News Feed 20101118

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

Financial Crisis

Brussels, UK Readying ‘Oliver Cromwell Package’ For Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bail-out details trickling out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hiking taxes on low-income earners

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

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

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

‘Britain ready to support Ireland’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

200-year Irish struggle

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eurozone Let Them Go Bust

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

András Szigetvari

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

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

Irish bonds on a par with Pakistan and Venezuela

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

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

Liquidation for states

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

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

We will probably never see some of our money again

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

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

Translated from the German by Eric Rosencrantz

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

‘Germany Has a Vital Interest in Ensuring Irish Solvency’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Ireland: Was it for This?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Barack Obama Under Pressure Over 9/11 Terror Trials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Barack Obama ‘Determined to Close Guantánamo’

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

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

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

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

Republicans favour military trials for suspects.

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Body Scanners Have ‘Mutagenic Effects’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Return to headlines]

Essential U.S. Spy Satellite Launching Friday

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Officials: Deerpark Middle School Bomb Threat Suspect a Juvenile Overseas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

[Return to headlines]

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

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

The Blaze reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Return to headlines]

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

by Michael Goldfarb

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

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

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

Undoing what’s done

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

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

Getting the house in order

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

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

Culture wars

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Terror Police Probe Explosion Near Loch Lomond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: 4symbols [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Eastern Germany Confronts Skilled Labor Shortage

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

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

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

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

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

Stopgap Solution

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

EU Criticises New Immigration Regulations

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Police under Strain

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

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

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

Data Debate

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

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

Suspicious Package Found at Airport

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Icelandic Minister Criticises ‘Kafka-esque’ EU Talks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Adds New Penis to Ancient Statue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NATO Must Continue Operations ‘Beyond Our Borders’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Gothenburg Terror Trial Comes to a Close

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Cop Guard for Poppy Burner

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

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

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

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

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

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

Detectives are continuing to investigate the poppy-burning outrage.

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

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

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

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

by Tim Montgomerie [Editor, ConservativeHome]

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


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

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

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Hague: Britain to Remain Closest US Ally

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Hague Presses Clinton to Release Guantanamo Inmate

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

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

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

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

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

North Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elections: Egypt ‘Outraged’ By US ‘Interference’

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

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

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hebrew-Language Message Threatens Continued Fire Into Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Middle East

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

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

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

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

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

Most want to flee the country, observers say.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Iraq: President Talabani Refuses to Sign Tariq Aziz Execution Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is not clear what will happen in this case.

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

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

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

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

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

He is also reported to be seriously ill.

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

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

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

Iraq: President Talabani Has No Objection to Form Christian Province

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Fears of a Muslim Russia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dagestan’s Deadly Islamic Insurgency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Christian to Go to Trial on Sunday for His Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man Accused of Blasphemy Killed in Pakistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Pope Appeals for “Full Freedom for Asia Bibi”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Far East

China Denies ‘Hijacking’ Internet Traffic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Prove it Was Me in the Burqa, Says Accused Woman

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

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

She has pleaded not guilty.

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

South Africa: Murdered Tourist Looking for ‘Real Africa’

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

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

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

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

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

Township tourist hotspot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘We begged them to let us go’

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Far-Right Fringe Exploits European Coalitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spain Outrage Over Migrant Bombing Game

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

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

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

But opponents say the party has betrayed xenophobic leanings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immigration is a sensitive issue in Spain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Return to headlines]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]


Breakthrough: Mysterious Antimatter Created and Captured

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20101117

Financial Crisis
» “There Will be a World War Over Currency”
» Australia Wages Turn Higher, Ominous for Rates
» Barroso Says Netherlands Damages EU for Rejecting Budget
» Brüderle: EU Can’t ‘Throw Money’ At Debt Crisis
» Felix Salmon: The Case Against QE
» G.M. Shares Said to be Priced at $33, Raising More Than $22 Billion in Biggest U.S. Initial Offering
» Government Employees Owe Billions in Delinquent Taxes
» Greece’s Toothless Battle Against Corruption
» Greek Rescue Frays as Irish Crisis Drags on
» Real Perils: Debt Limit, EPA’s GHG Rule, ‘Green’ California
» ‘The Irish Should Stop Bashing Those Who Want to Help Them’
» The Fed is There to Serve the US, Not China
» The Horrible Truth Starts to Dawn on Europe’s Leaders
» Dolan Chosen as President of U.S. Bishops’ Group
» House Democrats Re-Elect Pelosi as Their Leader
» Religion Offers No Break on Airport Screening, TSA Says
» Right of the Boom
» Terror Suspect Cleared of All Charges Except for One Count of Conspiracy
» The Big Disconnect: D.C. Elites Think Obama Will be Reelected, But the Public Doubts it
» The New American Citizen
» Will “Buy Fresh”; “Buy Local” Survive the FDA?
Europe and the EU
» Britain Extends the White Flag of Surrender to Islamist Radicals
» Clinton Critical of Religious Freedom in Europe
» Germany: Politician Demands More Police in Muslim Areas
» Germany: De Maizière Warns of Imminent Terror Attacks
» Germany Tightens Airport Security Over Attacks Threat
» Italy: Mafia Writer-Minister Row Escalates
» More and More Greeks Seek Work in Turkey
» Netherlands: Discontent Within Christenunie on Leftwing Course
» Pope: Episcopal Conferences Do Not Strip Bishops’ Role
» Ryanair Crew Lock Toilets, Turn Out Lights and Leave Plane as Re-Routed Passengers Stage Four-Hour Sit-in
» Sweden: Chlamydia ‘Refuseniks’ Face Police Round Up
» Sweden Green Lights ‘Fingerprint Time Clocks’
» UK: Five Muslim Boys and White Girl, All 12, Excluded Over Facebook Death Threats to Classmate Who Supported British Troops
» UK: Religion is Seen as ‘Irrelevant, Old-Fashioned and Violent’, Warns Former Met Chief
Mediterranean Union
» Algerian Writer Shows Different Side of Italy
North Africa
» CBN Exclusive Video: Al Qaeda Training in North Africa
» Egypt: Christian Girls Forced to Convert, Luxor Bishop
» Egypt: Vodafone Drops Muslim Scientist Ad After Complaints
» Muslims Torch Christian Homes in Egypt
Middle East
» BBC Series on Rafiq Al-Hariri Pulled as Tension Rises in Lebanon
» Stakelbeck on Terror Show Exclusive: The Iran/Venezuela Axis
» The Left’s Delusion Over Islam is Baffling to Middle Eastern Christians
» Turkish Journalist Charged With Insulting Prosecutor by Calling Him ‘Postmodern’
» US Writer Shows Her Love for Turkey With New Book
» From AEI: Putin’s Agenda and Medvedev’s Dilemma
South Asia
» Pakistan Mosque Shootout Wounds 18 Over Dispute Which Cleric Should Lead Holiday Prayers
Far East
» China’s African Safari Strictly Business
» Meeting Decline Face-to-Face
» France Sees Tensions Rise Five Years on From Paris Riots
» Spain: PP Candidate is Anti-Immigrant Heroine in Videogame
» Sweden Stops Plane of Deported Iraqis
Culture Wars
» Canada: Carleton Student Association Bans Anti-Abortion Club
» New Forbidden Word in School
» The World Must Not Allow Islam-Muslim Murder Decrees in a Civilized Society

Financial Crisis

“There Will be a World War Over Currency”

The great dissident looks at the impact of the disastrous G20 on the currency issue. The existing economic system has favoured financial interests and Chinese capitalists, but has impoverished the peoples of China and America. Wei warns that if “the big capitalists of both China and the USA” are not stopped, disaster could follow.

Washington (AsiaNews) — The so-called G-20 Summit opened in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, on 11 November. Expectations for this meeting by the international community were very high, because it was considered as an important opportunity to solve the current economic crisis. Almost all the major news media in the world gave their unanimous pre-summit assessment of the need to solve the issue of the Chinese currency, the renmimbi (yuan). Otherwise, the summit would be considered as a failure.

Renmimbi and labour costs

Why is the renmimbi exchange rate so important? Why is this issue related to the recovery of the global economy? To answer these questions, we need to start from the reasons for the global economic recession. Now we all see the global economic recession started from the economic recession in the United States and Europe. The economic recession in developed countries started from the huge trade deficit year after year. There are many reasons for this huge trade deficit, but two stand out. One is cheap labour; the other is that the Chinese currency renmimbi is far lower than the market price.

Cheap labour causes increased competition. This is acceptable to all. With the accumulation of capital and the increase of skill levels, the labour costs should also gradually increase. Gradually, the whole society would enjoy the fruits of economic growth and the extraordinary competitive advantages would become more balanced. This situation is not only a normal and sustainable development model, but also a model, which is conducive to global economic development.

Brazil, India, and a number of developing countries use this type of development model. Therefore, while their economy develops, their national standard of living also grows, synchronized to expand the domestic market. This development is a positive factor for the economies of these developing countries. We could call this is a win-win development model.

However, this development model also has drawbacks. The disadvantage is that wages increase in synchrony with the economy, which is not favoured for big capitalists to make excess profits, and is not favoured for the growth of billionaires. As a government for the big capitalists using “the few to get rich first” model, the Chinese government under the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership took a totally different path: the so-called “China model.”

The “China Model”

The “China Model” is to maintain the lowest possible labour costs and not to develop the domestic market, while maintaining economic development. This approach sacrifices the national income of the people in an effort to guarantee the price gap with the international market, and so create the best conditions for the big capitalists. One cannot reach such a goal by simply suppressing the labour movement. That is because the market will automatically adjust the exchange rate along with the economic development, thus resulting in the rise of real wages. That is to say, if the government does not interfere with the rising of the Chinese currency renmimbi, people’s real purchasing power will keep rising. The benefits created by economic growth will automatically be delivered to the pockets of every member of society as it balances.

But this way will not only result in the pockets of the big capitalists shrinking, but also make it more difficult to buy major Western enterprises. To unite with the big capitalists in the world in an effort to defend the dictatorial regime of the Chinese Communist Party has become basic national policy of the Communist Party. Thus, the policy of keeping a super-low price for the renmimbi by manipulating the exchange rates comes into play. This is the so-called the “China model.” By the way, this policy is not the invention of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, but a policy started all way back in the Deng Xiaoping and Zhao Ziyang era.

Decline of Western economies

This policy of manipulating the price of the renmimbi is very effective. In particular, after China obtained free export rights, or say after it received the so-called most favoured nation treatment, a large number of low-quality goods flooded the developed countries markets with super low prices. As it destroyed the industries of the Western countries, it did not increase export to China, nor create a market for the superior industrial products of the Western countries. Therefore, naturally, the West’s economy gradually declined, while financial capital was in constant growth. The result is the characteristic of this global economic crisis: as the money seemed to be growing, the market has been rapidly shrinking. The big capitalists have their wealth and numbers increased, while the number of the poor people is also rapidly growing.

Due to the lobbying of Western big business, the Western politicians have been afraid to talk about this very obvious problem. However, the Western countries are democratic after all and they have freedom of speech, and the ultimate decision-making power rests in the hands of the people. In the past decade, this serious problem has been discussed more and more by the ordinary people and the media, to the extent that the politicians cannot avoid it.

With this year’s US mid-term elections as a turning point, the issue of the Chinese currency renmimbi exchange rate resulted in a miserable defeat of the Democratic Party. Finally, the US government felt compelled to address this fundamental issue, which has a serious impact on the global economy. To Western politicians, campaign contributions are important, yet of less importance and less direct than votes. Also, while democracy does not guarantee the selection of the most caring politician, it does ensure that the people can control the politicians, can force the politicians to care more for the people. This is the reason that the Obama administration has to address seriously the renmimbi exchange rate issue. In this situation, the Chinese Communist government’s policy of buying the Western big capitalists is not very useful.

Before the mid-term elections in the United States, all sectors expected the defeat of the Democratic Party. After the election, the US government immediately took measures to create a weaker dollar. In the past, the Obama administration has collaborated with the Chinese Communist government like a two-man show. As it faced an increased pressure of public opinion, it continued to send officials to China for negotiations seeming to be very concerned about the renmimbi exchange rate issue. Then, China’s Premier Wen Jiabao would pretend to be overbearing, thus the issue did not get solved. The result was that the big capitalists of both China and the United States could continue to make big money, while the ordinary people of both China and the USA have continued to be poor and the global economic recession has continued.

“Third World War”

Now, the American people have forced the Obama administration to choose between campaign contributions and votes. All of a sudden, the US government seems capable of working toward a solution. Indeed, while the renmimbi is under Premier Wen’s control, control of international finance remains in the United States. The control of the Chinese Communist Party really is not as great as they showed in the two-man show. Therefore, as soon as the US government started action, the dollar depreciated immediately. Exports are expected to increase immediately while imports are expected to slow down quickly, and employment should increase rapidly. A sensational French newspaper called it World War III. This time, it is not a nuclear war, but the currency war.

We can already predict the outcome of this war. The still most powerful United States, united with the majority of countries, will defeat the alliance of economic Fascists. These bumptious big capitalists in China are absolutely not an opponent to Western democracy. The G20 meeting is the last negotiation before the war. The United States has laid out the battlefield: there will be an appreciation of the renmimbi if the Chinese government is willing to negotiate; there will also be an appreciation of the renmimbi if it is not willing. However, the consequences of “with negotiation” and “without negotiation” are totally different.

If Chinese government takes the initiative to raise the value of the renmimbi, and opens up China’s domestic market to imports, then the trade war between China and the United States will subside, the global economy will start to recover, and domestic inflation in China will rapidly subside. This trade balance would be of great value, and will not cause any harm not only to China, but also to the world. Of course, the wealth of the big capitalists will shrink, while the gap between the rich and poor will narrow. However, it is very likely that Wen Jiabao will continue to resist this path.

The result of his resistance is that while there will be a world war on currency, countries will also begin to take measures like put up trade barriers. Then China’s exports will decrease and its economy will slow down while inflation will continue to rise until people cannot bear it any more. China itself will experience civil strife. When it is no good for the people, will it be good for the Communist Party?

I hope people with breadth of vision inside the Chinese Communist Party will think carefully, with a cool and clear mind. Which is more important, the immediate wealth of the big capitalists or the continued survival of the country?

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

Australia Wages Turn Higher, Ominous for Rates

The government’s measure of total hourly pay excluding bonuses, known as the wage price index, rose a seasonally adjusted 1.1 percent in the third quarter from the previous quarter. That topped forecasts for a 1.0 percent increase and was the biggest rise since the last quarter of 2008.

The annual pace of wage growth picked up to 3.5 percent, from 3.0 percent, the fastest pace in over a year. That should be a boon to household incomes and consumption, but it could also add to cost pressures at a time when a mining boom is already heating up the economy.

“This acceleration in wages will get the Reserve Bank’s attention — it underlines everything they’ve been saying about future inflation pressure,” said Brian Redican, a senior economist at Macquarie.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) took a pre-emptive strike against inflation this month by lifting its cash rate 25 basis points to 4.75 percent, and further gradual tightening is expected over the coming year.


Some of the immediate pressure on wages could be lessened by a sharp rise in the number of people looking for work, which lifted the participation rate to a record peak of 65.9 percent in October.

As a result the jobless rate actually climbed 0.3 percentage points last month to 5.4 percent, even as employment grew at a blistering annual pace of 3.4 percent.

Analysts, however, doubt the participation can stretch much higher and expect unemployment to dip under 5 percent next year, lows that have fuelled inflation in the past.

“With the economy heating up and business investment surging, unemployment is certain to fall to 5 percent and lower next year,” said Felicity Emmett, an economist at RBS.

“That means the RBA has further to tighten, though the extent will depend greatly on what the banks do with their lending rates,” she added.


[Return to headlines]

Barroso Says Netherlands Damages EU for Rejecting Budget

BRUSSELS, 17/11/10 — The European Commission says that the Netherlands has inflicted damage on the EU by rejecting the EU budget for 2011. The Hague is responding with a shrug of the shoulders.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said yesterday that he “regrets that a small number of member states was not prepared to negotiate in the spirit of Europe.” Those that believe they achieved a victory over ‘Brussels’ have shot themselves in the foot, the EC president declared. “They must know that they have inflicted a blow on people throughout Europe.”

Due to the opposition of the Netherlands, the UK and Sweden, the European Parliament failed to reach agreement with the EU member states on the EU budget for 2011 during a meeting in Brussels on Monday. Following this failed final mediation effort, the European Commission is forced to draw up a new budget, decision-making about which could take months.

The European Parliament wanted more say in the EU budgets. The MEPs were pushing for a greater role in the discussions about the financing of the EU over the long term, as part of which a European tax is being considered. In exchange for this, the MEPs wanted to accept the demand by the member states to raise the budget next year by a maximum of 2.91 percent to 126.5 billion euros.

“The budget increase of 2.91 percent was already a big concession from our side,” said EU Affairs State Secretary Ben Knapen yesterday. The Hague was originally for a zero increase, like the UK, he recalled. The state secretary said it was no disaster that the budget for 2011 is now not finalised. “The world will not come to an end.”

Finance Minister also rejected Barroso’s criticisms. “I am really not going to blow hot or cold about this criticism. The Netherlands has been a generous partner, but we do have a limit: thus far and no further,” he said.

“If you are against something as a country, you must always be able to be against it, without pressure,” added De Jager. “This was very important for the Netherlands, that the EU budget should not continue to go up enormously. If we have to tighten our belts here, then this also has to happen in Europe.”

According to the Dutch centre-left (D66) MEP Gerben Jan Gerbrandy, the Netherlands has taken the most “rabid” position of all EU member states. “The Netherlands led the resistance, the United Kingdom and Sweden followed.” He bases this on information from a fellow-MEP who was involved with the talks with the member states.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Brüderle: EU Can’t ‘Throw Money’ At Debt Crisis

German Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle warned on Tuesday that the EU cannot simply “throw money” at the spiralling debt crisis within the 16-nation eurozone.

“You can’t just throw money from helicopters … You have to create confidence in institutions, in the state, in public authorities,” Brüderle told reporters while visiting Rome, speaking in German with an Italian translation.

Brüderle said it was up to the Irish government to ask for assistance from the International Monetary Fund or from European funds.

He called on eurozone economies like Greece and Ireland to engage in deficit-reducing reforms “in order not to require assistance any more. The European community as a whole has an interest in finding a way to have guarantees of a solution when there are difficulties,” he added.

He said the situation in Italy was less dramatic.

The European Commission on Tuesday said it was holding talks with the IMF and the European Central Bank to resolve the Irish banking crisis.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy warned early that the 27-nation bloc’s very future could be at stake.

“If we don’t survive with the eurozone we will not survive with the European Union,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Felix Salmon: The Case Against QE

An impressive group of right-leaning technocrats has signed an open letter to Ben Bernanke, objecting to his adoption of QE2. And it’s hard to disagree with what they have to say:

We believe the Federal Reserve’s large-scale asset purchase plan (so-called “quantitative easing”) should be reconsidered and discontinued. We do not believe such a plan is necessary or advisable under current circumstances. The planned asset purchases risk currency debasement and inflation, and we do not think they will achieve the Fed’s objective of promoting employment.

It seems clear that the G20 meeting in Seoul achieved absolutely nothing largely because of the unfortunate timing of Bernanke’s QE2 announcement. It overshadowed everything else, it put Obama on the defensive, and it made it impossible for the G20 to agree on anything. I don’t think that the FOMC anticipated the volume of the international criticism of U.S. policy, and that alone is reason to reconsider what they’re doing. After all, if a policy designed to increase confidence only serves to increase mistrust, it probably isn’t working.

QE isn’t necessary: there’s no immediate and obvious harm which will befall the U.S. if it’s discontinued. If it doesn’t increase employment or decrease unemployment, there’s certainly no reason to do it. And so far the evidence that QE has any effect on employment is slim at best. So yes, there’s a case to be made that QE should be discontinued.

The letter continues:…

           — Hat tip: DS [Return to headlines]

G.M. Shares Said to be Priced at $33, Raising More Than $22 Billion in Biggest U.S. Initial Offering

General Motors has set the offering price for its shares at $33 each, raising more than $22 billion and setting a record for the largest initial public offering in American history, people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.

The offering will cut the government’s stake in the company by more than half, to about 26 percent, and speed up the Obama administration’s efforts to remove itself entirely from the company, a goal that G.M. has also avidly sought. Strong demand for the company’s shares allowed a larger amount of the government’s stake to be sold than originally expected.

G.M. will return to the stock market as a public company on Thursday morning, almost 18 months after it filed for government-directed bankruptcy protection to shed billions of dollars in debt and reshape its business. The government’s stake in the company stemmed from that intervention, which injected $49 billion in public money into the company; $7 billion has since been repaid.

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Government Employees Owe Billions in Delinquent Taxes


The federal agency with the largest back-tax bill? The US Postal Service, where hundreds of thousands of employees owed a total of more than $283 million, said the report.

Also high on the list is the Department of Veterans Affairs, where employees had more than $156 million in back taxes.

The biggest group, though, is retired military personnel. That group owed more than $1.5 billion dollars.

And even the White House folks are behind in their taxes. Employees in the executive office of the president, which includes nearly 2,000 employees, owed more than $831,000 to Uncle Sam, the IRS found.

The large agency with the highest delinquency rate per employee was the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, where more than 11 percent of employees owed back taxes, followed by the Government Printing Office, where nearly seven percent were in arrears.


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Greece’s Toothless Battle Against Corruption

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is doing his best to ward off national bankruptcy. But not all government agencies are cooperating. The country’s justice system refuses to file charges in hundreds of prominent corruption cases.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greek Rescue Frays as Irish Crisis Drags on

The clash caught markets off-guard and heightened fears that Europe’s debt crisis may be escalating, with deep confusion over the Irish crisis as Dublin continues to resist EU pressure to request its own rescue.

Olli Rehn, the EU economics commissioner, said escalating rhetoric in Europe was turning dangerous. “I want to call on every responsible European to resist the centrifugal tendencies and existential alarmism.”

Swirling rumours hit eurozone bond markets, while bourses tumbled across the world. The FTSE 100 fell 2.4pc to 5681.9, and the Dow dropped over 200 points in early trading. The euro slid two cents to $1.3460 against the dollar as the US currency regained its safe-haven status.

Austria’s finance minister Josef Proll said he was “very critical” of Greece’s performance, saying Athens had failed to meet the tax revenue targets agreed under the EU Memorandum.

Credit default swaps on Greek debt rocketed 97 basis points to 950 as investors woke up to the awful possibility that the EU could turn its back on Athens, which will run out of money by mid-January without loans. A Greek default would trigger $300bn (£188bn) worth of CDS contracts.

A ‘Troika’ of EU-IMF inspectors is currently in Greece but has not indicated whether the next €6.5bn (£5.5bn) tranche will be approved. German influence is crucial, yet Greek premier George Papandreou courted fate on Monday when he accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of driving the weaker EMU states into bankruptcy by scaring investors with talk of “haircuts”.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Real Perils: Debt Limit, EPA’s GHG Rule, ‘Green’ California

Catch up quickly: Read these summaries on Raising the Debt Limit, the similarities between the US and Weimar Germany, urgent necessity to rein in the job-killing EPA:


Of course, the overarching priority must be the defanging of Obamacare through the appropriations process, followed by its repeal.

The Tea Partiers, in our experience, are primarily concerned about the restoration of freedom. As Mark Steyn reminds us: “Government health care would be wrong even if it ‘controlled costs.’ It’s a liberty issue. I’d rather be free to choose, even if I make the wrong choices.”

These are four (counting Obamacare) serious and exigent challenges to which Tea Partiers and conservatives will want to give serious thought and then URGE APPROPRIATE ACTION…

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‘The Irish Should Stop Bashing Those Who Want to Help Them’

The Irish government insists it does not require a bailout, even as a team of EU and IMF experts heads to Dublin for talks. Yet aid could also come from another quarter, in the form of Ireland’s neighbor Britain. Meanwhile, the German press is divided on whether Berlin shares some of the blame for Ireland’s woes.

On Tuesday, embattled Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan fended off pressure from other euro-zone member states to seek a bailout package from the stability fund established by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund earlier this year. Yet Dublin may not be able to hold out for much longer.

The imminent arrival of IMF and EU experts in Dublin for what are being described as “short and focused discussions” starting on Thursday could see Ireland eventually tap into the fund, though on Tuesday night, following a meeting of euro-zone foreign ministers in Brussels, Lenihan was still insisting that such a bailout was “not inevitable.”

Speaking to public broadcaster RTE on Wednesday morning, Lenihan said Ireland would accept EU support if the banking crisis was too big for the country to fix on its own. “Ireland is a small country and if the banking problems in the country are too big for this small country to manage, Europe is making it clear that they will help and help in every possible way to secure the system,” Lenihan said.

Dublin’s preferred option is to confine any rescue deal to help with the enormous costs of propping up the Irish banking sector, which has been practically demolished by huge losses incurred from the collapse of the real estate bubble. A wider bailout would be regarded as a humiliation for an already deeply unpopular government which, due to its wafer-thin majority, is unlikely to survive a full legislative period.

Not Just a Bank Bailout

Speaking to the Dáil, the Irish lower house of parliament, on Wednesday, Prime Minister Brian Cowen again denied that the government was in negotiations for a bailout. “What we want to concentrate on now is in a focused way, over the coming days, to sit down and see in what way can assistance be provided to ensure that these issues can be dealt with properly and appropriately in present circumstances.”

However, euro-zone sources have told Reuters that once the joint mission completes its work there is an agreement in principle that aid would be triggered — and that this would not just be for the banks. French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde has already said a decision would be taken in days not months and that help needed to be seen in a broad context. “We should not qualify this as a plan to help the banks,” she said.

The fateful decision by Lenihan in 2008 to guarantee all deposits and debts in the Irish banking sector and the subsequent nationalization of three banks has already cost the state €45 billion ($ 61 billion) and pushed the nation’s 2010 deficit to a staggering 32 percent of gross domestic product. The government has already slashed public spending and the country is braced for another tough budget on Dec. 7, when a further €6 billion in tax hikes and public spending cuts are to be announced. In addition, the government is to present a four-year budgetary plan next week to Brussels.

Yet the Irish commitment to tough austerity measures has not placated the markets, and concerns over the costs of rescuing the banks have pushed up the borrowing costs not just for Ireland but for other vulnerable nations such as Portugal and Spain, and threatens to destabilize the common currency. On Tuesday, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy even warned that the EU was in a “survival crisis” due to the difficulties facing the euro.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Fed is There to Serve the US, Not China

As ye sow, thus shall ye reap. The mercantalism of Chinese economic policy in pegging the yuan to the dollar is rebounding, as eventually it was bound to, in now quite serious levels of Chinese inflation. Overnight, Wen Jiaboa, the Chinese premier, hinted at price controls and further rises in interest rates to stem the tide.

Yet he’s really only got himself to blame for what’s going on. The downside of pegging the yuan to the dollar is that China has to accept the influence of ultra-loose US monetary policy, which is plainly wholly inappropriate for an economy racing away at 10 per cent per annum growth rates.

It’s no wonder the Chinese have been the biggest complainants about the Fed’s latest bout of quantitative easing. It’s the very last thing that China needs right now. Yet there is a very simple solution to China’s troubles. All they have to do is disengage from the dollar and let the yuan appreciate. But they won’t, because they worry that this will destroy the competitiveness of their export industries, and with it, millions of jobs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Horrible Truth Starts to Dawn on Europe’s Leaders

The entire European Project is now at risk of disintegration, with strategic and economic consequences that are very hard to predict.

In a speech this morning, EU President Herman Van Rompuy (poet, and writer of Japanese and Latin verse) warned that if Europe’s leaders mishandle the current crisis and allow the eurozone to break up, they will destroy the European Union itself.

“We’re in a survival crisis. We all have to work together in order to survive with the euro zone, because if we don’t survive with the euro zone we will not survive with the European Union,” he said.

Well, well. This theme is all too familiar to readers of The Daily Telegraph, but it comes as something of a shock to hear such a confession after all these years from Europe’s president.

He is admitting that the gamble of launching a premature and dysfunctional currency without a central treasury, or debt union, or economic government, to back it up — and before the economies, legal systems, wage bargaining practices, productivity growth, and interest rate sensitivity, of North and South Europe had come anywhere near sustainable convergence — may now backfire horribly.

Jacques Delors and fellow fathers of EMU were told by Commission economists in the early 1990s that this reckless adventure could not work as constructed, and would lead to a traumatic crisis. They shrugged off the warnings.

They were told too that currency unions do not eliminate risk: they merely switch it from currency risk to default risk. For that reason it was all the more important to have a workable mechanism for sovereign defaults and bondholder haircuts in place from the beginning, with clear rules to establish the proper pricing of that risk.

But no, the EU masters would hear none of it. There could be no defaults, and no preparations were made or even permitted for such an entirely predictable outcome. Political faith alone was enough. Investors who should have known better walked straight into the trap, buying Greek, Portuguese, and Irish debt at 25-35 basis points over Bunds. At the top of boom funds were buying Spanish bonds at a spread of 4 basis points. Now we are seeing what happens when you build such moral hazard into the system, and shut down the warning thermostat.

Mr Delors told colleagues that any crisis would be a “beneficial crisis”, allowing the EU to break down resistance to fiscal federalism, and to accumulate fresh power. The purpose of EMU was political, not economic, so the objections of economists could happily be disregarded. Once the currency was in existence, EU states would have give up national sovereignty to make it work over time. It would lead ineluctably to the Monnet dream of a fully-fledged EU state. Bring the crisis on.

Behind this gamble, of course, was the assumption that any crisis could be contained at a tolerable cost once the imbalances of EMU’s one-size-fits-none monetary system had already reached catastrophic levels, and once the credit bubbles of Club Med and Ireland had collapsed. It assumed too that Germany, The Netherlands, and Finland would ultimately — under much protest — agree to foot the bill for a ‘Transferunion’.

We may soon find out whether either assumption is correct. Far from binding Europe together, monetary union is leading to acrimony and mutual recriminations. We had the first eruption earlier this year when Greece’s deputy premier accused the Germans of stealing Greek gold from the vaults of the central bank and killing 300,000 people during the Nazi occupation.


My own view is that the EU became illegitimate when it refused to accept the rejection of the European Constitution by French and Dutch voters in 2005. There can be no justification for reviving the text as the Lisbon Treaty and ramming it through by parliamentary procedure without referenda, in what amounted to an authoritarian Putsch. (Yes, the national parliaments were themselves elected — so don’t write indignant comments pointing this out — but what was their motive for denying their own peoples a vote in this specific instance? Elected leaders can violate democracy as well. There was a corporal from Austria … but let’s not get into that).

Ireland was the one country forced to hold a vote by its constitutional court. When this lonely electorate also voted no, the EU again disregarded the result and intimidated Ireland into voting a second time to get it “right”.

This is the behaviour of a proto-Fascist organization, so if Ireland now — by historic irony, and in condign retribution — sets off the chain-reaction that destroys the eurozone and the European Union, it will be hard to resist the temptation of opening a bottle of Connemara whisky and enjoying the moment. But resist one must. The cataclysm will not be pretty.

My one thought for all those old friends still working for the EU institutions is what will happen to their euro pensions if Mr Van Rompuy is right?


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]


Dolan Chosen as President of U.S. Bishops’ Group

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops elected Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York to be its president on Tuesday in a surprise move that reaffirmed the conservative direction of the Roman Catholic Church in America.

The vote makes Archbishop Dolan the most visible face of the church in the United States. It also suggested that the bishops were seeking a powerful and reliably orthodox voice to reassert the church’s teaching in the court of public opinion and to disarm critics who insist that the bishops have lost their moral authority as a result of their role in the sexual abuse scandals.

For the first time, the bishops overlooked tradition and passed over a vice president who was running for the presidency, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson. Bishop Kicanas represents the more liberal “social justice” tradition of the American church and is known for advocating dialogue between Catholic liberals and traditionalists. Archbishop Dolan is considered a moderate conservative.

Archbishop Dolan said in a news conference after the vote that he would carry on the forceful opposition of his predecessor, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, to the recent health care overhaul because the bishops believed it would permit expanded government financing for abortion.

“My major priority would be to continue with all vigor I can muster what’s already in place,” Archbishop Dolan said. “It’s not like we’re in crisis; it’s not like all of a sudden we need some daring new initiatives. Thank God for the leadership of Cardinal Francis George, things are going well.”

Archbishop Dolan also suggested that he would not countenance other Catholic leaders and organizations when they take public positions that contradict the bishops. That is what happened this year when some groups representing Catholic hospitals and nuns came out in support of the health care overhaul bill, despite the bishops’ staunch opposition.

“We’re pastors and teachers,” Archbishop Dolan said of the bishops’ role, “not just one set of teachers in the Catholic community, but THE teachers.”


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House Democrats Re-Elect Pelosi as Their Leader

Representative Nancy Pelosi was re-elected as the House Democratic leader on Wednesday despite a striking show of unrest among members of her caucus following the Democrats’ heavy losses in the midterm elections.

Meeting in private, House Democrats voted 150-43 to leave in place a woman who, as Speaker of the House, became a lightning rod for public anger over some of the sweeping and costly legislation passed during the past two years.

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Religion Offers No Break on Airport Screening, TSA Says

WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration says airline passengers won’t get out of body imaging screening or pat-downs based on their religious beliefs.

TSA chief John Pistole told the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Tuesday that passengers who refuse to go through a full-body scanner machine and reject a pat-down won’t be allowed to board, even if they turned down the in-depth screening for religious reasons.

“That person is not going to get on an airplane,” Pistole said in response to a question from Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., on whether the TSA would provide exemptions for passengers whose religious beliefs do not allow them to go through a physically revealing body scan or be touched by screeners.

Civil rights groups contend the more intensive screening violates civil liberties including freedom of religion, the right to privacy and the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches.

The issue is getting new attention after a man posted an item online saying he was thrown out of the San Diego airport for rejecting a full-body scan and pat-down groin check and instead insisting on passing through a metal detector.

Pistole acknowledged the incident was drawing wide attention but told the committee an officer involved was “very cool, calm, professional” in dealing with the passenger.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is among several civil liberties groups suing the TSA in federal court to stop use of the full-body scanners. Their lawsuit says the machines are overly intrusive and violate civil rights, and that it is questionable whether they can detect powdered explosives such as those used by a passenger in last year’s attempted Christmas airliner bombing. They also question whether the machines pose a health risk.

“There’s a very strong sense right now that the public attitude on the airport body scanner program has swung dramatically,” said Marc Rotenberg, director of EPIC. There is growing opposition from civil rights groups, religious organizations, libertarians, airline passengers and pilots, he said.

EPIC is urging air travelers to take part in a national opt-out day the day before Thanksgiving, refusing to go through the full-body detectors and insisting that any pat-down they receive as a result take place in full view of other passengers.

Several senators asked Pistole to address public criticism of the body-imaging machines and more intrusive pat-downs the agency is using. Pistole said the tougher screening is necessary, and that the FDA has found the imaging machines to be safe. Going through the whole-body scanning machine is similar to getting about three minutes of the radiation that passengers receive at 30,000 feet on a typical flight, he said.

Pistole said his agency was working to address pilot and flight attendant concerns about the screening.

