosecutors can act,” she said. “This is a dangerous and unnecessary change. Unless a way of guaranteeing a means of preventing suspects fleeing can be built into the proposals, then the UK will have undermined the fight for international justice and handed war criminals a free ticket to escape the law.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Plug Pulled on Islam-Domination Fest

Officials have pulled the plug on a controversial International Islamic Revival Conference at which organizers had hoped to promote the idea that Islam will dominate the world.

WND had reported on plans for the event in London when Shariah Belgium leader Abu Imran said, “We would like to revive the spirit of that Islamic state. And we work every day to build that state again. That Europe is rightly an Islamic nation is a fact. Even if it wasn’t, we believe that Islam will dominate the world and we are working for that concept.”

Now conference organizer Sheikh Anjem Choudary is blaming Prime Minister David Cameron for the shutdown of the planned Islam-power fest, planned last weekend.

Find out what Islam has planned for your, get “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America.”

“The British government and the police regularly target the Muslim community in Britain,” Choudary said.

“They try to cancel any events which relate to calling for the Shariah, or talking about the foreign policy, or for saying that Muslims have the responsibility for getting rid of the intellectual obstacles that get in the way of bringing about the revival,” Choudary added.

Listen to an interview with Choudary: Choudary said his group has come to expect this response from local and national British authorities.

“So this is what we expect, especially from a government such as the British that have a foreign policy of occupying Muslim land,” Choudary added.

Choudary also takes aim at British domestic policy.

“Even in their domestic policy they have the most draconian legislation, so we do expect that local police and local governments and the British government put pressure on proprietors of venues to cancel our events,” Choudary added.

Choudary added that police and local government officials have put pressure on his associates in the past.

“The local councils made up of the MPs have been putting pressure and in fact they’ve visited some of the brothers who are involved in organizing this event. They basically came with officers and with people in the local governments and they said they were going to ensure this event will not take place,” Choudary continued.

“So with this we see that the pressure is directly linked with whole philosophy of the Cameron regime,” Choudary added.

Another British-based conference planner, Abu Usama agrees saying that police and politics pulled the plug.

“I believe the police were involved and we were not able to go ahead. And there probably, most likely, was political pressure from British officials to prevent the conference from going ahead,” Usama said.

British authorities however, are not so willing to admit their connection to the conference in one way or the other.

In response to the same question about political pressure on the Waterlilly Center to cancel the event, British Home Secretary spokesman Ben McKnight simply asked,

“On what basis would we be able to do that? The reports of cancellation all seem so speculative and heresay,” McKnight remarked.

Another spokesman for the Home Office delegated shutdown authority to the Metropolitan Police.

In a statement for the press, London Metropolitan Police spokeswoman Kate Southern said the department knew about the event.

“Police are aware of a planned Islamic conference to be held in Tower Hamlets on Saturday 27 November 2010,” the statement said.

A Waterlilly Conference Center/Tower Hamlets program coordinator who would only identify himself as Mr. Ullah, says the cancellation was because the management discovered the nature of the event.

“It was controversial and once we found out about it, it was cancelled immediately,” Ullah stated.

Listen to the interview with Ullah: Ullah adds that there was some intervention from the local authorities.

“Yes sir. Basically, we do a lot of community events here and from the Metro Office, we have agents who liaise here on a regular basis. So basically when we have events here, we have to notify them,” Ullah explained.

“It’s just a safeguard for the businesses themselves and for the general public. We have been doing this for the last four or five months now,” Ullah said.

He added that the event had captured the attention of the local governments.

“We did communicate with them straightaway and I do have some contacts and they update us with information and we give them the same as well. It’s a transparent thing,” Ullah continued.

“I got a call from one of the guys in that department and he was stressing about the whole issue. What they did is they spoke to us and if the information is true the event is cancelled immediately,” Ullah added.

Ullah also says the Waterlilly Centre staff received a tip from a group called the English Defence League, a group that had planned a counter demonstration for the same day.

Representatives with the English Defence League have not responded to WND’s requests for comment.

Ullah adds that the Waterlilly staff also cancelled the event because they believe they were misled.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad says that his message got through, even though the event was scrubbed, via YouTube.

There, he said, “We will never, ever compromise our stand.”

“I did deliver my talk and that was it. I was able to promote revival and I delivered my speech and I did it by internet,” Muhammad stated.

Listen to an interview with Muhammad: Muhammad said his advocacy of Shariah law and jihad has resulted in his arrest by Lebanese authorities.

“I have been arrested in my country for my beliefs,” Muhammad claimed.

Muhammad is free on bail in Lebanon after being charged with advocating terrorism in Lebanon.

Intelligence analyst and security Christopher Logan specializes in Islamic issues and operates the Logan’s Warning site. He says the sponsorship of the event goes beyond a few Muslims advocating Shariah law.

“They were at a minimum supported by Revolution Muslim. So ever since Revolution Muslim posted the threat to British MPs, I would say the authorities are watching and looking to crack down on any group with ties to them,” Logan observed.

This includes the Izharudeen group sponsored by Choudary.

The Revolution Muslim website was hacked and taken down in response to the site posting the threats against British Members of Parliament. The Investigative Project on Terrorism reports that Revolution Muslim British leader Bilal Zaheer Ahmad was arrested on Nov. 19 because of the threats made to British MPs.

WND previously reported how Choudary announced on CNN that his goal is Islamic domination of the world.

The comment came after Choudary confirmed he was in contact with people inside the United States and was encouraging them to attack the United States.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Stay-at-Home Britain: 40% of Workers Take the Day Off as Snow Storms Paralyse the Country… With More to Come Tonight

Four out of ten workers stayed at home today as heavy overnight snowfall wreaked havoc on the nation’s transport network.

The big freeze tightened its grip on Britain with scores of cancelled railway services, the closure of four airports and chaos on the roads and with heavy snow warnings issued for Thursday night, travel problems could increase.

The impact of the changing weather is expected to cost the economy millions as 38 per cent of staff were unable to get to work and a further 43 per cent were late arriving.

Six inches of snow in Kent overnight saw rail operators throw in the towel and cancel many services, leaving commuters with no way of getting into the capital.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Scandal That Shames Britain: Join Our Campaign to End Appalling Treatment of the Elderly on NHS Wards as Complaints Reach Record High

Tens of thousands of elderly people are suffering appalling care at the hands of the NHS every year — pushing complaints to a record high.

For the first time last year, more than 100,000 patients and relatives were forced to issue complaints after being let down by the Health Service.

Hundreds of thousands more won’t have bothered to complain because they have so little faith that the NHS will listen.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Whitewashing a Neo Nazi: More Weirdness From Lambert and Githens-Mazer

Yesterday, we considered the strange and rather Islamophobic argument in the European Muslim Research Centre’s new publication, Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: that Lutfur Rahman could not oppose Hizb ut Tahrir, because to do so would “risk alienating his largely Muslim core support”.

Today, we turn to a really surreal section entitled: “Neil Lewington case: a community perspective”. The story starts with Neil Lewington, a neo Nazi terrorist who had constructed a bomb making factory in his bedroom. Lewington was arrested, drunk, on a train, and was found to be carrying bomb components. Material recovered during the subsequent investigation showed him to be deeply involved in a Nazi subculture. For example, he kept some of his plans in his “Waffen SS UK Members Handbook”.

Lewington was convicted of having explosives with intent to endanger life and preparing for acts of terrorism. His conviction was widely reported, and he was described in the press variously as a White Supremacist, a Terrorist, a Racist and a Neo Nazi.

The Report focuses on the reaction of a Mosque official, who they interviewed, in a town which might possibly have been one of the intended targets of Lewington case. Here is the relevant section, in which they recount the official’s understanding of Lewington’s motivation:

“What happen[ed] actually, the link, as we found in the media and we have spoken to police and, he [Lewington] had a intimate girlfriend. She lives in Lowestoft, and she used to have a husband, a Muslim husband, and they split us and she had lots of stories, you know, against the Muslim husband probably, and that guy [Lewington] pretty sympathise with her, and he probably has taken that on his own strike to get the Muslims sorted I think…”

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Why We’re a Laughing Stock With the Rest of the World

It would never happen in Siberia: Britain’s inability to deal with snow makes us the laughing stock of the world.

Whiling away the long hours in my steamed-up Toyota on Tuesday night, I thought of the many countries I have visited on foreign reporting assignments with far harsher climates than ours, and wondered why they never have these problems.

When it snows in New York, the roads are carpeted by feet of the stuff, not a slushy veneer, yet the Cadillacs glide freely along Madison Avenue all winter long.

Snowploughs are out all night every night clearing everything in their path. The same goes for Stockholm and Toronto.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Why Haven’t British Police Arrested Wikileaks Boss on Interpol Wanted List Even Though They Know Where He is?

Further revelations from the WikiLeaks website has prompted a flurry of questions over why founder Julian Assange isn’t under arrest tonight — even though police in London revealed they have known his whereabouts for more than a month.

Australian-born Assange, 39, has been hiding in plain sight in Britain despite being on Interpol’s wanted list.

The world’s biggest international police organisation took out a formal arrest warrant against the WikiLeaks boss following a request from Sweden, where he is sought on charges of rape and sexual molestation.

Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency has received the so-called ‘Red Notice’ international arrest warrant, which is also posted on the Interpol website, but has so far refused to authorise his arrest.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



US Embassy: ‘Sweden No Longer Neutral’

USA’s Sweden ambassador has reported that Sweden is a “strong and pragmatic partner”, whose official non-alignment does not reflect reality, according to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks this week.

Among the wealth of documents that the whistleblower website Wikileaks has exposed include several hundred from the US embassy in Stockholm, showing a close security arrangement with the US, according to the Svenska Daglbadet daily.

In a classified telegram from May 4th 2007, prior to prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s visit to the USA, the then US ambassador to Sweden, Michael Wood wrote that Sweden was a “pragmatic and strong” partner.

Wood added that even though the official line is non-alignment, Swedish participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace and role as leader of the EU’s Nordic Battle Group show that the position is an untruth.

Then US president George W Bush is advised to discuss with Reinfeldt in private, if he wants to praise Sweden’s role in the cooperation against terrorism, a formulation which is taken to meant that the ambassador did not believe that the extent of the cooperation is known across the government offices.

Wood furthermore wrote that information from Sweden’s military and civil security services is an important source of information for the USA for Russian military conditions and for knowledge of Iran’s nuclear programme.

According to further US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks this week, Sweden wanted Russian kicked out of the Council of Europe following the Georgian war in 2008.

“Sweden, as Chair of the Council of Europe, will seek to solicit support from other Council of Europe members against Russia and in the next few months will attempt to vote Russia out,” an August 2008 cable from the US embassy in Stockholm read.

“This is still in the early planning stages, but is a current goal of (Foreign Minister) Bildt,” the cable read.

“Current thinking is to use Sweden’s chairmanship of the Council of Europe (until Nov. 2008) to mobilise support to kick Russia out of the Council of Europe,” the note continued.

A spokesperson for Carl Bildt, who remains Sweden’s foreign minister, refused

to comment on the cable when contacted by AFP.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt also refused to comment on the cable, telling the TT news agency that “I cannot judge this. I don’t know what it (the cable) says or what Carl had in mind.”

According to the document, Sweden, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, the Baltic states, Slovenia, Slovakia and Bulgaria wanted “a strong statement against Russian action.”

Those countries disagreed with France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands,

Malta and Cyprus, for whom the priority was to “stop the suffering and ensure

the ceasefire is respected.”

Russian troops invaded a part of Georgia in August 2008 to push back Georgian forces who were seeking to retake control of breakaway region South Ossetia, and they still occupy 20 percent of Georgia’s territory.

At the time, Bildt evoked Adolf Hitler in condemning Russia’s attacks on Georgia over the breakaway region, saying the protection of Russians there did not justify the assault.

The conflict had chilled relations between Russia and NATO, and between Sweden and Russia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Region Relatively Unscathed by Diplomatic Cables on Wikileaks

(AKI) — No earth-shattering revelations relating to Balkan countries have so far emerged in the quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables published on Sunday by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks . But the region’s politicians and media are speculating on what might lie behind the release of classified cables exchanged between American diplomats around the world and the US State Department in Washington.

Prominent Belgrade analyst, Miroslav Lazanski, told Belgrade television on Tuesday the whole thing may have been engineered by the Americans themselves, “to send a message” to certain state leaders, but he did not elaborate on the possible motives.

Belgrade daily Politika said in a commentary the WikiLeaks affair looked like “the beginning of a global coup against secrets”.

But Lazanski pointed out that the material released so far seemed to have been “carefully selected”, suggesting that the whole operation was premeditated to achieve a certain goal, which he couldn’t define.

The ‘spiciest’ comment on Serbia was a comment by French diplomat Jean David Levitte, who allegedly said that Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic made promises he didn’t keep and was no longer “a modern face of Belgrade”.

Responding to Levitte’s alleged remarks, Jeremic’s assistant Zdravko Ponos said it was not the job of the foreign minister to be liked by foreign diplomats but to represent the interests of his country and official policy. “Minister Jeremic has done exactly that,” Ponos said.

Interestingly, the Serbian government on Monday named another Jeremic’s aide, Borko Stefanovic, to head Serbia’s negotiating team in forthcoming talks with Kosovo Albanians who declared independence from Serbia in February, 2008.

Zagreb daily Jutarnji list quoted a report by American diplomat Daniel Fried as being told by former Croatian president Stipe Mesic and prime minister Ivo Sanader that former Serbian premier Vojislav Kostunica was a “nationalist” who staunchly opposed Kosovo’s’ independence.

On the other hand, Mesic and Sanader reportedly said that president Boris Tadic, though officially opposing Kosovo’s independence, held the same view as Croatia, which had recognised Kosovo.

Predrag Simic, a professor of political science at Belgrade University, said it was too early to asses the motives and the longer-term effects of the latest WikiLeaks disclosures.

“It will, above all have major consequences for the credibility of American diplomacy,” Simic concluded.

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

North Africa


Algeria: AIDS: Courses for Imams on Culture of Prevention

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, NOVEMBER 30 — Imams must also be prepared and capable of spreading the culture of prevention among young people, which is essential to fight AIDS. The National Foundation for health promotion and research development (FOREM), which organised a day to train imams on the fight against AIDS yesterday, is certain of their role in this important issue. “Imams have a social role. The people listen to them, as they are religious guides,” explained FOREM President Mustapha Khiati, “and they can play an essential role” in the fight against the disease. “Training these leaders,” he added, “is essential for our country”. A few days ago, the Health Ministry announced 600 new cases in Algeria last year

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


A Commodity Still in Short Supply

Despite a recent flurry of elections, true democracy is still a rarity in the Arab world. None of the explanations on offer is conclusive

AUTUMN has been a busy season for Arab democracy—or at least the semblance of it. Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan have all run noisy general elections, and the Iraqi politicians elected last March finally, last month, came close to ending the haggling over how to share their spoils. Yet none of these exercises seems to augur deep democratic change.

Even adding the elections held over the past few years in places as diverse as Algeria, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen, the practice of democracy across the Arab world appears to produce much the same result: perpetuation of rule by well-entrenched strongmen, the demoralisation and sometimes radicalisation of the forces opposed to them, and the degradation of the word democracy, to the point where there is often little discernible difference between those Arab countries that make a show of practising it and those, like Saudi Arabia, that do not even pretend.

Two decades after the cold war’s end prompted a global wave of democratisation, and nearly a decade after George Bush tried to stir his own hopeful wave, Arabs seem to remain unusually immune to democracy’s spread. Of the 22 countries of the Arab League (of which admittedly several are not in fact Arab), only three can lay much of claim to being true democracies, and even those have flaws.

Iraq, despite continuing bloodshed, seems to have broken away from one-party rule but lacks a cross-sectarian consensus and decent institutions. Lebanon sustains an open and pluralist society, albeit fractured and polarised among and within sects and beholden to the feudal sway of powerful families. And the Palestinians freely elected a legislature in 2006, but the winning party was prevented from exercising power across the divided territories. Every Arab country now has a form of representative legislature, even if most have little power and some, like Saudi Arabia’s, are appointed by a king.

Some of these autocracies allow more pluralism than others. Morocco, for instance, has widened its space for debate. Others, such as Kuwait, allow a directly elected parliament, but the ruling royal family, still ultimately in charge, has often rued the legislative near-paralysis that followed. Several of the smaller Gulf monarchies seek gradually to give their people more of a say. But when democratic push comes to shove, the ruling monarchs are bound to slam on the brakes against democracy, for fear they may one day be toppled if people had a real choice.

Whether they are monarchies or republics, the Arab states tend to act much the same. In the words of Larry Diamond, a professor at Stanford University in California and an expert on democratisation, the Arab League has become, in effect, an autocrats’ club. Even where democratic reforms have been imposed, their trajectory appears more cyclical than linear. More dissent may be allowed and practices such as elections pursued, but usually for window-dressing and letting off steam, and only until such time as autocratic rulers feel threatened.

Egypt’s recent flawed election, which saw the ruling National Democratic Party push its parliamentary majority from 75% to 95% in a first round of voting, is a case in point. In the acerbic words of a columnist in al-Akhbar, a Lebanese daily, “the only progress witnessed by the electoral process was the rise in the value of the vote of the Egyptian voter from 20 [Egyptian] pounds [$3.50] to several hundred.”

The reasons for this democratic deficit have long been debated. Some point to Islam as a factor, others to the clannish and paternalistic nature of Arab societies. The fact that most Arab states rely on oil revenues rather than the taxation of consenting citizens is another oft-cited cause.

Some blame history’s influence. Many Arab countries are artificial polities created by European imperialists, and have necessarily focused their energies on state-building rather than encouraging citizens to participate. Others point to geopolitics, contending—among other things— that Arab rulers use their interminable struggle with Israel to justify repression at home. Others still hold that Western powers, chiefly America, have sustained Arab dictatorships to secure the flow of oil.

All these arguments have some merit but need weighing. As many opinion polls have shown, Arabs sound keen on the idea of democracy. But what is understood by democracy, in a region with so few examples of it, remains open to question. Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, once described the Egyptian army as an example of democracy, on the ground that a commander weighs opinions from his officers before making a decision. By this definition, his party may deserve its name.

Islam as an ideology may be less of a factor. Though some strands of the faith, such as Salafism, reject the “rule of man”, and therefore democracy, as incompatible with the “rule of God”, quite a few non-Arab Muslim states, such as Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia, are fairly democratic. Still, lingering uncertainty over the proper relationship between religion and the state creates discord over how much space should be allowed for debate.

Many Arabs with liberal leanings, for instance, quietly prefer authoritarian rule to the unknown quality of a supposedly democratic Islamic state, something which Mr Diamond, in a recent essay, reckons that some 40-45% of the people in four Arab countries seem to wish for. He notes that another region that came late to democracy, Latin America, was similarly hindered by fear among the elite of revolutionary left-wing ideologies. By contrast, Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank, says the Muslim Brothers, just trounced at Egypt’s fake polls, have failed as an agent of change. So sure are they that God and history are on their side, he says, that they have grown complacent.

The pernicious influence of oil, along with other rents such as foreign aid, is easier to measure. Even non-Arab oil states, such as Angola, Russia or Venezuela, seem vulnerable to strongman rule. This is not just because the income frees states from having to bargain with their citizens. It is also because any transfer of power means that rulers instantly lose the entire prize, making them all the keener to keep hold of it. Politics becomes a zero-sum game.

But perhaps the biggest factor is that Arab autocrats’ skill at keeping their seats has by now been bolstered by custom. Most people are inured to authoritarian rule as a fact of life. As a peasant in the Egyptian province of Fayum lamented during the recent election, objecting to too many candidates vying for places on the pro-government ticket, “Things were so much easier a generation ago, when we all had to vote for the same man.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Turkey is Like Iran

The WikiLeaks documents confirmed the great American and European anxiety over the dangerous regime in power in Turkey. At this time, there are two Middle Eastern entities already controlled by Muslim Brotherhood parties: Hamas in Gaza and Erdogan in Ankara. One should not be surprised to see the friendly ties between the Turkish regime and Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah: We are dealing with political Islam movements that use any means possible in order to take power and threaten others.

In the past, Turkey served as an important pro-Western anchor in the Middle East and played a stabilizing, responsible and constructive role. Today, it constitutes a threat and jeopardizes most Arab regimes, and also Israel, being a focal point of shocks and tensions. Erdogan is threatening regional stability with his thuggish, megalomaniac behavior and with his support for axis of evil elements.

The regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority and many others are greatly disturbed by the new, aggressive player that suddenly emerged against them. While everyone knows that Iran is an enemy, the current regime in Turkey still hides behind the glory of previous Turkish regimes which were friends of the West.

We better understand that we are dealing with a hostile regime that has no intention of giving up power in Turkey.

And now came Erdogan’s latest statement in Beirut, whereby “Turkey won’t remain silent” in case of a new war between Israel and Hamas or Hezbollah and made the threat substantive. From now own, according to its own declaration, Turkey is a potential military foe of Israel and may embark on war against us.

Kick Turkey out of NATO There is no choice: The time has come to change the global policy vis-a-vis the Turkish regime. The current state of affairs where Erdogan increasingly joins forces with the global axis of evil and provokes the Middle East, without paying a price for it, must draw to an end.

The US Congress must not approve any more advance arms deals with Turkey — for example, the F-35 stealth aircraft, which Ankara seeks. After all, these jets’ secrets may end up being transferred to Iran or used against Israel. Anyone who seeks to maintain Israel’s military advantage must not approve the sale of advanced weapons to Turkey. Meanwhile, the Turkish army at this time must be counted among Israel’s enemies, not its friends.

It’s also unthinkable that Turkey shall remain a member of NATO, as it engages in military cooperation with Iran and China, two states considered NATO enemies. According to WikiLeaks, Turkey transferred through its territory military and nuclear materials to Iran; Ankara itself reported that it engaged in joint Air Force exercises with China. How can such state, which may hand over NATO’s secrets to its enemies, be trusted? Turkey in NATO is like having Iran in NATO.

The Turkish foreign minister, who was characterized as a very dangerous man by the Americans, is of course playing dumb in Washington. However, it must be made clear to him and his masters that from now on Congress shall closely monitor Turkey. Should it reassume a responsible role in the Mideast, the US shall continue to assist it. Yet should it continue to issue threats and conduct itself thuggishly, America will consider imposing sanctions on it, as is the case with Syria.

After all, what is the difference between Turkey and Syria when both of them assist terrorists? Yet while Assad’s regime is secular and somewhat responsible (Assad asked Erdogan to calm down after the latte went wild following the flotilla affair,) the current Turkish government is a classic Muslim Brotherhood regime.

Erdogan himself misses no opportunity to engage in the wildest incitement against Israel. Europe has already changed its attitude to his regime, and today he has no chance of being accepted into the European Union. The time has come for the US Congress to also gravely address the growing Turkish threat.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Wikileaks: Credibility in Doubt, Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 29 — “The credibility of Wikileaks is questionable,” said Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan today in reference to comments expressed by US diplomats on Turkey and its leaders in documents released on internet sites. During a press conference held this morning in the Ankara airport before his departure for Libya, Erdogan said that, after the publication of the documents, “their seriousness will have be undergo assessment, and only afterwards will we be able to comment on them.” Concerning his visit to Libya, the Turkish premier said that he was going to Tripoli to take part in the third EU-Africa summit, in which he will be the guest of honour of the Libyan leader Gaddafi, from whom he will be receiving an award for human rights. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russia


EU Neighbours Are ‘Mafia States, ‘ US Cables Indicate

Belarus, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine are already or are swiftly becoming ‘mafia states’ according to a senior Spanish prosecutor cited in US diplomatic cables.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



‘Virtual Mafia States’

Russian Mafia an International Concern for US Diplomats

Leaked embassy cables show US diplomats are concerned about the growing power of Russian organized crime and believe it has contacts with the highest levels of government in Moscow.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan: ENI ‘Seriously Considering’ Investing in Northern Afghanistan Says Minister

Dubai, 30 Nov. (AKI) — Eni, Italy’s biggest oil company, is considering making investments in northern Afghanistan, said Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, who was attending an investment conference in Dubai.

Frattini was in Dubai to attend an international conference on investing in Afghanistan.

“I spoke today with the Afghan ministers of energy and finance who confirmed their possible interest in working with Eni in northern Afghanistan,” he said.

Eni chief executive officer Paolo Scaroni “is seriously considering this possibility,” he said.

Frattini didn’t specify which kind of investments Eni may make in the war-torn country.

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



Biden: Berlin ‘Dropped the Ball’ In Afghanistan

Confidential US documents published by Wikileaks have revealed that Vice President Joe Biden believes Germany has completely failed to train Afghanistan’s new police force properly.

According to the secret cable from the US embassy in Santiago, Chile, Biden said: “Germany completely dropped the ball on police training but NATO countries should continue to provide assistance that is within their capacity to deliver.”

Spanish daily El Pais and German daily Die Welt first reported on the document dated April 3, 2009, in which it was reported that Biden made the disparaging remarks about Germany’s efforts to then Prime Minister Gordon Brown while the two were in Chile.

For the last eight years, Germany has been the main country in charge of police training in the unstable country.

The remarks were made during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Progressive Governance Leaders Summit on March 28 of that year.

Biden mentions Germany only that once in the report, but does refer to “European countries” who he worried had “underestimated the threat from the region and viewed the problem as an economic development issue rather than a security issue, despite the fact that Afghan opium is primarily exported to Europe and Europe has been the victim of several terrorist attacks originating from the region.”

Besides the UK and “a few others,” not many European countries had actively helped Washington combat the threats emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan, he added.

The latest bit of information comes as media sources continue to comb through the thousands of diplomatic documents after Sunday’s release by internet website Wikileaks. German-US relations have already been strained after other cables revealed descriptions of Chancellor Angela Merkel as uncreative and risk averse and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle as inept and vain.

Berlin embassy documents also reported that Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told US ambassador to Germany, Philip Murphy, in February 2010 that Westerwelle was preventing a US request for a Bundeswehr troop increase in Afghanistan.

Guttenberg was also reportedly critical of his boss, saying that Merkel struggled to put her economic policies in place.

The leaks also showed that US authorities were updated on German coalition negotiations in October 2009 by an informant within the junior coalition party, Westerwelle’s pro-business Free Democrats.

While some experts have said the cables contain nothing that hasn’t already been said by the German press, others have questioned whether the trust lost between the two countries can ever be restored.

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



Cables Describe Scale of Afghan Corruption as Overwhelming

From hundreds of diplomatic cables, Afghanistan emerges as a looking-glass land where bribery, extortion and embezzlement are the norm and the honest man is a distinct outlier.

Describing the likely lineup of Afghanistan’s new cabinet last January, the American Embassy noted that the agriculture minister, Asif Rahimi, “appears to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist.”

One Afghan official helpfully explained to diplomats the “four stages” at which his colleagues skimmed money from American development projects: “When contractors bid on a project, at application for building permits, during construction, and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.” In a seeming victory against corruption, Abdul Ahad Sahibi, the mayor of Kabul, received a four-year prison sentence last year for “massive embezzlement.” But a cable from the embassy told a very different story: Mr. Sahibi was a victim of “kangaroo court justice,” it said, in what appeared to be retribution for his attempt to halt a corrupt land-distribution scheme.

It is hardly news that predatory corruption, fueled by a booming illicit narcotics industry, is rampant at every level of Afghan society. Transparency International, an advocacy organization that tracks government corruption around the globe, ranks Afghanistan as the world’s third most corrupt country, behind Somalia and Myanmar.

But the collection of confidential diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of publications, offers a fresh sense of its pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge it poses to American officials who have made shoring up support for the Afghan government a cornerstone of America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

The cables make it clear that American officials see the problem as beginning at the top. An August 2009 report from Kabul complains that President Hamid Karzai and his attorney general “allowed dangerous individuals to go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court.” The embassy was particularly concerned that Mr. Karzai pardoned five border police officers caught with 124 kilograms (about 273 pounds) of heroin and intervened in a drug case involving the son of a wealthy supporter.

The American dilemma is perhaps best summed up in an October 2009 cable sent by Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, written after he met with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s half brother, the most powerful man in Kandahar and someone many American officials believe prospers from the drug trade.

“The meeting with AWK highlights one of our major challenges in Afghanistan: how to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt,” Ambassador Eikenberry wrote.

American officials seem to search in vain for an honest partner. A November 2009 cable described the acting governor of Khost Province, Tahir Khan Sabari, as “a refreshing change,” an effective and trustworthy leader. But Mr. Sabari told his American admirers that he did not have “the $200,000-300,000 for a bribe” necessary to secure the job permanently.

Ahmed Zia Massoud held the post of first vice president from 2004 to 2009; the brother of the famous Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, he was discussed as a future presidential prospect. Last year, a cable reported, Mr. Massoud was caught by customs officials carrying $52 million in unexplained cash into the United Arab Emirates.

A diplomatic cable is not a criminal indictment, of course, and in an interview, Mr. Massoud denied taking any money out of Afghanistan. “It’s not true,” he said. “Fifty-two million dollars is a pile of money as big as this room.” Yet while his official salary was a few hundred dollars a month, Mr. Massoud lives in a waterfront house on Palm Jumeirah, a luxury Dubai community that is also home to other Afghan officials. When a reporter visited the dwelling earlier this year, a dark blue Rolls-Royce was parked out front.

The cables describe a country where everything is for sale. The Transportation Ministry collects $200 million a year in trucking fees, but only $30 million is turned over to the government, according to a 2009 account to diplomats by Wahidullah Shahrani, then the commerce minister. As a result, “individuals pay up to $250,000 for the post heading the office in Herat, for example, and end up owning beautiful mansions as well as making lucrative political donations,” said Mr. Shahrani, who also identified 14 of Afghanistan’s governors as “bad performers and/or corrupt.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



The Other Conflict in Afghanistan

By Brian M Downing

The ongoing insurgency in the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan rightly commands attention, but it obscures a critical second conflict in the country. Long-standing antagonism between the non-Pashtun peoples of the north and the Pashtun people of the south are heading toward fissure. Paradoxically, settlement of the insurgency, through negotiation or force of arms, could exacerbate this divide.

Ethnic politics

Afghanistan comprises a dozen or more sizable ethnic groups, the precise numbers and proportions of which are unclear and contested. Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Turkic, Baloch, and other groups differ on demographic matters; and the country’s geography and decades of conflict offer little prospect of a neutral, acceptable census.

The center of the demographic dispute is the size of the Pashtun peoples of the south and east, who, on only sparing evidence, purport to be about 52% to 55% of the population and have so claimed since the 19th century.

Other groups, however, disagree. They insist that the Pashtun are perhaps slightly more than 40% of the population, while disinterested assessments say Northerners constitute 45% to 50% of the population. The dispute is not merely a matter for demographers or even for the issue of moneys doled out from Kabul. It now centers on who will preside over Afghanistan — and indeed if there will be an Afghanistan as presently constituted.

For a century or more the question of Pashtun majority could sit on the back-burner as most Afghans had far more interest in local government than in events in faraway Kabul where figures reigned but dared not rule. But decades of war and inept or intolerable central governments have brought the matter to the fore.

Mohammed Daoud’s reforms of the late 1970s led to violent opposition in most parts of the country and plunged the country into decades of intermittent warfare and foreign interventions from which the country has yet to recover. His successors fared little better and the various mujahideen groupings could not govern, which led to the Taliban government of the mid-1990s through 2001.

There is wide agreement in the northern regions that Pashtun governments from Mohammed Daoud to Hamid Karzai have been incompetent, intrusive cabals that long misgoverned the country and are poised now to give it back to the Taliban in concert with foreigners from Pakistan and China. Northerners bitterly recall the Taliban as harsh southerners who slaughtered non-Pashtun people by the thousands.

Post-Taliban government

After fighting the Taliban to a standstill and ousting them in 2001, northerners felt their efforts guaranteed them predominance in the new government. They acceded to the accession of Karzai, the head of the (Pashtun) Popalzai tribe, to the presidency.

This was done in part owing to US pressure and despite considerable support in the country for the Tajik statesman, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who also enjoyed support from regional powers that had supported the north well after the US washed its hands of the area.

Over the past nine years, however, northerners have seen their politicians pushed out of key ministries, especially the Ministry of Defense, which was once administered by the Tajik leader Mohammed Fahim. That portfolio is now in the hands of Abdul Wardak, a Pashtun who has used his office to reassert his people’s predominance in key military commands and simultaneously vitiated the militias of northern warlords. Northerners have been reduced to the rank-and-file of the Afghan National Army and ceremonial positions such as the country’s two vice presidencies.

Outsiders have criticized the presidential and parliamentary elections as fraudulent. Karzai is widely believed to have interfered with local polling stations and given himself and his supporters wide victory margins. Northerners certainly agree but insist that outsiders miss an important aspect of Karzai’s fraudulence. He not only inflated the national support for himself and his supporters, he also suppressed evidence of non-Pashtun voters and their support for Tajik, Uzbek, and other peoples’ candidates. Pashtun politicians counter by insisting that it is the northerners who are tampering with the ballot box to overstate their numbers.

Today, northerners contend the nation is on the brink of another act of legerdemain that will ensure Pashtun predominance — and misgovernment. The loya jirgas, which are romanticized in the West as a protodemocratic institution in colorful local dress, are simply another Pashtun ploy to ensure their dominance.

Karzai’s peace council has been hand-selected to approve whatever settlement he presents them. Northerners sense that Karzai is about to betray them by settling with the Taliban, granting them large swathes of territory which northerners feel the Pashtun mullahs will one day use again to assert control across the country. Further, Karzai is seen as collaborating with Pakistan to exploit Afghan resources in conjunction with China.

Warlords, army and the regional powers

Over the past few years, Generals Fahim and Rashid Dostum, leaders of Tajik and Uzbek forces, respectively, are said to have demobilized their forces and turned over their armor and artillery to the Afghan National Army (ANA) — as noted, a force largely purged of non-Pashtun commanders. Turning over heavy weapons is credible; full demobilization is not. There can be little doubt that these wily northerners, and other smaller ones, have retained patronage networks and forces in-being — lightly-armed, yet trained and loyal and angered by events in the south.

The position and reliability of the ANA are unclear. Though chiefly commanded by Pashtuns now, northerners constitute at least 55% of the ANA’s officers and rank-and-file, with Tajiks greatly over-represented and judged to be the best fighters. Resentment toward Pashtun superiors — military and political — are almost certainly parts of soldierly conversations. The ANA’s battle record thus far is sparse, unremarkable, and unlikely to have instilled a super-ethnic identity.

A break between northerners and Karzai would lead to serious conflicts within the ANA, including large-scale desertions and mutinies, particularly if called on to do so by Fahim and Dostum and the family of the late legendary mujahideen chieftain, Mohammed Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Regional powers are more aware of growing north-south tensions than the US. They have had ties with northern forces going back to the war in the 1980s and the standoff with the Taliban in the 1990s. India, Iran and Russia have aid programs and intelligence officers in the country, chiefly in the north. They, along with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and other Islamic former Soviet Socialist Republics, are concerned with the insurgency in the south and prepared to take extraordinary steps to prevent Islamist militancy and terrorism from spreading north. (Uzbekistan knows well that its militants fled south in the 1990s and today serve with al-Qaeda.)

Naturally, geopolitics and economics are at work as well. India seeks to counter growing Pakistani and Chinese influence in Afghanistan. Russia, too, is worried of growing Chinese influence in a region close to tsarist, Soviet and Russian interests.

Iran plays a double game. It gives small amounts of arms to insurgents and trains them at an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps base in southeastern Iran. But this is a warning to the US should it, or Israel, attack Iranian nuclear facilities. Support to insurgents can go up markedly, perhaps to include Stinger-like missiles, and Quds Force guerrillas could be deployed against US troops to make supply lines even more parlous than they are today.

Despite its limited support for the insurgency, Iran is deeply hostile to the Taliban, whom they recall as merciless Sunnis who slaughtered tens of thousands of Shi’ite Hazaras and who invaded an Iranian consulate and killed several diplomats. The three powerful regional powers also wish to share in the exploitation of Afghan resources and have a say in any pipeline that might be built there…

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



US Army Charged Germany Fees for Afghanistan Donations

Afghan National army soldiers and German Bundeswehr army soldiers of the International Security Assistance Force patrol during a mission in the mountains near Feyzabad.

One cable obtained from WikiLeaks highlights irritation between Berlin and Washington over a 15-percent “administrative fee” the US sought to charge Germany on a 50 million euro donations made to a trust fund whose purpose is to improve the Afghan army. A top German diplomat complained the fee would be a tough sell to taxpayers.

In the glossy brochure “The Bundeswehr in Afghanistan,” everything seems blissfully positive. One section, under the heading, “the current state of our engagement,” mentions a massive donation that Germany made to Afghanistan. In 2009, the German government transferred €50 million ($66.14 million) to the Afghan Army National Trust Fund. The money from Germany was intended to “improve the operational capabilities and development of the ANA (Afghan National Army),” according to the publicity materials from the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces. The money, the message seems to be, is well spent. After all, once the NATO ISAF troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the Afghan army is expected to take responsibility for the country’s security.

But little has happened with the German donation in the months since it was made — at least nothing that Germany had hoped would as a result of its multimillion euro gift. There was also considerable anger over the fact that the Americans had been trying to claim some of the money for themselves.

That was apparent in a sharply worded demarche from Germany’s then-ambassador to NATO in Brussels, Ulrich Brandenburg, to his American counterpart, Ivo Daalder. The US NATO Ambassador forwarded the German “non-paper,” dated Feb. 3, on the very same day to the US State Department with a “request for guidance.” Brandenburg complained that the German donation had not yet been disbursed to the desired projects.

The German money was to be used “exclusively” for projects stipulated by Berlin, according to Brandenburg’s demarche, including one project in Kabul (€2 million), one in Feyzabad (€1 million) and an additional one in Mazar-i-Sharif (€4 million). “As of today,” he wrote, “no project financing has occurred.”

The delay, the demarche makes clear, had already resulted in “construction delays” of the ANA logistics school in Kabul, which was described as “the financially most pressing case.” Germany expected that a total of €7 million for the three flagship projects be “transferred without any further delay,” the incendiary letter also stated.

Inevitable, Heavy Criticism

It isn’t the only complaint from the Germans. Inconsistent to the agreement made, the money was being administered by the trust fund’s American donation managers. This had created a situation in which the US Army Corps of Engineers, which was responsible, wanted to charge an “administrative fee” of 15 percent for the disbursement of funds. Such a fee, the German demarche makes clear, would be difficult to explain to German taxpayers.

“The issue has been raised already in the German parliament leading to questions why the Federal Government had donated money without any tangible effect on the prioritized projects yet,” the German complaint reads. The paper also says that the 15 percent charge “will inevitably attract heavy criticism by German audit bodies and parliamentary commissions.” As such, the funds “need to be reallocated” to the German mission headquarters at ISAF in Kabul “to allow for a swift implementation of the prioritized projects.”

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

Far East


Wikileaks: Completely Wrong on North Korea

Source tells AsiaNews, “these revelations are meaningless. In fact, they confirm the [Sino-North Korean] alliance because they show how deceitful China is with other governments. If a Chinese diplomat tells something to an American diplomat, you can be certain that he did not tell the truth.”

Seoul (AsiaNews) — Wikileaks’ revelations could negatively affect long-standing China-North Korea relations. They show that Beijing might be willing to give up on its erstwhile ally and allow Korean reunification under Seoul. The disclosure comes at a time of renewed crisis following last week’s North Korean artillery barrage against a South Korean island.

However, “These revelations are meaningless,” a Korean source told AsiaNews. “In fact, they confirm the [Sino-North Korean] alliance because they show how deceitful China is with other governments. If a Chinese diplomat tells something to an American diplomat, you can be certain that he did not tell the truth. It is unthinkable for Beijing to have South Korea-based US soldiers on its borders.”

Undoubtedly though, relations between Beijing and Pyongyang are at a low point. Deemed North Korea’s only ally, China did not formally condemn last week’s attack; instead, it called for emergency six-nation talks in Beijing with the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and Japan.

Behind the scenes however, the Chinese are not going to risk losing their influence in North Korea, whose rulers appear less and less willing to cooperate.

To calm the situation, China has summoned a top North Korean official to Beijing. Choe Thae-Bok, chairman of North Korea’s so-called Supreme People’s Assembly and a close confidant of leader Kim Jong-il, arrived today in the Chinese capital on five-day visit. After he landed, he did not make any public statements. According to China’s Xinhua news agency, Choe came on the invitation of Wu Bangguo, a Chinese Communist Party official, and would be staying until 4 December.

In the meantime, Washington and Seoul have been putting pressure on China to restrain the North.

“This shows that if Beijing was really serious about cutting North Korea loose, it would not waste its time summoning its officials,” the source told AsiaNews. “It would go directly to the top, to Kim Jong-il. Of course, they are concerned about an overreaction, but they are certainly not ready to see a reunified Korean Peninsula under Seoul’s control, as claimed by Wikileaks.”

For its part, North Korea has decided to up the ante. One of its official newspapers, the Rodong Sinmun, reported today that the government “had thousands of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment plant used for peaceful purposes. At this moment, we are building a new light water reactor [. . .] and are using a modern uranium enrichment system with thousands of centrifuges.”

On 12 November, US scientist Siegfried Hecker visited a nuclear site in Yongbyon, which was recently reactivated after the United Nations imposed sanctions last year. The US nuclear experts said he was “stunned” by how technologically advanced the plant was.

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

Australia — Pacific


Airbus: Investigators Find Potential Manufacturing Flaw

The aviation safety authority investigating the near fatal mid-air explosion in an Airbus A380 aircraft in November has reached a conclusion. The problem could be a manufacturing defect in the Rolls Royce engines powering a number of the largest passenger jets in the world.

It turns out that the passengers aboard the Qantas A380 plane that was forced to make an emergency landing following an engine emergency in early November, may not have been the only lucky ones. All 466 passengers aboard the plane landed safely after an engine exploded in mid-flight and damaged the plane’s wings, fuel tanks and other highly critical parts of the plane.

This week, though, further investigation into the type of Rolls Royce engines involved in the incident revealed a flaw that could affect all of the A380s using the Trent 900 engine. So far, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has delivered 37 of the largest passenger jets to airlines around the world, and 20 of the aircraft use the Trent 900 engine. On Thursday, the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is leading the international investigation into the engines with help from Rolls Royce, say they had identified a “potential manufacturing defect.” The ATSB’s final report comes out on Friday but the bureau had wanted to publish the preliminary findings as quickly as possible for safety reasons.

The defect found involves a tube feeding oil into the engine that had not been properly manufactured, had fatigued and cracked and then leaked oil into the engine, causing the mid-air fire and explosion.

Engine Swaps

There are three different builds of the Trent 900 engine and the type of build that included the cracked tube, an A type, has been removed from the Qantas fleet. The A380s that Qantas is still flying at the moment contain type B and C engine builds. A Qantas spokesperson said that the airline did not know if the manufacturing defect in the oil tube was just an isolated problem or an ongoing manufacturing defect. But the Civil Aviation Authority in Australia has issued new directions which state that the condition of the oil filler tube must now be carefully checked every two flights.

A statement issued by Qantas said that there was no immediate risk to flight safety and that there would be no further disruption to flights. However, the airline also stated it was filing a claim against Rolls Royce to “recover losses, as a result of the grounding of the A380 fleet and the operational constraints currently imposed on A380 services.” Qantas had kept the company’s A380s grounded for three weeks and had swapped out several engines. The potential losses could be as high as AU$60 million (€44 million) and the filing of the claim would allow Qantas to pursue the matter in court if Rolls Royce did not agree to a suitable settlement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Mystery of Green Fireball ‘UFOs’ Solved

Green fireballs that streaked across the sky and rolled down an Australian mountainside four years ago, spurring reports of UFOs in the area, might have been meteors and ball lightning, a researcher suggests.

At least three traffic-light green fireballs brighter than the moon but not as bright as the sun blazed over northeast Australia on May 16, 2006. A farmer saw one with a blue tapering tail pass over the mountains of the Great Divide about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of Brisbane, then watched a phosphorescent green ball about 12 inches wide (30 centimeters) roll slowly down the side of a mountain, bouncing over a rock along the way. [Image of green fireball]

Green fireballs have been seen many times in the sky, and are typically explained as meteors whose shockwaves lead to electrically charged oxygen similar to that seen in auroras. In fact, a commercial airline pilot who landed in New Zealand that day reported seeing a meteor breaking up into fragments, which turned green as the bits descended in the direction of Australia. The timing of the fireballs suggests they might have been debris from Comet 73P/Schwassmann—Wachmann 3, said physicist Stephen Hughes at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.

The green ball the farmer saw roll down the slope was almost certainly not a meteorite, Hughes said. No perfectly round meteorite a foot wide has ever been found, and if it were one, it wouldn’t be rolling slowly down a hill.

Instead, Hughes suggests it might have been ball lightning, mysterious glowing orbs of light usually seen during thunderstorms. The green fireball might have provided an electrical connection between the ground and the ionized layer of atmosphere known as the ionosphere, providing the energy needed for ball lightning.

Meteors are often mistaken for UFOs, as are lightning, balloons and military experiments…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Latin America


Mexican Drug Gang Murders the Unarmed Woman Who Was Brave Enough to Take Police Chief Job Men Didn’t Want.

Mexico is today mourning the death of a female police chief, the latest victim of a seemingly unending drug war between gangsters and the authorities.

Hermila Garcia, 38, became the top law enforcement officer in the town of Meoqui only two months ago.

One of a small number of women who have had the bravery to take on the drug cartels, she was gunned down at 7.20am on Monday.

She was attacked as she drove to work by herself.

Garcia, a lawyer by profession and single with no children, was one of a handful of women who have taken leadership roles in police departments in towns where men have stayed away because of fear.

The most high profile of these is 20-year-old Marisol Valles Garcia, a student who became police chief of Praxedis, in the Juarez valley, also in the state of Chihuahua.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Scientists Attempt to Crack Secret Code of the Axolotl

The axolotl is one of a kind in nature: It can regenerate severed limbs, organs and even grow back its spinal column after injuries. At a new research center in Hanover, Germany, researchers are trying to unlock the Mexican salamander’s secrets — and whether they can be applied to humans.

They appear to be quite content. Around 100 salamanders are bobbing around in the aquarium at the Hanover Medical School in Germany. Their brachial gills sprout like hair from their heads and their tiny mouths seem to smile as they press their tiny front feet against the sides of the aquarium.

They don’t all look the same, however: Some are missing an arm or a leg; others have a stump where a limb is in the process of growing back.

These are no ordinary amphibians. Many have had flaps of skin removed or parts of their limbs cut off — under sedation of course — by scientists investigating their regenerative capabilities. “Coagulation sets in instantly”, says scientist Björn Menger. “You can almost watch the healing process happening.” It only takes a few months until the body part has regenerated completely — “the younger ones are even faster,” says molecular biologist Kerstin Reimers-Fadhlaoui.

It is this incredible ability to regenerate that makes the axolotl so important to science. Limbs grow back as do parts of organs and even sections of their brain and spinal column. They are unique in the world of higher vertebrates.

In September 2010, molecular biologists, surgeons and amphibian experts set up a center for axolotl research in Hanover. Their hope is that they can unlock the healing secrets of the axolotl to help burn victims and amputees in the future. They also believe the animal may hold the key to longer life and prolonged youth and health. The axolotl lives extremely long for a salamander — ages of 25 years have been documented. But it never really becomes an adult, remaining at the larva stage of development its entire life.

A Delicacy in Mexico

The axolotl is as good as extinct in the wild. Lake Xochimilco, not far from Mexico City, is the sole existing native habitat of the Ambystoma mexicanum. The lake, however, is badly polluted and foreign species such as perch, which have been released into the lake, have likewise pressured the axolotl. The salamander is likewise considered a delicacy in Mexico.

There is currently no conclusive research that explains exactly how the axolotl’s regeneration process takes place. After the limb has been amputated, a layer of skin cells forms from the cells at the spot of the incision. A kind of scar tissue forms underneath and important new types of tissue begin to grow, such as blood vessels, muscles, sinews, bones and even nerves. Scientists had long thought that the cells at the amputation point reconverted through a molecular signal into pluripotent stem cells — a type of stem cell which has the potential to become almost any cell in the body — which subsequently developed into different cell types.

This theory was refuted in 2009 when a research team from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden published their work in the Nature medical journal. The scientists were able to observe individual cell types with the help of fluorescent proteins. No stem cell developed from a former muscle cell; new muscle cells came from progenitor cells. Likewise cartilage rebuilt itself from cartilage cells. Skin cells were more flexible: cartilage, sinews and skin can all grow from skin cells.

Disappears with Age

According to the author of the study, Elly Tanaka, this proved that the cells of the “regenerating wonder,” the axolotl, do not behave so differently to those of mammals. Even man, during his embryonic development possessed the potential to regenerate. The fingertips of small children can grow back, an ability which disappears with age.

“We share a common evolutionary history with amphibians,” explains Kerstin Reimers-Fadhlaoui. “Regeneration is in our own fundamental genetic makeup.” Perhaps the axolotl will help us to discover how to switch the process on once again.

Reimers-Fadhlaoui and her colleagues have analyzed the transcriptome of the wound-healing cells, focusing on the active genes in the regeneration process. Some of this genetic information contains the building blocks of an enzyme that could be the trigger of cell renewal: amblox. Amblox is thought to support the formation of a transmitter, which causes the cells to change into progenitor cells.

The researcher explains that initial experiments have shown that human cells also respond to these transmitters. A layer of human skin cells programmed with the genetic sequence healed significantly faster after injury that the untreated control cells. The Hanover scientists now want to create amblox artificially. “Our long term goal is to produce a substance that supports the wound healing process,” says Menger. “One could, for example, use it as a cream on burn wounds.” This is all a long way off….

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Denmark: EU Rule Exempts Turks From Immigration Test

Unlike other immigrant groups, Turks seeking to immigrate to Denmark are not required to take the new immigration test for their foreign relation applications. Starting on 15 November, immigrants seeking to join a family member residing in Denmark must pass a test of basic knowledge about Danish culture and language. The test costs 3,000 kroner to take. The exemption from the test was announced on November 12 and is based on a guest worker rights accord signed in 1963 between Turkey and what was then the EC, now the EU.

The agreement means that family members of Turkish citizens working in Denmark cannot be subject to different requirements than family members of EU citizens. Integration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech told Jyllands-Posten newspaper that the ministry was unable to change the rule. The Danish People’s Party (DF), however, is calling for political action to eliminate the exemption. “I find it distressing when a bill that has been passed here is then changed by the EU,” said DF integration spokesperson Peter Skaarup, warning that if Hornbech did not take action, the issue would be taken further up the system.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Major Drop in Asylum-Seekers in Turkey, Report

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 29 — The number of asylum-seekers in southern Europe fell by 33% last year, driven by significant declines in applications in Italy, Turkey and Greece, daily Hurriyet reports quoting a new report released by the International Organization for Migration. The World Migration Report 2010 looks into the wave of migration across the globe and calls for the rigorous analysis of core capacities of countries to manage migration effectively and identify gaps and priorities for the future. In 2009, the total number of asylum-seekers in industrialized nations remained stable with about 377,000 applications, according to the report. The Nordic region recorded a 13% increase with 51,100 new applicants — the highest in six years — but by contrast, the number of applications in Southern Europe fell by 33 percent, with 50,100 claims. That was driven by significant declines in Italy (-42%), Turkey (-40%) and Greece (-20%). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



The Enormous Folly and Cost of the Dream Act

With the same stealth chicanery of the Immigration Reform Act of 1965 by the late Teddy Kennedy that added 100 million people to the United States within 40 years, U.S. Senator Harry Reid expects to shove the Dream Act through Congress next week.

It downgrades the rule of law! It upgrades illegal aliens to citizenship. It costs billions of dollars American taxpayers don’t have. It features millions of added people chain-migrating into the United States to become ‘instant’ citizens. It makes illegality legal!

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama spelled it out succinctly:

1. The DREAM Act Is NOT Limited to Children, And It Will Be Funded On the Backs Of Hard Working, Law-Abiding Americans

Proponents of the DREAM Act frequently claim the bill offers relief only to illegal alien “kids.” Incredibly, previous versions of the DREAM Act had no age limit at all, so illegal aliens of any age who satisfied the Act’s requirements—not just children—could obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. In response to this criticism, S.3827 includes a requirement that aliens be under the age of 35 on the date of enactment to be eligible for LPR status. Even with this cap, many aliens would be at least 41 years old before obtaining full LPR status under the Act—hardly the “kids” the Act’s advocates keep talking about.

[…]

2. The DREAM Act PROVIDES SAFE HARBOR FOR ANY ALIEN, Including Criminals, From Being Removed or Deported If They Simply Submit An Application

[…]

3. Certain Criminal Aliens Will Be Eligible For Amnesty Under The DREAM Act

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Gay Rights Uneven Throughout Europe, Agency Says

The rights situation for lesbian, gay, bi- and transsexual (LGBT) people is very uneven throughout the EU, with improvements in Portugal and Sweden and more restrictions in Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania, a report from EU’s fundamental rights agency (FRA) shows.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: There’s No Shame in Not Wearing a Cross

I am ashamed to say I had not realised it was Not Ashamed Day yesterday. Well, I’m not all that ashamed — that’s merely a fashion of speaking. There are, by contrast, plenty of things that I really am ashamed of, and these come unbidden to burn my cheeks as I walk in the street. Those shameful things are mostly social blunders, unkind words, sartorial errors. Who can now look at a picture of himself from the Eighties and not cringe? But the shudder of shame seldom strikes at the thought of anything truly important, and I doubt that it would even if I were a Stasi agent, a town-planner or some such despised profession. Not Ashamed Day is the bright idea of a Christian pressure group, and is supported by Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who, in my mind’s eye, always seems to be wearing a cardigan. He makes the point that Christianity is being airbrushed out of the national picture.

The Not Ashamed campaigners called on Christians, at least for the day, to “wear the ‘Not Ashamed’ symbol of the cross, available on a range of items from a special online shop”. That is where we differ, for I am not ashamed to be a Christian, but I would be ashamed to wear a cross. The distinction matters. I would be ashamed to wear a cross as a special symbol because I am not one of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity but a scribbling journalist. I wear lots of other things, but not as special symbols. I wear leather shoes, but not because I hate vegetarians. I wear cufflinks, but not with the dear old college colours on them. As I write, I am wearing an overcoat only because the heating isn’t quite up to the weather. If I wore a wooden cross on a string or a T-shirt with a cross on, my colleagues would look at me oddly, and rightly. Christians — Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists and so on — live in the earthly city as well as the City of God.

As a Catholic, I am now allowed to live within 10 miles of London, to sit in Parliament if elected and even to buy a horse, which the penal laws three or four centuries ago prohibited. The remaining disabilities do not trouble me. I do not want to marry the Queen, and the establishment of the C of E is obviously preferable to the establishment of the BBC. Where I do think the cross is important is in places it is least noticed. Every policeman in the Metropolitan force, when wearing a helmet and not playing at being a member of a paramilitary Swat-squad, bears a little cross on his helmet badge. It is on the top of the crown on the badge. That might sound trivial, but it is quite as significant as the reality of police working for the Crown, not for a ruling political party. The literal crown, St Edward’s crown, with which the Queen was crowned and which appears on the royal coat of arms, is fronted and surmounted by a large cross. The Royal Mail, while it survives, has a cross on its badge too, and the biggest set of unnoticed crosses must be those on the Union flag.

It’s a similar story with names on the map. The London Underground has St James’s Park, Temple, King’s Cross, St Paul’s. No one feels the need to justify them, because they are part of the fabric of the nation. True, they are fossilised elements, but only in the way that Christmas pudding is a fossilised foodstuff, never eaten at other times. The law in such matters is: the more solemn an item, the more likely it is to be fossilised. That is why they count. Christianity is alive, but its trappings are old. Both are integrated into British life in a way that demands no special pleading. So Lord Carey is right to castigate councils that fear to put up Christmas trees lest some non-Christians be offended. They are most unlikely to be offended, but even if they were, that is no reason to demolish St Paul’s, with its cross above the dome, or to abolish policemen because they wear a cross on their badge.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Why SHOULD Mums on Benefits Have Countless Children When I Can Only Afford Two?

My daughter Sasha, five, was puzzled. ‘Mummy,’ she said. ‘You know you say you work so you can buy us nice things?’

‘Yeees,’ I replied, wondering what argument she about to skewer me with.

‘And you know you say I can’t have another brother or sister because we don’t have enough money?’

‘That’s right.’

‘Well, I don’t understand. Kayla’s mummy and daddy don’t work. But Kayla has far more things than me.

‘She’s got a Nintendo and a Wii and a trampoline and a dolly with her own potty. And Kayla’s got three brothers and her mummy’s having another baby. So how do you explain that?’

Sasha folded her arms and gave me her most piercing Rumpole Of The Bailey stare.

How could I explain? Kayla’s mum and dad can afford endless luxuries because they’re all paid for by the generosity of the state.

Last week, the newly appointed Tory peer Howard Flight was forced to apologise after declaring cuts in child benefit for higher taxpayers were unjust.

‘We’re going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it’s jolly expensive, but for those on benefit there’s every incentive. That’s not sensible,’ he said.

The Government disowned his comments and the bleeding hearts went wild. How dare the nasty man say the poor should not be allowed to ‘breed’? This was eugenics, the first sign of a totalitarian state.

[…]

Six million Britons are living in homes where no one has a job and where, according to a report by MPs, ‘benefits are a way of life’.

Meanwhile, middle-class couples are feeling pinched by mushrooming utility bills and taxes — taxes benefit claimants don’t pay, but which support their families. It’s incredibly unfair.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Was This the Video That Cost US? The Very UN-English Presentation Screened to FIFA Delegates

Gosh, didn’t we look global.

So multicultural, so diverse. And we didn’t want to host the World Cup just for ourselves, of course. Oh no. You had only to look at the video presentation for England’s bid to realise that.

Selfless, that’s us. Doing it for the greater good of the world. You could see it in the faces the film featured from locations all around the planet — and, if you were quick, in a couple of backdrops of Blighty.

But where were the famous sights that thousands would have expected to enjoy when they flooded through our ports and airports in 2018? The smiling British Bobby… our legendary cuisine… a bearskinned guardsman or two.

Then there was the soundtrack — hardly Pavarotti, and certainly not Elgar. Instead, it was provided by a Ramsbottom rock band called Elbow, chosen despite the obvious connotations that would always be risked when the panel gave the Elbow to our bid. Someone remarked that the lead singer sounded as if he was yawning.

Perhaps it was just as well the film skipped lightly over some of our less celebrated national hallmarks though. Especially in a week when it took about eight hours to drive to Gatwick, when our Bobbies donned riot gear to deal with student protests, and when rival Birmingham football fans went on a violent rampage.

The Three Falsettos — Beckham, Cameron and Prince William — dutifully made our case with eulogies about football forming the fabric of the nation, and the like. So surely the presentation video would have captured some of this? Well, not entirely.

It started with an excited juvenile opening the letter that contained his ticket to the England France game last month. The venue was Wembley. So far so good.

Cue shots of the stadium (and a couple of clips of Arsenal’s Emirates stadium for good measure). Then we’re off to somewhere else in the world (maybe the Third World) to watch some kids have a kickabout in the street.

This is more like it though. The young lad is waving an England flag as his dad takes him to the match. And isn’t dad draped in a Union Flag? Actually, no. It’s just a multicoloured scarf around his neck.

Much of the remaining video focuses on a range of ethnically diverse figures celebrating our national game from afar.

A young man waves Liverpool colours from a rickshaw. African and Asian spectators are transfixed with suspense as crucial matches are played out on screens around the world. A Caribbean family dances with delight as a vital goal is scored.

Close-ups of the players further underline the multinational diversity of our favourite premiership icons.

Quite what Adrian Chiles was doing in the middle of it all was anyone’s guess, but you couldn’t help feeling we were heading for trouble when he appeared, albeit for a nanosecond. (Wonder if they’ve ever heard of him in Russia?)

The final frames showed Rio Ferdinand, the England captain and multimillionaire celebrity, about to climb into an expensive, shiny car. At least that was true to life.

And then it was over. All our hopes had been encapsulated in a video lasting just short of three minutes. Pity it didn’t do the trick.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



When Making Friends, Gran Knows Best — Not the Facebook Generation

If you want to know how to make a real friend, forget Facebook and ask your grandparents.

That is the conclusion of researchers who found pensioners are the real experts when it comes to making friends and keeping them.

The over-60s generation believe you need to know someone for more than a year before they become a ‘true friend’.

In contrast their grandchildren only have to meet someone twice to call them a friend and have an average 200 online ‘friends’ constantly on the go at any one time.

And researchers found that while Facebook, Bebo and Twitter may be all the rage, most online friendships never last.

Three out of every four 16-25 year olds admit a Facebook friendship lasts less than two years and less than half expect a ‘real’ friendship to last more than five years.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


EU Funding Offer Sparks Anger at Cancun

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — In one of the first major announcements at UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, the EU has released details of its contribution to ‘fast-start’ funding to help poorer nations deal with the adverse effects of climate change over the short-term.

But aid agencies and governments from developing countries quickly rounded on the news when it became clear that roughly half the money would be in the form of loans or equity in local companies, rather than grants.

Wrangling over the ‘fast-start’ funding has led to a major breakdown in trust between rich and poor nations over the past year.

A pledge of $30 billion in “new and additional” money between 2010 and 2012 for poorer nations was one of the few concrete initiatives to come out of Copenhagen last December, but since then richer nations have appeared reluctant to stump up the cash.

Outlining Europe’s contribution to the pot on Tuesday (30 November), expected to total €7.2 billion over the three years, EU chief negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said loans, rather than grants, could provide a “win-win” situation for both sides.

“When it comes to mitigation actions you find that … consumers can repay loans, in other words, finance can be used like a revolving fund,” he said.

“In that way, funds can be repaid and used by others. You don’t need grants. It would be a waste of money because the individual pays for itself. You have to make best use of peoples’ money,” he added…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Global Warming: Sea Level Could Rise in South, Fall in North

Climate change is expected to cause sea levels to rise — at least in some parts of the world. Elsewhere, the level of the ocean will actually fall. Scientists are trying to get a better picture of the complex phenomenon, which also depends on a host of natural factors.

When presented as a globe, the Earth looks as round and smooth as a billiard ball. To anyone standing on a beach, the ocean looks as flat as a pancake.

But perception is deceptive. “In reality, the water in the oceans wobbles all over the place,” says oceanographer Detlef Stammer. He isn’t talking about waves, but large-scale bulges and bumps in the sea level.

Stammer, who is the director of the Center for Marine and Climate Research at the University of Hamburg, is familiar with the incorrect notions that lay people have, which is why he likes to present them with two numbers to shatter their illusions. “In the Indian Ocean, the sea level is about 100 meters (330 feet) below the average, while the waters around Iceland are 60 meters above the average.”

The incorrect belief that ocean water is evenly distributed lives on in the debate over climate change, says Stammer. The rising sea level is widely viewed as the most threatening consequence of global warming. Images of Bangladeshis wading through floodwaters are a favorite horror scenario used by some environmentalists. “But people act as if the water from melting glaciers were distributed as uniformly in the oceans as the water in our bathtubs at home,” says Stammer.

But the reality is counter-intuitive. According to the most recent estimates, the sea level is expected to rise by about 1 meter (3.28 feet) — on average — in the next 100 years. This is the number that will be mentioned again and again during negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico over the next two weeks. “But this average value doesn’t really help coastal planners,” says Stammer.

It is certainly correct that the total amount of liquid in the oceans is increasing. But the way water expands in ocean basins differs widely. There will be regions of the world where nothing much will change, while the sea level will rise by well over the 1-meter average in others. “The sea level could even fall along some coasts,” says Stammer.

Winners and Losers

Scientists still don’t know exactly the degree to which glaciers will melt as a result of rising temperatures. The most important factor in this equation will be the rate at which the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets shrink. At the moment, it appears that the net amount of melt water is still rising in Greenland. It is currently at 237 cubic kilometers (57 cubic miles) per year. But the volume of ice at the South Pole seems to be generally stable. “The ice is melting in western Antarctica, but in the larger eastern part, snow is actually building up,” says Stammer.

The sea level currently rises by about 3 millimeters (0.1 inches) a year on average. A number of factors contribute to this rise, including water from melting glaciers and the constant increase in the amount of ground water used in agriculture. It is also partly due to a simple thermal effect: Because water expands as it gets warmer, rising temperatures cause the sea level to rise. All of this will accelerate even further by the end of the century, leading to a total increase of 1 meter, according to the current consensus among oceanographers.

In reality, the simple message of rising waters is greatly oversimplified. The process behind it is highly complex, and one that will produce winners and losers. Scientists are only gradually beginning to understand the phenomenon and its processes, some of which work in opposing directions. “It’s just in the last few years that science has taken a more in-depth look at regional prognoses for rising sea levels,” Stammer says.

This is partly due to the complexity of the material itself. Average values can be computed relatively easily. Regional effects, on the other hand, are partly influenced by winds and currents, with gravity and the laws of thermodynamics also playing an important role. Making sense of how all of these factors are interrelated requires a relatively solid understanding of the individual processes — and massive computing power to perform the calculations.

Surprises for Scientists

For a long time, scientists didn’t even have precise data on specific water levels in individual locations around the planet. That changed in late December 1992, when a satellite was placed into service that uses a radar altimeter to measure the sea level, to within a few centimeters, anywhere in the oceans. “In the past, we had to travel around the ocean and painstakingly take measurements,” says Stammer. “Today I can go on the Internet and download the satellite data from space onto my computer.”

The flood of data from the orbiting satellite has produced all kinds of surprises for scientists in recent years. For instance, while seas have risen by about 15 centimeters in the tropical Western Pacific, the ocean near San Francisco has fallen by about the same amount. “On the German coast, on the other hand, the sea level today is a few centimeters higher than it was 15 years ago,” says Claus Böning of the Kiel-based excellence cluster “The Future Ocean.”

Such effects are the result of natural fluctuations that unfold over decades. The currents in the world’s oceans are constantly shifting. This applies to the Gulf Stream, which provides Europe with warm water, just as it does to the Pacific circulation system, which reacts to the moods of El Niño.