           — Hat tip: LS [Return to headlines]

Right of the Boom


Wired argues that the problem with a “National Opt Out Day” is that it might actually work. “Some travel writers have expressed concern that the protest, called for the busiest air-travel day of the year, could cause backups and delays for all travelers.” If it works, not only will it short out the air traffic system but it will a message. The problem is: what message is that? That the public is willing to accept some amount of risk for the privilege of hassle free flying? Or the message that the government is going about security in the wrong way?


Airport security is last-ditch point defense. It is like armor on a troop carrier or the ECM that it carries. In both Afghanistan and Iraq the US military learned from hard experience that fighting roadside bombs was both expensive and comparatively ineffective…


In the end, CAIR may exempt all Muslims from pat-downs. And in the perverse nature of Washington politics that outcome will somehow solve the problem in the manner once described by a Belmont commenter as “Kick the Can Down the Road”.


Ultimately the only way “National Opt Out Day” can succeed is if it becomes transformed into WTF Day…Until then, just fly the friendly skies. And bend over.

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Terror Suspect Cleared of All Charges Except for One Count of Conspiracy

The first former Guantánamo detainee to be tried in a civilian court was acquitted on Wednesday of all but one of more than 280 charges of conspiracy and murder in the 1998 terrorist bombings of the United States Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The case has been seen as a test of President Obama’s goal of trying detainees in federal court whenever feasible, and the result may again fuel debate over whether civilian courts are appropriate for trying terrorists.

The defendant, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, 36, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to destroy government buildings and property.

The attacks, orchestrated by Al Qaeda, killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and wounded thousands of others.

Mr. Ghailani faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

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The Big Disconnect: D.C. Elites Think Obama Will be Reelected, But the Public Doubts it


This big difference can partially be explained by the different ways that the two groups see the economy and the world today.

Seventy percent of D.C. elites admit that they have been affected less than the average citizen when it comes to the economic downturn. The elites see the tea party as purely a fad (70 percent).

In contrast, those who say that the president will not be reelected see the country as headed in the wrong direction by 82 percent, see the economy as headed in the wrong direction by 81 percent and overwhelmingly want repeal of the health care law at the top of the agenda.

The quarter of the public who consider Obama’s reelection probable see the economy turning around by nearly 3-to-1. They are the outliers of the electorate, suggesting that the president has a lot more work to do to get back on track for a second term.


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The New American Citizen

We are at the dawn of a new age in America. The old ways are proving less and less viable. Sustainability is not a new word, it is the word for what came before. Now, there is unsustainable debt, unsustainable regulations, unsustainable oppression, unsustainable ignorance, unsustainable leisure, unsustainable inattention. Common sense tells us all we need to know about the future of America. It is up to us.

What we used to do can no longer be done…


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Will “Buy Fresh”; “Buy Local” Survive the FDA?

Senate Bill 510 the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act may come up for vote sometime this week, this bill which makes it easier for the Food and Drug Administration to issue recalls and which adds numerous new regulations will adversely affect small farms and businesses.

Food born illnesses that have recently made the news has once again spurred our federal government to over react in a way that will do harm to those who are not responsible for the problem.

Problems which resulted from inadequate enforcement of current regulations are now being addressed by imposing even more regulations. These added regulatory burdens which will be easily dealt with by the large corporations will cost time and money for the small local operations that are barely surviving as it is.

Businesses such as Archer Daniels Midland a fortune 500 company whose 2009 revenues were $69.2 billion will certainly have no problem absorbing the extra cost of these regulations. As a matter of fact large corporate farms, the same farms that receive most of the federal farm subsidies, are supporting more regulations which they believe will help eliminate their smaller local competition [emphasis added]

If this bill sees the light of day without some serious exemptions for small local farms and businesses we can forget about the by fresh buy local movement. Call your senators and urge them to vote no on this bill or at the very least to agree to attach the Tester Amendment (named after Sen. Jon Tester) which would exempt smaller food producers from some of the bill’s regulations.


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Europe and the EU

Britain Extends the White Flag of Surrender to Islamist Radicals

by A. Millar

“If we know anything,” former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, once observed “we know that weakness is provocative.” Mired in political correctness, Britain’s “elites” apparently prefer to think of displays of weakness as “outreach.”

Britain’s “elites” seem not to notice Islamism, but prefer to believe that if those protesting against Islamism could be silenced, the problem of radical Islam would disappear. It was this mindset that saw parliament introducing a religious hate speech law, aimed at silencing criticism of Islam and Islamism, in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings. Britain’s establishment, in other words, has busied itself clearing a very large space in which the Islamists can operate.

Last month, the British coalition government unveiled The Strategic Defense and Security Review [pdf]. The defense budget will be slashed by 8% over the next four years. Britain’s flagship HMS Ark Royal, Harrier jump jets, replacement Nimrod spy planes will be axed, as will 42,000 jobs in the armed forces and the Ministry of Defense .

The cuts are so severe that top military officers are said to be considering threatening resignation if the budget cuts go ahead as planned. US Secretary if Stare Hillary Clinton has also aired the US administration’s concern over the size of the cuts.

The scrapping of the flagship aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal must surely have caused top navy brass to reflect on the decommissioning of the HMS Intrepid in 1982: only four months after decommissioning had begun, Argentina invaded the British territory of the Falklands Islands. In the ensuing 74-day war, Britain lost more than 250 servicemen, before reclaiming the territory.

Prior to the outbreak of conflict, it was almost universally believed that Britain could not defeat the Argentine forces. The HMS Intrepid had to be hurriedly brought back into commission, and sent to the Falklands to defend the islands.

Since British companies began oil exploration off the islands early in the year, Argentina has once again made clear its intention to bring them under Argentine sovereignty.

There is also the Spanish and British dispute over the British territory of Gibraltar.

Both are potentially serious situations, even if they do not rank very highly in the concerns of the British public. To them, unsurprisingly, terrorism is considered “a Tier One risk,” if not the major threat to British security.

In the words of the Strategic Defense and Security Review: “The most significant terrorist threat to the UK and its interests overseas comes from the Al Qaeda senior leadership based in the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and their affiliates and supporters.”

The risk sounds reassuringly far away.

It was, of course, intended to.

The sense that terrorism is a distant threat, however, is not only created by invoking the hinterlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan and “Al Qaeda senior leadership,” but by the complete absence of an acknowledgment of the ideology behind the threat. Nowhere in the report is Islamism, or political Islam, mentioned.

Much of Europe is now openly, if reluctantly, acknowledging the problems wrought by political multiculturalism, not least of all how it has facilitated the rise of Islamic radicalism in European states…

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Clinton Critical of Religious Freedom in Europe

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Wednesday the state of religious freedom in Europe, as Washington highlighted policies and attitudes toward Muslim veils and Islam as a whole.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Wednesday the state of religious freedom in Europe, as Washington highlighted policies and attitudes toward Muslim veils and Islam as a whole.”Several European countries have placed harsh restrictions on religious expression,” Clinton said, without elaborating as she unveiled the State Department’s report on international religious freedom for the last year.Her assistant secretary for human rights, Michael Posner, cited France’s ban on wearing the niqab and other face coverings in public places and a Swiss motion passed last year that bans building new minarets.Both measures have been criticized as intolerant moves stigmatizing Europe’s growing Muslim population.

Posner acknowledged “growing sensitivity and tension in Europe” over Islam.

“What we are urging our European friends to do is to take every measure to try to alleviate that tension,” he added.The different attitudes toward Muslims in Europe and the United States are the source of frequent tensions and misunderstandings between both sides of the Atlantic.

“We have gone to court in the United States to enforce the right of Muslim women and girls to wear a burqa, and on the streets, in schools, et cetera,” said Posner.”That’s our position. It’s a position we articulate when we talk to our European friends.”

France’s law banning veils — passed last month — was considered an especially controversial move in a country with Europe’s biggest Muslim population, estimated at nearly six million. The Netherlands is expected to follow suit.

Clinton defined religious freedom as the ability for people to freely practice their faith, raise their children within those traditions, publish religious texts without censorship and to be able to either change religion or practice none.

She noted strong US opposition to any legislation condemning religious libel because of freedom of expression concerns.

The State Department’s annual report — covering a period from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010 — found that respect for religious freedom deteriorated in Afghanistan and Iran while China and Indonesia earned mixed scorecards.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Germany: Politician Demands More Police in Muslim Areas

Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Uwe Schünemann on Wednesday said more police were needed in predominately Muslim districts in Germany and Islamists should be banned from using mobile phones and computers to combat terrorism.

“A mobile and computer ban for Islamist agitators would hinder their communication,” Schünemann told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung

Speaking ahead of a meeting of German state interior ministers in Hamburg this week, Schünemann also said known Islamists should be forbidden from visiting radical Mosques and problem areas.

He said state police should be given the authority to monitor the e-mails and telephone calls of such suspects before they had committed a crime.

Schünemann is likely to find more support for his other initiative for the interior minister conference — ending the deportation of well-integrated young refugees and immigrants.

“With a unanimous resolution, preliminary protection against deportation could be achieved,” he told the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung.

His counterpart for the city-state of Bremen, Ulrich Mäurer, a centre-left Social Democrat, also supported such a move.

Meanwhile federal Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger of the Free Democrats said clear rules on residency for underage immigrants was overdue.

At the conference on Thursday, the states of Lower Saxony and Hamburg hope to convince other states that well-integrated refugees and immigrants who came to Germany as children deserve residency status.

Currently these children and teens are dependent on their parents’ visas, regardless of how well they’ve settled in to German society.

Lower Saxony’s Schünemann vowed to change this.

“We’re giving the girls and boys affected by this a new chance to stay long-term in Germany if they have honestly tried to gain a foothold in German society,” he said, adding that until their children are grown, their parents must be allowed to remain too.

According to Schünemann’s plan, a preliminary agreement would protect the young people concerned until federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière could push a new law through parliament.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: De Maizière Warns of Imminent Terror Attacks

5 German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière on Wednesday warned the government had indications Islamists were planning terrorist attacks in Germany later this month.

“There is information from our foreign partners that planned attacks are allegedly to be carried out at the end of November,” he said in Berlin, describing a “new situation” regarding the Islamist threat towards the nation.

“There’s reason to be worried, but no reason to panic,” he said, mentioning “concrete leads” being followed by the authorities.

De Maizière said he had put federal police on alert and ordered heightened security at German airports and train stations.

“From today, there will be a more visible police presence. I thought it should be explained to citizens,” he said.

The announcement is a marked departure from the German government’s warnings in recent weeks of an abstract terrorist threat.

Only last month, de Maizière criticized reports Islamists were planning imminent attacks in Germany as “alarmist” and said there was no reason to change the country’s security threat level.

But the minister said on Wednesday security services had noticed growing signs that the terrorist network al-Qaida was planning attacks in the United States, Europe and Germany since mid-2010.

“We now have more details and indications of danger,” he said. “It is the unanimous assessment of the security services that we are currently dealing with a new situation.”

He said Berlin had been tipped off by overseas authorities following the discovery of two US-bound parcel bombs originating from Yemen last month. One of the packages travelled undetected through Cologne-Bonn Airport before being stopped in Britain.

Daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reported the United States had warned German officials that between two and four al-Qaida operatives were on their way to Germany and Britain to attempt attacks.

Security sources cited by the paper named Germany’s popular Christmas markets among potential targets and said the terrorists were expected to arrive in the country on November 22 via India or the United Arab Emirates.

But de Maizière said Germans should not be cowed by the threat of possible attacks.

“We will not allow international terrorism to limit our way of life or our liberty,” he said.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Germany Tightens Airport Security Over Attacks Threat

Germany is increasing security at airports and railway stations in light of “concrete indications” of terrorist attacks being planned for the end of November.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said it followed a tip-off from another, unnamed country.

Germany had information on “sustained efforts” by Islamist extremists to carry out attacks, he said.

He said the extra security would remain in place “until further notice”.

“There are grounds for concern, but not for hysteria,” Mr de Maiziere told a news conference in Berlin.

The federal police force has been ordered to step up checks at airports and train stations, he added.

Yemen connection Mr de Maiziere said Germany had received a tip-off after two parcel bombs were intercepted en route from Yemen to the United States last month. One of the bombs was despatched via the German city of Cologne but was intercepted in the UK.

The Yemen plot showed “the adaptability and the persistence of terrorists in pursuing their aims,” Mr de Maiziere said, and also underlines “the reliability of some leads”.

Germany would not allow international terrorism to constrict its way of life or liberal culture, he said.

Last year, twelve militants vanished from Hamburg, some to resurface in Northern Pakistan where at least one, but not all were killed in an American drone attack.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Italy: Mafia Writer-Minister Row Escalates

Maroni demands denial after comments compared to Mob lawyer’s

(ANSA) — Rome, November 17 — A huge row between Interior Minister Roberto Maroni and anti-Mafia writer Roberto Saviano escalated Wednesday when the author compared a turn of phase used by the minister to comments made by an infamous mobster’s lawyer.

The furore exploded on Monday when Saviano said Calabria’s ‘Ndrangheta syndicate had spread outside their southern base and was ‘talking” to the Northern League on a controversial hit show on state broadcaster RAI.

Northern League heavyweight Maroni said the comments were slanderous and demanded the right to reply on the show, adding: “I’d like a face-to-face with him to see if he has the courage to say those things looking me in the eye”.

The row heated up further when Saviano, whose 2006 book Gomorra (Gomorrah) on the Neapolitan Camorra mafia was an international bestseller, claimed that the lawyer of jailed Camorra boss Francesco ‘Sandokan’ Schiavone had once said something similar to him.

“Certain words are truly disturbing coming from the mouth of the interior minister,” Saviano told Wednesday’s edition of left-leaning daily La Repubblica.

Maroni said he was flabbergasted at that and suggested he was considering legal action.

“I’m astounded. I hope it was a mistake and therefore I ask Saviano for a denial, reserving the right to take any necessary action (if it is not forthcoming),” the minister said.

He added that if RAI did not allow him the right to reply on the show, Vieni Via Con Me, it would be “a sort of gag or censorship”.

Maroni had said on Tuesday he would appeal to President Giorgio Napolitano if he was not granted time on the show, after one of the chiefs of the RAI channel it is broadcast on said he could reply elsewhere. Saviano, who spends much of his time in hiding and is under 24-hour police protection after enraging mobsters with Gomorra, a play on the word ‘Camorra’, had justified his comments by saying they were based on the results of judicial probes into mafia attempts to penetrate northern Italy’s political environment. He cited the example of a local League councillor who met a man linked to ‘Ndrangheta, while stressing that the councillor had never been put under investigation. Maroni responded that he was well aware that ‘Ndrangheta were trying to infiltrate northern Italy’s political and economic spheres, pointing out that he had taken several initiatives to counter this.

These measures include a special commission he set up to watch out for mafia attempts to muscle in on contracts for the 2015 Milan Expo.

“But here we are talking about something else — it was said that ‘Ndrangheta talks to the League in the North,” said Maroni Wednesday.

“I reject that statement. It’s a serious falsehood”. The minister reiterated that the current government has fought hard against organised crime, saying a string of recent operations against ‘Ndrangheta, the Camorra and their Sicilian cousins Cosa Nostra have put the clans on the back foot.

Saviano’s comments also sparked indignation from other members of the League and of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, their government allies.

“The results the government and the interior minister have achieved in the fight against the Mafia are plain to see,” said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of the PdL.

“We are witnessing a poisonous, slanderous attempt to discredit this effort, the minister behind it and the party he belongs to”. But Saviano, whose book Gomorra was made into a successful film of the same name, also had supporters.

“Saviano was not mudslinging, as the League says, he was simply showing things as they are,” said Francesco Ferrante of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), the biggest opposition group.

On Wednesday the Antimafia Investigative Directorate (DIA) said ‘Ndrangheta’s presence in Lombardy was in “constant, progressive development” and that the syndicate “interacts” with the northern region’s business sphere in its latest report to parliament.

Monday’s edition of Vieni Via Con Me, which Saviano co-hosts, had already sparked polemics before going on air and attracting over nine million viewers, more than 30% of the overall audience share.

The PdL were furious at being excluded after PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani and House Speaker Gianfranco Fini were invited to give monologues on the values of the Left and the Right respectively.

Fini appeared on the same day he pulled his ministers from the government, leaving it on the brink of collapse, having split earlier this year from the PdL he founded with Berlusconi and forming his own party, Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI).

The appearance of euthanasia-supporting relatives of two deceased people at the centre of high-profile right-to-die cases also caused controversy.

Berlusconi was among the targets of Oscar-winning Italian director Roberto Benigni’s satire when he starred on the first episode of the show last week.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

More and More Greeks Seek Work in Turkey

Fifty years ago, Greek workers moved to Germany when Greece was unable to offer them an adequate standard of living. Now a new wave of emigration is building up, as many Greeks are looking for work abroad.

The search is no longer confined to Western Europe and includes Turkey. Dozens of requests from jobless Greeks are being sent to the Greek consulate in Istanbul each week. Applications are also being made at the Greek-Turkish Chamber of Northern Greece in Thessaloniki.

“At this time last year, our consulate had not received a single request for work. They started coming at the start of the year and have been building up gradually,” Yiannis Karkanis, head of the consulate’s commercial section, told Sunday’s Greek daily Kathimerini. “The Greeks who approach us are, for the most part, couples and heads of families. They come from all parts of Greece. Most of them don’t have special skills, nor do they speak Turkish. But when they look for a job as a laborer in Turkey, where salaries start at 300 euros per month, they are either desperate or they don’t know anything about the country that they want to emigrate to.”

On the other hand, young people who have approached the chamber in Thessaloniki are highly educated, with university degrees and post-graduate degrees and knowledge of the Turkish language. “This began in the last six months and continues on a daily basis, with at least one request each day,” the chamber’s president, Zano Apikyan, told Kathimerini. “What’s impressive is that quite a few Greeks speak Turkish. The Turkish departments of language schools are blooming.”

The fact that more than 400 Greek companies are active in Turkey is playing a key role in this growing interest. “Every foreign investment in Turkey is welcome. They believe that this helps in the fight against unemployment,” Apikyan said.

Istanbul brimming with opportunities

Dimitris Sourvalis, a criminologist, offered the viewpoint of someone who is interested in working in Turkey. “In the past year, there is growing interest in Istanbul. The bad economic climate in our country and the lack of opportunity for young people are creating a climate of despair,” he said. “This cannot be absorbed either by the academic establishment or by private business. On the other hand, in Turkey we see there is potential for us.”

Sourvalis is currently a post-graduate student in Thessaloniki’s Balkan Studies department, specializing in Turkey’s social, political and cultural structures. His choice has a practical side: Istanbul is the closest Balkan metropolis to northern Greece and it is a hub brimming with opportunities.

Medea Tsartsidou, 29, has been trying to find a job in Greece for the past six years. She graduated from the Balkan Studies department in Florina and has worked occasionally as a translator for businesses operating in Turkey. “The potential for finding a steady job in Greece is diminishing. Now, with the crisis, all hope is being lost,” she said. As the child of Russian-speaking ethnic Greeks, she chose a postgraduate degree in Turkish studies.

Twenty-five-year-old Georgia Yiambouri knows Turkish and Serbian and has studied Turkey’s culture, history and language at the postgraduate level. “Theoretically, we have specialized in the Balkans, but, in practice, in Greece there are no opportunities for work. Istanbul is a solution. I have been trying, sending my CV to companies, to universities. I’ll even consider further studies there,” she said.

Athens daily Kathimerini is a strategic partner of the Hürriyet Daily News.

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

Netherlands: Discontent Within Christenunie on Leftwing Course

ZWOLLE, 17/11/10 — Members of Christian party ChristenUnie have complained at a meeting with party leader Andre Rouvoet that the party has become too leftwing.

A delegation from Urk, a ChristenUnie bulwark, set the debate in motion. “We have a strong idea that ChristenUnie is GroenLinks with a Christian dressing,” said branch spokesman Albert Woord. “This causes me concern. I also experience it as an insult. We are suffering from this in Urk. I sometimes almost do not dare to say that I am from ChristenUnie.”

Others joined in. “ChristenUnie must not stand in the choir of the leftwing opposition by the intervention microphones,” said a member from Meppel. “Then you contribute to the picture of the party being leftwing.” And a farmer complained that “ChristenUnie supports everything that helps to get rid of farmers,” Christian newspaper Reformatorsich Dagblad reported.

A broad call was made to Rouvoet no longer to describe the party as ‘Christian-social’. He rejected the suggestion. “Christian politics is by definition social politics: defending the vulnerable, the position of families.” Leftwing the party is not, he said. “We consider that the government has a limited task. This is certainly not left. Nor do we form any bloc with leftwing parties.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Pope: Episcopal Conferences Do Not Strip Bishops’ Role

(AGI) Vatican City — “The Episcopal Conferences must not become parallel or substitute realities to the ministry of bishops.” This was part of Benedict XV’s his speech to a group of bishops from Brazil today, where the Episcopal Conference is currently celebrating its 60th anniversary. He went on to say that “Episcopal Conferences are born of the concrete application of the communion of love between the bishops and the Pontiff. They also constitute an effective and affective communion tool among its members.” They are, therefore, a precious institution because they “promote a coming together of the efforts and intentions of bishops, becoming an instrument that enables its commitment to be shared.” . ..

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

Ryanair Crew Lock Toilets, Turn Out Lights and Leave Plane as Re-Routed Passengers Stage Four-Hour Sit-in

More than 100 furious passengers staged a mutiny aboard a Ryanair flight last night by refusing to get off a plane that was re-routed to Belgium.

The jet carrying mainly French travellers from Fez in Morocco was supposed to have landed at Beauvais airport near Paris on Tuesday night but was delayed by weather.

But because it took off three hours late, by the time it reached Beauvais, the airport had closed.

When it landed at the southern Belgian city of Liege, the militant travellers staged a four-hour sit-in, demanding to be taken back to France.

Passengers claimed that when they refused to get off the plane, Ryanair cabin crew locked the toilets, turned off the lights and left them on the tarmac for four hours.

Reda Yahiyaoui, travelling with his wife, three-year-old daughter and two-month old baby, said: ‘We were all tired after a long journey and angry at being dumped 200 miles away in Belgium.

‘We just wanted to get back home so we sat on the plane asking to be flown to France.

‘But they just parked the plane then turned off the lights and locked the toilets and left us with no food or water.

‘The pilot also got off and even left the cockpit door open.’

Another passenger Mylene Netange said: ‘We were staging a legitimate protest but what they did was unacceptable.

‘They just walked off and left us there.’

A Liege airport spokesman said they tried to coax the passengers off the plane by offering them food and drink in an airport lounge, then free buses back to Beauvais.

He added: ‘We said they could sit in comfort in a transit lounge but it was a difficult negotiation and they refused to budge.’

It was not until 3.30am, four hours after the plane touched down, that the passengers finally agreed to get off the plane, he added.

The passengers were said to have all finally agreed to board coaches for the three-hour drive back to Beauvais in the early hours of Wednesday.

Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara said in a statement: ‘Due to the weather related (fog) closure of Paris Beauvais Airport on 16th Nov four Ryanair flights were forced to divert to Liege.

‘The majority of passengers followed crew requests to disembark for onward coach transportation to Paris Beauvais. Passengers on one flight, FR5222 (Fez — Paris Beauvais), ignored crew instructions and remained on the aircraft until requested to disembark by Airport Police.

‘Ryanair thanks the majority of passengers who followed crew advice and apologises to them for the inconvenience of these weather related diversions. All passengers were coached onward to Beauvais.

‘This is now a matter for the police.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Chlamydia ‘Refuseniks’ Face Police Round Up

Eight people in northern Sweden who have refused to submit to a test for the sexually transmitted disease chlamydia could be forcibly collected by police, reported the local Norrländska Socialdemokraten (NSD) daily.

After the refusal of repeated requests to submit to tests, the matter was referred to the administrative court (Förvaltningsdomstolen) which ruled on Monday to authorise the forcible examination of eight, of a total of eleven suspected cases, under provisions in the Communicable Diseases Act.

“They are fuss pots and refuseniks,” said the county medical officer Anders Österlund to the newspaper.

Österlund told NSD that it is unusual that cases go as far as forcible collection by the police, but that the county health authority felt obliged to act in response to tougher guidelines from the Swedish Health and Welfare Board (Socialstyrelsen).

“We haven’t changed the regulations. But the general understanding of monitoring these types of cases has been clarified. We have to trace the infection,” said Agneta Holmström at the Health and Welfare Board to The Local on Wednesday.

The group of people, all resident in Norrbotten in the far north of Sweden, have repeatedly ignored requests, summonses, and even resisted police visits to advise them of their obligation to take a urine test.

The Communicable Diseases Act (1988) allows for a doctor to enact forcible measures to ensure the control of infectious diseases. If a person continues to have unprotected sex despite being under suspicion of carry an infection, then isolation can be enforced as a last resort.

“They (the doctors) are their own authority. But the measures have to be in proportion to the risk of infection,” Holmström said, explaining that the law allows measures can be taken with respect to HIV, chlamydia and syphilis.

During the first half of 2010 17,253 case of chlamydia were reported to the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (Smittskyddsinstitutet — SMI), a decline of 8 percent on the corresponding period of 2009.

Despite the decline, the disease remains a priority for health authorities and SMI together with the Health and Welfare Board have recently published a joint guidance report on infectious diseases and the law, and the rights and obligation of infected individuals.

“We want to hinder the spreading of the diseases,” Agneta Holmström told The Local.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden Green Lights ‘Fingerprint Time Clocks’

Swedish employers have been authorised to use fingerprints to track worker’s job attendance following a review of the practice by the Data Inspection Board (Datainspektionen).

After receiving a complaint, the agency launched an investigation into a system in place at telephone and electronics retailer The Phone House which replaced a traditional time clock with a fingerprint scanner.

The system involved used employees fingerprints to track when workers came to work in the morning, when they took lunch, and when they left at the end of the work day.

In giving its approval to the system, the Data Inspection Board emphasised that employees must give their consent to the practice and be allowed to refuse to use the system.

In addition, the agency said that employees were entitled to receive “clear and detailed information” about what the fingerprint scanning system entailed.

The agency received an anonymous complaint, which led to a review of practices at The Phone House.

The company told the Data Inspection Board that it implemented the system at several of its retail outlets to protect against employees punching time cards for other workers.

“We think that it’s okay under the condition that this company receives consent from employees. It’s important to emphasise that the employees not be subject to any direct or indirect pressure to choose the system,” said Data Inspection Board lawyer Lars Söderberg to the TT news agency.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Five Muslim Boys and White Girl, All 12, Excluded Over Facebook Death Threats to Classmate Who Supported British Troops

Six pupils have been excluded from school for making death threats to a classmate on Facebook after he admitted supporting British troops.

Five Muslim boys and one white girl, all aged 12, have been disciplined following the incident.

The yobs threatened to attack attack terrified Darius Gill, 13, with knuckle dusters and knives in revenge for not supporting Islamic extremists.

The chilling threats came hours after Darius — whose father is Asian — posted a touching tribute to the thousands of squaddies who have lost their lives defending Britain.

But a gang of pupils at a Coventry school in a predominantly Muslim area expressed outrage at Darius’s patriotism.

One message, littered with spelling mistakes, said: ‘Fight on Monday gonna be heavy knuckle dusters nd knifes hopefully I don’t die.’ His pal added: ‘ill bang him ma slef am a terrorist.’

One of the thugs also posted a chilling picture of himself holding a rifle.

Shockingly, other pupils — who have set up a Muslim Defence League which celebrates British deaths in Afghanistan — also added comments condemning Darius.

The boy’s mother Clare Allington read the comments on Monday morning — the day of the promised attack — and immediately pulled her son out of school.

Today Clare, 42, from Coventry, said: ‘I logged on and it broke my heart. I was reading all sorts about knuckle dusters, knives and death. They were planning to attack him at school that day so I rang the school straight away.

‘I usually keep an eye on what Darius posts on Facebook. I usually check it every day but didn’t last weekend until I was at the Warwick University campus on Monday.

‘If I hadn’t read the threats and pulled my son out of school he could be dead.

‘They might just be school children but they are fanatical and dangerous. The threats have to be taken seriously.

‘My son wrote supporting the British troops in Afghanistan and also said he was sad so many soldiers had died.

‘The so-called Muslim Defence League which has been set up in the school by a number of pupils believe Darius should join them in hating British soldiers.

‘It’s appalling and extremely upsetting for him.’


The two boys now face expulsion from the school.

The school principal said: ‘Two boys are going to be excluded until we are able to meet with the parents and resolve the issue.

‘We will also be in contact with each and every pupil who also posted offensive comments to say they will not be allowed to return to school until they remove the comments from Facebook.

‘What the children have done is unacceptable.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Religion is Seen as ‘Irrelevant, Old-Fashioned and Violent’, Warns Former Met Chief

Religion is regarded by most people as ‘irrelevant, old-fashioned and violent’, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner claimed last night.

Lord Blair, who led Scotland Yard during the July 7 bombings in 2005, said faith leaders were losing the struggle to prove that religion is a force for good.

In particular, he said Islam is being ‘demonised’ as a result of atrocities carried out in the name of a ‘distorted’ version of the creed.

He described Islam as one of the ‘great’ Abrahamic religions and a ‘faith of peace’ which had suffered as a result of atrocities carried out by individuals.

The religious impulse should be recognised as a source of goodness in spite of the ‘horrors’ inflicted by organised religion, he said at the Theos think-tank annual lecture in central London.

Religious people were losing the struggle to make it ‘clear’ that faith impels them to do good deeds, he said.

To most people faith looks ‘irrelevant, clannish, prejudiced, old-fashioned and violent,’ he said.

But the greatest achievements of history, such as the abolition of slavery and the provision of education or free health care for all had their origins in the religious impulse, he said.

‘Religion should be the most peaceful of all the agencies of social cohesion,’ he said.

‘Its infinite number of unseen and unsung acts of charity and love are not known individually but in total they are part of public consciousness.

‘They should be and remain the glue that permits modern society to exist, particularly in an increasingly urbanised age — in other words, they are a bulwark of public order, in the sense of orderliness and tranquility.’

In his lecture, Lord Blair, who is an Anglican, emphasised the importance of doubt in religious faith.

He said certainty of being in the right had fuelled religiously-inspired violence.

‘Doubt is part of the mortar of a building faith,’ he said.

‘Unless your faith has been tested by doubt, it is not faith but just an attitude, a retreat from the modern world.

‘Doubt in the very nature of faith can surely be a useful companion to a necessary lack of shrill conviction that our own faith is more valuable than that of another.’

He added that, as an Anglican, he did not understand the ‘obsession’ in his own church over women priests and bishops or the way the Anglican Communion was ‘tearing itself apart’ over homosexuality.

He also failed to understand the Catholic Church’s insistence on priestly celibacy, he told his audience.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Algerian Writer Shows Different Side of Italy

Novelist Amara Lakhous on immigration and identity

(by Romina Spina).

(ANSA) — Rome, November 16 — Rome-based writer Amara Lakhous had no luggage when he arrived in Italy from Northern Africa fifteen years ago.

At the time, his native Algeria was imploding into civil war and he was forced into exile. The only thing the young author carried with him was the final draft of his first novel. “It was my real passport”, he told ANSA of the manuscript that would launch his career.

Today, the 40-year-old Lakhous is considered nothing short of a literary sensation in Italy.

In a country that has difficulties adapting to its growing multicultural society, his lyrical yet satirical stories revolving around immigration offer readers food for thought and raise important questions about identity. His third book, which he describes as “a real comedy born out of a great frustration”, has just been published to rave reviews.

In chapter-long monologues sprinkled with engaging scenes, Lakhous paints essentially sad pictures of everyday life in Rome’s Arab-Muslim community, an immigrant reality that he experienced first-hand for over a decade. His latest effort is set to repeat the great success of its predecessor, ‘Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio’, a black comedy populated by a melting pot of characters living in a run-down palazzo in Piazza Vittorio, Rome’s most multiethnic neighbourhood.

Based on an earlier version written in Arabic, Lakhous entirely rewrote the book in Italian and published it in 2006. The bestseller has been translated into English, Dutch, German and even Korean.

It won him numerous awards in Italy and abroad and was turned into a movie released last spring. Lakhous, who became an Italian citizen two years ago, is by no means the only former immigrant writing about issues related to identity in a multicultural environment.

Other authors of so-called migrant literature emerged in recent years aiming to challenge existing boundaries within the controversial debate on immigration in Italy, a country with a long history of emigration but relatively unaccustomed and ill-prepared to accept foreigners who arrive from Africa or the Middle East to settle in its cities.

Like his fellow writers, Lakhous invites Italian readers, often inhibited by racial stereotypes, to look at today’s world around them through the eyes of an immigrant in their country. “It’s like being a film director who arrives from the outside and sets up his camera to shoot the scene; he decides what to show and how to show it, and ultimately he shows reality”, said the author. Words like “integration” or “assimilation” hardly find their way into Lakhous’ books.

For the award-winning novelist and anthropologist they are double-edged swords as they presume that there is a correct way to integrate, when the real question is: “What is ‘Italian’? In which Italy does a foreigner have to integrate?” Paradoxically, it’s not only the immigrants’, but also the Italians’ identity that is at stake, he said.

An Italian reviewer noted that rather than talking about immigrants, Lakhous talked about Italians in his novels.

Written in two languages and dotted with expressions in both Arabic and Italian, his books are mirrors that critically reflect Italian society and force readers to question their own beliefs when debating issues like immigration, identity, culture and religion.

“Rather than asking themselves who they are, people have to ask themselves what they do”, Lakhous told ANSA.

The Algerian-Italian author’s work even goes a step further. While his books may be set within Rome’s immigrant community and reproduce lights and shadows of Italian society, the same stories about multicultural coexistence could also take place in Paris, London or New York. The stories’ authenticity and their ability to transcend borders are the result of Lakhous’ deep understanding of immigration issues, developed through personal experience and postgraduate studies.

By writing about what he knows best, the author is never afraid of being honest throughout his friendly satire so his protagonists can break cultural, racial or even religious taboos.

“I don’t write to comfort people and I don’t care how they react. I tell it as it is.” photos: Stills from the film ‘Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio’ directed by Isotta Toso.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

CBN Exclusive Video: Al Qaeda Training in North Africa

CBN has acquired exclusive, never-before-seen footage of Al Qaeda’s North African branch training in the Sahara desert for new attacks against the West.

You can watch it by clicking on the viewer here:

The group is known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb—or AQIM.

North African intelligence officials tell CBN News that AQIM has an extensive network in Western Europe. They are concerned that the Obama administration’s attention is being diverted by Pakistan and Yemen as a gathering al Qaeda storm brews in the Sahara.