But what role do anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions play in terms of the planet’s rising sea levels? Newton’s law of gravity provides the scientists with an initial answer…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Muslims Worldwide Say Respect is Key to Better Relations With U.S., West

WASHINGTON — About half of Muslims surveyed worldwide believe the West does not respect them, according to a new Gallup report, and many say not desecrating the Quran and portraying more “accurate” Muslim movie characters could improve a strained relationship.

The findings are part of a report on “Measuring the State of Muslim-West Relations,” released Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, at Gallup’s Washington headquarters.

“We also found that this concept of respect … now includes perceptions of fairness in policies, not just culturally sensitive language,” said Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.

Fifty-four percent of Muslims said being treated fairly in policies that directly affect them would be a very meaningful demonstration of respect.

Mogahed said the “policies” were not defined in the new report, but past Gallup studies have found that respondents were particularly concerned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]



The Hypocrisy of Hatred

Muslim countries want to make it a criminal offence to disparage Islam, the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad. They are concerned about discrimination and thuggery against Muslims in non-Muslim countries.

That concern is entirely fair and proper. But why are they so little concerned about the vastly worse discrimination and thuggery that goes on in the Muslim world against non-Muslims and the wrong Muslims. I discussed this in a long feature this week.

I want Muslims in the West to feel as secure and at home and have the same opportunities as anyone else. Why don’t so many Muslims feel the same about the marginalised in their countries?

Are Muslim countries really worse? They are not the only persecutors — in the list of problem countries by Christian agency Open Doors 39 of the top 50 are Muslim states, which means 11 are not, such as North Korea, Burma and China. But in many Muslim countries the persecution and violence are more than opportunistic but a way of life — from the state or Islamist groups or neighbours.

First, an important caveat. This is not a blanket criticism of Muslims. Most of the Muslims I know — and I know many — are as concerned about justice and fairness as anyone else.

Second, this blog is really one long question, a question I have had for decades. On this, see the detour at the bottom — and WARNING the bottom is a long way down.

Third, a blog can only scratch the surface; this is inevitably superficial.

That said, it remains reasonable to ask, why is discrimination so entrenched and legitimised in the Muslim world?

Perhaps the biggest problem is the way systematic discrimination is enshrined in sharia law as it has come to be interpreted over the centuries. Those who want to justify discrimination can find grounds, some from the Koran and Hadiths, and more from the traditions. For example, many nations have blasphemy and apostasy laws that mandate the death penalty for those who convert away from Islam.

It’s important to acknowledge that no ideology — religious or secular — has an unstained record. Of course it is centuries since the Western world saw itself as “Christendom”, with a primarily religious identity, but since then we have had sectarian cruelties plus those inflicted by various nationalisms, fascism and communism. History proves that any people are capable of cruelty.

As I have often written on my blog, people are just people. The differences between Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists etc are not so big, and the vast majority of all those groups are decent people doing their best.

But if that is true, why is the plight of minorities so bad in nearly every one of the 56 Muslim nations?

I think there are several reasons, many of which overlap. One is the corruption and cynicism of so many regimes. If they don’t actively themselves persecute, they are happy to let Islamists do so to distract attention from the regime’s shortcomings.

Another is the rigid, self-righteous version of Islam practised by so many radicals, who shout loudly but persuade few (which is why fundamentalist groups do so badly in elections across the Muslim world). Ideologies demand commitment rather than reflection. But it is not necessary to be ideological to be religious.

Another spur is the colossal sense of victimhood and impotence felt by so many Muslims. For more than 1000 years of their history they were victorious and dominant, which makes the last century of colonialism hard to take.

Look at the remarks of Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu on Monday to the Iranian foreign minister. Spreading hatred of Islam is high on the agenda of the West, he said. The West is “hatching plots” to spread Islamophobia and insult Islamic values and the Muslim states must take collective measures to confront the Western plots. Such bizarre paranoia could be dismissed, but Ihsanoglu is general-secretary of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, made up of the world’s 56 Muslim nations.

Another reason is anger at the plight of many Muslims in non-Muslim countries. Muslims see themselves (at least theoretically) as a single, unified group (the ummah), and think Christians feel the same. So attacking local Christians is one way of teaching America a lesson.

Then there’s the war on terror. Infelicities and injustices in the way this has been described, and conducted, have led many Muslims to believe it really is a war on Islam. That, along with a colonial history and other historical factors, have created real resentments. (Mind you, they tend to ignore the fact that Muslims were every bit as imperialistic when they had the power.)

Another important element is education: more and more Muslims are receiving a narrow religious education (both in the sense that the religious view is narrow and that the education is largely confined to religion), often funded by the Saudis who have spent tens of billions of dollars promoting the highly restrictive Wahhabi version of Islam. Pakistan’s madrassas are the paradigm here.

Sometimes it is simply venting a grudge or taking advantage of a minority group’s vulnerabilities — something Pakistan’s vicious blasphemy law encourages. Also corruption vitiates the rule of law.

So that’s the summary from my Western, Christian perspective. Now the detour. Concerned that I was not representing the Muslim narrative, I asked a Muslim friend to comment. He observed that I was right to fear that I would get a simplistic response: “Muslims everywhere persecute Christians, then whinge ignorantly about Muslims being mistreated in the West. What the hell is their problem?” (That’s not what I think.)

Then my friend added some much-needed nuance. He observed that to understand this issue one must understand Islam’s complex identity politics. He said: “You mention, for instance, that Muslims view themselves as a single, global community. Do they? For how long has this been the case? What about the quite extensive Algerian-Egyptian violence in the past year, ostensibly over the result of a soccer match? What about the strong Arab Nationalist movements of the 20th century? What did their failure mean for the identity of these nations, particularly in a post-colonial environment?

“How, then can we understand Islamism, not as a religious movement (which it isn’t), but as an identity movement aimed at giving nations an identity which they had completely lost through the experience of colonisation? This is very fertile ground, particularly if you’re thinking about the persecution of Christians.

“What was the religious identity of the colonisers? What do you make of the oft-repeated claim from the Middle East to Malaysia that the colonial era set in motion discrimination against Muslims in favour of Christians that had to be undone once the colonisers left? Whatever the truth of these claims, one has to note their existence in understanding the identity politics of the countries in the OIC. And that, of course, is before we even get to George W Bush’s “crusade” from 2001.

“This, of course, is only a fraction of the story, and each nation will probably have local factors that are very important. For instance, it makes no sense trying to talk about the persecution of minorities under the Taliban without a discussion of ethnicity and tribal divisions, as distinct from religion. It makes no sense trying to talk about sectarianism in Iraq without exploring the impact of the US invasion in bringing these to the fore.”

So there’s my blog-style over-simplification at least partly skewered. Yet my initial concern remains: minorities in many Muslim countries need help — now. Soon there will be almost no Christians in the region that gave their religion birth. And Christians have much to learn from the way so many Muslims are concerned for their co-religionists everywhere, however inadequate and politicised this is.

Over to you: Do you agree with the way I have described the issues? What have I missed? Have you any solutions? Can and should the West do more, and if so what?

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20101201

Financial Crisis
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» George Soros and His Evil Empire
» Is [Modern] Liberalism Truly a Mental Disorder?
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» NYC ‘Harvesting Organs’ During Some 9-1-1 Calls
» The Conservative Blind Spot
» Washington Watch: What the Leaks Really Reveal
 
Canada
» Stolen Menorah Lights Up Student Fundraising Drive
 
Europe and the EU
» Dutch Government Subsidy for Intifada Group
» France: Sarkozy’s Staff ‘Diverted Plane So He Didn’t See Eiffel Tower Lit Up in Turkish Colours’
» Fresh Scandal for Swedish Royal Family After Nazi Past of Queen’s Father is Revealed by TV Documentary by Allan Hall in Berlin
» Germany: Scientist Hits on Recycling Plan for Vital ‘Rare Earth’ Metals
» Italy: The City of Milan Has Set Aside 1 Milion Euros for Surveillance Cameras
» Italy: Clinton and Berlusconi Patch Up Any Wikileaks Problems
» Italy: Aspiring Priest Kills Himself
» Italy: Running Battles in Rome as Students Sow More Chaos
» Italy: Muslim Says He Will Run for Mayor of Milan
» Pipes: You Can’t Fight Islamism With Ideas Coming Out of Europe
» Spain Arrests at Least 7 With Suspected Links to Mumbai Attacks
» Survey: Germans More Negative About Muslims Than Their Neighbours
» Sweden: Dad Gets Jail for Son’s Visit Home
» The Civil War Among Muslims in Britain
» UK Shamed as the Violent Crimes Capital of Europe
» UK: Bungling Police Arrive at Crime Scene… And Eat the Evidence
» UK: David Cameron on Radicalised Muslims: We Let in Some Crazies … And Didn’t Wake Up Soon Enough
» UK: Empowering Islamists
» UK: Eviction Time at the Gipsy Camp … But It’s Protesting Villagers, Not Travellers, Under Threat
» UK: Hot Off the Press: Unlocked Copy of Lambert’s Islamophobia Report
» UK: It’s a Black Christmas Now
» UK: Lambert and Githens-Mazer: Lutfur Rahman and Hizb ut Tahrir
» UK: MCB Response to Media Inquiries Regarding Grand Mufti’s Appointment
» UK: Pilot of UKIP Leader Nigel Farage Crash Plane is Charged With Threatening to Kill Him and Air Investigator
» UK: The Islamist’s Last Throw of the Dice: Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s New Report
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North Africa
» Turkish PM Erdogan Receives Al-Gaddafi Human Rights Award
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Has the Obama Administration Failed Again?: No Freeze, No Talks, No Competence
 
Middle East
» Arab Media Play Down Wikileaks Reports of Support for Iran War
» Iran Executes Woman Accused of Murdering Lover’s Wife
» Iraq: Christian Mosul Shopkeeper Killed by Gunmen
» Man Held After Touching Girl’s Hand in Saudi
» No Need for Women to Cover Up: Saudi Police
» The Ultimate Prank or a Trick of the Light? Outrage in Iran After Satellite Image Shows Star of David on Airport Roof
» Wiki Secret: U.S. Distrusts Turkey’s PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan
» Wikileaks Cables: Saudi Arabia Wants Military Rule in Pakistan
» Wikileaks Cables: Reading Between the Lines
» Yemen: Detained ‘Al-Qaeda Militant’ Released in Exchange for Kidnapped Doctor
 
Russia
» ‘Top Dog’ And a Vengeful Harpy
 
Caucasus
» Wikileaks: Italy’s 2008 Position on Ossetia ‘Irritated’ U.S.
 
South Asia
» Afghanistan: Two Afghan Converts to Christianity Risk the Death Penalty
» Bangladesh: Imam Rapes Ten-Year-Old Girl
» Indonesia: Islamic Students ‘Embrace Liberalism’ While Science Students Are ‘Drawn to Fundamentalism’
» Pakistan: Asia Bibi Fears for Her Life, While Awaiting a Government Decision
» Pakistan Mother Denied Presidential Pardon for ‘Insulting Islam’
» Six Killed in Attack in Pakistan
 
Immigration
» Italy: Immigrants Make Up 8% of Payrolls and Their Numbers Are ‘Increasing’
 
Culture Wars
» Italian Women Battle for the Middle Ground
» Penis Boxing Video Game to Promote Safe Sex
» Pentagon Report on ‘Gays’ Rigged?
» Sweden: Wrong to Ban Student With Niqab: Ombudsman
» UK: Former Archbishop Lord Carey: We Mustn’t be Ashamed of Christmas in These Politically Correct Times
 
General
» How to Create Temperatures Below Absolute Zero
» Quantum Uncertainty Controls ‘Action at a Distance’
» Super-Earth’s Atmosphere Analysed for First Time
» Top Science Panel Caught in Another Global Warming Data Fraud

Financial Crisis


Stocks Gain in Broad Rally After Bond Sale; Dow Rises 2.27%

Stocks on Wall Street rallied broadly on Wednesday after positive developments in Europe and encouraging economic reports in the United States and Asia gave investors new confidence.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 249.76 points, or about 2.27 percent, to close at 11,255.78 in preliminary figures, while broader indexes like the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite posted gains of more than 2 percent. The bullish trading on Wall Street followed strong gains across Europe and Asia.

Positive signs cited by analysts included a strong manufacturing report from China, new comments from the European central bank and improving payroll and productivity statistics from the United States. But the biggest catalyst appeared to be a successful sale of government debt by Portugal, regarded as one of the most vulnerable of the nations using the euro currency.

[Return to headlines]

USA


Frank Gaffney: New START, Old Stratagem

Here we go again. President Obama is trying once again to ram a legislative initiative through Congress knowing full well that, by so doing, he is maximizing the chances that his project’s defects will not become widely understood until it is too late to do much about them. Call it the pig-in-a-poke stratagem.

This time around, however, Mr. Obama is not simply trying to socialize the economy, destroy the world’s finest health care system or assault the Constitution. No, at the moment he has the national security in his crosshairs — and the negative implications could make those associated with his other, domestic policy campaigns pale by comparison.

Specifically, the President is determined to with “rid the world of nuclear weapons” — and he is intent on securing the U.S. Senate’s imprimatur for this truly hare-brained idea. That is the real impetus behind his insistence that senators rubber-stamp during the lame-duck session the so-called “New START” arms control treaty that Mr. Obama signed with his Russian counterpart last April…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]



George Soros and His Evil Empire

Exposing the real power behind the radical transformation of America

To conservatives, he’s the evil emperor in “Star Wars” — the Empire’s shadowy and malevolent puppet-master, the real power behind the widespread subversion and destruction of freedom, prosperity and hope.

But to hundreds of organizations on the political and moral left, he is literally their lifeblood, a revered leader, a godfather — almost a god, who provides good things for his children.

[…]

In short, says Kupelian, “if it’s immoral, subversive or harmful to America, Soros favors it, organizes it and funds it. If it’s noble and freedom-producing, like free markets and small government, he despises it and creates organizations to undermine and ultimately destroy it. This issue of Whistleblower shines intense daylight on all of this.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Is [Modern] Liberalism Truly a Mental Disorder?

Michael Savage gets clinical support for his best-selling diagnosis

WASHINGTON — In 2006, radio talk-show icon Michael Savage released a book that quickly climbed to the top of the best-seller charts.

It was called “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.” His critics characteristically derided him for rhetorical overkill.

But later that same year another book was released with much less fanfare by a celebrated psychiatrist offering clinical evidence that supported Savage’s diagnosis.

It was called “The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness,” written by Dr. Lyle Rossiter.

Two very different perspectives — same conclusion.

Whether or not you agree that liberalism is a mental disorder, you owe it to yourself to examine the evidence.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Latino Leaders Swirl Around Idea of Tequila Party

Acknowledging the source of their inspiration, Latino leaders have dubbed the proposed movement the “Tequila Party.” These Hispanic leaders have noticed that while the Tea Party has had spotty electoral success, it has called attention to its concerns and values and put the establishment on notice. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but there’s talk,” said Fernando Romero, president of the nonpartisan Hispanics in Politics, Nevada’s oldest Hispanic political group. “There’s discussion about empowerment of the Latino vote.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



NYC ‘Harvesting Organs’ During Some 9-1-1 Calls

Pilot program designed to increase kidney donations from heart-attack patients

“Hey buddy! Spare a kidney?”

New York City today is launching a new program to put a roving Organ Preservation Unit in the field to harvest kidneys from people who die after going into cardiac arrest.

The move has prompted immediate alarm from critics, who say they are concerned New York City might be taking the first steps into the organ harvesting business.

One critical blog already has termed the program “Mayor Bloomberg’s Organ Snatchers,” asking what difference there is “in practical terms between the government letting you die and pressuring your relatives to give you the organs” and having a private third-party brokering a sale of organs.

In the United States, organ brokering is strictly illegal.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



The Conservative Blind Spot

There is a blind spot in the main stream Conservative movement that threatens everything the movement says it stands for. The blind spot is refusal to acknowledge the threat of Sustainable Development, the policy of the UN’s Agenda 21 that now permeates into every American city. Somehow, the Conservative leaders who have always been there to fight off such utopian, socialist nightmares now seem to slumber blissfully in their ignorance at the very moment when vigilance is most urgently needed.

Sustainable Development is the greatest threat ever perpetrated against the American ideal of liberty. Sustainable Development is based entirely on the concept of wealth redistribution. Under Sustainable Development there can be no free enterprise, no individual liberty and no private property. If you doubt that, then here is a direct quote from the UN’s Habitat I 1976 conference where Sustainable Development was first being developed: “Land…cannot be treaded as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principle instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth, therefore, contributes to social injustice.” That quote alone should bring the libertarians to battle-ready.

[…]

Sustainable Development is not a partisan issue. Both parties are guilty of its enforcement. The Bush Administration did more to help entrench Sustainable Development policies than the Clinton Administration could have hoped for. Of course, Obama continues the assault.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Washington Watch: What the Leaks Really Reveal

We didn’t need WikiLeaks’ dump of a quarter million State Department cables to tell us that its Arab neighbors are terrified of Iran and want “the head of the snake cut off,” in the words of the Saudi king, but they expect the US or Israel to do the job because they lack the courage to do it themselves.

Bahrain’s King Hamid urged the US to “terminate” Iran’s nuclear program “by whatever means necessary,” according to the cables, and similar views were reported by top officials in Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.

Arab leaders may publicly embrace — literally — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the cables leave little doubt they loathe and fear him. Adding to the sense of urgency are reports that China and North Korea are doing even more than previously believed to help Iran develop long-range ballistic missiles, chemical weapons and nuclear technology, and threats from Gulf Arabs that if we don’t take care of Iran they’ll feel compelled to develop their own nuclear weapons.

The document dump gives new credence to Israeli warnings and exposes the Arabs as duplicitous on the most critical issue facing their region. They leave little doubt they’d prefer Israel eliminate the Iranian threat, but just as sure as Allah made little green apples you know they would fiercely denounce the hated Zionists for their brutal attack on a dear Muslim brother.

THERE’S PRECEDENT. The first time Israel thwarted the nuclear ambitions of a brutal dictator, it was universally condemned — and the chorus was led by the US. In response to Arab demands, president Ronald Reagan directed his UN ambassador to work with the Iraqis on a Security Council resolution condemning the 1981 raid that destroyed Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor.

Publicly the Arab world united in its condemnation of the Jewish state but a few days later when a CIA briefer was asked by members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the Arab reaction to the Israeli attack, he replied, “Booyea.”

Puzzled lawmakers asked him to translate that into English. “Publicly they’re booing Israel and privately they’re cheering,” he explained.

It is obvious today that the raid did at least as much to protect Saudi Arabia and Iran from an Iraqi nuclear threat as it did Israel. Saddam waited nearly a decade for revenge, launching Scud missiles at Israel during the Gulf War in 1991.

The second Israeli nuclear non-proliferation act was Operation Orchard, the September 2007 attack on a Syrian reactor, believed built with the help of Iran and North Korea. Unlike 1981, Israel didn’t announce its attack to the world, but a few weeks later the Bush administration, which had refused to do the job itself, did.

Russia and China say they don’t want Iran to get nuclear weapons, but their actions are having an opposite effect. They are Iran’s chief enablers, protecting it from more intense international pressure.

China is the greater problem; along with its own rogue ally, North Korea, it is helping Iran acquire long-range ballistic missiles and chemical weapons capabilities, the leaked documents reveal. Iran’s missile capability is greater than previously known publicly.

Israel has been accused of being behind moves to impede Iran’s nuclear program, according to media reports, including the sale of faulty equipment for uranium enrichment, the Stuxnet computer worm that damaged centrifuges and attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists, including two earlier this week.

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU welcomed to exposure of what Arab leaders are saying in private as proof they agree with him about the Iranian threat, and he expressed hope they’d now say it publicly. Don’t hold your breath, Bibi. The Saudi media didn’t mention a word of what Arab leaders are saying, but it was available on the Arabic-language service out of Iran and elsewhere.

Atlantic.com’s Jeffrey Goldberg makes an interesting point: The WikiLeaks dump disproves those who say “it is only Israel advocating for war against Iran” when in fact “the most strident lobbyists for war against Iran have been Arab leaders.”

Another victim of the leaks is Israel-bashers like Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser, who repeatedly warn that an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities would create anti-Israel “resentment” in the region and damage US-Israel relations. It appears that just the opposite may be the case.

The Obama administration has said Arab leaders have told it that progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace would make regional cooperation against the Iranian threat easier, yet when the president personally pleaded with the Saudi king to act on that he was rebuffed.

King Abdullah, who claims authorship of the Arab Peace Initiative, has repeatedly refused to offer some confidence building measures to encourage greater Israeli flexibility in the faltering peace process. Instead he sticks to his insistence that the Israeli government must meet Arab demands before the Saudis will even speak to it about peace.

It also shows that for all their talk about wanting the Israelis to make peace, their real concern is Iran. And the talk about peace may be just that — talk.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Canada


Stolen Menorah Lights Up Student Fundraising Drive

Jewish students at the University of Ottawa have rallied to build a new menorah after one was stolen from the university grounds on the weekend.

A three-metre menorah set up last week outside the UniCentre went missing on Saturday just days before the Jewish holiday of Hannukah, which is today. The menorah was later found in front of the Father & Sons restaurant on Osgoode Street, near the university campus.

The metal and wire religious structure was too badly damaged and could not be returned.

“It’s all smashed up, it was part of a student prank,” said Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky, the university’s rabbi.

Two unidentified individuals were captured on security cameras carting away the religious symbol.

Boyarsky said a fundraising campaign launched after the theft has so far raised about $800 donated by students.

It’s the third year the menorah has been erected on campus.

“We never had any problems before,” said Boyarsky. “We respect everyone’s culture and we really want our culture to be respected as well.”

He said the eight-branched candelabra is normally shipped from Brooklyn, New York and Jewish students at the university volunteer to assemble it. But there was no time to get a new one from the U.S. prior to the Jewish holiday, he said.

“The students are building a new one, it will be two feet bigger than the other menorah,” said Boyarsky, adding the students purchased the building materials.

“The irony of this is that students came out in big numbers to help and some of them were not even involved before.”

He said the menorah will be up in the same spot in time for today’s holiday.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Dutch Government Subsidy for Intifada Group

THE HAGUE, 02/12/10 — Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal will conduct a “fiery meeting” with the Dutch aid organisation ICCO on reports that it gives money to anti-Israeli activists. A leftwing Green (GroenLinks) MP has played a remarkable role in the question.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper recently reported that ICCO, which is subsidised by the Dutch government, is said to give money to Electronic Intifada, an international Internet organisation that fights for the Palestinian cause. The positions on the site are “diametrically” opposed to those of the Dutch government, Rosenthal said in the corridors of the Lower House. He wants to know whether ICCO indeed uses subsidy funds for Electronic Intifada.

According to ICCO, the 50,000 euros for Electronic Intifada has come from private means from this year. From 2006 through 2009, the total sum involved was 150,000. This money was indeed subsidy money from the foreign ministry, according to an ICCO spokesman.

ICCO says there is no evidence whatever that Electronic Intifada is anti-Semitic. The group was set up in February 2001, among others by Arjan El Fassed, who has since become a GroenLinks MP.

El Fassed himself worded for ICCO from 1999 to April 2001. Until the beginning of 2010, the GroenLInks MP was involved with Electronic Intifada “voluntarily and unpaid,” he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



France: Sarkozy’s Staff ‘Diverted Plane So He Didn’t See Eiffel Tower Lit Up in Turkish Colours’

Nicolas Sarkozy’s staff were so scared of angering him that they diverted his plane so he did not see the Eiffel Tower when it was lit in the Turkish colours during a state visit.

In U.S. memos released to WikiLeaks, the French President is described as a self-absorbed and undiplomatic man who strikes fear into his staff.

He is seen as an ‘erratic’ ruler who frightens the Elysee to the extent that they are too scared ‘to point out when the emperor is less than fully dressed’.

In cables that paint a colourful picture of him, President Sarkozy is depicted as a hyperactive man who has an ‘authoritarian’ style which does not always go down well with foreign dignitaries.

A memo sent to Hillary Clinton in December 2009 by ambassador Charles Rivkin said almost anything is done to keep him happy.

It read: ‘Elysee contacts have reported to us the great lengths they will go to avoid disagreeing with him or provoking his displeasure — even recently reportedly re-routing the president’s plane to avoid his seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up in Turkey’s colours on the visit of PM (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan.’

It had been turned red and white in honour of the foreign visitor — but the move risked angering Sarkozy who is against the Turks joining the European Union.

The report added that the President would demote those within his cabinet who disagreed with him.

It said he ‘has few restraints — political, personal or ideological — to act as a brake on his global ambitions.’

A European diplomat wrote that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said following a meeting with the French leader: ‘Just being in a room with Sarkozy is enough to make anyone’s stress levels increase.’

The personal criticism contained in the classified documents was last night threatening to harm relations between France and the U.S.

Sarkozy has worked hard to patch up their differences following President Chiraq’s clash with George Bush over the Iraq war in 2003.

But laying bare his complex personality, a leaked memo sent to Barack Obama in March last year described the French President as ‘a pragmatist and an activist, he can be brilliant, impatient, undiplomatic, hard to predict, charming, innovative and summit prone.’

Sarkozy, elected in 2007, saw his popularity slump after a quick marriage to Carla Bruni after he had split from his second wife, the cables said.

The focus on his ‘billionaire lifestyle affair’ did not go down well with the French public — and in the secret documents it was described as ‘a major miscalculation in image management’.

Just six months after he was elected, a memo sent to George Bush questioned whether his divorce from his wife Cecilia was having a negative impact on his presidency.

‘On permanent overdrive and intense in the best of times, Sarkozy’s recent divorce raises questions about his ability to maintain equilibrium and focus,’ the Guardian revealed.

‘Sarkozy has himself spoken of his dependence on Cecilia — ‘my source of strength and my achilles heel, as he put it.

‘During their separation in 2005, a highly irritable, darker Sarkozy came into view — the same one that reapeared at the Lisbon summit the day after the announcement of the divorce.’

The report concluded he would get over his personal difficulties.

Sarkozy’s plan to bring his partner was not well received in the culturally conservative country when he went to improve his relationship with King Abdullah in January 2008.

The US embassy in Rabat reported in a secret cable that the visit had not gone perfectly.

‘While Sarkozy was generally well received, there was much gossip in Moroccan salons about a “too relaxed” President slouching confortably in his chair as he and the King presidened over a 22 October signing ceremony at the Royal palace in Marrakech.

‘In one image, Sarkozy was seen crossing his legs and pointing the sole of his shoe at the king — a taboo gesture in the Islamic world.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Fresh Scandal for Swedish Royal Family After Nazi Past of Queen’s Father is Revealed by TV Documentary by Allan Hall in Berlin

Sweden’s royal family — recovering from revelations of the secret affair the king enjoyed with a pop singer — has been thrown into fresh turmoil over the Nazi past of the queen’s father.

Swedish TV4’s investigative programme Kalla fakta has broadcast the first of a two-part documentary detailing how Queen Silvia’s late father grew rich producing armaments in a factory stolen from the Jews.

When she married in 1976 the Queen’s German father Walter Sommerlath denied he had ever been a member of the Nazi party. That fiction was exposed some years later by a Swedish newspaper which proved he joined the movement in 1934.

Earlier this year Queen Silvia spoke for the first time about it in a TV documentary in which she said he was not ‘politically active’ and that the factory he ran produced toy trains and hair dryers, as well as parts for gas masks for civilians.

She said he did not take the factory over from Jewish owners.

Now the revelations about Sommerlath, who was living in Brazil at the time he joined the Nazis and only returned to Germany on the eve of war, have plunged the royals into a new crisis.

Swedish investigative journalist Bosse Schön says, ‘The truth about Queen Silvia’s father, which she doesn’t want to tell herself or her family, is that he joined Hitler’s Nazi party beginning on December 1st, 1934.

‘Also, Queen Silvia’s father worked during his time in Brazil for the German company Acos-Burderus-do Brasil-Ltda, which used wartime prisoners as slave labour in Nazi Germany.’

Sommelath resettled in Berlin and on 24 May 1939 he took over the company Wechsler & Hennig.

Documents found by Kalla fakta show that Sommerlath took over the firm from Efim Wechsler, a Jew, and that this was part of the so-called ‘Ayranisation’ of such enterprises according to the Nuremberg Laws which stripped Jews of their rights and property.

He bought it at a knock-down price, as was common at the time. Jews needed the money to try to escape from Germany.

The documents also show that his factory produced items which were used by the Luftwaffe — ack-ack guns — and also parts for tanks.

Her brother Ralf told the newspaper Expressen that the Queen is ‘terribly upset’ and he calls the documentary ‘lies and slanders’.

He fumed that if all Swedes are like Mats Deland, one of the three documentary makers, he will never again visit Sweden and will tell his sister to ‘come home.’

The queen’s attempts earlier this year to play down the Nazi past of her father have led to fierce criticism of her in the media now, both in Germany and Sweden.

She has refused all comment but a statement was issued by the palace ahead of part two of the documentary which runs on Sunday night this coming weekend.

‘Concerning the discussions about Walther Sommerlath in the media, which deal with events which took place before the Queen was born, the Queen has no reason to comment on the content of the programme.

‘Of course The Queen is sorry about her father becoming a member of the National Socialist Party in 1934.

‘The Queen first got knowledge of his membership in adulthood, and she never had the opportunity to discuss this with her father.’

Her husband King Carl XVI Gustaf was recently exposed in a book over a secret affair he had with a pop singer.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Germany: Scientist Hits on Recycling Plan for Vital ‘Rare Earth’ Metals

Surrounded by smoking vats in his tumble-down factory in former communist East Germany, Wolfram Palitzsch sees a golden future in recycling “rare earths,” the metals crucial to gadgets such as mobile phones and TVs.

The 44-year-old scientist is exploring ways to extract the exotic metals that have spiked 300 percent in price over the past year, driven in part by trade tensions with China which enjoys a near-monopoly on their export.

“It’s incredible that almost no one has thought of this before,” Palitzsch said, pacing eagerly around bubbling test-tubes.

For the moment, his work is focused on recycling indium from solar panels.

Not catagorised as one of the precious rare earths, this metal is nonetheless needed to make flat-screen televisions. Like rare earths, its price has soared.

Using a technique he has patented, Palitzsch plunges the solar panels into a vat containing a special chemical solution, then collects the residue from which he extracts the valuable indium.

But he is already turning his attention to the extraction of europium — a rare earth used to produce the colour red in television screens — from the glowing white powder found in energy-saving light bulbs.

For years, he tried in vain to hawk the idea around German firms and eventually turned to Asia.

“I was invited to talk about my discoveries in Tokyo and I got the impression that the topic was considered much more interesting in Japan than here at home. We Germans are sometimes too slow on the uptake,” he said.

Tech giant Japan suffered most when China reportedly halted rare earth shipments to its Asian rival in September following a territorial row.

Beijing eventually restarted the flow and denied any embargo but the hiatus induced Tokyo to begin to look elsewhere for its supply, notably resource-rich Australia, which hopes to break Chinese production dominance.

Experts have warned that global demand will outstrip supply next year, with China’s own needs alone overtaking total global production by 2016.

As for Palitzsch, he got the idea of recycling the precious commodities while working for a firm that produced water treatment products that was being hammered by a spike in aluminium prices in 2007 and 2008.

He recalled how his father would scrupulously save the metallic caps on yoghurt pots and milk bottles and resell them.

With the help of some old university friends, who worked in the solar panel business that flourished in the former East Germany, he hit on the idea of recycling the aluminium in solar cells.

Palitzsch hopes soon to begin large-scale recycling of solar panels.

“We have to start thinking about this now, not in 25 years when we need to rebuild or dismantle all the solar parks,” he said.

Despite the initial dearth of interest in Germany, the economy ministry has awarded a grant of €85,000 to help Palitzsch and his boss, Ulrich Loser, to develop their ideas on an industrial scale.

But while Palitzsch is bullish, experts are more cautious.

Recycling rare earths “is very complex, I don’t believe recycling them can be done on a large scale in the short term,” said Volker Steinbach, a geologist at the German institute of raw materials.

“If there is any potential, it will be in the medium- to long-term.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: The City of Milan Has Set Aside 1 Milion Euros for Surveillance Cameras

Rome 26 Nov. (AKI) — Milan has set aside 1 million euros for surveillance cameras and new software in 14 districts of one of Italy’s largest cities and de facto Italian business capitol as it aims to beef up security against crime.

The city’s vice mayor Riccardo De Corato said the move sends an “important message” on behalf of city administration, underscoring its intention to increase with security measures, in particular via video surveillance.

The city hopes to pick up on petty and serious crime such as graffiti and street fights across 14 districts including high profile monuments or gathering places such as Piazza Duomo and Piazza della Scala, which will get five new cameras.

Cameras in 12 other areas, including the Milan’s central train station, will have their software updated.

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



Italy: Clinton and Berlusconi Patch Up Any Wikileaks Problems

Secretary of state says US ‘has no better friend’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 1 — United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday ironed out any differences which may have arisen from US diplomatic observations made public this week by Wikileaks with Clinton saying the US “has no better friend” than the premier. The two met on the sidelines of a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Among the thousands of confidential and secret diplomatic dispatches leaked by the whistle-blowing website were several from Italy, one in which Berlusconi was described as a “feckless, vain and ineffective European leader”.

He was also said to be “physically and politically weak” in part due to his “frequent late nights and hard partying which keep him from getting sufficient rest”.

In another document, a US diplomat claimed that Berlusconi was “increasingly becoming a mouthpiece for (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin in Europe” and the pair exchanged “lavish gifts”.

Concern was also expressed in the cables over an agreement between Italian fuels giant ENI and Russia’s Gazprom to build South Stream, a gigantic pipeline to link Russia and the EU by bypassing Ukraine.

Clinton was reported to have asked for information from the American embassies in Rome and Moscow on any possible personal investments in this and other projects by Berlusconi or Putin that could have a bearing on their respective countries’ foreign or economic policies.

In their meeting on Wednesday, Clinton told Berlusconi “we have no better friend. No one has supported America the way Berlusconi has through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Aspiring Priest Kills Himself

‘Not mature enough’, Vatican said

(ANSA) — Orvieto, December 1 — An aspiring priest has killed himself after the Vatican cancelled his ordination, his bishop said Wednesday.

Luca Seidita, 29, threw himself from a rocky outcrop in this central Italian hilltown Tuesday, shortly after learning that the Holy See had decided not to elevate him from his position as deacon.

Local media reported there had been “murmurings” he might be gay but Orvieto Bishop Giovanni Scanavino ruled this out.

“There were only some issues about friends of his,” Msgr Scanavino said.

“For me, he was ready to be a priest, but the Vatican said he wasn’t mature enough,” the prelate said.

Police said Seidita left a note saying he was taking his own life because of the Vatican decision.

“I wanted to become a priest and all my life was devoted to that,” he wrote.

“I am fragile and I ask for forgiveness,” Seidita added.

Bishop Scanavino said Seidita’s receiving a fax on Monday cancelling the ordination had been “an absolute drama” for the young man from Lecce in Puglia.

The bishop quoted Deacon Seidita as saying, “over and over again”: “What have I done, tell me what I’ve done”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Running Battles in Rome as Students Sow More Chaos

Berlusconi tells ANSA real students are at home with books

(ANSA) — Rome, November 30 — Running battles in central Rome were part of nationwide chaos sown by students in another day of protest on Tuesday when the government’s contested package of education reforms and cuts will be voted on in the Lower House.

Protesters threw stones, bottles, eggs and vegetables at police blockades, let off smoke bombs and tried to overturn two armour-plated vehicles in the area of the capital near the Lower House.

The police responded with baton charges and tear gas, as scared tourists and passers-by sought refuge in shops. The blockades were set up to stop people reaching the area of the Italian parliament after a group managed to breach the main entrance of the Senate last week.

Last Thursday demonstrators also stormed the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa and on Friday St Mark’s Basilica in Venice as part of a long series of days of action. Tuesday’s demonstrations caused major inconvenience for the Roman public, as they coincided with a public transport strike and led to huge traffic jams.

There were also clashes with police at demonstrations in Genoa and Bologna, where students were stopped before reaching the rail station after having blocked a major highway. Train services were disrupted by students staging sit-ins on tracks in several cities, including Rome, Parma, Pisa, Perugia, Venice, Padua and Trieste, and three Milan metro stations were closed for over an hour. Demonstrations also caused big traffic problems in many cities, especially Palermo, another protest hot spot.

The action went beyond Italy’s borders too, with Italian Erasmus students in Paris hanging a banner against the reform bill from the city’s famous Arc de Triomphe monument.

Students say the reforms which, among other things, will seek to increase links between schools, universities and businesses, amount to privatisation of state education.

They say the cuts it features threaten to strangle the system, especially research departments.

Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini counters that her reform package will increase transparency in recruitment, boost efficiency, reward merit and slim down a bloated system in which too many teachers are cruising in jobs for life.

She said that rather than helping the students’ cause, the protesters are effectively fighting on behalf of the almost feudal ‘baronies’ that reportedly have a stranglehold in many universities and which she is seeking to dismantle.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi backed the package Tuesday and blasted the demonstrators as slackers.

“The reform in parliament is a good one that helps students, teachers and the whole academic world in general,” Berlusconi told ANSA.

“It has to be approved if we want to finally modernise our higher education sector.

“The real students are at home studying. Those out protesting are from (left-wing) social centres and they are lagging in their studies”.

The centre-left opposition, which opposes the reform, condemned the premier for allegedly provoking the students with his comments.

Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the Democratic Party, the biggest opposition group, added that the imposing police blockades in Rome had raised tensions.

“I’ve never seen Rome resembling a military zone like this,” Bersani said. “If we’ve reached this level of tension it’s because of the irresponsibility of the government, which has lost its head and its grip on the country’s problems.

“I’m convinced the government won’t be able to carry this reform through to application”. The House is expected to give its approval to Gelmini’s bill later on Tuesday before passing it over to the Senate, which should give the final green light next week.

The government suffered a minor setback earlier Tuesday when it failed to block an amendment to the bill in the House.

The amendment was tabled by the Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) party led by House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, who has split from the People of Freedom (PdL) party he founded with Premier Silvio Berlusconi, leaving the government in danger of collapse.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Muslim Says He Will Run for Mayor of Milan

The director of the an Islamic cultural centre in Milan on Wednesday declared he will run for mayor of the industrial city in Italy’s north making him the first Muslim mayoral candidate of a major Italian city.

Abdel Hamid Shaari, who runs the Islamic centre that is also known as the Mosque of Viala Jenner, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that he will be the candidate for mayor on a list that includes Italians and immigrants in the March local elections.

He will hold a press conference in Milan on Thursday to make an official announcement about his list named “New Milan.”

Shaari stressed that that he should not be considered a religious candidate.

“Our list has lay and non-religious candidates,” he said.

Milan had 208,021 immigrants making up 16 percent of its population, according to a September report by the Milan city council. Many of the immigrants are Muslims from North Africa.

Milan and much of Italy’s north is the stronghold of the Northern League anti-immigrant political party.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Pipes: You Can’t Fight Islamism With Ideas Coming Out of Europe

Citizen Times: Mr. Pipes, you head various organizations concerning the Middle East and Islam, and are one of the best known American writers on these subjects. How did this all begin for you?

Daniel Pipes: I am a historian of Islam with a special interest in the role of Islam in public life. I received my Ph.D. in 1978, just as Ayatollah Khomeini appeared. For the first time in modern history, Islam had a large and obvious role in Western public life. What had been in the 1970s an abstract interest turned very practical. Islamic matters subsequently became very topical. That prompted me to transit from medieval history to current events. While I cover many other topics besides Islam, Islam remains central to my interests. I have a perspective I hope is useful to understand the role of Islam in politics.

Citizen Times: And what is that perspective?

Daniel Pipes: That Islam is deeply important to the public lives of Muslims. That Islam is a religion of laws, and those laws are quite permanent and universal. That they are not the same everywhere at all times, but the basics are consistent. That there are times of greater emphasis and times of lesser emphasis but Muslims always come back to these laws. Now, of course, is a time of greater emphasis. Islamic laws have far greater power than they had when I entered this field over forty years ago. How does one understand this change; how do Muslims view it, and how does the West respond to it? — these are some of the questions that I focus on.

Citizen Times: You emphasize the difference between Islam and Islamism. Why?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Spain Arrests at Least 7 With Suspected Links to Mumbai Attacks

Spain’s Interior Ministry says police have arrested at least seven people suspected of ties to the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that left 166 people dead.

Spanish media report the arrests took place late Tuesday and early Wednesday in and around the northeastern city of Barcelona. They say the arrested are mostly Pakistanis nationals and are suspected of falsifying passports and other identification documents.

The suspects are accused of sending money and the fake documents to the Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, the organization accused of carrying out the November 2008 attacks on luxury hotels, a rail station, a Jewish center, and a restaurant.

Nine of the 10 attackers were killed during the 60-hour siege. The surviving terrorist has been sentenced to death.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Survey: Germans More Negative About Muslims Than Their Neighbours

Berlin — Germans view Muslims and their religion more negatively than some of their European neighbours do, according to a survey released Wednesday.

‘Compared to France, the Netherlands and Denmark, there is a more rigid and intolerant understanding of extrinsic religions in Germany,’ sociologist Detlef Pollack, who led the study by the University of Muenster told the weekly Zeit newspaper.

Pollack said most Germans entirely disagreed with a recent statement by President Christian Wulff that Islam ‘belongs to Germany.’

Fewer than 5 per cent of Germans thought Islam was a tolerant religion, compared to 20 per cent of Danes, French and Dutch, the survey found.

While 50 per cent of Danes and two-thirds of French and Dutch respondents approved of the building of mosques, fewer than 30 per cent of Germans said they did.

In Denmark, France and the Netherlands, a clear majority of respondents viewed Muslims positively.

In Germany however, 34 per cent of those surveyed in the west of the country had a positive view of Muslims. In former communist east the figure was 26 per cent.

The findings follow intense debate in recent months over the level of integration of Muslims in Germany. Senior politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have said that immigrants must do more to learn the German language, laws and customs.

The survey polled 1,000 people in each of the four countries.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Dad Gets Jail for Son’s Visit Home

‘Only menace here is government drunk with its own power’

A father has been jailed and is facing a trial where he could be sent to prison for up to 10 years after bringing his son, who was “state-napped” by police on the instructions from social services workers in 2009, back to his home for a day-and-a-half visit with relatives.

The situation involving Christer Johansson has been detailed on the Friends of Dominic Johansson website assembled in support of the child, now 9, and his family.

But the response of the government in Sweden to Johansson’s decision to spend some time with his son has outraged two international organizations, both based in the U.S., whose officials have been working on the case.

“Despite the ill-advised decision on the part of Mr. Johansson, the only menace here is a government drunk with its own power,” said Roger Kiska, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which is working on a legal challenge to Sweden’s actions in the European Court of Human Rights.

“No one in Swedish government seems to be paying attention as this system tramples this poor family into the dirt,” added Michael Donnelly, with the Home School Legal Defense Association. “It’s incredible that after taking Dominic off a plane because he was being homeschooled in June 2009 he is still not home. This is an outrage that all free people should condemn.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



The Civil War Among Muslims in Britain

The previous government’s controversial programme for preventing violent extremism is currently being reviewed by the Home Office. How did it happen that programmes which were introduced with the aim of promoting “community cohesion” and preventing the influence of violent extremists ended up achieving the opposite of what they set out to achieve? Since the introduction of such programmes British Muslim communities have been engaged in what is effectively a ‘civil war’ which has left young Muslims (the intended beneficiaries of the programmes) further marginalised and more vulnerable to extremist ideas.

On November 8 2006, in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings, I shared a platform with the then Secretary of State for the Home Office, John Reid, and Ruth Kelly at a conference held at the British Academy. I warned that if the fragmented nature of the Muslim communities in Britain was overlooked the government’s strategy would end up funding a ‘civil war’ between Muslims, and that a secular government should not be drawn into the debate on how Islam is interpreted or which Islamic theological school should be promoted. Unfortunately, this appears to have been the unintended outcome of the previous strategy for preventing violent extremism.

There has since been an assumption that Muslims can easily be divided into two crude categories: the good “moderate Muslim” and the bad “extremist” Muslim, and that the problem of extremism can be solved by pouring money on the “good Muslim” in order to neutralize the “bad Muslim”. The announcement in October 2007 that £70 million would be spent by the government on preventing violent extremism over three years unleashed a gold rush among the different and opposing Muslim sects in Britain. Since then each sect has been presenting itself as the “moderate” voice of Islam while demonising its rivals as the “extremists”.

What is at stake is the definition of “extremism”. For example, Barelvi Muslims have been defining “extremism” as what their historical enemies, Deobandi Muslims, believe. Likewise Sufi Muslim groups have grabbed on the funding opportunity presented by the government’s Prevent programme to settle old theological scores with their arch rivals, Salafi Muslims.

Nowhere has this been more reflected than in the way that radicalisation and extremism have been covered in some of the TV documentaries produced in Britain in the past 4 years where Barelvi and other Sufi sources have been used to investigate extremism among Deobandis or Salafis. However, the reality is more complex than what is often reported. Soon after the 7/7 bombings a Salafi organisation in Birmingham was the first Muslim organisation to print and distribute a collection of fatwas titled “The Corruption of Terrorism and Suicide Bombings: Exposing the Perpetrators of Evil” which attacked and condemned the 7/7 bombers as evil. In June 2008 Deobandi theologians based at the spiritual home of the Taliban, the influential ultra-conservative Islamic seminary at Deoband, India, issued a detailed Fatwa condemning terrorism and suicide attacks as the “most inhuman crime” which should be eradicated from society. Specialists on Islamic theology agree that the Salafi and Deobandi fatwas are more likely to succeed in challenging the extremist ideology than the widely publicised fatwa published early this year by the Pakistani-born Barelvi theologian Sheikh Tahir ul-Qadri http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/sheikh-issues-fatwa-against-all-terrorists-1915000.html .

The Taliban, Al-Qaida and their affiliate organisations justify their violence by drawing upon Deobandi and Salafi interpretations of Islamic texts. Thus, Deobandi and Salafi fatwas against violent extremism are more effective in delegitimizing extremist groups than fatwas and theological arguments from Sufi scholars such as Tahir al-Qadri and others however well-meaning they may be.

It is tempting to view Sufi Islam as the cuddly and apolitical expression of Islam that should be promoted among all Muslims in Britain as a strategy of dealing with the problem of violent extremism. Such an approach is dangerous. It can be argued that the religious quietism adopted by Sufis (both within the Barelvi and Deobandi communities) is what is driving young Muslims into the hands of extremists. Anyone who has studied religious quietism in different faiths knows that it always produces more radical expressions of the faith.

Not wanting to be accused of promoting extremist ideas, soon after the 7/7 bombings most Sunni Mosque committees across the UK imposed a total ban on political discussions in the Mosques. This means that young Muslims are now without an open and safe platform where they can express their political views and have such views examined or challenged by others. They have instead retreated into their bedrooms to search for answers on extremist internet forums. On the other hand Shi’a Mosques and Imams in the UK continue to engage in healthy debates on matters relating to domestic and foreign policy. Could this explain why young British Shi’as have not been vulnerable to violent extremist ideas in the way that Sunnis have?

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK Shamed as the Violent Crimes Capital of Europe

More than three times as many rapes, sexual assaults, robberies and physical assaults were recorded in the UK compared with our closest rival France, according to European Commission data.

Britain also had the highest number of burglaries and one of the lowest numbers of police officers per head of population.

The disturbing statistics were published yesterday by the Commission’s statistical arm Eurostat.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



UK: Bungling Police Arrive at Crime Scene… And Eat the Evidence

Police officers wolfed down pizzas at a crime scene without realising they had been ordered by the very suspects they had been hunting, a court heard.

They bought the two deep pan pizzas at a reduced price from a delivery boy after the gang who ordered them refused to answer the door.

The Old Bailey heard the food had been ordered by the gang from the Hertfordshire house they were holding a drug dealer hostage, in April.

The victim was beaten and bound to a chair and battered across the face with frying pans.

During his ordeal the gang ordered a Domino’s pizza but before the food arrived the victim escaped through a window and raised the alarm at a nearby building site.

Police arrived to find the delivery boy and then ‘ate the evidence’ outside the house.

The following day another officer found the boxes in the boot of the police car.

‘The address was written on the pizza box, together with the time, 5.13pm, and a mobile telephone number,’ said prosecutor Sally Meaking-McLeod.

The empty boxes were seized and produced in court as an exhibit for the jury to examine.

Opening the case, Ms Meaking-McLeod said: ‘Because the pizza delivery man could not deliver the pizzas, the police who were at the scene did not realise the significant potential of this evidence so they offered to buy the pizzas at a reduced rate for themselves and ate them, putting the boxes in the back of a police car.

‘It was only subsequently that the pizza boxes were found in the back of a police car and a phone number was found on one of them and it came to light that the officers had eaten the evidence.’

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: David Cameron on Radicalised Muslims: We Let in Some Crazies … And Didn’t Wake Up Soon Enough

[…]

On 9 April 2009, Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, met Cameron and George Osborne in London “to urge HMG [under possible future Conservative leadership] to engage more on Pakistan”.

Holbrooke pressed Cameron to help combat terrorism by capitalising on the “striking connections” between the large Pakistani community in the UK and “its home country”.

“Cameron noted that most of the approximately 1 million UK citizens of Pakistani origin (mostly Punjabis and Kashmiris) living in the UK were not pro-Taliban but had been radicalised by the Iraq war and were militant over Kashmir. The Conservative party leader agreed that HMG ‘must get UK-Pakistan relations right’ and stressed the Conservatives’ commitment to this goal should they assume power.”

Cameron went on to criticise Labour’s dealing with groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Muslim Council of Britain. “On the radicalisation of British Pakistanis, Cameron said the UK had ‘gotten it wrong domestically’ … He argued that PM [Gordon] Brown’s policy had been too willing to engage with radicalised but non-violent Muslim groups … ‘We let in some crazies,’ Cameron said, ‘and didn’t wake up soon enough.’“

[JP note: But really … will the politicians in the UK ever wake up? Or will they continue to be hamstrung by left-liberal pieties?]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Empowering Islamists

The East London Mosque is among Britain’s most extreme Islamic institutions. Built with financial aid from Saudi Arabia, the sprawling facility is home to the London Muslim Center where incendiary preachers are regularly welcomed. On Monday, the East London Mosque hosted a very different kind of visitor—the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, Louis Susman. Urged by President Barack Obama to engage with British Muslims, Mr. Susman spoke of his “great admiration” for the mosque and his enthusiasm for meeting its staff.

By any measure the East London mosque is a troubling institution. Last year, for example, it hosted an event titled “The End of Time: A New Beginning,” where pamphlets were distributed showing Manhattan crumbling under a Hadean apocalypse of meteors, which shattered the Statute of Liberty asunder and set the city ablaze. One of the invited speakers, Khalid Yasin, described the beliefs of Christians and Jews as “filth.” Most worryingly, the event also featured a live video question-and-answer session with Anwar Al Awlaki, the U.S.-born preacher aligned with al Qaeda.

Awlaki’s terrorist credentials rival those of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Two of the 9/11 terrorists as well as Major Nidal Hasan, who murdered 13 U.S. soldiers in Fort Hood last year, attended his sermons in Washington. From his new base in Yemen, Awlaki called Major Hasan a “hero” and boasted of having directed the “underpants bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in his bid to blow up a Delta airlines flight last Christmas.

Last year was not the first time Awlaki’s vitriol resonated through the East London Mosque. In 2003 the mosque hosted him for an event on policing where he told the audience that “A Muslim is a brother of a Muslim, he does not oppress him, he does not betray him and he does not hand him over… You don’t hand over a Muslim to the enemies.” The enemies in this context were the police.

A trustee of the East London Mosque, Azad Ali, has been quite explicit about his feelings in this regard. “I really do love [Awlaki] for the sake of Allah, he has an uncanny way of explaining things to people which is endearing” Azad Ali said, before going on to support the killing of British and U.S. troops in Iraq.

Mr. Susman’s visit illustrates the blunders Western politicians often make by reaching out to the wrong Muslim “dialogue partners.” The U.S. ambassador could have easily found out about the mosque’s sympathies for reactionary Islamism by consulting the British government. A report published last year by the Department for Communities and Local Government on the Pakistani Muslim community in England states that “the East London Mosque [is] the key institution for the Bangladeshi wing of JI [Jamaat-e Islami] in the U.K.”

Jamaat-e Islami is the radical South Asian party created by Syed Abulala Maududi, which aims to create an Islamist theocracy. The Bangladeshi government is currently investigating scores of Jamaat members for alleged war crimes during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

None of this should come as a surprise to Mr. Susman. Congressional reports from as far back as 1993 have warned of Jamaat’s links to terrorism, particularly in Kashmir.

Ironically, two years ago Jamaat was virtually eliminated as a political force in Bangladesh, winning just two out of 300 seats. By contrast, their allies in Britain still claim to speak for British Muslims while their “mother party” has been decisively rejected at the ballot box.

In contrast to the determination of the Bangladeshi people to reject extremist politics, Mr. Susman has emboldened their British counterparts. This visit comes as a bitter blow to those secular and genuinely progressive Muslims in East London who have been pushing back against the mosque’s extremism. Mr. Susman’s visit to the East London Mosque emboldened robed reactionaries at the expense of their more moderate counterparts.

The repercussions of the ambassador’s decision to attend and praise the East London Mosque are already reverberating through Westminster. Prime Minister David Cameron has asked Lord Carlile, the government’s independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws, to oversee an exhaustive review of its “Preventing Violent Extremism” program, including the manner in which communal partners are selected. There is no suggestion, however, that the British government recommended the East London Mosque to the Americans.

Hopefully, the review will reject the dangerous thesis that political Islamists who claim to be non-violent should be bolstered in an attempt to divert angry young Muslim men away from terrorism. This is the premise on which much of Britain’s “Prevent” strategy has operated to date. It has previously sought out reactionary groups believing that only they possess the necessary credibility to “deliver” people from violence. At times, this has included turning a Nelsonian eye to hate preachers such as the notorious former imam of Finsbury Park Mosque, Abu Hamza, best known for his distinctive eye patch and hook.

As Britain is slowly realizing that empowering Islamists—even if they claim to reject violence—is counterproductive, the U.S. ought to learn from those mistakes rather than repeat them.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Eviction Time at the Gipsy Camp … But It’s Protesting Villagers, Not Travellers, Under Threat

For seven months the determined band of neighbours have manned a human barricade to stop gipsies ruining their picturesque village by building on their illegal site.

Now the council is finally set to take decisive action — but incredibly it is the villagers rather than the travellers who could be evicted.

‘Enforcement action’ has been recommended against a small caravan with a makeshift awning where the residents have been sheltering from plummeting temperatures.

Since May the villagers have had a rota — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — to monitor the site for any infringement of an injunction banning further development of the camp.

Their greatest fear was that the gipsies would lay thousands of tons of hardcore rubble on green belt land to extend the site before the machinery of officialdom could swing into action to help them.

But a report by planning officials recommending the removal of the villagers, from Meriden, Warwickshire, will be considered by Solihull Council tomorrow.

Today members of the Residents Against Inappropriate Development group said it was ‘tantamount to closing the camp down’.

The group’s leader, Dave McGrath, said: ‘What do the council expect us all to do? Sit out by the roadside in the snow all winter?

‘All we are doing is keeping a vigil on a site to prevent further illegal development, yet the council seem more interested in persecuting us than tackling the illegal gipsy camp across the road.’

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Hot Off the Press: Unlocked Copy of Lambert’s Islamophobia Report

Earlier this morning the gorgeous Lucy Lips reported on a new publication called ‘Islamophobia and Anti Muslim Hate Crime’ produced by the Muslim Brotherhood’s think-tank at Exeter University. Unfortunately, those of you wanting to read Bob Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s latest exercise in intellectual onanism would find it rather difficult. You see, someone deliberately set the security settings so high on the document that it couldn’t be printed. The text couldn’t be cut and paste. In fact, just about every security setting possible was applied. Which is kind of strange — you’d think the authors would want us all to read their sterling work. Inspired by the post-wikileaks world of absolute transparency we have unlocked the report for you. Feel free to download it here (pdf).

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: It’s a Black Christmas Now

[…]

After I left the Mosque, I went to Oxford Street, seeking the solace of a jollier festival. But the Christmas lights had no Christmas theme — merely a parasol and a parcel — and, in my favourite shop, John Lewis, no festive music, no jingle bells. And everywhere women in gruesome black — black hijabs, black niqabs, black burqas — reminding me of the brave new world.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Lambert and Githens-Mazer: Lutfur Rahman and Hizb ut Tahrir

Earlier today, I blogged about a new publication: Islamophobia and Anti Muslim Hate Crime. The report is produced by the European Muslim Research Centre at Exeter University: an institution run by Messrs Lambert and Githens-Mazer, and has ties to individuals and organisations with a history of support for extreme politics including terrorism.

I observed:

It should be clear by now that the function of the EMRC is not, in fact, to combat hatred against Muslims. Rather, it is to provide political cover — dressed up as academic research — for extremist Islamist political organisations.

Here is a case in point. Part V of the report is given over to a discussion of the career of the Islamic Forum Europe aligned Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman. The section is entitled “Barbarians at the gates of the City — a case study in the subversion of liberal democracy in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets” and claims to have been written by somebody who has “worked extensively in Tower Hamlets politics”. We’re not told who. [Although in the comments below, a possible candidate is identified: “Abdullah Faliq, an ELM, IFE and Cordoba Foundation groupie who fancies himself as a ‘thinker’ is thanked in the report’s introduction. I wonder if he wrote this chapter?”]

I recommend that you read Ted Jeory’s absolute demolition of the thesis of the chapter: that Lutfur Rahman was a “Left wing populist”, hated by the Labour establishment for that reason, and therefore smeared wholly without evidence as a man with close ties to the Islamic Forum Europe, which is in fact a benign grass roots anti racist community organisation. In reality, the Islamic Forum Europe is an organisation with close ties to the South Asian Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami. It operates from the East London Mosque, which a Department of Communities and Local Government publication identifies as the “key institution” of Jamaat-e-Islami.

It goes without saying that the account of Lutfur Rahman’s travails is significantly fantasy.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: MCB Response to Media Inquiries Regarding Grand Mufti’s Appointment

As far as we are aware, there has been no discussion, let alone agreement amongst the British Muslim communities about the idea of a ‘Grand Mufti for the UK ‘. Moreover, we do not think that such an office of one individual, and even that sanctioned by an official religious authority overseas, can attend to the religious needs and aspirations of perhaps one of the most diverse, vibrant and established Muslim community in the West.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Pilot of UKIP Leader Nigel Farage Crash Plane is Charged With Threatening to Kill Him and Air Investigator

The pilot of the plane which crashed and injured Nigel Farage has been charged with threatening to kill the politician.

Justin Adams, who was at the controls of the light aircraft which slammed into a field on General Election day in May, seriously injuring the UK Independence Party’s now leader, has been remanded in custody.

The 45-year-old airman has also been charged with threatening to kill the official who investigated the dramatic accident.

Adams was at the controls of the Polish-made Wilga 35A, with Mr Farage sitting alongside him, when it suddenly nose-dived to earth during a party-political stunt on the morning of May 6.

Amazingly Mr Farage managed to walk from the scene, as pictured in graphic images from the time, while Adams was trapped in the mangled wreckage.

The seriously injured pilot remained conscious and was later airlifted from the scene, in Hinton-on-the-Hedges, near Brackley, Northamptonshire, to hospital in Coventry.

A probe by the Air Accident Investigation Branch of the Department of Transport found the crash was caused by the campaign banner the plane had been trailing.

The ropes used to tow the giant slogan, reading: ‘Vote for your country: Vote UKIP’, had become caught on the tail of the lightweight aircraft, forcing it into a dive.

Earlier the plane had had to make a number of low-level passes before it was able to collect the banner from a special harness.

Adams was brought before magistrates in Oxford and spoke only to confirm his name, age and address.

He was arrested on Sunday after calls were made to the police, alleging that on November 26 he threatened to kill Mr Farage and that on Sunday he similarly threatened Civil Aviation Authority investigator Martin James.

The business owner, wearing a blue fleece and jeans, did not enter a plea to either charge.

He was remanded in custody and ordered to appear at Oxford Crown Court on Tuesday next week.

Adams, who had been living in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, but has since moved to the village of Buckland, Oxon, ran a firm called Sky Banners.

At the time of the crash Mr Farage, who has a fear of flying, was making a last-ditch attempt to win over voters as he fought to boot House of Commons Speaker John Bercow MP out of his Buckingham seat.

The controversial politician, who previously led UKIP from 2006 to 2009, stepped down from the role to concentrate on his campaign.

However, his supporters delivered the news to him in hospital that he had come third with only 8,401 votes.

He then resumed the leadership of the party on November 5 this year.

Following the publication of the crash report, the 46-year-old said: ‘I think the conclusion is the best for everyone. It was an accident, there we are, these things happen in life.

‘I give thanks to the fact I got through it.

‘I have never liked flying — always hated it, although I have done a fair bit of it as an MEP.

‘Part of the flight on May 6 was an attempt to challenge my demons. Look how that ended up.’

He added: ‘I wish the pilot the best of luck in his recovery. I know he’s had several operations and was not in a good way at all.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: The Islamist’s Last Throw of the Dice: Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s New Report

In May 2008, we reported that a group of individuals with a long history of involvement in Islamist politics was planning to create an “Islamophobia Media Monitoring and Response Agency”. Those who were initially involved in the project were:

  • Carl Arrindell, until recently a disqualified director
  • Mohammed Ali Harrath, the CEO of the Islam Channel, whose channel has recently been censured by OFCOM “for advocating marital rape, violence against women and describing women who wore perfume outside of the home as “prostitutes”.”
  • Bob Lambert is a retired police officer
  • Asghar Bukhari, who famously offered to fundraise for the neo Nazi Holocaust denier, David Irving
  • Inayat Bunglawala

Later that year, the Agency was established. It is called iEngage or Engage, and has just been appointed the Secretariat of the new All Party Parliamentary Group of Islamophobia. One of its directors is, indeed, Mohammed Ali Harrath. The choice of Engage has already proved highly controversial, and is likely to prove disasterous for the APPG: which is a pity, as there is a good argument for a think tank that looks at anti-Muslim incitement and hate crimes, quite possibly in association with political extremism and sectarianism more generally.

This article d

oes not consider the role of Engage and the APPG further. I would recommend you read Paul Goodman’s piece at Conservative Home, however.

The other part of the proposal was the suggestion by Carl Arrindell that tame academics will be recruited to give the project credibility:

“Whilst a long term goal should be to establish a Muslim friendly think tank, in the short term it would be advisable to source a team of credible and authoritative commentators/academics who will be prepared to provide written response/analysis to key events on a regular basis — this may have to be budgeted for. It will be the provision of this regular credible information that will be the justification for journalists to engage with us. “

Roll forward to December 2008, and internal documents from iEngage indicate that Bob Lambert is now working for them. By 2010, Lambert had moved to his very own “European Muslim Research Centre” (“EMRC”) at Exeter University, funded by Islam Expo and the Cordoba Foundation. The directors of IslamExpo include fugitive Hamas commander and Istanbul declaration signatory Mohammed Sawalha. The Cordoba Foundation is run by the Muslim Brotherhood activist, Anas Altikriti, who has called the murder of coalition troops in Iraq “legitimate”. The EMRC Board includes Bashir Nafi, who a decade ago was a senior operative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, indicted in the United States. They have now added Al Jazeera to their list of funders: a television station which stages birthday parties for child murderers.

It should be clear by now that the function of the EMRC is not, in fact, to combat hatred against Muslims. Rather, it is to provide political cover — dressed up as academic research — for extremist Islamist political organisations.

Yesterday, the EMRC published a lengthy work: Islamophobia and Anti Muslim Hate Crime on the website of the Cordoba Foundation.. Although it does contain some descriptions of very nasty attacks on Muslims and their property, its emphasis is not on the specifics of those crimes. Rather, the report seeks to place Islamophobia in an ideological context. In those circumstances, the villains par excellence are the “neocons”, who deliberately whip up anti Muslim hatred in order to justify imperialism.

Accordingly, the main villains of the piece are the Quilliam Foundation, various other Muslim campaigners against specific named Islamist political parties, and newspapers which report on those political parties. They are accused, time and time again, of encouraging attacks on Muslims by highlighting the activities of Islamist groups, and of providing the British National Party and the English Defence League with their arguments.

By contrast, the Islamist political organisations are utterly blameless and credible community organisations, fully committed to common civic values, which just happen to keep getting caught up in scandals involving hate preaching and terrorism. So we are told, it is actually the fault of the “Neocons” that people react badly to these revelations, which shouldn’t really be reported at all.

This is a desperate argument. Vilifying Muslim liberals, while promoting organisations with very clear links to extremist and sometimes terrorist politics? Funded by the very institutions with links to the Islamist political parties that are being defended? I really don’t think many will buy that. This is the Islamists’ last throw of the dice. Over the next few days, we will be publishing some of the more jaw-dropping passages from Lambert and Githens Mazer’s report. You will be astounded by what you read.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Why Suicide Bombers Are Muslim (Lack of Sex) And Liberals Are More Intelligent: A Controversial Psychologist’s Very Politically Incorrect ‘Truths’ About Human Nature

His claim that ugly couples are more likely to have sons made headlines around the world yesterday.

But this is not the first time that evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa has stirred up controversy with his outspoken declarations.

Usually perfectly timed to coincide with his latest book, The London School of Economics researcher has come out with a raft of startling claims about what makes us human.

Already this year he has claimed that men who cheat on their girlfriends or wives are less intelligent.

And he claimed that most suicide bombers are Muslim because they do not have enough sex.

He even gave psychological reasons why liberals are more intelligent than those with more conservative viewpoints.

Yesterday it emerged that he had unearthed new evidence that proved the principle that if a parent has any traits that will benefit one particular sex of child, they will have more of that child.

According to Kanazawa, in women this means physical attractiveness is a trait that is passed down, leading to more baby girls for better-looking women.

His latest book is almost perfectly designed to provoke debate and cause a storm of controversy with almost every entry.

Named ‘Ten Politically Incorrect Truths about Human Nature’ it uses Kanazawa’s evolutionary psychology theories to tackle some difficult subjects.

Kanazawa examined the 10-volume compendium The Encyclopedia of World Cultures, which describes all human cultures known to anthropology — more than 1,500 in total.