Come next week, I will be available for interviews—with video—about this emerging front in the global jihad.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Christian Girls Forced to Convert, Luxor Bishop

(ANSAmed) — VATICAN CITY, NOVEMBER 17 — “There are attempts to force Christian girls to convert to Islam”. This is happening in Egypt, according to Monsignor Joannes Zakaria, bishop of the Coptic Catholics bishops of Luxor, whose diocese includes al-Nawahid village in Qena, in the Qena (southern Egypt) province, where Muslim extremists burnt down the houses and businesses of Christian Copts after rumours of flirting between a Christian boy and a Muslim girl. “Fortunately, in this case the police acted swiftly and brought in a curfew immediately, preventing the incidents from causing more serious damage”, said Monsignor Zakaria to Fides. “A matter between a couple of young people was transformed into a pretext to lash out at Christians. We have reason to believe instead that there is a plan to force Christians to convert, with especial focus on girls who are the weakest,” he continued. “We are aware of a several episodes of Muslim young people who have been eyeing Christian girls and trying to kidnap them to force them to convert to Islam,” noted the Luxor bishop. “Similar episodes have occurred all the way from Alexandria to Aswan.” “As Egyptian Christians we feel very close to other brethren persecuted in Iraq,” said Monsignor Zakaria, who on Sunday in Luxor celebrated a mass of intercession for those who died on October 31 in an attack on the Syriac-Catholic church of Baghdad. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Vodafone Drops Muslim Scientist Ad After Complaints

The Egyptian unit of telecom giant Vodafone has dropped an advertisement depicting an early Muslim scientist, Abbas Ibn Firnas, as a dim man who fell off a cliff when trying to fly with feathered wings.

The Britain-based company made the decision after receiving complaints from viewers, who took to the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter to complain about what they said was an insult to the historic Islamic figure.

Vodafone said the advertisement was supposed to be funny but “due to the fact that some of our customers perceived (it) as offensive, we decided to remove this ad from YouTube and from our official Facebook fans page.”

In the statement, posted on its Facebook page, the company added however that due to the Eid al-Adha holidays, the complete removal of the advertisement from all TV channels “will take place gradually over the next few days.”

Ibn Firnas, a Muslim Berber scientist who died in 887, is said to have jumped from a height, wings attached and covered head to toe in feathers, in a failed attempt at flying, although he survived the jump.

The advertisement, for Vodafone’s USB internet service, shows three young men, who starred in an Egyptian time travel comedy, materialising before Firnas with a laptop and a USB stick to try talk him out of the experiment.

He grunts his refusal, even after they show him a Wikipedia entry on the Wright brothers, who pioneered aviation in the 20th century, and hurtles himself down the cliff.

In another advertisement, the trio try to persuade an imperious Richard the Lionheart, the medieval English king and crusader, not to battle the Muslim leader Salahuddin, by offering him a war game on a laptop.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Muslims Torch Christian Homes in Egypt

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — Coptic Christians in the Upper Egyptian village of el-Nowahed, Abu-Tesht, in Qena Province, were victims of an attack by a Muslim mob of nearly one thousand on Monday, November 15. The attack started at nearly 10:00 pm on Monday evening and lasted until the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The large mob of Muslims from el-Nowahed and the surrounding villages besieged and waged an attack against Coptic homes amidst cries of “Allah is the greatest” and other Islamic Jihadist slogans. They threw fireballs, gasoline and stones at Coptic homes and detonated Butane Gas cylinders. Christian-owned homes were looted and shops were broken into, plundered and burned. There were no reported casualties.

The attack resulted in the burning of twenty-two Coptic-owned homes (video), two commercial shops, a bakery, as well as livestock. The sound of automatic weapons fired in the air was heard, to terrorize and intimidate the Copts, according to Ra’fat Samir, who heads the Luxor branch of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights.

Coptic News Bulletin aired a recording of phone calls made to several Copts from inside the burning village. Terrorized Copts were hiding on the roof tops of their homes, afraid to venture in the streets, could only cry out: “help us, save us, they are burning us.” None of them could concentrate enough to tell the reporter the reason behind the sudden Muslim attack, they just kept pleading for help.

Security forces were able to impose order a few hours later, and a curfew was imposed on el-Nowahed village and the city of Abu-Tesht.

The rampage against the Coptic inhabitants of the village came in the wake of a story which circulated in town three days earlier, about an affair between 19-year-old Copt Hossam Noel Attallah and a 17-year-old Muslim girl, Rasha Mohamed Hussein, a relative of the village mayor. According to Anba Kyrillos, Bishop of the Diocese of Nag Hamadi, some witnesses saw the teenage couple walking together towards the graveyards, after which it was rumored in the village that he raped her, “although a Muslim woman confirmed that Hossam did nothing wrong to the girl,” he said.

A Police report was issued and both were brought before the public prosecutor, after which the young man was detained by State Security, fearing an escalation of events similar to what took place in Farshout last November in which Copts were attacked over a three days period by Muslim mobs, due to an accusation of a Coptic man having allegedly raped a Muslim girl (AINA 11-22-2009, 11-23-2009). No one knows the whereabouts of the Coptic teenager Hossam after State Security detained him.

An eyewitness who was himself beaten by Muslims said the mob blocked the fire brigade from reaching the burning homes and one fire engine arrived hours late, reported activist Miriam Ragy. He also said that security forces went into the houses of Copts and arrested them.

Copts accused the authorities of severe inadequacy, because although being aware of the incident of the Copt and the Muslim girl, they only stationed three security cars at the entrances of the village. “But when the security officers saw the large mobs entering the village from all sides and attacking it, they fled, leaving it unprotected to operations of terrorism, sabotage, arson and looting of Coptic property,” said activist Ra’fat, adding that security forces were only guarding St. George’s Church.

Activist Attorney Mamdouh Nakhla of Al-Kalema Human Rights Center condemned the Muslim attack, stressing the collusion of State Security with the offenders, by failing to arrest any of the perpetrators so far and even chasing the Copts and arresting them, “because of their interviews with some Coptic websites in relation to the incident.” Nakhla said that his Center will send a fact-finding committee to the village.

Bishop Kyrillos said that the present estimates of the damage to the Coptic property is approximately 250,000 Egyptian pounds.

Dr. Naguib Gobrail, President of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights, said “We all reject that Copts would become a “Whipping-boy,” where every time an individual Copt is accused of committing some crime, the entire Coptic community should be made to pay the price and be punished by waging attacks on their lives and property. He asked if Muslims would accept the same treatment if circumstances were reversed.

Dr. Ghobrial said he will file a compensation lawsuit against the Prime Minister, the Interior Minister and the Governor of Qena, on behalf of all the Coptic victims of el-Nowahed for moral and material damage.

Ghobrial accused the authorities of failing in its duty of protection and complicity with the perpetrators, adding that it was completely unacceptable that security would arrest Copts, as was the case in el-Nowahed. “Has the victim become the perpetrator or are they afraid of the opponents?”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih [Return to headlines]

Middle East

BBC Series on Rafiq Al-Hariri Pulled as Tension Rises in Lebanon

The BBC has suddenly pulled a documentary film series about the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri as tensions mount in Beirut over expectations that Hezbollah operatives are about to be accused of involvement in the killing.

The first of three parts of Murder in Beirut was scheduled to be broadcast on BBC World this Saturday, but the producer was told without warning on Tuesday that it was being delayed.

The BBC said the film had not yet complied with its editorial guidelines. No new date has been set. But the decision to postpone it was taken after a Lebanese newspaper described how it accused the militant Shia group of the 2005 assassination, in which Hariri and 22 others were killed by a massive car bomb.

The point of the film, al-Akhbar claimed in a front-page article on Monday, was “to implicate Hezbollah in the crime”, with one image showing partial details of a man described as a former member of the organisation’s foreign operations unit. Today extracts were broadcast on al-Jadeed TV, a pro-Syrian channel.

Tension has mounted sharply in Lebanon in recent weeks amid expectations that a UN-backed international tribunal will shortly issue indictments in the case, the country’s equivalent of the Kennedy assassination. Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, warned last week that he would “cut off the hand” of anyone who tried to arrest its members. Hezbollah, the most powerful military and political force in Lebanon, is supported by Iran and Syria and has repeatedly accused the tribunal of serving US and Israeli interests.

Sa’ad Hariri, the dead man’s son and current prime minister, has insisted that he, Nasrallah and other leaders will not let Lebanon “explode” over the issue.

The series was made by ORTV, a British-Saudi production company, and originally commissioned by al-Arabiyya TV, the Saudi-owned satellite channel. The first version was completed last summer but never broadcast as Saudi Arabia sought to improve relations with Syria. BBC World then commissioned a re-edited version.

Initially Syria was widely blamed for the killing but it has become clear in recent months that Hezbollah is suspected of involvement, fuelling fears that Lebanon’s rivalries will escalate dangerously if indictments are issued.

The tribunal, based in a suburb of The Hague, began work in March 2009. In a new twist, Lebanese media reported that Alireza Asghari, a former Iranian revolutionary guard general who defected to the US, provided information about the role of Hezbollah’s Imad Mughniyeh, who was assassinated in Damascus in 2008.

The films include interviews with decision-makers in Beirut, Damascus, Washington and Paris, promising to tell “the gripping inside story of what’s really at stake in the struggle for power in the Middle East”. The BBC has not been warned specifically not to screen the series, but insiders admit there is nervousness about its impact in the current volatile climate.

Nadim Shehadi, a Lebanon expert at the Chatham House thinktank in London, said: “There is an atmosphere of terror in Beirut. It may be a deliberate campaign to apply pressure to the tribunal. It is almost as if there is a communications strategy.”


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck on Terror Show Exclusive: The Iran/Venezuela Axis

The latest episode of the Stakelbeck on Terror show is a special 30-minute expose of the growing Iran/Venezuela axis in our hemisphere.

Watch as former high-ranking State Department official Roger Noriega and leading Iran expert Ilan Berman provide exclusive evidence that Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez is providing heavy assistance to Iran on virtually every level: militarily, economically and in the nuclear realm.

We reveal how Iran is mining for uranium in venezuela. We also feature never-before seen-photos that show how Venezuela is working closely with Iran’s terrorist proxy, Hezbollah.

And we analyze how Hugo Chavez may be working on a nuclear weapons program of his own—in our backyard—as the U.S. government fails to respond.

You won’t get this information anywhere else. watch it by clicking the link above.

Breakdown by segments:

Top of the show: Venezuela helping Iran get around UN Sanctions

Second segment: Iran mining for uranium in Venezuela. Chavez Seeking his own nuclear weapons program? (6:48 into the show)

Third segment: Iran training Venezuela security forces? Plus, Iran/Venezuela military and nuclear cooperation grows (11:43 into the show).

Fourth segment: Exclusive aerials of covert Iranian military installation in Venezuela. Plus, never-before-seen photos of Venezuelan officials meeting with Hezbollah in Lebanon (17:14 into the show).

Fifth segment: What, if anything, is the U.S. government doing about this growing threat in our hemisphere? (23:31 into the show).

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck [Return to headlines]

The Left’s Delusion Over Islam is Baffling to Middle Eastern Christians

Two more Christians murdered in Iraq on Monday night and another three yesterday, as the community is driven to extinction.

And on the Today programme earlier this week there was yet another segment about this persecuted minority, perhaps suggesting that the media are waking up to what many Iraqis themselves call “genocide” (the word, incidentally, was coined in 1936 after a previous massacre of Iraqi Christians).

However the Left largely remains in denial about the situation faced by Middle Eastern Christians, despite widespread evidence by various human rights organisation. The Guardian had a piece on Friday in which the writer argued that this was part of a ‘clash of civilisations myth’:

One article in Foreign Policy went so far as to suggest the

church attack might spell “the end of Christianity in the Middle

East” altogether. Yet such generalisations play into the hands

of radicals wanting to perpetuate the clash-of-civilisations

myth. Though anti-Christian feeling may be rising on the extreme

radical fringe of some Arab societies such as Iraq, this should

not obscure the harmony that has long been a characteristic of

other parts of the Arab world.

However, as Robert Fisk has suggested declining Christian

numbers could also be largely due to demographics and favourable

immigration conditions rather than increased persecution.

In fact, large parts of the Arab world remain tolerant and

display deep inter-communal harmony. The fact that most of

Iraq’s displaced Christians have fled not to the west but to

other Arab states, notably Syria and Jordan, seems to illustrate


Moreover, at a broader societal level across the region, it

seems wholly unjust to suggest Arab Muslims are suddenly turning

on their Christian compatriots. A radical fringe in each state

may share the extremist views of al-Qaida, but that does not

mean they are accepted by mainstream society. Even Islamists

such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood expressed their disgust at

the Baghdad bombings, and called for Cairo to protect its

churches. This issue varies across the region more than

generalist commentators are allowing for.

Christian numbers may be diminishing and the radical fringe may

sadly be gaining the upper hand in certain pockets such as Iraq,

which the international community should rightly condemn.

However, the Arab world in general remains a place where

Christians and Muslims have lived side by side for centuries,

and look certain to continue doing so. Perhaps we should be

celebrating this fact rather than exaggerating the extent to

which the whole region is suddenly becoming anti-Christian.

Yes, cynical old British media. There we are focusing on the one unfortunate incident where dozens of people happened to be slaughtered in a church, when we could have focused on literally dozens of Iraqi churches where no one was murdered by Islamists that weekend.

It is understandable that the writer might believe this line, as his expertise is in Syria and Jordan, two countries where Christians are protected. Jordan is ruled by a benign monarchy and Syria by a secular dictatorship famed for its poor human rights record. They don’t tolerate Islamism in Damascus, which is probably why it’s so pleasant and the women’s famed beauty is generally not imprisoned behind the veil; in fact the current debate about torturing jihadis in the West must be baffling to Syrians, for whom waterboarding is probably considered the equivalent of being sent on safari by a misguided liberal judge.

Christians in Jordan and Syria are protected. But despite the Left’s “myth of the myth” of the clash of civilisations, the simple fact is that almost nowhere in the Islamic world are Christians free in the same way Muslims are free in Europe.

Deniers of this essential truth usually fall back on historical arguments about Islam’s famed tolerance, but this is deceptive. During the high middle ages, the Islamic world was far more tolerant than Christendom, but it couldn’t be otherwise. North of the Alps Europe was 95-99 per cent Christian, so minorities faced persecution; the “Muslim world” had enormous Christian minorities throughout this period and in some cases majorities, and this goes for modern-day Iraq, Syria, Egypt (probably majority Christian until the 18th century), Lebanon and Palestine.

That they slowly became Islamic was largely down to two facts of life which make a mockery of the tolerance myth: Muslims could not generally become Christians, and Christians had to pay a special tax, and so the class of people who subsidised the rest of the population gradually shrank over generations (a system that bears more than a passing resemblance to the modern British welfare state). From the 19th century a third factor arose when it became possible for Christians to emigrate to the West.

An Iraqi-British acquaintance of mine called Mardean Isaac says about the Guardian article:

“Using the word ‘tolerance’ here is slippery and insidious: ‘tolerate’ in the contemporary west means ‘see as at the least completely acceptable, at the most, equal or superior to’. See homosexuality, plurality of religion, lifestyle, modes of thought and being.

“Contrast with Islam’s historical ‘tolerance’, which has been apparently in continuous operation for centuries: see the jizya tax; see the requirement to wear distinctive clothing to demarcate non-Muslims; see the massive incentives to convert; see the economic and social marginalisation of the communities of subjugated peoples, from constraints on the social aspects of religious practice to building restrictions; see the barring of non-Muslim men from marrying Muslim women.”


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Turkish Journalist Charged With Insulting Prosecutor by Calling Him ‘Postmodern’

Accusing someone of being “postmodern” is as much of an insult as claiming he is a jihadist, according to the latest lawsuit filed against daily Radikal reporter Ismail Saymaz for his book “Postmodern Cihat” (Postmodern Jihad).

Saymaz was notified last week about the case, filed last month by Erzurum Prosecutor Osman Sanal, who has demanded damages of 7,000 Turkish Liras.

The journalist is accused of “Insulting [Sanal] by drawing an image [of him in the book] as pro-postmodern, belonging to post-modernity and engaging in jihad.”

Saymaz is currently embroiled in 12 legal cases, carrying a total potential prison term of 97 years. Many of them, including the suit filed by Sanal, deal with the case against Ilhan Cihaner. The former chief prosecutor of the eastern province of Erzincan was detained Feb. 16 and later arrested on accusations of forging official documents and being a member of the alleged Ergenekon gang’s Erzincan branch. He was released June 23 pending trial.

Sanal was the prosecutor leading the investigation against Cihaner, whose arrest sparked many debates and a conflict within the judiciary. The former Erzincan prosecutor had been leading an investigation against alleged religious communities in the region, and some alleged that his arrest was a way to threaten him because of this work.

As part of the same investigation, Sanal had ordered the detainment of three National Intelligence Organization, or MIT, members in Erzincan. When he went with police to arrest them, a conflict almost erupted between the police and the MIT, according to media reports. On the same day Cihaner was arrested, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors, or HSYK, stripped Sanal of his special authorities.

One probe for terror-related crimes

The Erzurum prosecutor with special authorities meanwhile initiated a probe late last month into Saymaz’s book after receiving a complaint about it Oct. 22. That same day, the prosecutor’s office asked for a copy of the book from the publishing house.

Saymaz said he wrote a story about Sanal on that date, in which he said the prosecutor made a decision about Cihaner’s case even though he had been stripped of the special authorities necessary to make the decision. The journalist said he believes the probe and the story about Sanal are related to each other.

“As prosecutors with special authorities look into terror-related crimes, I can only be judged for crimes such as being a member of a terrorist organization, making propaganda for a terror organization, making judges and prosecutors targets of terror organizations or disclosing secret state documents,” Saymaz told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Monday.

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

US Writer Shows Her Love for Turkey With New Book

Katharine Branning, a US researcher and writer, has been traveling to Turkey for 30 years and has published her experience in a new book: ‘Yes, I Would Love Another Cup of Tea,’ which has already been translated into Turkish. ‘I want people in the US to understand Turkey better. I want to show how peaceful, right-minded and modern Turkey is,’ she says.

U.S. researcher-writer Katharine Branning has published a book about her 30 years of experience traveling to Turkey, titled “Yes, I Would Love Another Cup of Tea,” saying she wanted to show people in the U.S. how peaceful, right-minded and modern Turkey is.

Becoming Turkey’s volunteer ambassador with her book, which has been translated into Turkish under the title “Bir Çay Daha Lütfen,” Branning spoke about her observations of Turkey.

She said she had previously written many articles on Turkey, but the idea to write a book came up thanks to her poet friend Muhsin Ilyas Subasi. “One day when I went to visit him, he said Turks would be interested in my observations of their country. I said no at first, doubting that people would be interested in my travels. But later on I thought he was right because I have spent 30 years in Turkey and they were not travels with a tourist purpose only. I have been interested in Turkey for a long time. And then I started writing.”

She said the main reason she decided to write the book was to thank the Turkish people for their warm attitude and also to educate people in the U.S. about Turkey. “I want people in the U.S. to understand Turkey better. I want to show how Turkey is a peaceful, right-minded and modern country,” she said.

Turkey 20 years later

Branning said Turkey had a political role to provide dialogue among the Middle Eastern countries. “I am looking forward to the next 20 years, because Turkey will play a huge role in providing dialogue between countries that have conflict today.”

Mentioning the economic and social problems that Turkey had 30 years ago, Branning said Turkey was a magnificent success story. “It is wonderful that it is such a modern and developed country right now. I can’t even imagine what will happen 20 years later and can’t wait to see it.”

Branning said Turkey would never turn its back on the West. “Perhaps the U.S. people think Turkey turned its back on the West because it wants to carry out trade with Iran or develop gas lines with Russia. But no, Turkey is looking for new enterprises. This is why it will never turn its back on the U.S. or the West. Because this is what makes Turkey strong. It knows what democracy means. This is what also makes Turkey different from other countries in the Middle East.”

Positive reactions from Turks

Branning said the reactions of Turks to her book were very positive. “Turks liked that I wrote about my observations of their simple behaviors and their courtesy to each other in daily life. Such things seem normal to you, but in my opinion, these are wonderful behaviors. What I write in my books causes Turks to realize their richness and it makes me proud,” she said.

She also said U.S. people should read more about Turkey and learn about its cultural development. “I am very impressed by Turkey’s efforts to establish dialogue with its partners in the Middle East. Such things show that the Middle East has a peaceful country like Turkey. This is the most important point that should be highlighted in the U.S.”

Branning said she was currently preparing to write a second book about Turkey, adding that it would feature a love story from the 13th century in the time of the Seljuks. “Turks always ask me if my new book would be a love story. They are very romantic people. My new book will be a love story, but it is not only between men and women but also the love between the sultan and his country,” she said.

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


From AEI: Putin’s Agenda and Medvedev’s Dilemma

Russian president Dmitri Medvedev’s sacking of Yuri Luzhkov, the powerful mayor of Moscow, and the spate of interviews given by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in September have been thoroughly analyzed by Russian and foreign experts and journalists in search of clues to the million-dollar question of Russian politics: will Putin run for president in 2012, or will he let his protégé Medvedev serve another term? There has been no “smoking gun,” but several strong hints have emerged. First, Putin has articulated, openly and proudly, what amounts to a strategic agenda. Second, this agenda negates virtually every key element of Medvedev’s “modernization” and liberalization, including the “reset” in U.S.-Russian relations. Third, with the policy disjoint this wide, it is almost certain that Putin will run, while Medvedev will face a stark dilemma: be a Khrushchev or a Gorbachev?

[URL gives link to full PDF]

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan Mosque Shootout Wounds 18 Over Dispute Which Cleric Should Lead Holiday Prayers

QUETTA, Pakistan — A shootout inside a mosque in southwestern Pakistan wounded 18 people Wednesday in a dispute over who should lead prayers for one of Islam’s most important holidays, police said.

Followers of the two rival religious leaders pulled out weapons and started shooting Wednesday morning after arguing over which one should start the prayers at a small mosque in remote Khuzdar district of Baluchistan province, police official Javed Ahmed said. The district is about 550 miles (900 kilometres) southwest of Islamabad.

Many of the region’s ethnic Pashtuns typically carry rifles in daily life.

Millions of other Pakistanis peacefully celebrated Eid al-Adha on Wednesday, joining Muslims the world over for the three-day festival, known as the Feast of the Sacrifice, that involves slaughter of sheep and cattle in remembrance of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son.

Pakistan kicked off the holiday a day later than many other countries because of local authorities’ interpretation of when the new moon was sighted.

Celebrations were muted in some areas of Pakistan because of devastating floods that affected 20 million people, of whom 7 million remain homeless.

Most mosques also added additional security Wednesday to guard against attacks by the Taliban and other Islamist extremists. Earlier this month, at least 70 people died when a suicide bomber hit a mosque frequented by anti-Taliban elders and a grenade exploded at another place of worship in the country’s northwest.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Far East

China’s African Safari Strictly Business

By Kent Ewing

HONG KONG — Read China’s state media and you will learn that, thanks to projects financed by Chinese companies and the central government, Africa is booming while the continent’s political leaders trip over one another to express their appreciation for Beijing’s helping hand. And it’s all true.

Bridges, dams, roads, railroads and airports are rapidly multiplying. Oil refineries and zinc, copper and cobalt mines are going at full tilt. Beijing is even catering to Africa’s favorite sport as Chinese-designed and Chinese-built football stadia sprout up across the continent.

By all accounts , it’s an impressive tally. No wonder praise for China in the state houses and parliaments of Africa is also a boom industry these days. Gross domestic product (GDP) in many African nations is on the rise, with China playing a big role in spurring this growth. But these impressive GDP figures come with a nagging and potentially explosive problem that African leaders are loath to acknowledge: the economic benefits of China’s huge push into Africa are not trickling down to the more than one billion people who live on the continent. And rank-and-file Africans are not echoing the praise that African leaders have been heaping on Beijing. Perversely, as Chinese investment grows in Africa, so does resentment of the Chinese.

Indeed, China’s ventures into Africa are proving as self-serving and exploitative as anything perpetrated by Europeans during Africa’s colonial period. But there is also a big difference that is much appreciated by the continent’s political elite.

The Europeans brought with them a hypocritical moral justification for their greed, famously captured in Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden”. Written after the United States had joined the colonial party by taking over the Philippines through the Treaty of Paris in 1898, the poem exhorts Europeans and their descendants to perform their moral duty — despite the sullen resistance and benighted ignorance that they should expect to encounter — to civilize the darker races of the world:

Take up the White Man’s burden

Send forth the best ye breed

Go bind your sons to exile

To serve your captives’ need;

To wait in heavy harness,

On fluttered folk and wild

Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.

No 21st-century Western poet worth his salt would dare write such a racist rant. That said, however, the condescending conditions attached to Western aid often read like bureaucratic paeans to democracy and clean governance that, in the eyes of leaders in the developing world, continue to presume the superiority of Western institutions and to treat the people of their nations as second-class citizens…

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

Meeting Decline Face-to-Face

By Juan Cole

Blocked from major new domestic initiatives by a Republican victory in the mid-term elections, President Barack Obama promptly lit out for Asia, a far more promising arena. That continent, after all, is rising, and Obama is eager to grasp the golden ring of Asian success.

Beyond being a goodwill ambassador for 10 days, Obama is seeking sales of American-made durable and consumer goods, weapons deals, an expansion of trade, green-energy cooperation, and the maintenance of a geopolitical balance in the region favorable to the United States. Just as the decline of the American economy hobbled him at home, however, the weakness of the United States on the world stage in the aftermath of president George W Bush-era excesses has made real breakthroughs abroad unlikely.

Add to this the peculiar obsessions of the Washington power elite, with regard to Iran for instance, and you have an unpalatable mix. These all-American fixations are viewed as an inconvenience or worse in Asia, where powerful regional hegemons are increasingly determined to chart their own courses, even if in public they continue to humor a somewhat addled and infirm Uncle Sam.

Although the United States is still the world’s largest economy, it is shackled by enormous public and private debt as well as fundamental weaknesses. Rivaled by an increasingly integrated European Union, it is projected to be overtaken economically by China in just over a decade. While the president’s first stop, India, now has a nominal gross domestic product of only a little over a trillion dollars a year, it, too, is growing rapidly, even spectacularly, and its GDP may well quadruple by the early 2020s. The era of American dominance, in other words, is passing, and the time (just after World War II) when the US accounted for half the world economy, a dim memory.

The odd American urge to invest heavily in perpetual war abroad, including “defense-related” spending of around one trillion dollars a year, has been a significant factor further weakening the country on the global stage. Most of the conventional weapons on which the US continues to splurge could not even be deployed against nuclear powers like Russia, China and India, emerging as key competitors when it comes to global markets, resources, and regional force projection.

Those same conventional weapons have proved hardly more useful (in the sense of achieving quick and decisive victory, or even victory at all) in the unconventional wars the US has repeatedly plunged into — a sad fact that Bush’s reckless attempt to occupy entire West Asian nations only demonstrated even more clearly to Washington’s bemused rivals.

American weapons stockpiles (and copious plans for ever more high-tech versions of the same into the distant future) are therefore remarkably irrelevant to its situation, and known to be so. Meanwhile, its economy, burdened by debts incurred through wars and military spending sprees, and hollowed out by Wall Street shell games, is becoming a B-minus one in global terms.

A superpower with feet of clay

Just how weakened the United States has been in Asia is easily demonstrated by the series of rebuffs its overtures have suffered from regional powers. When, for instance, a tiff broke out this fall between China and Japan over a collision at sea near the disputed Senkaku Islands, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered to mediate…

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


France Sees Tensions Rise Five Years on From Paris Riots

Violence in the ghettos brought an outcry over racism — but President Sarkozy is now putting immigrants under even more pressure

Norwegian Infidel: Five years ago these estates in Clichy-sous-Bois on the edge of Paris exploded in riots that spread across France and led to a state of national emergency. The trigger for the violence was the death of two young boys electrocuted in a power substation while hiding from police. But the root cause was the hopelessness of a generation of young French people, ghettoised in dismal suburbs, marginalised and jobless because of their skin colour or their parents’ immigrant origins. Since then discrimination against the third- and fourth-generation children of immigrants has worsened, tension is rife and Nicolas Sarkozy’s rightwing anti-immigrant rhetoric is blamed.

Allili, 21, shared a school desk with one of the boys who died in Clichy. He witnessed the nights of rioting firsthand. The fourth child of an Algerian cafe-owner, he’s one of the few youths on his estate who have managed to carve out a future, training in IT. But he doesn’t feel accepted as French. “Sarkozy’s constant talk of immigration and national identity chips away at you, but worse is the perpetual police stop and searches. Cops insult us, saying ‘Get back to your own country’, ‘you’re not welcome here’. That’s pretty hard to stomach when you’re French.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Spain: PP Candidate is Anti-Immigrant Heroine in Videogame

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 16 — Alicia Sanchez Camacho, a People’s Party candidate in the November 28 regional elections of Catalonia, is the main character of an electoral videogame in which, acting as Lara Croft, she clears out, among others, illegal aliens and the independence movement.

The videogame ‘Rescue’, launched by Catalonia’s youth movement of the People’s Party on its website, sees the heroine, renamed Alicia Croft, fly in the skies of Barcelona on the back of her seagull Pepe and launce “decisive ideas” in the shape of a light bulb to “transform and solve the problems of Catalonia”. Imitating the famous Lara Croft, the hero of the videogame can feed on “the elements that unite us”, such as the bull or the donkey, to gain points and shoot against her true targets: an aircraft parachuting two “illegal aliens”, an independence movement blimp or a mouth that wants to represent the imposition of language in Catalonia. With each light bulb strike by Alicia Croft the emphasised problems vanish and are replaced by the writing “proud to be Catalan and Spanish”. At the end of the game seagull Pepe appears for congratulations and to invite the Catalan people to go and vote on November 28 to transform the fiction into reality.

Many sectors in Catalonia sees the idea of the People’s Party as a further step in the fight against illegal immigration, which Camacho adopted as her battle cry in the election. In recent days the candidate proposed the signing of a contract of integration for foreigners, with the duty of learning the local language and customs, in order to reside in Spain, and of returning to their country of origin should they not find work.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sweden Stops Plane of Deported Iraqis

A flight carrying deported Iraqi asylum seekers from Sweden back to Iraq has been cancelled following a request from the European Court of Human Rights that Sweden delay around 150 forced deportations.

The Court’s request, received Tuesday night by the Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket), covered a number of deportees who were set to board the plane, which had been scheduled to depart on Wednesday morning.

The Migration Board has said previously it can’t stop all planned deportations of Iraqis who have had their asylum requests denied, a decision which has been roundly criticised.

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, singled out Sweden in speaking out against reports that member states were preparing to return Iraqi citizens to Iraq in violation of a decision of the European Court of Human Rights.

“The Court has clearly asked Sweden, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom not to proceed with forced return of Iraqis in view of the recent deterioration of the security situation there. All Council of Europe member states must respect the decisions of the Court,” Jagland said in a statement.

The European Court of Human Rights is currently investigating if it’s safe for Iraqis, and in particular Iraqi Christians, to be sent back to certain parts of the country, including Baghdad.

As long as the investigation is ongoing, the Court has said that all Iraqis who so desire can have their deportation orders delayed and should be allowed to stay in the countries in which they are seeking refugee status.

“We’re doing this as a precautionary measure so that these people don’t get in a jam because the Court of Human Rights hasn’t had a chance to review their applications,” said Migration Board spokesperson Johan Rahm to the TT news agency regarding the cancellation of Wednesday’s flight.

The cancellation of the flight doesn’t mean the Migration Board has made a general decision to stop all deportations.

Migration minister Tobias Billström said each case must be assessed individually, even in decisions about whether or not to delay carrying out a deportation ruling.

“To go from individual reviews to collective reviews could result in every person in a group getting rejected or approved. And the question is how just that would be,” he told TT.

According to Billström, the Migration Board has delayed the deportation of Iraqis every time the European Court of Human Rights has requested the agency do so.

As a result, he has a hard time understanding criticism lodged against Sweden by the Council of Europe.

“Sweden has never acted in violation of a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights,” said Billström.

The minister also rejected reports that many Iraqis haven’t been informed that they can request to have their deportation rulings delayed.

“Several Swedish agencies provide information on how and where people can complain to the Court of Human Rights; it’s not like we’re withholding information,” he said.

The Migration Board said on Tuesday that it had stopped the forced deportation of 61 Iraqis who had filed complaints with the European Court of Human Rights.

According to the agency’s chief legal officer Mikael Ribbenvik, about half of the Iraqi’s who seek asylum in Sweden are allowed to stay.

He also pointed out, however, that Sweden’s Migration Court of Appeals ruled in 2007 that there is no longer an armed conflict in Iraq and that the situation has improved since then.

“We’re waiting to see how the Court of Human Rights reacts to information about the country we’ve submitted to them, Ribbenvik told TT.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Canada: Carleton Student Association Bans Anti-Abortion Club

Carleton University’s official student association has banned the Ottawa institution’s anti-abortion club, offering it just one way to get back into good graces: support abortion rights.

On Monday, the Carleton University Student Association (CUSA), decertified Carleton Lifeline for its anti-abortion views. It told the club that being against abortion violated CUSA’s anti-discrimination policy, but that it could get recertified in a day or two.

“We invite you to amend your constitution to create one that respects our anti-discrimination policy as laid out above,” wrote Khaldoon Bushnaq, CUSA’s vice-president of internal affairs. “If you are able to resubmit a constitution that meets our criteria by Thursday, November 18th we will be able to certify your club for this semester.”

Ruth Lobo, the president of Carleton Lifeline, said CUSA assumes all students are “pro-choice,” which is not necessarily the case. Its policy, she said, smacked of hypocrisy.

“It’s very ironic that they have a discrimination policy that allows them to discriminate against pro-life groups,” she said. “CUSA claims to be representative of all students. As a pro-life student I am not represented by an organization I am forced to pay dues to in my tuition. Either they should create a policy in which students can opt out of fees or get rid of the discrimination policy,” Ms. Lobo said.

“Pro-choice should also mean that a woman has the right to not have an abortion, so I think CUSA is being anti-choice by not allowing people to hear the other side.”

CUSA did not return phone calls on Tuesday. The Canadian Federation of Students, an umbrella group for student associations, said it does not get involved with local matters on specific campuses.

The letter from Mr. Bushnaq noted Carleton Lifeline believes in the “equal rights of the unborn and firmly believes that abortion is a moral and legal wrong.” Therefore, because of CUSA’s commitment to the pro-abortion-rights position, Carleton Lifeline can no longer promote its views on campus or lobby in any way that would oppose that position.

It can no longer book space for advocacy or events, nor is it eligible for funding.

Ottawa lawyer Albertos Polizogopoulos, who is defending the Lifeline students, said CUSA’s “appalling” decision goes against all principles of free speech.

In a letter to CUSA, Mr. Polizogopoulos noted that CUSA’s own constitution, which overrides all bylaws and policies enacted by CUSA, calls for “maintaining an academic and social environment free from prejudice, exploitation, abuse or violence on the basis of, but not limited to, sex, race, language, religion, age, national or social status, political affiliation or belief, sexual orientation or marital status.”

Mr. Polizogopoulos continued: “Since the Discrimination on Campus Policy explicitly calls for the discrimination [against] individuals on the basis of their political belief that life begins at conception, [therefore] it cannot, according to CUSA’s Constitution, continue to be in effect.”

Late on Tuesday Carleton University said in a statement: “CUSA is an independent, incorporated organization; they operate independently of the university and the university plays no role in and has no standing with regard to CUSA’s decision making.”