He found that liberalism was entirely absent in their detailed examinations of each traditional civilisation.

Sharing of resources, especially food, was often mandatory among hunter-gatherer tribes and trade with neighbouring tribes often took place.

Kanazawa discovered that there is no evidence that people in contemporary hunter-gatherer bands freely share resources with members of other tribes.

‘It may be reasonable to infer that sharing of resources with total strangers that one has never met or is not likely ever to meet — that is, liberalism — was not part of our ancestral life’, he writes.

Kanazawa’s hypothesis, in the same way as with the cheating men (below) is that more intelligent people are able to adapt more readily to novel behaviour.

Liberalism may therefore be evolutionarily novel, and so more intelligent individuals are more likely than less intelligent individuals to espouse liberalism as a value.

He wrote: ‘They [Liberals] control the institutions because liberals are on average more intelligent than conservatives and thus they are more likely to attain the highest status in any area of (evolutionarily novel) modern life.

According to Kanazawa’s theory beautiful women have more children than their plainer counterparts, and a higher proportion of those children are girls.

These daughters, once adult, also tend to be attractive and so the pattern continues.

Examples of beautiful celebrity mothers with equally beautiful daughters who are models include Jerry Hall, and her two daughters Elizabeth and Georgia Jagger, and Yasmin Le Bon and daughter Amber — who has recently modelled swimwear.

This pattern has led to women becoming steadily more beautiful over the generations, according to the theory.

However, psychologists believe women are becoming more attractive as they are making more of an effort with their looks, and have more resources to do so than ever before.

Men meanwhile apparently remain as aesthetically unappealing as their caveman ancestors.

Here the theory is based on the assertion that through evolutionary history, men have always been ‘mildly polygamous’.

That has changed today, however, and Dr Kanazawa explained that entering a sexually exclusive relationship is an ‘evolutionarily novel’ development for them.

According to his theory, intelligent people are more likely to adopt what in evolutionary terms are new practices — to become ‘more evolved’.

Therefore, in the case of fidelity, men who cannot adapt and end up succumbing to temptation and cheating are likely to be more stupid.

‘The theory predicts that more intelligent men are more likely to value sexual exclusivity than less intelligent men,’ he explained.

According to his theory, the link between fidelity and intelligence does not apply to women because they have always been expected to be faithful to one mate — even in polygamous societies.

The traits sought after by men and women are culturally universal; men everywhere in the world want women to have traits such as youth and beauty, women want men to be powerful and wealthy.

Kanazawa comforts people who do not fit into either of these stereotypes with the words: ‘You may be comforted to know that you are not alone in your plight; there are losers like you everywhere in the world, and for the same reasons.’

These reasons, Kanazawa goes on to say, are that if you are alone on a Saturday night it is ‘because you probably don’t possess the qualities that members of the opposite sex seek in potential mates.’

Women want to look like Barbie with a small waist, large breasts, long blond hair, and blue eyes is because it is a direct response to the reasons men want to mate with her.

Men prefer young women because they tend to be healthier than older women, which makes reproductive sense.

Healthy women have shiny, healthy-looking hair and blonde hair displays grey hairs less obviously than dark hair. Blonde hair also changes dramatically with age so that older women are more likely to have browner hair. Men are drawn to younger women as they are typically healthier and more fertile.

Men also want women with large breasts as it’s an indication of how fertile they are, according to some studies. For the same reason a large waist-to-hip ratio is preferred.

Blue eyes are preferred because they display when the pupil dilates more readily than darker eyes. Pupils dilate when a person sees something they like and so someone with blue eyes displays their dilation, and therefore approval, more readily.

The linking of suicide bombers with sex made this one of his most controversial theories.

But while suicide missions are not always religiously motivated, when religion is involved, it is always Muslim, says Kanazawa.

Kanazawa states that in societies where polygyny is allowed — taking more than one wife, such as in Islam — there is a necessary number of men who are unable to mate because of the simple mathematics involved.

He says this is what makes men more violent or aggressive — they are competing for a mate.

According to his theory, this increased competitive pressure on men ‘increases the likelihood that young men resort to violent means to gain access to mates because they have little to lose and much to gain by doing so, compared to men who already have wives.’

This is why, across all societies, polygyny increases violent crimes, such as murder and rape, even after controlling for such obvious factors like economic development, economic inequality, population density, the level of democracy and world regions.’

He goes on to say that the idea that 72 virgins await a martyr can inspire young men in this situation to go on to become suicide bombers.

He writes: ‘For young, low-status Muslim men who are excluded from any mating opportunities because of polygyny among older, higher-status men, even such a vague promise in the afterlife begins to be appealing in light of their bleak reproductive prospect on earth.’

As we have seen, a man’s value as a mate is largely determined by his wealth, status and power.

A father is important to his son in ensuring he inherits wealth, status and power but he can do little to keep his daughter youthful or beautiful.

His continued presence in the family is important to the son but not as crucial to his daughter. He writes: ‘Strictly in reproductive terms, there is very little that fathers (or anyone else) can do for daughters beyond keeping them alive and healthy.

‘The presence of sons therefore deters divorce and departure of the father from the family more than the presence of daughters, and this effect should be stronger among wealthy families.’

A theory known as the ‘age-crime curve’ says that risk-taking behaviour increases in early adolescence, peaks in early adulthood, decreases through someone’s 20s and 30s, before levelling off in middle age.

The curve also relates to behaviour that is different, also known as the age-genius curve. The expression of a person’s genius is most likely to find its fullest expression in their late adolescence and early adulthood, just like the young Beatle and technology pioneer.

This applies mostly to men, who like to make any behaviour that differentiates themselves from the competition as public as possible. The age-crime or age-genius curve in women is far less pronounced as they are not competing for mates in the same way.

Kanazawa uses the example of Paul McCartney having not written a ‘hit song in decades’ while Gates is a businessman, no longer a computer whiz kid.

Their early moments of creative breakthrough were down to a competitive instinct which compelled them to make the most of their abilities. Once men have children the cost in effort of maintaining this level drops.

Kanazawa says that men go to huge efforts to convince women to sleep with them and that many of man’s achievements are down to this fact.

He writes: ‘Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them.’

Men go through their mid-life crisis only because their wives are going through one, Kanazawa declared.

When a woman reaches the menopause she can no longer reproduce and so men find themselves compelled to try and attract younger women who can.

Kanazawa claims that men who marry younger women are unlikely to have a mid-life crisis themselves because this event will not take place.

He says: ‘It’s not his midlife that matters; it’s hers. When he buys a shiny-red sports car, he’s not trying to regain his youth; he’s trying to attract young women to replace his menopausal wife by trumpeting his flash and cash.’

Powerful men throughout Western history have married monogamously — only one legal wife at a time — but they have always mated polygynously by having lovers, concubines, and female slaves.

So why would Bill Clinton, as President of the United States, risk everything to have sex with a younger intern? The reason, Kanazawa states, is that men only push for more political power in order to have access to more women with which to mate.

The only thing that distinguishes Clinton is that he was caught.

Another controversial theory, this time that men who intimidate women in the workplace are doing so because they are not sexist, not because they are.

The psychologist says that men use abuse, intimidation, and degradation as part of their tactics employed in competitive situations. This is how they would act with men, too. If they treat women the same, it cannot be sexism.

In other words, men are not treating women differently from men but the opposite: Men harass women precisely because they are not discriminating between men and women.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: What the UK Islamists Are Planning Next [20 May 2008]

The last few years have not been kind to our domestic Islamist groups.

The Muslim Association of Britain is now pretty universally acknowledged as the British franchise of the clerical fascist Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Council of Britain never really recovered from the disclosure that Bunglawala distributed the writings of Osama bin Laden a few weeks before 9/11, and has been utterly discredited as little more than a front organisation for the small clerical fascist South Asian party, Jamaat-e-Islami. The Muslim Public Affairs Committee was torpedoed by its repeated reprinting of material from neo-Nazi websites, and the revelation that its founder, Asghar Bukhari, offered to fundraise for David Irving: the man branded a falsifier of history and racist by the High Court.

How will they fight back?

The answer, so it seems, is to create a new organisation: the “Islamophobia Media Monitoring and Response Agency” (“IMMRA”) or, alternatively, the Blackstone Institute or Foundation. “Blackstone” to me has legal connotations. But apparently it is a reference to the Kaaba: a stone venerated by Muslims.

[…]

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Vatican — OSCE: Card Bertone Calls for an End to Anti-Christian Persecution

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe discusses its future and goals today and tomorrow. The Vatican secretary of state complains about the persecution and difficulties 200 million Christians face in the world. Hillary Clinton calls for the protection of press freedom.

Astana (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The Vatican Secretary of State Card Tarcisio Bertone called for an end to discrimination against Christians in his speech to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). “Society must fight anti-Christian discrimination with the same determination that it fights anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” said Benedict XVI’s right-hand man. “The progress attested in the various OSCE documents indicates that religious freedom can exist under various social systems. Religious intolerance and discrimination, against Christians for example, are closely correlated with the lack of religious freedom,” the secretary said. “Christians are the most persecuted group; more than 200 million Christians are living in difficult situations.”

Card Bertone began his address citing Kazakh poet Abay Qunanbayuli, for whom love and friendship are the beginning of humanity. He then called for greater efforts to stop conflicts that, although they might localised, threaten the whole OSCE area.

The cardinal also touched upon the current economic crisis, which has shown the importance of ethical principles in the economy. Given the situation, “The Holy See calls for policies in favour of the family.”

Water is another issue that deserves attention. “Every human being should be guaranteed adequate access to quality water,” the secretary of state said.

At the same time, “the rights of migrants and their families” must be defended. “Pope John Paul II said that the Helsinki Declaration was an act of hope for millions of Europeans and non Europeans. I hope and call on God almighty that the Astana meeting may be an act of hope for our generation and for generations to come,” Card Bertone said as he brought his speech to a close.

The Helsinki Declaration acknowledged the principle of religious freedom in the countries of Eastern Europe at a time when they were under Communist rule. The Catholic Church used it to defend the rights of its members behind the Iron Curtain.

The future and goals of the organisation are also under discussion at the summit. In her address, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that respect for human rights and press freedom are priorities in the world at a time when democracy is under pressure. “It is not enough for a constitution to guarantee freedom of the press if, in reality, journalists are put under intense pressure and even assaulted,” she said.

On Afghanistan, Clinton said the OSCE can play an important role to improve border security, counter illicit trafficking, boost legitimate trade, promote economic development and help develop national institutions.

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



Why Sweden Abandoned Its Workers’ Party

As Social Democrats brace themselves for the presentation on Friday of the findings of its own election crisis commission, contributor Naomi Powell takes a closer look at how the traditionally dominant party lost its place at the apex of Swedish politics.

For Matthias Hjertzell, a shy, polite 19 year old, the 2010 general election was memorable not just for the headlines it made in national papers. The showdown between the Social Democrats and the Moderates, leaders of the ruling centre-right bloc, marked the first time Hjertzell has ever cast a ballot.

A member of the Swedish electricians’ union, Hjertzell might once have been considered a safe vote for the Social Democrats, who have always counted organised labourers among their most reliable supporters. Not this time.

“I voted for the Moderate party,” says Hjertzell.

“If you have a job, they are a good party for you.”

The Social Democratic Party, long considered one of the most powerful political machines in Europe, posted the worst performance in its history in the last election, taking just 31 per cent of the vote. Behind the party’s defeat is not just a failure to woo the burgeoning middle class, analysts say, but also a steady slide in support from those who once formed the unshakeable backbone of the party: traditional workers.

As the Social Democrats scramble to fill the leadership vacuum in the wake of Mona Sahlin’s resignation, observers say the party faces a tough battle to shore up its eroding support base.

Support from members of the LO, the largest organization representing Swedish trade union workers, has steadily declined, with just over 50 per cent of members voting for the Social Democrats in 2006, down from 58 per cent in 2002, according to the Swedish National Election Studies Program at the University of Gothenburg. And exit polls, while preliminary, suggest little if any ground was won back at the ballot boxes this year.

It is a troubling reversal of fortune for the Social Democrats, the architects of the cradle to grave welfare state, whose political ideals and history are rooted in a historically powerful connection to unions and ordinary wage earners.

“Traditionally, the Social Democrats always stood for the right of work, but also the duty of work,” says Maria Oskarson, lecturer in the political science department at the University of Gothenburg.

“They stood for the morality, the value of putting your straw to the stack so to speak. They lost this in the last election.”

Meanwhile, Fredrik Reinfeldt’s centre-right Moderate party has picked up the mantle of the “workers party” by offering tax cuts and other incentives to ordinary wage earners, Oskarson said. In the process, the Moderates have recast the Social Democrats, the architects of the Swedish welfare state, as the “party of the unemployed,” she said.

It all adds up to a fundamental shift for a country where the possibility of tax cuts was once viewed as a threat to the welfare state.

“Rather than a cleavage between the middle class and the working class, we had a cleavage between people who have jobs and a house and those outside the ordinary labour market and establishment,” says Oskarson.

“The Moderates were very successful at casting (the Social Democrats) as the party for the unemployed and sick.

“By doing this they created a division between the workers and the ‘freeloaders’ so to speak, which really didn’t exist in Sweden before.”

The LO in particular maintain a close relationship to the Social Democrats, contributing funds to their campaigns and exercising a powerful voice within the party, explains Christer Thörnqvist, a professor of labour science at Gothenburg University.

But unions have their own battles to fight. As in most industrial democracies, employment in Sweden has gradually shifted from traditional manufacturing industries to the services sector, where union membership is lower. Currently about 70 per cent of the Swedish workforce is employed in the service sector and only about 30 per cent in manufacturing. In the 1960s, when manufacturing drove the economy, those figures could have been reversed, says Thörnqvist.

The LO alone has seen its membership slide from two million members in 2000 to about 1.6 million members today. Though that decline can partly be blamed on rationalisation in industry, the most devastating membership losses came after the centre-right Alliance increased premiums for the unemployment insurance funds administered by trade unions said Thörnqvist. An individual member’s fee increased from between 90 and 100 kronor ($12.50 to $14) a month to as much as 370 kronor ($52) a month.

Many members began to see unemployment insurance and union membership as “as two sides of the same coin, now a coin they could no longer afford,” says Thörnqvist.

Indeed, in 2007, overall union membership fell from 77 to 72 per cent, the biggest loss in a single year since the General Strike in 1909.

But the Social Democrats’ problems also stem from a failure to respond to broader shifts in Swedish society, said Jenny Madestam, a lecturer in political science at Stockholm University.

“The Social Democrats can’t attract traditional workers anymore and part of that is that being a worker isn’t the same as it was 30 years ago,” she says.

“You can have a house and a relatively high income. Your concerns are different.”

Madestam points to the RUT, the tax deduction for services in the home, as a policy that appealed to traditional workers as well as the middle classes.

“It was a very popular policy especially among families where both partners work and may need help with babysitting and housekeeping, but the Social Democrats opposed it,” she explains.

Johan Hall, a press secretary for the LO, noted that the tax cuts imposed by the Alliance made many workers “felt like they earned more” under the Moderates, even if their costs increased in other areas (such as unemployment insurance).

At the same time, the Moderates were careful to appear as guardians of the cherished welfare state at the same time as they imposed income tax cuts that might once have been viewed as a potentially damaging to the traditional social model. The approach won the Moderates the kind of broad appeal among middle and working classes that the Social Democrats once enjoyed.

“In the 1950s, the Social Democrats had a strategy to incorporate not just blue collar workers but white collar workers as well,” she says.

“This is why they worked out the idea of the welfare state, the idea that if everyone pays tax, everyone benefits. They managed to become the party that appeals to everyone. The funny thing is that today the Moderates are the party that has managed to attract the most people across classes.

This is a problem, a big problem for the Social Democrats.”

Yet as traditional allegiances weaken, the Social Democrats have failed to reach new supporters, including immigrant groups. Immigrants now account for 14 per cent of the Swedish population and employment rates for this group tend to be significantly lower, as is participation in elections.

“The working class in terms of those born in Sweden is diminishing, partly because they became educated and vaguely middle class,” explains Olof Ruin, professor emeritus of political science at Stockholm University.

“At the same time you have more and more people coming from outside Sweden and they have more trouble finding jobs. These people are less active in politics, they may not choose to vote or may not qualify to vote. “

The question of how the Social Democrats will shore up support has been temporarily sidelined by debate over who will take the reins from Mona Sahlin. Once that issue is put to rest, observers agree the party must find a new niche for itself in a rapidly changing Swedish society.

“We used to speak of the social democratic hegemony,” says Madestam.

“We are all social democratic at the base whether we vote for the Left Party or the Centre and our ideas about social justice and equality are the same thing. But Sweden has become more and more individualistic. People are thinking more about what they want for themselves. Ideas about equality and solidarity are not so strong.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Turkish PM Erdogan Receives Al-Gaddafi Human Rights Award

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, NOVEMBER 30 — Turkey’s prime minister Tayyip Erdogan received Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights in Tripoli, Libya, yesterday as Anatolia news agency reports. “You can be sure that this award will encourage our struggle for human rights in regional and global sense,” Erdogan said during the award ceremony. The Turkish premier said countries of the region could not turn their back to each other, and they could not remain indifferent to each other’s problems.

Peace, justice, brotherhood and solidarity were in the best interests of every country, Erdogan also said. The Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights is an annual prize founded by and named after Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. The prize is awarded every year to one of the international personalities, bodies or organizations that have distinctively contributed to rendering an outstanding human service and has achieved great actions in defending human rights, protecting the causes of freedom and supporting peace everywhere in the world. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Has the Obama Administration Failed Again?: No Freeze, No Talks, No Competence

By Barry Rubin

While the outcome still isn’t clear, it seems that a new example of failure and humiliation is unfolding for the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy.

It appears increasingly unlikely that the president’s high-profile effort to restart Israel-Palestinian talks will succeed during the remainder of 2010 or even well beyond that time.

This Administration has had a very clear idea of what it wanted to achieve:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Arab Media Play Down Wikileaks Reports of Support for Iran War

Well, this is awkward.

Many of the same Arab governments that called for an investigation into U.S. war crimes based on the WikiLeaks Iraq war log continue to ignore revelations in the latest trove of leaked documents that show Arab leaders pushed the United States to use military force against Iran.

Headlines in the heavily state-controlled Saudi media were dominated by news of King Abdullah’s ongoing physiotherapy, while the top story in the Emirati newspaper, Al Bayan, centered on Prince Mohamad bin Rashid’s praise for the country’s progress toward “transparency.” Most mentions of the WikiLeaks documents in official Arabic news outlets were scrubbed of any reference to the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, focusing instead on U.S. attempts to control the damage to its diplomatic relations.

Even the Qatar-based Al Jazeera, considered one of the most credible pan-Arab news outlets, tread lightly in its coverage and generally refrained from repeating the most incendiary quotes from the heads of neighboring states. According to the newly leaked documents, leaders of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were among those privately urging the United States to strike Iranian nuclear facilities while publicly claiming to pursue a neutral foreign policy, exposing dangerous rifts between not only Arab states and Iran, but also between the Arab leadership and the people of those countries.

“I believe [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] is going to take us to war,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan reportedly told one diplomat.

According to one cable, Saudi King Abdullah urges the United States to “cut off the head of the snake” before it is too late. In another, he suggests Guantanamo detainees be fitted with electronic tracking chips similar to the ones used for falcons and horses.

The revelations are at the very least embarrassing and potentially destabilizing in a region where American military intervention is deeply resented and collaboration with Israeli security interests is considered tantamount to betrayal.

As of Monday, the only official Arab response appeared to be from the Emirati charge d’affairs in Tehran, who refused to confirm or deny whether his country had asked the United States to attack Iran, but did say that “at the moment, Iran and the UAE are having good relations.”

— Meris Lutz in Beirut

Screen grab: The Saudi English-language newspaper Arab News did not report comments allegedly made by Saudi officials and even King Abdullah regarding a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Credit: arabnews.com

[Return to headlines]



Iran Executes Woman Accused of Murdering Lover’s Wife

An Iranian woman convicted of murdering the wife of her football player lover was hanged in Iran early today, state news agencies reported.

“A few minutes ago, Shahla Jahed was hanged in the courtyard of Tehran’s Evin prison after 3,063 days of being kept in prison,” the Fars news agency said.

Islamic Republic Student Agency (ISNA) said that Jahed was hanged at 5am, in the presence of the murdered wife’s family. According to Iranian law, her life could have been spared if the family of the murdered woman pardoned her. Iran executes those sentenced to death before the Islamic morning call for prayer.

Jahed was found guilty of the 2002 murder of Laleh Saharkhizan, the wife of Naser Mohammadkhani, a football legend who rose to fame in the mid-1980s and coached Tehran’s Persepolis club.

Jahed, who was held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for nine years, was sentenced to death on the basis of her confession, which she later repeatedly retracted at her public trial.

Her execution is a defeat for human rights activists around the world who campaigned in the past nine years to stop Iran from carrying out her sentence. Last night, Amnesty International and several human rights campaigners called on Iran to stop her execution.

In 2008, the then chief of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, ordered a fresh investigation and did not sanction her execution to be carried out. But today Iran defied the international and domestic outcry by hanging her.

Activists in Iran widely suspect that Jahed was forced to confess to the stabbing. Karim Lahidji, the president of the Iranian League for Human Rights, described her as “a victim of a misogynous society” and said: “Shahla Jahed has never had a fair trial in Iran and has always insisted that she is innocent. Although Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case is about adultery, her case is similar to that of Shahla Jahed because both are victims of the flaws of the Iranian judicial system.”

He added: “We are approaching the Human Rights Day on 10 December and once again Iran is executing another woman. That’s a clear signal that Iran wants to challenge the world on human rights issues.”

Following the murder, Jahed was arrested as the prime suspect, but she refused to talk for nearly a year. Mohammadkhani was also imprisoned for several months on charges of complicity but was finally released after the authorities said Jahed had confessed to committing the crime alone.

Jahed told the judge at her public trial: “If you want to kill me, go ahead … if you send me back there [where her confessions were taken], I’ll confess again and not only will I confess to killing her but I’d also confess that I killed those who have been killed by others.” She then repeatedly reiterated that she was innocent and that she had not committed any crime.

Mohammadkhani was in Germany when the killing happened, but it emerged later that he was “temporarily married” to Jahed, a practice allowed under Shia Islam. Temporary marriage or “sigheh”, as it is known in Iran, allows men to take on wives for as little as a few hours to years on the condition that any offspring are legally and financially provided for. Critics of the tradition see it as legalised prostitution.

Shahla Jahed’s case drew huge attention when Iran took the unprecedented decision of holding her trial in public.

In 2005 a documentary about her case and her affairs with the footballer showed footage from her public trial. The documentary, Red Card, was subsequently banned by Iran.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Iraq: Christian Mosul Shopkeeper Killed by Gunmen

Mosul, 1 Dec. (AKI) — A Christian shopkeeper has been killed in the northern Iraq city of Mosul amid a wave of violence against the religious minority, according to Christian Iraqi website Ankawa.

Fady Walid Jibrai was at work in a grocery shop on Tuesday when a group of armed men opened fire on him. It was the time in a week that a Christian had been the target of a fatal attack.

Two Christian brothers were killed last week in an industrial neighbourhood of city 400 kilometres northwest of Baghdad.

Many of Iraq’s approximately 500,000 remaining Christians are living in fear of their lives after the continuing attacks and death threats unless they leave the country.

Terrorist attacks against Christians have caused those living in Mosul to consider leaving the city in Iraq’s north, according to Emil Shamoun Noona, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul.

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



Man Held After Touching Girl’s Hand in Saudi

Saudi police arrested a young national after holding the hand of a local girl sat in her car in a public place in the Gulf Kingdom, Alsaudi daily said Wednesday.

The unnamed boy ran away after the girl’s sister screamed when she saw him stretching his hand towards her sister in the car that was parked near a shopping mall in the eastern port of Dammam, the paper said.

“The girls got that man’s car number and gave it to the police…after a while, they got the young man and detained him for investigation.”

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



No Need for Women to Cover Up: Saudi Police

A Saudi religious police commander criticised the kingdom’s ban on gender mixing on Tuesday and said women did not have to veil their faces to applause from his female audience.

Sheikh Ahmed Al Ghamdi, outspoken head of the Makkah branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, also said there was nothing in Islam to prevent women from driving, despite the Saudi ban on the practice.

“There is a difference in interpretation of the (Koranic) verse… which leads some scholars to rule that the whole body must be covered … However other scholars approve showing the face, hands and elbows. And some even okayed the hair,” he said.

He said the kingdom’s mixing ban should be applied only to men and women meeting in secret, not in public places — a rule normally enforced by the religious police.

Islam “orders a woman to cover her body to allow her to participate in social life, not to prevent her from doing so,” he said.

The women in the audience, all clad in the all-black shroud-like abaya they must wear, broke out in applause.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



The Ultimate Prank or a Trick of the Light? Outrage in Iran After Satellite Image Shows Star of David on Airport Roof

It could be one of the most outrageous pranks in history, or simply just a trick of the light.

But a satellite image of the Iran Air headquarters in Tehran has sparked fury in the Iranian government after the image of the Star of David appeared to have been painted on the roof.

Unamused government officials have called for the symbol to be removed as speculation increased that it may have been in place since before the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The star is clearly visible in the centre of the propeller-shaped building in the west of the city, but uncertainty surrounds whether it was genuine.

Iranian media has claimed that the Iran Air building was constructed by Israeli engineers during the time of Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, when relations between the two countries were much closer.

At the time, regular flights were scheduled between Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport and Israel also sold weapons to the Shah in return for oil.

One Iranian website said: ‘It’s interesting that even 32 years after the victory of the revolution, this Zionist star symbol has yet to be removed from the building.’

In August, the presence of the Star of David caused further anger after it was spotted on top of one of the buildings in Tehran’s Revolution Square.

Media labelled it ‘the Zionist regime is conquering the Revolution Square’, and again called for it to be removed.

Iran severed all ties with Israel after the revolution and has been set upon removing the state of Israel ever since, including supporting terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Wiki Secret: U.S. Distrusts Turkey’s PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The US is concerned about its NATO ally Turkey. Embassy dispatches portray Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a power-hungry Islamist surrounded by corrupt and incompetent ministers. Washington no longer believes that the country will ever join the European Union.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the most important Muslim ally of the United States. On coming into office he promised a democratic Islam — a vision that could have become a model for other countries in the region.

But if the US dispatches are to be believed, Turkey is far from realizing that vision. Erdogan? A power-hungry Islamist. His ministers? Incompetent, uneducated and some of them corrupt. The government? Divided. The opposition? Ridiculous.

US diplomats have sent thousands of reports from Ankara to Washington in the past 31 years. Recent documents, though, are merciless. They convey an image of Turkey which is at odds with almost everything the US government has officially said about the country.

First and foremost, the US distrusts Erdogan. A dispatch dated May 2005 says that he has never had a realistic worldview. Erdogan, the document says, thinks he was chosen by God to lead Turkey and likes to present himself as the “Tribune of Anatolia.”

US diplomats claim that Erdogan gets almost all of his information from Islamist-leaning newspapers — analysis from his ministries, they say, is of no interest to him. The military, the second largest among NATO member states, and the secret service no longer send him some of their reports. He trusts nobody completely, the dispatches say, and surrounds himselves with “an iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors.” Despite his bravado, he is said to be terrified of losing his grip on power. One authority on Erdogan told the Americans: “Tayyip believes in God … but doesn’t trust him.”

Erdogan took office as prime minister in 2003, two years after having founded his party, the Islamic-conservative AKP. During the campaign Erdogan announced his intention to tackle corruption.

Since 2004, however, informants have been telling US diplomats in Turkey of corruption at all levels, even within the Erdogan family. None of the accusations have been proven — it could be that the informants merely want to denigrate the premier. But their reports help shape the Americans’ image of Turkey — and as such they are devastating.

[…]

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Wikileaks Cables: Saudi Arabia Wants Military Rule in Pakistan

America is often portrayed as the big dog in Pakistan’s yard: a swaggering power that makes rules, barks orders and throws its weight around. But the WikiLeaks cables highlight the understated yet insistent influence of another country with ideas about Pakistan’s future: Saudi Arabia.

In recent years Saudi rulers have played favourites with Pakistani politicians, wielded their massive financial clout to political effect and even advocated a return to military rule.

“We in Saudi Arabia are not observers in Pakistan, we are participants,” the Saudi ambassador to the US, Adel al-Jubeir, boasted in 2007. A senior US official later bemoaned as “negative” the Saudi influence.

As home to Islam’s holiest sites, Saudi Arabia has longstanding ties with Pakistan. In the 1980s Saudi intelligence, along with the CIA, funded the anti-Soviet “jihad” in Afghanistan; since then the Saudis have given billions in financial aid and cut-price oil.

But the close relationship has grown “increasingly strained” in the past two years, with King Abdullah and the ruling princes displaying a clear preference for the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, over the president, Asif Ali Zardari, who is viewed with thinly veiled contempt.

In January 2009 Abdullah told James Jones, then the US national security adviser, that Zardari was incapable of countering terrorism, describing him as the “‘rotten head’ that was infecting the whole body”. Abdullah added that Pakistan’s army was “staying out of Pakistani politics in deference to US wishes, rather than doing what it ‘should’“.

Abdullah’s preference for military rule was recorded by the Saudis’ American guests: “They appear to be looking for ‘another Musharraf’: a strong, forceful leader they know they can trust.” His views were echoed by the interior minister, who said Saudi Arabia viewed the army as its “winning horse” in Pakistan.

The anti-Zardari bias appears to have a sectarian tinge. Pakistan’s ambassador to Riyadh, Umar Khan Alisherzai, says the Saudis, who are Sunni, distrust Zardari, a Shia. Last year the United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, told Hillary Clinton that Saudi suspicions of Zardari’s Shia background were “creating Saudi concern of a Shia triangle in the region between Iran, the Maliki government in Iraq, and Pakistan under Zardari”.

The Saudis betray a strong preference for Sharif, who fled into exile in Jeddah in 2000 to avoid prosecution under General Pervez Musharraf. The cables contain details of Sharif’s secret exile deal — he was to remain out of politics for 10 years — as well as hints of Saudi anger when he returned to Pakistan in 2007.

Since then, however, Saudi displeasure has abated, and the Saudis clearly view him as “their man” in the Pakistani power game. In early 2008 the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, described Sharif as a “force for stability” and “a man who can speak across party lines even to religious extremists”. American officials noted that Sharif had obtained preferential business deals during his time in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile the Saudis have pressured Zardari with oil and money. In late 2008 Pakistani officials complained that “not a drop” of Saudi oil promised at concessionary rates had been delivered, while the annual aid cheque of $300m was well below the regular rate. “Muslim brotherhood is not what it used to be,” fretted an economic counsellor at the Pakistani embassy.Pakistani officials echo the American fears about the radicalizing influence of Saudi money, some of it from the government. In April 2008 Pakistani interior advisor Rehman Malik said he was “particularly concerned about the role of the Saudi ambassador in funding religious schools and mosques” in Pakistan.

“Malik said that [President] Musharraf had come close to “throwing him (the Saudi ambassador) out of the country” but Malik said he knew the Saudi royal family well and would work with them.”

Zardari has asserted his independence from the Saudis. The king was unhappy that he made his first official visit to China and skipped the opening of a new university in favour of meetings in Europe and the US.

US officials noted that the go-slow was part of a broader Saudi policy of “withholding assistance” — slowing the flow of cash and oil — when it suited policy in Lebanon, Palestine and Pakistan. Such economic tactics may be familiar to US officials, who used them against Pakistan for much of the 1990s.

US diplomats see the Saudis as allies but also competitors for influence in Pakistan. In 2009 special envoy Richard Holbrooke warned Prince Mohammed bin Nayef of “unimaginable” consequences for Saudi Arabia if Pakistan fell apart, especially if its nuclear weapons fell into unfriendly hands.

“God forbid!” responded the prince.

But in Islamabad, American diplomats have sought to diminish Saudi influence by allying with another Muslim country, Turkey. After a meeting with the Turkish ambassador in May 2009, ambassador Anne Patterson noted that moderate, progressive Turkey presented a “positive role model” for Pakistan.

It was well positioned, she said, to “neutralise somewhat the more negative influence on Pakistan politics and society exercised by Saudi Arabia”.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Wikileaks Cables: Reading Between the Lines

Among the most arresting lines in the trove of diplomatic cables made public this week was one from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. “Cut off the head of the snake,” he advised his American friends. Any herpetologist would agree that this is good advice in dealing with a threatening viper. But who is this snake? King Abdullah was referring to Iran, obliquely arguing for a military attack.

Yet, there was another tantalising detail in the trove of cables that suggests the larger threat comes from inside King Abdullah’s own country. “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like al-Qaida,” the New York Times reported in its first article on the leaked documents.

That is a huge, though not unsurprising, revelation. It reflects how complex and sometimes self-defeating America’s foreign alliances have become. Saudi Arabia is an intimate ally of the United States, yet Saudi money supports the world’s most violently anti-American terror network.

This deeply troubling contradiction has its roots in Saudi history and tradition. The regime’s survival is based on a deal with the Wahhabi clerics who dominate religious practice in Saudi Arabia — and whose austere brand of Islam is among the world’s most reactionary. Clerics agree to support the regime, ignoring both its alliance with infidel America and the notoriously unIslamic lifestyles of its thousands of princes. In exchange, the regime gives these clerics billions of dollars, much of which they use to run mosques and religious schools across the Islamic world. More than a few of these mosques and schools, often run by Saudi clerics or others they have trained, are incubators of terror, where generations of lost boys learn to chant the Qur’an and hate America.

The deal is, as former CIA director James Woolsey once described it, “for the Wahhabis to be given all of the money in the world they could ever remotely dream of needing or wanting to spread their sect’s beliefs, and for them to leave the House of Saud alone.”

Successive American presidents have turned a blind eye to piles of evidence that Saudi money is being used to foment holy war against America. They have reason to do so. The absolute monarchy that rules Saudi Arabia generously cooperates with American global policies — even agreeing, according to one leaked cable, to supply China with oil in the hope of wooing it away from reliance on Iran. Saudi Arabia supplies much oil to the US. And it is the world’s largest consumer of American weaponry.

The Obama administration recently announced a deal to sell Saudi Arabia a staggering $60bn worth of weapons. This is new only in scope. In 1990, the New York Times ran a story headlined “US to Sell Saudis $20bn in Arms; Weapons Deal is Largest in History.” Seventeen years later, the same newspaper ran an almost identical headline: “US Set to Offer $20bn Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia and Other Gulf States.”

How could President Obama, in the midst of a recession, refuse to sell the Saudis another $60bn worth, given the number of jobs this sale will create? He might argue that it is unwise to send so much highly sophisticated weaponry to a kingdom with an uncertain future. King Abdullah is 86 or 87, and is currently hospitalised in New York. He has no designated successor in the country where Osama bin Laden was born and remains highly popular. Weapons systems the US sold to the Shah of Iran wound up in the hands of Islamic militants who seized power there in 1979; a comparable scenario in Saudi Arabia is hardly impossible.

Obama might also argue that arming a country that arms our enemies endangers American lives. That, of course, would provoke questions about Pakistan, America’s other two-faced ally. It is no secret that while Pakistan takes billions of dollars in American aid, most of it military, it arms and supports the Taliban and other violently anti-American groups.

Raising questions about these relationships is difficult. Revising them would require sacrificing short-term convenience for long-term benefits, and the US government is not good at long-term thinking. Yet, as King Hamad of Bahrain told American diplomats in one newly-leaked cable: “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.” He was talking about Iran, but his wisdom applies at least as well to America’s perverted relationships with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

King Abdullah, according to another leaked document, was also talking about Iran when he told American diplomats, “The bottom line is that they cannot be trusted.” This week’s leaks suggest that this truism applies at least as much to his own government, and that of Pakistan, as it does to Iran.

From deep in the vast archive of these leaked documents, a voice cries out to America: look more closely at your allies. Those who served your purpose at one time may now be dangerous enemies.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Yemen: Detained ‘Al-Qaeda Militant’ Released in Exchange for Kidnapped Doctor

Sanaa, 30 Nov. (AKI) — Yemen freed a man arrested a year ago on suspician of being an Al-Qaeda militant in exchange for the liberation of a Saudi doctor kidnapped two days ago, according to Yemeni news service News Yemen.

Yemen agreed to free Abdullah al-Daba following negotiations with armed men who on Sunday abducted Thafir al-Shahran while he was crossing the border with Saudi Arabia to go to work in the city of Sada where he was director of a hospital.

Kidnapping foreigners is a common practice by Yemeni tribes which seek to put pressure on the government to meet their demands.

It was not immediately clear if the kidnappers’ demand for the release from prison of eight other men accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation was met.

The doctor was handed over to a Yemeni security official and is due to return soon to Saudi Arabia. He spent the past two days as a prisoner of the Boujibara tribe, considered an ally of Al-Qaeda militants.

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

Russia


‘Top Dog’ And a Vengeful Harpy

The US Is Betting on Putin

The US is well informed in Moscow — which is why Washington is skeptical that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has much of a future. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, diplomatic cables make clear, is ‘in the driver’s seat.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Caucasus


Wikileaks: Italy’s 2008 Position on Ossetia ‘Irritated’ U.S.

(ANSA) — Rome, December 1 — The position Italy adopted during the 2008 clash between Russian and Georgia over Ossetia ‘deeply irritated’ the United States, according to diplomatic dispatches made public by the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks.

According to the text of diplomatic cables between the State Department and US embassies in Rome, published Wednesday by the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, the Bush administration was concerned that Italy could in some way undermine a common international front against the Russian invasion of Georgia.

The dispatches were classified as ‘confidential’ and ‘noforn’ (not for foreign eyes) with titles including: The Italians Will Not Help Us for a NATO Council Statement; and Debunk the Myth of Italy’s ‘Balanced’ Position on Georgia’.

Outtakes from the cables included: “(Italian Premier Silvio) Berlusconi and (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin have already spoken and we expect Russia to try and exploit the personal relationship between the two to push Italy to foil efforts to condemn Moscow’s actions in international forums”.

“As initially predicted in the first days of the Berlusconi government (May 2008), the close relationship between the Italian government and Russia could soon become a point of friction in relations between the US and Italy,” read another dispatch.

“In the best scenario, Italy will avoid making strong statements or put pressure on Russia. In the worse-case scenario Italy could work to destroy the determination of the other allies in international bodies, including NATO and the European Union,” a US diplomat wrote.

A cable dated August 15, 2008 spoke of Cabinet Secretary Gianni Letta and said “the (US) ambassador told Letta, Premier Berlusconi’s key advisor, that Washington is not happy with Italy’s position up until now and we are particularly puzzled by statements made by Foreign Minister (Franco) Frattini”.

On August 11, Frattini said that “Italy could not support the creation of a “European anti-Russian coalition” over the conflict.

“It would be negative for Europe to create a sort of coalition against Russia. It’s important that Europe is the 27 (member states) and that it does not divide into groups and little cliques”, he argued.

Frattini added that Berlusconi was exerting a “‘moral suasion” on Putin, “firmly based on the personal trust that connects them”, to end the conflict.

Berlusconi has repeatedly claimed that he played a “decisive” role in stopping Russian troops in the Georgia crisis.

“I’m happy I had a role that might be called decisive in stopping the advance of the Russian army in Georgia,” the Italian premier said.

Berlusconi’s contribution to helping to end the conflict in Georgia has been recognised by French President Nikolas Sarkozy, who brokered an end to hostilities there, as well as the United States.

“We would not have been able to get the result we got in the crisis between Georgia and Russia if we had not been able to take advantage of the contribution given by Berlusconi because of his cordial relations with Putin,” Sarkozy said during a visit to Rome in September 2009.

In a meeting with Berlusconi on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “Berlusconi has worked in Europe with Sarkozy for the stabilization of Georgia”.

She also told Berlusconi “we have no better friend. No one has supported America the way Berlusconi has through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations”.

The two met on the sidelines of a summit in Kazakhstan of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to iron out any differences which may have arisen from other Wikileaks documents.

These include one from a US diplomat in Rome who claimed that Berlusconi was “increasingly becoming a mouthpiece for Putin in Europe” and the pair exchanged “lavish gifts”.

Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August 2008 when Russian troops repelled a Georgian assault on the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which threw off Georgian rule in the early 1990s.

Russia then invaded and occupied parts of Georgia before an EU-brokered ceasefire brought an end to the conflict. Russia completed a withdrawal from Georgia the following October but has remained in South Ossetia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghanistan: Two Afghan Converts to Christianity Risk the Death Penalty

The two men have been in jail since June waiting for trial. A local TV station showed Afghans reciting Christian prayers and being baptised. Afghan law bans conversion from Islam to any other religion. Fr Moretti, in charge of the country’s onlyCatholic church, is interviewed about the matter.

Kabul (AsiaNews) — Two Afghans accused of converting to Christianity could face the death penalty, a prosecuting lawyer said on Sunday. Musa Sayed, 45, and Ahmad Shah, 50, are being detained in the Afghan capital awaiting trial, the prosecutor in charge of western Kabul, Din Mohammad Quraishi, said.

“They are accused of conversion to another religion, which is considered a crime under Islamic law. If proved, they face the death penalty or life imprisonment,” Quraishi said. Sayed, a Red Cross (ICRC) employee, has already confessed. There is also “proof” against Shah, Quraishi explained.

Sayed and Shah were arrested in late May and early June, days after local television broadcast footage of men reciting Christian prayers in Farsi and being baptised, apparently in a house in Kabul. The TV station also showed some people engaged in proselytising, which is banned in the Muslim country.

The ICRC’s spokesman in Kabul, Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, confirmed that Sayed worked for the organisation since 1995. He also said that he was able to visit him in prison.

The government launched its own investigation into the matter and suspended two aid groups, Norwegian Church Aid (a Protestant organisation) and Church World Service of the US (which includes Protestants, Orthodox and Anglicans), after the TV station reported two of their members were proselytising.

The Afghan constitution, adopted after the fall of the Islamic Taliban in late 2001, forbids conversion to another religion from Islam and in theory can sentence those found guilty to death. However, no one has been executed in recent years for converting.

Fr Giuseppe Moretti, parish priest at the only Catholic church in Afghanistan, a chapel inside the Italian Embassy in Kabul, told AsiaNews that he knew nothing about the affair. He was certain that they did not convert to Catholicism.

“No one in the country was baptised by a Catholic priest because proselytising is banned by law,” he said.

“The Catholic Church has been present in the country since 1923 with a mandate to take care of members of the international Catholic community living here. It has always respected that [principle] to the letter.”

As for the anti-conversion law, Fr Moretti has nothing to add, except to reiterate that the Catholic community has always respected it.

“The Little Sisters of Jesus of Charles de Foucault, the Sisters of Mother Teresa and the Sisters of the Interreligious Community are present here, and they too respect the ban. We bear witness to our faith through our commitment and our lives,” he said.

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



Bangladesh: Imam Rapes Ten-Year-Old Girl

The 42-year-old man was arrested by police right away. After enduring the violent assault, the girl told her parents everything. Rape charges against the religious leader have been filed. “I want justice,” father says.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — A ten-year-old girl was brutally raped on Saturday in Chittagong by Mohammad Moinuddin, the imam of the Chittagong Government Muslim High School. The 42-year-old man said that Satan led him to commit the deed at his shop at Yakubnagar in Firingibazar. The girl was taken to Chittagong’s Medical College Hospital for tests.

Kotwali Police Chief Abul Kalam Azad told AsiaNews that around 6 pm, the imam called the girl as she walked home from school. He then took her to a quiet place where he raped her.

The girl ran home bleeding and told everything to her parents. Her father ran to the place of the crime to apprehend the rapist, who was arrested right after police was informed of the incident.

“My daughter is just ten-years-old,” the father said. “Every time I pray, I cannot but think about what happened. I cannot believe that an imam, a man who learnt from the holy religion of Islam, a man who teaches others, is the same man who raped by daughter. I want justice.”

Deputy police inspector Naznin Sultana Juthee said that the girl’s mother has already filed rape charges against the imam.

Local human rights activists condemned the rape.

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



Indonesia: Islamic Students ‘Embrace Liberalism’ While Science Students Are ‘Drawn to Fundamentalism’

Jakarta, 30 Nov. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — While students in Indonesia’s Islamic universities are embracing liberalism, their counterparts in science schools feel more drawn to fundamentalism, a prominent Islamic cleric said on Tuesday.

Hasyim Muzadi, former chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, cited the phenomenon as he addressed a workshop on de-radicalization organized by the National Anti-Terror Agency (BNPT).

“Islamic universities these days usually produce liberalists, while science schools generate fundamentalists,” Hasyim said.

“I guess it’s because students of Islamic universities are tired of having to be pious —they’ve had to do it all the time; while science students are hardly in touch with religion so they search for it from available sources.”

He said the phenomenon could be seen among top science schools in Indonesia, including at the University of Indonesia.

Indonesian Ulema Council secretary Amirsyah Tambunan blamed weak monitoring for the intrusion of fundamentalist movements in campuses.

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



Pakistan: Asia Bibi Fears for Her Life, While Awaiting a Government Decision

Islamic radicals still on a war footing against the possibility of a pardon for the woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. The Taliban announces that they will oppose it in every way, and the leader of the Sunni council threatens “anarchy in the country.” Her husband: “Asia Bibi fears for her family.”

Lahore (AsiaNews) — The religious radicals in Pakistan have warned the president against the risk of provoking a wave of public outrage if he grants a pardon to the woman convicted of blasphemy. This conflict highlights the government’s difficult relations with the official religion, in a country where few wish to be considered soft on the enemies of Islam. Religious fundamentalists took to the streets in Lahore and Karachi Friday, November 26th to show their anger while the Pakistani government decides whether to grant clemency to a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. Many Pakistani Muslims feel offended by the notion that the death sentence of Asia Bibi could be revoked.

According to reports, the demonstrations were organized by an association close to Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a charitable organization that is banned by the UN because suspected of terrorist links. The chief coordinator of the JuD, Qari Yaqub, told protesters: “We will protest at the national level if the government forgives the Christian woman.” The head of the Sunni Ittehad Council, Sahibzada Fazal Kareem, told AsiaNews: “A pardon would lead to anarchy in the country. Our position is very clear, this punishment can not be cancelled. “ Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, deputy head of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, has warned of serious consequences if the government graces the woman, who was sentenced on 8 November 2010 for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. Faqir Muhammad, speaking from an undisclosed location to an international news channel, said that the Taliban will resist any attempt to pardon Asia Bibi.

Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Maisha, speaking in Punjabi to AsiaNews said: “Asia had been very strong in prison.She is different now. She is mentally stressed. She is very scared for her life and for the life of her family”. The family home is now a single bedroom, down a side street of a Christian colony. A cheery sign hangs on the wall as a reminder of the family’s faith — “God Bless Our Home” — but the patchy whitewash, dirty beds and incessant buzz of mosquitoes reek of quiet desperation.

AsiaNews continues its campaign to help Asia Bibi. Signatures are still coming in, and we are approaching 6thousand. Send an email to: salviamoasiabibi@asianews.it

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



Pakistan Mother Denied Presidential Pardon for ‘Insulting Islam’

A Pakistani court has barred President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning a Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of insulting Islam, in a case that has prompted criticism over the country’s blasphemy law.

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of four, requested a pardon from the president after a lower court sentenced her to death on 8 November in a case stemming from a village dispute.

The Lahore high court today barred Zardari from pardoning Bibi in a petition filed by Shahid Iqbal, a Pakistani citizen. Iqbal’s lawyer Allah Bux Laghari told Reuters a pardon was illegal as the court was already hearing an appeal against her sentence.

“We believe it is the court’s duty to evaluate the evidence against her, not individuals, and if she is found innocent, she should be freed,” he said.

Human rights groups have demanded the repeal of the law, which they say discriminates against religious minorities who make up roughly 4% of Pakistan’s 170 million-strong population.

A government minister said last week that an initial inquiry into the case of the Christian mother said she had not committed blasphemy but was falsely accused after a quarrel.

Blasphemy convictions are common although the death sentence has never been carried out. Most convictions are thrown out on appeal, but angry mobs have killed many people accused of blasphemy.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Six Killed in Attack in Pakistan

A three-year-old boy and a police officer were among six people killed in a suicide attack Tuesday morning in northwest Pakistan, police told CNN.

The suicide bomber walked up to a police station in the Bannu district and blew himself up next to a parked police van, said Iftikhar Khan, a local police chief.

Police say 19 people were also injured in the attack.

The Bannu district neighbors Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Italy: Immigrants Make Up 8% of Payrolls and Their Numbers Are ‘Increasing’

Rome, 1 Dec. (AKI) — Immigrants in 2009 made up more than 8 percent of Italy’s legal workforce and their numbers are rising, according to an annual report by the national welfare and pensions agency.

“Immigrants are a growing presence in the Italian workforce,” INPS said on Tuesday in its annual report presented in Rome.

Seventy-three percent of the 1.57 million immigrants on Italian payrolls are dependants of a business, while only 5 percent — mostly artesans — are self-employed, the report said. The INPS report didn’t provide comparative numbers.

Legal immigrants in Italy produce 11 percent Italy’s wealth or gross domestic product, according to a joint report on immigration by Catholic charity groups Caritas and Migrantes. Immigrants account for 11 billion euros, or 10 percent of pension and health insurance contributions by dependent workers.

Eastern Europeans were the leading immigrant group of workers, at 33 percent, the INPS report said. That was followed by Asia and eastern Asia each accounted for 21 percent, followed by South American workers, at 11 percent.

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

Culture Wars


Italian Women Battle for the Middle Ground

In the Italy of Prime Minister Berlusconi, the media is saturated with almost pornographic images of women who silently and happily suffer their own objectification. But now that a former television starlet has risen to become the minister of equal opportunity, there are at least some fresh hopes for change.

Italian Minister of Equal Opportunity Mara Carfagna, popularly known as “Bella Mara,” has had a fairy-tale, Cinderella-like career — and one that would only be possible in Italy. Indeed, it’s only been a few years since the native of southern Italy was posing — her oiled body draped in fishing nets — for the kinds of pinup posters that construction workers hang in their lockers and spending her evenings appearing on primetime TV shows, her skirt hiked almost up to the crotch.

Carfagna was what the Italians call a velina, the name given to the scantily clad women who regularly appear — beautiful but silent — on Italian TV shows. Indeed, she was a product of Italian television, where she appeared until 2006, and you can still find photos and videos of her from those days online.

But now, the 34-year-old politician — crowned “the world’s beautiful minister” by the tabloids — is a creation of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. In 2007, after seeing her on one of the TV stations belonging to his media empire, he jokingly — and on TV — stated he wouldn’t mind marrying her, precipitating a war of roses with Veronica Lario, his wife at the time.

A little more than a year later, Carfagna was appointed to serve as Berlusconi’s federal minister for equal opportunity. Many Italian women perceive her meteoric rise to political prominence as both an affront and evidence of the distorted image of women in Italy — as if having a perfect figure and being beautiful and obedient were all it takes.

Self-Liberation

But everything changed after Carfagna’s appointment in 2008. She seems transformed today, looking slightly nun-like with her short black hair and modest outfits. Horrified by the way women sell their bodies, her first act in office was to try to make street prostitution a crime with fines for both clients and the prostitutes themselves — and she was showered with ridicule for it. She was seen as the product of her maker, as the prime example of how women are viewed in Italy.

But then she grew into her position. She launched initiatives to protect female rape victims and homosexuals. Widely praised for her efforts, she ignored Berlusconi’s chauvinist comments, such as: “We don’t have enough soldiers to protect our women from violence. They are simply too beautiful.”

But now this so-called product of Berlusconi is liberating herself. On Nov. 20, at the height of the recent government crisis, Carfagna announced her intention to step down on Dec. 15. As reasons, she cited her view that Berlusconi was no longer in control of the government and that she had too little power. Moreover, unlike her fellow cabinet ministers, Carfagna is no longer holding back, openly discussing the dramatically growing mountains of garbage in her native Campania region, where she is rumored to be interested in becoming mayor of Naples.

Berlusconi reacted huffily. Carfagna was the fifth member of the government to threaten to leave the coalition. “I created her,” he complained soon after the announcement, “and this is how she repays me.”

Three days later, Berlusconi was happy to report that she had changed her mind. “I spoke to her for two hours yesterday,” he said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. “She understood and said she’s not quitting.”

A New Type of Enslavement

Though the Italian media has been depicting Carfagna’s rebellion as something sensational, it has been the status quo in Italy for a long time. Indeed, women have been rebelling there for years, battling the roles their country has reserved for them: You can be either a whore or a saint, but nothing in between. And, in this confrontation, they face powerful enemies: machismo, age-old stereotypes and the influence of the Catholic Church.

Of course, Italian women are proud to finally be able to show their bodies in public; it was part of their liberation. But they also know that this freedom has also been repurposed to allow their bodies to be displayed for cheap sexual reasons, especially on television.

Now they fear being pushed back into the Middle Ages, as if Italy’s many bright, accomplished women had changed nothing in this country, women such as educator Maria Montessori, author Oriana Fallaci, actress Anna Magnani and publisher Inge Feltrinelli. And their fears seem justified…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Penis Boxing Video Game to Promote Safe Sex

To mark World AIDS Day on Wednesday, a German organisation has created a risqué online game allowing men to use their penises to “cock out” the deadly disease in a boxing match using a high-tech condom and a webcam.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Pentagon Report on ‘Gays’ Rigged?

‘This is a profoundly radical experiment with the military’ WASHINGTON — Critics are charging that the Pentagon report on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was rigged to come to conclusions preordained by the Obama administration, which promised to lift the policy in order to attract homosexual supporters during the 2008 presidential campaign.

“That was the mandate that was given to the Department of Defense, to make that outcome occur,” said retired Army Col. Dick Black.

[…]

“When this study was first announced, Lt. Gen. Mixon, the commander of our forces in the Pacific, publicly encouraged soldiers to speak out on the issue. He was told in no uncertain terms to shut up or get out of the service,” said Black, a former Marine combat officer and Army lawyer.

“What a disaster,” said LaBarbera. “The Pentagon’s plan calls for a gradual transition, and they plan to use that time to ‘educate’ the troops about proper attitudes toward homosexuality. When we start talking about educating the troops, we’re talking about indoctrination.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Wrong to Ban Student With Niqab: Ombudsman

Banning a student from class for wearing a headscarf is a violation of Sweden’s anti-discrimination laws, the country’s Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen — DO) has ruled.

“According to the DO’s assessment, kicking a student out of class simply because she was wearing a niqab, without taking into account the specific circumstances of her participation, violates the law against discrimination,” Equality Ombudsman Katri Linna wrote in an opinion article in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Linna’s decision stems from a January 2009 incident in which a Muslim woman was was told she would no longer be welcome at an adult education college in Spånga, west of Stockholm, if she continued to wear her niqab.

The niqab is part of a hijab headress and covers the entire face except for the eyes.

The student reported the matter to the ombudsman, claiming it amounted to religious discrimination, as the school’s decision prevented her from continuing her training to be a pediatric nurse if she continued to wear the niqab.

Sweden’s Parliamentary Ombudsman (Justitieombudsmännen — JO) recently criticised the Equality Ombudsman for taking nearly two years to rule on the case.

Linna said her office has no plans to take the woman’s case to court because the she had been able to complete her studies in spite of the ban, as the school eventually decided to let her continue attending classes until the Equality Ombudsman had decided on the case.

Because the woman finished her studies with solid marks, she has proven that her headscarf didn’t present an obstacle to attending lectures, according to the ombudsman. Nor were there any problems related to her interactions with teachers or other students.

During class, she sat in a way that prevented male students from seeing her face, meaning she didn’t have to keep it covered.

The woman had also said she was willing to show her face if and when the school’s personnel needed to identify her, wrote Linna, who concluded there was “no overriding reason to prohibit” the student from attending class.

Linna also expressed her concern about the “rancor and simplifications” which infected the ensuing debate about wearing a niqab, rejecting justifications based on the assumption that headscarves are an “expression of the oppression of women” and therefore must be fought.

“To remove women who wear niqabs from an education programme benefits neither theirs nor other women’s equality,” writes the ombudsman.

“I believe instead that education can be a platform for women to continue to develop and shape their own choices. Education is the basis for entering the job market and thus access to a social context outside the home and the possibility to support oneself.”

The Equality Ombudsman’s decision means that a school must make an individual assessment in every case involving a student wearing a niqab and that schools cannot decide on a general ban against women bearing headscarves, according to Linna.

“You have to look at each situation: what sort of educational programme it is,” she told the TT news agency, what’s included, what sort of problems occurred and whether they can be avoided by other means. It’s essential to do so before kicking a student out,” she told the TT news agency.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Former Archbishop Lord Carey: We Mustn’t be Ashamed of Christmas in These Politically Correct Times

Britain has become ashamed of Christmas, former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey declared yesterday.

He said Christmas cards are censored, school nativity plays stripped of Christian content and Christmas decorations banned in the campaign to block the festival out of the calendar.

Lord Carey said the trend was part of a broader attack on the Christian faith which underpins tolerance and democracy in this country.

He made his remarks in support of the launch today of a move to persuade Christians to show their faith in public and challenge employers who stop staff expressing their Christianity.

The ‘Not Ashamed’ campaign, organised by the pressure group Christian Concern, will encourage millions to wear a cross to work or a badge with a slogan saying they are ‘not ashamed’ of their religion.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]

General


How to Create Temperatures Below Absolute Zero

ABSOLUTE zero sounds like an unbreachable limit beyond which it is impossible to explore. In fact there is a weird realm of negative temperatures that not only exists in theory, but has also proved accessible in practice. An improved way of getting there, outlined last week, could reveal new states of matter.

Temperature is defined by how the addition or removal of energy affects the amount of disorder, or entropy, in a system. For systems at familiar, positive temperatures, adding energy increases disorder: heating up an ice crystal makes it melt into a more disordered liquid, for example. Keep removing energy, and you will get closer and closer to zero on the absolute or kelvin scale (-273.15 °C), where the system’s energy and entropy are at a minimum.

Negative-temperature systems have the opposite behaviour. Adding energy reduces their disorder, and hence their temperature. But they are not cold in the conventional sense that heat will flow into them from systems at positive temperatures. In fact, systems with negative absolute temperatures contain more atoms in high-energy states than is possible even at the hottest positive temperatures, so heat should always flow from them to systems above zero kelvin.

Creating negative-temperature systems to see what other “bizarro world” properties they might have is tricky. It is certainly not done by cooling an object down to absolute zero. It is, however, possible to leap straight from positive to negative absolute temperatures.

This has already been done in experiments in which atomic nuclei were placed in a magnetic field, where they act like tiny bar magnets and line up with the field. The field was then suddenly reversed, leaving the nuclei briefly aligned opposite to the direction in which they would have the lowest energy. While they were in this state they fleetingly behaved in a way consistent with them having negative absolute temperatures, before they too flipped over to line up with the field.

Because the nuclei can only flip between two possible states — parallel to the field or opposite to it — this set-up offered only limited possibilities for investigation. In 2005 Allard Mosk, now at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, devised a scheme for an experiment that would offer more knobs to turn to explore the negative temperature regime…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Quantum Uncertainty Controls ‘Action at a Distance’

Two things Albert Einstein did not like about quantum theory were its inherent uncertainty and its assertion that particles can remain weirdly linked even when separated by great distances. The former he dismissed with the phrase “God does not play dice,” and the second he called “spooky action at a distance”.

Now a pair of physicists says that these two strange effects are intimately linked — and that uncertainty itself limits how “connected” separate particles can be.

When two distant particles that are quantum mechanically linked, or entangled, are measured, the results are more similar than predicted by classical physics. “Nature is non-local,” says Sandu Popescu of the University of Bristol. “This is arguably the most important lesson of quantum theory.”

But these non-local links are not as influential as they might conceivably be. Popescu and colleague Daniel Rohrlich, now at Ben Gurion University in Israel, calculated 15 years ago that the laws of physics could allow even stronger coordination between distant systems, leading physicists to wonder why quantum theory doesn’t go as far as it could.

Jonathan Oppenheim of the University of Cambridge in the UK and Stephanie Wehner of the National University of Singapore suggest they’ve found a clue. The secret, they suggest, lies in another famous property of the quantum world — its inherent uncertainty.

‘Even spookier’

In quantum theory, states of a quantum system can never be defined with precision. The uncertainty principle, for example, implies that any effort to measure the position of an electron entails giving up precise knowledge of its velocity, or vice versa.

Using information theory, a core tool of computer science that quantifies how much information is contained in any structure, Oppenheim and Wehner studied how the amount of uncertainty in a theory should influence the possibilities it presents for nonlocal connections.

Hypothetical theories containing no uncertainty, they found, could feature coordination between distant systems as strong as the limit calculated by Popescu and Rohrlich. “Quantum mechanics could be even spookier,” says Oppenheim. “But Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle gets in the way.”

The results do not suggest what underlying physical mechanism would link uncertainty to non-locality. But because the results rest only the ideas of information theory, they should hold not only for quantum theory, but for any conceivable future theory as well, the authors say.

“This is a very original and important idea,” says Popescu. But he cautions that it is probably not the final word on why quantum theory is not more non-local than it is. “This work doesn’t finally solve the problem,” he says. “But it goes in a very new direction”, adding to other possible explanations that physicists have explored in recent years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Super-Earth’s Atmosphere Analysed for First Time

A crude spectrum has been obtained for the atmosphere of a super-Earth orbiting a dim red dwarf star 40 light years away. The planet’s upper atmosphere is apparently dominated by steam or cloudy haze. The star, Gliese 1214 (GJ 1214) in Ophiuchus, is 300 times dimmer than the sun. Its planet was discovered in 2009 when the MEarth Project detected the planet’s silhouette periodically dimming the star. The planet has 6.5 Earth masses, as determined later by the star’s gravitational wobbles, and it circles the little star very closely in just 38 hours.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Top Science Panel Caught in Another Global Warming Data Fraud

Newly released science book revelation is set to heap further misery on UN global warming researchers. Will latest setback derail Cancun Climate conference?

Authors of a new book ‘Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory’ claim they have debunked the widely established greenhouse gas theory climate change. In the first of what they say will be a series of sensational statements to promote the launch of their book, they attack a cornerstone belief of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — what is known as the “carbon isotope argument.”

Mišo Alkalaj, is one of 24 expert authors of this two-volume publication, among them are qualified climatologists, prominent skeptic scientists and a world leading math professor. It is Alkalaj’s chapter in the second of the two books that exposes the fraud concerning the isotopes 13C/12C found in carbon dioxide (CO2).

If true, the disclosure may possibly derail last-ditch attempts at a binding international treaty to ‘halt man-made global warming.’ At minimum the story will be sure to trigger a fresh scandal for the beleaguered United Nations body.

Do Human Emissions of Carbon Dioxide Exhibit a Distinct Signature?

The low-key internal study focused on the behavior of 13C/12C isotopes within carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules and examined how the isotopes decay over time. Its conclusions became the sole basis of claims that ‘newer’ airborne CO2 exhibits a different and thus distinct ‘human signature.’ The paper was employed by the IPCC to give a green light to researchers to claim they could quantify the amount of human versus natural proportions just from counting the number of isotopes within that ‘greenhouse gas.’

Alkalaj, who is head of Center for Communication Infrastructure at the “J. Stefan” Institute, Slovenia says because of the nature of organic plant decay, that emits CO2, such a mass spectrometry analysis is bogus. Therefore, it is argues, IPCC researchers are either grossly incompetent or corrupt because it is impossible to detect whether carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is of human or organic origin.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20101130

Financial Crisis
» Contagion Strikes Italy as Ireland Bail-Out Fails to Calm Markets
» The End of Easy Green Money
 
USA
» Common Sense Platform Interview With Beverly Eakman
» Is Wikileaks a Dick Cheney Front?
» Private Spaceship Could Start Carrying Tourists Within a Year
» Rising GOP Star to Speak at Heritage
» Senate Passes New Food Police Bill: Roll Call Vote 73-25; Senator Bennet: “It’s All Rigged”
» Shocker! TSA’s Nude Scans Would Miss Taped-on Bombs
» Virgin Galactic Keeps Mum on Orbital Spaceflight Ambitions
» Wikileaks Plans to Release a U.S. Bank’s Documents
» Won’t You Please Hug a Terrorist?
 
Europe and the EU
» European Commission to Probe Google Search
» Fears of Euro Crisis Contagion
» Germany: Munich Abuse Case
» Guantanamo Inmates Traded for Money and Obama Handshakes
» Italy: Law Prompts Italian ‘Fertility Tourists’ To Seek Out Foreign Eggs and Sperm
» Italy: Showgirl Waxes Sympathetic for Berlusconi in Poem
» Italy: Junior Minister to Attend Conference on the Burqa
» Italy: Wikileaks Reveals Berlusconi as “Feckless”, “Ineffective” And “Mouthpiece of Putin”
» Italy: Fresh Collapse at Pompeii
» ‘Kauft Nicht Bei Juden’ Will Worsen the Conflict
» Leading Rabbi Says Europe Risks Being ‘Overrun’ By Islam
» Ségolene Royal Stuns Party With Plan to Run for President of France in 2012
» Sweden: Remains From 1600s Ship Found Near Stockholm Hotel
» Switzerland: A Year After Swiss Voters Approved a Ban on the Building of Minarets, Both Pro and Contra Groups Are Launching New Campaigns to Put the Issue Back on the Political Agenda.
» UK: Shamed Police Chief Ali Dizaei ‘Could be Freed Tomorrow’ After Sensational Claim Witness Used False Name in Court
» UK: the False Consciousness of Western Civilisation
» UK: Video: Vogelenzangs Turn Hotel Loss Into Blessing for Community
 
North Africa
» Algeria: 35 People Arrested for Witchcraft
» Egyptian Security Used Live Ammunition on Christian Coptic Protesters, 4 Killed
» Egypt’s Rulers Tighten Grip Amid Claims of Election Fraud and Intimidation
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Italians Aim to Deliver Humanitarian Goods to Gaza Strip
» New Mossad Chief Appointed
 
Middle East
» America’s Dark View of Turkish Premier Erdogan
» Deadly Fictions
» Iran Set to Execute Woman Accused of Murdering Lover’s Wife
» Iraq: Politician Asks for Christian Region in the North
» Iraq: Christians Face Escalating Violence
» Islamist Turkey vs. Secular Iran?
» Notes for Today: The Big Story Being Missed & Trying to Ignore Wikileaks
» Pipes: Islamist Turkey vs. Secular Iran
» Soccer: Yemenis Working in Saudi Strike After Team Loses
» Syria: Fears for Impact Web News Law
» The Lunatic Who Thinks He’s Barack Obama
» Wikileaks: Turkey Denies Report on Iran Arms Sale
» Wikileaks: US Ambassador Connects EU Membership With Facing Past, Mocks Historiography in Turkey
 
South Asia
» Diana West: Afghan “Policeman” Kills Six US Troops
» From Pakistan, Diplomats Wrote About a Vexing Ally
» Pakistan: Drone Victim Sues CIA for $500 Million ‘For Killing Family’
» The Brink of War
» Wikileaks Cables Expose Pakistan Nuclear Fears
 
Far East
» Blame Appeasement for North Korea’s Antics
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» Ethiopia Imprisons Christian Accused of Defacing Quran
 
Latin America
» Ecuador Offers Wikileak’s Founder Assange Residency, No Questions Asked
 
Immigration
» Gaddafi to EU: 5 Bln to Stop Illegals
» Gaddafi Demands £4 Billion From EU or Europe Will Turn ‘Black’
» Italy: Moroccan Terrorist Expelled After Early Release From Prison
» Netherlands: Crime Puts Pressure on Integration
» Religious ‘Bullying’ Among Christmas Island Detainees
» UK: Eight in Ten Want Tighter Controls on Immigration … Even Lib Dem Voters Want Cap
 
Culture Wars
» Smithsonian Christmas-Season Exhibit Features Ant-Covered Jesus, Naked Brothers Kissing, Genitalia, And Ellen Degeneres Grabbing Her Breasts
» Sweden: Teaching Boost Urged for Multicultural Kids
» UK: Hate Crime Figures Published for the First Time
 
General
» Hunters May Have Delivered Fatal Blow to Mammoths
» Is Wi-Fi Frying Our Brains? Fears That Cloud of ‘Electrosmog’ Could be Harming Humans
» Islamists Know a Western Civilization Secret: ‘Progress’ Makes Religion Decline
» The Primitive Social Network: Bullying Required

Financial Crisis


Contagion Strikes Italy as Ireland Bail-Out Fails to Calm Markets

The EU-IMF rescue for Ireland has failed to restore to confidence in the eurozone debt markets, leading instead to a dramatic surge in bond yields across half the currency bloc.

Spreads on Italian and Belgian bonds jumped to a post-EMU high as the sell-off moved beyond the battered trio of Ireland, Portugal, and Spain, raising concerns that the crisis could start to turn systemic. It was the worst single day in Mediterranean markets since the launch of monetary union.

The euro fell sharply to a two-month low of €1.3064 against the dollar, while bourses slid across the world. The FTSE 100 fell almost 118 points to 5,550, while the Dow was off 120 points in early trading.

“The crisis is intensifying and worsening,” said Nick Matthews, a credit expert at RBS. “Bond purchases by the European Central Bank are the only anti-contagion weapon left. It needs to act much more aggressively.”

Investor reaction comes as a bitter blow to eurozone leaders, who expected the €85bn (£72bn) package for Ireland agreed over the weekend to calm “irrational markets”.

While the Irish rescue removed the immediate threat of “haircuts” for senior bondholders of Irish banks, it leaves open the risk of burden-sharing from 2013 on all EMU sovereign bonds and bank debt on a “case-by-case” basis. Traders said bond funds have been dumping Club Med bonds frantically to comply with their “value-at-risk” models before closing books for the year.

Yields on 10-year Italian bonds jumped 21 points to 4.61pc, threatening to shift the crisis to a new level. Italy’s public debt is over €2 trillion, the world’s third-largest after the US and Japan.

“The EU rescue fund cannot handle Spain, let alone Italy,” said Charles Dumas, from Lombard Street Research. “We we may be nearing the point where Germany has to decide whether it is willing take on a burden six times the size of East Germany, or let some countries go.”

Italy distanced itself from trouble in the rest of southern Europe early in the financial crisis, benefiting from rock-solid banks, low private debt, and the iron fist of finance minister Giulio Tremonti. But the crisis of competitiveness never went away, and the country has faced a political turmoil for weeks.

If Portugal and Spain have to follow Ireland in tapping the EU’s €440bn bail-out fund — as widely feared after Spanish yields touched 5.4pc — this will put extra strains on Italy as one of a reduced core of creditor states. The rescue mechanism has had the unintended effect of spreading contagion to Italy, and perhaps beyond. French lenders have $476bn of exposure to Italian debt, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

In Dublin, Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Fein have all vowed to vote against the austerity budget in early December, raising doubts over whether the government can deliver on its promises to the EU.

Echoing the national mood, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said it was “disgraceful” that the Irish people should be reduced to debt servitude to foreign creditors of reckless banks. “The costs of this deal to ordinary people will result in hugely damaging cuts,” he said.

One poll suggested a majority of Irish voters favour default on Ireland’s bank debt. Popular fury raises the “political risk” that a new government elected next year will turn its back on the deal.

Premier Brian Cowen said there was no other option. “We are not an irresponsible country, “ he said, adding that Brussels had squashed any idea of haircuts on senior debt. Irish ministers say privately that Ireland is being forced to hold the line to prevent a pan-European bank run.

There is bitterness over the EU-IMF loan rate of 5.8pc, which may be too high to allow Ireland to claw its way out of a debt trap. Interest payments will reach a quarter of total revenues by 2014. Moody’s says the average trigger for default in recent history worldwide has been 22pc. “The interest bill is enormous. The whole process lacks feasibility,” said Stephen Lewis, from Monument Securities.

Olli Rehn, the European economics commissioner, said Ireland is in better shape than it looks, recording the EU’s strongest growth in industrial output in September as the IT and drug industries boost exports.

“Ireland’s real economy has not gone away. It is flexible, open, has strong fundamentals, and has the capacity to rebound relatively rapidly. The Irish are smart, resilient, stubborn people, and they will overcome this challenge,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



The End of Easy Green Money

They’re cutting back subsidies on this. At the French National Institute of Solar Energy.

The crisis has put a dent in carbon emissions — and in the foundations of Europe’s planned green economy. By calling subsidies for inefficient technologies into question, that blow might yet be a boon for the renewable energy sector.

Carlo Stagnaro

On 12 October 2010 the European Environment Agency announced: “ A new report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) shows that a large drop in emissions seen in 2008 and 2009 gives EU15 a head start to reach and even overachieve its 8% reduction target under the Kyoto Protocol.[…] The EEA report also shows that EU27 is well on track towards achieving its 20% reduction target by 2020.” The study indicates that CO2 production last year was down 6.9% from 2008, the steepest decline ever observed since emissions monitoring began.

There’s no denying that the main reason for the decline was the recession. What is surprising is the satisfied tone also found in the European Commission communication of 26 May 2010: “The fact that 20 per cent is now closer than expected in 2008 is clearly a driver for the challenge of reaching the 30% target.”

France and Germany, distancing themselves from Commission

But these cautious words mask a rigorous rationale. The first drafts actually enthused about the impact of the crisis on carbon emissions, which sparked plenty of resistance, even in circles traditionally sympathetic to European-style environmental dirigisme.

An internal document from the BDA (Confederation of German Employers’ Associations), for example, says: “Slower growth shouldn’t be glorified into a climate protection tool.” Industrial organisations in other countries took a similar and even more caustic stance.

The final draft of the communication was received with catcalls from the peanut gallery, including the likes of Business Europe (confederation of European industrialists) and Eurelectric (energy industry association). For the first time ever, two majority shareholders in the European Commission, France and Germany, distanced themselves from the Commission’s policy paper in a joint statement by their industry ministers. It appears that the most active opponent was the EU industry commissioner himself, the German Gunther Oettinger.

Credit crunch makes it harder to raise capital

The handling of the climate issue has been entrusted to the Danish Connie Hedegaard, who heads the Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA) created specially for her when the new Commission was put together in 2009. Hedegaard is deemed an “extremist”: many remember her as the “Godmother” of the Copenhagen Summit [COP15], an event that was initially conceived as the moment of Barack Obama’s ecological beatification but turned into a huge fiasco when the pivotal players — the US, China and India — proved unwilling to accept binding post-Kyoto targets.

The recession cut the branch that Europe’s green industry was perched on. But above all, demand plummeted, bringing down with it the need for new productive capacity. Primary energy demand in the EU declined 3.4% from 2005 to 2010 — and won’t be returning to pre-crisis levels any time before 2020. According to the European Commission, the increase in total consumption from 2005 to 2030 will hardly come to 4%, a full 16% less than forecast in 2007.

Furthermore, it has grown harder for everyone to borrow — a phenomenon particularly detrimental to capital-intensive industries with high fixed and low variable costs, which is the case with new renewable energy sources. The credit crunch makes it harder to raise capital to build facilities, let alone do research and development.

China’s aggressive market policy.

Almost every European country has recently cut back on subsidies. In Italy, the government cut spending on the photovoltaic sector by an average 20%. In Spain, people are now talking openly about a “solar bubble”, now that subsidy cuts come to as much as 45% in some cases and several major solar panel factories have had to close up shop. Even Germany has gradually scaled down funding: first by 3%, then this January by 13%, and by 21% from 2012. Britain has announced a 10% trim from 2013.

Behind this change of course, however, lie deeper matters that have less to do with the state of the economy. It shouldn’t mystify anyone that various countries — particularly Germany, Spain and Denmark — view environmental policy through the prism of industrial policy: green, that’s great, but better yet green and rich. That experiment, however, now seems to have flopped. The evidence shows that, even in the best-case scenarios, wealth was transferred, not created, and that transfer probably ended up destroying it.

Though Europe initially led the green technology sector, its ascendancy is on the wane. Chinese manufacturers have come out with an aggressive market policy to slash production costs while boosting margins out of all proportion, which has moved green investment outside the confines of Europe. Even as plants are closing down in Europe, panel production in China — fuelled chiefly by our subsidies — will have jumped 50% in 2010…

Translated from the Italian by Eric Rosencrantz

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

USA


Common Sense Platform Interview With Beverly Eakman

1) Beverly, your recently released book, A Common Sense Platform for the 21st Century, is flying off the shelves in bookstores and is being consumed by the American public. Let’s start at the beginning: Why did you write this book at this particular time in history?

Actually, I was commissioned to write it by a solid conservative and Tea Party activist in Arizona. I was very reluctant to take the project, especially given the infighting and turf battles among various factions within both the Tea Party and conservative movement. Then, more out of curiosity than anything else, I looked up various Party Platforms. I started with the Republican, then Democratic, the Libertarian, Independence Party, the Independent Party (a.k.a. America’s Independent Party), the Constitution Party, the Natural Law Party, the Green Party and finally the Socialist Party and even the Communist Party USA.

To my shock, none of them would pass any sort of legal or constitutional muster; most didn’t have significant “meat,” and were poorly thought-out. I mean, even the outright treasonous ones failed to lay out a rationale within the context of the country’s legal structure and history, which they were aiming to change. That started me going back to the old Whig Party and other older documents, which were certainly better written and didn’t sound like a grip-in taken from recent headlines.

I read over Thomas Jefferson’s list of Abuses and Usurpations, which he directed toward King George in the Declaration of Independence. Well, there was nothing like that in any recent Platform that I could find. Then I read over the Tea Party Platform, which was closer, in that it was built around three essential principles, but I decided a fourth principle was in order, given the recent scandals by elected officials and the over-reaches by government.

So, what basically happened is that I found myself “hooked” on the idea. The biggest impetus, though, was the realization that Election 2012 is probably going to be the last chance American patriots will have to reclaim their rightful prerogatives. So, I started writing, eventually called for critiques from 25 people I respected in their fields of expertise, incorporated those suggestions I felt were missing in my advance copy, and the rest is history.

2) Let’s have YOUR present “State of the Union,” if you will, in five sentences or less.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Is Wikileaks a Dick Cheney Front?

“Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has positioned himself as a left-wing whistleblower whose life mission is to call the United States to task for the evil it has wreaked throughout the world. But after poring through the diplomatic cables revealed via the site yesterday, one might easily wonder if Assange isn’t instead a clandestine agent of Dick Cheney and Bibi Netanyahu…

[…]

[Return to headlines]



Private Spaceship Could Start Carrying Tourists Within a Year

NEW YORK — Virgin Galactic’s new commercial spaceship could be flying its first passengers — company founder Sir Richard Branson and his family — in about a year, Branson said today (Nov. 30) on NBC’s “Today” show.

“We’re about 12 months away,” Branson said. The craft, called SpaceShipTwo, will provide tourists with a brief taste of weightlessness and a window on the globe of the Earth from the blackness of space, without making a full orbit around the planet. The ship flies six passengers and two pilots.

“It’s really exciting,” he said. “The spaceship is now finished, the mothership is finished, the spaceport in New Mexico is very nearly finished.” [Gallery: First Solo Flight of SpaceShipTwo]

SpaceShipTwo will be lofted to midair by a carrier mothership called WhiteKnightTwo, then will rocket itself up to space. The initial launches will fly out of Spaceport America, near Truth or Consequences, N.M.

Branson, a British billionaire, was here in New York City to promote a separate venture, the launch of an iPad lifestyle magazine called Project, also under the banner of Branson’s Virgin Group. The publication will be a combination print magazine and website, featuring constantly updated content and sold via the Apple app store for $2.99 a month.

Flights on SpaceShipTwo won’t be nearly as affordable. Branson said 500 passengers are already signed up, at $200,000 a ride.

“Over the years, as more and more people go, I think we’ll start bringing the price of it down,” Branson said.

Apparently not content to stick to suborbital trips, Branson has hinted that Virgin Galactic might soon begin to pursue orbital space travel. The company would join several other firms vying to produce the first commercial spacecraft capable of carrying people to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station.

That market has become even more enticing in the wake of President Obama’s decision to steer NASA toward using private spaceships for this purpose once they become available.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Rising GOP Star to Speak at Heritage

Rep. Nunes to present blueprint for ‘Restoring the Republic’

WASHINGTON — Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., a rising young star in Congress and author of “Restoring the Republic,” will address the Heritage Foundation Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 10:30 am on the subject of bringing the federal government under control.

In the book, Nunes presents an agenda for solving the menacing problems that threaten our nation’s future. Born and raised in the breadbasket of California, the 36-year-old Nunes has seen firsthand how the convergence of big government, big business, and the radical Left has wreaked havoc on entire communities, turning the once-thriving farmland of the San Joaquin Valley into a blighted desert reminiscent of the Dust Bowl. He argues that the same forces are doing their damage on a national level, threatening America’s very foundation…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Senate Passes New Food Police Bill: Roll Call Vote 73-25; Senator Bennet: “It’s All Rigged”

I mentioned last week that a new Big Foodie bill opposed by a diverse coalition of limited government activists, small family farmers, and left-leaning “locovores” was coming down the pike.

Today, I’m disappointed to tell you, the regulatory expansion bill masquerading as a “safety” measure passed by a large margin — with stomach-turning Republican support.

[See URL for list of Republican offenders]

[…]

From:The Daily Caller:http://ht.ly/3hzNG

A hot mic left on during a Senate vote Tuesday morning on the Food Safety Act caught a senator complaining that process of setting the agenda during the lame-duck session is “rigged.”

“It’s all rigged. The whole conversation is rigged,” a currently unknown member on the Senate floor said. “The fact that we don’t get to a discussion before the break about what we’re going to do in the lame duck . It’s just rigged. “

The remark was picked up live on C-SPAN 2, although microphones are usually turned down during voting times. An aide quickly realized the mistake, jumped up and had the sound cut off.

[…]

[Return to headlines]



Shocker! TSA’s Nude Scans Would Miss Taped-on Bombs

Peer-reviewed paper says terrorists could fool clothes-penetrating tools

A new peer-reviewed scientific study says the backscatter full-body imaging X-ray machines being used by the federal Transportation Security Administration could be fooled by terrorists who simply would mold explosives to conform to their bodies.

WND obtained an advance copy of the report, titled “An evaluation of airport X-ray backscatter units based on image characteristics,” in which University of California scientists Leon Kaufman and Joseph Carlson demonstrated that packages of explosives contoured to the body or worn along the sides likely would not be detected by TSA X-ray units built to “see” hard edges and anatomical features, and used primarily to image the front and back of the body.

The article comes from Dr. David Brenner of Columbia’s Center for Radiological Research, whose research includes estimating the risks of low dose X-ray exposures.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Virgin Galactic Keeps Mum on Orbital Spaceflight Ambitions

While Virgin Galactic’s public sights are set on offering suborbital space tourist treks on its SpaceShipTwo passenger ships, the company is already quietly eyeing the next step: orbital space travel.

Virgin Galactic founder and president Sir Richard Branson publicly admitted the company’s orbital aims last month at the dedication of the Spaceport America facility under construction in New Mexico. But he and other Virgin execs are keeping mum on the details.

“Obviously, we want to move on to orbital after we’ve got suborbital under our belts, and maybe even before that,” Branson said.

Ads by GoogleThe 9mm is No DefenseDiscover What Self Defense Masters & The Army Don’t Want You To Know www.CloseCombatTraining.comNasa Satellite ImageGet Satellite Maps, Aerial Photos & More With The Free Maps Toolbar Maps.alot.comFord Transit ConnectThe Right-Sized, Business Vehicle. Learn More at Official Ford Site. Ford.com/TransitConnectIn the last few weeks, Virgin Galactic and the Mojave, Calif.-based aerospace company Scaled Composites have flown several solo glide tests of SpaceShipTwo, most recently on Nov. 17, setting the stage for the first rocket-powered launch trials to follow. Scaled Composites built the first SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic, as well as the spaceliner’s prize-winning predecessor SpaceShipOne.

But how Virgin Galactic plans to take the major step of reaching orbit — and when it plans to do so — remain to be seen.

Suborbital vs. Orbital

SpaceShipTwo is a reusable space plane built to be will be carried skyward by a larger mothership jet, called WhiteKnightTwo. The smaller plane would then be dropped in midair and fire its rocket engines to push up to space. [Gallery: First Solo Flight of SpaceShipTwo]

Since it stops short of making a full orbit around Earth, SpaceShipTwo is known as a suborbital vehicle. The spacecraft will offer passengers a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of Earth from above before gliding back down to the ground.

While such a feat is no cakewalk, achieving orbital space travel is much more difficult.

Staying in space for a full orbit requires a significant velocity boost above that required for suborbital trips. Such an increase in speed, of course, requires a corresponding increase in energy, which means the craft will have to carry a lot more fuel. This extra fuel would push the spacecraft’s weight up significantly, thus requiring even greater thrust to get off the ground.

Furthermore, the return trip presents a challenge.

The higher up a craft starts its descent from, the more it will accelerate as it travels back to Earth. And when a fast-moving spaceship plunges through our planet’s atmosphere, it creates incredible friction and heat.

Orbital spacecraft require stronger heat shields to withstand this blast than the comparatively slow-moving suborbital craft. (The failure of the heat shield is what doomed the space shuttle Columbia during its return trip in 2003).

Competing for a contract

Yet there is great opportunity in orbital space travel.

Branson said Virgin Galactic will aim to win a NASA contract to carry astronauts to the International Space Station, under the new space agency plan to use commercial spaceships for low-Earth orbit transportation after the space shuttles retire next year.

“Virgin Galactic is going to put forward proposals, and we plan to start work on an orbital program quite quickly,” Branson said during the Oct. 22 spaceport dedication.

They’ll face steep competition: No fewer than four companies, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing, SpaceX and the Sierra Nevada Corporation, have made their orbital spaceship aims public. Each has said they plan to compete for a NASA contract, as well as pursue space tourism. [Top 10 Private Spaceships]

While most are gumdrop-shaped capsule designs similar to the Apollo and Soyuz capsules, Sierra Nevada’s entry is a space plane. All of these would ride atop separate rockets to orbit.

Virgin Galactic has not yet shared any hints about its orbital spacecraft design, though more information will be revealed in the coming months, Branson said.

So far, besides NASA, the only other major customer for such orbital flights would be Bigelow Aerospace, a Las Vegas-based company that is constructing modules to build a commercial space station. The Bigelow space station could serve as a space hotel, or be rented out to other countries who would like develop their space programs, or to private research firms.

All such uses would require an orbital vehicle to assemble the station, and to transport visitors to and from it.

The sky’s not the limit

Even if Virgin Galactic manages to achieve orbital space travel, the company doesn’t plan to stop there.

“We’ll start with suborbital flights into space, we’re then dreaming about trying to move on to orbital, and dreaming about, you know, looking at maybe having hotels in space one day, dreaming about maybe having intercontinental flights,” Branson said in a recent Virgin Galactic video. “And if you don’t dream you don’t achieve anything. We try to inspire our engineers and technicians to make dreams become realities.”

Intercontinental flights, or so-called point-to-point travel, is a goal that Virgin could achieve with SpaceShipTwo and similar vehicles.

The idea is to launch from a spaceport in, say, New Mexico, but instead of landing where you started, land halfway around the world, in Sweden or Japan, for example.

“We’d love to make it a possibility,” Branson said, saying such trips would travel at many times the speed of the Concord, the supersonic plane that was able to cross from New York to Paris in about 3 1/2 hours (commercial jets take around 8 hours).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Wikileaks Plans to Release a U.S. Bank’s Documents

The founder of whistle-blower website WikiLeaks plans to release tens of thousands of internal documents from a major U.S. bank early next year, Forbes Magazine reported on Monday.

Julian Assange declined in an interview with Forbes to identify the bank, but he said that he expected that the disclosures, which follow his group’s release of U.S. military and diplomatic documents, would lead to investigations.

“We have one related to a bank coming up, that’s a megaleak. It’s not as big a scale as the Iraq material, but it’s either tens or hundreds of thousands of documents depending on how you define it,” Assange said in the interview posted on the Forbes website.

He declined to identify the bank, describing it only as a major U.S. bank that is still in existence.

Asked what he wanted to be the result of the disclosure, he replied: “I’m not sure. It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Won’t You Please Hug a Terrorist?

The working theory among the think-tanks, academic campuses, newsrooms and diplomatic offices is that terrorists are just like us. Except depressed and insecure about it. Filled with self-loathing and in desperate need of anger management classes. If only some kind soul could plop them down on an analyst’s couch and stuff them chock full of Prozac or Paxil, hug them without letting go, while reading passages from Jonathan Livingston Seagull — then they’d be just as right as rain. And twice as wet.

The news media has already activated its brilliant powers of long distance psychoanalysis on the Oregon Christmas Tree Bomber, and diagnosed him as suffering from his parent’s divorce and vicious Oregonian college bullies. Sure Mohamed O. Mohamud might say he’s a Muslim terrorist who wants to kill Americans — but the good people at NBC know better. He’s not a terrorist. He’s just misunderstood. Deep down inside him, there’s gushing oil wells of untapped good.

Mohamed O. Mohamud joins Fort Hood terrorist Major Nidal Hassan (who came down not with Muslim Murder Madness, but a virulent airborne form of PTSD) and Times Square bomber Faisal Shazad (suffering from uncontrollable Foreclosure Fever) on the analyst’s couch. Another misunderstood victim of poorly articulated rage that led him to snap and try to kill a whole bunch of people, who coincidentally happened not to be Muslim.

For a depressing stretch of the 20th century, sociologists insisted there was no such thing as a criminal, only a set of responses to social inequities. Robbers, rapists and murderers were just lashing out because of social discrimination in an unfair class system. They weren’t depraved, they were deprived. The solution was not to put a beat cop on every street. What was the use. You couldn’t fight ‘crime’ anyway. No more than you can fight ‘terrorism’. All you could do was expand welfare programs, pour money into the inner cities and turn a blind eye to crime. Then the improvements in social conditions would end crime naturally.

At some point after the millionth mugging victim and Dukakis getting taken down by Willie Horton, the Democratic party finally realized that no amount of Donahue and Oprah was going to counter the popular demand to get tough on crime. But what didn’t work for crime, is now being put to work for terrorism.

Terrorists are never terrorists. And never Muslim. Even when they’re both. They might dress up like Osama bin Laden, quote from the Koran and curse the Great Satan — but the blowdried anchors in their dollhouse news sets will still blame the whole thing on teenage bullying or PTSD in the water. And who are you really going to believe, the terrorists who happily explain their motives, or a newscaster with two advanced degrees in reading things off a teleprompter?

And so it turns out that the terrorists are human beings just like us who never got enough love. Who are too insecure not to be terrorists. Our job is to make them feel more comfortable and give them a confidence boost. Pat them on the back and tell them how wonderful Islam is and how superior Muslim culture is to our rotten degraded lifestyle. “No need to feel bad, Ahmed. I only wish I could murder my own sister every time I catch her talking to a man.” “Leila, I would give up my career and the freedom to travel without a male guardian’s permission in a split second just to be able to wear a bag on my head all day.”

Because what terrorists need most is appeasement. Appeasement is apparently Muslim Prozac. Give them enough of it, and they’ll no longer want to behead us or blow us up. Or so the politically correct theory goes. And there you have our international affairs in a nutshell.

This February, Senator John Kerry met with the Emir of Qatar, whose family is intimately tied up with Al Qaeda. And whose government is directing millions of dollars a year to Al Qaeda. Naturally the Senator from Massachusetts didn’t waste his host’s time on anything as picayune as a request to please stop funding the terrorists who are murdering Americans. We are talking about the nation’s premier windsurfing cheese-eating boarding-school attending diplomatic Frankensenator here after all. Instead he wanted the good Emir’s help on resolving that whole Middle East peace thing between Israel and the Muslim terrorists.

And the Emir, in between mailing off the latest check to “Sheikh Usama, Forbidden Cave of Mystery, Afghanistan, 90210”, was more than happy to oblige.

Painstakingly the Emir explained that Hamas was actually ready to make peace with Israel. But it couldn’t come out and say so. Then it would lose popular support and be overthrown. Israel would just have to go ahead and appease Hamas anyway — and Hamas would pretend not to notice, but really it would notice, and stop the violence. The Emir of Qatar was actually saying that Hamas is more moderate than the average Palestinian Arab Muslim — a scary, but not particularly surprising revelation.

If Senator Kerry had managed to hang on to more than one single unbotoxed brain cell in that frightening skull of his, he might have asked what the point of a secret peace agreement is — when the people on whose behalf you’re signing it, can’t be told about it. But as a good democrat, he was probably already on the same page as a petty tyrant like the Emir in believing that the ignorant rabble have no business knowing what their enlightened leaders are up to anyway.

Pushing his luck further, Senator Kerry asked the Emir what could be done about the extremists. The Emir told him that if Israel gives the strategic high ground of the Golan Heights to Syria, then Syria will help Hamas leaders “make tough choices”. Trying to control the hysterical laughter bubbling up in his throat, the Emir told Kerry that, the “return of the Golan is important not just to Syria but also to Hizballah and Iran”. Which it of course is. Not because any of them give a damn about the skiing possibilities of the Golan, but because it’s a fantastic position for bombing Israel.

Yet Kerry swallowed all of this. Probably nodded knowingly. Didn’t blink when the Emir suggested that Ahmadinejad would suddenly change his tune on Israel if only Syria got the Golan Heights. And went off back to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he chairs with his information safely tucked away in the recesses of his equine cranium.

The depressing pattern in all this lunacy is that we’ve decided that the only way to deal with terrorists is to give them things. Give them some land and money, and they’ll be your pet terrorists. Then you can take them out for walks, and hug them and kiss them, and give them long baths. But not only do the terrorists need material things, they also need constant reassurance. You can’t just negotiate with the terrorists. You’ve also got to negotiate with the enablers. And the enablers need land and money too. If you want to talk to Hamas, you’ve got to give Syria the Golan Heights. And then Hezbollah and Iran will want things too.

Negotiating with terrorists is now like signing a crazy reclusive artist to a record label. You have to woo his handlers and stroke his ego. Reassure him that everyone likes him. And that he won’t have to “sell out” by promising not to kill people anymore. All he’ll have to do is wink and nod, and that’ll be as good as a signature.

We’ve gone beyond appeasement and into pure toadying. Because the poor terrorists with their bruised egos have been hurt too many times. They don’t show up at negotiations anymore. You have to pamper them first to even get them to show up. Abbas needs a Settlement Freeze forever, or he won’t even deign to arrive and accept the next batch of Israeli concessions. Hamas can’t even show up to negotiate, but if Israel throws its most vital high ground to its buddy, the genocidal optometrist in Syria, then maybe Hamas will put a halt to the violence. For a week or two.

[…]

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


European Commission to Probe Google Search

The European Commission is to investigate whether Google has abused its “dominant position in online search”. It will look into whether advertisers and Google’s own services receive preferential treatment in search rankings.

The Commission said “This initiation of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has proof of any infringements. It only signifies that the Commission will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as a matter of priority.” A detailed timetable has not yet been laid out.

[…]

Google has responded by striking a conciliatory note, saying “Since we started Google we have worked hard to do the right thing by our users and our industry — ensuring that ads are always clearly marked, making it easy for users to take their data with them when they switch services and investing heavily in open source projects. But there’s always going to be room for improvement, and so we’ll be working with the Commission to address any concerns.”

[…]

[Return to headlines]



Fears of Euro Crisis Contagion

Portuguese Central Bank Warns of Risks to Banking Sector

Portugal’s central bank fanned concerns about the country’s financial stability on Tuesday by warning that austerity measures put in place were likely to hit banks’ bottom lines. The institution also believes that bank borrowing from the European Central Bank is unsustainable.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Munich Abuse Case

Archbishop Ratzinger Failed to Deal with Suspected Pedophile Priest

By Conny Neumann and Peter Wensierski

Pope Benedict XVI promoted Reinhard Marx of Germany (right) to cardinal earlier in November. Marx has promised to “clear up” an abuse case in his archdiocese.

New documents show how the former Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — and his successor Reinhard Marx failed to properly deal with a suspected pedophile. Despite massive allegations of abuse, the archdiocese allowed the priest to continue working with children.

The priest H. had put a great deal of effort into his letter of application. On a summer afternoon in 1980, he copied photos and articles from local newspapers and church newsletters and provided a comprehensive description of his dedicated work with the young people of Munich’s parish of St. Johannes Evangelist, as a way of recommending himself for higher office.

He submitted his request directly to the head of the archdiocese at the time. He wrote “For the personal attention of His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger” on the envelope and delivered the letter directly to the addressee on the morning of July 31, 1980, as members of the Catholic parish recall today. H. told colleagues in the rectory that, at the age of 32, he felt that he was getting a bit old to be an assistant priest; he now wanted to have his own parish.

It appears that “His Eminence” dealt with the letter. At any rate, the disappointed priest later told members of his parish that Cardinal Ratzinger felt that H. should remain in his position at St. Johannes Evangelist for the time being, since the old priest was often ill and he was so popular among the young people in the neighborhood.

Shedding Light on Abuse Case

All of this occurred 30 years ago. Today, previously unknown documents, as well as witnesses who confirm the delivery of the letter, are shedding new light on the case of the abusive cleric H., which first became public last March — and also on the role of the current pope.

According to the allegations, during his tenure in Munich, Ratzinger did not give sufficient attention to the type of duties that were assigned to the alleged pedophile H. Despite massive allegations of abuse levied against the priest, the archdiocese led by Ratzinger allowed H. to continue to be involved in church work with children and young people.

For months now, very little progress has been made in clearing up this case. This is partly because the current archbishop of Munich, Reinhard Marx, who the pope recently promoted to cardinal, swiftly decided that the matter was settled.

H. was transferred to Munich in January 1980 after he had apparently sexually abused a number of boys in his home diocese of Essen. Under Ratzinger’s leadership, the Munich archdiocese expressly approved H.’s transfer on January 15, 1980. It was decided that the cleric was to undergo therapy.

No Doubt

Recently discovered documents now show that there could have been no doubt in Munich about the priest’s previous history. The head of personnel in Essen had informed Ratzinger’s head of personnel by phone and in writing that, in regard to H., “there is a risk which has prompted us to immediately remove him from the parish.” Furthermore, he said that “an official complaint has been lodged by members of the parish.”

But his victims are still waiting in vain for a genuine clarification of the matter. Wilfried Fesselmann, for instance, who says that he was abused by H. in 1979, wrote to Pope Benedict XVI last May. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith replied: “Your request is being processed.” Since then, he has heard nothing from them. The archdiocese of Munich is also reticent to comment on the case, despite the fact that Marx has pledged: “We want to do everything to clear this up — we will not look away, play it down or point the finger at others.”

“The fact that Archbishop Marx has now been made a cardinal,” says Fesselmann, “seems like a reward for having helped the pope.” Indeed, Marx, 57, is currently the youngest cardinal in Germany.

In spring 2010, the Munich affair caused an enormous stir. It initially looked as if the abuse scandal would engulf Ratzinger personally. After all, the pedophile who was accepted by him into the archdiocese in Munich was able to continue working there as a pastor for three decades and find new victims — despite the fact that he was charged a fine and given a suspended sentence in 1986 for abusing schoolchildren.

Damage-Control Mode

Marx and his press office immediately went into damage-control mode: They said that Cardinal Ratzinger had merely taken part in the decision to accept H. in Munich for the purpose of therapy, and otherwise had no further knowledge of his subsequent work. According to the archdiocese, the former Munich Vicar-General Gerhard Gruber acted alone and solely assumes full responsibility.

But how likely is it that Ratzinger would have been left in the dark about H.’s case by his closest associates — the vicar-general and the head of personnel?

Only two weeks after Ratzinger approved H.’s acceptance for therapy in Munich, the priest was again assigned to pastoral duties. H. wrote in a résumé, which is currently in the archdiocese’s files, that he had already been called upon to “help with pastoral care on Feb. 1, 1980” in the parish of St. Johannes Evangelist.

In order to convince Ratzinger that he should be given his own parish, the priest attached to his application a copy of a church newsletter from his current parish. This included an article in which he proudly describes his accomplishments working with children and young people. For instance, on April 4, 1980 — in other words, less than three months after his transfer for disciplinary reasons — he wrote about a pilgrimage that he had organized with “20 to 25 girls and boys.”…

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen

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



Guantanamo Inmates Traded for Money and Obama Handshakes

European governments negotiating with the US on the resettlement of Guantanamo Bay inmates asked for money and meetings with Barack Obama, while others refused to accept Chinese Uighurs for fear of upsetting Beijing, diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks show. Following Barack Obama’s pledge to close the ‘terror camp’ at Guantanamo Bay by January 2010, America’s diplomats engaged in frantic efforts to convince EU governments to take in some of the 60 former terrorism suspects who were free to go, but who could or did not want to return to their home countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Italy: Law Prompts Italian ‘Fertility Tourists’ To Seek Out Foreign Eggs and Sperm

Rome, 25 Nov. (AKI) — Of the 4,000 Italians who travel abroad every year for fertility treatment, Italy’s stringent rules on assisted reproduction prompts 2,700 to seek out foreign fertility clinics where they aim to get pregnant with donor eggs and sperm, according to a new study.

A 2004 Italian law put a stop to sperm and egg donation and bans screening embryos for disease making it one of Europe’s most restrictive assisted fertility rules. A referendum the following year failed to get enough voters to turn up at polling stations to reach the required 50 percent turnout for the result to be valid.

The law, strongly supported by the Vatican, also caps the number of embryos created for each treatment at three, all of which have to be implanted in the women’s womb at the same time.

“People will continue to be forced to turn to travel abroad until Italy doesn’t recognise their right” to use donated and purchased eggs and sperm,” said Andrea Borini, president of the Assisted Fertility Observer.

Assisted Fertility Observer is an assisted fertility advocacy group that wrote the report and presented it on Thursday in Bologna, in northern Italy.

Critics of of the law, known as ‘Law 40’ say it violates the rights of couples who desire to have children. Supporters of the legislation claim it prevents a of human egg ‘supermarket’ in Italy.

Spain and Switzerland are Italian’s most popular country’s for sperm and egg implantation. On the so-called fertility-tourist destination list are also Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, the Czech Republic, the US, Sweden and Switzerland, according to the report.

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



Italy: Showgirl Waxes Sympathetic for Berlusconi in Poem

Rome 26 Nov. (AKI) — Lory Del Santo, an ex-Italian showgirl and former wife of rock guitarist Eric Clapton, has dedicated a poem to prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, expressing adulation for the embattled media tycoon and politician as his political allies and electorate turn against him.

Del Santo, 52, who has worked on shows aired by Berlusconi’s Mediaset broadcasting company, read the verse, entitled “You” as a contrast to the sex scandals which have tarnished Berlusconi’s image and compromised his office.

“You who think, who imagine, you, who can transform dreams into reality, expressing the wish to be, to resist. You who have the desire to give, see progress in a world of confines. You, who love, you, who simply exists,” Del Santo read on a live Rai 2 radio programme Thursday night.

The empathetic words come as Berlusconi’s government risks collapse following of a break with his former ally Gianfranco Fini whose newly established political party, the Future and Liberty Party now denies Berlusconi of a safe majority in both houses of parliament.

The 74-year-old politician doesn’t hide his admiration for beautiful women in politics. Equal opportunity minister Maria Carfagna — a former topless model and showgirl for Berlusconi-owned channel — was recruited into politics by the prime minister. He once bragged that right-wing female politicians are better looking then those on the left.

Berlusconi faces a 14 December confidence vote in both houses of Parliament amid harsh criticism over the nation’s ailing economy, a growing rubbish crisis in Naples and controversial legislation critics say is aimed at saving him from prosecution for corruption and tax fraud in addition to a sex scandal involving a prostitute and a teenage nightclub dancer.

But Berlusconi has survived numerous government and personal crisis in his long career, which includes three stints as prime minister.

In its monthly survey released on 17 November, the IPR Marketing group found that Berlusconi’s approval rating sank from 37 percent to 35 percent, an all-time low. The survey found that his disapproval rating rose a percentage point to a new record high of 58 percent.

This week he claimed support from 54.6 percent of voters, saying his government would easily survive the vote.

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



Italy: Junior Minister to Attend Conference on the Burqa

Rome, 26 Nov. (AKI) — Italian interior ministry under-secretary Alfredo Mantovano was on Monday due to attend a conference in the northern city of Milan on the Muslim burqa and freedom of religion in Italy. The conference is being organised by a deputy from the centrist Catholic UDC opposition party, Pierluigi Mantini.

A member of the European Parliament from Italy’s ruling Conservative People of Freedom party, Gabriele Albertini, and a senator from Italy’s centre-right Future and Freedom party, Giuseppe Valditara, will speak at the conference.

In September this year, two separate bills were presented in the upper and lower houses of the Italian parliament which aim to end the wearing of face-covering burqas in Italy on security grounds. The move is opposed by most Muslim immigrants on the grounds that it would curb their religious freedom.

If the bill becomes law, Italy will be the second European country to ban the burqa. France’s parliament in September outlawed the burqa and veils which cover the face. Women there can be fined or jailed for wearing such garments.

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



Italy: Wikileaks Reveals Berlusconi as “Feckless”, “Ineffective” And “Mouthpiece of Putin”

Prime minister laughs off allegations. Documents mention “lavish gifts” and lucrative energy contracts

MILAN — That friendship with Putin, too many parties and general ineffectiveness sum up the views of US diplomacy on the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, according to documents released by Wikileaks. How did the PM react? He laughed it off. Reliable sources report that the prime minister had a good chuckle when he was informed about the revelations regarding Italy published by Julian Assange’s website.

PUTIN — The relationship between Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi, which includes “lavish gifts” and lucrative energy contracts, is so astonishingly close that Berlusconi “appears increasingly to be the mouthpiece of Putin” in Europe. These are the first revelations from US diplomatic documents obtained by Wikileaks. The New York Times writes that American diplomats in Rome in 2009 described the relationship between Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin as “extraordinarily close”. According to the papers, the relationship included “lavish gifts”, lucrative energy contracts and a “shadowy Russian-speaking Italian go-between”. The UK’s Sunday Telegraph explains that the United States was concerned about the agreement between ENI and Gazprom over South Stream, the gigantic pipeline to link Russia and the EU.

“VAIN” — The UK’s Guardian reports a document sent to Washington by the US chargé d’affaires in Rome Elizabeth Dibble states that Silvio Berlusconi is considered “feckless, vain and ineffective as a leader”. In another report from Rome, the prime minister is described as “physically and politically weak”. His “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest”.

CLINTON’S DOUBTS — In a confidential document released by Wikileaks and published by the German weekly Der Spiegel, the American secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, asked early this year for information from the American embassies in Rome and Moscow on any personal investments held by Silvio Berlusconi or Vladimir Putin that might have a bearing on their countries’ foreign or economic policies.

“WILD PARTIES” — There are further revelations in the online edition of El Pais, which opens its coverage with photographs of seven world leaders, one of whom is Silvio Berlusconi, with a quote from an American source, regarding “Berlusconi’s wild parties” and stressing “the deep distrust aroused in Washington”. The Madrid-based paper says with regard to Vladimir Putin that the documents “highlight American suspicions that Russian policy is controlled by Vladimir Putin, an authoritarian politician whose macho style enables him to bond with Silvio Berlusconi”.

FRATTINI — One of the documents published by Wikileaks is a telegram, classified as secret, sent to Washington from the US embassy in Rome on 8 February after a meeting of the Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini and the American secretary of defense Robert Gates, during which Mr Frattini expressed “particular frustration with Ankara’s ‘double game’ of outreach to both Europe and Iran”. According to Mr Frattini, “the challenge is to bring China on board” on the Iran issue. He went on to say that China and India “were critical to the adoption of measures that would affect the government without hurting Iranian civil society”. The Italian foreign minister also “proposed including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Brazil, Venezuela and Egypt in the conversation” and suggested “an informal meeting of Middle East countries, who were keen to be consulted on Iran”, noting that “Secretary Clinton was in agreement”.

MORE THAN THREE THOUSAND FILES SENT FROM ITALY — El Pais reports that 3,012 files sent by American diplomatic sources were picked up by Wikileaks, including them in a map with the title “Document Exchange and the World’s Hot Spots”. The map reveals that US diplomatic facilities in Italy are not among those which sent most documents published by Wikileaks. In first place is the US embassy in Ankara, with 7,918 communications, and second comes the Baghdad embassy, with 6,677 documents. Tokyo is third with 5,697. El Pais puts Italy in 16th place in this singular league table.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

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



Italy: Fresh Collapse at Pompeii

Wall in House of the Moralist’s garden falls down

(ANSA) — Naples, November 30 — A dry stone wall in the garden of one of Pompeii’s best-known houses collapsed on Tuesday, raising fresh concerns about the state of the world heritage site after the cave-in of its Gladiators’ School earlier this month. Heritage and art experts were assessing the damage to an external wall of the House of the Moralist to see whether any of the famous rules of etiquette from which the building gets its name had been damaged.

The Domus is not far from the Gladiators’ School whose collapse on November 6 stirred a wave of international concern and led to a no-confidence vote, set for next month, in Culture Minister Sandro Bondi.

On December 10, in a parliamentary debate on the incident, Bondi said the government would set up a new foundation for the ancient Roman city to prevent recurrences of the school’s collapse.

Rejecting calls that he should resign, the minister claimed he had done a “good job” on Pompeii in appointing special officials for its upkeep.

“The collapse of one building can’t wipe out the work we have done over the past two years,” he said.

But he acknowledged more needed to be done and announced the foundation where the culture ministry would work with experts to better use the money that comes from millions of visitors.

“The problem is in the management, not in resources,” he told parliament, saying the ancient site brought an average of more than 50 million euros ($70 million) a year.

“We need management that uses the resources better”.

“Therefore, the ministry is drafting guidelines for a Pompeii Foundation; the superintendents and culture ministry managers must work together”.

The new body, Bondi said, would “assess the state of decay” all over the ancient city and decide what action to take.

Work would resume on five Pompeii houses including the famous Villa of the Mysteries, he said.

The centre-left opposition was not impressed by the minister’s report and the two main groups, the Democratic Party and Italy of Values (IdV), announced their no-confidence motion aimed at bringing him down.

“Bondi has done more damage than Vesuvius,” the IdV claimed.

COLLAPSE SPURRED FRESH FEARS, POLEMICS.

The collapse of the school earned headlines worldwide and rekindled claims the 2,000-year-old site is not being properly protected.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano called the incident a “disgrace” for Italy.

Institutions and art experts worldwide said the conservation of the UNESCO World Heritage site was not being adequately funded.

British author Robert Harris, author of the 2003 global bestseller ‘Pompeii’, published a plea in Rome daily La Repubblica asking for more to be done.

Harris said he was “not surprised” at the collapse and argued that the right of visitors to see the site’s wonders should be balanced with conservation needs.

“We are faced with a paradox: the more people visit Pompeii, the more Pompeii is destroyed”.

In his report, Bondi said that water infiltration from heavy rains dealt a killer blow to the school, which was precarious because a 1950 restoration “wrongly” put reinforced concrete on the roof, making it “inevitable” that it would buckle under the weight.

The minister reaffirmed his confidence that famous frescoes giving insights into gladiators’ lives may have survived the crash.

Polemics about looting, stray dogs and structural decay have dogged Pompeii in recent years and the government appointed a special commissioner who has been credited with solving some of these problems since 2008.

Every year over two million people visit Pompeii, which was smothered in lava and ash by the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



‘Kauft Nicht Bei Juden’ Will Worsen the Conflict

The call to boycott Jewish commerce is Europe’s oldest political appeal.

Kauft nicht bei Juden — “Don’t buy from Jews” — is back. The call to boycott Jewish commerce is Europe’s oldest political appeal. Once again, as the tsunami of hate against Israel rolls out from the Right and the Left, from Islamist ideologues to Europe’s cultural elites, the demand is to punish the Jews. That the actions of the Israeli government are open to criticism is a fact. But what are the real arguments?

Firstly, that Israel is wrong to defy international law as an occupying force on the West Bank. But what about Turkey? It has 35,000 soldiers occupying the territory of a sovereign republic — Cyprus. Ankara has sent hundreds of thousands of settlers to colonize the ancient Greekowned lands of northern Cyprus. Turkey has been told again and again by the UN to withdraw its troops. Instead, it now also stands accused of destroying the ancient Christian churches of northern Cyprus.

Does anyone call for a boycott of Turkey, or urge companies to divest from it? No. Only the Jews are targeted.

Or take India; 500,000 Indian soldiers occupy Kashmir. According to Amnesty International, 70,000 Muslims have been killed over the past 20 years by these soldiers and security forces — a number that far exceeds the Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the same period. But the Islamic ideologues focus on Jews, not Indians.

May we talk of the western Sahara and Morocco, or Algeria’s closure of the border there, making life far worse than that of Palestinians in Ramallah or Hebron? No, better not.

Voltaire — anti-Semite that he was — should be alive today to mock the hypocrisy of the new high priests calling anathema on the heads of Jews in Israel.

Second, the desire for peace in the M riority. But peace requires recognition of the Jewish state of Israel. There are 40 member states of the UN which have the words “Muslim” or “Islamic” intheir names. No one challenges their right to exist or defend themselves.

Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. Its reward was to have the territory turned into a new launch pad for rockets intended to kill Jews.

More rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza than V1 or V2 rockets at London in 1944. No one blamed Winston Churchill for responding with all the force he could, as cities like Hamburg or Dresden faced the wrath of the RAF. But if Israel takes the slightest action against the Jew-killers of Hamas, all the hate of the world falls on its head.

Third, it is hard to see how peace can be made with an Israel that so many seek to brand an “apartheid state.”

I worked in the 1980s with the black trade union movement inside South Africa. We lay in ditches as the apartheid police patrolled townships hunting for political activists. I could not swim at the same beach as my wife, a French-Vietnamese, because of the racist laws. Muslims and Jews swim off the same Tel Aviv beaches. They can stay in the same hotels, be elected to the same parliament, and appeal to an independent judiciary for justice.

BY DEFINITION, an apartheid state has no right to exist. It cannot be a member of the UN. The campaign to call Israel an apartheid state is a campaign to make it a non-state. How can peace be made with a state whose opponents say should not exist?

In Britain, there are calls by journalists and professors to boycott the Israeli media or universities. But Israeli writers, journalists and professors are the main opponents of the counterproductive policies of their government. To boycott them is to hand even more power to the haredi and Russian nationalists who now control Right-wing politics in Israel.

By any standard, the attacks on media freedom, on women, on gays or on lawyers is 1,000 times wor Saudi Arabia. There is no democracy in Syria or Libya, limited democracy in Jordan, and open anti-Semitism displayed by the Muslim Brotherhood movements in the Arab world. Is there any call to boycott these states, their journalists or professors? No. The call — rightly — is for engagement, contacts, debate and discussion. Many even argue for talks with Hamas, although its charter, with its strident anti- Semitic language, could have been written by a Nazi.

But talks with Jewish politicians, lawyers or intellectuals must be boycotted. This policy of making the Jewish citizens of Israel into objects of global hatred will only make the Middle East crisis worse. If it was directed evenly at all states which occupy and oppress territories, it might have some basis in morality. If the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement also called for sanctions against the new anti-Semitism of the extreme Right in Europe, it might make sense. The openly anti- Semitic Jobbik Party in Hungary parades in its fascist uniforms. Anti-Semitic politicians are elected to the European Parliament. The German politician Thilo Sarrazin can describe Jews as having “different genes” from other people. And now Europeans, of all people, once again cry Kauft nicht bei Juden.

Those who dislike Israeli rightwing policies must find other language than that of classical anti- Semitism. I am not Jewish. As a British MP, I work with thousands of Muslims in my constituency. I am more often in mosques than in churches. I am proud of my Muslim friends who are MPs, peers, municipal councillors or prominent as journaIists, lawyers, doctors and intellectuals. The 20 million European Muslims face new hates which must be combated. But there is no profit for them in joining the hate campaigns against Jews in Israel.

As Europeans we must reject the old language of boycott and economic campaigns against Jews. Israel, Palestine and Europe must all have a 21st century future, and not return to iter, a former British Labor MP, also served as minister of state for Europe. He is the author of Globalizing Hatred: The New Anti-Semitism! (Weidenfeld and Nicolson).

           — Hat tip: DonVito [Return to headlines]



Leading Rabbi Says Europe Risks Being ‘Overrun’ By Islam

One of the luminaries of the international Jewish community, Rabbi David Rosen, has warned that Europe risks being “overrun” by Islam unless it rediscovers its Christian roots.

Speaking to journalists at a meeting in Jerusalem on Friday (26 November), Rabbi Rosen, the director of inter-religious affairs at the Washington-based American Jewish Congress, said that a predominantly secular and liberal Western European society is under threat by the rapid growth of Islamic communities that do not want to integrate with their neighbours.

“I am against building walls. My humanity is my most important component. But Western society very clearly doesn’t have a strong identity. I would like Christians in Europe to become more Christian … those who do not have a strong identity are easily overrun by those who do,” the rabbi warned.

“I think there is a pretty good chance that your grandchildren, if they are not Muslim, then they will be very strong Roman Catholics,” he told one Italian reporter. “I don’t think a tepid identity can stand up to the challenge.”

Rabbi Rosen’s views are shared by a number of Jewish commentators, who look at the demographic growth of Muslims in Europe with the same trepidation as the demographic growth of Arabs in Israel.

“You have a problem that you don’t see: You are in love with the idea of multi-culti, but you don’t speak Arabic. In an era of liberalism, how do you protect your way of being? What is the contract [with Islam]?” Moti Cristal, a professional Israeli negotiator in the private-sector conflict resolution firm Nest Consulting, said.

Nachman Shai, a member of parliament for the centrist Kadima party in Israel, noted that the alleged soft threat to Western European identity is matched by the hard security threat of radical Islamist groups.

“If you follow the current streams in the Arab world, and you all have Muslim communities in your own countries now and you read about these developments, and you can see them there too, then you see that the Muslims are moving to the extreme, not to the centre, not toward compromise. They keep their own traditions. They keep their own way of life and they are becoming more and more religious and more and more radical,” he said.

The politician explained that Israel is surrounded by an arc of militant Islam stretching from Iran, through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

Israel believes that EU neighbour and enlargement candidate Turkey is also moving further to the right in a deep strategic shift that goes beyond its disappointment with the slow pace of the accession process and may be based on Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan’s ambition to become the new leader of the Muslim world.

“Syria is another link in the axis of evil, our axis of evil, which starts in Iran, goes through Lebanon and then unfortunately, one day, Turkey too,” Mr Shai added.

The Israeli point of view is likely to resonate in some parts of Europe, which has seen an upsurge in anti-Islamic far-right parties in the past two years of economic crisis. It also dovetails with the recent upswing in Islamist terror plots in EU states such as Belgium and Germany.

But the point of view is also rooted in the Jewish struggle to create a safe homeland for the Jewish people in a territory that sees competing claims from the native Arab population.

Mohammad Darawshe, the co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, a New-York-based NGO working to promote co-existence between Israel’s Jewish and Arabic citizens, noted in a potential lesson for Europe that Israeli authorities’ unwillingness to share wealth and power with the 1.4 million Arabs who make up a fifth of the population is in itself a cause of tension.

“I live in a country where I am reminded every day that I do not belong … We are seen as an extension of the Palestinian Arab enemy, a sort of fifth column in the state,” he said.

Referring to growth in “racism” in the Jewish Israeli establishment, Mr Darawshe cited a recent survey by Tel Aviv university which showed that 65 percent of Jewish high school children do not like the sound of Arabic music, do not want to live next to Arabs and do not have any objections to the state imposing further limitations on Arab Israeli rights.

“They’re not stupid kids and they’re not racist kids. But they are hearing these things from someone older then them,” he said.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Ségolene Royal Stuns Party With Plan to Run for President of France in 2012

Ségolene Royal, who lost to Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, has announced she will run again for president of France — throwing the left into disarray and locking her party into another battle of egos.

Royal, who once likened herself to Joan of Arc, surprised the Socialist party hierarchy by announcing today in two local papers that she would rise from the ashes and wanted to run for the Elysée in 18 months’ time. She promised to be the candidate of the people and attacked her party for dithering over who would stand against Sarkozy.

The announcement by Royal, 57, who heads the Poitou-Charentes region in western France, exposed the long-running saga of the backstabbing, bickering and rivalries that has undermined the French left and exposed its lack of policies.

[…]

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Remains From 1600s Ship Found Near Stockholm Hotel

Remains of a ship likely from the 1600s were discovered as workers renovated a hotel in central Stockholm, the Maritime Museum said.

“The discovery of the wreck is extremely interesting given the place where it was made,” Maritime Museum Director Hans-Lennarth Ohlsson said in a statement from the Stockholm museum’s website. “There was a naval shipyard on this spot until the start of the 17th century.”

As workers were renovating part of Stockholm’s Grand Hotel, not far from the royal palace, a worker found something interesting — the discovery turned out to be excavated parts of a ship.

So archaeologists from the Maritime Museum came in to check things out — and it turns out they had quite an interesting find.

According to Sweden’s The Local, the planks found outside the hotel were not held together in the traditional way — being nailed down — but instead were sewn together with ropes.

That technique, according to The Local, was not the norm, which has made the discovery even more fascinating.

“We really know nothing about this technique other than that it was used in the east,” Marine archaeologist Jim Hansson, who was called to the site, told The Local.

Hansson speculated the ship originated from east of the Baltics or Russia, according to The Local.

“We were super-excited,” he told The Local of the discovery. “It may sound a little strange when one finds little excavated pieces of parts of a ship, but I have never seen anything like it.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Switzerland: A Year After Swiss Voters Approved a Ban on the Building of Minarets, Both Pro and Contra Groups Are Launching New Campaigns to Put the Issue Back on the Political Agenda.

An anti-minaret movement led by Ulrich Schlüer of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party presented a manifesto on Monday against the Islamisation of Switzerland.

The document underlines Switzerland’s Christian foundations and aims to prevent the creation of a parallel society inspired by Islamic sharia law.

Schlüer said the group had waited a year in vain for the government to implement the minaret ban. A sign of the lack of progress was the green light canton Bern gave in September to the building of a minaret in the town of Langenthal, the politician said.

The Bern authorities argued at the time that planning permission was originally granted months before the controversial vote.

Also on Monday, an Islamic group based in Bern said it was launching an initiative to lift the minaret ban.

The Islamic Central Council — which represents 13 Islamic organisations with 1,700 members — said the aim of the initiative was to restore “the constitutional right of equality of all citizens regardless of their religious faith”.

The council said it would submit a text to the federal chancellery in January for initial examination. If the group decides to go ahead, it will have to collect 100,000 signatures within 18 months in order to force a nationwide vote.

More than 300,000 Muslims reside in Switzerland. When it is completed, the Langenthal minaret will be the fifth in the country.

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



UK: Shamed Police Chief Ali Dizaei ‘Could be Freed Tomorrow’ After Sensational Claim Witness Used False Name in Court

Shamed Scotland Yard commander Ali Dizaei could be freed from prison tomorrow amid allegations a key prosecution witness at his trial used a false name, his family has claimed.

Dizaei, 48, was sentenced to four years in February for misconduct and perverting the course of justice after being found guilty of assaulting and falsely arresting Iraqi-born businessman Waad al-Baghdadi, 24, in a restaurant after a row over a debt.

But his conviction — which ended a 24-year police career dogged by controversy — has been thrown into doubt after a BBC report alleged that al-Baghdadi is actually Vaed Maleki, and that he was born in Iran in 1983.

Evidence of the new claims will form part of an appeal by Dizaei, due to be heard tomorrow, in which he will argue against his conviction and sentence.

The information is said to have been confirmed by an Iranian relative who has signed a statement saying that a photograph of Mr al-Baghdadi was that of Vaed Maleki.

The relative told the BBC: ‘He worked for himself for a while and ultimately in 2002, he left Iran and migrated to England.’

Dizaei’s legal team have also obtained a statement from a photography shop owner in Tehran, Iran’s capital city. The shop owner apparently claims Mr Maleki had his picture taken at his store in April 2001 and the photograph is said to look exactly like Waad al-Baghdadi.

If true, the information contradicts the details Mr al-Baghdadi gave to the police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission and evidence he gave under oath that he was born in Iraq in 1985.

Kourosh Dizaei, the youngest of Dizaei’s three sons, said the ‘injustice’ will be exposed tomorrow.

Writing on his website, he added: ‘On December 1, justice will finally prevail and Ali Dizaei will walk among us with his deservedly untarnished name.’

Earlier this year a judge sitting alone rejected Dizaei’s application for permission to appeal.

But the former commander instructed solicitors and two QCs — Michael Mansfield and Matthew Ryder — to make a final plea to a panel of judges to overturn his conviction.

If successful, and the evidence of the prosecution witness is discredited, a judge could order a re-trial and Dizaei would be freed on bail.

The details of the new allegations are understood to have only emerged in the past few weeks and were not part of the first appeal bid.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, which investigated the Dizaei case, told the Evening Standard Mr al-Baghdadi had produced ‘a variety of official documentation’ to prove his identity when he was first arrested. These are understood to have included a driving licence and bank records.

A spokesman said: ‘The Met established that Mr al-Baghdadi had been granted the right of residence in this country. He also had a variety of official documentation in this name.

‘In this case a jury listened to all the evidence, much of which was independent from both parties, and included CCTV, that corroborated Mr Al-Baghdadi’s, and found Ali Dizaei guilty.’

Dizaei’s solicitor was not available for comment.

Efforts by the Standard to trace Mr al-Baghdadi today proved fruitless.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: the False Consciousness of Western Civilisation

Over at Lapidomedia, Jenny Taylor muses upon the following vignette:

Peter Oborne the Sherborne educated Telegraph columnist confided to a roomful of academics and Muslim radicals at the East London Mosque today that he’d been beaten 7-5 by his mate the Mayor of London. During the course of which trouncing, on a freezing Highbury tennis court, they’d discussed the launch later in the day of the Exeter University report Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: UK Case Studies 2010 whose forerunner, the London Case Study, Oborne had gallantly endorsed.

Oborne shared with us his conversation with the Mayor: glossing the famed US academic John Esposito’s sentiment, in the introduction to the report, that ‘the exclusive Judaeo-Christian tradition of the West was an unhelpful and false doctrine’ (I quote) and should be jettisoned. Boris, sensing how convenient that would be as a way of avoiding some deeply tricky questions on his watch, evidently agreed.

‘East London mosque is splendid’, Oborne reported Boris as saying. ‘It does an enormous amount to help increase understanding between Islam and the rest of society. He was entirely positive about it — which I took as an implicit rebuke to Andrew Gilligan.’

Poor old Gilligan. Demon de jour. We may not denounce Islamists — cuddly newcomers to the political landscape… Muslim bullying is making cowards of our elites, whose only response to what’s happening is to deny that it matters. Am I mistaken, or was it Muslims who bombed the Underground system? Or is it a crime to mention that now?

Thirty years of policies that ignored religion and denied reality on the the UK’s streets; policies that allowed Muslims to remain in isolation and then pandered to every demand for separate development, ignoring the bitterness of the ‘poor whites’ and even poorer blacks already settled here, have created the tinder box that this remarkable and overdue report documents.

It is a frightening testimony to years of failure; the backlash is upon us. The violence is not simply, as John Esposito in his introduction assumes, perpetrated by ‘a few extremists’ but as often as not black on Muslim and Eastern European on Muslim — and it’s clothing that people seem to hate and that signals who is what.

Some of the ‘fear’ of Islam in Britain must be attributed to persecution in the home countries: the UK is after all home to many seeking asylum from Muslim countries who have experienced torture, peremptory divorce and ostracism for not producing sons, the prospect of honour killing, and persecution for apostasy. The ignorance about this of even thoughtful men like Oborne and Johnson, is truly staggering. Yes, we must not lump all Muslims together. God forbid. But by what mental sleight of hand can we dissociate altogether the violent ones from the texts and teachings that comprise the religion itself, and that keep so many in thrall to obscurantism and fear?

It was Oborne who reported in an Unreported World documentary that Northern Nigeria’s Christians (the shattered minority) were the cause of the carnage up there. The enslavement of Christian children as debt reparation; the marriage of minors, the beheading of ‘kafirs’, the land-grabbing and killing that have gone on for years and years clearly don’t count as provocation — or as Islam.

Is it Islamophobic to point this out? A phobia is a sick fancy. Something ugly arising out of one’s unconscious. If our ‘Judaeo-Christian’ culture is a false doctrine, can we simply jettison it to be ‘cured’?

We are, we are.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Video: Vogelenzangs Turn Hotel Loss Into Blessing for Community

The finances of Bounty House hotel were left in ruins after Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang were arrested last year because a Muslim woman complained that she was offended by comments made about Islam.

The couple’s legal defence was funded by The Christian Institute.

After a criminal trial lasting two days, the case against the Vogelenzangs was dismissed. But despite being declared innocent the hotel lost 80 per cent of its bookings.

Destroyed

“Our business was destroyed”, Sharon told American news channel CBN.

“We tried to keep it going, but in September this year we knew we had to call it a day and stop building up more and more debt”.

She added: “We’ve lost 10 years of livelihood and possibly 10 years of our future. We would’ve been happy to carry on providing the service for another 10 years. So it has been really devastating”.

Community

But the couple told CBN of how they bounced back from their loss to start a new non-profit making business designed to provide a host of valuable services to their local community.

The Bounty House TLC Centre now provides a range of services including rehabilitation for former soldiers, arts and crafts lessons for the elderly, help and advice for families, and life skills courses.

“We really believe that we’re going to be able to benefit the community and create jobs for people in lots of different areas,” Sharon said.

Benefit

“And now we’re starting with what we’ve got, what we can do by faith. We haven’t got any funding at all. We’re walking on water and the Lord is keeping us going week by week,” she continued.

Visitors to the centre say they are inspired by the Vogelenzangs turning around their personal challenges into something positive.

One visitor said: “It just shows you what kind of people they are to want to help the community”.

Fantastic

Another added: “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity they’re providing for people. As far as I know, there isn’t anything like this available in the area.”

The Vogelenzangs are also grateful for the opportunity to serve their community.

“We kept confessing last year that something good was going to come out of all of this and we didn’t realise how good it would be,” Sharon said.

She added: “When this whole thing takes off, it’s going to be tremendous. So many people are going to be blessed by it and so many needs are going to be met now.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Algeria: 35 People Arrested for Witchcraft

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, NOVEMBER 30 — 35 people accused of witchcraft have been arrested in Algeria, in a village south of Bordj Bouarreridj, 200 km east of Algiers. According to reports by daily paper Ennahar, the group — which also includes an 83-year-old woman — was practicing group rituals promising “to heal and exorcise illnesses.” In the house used for the magical practices, several products used for rituals and healing potions were seized. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egyptian Security Used Live Ammunition on Christian Coptic Protesters, 4 Killed

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Christian Copts worldwide were shocked and enraged at the use of live ammunition by Egyptian state security forces against unarmed Coptic protesters, causing the death of three Coptic young men. A four-year old child suffocated from tear gas thrown inside the chapel. Rights groups inside and outside of Egybpt have condemned the use of excessive violence by security forces and the use of live ammunition against Coptic demonstrators.

Efforts by State Security to hide the use of firearms on unarmed protesters were in vain, as the rising death toll, hospital reports on those admitted, and video footage and eyewitness testimony have revealed the details of the incident. Coptic activists Sherif Ramzy and Ramy Kamel have conducted interviews with witnesses.

CSW Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston blamed the violence on “excessive” police tactics and expressed his sadness at the “unnecessary” loss of life and injuries.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said that the events are a serious escalation in the State’s treatment of its Christian citizens. “We’re not talking about social violence occasioned by the construction of a church, but rather security forces opening fire on protesters demanding their constitutional right to worship without arbitrary interference or discrimination,” said Hossam Bahgat, EIPR’s Executive Director. “Even assuming Copts in the area wanted to convert a services building into a church for worship, that does not justify this degree of police violence. Demonstrators should not be shot at for violating building codes”. EIPR called on the Public Prosecutor to prosecute the security personnel responsible for the deaths and injury of Christians.

Hany el Gezeyri, head of Copts for Egypt, denounced the use of live ammunition, adding that he is concerned “whether the discrimination of the state against the Copts became an official persecution or is this a way to terrorize Copts so that they keep silent?”

Attorney Maged Hanna said that apart from the Copts, he is not aware of any incident in Egypt where live ammunition was fired against unarmed protesters, adding “this is a State terrorizing its citizens.”