The Carleton Lifeline became certified in 2006 after a failed attempt by CUSA to keep the club off campus.

Ms. Lobo said she can only speculate why CUSA decided to ban them now but she assumes that it is related to an incident involving the club last month.

On Oct. 4, Ms. Lobo and four other students were arrested on campus by Ottawa police for attempting to display graphic anti-abortion posters. The police were called in by the school administration and the students were charged with trespassing. The case is still pending.

John Carpay, a civil liberties lawyer from Calgary, who has dealt with similar bans on anti-abortion groups, said CUSA’s offer to reinstate the club if they agree to endorse abortion rights can only be laughed at.

“That’s awfully generous of them to offer an opportunity for repentance,” said Mr. Carpay. “But it is truly alarming that CUSA would so easily suppress free speech. It’s tragic.”

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

New Forbidden Word in School

On one side, a Wayne Valley High school student claims that his use of the word “Taliban” was innocent, mentioned in a conversation about a video game, according to his mother.

But to a Muslim student who overheard it at school on Thursday, it was upsetting. And she had perceived that he had looked at her when he said it, Principal Robert Reis said.

Now the boy is facing a one-day suspension on Monday, because, Reis said, he continued to talk about the incident and it got back to the girl and upset her. Reis said she felt the boy was boasting that he’d gotten away with something.

“This has nothing to do with the fact that the boy used a word,” Reis said. “This has everything to do with the boy hurt a girl’s feelings.” And after the boy was told by administrators not to discuss what happened, Reis said, “He went back and hurt her feelings a second time.”

But the boy’s mother, Rosa Giordano, said the incident “is totally being blown out of proportion” and she plans to fight the disciplinary action.

The incident has unfolded during a time of heightened sensitivity about bullying in schools. Reis said the school takes a “no nonsense” stance and coincidentally had been planning a December forum to discuss the issue.

Giordano said her son was not being a bully and is himself bi-racial.

“He never saw this girl before,” she said. “It was an innocent thing. How does she know he was not talking about a newspaper story?”

She said she plans to go to the district offices early Monday morning to fight for her son to be allowed to attend school that day.

“I don’t want this on his record as a racial slur and bullying,” she said. “I am sorry the girl got offended by the world ‘Taliban.’ I will make sure my son never says the word again … the poor kid is so upset he doesn’t want to go to school.”


[Return to headlines]


The World Must Not Allow Islam-Muslim Murder Decrees in a Civilized Society

The patent absurdity and unfairness of Islam is beginning to reach the critical stage of survival of ALL religions.

Islam deserves to receive from ALL other religions the same edict that they themselves issue to those other religions. Just because their god tells them to eliminate by death those of all other religions who choose not to convert to Islam, it is not international legal justification for the action. Those who perpetrate such an action of killing should be brought to trial in some international or World Court on the charge of murder in the first degree. It is unquestionably premeditated.

Yes it is a radical concept for peoples of ALL other religions who possess the grace and intelligence to be able to live with each other and to tolerate the other religions’ needs as long as they do not inflict suffering or death on another. This is acknowledgment that all people are entitled to believe as they wish, unharmed and unchallenged, including Islam-Muslim.

But those who would go against this position of fairness to all by insisting on creating a single belief with punishment by death to those who choose not to accept that belief, deserve to meet the same fate as they would bestow on their detractors.

Does this represent advocacy of mass mayhem? Perhaps, but the only options available is to give in to the unfair demands of this maniacal force of bigoted and murderous thugs and become Muslims or face sure death.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20101116

Financial Crisis
» Barroso ‘Extremely Disappointed’ Over Budget Collapse
» Dow Drops 179 Points to 11,023.50 After Global Worries
» EU in Talks With IMF as Irish Bailout Looms
» Euro Under Siege as Now Portugal Hits Panic Button
» Greek Deficit Much Bigger Than Estimate
» Ireland’s Debt Crisis Could Kill the European Union Stone Dead, EU President Warns
» Irish Debt Woes Make German Banks Uneasy
» “Death to America!” a Declaration of War by Traitors?
» Amid Airport Anger, GOP Takes Aim at Screening
» Cartoonist Ted Rall to Appear at Communist Bookstore
» Conservative Group Calls on Justice Dept. To Investigate Muslim Prayers on Capitol Hill
» NASA Develops Puncture-Proof Space Tyre
» Obama’s Labor Secretary to Honor Communist
» Rangel Violated Numerous House Ethics Rules, Panel Finds
» Replace Humiliation With Respect
» State Warning to TSA: Stop Breaking the Law
» U.S. Left: Onward Muslim Soldiers
» Muslim ‘Parallel Society’ Within Canada a Threat: Report
Europe and the EU
» Carl Bildt Slams EU President Over Turkey
» Chechen Exile Murder Trial Begins in Vienna
» Claim: Danish Authorities Aware of US Monitoring Programme
» Four Ministers Set to Resign From Italian Government
» France: Sarkozy Appoints Right-Wing Cabinet With Eye on 2012
» Germany: ‘Naked’ Scanners Fooled by Creased Clothing
» Italy: Keats-Shelley House to Offer Taste of England
» Italy: Silvio Berlusconi Dealt Another Blow as Four Ministers Resign
» Italy: Berlusconi Wants Confidence Vote or Elections — But Only for Chamber of Deputies
» Jihadist Online Chat Rooms Also Have Contributors From Finland
» Local Liberal Too ‘UN-Swedish’ For Top Post
» Sweden: Neo-Nazi Site Charged Over Reader Comment
» UK Muslim Mob Threatens to Fly Black Flag of Islam Over Downing Street, White House for Jailed Cleric’s Release
» UK Still Cheerleader of Turkey’s EU Bid
» UK: ‘Disgusted’ Mother Turns in 14 Yr Old Daughter Who Vandalised War Memorial
» UK: ‘Criminal in Police Uniform’: Sergeant Who Helped Run Brother’s Drug Gang Jailed for 11 Years
» UK: Early Learning Centre Bans Toy Pig From Farmyard Set for Fear of Offending Muslims (But Keeps Sty and Oink Noise) By Louise Eccles
» UK: Hush Money: Multi-Million Pound Payouts to Silence British Terror Suspects Held in Guantanamo
» UK: Islamist Sympathisers Admit They Are Losing Ground in Government
» UK: More Than a Dozen Terror Suspects to Get Millions of Pounds Compensation
» UK: Middle Class Voters Are Liars and Hypocrites Says Top Labour MP in Astonishing Rant
» UK: Toy Pig Pulled From Farm Set on Religious Grounds
» UK: Two Jailed for Life for ‘Sickeningly Violent’ Murder of a Shopkeeper Who Refused to Meekly Abandon His Property
» UK: Toy Pig Removed From Farm Set to Avoid Offending Muslim and Jewish Parents
» UK: Westminster on Mumbai-Style Terror Attack Alert After Al Qaeda Threat
» World’s Oldest Copper Age Settlement Found
North Africa
» Egypt: Fresh Tensions Between Copts and Muslims in South
» Egypt: Mob Burns Christian Homes
» Muslims Set Fire to Coptic Christian Homes in Southern Egypt, Officials Say
Middle East
» A Weak State Incubates Terror
» Germans Held in Iran Accused of Espionage
» NATO Summit: Clash With Turkey Over Missile Shield
» Pilgrimage: How Much Does it Cost to be a Good Muslim?
» Saudi Arabia: Country Dealing With Gold Smuggling
» Syria: Assad Family 40 Years in Power, Now Hezbollah Issue
» Hollywood to Slander Russia Internationally
South Asia
» Pakistan: Bishop of Islamabad, Asia Bibi Case “A Disgrace” — A Campaign by AsiaNews
» Pakistan: US Earmarks $500mln for Post-Flood Reconstruction
Far East
» Asteroid Dust Successfully Returned by Japanese Space Probe
» Chinese Brain-Imaging Device a Suspected Copy of U.S. Device
» Obama Delivers Only Hot Air
Australia — Pacific
» UK Too Full of Immigrants, Says Pauline Hanson
» Australia: Population Boom Inevitable, PM Told Josh Gordon
» California Court Upholds in-State Tuition for Some Immigrants
» U.N.: Lower Barriers to Legal Immigration
» UK: What About My Right to a Family Life, Says Father of Girl Killed by Iraqi Criminal We Can’t Throw Out
Culture Wars
» Spain: Transsexuals Excluded From Work, 80% Prostitute

Financial Crisis

Barroso ‘Extremely Disappointed’ Over Budget Collapse

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has expressed his “extreme disappointment” over the failure of member states and MEPs to agree to the bloc’s 2011 budget, and warned of the negative impact of this breakdown.

“I’m extremely disappointed that talks between the Council and the European Parliament on the 2011 budget have broken down,” Mr Barroso said in a statement on Tuesday (16 November).

Mr Barroso said Britain and the Netherlands ‘have shot themselves in the foot’ (Photo: European Commission)


Comment article

Without specifically naming Britain and the Netherlands, who were the most reluctant to give in to the MEPs demands, Mr Barroso said that “a small number of member states were not prepared to negotiate in a European spirit” and that a solution had been possible in the late hours of Monday night.

“Those who think they have won a victory over ‘Brussels’ have shot themselves in the foot. They should know that they have dealt a blow to people all over Europe and in the developing world,” the Portuguese politician said, in reference to EU subsidies paid to farmers, businesses, regions and humanitarian assistance abroad.

The commission has now to come up with a new draft, with the parliament and member states each presenting their opinion and then talks will start all over again, a process “likely to take several months,” according to EU budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski.

Meanwhile, the EU will now employ a system of provisional budgets funded each month up with up to one twelth of the total 2010 figure.

Diplomats on Monday night pointed out that this will certainly cause “no drama” and that even for new projects, such as the European External Action Service or the three new financial supervisory authorities, there will be enough money left over.

Neither will the safety net for troubled eurozone countries be affected, a spokeswoman for Mr Barroso said Tuesday during a press conference. Pressure has mounted in recent days on the Irish government to ask help from the European Financial Stability Mechanism (EFSM), as its borrowing costs on the markets are reaching record highs every day.

“There is no impact of the absence of the budget for 2011 on the possible activation of the EFSM,” the spokeswoman said.

Mr Lewandowski, however, maintains that the month-to-month budget scheme will jeopardise investments in poorer regions — under EU’s cohesion policy — which need longer term planning and require co-funding from the public or private sector.

Poland, one of the big beneficiaries of cohesion policy, is the native country of Mr Lewandowski, himself a former MEP.

Speaking to the EUobserver, Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the Liberal group in the European Parliament said that the uphill battle against reticent member states was not about money, but about “going back to the original formula of EU’s founding fathers, who based the European budget on ‘own resources’,” he said, employing the term used in Brussels jargon for giving the bloc its own fundraising powers.

“This is an opportunity to open a discussion about the financing system of the EU — it should be direct financed by citizens, so that they can have a direct influence on EU policies,” he argued.

Debt crises such as the Greek and the Irish ones could be averted, Mr Verhofstadt argued, if the current system of national contributions and rebates was abolished.

He dismissed British sovereignty concerns when it comes to taxation, arguing: “EU taxes exist already, on agricultural imports and part of the value added tax (VAT).”

In the Belgian politican’s view, to talk about EU taxes at times of budget austerity in member states was not inappropriate, since the European Parliament was not asking “for extra taxes,” but to replace some national taxes.

Mr Verhofstadt said that the group of reluctant countries has dropped from 12 mid-October to 3-4 on Monday night, “all the others were willing to start a discussion on it.”

Meanwhile, speaking at a breakfast event in Brussels, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy came to the defence of member states and pointed to the “political courage” governments have to muster when introducing painful austerity measures, despite street protests and “rising populism.”

He spoke of the Lisbon Treaty as offering “new tools” on monetary stability, jobs and growth, but said that while discussions in Brussels are important, “the most difficult political work has to be done in the member states themselves.”

“The choice is not between the ‘intergovernmental’ or the ‘community method’,” he said, referring to the two visions of how Europe should operate: on a national government-to-government basis or through EU-level institutions, “but between a co-ordinated EU position or nothing at all.”

When asked about the 2011 budget, Mr Van Rompuy said that “in the end, compromise will be found.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Dow Drops 179 Points to 11,023.50 After Global Worries

The Dow Jones industrial average briefly fell below 11,000 for the first time since early October.

Stocks were down for the seventh consecutive day after worries about Europe’s debt crisis and possible moves by authorities in Asia to slow fast-paced growth there swept the world’s markets on Tuesday.

[Return to headlines]

EU in Talks With IMF as Irish Bailout Looms

(BRUSSELS) — The European Union on Tuesday signalled that the IMF could be called in to help the bloc resolve a banking crisis in Ireland that has revived fears for the future of the euro.

The EU’s executive commission is holding talks with the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank to resolve the Irish banking crisis, European economic affairs chief Olli Rehn said.

“The Irish sovereign (debt) is funded well until the middle of next year,” Rehn told reporters ahead of a meeting of eurozone finance ministers to discuss a way out of the crisis in Ireland.

“At the same time the commission together with the ECB and IMF and the Irish authorities are working in order to resolve the serious problems of the Irish banking sector,” he said.

“I expect the Eurogroup (of finance ministers) to support this project.”

Rehn insisted that the current turmoil does not constitute “a matter of the survival of the euro, this is a matter of a very serious problem in the banking sector of Ireland.”

But earlier in the day the president of the European Union, Herman Van Rompuy, warned that the 27-nation bloc’s very future could indeed be at stake.

“If we don’t survive with the eurozone we will not survive with the European Union,” he said.

Finance ministers stepping into the talks expressed willingness to bail out Ireland but insisted Dublin had still made no request for assistance.

“If Ireland needs help we will help,” said French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde. “We have a mechanism in place, it’s a mechanical problem.”

But “Ireland hasn’t asked for help,” she added, echoing comments from other officials.

The IMF earlier this year rushed to rescue Europe from a fiscal crisis, joining the EU in establishing a 110-billion-euro (150-billion-dollar) fund for financially ailing Greece in May.

Rehn however brushed aside comparisons to fiscal troubles in fellow eurozone countries Portugal and Spain and sought to ease fears of contagion through the rest of the single currency area

“Ireland is a very different case,” Rehn said.

In Madrid, Economy Minister Elena Salgado insisted there was no reason why Spain should be affected by alarm on financial markets about the state of Irish and Portuguese finances.

“The situation in Spain is and will continue to be completely different,” she said, although the Spanish government had to pay a much higher interest rate to borrow money in a bond sale on Tuesday.

There is concern that any contagion to Spain would take the crisis to a new level since the Spanish economy is the fifth biggest in the EU.

Bond yields for Ireland, Portugal and Greece all remain high, suggesting a persistent lack of confidence on the part of investors.

The current drama has also weighed on the euro and on share prices in Europe, where markets fell hard on Tuesday.

Twenty-four of the EU’s 27 states are currently running deficits way above the EU limits of three percent of output.

At least one state indicated to AFP that it was fed up offering bailout assistance — Iceland and Latvia also benefit from its taxpayers’ solidarity — and suggested the outcome of talks in Brussels was not a foregone conclusion.

Austrian Finance Minister Josef Proell said his government would withold its December installment of 190 million euros in aid to Greece, saying Athens had not met its commitments to the European Union.

The urgency this time is due to massive debt write-downs arising from an Irish property crash. Ireland’s public deficit this year is set to pass 30 percent of GDP, 10 times the permitted EU limit and double last year’s Greek deficit.

A source at the Luxembourg-based 440-billion-euro European Financial Stability Fund set up by eurozone leaders to prevent the Greek crisis from spreading said there was nothing to prevent money being pumped into Dublin purely to stabilise its banks.

“Ten billion (euros) of the money for Greece was for its banking sector. The percentage is a matter for political decision,” he stressed when asked by AFP if it could run to 100 percent.

Experts say Dublin will need about 70 billion euros. Eurogroup head Jean-Claude Juncker, the ECB, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund have all said they are ready to act as soon as possible if asked.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Euro Under Siege as Now Portugal Hits Panic Button

The euro is facing an unprecedented crisis after another country indicated on Monday night that it was at a “high risk” of requiring an international bail-out.

Portugal became the latest European nation to admit it was on the brink of seeking help from Brussels after Ireland confirmed it had begun preliminary talks over its debt problems.

Greece also disclosed that its economic problems are even worse than previously thought.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, raised the spectre of the euro collapsing as she warned: “If the euro fails, then Europe fails.”

European finance ministers will meet in Brussels on Tuesday to begin discussions over a new European stability plan that is expected to result in billions of pounds being offered to Ireland, Portugal and possibly even Spain.

David Cameron said he was thankful that Britain had not joined the euro, but indicated his displeasure that taxpayers in this country face a pounds 7 billion pound liability in any bail-out package.

The veteran Conservative MP Peter Tapsell warned that the “potential knock-on effect” of the Irish crisis “could pose as great a threat to the world economy as did Lehman Brothers, AIG and Goldman Sachs in September 2008”.

Ireland has resisted growing international pressure to accept EU financial assistance amid concerns that this would lead to a surrender of political and economic sovereignty.

However, the German government is expected to signal that Ireland may have to accept a pounds 77 billion pound bail-out, along with a loss of economic and political independence, as the price of preserving the euro.

Mrs Merkel said that the single currency was “the glue that holds Europe together”.

Her words came as fellow eurozone members Portugal and Spain rounded on Ireland. They fear that international concerns over the euro will lead to so-called market contagion spreading to them.

Fernando Teixeira dos Santos, the Portuguese finance minister, said: “There is a risk of contagion. The risk is high because we are not facing only a national problem. It is the problems of Greece, Portugal and Ireland. This has to do with the eurozone and the stability of the eurozone, and that is why contagion in this framework is more likely.”


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Greek Deficit Much Bigger Than Estimate

Greece’s goal of reducing its gargantuan debt received a fresh blow today when the EU statistics agency announced that the country’s 2009 budget deficit was much worse than first thought.

Six months after Athens received €110bn (£93bn) in emergency loans from EU nations and the International Monetary Fund to prop up its near-bankrupt economy, Eurostat revealed that Greece’s budget deficit reached 15.4% of GDP last year, substantially higher than its previous estimate of 13.6%.

In April, Eurostat had estimated the debt-to-GDP ratio would reach 115.1%. The revised data meant that Greece’s debt ratio has eclipsed those of every other EU state, officials said. By the end of 2009, its debt is projected to account for 126.8% of GDP.

Greece’s poor bookkeeping was blamed for the budget black holes.

As a team of visiting inspectors from the IMF, the European commission and the European Central Bank arrived in Athens, there was widespread acceptance that the new figures would throw out the fiscal and structural reform programme the socialist government has agreed to in return for the loans, the biggest bailout in history.

“We will face a profound strategic issue of how to repay €70bn-€80bn when redemption of the rescue loans comes,” a senior government aide told the Guardian. “There will have to be some disguised rescheduling of the time frame in which we repay the money.”


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Ireland’s Debt Crisis Could Kill the European Union Stone Dead, EU President Warns

The debt crisis facing Ireland, Greece and Portugal could threaten the future of the whole European Union, EU President Herman Van Rompuy warned today.

‘We must all work together in order to survive with the eurozone, because if we do not survive with the eurozone, we will not survive with the European Union,’ said Mr Van Rompuy.

He spoke out as finance ministers tried to keep Ireland’s market turmoil from triggering a domino effect that could topple other vulnerable nations and rock the region’s currency union.

Only months after saving Greece from bankruptcy in May, the 16-country eurozone has been shaken by concerns that Ireland will be unable to sustain the cost of its banks’ failure.

European nations are worried the tension is making borrowing more expensive for countries like Portugal and Spain, threatening to push them to the brink of default.

Stifling the contagion — a market panic that jumps from one weak country to the next — is the priority.

Behind Ireland stands Portugal, one of the eurozone’s smaller member with 1.8 per cent of its economy but one that is considered by some to have done less than the Irish to bring debt and deficits back under control.

Next comes Spain, with a proportionally smaller debt burden but a dead-in-the-water economy that is so big — 11.7 per cent of eurozone output — that it could present a much larger challenge if it needs help.

Rates on Irish bonds rose again today as investors’ expectations ebbed for an early decision on an Irish bailout — which would be expected to guarantee they will get paid back on their holdings.

The yield on 10-year Irish treasuries rose to 8.16 per cent from Monday’s closing yield of 7.94 per cent.

Ireland’s minister for European affairs, Dick Roche, concedes that Irish banks are having trouble drumming up operating cash, but insists no bailout agreement is in store.

He suggested that others in the EU were panicking over how to manage Ireland’s £49 billion bank-bailout bill and its deficit, which is forecast to reach a staggering 32 per cent of GDP this year, a record for post-war Europe.

‘I would hope that after the meeting this afternoon and tomorrow there would be more logic introduced to this. There’s no reason why we should trigger an IMF or an EU-type bailout,’ Roche said.

‘There is a problem with liquidity in banks, but I don’t think the appropriate response to that would be for European finance ministers to panic.’

Analysts suggested that Ireland should cut a deal now with EU colleagues and not wait until next year, when the country could rapidly reach the edge of bankruptcy.

Ireland says it has sufficient cash to fund government services through June 2011, and has postponed returning to the bond market until early 2011 in hopes that the interest rate demanded by investors will have fallen by then.

Ireland has already nationalised three banks — Anglo Irish, Irish Nationwide and the Educational Building Society — and has taken major stakes in Allied Irish Banks and Bank of Ireland.

Allied Irish is expected to fall under majority state control within weeks.

David McWilliams, a former Irish Central Bank economist and prominent commentator, said Ireland’s only card worth playing in this week’s Brussels meetings was to admit defeat and stress that Ireland’s problems were Europe’s responsibility, thanks to the euro currency.

McWilliams said Ireland should agree to let the European Central Bank — which has full-time observers inside the Department of Finance in Dublin — take ‘direct responsibility for the Irish banks, over and above the Irish government.’

That would keep the Irish banks from contaminating the bond market, easing the market turmoil for everyone.

‘We need finally to be honest and say to our European colleagues that our banks are bust,’ he said.

‘No matter how much we bluff, that problem’s not going to go away — and our problem is your problem. You have got to help us, because your problem could transfer from Ireland, Portugal and Greece to Spain and Italy.

‘Although it’s not pleasant, we’ve got to defend ourselves. We’ve got to say we’re in this euro together, so what are you going to do for us?’

The rise in yields across highly-indebted European nations has pushed the EU back into the depths of crisis management, after policymakers had spent their recent gatherings focusing on crisis prevention.

‘This is a time for cool heads,’ Amadeu Altafaj Tardio, a spokesman for the EU’s Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, said of the finance ministers meeting.

‘This is a time for political determination and this is a time for serious implementation of decisions that have been taken.’

In an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro published Tuesday, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou insisted his country won’t default on its £253billion in debt because doing so would be a ‘catastrophe’ for Greece, Europe and the euro.

On Monday, Greece said this year’s deficit would likely reach 9.4 per cent, well above the 8.1 per cent level it forecast earlier this year when it received a £93 billion bailout from European partners and the International Monetary Fund.

Portugal, which is struggling with high budget deficits, also saw itself forced to deny rumours that it would seek financial assistance.

‘Portugal has made no official or informal contacts with a view to seeking European aid,’ Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos said in an interview Monday with financial newspaper Jornal de Negocios.

But he added that ‘if Ireland’s situation deteriorates’ the market pressure on Portugal would increase.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Irish Debt Woes Make German Banks Uneasy

British and German banks, which hold a combined 288 billion dollars worth of Irish debt, are looking on with increasing unease as Ireland’s debt crisis worsens. EU finance ministers are in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss the plight with many saying a bailout is unavoidable.

It is being described as a day of reckoning for Ireland. On Tuesday, European Union finance ministers are gathering in Brussels for their regular monthly meeting — and the first item on the agenda is sure to be the state of Dublin’s finances.

As worries over the country’s debt have spread in the past week, the country has come under increasing pressure from the European Central Bank and other countries belonging to the European common currency zone to apply for aid from the €750 billion fund established earlier this year to prop up the euro. Ireland, however, continues to insist that, for the moment, no help is needed.

“I would hope after the (EU finance ministers’ meeting) this afternoon and tomorrow there would be more logic introduced into this,” Dick Roche, Ireland’s European affairs minister, reiterated to BBC Radio on Tuesday morning. “There is no reason why we should trigger an IMF or an EU-type bailout.”

Roche did say that Irish banks did face serious liquidity problems. But, he added, “I don’t think the appropriate response to that would be for the European finance ministers to panic.”

British and German banks are certain to be watching the developments in Brussels closely. According to data provided by Germany’s largest financial institutions in the summer as part of the Europe-wide banking stress tests, they hold some $138 billion in Irish debt, with Hypo Real Estate, the crippled German lender, leading the way with a portfolio worth €10.3 billion, according to a report in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday. British banks have total holdings of Irish debt worth $150 billion.

Chain Reaction

Ireland has repeatedly insisted that it will have no trouble covering expenditures through next April at least. But the country has, for the moment, ceased selling sovereign bonds given the extremely high — and rising — interest rates it would have to pay on those bonds. And there is growing concern that the increased focus on Ireland will lead to a crisis in other countries as well, primarily in Portugal and Spain.

On Monday, Bank of Spain Governor Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez made a plea to Dublin that it take action to calm investors’ nerves. “It’s not up to me to make a decision on Ireland,” he said according to Reuters. “It’s Ireland that should take the decision at the right moment.” Portuguese Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira told the Financial Times on Monday that his country might have to seek help because the return of European debt worries has meant renewed attention on his own country’s stretched finances.

Several media reports have indicated that Ireland has already entered into negotiations on a bailout deal should one become necessary. Citing EU sources, Reuters has reported that an amount between €45 billion and €90 billion ($63-123 billion) is under discussion, with the ultimate amount dependent on how much help Irish banks might need.

Both Ireland and Greece have accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of having triggered the most recent manifestation of Europe’s ongoing debt crisis. Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed in late October to a mechanism for sovereign debt restructuring which would require private investors to bear some of the risk for investing in heavily indebted countries like Greece and Ireland. The hope is that such a mechanism would take effect after the €750 billion euro backstop, established early this year, expires in 2013.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


“Death to America!” a Declaration of War by Traitors?

In the question of whether Islam is at war with the West, The Propagandist has always taken a consistent line: No. A religion cannot be at war with anything. We are not fighting Islam. We are fighting Islamism (or jihadism, if you prefer) and its adherents; those religious fanatics who would use intimidation, everyday violence and terror to maintain an oppressive shariah law in Islamic nations and build the same medieval foundation outside the heart of the Islamic world — over the ashes of a beaten civilization, if need be.

But new footage from Mecca showing tens of thousands of Hajj pilgrims chanting “Death to America! Death to Israel” draws attention to the scale of a horrifying problem. Muslims from all over the world go to Mecca to fulfill their religious duty. They are supposed to be taking part in a spiritual journey, not an expedited course in radicalization and political indoctrination.

No one can claim that these chants are somehow “taken out of context”. They are what they are. When you call for a nation’s death, that is the equivalent of declaring war upon it. And when every Hajj pilgrim makes this declaration, it becomes exceedingly difficult to sort out the terror-minded psychopaths from ordinary Muslims who just want to live decent lives, do good things for their local communities and generally make the world a better place — and not be at war with their friends and neighbors.

There is no modern-day equivalent to this ceremony for any other major monotheistic religion anywhere in the world. We simply do not see the Pope telling his audience of thousands to chant “Death to (name a country that deserves to fall into the sea)”. We don’t see it in Judaism. There are no calls for genocidal conquest made by the head rabbi of Jerusalem. And of course, even if the Pope or the top rabbi actually uttered such instructions, they would be condemned by their followers and the wider, largely secular public immediately as genocidal madmen.

There are equivalents to these sorts of chants. Think of Hitler’s speeches at Nazi rallies. Going back much further in time, it’s possible to imagine that certain death-worshipping cultures like the Aztecs, where the elites codified torture and cannibalism as a necessary parts of their society, might have also called outright for the deaths of nations at rallies outside their great temples. We would rightly recoil if these sorts of gatherings if they existed today. And that’s the point. That’s what the Hajj pilgrimage of Mecca has turned into.

The soft bigotry of low expectations has undermined what ought to be a deafening shout of condemnation from all over the world. “How can we criticize a religious ceremony?” asks the naive observer. “It is their culture — to threaten war and genocide. All religious and cultural practices are legitimate. If we make an exception, we risk chaos, perhaps even religious war.”

Yet any such rationalization that fails to distinguish between religious practices upholding the values of life, justice and peace and those calling explicitly to make war in most treasonous fashion is simply foolish. And it is apparent that not just a mere handful of deluded false prophets have taken up that religious war. Fully tens of thousands of jihadist terrorists and a far larger pool of financiers and propagandists have already declared war upon us. And let us be clear, here, for those who do not live in the USA or Israel: the only reason other countries like the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy and a host of other countries get left out of the chants is for brevity’s sake. They are all “Infidel” nations in the eyes of the Islamists.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Amid Airport Anger, GOP Takes Aim at Screening

Did you know that the nation’s airports are not required to have Transportation Security Administration screeners checking passengers at security checkpoints? The 2001 law creating the TSA gave airports the right to opt out of the TSA program in favor of private screeners after a two-year period. Now, with the TSA engulfed in controversy and hated by millions of weary and sometimes humiliated travelers, Rep. John Mica, the Republican who will soon be chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, is reminding airports that they have a choice.

Mica, one of the authors of the original TSA bill, has recently written to the heads of more than 150 airports nationwide suggesting they opt out of TSA screening. “When the TSA was established, it was never envisioned that it would become a huge, unwieldy bureaucracy which was soon to grow to 67,000 employees,” Mica writes. “As TSA has grown larger, more impersonal, and administratively top-heavy, I believe it is important that airports across the country consider utilizing the opt-out provision provided by law.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Cartoonist Ted Rall to Appear at Communist Bookstore

The communist book shop known as Revolution Books in New York City recently hosted a party and celebration for a 91-page book called Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. The book is officially published by the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), a Maoist cult that follows the rants of Bob Avakian, a former comrade of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn in the Students for a Democratic Society. This coming Thursday, November 18, Revolution Books is hosting nationally syndicated cartoonist/columnist Ted Rall, a recent guest on the MSNBC television network who is going to read from his new book, The Anti-American Manifesto.

Interestingly, recent visitors to Revolution Books in New York City found a large pencil drawing of Cornel West, a Marxist academic and a member of Obama’s Black Advisory Council during his 2008 presidential run. The drawing was being auctioned off to benefit the communist bookstore. West had debated Carl Dix of the RCP at an event sponsored by Revolution Books. A DVD is now available of the debate and is titled, “The ascendancy of Obama and the Continued Need for Resistance and Liberation.”

According to the DVD, “Proceeds from this historic evening went to Revolution Books NYC and the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, which provides subsidized subscriptions of Revolution newspaper and other revolutionary literature to prisoners.”

As stated, the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund provides copies of the RCP newspaper to criminals in prison. To understand the impact, consider this letter from a prisoner posted on the website:

“The recent issue #213 that was a special issue on Israel was excellent in its portrayal of the Imperialist attack dog known as the state of Israel. Most people don’t make the connection that what Israel is doing to the Palestinians, how it is oppressing the Palestinians is the same treatment all oppressed people get worldwide, of course on different levels.”

When there were indications that copies of the communist paper were being held back from the criminal population, the ACLU went into action, threatening a lawsuit against prison officials.

This program is supposed to guarantee that once the criminals get out of prison, they will be committed communists.

[Return to headlines]

Conservative Group Calls on Justice Dept. To Investigate Muslim Prayers on Capitol Hill

A conservative advocacy group on Friday called on the Justice Department to investigate a weekly prayer session on Capitol Hill that Muslims with terrorist ties have been participating in since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson, issued the demand one day after revealed that notorious Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was among the controversial figures who has attended the weekly Friday Jummah prayers hosted by the Congressional Muslims Staff Association during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.

The group held prayers informally for about eight years before gaining official status in 2006 under the sponsorship of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., one of two Muslims currently serving in Congress.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

NASA Develops Puncture-Proof Space Tyre

Anyone who’s ever had a puncture far from home knows how frustrating it can be. Imagine then, how annoying popping a tyre on the moon could be.

That’s why NASA has teamed up with tyre producer Goodyear to develop a model that won’t go flat. Conventional pneumatic tyres are unsuitable, because they can puncture and the extreme temperatures and solar radiation can degrade the rubber.

The new airless Spring Tyre improves on the wire-mesh designs employed on the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) driven by astronauts on Apollo missions 15 to 17 (1971 and 1972). It is made of 800 weight-bearing springs and is designed to carry loads 10 times heavier and 100 times further than LRV tyres could manage across the bumpy surface of the moon.

The Spring Tyre won an R&D 100 award for innovation in Orlando, Florida, last week.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Labor Secretary to Honor Communist

Group will give its highest journalism prize to People’s World writer

NEW YORK — A labor group affiliated with the nation’s largest union is giving its highest prize for journalism to a writer from the official newspaper of the Communist Party USA.

President Obama’s labor secretary, Hilda Solis, will be on hand for the awards dinner this week to lead a special session on how to respond to “expected” attacks from the new Republican-led House.

The International Labor Communications Association, or ILCA, a national coalition of labor organizers, is bestowing its media award to John Wojcik, the labor editor for People’s World, the official Communist Party USA publication.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Rangel Violated Numerous House Ethics Rules, Panel Finds

A House ethics panel has found that Representative Charles B. Rangel committed multiple ethical violations. He had been accused of bringing dishonor to Congress by accepting rent-stabilized apartments from a Manhattan developer, failing to pay taxes on a rental income from his Dominican villa and raising charitable donations from companies and corporate executives who had business before the committee he led.

[Return to headlines]

Replace Humiliation With Respect

Franklin Raff spotlights successful interview system in Israeli airports

We should emulate El Al, the national airline of Israel.

El Al (according to Global Traveler magazine in 2008, for instance) is the world’s most secure airline. This is both despite, and because, her planes are assuredly the highest value terrorist targets in the air.

Though El Al incorporates many of the same screening techniques to which we have become accustomed (and more than a few more “behind the scenes” processes and procedures, ever-changing as El Al anticipates and adapts to new threats), the “security experience” for El Al passengers is quite different from that of other airlines. For those of us who might qualify for an imaginary “do fly” list, at least, the difference is this:

The El Al security experience is comfortingly intimate, as opposed to humiliating.


El Al, you see, is not focused on detecting nail clippers, marlinspikes or silverware.

It is focused, like a laser, on detecting terrorists.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

State Warning to TSA: Stop Breaking the Law

‘We won’t be able to walk across street without going through checkpoints’

New Jersey state lawmakers today demanded that Congress review the Transportation Security Administration’s new “enhanced” security screening of airline passengers that involves either an X-ray scan revealing a virtually nude image or a full-body pat-down that touches private parts.

And just as state Sen. Michael Doherty and others in Trenton announced resolutions calling on Congress to review the TSA procedures and complaints from travelers, a former top TSA official admitted on a Fox News Channel appearance what many passengers already knew: The procedures are legally questionable.