The official figures of the incident were 2 death, 67 wounded and 170 Copts arrested. However, the Coptic Youth Front said in a statement that more than 300 people were wounded and over 1000 detained, including women. Accoring to the statement, many wounded refrained from going to hospital for treatment for fear of being arrested.

International Coptic lawyer Dr. Awad Chafik said that the number of detainees is enormous, but because Coptic families are hiding for fear of further arrests, it is difficult to get the correct numbers.

Wagih Yacoub, a human rights activists, complained about the treatment of the wounded. “They were shackled to their hospital beds and then sent to detention camps.”

The same view is held by activist Magdy Khalil, who believes that the State dealings with the Egyptian Copts has evolved from discrimination to persecution to participation (directly or indirectly) in most of the crimes against them, to the stage of practicing ‘State Terrorism’ against a peaceful minority seeking to exercise their natural rights in prayer and worship.”

Clashes broke out on November 24 between Christian protesters and Egyptian security forces over the new construction of the St. Mary and St. Michael churches, in the poor neighborhood of Talbiya, in Omraniya, Giza (AINA 11-27-2010).

“Bricks hurling were exchange between them, then security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition” according to the statement released by the Coptic Church’s Giza diocese on November 26 (video of security forces attack on Church).

“The Governor of Giza, gave instructions to modify the building services permit, issued in 2009 into a church building. But a conflicting decision was issued by the Chief of the District to halt construction and remove the irregularities.”

The statement added that the decision of the Chief of the District angered the people who gathered next to the building, fearing that the district might do harm to the construction, triggering the ensuing clashes.

Witnesses describe how enraged the Copts became upon seeing Security forces bulldozing their equipment and wetting their cement sacks. “State security stole the church pews and the donation boxes,” Father Mina Zarif told Hope-Sat TV Channel, who also confirmed the use of live ammunition on protesters.

For more than ten years the Copts tried to obtain a license to build the Talbiya church. Unlike Muslim citizens, who only need a municipal license to build mosques, the Copts require a presidential decree for a church, based on the 1856 Ottoman Hamayoni Decree, in addition to ten humiliating conditions laid down by the Ezaby Pasha Decree of 1934.

Because obtaining a license to build a church in the light of all these obstacles is almost impossible, the Governor of Giza suggested to the Copts to build a center for community services and then after completion to use it as a church to pray. Copts began construction in the past four months and only the roof was left to complete, without any objection from any one.

But the situation changed completely when the Copts started to put a “dome” over the building, believing that this was compatible with the essence of the agreement with the governor.

Anba Theodosius, Bishop of Giza said that just three hours before finishing the dome “someone” gave orders to security forces to attack the people at the church construction site. “No one knows until now who gave this order,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih [Return to headlines]



Egypt’s Rulers Tighten Grip Amid Claims of Election Fraud and Intimidation

Egypt’s repressive regime sent a dramatic message to the international community over its determination to face down any challenge to its authority, after stage-managing parliamentary elections that virtually wiped out the formal opposition.

During the day, election-related violence claimed at least eight lives. Early results from the poll — described by domestic and international observers as “breathtaking” in its levels of fraud — suggest that the ruling National Democratic party (NDP) has captured 96% of the seats, while the 88 opposition members from the Muslim Brotherhood, could be erased to zero.

Such clear evidence of rigging is likely to cause consternation in western capitals, from where there is strong pressure on President Hosni Mubarak to embrace some democratisation.

It will be viewed as a particular slap in the face for the Obama administration, which only last week had publicly pressed the Egyptian government to ensure these elections were credible.

“We are dismayed by reports of election-day interference and intimidation by security forces,” said the state department, which provides more aid to Egypt than to any other country bar Israel. The Foreign Office also said it was “deeply concerned” by reports of state-sponsored disruption to the electoral process.

“We knew it was going to be bad, but I don’t think anyone realised it was going to be this bad,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Institution thinktank and an analyst of Egyptian politics.

“Egypt has joined the ranks of the world’s most autocratic countries. Now we’re talking full-blown, unabashed dictatorship.”

The parliamentary ballot was widely seen as a dry run for next year’s presidential elections, when the 82-year-old Mubarak may be forced to step down.

Mubarak, who is believed to be seriously ill, has ruled the Arab world’s most populous nation for almost three decades and has remained a close ally of the west, despite reports of systematic human rights abuses at the hands of his extensive security apparatus, and slow progress on political reform.

But with no designated successor, there is intense nervousness among Egypt’s political elite about transferring power while public anger is growing over declining living standards amid the pervasive state oppression.

“These election results indicate that the regime is frightened about the impending transition, and they’re not in the mood to take any chances over their own survival as we enter what will be one of the most challenging periods in Egypt’s modern history,” said Hamid.

“Previously, Egypt’s level of political repression was never at the level of Syria, Tunisia or Iraq; it was always careful to retain some superficial democratic trappings. But now the government is sending a strong message that opposition will not be tolerated.”

[…]

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Italians Aim to Deliver Humanitarian Goods to Gaza Strip

Rome 29 Nov. (AKI) — Forty Italians are due to participate in a new humanitarian mission by sea that aims to reach the embargoed Gaza Strip with essential supplies one year after Israeli commandos killed nine people engaged in a similar mission.

Last 31 May, Israeli forces attacked an aid flotilla bringing supplies to the region. Subsequent boats were turned back and unable to access the area.

The Group will sail in the Italian vessel named ‘Stefano Chiarini’ that will be part of an international flotilla coined ‘Freedom Flotilla 2’ and which will carry journalists, politicans, doctors and intellectuals, Adnkronos International learned Monday.

The boat’s port of departure is yet to be announced. Groups to take part in the flotilla include European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, and Free Gaza Movement.

The flotilla plans to launch in spring 2011.

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



New Mossad Chief Appointed

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, NOVEMBER 29 — Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu today announced the appointment of Tamir Fredo as the new Mossad chief, replacing Meir Dagan, who concludes eight years as head of the Israeli intelligence service. Fredo has been in the Mossad for a long time, climbing the ladder up to his current position of vice chief.

The Premier said in a statement that “Fredo has dozens of years of experience in the Mossa and I am certain that he is the right person to rejuvenate the service in the coming years in the light of the difficult challenges Israel is facing”.

Netanyahu also expressed his appreciation for the contribution made by Dagan to the Mossad’s successes under his management. Fredo will reportedly take office next month, after the clearance of a commission of Ministers which has to verify if people who are assigned to important State offices are qualified. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


America’s Dark View of Turkish Premier Erdogan

The US is concerned about its NATO ally Turkey. Embassy dispatches portray Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a power-hungry Islamist surrounded by corrupt and incompetent ministers. Washington no longer believes that the country will ever join the European Union.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Deadly Fictions

The classified diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks are the Pentagon Papers of the pro-Israel right

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has positioned himself as a left-wing whistleblower whose life mission is to call the United States to task for the evil it has wreaked throughout the world. But after poring through the diplomatic cables revealed via the site yesterday, one might easily wonder if Assange isn’t instead a clandestine agent of Dick Cheney and Bibi Netanyahu; whether his muckraking website isn’t part of a Likudnik plot to provoke an attack on Iran; and if PFC Bradley Manning, who allegedly uploaded 250,000 classified documents to Wikileaks, is actually a Lee Harvey Oswald-like neocon patsy.

With all due apologies to Oliver Stone (and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey), what the Wikileaks documents reveal is not a conspiracy of any kind but a scary and growing gap between the private assessments of American diplomats and allies in the Middle East and public statements made by U.S. government officials. The publication of these leaked cables is eerily reminiscent of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed a decade-long attempt by U.S. officials to distort and conceal unpalatable truths about the Vietnam War, and manipulate public opinion. The difference is that while the Pentagon Papers substantially vindicated the American left, the Wikileaks cable dump vindicates the right.

Here are eight of the most obvious examples from the initial trove of documents that has appeared online:…

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



Iran Set to Execute Woman Accused of Murdering Lover’s Wife

is set tomorrow to execute a football player’s mistress accused of murdering his wife, a lawyer for the woman has told the Guardian.

Shahla Jahed, whose case has become a cause celebre in the Islamic republic, was found guilty of the 2002 murder of Laleh Saharkhizan, the wife of Naser Mohammadkhani, a football legend who rose to fame in the mid-1980s and coached Tehran’s Persepolis club.

Jahed, who has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for nine years, was sentenced to death on the basis of her confession, which she later repeatedly retracted at her public trial.

Earlier this year Tehran caused an international outcry after Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old woman, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

Iran initially postponed Jahed’s execution as a result of the outcry over Ashtiani’s case. But speaking on the phone from Tehran, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, Jahed’s lawyer, said: “I’ve been informed by the Iranian judiciary that she will be executed in Tehran’s Evin prison at 5am on Wednesday.”

Following the murder, Jahed was arrested as the prime suspect, but she refused to talk for nearly a year. Mohammadkhani was also imprisoned for several months on charges of complicity but was finally released after the authorities said Jahed had confessed to committing the crime alone.

Jahed told the judge at her public trial: “If you want to kill me, go ahead … if you send me back there [where her confessions were taken], I’ll confess again and not only will I confess to killing her but I’d also confess that I killed those who have been killed by others,” she continued. She then repeatedly reiterated that she was innocent and that she had not committed any crime.

Activists in Iran widely suspect that Jahed was forced to confess to the stabbing. The news of Jahed’s pending execution outraged human rights activists, who have campaigned for several years to stop Iran from killing her.

Karim Lahidji, the president of the Iranian League for Human Rights, said: “Shahla Jahed has never had a fair trial in Iran and has always insisted that she is innocent. Unfortunately, she’s a victim of a misogynous society. Although Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case is about adultery, her case is similar to that of Shahla Jahed because both are victims of the flaws of the Iranian judicial system.”

He added: “We are approaching the Human Rights Day on 10 December and once again Iran is planning to execute another woman. That’s a clear signal that Iran wants to challenge the world on human rights issues.”

Mohammadkhani was in Germany when the killing happened, but it emerged later that he was “temporarily married” to Jahed, a practice allowed under Shia Islam. Temporary marriage or “sigheh”, as it is known in Iran, allows men to take on wives for as little as a few hours to years on the condition that any offspring are legally and financially provided for. Critics of the tradition see it as legalised prostitution.

Shahla Jahed’s case drew huge attention when Iran took the unprecedented decision of holding her trial in public.

In 2005 a documentary about her case and her affairs with the footballer showed footage from her public trial. The documentary, Red Card, was subsequently banned by Iran.

Amnesty International has been campaigning for Jahed’s sentence to be overturned since 2005 and has urged Iran to stop her execution.

Its UK director, Kate Allen, said: “We are opposed to the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment. But on top of that, Shahla may not have received a fair trial. She retracted her confession, made after months in solitary confinement, leading to fears that it was coerced. This is sadly far from unusual in Iran, in our experience. Her claim was never properly investigated. This execution could — and should — be stopped on humanitarian or judicial grounds.”

According to Iranian law, Shahla Jahed’s life could still be spared if the family of the murdered wife pardons her before 5am.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Iraq: Politician Asks for Christian Region in the North

Iraq 29 Nov. (AKI) — A Christian member of parliament in Iraq has has called for a Christian region in the north of the country after a series of violent attacks, including one in which 58 Christians were killed while worshipping in a Baghdad church in late October, and other subsequent attacks, continue to threaten their lives.

The appeal, aimed at Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, was made by a Christian deputy, Yunadim Kana, and outlined in an interview with the Arab language daily al-Hayat.

Kana’s idea comes after Iraq’s president Jalal Talabani’s appeal to Christians earlier this month that they move to Iraq’s autonomous northern Kurdistan region as a means to escape extremist attacks against them, until the government can assure their security.

In the interview, Kana indicated the already largely Christian area of Sahl Ninve, east of the city of Mosul, which that spans dozens of kilometres and where the villages are already almost totally occupied by Christians.

Earlier this month, a Dutch member of parliament Joel Voordewind, called for an autonomous region to be created for Christians in northern Iraq, around the Nineveh Plain, where around 100,000 Chistians have taken refuge since 2003. The region shoudl be governed and secured by its police and militia, he said.

Many of Iraq’s approximately 500,000 remaining Christians are living in fear of their lives after the continuing attacks and death threats unless they leave the country.

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



Iraq: Christians Face Escalating Violence

Iraq (MNN) — Iraqi Christians have faced rising violence over the past several years, but the attacks have escalated significantly over the last several weeks. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says the terrorists aim to clear the country of Christians.

“It seems very clear that radical Islamic elements — whether they’re tied to al-Qaeda or whether they’re tied to some other radical Islamic group — are trying to send a very clear message to Christians in Iraq,” Nettleton says. The terrorists are sending the following message: “You are not safe. You should either become Muslim, or you should leave the country.”

Iraqi politicians are taking the situation more seriously and beginning to discuss the need to keep Christians safe. One lawmaker has accused countries offering asylum for Christians of meddling in Iraqi affairs and playing into the hands of terrorists.

Nettleton says it’s only natural and logical for families to seek safety elsewhere when threatened by extensive violence, and for other countries to offer that to them. “I don’t necessarily think that another country that opens its arms to Christians who are at risk for their lives is meddling in Iraqi affairs. I think that’s a vast overstatement by this official,” he explained.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Islamist Turkey vs. Secular Iran?

Early in the sixteenth century, as the Ottoman and Safavid empires fought for control of the Middle East, Selim the Grim ruling from Istanbul indulged his artistic side by composing distinguished poetry in Persian, then the Middle East’s

language of high culture. Simultaneously, Ismail I ruling from Isfahan wrote poetry in Turkish, his ancestral language.

This juxtaposition comes to mind as the populations of Turkey and Iran now engage in another exchange. As the secular Turkey founded by Atatürk threatens to disappear under a wave of Islamism, the Islamist Iranian state founded by Khomeini apparently teeters, on the brink of secularism. Turks wish to live like Iranians, ironically, and Iranians like Turks.

Turkey and Iran are large, influential, and relatively advanced Muslim-majority countries, historically central, strategically placed, and widely watched; as they cross paths, I predicted back in 1994, racing in opposite directions, their destinies will affect not just the future of the Middle East but potentially the entire Muslim world.

That is now happening. Let’s review each country’s evolution:…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Notes for Today: The Big Story Being Missed & Trying to Ignore Wikileaks

By Barry Rubin

I cannot urge you strongly enough to view this short cartoon video about U.S. Middle East policy, building on the Wikileaks. While it isn’t completely fair—not mentioning U.S. efforts against Iran in terms of sanctions, military help to Gulf Arabs, etc—it is also absolutely brilliant at getting across the main theme.

Watch it!

And at the end, check out the expression on the face of the character on the right (who represents Arab leaders).

In all the excitement over the Wikileaks story, I want to remind people that there’s another big story being ignored. You will be reading about it in the mass media in two or three months.

The Obama Administration has messed up its attempts to get Israel-Palestinian negotiations going. The whole misplaced emphasis on a freeze of construction on settlements—something this government initiated—continues to put a freeze on talks. The presentation of the proposed three-month-long freeze to Israel was done so badly that nobody is quite sure what’s in it.

U.S. policy on the issue has lost its way. Looking back over what is now almost the first two years of the Obama Administration, one finds an unbroken record of bungling here. I wouldn’t say that irreparable harm has been done to the region or to U.S.-Israel relations, precisely because there was no chance of great progress on the peace process any way and nothing much has actually happened despite all the rhetoric. But a huge amount of U.S. prestige, time, and resources have been squandered.

Here’s a quiz for you: What is the one factor regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict that the Obama Administration has changed and which is disastrous? [See end of article for the answer.]

If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to look at my analysis of this issue HERE.

Speaking about the Wikileaks story, it is amusing to see how the champions of the 1980s’ conventional wisdom—that everything in the Middle East is about the Arab-Israel conflict and not about Islamism versus nationalism, and Iran-Syria versus the Arab states—are telling people to ignore that man behind the curtain.

One such person remarked that the Arab rulers didn’t say nice things about Israel in the many meetings described in the leaks. That’s true. But the point is that they didn’t say nasty things about Israel either and, generally, spoke of it as a normal regional power.

Others have pointed out one or two instances where Arab leaders, in passing, gave lip service to the notion that the best way to fight Iran and Islamism was to have an Israel-Palestinian peace. That’s true. But the point is that hardly anyone said that and when they did they passed over it briefly.

Here’s the best one-sentence summary I’ve seen, from Lee Smith, author of The Strong Horse:

“What comes through most strongly from the Wikileaks documents, however, is that U.S. Middle East policy is premised on a web of self-justifying fictions that are flatly contradicted by the assessments of American diplomats and allies in the region.”…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



Pipes: Islamist Turkey vs. Secular Iran

Early in the 16th century, as the Ottoman and Safavid empires fought for control of the Middle East, Selim the Grim, ruling from Istanbul, indulged his artistic side by composing distinguished poetry in Persian, then the Middle East’s language of high culture. Simultaneously, Ismail I, ruling from Esfahan, wrote poetry in Turkish, his ancestral language.

Selim the Grim wrote poetry (1512-20) under the name Mahlas Selimi; his archrival Ismail I wrote poetry (1501-24) as Khata’i.

This juxtaposition comes to mind as the populations of Turkey and Iran engage in another exchange. As the secular Turkey founded by Ataturk threatens to disappear under a wave of Islamism, the Islamist Iranian state founded by Ruhollah Khomeini apparently teeters on the brink of secularism. Ironically,Turks wish to live like Iranians and Iranians like Turks.

Turkey and Iran are large, influential and relatively advanced Muslim-majority countries, historically central, strategically placed and widely watched. As they cross paths while racing in opposite directions, which I predicted back in 1994, their destinies will affect not just the future of the Middle East but potentially the entire Muslim world.

That is happening. Let’s review each country’s evolution:

Turkey: Ataturk nearly removed Islam from public life in the period 1923-38. Over the decades, however, Islamists fought back, and by the 1970s, they formed part of a ruling coalition. In 1996-97, they even headed a government. Islamists took power following the strange elections of 2002, when winning a third of the vote secured them two-thirds of the parliamentary seats. Ruling with caution and competence, they got nearly half the vote in 2007, at which point, their gloves came off and the bullying began, from a wildly excessive fine levied against a media critic to harebrained conspiracy theories against the armed forces. Islamists won 58 percent of the vote in a September referendum and appear set to win the next parliamentary election, due by June 2011.

Ataturk excluded Islam from Turkey’s public life, and Khomeini made it central in Iran’s.

Should Islamists win the next election, that likely will establish the premise for them to remain enduringly in power, during which they will bend the country to fit their will, instituting Islamic law (Shariah) and building an Islamic order resembling Khomeini’s idealized polity.

Iran: Khomeini did the opposite of Ataturk, making Islam politically dominant during his reign of 1979-89, but it soon thereafter began to falter, with discordant factions emerging, the economy failing and the populace distancing itself from the regime’s extremist rule. By the 1990s, foreign observers expected the regime to fail soon. Despite their populace’s growing disillusionment, the increased sway of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and the coming to power of hardened veterans of the Iran-Iraq war, as symbolized by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, imbued it with a second wind.

This reassertion of Islamist goals also increased the people’s alienation from the regime, including a turn away from Islamic practices and toward secularism. The country’s growing pathologies, including rampant drug use, pornography and prostitution, point to the depths of its problems. Alienation sparked anti-regime demonstrations in the aftermath of fraudulent elections in June 2009. The repression that followed spurred yet more anger at the authorities.

A race is under way — except it is not an even competition, given that Islamists rule in both capitals, Ankara and Tehran. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are in sync at last.

Looking ahead, Iran represents the Middle East’s greatest danger and its greatest hope. Its nuclear buildup, terrorism, ideological aggression and formation of a “resistance bloc” present a truly global threat, ranging from a jump in the price of oil and gas to an electromagnetic pulse attack on the United States. But if these dangers can be navigated, controlled and subdued, Iran has a unique potential to lead Muslims out of the dark night of Islamism toward a more modern, moderate and good-neighborly form of Islam. As in 1979, that achievement likely will affect Muslims far and wide.

Contrarily, while the Turkish government presents few immediate dangers, its more subtle application of Islamism’s hideous principles makes it loom large as a future threat. Long after Khomeini and Osama bin Laden are forgotten, I venture, Mr. Erdogan and his colleagues will be remembered as the inventors of a more lasting and insidious form of Islamism.

Thus may today’s most urgent Middle Eastern problem country become tomorrow’s leader of sanity and creativity while the West’s most stalwart Muslim ally over five decades turns into the greatest source of hostility and reaction. Extrapolation is a mug’s game; the wheel turns, and history springs surprises.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Soccer: Yemenis Working in Saudi Strike After Team Loses

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 29 — While, back home in Yemen, their countrymen and women were raging over the (what they would judge unjustifiably) early dismissal of their national side from the Gulf 20 Championship, which is being staged in the country’s capital city, Sanaa, Yemenis living and working in Saudi Arabia chose an odder form of protest: a 24-hour strike, says satellite TV channel Al Arabiyya.

The Yemen national side, the “reds” as their supporters refer to them, bowed out of the tournament after losing 0-4 to Saudi Arabia and 1-2 to Qatar.

“From the point of view of the hospitality laid on and of the organisation of the event, Yemen comes out a winner, but,” comments Saleh Mohammed , a Yemeni mechanic working in the Saudi city of Damman and one of those on strike today — “it has not gained anything from it in footballing terms”.

According to the site, many Yemen supporters have called for the dismissal of the Minister of Sport and for re-building the country’s football federation from scratch.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Syria: Fears for Impact Web News Law

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 29 — Website owners in Syria are waiting in fear for the possible effects of the draft law on media, which regards politically aligned electronic information.

Some website researchers and experts believe, according to the site of satellite network Al Jazeera, that internet needs rules to protect everyone’s rights, particularly copyright. The Syrian government recently passed a law on “on-line communication with the public”, with the goal to regulate the websites in an operation of balancing rights and duties and the identification of sites and their centre of activities. The publisher of the on-line daily “the Press”, Firas Adra, said that he fears many items in the new law. The most dangerous one, in his opinion, is the regulation that gives the authorities the right to search the seats of these websites, and to confiscate computers if the law is broken. Other elements in the new law mention the possibility of taking legal steps against journalists, which could be convicted by a penal court to prison sentences.

The web cannot be regulated by a law, Adra underlines: all countries in the world have laws on electronic crimes, like laws on human trafficking. Many others believe that it is better to wait for the approval of the new law by the authorities before criticising it. The current situation of the digital media in Syria is, according to on-line information expert Mahmud Anbar, very confused and particularly regarding copyrights. There are laws, Anbar continued, they are very clear and punish whoever breaks copyrights, but most websites ignore these laws and broadcast news produced by other newspapers. The development of digital media, Anbar adds, needs rules on advertising and taxes and a wider margin of freedom than those conceded by law. The law includes fines of 50 thousand to 500 thousand Syrian lira (1,000 to 10,000 USD) for not keeping copies of website content. Websites can be taken offline by the Information Ministry and by a final verdict of a tribunal. Human rights activist Abdul Karim Rihawi underlines that the number of websites that is taken offline is growing, but adds that the law should be discussed after its approval. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



The Lunatic Who Thinks He’s Barack Obama

By Spengler

Napoleon was a lunatic who thought he was Napoleon, and the joke applies to the 44th United States president with a vengeance. What doesn’t the president know, and when didn’t he know it? American foreign policy turned delusional when Barack Obama took office, and the latest batch of leaks suggest that the main source of the delusion is sitting in the Oval Office.

From the first batch of headlines there is little in WikiLeaks’ 250,000 classified diplomatic cables that a curious surfer would not have known from the Internet. We are shocked — shocked — to discover that the Arab Gulf states favor an invasion of Iran; that members of the Saudi royal family fund terrorism; that Pakistan might sell nuclear material to malefactors; that Saudi Arabia will try to acquire nuclear weapons if Iran does; that Israel has been itching for an air strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities; that the Russian government makes use of the Russian mob; that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tilts towards radical Islam; or that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi mixes politics and business.

American career diplomats have been telling their masters in the Obama administration that every theater of American policy is in full-blown rout, forwarding to Washington the growing alarm of foreign leaders. In April 2008, for example, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the US Adel al-Jubeir told General David Petraeus that King Abdullah wanted the US “to cut off the head of the [Iranian] snake” and “recalled the king’s frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran and so put an end to its nuclear weapons program”.

Afghani President Hamid Karzai warned the US that Pakistan was forcing Taliban militants to keep fighting rather than accept his peace offers. Pakistani government officials, other cables warn, might sell nuclear material to terrorists.

The initial reports suggest that the US State Department has massive evidence that Obama’s approach — “engaging” Iran and coddling Pakistan — has failed catastrophically. The crisis in diplomatic relations heralded by the press headlines is not so much a diplomatic problem — America’s friends and allies in Western and Central Asia have been shouting themselves hoarse for two years — but a crisis of American credibility.

Not one Muslim government official so much as mentioned the issues that have occupied the bulk of Washington’s attention during the past year, for example, Israeli settlements. The Saudis, to be sure, would prefer the elimination of all Israeli settlements; for that matter, they would prefer the eventual elimination of the state of Israel. In one conversation with a senior White House official, Saudi King Abdullah stated categorically that Iran, not Palestine, was his main concern; while a solution to the Arab/Israeli conflict would be a great achievement, Iran would find other ways to cause trouble.

“Iran’s goal is to cause problems,” Abdullah added. “There is no doubt something unstable about them.” There never has been a shred of evidence that an Israeli-Palestinian agreement would help America contain Iran’s nuclear threat. The deafening silence over this issue in the diplomatic cables is the strongest refutation of this premise to date.

How do we explain the gaping chasm between Obama’s public stance and the facts reported by the diplomatic corps? The cables do not betray American secrets so much as American obliviousness. The simplest and most probable explanation is that the president is a man obsessed by his own vision of a multipolar world, in which America will shrink its standing to that of one power among many, and thus remove the provocation on which Obama blames the misbehavior of the Iranians, Pakistanis, the pro-terrorist wing of the Saudi royal family, and other enemies of the United States.

Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. With a Muslim father and stepfather, and an anthropologist mother whose life’s work defended Muslim traditional society against globalization, Obama harbors an overpowering sympathy for the Muslim world. He is not a Muslim, although as a young child he was educated as a Muslim in Indonesian schools. His vision of outreach to the Muslim world, the most visible and impassioned feature of his foreign policy, draws on deep wells of emotion. I first made this argument in this space on February 26, 2008 (Obama’s women reveal his secret, Asia Times Online), seven months before he was elected president.

Think of Obama as the anti-Truman. As David Brog recounts in his 2006 book Standing with Israel (which I reviewed on this site on June 20, 2006 (You don’t need to be apocalyptic, but it helps ), president Harry S Truman overruled the unanimous opposition of his cabinet and made America the first country to recognize the new state of Israel in 1948.

His secretary of state, war-time chief of staff George Marshall, had threatened in vain to resign and campaign against Truman in the next presidential election over the issue. Personal religious motivations, not strategy, guided Truman’s decision. He was a Bible-reading Christian Zionist who supported Israel as a matter of principle. Obama has the same sort of loyalty to the Muslim world that Truman had toward the Jewish people. He cannot bring himself to be the American president who ruins a Muslim land.

It is wishful thinking that the Iranian problem can be managed without bringing ruin to the Persian pocket empire. In many respects, Iran resembles the Soviet Union just before the collapse of communism. It turned out that there were no communists in Russia outside the upper echelons of the party. There are very few Muslims in Iran outside of the predatory mullahcracy. According to Zohreh Soleimani of the BBC, Iran has the lowest mosque attendance of any Muslim country; only 2% of adults attend Friday services, a gauge of disaffection comparable to church attendance in Western Europe. Iran’s fertility rate of about 1.6 children per women, coincidentally, is about the same as Western Europe’s. Iran has a huge contingent of young people, but they have ceased to have children. They have faith neither in the national religion nor in the future of their nation.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, meanwhile, reports that fully 5% of Iran’s adult non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opium. Alcoholism also is epidemic, despite the Islamic prohibition on alcoholic beverage, which must be smuggled into the country.

The US won the Cold War by ruining Russia. Russia may never recover. In 1992, three years after the Berlin Wall came down, thousands of pensioners gathered daily near Red Square in the winter cold to barter old clothing or trinkets for food, and the tourist hotels swarmed with prostitutes. The collapse of communism did not usher in a golden age of Russian democracy, and the new government into the most rapacious plague of locusts ever to descend upon a vulnerable economy.

Break the Iranian mullahcracy, and Iran most likely will fall into demoralization and ruin. Punish Pakistan for its machinations with the Taliban, and the country likely will descend into civil war. Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Pakistan’s dalliance with terrorism both stem from the sad fact that they are failed states to begin with. Push them into a corner, and the failure will become manifest.

In fairness to Obama, he simply carried forward the George W Bush administration’s benign neglect of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Bush confirms in his just-published memoirs what was evident at the time: he followed the advice Defense Secretary Robert Gates and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to avoid open conflict with Iran. If provoked, Iran was capable of producing a large number of American casualties in Iraq in the advent of the 2008 elections.

The difference between early 2008 and early 2010, to be sure, is that Iran has had two years to enrich uranium, consolidate its grip on Syria, insert itself into Afghanistan, stockpile missiles with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and build up its terror capabilities around the world. The window is closing in which Iran may be contained. Covert operations and cyber-sabotage might have bought some time, but benign neglect of Iran has reach its best-used-by-date.

The cables, in sum, reveal an American administration that refuses to look at the facts on the ground, even when friendly governments rub the noses of American diplomats into them. Obama is beyond reality; he has become the lunatic who thinks that he is Barack Obama.

Spengler is channeled by David P Goldman senior editor at First Things (www.firstthings.com).

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



Wikileaks: Turkey Denies Report on Iran Arms Sale

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 30 — Turkish National Defense Ministry stated that Mechanical & Chemical Industry Corp. (MKEK) did not sell any of the weapons, ammunitions and other equipments it produced to Iran. The ministry, as Anatolia news agency reports, commented today on the news Wikileaks web-site published claiming that MKEK sold weapons to Iran, and stated that MKEK had to receive a written permit from National Defense Ministry before it made an export to foreign countries. “If MKEK does not receive this permit, products cannot cross the customs gate,” stated the ministry. MKEK did not sell any of the weapons, ammunitions and other equipments it produced to Iran, thus, “the news Wikileaks published were groundless,” stated the ministry. International non-profit media organization, Wikileaks has recently leaked out classified U.S.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Wikileaks: US Ambassador Connects EU Membership With Facing Past, Mocks Historiography in Turkey

In a report about Erdogan and the AK Party after two years in power, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman notes that the study of history in the country is subject to “to rigid taboos, denial, fears, and mandatory gross distortions,” noting that without facing its past, Turkey cannot take on the challenge of becoming an EU member. “Until Turkey can reconcile itself to its past, including the troubling aspects of its Ottoman past, in free and open debate, how will Turkey reconcile itself to the concept and practice of reconciliation in the EU?” asks Edelman.

Edelman notes that “the study of history and practice of historiography in the Republic of Turkey remind one of an old Soviet academic joke: the faculty party chief assembles his party cadres and, warning against various ideological threats, proclaims, ‘The future is certain. It’s only that damned past that keeps changing.’“

The most significant of Turkey’s denials and “mandatory gross distortions,” of course, pertains to the Armenian genocide. Official Ankara continues to vehemently deny that there was any genocidal intent towards the Armenians in the last years of the Ottoman Empire and it spends millions of dollars in its denial campaign, in which it lobbies politicians, entices support from journalists, funds academic denial efforts, suppresses education efforts on the Armenian Genocide, and presents denial assertions to the general public in North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East. At home, Turkish scholars and journalists who write about the importance of recognizing the Armenian genocide risk harassment and prosecution.

Mentioning AK party’s “tentative,” meager efforts in dealing with history straightforwardly, Edelman notes that “the road ahead will require a massive overhaul of education, the introduction and acceptance of rule of law, and a fundamental redefinition of the relation between citizen and state.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Diana West: Afghan “Policeman” Kills Six US Troops

I wish Julian Assange would Wikileak this story so maybe, just maybe American would finally pay attention to a real scandal.

From the AP:

KABUL, Afghanistan — An Afghan border policeman killed six American servicemen during a training mission Monday, underscoring one of the risks in a U.S.-led program to educate enough recruits to turn over the lead for security to Afghan forces by 2014….

Is this what jihadist, Muslim-on-infidel murder by our Afghan “allies” is now — “one of the risks”? This is not a risk worth taking for the servicemen’s interest, the military’s interest, or the country’s interest. This effort, this theory, this utopian drive to remake Afghanistan in something akin to our own image is not workable, nor is it acceptable as the blood-and-treasure-draining policy of this nation.

Nor is this:…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]



From Pakistan, Diplomats Wrote About a Vexing Ally

Confidential cables to Washington from the American embassy in Islamabad, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of news organizations, illustrate deep clashes over strategic goals on issues like Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban and tolerance of Al Qaeda, and Washington’s warmer relations with India, Pakistan’s archenemy.

One cable, sent less than a month after President Obama assured reporters that Pakistan’s nuclear materials “will remain out of militant hands,” expressed concern that a stockpile of highly enriched uranium, stored for years near an aging research reactor in Pakistan , could be used by militants to build several “dirty bombs” or perhaps an actual nuclear bomb.

That cable is among the most unnerving evidence of the complex relationship — sometimes cooperative, often confrontational, always wary — between America and Pakistan nearly 10 years into the American-led war in Afghanistan.

[Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Drone Victim Sues CIA for $500 Million ‘For Killing Family’

Islamabad 29 Nov. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — A Pakistani man who says his home was hit by a US missile drone attack which killed his family members is seeking 500 million dollars in compensation from the Central Intelligence Agency.

The victim, Karim Khan, says that his 18 year old son Zain Uddin and 32 year old brother Asif Iqbal were killed by the CIA when drones targeted his house 31 December 2009 in Pakistan’s North Waziristan which borders Afghanistan.

“This is a clear case of brutal human rights violations as my house was targeted on a false tip-off by unknown intelligence and caused immense damage to life and property of my family,” Karim said at a press conference in Islamabad on Monday.

Shahzad Akber, a lawyer for Karim, said the case aimed to take up the issue of human rights violations and requested all the other drone attack victims to join their legal movement.

The case is likely to bring attention to the issue of civilian casualties in drone strikes close to the Afghan border especially as the attacks are not abating. There have been more than 100 such attacks this year, more than twice the amount last year.

“Starting from 2004, hundreds of drones killed thousands of innocent civilians and this brutal killing is continued without any justice… that should not be allowed in the modern world,” Akbar said.

Khan categorically denied he or his family members belong to any militant organization such as Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but said that Americans are killing innocent civilians without justification.

Khan and his lawyer appealed to the supreme court of Pakistan’s chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary to take notice of the on-going problem of innocent civilians dying in drone attacks.

Washington does not publicly admit firing the missiles. US officials privately say little beyond that the attacks are killing Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants

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



The Brink of War

Instable Pakistan Has US on Edge

US ally Pakistan is much more volatile than previously assumed. American Embassy dispatches show that the military and the Pakistani secret service are heavily involved in the atomic power’s politics — and often work against US interests.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Wikileaks Cables Expose Pakistan Nuclear Fears

American and British diplomats fear Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme could lead to fissile material falling into the hands of terrorists or a devastating nuclear exchange with India.

The latest cache of US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks contains warnings that Pakistan is rapidly building its nuclear stockpile despite the country’s growing instability and “pending economic catastrophe”.

Mariot Leslie, a senior British Foreign Office official, told US diplomats in September 2009: “The UK has deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,” according to one cable classified “secret/noforn [no foreign nationals]”.

Seven months earlier, the US ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson, cabled to Washington: “Our major concern is not having an Islamic militant steal an entire weapon but rather the chance someone working in government of Pakistan facilities could gradually smuggle enough material out to eventually make a weapon”.

The leak of classified US diplomatic correspondence exposes in detail the deep tensions between Washington and Islamabad over a broad range of issues, including counter-terrorism, Afghanistan and finance, as well as the nuclear question. The cables also revealed that:

  • Small teams of US special forces have been operating secretly inside Pakistan’s tribal areas, with the approval of the Pakistani government, while senior ministers have privately supported American drone attacks.
  • The ambassador starkly informed Washington that “no amount of money” from the US would stop the Pakistani army backing Islamist militants and the Afghan Taliban insurgency.
  • The US concluded that Pakistani troops were responsible for a spate of extrajudicial killings in the Swat Valley and tribal belt but decided not to comment publicly to allow the army to take action on its own.
  • Diplomats in Islamabad were asked by the Pentagon to survey refugee camps on the Afghan border, possibly for air strike targeting information.
  • The president, Asif Ali Zardari — whose wife, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated — has made extensive preparations in case he too is killed, and once told the US vice-president, Joe Biden, that he feared the military “might take me out”.

Pakistan’s rulers are so sensitive about their much-prized nuclear weapons that in July 2009 they stalled on a previously agreed plan for the US to recover and dispose of highly enriched uranium spent fuel from a nuclear research reactor, in the interests of preventing proliferation and theft. They told the US embassy: “If the local media got word of the fuel removal, “they certainly would portray it as the US taking Pakistan’s nuclear weapons”.

US concern over Pakistan’s bomb programme was spelled out in an intelligence briefing in 2008. “Despite pending economic catastrophe, Pakistan is producing nuclear weapons at a faster rate than any other country in the world,” the secret cable said.

Leslie, director general of defence and intelligence at the Foreign Office, made clear the UK shared these anxieties when she spoke to US diplomats at a London arms control meeting in September 2009. The Pakistanis were worried the US “will drop in and take their nukes”, she said, according to a US cable to Washington. Pakistan was now prepared to accept “nuclear safety help” from British technicians, but only under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The cable said Leslie thought nuclear proliferation was the greater danger to the world, but it “ranks lower than terrorism on the public’s list of perceived threats”.

Another senior British official at the meeting, Jon Day, the Ministry of Defence’s director general for security policy, said recent intelligence indicated Pakistan was “not going in a good direction”.

The Russians shared concerns that Pakistan was “highly unstable”. Yuri Korolev, from the Russian foreign ministry, told US officials: “Islamists are not only seeking power in Pakistan but are also trying to get their hands on nuclear materials.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Far East


Blame Appeasement for North Korea’s Antics

The recent attack by North Korea on South Korea killed numerous civilians. It created panic and outrage in South Korea. It roiled the South Korean government, leading to the resignation of their defense minister and unprecedented language from their leaders vowing “a thousand fold” revenge on the North. This attack is the worst violence on the Korean Peninsula since the end of the war in 1953. It has struck fear into the entire Asian region.

However, the untold story of this attack is that it could have been prevented. You even could say that the North Koreans have a point when they claim that the United States “orchestrated” the circumstances that led to this attack.

The appeasement policy of the Obama administration, including his endless apologies for America and his coddling of dictators such as Hugo Chavez and Ahmedinejad are the diplomatic equivalent of throwing red meat in front of North Korea’s wild, carnivorous beast of a regime and daring them to eat it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


Ethiopia Imprisons Christian Accused of Defacing Quran

Islamic principles govern Somali region in southern part of country.

By Simba Tian

NAIROBI, Kenya — A Christian in Ethiopia’s southern town of Moyale who languished in jail for more than three months after he was accused of desecrating the Quran has been sentenced to three years of prison, church leaders said.

Tamirat Woldegorgis, a member of the Full Gospel Church in his early 30s, was arrested in early August after a Muslim co-worker in the clothes-making business the two operated out of a rented home discovered Woldegorgis had inscribed “Jesus is Lord” on some cloth, area Christians said. His business partner later accused him of writing “Jesus is Lord” in a copy of the Quran, although no evidence of that ever surfaced.

Woldegorgis was sentenced on Nov. 18 for allegedly defacing the Quran and was subsequently transferred to Jijiga prison, a source said. Jijiga is the capital of Ethiopia’s Somali Region Zone Five, which is governed by Islamic principles, and his transfer there — after a period in which his whereabouts were unknown — puts his life in greater danger, a church leader said.

In Ethiopia’s federal state system, each state is autonomous in its administration, and most of those holding government positions in Somali Region Zone Five are Muslims.

“Three years in a harsh jail in Jijiga for an innocent man is quite costly,” said the church leader, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

The church is concerned about the condition of the father of two from Hagarmariam village.

Additionally, two of Woldegorgis’ friends were fined 5,000 Kenyan shillings (US$60) each for supporting him by either taking food to him or visiting him while in prison. The two were said to be condemned for supporting a criminal who allegedly desecrated the Quran and allegedly defamed Islam, church leaders said.

Woldegorgis’ Muslim associate, whose name has not been established, had gone to a mosque with the accusation that Woldegorgis had written “Jesus is Lord” in the Quran itself, sources said. Angry sheikhs at the mosque subsequently had Woldegorgis arrested for desecrating the book sacred to Islam, they said. Other sources said, however, that Muslims accused Woldegorgis of writing “Jesus is Lord” on a piece of wood, on a minibus and then on the wall of a house.

Sources previously told Compass that authorities had offered to release Woldegorgis if he would convert to Islam.

Hostility toward those spreading faiths different from Islam is a common occurrence in predominantly Muslim areas of Ethiopia and neighboring countries, they said. Christians are often subject to harassment and intimidation.

Ethiopia’s constitution, laws and policies generally respect freedom of religion, but occasionally some local authorities infringe on this right, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2010 International Religious Freedom Report.

According to the 2007 census, 44 percent of Ethiopia’s population affiliate with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, 19 percent are evangelical and Pentecostal and 34 percent are Sunni Muslim.

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

Latin America


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Ecuador Offers Wikileak’s Founder Assange Residency, No Questions Asked

QUITO — Ecuador on Monday offered Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who has enraged Washington by releasing masses of classified U.S. documents, residency with no questions asked.

“We are ready to give him residence in Ecuador, with no problems and no conditions,” Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas told the Internet site Ecuadorinmediato.

“We are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just over the Internet but in a variety of public forums,” he said.

An international arrest warrant was issued in mid-November against Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, on suspicion of rape and sexual molestation of two women in Sweden.

The United States, for its part, has a criminal investigation under way into the release of some 250,000 diplomatic cables, the most recent of three huge document dumps by the self-styled whistle-blower website.

The White House branded those who released the documents “criminals, first and foremost,” but so far U.S. authorities have publicly filed no charges against Assange.

The documents, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to news organizations in the United States, Britain, France and Germany, have shone a bright light on the behind-the-scenes conduct U.S. diplomacy.

Ecuador’s leftist government is one of several in the region that have often been at odds with Washington.

Lucas said even though Ecuador’s policy was not to meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, it was “concerned” by the information in the cables because it involved other countries “in particular Latin America.”

           — Hat tip: LN [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Gaddafi to EU: 5 Bln to Stop Illegals

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, NOVEMBER 29 — The European Union should give 5 billion euros to Libya to “stop” illegal immigrants, otherwise “an entire continent will pour into Europe”. This is according to the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who has again made demands from Europe during the EU-Africa summit.

“In order to stop illegal immigration, something significant must be done, otherwise an entire continent will pour into Europe. If Europe gives us 5 billion euros, Libya will be able to stem the flow,” said the Libyan leader, repeating a request made in Rome in August.

“The only country that collaborates with us is Italy,” said Gaddafi with regards to tackling illegal immigration, adding that “Italy is a civilised country that has made up for its past” as a colonising country.

During his speech at the opening of the summit, Gaddafi said that “Libya is the filter of immigration” coming from all over Africa.

“Africa and Europe are the spine of the world and must cooperate,” Gaddafi said. On immigration, he reasserted that “the only country that collaborates with us is Italy. Thanks to our cooperation with them, we have been able to exert control over immigration”.

Regarding the request for 5 billion euros per year from Europe, the Libyan leader said: “We do not need to beg for help, but we want investments”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Gaddafi Demands £4 Billion From EU or Europe Will Turn ‘Black’

Muammar Gaddafi has demanded that the European Union give him more than £4 billion to fight illegal immigration or else Europe will turn “black” and be swamped by Muslims.

During an EU-Africa summit, that ended on Tuesday in Tripoli, the Libyan leader described European’s economic relationship with the African continent as a “failure”.

Unless “Christian, white” countries gave him extra funding, Colonel Gaddafi predicted that Europe would be flooded with illegal immigrants leaving impoverished Africa.

“We should stop this illegal immigration. If we don’t, Europe will become black, it will be overcome by people with different religions, it will change,” he said.

Col Gaddafi has so far received only £42 million in EU funding to improve treatment of refugees heading for Europe amid human rights fears and a recent refusal by Sweden to sell Libya surveillance planes.

The Libyan leader is critical of the EU for linking trade and aid to free markets and progress on human rights. He told EU officials at the summit that African leaders say they are ready to abandon ten years of trade talks because of European demands.

“Africa has other choices,” he said “Let every country and every group govern itself. Every country is free to serve its own interests. Africa can look to any other international bloc such as Latin America, China, India or Russia.”

A leaked US diplomatic cable giving an assessment of Kenya as a “swamp” of corruption prompted calls for an apology from Nairobi. “It is totally malicious and a total misrepresentation of our country and our leaders. We are surprised and shocked,” said a Kenyan government spokesman.

But Col Gaddafi did not make any reference to the Wikileaks publication of a confidential American communication detailing his need to always travel with his “with his senior Ukrainian nurse” and his love of “flamenco dancing.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Italy: Moroccan Terrorist Expelled After Early Release From Prison

Rome, 26 Nov. (AKI) — Italy has expelled a 45-year-old man considered to be a member of an extremist Islamic militant cell, sending him to his native Morocco three years after he was convicted for having terrorist ties, the Italian Interior Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

Khalid Khamlich was released from prison on 18 Nov. and flown from Rome to Casablanca early Friday. The ministry cited unspecified “reasons of public order and state security” for his early release.

Khamlich was found guilty of taking part in a group that planned terrorist attacks on the Milan subway and the cathedral of in the northern city of Cremona.

A court in Brescia in June 2007 sentenced Khamlich to 5 years and six months of reclusion for “association with the aim of international terrorism,” the Italian Interior Ministry said.

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



Netherlands: Crime Puts Pressure on Integration

THE HAGUE, 01/12/10 — The high crime figures remain by some way the most striking problem regarding the integration of second-generation immigrants. Where they do better than their parents in most areas, on this point they show a substantial deterioration, according to the “Integration Annual Report 2010” presented by the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS).

Second-generation Turks and Moroccans are not only more frequently suspected of a crime than the white Dutch, but also more frequently suspects than the first generation Turks and Moroccans have ever been. On this point, a clear deterioration is evident. “More than half the Moroccan boys have run up against the police in their youth as a crime suspect,” the CBS reports.

Antillean and Moroccan men are five times more frequently crime suspects than white Dutch men. “The crime figures are really very high,” says CBS demographer Jan Latten. According to Latten, policy must be developed in relation to the crime problem. “This will really not go away on its own.”

It is notable that a relatively large number of immigrant suspects live in the Rotterdam suburb of Schiedam. This municipality is in the top five both for the number of Turkish and of Moroccan, Surinamese and Antillean suspects, the CBS report shows.

Apart from the area of crime, the report gives largely positive figures. The second generation of non-Western immigrants in general do better in Dutch society than their parents.

Currently, around 43 percent of non-Western immigrants are second generation. The fact that more and more of them are moving to higher education is considered by Latten the most striking development in a positive sense. “They will be the managers of tomorrow.”

At the beginning of 2010, there were 1.9 million non-Western immigrants living in the Netherlands. This is about 11 percent of the total population. Moroccans and Turks form the largest groups among them.

Immigrants with one or both parents born outside the Netherlands are defined as second-generation. Only when both parents are born in the Netherlands are they considered third-generation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Religious ‘Bullying’ Among Christmas Island Detainees

An Iraqi asylum seeker being detained on Christmas Island says he is living in fear that he will be targeted by other detainees because of his religious beliefs.

In Iraq, life is getting harder for believers in faiths other than Islam.

At the end of last month, an attack on Iraq’s dwindling Christian community left 58 people dead and Al Qaeda has warned that more killings would follow.

Another victimised minority are the Sabian Mandaean, whose followers revere John the Baptist.

Some have fled to Australia and now a Mandaean detainee on Christmas Island fears that the persecution has followed him here.

Salah Azuhari, 45, fled from his village in southern Iraq because of religious persecution.

Speaking through ABC local radio’s Hana Vieva, Mr Azuhari said that other Iraqi detainees have bullied him.

“They told him he had no right to sit with them, eat with them, be in their presence. And they said that because of his religious belief he has no right to live in Iraq or anywhere else,” Ms Vieva said.

“He’s been on the run since Iraq and Jordan and he feels like he’s still on the run even though he’s in Australia.”

Mr Azuhari has been in detention on Christmas Island for one month.

He says his family in Iraq were tortured by the Mehdi army and the Badr forces, a political party.

“He and his family were tortured, his family was bombed. His uncle received a nail to his head. So they basically bashed a nail through his brain. He was subsequently kidnapped, tortured and put around dead bodies, other dead bodies,” the interpreter said.

“They’re basically seen as sinners. They’re looked upon as Christians and Jews by the fundamental Muslims. So they’re tortured because they’re sinners.”

The Mandaeans are pacifists and their religion prevents them from taking part in protests.

Mr Azuhari says that is why he refused to go on a hunger strike to protest against the death of an Iraqi detainee in Villawood.

“He is a law-abiding citizen who follows the rules. He’s doing that in the detention centre,” Ms Vieva said.

“He’s isolated and he’s isolated himself because he fears. He has been threatened to be killed while he sleeps.

“He feels that the situation in the detention centre is like, exactly the situation in Iraq.”

Immigration Department spokeswoman Sandi Logan says the Department is not aware of any complaints being made but if there were serious concerns to a client’s ongoing welfare the Department would consider moving them.

“It’s also an opportunity for people who do believe they have a strong claim to remain in Australia to begin to live with Australian values and to live under Australian norms,” she said.

“This means that where there is inter-faith conflict that it is resolved in a peaceful and amicable way.

“That is certainly the training that our staff have but, as I say, these are quite rare. They are not common in immigration detention.”

But former Human Rights commissioner Sev Ozdowski says this is not the first incident of religious bullying.

In 2003 Amnesty International made a complaint to the Human Rights Commission on behalf of a female Mandaean who says she was sexually harassed while in detention.

Mr Ozdowski says Mandaeans often suffer “double punishment”.

“They were quite often regarded as unclean, as unable to meet with other Muslims. They were ostracised. There were cases of harassment. There was a case of alleged rape. They didn’t have the standing in the community in detention,” he said.

He says Mandaeans should be kept in separate detention from other asylum seekers and their claims processed immediately.

Meanwhile Salah Azuhari wants his processing sped up so that he can be reunited with his six children who are still in Jordan.

Hana Vieva says Mr Azuhari already has relatives living in Australia.

“He has three siblings who came here as refugees and now have refugee status. They live in Sydney. They have had the opportunity to express their religion, believe in what they want to believe and he feels that he can do that outside the detention centre,” she said.

After threatening to run away, Salah Azuhari has been moved to be closer to the four other Mandaeans on Christmas Island.

He says he feels much safer but that if the other Mandaeans leave he will be completely alone.

[Return to headlines]



UK: Eight in Ten Want Tighter Controls on Immigration … Even Lib Dem Voters Want Cap

The public, including a sizeable majority of Lib Dem supporters, want far stricter controls on immigration to the UK, according to a poll released last night.

The YouGov survey found 81 per cent support for the government’s cap on economic migration — which will slash the number of non-EU workers given visas by a fifth.

It is part of a policy to cut net migration — the number of people arriving in Britain, versus those leaving — from 215,000 to the ‘tens of thousands’.

However, the public, including a large chunk of Lib Dem supporters, is calling on the Coalition to go much further.

Some 70 per cent of the public thought that net immigration of 50,000 or less would be ‘best for Britain’.

This was the view of 61 per cent of Lib Dems. The figure will surprise party managers, who had widely assumed their supporters wanted relaxed immigration controls.

During the consultation over the government’s cap on economic migrants, Business Secretary Vince Cable repeatedly complained the Home Office was intending to be too tough.

The party is also known to be unhappy with David Cameron’s ‘tens of thousands’ pledge, which did not appear in the Coalition agreement.

But the survey, carried out for Migrationwatch, found 16 per cent of Lib Dems want net migration of 50,000-a-year, and a further 36 per cent want no net immigration — which means the same number of people arriving each years as leaving.

A further nine per cent said there should be more emigrants than immigrants. Overall, this is the view of 19 per cent of the population.

In terms of the cap policy, there was 79 per cent approval by the Lib Dems, compared to 95 per cent of Conservatives and 69 per cent of Labour voters.

The figures will be useful in continuing negotations between the Tories and Lib Dems over cracking down on other routes into the UK, such as marriage and student visas.

Separately, the YouGov survey found public concern about a report, published by an Oxford University academic, warning that white Britons will be a minority by 2066 if immigration continues at the current rate.

Prof David Coleman said that, If immigration stays at its long-term rate of around 180,000 a year, the white British-born population would decline from 80 per cent of the total now to 59 per cent in 2051.

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

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

The poll found that 73 per cent of the public would feel ‘unhappy’ if this scenario proved accurate.

Some 85 per cent of Tory voters held this view, compared to 67 per cent of Labour supporters and 55 per cent of Lib Dems.

A fifth of the public said they would be neither happy nor unhappy.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: ‘These results are a strong vote of confidence in the government’s recent measures to control economic migration.

‘But they are also warning that the public, who would like to see even lower levels of immigration, are very unhappy about the long-term consequences of immigration for the make-up of our society. ‘

Last week, Home Office ministers announced a 21,700 cap on visas for workers from outside Europe — a reduction of 20 per cent.

They also promised sharp reduction in the number of student visas being handed out — with most applicants for non-degree courses being rejected.

Figures released by the Office for national Statistics, two days after the announcement, showed the scale of the task facing the government.

In the year to March 2010, net migration was 215,000.

Some 580,000 people moved to Britain, including a record 211,000 students. In the same period 364,000 left the country — the lowest level in a decade.

The net migration totals for 2008 and 2009 were 163,000 and 198,000 respectively.

The Office for National Statistics has said that the population will hit 70million by 2029 if net migration runs at 180,000 a year.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Smithsonian Christmas-Season Exhibit Features Ant-Covered Jesus, Naked Brothers Kissing, Genitalia, And Ellen Degeneres Grabbing Her Breasts

WARNING: This story contains graphic photographs of items on display in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery.

The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently showing an exhibition that features images of an ant-covered Jesus, male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show’s catalog as “homoerotic.”

The exhibit, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” opened on Oct. 30 and will run throughout the Christmas Season, closing on Feb. 13.

“This is an exhibition that displays masterpieces of American portraiture and we wanted to illustrate how questions of biography and identity went into the making of images that are canonical,” David C. Ward, a National Portrait Gallery (NGP) historian who is also co-curator of the exhibit, told CNSNews.com.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Sweden: Teaching Boost Urged for Multicultural Kids

Multilingual students at Sweden’s preschools and schools are falling behind due to an inability of teachers to address their needs, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) announced on Tuesday.

The Inspectorate is looking at ways to improve and enhance the educational experiences of its students who come from multilingual backgrounds, which according to the sample of primary and secondary schools in the study totals one in five students.

“All children in Sweden have an unconditional right to education, regardless of whether their mother tongue is Swedish or not. We see that preschools and schools have a general interest in the multilingual children’s different experiences and backgrounds,” Agneta Ericsson, project leader at the Inspectorate wrote in a statement.

“However, we often forget these experiences when planning operations. The result is that the children’s language and knowledge development slows and it becomes needlessly difficult for them to achieve the goals of the school,” she added.

Separately, Sveriges Radio’s Ekot news bulletin reported on Tuesday morning that one in four students with a foreign background left school without the qualifications for college (gymnasium) compared with one in 10 pupils with a Swedish background.

The agency examined how preschools and schools work with language and knowledge development to help multilingual children and students meet national objectives.

The agency undertook a study at 21 preschools and 21 schools in 12 municipalities at. The agency’s findings do not necessarily apply to all preschools and schools in the country.

Instead, it offers examples of both the problems and solutions of what can be done to improve the language and knowledge development in multilingual children, the government agency stated.

The agency found that there are weak multilingual and intercultural perspectives within schools, saying it was rare for preschools and schools to connect activities to concepts that a multilingual child could recognise and create context and understanding.

In addition, staff appeared to know little more about the children beyond the languages that they speak. Activities and teaching rarely made use of the children’s different experiences and cultural backgrounds.

It also considered the development of mother tongue abilities as “someone else’s responsibility,” either through mother tongue teachers or parents.

The agency pointed out that schools seldom followed up on the students’ reception of the material and on their individual development. Separately, the role of Swedish as a second language remained unclear.

The agency emphasised that multilingual children are individuals with different experiences, needs, interests and linguistic and competence levels.

As such, it urged schools to address their deficiencies in improving the education experiences of these children by learning more about them, accommodating their curriculum to reference their backgrounds and challenging them in their teaching.

It also highlighted ensuring that preschools help children develop their mother tongue skills and setting high standards for them to achieve objectives, as well as working with other teachers and language teachers.

If necessary, it also suggested offering tutoring in the student’s native language and further developing the teaching of Swedish as a second language.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Hate Crime Figures Published for the First Time

Hate crime figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been published for the first time.

In 2009 a total of 52,028 crimes were recorded in which the offence was motivated by prejudice.

Victims were targeted because of race, religious belief, sexual orientation, disability or transgender issues.

Chief Constable Stephen Otter of police chiefs’ body Acpo said: “By publishing this data… we hope to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward.”

The vast majority were targeted because of their race — 43,426 (up from 39,300), and the others were classified as sexual orientation — 4,805; religion/faith — 2,083; disability — 1,402 and transgender — 312.

An Acpo spokesman said 703 crimes were anti-Semitic.

Mr Otter, Acpo’s lead for equality, diversity and human rights, said: “Hate crimes cause a great deal of harm among victims and communities.

“Publication of the data underlines the commitment of the police service to tackle hate crime, build confidence and encourage victims to come forward so that under-reporting is reduced.”

Although data was not collated nationally before 2009, Acpo says it believes there has been a rise in all five types of hate crime.

‘Much work to do’

Professor John Grieve CBE, independent chair of the government’s Hate Crime Advisory Group, welcomed the data and said: “It represents a significant step forward in our understanding of the nature and extent of hate crime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

Prof Grieve, a former deputy assistant commissioner with the Metropolitan Police who set up a racial and violent crime task force at Scotland Yard, said: “The UK is amongst world leaders in the way that it responds to hate crime, but there is still much work to do.

“One of the greatest challenges is to reduce the under-reporting of hate crime. We welcome the government’s commitment to increase reporting and we will be examining this data in the forthcoming months and years to better understand the extent of crime and to challenge where performance does not meet the high standards that the public rightly demands of the criminal justice agencies.”

           — Hat tip: 4symbols [Return to headlines]

General


Hunters May Have Delivered Fatal Blow to Mammoths

CHERSKY, Russia — During the last Ice Age, shaggy mammoths, woolly rhinos and bison lumbered across northern Siberia. Then, about 10,000 years ago — in the span of a geological heartbeat, or a few hundred years — the last of them disappeared.

Many scientists believe a dramatic shift in climate drove these giant grazers to extinction.

But two scientists who live year-round in the frigid Siberian plains say that man _either for food, fuel or fun — hunted the animals to extinction.

Paleontologists have been squabbling for decades over how these animals met their sudden demise. The most persuasive theories say it was humanity and nature: Dramatically warming temperatures caused a changing habitat and brought a migration of men armed with deep-piercing spears.

No one knows for sure what set off global warming back then — perhaps solar activity or a slight shift in the Earth’s orbit. But, in an echo of the global warming debate today, Sergey Zimov, director of the internationally funded Northeast Science Station, and his son Nikita say man was the real agent of change.

For the Siberian grasses to provide nutrition in winter, they needed to be grazed in summer to produce fresh shoots in autumn. The hooves of millions of reindeer, elk and moose as well as the larger beasts also trampled choking moss, while their waste promoted the blossoming of summer meadows.

As the ice retreated at the end of the Pleistocene era — the final millennia of a 1.8 million yearlong epoch — it cleared the way for man’s expansion into previously inaccessible lands, like this area bordering the East Siberia Sea.

Northeastern Siberia, today one of the coldest and most formidable spots on the globe, was dry and free of glaciers. The ground grew thick with fine layers of dust and decaying plant life, generating rich pastures during the brief summers.

When humans arrived they hunted not only for food, but for the fat that kept the northern animals insulated against the subzero cold, which the hunters burned for fuel, say the scientists. They may also have killed for prestige or for sport, in the same way buffalo were heedlessly felled in the American Old West, sometimes from the window of passing trains.

The wholesale slaughter allowed the summer fodder to dry up and destroy the winter supply, they say.

“We don’t look at animals just as animals. We look at them as a system, with vegetation and the whole ecosystem,” said the younger Zimov. “You don’t need to kill all the animals to kill an ecosystem.”

During the transition from the ice age to the modern climate, global temperatures rose 5 degrees Celsius, or 9 Fahrenheit. But in Siberia’s northeast the temperature soared 7 degrees, or nearly 13F, in just three years, the elder Zimov said.

The theory of human overkill is much disputed. Advocates of climate theory say the warm wet weather that accompanied the rapid melting of glaciers spawned birch forests that overwhelmed the habitats of the bulky grass eaters.

Adrian Lister, of the paleontology department of London’s Natural History Museum, said humans may have delivered the final blow, but rapid global warming was primarily responsible for the mammoth’s extinction. It brought an abrupt change in vegetation that squeezed a dwindling number of mammoths into isolated pockets, where hunters could pick off the last herds, he said.

People “couldn’t have done the whole job,” he told AP Television News.

Mammoths once ranged from Russia and northern China to Europe and most of North America, but their numbers began to shrink about 30,000 years ago. By the time the Pleistocene era ended they remained only in northern Siberia, Lister said.

As in millennia past, Sergey Zimov believes hunting is a problem today.

“I believe it’s possible to increase the density of herbivores in our territory 100 times,” says Zimov, who keeps a 6-foot-long yellow-brown tusk of an 18-year-old female in a corner of his living room. “I say let’s stop the poaching. Let’s give freedom for animals.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Is Wi-Fi Frying Our Brains? Fears That Cloud of ‘Electrosmog’ Could be Harming Humans

As winter arrives with a vengeance, the last of this year’s glorious autumn leaves are falling in our parks and woodlands.

But this week came worrying evidence that Mother Nature is not the only force denuding our trees of their foliage.

Research in the Netherlands suggested that outbreaks of bleeding bark and dying leaves which have blighted the country’s urban trees may be caused by radiation from the Wi-Fi networks now so integral to life in offices, schools and homes.

As a qualified electronics engineer, I am not surprised by such findings. I have long been concerned about the harmful effects of the electro-magnetic radiation emitted not only by Wi-Fi devices but many other common modern gadgets, including mobile and cordless phones, wireless games consoles and microwave ovens.

Much though I love trees, and worrying though I find this research, what really unnerves me is the effect these electro-magnetic fields (or EMFs) are having on humans, surrounding us as they do with a constant cloud of ‘electrosmog’.

I am no Luddite. When I started work in the 1960s, I was involved in building walkie-talkies. I thought they were just brilliant and that electronic technology would save the world. But over the decades since, my scientific background has made it impossible for me to ignore the overwhelming evidence about the damage wreaked by this electrosmog.

It is not the existence of these radio waves that is the problem so much as the use we make of them. Rather than being emitted at a constant rate, technology demands they are ‘pulsed’ in short and frequent bursts which appear to be far more biologically harmful.