Mo McGowan was asked if the government could find a reasonable compromise that could detect terrorists without molesting adults and children.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

U.S. Left: Onward Muslim Soldiers

When I think of modern America, conjured up is an image of a boxer who, while sometimes bobbing, weaving, blocking, and occasionally directing a blow with his right, intermittently hits himself in the head with his left. I also might then imagine how the other man in the ring would laugh upon witnessing the spectacle of an opponent who, inexplicably, does half his job for him. The latest hard left thrown in our masochistic, self-flagellating land is the reaction to the Oklahoma constitutional amendment forbidding judges from using international or Sharia law when making decisions. First, and not surprisingly, a lawsuit was filed. The plaintiff was executive director of the Oklahoma CAIR chapter Muneer Awad, who claimed that the amendment’s targeting of Sharia violates First Amendment rights. This prompted U.S. District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange to block the measure by issuing a temporary restraining order that will remain in effect until a November 22 hearing. So, as is the modern American way, this issue will be hashed out in the courts. More interesting, however, are the diverging reactions in the courts of public and pundit opinion. While most Americans are cheering the 70 percent of Oklahomans who passed the amendment, the left-wing media’s and fogosphere’s reaction is as predictable as the lawsuit: They are leveling accusations of bigotry against the good residents of the Sooner State. For example, Michael Stone at writes, “The law is an embarrassing absurdity that reflects an unflattering portrait of ignorance and bigotry on the part of many Oklahoma voters.” And pulls no punches, stating right in a headline, “Anti-Sharia law in Oklahoma has smell of bigotry.”

Now, since people become inured to their own odor, there’s some question as to what the Left is actually smelling. And I sense the smell of hypocrisy.

It’s not that it might take industrial-grade chutzpah for the set that preaches the separation of church and state to complain about an amendment banning the use of religious law in government courts. After all, opponents of the law could say that they don’t oppose any such blanket prohibition, just the targeting of a certain religion.

And I don’t buy it for a second. Leftists are the ones who for years have used the Establishment Clause as a pretext to relentlessly attack Christianity and strip longstanding Christian symbols and sentiments from the public sphere while remaining deafeningly silent about Islam’s inroads into it. For instance, in October of this year, Christian students at a Chattanooga, Tennessee, high school were told they may no longer pray before athletic practice and competition; in July, students from an Arizona Christian School were ordered by a police officer to stop praying outside the Supreme Court building during a school trip; and in June, four Christians were arrested five blocks from the Dearborn Arab International Festival for distributing the Gospel of John. They were, writes Janet Levy at American Thinker, “[led] away in handcuffs to shouts of ‘Allah hu Akbar’ from Muslim bystanders.” The official charge was disorderly conduct. I think the de facto one was “evangelizing while Christian.”

At the same time, a red Persian rug is rolled out for Muslim practices. Excelsior Middle School in Discovery Bay, California, adopted an Islamic immersion course in which seventh-grade students had to take on Muslim names, recite Islamic prayers, and celebrate Ramadan. The ACLU doesn’t seem to object, either, and the courts find it palatable under the umbrella of multiculturalism.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]


Muslim ‘Parallel Society’ Within Canada a Threat: Report

Islamists aim to build a “parallel society” in Canada that risks undermining its democracy and multiculturalism and becoming a “catalyst for violence,” warned a national security report published Monday.

The newly declassified document obtained by the National Post says Islamic hardliners are calling on Muslims living in Western countries to segregate themselves and adhere only to Shariah law.

“Even if the use of violence is not outwardly expressed, the creation of isolated communities can spawn groups that are exclusivist and potentially open to messages in which violence is advocated,” warns the report posted on the newspaper’s website.

“At a minimum, the existence of such mini-societies undermines the resilience and the fostering of a cohesive Canadian nation.”

The report was written by the Integrated Threat Assessment Centre which collates threat information from Canada’s spy service, federal police, military, foreign affairs department and other agencies.

According to the National Post, it was circulated internally after a Hizb-ut-Tahrir conference in Toronto last year on establishing an Islamic caliphate. “By definition, their world views clash with secular ones. A competition for the hearts and minds of the diaspora Muslims has hence begun,” the report concludes.

It notes that Islamist hardliners while promoting the synchronization of state laws with religious beliefs “are careful to couch their policies in terms of Western freedoms.”

They see the movement as “the peaceful advocacy of minority rights,” it said.

But the report also notes the Dutch Intelligence Service has labeled the movement as “sinister” and one which “could gradually harm social cohesion and solidarity and could harm certain fundamental human rights.”

As well, it cites examples in Denmark in which Muslims bypassed the court system to administer their own form of justice, in one case beating a man accused of assaulting a young boy.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Carl Bildt Slams EU President Over Turkey

Sweden’s foreign minister Carl Bildt roundly criticised European Union President Herman Van Rompuy on Tuesday for omitting to name Turkey in discussions over EU enlargement.

“To talk about enlargement policy and only name the western Balkans, and in a number of speeches forget Turkey, is a little strange and raises questions.

And it’s not a good thing,” Bildt told Swedish public radio, referring in particular to a speech by Van Rompuy in Berlin last week.

In a blog entry posted on November 10th — a day after the speech given in connection with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall — Bildt said Van Rompuy’s “silence on Turkey is as significant as it is remarkable.”

“He is the European Council’s chairman and must represent the policy the European Union decided on,” he continued.

Sweden, and Bildt in particular, is a strong supporter of Turkey’s entry into the European Union.

Turkey began accession talks in 2005, but has since only succeeded in closing one of 35 chapters that need to be negotiated, with 18 blocked either by the EU as a whole, by the Greek Cypriot-led government, or by France.

When asked on Tuesday about the fact that that Van Rompuy had never visited Turkey nor met with Turkish officials, Bildt said “I expect it is on his agenda to have such a meeting.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Chechen Exile Murder Trial Begins in Vienna

A trial involving the spectacular murder of a Chechen exile begins Tuesday in Vienna. Austrian investigators believe it was a contract killing which may be linked to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, who is alleged to have a network of ruthless agents across Europe.

The room in the Berlin apartment has a dark wooden table and oil paintings on the wall. Water is being heated in a samovar. Men with serious expressions come in, embrace each other and sit down to drink tea.

The apartment is home to the translator Ekkehard Maass. The 51-year-old was a dissident in the former East Germany and now runs the German-Caucasian Society. It’s a meeting point for Chechen exiles, people who have fled the violence in the Caucasus region and emigrated to the West.

When exiles meet for tea these days, two names are frequently mentioned: Ramzan Kadyrov and Umar Israilov. Israilov, a Chechen exile, was murdered in Vienna on Jan. 13, 2009. Kadyrov, the feared 34-year-old president of Chechnya, a man who likes to pose for photographs with a tiger or holding a gold-plated pistol, was allegedly behind the murder. Both Chechen exiles and Austrian investigators believe that it was a contract killing. Israilov had accused Kadyrov of torture and had brought a case against him before the European Court of Human Rights.

The trial of the suspected killers opens in Vienna on Tuesday. The spectacular murder is likely to be followed by an equally spectacular trial, in which prosecutors will seek to shed light on the exact circumstances of the crime, and on a “military intelligence service” that terrorism experts in Vienna believe Kadyrov developed in Europe. Kadyrov is currently being investigated, although charges have not been brought yet. He denies all involvement in the murder case.

Living in Fear

German investigators are also interested in the Chechen president’s activities. His agents have been spotted in Germany, where about 6,000 Chechens live. Some 500 of them are believed to be tied to extremist groups. German intelligence officials find it difficult to get a clear picture of the milieu. The distinctions among freedom fighters, terrorists and ordinary criminals are complicated. In addition, some Chechens owe their asylum status to their cooperation with German intelligence, and the lines are sometimes blurred between informants and troublemakers.

One thing is clear, however: Chechens in Germany live in fear of Kadyrov, who has unscrupulous bodyguards. Chechen exiles have frequently told German authorities about Kadyrov’s influence in Berlin. The president is apparently determined to convince exiles to return home, if necessary with rough measures. He allegedly has middlemen and agents that he uses specifically for this purpose.

The award-winning Chechen poet Apti Bisultanov was one of the exiles who received an unwanted visit from Kadyrov’s men in Berlin. Apparently two former members of the Chechen government were working as agents for Kadyrov in Berlin: the brothers Umar and Magomed Khanbiyev. A witness told Viennese authorities about a conversation he had had with Umar Khanbiyev in Berlin. The Chechen agent apparently told the witness that a major campaign was underway to bring Chechens home, and that Kadyrov was behind it. According to the agent, Kadyrov had a team of six agents working in Europe. They had been provided with Russian visas and were apparently staying in a Berlin hotel.

Kadyrov’s agents, say Chechens in Berlin, try to entice exiles to return home with promises of jobs. Apparently the agents have also threatened violence against the exiles’ families at home in Chechnya. In the case of Bisultanov, Kadyrov’s men and Russian officials worked hand in hand. Russia had demanded his extradition and was trying to torpedo his application for asylum, but was unsuccessful on both counts.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Claim: Danish Authorities Aware of US Monitoring Programme

Former security officer said police received reports of surveillance activity

The former head of a company providing security services for the US Embassy in Denmark says law enforcement authorities were aware the embassy was monitoring individuals it considered suspicious, possibly in violation of Danish law.

Frank Rosendahl, the former managing director of the United International Investigative Service (UIIS), told Politiken newspaper that a six-member team was responsible for collecting information for the embassy’s Regional Security Assistant Officer.

He added that the team usually operated near areas they were supposed to monitor. However, during one surveillance operation in March 2000, one of the team members was caught speeding by a police camera while following another car.

Although Rosendahl had instructed the employee to pay for his own speeding ticket, he sent copies of his observation reports to the police in order to prove he had grounds for speeding.

The police forwarded the reports to the US Embassy, which then passed them on to Rosendahl, who chose to fire the man for having the “wrong attitude”.

The man declined to reveal his identify, but acknowledged to Politiken that the car chase was not “particularly wise”.

“This is not something we can document. But according to the process of elimination, it is clear that the information ends up with the police,” Rosendahl said.

Another former member of the team, who chose to remain anonymous, supported Rosendahl’s claims and said that to his knowledge, the police were aware of the surveillance programme.

Rosendahl added that he was never given any instruction as to how far the guards were allowed to go in order to monitor people it found suspicious.

“I was in a bit of a legal vacuum, in which it was left up to me to set the boundaries for what was morally justifiable,” he said.

The revelations come after the former members of domestic intelligence agency PET last week denied any knowledge of surveillance activities in Denmark, following the allegations in Norway and Sweden that the US embassies there have been conducting illegal surveillance programmes.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Four Ministers Set to Resign From Italian Government

Four ministers are set to resign from the Italian government on Monday in a move that confirms a break with the coalition but will not automatically topple Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s government.

The four — Europe Minister Andrea Ronchi, Deputy Economic Development Minister Adolfo Urso and two junior ministers — are supporters of speaker of parliament Gianfranco Fini, a former ally of Berlusconi turned rival.

“We propose a new government, a new majority, a new agenda for reform… Berlusconi is holing himself up in his palace like in a bunker,” Urso said in an interview on the news channel SkyTG24 ahead of the announcement.

“We need to open a new political chapter,” he added.

Antonio Buonfiglio, a junior minister for agriculture, said: “We will hand in our letters of… resignation from the government by 1:00 p.m.”

Buonfiglio said the decision was “irrevocable.”

Fini called on Berlusconi to resign earlier this month and threatened to pull ministers loyal to him out of the government if he did not.

Berlusconi has fought back, vowing to hold confidence votes in parliament and to fight off his rivals in parliamentary elections if needed.

Italy’s main political forces agreed this weekend that any confidence vote in parliament would only come after lawmakers approve a budget for 2011 at a tricky time for heavily-indebted Italy on international financial markets.

Debate on the budget is set to start on Tuesday in the lower house but final approval by the upper house may come only later in November or in December and the centre-left opposition says it fears “time-wasting tactics” by Berlusconi.

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

France: Sarkozy Appoints Right-Wing Cabinet With Eye on 2012

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon emerged at the head of a more right-wing government, his status enhanced Monday, as President Nicolas Sarkozy regrouped for a possible 2012 re-election bid.

Despite months of intrigue in the run-up to the reshuffle, Sarkozy retained his big hitters, while shifting in favor of a loyal team more likely to fall in behind his government’s deficit-cutting austerity agenda.

And for many observers, the prime minister returned in a far stronger position, ready to work more as a partner of Sarkozy than his assistant.

Under a strengthened Fillon, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux remained in their jobs, while several other Sarkozy loyalists were promoted or saw their responsibilities widened.

Meanwhile, center-right Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo — the number two figure in the outgoing government and until recently a frontrunner to become prime minister himself — announced he was stepping down.

Popular Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, a former Socialist minister, was replaced by Gaullist Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, and right-wing former Prime Minister Alain Juppe returned to take over defense.

But in an early sign of splits in Sarkozy’s support base, the outgoing defense minister, center-right leader Herve Morin, denounced the new cabinet line-up as a right-wing “campaign team” in which he had no place.

“France needs pluralism, and democracy needs balance. Since April 2010 the head of state has not agreed with this proposition, and so for my part I can’t remain in government,” said Morin, who is mulling running against Sarkozy.

The new cabinet will also be less ethnically diverse, with the loss of Urban Development Minister Fadela Amara, who is of North African descent, and Sports Minister Rama Yade, who was born in Senegal.

There are 31 ministers in the new team, down from 37 before.

The outgoing head of Sarkozy’s UMP party, Xavier Bertrand, was named labor minister, replacing fellow Sarkozy loyalist Eric Woerth, who has been implicated in a long-running party funding scandal.

Fillon vowed to boost France’s anemic recovery and cut unemployment, and praised what he boasted was the commitment of Sarkozy and his right-wing parliamentary majority to stick by unpopular but necessary reforms.

Socialist leader Martine Aubry slammed the reshuffle as a “blunt refusal” to address the concerns of the French electorate, after two months in which hundreds of thousands have protested against Sarkozy’s pension reforms.

“The French were anxiously expecting a change of policy,” she said. “Tonight, it’s clear — they were ignored.”

Limited reshuffle

Analyst Roland Cayrol of the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris school in Paris said the limited nature of the reshuffle, and in particular Sarkozy’s failure to replace Fillon, showed the weakness of the formerly all-powerful “omnipresident.”

“There was a reshuffle simply because the president wanted to change the prime minister to show he was entering the closing straight with a second wind, with change … and he ended up choosing the same man,” he marveled.

Several French newspapers also argued that Fillon’s reappointment showed not just his rising stock, but Sarkozy’s relative weakness.

“The president’s wishes, as hyper as he might be, are no longer orders,” noted the regional daily La Montagne.

Sarkozy had first signaled in March he planned to reshuffle his cabinet, and there has been mounting political tension since he confirmed this in June, as Fillon jostled with several other candidates for his job.

The government pushed on, forcing through an unpopular hike in the pension age, but its leader plumbed new depths of unpopularity and many see the reshuffle as Sarkozy’s last chance to regain momentum before 2012.

A new poll, conducted by Viavoice for the left-wing daily Liberation just before the reshuffle began, showed Sarkozy’s popularity flat lining at its historically low level. Fillon beat him by 20 percentage points.

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

Germany: ‘Naked’ Scanners Fooled by Creased Clothing

Controversial “naked” body scanners currently being tested at Hamburg’s airport are constantly malfunctioning due to folds in passengers’ clothing, broadcaster NDR reported on Tuesday.

The public radio station said the trial of the body imaging security scanners has been plagued by serious problems. The units, which have been in use since September, are apparently unable to tell the difference between foreign objects and such things like pleated clothing.

The scanners use millimetre-wave technology to produce outline images of bodies, with each scan lasting less than three seconds.

While some passengers are being asked to remove thicker clothes such as jumpers, NDR reported that the devices are regularly malfunctioning due to creases in lighter clothes such as blouses and skirts.

Although use of the scanners remains optional, every passenger must now also be patted down and pass through a metal detector, whether or not they have been scanned.

The extra security checks are causing delays, resulting in longer lines and irritated passengers.

New software due to be installed to solve at least part of the problem is not yet ready for use, NDR reported.

The scanners has previously been criticised by civil liberties campaigners the world over, mostly due to fears of how the images would be stored.

Plans to fast-track tests of the controversial body scanners were announced in January following the foiled “underwear bomb” attack in Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. The trial period is due to run until the end of March 2011.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Keats-Shelley House to Offer Taste of England

Visitors to Rome foundation will be able to order tea

(ANSA) — Rome, November 15 — Visitors to Rome’s Keats-Shelley House, memorial to two of the most famous poets of English Romanticism, will be offered a “real taste” of England next time they come round.

Curators to the house, where John Keats briefly lived when he came to Rome in 1821, are preparing to open a small cafe’ so whoever visits will be able to sip a cup of English tea and treat themselves to a piece of carrot cake or banana bread.

“We didn’t want to do the usual Rome cafe’ fare such as espresso and cornetto (croissant),” Sarah Morgan, Assistant Curator to the museum, told ANSA.

Sometime in 2011 the memorial will also swing open up the doors to its terrace so visitors will be able to sip their tea while enjoying the spectacular view of the adjoining Spanish Steps and Bernini’s ‘Barcaccia’ Fountain in the piazza.

The Memorial has been home to the collections of both Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley since the early 1900s when a group of American literati in Rome decided to heed an appeal by poet Robert Underwood Johnson to save the house.

With its display cases of letters, clothes worn by the poets and a reliquary with locks of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s hair, it now celebrates the time when Italy was home to Byron, Shelley and Keats.

Keats had travelled to Italy in search of a cure to tuberculosis, the disease that had killed both his parents.

The poet died in 1822, aged 25, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery in Rome where he still lies.

Unlike the other Romantic poets, Keats did not write anything in Italy.

Byron and Shelley, on the other hand, were both inspired by Italy. Byron lived here from 1816 to 1824 before going to Greece where he died of a fever, Shelley in 1816 after his elopement with Mary Godwin and her sister, and from 1818 to 1822, when he drowned in a storm off the Tuscan coastal resort of Viareggio, aged 29.

The foundation is entirely self-funded, revenue mainly coming from rent paid by an Italian shoe shop on the ground floor and from visitors, many of whom are Italian school groups.

A small gift shop is a recent addition and it will soon be selling umbrellas with the house’s ceiling motif on the inside, wrapping paper, notepads, postcards, glittery bouncing rubber balls, and tote bags.

By Christmas, the store will also have greeting cards with a quote from Keats. The collection of memorabilia and original pieces continues to grow as curators are keenly on the lookout for possible acquisitions.

The Memorial managed to pick up the first edition of Shelley’s ‘Hellas’, published in 1822, the first English edition of ‘Adonais’ published in Cambridge in 1829 as well as a two-page Jorge Luis Borges manuscript entitled ‘John Keats 1795-1821’ at a recent auction in London by Sotheby’s. “This was actually the very first time we ever had money to buy things,” said Morgan.

She was particularly pleased about the acquisition of Hellas, which was to be the last work published by Shelley in April 1822, three months before he drowned.

The copy of ‘Hellas’ picked up by the Memorial is particularly precious as it still has its original wrappers, printed label and bookseller’s label. Shelley’s elegy for Keats, ‘Adonais’, was written in 1821 and first published in Italy.

The first English edition was privately printed, in a run of 500 copies, by a group of admirers of Keats and Shelley. The Borges manuscript, which dates from the early 1950s, contains the author’s notes on Keats in preparation for his essay ‘El ruiseñor de Keats’ (Keats’s ‘Nightingale’), which first appeared in ‘La Nación’ on 9 December 1951, and was reprinted the following year in his collection of essays ‘Other Inquisitions’. Morgan said curators had also considered bidding on a first edition of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and followed the auction on-line as it happened.

“It was exciting,” said Morgan who stressed that curators decided to withdraw from the auction because the 80,000 pound starting price was too steep.

She explained that it was thought best to wait for better opportunities in the future.

“We really like to pick what we’re keen to have. And what if a new letter of Keats appears on the market? We want to be ready for that,” she confided.

photos: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, during her 2009 visit to the Memorial.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Silvio Berlusconi Dealt Another Blow as Four Ministers Resign

Silvio Berlusconi’s opponents hammered another nail into his crisis-hit coalition on Monday when four ministers loyal to his main rival resigned from the government, making early elections more likely.

The four were supporters of Gianfranco Fini, an ally of Mr Berlusconi until the pair had a spectacular falling-out during the summer.

The resignations hastened a looming showdown between the prime minister and Mr Fini, a former fascist turned moderate seen as a potential successor to Mr Berlusconi, whose term in office is meant to run until 2013.

“With the withdrawal of Fini’s government members, the betrayal has begun,” said Maurizio Sacconi, the welfare minister and a Berlusconi loyalist.

Mr Fini, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, had called on Mr Berlusconi to resign earlier this month, pledging to withdraw his ministers if he did not.

When Mr Berlusconi defiantly refused to stand down, claiming that 60 per cent of Italians still supported him despite recent polls showing that his party would only win 26 per cent of votes, Mr Fini made good on his threat.

The resignations of the four — including Andrea Ronchi, the Europe minister — will not topple the government but they do make its long-term survival unlikely.

They said they wanted to establish “a new government, a new majority, a new agenda for reform” and accused Mr Berlusconi, 74, of “holing himself up in his palace (as if it’s) a bunker.”

Mr Fini has set up his own political party, Future and Freedom for Italy, which could merge with two moderate opposition parties, the Unione di Centro and the Alleanza per l’Italia, to forge a new centre-Right bloc.

Mr Berlusconi faces a key confidence vote before the end of the year over the approval of Italy’s 2011 budget.

If he loses the vote, he would have to resign, opening up the possibility of early elections, probably in the Spring, or the formation of a national unity government.

His approval ratings have plummeted, the economy is in the doldrums and he faces awkward questions over his relationship with a teenage Moroccan belly dancer, on whose behalf he allegedly lobbied in May when she was accused of stealing.

Having risen from obscurity to national fame in the last two weeks, Karima El Mahroug, 18, is busy cashing in on her new-found celebrity.

On Saturday night she was paid a reported 2,000 euros (£1,700) for a 20-minute appearance at a Milan nightclub called Karma, where she sat on a mock golden throne, drinking Champagne and blowing kisses at guests.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Wants Confidence Vote or Elections — But Only for Chamber of Deputies

Prime minister confident of green light. “The government will go on”. Attack on RAI and newspapers

MILAN — Silvio Berlusconi is confident that the government will win a confidence vote in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. If the vote should go wrong in the lower chamber, where the numbers are currently less favourable, elections will be held, but only for the Chamber of Deputies. On the day after his letter to the leaders of both houses setting out his intention to demand a vote of confidence after approval of the budget, Silvio Berlusconi spoke by telephone to the People of Freedom (PDL) convention in Milan. “We will continue to govern with a vote of confidence from the Senate and which I think will also be given by the Chamber of Deputies. And if confidence is voted but not in the lower chamber then we’ll go to the polls for the Chamber of Deputies and see what the Italian people decide”. In the wake of the crisis on the Centre-right caused by the rift with Gianfranco Fini’s supporters, Mr Berlusconi renewed his attacked on his adversaries: “There are professional politicians who are able to aspire to be prime minister, or president, only by behind-the-scenes compromises. But that’s not democracy; it’s just an inter-party carve-up”. There was time for an attack on the RAI (“It’s a disgrace to have public broadcasting of this nature”) and the newspapers (“Don’t read them. They describe a situation that doesn’t exist and has nothing to do with the electorate. They describe party-dictated positions. The truth is that voters exist and 60% of them are with me”). On the day of the Centre-left primaries, Mr Berlusconi gave the PDL’s official support to Letizia Moratti in the race for the mayorship of Milan. “Every best wish to Letizia Moratti”.

BOSSI — “I reckon Berlusconi wants an election. That’s why he’s lowered stakes. I’d be raising them”, said Umberto Bossi, referring to a possible vote for only one of the two chambers instead of the whole Parliament. “Fini told me that he has no problem with Berlusconi as prime minister and I take him at his word”.

FINI SUPPORTERS — Whatever the case, the final showdown will not take place until the stability budget has been approved. But Mr Berlusconi’s move to ask first the Senate and then the Chamber of Deputies for a vote of confidence, with the option of an election for either only, provoked a harsh reaction from Mr Fini’s supporters as well as the anger of the Democratic Party (PD). “The possible dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies if the vote of confidence is unfavourable is sleight of hand. Its only objective is to reassure those senators who are ready to back a responsible course of action that would avoid yet another election campaign in Italy”, said the Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) group leader in the Chamber of Deputies, Italo Bocchino. “We remain convinced that a decision in the interests of Italy would be expedient, with the government’s resignation and the start of a virtuous process calling all political forces to take responsibility towards Italians”, he concluded.

MINISTERS — Some government ministers took a different view. On RTL 102.5 radio, public administration minister Renato Brunetta, said: “This government will get a third severe budget approved, with or without a vote of confidence. The accounts are in place. Italy has been saved from the great crisis”. Mr Brunetta went on to say that the budget “allocates resources for schools, universities and productivity and trims back the cuts, particularly with regard to social action by municipalities. It’s a budget for hard times that meets the country’s needs”. Addressing the opposition without referring to it, he added: “Could the honourable gentlemen do any better? Do they want to go back to pork-barrel budgets? Let them say so: we want to go back to the sickly mess of governments coming together and breaking up”. The education minister Mariastella Gelmini, said: “The continuing attacks on Mr Berlusconi, which aim to forget about the past 15 years of the country’s history, actually invigorate the prime minister. If the government falls, the only other option is to go to the country. You can’t say there’s an interim government when those who won the election go into opposition and the losers are running the country”.

LETTER TO FINI AND SCHIFANI — Mr Berlusconi had outlined his next moves in a letter to the leaders of the two chambers, Renato Schifani and Gianfranco Fini. The prime ministers expressed his intention to deliver “communications in the Senate on the political situation, including the announced withdrawal of Future and Liberty for Italy [FLI] from the government over which I preside, immediately after the definitive approval of the stability budget and the national accounts. These last requirements are imperative to a positive stabilisation of Italy’s economic and financial profile, as several sources, some of great authority, have underlined. In connection with the communications, the government intends to verify whether a relationship of confidence still obtains in the Senate and immediately afterwards, in the Chamber of Deputies”.

NAPOLITANO — This is a significant step for the executive, and one appreciated by the president of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano. According to the head of state, it is a good thing that “the government and all the political forces” should agree on the need to give priority to approval of the budget and then tackle the “political crisis”, in compliance with the presidential invitation. “After all, a similar solution was adopted in late 1994”.

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Jihadist Online Chat Rooms Also Have Contributors From Finland

Finnish help in maintaining hard-line Islamic web pages

Finns have been found to be among participants in international jihadist pages on the internet, says Timo Kilpeläinen of the Finnish Security Police (SUPO).

The discussions have taken place on pages where people sharing a hard-line Islamist ideology can network, spread propaganda, and strengthen their radical resolve.

“These include pages of al-Qaeda and al-Shabbab”, Kilpeläinen says.

Finns taking part in the discussions use the pages for the purpose of strengthening their ideological resolve. “They also seek social support for their thoughts”, Kilpeläinen says.

SUPO also knows of cases in which help in maintaining international jihadist web pages has come from Finland. There are no indications of terror sites in Finnish.

Taking part in the discussions are both native-born Finns and foreigners living in Finland.

There is no evidence that anyone from Finland would have been inspired by the content of any of the web pages to travel abroad to fight.

“The web pages are a catalyst, but going to fight often requires personal contact as well.”

The exact number of Finns taking part in jihadist discussion boards is not known.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Local Liberal Too ‘UN-Swedish’ For Top Post

A local Liberal Party (Folkpartiet) politician from suburban Stockholm is accusing her party colleagues of racism after being told she was unfit for a leadership post because she was “un-Swedish.”

“I was told I had a certain temper, that I had a strong voice, that I was different,” Sepideh Erfani told The Local.

“I wasn’t appropriate for the post because I was too un-Swedish. I was shocked.”

The comments by party colleagues about Erfani’s Swedishness came in connection with discussions about who among members of the Liberal Party’s local chapter in Haninge south of Stockholm should be given a number of leadership posts on the local council.

During a meeting to discuss the matter last Saturday, Erfani complained that four of the six posts allotted to the Liberal Party had gone to members of the party’s internal nominating committee.

“It was a clear conflict of interest,” she explained.

As the number two name on the local party list, Erfani felt she was a valid candidate for the post of vice-chair of the council’s social affairs committee.

But following the critique, her name was removed from consideration. When she pressed her colleagues for an explanation, one of the reasons cited was that she was “un-Swedish.”

“I felt like I’d been punished for speaking my mind,” she said.

“When I pressed them, no one in the room denied that I’d been called un-Swedish.”

Erfani singled out Peter Olevik Dunder, who occupies the top spot on the local party list, for questioning her Swedishness.

“During discussions he said, ‘you know, we can’t have someone who is so un-Swedish representing the party,’“ she explained.

Erfani’s version of events was confirmed by Mikael Trolin, chair of the Liberal’s local chapter in Haninge, who said he was told that she was ultimately left out of consideration because she was “too bombastic.”

“She’s simply too un-Swedish. I don’t know if they mean that she has a weird accent or that she gestures too much with her hands or what it can be,” he told Sveriges Radio (SR).

According to Trolin, it was Dunder who used the term “un-Swedish” in conversations about Erfani.

Erfani added that she has heard Dunder describe her in the same way on previous occasions, although he had refrained from calling her “un-Swedish” specifically to her face.

Attempts by The Local to reach Dunder for comment on Monday were unsuccessful. However, speaking with SR, he acknowledged that he and Erfani have had a “difference of opinion” on many issues, although he denied ever calling her “un-Swedish.”

“She and I have had many conversations over the years on a range of subjects, but I don’t think I ever said that exactly,” Dunder told SR.

Erfani lamented what she saw as a “dictatorial” approach to politics by her Liberal Party colleagues in Haninge and their seeming unwillingness to consider different points of view.

“If I wanted to be in a dictatorship, I would have stayed in Iran,” she said.

“What am I, an elected official or a robot?”

Erfani emphasised, however, she has no plans to leave the party after the incident, and that her complaint is directed only at the Liberal’s local chapter in Haninge, rather than the party as a whole.

“How they handled this was unacceptable,” she said.

She added that the matter is set to be discussed with county-level officials from the Liberal Party.

“We’ll see where the conversation leads,” Erfani said.

David Landes

+46 8 656 6518

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

Sweden: Neo-Nazi Site Charged Over Reader Comment

Charges have been filed against the publisher of a website affiliated with a Swedish neo-Nazi magazine for allowing a reader comment with racial slurs to remain on the site.

The site is the online version of Nationellt Motstånd (‘National Resistance’), a quarterly print magazine put out by the Swedish Resistance Movement (Svenska motståndsrörelsen), one of Sweden’s most active neo-Nazi groups.

The comment in question, entitled “Immigrants create racist roadblocks”, accompanies an article published in April 2010 about a highly publicized case in which a 78-year-old woman died from injuries sustained from being pushed by a 23-year-old man in a shopping centre parking lot in Landskrona in southern Sweden.

The 23-year-old came from a family of immigrants and his arrest led to heightened ethnic tensions in the town, prompting another right-wing extremist group, the National Democrats, to call a public meeting in the town square to “protest against anti-Swedishness”.

The article, published on April 15th, 2010, told of how star defence attorney Leif Silbersky was set to defend the 23-year-old in his upcoming trial.

The following day, a racially charged comment was published beneath the article which referred to immigrants as “****ing parasites” and encouraged people to “hit back” rather than “back up” when challenged.

The commenter added that he or she feels “satisfaction” every time “I can ‘lay’ my hands” on what he or she refers to as a “kulturberikare”, an increasingly common term of derision used in far-right circles in reference to immigrants.

The term, literally translated as “culture enricher”, is a play by the far-right on arguments in support of multiculturalism which often cite “cultural enrichment” as a positive aspect of diversity.

“This is about Sweden and the Swedes’ survival,” the commenter wrote.

Because ‘Nationellt Motstånd’ reviews reader comments before publishing them, the comment falls under the jurisdiction of Sweden’s libel laws.

Following a preliminary investigation launched in May, Sweden’s Chancellor of Justice (Justitiekanslern — JK), concluded that the comment amounts to agitation against ethnic groups (hets mot folkgrupp), and has filed charges against the site’s publisher, 26-year-old Emil Hagberg for violating Sweden’s press freedom laws.

When reached by The Local, Hagberg declined to comment on the charges, claiming statements made by him and his colleagues at ‘Nationellt Motstånd’ are too often “misinterpreted” in the media.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK Muslim Mob Threatens to Fly Black Flag of Islam Over Downing Street, White House for Jailed Cleric’s Release

London, Nov.16 (ANI): Hate-filled Muslim extremists have vowed to fly the black flag of Islam above Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister, and the White House, the official residence of the US President, in protest over the imprisonment of cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed in Lebanon.

Omar Bakri Mohammed is currently serving a life sentence for training and fundraising for al-Qaida.

Bakri has been banned from Britain since 2006.

The Daily Express quoted Abu Saalihah, a student of Bakri’s, as saying: “We will not rest until the black flag of Islam is flown over the White House and 10 Downing Street.”

The demonstration took place outside the Lebanese embassy in London.

Preacher Anjem Choudhary, 43, who organised the demonstration, said: “Lebanon is a very divided country. There is a very real chance that Sunni Muslims in that country will do everything they can to free Omar Bakri, even physically.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK Still Cheerleader of Turkey’s EU Bid

Britain has not “downed the pom-poms” for Turkey’s bid to become a European Union member, the country’s state minister for EU affairs said, following reports that Turkey had lost its principal supporters in the bloc.

“[The new coalition government in Britain is] the strongest supporter of Turkey’s accession to the European Union and proud to be a leading advocate for Turkey in the EU,” David Lidington, British minister for Europe, wrote in the Financial Times.

Earlier last week, the British daily said the progress of Turkish-EU accession talks had stalled in the five years since the EU unanimously voted to begin negotiations, with opponents of Turkey’s entry to the bloc using every trick in the book to delay it.

“Opponents hope that Turkish public enthusiasm for the EU will ebb away as the delays drag on. Sadly, this is possible. Support for joining the EU has fallen in Turkey, and some of the country’s main cheerleaders, such as the U.K. and Spain, have downed their pom-poms,” he wrote following the EU’s latest progress report published last Tuesday.

However, Lidington insisted that Britain is still one of the “main cheerleaders” of Turkey’s accession bid and that the country’s position could not be clearer since the coalition government came into power.

“U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron visited Turkey in July where he launched a new dynamic in relations between our two countries. Support for Turkey’s EU accession is at the heart of the U.K.-Turkey strategic partnership he signed with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” he said.

“Mr. Cameron was clear: he was there “to make the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU. And to fight for it.” And it is not just the U.K. cheerleading for Turkey — on Nov. 9 the Italian and Turkish foreign ministers published an article in Italy’s La Repubblica in support of Turkey’s EU ambitions,” Lidington wrote, recalling Cameron’s strong-worded speech in Turkey.

While acknowledging that the latest EU progress report highlighted Turkey’s shortcomings in protecting religious and ethnic minorities, press freedoms and the rights of women, Lidington noted the report also describes the far-reaching reforms and real progress Turkey has made over the last year on judicial reform, the role of the military and fundamental rights.

“These reforms demonstrate Turkey’s steady commitment to its EU accession. There are obstacles ahead. But we believe Turkey can achieve its full European goal with that steady commitment and determination to take forward reform. We will continue to make the argument for Turkey’s EU membership,” he said.

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

UK: ‘Disgusted’ Mother Turns in 14 Yr Old Daughter Who Vandalised War Memorial

A schoolgirl who was shopped to police by her own disgusted mother after the teenager vandalised a city’s cenotaph has admitted the offence in court.

The 14-year-old sprayed obscene pink graffiti on the memorial in Wolverhampton, which so outraged passing war heroes on their way to a function that they were moved to tears.

The teenager admitted daubing the cenotaph with a lewd drawing of a penis and the slogans ‘I love Luke x’ and ‘Spar’s’.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Criminal in Police Uniform’: Sergeant Who Helped Run Brother’s Drug Gang Jailed for 11 Years

A crooked police officer who took over his ‘enforcer’ brother’s drug gang was caught with a stash of machine guns, ammunition and cash hidden at his home.

Sergeant Salim Razaq, 33, who had a reputation as a dedicated officer, had already been picked out for promotion.

But his brother Hafiz — known as ‘Big Haf’ or ‘The Enforcer’ — was the feared ‘muscle’ for a local cocaine ring.

When Hafiz was locked up on remand accused of kidnapping a rival in a vicious turf war, his policeman brother plotted to help intimidate a key prosecution witness and hid a deadly cache of weapons and ammunition for him.

Today Razaq was jailed for 11 and a half years at Liverpool Crown Court after pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice, possession of firearms and ammunition as well as misconduct in a public office.

Tonight senior police chiefs in Lancashire said they were dismayed Razaq, a trusted officer, could have betrayed the force.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Cooke said: ‘Salim Razaq was nothing short of a criminal in a police uniform and I am appalled by the fact that a police officer was involved at the level he was in this criminality.’

Judge Henry Globe QC, told the disgraced officer: ‘Your actions have brought potential discredit to the police force.

‘It amounts to a breach of trust, a dereliction of duty and it amounts to extremely serious and persistent criminal offending whilst ostensibly, supposedly upholding criminal justice in your capacity as a serving police officer.

‘The guns were being kept by you to return to gangs who kill, maim, intimidate and terrorise.

Those who provide a safe hiding place for weapons and ammunition make a significant and distinctive contribution to the use of firearms on the streets and elsewhere. A significant and lengthy sentence is justified.’

The court heard Razaq, who was stationed in Nelson, Lancashire, was regarded as a promising young officer, while his brother was becoming notorious as an enforcer for the Deepdale drugs gang in nearby Preston.

His gang was involved in a feud with the rival Fishwick mob, and in April 2007 suspected associate Mohammed Beg, 22, was snatched from his BMW by a masked gang, held captive for three hours and tortured and beaten.

Hafiz, 25, was arrested and sent to prison charged with kidnapping from where his calls to his brother Salim were secretly taped discussing money laundering, witness intimidation and a ‘tick list’ of drug deals.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Early Learning Centre Bans Toy Pig From Farmyard Set for Fear of Offending Muslims (But Keeps Sty and Oink Noise) By Louise Eccles

A children’s shop has removed toy pigs from farmyard sets in case they offend Muslims and Jews.

The Early Learning Centre ditched the pig from its HappyLand Goosefeather Farm toy set after it upset some customers.

One mother realised the pig was missing from the set she bought for her daughter’s birthday when she found a pig sty and a button that made oinking noises, but no pig.

The interactive set, which also has a chicken, a horse, a cow and a sheep, makes the animal noises when buttons are pressed.

When the mother complained, she was told in an email: ‘Previously the pig was part of the Goosefeather Farm. However due to customer feedback and religious reasons this is no longer part of the farm.’

In some religions, pigs are seen as unclean.

Last night, the retailer did a U-turn and agreed to bring back the pigs after disappointed families complained at such a move driven by political correctness.

The angry mother, named only as Caroline, told The Sun newspaper: ‘This is political correctness gone loopy. Surely if someone has an issue with a toy they don’t agree with then they don’t buy it.’

On an internet chatroom, another mother said: ‘I’m a Muslim and it doesn’t bother me. It is just another animal. What is the store going to do next? Ban the Peppa Pig cartoon? Ban books with pigs in?’

The set, which costs £25 and is suitable for toddlers aged 18 months, also includes a dog, a farmer on a tractor, a farmer’s wife and a farmhouse.

A spokesman for the Early Learning Centre said: ‘We have taken the decision to reinstate the pigs and will no longer sell the set in international markets where it might be an issue.’

Customers have been told they can apply for their missing pigs through the store’s website.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Hush Money: Multi-Million Pound Payouts to Silence British Terror Suspects Held in Guantanamo

Terrorist suspects freed from Guantanamo Bay are to be paid off to silence their claims that UK spies were complicit in torturing them.

At least one former detainee will receive more than £1million in hush money from ministers desperate to stop the cases reaching court.

One of the largest payouts will go to Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who claims MI5 and MI6 fed questions to his CIA-backed torturers.

In return for the cash, the detainees will drop the civil cases for damages that had threatened to lift the lid on the activities of the intelligence agencies after 9/11.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke will today announce the out-of-court settlements that follow secret talks mediated by two independent QCs.

The deal clears the way for work to start on an independent inquiry into alleged British complicity in torture. David Cameron has put Sir Peter Gibson, the senior judge and Intelligence Services Commissioner, in charge of the inquiry.

The exact payouts will remain secret but ITV News revealed that the total runs into millions of pounds.

Ministers decided to act after a court ruled in the spring that more than half a million secret documents on the treatment of the detainees would have to be produced if their cases ever reached court.

Security sources say the publication of those documents would have seriously damaged intelligence relations with the U.S., which was embarrassed by the details of Mr Mohamed’s treatment that emerged at the High Court earlier this year.

Mr Cameron announced in July that he would seek to come to terms with the detainees because vetting the secret documents would take huge amounts of time for MI5 and MI6.

‘It was already costing £10million a year and more than 100 security agents were working on it,’ a source told the Mail last night.

Security chiefs in Whitehall were also concerned that if they fought the court cases and lost, taxpayers would have to shoulder payments for damages and legal fees that could be in excess of £50million.

The former detainees due to receive the money include British citizens and residents of the UK, some of whom entered the country as asylum seekers.

Those to receive settlements include Bisher Al Rawi, Jamil El Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Martin Mubanga.

One allegation is that the British government knew they were being illegally transferred to Guantanamo Bay but failed to prevent it.

The High Court has been informed of the deal. Government sources said that the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee would be given a chance to scrutinise the terms of the deal.

The National Audit Office has also been briefed on the situation so that they can assess whether public money has been well spent.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said last night: ‘The Prime Minister set out clearly in his statement to the House on 6 July that we need to deal with the totally unsatisfactory situation where for the past few years, the reputation of our security services has been overshadowed by allegations about their involvement in the treatment of detainees held by other countries.

‘The Government will lay a written ministerial statement, updating the House on progress, tomorrow morning.’

The Prime Minister promised compensation if the inquiry discovered that the UK had been complicit in torture.

All relevant files would have been made available to the judge, but documents from foreign intelligence services were not under the remit of the inquiry.

Critics believed that any investigation which was not held in public risked covering up the truth.

Mr Cameron’s offer of ‘mediation’ to help any of the complainants settle their civil cases also raised suspicions that the government wanted to close down the cases before further damaging allegations were made about the security services.

Government officials argued that the decision to pay off the detainees was politically brave but the right one.

‘We could have kicked this into the long grass for five years, but we’ve grasped the nettle,’ one said.TODAY’S POLL Do you think the compensation payout to Guantanamo victims is fair? Yes No VOTE POLL RESULTS Close All polls Click to view yesterday’s poll results They argue that it would have been impossible to hold the Gibson inquiry with the threat of legal action hanging over the probe. But now that the detainees have agreed to drop their civil claims, intelligence officers will be freer to tell the truth about their involvement with the detainees.

Representatives of the detainees did not immediately respond but they would not have settled unless they were satisfied that their claims of maltreatment will be properly examined by Sir Peter.

Security sources also disputed the claims that the payments were ‘hush money’, stressing that the demand for secrecy about the terms of the deal came as much from the detainees as the government.

Last week George W. Bush claimed in his memoirs that information obtained by

waterboarding Al Qaeda suspects had helped prevent attacks on Canary Wharf and Heathrow.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Islamist Sympathisers Admit They Are Losing Ground in Government

Over the last few months, I and others monitoring Islamism’s influence inside the British state have started to believe that the tide is turning. Last week one of British Islamism’s most important fellow-travellers, a man called Bob Lambert, appeared to confirm my view.

When Lambert was head of the Metropolitan Police’s Muslim Contact Unit, he exemplified a view shared by some others in the security establishment: that we can anoint “good Islamists” and use them as a bulwark against the “bad Islamists.”

The showpiece for this approach is the North London Central Mosque, also known as the Finsbury Park Mosque. The mosque, formerly home to Abu Hamza and a centre of terrorist recruitment, was closed after a police raid in 2003. On its reopening, in a deal brokered by Lambert, it was essentially gifted to an Islamist group, the Muslim Association of Britain. The new leadership were certainly more moderate than Abu Hamza — not terribly hard — but they have close links with another designated terrorist organisation, Hamas.

Last week, in an article for the al-Jazeera website, Lambert defended a decision by some of his other Islamist allies, such as the East London Mosque, to host meetings with the terrorist preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. At first reading, I merely enjoyed Lambert’s piece as a rare full bingo card of all the techniques from the I-Spy Book of Advanced Islamist Rhetoric (lofty pseudo-academic tone? Check. Calling anyone who disagrees with you a “neo-con”? Check. Wilfully misrepresenting what they actually said? Check. Labelling as “speculative” any facts you don’t like? Check.)

But then I noticed, buried near the end, Lambert’s significant admission that “the weight of think-tank and media opinion appears to have discouraged the Government from adopting and promoting the Finsbury Park model.” Hurrah! The trustees of Finsbury Park include Mohammed Sawalha, described by the BBC’s Panorama as a former senior figure in Hamas who “is said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his perch in London. The mosque’sspokesman, Azzam Tamimi, has justified suicide bombings against civilians (but only Israeli ones, so that’s all right, then.)

Lambert’s policy was a tamer version of the securocrats’ disastrous pre-9/11 misjudgment, the so-called “compact of security,” when they allowed Hamza and other al-Qaeda sympathisers openly to use London as a base in the touching belief that it would somehow count in our favour with Osama bin Laden. At Finsbury Park, Lambert legitimised fringe minority radicals as authentic, mainstream voices. Glad he knows he’s been rumbled.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: More Than a Dozen Terror Suspects to Get Millions of Pounds Compensation

Sixteen terror suspects who were allegedly tortured at the behest of the United States are being paid millions of pounds from the taxpayer in return for their silence over British involvement.

At least one former Guantanamo Bay detainee will receive more than £1million in hush money from ministers desperate to stop the cases reaching court.

One of the largest payouts will go to Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who claims MI5 and MI6 fed questions to his CIA-backed torturers.

The Government refused to confirm or deny reports that the total compensation was £5 million or £10 million.

The cash is being handed over in secret deals without any evidence being shown to the public that Britain condoned or was complicit in what happened.

In return for the cash, the detainees will drop the civil cases for damages that had threatened to lift the lid on the activities of the intelligence agencies after 9/11.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Middle Class Voters Are Liars and Hypocrites Says Top Labour MP in Astonishing Rant

A Labour frontbencher has launched an astonishing attack on middle-class voters, branding them liars, racists, drunkards and even paedophiles.

Eric Joyce, the party’s Northern Ireland spokesman, condemned the public for attacking lying politicians when they themselves may be ‘living lies’ at home.

In his rant, Mr Joyce condemned ‘articulate and intelligent’ parents for putting the interests of their own children over those of the poor.

He accused parents of hypocrisy for condemning drug use while drinking too much and said that MPs were right to appeal to the worst instincts of voters, including racism.

Mr Joyce even condemned attitudes to the danger of paedophiles, pointing out that most sex offenders target young victims within their own families.

He delivered his outburst in an article called Liar, Know Thyself for the website Labour Uncut.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Toy Pig Pulled From Farm Set on Religious Grounds

A retailer withdrew a toy pig from a children’s farm set to avoid the risk of causing offence on religious grounds, it emerged today.

A mother who bought the Early Learning Centre’s (ELC) HappyLand Goosefeather Farm for her daughter’s first birthday contacted the store after finding that the pig was missing, the Sun newspaper reported.

The £25 set contained a model of a cow, sheep, chicken, horse and dog but no pig, despite there being a sty and a button which generated an “oink”.

But ELC chiefs have since decided to reintroduce the pig, with parents who have bought the set invited to get the toy from the company’s website.

The mother, named only as Caroline, posted about her experience in a forum on parenting website Netmums.

She wrote: “Checked the box and discovered that there isnt a piggy. Went online, nope no piggy. So I emailed ELC and the response that I had makes my blood boil…(The ELC wrote) ‘Previously the pig was part of the Goosefeather farm however due to customer feedback and religious reasons this is no longer part of the farm.”‘

Caroline added: “This is political correctness gone loopy. On what basis did they remove it?

“This is as bad as no more ‘baa baa black sheep’ or other such things. Stuff like this is just insipid, it worms its way into every aspect of our lives and we just let it happen. Surely if someone has issue with a toy that they don’t agree with, then don’t buy it!”

A mother called Chouli responded: “Does it have a disclaimer on it, though? ‘Pig sold seperately (sic)’? Perhaps they keep a stash of them in the back somewhere in brown paper bags?”

And another named Safiyyah said: “I’m Muslim and it doesn’t bother me. It’s just another animal.

“What are the store going to do next? Ban the Peppa Pig cartoon? Stop selling books with pigs in? This is a multi-cultural country.”

The ELC later said it had decided to reinstate the pig.

A spokeswoman said: “ELC is a truly global brand, which means we need to be aware of the full range of customer expectations and cultural differences. The decision to remove the pig from our Goosefeather Farm set was taken in reaction to customer feedback in some parts of the world.

“We recognise that pigs are familiar farm animals, especially for our UK customers. Taking on board all the customer feedback, we have taken the decision to reinstate the pig and to no longer sell the set in those international markets where it might create an issue.

“Any customers who have bought Goosefeather Farm in the last few months will be able to order a pig free of charge to complete their set via our website in the coming weeks.”

           — Hat tip: McR [Return to headlines]

UK: Two Jailed for Life for ‘Sickeningly Violent’ Murder of a Shopkeeper Who Refused to Meekly Abandon His Property

Two men were jailed for life today for the ‘sickeningly violent’ murder of a shopkeeper who was battered to death with wine bottles from his shelves during a botched robbery.

Gurmail Singh, 63, was attacked for just a few pounds, some sweets, alcohol and cigarettes during a raid at his shop in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, in February.

Muawaz Khalid, 20, was told he must spend at least 21 years in prison by a judge at Bradford Crown Court. Nabeel Shafi, 18, who protested his innocence as he was led from the dock, was given a 20-year minimum term.

The judge, Mr Justice Henriques, said: ‘This was a most violent and sickening attack by at least two of you on a lone shopkeeper late at night.

‘It is to be regretted that no defendant at any time during the eight-week trial showed the slightest remorse.’

The judge said the victim’s skull had been shattered into little pieces’ by the force of the blows.

‘One blow would have disabled him, seven blows took his life away,’ he said.

‘If Gurmail Singh had abandoned his property and money and said “take what you want boys”, he would not have lost his life. He was too brave for that.

‘There may have been mental or physical suffering inflicted on the victim before death, in the sense this was a sickeningly violent and unnecessarily savage assault on a man in his 60s.’

The court was told Mr Singh died as a result of a ‘robbery gone wrong’.

He ‘did not meekly hand over his property, his hard-earned money’ to a gang of robbers who targeted his shop, the court was told.

The jury heard how members of the public came to Mr Singh’s aid. One man trapped two members of the gang inside by holding the door shut but they got out of a back door after desperate attempts to smash their way out of the front, prosecutors said.

Both were tackled by other members of the public but managed to free themselves and get away, the court was told.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Toy Pig Removed From Farm Set to Avoid Offending Muslim and Jewish Parents

The pig was missing rom the Early Learning Centre’s HappyLand Goosefeather Farm, which costs about £25, when a mother bought it as a present for her daughter’s first birthday, the Sun newspaper reported.

The set did contain a model of a cow, sheep, chicken, horse and dog but no pig, the newspaper said, despite there being a sty and a button which generated an “oink”.

The mother, named only as Caroline, called the firm to complain and was told in an email that the pig had been removed in case it upset Muslim or Jewish parents.

Both the religions ban the eating of pork because they consider the pig an unclean animal.

The Sun reported that the email said: “Previously the pig was part of the Goosefeather Farm. However due to customer feedback and religious reasons this is no longer part of the farm.”

The issue came to light on internet forum Netmums, on which Caroline posted: “This is political correctness gone loopy.

“This is as bad as no more ‘baa baa black sheep’ or other such things. Stuff like this is just insipid, it worms its way into every aspect of our lives and we just let it happen.

“Surely if someone has an issue with a toy they don’t agree with, then don’t buy it.”

One mother called Chouli responded: “Does it have a disclaimer on it, though? ‘Pig sold seperately’? Perhaps they keep a stash of them in the back somewhere in brown paper bags?”

Another mother named Safiyyah said: “I’m Muslim and it doesn’t bother me. It’s just another animal.

“What are the store going to do next? Ban the Peppa Pig cartoon? Stop selling books with pigs in? This is a multi-cultural country.”

ELC said: “The decision to remove the pig was taken in reaction to customer feedback in some parts of the world.”

However, after The Sun contacted the firm, it said: “We have taken the decision to reinstate the pig and to no longer sell the set in international markets where it might create an issue.

“Any customers who have bought Goosefeather Farm in the last few months will be able to order a pig free of charge via our website.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Westminster on Mumbai-Style Terror Attack Alert After Al Qaeda Threat

MPs have been told to prepare themselves for a Mumbai-style terrorist attack on the Palace of Westminster.

Politicians and staff in the Houses of Parliament have been instructed to try to evacuate the buildings if there is a terrorist raid rather than barricading themselves in their offices.

The contingency planning comes after it emerged that Al Qaeda gunmen had planned to emulate the Mumbai attacks on European and American soil.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


World’s Oldest Copper Age Settlement Found

A “sensational” discovery of 75-century-old copper tools in Serbia is compelling scientists to reconsider existing theories about where and when man began using metal. Belgrade — axes, hammers, hooks and needles — were found interspersed with other artefacts from a settlement that burned down some 7,000 years ago at Plocnik, near Prokuplje and 200 km south of Belgrade.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Fresh Tensions Between Copts and Muslims in South

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, NOVEMBER 16 — There are further tensions between young Muslims and Copts in a village in the province of Qena in Upper Egypt, around 700 kilometres south of Cairo.

The press agency Mena says that security forces have put an end to the violence in the village of Al Nawahed, which was provoked by the alleged abuse of a Muslim girl by a young Christian. Around ten Coptic homes, including that of the father of the young man said to be at the root of the tension between the two communities, were set on fire by young Muslims, according to the satellite television channel Al Jazeera, which says that police this morning enforced a curfew after arresting a number of young people, both Muslims and Copts.

On January 7 this year, in Nagaa Hamadi, in the same province of Qena, six Copts and a policeman were killed as they came out of a Coptic Christmas mass. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Mob Burns Christian Homes

Cairo, 16 Nov. (AKI) — A group of Islamic radicals set fire to 10 houses belonging to Christians in a village approximately 500 kilometres south of Cairo, less than a month after Al-Qaeda said it would target the northern African country’s religious minority.

Local security forces said the assailants would have caused far more damage had they not been arrested.

Following an October attack on a Baghdad church that killed at least 58 people, Al-Qaeda said it would target Christians in the Middle East and northern Africa and singled out those in Egypt.

Attacks on Christians have increased despite announcements of support by Muslim leaders.

Coptic Christians make up around 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 80 million.

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

Muslims Set Fire to Coptic Christian Homes in Southern Egypt, Officials Say

Muslims set fire overnight to at least 10 houses belonging to Coptic Christians in a village in southern Egypt over rumours that a Christian resident had an affair with a Muslim girl, security officials said Tuesday.

The officials said security forces sealed off the village of al-Nawahid in Qena province, some 290 miles (465 kilometres) south of Cairo, to prevent the violence from spreading to neighbouring towns. They said several people were arrested.

The attacks started after locals spotted a young Copt and a Muslim girl together at night inside the village cemetery, the officials said. They added that both were put under police custody as authorities investigate.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

The village was calm by nightfall, after religious leaders from both communities persuaded their followers to end the confrontation. Residents called on police to withdraw.

Clashes between Christians and Muslims occasionally occur in southern Egypt, mostly over land or disputes over church construction. But sectarian tensions have also been on the rise recently in the capital.

Last year in Qena, a Coptic man was accused of kidnapping and raping a 12-year-old Muslim girl. The alleged assault led to widespread protests by the Muslim community and increased tensions between the two religious groups, which culminated in the murder of six Copts and one Muslim security guard at a church on Jan. 6.

Coptic Christians make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s population of 80 million. Copts and Muslims generally live in peace, though tension and violence occasionally flare.

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.

The government insists Christians enjoy the same rights as Muslims.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Weak State Incubates Terror

By Jonathan Spyer

The revelations last week of a sophisticated plot emanating from the Yemen-based al- Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula organization have belatedly refocused attention on this most backward and poverty stricken of Arab states. The sending of explosive packages to synagogues in Chicago is only the latest act of international terror to have emerged from Yemen in the last year.

Yemen today exemplifies the central malaise of the Arab world in particularly acute form. Throughout the Arabic-speaking world, failed development, a political culture in which extremist Islamist ideology thrives and Iranian interference and subversion from outside serve to create a breeding ground for political violence to grow and proliferate.

Only in areas where strong and shrewd (though unrepresentative) state regimes exist — such as Egypt, Jordan and, in a more problematic way, Saudi Arabia — is the lid uneasily kept on this boiling cauldron.

Yemen is one of the weakest of Arab state regimes.

As a result, regional forces of subversion have linked up with local Islamists and are turning the country into a hub of instability — playing host today to no fewer than three separate armed insurgencies.

Yemen is the poorest Arab country; 40 percent of its people live on less than $2 a day. The country’s steadily depleting oil reserves are unable to generate sufficient income for the government to maintain the tribal patronage system on which it depends. Gas exports are failing to make up the shortfall. Yemen’s water supplies are also dwindling.

The regime of President Ali Saleh is autocratic, inefficient and largely ineffectual. Its economic policies have failed to develop the country. It rules in name only over large areas of the country.

Poverty, illiteracy, extremism and discontent are salient aspects of today’s reality in Yemen…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Germans Held in Iran Accused of Espionage

Two Germans arrested in Iran last month as they tried to interview the son of a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery came for “espionage,” an Iranian justice official claimed on Tuesday.

“These two Germans came to Iran claiming to be tourists,” said Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the justice department chief of East Azerbaijan province in the northwest of the country, quoted by Fars news agency.

“But the work of these two tourists in Iran and Tabriz and the way they reported in Tabriz shows that they came for espionage,” he said.

“In fact these two came here for espionage and, thank God, they were identified and arrested … The evidence for espionage was in their hands when arrested and they were planning a smear campaign against the Islamic Republic.”

Sharifi said “the crime of espionage for the two Germans who came to Iran to make smear campaign and for espionage has been proved.”

On Monday, Iranian state-run television showed blurred footage of the two German men “confessing” that they had been “tricked” into coming to Iran. According to the Farsi voiceover of the footage, the two detainees pointed fingers at Mina Ahadi, an Iranian human rights activist living in exile in Germany.

Ahadi, founder of the Germany-based International Committees against Execution and Stoning, has launched a global campaign to halt the impending execution of Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani by stoning.

“I did not have any information about this case, but Ms Ahadi knew about it. She sent me to Iran and has gained propaganda value from my arrest. I will sue Ms Ahadi when I am back in Germany,” one of the detainees was quoted as saying.

“I accept that I made a mistake. Since I had no information on the case, I was tricked by Ms Ahadi,” the other German was quoted as saying.

But Ahadi on Tuesday rejected the accusations, telling news agency AFP: “I did not send them to Iran. I spoke to them about the risks and helped them make contacts.”

“I do not think the journalists were mistreated physically. That’s what I suspect. But they were certainly under psychological pressure,” she said. “They have been in prison for a month … no contact with their family, no phone contact, only once have German diplomats visited these journalists. They are under pressure.”

The two Germans, who were arrested in Tabriz on October 10, have not been identified. It was unclear where the footage, in which the two men were shown close-up and looking healthy, had been shot.

The television report said the pair were arrested at the office of Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s lawyer while trying to interview her son and after taking pictures of Tabriz prison, were the woman is held.

The Germans, who entered the country on tourist visas, reportedly work for the Axel Springer media group in Germany. Foreign reporters need special press visas to be able to work in Iran.

“We are following the news. But for the moment we have no specific information about it,” the German Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, adding the detained Germans have had “intensive consular assistance.”

Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s case, revealed last summer by human rights associations, has triggered an international outcry. She was initially given death sentences by two different courts in Tabriz in separate trials in 2006. A sentence to hang for her involvement in the murder of her husband was commuted to a 10-year jail term by an appeals court in 2007.

But a second sentence, to die by stoning on a charge of adultery levelled over several relationships, notably with the man convicted of her husband’s murder, was upheld by a different appeals court the same year.

Iran’s judiciary says a final decision is yet to be made about the case and that it is now focusing on the murder conviction of the mother of two rather than adultery charges.

“Her case is currently undergoing legal process in Tehran and if it is finalised and the order is given for the sentence to be carried out, the sentence will be carried out,” Sharifi said.

“Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is currently being held in Tabriz prison and is in perfect health,” said the justice official.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

NATO Summit: Clash With Turkey Over Missile Shield

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, NOVEMBER 15 — Turkey’s objection to indicate the names of the enemies against which NATO countries should defend themselves from with the new missile shield could thwart the most expected and ambitious plan of the NATO summit that will take place on Thursday and Friday in Lisbon. NATO sources in Brussels report that “Turkey does not want to list Iran and Syria, while France is not budging on this point”. NATO and the USA want to deploy a missile interception system to prevent the threat posed by the launch of short and medium range missiles from the Middle East, especially from Iran, whose nuclear programmes are deemed a growing threat, or by other ‘rogue’ states. The plan, which provides for the use of US resources in the NATO architecture, replaces the missile shield which the USA’s Bush Administration wanted to set up on its own in the Czech Republic and in Poland. The new shield would instead involve all 28 countries allied with NATO, which could link up with each other at the ‘modest’ cost of 200 million euros. The whole system would also be able to dialogue with Russia. However Turkey still has to decide if and how to join the NATO project. Aside from objecting to naming Iran in the final document of the Lisbon summit, Ankara is requesting that its territory be fully (instead of partially) covered by the new programme. The sources reported that “Turkey does not want Iran and Syria to be mentioned, but it demands weapons, patriots in particular, capable of defending it from the threat of Iran, at NATO’s expense”.

US diplomacy is pressing Turkey to reach a compromise that will not jeopardise the ambitious project. Diplomatic sources reported that “The Americans accepted Turkey’s request not to cite the names of the enemies, but they do not intend to give in on total coverage at NATO’s expense. But that is not enough for France”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Pilgrimage: How Much Does it Cost to be a Good Muslim?

(ANSAmed) — ROMA, NOVEMBER 15 — How much does it cost to be a good Muslim? With the arrival of the month of Hajj (the pilgrimage that sees millions of believers head, from all corners of the world, to the Mecca to live the experience that every Islamic believer should carry out at least once in a lifetime), shopkeepers and entrepreneurs of the Holy places of Islam start to get excited. In effects many rely on this incredible flow of people to adjust the accounts of shops and companies that experience a boost during this time of the year. According to figures published by Saudi media, an all inclusive two week pilgrimage can cost from 3,000 to almost 30,000 euros, according to whether one chooses a low cost or ‘VIP’ solution. Excluding certain fixed costs, such as visas and health insurance (vaccination against meningitis and influenza are a must, but are free of charge in certain health centres for those who go to the Mecca), the figure is impacted by the number of days spent in the Holy places, the type of lodging and transport, and the distance from the country of origin.

One can choose between a shared room in Mina or Al Aziziya or a double room in a five star hotel in the area of Markaziya, to which one must add the cost of public transport or private transport that connects the two cities of Mecca and Medina.

Those arriving from distant countries must also deal with the cost of air fares, part of the budget that some States are making an effort to limit. The government of New Delhi, through the Hajj Committee of India, reached an agreement with the Ministry of Civil Aviation to grant special prices to Muslim believers departing for Saudi Arabia. The same is being done by the government of Jakarta which a few months ago announced to the local press that, as stated by minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali, there would be an 80 dollar cut on the government’s “all inclusive” package, which changed from “3,422 dollars last year to 3,342 dollars this year”, without there being a lowering of service levels.

With great expectations the shopkeepers of Medina are not going to be caught unprepared: spurred by the encouraging signals that hint at a market recovery after the dark period of 2009, they are getting organised to attract pilgrims into their shops, even granting commissions to the bus drivers who carry the faithful. And there is more: Hajj also offers the chance to exalt tourist attractions offered by the Gulf Country. The authorities are also aware of this, and want to support the sector by sponsoring various locations in the area. As of this year the pilgrims will be met by a novelty, which was strongly wanted by the Saudi authorities: a radio will provide assistance in eight languages (including English, French and Farsi), offering information and directions. The radio also has another characteristic: once the period of pilgrimage is over, it will stop broadcasting until the next one. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Country Dealing With Gold Smuggling

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 15 — While raw gold enters into Saudi Arabia tax-free, a 6% tax is applied to refined gold. This difference, according to the University of King Abdulaziz Economics Professor, Khaled Al Bassam, cited by Assharq Al Awsat, is the reason behind smuggling, a phenomenon which was unknown until a short while ago in the country. Most smuggling operations, according to the professor, are conducted through the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, where the precious metal is imported and then illegally exported to Saudi Arabia. Smuggling, according to Khaled Al Bassam, does not have much of an effect on the price, which is determined by the obvious greed of the merchants, who are concerned with making profits at all costs.

Under the pretext of restructuring, many goldsmith’s workshops in Saudi Arabia have moved abroad. The real reasons behind this migration are the tax on refined gold and the cheaper working conditions outside of the country, especially low labour costs. “Other countries,” underlined Khaled Al Bassam, “do not place limits on the quantity of raw gold that a merchant wants to import.” The President of the Gold and Jewellery Committee of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, Jameel Al Farsi, was quite direct in saying that it is better for the smaller companies that do not create added value and benefits for the country and themselves to leave the country. Due to the lack of specialised labour, gold factories in Saudi Arabia must provide more training for the workers, underlined Al Farsi. If they are not able to do this, their activity should then be limited to simply importing refined gold. In the city of Jeddah there are four gold factories and 320 workshops where most of the processing of this precious metal takes place. Al Farsi also said that “precise figures do not exist” on smuggling, but there is a suspicion that the quantity of refined gold smuggled into the country is high. Despite a low level of raw gold production and the existence of only one gold mine (there is speculation about the existence of others that have not been discovered yet), Saudi Arabia is considered to be one of the largest consumers of refined gold. Gold prices, explained Al Farsi, are linked to several factors such as the dollar (and its oscillating exchange rate, which pushes big investors towards gold) and large-scale speculation in Europe.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Syria: Assad Family 40 Years in Power, Now Hezbollah Issue

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — Seven regional conflicts, an exhausting armed insurrection, a dangerous coup attempt, a delicate leadership replacement attempt and an infinite succession of external pressures failed in 40 years to brush away the Syrian dynasty of the al-Assad family, which celebrates the ascent of its best known representative, Hafiz, president up to the year 2000 and father of the current rai’s Bashar, who has been in charge for the past decade. The latest storm survived by the al-Assad family is the one unleashed against Damascus by the accusations of the USA, France and Saudi Arabia, which blame it of being involved in the homicide in Beirut of the former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri.

Since autumn of 2008, Syria has been implicitly absolved and the pointed finger of the western powers has shifted towards Lebanon’s Hezbollah, his allies in the fight against Israel. The UN’s Special Tribunal (Tsl), charged with identifying the authors of the 14 February 2005 attack, is about to issue an indictment against certain Hezbollah managers in order, according to the pro-Iranian Shiite movement, to delegitimize its resistance activities against Israel. But Syria, which has been Iran’s close strategic ally for thirty years, distanced itself from Hezbollah’s position, stating that in the event that “the indictment is based on irrefutable evidence, nobody will be able to challenge it”. It is the umpteenth test of the pragmatism of the Assad family, which is accustomed to rhetoric and political balancing acts in a Middle East that appears to be once more on the brink of a precipice. To the east, neighbouring Iraq appears to be anything but stabilised, while in its ‘backyard’, Lebanon, there are the marks of a “civil insurrection” threatened by Hezbollah, which is however forced to await the results of a timely “Saudi/Syrian plan” aimed at defusing the time-bomb they made themselves. On 16 November 1970 Hafiz al-Assad assumed control of Syria through a “corrective movement” whose events are celebrated every year in every corner of the Country. Since then, Assad the father managed to ferry the Country through the Arab/Israeli War (1973-74), Lebanon’s civil conflict (1975-90), Israel’s invasion of Lebanon (1982), the armed insurrection of the Muslim Brothers (1976-82), the Iran/Iraq War (1980-88), the coup attempt by his brother Rifaat (1984), the fall of the USSR and the Gulf War (1991). Having assured succession in power by his second son Bashar (his first son Basil died during a mysterious accident), a sick Assad died in June 2000 with a single major regret: having failed to win back the Golan Heights, which had been occupied by Israel back in 1967. The task of returning Syrian fishermen to the shores of the Lake of Tiberias now lays on the shoulders of 44-year-old Bashar, who has already been put to the test by tough regional challenges: the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq (2003-2009), the war between Israel and Hezbollah (2006), but above all by the political offensive launched as of 2004 by George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac, at the time respectively presidents of the USA and France, who were determined to weaken the Assad family (if not actually dethrone them) starting from the soft Lebanese flank.

Relying on the alliance with Iran and the recent friendship with Turkey, over the past 18 months Syria run by the Assad family has found reconciliation with Saudi Arabia and is again playing a leading role in ‘its’ Lebanon. In effects with the blessings of Washington and Paris. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Hollywood to Slander Russia Internationally

Hollywood is reportedly preparing an ideological operation against Russia. The goodie of the new “epic movie” is going to be Georgia’s sitting President Mikhail Saakashvili. The making of new Russophobic lampoons has become possible because of Russia’s ideological inactivity. If the situation is not going to change for the better, this “artifact” may become another victory of Mishiko the Fearless.