Not the least is their impact on our ability to reproduce. It is well documented that average male sperm counts are falling by two per cent a year. Many causes have been suggested, from stressful lifestyles to poor diet and hormones in our water supplies. But studies in infertility clinics show problems with sperm dying off or not moving properly are most common in men who use mobiles extensively. This has also been demonstrated in the laboratory.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Islamists Know a Western Civilization Secret: ‘Progress’ Makes Religion Decline

The motive to reform Islam from within is weaker than the motive of those like Martin Luther, as Islamists can point to the decline of Christian belief and assume the same would happen to Islam.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



The Primitive Social Network: Bullying Required

Someone gets bullied in every society. It’s bad luck on the victims, but in primitive social groups they might do best to put up with it. If the advantages of group living outweigh the costs of being bullied, evolution might leave some animals resigned to their victim status, thus stabilising the group.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20101129

Financial Crisis
» Frustrated With EU ‘Pressure Tactics,’ Africa Ready to Walk Away From Trade Talks
» President Obama to Announce a Pay Freeze for Most Federal Workers
» Time for Economic Restoration Now Climate Change Deception Exposed
» UK: Forget the 3D TV: Sales of Traditional Board Games Boom as Families Prepare for Austerity Christmas
» Ultra Elitist Environmental Group: Halt Economic Growth, Institute Rationing
 
USA
» ‘Firesheep’ Developer: Facebook is Ignoring Huge Security Problem
» In Plain Sight
» It Just Isn’t Christmas Without a Muslim Bombing
» MPAC Trains 2,200 Transportation Security Officers
» Our Country is Fine But the Government is Broken
 
Europe and the EU
» Austria: Yodelling Offends Praying Muslims, Say Judges
» German Police Officers Face Increasing Violence on Patrol
» Germany: Merkel’s Leadership Derided by US Diplomats
» Greece Targeted by Brussels on Nurses and Hospitals
» Italy: President Signs Naples Trash Decree He Had Rejected
» Italy: Judges Say Independence Threatened
» Italy: Berlusconi ‘Laughs Off’ Wikileaks Revelations
» Italy: Police Nab Suspected Sicilian Serial Killer
» Media Diagnose Swiss Identity Crisis
» Swiss Vote to Expel Foreign Criminals is ‘Slap in the Face for EU’
» The World Reacts to Massive Diplomatic Leak
» UK: Angry Young Girls: Binge-Drinking Culture ‘Creating a Generation of Aggressive and Out-of-Control Women’
» UK: Channel 4 Stirs Up Anti-Muslim Bigotry [Reader Comment About West Midlands Police — Britain’s First Islamist Constabulary.]
» UK: Government to Make U-Turn on Election Promise to Jail Knife Thugs
» UK: Is This Masked Muslim Man a Well Known London Boxer?
» UK: Lollipop Man [Crossing Guard] Banned From Stepping Into the Road
 
Balkans
» Croatia: 2 Mln Euros From EU for Female Employment
» Serbia: Record-High Export of Defense Army Industry
 
North Africa
» Egypt Poll Defeat for Muslim Brotherhood
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Cartoons: Israel and Palestine Dialogue Through Strips
 
Middle East
» Documents Chart Eight Years of US Views of Turkish Government
» Elderly California Dentist Rode a Horse Overnight in Daring Escape From Iran, Wikileaks Reveals
» Explosions in Tehran — Nuclear Scientists Targeted, One Dead
» Iranian Nuclear Scientist Killed and Another Wounded in Separate Bomb Attacks
» Iranian Nuclear Scientist Killed in Motorbike Attack
» Leaked Documents Reveal Tension Between EU and Turkey
» Obama Deal Aids Al-Qaida Backers?
» Saudi Arabia: According to Latest Census, Non-Saudis Almost 8.5 Million
» SMS Costs Less in Palestinian Territories, Yemen, Tunis
» The Region: Revolution, Not Terrorism, Is the Main Threat
» Turkey Suspends Three Senior Officers Over Coup Plot
» US Agree: Turkish Gov’t ‘Hates’ Israel
» US Cables Claim Turkish PM Erdogan Has Eight Swiss Bank Accounts
» US Skeptical About Turkey’s Reliability as a Partner
 
South Asia
» Pakistan: Western Economic Aid to Muslim Nations Who Hate Non-Muslims.
» Saudi-Pakistani Relations Strained After Wikileaks Documents Released
 
Far East
» North and South Korea Move Close to War Footing
 
Australia — Pacific
» Ibrahims’ Sister Escapes Sydney Shooting
 
Sub-Saharan Africa
» S. Africa Mines Plagued by Mismanagement, Neglect
 
Latin America
» ‘It’s Like Ancient Egypt’: Inside the Mexican Drugs Tunnel With Its Own Railway and Underground Warehouses With 20 Tons of Marijuana
 
Immigration
» Israel to Crack Down on Illegal Migrant Workers
» ‘No Italian: No Permit’ Italy Tells Migrants
 
Culture Wars
» Atheist Writer Seeks Asylum in Sweden
» Florida School Bans Christmas… And Christmas Colors

Financial Crisis


Frustrated With EU ‘Pressure Tactics,’ Africa Ready to Walk Away From Trade Talks

Raising the stakes ahead of an EU-Africa summit in Tripoli, Libya beginning on Monday, the nations say that if Europe does not abandon its demands that the continent radically liberalise its economies immediately, Africa says it is ready to walk away from the process. The position paper and political declaration from trade ministers — for the first time involving all five African regional economic communities active in negotiations over ‘Economic Partnership Agreements’ and the African Union Commission together — are a catalogue of complaints.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



President Obama to Announce a Pay Freeze for Most Federal Workers

President Obama plans to announce a pay freeze for most federal workers later Monday morning, according to an administration official, the latest White House move intended to demonstrate concern over deficit spending.

The president’s announcement will effectively wipe out plans for a 1.4 percent across-the-board raise for most of the 2.1 million federal government employees in 2011. The president has frozen the salaries of his own top White House staff members since taking office 22 months ago.

[Return to headlines]



Time for Economic Restoration Now Climate Change Deception Exposed

Maurice Strong engineered the attack on capitalism and industrialism, its engine of growth, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Problems are only problems if you are unaware of them. Once identified you’re over halfway to resolution. American voters rejected the Obama administration’s policies of increasing government control through energy, environment and economic policies. They voted for cessation and reversal. Now the new politicians and chastened survivors must act accordingly. Debt and deficit are serious problems and the solution depends partly on reduced government spending, but mostly on a vigorous growing economy and that depends on energy. Maurice Strong’s plan to collapse the industrial economies recognized this with his focus on fossil fuels and CO2, so that’s where the solution must begin.

Keynote speaker Vaclav Klaus, elected President of the Czech Republic in 2003 made a memorable comment for me at the first Heartland Conference on Climate Change in New York. He said we’ve just emerged from 70 years of communism and asked, incredulously, why anyone would go back. He was referring to the US and Europe and identified environmentalism and climate change as the vehicles for the transit. He made his case effectively in his book Blue Planet in Green Shackles where he writes, “The themes in the contemporary dispute (or perhaps clash) are clearly about human freedom — not about the environment.” His warnings are not surprising given his personal experiences, but they’re supported by similar comments and actions by Russia and China. The contradiction is not surprising and parallels evolution of human, social, economic and political systems.

[…]

What To Do? Some Simple Inexpensive Solutions

There are simple steps essential to the US rebuilding energy sources and resources.

1. Put Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma in charge of a Commission to get climate and energy policies back from the edge of disaster. He is the only politician who understood the climate corruption and spoke out about it despite ridicule and nasty attacks. 2. Immediately cancel all plans for Cap and Trade or similar strategies. 3. Withdraw from the IPCC and cancel all research on climate carried out by government agencies. Reassign employees to extensive and better data collection on a multitude of environmental factors. This must include accurate information on all energy resources to avoid the exploitation of the argument we are exhausting resources, a fundamental tenet of the Club of Rome. 4. Produce reliable, fully documented, material that explains why CO2, especially human production, is not the cause of global warming or climate change. Launch a vigorous campaign to educate people about the science in ways they can understand. 5. Cancel all climate research funding and redirect it to identifying real problems with workable solutions. Academics have shown they’ll sell integrity for funding so have them produce really relevant rather than contrived work. 6. Produce reliable, fully documented, material that explains how the climate issue was manipulated. This must include the motive and the mechanism. 7. Cancel all subsidies to alternate energies. There are some uses for alternate energies, but they are very limited and very expensive, a problem completely masked by the subsidies. 8. Review and reduce all unnecessary restrictions on expansion of oil, coal and gas reserves established to reduce CO2. 9. Review and reduce all unnecessary restrictions on nuclear power development established after environmentalists, following Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, exploited public fears. It is no longer necessary with new technologies. 10. Reverse the Supreme Court decision that CO2 is a toxic substance. It was based on the falsified work of the IPCC. This will remove control of CO2 from the EPA…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Forget the 3D TV: Sales of Traditional Board Games Boom as Families Prepare for Austerity Christmas

The after-dinner board game used to be as much a part of Christmas as turkey and all the trimmings.

And now it appears that the traditional games are making a comeback — as sales of dominoes, backgammon, chess and Jenga have more than doubled compared to this time last year.

Department store John Lewis has reported a 150 per cent increase in sales of the classics, as parents try to save money as part of an austerity Christmas.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Ultra Elitist Environmental Group: Halt Economic Growth, Institute Rationing

The Royal Society has thrown its full weight behind the global warming movement, lending its absolute support for legislation aimed at reducing carbon emissions by 80%, a process that will devastate the global economy and drastically reduce living standards everywhere.

It has been even more vehement than national governments in its advocacy of the man-made cause of global warming, calling for such drastic CO2 cuts to be made in the short term, not even by the usual target date of 2050.

Not surprising then that The Royal Society was also intimately tied to efforts to Whitewash the Climategate emails scandal.

The society has also conducted extensive research into geoengineering the planet, and continually lobbies the government to divert funding into it. A recently published lengthy UK Government report drew heavily upon the Society’s research and concluded that a global body such as the UN should be appointed to exclusively regulate world wide geoengineering of the planet in order to stave off man made global warming.

This information becomes even more disturbing when you consider the mindset of those who make up the membership of the Society. It is riddled with renowned eco-fascists, open eugenicists and depopulation fanatics.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

USA


‘Firesheep’ Developer: Facebook is Ignoring Huge Security Problem

SEATTLE — On a recent afternoon, I surprised a lot of people at a coffee shop in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. I walked in, sat down, got onto the café’s free Wi-Fi network and fired up a free application called Firesheep.

Within a minute, the names of a dozen people on the same wireless network started to appear in the Firesheep program. The users were listed along with the names of multi-billion dollar websites like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, YouTube and The New York Times.

In some cases, the person’s Facebook profile picture would also appear, making it easy for me to identify them in the café.

With a simple click on the user’s icon in Firesheep, I could log into their account on Facebook or Twitter or a variety of other websites that do not use encryption to fully protect the browsing session with their users. I could easily assume someone else’s online identity and do nearly anything I wanted with their account.

Firesheep is a frighteningly simple tool that streamlines techniques malicious computer hackers have used for years to gain unauthorized access to personal accounts on the Internet. Firesheep takes these previously complex tasks and rolls them into a user-friendly program that even an average computer user like me can figure out.

“It’s like you are in my house and I did not invite you,” said a surprised Sarah Dooley.

After her Facebook icon appeared in my Firesheep list, I approached her as she typed away on her iBook. I showed on my computer her main Facebook page and described the simple steps it took to get into her account.

[…]

Firesheep has built-in filters that listen for people on an unsecured network who may be exchanging information with websites like Facebook.

A user’s initial log in to Facebook is encrypted and not vulnerable to hijacking. But every subsequent exchange between a Facebook user and Facebook’s servers, in what’s called a “session,” is unencrypted. And it is these exchanges that Firesheep is catching.

Firesheep lets its user essentially grab that cookie out of the air and place it on their computer. In doing so, the Firesheep user can take over the identity of the Facebook user and alter almost anything in the account — except for the initial login password.

“I wrote Firesheep because I was tired of having to deal with websites that were ignoring this problem of user privacy,” Butler told me in his first interview since releasing Firesheep. “Hopefully sites like Facebook and Twitter will see this and decide protecting user privacy is a priority for them.”

[…]

“Users of these sites don’t realize that this is happening, but the companies have known about this for a long time and have chosen to ignore this problem. Instead, they are putting money in privacy features and not making their websites secure,” Butler said.

“Those privacy controls don’t really matter if you can steal an entire user’s session or you can see everything they are doing,” said Gallagher, who help trouble shoot the plug-in. “It’s the elephant in the room they’ve been disregarding.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



In Plain Sight

Communists no longer hide what they’re doing. Now they boldly spout their anti-American rhetoric at every opportunity. In fact, some of them are openly calling for an armed revolution now, to bring down our Republic — while hiding behind the very Constitution they seek to destroy.

They deny us our First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech and Press, while claiming its protection for themselves. They squelch any expression of our religious belief or patriotism, while demanding the freedom to spread THEIR lies.

They seek to deny our Second Amendment right to Keep and Bear Arms — our right to self-defense — while they will use violence to impose their will on the rest of us.

That’s not new, of course. But for generations, their efforts were fruitless in America, so what changed the situation? The answer is simple: their diligence, and our lack of it. They stuck to their game plan, and carried out the steps of the Communist Manifesto.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



It Just Isn’t Christmas Without a Muslim Bombing

Mistletoe. Egg nog. And now Muslim terrorism. Last year’s Christmas bomber was an African Muslim who stuffed his underwear full of plastic explosive and tried to detonate it on Flight 253.

This year it’s another African Muslim who tried to get an early start on Christmas terror by trying to car bomb a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.

Last year’s Christmas terrorist hailed from Nigeria. This year’s mad Muslim bomber comes from Somalia. And they bring with them tidings of a new season. A season in which holiday shopping now comes with massacre plots mixed in with the radio jingles and cheer.

If gift wrapping and church going are Christmas traditions, carrying out massacres during other people’s holiday celebrations is a Muslim tradition. In Israel, holidays are a time for extra special caution. The Passover massacre in which dozens of senior citizens attending a holiday meal were murdered, the Yom Kippur War in which Muslim armies invaded Israel on the holiest day of its year or the Purim bombing outside a Tel Aviv mall using a nail bomb, are just some of the obvious examples of Muslim religious tolerance at work.

It’s not limited to Jews or Christians either. In 2008, a number of bombs went off in Delhi just before Diwali. And back in 1991, Muslims planned to massacre thousands of Hindus during Diwali. Had they succeeded, the death toll might have been bigger than 9/11. Nearly two decades ago, North America was put on alert that importing Muslim immigrants, also meant bringing along their genocidal tendencies. Like renting rooms to tenants whose dogs have a little rabies problem, importing Islam, also means bringing in the same people who have been murdering Christians, Jews, Hindus and countless others around the world, ever since Mohamed’s namesake first preached that he had a unique revelation and an exclusive license to kill, rob, rape and subjugate in the name of Allah.

While the news stories will insist that Mohamed Osman Mohamud (twice the Mohammed for twice the mayhem) was “lured” into a life of terror, he was just doing what Muslims since the time of Mohammed have naturally done. “O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you”, the Koran proclaims to the devout Muslim. For Mohamedx2, the “unbelievers” were grouping together at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in downtown Portland. And his goal was simple enough, “I want whoever is attending that event to leave, to leave dead or injured.”

For Muslims this is a religious war While we may go on denying it, for Muslims this is a religious war. And what better target for terror, than an infidel’s religious event?

The clergy at interfaith conferences may yammer on about how we’re all the children of god, but Muslims know better. They are the slaves of Allah and we are heretics and idol worshipers. It’s their duty to fight us, until we submit and accept Muslim rule. The more we resist, the more they’re obligated to kill us until we give in and there’s a mosque on every corner and the Koran replaces the Constitution. It’s a religious duty for a Muslim to make the Way of Allah triumphant all across the globe. To Muslims, this is a sacred duty and a way of life, that is not a detail, but the heart of the Koran.

Unlike Christians and Jews, the Islamic holy texts are not a complicated structure that takes place across a swath of history—but an enormously simple one dominated by a relatively brief period and a single categorical imperative, to expand, dominate and rule. For the Muslim, life is complicated, but Islam is simple. And even the most secular and westernized Muslim will sooner or later feel an imperative to escape from the complications of modern life, into the pure simplicity of Islam. The media charges that such escapees misunderstand Islam, but in actuality they understand it quite well. It is a reversion to the barbaric, an Islamic narrative that sweeps aside the complexities of civilization and personal choice for something more elemental.

Goggling when university grads, doctors and other high end professionals suddenly embrace their “Inner Mohammed” and go on killing sprees is foolish. Modernity for the Muslim is a sham inflicted by colonialism and globalism on his own country and multiculturalism when he’s abroad in the West. It is not the natural product of his own advancements, and no matter how often he’s told that his people invented everything from telescopes to planes, it’s always a poor fit.

Civilization is not something the Muslim invented, but something that was forced on him in defiance of his law, his culture and his traditions. And if he does everything in his power to bring it down in ashes, to burn, loot and rape his way across the continent, and every continent that was foolish enough to allow him entry in the hopes that he would be a good citizen and a worthwhile member of society, then its governments have more of the blame than he does.

The United States has taken in large numbers of Somalis. A poor idea even if they had not been coming over from a disaster area of a country, whose own version of the Taliban, the Islamic Courts Union made even the Afghan version look mild by comparison. A country where the motto is “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God”, where the law is Sharia law and the beheadings and floggings come fast and furious. Our newfound Somali citizens have since then done their parts to make America a more dangerous and more Muslim place.

In Minneapolis, Somali Muslim cabdrivers tried to deny service to infidels carrying duty free liquor. They’ve intimidated and shaken down companies who are afraid of being condemned as Anti-Muslim or Islamophobic. This August a baker’s dozen of Somali immigrants were arrested for funneling money, weapons and fighters back home. Last year it was another eight. And the hits keep on coming out of Minnesota’s “Little Mogadishu”.

But Oregon has its own “Little Mogadishu”. Before the influx of Somali Muslims, the American experience with Mogadishu was limited to the Battle of Mogadishu in which American military personnel were brutally murdered in the streets of that godforsaken urban slum masquerading as a city. Today there are Little Mogadishus everywhere. Sweden’s Little Mogadishu suffers from riots and arson. And the usual terrorist recruitment. And their American Swedish cousins over in Minnesota are burdened with their own Little Mogadishu. Oregon’s “Little Mogadishu” in Cedar Riverside has come of age, producing not just social problems, but a plot of Muslim mass murder.

Not that this is a bad thing of course. For a while it was a running joke, that the best way to upgrade your country was to attack America, lose and then wait to get rebuilt. That’s the way it is in the Little Mogadishus too. The liberal solution to Muslim terrorist is to treat it as a social problem, throw some community centers, job opportunities and social services at it. And if some of that money filters back to the terrorists. If the social services centers become stealth mosques and the graduates of OSU choose bomb throwing over pigskin tossing, that just means not enough money has been sunk into making them feel at home. Meanwhile the Little Mogadishus keep growing, until they’re not so little anymore.

Over in Oregon, Mohamed Osman Mohamud has made his own contribution to American culture. And the media assures us that this was one of those once in a million events. Nothing to see here, folks. We’ll find out soon enough that he had personal problems. Maybe his rap career didn’t work out. The girl he liked wouldn’t go out with him and agree to be his third wife. And the camel’s milk wasn’t flowing like honey anymore. Not that it really matters. Everyone has stressors. And if we are to keep Muslims stress free, for fear that they’ll start flipping through a Koran and shooting up the joint, then even the most ardent devotee of the Lady overlooking Liberty Island must ask himself if the price of Muslim immigration is really worth it.

West may subscribe to multiculturalism, its Muslim imports subscribe to only one law. The law of Islam Multiculturalism is one thing. But that’s not what we have here. It’s not living side by side with chicken noodle soup and tandoori restaurants. Or stacking churches, synagogues, ashrams and Shinto shrines on every block. Because while the political and cultural elite of the West may subscribe to multiculturalism, its Muslim imports subscribe to only one law. The law of Islam. They may lapse at times. They may get through a university education, attend nightclubs and strip clubs, listen to the same music all the other kids their age do—but there’s still a ticking time bomb inside their heads. And that bomb is the same one that appears as the lit fuse on the turban of the cartoon Mohammad. The cartoon that Muslims were willing to kill over. The bomb is Islam. And when it’s lit, the result is mass murder.

[…]

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



MPAC Trains 2,200 Transportation Security Officers

Last week, MPAC completed a quarterly training for Transportation Security Officers (TSO) with about 2,200 officers receiving training on cultural awareness about Islam and Muslims. This was an important achievement for MPAC and the Muslim American community in light of the recent airport security changes and because TSOs are responsible for screening passengers and luggage.

MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC Civic Outreach Coordinator, Saadia Khan and MPAC volunteers, Nisreen Malhis and Sireen Sawaf, conducted the trainings at Los Angeles International Airport for the past two months. They discussed the diversity of Muslims around the world from cultural dress to language to tenets. The four trainers taught the TSOs how to properly handle a Quran and discussed the different ways Muslim women and men choose to cover or dress. For example, the TSOs learned if a woman wears hijab and needs a secondary screening she should be screened in a private area by a female TSO officer.

The training sessions allowed trainers to discuss the common practice of Muslims praying in various areas of the airport, adding that they do this because LAX does not have a designated prayer area as other airports do.

The officers were extremely receptive and interested in the information presented. They had many questions regarding the meaning of jihad, sharia, and the rights of women in Muslim countries.

LAX is the third largest airport in the world, making it important for Transportation Security Administration to conduct cultural awareness trainings in order for officers to effectively and efficiently keep the airports secure rather than deciphering cultural tenets. MPAC commends LAX for taking the initiative to implement these trainings.

Earlier this year at the last quarterly training, the TSA invited asked Nirinjan Khalsa of the Human Relations Commission to highlight the Sikh religion.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Our Country is Fine But the Government is Broken

The problem we face is not a lack of good ideas to fix the economy, create jobs, and solve the problems facing our nation. The problem is that the current administration refuses to consider those ideas that would be effective in putting America back on the right track.

As far as the Soros-Obama administration is concerned, America is on the right track. And from their point of view, they are right. Capitalism is being crushed to pave the way for George Soros’ goal of global socialism. He has stated in interviews that the only thing now standing in his way is American capitalism which he intends to destroy if he can.

We can’t have incompetent, out of touch, bureaucrats in Washington with no private business experience dictating how businesses should be run. Some of them don’t even understand where these policies are taking the country, but continue to be loyal comrades to the party. Politicians, for the past two years, have been voting for legislative bills — written by Soros’ organizations — without reading them first or understanding what they mean for the country.

The federal government was neither created to run the country nor to control the economy. It was created to represent the country in areas where the individual states could not. These include areas such as foreign policy; national security and defense; immigration; border security; monetary, copyright, and standards of measure; interstate highways; a postal system; and uniform interstate commerce. Federal government today seems to think its job is to run the country and the economy, the Constitution be damned. Major changes are needed if we’re going to save our country from global socialism and liberal progressive ruin.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Austria: Yodelling Offends Praying Muslims, Say Judges

An Austrian has been fined for yodelling while mowing his lawn, according to a report.

The Kronen Zeitung newspaper claims Helmut G. was told by a court in Graz, Styria, that his yodelling offended his next-door Muslim neighbours.

The men reportedly accused the 63-year-old of having tried to mock and imitate the call of the Muezzin. The daily paper writes the Austrian was fined 800 Euros after judges ruled he could have tried to offend them and ridicule their belief. The Muslims, whose nationalities were not revealed by the report, were right in the middle of a prayer when the Austrian started to yodel.

“It was not my intention to imitate or insult them. I simply started to yodel a few tunes because I was in such a good mood” the man told the newspaper today (Mon).

           — Hat tip: Lexington [Return to headlines]



German Police Officers Face Increasing Violence on Patrol

“People have always been resistant to our work as the police, we’ve experienced that over and over,” he told Deutsche Welle. “But this open animosity to police forces, especially as a show of strength, this has increased.” At times, Klinge says, it almost seems to be some sort of game for certain groups. Drug addicts are often aggressive towards the police, especially when under the influence. But Klinge finds it more alarming that even kids are now putting up a resistance. Recently, even a nine-year-old with a record fought the police tooth and nail.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Germany: Merkel’s Leadership Derided by US Diplomats

Diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks to German news magazine Der Spiegel over the weekend include embarrassingly frank US assessments of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is described as a weak leader.

In a message attributed to a US diplomat in Berlin dated March 24, 2009, the State Department is told that Merkel is “risk averse and rarely creative,” Der Spiegel reported on Sunday.

“The Americans argue that the chancellor views international diplomacy above all from the perspective of how she can profit from it domestically,” the magazine wrote.

Merkel’s vice-chancellor and foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, comes in for harsher criticism in the secret documents and is described as incompetent, vain and critical of America, the magazine said.

An embassy cable from Berlin from September 22, 2009, days before the general election that put him in office, describes Westerwelle as having an “exuberant personality” but little foreign policy experience.

“That is why he finds it difficult to take a backseat when it comes to any matters of dispute with Chancellor Angela Merkel,” the cable quoted by Der Spiegel says.

Meanwhile Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, Germany’s most popular politician, is quoted as telling the US ambassador to Germany, Philip Murphy, in February 2010 that Westerwelle was the real barrier to a US request for an increase in the number of German troops in Afghanistan.

Guttenberg also disparages his boss, saying that Merkel has trouble implementing her own economic policies.

And Horst Seehofer, the head of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats, is shown as unaware that half of 40,000 US troops in Germany are based in his state, which he also governs.

The State Department documents show Washington was kept abreast of coalition negotiations by an informant while Merkel was forming her current government in October 2009.

A German diplomatic source said that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called Westerwelle on Friday to “express her regret about the impending publication of internal US documents.”

Meanwhile US Ambassador Murphy said Monday that there is no reason to apologise to either Westerwelle or Merkel for the information contained in the leaked documents.

“It’s not about apologies,” he said in an interview with daily Der Tagesspiegel.

“Luckily I am in constant contact with Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Westerwelle, which won’t change, and I am certain that we will get through both this difficult phase on both a governmental and personal level.”

Murphy added that he had the “utmost respect” for both politicians.

“There will be a few difficult days, but I am certain that the German-American relationship won’t be permanently damaged by these tensions,” he said. “We’ll survive.”

But the ambassador also said he was “furious” about the leaks, calling it “irresponsible to publish such documents” which only serve to “cause political and personal damage.”

Former US ambassador to Germany John Kornblum, who served in Berlin from 1997 to 2001, told broadcaster ZDF on Monday that the leaks were a crisis for German-American relations.

“Diplomacy…must function on the basis of trust, and when that trust if broken, as is the case now, then one must begin at almost zero again,” he said.

“The era in which we could speak to each other and say, ‘Don’t worry, that won’t make it into the papers,’ is over,” he said.

Kornblum rejected criticism that the US diplomatic corps functions like an intelligence service, though.

“If one has an informant, that doesn’t mean that it’s about intelligence gathering,” he told ZDF.

Late on Monday morning German officials blasted Wikileaks’ choice to release the information as illegal and a potential security threat, but said they would not undermine transatlantic ties.

“We regret this publication — these are confidential reports that were published illegally and on which we will not comment in detail. Foreign policy needs confidentiality,” Government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular press briefing.

“The German-American relationship is mature, it has grown so robust over the decades, it is such a deep friendship based on shared values that it will not be seriously damaged by this publication,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Greece Targeted by Brussels on Nurses and Hospitals

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 24 — The European Commission has referred Greece to the European Court of Justice for medical equipment supply contracts to hospitals, particularly regarding safety standards for products and public contracts, which do not allow access to competitors from other EU countries. Brussels will ask the EU Court to levy big fines of 7,173 euros per day starting from the court’s previous ruling in March 2009, until a second ruling or when Greece adopts EU regulations if this takes place first. The fine proposed for the period of time after a second ruling if necessary, would be 43,725 euros per day until they adapt to EU rules. Meanwhile an ultimatum has been issued regarding their recognition of nurses’ qualifications. Athens has two months to put an end to their discriminatory system, which currently requires anyone who educated outside of the country to request recognition of their degree in Greece before being able to be registered on the list of nurses. If Athens does not change its rules in 60 days, they could be referred to the European Court of Justice. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: President Signs Naples Trash Decree He Had Rejected

Berlusconi to visit, decide if govt to take direct control

(ANSA) — Rome, November 26 — Italian President Giorgio Napolitano signed a decree on the Naples trash crisis that he had previously rejected on Friday when Premier Silvio Berlusconi will visit the southern city and decide whether the government should reassume direct control of the situation.

Some progress has been made in clearing the mounds of rotting refuse in recent days, but around 2,700 tonnes still lie uncollected and the emergency is far from over. Berlusconi, who solved a similar crisis soon after being elected in 2008, said he will decide further measures after talks in Naples later in the day, adding that the local authorities were to blame for the problem flaring up again.

“In Naples we’ll remind people that trash-management powers returned to the local authorities on January 1 2010,” said Berlusconi, who had temporarily put Italy’s Civil Protection Authority in charge of the area’s refuse in 2008.

“The government had resolved the situation, but to fix things definitively the local authorities needed to fulfill commitments, such as the construction of incinerators, one in east Naples and one in Salerno, and open new dumps.

“The local authorities have done nothing. After a meeting at the Naples Prefect’s offices, we’ll decide whether the government will take back control of a situation the local authorities have not solved”. The authorities are facing stronger hostility to dumps many believe are toxic than they did two years ago in Naples and the surrounding province, which has had waste-disposal problems for many years.

Indeed, plans to open new dumps in the area were shelved after weeks of violent clashes with local residents.

One of the reasons Napolitano sent back the original version of the decree was that it gave few details about alternatives.

The head of state was also concerned about the vague wording of the section on how new trash officials would be appointed, although he said in a statement that the government had dispelled his reservations with the revised version.

A European Commission delegation scolded Italy after a visit to Naples Monday, saying the situation did not appear to have improved compared to two years ago.

“The refuse is there in the streets, and there is still no plan for treating or recycling it,” said Pia Bucella, the chief inspector of the delegation that was assessing compliance with a European Court of Justice sentence condemning Italy for failing to meet rules on waste management.

Independent experts have said the uncollected trash poses a serious health risk and called on local and national authorities to clear it, free up contested dumps, persuade more of the population to recycle and hasten the construction of incinerators.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Judges Say Independence Threatened

Restore faith in justice says Napolitano

(ANSA) — Rome, November 26 — Italian judges on Friday said their independence was threatened by planned government justice reforms.

Speaking at the 30th annual congress of the prosecutors and judges’ union ANM, union chief Luca Palamara accused Premier Silvio Berlusconi of wanting to bring prosecutors to heel.

Palamara claimed Berlusconi had in the past benefited from tailor-made laws to dodge conviction and now planned to definitively resolve his judicial woes by hamstringing judges.

“Bills on wiretapping, trial caps and removing police from prosecutors’ control”, he said, were “no less insidious” than past moves to hamper investigations through a string of laws.

The premier has repeatedly denied wanting to undermine the judiciary and argues that the reforms would bring Italy into line with other Western countries where the defence and the prosecution are on a par and police get instructions from the justice ministry.

Berlusconi has never received a definitive conviction in about a dozen trials ranging from corruption to fraud.

Some of the trial have been affected by law changes made by his own government.

He has two trials pending, for allegedly suborning a witness and alleged tax fraud, but they have been frozen by a ‘legitimate impediment’ law up for review by the Constitutional Court on December 14.

Government plans also include separating the career paths of judges and prosecutors and splitting the judiciary’s self-governing body, allegedly to bring it under political control.

Palamara said the planned reforms would “alter the current separation of power laid down in the 1948 Constitution”.

“There will inevitably be a return to the past with prosecutors subject to the executive,” he argued.

This was particularly “serious”, Palamara said, because of the level of corruption in Italian public life, as he claimed was highlighted by a string of recent scandals.

He noted that, according to the latest standings from international anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International, Italy lags behind all developed countries.

“Even Malaysia, Turkey, Tunisia, Croatia, Macedonia, Ghana, Samoa and Rwanda are better than us,” he said.

In another ranking, of where business would like to invest, the ANM chief said Italy was behind Zambia, Mongolia, Ghana and Rwanda.

Berlusconi has issuied frequent blasts against a minority of allegedly left-leaning prosecutors he says are trying to hound him out of office.

The spokesman for the premier’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, Daniele Capezzone, repeated this on Friday in reacting to Palamara’s charges.

He said the ANM “keeps talking like a political party”, something he described as “an Italian anomaly”.

Capezzone vowed that the justice reforms “will go through”.

According to political analysts, however, the chances of the reforms passing quickly are minimal because the government risks falling in a confidence vote on December 14.

Italian politics has been in turmoil since House Speaker Gianfranco Fini broke with Berlusconi in July and formed his own party which has deprived the government of a safe majority in the House.

Fini has frequently been at odds with the PdL’s plans for changing the balance of power between the executive and the judiciary.

He repeated his determination to stand up for the ANM in a message to Friday’s congress, saying “the autonomy of the magistrature constitutes the foundation of its independence”.

Among other things, Fini has in the past effectively blocked the trial-capping law, saying it would deprive thousands of Italians of a chance of justice.

Instead of the government’s reforms, the ANM has promised to reform itself, partly to get rid of political factions.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano welcomed this on Friday and stressed that the ANM was an “essential talking partner” for moves to restore the public’s faith in the judicial system.

The ANM said that, thanks to Fini and Napolitano, it felt “less alone”. photo: Palamara

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Berlusconi ‘Laughs Off’ Wikileaks Revelations

Premier ‘does not feel attacked or offended’, Frattini says

(ANSA) — Rome, November 29 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi “laughed” when told of US diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks on his partying lifestyle, effectiveness and close relationship with Russian Premier Vladimir Putin, sources close to the premier said Monday.

In one cable, the premier was said to be “feckless” and “ineffective” while his “wild parties” meant he “does not get sufficient rest”.

In another, Berlusconi is described as “physically and politically weak”.

The Italian premier is “increasingly becoming a mouthpiece for (Russian Premier Vladimir) Putin in Europe” and the pair exchange “lavish gifts,” another cable said.

Berlusconi issued no public response on Monday but Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa told the Corriere della Sera daily that the revelations were “mostly gossip” and would not hurt US-Italian ties.

“Berlusconi has defended Russia’s right to be heard in the most important world bodies while at the same time never falling short of his commitments to the United States, and we didn’t need Wikileaks to explain that,” La Russa said.

“Just ask any diplomat,” La Russa said.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said “much” of the Wikileaks materials had already been seen “on the front pages of opposition newspapers, dating back a long, long time”.

He said Berlusconi “did not feel attacked, targeted or offended,” by the content of the cables.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Police Nab Suspected Sicilian Serial Killer

Investigators confident they have the ‘Monster of Cassibile’

(ANSA) — Rome, November 29 — A 69-year-old pensioner has been arrested on suspicion of being the serial killer who has terrorized the Sicilian town of Cassibile for over a decade, police said Monday.

Officers said Giuseppe Raeli had been charged with five murders and four attempted murders between 1998 and 2009, although he may also be behind other killings in the town near Siracusa and the surrounding area.

Police said they were searching the home of Raeli, who has no criminal record, to look for further evidence, although investigators are confident he is the ‘monster of Cassibile’. “We are absolutely certain we have found the man known as the monster of Cassibile,” said Siracusa Prosecutor Ugo Rossi.

“We probed almost 15 cases and found some signs of him in incidents dating back to 1991”. Before now the ‘monster of Cassibile’ had been blamed for eight murders between 1997 and 2004 linked by the use of a 12 caliber rifle and their apparent senselessness.

However, investigators said Monday that they believe economic motives were what spurred Raeli to kill, sometimes for small sums he was owed by clients of his wood-supply business.

Cassibile was the town where the Allies signed the Second World War Armistice with Italy in 1943.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Media Diagnose Swiss Identity Crisis

Following the latest sign of growing hostility to immigration in Switzerland, opponents of the initiative marched through Zurich on Sunday, smashing up shop windows. In the capital Bern, there were about 500 protesters, some of whom threw snowballs and bottles at police in front of parliament. “The bad mood hits foreigners but not the rich,” was the headline in Der Bund of Bern. The yes to the People’s Party’s initiative showed that “questions of Swiss identity and culture, triggered by rapidly growing social change and migration, bother Swiss people like virtually nothing else”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Swiss Vote to Expel Foreign Criminals is ‘Slap in the Face for EU’

Switzerland’s vote to automatically expel criminal foreigners drew condemnation from across Europe on Monday. Commentators said the decision would breach treaty obligations. Amnesty International called it ‘black day for human rights’ in the nation that voted to ban the construction of minarets last year.

European commentators on Monday condemned Switzerland’s vote over the weekend to automatically expel foreigners accused of certain crimes, calling it a slap in the face for the European Union and a breach of the Alpine nation’s international treaty obligations.

The expulsion initiative, put forward by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), was supported by 52.9 percent of voters in a referendum on Sunday, with 47.1 percent voting against it. The SVP has become Switzerland’s biggest political movement by tapping growing fears about immigration. It was behind the vote a year ago to ban the construction of new minarets in a decision that drew international criticism.

The SVP said foreigners were responsible for nearly 60 percent of murders in the country last year.

The Swiss branch of Amnesty International said Sunday had been a “black day for human rights in Switzerland” and that the country was undermining international agreements including the European convention on human rights.

“Amnesty International fears that, in the future, people could be deported from Switzerland to a country in which they face torture or the death penalty,” the organization said in a statement…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



The World Reacts to Massive Diplomatic Leak

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, depicted as a vain party animal in the US State Department cables disclosed by WikiLeaks on Sunday, “had a good laugh” upon learning of the revelations. Others aren’t as sanguine. A US Representative wants to designate the Internet platform as a terrorist organization.

The dispatches from Rome were hardly complementary. A cable from June 9, 2009 describes Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as “feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader.” The cable says he has an “overweening self-confidence” that has “made him deaf to dissenting opinion.” A separate dispatch says that Berlusconi’s “frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean that he does not get sufficient rest.”

The assessments about the Italian head of government come from the more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks, many of which were made publicly available on Sunday evening. Several news sources, including SPIEGEL, the New York Times, the Guardian and the Spanish daily El País, have now begun a series documenting findings from an analysis of those dispatches.

There are several world leaders who come in for particular critique, including Berlusconi. He is described as “physically and politically weak” in the dispatches which also make it clear that the US State Department under the leadership of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was eager to find out if there was any truth to the rumors that Berlusconi and his good friend Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had teamed up to pursue private business interests together, something both vehemently deny.

But according to a report in the Italian news wire ANSA on Sunday, Berlusconi wasn’t particularly bothered by the reports. He “had a good laugh” about the reports, according to ANSA, citing Berlusconi confidants. Others in his government, however, weren’t nearly as sanguine. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called the leaks “the 9/11 of world diplomacy.”

Frattini’s assessment would appear to be shared by the US. The White House condemned the release of the WikiLeaks documents soon after they were made public, saying “such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government.” Even before the dispatches were made public, the US began contacting foreign governments in an effort at damage control.

WikiLeaks as a Terrorist Organization?

US Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York and the incoming chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, has requested the administration of US President Barack Obama to “determine whether WikiLeaks could be designated a foreign terrorist organization,” according to the website CNET News. “WikiLeaks appears to meet the legal criteria,” King wrote in a letter to Clinton, which has been seen by the website. “WikiLeaks presents a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States.”

Senator Joseph Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, has likewise called for WikiLeaks to be shut down. “By disseminating these materials, WikiLeaks is putting at risk the lives and the freedom of countless Americans and non-Americans around the world. It is an outrageous, reckless and despicable action.”

Over 1,700 of the newly released documents originated in the US Embassy in Berlin, and many of them are no less complimentary of German politicians than they are of Berlusconi. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is referred to as “risk averse and rarely creative.” She also, one of the Berlin dispatches makes clear, “seems uncertain at times” in her relations with Obama. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is described in a Sept. 18, 2009 cable as being short on substance, lacking in “gravitas,” vain, arrogant, critical of America and “too opportunistic to be trusted as foreign minister.” He is, one of the dispatches says, an “enigma” who faces a “steep learning curve” on foreign policy issues.

Bavarian Governor Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union, the sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats, is seen as having “only shallow foreign policy expertise” and is “uninformed about basic things.” A cable notes that he has “natural instincts to utter populist pronouncements.”

‘Downright Ludicrous’

And German Development Minister Dirk Niebel, of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), Merkel’s junior coalition partners, is called an “unlikely choice” for the post and “is not considered an expert on development assistance.”

Indeed, it is the FDP party of Niebel and Foreign Minister Westerwelle which might end up having the most to fear in Germany from the WikiLeaks revelations. Cables from Berlin immediately following September 2009 parliamentary elections in Germany make it clear that US Ambassador Philip Murphy was kept well informed about ongoing negotiations to form a coalition government between Merkel’s CDU and Westerwelle’s FDP. The source was charged with taking notes for the FDP during the negotiations — notes he then passed on to the Americans as discussions were continuing.

On Sunday evening, Niebel said “I consider the accusations to be downright ludicrous.” Niebel was a guest on a talkshow hosted by the German public television station ARD. “I dispute that there is an informant.” He also said that he didn’t anticipate that US-German relations would be harmed by the publication of the dispatches. But he added that “one will have to think much harder about how open one speaks and with whom.”

Former US ambassador to Germany, John Kornblum, said that “one reason why diplomats enjoy working in Germany is that Germans are very communicative. One can really find out whatever one wants. You just have to be a bit friendly.”

Westerwelle also expressed doubt that there was an FDP informant who had passed along information from the coalition negotiations to the US ambassador. “I don’t believe this story as it has been presented,” he told reporters on Monday. “Just because it says it there doesn’t mean that it is right.” Westerwelle also said that he didn’t consider “gossip and chit-chat” about European politicians to be particularly relevant. He said he is more concerned about potential dangers to security from the publication of the documents.

Israel Could Benefit from Leaks

Ruprecht Polenz, a member of Merkel’s CDU and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German federal parliament, said, “I do think that the damage is considerable.” The US, he said, must now move to reassure allies that they can be trusted. “Otherwise, partners might not continue being open with them.”

But Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert countered that view, saying that nothing will change in US-German relations — the friendship is “robust and tight,” he said on Monday. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble — who, the dispatches make clear, is widely respected among US diplomats — said the publication of the dispatches was “bad and unappetizing.”

Several other countries reacted to the leaks on Monday, with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari calling them “unhelpful and untimely.” The Foreign Ministry in Pakistan said in a statement that “we condemn the irresponsible disclosure of sensitive official documents.” Russia has said it prefers to examine the documents before reacting.

One of the few countries which may stand to benefit from the WikiLeaks revelations appears to be Israel. Countless documents indicate that several countries in the Middle East are much more concerned about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons than they have let on in public. One dispatch reveals that Saudi Arabia had urged the US to “cut off the head of the snake” by attacking Iran, a sentiment shared by other countries in the region. The cables also reveal that North Korea may have provided Iran with missiles capable of reaching targets in Europe.

“These (disclosures) don’t hurt Israel at all — perhaps the opposite,” Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser to ex-prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, told Israeli radio according to the Associated Press. “If there is something on the Iranian issue that, in my opinion, happens to help Israel, it is that these leaks show that Arab countries like Saudi Arabia are far more interested in Iran than they are in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



UK: Angry Young Girls: Binge-Drinking Culture ‘Creating a Generation of Aggressive and Out-of-Control Women’

The number of teenage girls who are physically aggressive and lash out at school and at home has risen at an alarming rate, experts claimed yesterday.

More and more girls are binge drinking and — tired of being regarded as the passive sex — are emulating male behaviour.

The disturbing trend has been noted by the British Association of Anger Management, which is dealing with increasing numbers of ‘out-of-control’ and aggressive young women.

The association’s findings echo statistics which found the ‘ladette’ yob culture was on the rise, with 200 women convicted of violent crime every week.

The number of women found guilty of murder, vicious assault or other attacks has risen by 81 per cent since 1998.

Leading anger management psychotherapist Mike Fisher said there was a strong link between the rise in binge-drinking among young girls and their physical aggression.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Channel 4 Stirs Up Anti-Muslim Bigotry [Reader Comment About West Midlands Police — Britain’s First Islamist Constabulary.]

[…]

Lamia, 27 November 2010, 2:49pm

the police are quick to act in arresting a 15 year old girl for incitement to racial hatred in these circumstances.

The police in question are, of course, West Midlands Police, just as it was West Midlands Police who arrested Councillor Compton but couldn’t bring themsleves to find anything wrong in a preacher advocating the killing and torture of gay people. With the West Midlands Police we have our first British example of an Islamist constabulary. It applies its powers differently to Muslims and non-Muslims. In effect it is trying to operate a blasphemy law concerning Islam, by misuse of race hate laws, even though the state has not passed such any such law.

The West Midlands Police force should be a national scandal. It should be investigated and purged of Islamists. I wish some of our hundreds of MPs would do the country a service and push for this to happen.

[JP note: See also the West Midlands Association of Muslim Police’s webpage at the West Midlands Police’s recrutiment website. One wonders, though, that with the constabulary’s leadership so firmly wedded to Sharia principles, whether a separate association is in fact necessary:

https://www.west-midlands.police.uk/wmprrecruit/wmpr2010811144827.asp

The West Midlands Association of Muslim Police provides support for all colleagues, the organisation and our communites through effective leadership.

“Making a difference to Policing by engaging partners and facilitating change for a better tomorrow”

The association will support colleagues by maximising the use of existing organisational systems, processes and structures for the benefit of members and non members. They welcome members from a diverse background, and work in partnership internally and externally to achieve their aims.

  • Increase the number of Muslim Officers and Staff at the same time impacting on the representation of BME’s within the service.
  • Actively engage in a series of events that assists the progression of Muslim and other minority staff.
  • Successfully deliver regular and well-attended networking opportunities..
  • Develop a sound working relationship with the Police Federation, staff unions and associations. In relation to supporting members who have welfare needs and help our members to achieve resolutions, retain skills and assist to minimise litigation proceedings.
  • Facilitate and delivery Islamic awareness inputs to management and staff within the organisation.
  • Provide Operational advice to inform the decision making on issues affecting Muslims and the likely outcomes of any courses of action.
  • Engage with Muslim communities and deliver inputs to reflect the organisation, and build bridges between the communities and the police service.
  • Build contacts with the main Muslim stakeholders, especially under represented groups such as the youth and women.
  • Increase full, associate, and corporate membership of the association and the involvement of members in all activities.

For more information, contact Maskeen Ali, Chair — West Midlands Association Muslim Police on 0345 113 5000 ext. 7802 6052, or email: m.ali@west-midlands.pnn.police.uk.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]



UK: Government to Make U-Turn on Election Promise to Jail Knife Thugs

Ministers will risk a public backlash by going back on a Tory election promise to jail knife thugs.

Leaked papers reveal the criminals will escape with community punishment.

The plan has been drawn up by Ken Clarke in the face of protests from Cabinet members. They fear that the Coalition — which has already said it will cut prisoner numbers by 3,000 — will be seen as ‘soft on crime’.

There will also be deep backbench unease at the ditching of another key Tory manifesto pledge, which would have put up to 8,200 more knife offenders behind bars at any one time.

The promise, made in the wake of a spate of brutal killings of teenagers, was expected to be included in a forthcoming sentencing green paper.

Yet, despite the public clamour for more knife-wielding louts to be imprisoned, the leaked papers say Mr Clarke believes that ‘robust community-based punishments are an appropriate and more effective response for adult knife possession offenders’.

Currently, fewer than one in four is jailed, a situation that is likely to continue.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Is This Masked Muslim Man a Well Known London Boxer?

Anthony Small refuses to deny claims he took part in poppy burning outrage

BOXER Anthony Small has refused to deny claims that he was among a group of Muslims who caused public outrage by setting fire to a wreath of poppies on Remembrance Day.

Small, 29, who was dropped by his manager, after joining fellow Muslims to protest against British troops when they returned from Afghanistan, refused to deny that he was one of the men protesting in the poppy-burning demonstration when The Voice contacted him.

The rumours that Small was among the protestors started when a photograph of a black man with his face partly covered appeared in media reports of the poppy protest. One Online blogger claimed that the masked man was Small.

The Islamic activist from Lewisham told the Voice that he was in support of the demonstration which led to the poppy burnings.

“It doesn’t matter whether I took place in the demonstration or not, the point is that, I’m in the support of the demonstration. If I was in the demonstration the reason why I covered my face was because it was not about Anthony Smalls but instead those wearing the poppy that are supporting mass murdering,” he told The Voice.

In reference to the first demonstration which led to Smalls parting from his manager he said: “Getting punched in the head for a living is not the best way to earn your money,. Look at the history of boxing look at Mohammed Ali and more.”

“My main focus consists of working with his fellow Muslim brothers to stand up for the poor and the needy and bringing the message of Islam to the people in the UK.”

Small added: “The purpose of the demonstration was that to inform people that by wearing a poppy means that they are supporting present day soldiers who are killing innocent men, women and children.

“Many are not aware that wearing a poppy means that they are supporting these soldiers.

“When people see the poppy being burnt they are shocked but the point of the burnt poppy was to get peoples attention.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Lollipop Man [Crossing Guard] Banned From Stepping Into the Road

A lollipop man has been banned from stepping off the pavement to help children cross the road because of ‘bonkers’ health and safety rules.

Ron Warrick has been helping youngsters from St Mary’s Primary School in Shenfield, Essex, across a busy road for the past 18 months.

But after the county council spent £30,000 on safety improvements at the busy junction, Mr Warrick was stripped of his lollipop because it is ‘unsafe’ for him to step into the road.

Now he just presses the button at the pedestrian crossing and waits on the pavement while youngsters cross the road.

Liz Cohen, who has two children at the school and has been campaigning for safety improvements for the past six years, said: ‘What I don’t understand is that he walked out into the middle of the road for 18 months.’

Another mother, who did not want to be named, blasted the changes. She said: ‘It’s absolutely bonkers — whoever heard of a lollipop man who cannot go into the road, it’s like the punch-line to some ridiculous joke.

‘If the council think it’s too dangerous for Ron to cross the road then why on earth do they think it’s safe enough for our children to go across there?’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Croatia: 2 Mln Euros From EU for Female Employment

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 19 — As part of the “Women on the labour market” project, the EU has assigned 2 million euros to Croatia from EU pre-accession funds to be used for the promotion of female employment. The project is being carried out as part of the “Human Resources Development” operational project with financial support through the IPA pre-accession programme funds.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Serbia: Record-High Export of Defense Army Industry

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, NOVEMBER 18 — Serbia’s defense army industry has become the biggest exporter of army equipment and arms in Southeast Europe in the last three year, reports daily Blic.

Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac said that it had just closed the deal for the construction of three military factories in the north of Africa, worth EUR400 million.

The Minister did not disclose all the details of the deal, but it has been said that it involves planning, building and supervision of works on the military factory facilities, underground shelters and storages. This deal raises the total value of Serbia’s defense army export in the last three years to USD1.2 billion (around EUR877.4 million).(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Cartoons: Israel and Palestine Dialogue Through Strips

(ANSAmed) — CAGLIARI, NOVEMBER 19 — The Egyptian cartoonist Magdi El Shafee is arriving in Italy. The author of the graphic novel, which has become a literary cause célèbre after all copies, which were affected by censorship, were ordered to be destroyed in his home country, is among the dozens of guests at the third edition of Nues, the Festival dedicated to cartoon strips from the Mediterranean area, which is directed by Bepi Vigna and will be held in Cagliari from December 1-8.

The event has a focus on the Middle East, “to bring about dialogue, through the language of cartoons, cultures that have an urgent need to talk to one another”, explains Vigna. Israel and the Palestinian Territories are represented by Uri Fink, the most popular Israeli cartoonist, and the “Memory of Naji Al-Ali”, thirty-five panels dedicated to one of the most famous Palestinian cartoonists, who was killed in London in 1987, which tell the stories of the barefoot child in rags who became one of the symbols of his people’s struggle.

There is also an event dedicated to Naji Al-Ali, which will culminate with the screening of a documentary made in 1999 by the director Kasim Abid.

But Nues consists of laboratories, six exhibitions and meetings. The event, which is organised by the cultural association Hybris — International Cartoon Strip Centre, will be held between the former Liceo Artistico, the Hostel Marina and the Caffe Savoia. Among the guests are two influential Italian cartoonists, Igort and Otto Gabos, both Cagliari-born, who will present their latest works at the Festival. There will also be an homage to the father of the graphic novel, Will Eisner, and the rediscovery of two Sardinian cartoonists, Giovanni Manca and Giuseppe Porcheddu, who were active in the first half of last century. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Documents Chart Eight Years of US Views of Turkish Government

Official U.S. documents leaked Sunday and Monday not only have the potential of damaging ties between Turkey and the United States, they offer a telling insight into Washington’s perception of Turkey’s government over the past eight years.

The documents reveal how the U.S. describes the prominent leaders of the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP — Abdullah Gül, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ahmet Davutoglu — while analyzing whether it has a hidden agenda that could “Islamize” the entire country accompanied by a “neo-Ottomanist foreign policy.”

Relying on the chronological order of leaked cables sent from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, one can see how this perception has shown differences over the eight years of the AKP and under different U.S. administrations.

The first cable cited by the WikiLeaks was sent in early 2004 by Eric Edelman, a former U.S. envoy to Turkey who hit the headlines a month ago for harshly criticizing the AKP government. As the title of his cable indicates — Erdogan goes to Washington: How strong a leader in the face of strong challenges? — Edelman questioned the abilities of Erdogan and his party to run Turkey.

“Who are we dealing with?” asked Edelman in his cable, proving his administration’s failure to fully read Erdogan and his party’s motives.

“Erdogan has a strong pragmatic core,” he wrote. “It was this pragmatism that led him away from the radical Islamist milieu of his past, a point noted to us unhappily by his [radical] former spiritual leader Kemal Hoca.”

A clear failure in reading Erdogan could be seen again in Edelman’s assessment that the party could lose power if it failed to overcome the challenges of 2004.

“Erdogan has traits which render him seriously vulnerable to miscalculating the political dynamic, especially in foreign affairs, and vulnerable to attacks by those who would disrupt his equilibrium. First overbearing pride. Second, unbridled ambition stemming from the belief God has anointed him to lead Turkey,” Edelman said, adding that the appointments of narrow-minded religious persons to critical posts were complicating the AKP’s ability to run the country.

Nearly a year after the aforementioned cable, Edelman’s note sent to Washington analyzed Erdogan and the AKP’s first two years in power.

“PM Erdogan and his ruling AKP seen to have a firm grip on power,” he said.

Recalling that Turkey could obtain the right to start full membership negotiations with the European Union under Erdogan’s rule in December 2004, Edelman ironically described the Turkish prime minister’s performance in Brussels.

“As PM Erdogan strode through the EU corridors of power Dec. 16-17 with his semi-pro soccer player’s swagger and phalanx of sycophantic advisors, he may have seemed a strong candidate for European leader of the year,” Edelman said.

“In short, Erdogan looks unbeatable. But is he?” he asked.

“But there’s always a Monday morning and the debate on the ground here is not so neat. With euphoria at getting a date having faded in 48 hours, Erdogan’s political survival and the difficulty of the tasks before him have become substantially clearer,” Edelman said.

Edelman said afterward that he thought some party officials approved of the membership bid just because it would help marginalize the military while others saw it as a tool “to take back Andalusia and avenge the defeat at the siege of Vienna in 1683.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Elderly California Dentist Rode a Horse Overnight in Daring Escape From Iran, Wikileaks Reveals

Hossein Ghanbarzadeh Vahedi, an American of Iranian descent, went back in 2008 to visit his parents’ graves. The visit was only his second trip to Iran since he left in 1979.

Then 75, he spent four weeks visiting family and friends without incident and went to the Tehran airport for his scheduled flight out.

After clearing customs, Vahedi was paged over the loudspeaker, told to report to an office and once there had his passport confiscated.

The next seven months were a virtual house arrest. Vahedi believes he was held because his grown-up Los Angles-based sons promote popular Persian pop singers.

Vahedi would have to pay government officials a $150,000 bribe and have his sons stop their work to get his passport back, he was led to believe. Even then there was no guarantee he would ever get out of Iran.

Weighing his options, Vahedi decided to escape. He paid two drug smugglers to take him on horseback over the mountains of western Iran and into Turkey.

In the weeks leading up to his departure, he trained for the altitude by hiking in the hills outside of Tehran and getting extra heart medication.

On January 7 2009 Vahedi boarded a bus from Tehran to Urmia. Once there, he met a car and drove into the mountains where he met the two men and a single horse.

In the freezing cold and without appropriate clothing, Vahedi rode 14 hours overnight and crossed into Turkey. At one point during the ride he fell off the horse and was convinced he would die on the ground by freezing to death.

His guides, to whom he’s paid $5,000 to start, hugged him for warmth.

Once they crossed the Turkish border, Vahedi paid out another $2500 and was handed off to a third man.

After some food and rest, Vahedi then took a ten hour bus ride from Van to Ankara and showed up at the U.S. Consulate.

In their cable, U.S. diplomats describe the dentist as ‘suffering some aches and pains’ but, he ‘in good health.’

They also reported he broke down crying several times as he described his ordeal.

The American officials were able to convince Turkey not to deport the man back to Iran as punishment for his illegal entry.

He finally flew home to California four days later and has yet to speak publicly about the ordeal.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



Explosions in Tehran — Nuclear Scientists Targeted, One Dead

Mehr reported that the “terrorists” were riding motorcycles.

Police say terrorists in both attacks were motorcyclists and attached magnetic bombs to the bodyworks of the physicists’ cars. The two academics were on the way to Shahid Beheshti University in north Tehran when they came under attacks.

[…]

The Iranian regime said the Zionists were behind the attack.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Iranian Nuclear Scientist Killed and Another Wounded in Separate Bomb Attacks

An Iranian nuclear scientist has been killed and another injured in separate attacks in Tehran today.

The scientists were targeted in two different locations by men riding motorcycles who attached bombs to their car windows as they drove to work.

One device killed Dr Majid Shahriari, a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at the Tehran University, and wounded his wife.

The second blast seriously wounded nuclear physicist Dr Fereidoun Abbasi. His wife was also injured.

Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Dr Shahriari was involved in a major project at the country’s chief nuclear agency, though he did not give specifics.

State television swiftly blamed Israel for the attacks.

At least two other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in recent years in what Iran has alleged is part of a covert attempt by the West to damage its controversial nuclear program.

One of those two, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, was killed in an attack similar to today’s in January.

Mr Mohammadi, a 50-year-old professor from Tehran University, had just left his house on his way to work when a remote-controlled bomb rigged to a motorbike exploded.

‘Don’t play with fire. The patience of the Iranian nation has limits. If it runs out of patience, bad consequences will await enemies,’ the official news agency IRNA quoted Mr Salehi as saying as he met Dr Abbasi at his hospital bedside.

Mr Salehi, one of Iran’s vice presidents, was apparently referring to Israel and the U.S., which Iran alleges are trying to damage its nuclear program.

Tehran’s uranium enrichment programme is at the center of a bitter row between Iran on one side and the U.S. and its allies on the other. Uranium enrichment is a process that can be used to produce both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.

A number of world powers suspect Iran is trying to make nuclear weapons, an allegation the government denies.

Tehran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment has brought on multiple rounds of U.N. sanctions against the country.

Washington has strongly denied allegations of links to previous attacks. There are several active armed groups that oppose Iran’s ruling clerics, but it’s unclear whether they could have carried out the apparently coordinated bombings in the capital.

Most anti-government violence in recent years has been isolated to Iran’s provinces such as the border with Pakistan where Sunni rebels are active and the western mountains near Iraq where Kurdish separatists operate.

The assailants, who escaped, drove by their targets on motorcycles and attached the bombs as the cars were moving. They exploded shortly thereafter, state television reported.

Dr Shahriari, the scientist who was killed, was a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. His wife, who was in the car with him, was wounded.

Dr Salehi, the nuclear chief who also heads the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI), said Shahriari was one of his students and his death was a big loss.

He said: ‘Shahriari had good cooperation with the AEOI. He was involved in one of the big AEOI projects which is a source of pride for the Iranian nation.’

He didn’t provide any details on the project. But the AEOI is involved in Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

Dr Salehi added: ‘The enemy took our dearest flower, but must know that this nation, through resistance and all its might, will make efforts to remove problems and achieve its desires.’

A second, separate attack in the capital Tehran wounded nuclear physicist Dr Abbasi. His wife was also in the car with him, and she was also wounded.

A pro-government website, mashreghnews.ir, said Abbasi held a PhD in nuclear physics and was a laser expert at Iran’s Defence Ministry and one of few top Iranian specialists in nuclear isotope separation.

Isotope separation is the process of concentrating specific isotopes of a chemical element by removing other isotopes, for example separating natural uranium from enriched uranium. This is a crucial process in the manufacture of uranium fuel for nuclear power stations, and is also required for the creation of uranium-based nuclear weapons.

The site said Abbasi has long been a member of the Revolutionary Guard, the country’s most powerful military force. It said he was also a lecturer at Imam Hossein University, affiliated to the Guard.

The attacks bore close similarities to another in January that killed Tehran University professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a senior physics professor. He was killed when a bomb-rigged motorcycle exploded near his car as he was about to leave for work.

[…]

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Iranian Nuclear Scientist Killed in Motorbike Attack

An Iranian nuclear scientist has been killed and another wounded in two separate but similar attacks in the capital, Tehran.

The scientists were targeted by men on motorbikes who attached bombs to the windows of their cars as they drove to work, officials said.

The scientist killed has been named as Majid Shahriari.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused “Western governments” and Israel of being behind the killing.

           — Hat tip: Kitman [Return to headlines]



Leaked Documents Reveal Tension Between EU and Turkey

Leaked US State Department documents on Sunday (28 November) make multiple references to EU accession state Turkey, painting an unflattering description of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s circle of advisers and highlighting the country’s frustrations with French resistance to its EU membership.

While Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is portrayed by American officials as a “perfectionist workaholic” but ill-informed, American perceptions of his support team are even less flattering, describing his advisers and foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as having little understanding of politics beyond Ankara. Criticism of Mr Davutoglu included dispatches describing him as “dangerous” and having a “neo-Ottoman” vision.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



Obama Deal Aids Al-Qaida Backers?

Largest weapons sale in U.S. history to country ID’d as chief financier of terror group

JERUSALEM — The WikiLeaks revelation that Saudi donors are the chief financiers of al-Qaida comes just days after President Obama quietly moved forward with plans to sell $60 billion worth of fighter jets and military equipment to the Saudis — the largest weapons sale to a nation in U.S. history.

A New York Times summary of the WikiLeaks release of more than a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables relates the U.S. has information Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of al-Qaida and other Sunni terrorist organizations.

Just last week, Obama attempted to solidify the weapons deal to Saudi Arabia, despite questions raised about the deal by lawmakers and a congressional report that questions the wisdom of the sale.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Saudi Arabia: According to Latest Census, Non-Saudis Almost 8.5 Million

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 24 — The number of people living in the Saudi kingdom, according to the latest census carried out by the General Statistics Office, amounts to 27 million people, of which 68% are Saudi citizens. Quoting a statement by the statistics office, the Al Jazeera website emphasised that the exact number of citizens is 27,136,977 compared to 22,678,262 in 2005, equal to a 19.7% increase, or 4,458,715 people.

According to the census the number of Saudi citizens increased by 13,2%, or 2,180,236 people, increasing from 16,527,340 people in 2005 to the current 18,707,576.

On average males represent 50.9% of the population, compared to 50.1% in 2005. Non-Saudis amount to 8,429,401, in other words 31.1% of the total population compared to 6,150,922 in 2005.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



SMS Costs Less in Palestinian Territories, Yemen, Tunis

(ANSAmed) — TUNISI, NOVEMBER 19 — In the Arab world, the cheapest Countries for text messages are the Palestinian Territories, followed by Yemen and Tunisia, according to a research paper named “Sms and MMs rates in the Arab World: a regional comparison”, published by the Arab Advisor Group.

According to the report, the countries that are the most expensive, taxes included, are Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Iraq, Oman and Sudan. The report covered 54 mobile communications operators in 18 Arab countries.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



The Region: Revolution, Not Terrorism, Is the Main Threat

The big strategic danger for Western interests in the region is the overthrow of entire countries, transforming into new Irans.

An Egyptian Islamist cleric, Ibrahim al-Khouli, was recently interviewed on Egyptian television, with a translation by MEMRI. And what can we learn from his words? A lot.

“What is the nature of our relations with [the West]? They are the relations of Crusader aggression against the land of Islam — in Afghanistan, in Iraq, which was destroyed and removed from history…”

Technically, at least the way it is expressed nowadays (in contrast to the way it was practiced historically), jihad must be defensive. However, it is easy to portray anything as defensive by dissociating cause and effect. Why did US forces go into Afghanistan? It was in response to the September 11 attacks. If there had been no September 11 attacks, US forces would not have gone into Afghanistan and the Taliban would probably still be ruling there.

Iraq is somewhat more complex, but of course the first US attack, in 1991, was in response to an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and at the request of the Kuwaitis, Saudis, and other Arabic-speaking, Muslim-majority countries.

In 2003, whether the action was rightly guided or not, it was in response to a belief that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons and breaking agreements in a way that would lead to future aggression. And that this Iraqi aggression would be against other Muslim-majority countries.

A particularly fascinating line is that Iraq has been “removed from history.” What does this mean? That Iraq’s fate is not to be a happy, peaceful or democratic country — goals certainly not achieved, but which are not “supposed” to be achieved. Iraq and its people are “supposed” to be a cog in the wheel of revolution, sacrificing themselves for the Islamist global revolution. Iraq, then, does not belong to its own people but to the will of Allah, as interpreted by the radical totalitarians. And if this means Iraqis have no “right” to live peaceful lives but must suffer decades of war and destruction, so be it.

HERE ARE three underlying principles that guide the radical Islamists and their allies, but which Westerners don’t understand:

1. They have the right to attack the West, but the West has no right to defend itself.

2. They will pretend that the battle is one of the West against the Muslims, while actually the West is helping defend one group of Muslims against another.

3. Their goal is to use jihad to defeat the West while employing lies and guilt to make the West so afraid of offending Islam that it doesn’t interfere when Islamists take over the Muslim-majority world.

(By the way, note that Israel is only one issue among many, and often pretty secondary. One reason is the importance of other issues; another is the general Islamist assumption that after they take over Muslim-majority countries and end Western influence, disposing of Israel will be relatively easy and thus can wait.)

Khouli continues: “Forget about [Osama] bin Laden and al-Qaida. That’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about the jihad of the entire nation… I’m talking about jihad which is led by the Islamic scholars, and the entire nation will be mobilized for the sake of the supreme jihad. This will lead us to a confrontation… We should follow the example of the young men of the Taliban. A group of several thousand students [Taliban] have been crushing NATO in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Where are the armies of the Muslims?”

AND HERE there are three interesting lessons: First, al-Qaida is only a portion of the problem, and the less important part at that. True, al-Qaida is the group most likely to attack America and its citizens or institutions abroad.

Yet the big strategic danger for US interests is the overthrow of entire countries, the plunging of millions of people into revolution or civil war.

Revolution, not terrorism, is the main threat, transforming countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia into new Irans. The resultant extension of Teheran’s power throughout the region is the big danger.

Second, the jihadists recognize that if they are going to mobilize the masses, they must first convince people that the West is in cowardly retreat and that victory is easy. Anything that enhances this impression therefore strengthens the revolutionaries and makes violence more — not less — likely.

Third, though, is disappointment, “Where are the armies of the Muslims?” At least up to now, the revolutionary Islamists cannot persuade Muslims to rise up, wage jihad, overthrow their rulers, wipe out Israel and attack the West.

Why? Some is evidence of natural human behavior; people prefer safety and a materially better life to sacrificing themselves. Others support their nationalist governments or have communal- ethnic loyalties (the Kurds, for example, or the different competing groups in Lebanon). And many simply don’t agree with the revolutionary Islamist interpretation of Islam.

All these people (except for the small minority of Christians among them) are Muslims. They have read the Koran, yet do not accept what the revolutionaries tell them is the “only” proper interpretation. It is as ridiculous to say all Muslims “must” be radical and jihad-minded if they properly understand their own religion as it is to say that Islam is a religion of peace, and that the radicals are only a tiny minority who misunderstand their own religion.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Turkey Suspends Three Senior Officers Over Coup Plot

The Turkish government has suspended two generals and an admiral accused of being linked to a plot against the ruling Justice and Development Party.

It is believed to be the first time in modern Turkish history that a civilian government has suspended serving military figures of such high rank.

The three men have appealed to military judges to cancel the decision.

They are among nearly 200 suspects due to go on trial next month, charged with attempting to overthrow the government.