Any country and its people may face a variety of dangers throughout its existence: natural disasters, epidemics, riots and so on and so forth. War can be one of them. A war against a whole country can be waged not only militarily, but also peacefully. An attack conducted with the use of weapons of ideological destruction, or a political attack, can cause as much damage as common bombings.

Russia has always been lucky when it comes to the number of ideological adversaries. She has been lucky at it at all times and all eras. Now the country will have to deal with another anti-Russian ideological operation. Online publications report that Hollywood is currently working on a movie titled “Five Days in August”. The movie is being made on the order from Georgian producers. The main characters in the new film are: aggressive Russia, heroic Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and the helpless Georgian people who suffer from the attacks of Russian planes, helicopters and Kalashnikovs.

It seems that it was not the Georgian producers, who ordered the film of lies and slander. Most likely, it was vice versa: Hollywood followed orders from adequate special services to push Georgian producers towards ordering the film. It’s not much big of a deal, though: it is neither fighters for truth nor respectable movie makers who work on this piece of lies.

Why do they need to have another ideological nonsense about Russia? There is no simple answer to this question. One question prompts several answers.

First of all, the West needs to improve the authority of Mr. Saakashvili. The Georgians may eventually become very disappointed in their reckless president. The viewers either know nothing about him, or they have forgotten how Mikhail Saakashvili was hiding from the imaginary Russian air raid or how he was chewing his tie in front of TV cameras.

Second of all, the USA and the whole “civilized West” are very concerned about Russia’s positive activities on the international arena. A way to restrict her independence in international affairs is to portray Russia as a state that is always guilty and that always tries to justify its wrong-doings.”

The fabricated version of the real events of August 2008 is exhausted. The war has been forgotten. Why not stirring up the lies again? Many people tend to trust their eyes rather than their mind.

So, in March of 2011, millions of cinema-goers will have a chance to experience the horror of Russia’s “large-scale, brutal and mean” attack against the “small, noble and peaceful” Georgia.

Most likely, Russia will begin to expose the lies in the film. However, as we say in Russia “a first word matters a lot more than a second.” Many will perceive Russia’s reaction to the film as a series of awkward excuses.

Ideological operations bring material results in combination with political profit. Needless to say that investors will not turn their heads to an aggressive country.

There is another question. Why do anti-Russian forces attack our country so easily and delightfully? There are three answers to it.

First. Russian politicians fatally underestimate the significance of ideology in the modern world. They tend to think that the truth will find its way to the masses itself. Russia has heard too many Western tales about the life of Soviet people dominated by Soviet ideology. As a result, Russia has virtually declined ideology. The West hasn’t. Now we have Russia ideologically disarmed, whereas the West is armed ideologically very well. The West uses this weapon of spiritual destruction — ideology — on a regular basis. Russian politicians have something to think about here.

Second. Many years of experience confirmed: the authors of the movie will not carry any responsibility for any fiction about Russia. They can be sure that their product will entail no action on Russia’s part.

Third answer. Political adventurers of the whole world know that Russia may take inconsistent actions in response to vile insinuations from other countries. Russia said many times to the whole world that it would defeat any aggressor. As for slanderers — personified or corporate — Russia said that it would use toughest diplomatic, political and economic sanctions against them.

The attack conducted by Georgian troops against Russian peacemakers and Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia should have ended with complete destruction of the Georgian army, the storm of Tbilisi and a severe sentence for Mikhail Saakashvili.

If that had happened, would the international community have been concerned too much? It does it all the time anyway. It is not ruled out that the international community would have understood Russia’s toughest measures against the aggressor a lot better than Russia’s minimum punishment for Georgia. The truth about five days in August would have probably reached the West if the aggressor had been defeated, rather than forced to peace.

What if Georgia’s supporters would have provided military help to the country? The West provided that help anyway as it shipped military hardware and instructors to Georgia. That was all the West could do — they had to deal with more important things in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Does this all sound too radical? This is politics. Politics is communication, as Aristotle said. There are two special points, where politics disappears: complete agreement and complete inability to cooperate (war). If there is complete content, there is no point of communication. If it is impossible to communicate, people develop hostilities to each other.

Politics exists between these two extreme points. Saakashvili took communication with South Ossetia and Abkhazia to the point of war. War has its own laws. A war ends when one of the parties is destroyed, and the winner obtains the right to handle the way of the defeated enemy.

Half-measures only suspend a war — they do not cancel it for good. Incomplete wars continue in other forms — most likely in the form of ideological attacks against the winner. Aggressors must be destroyed to their capitulation.

It should be as clear as day to all politicians harboring aggressive plans. The nations (armies, first and foremost) should know it. If they unleash a war against another country, they must be prepared to lose everything: life, freedom, honor and well-being.

Half-measures build grounds for various speculations, and this is what Russia reaps right now because Russia has not punished the aggressor (Georgia) accordingly.

There is another aspect to this story. There is evil, ambitious and stupid Saakashbili, but there are also the people of Georgia, with whom Russia has been friendly for many years. They say that every nation has the rulers that it deserves, but I do not think that it is true. I’m talking about friendship, about the truth of life.

Maybe some people in Russia have good friends in Georgia. I would not say, though, that the Georgians have warm feelings towards Russians. Many years ago, many Soviet citizens used to spend their holidays in Georgia. Did the Georgians treat the Russians, especially blonde women, with respect? No. The Georgians look at all other nationalities from above, except for other Georgians. They can be even arrogant and disdainful to people of other nationalities.

If Hollywood releases the above-mentioned film, Russia should entirely and completely boycott that “work of art.”

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

South Asia

Pakistan: Bishop of Islamabad, Asia Bibi Case “A Disgrace” — A Campaign by AsiaNews

Mgr. Rufin Anthony the blasphemy law “must be repealed; it does not fit with 21st century world “ Petitions to save Asia Bibi and repeal the blasphemy law in Pakistan, Italy, USA, India, France. Within hours, the AsiaNews site received over 500 signatures. Even cloistered monasteries prayfor Asia Bibi. A text to send to President Asif Zardari.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — “It’s really a shame”, says Msgr. Rufin Anthony, Catholic bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi in comments to AsiaNews about the death sentence against Asia Bibi (see photo), the woman convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan’s Punjab state. The prelate stresses that the law is abused and manipulated for petty reasons and it is time to repeal it to make Pakistan a modern country.

“In the villages — the bishop says — there is a lot of meanness. I asked a woman about the characteristics of her [Asia Bibi] village. She replied immediately: Malice, envy, apathy and brutality. Here is the full picture. Can this justify the killing of a good person? The answer is no! I think that the blasphemy law should be repealed, is not at all suited to the world of the 21st century”.

Already, a year ago, the Justice and Peace Commission in Pakistan had asked for the abolition of the blasphemy law, collecting more than 75 000 signatures from Christians and Muslims. AsiaNews had helped to spread their campaign in Italy and at the European Parliament (see dossier Save Christians and Pakistan from the blasphemy law).

These days, after the ruling against Asia Bibi, many nongovernmental organizations in the country are gathering signatures for the same reason. In a few days more than 40 thousand signatures have invaded government offices calling for the liberation of women.

Aid to the Church in Need has also launched a signature campaign in France and Italy. Other groups in India and the United States have launched campaigns against the blasphemy laws.

AsiaNews launched its campaign yesterday urging its readers to “do something”, and in a few hours collected more than 500 signatures from Italy, the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, India, Great Britain, ….

Among the first to sign up, were Fr. Samir Khalil Samir, the famous Egyptian scholar on Islam, Phil Lawler, editor of U.S. Catholic, Kenneth Lewis, president of International Christian News, David Cantagalli, editor. There are also several messages from cloistered monasteries, praying for Bibi Asia and Pakistan.

As reported yesterday, the campaign asks you to save Bibi Asia and Pakistan, by sending an e-mail to , or directly to President Asif Zardari to this address: .

Some readers have asked for a basic text to be sent as a message to President Zardari. Here it is:

To Mr Asif Ali Zardari,

The President of Pakistan

Mr. President,

Asia Bibi’s death sentence is not just a sentence, it is a State crime.

Therefore I hope you will not permit that, not only because of your sense of Justice but also because it is badly affecting the reputation of your country.

Please intervene as soon as possible to reduce the pains Asia Bibi and her family are suffering.

Moreover the constant deliberate persecution of Pakistani Christians through the law on blasphemy is offending the Almighty God more than any human being.



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

Pakistan: US Earmarks $500mln for Post-Flood Reconstruction

Rome, 15 Nov. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — The United States will commit 500 million dollars to help Pakistan rebuild after the catastrophic flooding that hit much of the country in July and August, US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke announced on Monday.

“As a demonstration of our sustained commitment to expanding our partnership with Pakistan, and in close consultation with our Congress, the US will commit up to $500 million of the first year of Kerry-Lugar-Berman funds,” Holbrooke said.

He was speaking at the Pakistan Development Forum in the capital, Islamabad.

Holbrooke was referring to a 1.5 billion dollar annual development budget already promised to Pakistan under a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Dick Lugar of Indiana.

Holbrooke said the money would benefit victims recovering from the flooding which killed nearly 2,000 people , displaced millions and devastated agriculture and infrastructure.

The funds for rebuilding came on top of the 500 million dollars already provided by the United States for flood relief, he added. Pakistan’s military has been spearheading efforts to help the flood victims.

The administration of US president Barack Obama is working closely with the US Congress and Pakistan’s leadership to determine how these funds can best be deployed so that they are aligned with Pakistani priorities.

Rebuilding agriculture in areas worst affected by the flooding, infrastructure projects and the rebuilding of schools are expected to be high priorities.

The World Bank had assessed the funding and said it was satisfied controls were in place to minimise corruption and make sure the aid reached the people and projects that most needed it, Holbrooke said.

The US is also committed to supporting Pakistan’s long-term economic stabilisation programme. “The Government of Pakistan’s plans to move forward on macro-economic reforms mark a significant step toward self-sufficiency,” said Holbrooke.

“However, Pakistan needs to continue its work with the International Monetary Fund and the development banks to expand the tax base and develop sustainable energy policies critical to Pakistan’s future and economic growth.”

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

Far East

Asteroid Dust Successfully Returned by Japanese Space Probe

A Japanese spacecraft that touched down on a space rock during a billion-mile mission successfully returned the first ever samples from the surface of an asteroid, Japan’s space agency said today (Nov. 16).

The samples are in the form of tiny dust grains collected directly from the asteroid Itokawa in 2005 by Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft, which returned to Earth in June. It was a 1.25 billion-mile (2 billion-kilometer) trip that took seven years to complete. [Photo of the asteroid samples]

The dust was found inside a sample return capsule that landed in Australia and was flown back to Japan for analysis.

“About 1,500 grains were identified as rocky particles, and most of them were judged to be of extraterrestrial origin, and definitely from Asteroid Itokawa,” the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said in a statement.

JAXA scientists have known there were particles of material in the Hayabusa sample return capsule since July. But they were unsure if those particles were actually pieces of an asteroid, cosmic dust or contamination from Earth.

Now, they said, it is clear. The Hayabusa spacecraft collected samples of an asteroid.

“Being able to retrieve material from a celestial body beyond Earth was more than we had hoped for,” Hayabusa project manager Junichiro Kawaguchi told Japan’s Mainichi Daily News. “When the capsule returned, I said, ‘Just having it return is like a dream,’ so I don’t know how to express this, which was beyond my dreams.”

This graphic shows how the Hayabusa asteroid mission worked. Itokawa is a silicon-rich asteroid about 1,755 feet (535 meters) long at its longest side. It takes about 556 days to complete one orbit around the sun.

JAXA scientists used a scanning electron microscope to study the asteroid samples collected by Hayabusa. They found signs of minerals such as olivine, pyroxene and others, which matched remote-sensing observations taken by Hayabusa when it visited asteroid Itokawa.

Most of the particles are about 10 micrometers in size, roughly 1/10th the width of a human hair. They were found in one of two compartments inside the Hayabusa sample return capsule and must be handled delicately, JAXA officials said.

“JAXA is developing the necessary handling techniques and preparing the associated equipment for the initial (but more detailed) analyses of these ultra-minute particles,” they added.

The fact that the Hayabusa spacecraft returned asteroid samples is the ultimate vindication for Japan’s mission team.

JAXA launched Hayabusa (Japanese for “Falcon”) in 2003. The spacecraft arrived at the asteroid Itokawa in 2005 while the asteroid was 180 million miles (nearly 290 million km) from Earth — almost twice the distance between our planet and the sun.

But Hayabusa experienced several crippling problems during the mission, including a fuel leak, communications breakdowns and malfunctions with its ion engines. The setbacks added an extra three years to Hayabusa’s mission.

The probe was supposed to drop a lander on Itokawa, but the lander missed the asteroid’s surface. Attempts to fire a projectile at the asteroid to kick up dust to be collected also failed.

Ultimately, JAXA directed Hayabusa to directly land twice on asteroid Itokawa in attempts to force some samples into its return capsule.

The Hayabusa spacecraft returned to Earth on June 13. Most of the craft burned up in Earth’s atmosphere as planned during re-entry. Its sample return capsule, which was equipped with a heat shield and parachute, was ejected to make its own successful landing in the Australian outback and was later recovered.

“I’m filled with emotion and I can’t believe it,” Kawaguchi said. “A long period of hard work has paid off.”

With the mission’s success, JAXA has already begun planning a follow-up mission — called Hayabusa 2 — which would send a $200 million spacecraft to visit a carbon-rich asteroid. That mission is slated to launch in 2014, arrive at the asteroid in 2018 and return samples to Earth by 2020, JAXA officials have said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Chinese Brain-Imaging Device a Suspected Copy of U.S. Device

A Chinese team’s brain imaging device has come under question from developers of a U.S. device who say it’s a near duplicate of theirs, LiveScience has learned. An article on the Chinese device was published in the prestigious journal Science, and the U.S. researchers are preparing a formal letter to the journal in response.

According to the report appearing in the Nov. 4 online edition of Science, the Chinese imaging device used a diamond knife to shave ribbons off a centimeter-size mouse brain and imaged the slices during the process. That allowed the Chinese team to create a 3-D map of the brain that revealed details as small as the axons and dendrites — the circuitry that transmits signals between brain cells — as a step in the race to map the connections in the brain.

LiveScience contacted Yoonsuck Choe, director of the Brain Networks Laboratory at Texas A&M University, for comment on the Chinese device the day the paper was published, and the inquiry by the website immediately set off alarms.

Choe’s lab, which had developed its own knife-edge scanning microscope, or KESM, said today (Nov. 15) it will not officially comment in detail because it is preparing an official “Letter of Science” submission to formally alert the editors of the journal.

The U.S. researchers have already contacted the journal with their concerns, and a Science representative told LiveScience that the matter is being taken seriously.

Choe said he suspects the Chinese researchers copied the KESM design to create their own version of the brain imaging device. Due to LiveScience’s early involvement in the controversy, the website has been able to reconstruct some background on how the U.S. brain imaging device could have been copied.

How it went down

Choe’s lab started the development of its KESM almost a decade ago. The main architect behind the instrument was Bruce McCormick (1928-2007), a computer scientist at Texas A&M University.

The Chinese group in question hails from the Britton Chance Center for Biomedical Photonics at Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics—Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in China.

Choe possesses an e-mail that shows the same Chinese lab previously asking the main engineering contractor for Choe’s lab, Micro Star Technologies, for a custom-made diamond knife. The knife forms a key part of the KESM, along with commercially available components such as the camera.

Micro Star Technologies refused the Chinese request.

Now made in China

Despite Micro Star’s refusal, Choe said he believes the Chinese team may have gotten enough information about KESM from detailed online technical reports and a Journal of Microscopy article to manufacture a nearly exact replica.

The Chinese researchers, led by Qingming Luo, named their device the Micro-Optical Sectioning Tomography, or MOST. They did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview from LiveScience at the time they announced the device.

Initial e-mail requests for comment by the Chinese team were not returned.

Choe said technical specs and details for MOST make the device an almost perfect replica of KESM. The Chinese researchers gave only passing mention to the U.S. team in the Science article.

Suspicions first arose when LiveScience contacted Sebastian Seung, a computational neuroscientist at MIT. He leads a collaborative effort to speed up the mapping of the brain’s wiring diagrams, known as connectomes.

“I just looked at it briefly, but it doesn’t seem novel,” Seung said in an e-mail on the morning of Nov. 4. “Isn’t it equivalent to this?”

“This” referred to the KESM developed by Choe’s lab. Seung then suggested contacting Choe.

A tale of two labs

Choe and his colleagues e-mailed their concerns to Science on the night of Nov. 4, along with the technical information and publication references to support those concerns.

The journal confirmed to LiveScience that it had received the concerns of Choe’s lab and that the Science editorial department would take them seriously.

“It’s so preliminary right now and we don’t have the facts — we weren’t involved with [what] happened between these researchers,” said Kathleen Wren, Science press package director, in a phone interview Nov. 5. “Certainly our editorial department will evaluate this, and the next step is to make sure they have all the relevant facts.”

The Science editors eventually responded on Nov. 12 by telling Choe’s Texas A&M group that it could either contact the Chinese researchers directly or write a formal “Letter of Science” for publication in the journal. The U.S. researchers are currently preparing their official letter to the journal.

“Science is a self-correcting enterprise, and the publication of letters to the editor, technical comments, and other responses to original research, including other research papers, are a routine part of the scientific process,” Wren said in an e-mail to LiveScience.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Obama Delivers Only Hot Air

By Donald Kirk

SEOUL — Theodore Roosevelt, a great American president with a clearly imperialist agenda, uttered one of the most famous lines in US history in 1901 when he advised a crowd, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. These days, US President Barack Obama seems to have gotten that aphorism reversed. He speaks a lot but doesn’t seem to be carrying a big stick.

That was the impression he gave after winding up his 11-day Asian odyssey in Japan at a tepid weekend gathering of Pacific rim leaders banded together in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping, otherwise known as APEC. It was as though his whirlwind tour had reached a crescendo at the Group of 20 confab in Seoul on Friday and, having no more to say, he just couldn’t stop talking.”

Obama, as the world has come to recognize, speaks quite well; he mingles homey expressions and sardonic remarks in response to journalists’ skeptical questions. “Instead of hitting home runs, we’re hitting singles,” he remarked, taking a phrase from American baseball that Koreans and Japanese and Taiwanese at least might understand even if it seemed a little esoteric to the Chinese, Indians and others in attendance. The measures taken were “not revolutionary”, he said, in another spasm of rhetoric. “It’s evolutionary progress.”

Unfortunately, it was hard to see all that much progress in the blizzard of words that piled up in several days of negotiations that did more to suggest and highlight problems and differences than to do much about them.

The frustrations were most evident on Saturday and Sunday in Yokohama, where Obama wound up his travels at the APEC summit. By the time the meeting ended, skepticism if not cynicism had become the motif of the mission after reading statements that were skillfully crafted to say a lot but actually did not say all that much.

The final APEC statement was a masterpiece of obfuscation in which the group assured the few who might still be interested of its commitment “to maintaining open markets and fighting protectionism”. Moreover, it said, “We reaffirm our common resolve to support the recovery in a collaborative and coordinated way.”

Then there was China’s President Hu Jintao, as skilled as anyone at the table in parrying demands for China to place a realistic value on its currency and stop dumping cheap goods on world markets, notably the United States.

Unlike Obama, who specifically cited China’s habit of depreciating the value of its currency by large infusions of funds, Hu in Yokohama said simply that the danger of protection was rising “notably” around the region. He did not have to name the United States as the villain though lesser officials have not hesitated to do so.

And, in a bow to all the talk about “global imbalances”, a code term for inequitable exchange rates, Hu said that the recovery from economic crisis had not been “firmly established”. Nor, he said, was it “balanced”.

By the time Obama and Hu got to confront one another across the table yet again at APEC, the day after the windup of the Group of 20 (G-20) summit in Seoul, Obama had already lost the major battles of the whole trip. It was here that his Asian odyssey reached a crescendo of excitement, and then disappointment.

First there was the disappointment of the failure to come to terms on a South Korea-US Free Trade Agreement that was completed in the waning months of the presidency of George W Bush but still needs ratification by the US Congress.

US Special Trade Representative Ron Kirk said after a long lunch discussion between Obama and South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak that US officials still were not happy about differences over the huge disparity in market access for the American motor vehicle industry. “It became apparent that we weren’t going to resolve all of these in the remaining hours,” he said, so Obama and Lee “wisely made the decision” to go on with the talks over the coming weeks.

Korean experts were shocked, as were many foreign observers. “It’s a big disappointment we didn’t get the FTA,” said Jang Ha-sung, dean of business at Korea University. “Korea has done much for its own share.”

Jang said he had “no idea” on what issues the deal was stuck, and “they’re not revealing” the reasons, but US manufacturers cite a long list of standards, requirements and taxes that discourage US imports.

As for the G-20 summit, Jang was sympathized with the Chinese view. While Obama and others say China’s central bank is intervening to maintain the Chinese yuan at an artificially low rate, he noted that the dollar is going down in value partly as a result of the Federal Reserve Bank’s decision to buy US$600 billion in Treasury bonds over the next seven months.

“Overall, the hard currency issue has surfaced” at the summit, he said, but “the US view might be a problem.”

Lee Chang-choon, a former Korean ambassador to a number of countries, was still more critical. “Obama has been losing clout” since the congressional elections in which the Republicans won an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives. “He is counting down to his last days.”

Lee laughed at plans by his president to ballyhoo the summit as a great event in modern Korean history. “The Lee government is making a continued press campaign,” he said. “They are so eager to celebrate the success of G-20. We are living in a very strange period.”

Chosun Ilbo, Korea’s biggest-selling newspaper, adopted a skeptical view as well. “Concrete agreements have been put off,” said the paper. “For Korea as the host, the results leave something to be desired.”

The paper, in an editorial, questioned the G-20’s real future. “It remains to be seen whether the G-20 will truly become the world’s top economic decision-making body,” it said, “because consensus about the economic crisis and a sense of urgency among G-20 countries are diminishing.”

While no one was paying much attention, the deliberations of the APEC leaders did bring new initials to the fore.

Look out for FTAAP. That stands for “Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific”, though how to pronounce it as one word will be a problem. F-TAP, as someone noted, has a ring about it that won’t sound great on the evening news.

The idea, as APEC potentates all agreed, was to have one vast “free trade area” that will unite the eastern with the western rims of the Pacific. Think of it. Chile and Mexico and El Salvador and Honduras, not to mention the US and Canada, all enjoying free trade with China and Japan and India and points in between.

“Now is the time for APEC to translate FTAAP from as aspirational to a more concrete vision,” they decided in Yokohama. “We instruct APEC to take concrete steps toward realization of an FTAAP.”

It might be a few years, or decades, too soon to expect that one to get very far, but leaders in Yokohama did go home with one comforting thought. Most of them privately agreed that the Doha round of World Trade Organization negotiations is dead — that is, the grand illusion of breaking down trade barriers that everyone meeting at Doha nine years ago hoped to turn into reality will not do so.

As an Australian banker on the APEC Business Advisory Council remarked, “We’ve moved past Doha.”

But to where? Here’s another set of initials mooted at Yokohama — TPP for Trans-Pacific Partnership. That was one that even President Lee, basking in the glory of having hosted G-20, could endorse. Its future was not clear, he said, but South Korea might just sign on.

Could TPP serve as a substitute for KORUS — the Korea-US free trade pact — and perhaps a device for curing global imbalances?

Optimism was not exactly rife, but be prepared to hearing those initials a lot in the next few years of “currency wars” — a term that no self-respecting leader uses but which in reality may continue to rage unabated after all the talking is done.

Donald Kirk, a long-time journalist in Asia, is author of the newly published Korea Betrayed: Kim Dae Jung and Sunshine.

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

Australia — Pacific

UK Too Full of Immigrants, Says Pauline Hanson

PAULINE Hanson has abandoned plans to move to Britain, after discovering it’s not the racially pure utopia she was hoping for.

After returning a fortnight ago from an extended holiday in Europe, the former One Nation leader has reportedly said she’s back in Australia for good and considering yet another return to politics.

“I love England but so many people want to leave there because it’s overrun with immigrants and refugees,” Ms Hanson said.

“France is becoming filled with Muslims and the French and English are losing their way of life because they’re controlled by foreigners in the European Union.

“Problems are worse over there than they are in Australia and Australia is still the best place in the world to live, but the same sorts of awful things are happening here too. Residents of Commonwealth countries who want to live here are discriminated against in favour of others.”

Ms Hanson, 56, spent two months touring countries including England, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania and France.

In February, Ms Hanson told Woman’s Day magazine she was selling her home and property at Coleyville, south-west of Brisbane, and moving to Britain, partly because she was disappointed by the way Australia had changed.

Ms Hanson reportedly said she wouldn’t rule out a return to politics.

“I still haven’t got politics out of my system,” she said.

“I get asked constantly, ‘Are you going back into politics?’ — even by people who recognised me overseas.”

It was “difficult to say” whether she would sell her Coleyville house, but she said she would move “very soon, possibly interstate”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Australia: Population Boom Inevitable, PM Told Josh Gordon

JULIA GILLARD’s election pitch to avoid a “big Australia” is to be abandoned after a Treasury warning that strong future immigration is “probably inescapable”.

In another policy retreat, the government’s population review has been delayed and “recalibrated” to focus on skills shortages and regional growth, rather than nominating population targets.

During the election campaign in August, Ms Gillard said Australia should not “hurtle” towards a big population. At the time, she said a Treasury projection that Australia would have a population of 36 million people by 2050 was excessive. “I don’t support the idea of a big Australia with arbitrary targets of, say … a 36 million-strong Australia,” she said.

However, a Treasury briefing sent to Ms Gillard after the campaign suggests she could have no choice. The briefing warns that the prediction of 36 million people “factors in a significant reduction” in migration, from a recent peak of 300,000 to an annual average of 180,000.

It concludes that even if annual net migration was lowered to an unrealistically low 60,000 per annum, Australia’s population would still reach 29 million by 2050.

“Given the powerful global forces driving the Australian economy, net immigration figures well in excess of that low number are probably inescapable,” the briefing says.

“Strong population growth is not necessarily unsustainable. It need not adversely affect the environment, the liveability of cities, infrastructure and service delivery, provided the right plans and policies are put in place now in anticipation of it.”

A senior Labor source said business groups had been pressuring the government to adopt a default position “where the issue of specific targets is not addressed”.

“I believe the government has accepted the reality that it is not prepared to cut migration to the extent needed to significantly reduce population growth,” the source said.

Population Minister Tony Burke has indicated the government might miss an April 2011 deadline for its population review, blaming the extended caretaker period while a new government was being formed.

“I don’t want to give a commitment that we’ll be able to get to that [April] time frame,” Mr Burke said.

Days before the election was called in July, Mr Burke appointed three population panels to provide advice on demographic change and liveability, productivity and prosperity, and sustainable development.

Treasury’s budget update released last week predicted that unemployment will fall to 4.5 per cent by June 2011, heightening concerns that skills shortages could re-emerge as a key issue.

Asked if it was prudent to be talking about immigration cuts at such a time, Treasurer Wayne Swan said the government had refocused the migration program on skills.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

California Court Upholds in-State Tuition for Some Immigrants

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court weighed in Monday on the politically charged immigration fray when it ruled that illegal immigrants are entitled to the same tuition breaks offered to in-state high school students to attend public colleges and universities.

While the ruling applies only to California, the case was closely watched nationally because nine other states, including New York and Texas, have similar laws.

Republican congressmen Lamar S. Smith of Texas and Steve King of Iowa filed a so-called friends of the court brief urging that illegal immigrants be denied the reduced rate. The politicians and others argued that federal legislation l

The lawsuit considered by the court was part of a broader legal assault led by immigration legal scholar Kris Kobach, who has filed numerous cases across the country seeking to restrict the rights of illegal immigrants.

He represented a group of U.S. students who filed the lawsuit seeking to invalidate the California law.

Kobach said he would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A unanimous state Supreme Court, led by politically conservative Justice Ming Chin, said the California provision was constitutional because U.S. residents also had access to the reduced rates.

The California Legislature passed the controversial measure in 2001 that allowed any student, regardless of immigration status, who attended a California high school for at least three years and graduated to qualify for in-state tuition at the state’s colleges and universities. In-state tuition saves each state college student about $11,000 a year and each University of California student about $23,000 a year.

A state appellate court ruled in 2008 the law was unconstitutional after a group of out-of-state students who are U.S. citizens filed a lawsuit. The suit alleged the measure violated federal prohibitions barring illegal immigrants from receiving post-secondary benefits not available to U.S. citizens based on state residency.

However, the state Supreme Court noted the California law says nothing about state residency, a distinction that foes of the plan said shouldn’t matter. Kobach said the federal legislation was meant to prohibit exactly what the California Supreme Court allowed for illegal immigrants on Monday.

“It presents a rather incomprehensible reading of the federal statute,” Kobach said.

The Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, which supports numerous political efforts, said the spirit of federal law was to deny tuition breaks to illegal immigrants.

Foundation attorney Ralph Kasarda, who submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, said California was not in sync with the federal mandate against showing favoritism to illegal immigrants.

“California’s policy is also atrocious financial stewardship,” he said.

The state law also requires illegal immigrants who apply for the in-state tuition to swear they will attempt to become U.S. citizens. The applicants are still barred from receiving federal financial aid.

“Through their hard work and perseverance, these students have earned the opportunity to attend UC,” said University of California president Mark G. Yudof. “Their accomplishments should not be disregarded or their futures jeopardized.”

Kobach also failed to invalidate a similar law in Kansas. His lawsuit in Nebraska is pending…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

U.N.: Lower Barriers to Legal Immigration

NEW YORK, Nov. 11 (UPI) — The head of the U.N. Commission for Human Rights says nations should expand opportunities for legal immigration.

“Although states have legitimate interests in securing their borders and exercising immigration controls, such concerns do not trump the obligations of the state to respect the internationally guaranteed rights of all persons,” said Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

Pillay addressed the issue of discrimination and prejudice against migrants this week at a five-day forum on migration and development in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The international meeting began Monday.

Pillay said nation states must halt criminalization of international migrants, an estimated 214 million people globally, and lower barriers preventing legal immigration.

“The principle of non-discrimination is fundamental in international human rights law and runs across all international human rights instruments inspired by the Universal Declaration (of Human Rights), notable the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: What About My Right to a Family Life, Says Father of Girl Killed by Iraqi Criminal We Can’t Throw Out

The father of a girl fatally injured in a hit-and-run crash pleaded with judges yesterday to deport the failed asylum seeker who was at the wheel.

Paul Houston handed a court an emotional letter spelling out the heartbreak caused by banned driver Aso Mohammed Ibrahim.

Ibrahim, a serial criminal, ran off leaving Mr Houston’s 12-year-old daughter Amy lying conscious but badly hurt beneath his car. She was just yards from her mother’s home.


For seven years Ibrahim — a 33-year-old father of two — used human rights laws to remain in the country, claiming his right to life and to family life trumped attempts to return him to his native Iraq.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Spain: Transsexuals Excluded From Work, 80% Prostitute

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, NOVEMBER 15 — Transsexuals are still the most discriminated people in Spain, to the point that, since they are kept out of jobs, 80% are forced to prostitute themselves. Such is the result of a report drawn up by the University of Malaga following a proposal by the Spanish Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (Felgtb), which was presented today. Presenting the results of the report, Federation spokesperson Mar Cambrolle’ stated that “In any profession there are gays or lesbians, but no transsexuals”. It has been estimated that in Spain there are 20 to 30,000 transsexuals, for which, in most cases, “the only way out is prostitution, which is not a free option or a voluntary choice”, according to Cambrolle’. Even in terms of health assistance, only the Communities of Andalusia, Catalonia and Madrid have specific units, whereas in others, such as in Asturias or Estremadura, transsexuals “are transferred to other units”, and in the remaining Regions “there is no specific assistance”, according to the Felgtb spokesperson.

As for education, the report highlights the transsexual’s difficulty in passing the first stages of education because they are often “targets of jokes and misunderstandings” that lead them to quit school. The coordinator of the report, Juan Manuel Dominguez, explained that the gathering of information, through forms, will continue in the next months, and will end up in a report that will offer an overall picture of the situation across all of Spain. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20101115

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

Financial Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Eurozone Talks Keep Irish Crisis in Focus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Greece Blames Berlin for Irish Debt Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Greek Debt Higher Than Expected, EU Audit Reveals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Herman Van Rompuy Wants Your Money

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

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

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

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

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

[Return to headlines]

Ireland and Greece Should Ditch the Euro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ireland in Talks Amid Eurozone Warning on Debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Pressure Building on Ireland to Seek EU Help

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

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

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

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

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

For his part, Spain’s member of the European Central Bank council, Miguel Angel Fernandez Ordonez openly attacked Dublin for its reticence.

“The situation in the markets in recent weeks has been very negative due in some way to the lack of a final decision by Ireland,” he told reporters in Madrid on the same day.

Echoing the words of the Portuguese finance minister, he added: “It’s not me who should take a decision about Ireland, it’s Ireland that should take the right decision at the right moment.”

Portugal and Spain are petrified that Ireland’s stubbornness could lead to a contagion of lack of market confidence, as Spanish and Portuguese bond yields increase.

“From a strategic point of view, Madrid and Lisbon are worried that the uncertainty will spread to them, with ramifications for the euro as a whole,” Tom McDonnall, an economic policy analyst with Tasc, an Irish economic think-tank, told EUobserver. “The ECB believes that if Ireland was in the fund, the uncertainty could be removed and thus lower bond yields.”

“But for Ireland to go into the fund, this is effectively handing over sovereignty over fiscal levers. This is why you are seeing ministers making these comments about Ireland’s struggle for sovereignty and so on,” he explained.

On Sunday, enterprise minister Batt O’Keeffe said: “It has been a very hard-won sovereignty for this country and the government is not going to give over that sovereignty to anyone.”

For Ireland, a country that fought a long, bitter struggle to free itself of British rule, to surrender economic sovereignty to the troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as occurred when Greece tapped the EU fund, is an ignominious dishonour for any Irish government.

But for a one headed by Fianna Fail, whose full name in Irish translates as “Soldiers of Destiny — The Republican Party,” such a move would be a historic humiliation for the party of the first president of the republic.

The government does have enough money to fund public expenditure through till July next year, but the yawning debts of Irish banks is steadily undermining confidence that the government will not be forced to default.

On Friday, fresh data showed that outstanding loans to Irish banks, mostly coming from German, British and French banks, climbed to €130 billion at the end of October, up from €119 billion in September.

That Ireland would be giving up its economic sovereignty to in effect transfer funds to, amongst others, British bankers, can only add to the indignity.

Brussels however denied that EU officials were adding to the pressure on Dublin.

“As the Irish authorities have reiterated themselves over the last few days, they have not made any request for financial assistance. Further, Irish sovereign debt is fully financed till the summer of 2011, so there is no imminent need on that area,” commission economy spokesman Amadeu Tardio told reporters in the European capital.

“The commission is in close contact with the Irish authorities at the moment as you can imagine, but there is no news from that in itself.”

If Dublin were to apply for help, the troika would likely demand very significant reductions in public sector pay and social transfers, albeit likely in line with those under consideration by the government.