Those involved in the so-called “sledgehammer” plot allegedly conspired to provoke a military takeover in the months following the ruling party’s (AKP) first election victory in 2002.

They are said to have been concerned by the party’s Islamist roots.

The trial is the most ambitious attempt to prosecute armed forces personnel in civilian courts in Turkey, where the strongly secular military has brought down four governments since 1960.

Headscarf row On Monday, Interior Minister Besir Atalay suspended Gendarmerie Maj Gen Halil Helvacioglu, Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper reported.

This was followed on Wednesday by Defence Minister Vecdi Gonul’s decision to suspend Maj Gen Gurbuz Kaya and Rear Adm Abdullah Gavremoglu.

Since coming to power, the AKP has been locked in a tug-of-war with Turkey’s secular institutions over issues such as the Islamic headscarf for women and constitutional reform.

The BBC’s Istanbul correspondent, Jonathan Head, says the military has been forced to accept a reduced role in political bodies such as the National Security Council and stronger parliamentary oversight of its spending.

On 29 October, military commanders and the main opposition leader failed to attend an official ceremony at the presidential palace on Republic Day, reportedly because they would have had to shake hands with President Abdullah Gul’s headscarf-wearing wife, Hayrunnisa.

The move was criticised by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose wife Emine also wears a headscarf.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



US Agree: Turkish Gov’t ‘Hates’ Israel

Former US Ambassador to Ankara James Jeffrey believes Turkish foreign policy has ‘Rolls Royce ambitions, but Rover resources’ and that Ankara cannot compete with global or regional powers. US documents released by WikiLeaks also show Jeffrey did not see a viable alternative on the horizon to the current Turkish government

Deteriorating ties between Tel Aviv and Ankara are “attributable exclusively” to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hatred of Israel, U.S. and Israeli diplomats agreed, according to a confidential cable by the U.S. embassy.

The cable sent last year was one of the U.S. State Department documents released late Sunday by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. In it, Israel’s ambassador to Ankara Gabby Levy blames Erdogan for the hostilities, an assessment with which the United States expresses agreement.

“Levy dismissed political calculation as a motivator for Erdogan’s hostility, arguing the prime minister’s party had not gained a single point in the polls from his bashing of Israel,” former U.S. Ambassador to Ankara James Jeffrey said in the cable dated Oct. 27, 2009, about his talks with the Israeli ambassador. “Instead, Levy attributed Erdogan’s harshness to deep-seated emotion.”

The U.S. diplomat quoted Levy as saying of the Turkish prime minister: “He’s a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously.”

In his own comments, Jeffrey, who left Ankara in July to become ambassador to Baghdad, then said in the cable: “Our discussions with contacts both inside and outside of the Turkish government on Turkey’s deteriorating relations with Israel tend to confirm Levy’s thesis that Erdogan simply hates Israel.”

According to the U.S. ambassador, “Levy cited a perceived anti-Israeli shift in Turkish foreign policy, including the Turkish government’s recent elevation of its relations with Syria and its quest for observer status in the Arab League.”

In another confidential cable dated Jan. 20, 2010, and titled “What lies beneath Turkey’s new foreign policy,” Jeffrey said Ankara’s foreign policy had “Rolls Royce ambitions, but Rover resources.”

“Despite their success and relative power, the Turks really can’t compete on equal terms with either the United States or regional leaders — the European Union in the Balkans, Russia in the Caucasus/Black Sea, [and] Saudis, Egyptians and even Iranians in the Middle East,” he said.

Though he said Turkish foreign policy was becoming more Islamic, Jeffrey added that this would not mean the NATO ally would abandon the West. “Does all this mean that the country is becoming more focused on the Islamist world and its Muslim tradition in its foreign policy? Absolutely,” Jeffrey wrote. “Does it mean that it is abandoning or wants to abandon its traditional Western orientation and willingness to cooperate with us? Absolutely not.”

The ambassador said the situation “called for a more issue-by-issue approach, and recognition that Turkey will often go its own way.”

‘No better government on horizon’

Though Jeffrey voiced discontent with the Turkish government and said its leaders would go sooner or later, he also lamented that there was no viable better alternative to the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government at the current point or in the foreseeable future.

“In any case, sooner or later we will no longer have to deal with the current cast of political leaders, with their special yen for destructive drama and — rhetoric,” Jeffrey wrote. “But we see no one better on the horizon, and Turkey will remain a complicated blend of world-class Western institutions, competencies and orientation, and Middle Eastern culture and religion.”

In another cable dated Jan. 26, 2010, and labeled “secret,” written as a scene-setter for U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ upcoming Turkey visit, Jeffrey predicted the Turkish-Israeli relationship would continue to suffer.

“While the Foreign Ministry and the Turkish General Staff agree with us that a strong Turkey-Israel relationship is essential for regional stability, Prime Minister Erdogan has sought to shore up his domestic right flank through continued populist rhetoric against Israel and its December 2008 Gaza operation,” he said. “Erdogan is likely to continue anti-Israel remarks and the issues will continue to cast a shadow on the Turkish-Israeli bilateral relationship.”

In the “secret” minutes of Gates’ talks with Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül and then-Chief of General Staff Gen. Ilker Basbug, Jeffrey said in a Feb. 16, 2010, cable that one key subject of the discussions was the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. In the meeting, he said, the U.S. side explained that the sale of U.S.-made and armed MQ-9 Reaper drones, which Turkey had been seeking to buy, would not be possible in the near term, primarily due to congressional hurdles.

“The SecDef [defense secretary] reaffirmed to Basbug that the U.S. is committed to the sale of Reapers to Turkey, but offered the caveat that the sale would first have to be approved by Congress,” Jeffrey said.

Missile defense system

On missile defense, Gates insisted on a plan to deploy a special X-band radar in Turkish territory. Gates “emphasized that without a radar based in Turkey, significant areas in the eastern part of the country would not be covered by the system,” Jeffrey wrote, adding that the U.S. secretary of defense “reiterated that Turkey was the optimal site” for the radar.

At the meeting, Gates also strongly lobbied for two U.S. defense companies, Sikorsky Aircraft and Raytheon-Lockheed Martin, that are seeking multibillion-dollar Turkish contracts on utility helicopters and air-defense systems.

The Turkish tender for utility helicopters has been open for two years and the short list includes Sikorsky and Italy’s AgustaWestland.

“Gönül believes Sikorsky has a good chance to win,” Jeffrey wrote in the cable.

On the air-defense issue, Gates said, “nothing can compete with the [Raytheon-Lockheed Martin] PAC-3 when it comes to capabilities.”

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



US Cables Claim Turkish PM Erdogan Has Eight Swiss Bank Accounts

If Turkish-U.S. relations manage to remain unscathed by American officials’ descriptions of senior figures in Ankara as “dangerous,” the damage might still be done by their claims about the Turkish prime minister’s personal assets.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s financial assets and the way he made “his fortune” were the subjects of two of the cables sent by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, documents leaked as part of a release late Sunday by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

“We have heard from two contacts that Erdogan has eight accounts in Swiss banks; his explanations that his wealth comes from the wedding presents guests gave his son and that a Turkish businessman is paying the educational expenses of all four Erdogan children in the U.S. purely altruistically are lame,” Eric Edelman, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey, wrote in a cable sent to Washington on Dec. 30, 2004.

Edelman, who has been outspoken in his criticism of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, argued that the widespread corruption would be an important factor that could degrade Erdogan’s ability to run the country.

In a separate cable sent in July 2004, Edelman claimed that “an anonymous source told [him] that Erdogan and [the source] benefited directly from the award of the Tüpras privatization to a consortium including a Russian partner.”

The Turkish Petroleum Refineries Corporation, or Tüpras, is the state petroleum refinery. A Russian-Turkish consortium paid nearly $1.3 billion for the privatization of the country’s largest-capacity refinery in 2004.

“[The] AKP rode to power on the common citizens’ revulsion against corruption. Charges that Erdogan amassed his fortune through kickbacks as mayor of Istanbul have never been proven, but we now hear more and more from insiders that close advisors such as private secretary Hikmet Bulduk, Mücahit Arslan and Cüneyd Zapsu are engaging in wholesale influence peddling,” Edelman said in the cable.

Another claim by the ambassador put prominent AKP officials in the spotlight; Edelman listed former ministers Abdülkadir Aksu, Kürsat Tüzmen and Istanbul provincial chairman Mehmet Müezzinoglu as the most corrupt politicians in Turkey.

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



US Skeptical About Turkey’s Reliability as a Partner

The U.S. has many doubts about its long-term ally Turkey’s dependability as a partner, according to diplomatic cables that were leaked by WikiLeaks on Sunday evening. Confidential cables from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara describe Islamist tendencies in the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Germany’s Der Spiegel, which received some of the leaked documents, said.

The Turkish leadership is depicted as divided, and PM Erdogan’s advisers, as well as Foreign Minister Ahmeet Davutoglu, are portrayed as having little understanding of politics beyond Ankara, the magazine said.

Turkey and the U.S. shared a cordial relationship since 1947, when U.S. guaranteed the security of Turkey and Greece from Soviet forces. Turkey remained a close ally of the U.S. through the Cold War and through the late 1990s and post-World Trade attacks in the U.S.

Cordial relationship with the U.S. was believed to be crucial to Turkey’s security.

However, the relationship has been strained since the Iraq war, as Turkey grows warier about the creation of an independent Kurdish state.

Turkey has also remained against U.S. sanctions against Iran, with whom Ankara has long maintained economic and ties. PM Erdogan visited Teheran in May 2010 to make an agreement to outsource Iranian uranium enrichment to Turkey.

According to the leaked cables, Foreign Minister Davutoglu told U.S. envoy Phil Gordan that Iran cannot be bullied into compliance with western demands, the Guardian reported.

The document stated: “The Iranians have said they are willing to meet with Solana, but have told the Turks that they have serious problems with Cooper and the British.”

The documents also state that the Iranians have “more trust” in the U.S. and would prefer to get fuel from the U.S. rather than the Russians.

Regarding discussions of IAEA proposal to send Iran’s low-enriched uranium to Turkey, U.S. assistant secretary of state Phil Gordon pressed Davutoglu on Ankara’s assessment on consequences if Iran gets a nuclear weapon.

Davutoglu gave a spirited reply, that ‘of course’ Turkey was aware of this risk. “This is precisely why Turkey is working so hard with the Iranians,” The Guardian said.

Documents revealed that the U.S. is worried about Davutoglu’s alleged neo-Ottoman visions, according to Spiegel. U.S. diplomats quote one high-ranking government adviser as saying that Davutoglu would use his Islamist influence on Erdogan, describing him as “exceptionally dangerous,” the magazine said.

The U.S. continues to worry the pervading influence of Islam and Islamist tendencies in the region. Diplomats noted that many members of the AK Party (AKP) were members of a Muslim fraternity and the PM had appointed Islamist bankers to influential positions.

The diplomats reported that Erdogan gets his information almost exclusively form newspapers with close links to Islamists, the magazine reported.

The Islamist-based AKP came into power in 2002, causing concern among various secularist opposition parties about the resurgence of a traditional society deeply rooted in Islam.

The secularist opposition has challenged the constitutional right of the AK to be the party of the government since the 2002 elections, BBC said.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Pakistan: Western Economic Aid to Muslim Nations Who Hate Non-Muslims.

Lee Jay Walker, The Modern Tokyo Times

The Islamic onslaught in Pakistan continues to grow despite this nation being deemed an ally and receiving Western economic aid throughout this land. The recent floods saw mainly Western nations donating quickly but just like Afghanistan and Iraq it is clear that Muslims still hate religious minorities.

Political leaders in non-Muslim nations keep on telling us how peaceful the religion of Islam is and President Obama says very little about Islamic persecution of minorities. Instead, President Obama and other political leaders, and many parts of the mass media, desire to not only gloss over reality but they are prepared to lie openly and use quotes that suit their agenda.

In Afghanistan thousands of American troops and other allied forces have been killed for trying to develop and stabilize a nation which is divided by ethnicity, sectarianism, and clan based politics. However, if one Afghan national desires to openly convert to Christianity or Buddhism or any other non-Muslim faith then they face the death penalty.

Therefore, military troops from America and the United Kingdom, and other allied nations, are dying not for democracy but for maintaining Islamic Sharia law and preserving a nation state which hates Christianity, denies the equality of women, despises all other non-Muslim faiths, and wants to stop all alternative thought patterns that will challenge an Islamic state based on Islamic Sharia law.

In Iraq the Christian community is under siege and this nation which once was based on secular law is now under Islamic Sharia law. The Christians of Iraq and other minorities like the Mandaeans, Shabaks, and Yazidis, have been abandoned and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee. Non-Muslims that remain in Iraq feel betrayed and marginalized.

The more economic aid that Afghanistan and Pakistan get then the more Islamized these nations become. I am not just talking about radical Islamic organizations because it also applies to the institutions of these nations and the Muslim public on a whole which still hates religious pluralism and religious equality.

It is just like Saudi Arabia which is a haven and funder of many Islamic organizations which are spreading hatred. This nation once was a backward Muslim society where modernization had been crushed by Islamic dogma and Mecca was a dustbowl. However, the British and then America, and a host of other modern nations, helped this nation to develop.

Yet the thanks that mainly Christian and secular based nations got was more hatred towards all non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia and this culminated with the majority of people being Saudi nationals who did September 11th. Also, you have mass Saudi funding which is spreading Islamic hatred far and wide and only last week in the United Kingdom it was stated that Saudi funding organizations are teaching hatred in British Muslim schools.

At the same time another majority Muslim nation called Egypt gets enormous amounts of American economic aid but does this help the Coptic Christians? The answer is no because Coptic Christians are treated negatively in Egypt at best and they suffer discrimination within the judicial process. At worse, Coptic Christian women are raped and forced to convert to Islam and you have killings of Coptic Christians by Muslims who think that it is their define right to kill in the name of Allah.

Turning back to Pakistan then this hatred can be seen by recent events and this applies to a Christian male called Zohab who was forced to convert to Islam after falling in love with a Muslim girl called Anum. He converted to Islam because of Muslim attacks against local Christians in Balida Town, Karachi.

Like usual the institutions of Pakistan failed the local Christian community just like it fails Hindus, Sikhs, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and others on a daily basis. Local Muslims had threatened to burn the local Christian church to the ground.

At the same time in Pakistan a Christian female faces the death penalty and Islamic organizations are baying for her blood and like usual many Muslim clerics are joining the bandwagon. Killing or persecuting in the name of Allah is a daily pastime in many Muslim nations and Asia Bibi, a Christian mother, now awaits her fate after being sentenced to death on accusations of blasphemy for saying something about Mohammed.

Asia Bibi is now in Seikhurura jail but why isn’t Islam being “put in jail” and for that matter why aren’t nations like Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and a host of other Islamic based nations being “put in jail?”

[…]

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Saudi-Pakistani Relations Strained After Wikileaks Documents Released

Thanks to the Wikileaks’ document dump, Pakistan’s ties with Saudi Arabia appeared to be under fresh strain.

CBS reported:

Pakistan’s ties with Saudi Arabia appeared to be under fresh strain on Monday in the wake of revelations from classified documents released by WikiLeaks, which quoted Saudi Arabian King Abdullah calling Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari “the greatest obstacle” to the country’s progress.

“When the head is rotten, it affects the whole body,” Abdullah said of Zardari in one of the documents.

While Pakistani officials publicly condemned the claim as an attempt to undermine the traditionally close ties between the two countries, western and Arab diplomats warned that the revelations may have finally exposed genuine underlying tensions.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Far East


North and South Korea Move Close to War Footing

North and South Korea have moved closer to a war footing around the Yellow Sea island targeted in last week’s artillery strike as tensions in the region continue to rise.

Pyongyang on Sunday moved SA2 surface-to-air missiles nearer to its Yellow Sea coast, according to South Korean military officials quoted by the Yonhap news agency. The officials said they also detected signs that North Korea was preparing multiple-launch rocket systems in the same area.

North Korea issued fresh warnings of military action, threatening to “deal a merciless military counterattack” at any “intrusion” into its territorial waters. The rhetoric came as four days of US- South Korean naval exercises in the Yellow Sea, involving the aircraft carrier George Washington, got under way — a deployment which the Pyongyang regime says has brought the region to the “brink of war.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


Ibrahims’ Sister Escapes Sydney Shooting

Police are worried about possible revenge attacks after the sister and young nephews of Sydney’s prominent Ibrahim brothers narrowly escaped injury in a brazen drive-by shooting.

About 20 bullets were sprayed into a home and three cars in Santa Rosa Avenue at Ryde, in the city’s northwest, about 11.30pm (AEDT) on Sunday.

Asleep inside the home was Armani Stelio, 35, and her sons, 11, and 15. Her brothers are Sydney nightclub baron John Ibrahim and former Nomads bikie boss Hassan “Sam” Ibrahim.

The family’s lawyer Brett Galloway said Ms Stelio had not lived at the home long and speculated the shooting could have been wrongly targeted.

“There’s another person living nearby with the name Ibrahim. It wouldn’t be the first time a shooting has been wrongly targeted,” he told AAP.

Mr Galloway said he was unaware of any motive for the shooting.

Police did not confirm the identity of the victims but admitted they only narrowly escaped injury and were “very shaken”.

Nobody else lives at the home and the trio are now reportedly in hiding.

Detectives are concerned about potential reprisals and warned those involved not to take matters into their own hands.

“It’s one of the things we have to consider,” acting superintendent John Duncan said when asked if there could be a counter attack.

“I would definitely recommend people leave it to the police to investigate.”

Acting Supt Duncan declined to speculate about a motive or the type of weapon or weapons used, but he did say it was “a targeted attack”.

Police had not been called to the property in the past, he added.

About a dozen bullet holes were visible on the first floor balcony and a window of the two-storey home on Monday.

Three cars parked nearby, not thought to belong to Ms Stelio, were hit by bullets and removed for forensic examination.

A silver hatchback was seen leaving the scene after the shooting and police have appealed for help tracing it.

Horrified neighbours described the gunshots.

“We’re horrified by what has happened,” a pensioner, who lives five doors away but did not want to be named, told AAP.

“The shots woke me up — I was frightened initially but then assumed it was fireworks as it all went very quiet afterwards.

“It’s a very quiet, family-friendly street. You certainly don’t expect anything like that to happen.”

John Ibrahim’s older brother Sam was shown in television footage on Monday speaking to police at the home after the shooting.

The former bikie boss was then seen driving a woman away from the scene.

He’s recently been ordered to stand trial on a charge of kidnapping a 15-year-old boy who he suspected of breaking into his wife’s house.

His younger brother, Kings Cross identity Fadi Ibrahim, was the victim of a shooting in June 2009.

He survived the attack, with five bullets fired at him while he sat in a Lamborghini outside his Sydney home.

Another Ibrahim family lawyer, Stephen Alexander, declined to comment to AAP other than to say: “We’re still working through things at this stage.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa


S. Africa Mines Plagued by Mismanagement, Neglect

ORKNEY, South Africa (AP) — Mawethu Mguli and hundreds of other workers at the gold mine in Orkney have gone months without pay at a time when gold is going for around $1,400 an ounce.

After the mine’s previous owners went bankrupt, the workers expected that a new partnership _ headed by relatives of Nelson Mandela and President Jacob Zuma _ would get operations back on track when it took over last year.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way,” Mguli said softly as he sat in his dimly lit room in the mine dormitory. The mine northwest of Johannesburg remains idle and the workers are getting by on food handouts and odd jobs.

South Africa sees getting its vast mineral wealth out of the ground as vital to creating desperately needed jobs, fueling growth and redressing the economic ravages of apartheid. But a toxic combination of a crumbling infrastructure, mismanagement and the specter of nationalization is frustrating the drive to improve and expand the country’s mines. Some are asking whether political connections mean more than competence in an industry that is a pillar of South Africa’s economy.

South Africa is the world’s richest mining country in terms of its reserves, according to a Citibank estimate that valued its mineral resources at $2.5 trillion. It is a major producer of diamonds and gold, and has major reserves of less sexy but still lucrative minerals like platinum.

Mining has accounted for an average of 7.7 percent of South Africa’s gross domestic product over the last decade, according to the Chamber of Mines, an industry trade group.

Half the country’s merchandise exports were mining products in 2009, when the industry employed half a million people. Another half million worked in fields dependent on the mines in this country with a population of 50 million where at least a quarter of the work force is unemployed.

Yet, during a global boom in commodities prices from 2001 to 2008, other countries with major mining operations outperformed South Africa, according to the chamber, whose members include such industry giants as Anglo American and DeBeers. The world’s top 20 mining countries saw mining GDP grow at an average of 5 percent a year during the period, while South Africa’s mining sector GDP dropped by 1 percent a year.

“How come, sitting on the largest mineral resource base in the world, we are not doing better?” said Sipho Nkosi, a former chamber president who now also heads the Exxaro coal mining company.

The answers are not hard to find…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Latin America


‘It’s Like Ancient Egypt’: Inside the Mexican Drugs Tunnel With Its Own Railway and Underground Warehouses With 20 Tons of Marijuana

A sophisticated cross-border tunnel — equipped with a rail system, ventilation and fluorescent lighting — has been shut down by U.S. and Mexican officials.

It is the second such tunnel discovered in San Diego this month, authorities said today.

The tunnel is 2,200 feet long and runs from the kitchen of a home in Tijuana, Mexico, to two warehouses in San Diego’s Otay Mesa industrial district.

Mike Unzueta, head of investigations at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego, said the cinderblock-lined entry to the tunnel dropped 80 to 90 feet to a wood-lined floor.

From the U.S. side, there was a stairway leading to a room about 50 feet underground that was full of marijuana.

Mr Unzueta said: ‘It’s a lot like how the ancient Egyptians buried the kings and queens.’

Authorities seized more than 20 tons of marijuana, and Mr Unzueta said the tunnel — and another found in early November — are the work of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, headed by the country’s most-wanted drug lord, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman.

Mr Unzueta said: ‘We think ultimately they are controlled by the same overall cartel but that the tunnels were being managed and run independently by different cells operating within the same organisation.’

The newly discovered passage is one of the most advanced to date, with sophisticated construction and a rail system for drugs to be carried on a small cart.

Three men were arrested in the United States, and the Mexican military raided a ranch in Mexico and made five arrests in connection with the tunnel, authorities said.

U.S. authorities have discovered more than 125 clandestine tunnels along the Mexican border since the early 1990s, though many were crude and incomplete.

U.S. authorities do not know how long the latest tunnel was operating. Mr Unzueta said investigators began to look into several warehouses in June on a tip that emerged from a large bust of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

U.S. authorities followed a trailer from one of the warehouses to a Border Patrol checkpoint in Temecula, where they seized 27,600 pounds of marijuana.

The driver, whose name was not released, was arrested, along with two others who went to a residence in suburban El Cajon that had $13,500 cash inside.

Mr Unzueta said: ‘That [trailer] was literally filled top to bottom, front to back. There wasn’t any room for anything else in that tractor-trailer but air.’

Three tons of marijuana were found in a ‘subterranean room’ and elsewhere in the tunnel on the U.S. side, authorities said.

Mexican officials seized four tons of pot at a ranch in northern Mexico, bringing the total haul to more than 20 tons.

The discovery of the cross-border tunnel earlier this month marked one of the largest marijuana seizures in the United States, with agents confiscating 20 tons of marijuana they said was smuggled through the underground passage.

One of the warehouses involved in the tunnel discovered this week is only a half-block away. Several sophisticated tunnels have ended in San Diego warehouses.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Immigration


Israel to Crack Down on Illegal Migrant Workers

JERUSALEM (Reuters) — Israel approved a plan on Sunday to hold and deport thousands of illegal migrant workers whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as a “threat to the character of the country.”

In remarks to the cabinet, Netanyahu said thousands of migrants who have entered Israel mainly through Egypt in past years would be housed at a special holding facility, due to built in Israel’s southern Negev desert.

“We must stop the mass entry of illegal migrant workers because of the very serious threat to the character and future to the state of Israel,” he said, adding Israelis who gave them work would face severe fines to make their employment unviable.

Established as a Jewish state in 1948, Israel welcomes Jewish newcomers, most of whom receive automatic citizenship, but policies toward non-Jewish migrants are more restrictive.

The cabinet approved the plan under which the state would control the migrants’ movement until they are deported.

Netanyahu said however that migrants fleeing persecution would be allowed to stay.

“We do not intend to stop refugees fleeing for their lives, we allow them in and will continue to do so,” he said.

Israeli officials have insisted on setting up the camp despite sensitivities over comparisons with Nazi concentration camps where Jews were held and killed.

“We must find a humane solution to look after the workers who will be lose their jobs and we must therefore provide shelter, food and health services until they are deported,” Netanyahu added.

Last week Israel began work to construct a barrier to seal off part of the border with Egypt’s Sinai desert from where many of the migrants enter the Jewish state.

The project that includes both a physical barrier and electronic surveillance to secure 140 km (88 miles) of the 250 km border should take over a year to complete at a cost of 1.35 billion shekels (about $370 million), the Defense Ministry said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]



‘No Italian: No Permit’ Italy Tells Migrants

Language test obligatory for non-EU workers from next week

(ANSA) — Rome, November 29 — Migrant workers wanting to live in Italy will have to prove they can understand Italian before being able to apply for a residence permit as of next week.

On Thursday December 9 a government decree approved in June will come into force making it obligatory for non-European Union migrants to take a test of their language skills before starting the permit procedure.

Applicants must get 80% of their answers right in a test of their comprehension of short texts and expressions. Migrants will be called to sit the test — performed on a computer or, on request, in writing — within 60 days of making a request via the interior ministry’s site at www.testitaliano.interno.it.

Applicants who fail the test can re-sit it and some categories are exempt.

These include people with recognized certificates of their Italian language skills, university researchers and people who have come to work in Italy in high-ranking management positions.

The new test comes into force as Italy prepares to introduce a new points-based residence-permit system next year in a bid to help the integration of young non-European Union citizens wanting to live here.

The new procedure, which resembles the points systems for long-term residence of Canada and the United States, will come into force in January for applicants aged 16 to 25.

With this system a migrant’s first permit can only be issued after the signing of a commitment to a charter of values of good citizenship and integration.

This permit is valid for two years and starts with 16 points.

To make it permanent the migrant must try to take their score up to 30 before it elapses.

They can achieve this by doing a number of things, including attending vocational training courses, signing contracts to rent or buy accommodation, doing voluntary work and registering with the national health service.

Migrants lose points though if, for example, they skip one or both of the free civic formation courses they are requested to attend within a month of getting the first permit.

Points are also deducted if permit-holders are found guilty of crimes or tax offences.

If a holder loses all their points, the authorities will be able to expel them from the country.

People who fail to lift their score up to 30 points within the two years, meanwhile, can seek to have their permit extended to give them more time to cross the threshold.

“It’s a pro-integration policy that has no rivals in Europe,” Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said earlier this year.

“We have produced a system of rules that enables those who want to come to Italy and respect the law to follow an excellent path of integration”.

Victims of violence and people with handicaps that limit their ability to learn the language and Italy’s culture are exempt from the points-system requirements.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Atheist Writer Seeks Asylum in Sweden

Ennio Montesi says can’t stand crucifixes any more

(ANSA) — Ancona, November 25 — An Italian atheist writer who claims he can no longer tolerate the abundance of crucifixes in Italy has asked for asylum in Sweden.

Ennio Montesi, from Jesi near Ancona in the Marche region, has written to Swedish Premier Fredrik Reinfeldt complaining that the Italian state is forcing him to live with “a religious and political symbol of death”.

Montesi has been ‘debaptised’ and recently earned headlines with a vocal campaign against the cross in a hospital ward he claimed “increased his suffering” during a recent hospital stay.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Florida School Bans Christmas… And Christmas Colors

A school in Florida has not only banned Christmas — but everything associated with the Christian holiday.

Teachers at Heathrow Elementary School have been ordered to banish images of Santa Claus from classrooms — along with traditional Christmas colors like red and green.

“You can’t use red and green,” one outraged parent told WESH. “It’s ridiculous.”

The parent, who serves as a volunteer room mother, said she was recently given a list of guidelines that listed the holiday restrictions.

She said the basic theme of the letter was, “We don’t want to offend anyone who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus or the Christian beliefs.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20101128

Financial Crisis
» Austerity: Brussels Awards Itself a Pay-Rise
» Globalism Revisited
» Irish Still Flocking for Shopping in New York
» Student Protestors Breach Italian Senate Building
 
USA
» TSA Circus Reveals Dangers of Marxist Politically Correct Security Rules
» Update: Fire Was Intentionally Set at Islamic Center in Corvallis Where Alleged Bomb Plot Suspect Attended
» What is a Sustainable Community?
» Why American Airport Security is Really So Horrendous
» Wikileaks Release of Embassy Cables Reveals US Concerns
» Wikileaks: American Anger is Laid Bare in Leaked Papers
 
Europe and the EU
» Austria: Pakistani May Have Kidnapped His Children
» Italy: North Leafleted Over Paedophile Catholic Priests
» Italy: Govt Presents ‘Plan for the South’
» Italy: Carfagna Not Quitting, Berlusconi Says
» Online Giant Amazon Lands in Italy
» Portugal Warns Britain: We Switched to Berlin Time and it Was a Catastrophe
» Royals Caught in Secrets Leak: Biggest Intelligence Leak in History Reveals U.S. Contempt for World Leaders — and Concern at Prince Andrew’s Behaviour
» UK: Alarmingly High Death Rates at 19 NHS Hospital Trusts, Influential Report Reveals
» UK: A Headless Rush to March in Time With Europe
» UK: And a Very Happy Diwali, To You Too! Christmas 2010… And Santa’s Got Competition as Multi-Faith Lights Blaze Out
» UK: Dad Was One of the 100 Britons Killed Each Year by a Mental Patient. And This Week’s Report Into His Murder Won’t Change a Single Thing
» UK: David Cameron Shouldn’t Worry About Wikileaks. Obama’s Stock is Nose-Diving. Who Cares What He Thinks?
» UK: Here’s Why MI6 Hates Wikileaks
» UK: Prince’s Suicide Friend Linked to Gangland Thugs
» UK: Radical Muslims Given Channel 4 Slot
» UK: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Asian Men, White Women and a Taboo That Must be Broken
» Wikileaks Down: Website Crashes Hours Before New Release — But Defiant Assange Says Newspapers Will Still Print Revelations
» Wikileaks Cables: Race Riots Reflected a Backward Britain — US Ambassador
 
North Africa
» Algeria: Pilgrimage to Mecca Turns Into Nightmare
» Egypt: Top Sunni Muslim Authority Moots Support for ‘Medicinal’ Cannabis
» Egypt: 156 Detained Over Christian Riots
 
Israel and the Palestinians
» Did You Know Israel Created Radical Islam?
» US Embassy Cables: Washington Requests Personal Data on Hamas
 
Middle East
» AIDS: Cases in MENA Countries Have Doubled in 10 Years
» Al Qaeda’s in-Flight Magazine
» Diplomatic Cables Reveal US Doubts About Turkey’s Government
» Fear of ‘Different World’ If Iran Gets Nuclear Weapons
» Iraq: Death Threats Continue to Menace Nation’s Christians
» Saudi Arabia Urges US Attack on Iran to Stop Nuclear Programme
» Wikileaks Defy US Demands on Leaked Files
 
South Asia
» Afghans Risk Execution for Christian Conversion
» Indonesia: Porn Actress to Attend Jakarta Premiere of Her Film Despite Past Islamist Threats
» Italy ‘Would Offer Job’ To Pakistan Blasphemy Woman
» Pakistani Shiites Give Terrorists Safe Passage
» Pakistan: Inter-Religion Marriage Forcing Christians to Flee Locality
 
Far East
» Philippines: Suspected Muslim Rebels Kill Driver of UN World Food Program
» US Carrier Visit a Dilemma for China
 
Australia — Pacific
» NZ: MP Carter Makes Quick U-Turn
 
Immigration
» British Shipbuilders Axed Because Poles Are 30% Cheaper: 300 Workers on the Royal Navy’s New Carriers Laid Off
» Dream Act: Misleading Amnesty on American Citizens
» Swiss Approve Foreign Criminal Initiative
» UK: Revealed: The Schools Where English is a Foreign Language for 80% of Pupils
 
Culture Wars
» Canada: Gov’t Urged to Pronounce Husband, Wife, Wife, Wife
» Germany: Teaching Children Gets Parents Ordered Into Court
» Swedish Parents Jailed for Spanking Kids
» UK: What Would Mozart Say? Storm Over New Don Giovanni Opera Showing Gang Rape by Men Wearing Jesus Christ T-Shirts
 
General
» The Climate Mafia Gather in Cancun
» U.S. Spies at the UN, ‘Inappropriate Behaviour’ Of British Royal, And Pakistan Fears: Wikileaks Lays U.S. Secrets Bare to the World in ‘Diplomatic 9/11’
» Wikileaks Sparks Worldwide Diplomatic Crisis

Financial Crisis


Austerity: Brussels Awards Itself a Pay-Rise

“It is an embarrassing victory for Brussels,” remarks Le Figaro. “At a time when the Commission is telling member states to tighten their belts, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has ruled in favour of EU civil servants who filed suit to defend their right to a 3.7% payrise. The news will be a bitter pill for national governments, who argued that ‘in view of the current crisis’ the increase should be divided in two.”

The French daily explains that in its 24 November ruling, the court concluded that the European Council “did not have the margin of appreciation” to cancel an annual scheduled increase in the salaries of 45,000 EU civil servants in a period of economic crisis. The decision may be logical, but as Le Figaro notes, “the timing of the ruling, which coincides with a general strike against austerity in Portugal and parliamentary debate on a draconian recovery plan in Ireland” is disastrous.

“The decision will likely bring more ire to the dispute over an increase to the EU’s budget, which has resulted in a power struggle between the European Parliament and Europe’s member states, which want any increase in spending to be limited to 2.9%. Both parties are waiting for the Commission to prepare a second proposal, and in the meantime, the 2011 budget will remain blocked.”

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



Globalism Revisited

Globalism’s Central Organizing Principle: Sustainable Development

While propelling the misleading ideal of “global democracy,” today’s burgeoning, borderless, one-world state operates under the United Nations’ guiding principle of sustainable development. While the term “sustainable development,” or “smart growth,” has a noble ring, its agenda is by no means faith-, family-, or America- friendly.

In 1948, a preliminary draft of a World Constitution included the right of a Federal Republic of the World to seize and use property in sustainable society.[3] Keep in mind that Point One of the Communist Manifesto likewise calls for outright abolition of private property; and sustainable development is described, not in any of our nation’s founding documents, but rather in the 1997 USSR Constitution (Chapter #2; Article 18).

In his letter to President George Bush dated December 25, 2000, Mikhail Gorbachev insisted that America’s extraordinary privilege is not tenable over the long run. To the contrary, the one-world vision demands “equitable distribution” of the world’s finite resources. This Robin Hood approach to wealth distribution is classic Marxism.[4]

[…]

Furthermore, the federal government owns some 40 percent of the entire land mass of our nation; and states own a big hunk as well. When it comes to land use under UN control, there is no clear distinction between federal and privately owned land.

Purposing to “wild” fully half of U.S. land, the United Nations Wildlands Project describes biosphere core- and buffer- zones with corridors as places where, in the words of Professor Reed F. Noss (University of Florida), “collectivist needs of non-human species must take precedence over the needs and desires of humans.”[8]

[…]

Maurice Strong’s 1,100-page Global Biodiversity Assessment (GBA) implements policy of a treaty signed at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Put out by Cambridge University, the GBA suggests a cure for “human-pox”: Simply cut the world’s population by approximately 80 percent and then establish a feudal lifestyle short on amenities, tall on earth servitude a la Gorbachev.[11]

Moreover, Canadian billionaire and 1992 Rio Earth Summit secretary-general Strong contends that global ecosystems will be preserved only when affluent nations significantly lower their standards of living.

[…]

Population Control

Nevertheless, sustainable development calls for population control of Malthusian magnitude.[20] It is no wonder that death by suicide, physician assistance, abortion, and euthanasia enjoy high profile, big money, organizational clout.[21]

The United Nations’ Year of the Family is a campaign to redefine the nuclear traditional family in support of cohabitation, single-parent households, and same-gender partnerships.[22] Intolerance for homosexual unions is decreed a global threat because non-proliferating alternative lifestyles, as theirs, bear the sustainability seal of approval.

The same applies to legalized, nonproductive, and “safe” voluntary prostitution, likewise advanced by an international bill of rights for women called the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.[23]

[…]

Hence, Constitutional rights to life, liberty, property and privacy are undermined systematically by a “rigged,” PC-propelled consensus process. Then, they are violated by uniform governmental building, conservation, property maintenance, and zoning codes, purportedly to preserve our planet.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Irish Still Flocking for Shopping in New York

Despite recession, bargains drive shoppers

IT’S that time of the year again, when Irish couples, friends and families descend upon New York in their droves for what one woman recently told the Irish Voice is a shopping spree in “Bargain Apple.”

Despite the devastating recession in a country that has made international headlines for the financial mess it finds itself in, some Irish people are still finding extra change in their pockets to make a trip to New York for their holiday shopping.

Standing amidst Ralph Lauren shirts and trousers in Macy’s in Herald Square on West 34th Street on a recent Friday were two burly men from Co. Monaghan who were laden down with suitcases and shopping bags.

Deep in conversation, presumably about man related stuff, Peter Drummey and Jason Knightly flushed with embarrassment when the Irish Voice made note of their bulging bags on Friday, November 13.

“Do you really think we could possibly buy all this stuff between us?” said Drummey half defensively.

The two friends were waiting on their wives, who had apparently given them strict instructions “not to budge from that spot” until their return.

Knightly admitted they agreed to watch their wives’ bags as a trade off for a “day free of shopping on Saturday.”

“Tomorrow is our day and we plan to go to an Irish bar, watch the Liverpool game and have a few pints,” said Knightly, excited with anticipation.

Drummey, a part-time musical director with a local theater in Co. Monaghan, and Knightly, a mechanical engineering teacher, accompany their wives to New York every year. Despite the cutbacks their paychecks have taken they were still determined “not to let the girls down” this year

Knightly said sacrifices had to be made this year so they could “afford” their annual trip.

“We usually come to New York for a week but this year, mainly because of the price of hotels, we are only here for four days,” explained Knightly.

“We also skipped a friend’s wedding in Spain in September so we could pay for this trip.”

Drummey, who also purposely missed out on the wedding as well, admitted he and his wife don’t “plan to spend” as much this year as previous years.

“Our budget is usually about $3,000 but we’ve cut that down to $2,000 because we just don’t have it this year,” he said.

Although not divulging how much money he makes a week, Drummey said his take home pay is considerably lower than it was this time last year, forcing the cuts.

“To be honest, if it wasn’t for Sally’s good job (his wife works as a therapist) we probably wouldn’t be here,” he admitted.

The friends, who have known each other for over 10 years, had no idea what their wives had purchased, but knew they weren’t done.

“All I know is they keep saying, ‘This is such a bargain, I can’t leave it behind,’ so when I hear those words I just switch off, hand over the wallet and keep the head down,” laughs Knightly.

PEERING at sparkling jewelry was Co. Donegal native Sarah Coll. Coll, a foster mom of two, was in New York to celebrate her 50th birthday.

The birthday girl was joined by her sister-in-law Madge McFadden and her two daughters, Noreen and Agnes.

“I turned 50 this year so we all decided to come to New York to celebrate,” Coll told the Irish Voice, while joking that she didn’t have any lipstick on for a picture.

Coming to New York is a rare occurrence for Coll. Her last visit was seven years ago and she never envisioned herself back again.

“I was over the moon when the girls organized the trip,” said Coll, while eyeing up a bracelet.

Coll admitted the only way she could afford to come back to the Big Apple was because she had dollars tucked away for a number of years.

“My husband and I were supposed to go to San Francisco five years ago but it fell through so I kept all the dollars from then, so that’s my spending money,” she said.

As for Noreen, an engineer with Donegal County Council, and Agnes, a student, they planned to shop till they dropped.

“We saved for this a long time,” admits Agnes, who once lived in New York and hadn’t been back since.

The Colls isters were on a mission to buy as much designer labels as possible.

“I just put away a Guess bag and wallet that’s $180. At home you’d pay about 200 sterling for the bag alone,” said Noreen.

Agnes, nodding her head in agreement, said she would be making a stop at the Tommy Hilfiger section of the store to purchase her designer labels too.

“Again, the price of Tommy Hilfiger here is so much cheaper than home, so that’s where we are heading next,” she said.

Coll and McFadden, although they had a list of presents they planned to purchase, was also looking forward to doing some sightseeing during their five-day vacation.

“We’re also going up to Woodlawn (in the Bronx) to visit friends,” said Coll.

HONEYMOONERS Andrea Sheehan and Paul O’Shea from Co. Cork were doing the laps of Macy’s on Friday.

They had just completed a Caribbean cruise and a few days in Las Vegas and were spending the remaining four days of their honeymoon in the Big Apple, mainly for a spot of shopping but also to see some Manhattan sights.

It was the first time the pair had ever been to New York, and although they were more enamored with Las Vegas, they were enjoying their time in the city and enjoying the shopping bargains more than ever.

Sheehan, who works in finance, had already purchased a Tommy Hilfiger coat, a few high-end handbags and Ugg boots.

O’Shea, not as enthusiastic on the shopping as his newlywed, had purchased a few bits and was ready to close the door on their shopping spree.

O’Shea, an electrician who is still managing to get an average of three days work a week during the recession, said they would pick up several presents while in New York.

“We’ll get a few presents and bits and pieces but we won’t be going too mad,” said O’Shea.

Sheehan smiled when asked was there a budget and said, “We’ll see.”

FOR an Irish train driver and his family, spending a week in New York was a bi-annual family tradition that they had no intention of letting the recession put a stop to it.

Sean Finnerty, his wife, Deirdre and daughters, Saoirse, 11 and Riona, 9, were rifling through the Guess handbags on the ground floor of Macy’s when the Irish Voice caught up with them.

“We love New York and come here every two years,” said Deirdre, a homemaker.

Finnerty, who works with Iarnroid Eireann (Irish Rail) and has suffered pay cuts like the rest of the government employees, said the family saved hard for this holiday.

“To be honest we are staying with family in Flushing which makes it possible for us to be here,” said Finnerty, while holding three bags from Abercrombie and Fitch.

“We usually stay in hotels but they are very expensive so we are lucky to have family here that can put us up, making our trip possible,” he added.

The Finnertys, from Co. Mayo, were in town two days and already had made a good dent in their spending money.

“Oh we’ve already done a lot of shopping,” smiles Deirdre.

“I got a hoodie from Abercrombie,” shares Saoirse holding up her bag.

“I also got t-shirts from Abercrombie,” adds Riona.

Deirdre and her husband had made several purchases for themselves in the all-American lifestyle store too.

“They are mad for Abercrombie in Ireland,” smiles Finnerty.

The Co. Mayo family was also in the market for jeans, shirts and jumpers.

“I’ve also been looking at getting a nice watch,” added Finnerty.

The family spent most of their days in shops and most of their evenings in nice restaurants.

“We’ve gotten used to the fine dining lifestyle in New York and have a few favorite restaurants that we go to when we come here,” said Deirdre.

To afford their trip to New York this year the Finnertys had to skip their annual sun holiday.

“We had to make scarifies somewhere, but we don’t mind at all cause we love New York and this is where the girls love coming to too,” explained Finnerty.

STANDING outside Bank of America, two blocks from Macys, and looking exasperated, were two friends from Co. Donegal.

Nadine Daly and Melissa Bailey were having issues with credit cards and “nearly had heart-failure” when they thought their shopping spree was about to come to an abrupt end.

“I was in the Gap and had about $300 worth of clothes at the counter when the lady said my credit card was refused,” said Daly half angrily, half sadly.

Daly’s bank in Ireland, Bank of Ireland, cancelled her card because they

suspected suspicious activity.

“They cancelled my card because it has never been used in New York before so they thought it was stolen,” she added.

“I’ve spent most of the cash I brought ($1,300) and began using my card today for the final bits and pieces I wanted,” said Daly, who works as a dental secretary.

Bailey, a social worker, was on hand to support her friend.

I told her she could use my card because my limit is over 6,000 euros and I’m not planning on spending that,” said Bailey, who had only been to New York once when she was a teenager.

The friends asked Bank of America for help and they advised them to call Bank of Ireland and the situation would be sorted soon enough.

“We’re about to call this number on the back now so hopefully I’ll be back shopping before the shops close,” said Daly optimistically.

“We didn’t come to ‘Bargain Apple’ to sight-see, that’s for sure,” laughs Bailey.

           — Hat tip: McR [Return to headlines]



Student Protestors Breach Italian Senate Building

Clashes with police in central Rome after group ejected

(ANSA) — Rome, November 24 — A group of students unleashed mayhem at the Italian Senate on Wednesday when they managed to push through the building’s main entrance door before being ejected by police.

Clashes ensued in the area of the houses of parliament in central Rome following the raid by students protesting against education cuts.

Outside the Senate students let off smoke bombs and threw eggs at the building.

They then threw stones at, and clashed with, officers, who used batons to stop them reaching the area of the Lower House.

A member of the Senate staff had a dizzy spell, a police officer was injured and one student was detained.

The protestors chanted “resign, resign”, a call directed at Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini.

The violence follows a nationwide one-day student strike last week that was marred by vandalism in some cities and caused widespread disruption.

Wednesday’s incidents were condemned by all sides of the Italian political spectrum.

“The raid by so-called students on the Senate stirs a sense of deep pity for this segment of Italy’s young people who are raised on hate, rancour and physical aggression towards those who are different from them,” said Daniele Capezzone, the spokesman for Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party.

Anna Finocchiaro, the Senate whip for the Democratic Party (PD), the largest centre-left opposition group, commented that “all forms of violence should be isolated”.

She added that a group of peaceful demonstrators she met had also condemned acts they claimed were carried out by a fringe of extremists. Italian students are unhappy at cuts that have hit primary, secondary and higher education across the board, putting thousands of non-tenured and short-term teachers out of work.

The government says these measures are necessary as part of its bid to rein in public spending and reduce the nation’s deficit.

Gelmini is also pushing through reforms aimed at, among other things, linking schools with businesses — a plan denounced as alleged privatisation — and at breaking down the almost feudal ‘baronies’ that reportedly have a stranglehold in many universities.

Gelmini has promised that “most” of the out-of-work temp teachers will be given permanent jobs “in five years”.

She said Wednesday that the students were wrong to protest against moves she says will slim down a bloated system where too many teachers were cruising in jobs for life.

“These protestors are in danger of defending the baronies, privileges and the status quo,” she said.

The minister argued the protestors were being manipulated by the opposition and described PD leader Pierluigi Bersani’s decision to climb to the roof of Rome University’s Architecture Faculty to speak to demonstrators there as “showboating”. Finocchiaro hit back by saying Gelmini was “taking students and their families for a ride” by claiming it was possible to reform Italy’s education system without investing new money into it.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

USA


TSA Circus Reveals Dangers of Marxist Politically Correct Security Rules

Enormous problems exist in TSA airline screening resulting from the nonsensical mixing of Political Correctness into safety procedures. Specifically, the problem is doctrines of progressive social engineering have become so powerful a centerpiece in minds of the elites that our very safety is threatened by this misbegotten ideology. Unsurprisingly, Political Correctness (PC) is not a randomly occurring phenomenon. Yet many will be shocked to discover PC is a product of social Marxism directed by expatriate German intellectuals in America after WWI.

This article shall briefly examine the history of Marxist Political Correctness as well as to the larger problem of liberal ideology and its pernicious affects upon America. More specifically the issue is leftist refusal to accept the Tragic Vision of life as presented by the classical and biblical world view which the founders of our culture originally envisioned.

I. Problems at TSA

It’s no secret that TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, has recently ramped up airline security measures for the holidays in 2010. But much confusion and outrage has followed in the wake because of how the TSA is doing this. In a nutshell, TSA is treating all fliers as if they have an equal chance of being a terrorist. In other words, an 89 year old nun and a 5 year old child could be patted down and strip searched as quickly as a twenty five-year-old male Saudi visitor. Does this strike anyone as a sane standard?

II. What is Political Correctness?

Despite the fact that most polite citizens must ponder Political Correctness daily to be sure they avoid the myriad pitfalls of not making “insensitive” remarks, a truly perceptive definition of PC is hard to come by. The Free Dictionary has this:

1. Of, relating to, or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, especially to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. 2. Being or perceived as being overconcerned with such change, often to the exclusion of other matters.

Political Correctness is first a movement of speech purification which is meant to remove any objectionable content that unfairly differentiates between the speaker and different subgroups. It is also supposed to change behavior by promoting these subgroups. It typically buries traditional morality along the way. The real problem with PC is that it is a theoretical standard which has real world consequences that can be quite appalling.

[…]

Imagine in how many different ways the PC movement has hampered the ability of America to wage war effectively. These PC-styled Rules of Engagement have so hampered US forces in Afghanistan that the enemy often can claim strategic advantage in planning attacks despite all their weaknesses. Such doctrines as “Asymmetrical Warfare,” badly hamper a fair fight, needlessly killing Americans and other NATO participants in Afghanistan.

[…]

IV. History of Political Correctness

Political Correctness is a set of doctrines first articulated by the Frankfurt School, a group of Marxist professors who escaped Nazi Germany to avoid the wrath of Adolph Hitler before WWII. As Bill Lind states, “If we look at it analytically, if we look at it historically, we quickly find out exactly what it is. Political Correctness is cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Update: Fire Was Intentionally Set at Islamic Center in Corvallis Where Alleged Bomb Plot Suspect Attended

A fire reported early this morning at the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center in Corvallis where Portland bomb plot suspect Mohamed Osman Mohamud sometimes attended is being called arson.

The fire was reported at about 2:15 a.m. today. Corvallis Fire Department spokeswoman Carla Pusateri said the fire was intentionally set, but would not say what led investigators to the conclusion.

Pusateri said a police officer on duty spotted the fire at 2:15 a.m. and called for help.

“It was discovered much sooner than it could have been,” she said.

Islamic Center leader Imaam Yosof Wanly said he doesn’t believe the fire is a reflection on the community of Corvallis where he has lived for 24 years.

“I know people here know the true reality of the Muslim community here,” he said. “It’s a sad situation.”

Wanly condemned the alleged plot by the 19-year-old Oregon State University student, stating he “denounced the actions of Mohamed Mohamud.”

Mohamud was not a regular attendee of the mosque, but he came once or twice a month since arriving on campus, according to Wanly.

The fire was contained to one room in the mosque, an office, which was 80 percent damaged and there were no injuries. It took firefighters about 10 minutes to put out the fire.

Early Sunday morning, a pile of charred items were placed on a green tarp near where the office was located on the first floor of the northwest side of the building. There is no sign on the two-story, white stucco structure that states the name of the center.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]



What is a Sustainable Community?

What the term “sustainable development” really means is development that is dictated by, or otherwise approved by government. The term “sustainable communities” means communities that are dictated by, or otherwise approved by government. Those who doubt this reality are invited to read Chris Dodd’s Livable Communities Act (S-1619) and then read Agenda 21. There will be no doubt where Mr. Dodd got the ideas for his Bill.

[…]

Social engineering by the federal government goes beyond regional government and reaches into counties, cities, and towns. Often encouraged by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), the National Council of Mayors, the National Association of County Commissioners, and the promise of federal grants, local communities are falling all over themselves to become politically-correct sustainable communities.

Sustainable communities present three problems:

1. the initiative for a community to become a sustainable community almost always comes from outside the community; 2. the comprehensive plan through which a community is transformed into a sustainable community always infringes, and in many instances completely destroys, private property rights; and 3. the local community rarely knows anything about the plan until it reaches the final stages of adoption.

This process, of course, is by design. In communities that have been transformed, individuals may discover that they cannot build a house for grandma on five acres of their own land because the county’s comprehensive plan requires no more than one home per 40-acres. Many communities discover that their comprehensive plan includes a provision to incorporate by reference the entire set of 13 different codes developed by the International Code Council. Each of these codes amounts to government dictating human behavior.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Why American Airport Security is Really So Horrendous

By Barry Rubin

Security checks at American airports have become the most controversial topic in the United States. This debate is so full of mistaken assumptions and misleading ideas that it is hard to know where to start in analyzing it.

Basically, it can be described as follows: Let’s intensively search fifteen million at random—worse, using silly profiling guidelines—in hope of finding one or two terrorists who, if they exist at all, are almost certainly using an innovative tactic that will get by our procedures.

Let’s consider the terrorist threat within the United States. The opening point must be that the threat of terrorism on airplanes within the United States is very low in frequency. That doesn’t mean a successful attack might not be horrendous, but that the number of attacks the terrorists can mount is going to be small.

Ask yourself this question: How many terrorists will try this year to get on board internal U.S. plane flights? The answer might be zero and it is almost certainly lower than five.

Why is this? It is hard to mount a sophisticated attack from within the United States in the post-September 11 period. The number of people ready to be suicide terrorists in this manner is limited in the U.S. population, as is the number of good bomb-makers. Terrorists also have many other targets and, indeed, the greatest danger is an individual attack using simple technology on very easy targets, as happened at Fort Hood and on many other occasions.

The goal of U.S. internal airport security, then, is to be so impressive that it scares off terrorists, to catch any terrorists who are trying to board, and to persuade the citizenry that the situation is well in hand and that the experts know what they are doing.

Yet here’s the reality. At a railroad station in California, one of my colleagues was asked by a security screener to show his driver’s license. He started laughing and asked, “Why?”

The guard said back sarcastically, “Haven’t you heard of September 11?”

But that’s why my colleague was laughing. All of the September 11 hijackers did have valid drivers’ licenses. And a terrorist who is going to blow up something can easily get a phony driver’s license. Thus, asking for such a document makes the guard (and the public) feel better but it is utterly worthless.

No doubt, the U.S. government will claim that it has achieved the goal of keeping terrorists out of airports. But this is misleading. The TSA has literally never caught a terrorist at an airport. And why go through an airport nowadays with any reasonable level of security when you can look for relatively unguarded targets? That’s what terrorists do.

What is the strategy of a smart warrior? Get his enemy to send all of his troops to guard someplace and then hit at a weak point somewhere else.

For good reason, then, the terrorists have moved to other methods and targets…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]



Wikileaks Release of Embassy Cables Reveals US Concerns

Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks has released 250,000 secret messages sent by US embassies which give an insight into current American global concerns.

They include reports of some Arab leaders — including Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah — urging the US to attack Iran and end its nuclear weapons programme.

Other concerns include the security of Pakistani nuclear material that could be used to make an atomic weapon.

The widespread use of hacking by the Chinese government is also reported.

The leaked US embassy cables also reportedly include accounts of:

  • Iran attempting to adapt North Korean rockets for use as long-range missiles
  • Corruption within the Afghan government, with concerns heightened when a senior official was found to be carrying more than $50m in cash on a foreign trip
  • Bargaining to empty the Guantanamo Bay prison camp — including Slovenian diplomats being told to take in a freed prisoner if they wanted to secure a meeting with President Barack Obama
  • US officials being instructed to spy on the UN’s leadership
  • The very close relationship between Russian PM Vladimir Putin and his Italian counterpart Silvio Berlusconi
  • Alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime
  • Criticism of UK politicians including Prime Minister David Cameron
  • Faltering US attempts to prevent Syria from supplying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon

The US government has condemned the release of state department documents.

“President Obama supports responsible, accountable, and open government at home and around the world, but this reckless and dangerous action runs counter to that goal,” a White House statement said.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorised disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.”

The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, says the US authorities are afraid of being held to account.

Earlier, Wikileaks said it had come under attack from a computer-hacking operation.

“We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack,” it reported on its Twitter feed.

No-one has been charged with passing the diplomatic files to the website but suspicion has fallen on US Army private Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst arrested in Iraq in June and charged over an earlier leak of classified US documents to Mr Assange’s organisation.

Wikileaks argues that the site’s previous releases shed light on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]



Wikileaks: American Anger is Laid Bare in Leaked Papers

American annoyance with an airline tax that came into force this month is to be laid bare in a provocative release of classified military documents.

Washington’s anger with the new aviation passenger duty, Britain’s extradition arrangements with America and lax visa checks on Pakistanis coming to Britain are to be revealed in thousands of secret memoranda and cables.

The Wikileaks website began releasing damaging diplomatic cables detailing the private views of US diplomats about the Government.

The disclosures include telegrams that disclose diplomats’ private assessments of the British Government and British politicians.

They include concerns about:

  • A new aviation passenger duty which came into force on Nov 1, increasing the tax on flying to the US by a third
  • The Coalition’s commitment to review the “one way” extradition treaty, under which computer expert Gary McKinnon is set to be sent to America on hacking charges
  • Lax immigration rules that have allowed potential terror suspects to enter Britain from Pakistan.

Other issues that could come up include fears that the Coalition would be unstable and that Gordon Brown was a weak prime minister. The documents are being released in a “drip-feed” fashion over the coming fortnight in a move that will put the British-American special relationship under pressure.

America has warned foreign ministries in more than a dozen countries, including key allies Australia, Britain, Canada, Israel and Turkey, that they might feature.

Prince Hassan of Jordan said yesterday that the release of the documents could “inflame passions” in the Middle East. He told Sky News: “There is a possibility of a confrontation with the Palestinians that leads to a confrontation with Hamas, Hizbollah, like a domino.”

[…]

[DF — even the US thinks we have lax visa checks on Pakistanis]

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


Austria: Pakistani May Have Kidnapped His Children

Upper Austrian police have issued an international arrest warrant after a divorced man failed to return from an outing with his four kids.

Authorities suspect the 51-year-old Pakistani of having abducted the children aged between three and eight. Their mother informed the police when he did not return after taking them for a trip last Saturday.

The couple were recently divorced, and the Vöcklabruck-based woman has legal custody of the children. Her former husband is allowed to spend time with them every other weekend.

Provincial police official Alois Lißl announced today (Fri) that a local youth welfare organisation received a fax claiming that the man has taken his children to Thailand. Lißl said investigators think the document is a fake.

He added: “Thai authorities checked travel records and informed us that the five people in question did not enter the country.”

Austrian authorities issued an international warrant of the man accused of parental child abduction.

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



Italy: North Leafleted Over Paedophile Catholic Priests

Genova, 25 Nov. (AKI) — Activists in the northern coastal city of Savona on Thursday planned to distribute leaflets throughout the province condemning the Catholic church’s failure to take action over local paedophile clergy.

The leaflet by the Committee for the Victims of Paedophilia in the Savona Area will especially blame Savona’s bishop, Vittorio Lupi, and the Savona diocese for the alleged clerical sex abuse.

While paedophile priest scandals have rocked the United States, Ireland and Germany, abuse cases in Italy have been emerging slowly.

Around 100 sexual abuse victims including Italian victims on 31 October marched in Rome near the Vatican to demand Pope Benedict XVI take firmer action against priests who committed abuse.

The protesters included about 55 deaf Italians from a notorious Catholic institute for the deaf in Verona, where dozens of students say they were sodomised by priests over decades.

The Vatican has been accused of a vast cover-up of widespread abuse by not removing suspected paedophile priests or turning them over to police.

Earlier this year it published the guidelines it has been using since 2003, claiming all cases are reported to the police as soon as possible.

It has also said that Pope Benedict XVI will be able to defrock paedophiles immediately.

An elderly Italian priest is on trial for sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy in the northern city of Milan.

A 74-year-old priest was in June removed from his position in northern Italy after confessing he sexually abused minors in the Alto Adige region’s Bolzano-Brixen diocese.

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



Italy: Govt Presents ‘Plan for the South’

Mezzogiorno to benefit from 80 billion euros in investments

(ANSA) — Rome, November 26 — The Italian government on Friday launched a new ‘plan for the south’ aimed at helping the poorer half of Italy, the so-called Mezzogiorno, rev up its economy and catch up with the rest of the country.

The 80-billion-euro plan aims to build new infrastructure, railways and schools, provide tax breaks for companies that move to the south, and set up a new Banca del Mezzogiorno to fuel business growth.

During the presentation of the plan, Economy Minister Tremonti explained that the bank was key to regional development because it will make credit available to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“The government will seek to involve the largest number of local banks possible which can encourage the creation and expansion of SMEs. Nothing like this has ever been done before” in Italy, the minister said.

The Banca del Mezzogiorno will in fact be an institution which will guarantee credit granted by local banks. The core of the new bank will be Mediocredito Central, a commercial bank specialised in offering development credit to SMEs which is part of UniCredit, Italy’s biggest bank.

Next week the Italian postal service and the association of local banks BCC, which will handle the retail side of the new bank, are expected to make an offer to acquire Mediocredito Centrale from UniCredit, Italy’s biggest bank.

The government development plan also calls for setting up a JEREMIE Fund which will pool together structural funds offered by the European Union, which will then be administered by Banca del Mezzogiorno.

JEREMIE is an acronym for Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises.

According to Tremonti, “the problem for the Mezzogiorno is not the lack of funds but the inability of local administrators to utilise them. We have seen some cases in which the funds were either used badly or not used at all”. The infrastructure projects listed in the government’s plan included, aside from railways, roads, sewers, gas distribution, public water supply, transport, ports and airports.

Some 12.5 billion euros in the plan will be earmarked for research and development, technological development and innovation.

The plan also focuses on combating crime and the underground economy through greater transparency in public works contracts and improving the judicial process.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Italy: Carfagna Not Quitting, Berlusconi Says

‘It’s all sorted out with Mara,’ premier says

(ANSA) — Rome, November 25 — Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna has changed her mind about quitting, Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Thursday.

“It’s all sorted out with Mara. I spoke to her for two hours yesterday. She understood and said she’s not quitting,” Berlusconi told the executive of his People of Freedom (PdL) party.

Earlier, heading into the meeting, Carfagna said she was “hopeful” on the issue.

According to the Italian media, the high-profile and telegenic minister decided to resign from government because of a PdL feud in Campania, her home region.

Some speculated the move was a prelude to her running for the post of Naples mayor next year.

Carfagna, 34, announced this week she is getting married next May to a Rome construction magnate and wants to have at least two children “before it is too late”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Online Giant Amazon Lands in Italy

Retailer confident of success on new market

(ANSA) — Rome, November 23 — Online retail giant Amazon landed in Italy on Tuesday with the launch of a new Italian-language site that it says will broaden choice for consumers and boost the nation’s e-commerce sector. The retailer has grown into a $24.5-billion business since its birth in Seattle in 1994 thanks to a formula based on fast delivery and passing to customers savings derived from bulk buying and cutting out middlemen.

The new site has started out with a stock of around two million books to sell, along with music, films, videogames, watches, electronic and computer goods and toys.

The range of products is set to grow rapidly, Amazon said.

“This is only the beginning: over the next few months we’ll enrich our range with even more (product) categories,” founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a message posted on the site Tuesday.

“We’re happy to be in Italy and hope you like our site”.

The goods listed featured photos and detailed descriptions and some, such as Ken Follett’s latest bestseller Fall of Giants, already had reviews and ratings by Italian users. Previously clients in Italy wanting to buy products via Amazon had to use one of its sites for another country, which usually meant extra delivery costs.

The company is confident its arrival in Italy will be a success.

“We were already present in seven of the Group of Eight countries, Italy was the one we were missing,” said Diego Piacentini, Amazon’s senior vice president of international retail.

“Our arrival won’t damage the rest of Italy’s online retail market.

“E-commerce in Italy is so small at the moment that it can only be a good thing.

“This is a market where there isn’t just one winner, there are lots of opportunities for everyone.

“Over the next few months we’ll keep working so that all the categories available in the United States are available here too”. For the moment Amazon’s Italian site will not give people the opportunity they have in other countries to buy and sell used goods on it.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Portugal Warns Britain: We Switched to Berlin Time and it Was a Catastrophe

Britain has been warned that switching to Berlin Time could have a damaging effect on health, education, energy consumption and commerce.

As MPs prepare to vote on the proposal this week, warning bells were sounded in Portugal, which went through a disastrous four-year experiment with Berlin Time in the Nineties.

The change was foisted upon an unsuspecting public by the Lisbon government. Politicians there deployed identical arguments to those now being fed to Britons by the Bill’s supporters.

[…]

The Lisbon government made the switch in 1992 to bring Portugal into line with many other European countries. But it soon became clear that Portugal’s position on the western edge of Europe meant it had more in common with Britain than with Germany or Poland.

The hugely unpopular and costly experiment was abandoned in 1996 after a government commission condemned it as a spectacular failure.

The Portuguese found that changing to Berlin Time — officially known as Continental Time — led to poorer exam results as children could not get to sleep because of the lighter evenings and were therefore tired at school the following day.

There was also an increase in stress levels, insomnia and consumption of sleeping pills. More road accidents occurred during the darker winter mornings and energy bills rose because households used more electricity.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Royals Caught in Secrets Leak: Biggest Intelligence Leak in History Reveals U.S. Contempt for World Leaders — and Concern at Prince Andrew’s Behaviour

Sensational claims of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ by Prince Andrew emerged last night in the biggest intelligence leak in history.

Secret U.S. embassy cables are said to show the prince, who is a UK trade envoy, has shocked the Americans with his ‘rude behaviour abroad’.

A Buckingham Palace source said: ‘We are awaiting further detail, as everyone else is.’

The Palace declined to make any official comment.

America meanwhile has been plunged into an unprecedented diplomatic crisis as its astonishing secret verdicts on Britain and other countries around the world were revealed in the leak.

Most seriously for Washington, they also showed the U.S. had ordered a spying operation on diplomats at the United Nations, including British officials, in apparent breach of international law.

U.S. staff in embassies around the world were ordered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to obtain frequent flyer numbers, credit card details and even iris scans, fingerprints and DNA of foreign officials.

The whistleblower website Wikileaks ignored a last-minute warning from the Obama administration that going ahead with publication of the first tranche of 250,000 classified documents would put ‘many lives at risk’.

This afternoon the Wikileaks website crashed.

In a Twitter statement the organisation said it was suffering a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack — ie an effort to make the site unavailable to users, usually by flooding it with requests for data.

But the damaging disclosures were already being published by international media.

Other disclosures, to be dripped out over a fortnight, include:

  • Strong criticism of the UK’s military operations in Afghanistan
  • Attacks on both David Cameron and Gordon Brown, who is said to be branded ‘unstable’
  • U.S. requests for specific intelligence on individual MPs
  • Alleged links between the Russian government and organised crime
  • Deep concern in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme
  • Strong pressure from the West’s Arab allies for a military strike on Iran
  • Nicolas Sarkozy is called an emperor with no clothes and Vladimir Putin an alpha dog

Experts warned the revelation of repeated private calls from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear programme and ‘cut off the head of the snake’ risked destablising the Middle East.

Others reveal withering assessments of the U.S. of a long list of world leaders.

The U.S. branded France’s President Nicola Sarkozy an ‘emperor with no clothes’ with a ‘thin-skinned and authoritarian personal style’, Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as an ‘alpha dog’ and Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as ‘Hitler’.

Silvio Berlusconi of Italy’s ‘wild parties’ were described by U.S. diplomats, who called him ‘feckless, vain, and ineffective as a modern European leader’.

Another dispatch from Rome recorded the view that he was a ‘physically and politically weak’ leader whose ‘frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest’.

Detailed in another document was Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi’s fondness for a ‘voluptuous’ Ukranian blonde he apparently employs as a ‘nursing sister’ and who accompanies him everywhere.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is damned as ‘risk aversive and rarely creative’, while Dmitry Medvedev of Russia is a ‘pale, hesitant’ figure who ‘plays Robin to Putin’s Batman’.

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is said to ‘float along on paranoia’ and is dismissed as ‘an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts but was instead easily swayed by anyone who came to report even the most bizarre stories or plots against him’.

Kim Jong-il, the ailing dictator of North Korea is described as a ‘flabby old chap’ who had suffered ‘physical and psychological trauma’.

The White House has slammed the decision to publish the information.

Spokeman Robert Gibbs said President Obama supports open and accountable government, but the WikiLeaks was being ‘reckless and dangerous’.

‘By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals,’ Gibbs said. ‘We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information.’

Today desperate efforts were being made on both sides of the Atlantic to shore up the special relationship in the wake of the revelations about the U.S. assessment of Britain.

There were no further details of the claims concerning the member of the British royal family or of the requests for intelligence about MPs, expected to emerge in the days ahead.

Criticism of British operations in Afghanistan were however said to be ‘devastating’, putting the U.S.-UK alliance under strain.

Remarks concerning Mr Cameron, who was said to have been deemed a ‘lightweight’ by U.S. President Barack Obama when the two first met, were described as ‘serious political criticisms’.

The Obama administration told whistleblower WikiLeaks that its release of classified State Department cables will put ‘countless’ lives at risk, threaten global counterterrorism operations and jeopardise U.S. relations with its allies.

The State Department released a letter from Harold Koh, its top lawyer, to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his attorney telling them that publication of the documents would be illegal and demanding that they stop it.

He said the move would ‘place at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals’, ‘place at risk on-going military operations,’and ‘place at risk on-going cooperation between countries.’

‘They were provided in violation of U.S. law and without regard for the grave consequences of this action,’ he said.

The White House said that the disclosure of confidential diplomatic communications would ‘deeply impact’ U.S. foreign interests.

In London, the Foreign Office also condemned the leaks and was forced to insist they would not undermine the special relationship between the U.S. and UK.

‘We condemn any unauthorised release of this classified information, just as we condemn leaks of classified material in the UK,’ a spokesman said.

‘They can damage national security, are not in the national interest and, as the U.S. have said, may put lives at risk. We have a very strong relationship with the U.S. Government. That will continue.’

Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini said the files would ‘blow up the relationship of trust between states’, adding: ‘It will be the September 11th of world diplomacy.’

The U.S. says it has known for some time that WikiLeaks held the diplomatic cables. No one has been charged with passing them to the website, but suspicion focuses on Welsh-born U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst arrested in Iraq in June and charged over an earlier leak.

He told a fellow hacker he would come into work with a CD labelled ‘Lady Gaga’ and downloaded intelligence in ‘possibly the largest data spillage in American history’.

Manning is said to have told a fellow hacker: ‘Information should be free. It belongs in the public domain.’

Intended to be read by officials in Washington up to the level of the Secretary of State, the cables are generally drafted by the ambassador or subordinates.

They are marked ‘Sipidis’ — secret internet protocol distribution — and are classified at various levels. The most sensitive are marked ‘SECRET NOFORN’ [no foreigners].

Wikileaks claimed last night it had come under attack from a computer-hacking operation ahead of the release of secret U.S. documents.

‘We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack,’ it said on its Twitter feed.

Hillary Clinton ordered American officials to spy on high ranking UN diplomats, including British representatives.

Top secret cables revealed that Mrs Clinton, the Secretary of State, even ordered diplomats to obtain DNA data — including iris scans and fingerprints — as well as credit card and frequent flier numbers.

All permanent members of the security council — including Russia, China, France and the UK — were targeted by the secret spying mission, as well as the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon.

Work schedules, email addresses, fax numbers, website identifiers and mobile numbers were also demanded by Washington.

The US also wanted ‘biographic and biometric information on UN Security Council permanent representatives’.

The request could break international law and threatens to derail any trust between the US and other powerful nations.

Requests for IT related information — such as details of passwords, personal encryption keys and network upgrades — could also raise suspicions that the US was preparing to mount a hacking operation.

It is set to lead to international calls for Mrs Clinton to resign.

The fishing expedition was ordered by Mrs Clinton in July 2009, but followed similar demands made by her predecessor, Condoleeza Rice.

Mrs Clinton called for biometric details ‘on key UN officials, to include undersecretaries, heads of specialised agencies and their chief advisers, top SYG [secretary general] aides, heads of peace operations and political field missions, including force commanders’.

She also wanted intelligence on Ban Ki-Moon’s ‘management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat’.

Cables were sent to US embassies in the UN, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America.

America has always handed over information about top foreign officials to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

But the request by Mrs Clinton paves the way for officials to be more closely spied upon, with even their travel plans tracked by US diplomats.

In what could discredit the US’s role in the Middle East peace process, missions in Israel, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were asked to gather biometric information ‘on key Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders and representatives, to include the young guard inside Gaza, the West Bank’.

Details of the US spying mission were sent to the CIA, the US Secret Service and the FBI under the heading ‘collection requirements and tasking’.

International treaties ban spying at the UN.

The 1946 UN convention on privileges and immunities states: ‘The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable. The property and assets of the United Nations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action.’

The American ambassador to Britain, Louis Susman said he ‘condemned’ the disclosures and that the US government was ‘taking steps to prevent future security breaches’.

He also claimed the disclosures had ‘the very real potential to harm innocent people” but insisted the cables ‘should not be seen as representing US policy on their own’.

He said the leaks were ‘harmful to the US and our interests’ adding, ‘However, I am confident that our uniquely productive relationship with the UK will remain close and strong, focused on promoting our shared objectives and values.

US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Mrs Clinton had warned leaders in Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan and China about the cables, revealed by investigators at the Wikileaks website.

Canada, Denmark, Norway and Poland had also been warned.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]



UK: Alarmingly High Death Rates at 19 NHS Hospital Trusts, Influential Report Reveals

Death rates at 19 NHS hospital trusts in England were alarmingly high last year, according to an influential report.

The Dr Foster hospital guide also revealed that tens of thousands of patients were harmed in hospital when they developed avoidable blood clots, suffered obstetric tears during childbirth, accidental lacerations or puncture wounds, or post-surgery intestinal bleeding and blood poisoning, the Observer newspaper reported.

The study identified four trusts where an unexpectedly high number of patients died after surgery, including Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust where there were 33 more deaths than should have been expected.

It is not possible to say how many of these deaths could have been prevented.

Dr Foster said the mortality rates should act as a warning sign of potential problems in the quality of care.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: A Headless Rush to March in Time With Europe

It is not often that Parliament decides a matter that has a direct and immediate bearing on all our lives. When it does so, it should surely be specially cautious and thoughtful.

Yet on Friday the Commons will vote on a subject to which virtually nobody — apart from The Mail on Sunday — has given any serious consideration.

It may be that supporters of Berlin Time have a case. It may be that most people would rather go to work or school in the dark all winter, and would prefer their children to stay awake till 11 o’clock at night in summer.

In that case it must be clearly stated that these will be the inescapable consequences of the planned change — reliably predictable, unlike the speculative benefits touted by the measure’s supporters.

And silly talk of ‘extra hours of daylight’ should also be discounted. Man has yet to find a way of creating daylight, and can only move it from one end of the day to the other.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: And a Very Happy Diwali, To You Too! Christmas 2010… And Santa’s Got Competition as Multi-Faith Lights Blaze Out

The only illumination that lit up the sky on the first Christmas was the star over Bethlehem.

But more than 2,000 years later, the streets of Britain are ablaze with a bizarre array of garish neon images — some with only the most tenuous of links to the festive season.

With so many faiths in the country, messages wishing ‘Happy Eid’ or ‘Happy Diwali’ are widespread — even though both those festivals have long passed.

Meanwhile some shopping areas have plumped for secular themes, perhaps for fear of offending non-Christians, even though the results are often surreal. Others have decided that commercialism should override any spiritual message and erected lights that are little more than blatant advertisements for their sponsors.

Some of the more bizarre examples are where councils and local businesses have funded displays showing swans, umbrellas, reality TV stars and space-travelling Santas — all likely to baffle, if not horrify, traditionalists.

Just yesterday, Communties Secretary Eric Pickles called on local councils to mark Christmas with traditional lights, carol services and nativity scenes, saying: ‘We should actively celebrate the Christian basis of Christmas, and not allow politically correct Grinches to marginalise Christmas and the importance of the the birth of Christ.’

In many towns, shoppers are wished ‘Happy Eid’ and ‘Happy Diwali’. They refer to the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which marks Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son to God, and Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. However both celebrations finished earlier this month.

Conservative MP Philip Davies also sees the changing face of festive lights as an attack on Christian traditions. He said: ‘Local authorities are obsessed with not offending anyone. It’s ridiculous that Christianity is being sidelined .

‘All this pussyfooting around is done in the name of not offending people from other faiths. But it tends to be done by white middle-class people with some kind of bizarre guilt complex.’…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Dad Was One of the 100 Britons Killed Each Year by a Mental Patient. And This Week’s Report Into His Murder Won’t Change a Single Thing

I miss my father Philip every day. I miss ringing him for a chat and being able to tell him his favourite jokes are rubbish, or suddenly catching sight of him sitting in his old jumper in front of a bonfire with my son.

It is three-and-a-half years since he walked out of his house in Bristol for a Sunday newspaper and was stabbed to death by a random stranger. That stranger was Stephen Newton, a mental health patient in the grip of a murderous psychosis aggravated by his intake of street drugs.

[…]

But on the eve of the publication of the official inquiry into the killing, I find myself certain Dad’s death was preventable — the result of negligence, incompetence and a mental health service culture in which the patient is always the victim.

The terrifying failings will inevitably be labelled ‘systemic’, and no one, no matter what their portfolio of responsibilities or pay grade, will be to blame. Nobody will be demoted or fired, or even publicly shamed. There will be no accountability, corporate or personal. I fear nothing will change.

There will be a bland, bureaucratic promise that lessons will be learned and measures put in place to stop this kind of killing happening again. The Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP) will doubtless be sorry, but will claim Newton’s actions came as a complete surprise, so nothing could have been done and it was no one’s fault.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: David Cameron Shouldn’t Worry About Wikileaks. Obama’s Stock is Nose-Diving. Who Cares What He Thinks?

I don’t suppose David Cameron will be too concerned about the forthcoming batch of Wikileaks. So what if Barack Obama described him as a “lightweight” after meeting him for the first time in 2008?

To begin with, there are Obama’s political prejudices to take into account. He probably thinks all socialists are heavyweights and all conservatives lightweights.

More importantly, Obama’s stock has nose-dived since he became President while David Cameron’s has sky-rocketed since he became Prime Minister. Had this particular Wikileak occurred two years ago, when Obama was considered an infallible, god-like political saviour, it might have done Cameron some damage. Now, their relative standing is such that a damning verdict on Obama by Cameron would be much more damaging.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Here’s Why MI6 Hates Wikileaks

Dr Johnson said the U.S. misuses its great power, adding : ‘When the retaliation comes, as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001, the American public is unable to put the events in context.

‘So they tend to support acts intended to lash out against the perpetrators, thereby most commonly preparing the ground for yet another cycle of blowback.’

Meanwhile, the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, introduces a fake Taliban commander to ‘peace talks’ with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. A Pakistani shopkeeper, pretending to be the Taliban second-in-command Mullah Mansour, then defrauds MI6 out of £600,000, his fee for taking part in the charade.

He was flown into Kabul for three secret meetings with Afghan and Nato representatives, including one at President Karzai’s palace.

Karzai’s chief of staff says: ‘The British authorities are responsible. This is embarrassing and has undercut the notion there was some momentum towards talks.’

Never mind WikiLeaks, how many lives might this exercise cost? The imposter has disappeared with the money — and information useful to the Taliban.

What does MI6 have to say? Why hasn’t its chief offered his resignation?

I can find no official comment on this sensational blunder, except a ‘sources say’ effort to blame ‘Afghan intelligence’ for introducing the imposter to our side. Surely we need to know more.

MI6 boss Sir John Sawers is the suave fellow who appeared on TV last month telling us: ‘This, I believe, is the first public speech given by a serving chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service.’

He clearly enjoyed his public outing. (Perhaps, like Dame Stella Rimington — the first public boss of MI5 — he’ll go on to become a director of M&S and a novelist.)

Sir John doesn’t seem obsessed with personal privacy. The news-papers had Facebook pictures of him cavorting in skimpy bathing drawers.

Another snap was of a young lady said to be his daughter carrying what appeared to be a gold-plated Kalashnikov removed from Saddam’s palace.

Sir John, in his speech, said today’s ‘open society’ brought new expectations of public — and legal — accountability. So he gave an overview of his agency’s work.

‘In Afghanistan, our people provide tactical intelligence that guides military operations and saves our soldiers’ lives,’ he said. ‘We are building up the Afghan security service, already probably the most capable of the Afghan security institutions, to help the Afghans take responsibility for their own security.’

He touched on the question of secrets being lost, too. ‘We in the intelligence and security agencies have to make sure our secrets don’t become available to those who are threatening our country. And we have to protect our partners’ secrets.’

Wouldn’t you like to hear him explain how his theories went awry in Afghanistan? At least to a Parliamentary select committee, if not to the public. Or are we to forget about his agency’s great blunder altogether?

Too secret to be discussed: that’s the root problem of ‘intelligence’. It’s too easy for them to conceal their failings.

Intelligence gathering is obviously a tricky affair. We are bound to make mistakes from time to time. But MI6’s imposter blunder is a corker. No wonder Karzai and our U.S. allies are hopping.

This is why WikiLeaks is useful. There’s a conspiracy of silence over what’s going on in Afghanistan, except when our military chiefs want to leak details of successful SAS attacks on the Taliban.

We’re told they are being hit so hard now by special forces, helicopter gunships and pilotless drones armed with Hellfire missiles that they’re desperate for a peace deal.

Meanwhile, MI6 wheels a Pakistani conman posing as a Taliban commander into President Karzai’s office for peace talks. We’re being lied to. Count on it. Bring it on, WikiLeaks!

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Prince’s Suicide Friend Linked to Gangland Thugs

The property tycoon acquaintance of Prince Charles who threw himself under a Tube train was forced to hand over his watch collection to underworld ‘enforcers’ just two hours before he died, it was claimed last night.

Paul Castle, 54, who often played polo with Charles, walked out of his London office on November 17 and died at Bond Street station.

His multi-million-pound empire, which included a Michelin-starred restaurant, had been badly hit by the recession and he faced the threat of bankruptcy.

Now friends have told The Mail on Sunday that he owed money to ‘significant figures’ backed by an organised crime gang.

‘Paul had a visit from some heavies at his office in Mayfair at 11 o’clock on the morning he died,’ said a friend and business colleague.

‘They took his wallet and his watches. Paul loved watches, and would spend tens of thousands of pounds on a single piece. Friend: The Prince of Wales

‘Before these people turned up, he had been behaving as normal. He’d gone for tea at the Grosvenor hotel, as he often did. On top of everything else, perhaps this visit was the final straw.’

The account was confirmed by two other sources. ‘There is a suggestion that some of the people he owed money to weren’t happy that he was living ostentatiously and conspicuously,’ said one source.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Radical Muslims Given Channel 4 Slot

Anjem Choudary, who was also involved with the banned group Islam4UK which planned a protest march through Wootton Bassett, will have free reign to give his views during an edition of the channel’s daily opinion slot, known as 4thought.tv.

The counter-terrorism think-tank Quilliam has written to David Abraham, the Channel 4 chief executive, to complain about airtime already given to radical Muslims during the series.

It claimed that 4thought.tv had failed to properly identify the ideological allegiances of presenters and that a disproportionate amount of time had been given to extremists.

The format of the short programme allows guest presenters to give their views unchallenged.

Talal Rajab, from Quilliam, said: “Given the profoundly negative impact that al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK have had on the social cohesion of the UK, it is highly inappropriate for a mainstream public broadcaster to be providing such a popular platform for their fanatical views.

“Moreover, al-Muhajiroun was banned by the British government because of its links to individuals who had committed acts of Islamist-inspired terrorism.

“We therefore urge Channel 4 to reconsider airing Anjem Choudary’s film, and to aspire to feature a more representative and moderate portrayal of Islam in all future programming.”

Choudary, who has described the 9/11 bombers “magnificent martyrs”, will say in his programme to be broadcast on Dec 5 that British Muslims are “persecuted”.

Channel 4 has already broadcast a film by another radical Muslim, Abu Nusaybah, who supported Choudary’s plan for an Islamist march through Wootton Bassett, the scene of tributes to fallen British soldiers. In it, Nusaybah called for sharia law to be introduced in Britain.

The letter from Quilliam to Channel 4 said: “While freedom of speech is important and Anjem Choudary and his followers undoubtedly have the right to put forward their repugnant views, we find it inexplicable that they should be allowed to monopolise such an important strand of Channel 4’s programming at the expense of other British Muslims who are overwhelmingly tolerant and good-natured people.”

Choudary told The Sunday Telegraph: “Quilliam are sycophants on the British Government payroll, and it is in their own interest to criticise people like ourselves who are calling for sharia and being normal Muslims.

“It did not surprise me to be invited to take part in the programme.”

No one at Channel 4 was available to comment.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



UK: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Asian Men, White Women and a Taboo That Must be Broken

Disgusting cultural beliefs validate their acts and their uncontrollable lechery is, in part a symptom of repressed sexuality and sick attitudes

I’ve been goaded into writing this column by the barbs and taunts, by the blame and racist toxins filling my inbox this week. At least they can no longer accuse me of “HIDING THE TRUTH!!!” Yes guys, you won. Have another large lager.

Most commentators intermittently get caught up in sudden and fierce squalls, usually when they’ve said something that upsets large sections of the public. In the age of the internet, these blowbacks have got nastier and more frequent. Sometimes you have to respond just to get your life back. It wasn’t what I wrote or said this time, but what I am — or what they think I stand for, the outraged out there whose blood pressure rose perilously high last week.

Horrific sexual crimes against young girls were committed by a paedophile gang in Derby, a place I hardly know. Several gang members were convicted and sent down. These urban predators stalked and “chose” their victims, took them for ice creams and nice meals (treats some of the lasses had never had), drove them around in flash cars, handed out drink and cigarettes, drugged their trusting prey, then raped them over and over again, threatening them with hammers, and worse, if they told.

Such rings have been exposed before, and many others carry on without detection. It is the nightmare of every parent, and for the children who are brutalised it is the end of their innocence and a total desecration of their human rights. Men who destroy children for their own gratification roam streets in every land.

The Derby gang was all Asian except for one seasoned white abuser. Most of the Asians were Muslim Pakistanis and — apart from a few Asian and mixed-race girls who fell into their nets — their victims were almost all white. Because I am Asian and “a f-ing Muslim” and the rapists were my people committing a “Paki” crime against white females, I am guilty too, apparently, part of the evil posse.

The English Defence League and British National Party have draped bunting and bright lights around the story, the nation’s virtue penetrated and torn by rapacious migrants and their sons. Two days after the Derby case, another such network was exposed — of white men in Cornwall who plucked white girls to groom, violate and control. Was theirs a lesser crime? No. It’s naked racism to believe that sex assaults on white women by black or Asian men are more depraved and animalistic than those carried out by white men, who presumably remember to say “please” and “thank you” before and after.

But when I ask myself was a greater crime committed by the Asian molesters, the honest answer has to be yes. Conscientious Asian community activists in Derby have said that these criminal acts were nothing to do with race or religion. The perpetrators were bad men who did terrible things. That is surely self-delusion or a cover-up.

The official inquiry into the case concluded that the care agencies were ill-equipped to deal with the scale of the abuse being perpetrated by the gang. But it also concluded that there needs to be an honest national conversation about how exploitation in some places intersects with “culture, ethnicity and identity”.

Let’s begin then. Because without such an open conversation, prejudices fester and millions of Britons come to believe that serious offenders from certain ethnic and religious groups have protected status within our country.

The Cornwall and Derby villains who used girls as sex toys believed that their victims had “asked for it”, which in our permissive age is an easy excuse. Very young girls are sexualised in the social environment, so paedophiles must feel they are only helping themselves to the goodies that are on offer. But in the case of the Asian men, disgusting cultural beliefs further validate their acts and their uncontrollable lechery is, in part, a symptom of repressed sexuality and sick attitudes.

Most Asian men do not go around raping young white girls and women; many have happy and equal relationships with white partners. However, an alarming number of Asian individuals, families and communities do believe that white females have no morals, are free and available, deserving of no respect or protection.

Up in Bradford a few years back, I met Muslim pimps, some wearing mini Koran pendants on heavy, gold chains. “Not our girls,” they reassured me, “just them white girls from the estates, cheap girls. They love it man, all the money they make! What else will they do with their lives? We’re helping them make a career.”

Much laughter, until I asked them what they would do if a white pimp groomed their daughters. They would kill the pimp and the girls too, they said. They would too.

Then there was an 18-year-old white boy from Manchester who said he was lured and raped at the age of 10 by an Asian scoutmaster and his Muslim mates, who would, in public, hysterically denounce homosexuality. The double standards enable the Asian rapists to feel good, and that makes it doubly bad. Convenient myths of uprightness help hide the rape within their families too — which is why barely anyone ever reports it. The final insult is the veil of religious hypocrisy, already evident in the pimps above. Muslims and Sikhs make much public noise about the importance of religion and its intrinsic goodness. Islam and Sikhism do give women some important rights, but these are devalued in real life on a daily basis.

When deeds destroy professed religious principles, when nefarious abusers claim to be true worshippers, people rightly feel more animus and deeper repugnance. That is why paedophile Catholic priests arouse such fury. What abominable secrets and lies nestle beneath the sheets of godly and “ethnic” self-righteousness!

The injuries suffered by child victims are not determined by race or religion, but their sense of injustice is understandably much greater when their fiendish attackers believe themselves to be morally superior and therefore entitled to corrupt young flesh.

Listen to Miranda, now in her twenties, who was repeatedly raped by a British Asian pimp in Rotherham. She was also abused by her own dad when she was 11 : “Ahmed told me I was making him do it because I was sinful, not a true believer. That he would never do it if I was a Muslim. My dad would cry afterwards. I hate them both, but Ahmed was worse”.

[DF — “not determined by race or religion” of course it isn’t. They just happen to be always non-muslim and mostly white]

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Wikileaks Down: Website Crashes Hours Before New Release — But Defiant Assange Says Newspapers Will Still Print Revelations

WikiLeaks has crashed this afternoon, just hours before it was reportedly schedule to defy the Obama administration with the publication of millions of documents the U.S. claims will endanger ‘countless lives’.

The WikiLeaks website appeared to be temporarily inaccessible this afternoon, and WikiLeaks said in its Twitter feed that it was experiencing a denial of service attack.

Nevertheless, WikiLeaks remained defiant, saying that publications in the U.S. and Europe would print the leaked diplomatic cables even if it could not.

The group’s founder, Julian Assange, also tells the U.S. ambassador to Britain that WikiLeaks won’t bow to Washington’s demands.

The Obama administration has ordered WikiLeaks not to publish the estimated 3million leaked documents that are set to put ‘countless lives’ at risk.

In a highly unusual step, the State Department late Saturday released a letter from its top lawyer to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his attorney telling them that publication of the documents would be illegal and demanding that they stop it.

It is feared that the imminent release of classified State Department cables will threaten global counter-terrorism operations and jeopardise U.S. relations with its allies, including Britain.

The UK government has warned British citizens in Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and other parts of the Muslim world they could suffer a violent backlash over ‘anti-Islamic’ views in documents.

The documents are said to include an ‘embarrassing’ assessment of David Cameron by the the U.S. administration.

And Gordon Brown’s rocky relationship with President Barack Obama is almost certain to mentioned as is Britain’s troop withdrawal from Iraq.

The State Department also said the U.S. government would not cooperate with WikiLeaks in trying to scrub the cables of information that might put sources and methods of intelligence gathering and diplomatic reporting at risk.

The letter from State Department legal adviser Harold Koh was released as U.S. diplomats around the world are scrambling to warn foreign governments about what might be in the secret documents that are believed to contain highly sensitive assessments about world leaders, their policies and America’s attempts to lobby them.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is on stand by for diplomatic damage control with the release expected tonight.

Mrs Clinton spoke to leaders in China, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, France and Afghanistan on Friday, according to State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. Canada, Denmark, Norway and Poland have also been warned.

Last night a source close to Mrs Clinton told The Mail on Sunday: ‘This is enormously embarrassing to the U.S. The CIA have Assange under total surveillance….

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Wikileaks Cables: Race Riots Reflected a Backward Britain — US Ambassador

The race riots across British cities in 1985 inspired the then US ambassador, Raymond Seitz, to draw comparisons with Charles Dickens’s London. After a summer in which Toxteth, Brixton and Handsworth erupted in violence he wrote to Washington: “Dickens described the squalor, overcrowding and poverty in Britain’s cities over a century ago. What has changed is that the people affected are increasingly likely to be members of minority groups.”

The UK was unprepared for dealing with the impact of immigration, he said, and had looked on “complacently” while America struggled with similar riots in the 1960s.

“The one acerbic exception came in 1968 when Enoch Powell, a Conservative MP, made a notorious speech in which he predicted ‘rivers of blood’ in the streets if the tide of Asian and African immigrants was not stemmed,” Seitz wrote. “However crudely and unacceptably to most of his audience, he had put his finger on a problem: Britain appears unprepared to deal with the profound change in the complexion of its society.

“There are only 1 million blacks and browns in Britain, out of a population of 54 million, and by now half of these are British born. But their outsider status persists.”

Racism was reflected in the press, he said. “Reporting of the recent race riots has reflected the rabble-rousing racism which is still easy discourse in modern Britain. Tabloids describe the ‘Zulu-style war cries’ of the rioters and recycle the comments of whites calling them ‘barbarians’ and ‘animals’.

“We are likely to see more rioting ahead. While the onset of winter may inhibit street violence, spring cannot be far behind.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Algeria: Pilgrimage to Mecca Turns Into Nightmare

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, NOVEMBER 24 — The pilgrimage to Mecca this year has turned into a nightmare for many Algerian worshippers. According to the latest statement from the National Office of the Hadj, 23 Algerians have died and 1,356 are missing. “Most died from natural causes. The average age is between 70 and 80, except two people aged 48,” said the heads of the Great Pilgrimage, without giving any further details about the causes of the other deaths. They include 16 men and 8 women, with five resident in France and 18 from different regions of the north African country. Out of the 36,000 Algerian pilgrims present at the holy sites, 1,356 are said to be missing: 968 in Mecca and 388 in Medina. “The hospitality was terrible,” declared the first worshippers returning yesterday from Saudi Arabia. “The accommodation was catastrophic,” said Naghmouche, quoted by El Watan, underlining that the organisers “had abandoned the worshippers.” “All the delegations,” reported another pilgrim, “were well organised. The Tunisians, the Moroccans, the Indonesians. We slept in the street surrounded by rubbish.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Egypt: Top Sunni Muslim Authority Moots Support for ‘Medicinal’ Cannabis

Cairo, 25 Nov. (AKI) — The research council of the Al-Azhar University — the highest seat of Sunni Muslim learning — was due to meet on Thursday to discuss approving the medicinal use of cannabis, especially to relieve symptoms of cirrhosis of the liver.

During its monthly meeting presided over by the prestigious Islamic university’s head sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, the council will analyse the therapeutic use of cannabis, also known as marijuana, from the point of view of Sharia, or Islamic law, official daily al-Ahram reported.

Users of marijuana risk prison in many north African and Middle Eastern countries. Some American states like California permit use of the drug for medical purposes, although a California popular referendum earlier this month failed to garner enough votes to fully legalise it.

“They particularly want to know if using cannabis is allowed under Sharia after some research in the United States concluded that it is something that works,” said Muhammad Wasil, a Cairo University medical researcher.

If its research council agrees, the Al-Azhar council could issue a religious edict or fatwa that could influence Muslim attitudes toward medicinal marijuana use around the world.

Founded in the late 10th century for Islamic studies, Al the Al-Azhar iUniversity is the world’s leading centre for Arabic literature and the study of Sunni Islam.

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



Egypt: 156 Detained Over Christian Riots

Egypt’s prosecutor general leveled severe accusations Thursday against 156 Christians, including explosives possession and attempted murder, following clashes with police over the building of a church.

One person died and 68 others were injured when security forces halted construction on a church citing violations of building permits.

Angry Christians hurled stones while riot police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets near the church and later in clashes outside the governor’s office.

The prosecutor general ordered a renewable 15—day—detention for those arrested, on accusations of sabotage, assault, possession of explosives and attempted murder of police.

Some 15 police officers were injured in the clashes. No one arrested or charged over the death of one protester, killed after being shot in the thigh according to forensic reports.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million. They complain frequently of discrimination, though they generally live in peace with the Muslim majority despite occasional flare—ups of violence, especially over limits on church building.

In his first comment after riots, Egypt’s Coptic Pope Shenouda III blamed the local authorities of using violence against the Christians.

“God has given authority to some people to use it for the help of those under their authority,” he said in his weekly lecture on Wednesday attended by thousands of Christians including families of the protesters.

“Violence leads to violence,” he said warning governors and local authorities against using force to deal with the Christian issue.

The construction had been ordered halted in this case because the building was not licensed to become a house of worship, a government statement said.

Spokesman of the ruling National Democratic Party Ali Eddin Helal said that local authorities took action against the church after they saw “a dome” rising over the building.

The Coptic community says authorities in Egypt are reluctant to approve permits to build churches, which they say they need to accommodate growing numbers of worshippers.

Human rights groups say attacks on Copts are on the rise, underscoring the government’s failure to address chronic sectarian strains in a society where religious radicalism is gaining ground.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Did You Know Israel Created Radical Islam?

Did you know that Israel provoked Muslims to crash airplanes into the Twin Towers on 9/11 and to blow up the London Underground?

No? That’s weird, because Lady Jenny Tong says it’s true. Lady Tong is described in The Jerusalem Post as “a lifelong anti-Israel activist.”

She says, “I feel sorry for the people of Israel sometimes. Their government’s policies have made that country the cause of a lot of the world’s problems, yet now they are seen in the middle as the remedy and the base for the West to fight back.”

Lady Tong is a top Liberal Democrat in the U.K. with a lifetime appointment in the House of Lords, so she has to know what she is talking about.

Right?

Let’s see…Israel declared its independence from Britain in 1948, the same year Jordan, India, and Pakistan declared their own independence from the British Empire.

Yet nobody seems to blame those fine countries for terrorist killings in Gaza or Kashmir or Mumbai. Or the assassination of Pakistani President Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

But the Israelis made the Muslims really mad by seizing Jerusalem from the Religion of Peace in 1948 or 1968, something like that.

Whatever. This is all so last century.

Well, actually, radical Muslims invaded Spain in the year 711, killing merrily as they went along. They were really, really mad even then, because Europe was full of infidels, and Allah told them the Christians had to surrender to the Faithful or it’s off with their heads. All that is in the Quran, and that’s the infallible word of Allah, by way of Mohammed’s dream diaries.

Boy, were those radical Muslims ever angry back in 711. You should have heard the imams stirring them up in their Friday sermons.

So it’s only logical that Israel time-traveled back 1,250 years and got the Berbers so mad that they all invaded Spain from North Africa.

Got that?…

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



US Embassy Cables: Washington Requests Personal Data on Hamas

Friday, 31 October 2008, 15:25 S E C R E T STATE 116392 NOFORN EO 12958 DECL: 09/18/2033 TAGS PINR, KSPR, ECON, KPAL, PREL, PTER, XF”>XF SUBJECT: (S) REPORTING AND COLLECTION NEEDS: PALESTINIAN ISSUES REF: A. 08 STATE 001379 B. 08 STATE 64936 Classified By: CATHERINE BROWN, DAS, INR/IPC. REASON: 1.4(C).

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY: This cable provides the full text of the new National HUMINT Collection Directive (NHCD) on Palestinian Issues (paragraph 3-end) and encourages Department personnel at post to assist in compiling Palestinian biographic information (paragraph 2).

A. (S/NF) The NHCD results from a recent Washington review of reporting and collection needs for Palestinian Issues and sets forth a list of priorities intended to guide participating USG agencies as they allocate resources and update plans to collect information on Palestinian Issues. The priorities may also help the Embassy manage reporting and collection, including formulation of Mission Strategic Plans (MSPs)….

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Middle East


AIDS: Cases in MENA Countries Have Doubled in 10 Years

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, NOVEMBER 24 — The percentage is still low compared to the average global level, but the number of cases of HIV infections in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries have doubled in the last ten years. This is what has been revealed by the UN Agency for the fight against Aids, UNAids, which has put it in black and white that there were 75,000 news cases registered last year in the region against the 36,000 cases in 2001. According to the most recent data which relates to the end of 2009, the rate of infection does not exceed 0.2% against a global average of 0.8% but the region is one of only two geographical areas in the world (the other is Eastern Europe/Central Asia) where there has been an increase, rather than a decrease. This is an alarming figure and researchers say that it is even more so considering that the numbers can only be approximate due to the traditional and conservative societies, where AIDS — above all if linked to unaccepted sexual behaviour — is still a taboo. The researchers, who point the finger at cultural and religious narrow-mindedness which prevents a clear in-depth analysis of the infected population in the MENA region, do concede that this narrow-mindedness does have the advantage of limiting risky and homosexual behaviour.

In the majority of Arab countries, homosexuality — like extra-marital affairs — is considered a crime: in several countries these crimes are still punishable by death. If there is an immigrant involved in the Gulf Countries, said person is immediately expelled. A measure considered to be a violation of human rights by UNAids and that several countries, including the UAE where 85% of the population is not local, are now reviewing.

The theory of “cultural and religious immunity” was however criticised by Khadijah Moalla, UN regional coordinator, who, in a recent meeting at the School of Government in Dubai, underlined that in the Arab world, 80% of women contract HIV from their husbands: to consider that following appropriate religious and cultural behaviour prevents infection is therefore misleading and dangerous. The groups most at risk of infection, reads the 360-page report, continue to be those linked to prostitution and drug use. In Iran, 17% of people infected use injectable drugs. In Egypt, the percentage of “sex workers” is 1%, whilst it oscillates between 2% and 4% in Algeria, Morocco and the Yemen. Furthermore, in Egypt 6% of homosexuals have contracted the AIDS virus. Overall, there are currently at least 460,000 people affected by AIDS living in the MENA region. In 2001, there were 180,000. In line with the rate of infection, the death rate has also increased: whilst it is estimated that there were 8,300 AIDS-related deaths in 2001, 23,000 AIDS-related deaths were recorded at the end of 2009. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Al Qaeda’s in-Flight Magazine

One of the more bizarre aspects of the troglodyte terrorists is their use of the media and internet, not something usually associated with people who wish to turn the clock back to the tenth century.

They have just launched the second issue of their glossy magazine, Inspire, which looks alarmingly like an in-flight magazine. This is the very last thing you want to see a fellow passenger carrying on board.

It is an insight into the organisation, a look at an unreal universe. Like ordinary magazines, it has a good design and layout and even articles we would recognise, such as a Letter from the Editor, who remains unnamed.

Their main feature is Uthmann al-Ghamindi, one of the Yemen Commanders telling about his life in jihad. Basically, it involves hiding in caves, getting captured and released and, all in all, not having too good a time. He appears to have risen to his current position by the US drones blowing up all his predecessors. This may be why there is no mention of a pension plan in the entire publication.

Another section contains advice for new recruits to training camps, including how to use the abundant free time and tales of those who waited years before seeing action. They also have some calming words on camping and a long plea to wash feet often.

The longest article, and it feels very long indeed, is a 9 page rebuttal of Muslim scholars who have reinterpreted an old fatwa, used by fundamentalists to justify terrorism. This didn’t go down well with our cave dwelling martyrs in waiting, but the article itself is like a boring rant from a long forgotten Student Union. However, they do say, “Yes, fatwa is a serious matter and should only be issued by those qualified”. It has been pointed out by Islamic scholars that bin Laden has no theological training and “We don’t accept fatwas from engineers”.

Another target is their greatest enemy. Nope, not the infidel west, but the Shia. Yemen’s vice-emir says, “Allah has made it clear to us in the Qur’an that our worst enemies are the Jews and the polytheists. The Shi’a are polytheists and therefore, are amongst the worst enemies of Islam.”

Warming to his theme, the drone bait continues, “The Shi’a now are at their highest level of military preparedness and they have an alliance with America”. Of course we are all aware of the all-powerful US-Iran alliance. Elsewhere, the magazine predicts a ‘world war’ between the US and Iran.

They end up with a section on terrorism 2.0, where they offer helpful hints. One is that people in the West conduct their own operations, without contacting jihadists or attending training camps. Other hints are disturbing. One gives advice on welding blades to a SUV and driving round in a version of Deathrace 2000.

It is striking just how little al Qaeda have developed in their ideas. It’s all about death to just about everyone but themselves with no thought whatsoever on the world they wish to create. Search in vain for a hint of what the Caliphate will actually be like. It’s all destruction, no creation. However, this is one dodgy dossier that does need sexing up. How about lifestyle tips in “A Cave Of My Own” or something a little racier, “Readers’ Burkas”? Let’s add some culture? Paradise Discs, where a jihadi picks the 8 records and luxury item he would take to paradise?

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Diplomatic Cables Reveal US Doubts About Turkey’s Government

[One could argue that the whole idea of Wikileaks is founded on hate for the US and the West in general, reading the material provided by traitors is also a very interesting source of information that gives more insight in the real policy positions of the US. Check out this Wikileaks pre-publication in Der Spiegel. — KV]

The leaked diplomatic cables reveal that US diplomats are skeptical about Turkey’s dependability as a partner. The leadership in Ankara is depicted as divided and permeated by Islamists.

US diplomats have grave doubts about Turkey’s dependability. Secret or confidential cables from the US Embassy in Ankara describe Islamist tendencies in the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The US diplomats’ verdict on the NATO partner with the second biggest army in the alliance is devastating. The Turkish leadership is depicted as divided, and Erdogan’s advisers, as well as Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, are portrayed as having little understanding of politics beyond Ankara.

The Americans are also worried about Davutoglu’s alleged neo-Ottoman visions. A high-ranking government adviser warned in discussions, quoted by the US diplomats, that Davutoglu would use his Islamist influence on Erdogan, describing him as “exceptionally dangerous.” According to the US document, another adviser to the ruling AKP party remarked, probably ironically, that Turkey wanted “to take back Andalusia and avenge the defeat at the siege of Vienna in 1683.”

The US diplomats write that many leading figures in the AKP were members of a Muslim fraternity and that Erdogan had appointed Islamist bankers to influential positions. He gets his information almost exclusively from newspapers with close links to Islamists, they reported. The prime minister, the cables continue, has surrounded himself with an “iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors” and presents himself as the “Tribune of Anatolia.”

           — Hat tip: Klein Verzet [Return to headlines]



Fear of ‘Different World’ If Iran Gets Nuclear Weapons

Sitting in the Rome office of Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister, in February this year, Robert Gates, the veteran US defence secretary and former CIA chief, issued a chilling warning of war in our time.

“Without progress in the next few months, we risk nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, war prompted by an Israeli strike, or both,” Gates said. If Iran were allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, he added, the US and its allies would face “a different world” in four to five years.

As thousands of leaked state department cables show, Gates’s visit was part of a tireless, round-the-clock offensive by US government officials, politicians, diplomats and military officers to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and roll back its advance across the Middle East.

Ringed by professional “Iran watchers” based in neighbouring countries, besieged by electronic, cyber and human intelligence gathering and surveillance, squeezed by sanctions, bans and prohibitions, destabilised by unacknowledged internal covert action programmes, and isolated by myriad diplomatic and political means, Iran is the most scrutinised, interrogated country on earth.

But as the cables also show, Iran is fighting back. From Iraq to Afghanistan and from Azerbaijan to the Gulf, the battle between the US and Iran for the upper hand in the Middle East is, as one regional diplomat put it, “the great hegemonic contest of modern times”.

Washington’s thinking proceeds from three premises. First, Iran is developing a nuclear weapons capability and matching missile systems. Second, it is intent on regional hegemony in Iraq, the Gulf and across the Middle East. Third, Iran’s leadership poses a clear and present — and growing danger — to Israel.

The cables illuminate other aspects of the American approach. It is clear US officials are not averse to pressurising, even bullying, third countries to attain their policy objectives. It is also clear that, lacking an embassy in Tehran and with a limited American presence of any kind inside the country, the US sorely lacks first-hand intelligence.

In his talks with Frattini, Gates sought to underscore the seriousness of the overall Iranian threat….

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Iraq: Death Threats Continue to Menace Nation’s Christians

Baghdad Nov. 26 (AKI) — Fresh death threats against Christians residing in Iraq are terrorising families and inciting them to flee, according to reports from ‘al-Hayat’ newspaper, which cites interviews from Iraqi security officials.

Seven hand written messages for which Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility were found in various locations throughout the city, Abdullah al-Nawafili, a Christian community leader in the Iraqi capitol, Baghdad confirmed.

“Threats of these types have been coming in over the past few days that push us to leave the country,” he said.

The messages were delivered to the Camp Sara neighbourhoods of Baghdad which is home to a predominantly Christian population as well as the districts al-Amin and Baghdad al-Jadid and were written on white paper resembling doctors prescription pads. “Leave Iraq immediately or you will be killed by us,” the notes read.

The report comes less than a month after 58 Christians were killed in an attack on a Christan church in Baghdad’s al-Karrada neighbourhood of the same name. Subsequent attacks in the Iraqi capital have claimed more lives.

Earlier this month, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani said Christians would be safe from sectarian attack if they temporarily moved to Kurdistan in the country’s north until Iraq’s leaders could guarantee their security.

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



Saudi Arabia Urges US Attack on Iran to Stop Nuclear Programme

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear programme, according to leaked US diplomatic cables that describe how other Arab allies have secretly agitated for military action against Tehran.

The revelations, in secret memos from US embassies across the Middle East, expose behind-the-scenes pressures in the scramble to contain the Islamic Republic, which the US, Arab states and Israel suspect is close to acquiring nuclear weapons. Bombing Iranian nuclear facilities has hitherto been viewed as a desperate last resort that could ignite a far wider war.

The Saudi king was recorded as having “frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons programme”, one cable stated. “He told you [Americans] to cut off the head of the snake,” the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir said, according to a report on Abdullah’s meeting with the US general David Petraeus in April 2008.

The cables also highlight Israel’s anxiety to preserve its regional nuclear monopoly, its readiness to go it alone against Iran — and its unstinting attempts to influence American policy. The defence minister, Ehud Barak, estimated in June 2009 that there was a window of “between six and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable”. After that, Barak said, “any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage.”

The leaked US cables also reveal that:

  • Officials in Jordan and Bahrain have openly called for Iran’s nuclear programme to be stopped by any means, including military.
  • Leaders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt referred to Iran as “evil”, an “existential threat” and a power that “is going to take us to war”.
  • Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, warned in February that if diplomatic efforts failed, “we risk nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, war prompted by an Israeli strike, or both”.
  • Major General Amos Yadlin, Israeli’s military intelligence chief, warned last year: “Israel is not in a position to underestimate Iran and be surprised like the US was on 11 September 2001.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Wikileaks Defy US Demands on Leaked Files

WikiLeaks releases confidential US diplomatic cables, with several governments fearing damaging revelations

Washington: US State Department documents released by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks provided candid views of foreign leaders and sensitive information on terrorism and nuclear proliferation, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

The documents show Saudi donors remain chief financiers of militant groups like Al Qaida and that Chinese government operatives have waged a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage targeting the United States and its allies, according to a review of the WikiLeaks documents published in the Times.

The collection “provides an unprecedented look at backroom bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats,” the paper reported.

The WikiLeaks documents also show US Defence Secretary Robert Gates believes any military strike on Iran would only delay its pursuit of a nuclear weapon by one to three years, the Times reported on its website on Sunday..

The cables also showed that Iran has obtained sophisticated missiles from North Korea capable of hitting western Europe and the United States was concerned that Iran was using those rockets as “building blocks” to build longer-range missiles, the Times said.

The advanced missiles are much more powerful than anything US officials have publicly acknowledged that Iran has in its arsenal, the newspaper said..

The Pentagon immediately condemned WikiLeaks’ “reckless” dump of classified State Department documents and said it was taking steps to bolster security of US military networks.

The White House said the leak of the diplomatic cables could compromise private discussions with foreign governments and opposition leaders and may put at risk the lives of named individuals living “under oppressive regimes.”

Earlier on Sunday, the WikiLeaks website appeared to be inaccessible, and WikiLeaks said in its Twitter feed that it was experiencing a denial of service attack.

“We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack,” the whistle-blower website said in a statement on its Twitter feed, just hours before the expected mass release of the documents.

The group’s founder, Julian Assange, also tells the US ambassador to Britain that WikiLeaks won’t bow to Washington’s demands.

The Obama administration has been bracing for the release for the past week. Top officials have notified allies that the contents of the diplomatic cables could prove embarrassing because they contain candid assessments of foreign leaders.

In Jordan earlier on Sunday, WikiLeaks founder Assange said the looming release of classified US documents by the whistle-blower website would cover “every major issue” in the world today.

“The material that we are about to release covers essentially every major issue in every country in the world,” he told reporters in Jordan by video link when asked if the new leaks again focused on US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange told the conference of investigative journalists that he was speaking to them by video link because “Jordan’s not the best place to be with the CIA on your tail.” It was unclear from where he was speaking.

WikiLeaks was reportedly hours away on Sunday from releasing hundreds of thousands of confidential US diplomatic cables, with several governments fearing damaging revelations.

Assange put the number of documents to be released at more than a quarter of a million.

“Over this last month much of my energy and activities have been spent preparing for the upcoming release of a diplomatic history of the United States,” he said.

“Over 250,000 classified cables from US embassies all around the world, and we can see already in the past week or so that the United States has made movements to try to disarm the effect that this could have,” Assange said.

Senior US officials have raced to contain the potential damage by warning more than a dozen countries, including its key allies Australia, Britain, Canada, Israel and Turkey.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia


Afghans Risk Execution for Christian Conversion

Two Afghans accused of converting to Christianity, including a Red Cross employee, could face the death penalty, a prosecuting lawyer said today.

Musa Sayed, 45, and Ahmad Shah, 50, are being detained in the Afghan capital awaiting trial, the prosecutor in charge of western Kabul, Din Mohammad Quraishi, told AFP.

“They are accused of conversion to another religion, which is considered a crime under Islamic law. If proved, they face the death penalty or life imprisonment,” said Quraishi.

Quraishi said that Sayed, who works for the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) had already confessed, and there was “proof” against Shah.

ICRC spokesman in Kabul, Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, confirmed Sayed’s arrest and said he had worked for the organisation since 1995.

He said the ICRC had visited him in prison “in accordance with its mandate”.

“During such visits, the ICRC has met Mr Musa (Sayed) several times and intends to visit him in future,” Farnoudi said.

Sayed and Shah were arrested in late May and early June, days after local television broadcast footage of men reciting Christian prayers in Farsi and being baptised, apparently in a house in Kabul.

The government launched its own investigation and suspended aid groups Norwegian Church Aid and Church World Service of the United States after the television programme reported they were proselytising, which is illegal in the devoutly Islamic country.

Members of parliament have expressed their anger over the case, with one MP from western Herat even calling for the men to be dragged from their homes and publicly executed.

The Afghan Constitution, adopted after the fall of the hardline Islamic Taliban in late 2001, forbids conversion to another religion from Islam and in theory can sentence those found guilty to death.

But Afghanistan has not executed anyone for the crime in recent history.

The last conversion case to be tried in Afghanistan is believed to be that of Abdul Rahman, an Afghan man arrested in 2006 for converting to Christianity.

He was eventually released and granted refugee status in Italy, after a wave of international human rights protests.

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]



Indonesia: Porn Actress to Attend Jakarta Premiere of Her Film Despite Past Islamist Threats

Jakarta, 26 Nov. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Japanese porn actress Maria Ozawa, whose stage name is Miyabi, will reportedly attend the premiere of her new film in Jakarta on 29 November. Hardline Indonesian Islamists earlier threatened to attack cinemas showing another of Ozawa’s movies.

“Miyabi will be coming to the press conference [for the premiere] on Monday,” said the film’s producer Ody Mulya Hiday of Maxima Pictures.

The movie is called ‘The Ghost of Tanah Kusir Cemetery’.

Hidayat said he is currently arranging a permit for Ozawa to come to the Indonesian capital.

“As long as we manage to obtain a permit for her from the Manpower Agency and immigration office, I think it won’t be a problem,” he said.

Ozawa made headlines after Indonesia’s hardline Islam Defenders Front (FPI) protested against the actress starring in a comedy called Kidnapping Miyabi, and in August threatened to raid cinemas screening the controversial film.

Indonesia’s culture and tourism ministry last year barred Ozawa from entering the country after a barrage of protests from the FPI.

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



Italy ‘Would Offer Job’ To Pakistan Blasphemy Woman

‘Hope’ for Asia Bibi clemency, Frattini says

(ANSA) — Rome, November 25 — Italy is ready to offer asylum and a job to a Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan for derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Thursday.

“If she were freed, and we hope so, Italy is ready to offer her a job (here),” Frattini said.

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five, was sentenced to death by hanging on November 8 under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws but her supporters are hopeful President Asif Ali Zardari will grant her clemency.

Earlier this month, during a visit to Islamabad, Frattini pressed for Bibi’s case to be reopened during talks on alleged discrimination against Pakistan’s four million Christians.

Frattini said afterwards: “Perhaps we have saved her”. Frattini added that he had received a “commitment” from Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani to have the country’s blasphemy laws changed.

Bibi is the first woman to get the death penalty in Pakistan for blasphemy.

In July two Christian brothers were shot under the blasphemy laws.

The Italian government has launched a drive to ensure religious freedom for Christians in Muslim countries and is presenting a draft resolution to the United Nations.

It has voiced concern, echoing Pope Benedict XVI, about persecution in Iraq where there has been an exodus after persistent attacks including a Baghdad church bombing on October 31 that killed more than 50 people.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Pakistani Shiites Give Terrorists Safe Passage

Shiite Muslim militias in Pakistan’s tribal regions are helping some of NATO’s fiercest enemies evade missile attacks from U.S. drones to cross safely into Afghanistan, according to a tribal activist.

Shiites, who control a key piece of tribal real estate, cut a deal with the deadly Haqqani network to give insurgents a safe, alternative route to Afghanistan through Pakistan’s Kurram tribal region, said Munir Bangash, who is familiar with the deal. A second tribesman from Kurram confirmed the deal but spoke only on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution from the Taliban and from fellow tribesmen.

The deal underlines the problems of shutting down the Haqqani network’s access to its bases in Afghanistan from its refuges in Pakistan. The network is blamed for many of the deadliest attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The deal in Kurram was brokered two months ago during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. A delegation of Shiite elders and Shiite militiamen from Kurram met representatives of the Haqqani network and laid the groundwork for the deal, said Bangash, who is the chairman of the Community Rights Program, an independent organization trying to establish peace between Kurram’s Shiites and Sunnis while bringing development to their areas.

Under the agreement, the Shiites gave the Haqqani network safe passage through Kurram from its Pakistan strongholds in neighboring North and South Waziristan across the border to its Afghan bases in Khost and Paktia provinces, Bangash said.

In return, the Haqqanis intervened with the Sunni Muslim militants to get them to agree to a truce with the Shiites in Kurram. The two sects have been engaged in brutal tit-for-tat killings.

Bangash said hundreds of Haqqani insurgents as well as Pakistani Taliban have taken refuge in Kurram to escape attacks by U.S. drones in North Waziristan as well as a Pakistan military offensive in South Waziristan and Orakzai tribal regions.

Divisions between the sects worsened with the growing influence in the area of the Pakistani Taliban, allied with the Sunni radical group Lashkar-e-Janghvi, known for its attacks on Shiites around Pakistan, said Bangash.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Pakistan: Inter-Religion Marriage Forcing Christians to Flee Locality

Many Christian families living in Saeedabad locality of Karachi have fled their homes in fear of a backlash from Muslims after a Christian boy eloped with a Muslim girl. A senior official of the provincial government said that the area police had been directed to ensure that there was no law and order situation in Saeedabad, a low lying area populated by lower middle class and poor people. The trouble started when a 20-year-old Christian boy converted to Islam and married a 18-year-old Muslim girl whose family belongs to Hazara a conservative area in southern Punjab. “Yes we did get complaints about some of the area people threatening the family of the boy and other Christian families living in the area. But so far things are under control,” an area police officer said. Several Christian families living in Saeedabad with most of them working in the local government offices with some educational background. “Several of the families have fled the area and gone to their relatives in other parts of the city in fear of a backlash because the incident of the girl running away with the boy has not gone down well with the area people,” a Christian social worker said. The media reported that the couple had fled to Faisalabad in Punjab and got married there. The media reported that activists of a political party were backing the girl”s family and some of them had also thrown stones at the only church in the locality. Another resident said that he had sent his three children to a relatives” place since the activists threatened the Christian families to return the girl or they would start kidnapping the Christian girls. Also, the boy”s family has also fled and the situation has aggrieved. Now, the Christian community is paying the price for the boy”s crime,” the resident said. The government is already facing protest rallies and threats of countrywide agitation over the case involving a Christian woman, Asia Bibi who has been sentenced to death under the controversial blasphemy law. The Sunni Ittehad Tehreek, a merger of like minded religious parties and a splinter wing of the banned Jamaat-ud- Dawa held protest rallies in Lahore and other parts of the country yesterday with hundreds of activists warning the government not to grant clemency to the Christian woman a mother of three who has filed an appeal against her death sentence in the high court.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Far East


Philippines: Suspected Muslim Rebels Kill Driver of UN World Food Program

Suspected Muslim rebels shot and killed a Filipino man who worked for United Nations’ World Food Programme on Saturday in the southern Philippines.

Police said the victim, Bejunson Basnillo, was on his way to deliver some 488 bags of rice to people affected by conflict when they were stopped in the township of Marantao in Lanao del Sur by suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels.

Basnillo’s father, Jerome, told a local radio station that the attackers ordered his son to unload all the bags of rice but he refused.

Accordingly, the perpetrators got mad after the victim told them to ask for their own relief supplies to officials of UN WFP, prompting one of them to shot and killed him.

Chief Superintendent Beinvenido Latag, regional police commander, has ordered pursuit operation against the suspects.

The MILF, on the other hand, could not be reached for immediate comment on the issue.

The MILF has been fighting government troops for decades to establish a self-rule Muslim state in the south of the predominantly Catholic country. Peace talks between the government and the MILF remain stalled since August, 2008 following the aborted signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

However, efforts are being undertaken by both sides to revive the talks. A final peace deal with the government will touch the issues of autonomy and the civil settlement of the rebel group’s 11,800-strong guerrilla fighters.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



US Carrier Visit a Dilemma for China

BEIJING — This weekend’s arrival of a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Yellow Sea poses a dilemma for Beijing: Should it protest angrily and aggravate ties with Washington, or quietly accept the presence of a key symbol of American military pre-eminence off Chinese shores?

The USS George Washington, accompanied by escort ships, is to take part in military drills with South Korea following North Korea’s shelling of a South Korean island Tuesday that was one of the most serious confrontations since the Korean War a half-century ago.

It’s a scenario China has sought to prevent. Only four months ago, Chinese officials and military officers shrilly warned Washington against sending a carrier into the Yellow Sea for an earlier set of exercises. Some said it would escalate tensions after the sinking of a South Korean navy ship blamed on North Korea. Others went further, calling the carrier deployment a threat to Chinese security.

Beijing believes its objections worked. Although Washington never said why, no aircraft carrier sailed into the strategic Yellow Sea, which laps at several Chinese provinces and the Korean peninsula.

This time around, with outrage high over the shelling, the U.S. raising pressure on China to rein in wayward ally North Korea, and a Chinese-American summit in the works, the warship is coming, and Beijing is muffling any criticisms.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific


NZ: MP Carter Makes Quick U-Turn

A farming company part-owned by a Cabinet minister was able to give him a briefing about how the Government could protect its lucrative trade with Muslim countries by banning Jewish slaughtering.

Agriculture Minister David Carter supported the recommended law change but had to back down days before he was to be taken to court to justify it.

It is the second time this year Crown lawyers have had to leap to the defence of one of Parliament’s wealthiest MPs — and this time in a case in which he was forced to admit getting basic facts wrong.

Carter was being sued by the Auckland Hebrew Congregation for changing the law in May to make traditional Jewish slaughter of animals illegal. The case was set to begin in the High Court at Wellington tomorrow — until an embarrassing backdown by Carter who on Friday overturned the ban he asked Cabinet to support.

The practice of shechita on poultry was declared no longer illegal while the Government also agreed to negotiate the ban on sheep. New Zealand Jews will still have to import beef from Australia, where shechita is allowed.

Documents obtained by the Herald on Sunday appear to show Carter broke the rules governing his portfolio by considering trade implications when making the original decision.

An allegation of conflict of interest has been made because of that — he holds shares in a company which exports meat and met with senior managers who wanted a ban on shechita to protect their interests.

Carter was pulled back into line after lawyers told him he was allowed to consider only animal welfare issues. He had been advised trade with Muslim countries might suffer if it emerged kosher meat was allowed to be produced here while restrictions were placed on halal slaughter.

New Zealand requires halal meat be stunned before slaughter while kosher meat — which is killed only for a small domestic market — does not have the same restriction.

After getting the advice, Carter’s office seems to have broken the rules again by giving opinions on trade to Prime Minister John Key in January and Trade Minister Tim Groser in February.

Emails obtained by the Herald on Sunday show Carter met in March with Silver Fern Farms Ltd chairman Eoin Garden and chief executive Keith Cooper, who said meat exports would suffer if shechita wasn’t banned.

The MPs Register of Pecuniary Interests shows Carter owns shares in Silver Fern Farms Ltd and another major meat exporter to Muslim countries, Alliance Group Ltd.

Ministerial private secretary Natalie Nesbitt emailed senior Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries officials: “Silverfern (sic) Farms CEO and chairman raised their opposition to an exemption being provided for shechita (kosher) slaughter … with the minister this afternoon, among other matters.”

She said concerns from Garden and Cooper included “trade risks (particularly to halal markets)” if a Jewish religious form of slaughter was allowed to continue in New Zealand….

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Immigration


British Shipbuilders Axed Because Poles Are 30% Cheaper: 300 Workers on the Royal Navy’s New Carriers Laid Off

Hundreds of Britons who were building two aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy have lost their jobs because they were not as cheap as Polish workers, it was claimed last night.

In the past six weeks, around 300 Britons working on the £5.2billion warships have been sacked.

But none of the cut-price Poles has been laid off. They earn around £9.50 an hour while UK tradesmen doing similar jobs are paid £15 an hour.

Some of the British workers were told they were being made redundant after receiving a text message at the end of their shift at BAE Systems’ dockyard in Portsmouth.

The defence giant is part of a consortium building the 65,000-ton vessels, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. The first is due to launch in 2016.

The scale of the programme has meant subcontractors working for BAE Systems were forced to recruit workers from Poland because they couldn’t find workers in the UK with the necessary skills.

Shipyard sources told the Mail that about 900 agency workers had been building the aircraft carriers, but this number has been cut to around 600.

But only British welders, draughtsmen and platers hired by Matchtech had been given their marching orders. Forty-two of them were laid off last Tuesday.

Another subcontractor, Inter Marine, which supplies around 120 Polish workers to the shipyard and pays them one-third less than British tradesmen, has not been told to lay anyone off.

Last month the Daily Mail revealed how Polish welders had been drafted in to work on the aircraft carriers — in the Royal Navy’s first ever mass recruitment of overseas workers.

Some learned their skills on Soviet submarines during the Cold War when Poland was behind the Iron Curtain.

BAE insists it has laid off only 110 workers and that they were building patrol vessels for foreign countries.

But insiders said the workforce building the carriers had been reduced in a cost-cutting drive. One worker, a welder who asked not to be named, told how he was made redundant on Tuesday.

‘It came out of the blue,’ he said. ‘I had just finished my shift on the carrier and I received a text asking me to ring the [Matchtech] office. When I did all they gave me was one week’s notice. I’ve been travelling here for two years, living in digs and away from my family because it’s where the work is.

‘There are rumours that they are planning a great recruitment drive in Poland in the new year as the workers are cheaper. None of them have been laid off at all, so it’s all about the money really.’

The 34-year-old father-of-two said: ‘Christmas is going to be hard this year for my family as I expected to be working.’

Many other Britons left their homes in Glasgow, Newcastle upon Tyne and Liverpool to work on the aircraft carriers.

Six shipyards around Britain are building them. The separate sections will then be transferred for assembly to Rosyth in Scotland — in the constituency neighbouring Gordon Brown’s.

In last month’s strategic defence review, the Government ruled out cancelling one of the carriers because it said it would cost more than going ahead with both.

Ministers criticised ‘unbreakable’ contracts signed by the former prime minister to guarantee jobs in his local area.

Critics warned that Britain could lose its shipbuilding skills.

Commander John Muxworthy, chief executive of the UK National Defence Association, said: ‘More and more small companies cannot retain skilled workmen because there are no jobs, so slowly but surely we are losing our capability to produce our own equipment.

‘There is a risk we are putting ourselves in the hands of other nations. We know only too well from the Falklands conflict that sometimes other nations decline to provide us with what we need.’

Inter Marine general manager Dave Bailey said: ‘There have been no redundancies from our point of view.’ Matchtech declined to comment.

BAE Systems said: ‘We have reduced the level of temporary agency contractors in Portsmouth in line with changes in production requirements as our current export programmes reach the advanced ship build stages.’

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]



Dream Act: Misleading Amnesty on American Citizens

By now I am certain that you know that the administration and members of both houses of Congress are planning to make yet another attempt at ramming the DREAM Act down our throats. I hate being partisan about this but, for the most part, it is the “leadership” of the Democratic Party that is most heavily involved in this legislative betrayal.

The efforts aimed at enacting this massive amnesty program for millions of illegal aliens is being cloaked in language that is so misleading that if a corporation in the United States utilized such deceptive language, that members of Congress would be clambering for hearing into deceptive practices!

First of all I want to remind you that the DREAM Act is an acronym for: Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.

As I have noted on a number of previous occasions, it is absolutely misleading to say that this legislation is intended to assist “Minor Alien.”

The most recent version of the House bill would enable aliens who had not attained their 35th birthday by the time that the bill would be signed into law while the most recent Senate bill had no age cutoff whatsoever! Furthermore it is truly ironic that while the usual advocates for open borders and massive amnesty programs for illegal aliens often feign anger at the use of the word “Alien” when I debate them, the term “Alien” was incorporated into the DREAM Act because, I suspect, the drafters of this legislation were so determined to link the concept of the “American Dream” with the goals of the advocates for amnesty and open borders!

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Swiss Approve Foreign Criminal Initiative

The Swiss have voted to adopt tough new regulations on the deportation of foreigners convicted of serious crimes and welfare fraud.

Final results showed 53 per cent voting in favour of a rightwing initiative. The initiative also won the backing of 18 out of 26 cantons.

In a complex nationwide vote on Sunday, the electorate were faced with a choice between a hardline option and a compromise version; or approving or rejecting both proposals.

Turnout was higher than usual — at 52 per cent — a sign of how contentious were the issues being voted on.

The rightwing People’s Party initiative called for the automatic expulsion of non-Swiss offenders convicted of crimes ranging from murder to breaking and entry and social security fraud. The proposal denies judges judicial discretion over deportation.

An alternative option by parliament would have allowed for a case-by-case examination and additional integration measures.

Parliament’s counter-proposal was rejected by 54 per cent of voters, results showed.

An unofficial voting platform for migrants, Baloti, reported very different voting results: 85 per cent against the initiative, and 15 per cent for.

Reactions

“In future, foreign nationals who have committed one of the criminal offences named in the text of the initiative should automatically lose their right of residence and be deported to their country of origin,” said a government statement. It said Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga would “set to work on implementing the initiative without delay”.

“The majority of voters have sent a clear signal that they consider foreign criminality to be a serious problem. The Federal Council [government] respects the will of the people and will set to work on putting the task confided in it into practice,” it went on.

The government statement also pointed to problems in implementing the initiative, saying parliament would have to draft a list defining precisely which offences would result in deportation.

A statement by the People’s Party said voters had sent a clear signal that “criminal foreigners should be systematically deported”. It said the acceptance of the initiative marked “the first step on the road to greater security”. The legal framework for the initiative’s introduction had to be created as soon as possible, it said.

The Federal Migration Commission said the initiative would be very difficult to enforce. It said the state must not act arbitrarily in deporting foreigners, but judge each case individually.

“Even People’s Party parliamentarians agree that no one should be sent back to a country to face torture or death. Automatic deportation, as demanded by the initiative, is therefore not possible,” the commission said in a statement.

The main Christian churches, which had opposed both initiative and counter-proposal, called for deportations to continue to be judged on a case-by-case basis.

In a joint statement, the Swiss Federation of Protestant Churches and the Catholic Bishops Conference said the cantonal and federal authorities must ensure that implementation of the initiative conformed to the constitution. They also said it was important “not to cast a negative light on migrants”.

Tax vote

In a separate vote, the electorate rejected a propo