More controversially, there will be pressure for Ireland to raise substantially its ultra-low rate of corporation tax as part of the overall policy mix.

However, the troika will have difficulty pushing through such a move, as Ireland won a series of legal guarantees, including notably on tax sovereignty, attached to the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in return for a second referendum on the text, which was ultimately approved.

However, as some might argue, the Irish guarantees have yet to be approved.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Black Man Tied to Actions of White Supremacy Group

BRIDGEPORT — One co-defendant in the trial of two avowed white supremacists will stand out Monday morning in a federal courtroom.

That’s because David Sutton is a black man — caught up in a conspiracy to sell homemade hand grenades to what his co-defendants believed was a member of the powerful Imperial Klans of America.

For the next three weeks, Sutton will be there, with his lawyer, Frank Riccio II, listening to a litany of evidence, recordings and videotapes involving Kenneth Zrallack, the 29-year-old Ansonia man the government claims is the leader of the Connecticut White Wolves — now known as Battalion 14 of North East White Pride — and Alexander DeFelice, a 33-year-old Milford man described by investigators as the “dealmaker” in this case.

Prosecutors intend to call 29 witnesses and play 101 excerpts from video and audio recordings that could take about two and a half hours during the trial, which begins Monday.

Even Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry Kopel concedes, in court papers, that he has “no evidence to suggest” that Sutton, 46, of Milford, “was associated or supportive of the white supremacist movement … He was not a member or participant.”

Still, Sutton will be there — with Zrallack and his lawyer Nicholas Adamucci to his right and DeFelice and his lawyer, Michael Hillis, to his left.

Sutton’s name is the fifth of five on a federal grand jury indictment where he is charged only in the conspiracy.

Two other defendants, William R. Bolton, 31, a reputed member, and Edwin T. Westmoreland, 27, a participant, both of Stratford, pleaded guilty to charges and are awaiting sentencing.

So how does a black man find himself on trial with members of a white supremacy group, particularly in a case where Kopel claims the Wolves are attempting to bolster their presence in the white supremacy world by becoming arms suppliers to their bigger and badder brother groups?

Riccio, Sutton’s lawyer, said his client “strenuously denies being part of such a conspiracy … He hopes to be vindicated after trial.”

One theory, Kopel raises in court papers, is that Sutton became involved in the hopes that his brother-in-law could buy guns from DeFelice.

None of this shocks Rachel Ranis, an emeritus professor of sociology at Quinnipiac University.

“There are always people who act as individuals,” said Ranis. “They do things for individual reasons. Maybe he doesn’t care about who the target is.”

Clearly, Ranis said a group like the White Wolves would like having a black man as an associate.

Riccio raised the race issue during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall in which he asked his client be tried separately.

“His appearance in court with the others cuts both ways,” Riccio told the judge.

The Bridgeport lawyer conceded that, in one respect, having a black man on trial with white supremacists could lead to the jury to asking themselves what’s wrong with this picture.

“How could a black man be involved in any respect in a conspiracy with white supremacists,” he asked. “It’s so night and day.”

On the other hand, Riccio said his client could suffer “the spillover effect” of seeing and hearing two and a half hours of tape-recorded evidence against the others.

“He could suffer prejudice, not only legally but literally,” Riccio said…

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]

BP Pays Stripper $80k, Fishermen Get Peanuts

Adding insult to physical and mental injuries in Gulf Coast communities where destitute residents are struggling with unpaid claims, BP paid $80,000 to a stripper recently, but nothing to many fishermen. One Gulf Shores, Alabama fisherman has only been paid $15,000. — in six months. Living without meals, electricity and even a home because of unjust government and BP systematic abuse are realities for many Gulf Coast families, a reality that hits even harder at holiday time, such as Thanksgiving.

To prevent starvation, families in Alabama fishing communities are forced to rely on eating Gulf seafood. They are out of work; many BP claims are not honored; and many who worked for VOO, BP’s “Vessels Of Opportunity” cleaning toxic waters and beaches, have not even been paid.

An estimated 10-25% of legitimate BP claims by Gulf Shores fisherman have not been paid according to one couple there. Along with neighbors, they are outraged over learning what pbrcoastie’s November 12th post on WKRG News forum exposed:

“So….take this for what you will. A good friend of mine who works at a credit union here in town said an “employee” of cookies and cream walked in and cashed a $80K check for her claim against BP. She was due to a drop in business. I am so sick at some of these outlandish claims. This is disgusting considering the number of legit claims that are still waiting to be paid.”

[Return to headlines]

Frank Gaffney: (un)Welcome to Washington, Senators-Elect!

President Obama has set the stage for an acrimonious relationship with the newly elected Senators of the 112th Congress. As they come to Washington this week for freshman orientation, his welcome message amounts to: “I want to disenfranchise you.”

This unwelcome applies especially to those occupying six new Republican seats in the Senate come January. And it bears most particularly on two issues that will affect U.S. security profoundly over the next six years of these newly minted Senators’ terms in office and far beyond: the so-called “New START” Treaty and the repeal of a statute prohibiting homosexuals from serving in the armed forces.

New START is a seriously defective bilateral arms control agreement with the Russians, one that would make dramatic and ill-advised cuts in the number of U.S. strategic weapons and delivery systems. To be ratified, such a treaty needs the affirmative votes of 67 Senators. President Obama believes he may be able to secure those votes if he makes utterly incredible promises to yesterday’s Senate, the one now running out the clock in a post-election “lame-duck” session.

Specifically, Mr. Obama is reportedly prepared to pledge to spend nearly $90 billion over the next ten years on long-overdue improvements to the nation’s nuclear weapons industrial base. Even if he were committed to such a worthy investment, much of it would be made towards the end of what would be his second term (should he be reelected) or later — hardly a bankable proposition. That is all the more true since the President is determined to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Does anyone really think he will sink vast sums at a time of acute fiscal distress in an enterprise he wants to dismantle, not preserve?…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Oklahoma’s Sharia Problem is Every American’s Problem

In a particularly egregious example of a Muslim group’s self-serving, manipulative distortion of Western democratic principles — a trend we are seeing more and more of lately — the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) last week filed suit against the state of Oklahoma, declaring that a proposed ban on the use of sharia law in the Oklahoma courts violates the First Amendment.


Let’s go over this again. The First Amendment, as a reminder, is the one that states that government shall make no laws establishing religion. The purpose of this, of course, was to ensure that this newly-created, democratic nation called “America” would impose no state religion: that all religions — including no religion — would be held equal, and would be handled equally under the law. By extension, this meant, too, that no religious precepts would determine what the laws of the land would be. That is the very basis of the democratic, secular state — that entity, that concept, that we as Americans hold most dear.

That is, it is the concept held most dear by those Americans who support a secular democracy, rather than an Islamic theocracy. Apparently, CAIR is not among them.

Yet herein lies the critical distinction between Muslims who happen to be American, and Americans who happen to be Muslim. It is a vitally important difference.

True, the wording of the proposed amendment to Oklahoma’s state Constitution — known as “State Question 755” — is poor. The proposal does single out Islamic law, rather than religious law in general, and does so with such bold strokes as to make it difficult even to uphold secular laws that bear similarities to the laws of sharia. But this is not what really is at issue.

A bit of background: Concerned about the growing encroachment of sharia law tribunals on communities in the UK, Canada, and elsewhere in the West, Oklahoma passed a referendum earlier this month seen as a “pre-emptive strike” against the creation of such tribunals in that state, and against the incorporation of sharia law or principles in legal decisions issued by the Oklahoma courts. And, I might add, with good reason.

Indeed, Muslim groups in Canada have, in recent years, actively fought against such tribunals and sharia involvement in Canadian courts, which have repeatedly been shown to violate Canadian laws protecting women’s rights.

Logically, of course, such a ban should not even be necessary in Oklahoma; a judge who made a decision on the basis of sharia law would, ipso facto, be violating the US constitution.

Which takes us back to the absolute insanity of Oklahoma CAIR and its manipulative executive director, Muneer Awad, who has the temerity to maintain that a ban on sharia law in the US court system is racist, that it isolates and vilifies Islam. With utter self-aggrandizement and an egotistical positioning of himself in the center of the universe, Awad declared in the (at times incoherent) suit documents: “Surely, people will whisper, there must be something deeply threatening about Muneer’s faith. For why else would the great state of Oklahoma allocate space in the state’s most cherished document to burden Muneer’s faith and no other.”


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Czech Republic: Historical Detectives Exhume a Mystery

Scientists hope to put an end to conspiracy theories about astronomer’s death

Some mysteries refuse to remain buried. Today, Danish scientists reopened the grave of the astronomer Tycho Brahe, dead now for over 400 years.

According to the Prague Daily Monitor, after removing the remains from Brahe’s tomb on Monday, scientists will study the samples at the anthropological depository of the National Museum of Prague until Friday, before returning the remains to the astronomer’s resting place in Tyn Church.

Born Tyge Ottesen Brahe in 1546, Brahe was an astronomer, an alchemist, and one of the brightest scientific minds of the Renaissance. In 1572, he detected a new star in the constellation Cassiopeia, a shocking discovery at the time, given the prevailing notion that the heavens were perfect and unchanging. The following year, he became the first person to describe a supernova.

Brahe attended a Prague dinner party on 24 October 1601, shortly afterwards he fell ill and died eleven days later. The cause of death was written up as a urinary infection, but rumours of something more sinister persisted.

Suspicion that Brahe may have been murdered persisted through the centuries and this is not the first time the theory has been scientifically tested. In 1901, a study of hair from his moustache showed high traces of mercury, adding weight to the argument that he might have been poisoned.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Danes Most Impudent, Study Finds

Danish informality perceived by others as insensitivity

Danish people are best at dealing with mockery by other people, a new study shows. But others may well view this characteristic as a sign of insensitivity, concludes psychologist Martin Führ, whose specialist research area is humour.

Führ’s study forms part of an international research project in which 72 countries have measured their population’s fear of being mocked — a social phobia known as gelotophobia.

“We run a great risk of being perceived as impudent,” Führ told Berlingske Tidende newspaper. “We need to understand that other cultures have different values and different rules of interaction.”

Führ is not suggesting that we should change the way we communicate, but he points out that we need to be more aware of how our signals are interpreted by other cultures.

This view is supported by former foreign affairs minister Uffe Ellemann Jensen, who said that ridicule and mockery are a natural part of Danish banter.

“But our little ‘tribe’ needs to understand that other cultures may not find this funny. It is naïve to think that we can thrust our unique sense of free speech onto others,” he said, referring in particular to the Mohammed drawings.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Finns Desert Church in Record Numbers After Watching Gay Marriage TV Show

A RECORD number of Finns quit the Evangelical Lutheran Church this week after seeing negative religious attitudes towards gays in a TV programme. Those who ditched the church carried out their mass exodus via an online service, the standard procedure used nowadays.

According to this report, information Officer Heikki Orsila, of, which facilitates the secession process, thought that the spike resulted from the Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE’s current affairs programme Ajankohtainen Kakkonen, aired on Tuesday.

The show entitled Homoilta (Gay Night) was a panel discussion dealing with gay rights issues, including the question of the rights of same-sex couples to marry in church. The panel included Christian Democrat MP Päivi Räsänen, who has been fiercely critical of same-sex marriages and was a principal opponent in the Parliamentary debate on adoption rights for registered same-sex couples; and the Bishop of Tampere Matti Repo.

More than half of Tuesday’s 372 resignations were sent while the programme was running.

According to the website, the total number of people to make their exit was 2,633. This was not merely around 1,500 more than the previous daily high, but greater than the total number in the entire month of July.

The previous record of 1,049 individuals parting ways with the state church in the space of one day occurred on the last day of 2008.

According to Orsila, around 90 per cent of all the resignations from the church now happen via the Internet.

The site also noted that women have normally made up roughly 44 percent of church-leavers, but that this ratio rose on Wednesday to 48 percent, and that those announcing their departure were also older than the norm.

Whilst roughly eight out of ten Finns belong to the state church, actual attendance at services is at a much lower level. Many remain inside the church — something that also involves an obligation to pay an annual parish council tax — largely to be able to get married in church.

Numbers have been declining steadily as the society becomes increasingly secularised. However, sudden increases in resignations occur when fundamental differences of opinion on hot-button issues, such as gay rights or the ordination of women, arise.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

German Ministers Demand Football-Free Weekend in May

German state officials want the country’s soccer league to cancel all first-division Bundesliga matches on the May 1 weekend next year. They fear that police won’t be able to provide game security and cope with traditional Labor Day riots at the same time.

German anarchists are sticklers for tradition — they do their rioting on April 30 and May 1, without fail, in an annual ritual of cobblestone throwing and automobile arson in Berlin and Hamburg.

Their punctuality allows police forces to plan their work schedules for the day, celebrated as Labor Day in Germany and many other European countries, years in advance. But next year, the day falls on a Sunday, which means authorities face the dual task of tackling rioters and policing Bundesliga football matches — something the interior ministers of Germany’s 16 states say will overstretch their resources.

SPIEGEL has learned that the ministers, meeting in Hamburg at the end of this week, plan to call on the German Football League (DFL) to cancel all Bundesliga matches on April 30 and May 1 next year.

Threatening Consequences

DFL has already agreed not to play matches on the Sunday, but insists it will be “very, very difficult” to cancel matches on the Saturday as well because clubs are locked into television broadcasting contracts and international match timetables.

But Ralf Jäger, the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, has threatened the DFL with consequences if it fails to comply. “We will have to think about demanding money for policing games in the future.”

This isn’t the first demand for police to be relieved of their soccer duties during major events. Last week the chairman of the German Police Federation called for all Bundesliga matches on Nov. 13 and 14 to be cancelled because the nation’s police were too exhausted after spending days hauling thousands of anti-nuclear protesters off the train tracks to allow a shipment of radioactive waste to complete its trip to a storage site in Gorleben, northern Germany. His call went unheeded.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: ‘Wetlands’ Author Offers Sex to President for Nuclear Extension Veto

German writer Charlotte Roche offered in an interview Sunday to spend the night with President Christian Wulff if he votes against government plans to extend the lifetime of Germany’s nuclear reactors.

“I am offering to sleep with him if he does not sign,” the 32-year-old anti-nuclear activist told the weekly Der Spiegel. “My husband agrees. Now it is up to the First Lady to give her consent. I am also tattooed,” she said, referring to Bettina Wulff’s much-talked about body adornment.

Roche, British-born author of the sexually explicit 2008 bestseller “Wetlands,” took part in major demonstrations last week against the transport of radioactive waste that underlined unease in Germany over nuclear power.

Wulff has to decide this year if a law prolonging the lifetime of the country’s 17 nuclear reactors by up to 14 years should be enacted without the consent of the Bundesrat, the upper chamber of parliament that represents the regions.

The hotly disputed plans were approved by cabinet in September and will postpone by more than a decade to around 2035 the date when Europe’s biggest economy abandons nuclear power.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Merkel: Germany Doesn’t Have “Too Much Islam” But “Too Little Christianity”

Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans debating Muslim integration to stand up more for Christian values, saying Monday the country suffered not from “too much Islam” but “too little Christianity.”

Addressing her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, she said she took the current public debate in Germany on Islam and immigration very seriously. As part of this debate, she said last month that multiculturalism there had utterly failed.

Some of her conservative allies have gone further, calling for an end to immigration from “foreign cultures” — a reference to Muslim countries like Turkey — and more pressure on immigrants to integrate into German society.

Merkel told the CDU annual conference in Karlsruhe that the debate about immigration”especially by those of the Muslim faith” was an opportunity for the ruling party to stand up confidently for its convictions.

“We don’t have too much Islam, we have too little Christianity. We have too few discussions about the Christian view of mankind,” she said to applause from the hall.

Germany needs more public discussion “about the values that guide us (and) about our Judeo-Christian tradition,” she said. “We have to stress this again with confidence, then we will also be able to bring about cohesion in our society.”

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Northern German Accent in Its Last Generation, Experts Say

The northern German accent is dying out. The quirky regional manner of speech has become more homogeneous and won’t be passed on to young people, language experts said Monday.

“It’s the last generation,” said Kiel German language professor Michael Elmentaler.

Characteristic to prominent Germans such as recently deceased Loki Schmidt, Heidi Kabel and Günter Gaus, the staccato dialect is most closely associated with Hamburg. Instead of the “sch” sound, speakers use simply an “s,” usually separated by a brief pause before the consonant that follows.

The accent, which is influenced by Plattdeutsch, or Low German, was spoken throughout the Hanseatic League and became the prominent form of speech for most of northern Germany before the 16th century.

But by the 19th century this began to change, says Elmentaler, who has just completed a 12-year study of the regional accent.

According to his findings, in 1998 almost all northern Germans older than 70 still spoke with northern inflection. Meanwhile only 30 percent of those under 61, and none younger than 40 were familiar with it.

The development is part of what Elmentaler calls a “de-regionalization” of the accent, though he said “it will never come to pass that everyone speaks the same” because many Germans are actively preserving their language.

“The tendency in the north as well as the south is heading toward a similar standard,” confirmed Augsburg professor Werner König, explaining that today the use of a clear German was more important at work than in the days when most tasks were completed by hand.

While the lilting southern German dialect is often looked down upon by northern Germans, whose speech is closest to the standard High German, König said the northerners make their own mistakes.

“Of course that is wrong according to articulation experts,” he said in reference to the northern German tendency to leave the “p” off of words like Pferd, or horse.

But König rejected placing value judgements on regional accents and dialects, citing Norway’s educational system as Europe’s best example for language preservation. Since 1878, teachers in the Scandinavian country have been forbidden from chiding students for their different regional accents, he said.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

The Mawkishness That Shows Britain No Longer Knows What Its Heroes Are Dying for

They were words one hardly expected to hear from one of our most distinguished military figures — especially in the week of Remembrance Sunday.

However, that only makes the comments at the weekend of Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Fry, former commander of British forces in Iraq, all the more disturbing.

He said the British people had developed a dangerously ‘mawkish’ attitude towards the Armed Forces.

‘I think that the British people hold the Armed Forces in a state of excessive reverence at the present time. It is a greater infatuation than at any other stage of recent military history that I can recall,’ he said.

With these comments, he has put his finger on a subtle, but crucial and potentially catastrophic shift in our national psyche. So what’s wrong with ‘reverence’, you may ask. Well, General Fry is making a brutal and, indeed, shocking observation — that the British hold dead soldiers in deep esteem while despising the causes for which they are currently laying down their lives.

This is because fundamental assumptions about this nation and the wars fought on its behalf have been shattered.

For most of the past two centuries, he observed, there had been an unspoken agreement that any war fought by Britain would be based on acknowledged rules; this country would most likely win that war; and the outcome would be largely beneficial.

That consensus, however, was broken with the war in Iraq — and may never be repaired.

The result has been that the public now mourn excessively the soldiers who have fallen in battle — who are seen increasingly as the victims, not of the enemies of this country but of its government that commits Britain to fight wars its people no longer support.

That is an utterly devastating observation. Devastating because it is true — and because of its implications.

For Britain is a fighting nation. It is a land of historic and classic warrior heroes. Military power is part of its DNA.

For centuries, it has successfully used that power to advance its national interests abroad and defend them at home. From the Armada to Trafalgar to the Battle of Britain, military prowess has been synonymous with British greatness and is etched deep into the nation’s cultural memory.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Blood-Clotting Drug Given to Wounded Soldiers Can Cause Heart Attacks

Trials of NovoSeven, used to halt blood loss, suggest it is no more effective than placebo and raises risk of clots in arteries

A drug given to wounded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan may be putting their lives in further danger by causing heart attacks and strokes.

The treatment is used to stop serious bleeding in injured troops, but trials show the drug increases the risk of blood clots forming in arteries, which can kill or cause complications that result in amputation.

The dangerous side effects are all the more concerning because years of trials have yet to prove the drug is any better at saving the lives of injured soldiers than a placebo.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Government to Compensate Ex-Guantanamo Bay Detainees Continue Reading the Main Story

Former detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp are in line for UK government compensation totalling in the millions of pounds.

About a dozen former prisoners, including Binyam Mohamed, will be granted the out-of-court settlement.

They had alleged that British security forces were complicit in their torture before they arrived at Guantanamo.

The UK’s Cabinet Office has said a ministerial statement will be made on Tuesday.

It is believed the government wanted to avoid a lengthy and costly court case which would also have put the British secret intelligence services under the spotlight.

Avoiding costs

Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el Banna, Richard Belmar, Omar Deghayes, Binyam Mohamed, Martin Mubanga were among those who had begun High Court cases against the government.

In July, the High Court ordered the release of some of the 500,000 documents relating to the case.

BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins said that around 100 intelligence officers had been working around the clock preparing legal cases.

He said the government wanted to avoid the cost of the court case, and that the terms of the settlement would remain confidential — something wanted by both the men and ministers.

He added that the Intelligence and Security Committee and the National Audit Office would be briefed about the payments.

He said the government would now be able to move forward with plans for an inquiry, led by Sir Peter Gibson, into claims that UK security services were complicit in the torture of terror suspects.

The Cabinet Office said: “The prime minister set out clearly in his statement to the House (of Commons) on July 6 that we need to deal with the totally unsatisfactory situation where for ‘the past few years, the reputation of our security services has been overshadowed by allegations about their involvement in the treatment of detainees held by other countries’.”

Tuesday’s statement is expected to be made by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.

The UK security services have always denied any claims that they have used or condoned the use of torture.

           — Hat tip: 4symbols [Return to headlines]

UK: Happiness Index to Gauge Britain’s National Mood

The UK government is poised to start measuring people’s psychological and environmental wellbeing, bidding to be among the first countries to officially monitor happiness.

Despite “nervousness” in Downing Street at the prospect of testing the national mood amid deep cuts and last week’s riot in Westminster, the Office of National Statistics will shortly be asked to produce measures to implement David Cameron’s long-stated ambition of gauging “general wellbeing”.

Countries such as France and Canada are looking at similar initiatives as governments around the world come under pressure to put less store on conventional economic measures of prosperity such as gross domestic product.

British officials say there is still hesitation in some parts of Whitehall over going ahead with the programme during such difficult economic times, but Cameron is said to want to place the eventual results at the heart of future government policy-making.

On 25 November, the government will ask the independent national statistician Jil Matheson to devise questions to add to the existing household survey by as early as next spring.

It will be up to Matheson to choose the questions but the government’s aim is for respondents to be regularly polled on their subjective wellbeing, which includes a gauge of happiness, and also a more objective sense of how well they are achieving their “life goals”.

The new data will be placed alongside existing measures to create a bundle of indications about our quality of life.

A government source said the results could be published quarterly in the same way as the British crime survey, but the exact intervals are yet to be agreed.

The source said: “The aim is to produce a fresh set of data, some of it new, some of using existing data sets currently not very well used, to be published — at a frequency to be decided — that assesses the psychological and physical wellbeing of people around the UK. So that’s objective measurements of, for instance, how much recycling gets done around the UK, alongside more subjective measures of psychology and attitudes.”

There are currently different views within the government on whether all indicators should be shrunk into one single wellbeing indicator or simple happiness index.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

UK: Islam Channel to Appeal Against Ofcom Ruling

Islam Channel is planning to appeal against Ofcom’s ruling that the satellite TV network breached the regulator’s broadcasting code for advocating marital rape and violence against women.

Five programmes broadcast on the London-based Islam Channel between 2008 and 2009 were in breach of Ofcom’s broadcasting code, the regulator ruled last week.

Islam Channel was censured for breaching impartiality rules in programmes on the Middle East conflict and for programmes appearing to advocate marital rape, violence against women and describing women who wore perfume outside of the home as “prostitutes”.

Ofcom launched its investigation into Islam Channel programmes in March, following a report by the Quilliam Foundation thinktank accusing the broadcaster of regularly promoting extremist views and regressive attitudes towards women.

The Islam Channel today said it will request a review of all five Ofcom rulings, claiming it must have been “particularly difficult” for the regulator to make an objective judgment about the broadcaster’s output given the “media frenzy and sensationalist headlines” that surrounded the Quilliam report earlier this year.

Islam Channel claimed in a statement that it was “no stranger to attacks from those who wish to discredit and undermine those of influence in the Muslim community”.

The broadcaster cited the Quilliam Foundation as one of its chief attackers, accusing the thinktank of being a “fundamentalist organisation whose corrosive techniques of misinformation” and “junk research” had served to discredit its work.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

UK: Woman Tied Up in Lancashire Home by Teenage Burglarsa Woman Was Tied Up in Her Lancashire Home by Two Armed Burglars — One of Whom is Thought to be 14 Years Old.

The pair forced their way in to a house in Shearwater Drive, Blackburn, at about 2045 GMT on Friday. One was carrying a knife.

They tied the 36-year-old woman’s hands before fleeing with jewellery and cash.

The pair are both described as Asian. One was aged 14 to 15, and 5ft 3in (1.6m) tall. The other was aged about 25 and 5ft 10in (1.8m).

‘Serious offence’

The teenager was wearing a hooded jacket with the hood up and the man had dark tracksuit trousers and a black hooded jacket, also with the hood up, police said.

Det Sgt Tim Brown, of Lancashire Police, said: “This is a very serious offence and must have been particularly upsetting for the lady involved.

“We know the two men left the house via the back yard or garden on to Shearwater Drive and, even though it was dark, I’m sure there were lots of people about at the time that may have seen something important.”

He urged anyone with information to contact police.

           — Hat tip: GB [Return to headlines]


‘I Stopped World War Three by Refusing US Orders to Destroy Russian Forces, ‘ Claims James Blunt

James Blunt’s refusal to obey orders during the Balkans war prevented the start of World War Three, the singer has claimed.

The 36-year-old chart-topping singer made the stunning claims in an interview with John Pienaar on Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics.

Blunt, a former cavalry officer in the British Army, was leading a NATO column under order to seize the Pristina airfield in Kosovo in 1999.

Facing a 200-strong Russian advance, the then- 25-year-old was given orders to ‘destroy’ the Russian troops by the Supreme Allied Commander of the NATO Forces in Europe.

‘I was given a direct command to overpower the 200 or so Russians who were there,’ the You’re Beautiful hitmaker has revealed for the first time.

‘I was the lead officer, with my troop of men behind us… It was a mad situation.’

‘The direct command came in from General Wesley Clark was to overpower them. Various words were used that seemed unusual to us. Words such as “destroy” came down the radio.’

He said his men were given orders by the American general to ‘reach the airfield and take a hold of it.’

But Blunt — who served under his real name James Blount — says: ‘We had 200 Russians lined up pointing their weapons at us aggressively.’

The singer, who has gone on to sell over 11 million albums since leaving the forces in October 2002, risked a court martial by refusing to go along with the orders to attack, a command he feared would spark a major conflict with Russia.

‘I was declining my order. I was very clear on that,’ he said.

‘There are things that you do along the way that you know are right, and those that you absolutely feel are wrong.

‘That sense of moral judgment is drilled into us as soldiers in the British army.’

Blunt’s instinct was backed by the commander of the British Forces. ‘Fortunately, the singer remembered, ‘Up on the radio came General Sir Mike Jackson, whose words were, “I’m not going to have my soldiers start World War Three.”

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Al-Adel, New Al Qaeda Leader for West

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 11 — The Egyptian national Saif Al-Adel, in Arabic “sword of justice”, is one of the most important al Qaeda members and — according to the Daily Telegraph — was appointed by Osama bin Laden as the new leader of operations in the West.

According to his profile published on the FBI website on most wanted terrorists, the man was born between 1960 and 1963 in Egypt. He is wanted for the 1988 attacks on the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and has a price of two million dollars on his head.

An expert in explosives, he has reportedly trained dozens of terrorists in Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan.

Globalsecurity reports that Al-Adel recruited suicide bombers by the end of the ‘90s, culminating in the attack in October 2000 in the Yemenite port of Adan on the US torpedo-boat destroyer USS Cole, in which 17 Americans were killed. He fled to Iran after the September 11 2001 attacks and was forced to stay in a villa in a well-known tourist resort on the Caspian Sea. The man is thought to be one of the al Qaeda leaders who were released by the authorities in April. He is in Yemen at this moment, according to the Arab press. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Archbishop Bustros Clarifies His Words About Israel and the Promised Land

During the Synod for the Middle East controversy was sparked between Israel and the Holy See over words pronounced by the Melkite bishop at a press conference. The bishop said that he was referring to the claim of the settlers to build on Palestinian land because they are part of biblical Israel.

Washington (AsiaNews) — Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, archbishop of the Melkite Rite in Newton, Massachusetts, in an interview with “Jihad Watch” has clarified the meaning of his words, the Holy Scriptures, Promised Land and the Palestinians, which stirred controversy from Israel on October 23 during the Synod of Bishops on the Middle East.

Archbishop Bustros was quoted this sentence: “The Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation by Israel of Palestinian lands,” adding, “we Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people— all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people”

The archbishop has now told “Jiahd Watch:” During the press conference which was held at the end of the Synod, I presented this message in my role as president of the commission that drafted the message. I stated that, Israel cannot use the Biblical concept of a promised land to justify its occupation of Palestinian territory and the expulsion of Palestinians who have been living there for centuries”. He added: “We Christians cannot now speak about the Promised Land for the Jewish people. With Christ the Promised Land became the Kingdom of God.” Bustros concluded: “In my answer I was thinking in particular of Jewish settlers who claim their right to build on Palestinian territory by saying it forms part of biblical Israel, the land promised by God to the Jews according to the Old Testament… The creation of Israel in 1948 is a political issue, not religious”. Bustros realls that we are dealing with two extremes: that of the settlers, claiming the land by referring to the Bible, and those of Muslim fundamentalists, who claim it as part of Islam. “The message of the Synod takes a moderate position and clearly suggests, as regards the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians, the two-state solution.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Caroline Glick: What the Palestinians Buy With American Money

Two weeks ago, a Palestinian from Bethlehem was arrested by the US-financed and trained Palestinian Authority security forces. He was charged with “carrying out commercial transactions with residents of a hostile state.”

No, he was not buying uranium from Iran. His purported crime was purchasing wood products from an Israeli community located beyond the 1949 armistice lines.

Denied bail by the US-funded PA magistrate’s court in Bethlehem, he has been remanded to custody pending the conclusion of his trial.

This man’s arrest is part of what the unelected, US-supported Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has touted as his “National Honor Fund.” The goal of this project is to ban all economic contact between Palestinians and Jews who live and work beyond the 1949 armistice lines. As far as the supposedly moderate Fayyad is concerned, those Jews and Israel generally comprise the “hostile state,” that the Palestinians under Fayyad’s leadership are being compelled to boycott…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick [Return to headlines]

Eid Al-Adha: Sheep Smugglers Kept Busy for Muslim Festival

Eid al-Adha means “the festival of the sacrifice” and is the most important holiday in the Muslim calendar.

Palestinians crowded into Ramallah’s market to shop and prepare for the four-day holiday. In Gaza’s market, sheep were paraded through the streets as people chose their meat for the holiday.

Muslims traditionally slaughter an animal during Eid-al-Adha, splitting the meat between the needy and family members.

But many may face disappointment this year as Gaza experiences a large shortage of cows and sheep for slaughter.

Smugglers have started bringing in sheep and cows for slaughter, to supplement what’s coming in from Israel, where bottlenecks at the only cargo crossing mean supply hasn’t kept up with demand.

Israel imposed a tight blockade on Gaza after the militant group Hamas seized power in June 2007 with only humanitarian aid and limited commercial goods allowed in.

Eid marks God’s gift of a ram to substitute for Abraham’s impending sacrifice of his son and begins on the tenth day of the month of Thi al-Haja, the twelfth month of the lunar Islamic calendar.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Hamas: Aid From Iran Without Any Political Price

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, NOVEMBER 11 — Hamas receives aid from Iran “without paying any political price,” said a high ranking official from the radical Palestinian movement in an interview that appeared today in pan-Arab daily al Hayat. “Hamas receives support from Iran, which does not attach any political price tag in return,” assured Khalil Hayya, a member of the political office of Hamas and part of the Palestinian legislative council. “We thank anyone who supports the Palestinian people and the resistance, and we thank Iran in particular,” added Hayya, who reiterated that “we will not allow any other denomination other than the Sunni tradition to penetrate into our land”. Hayya also denied speculations that Iran and Syria, the two main regional allies of the radical Palestinian movement, asked Hamas to make reconciliation efforts fail with Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). “Iran and Syria encourage us in terms of reconciliation,” said the Palestinian official. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Hour of the Hanging Judges: Demonizing Israel and Pretending it is Ordinary Criticism

By Barry Rubin

This is getting to be a pretty common kind of story. The mayor of Frankfurt invites a Jewish intellectual whose family left Germany in 1932 to speak on the anniversary of Kristallnacht. The problem is that this man, Alfred Grosser, is a ferocious critic of Israel.

Grosser claims the Gaza Strip is a concentration camp (possibly true, but if so it is a concentration camp owned and run by Hamas); calls for ending Israel as a Jewish state; urges Germany to be more critical of Israel; and blames Israeli policies (rather than the deliberate lies about them) as being responsible for increasing antisemitism (isn’t that what George Soros said?)

All of this is interpreted by the Christian Science Monitor, and many others, as merely rejecting:

“…the notion that criticism of Israel is synonymous with anti-Semitism. If Germans want to criticize the blockade of Gaza or treatment of Palestinians, they should be able to without guilt, many say.”

This is the usual absurd response.

But one can criticize Israel’s “blockade” of Gaza (I won’t explain here why it is needed and, no doubt, the people who criticize it have never read these reasons) without calling it a “concentration camp,” which implies deliberate mass murder.

But it is possible to criticize Israel without calling for its extinction-since that is, in fact, what abolishing the existence of a Jewish state means.

But one can say that Israeli policy is an element in growing antisemitism while also listing other elements, including the lying demonization of Israel so prevalent today. Of course, one would then have to talk about all the concessions and risks Israel has taken on behalf of peace in the last twenty years.

And when someone systematically uses such exaggeration, obsessively promotes such hatred, seeks such extreme solutions, sympathizes with those using violence to murder Jews, and leaves out so many facts…it is possible to speak of antisemitism as an element in that overall approach, isn’t it?

At times, I reflect, one hears echoes in such rhetoric and activity of a brave, new slogan: Kill the Jews! They really deserve it this time!

Often, however, this kind of talk is actually a result of naiveté and ignorance. This is equally true for Jews who say such things. Being Jewish doesn’t make them experts on Israel. But there is also a strong element of opportunism in taking such highly rewarded positions. No Jew need ever starve since he can always make a career bashing Israel.

Yet there is also a remarkable detachment from the facts on the ground.

In an interview, Grosser explains:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

US Weapons for Settlement Moratorium, Israeli Press

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, NOVEMBER 11 — A sign of a partial resumption of the moratorium on building in Israeli settlements in the West Bank in exchange for more US security aid to Israel is reported today by Israeli press sources, according to which Washington has already decided to increase its stock of weaponry in Israel. The press leak, which has not yet received official confirmation, has come out a few hours before a delicate meeting in New York between Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, overshadowed by the Israeli announcement of a new building plan for East Jerusalem.

According to the daily paper Haaretz, Washington — despite the irritation over East Jerusalem — is prepared to increase the value of its armaments kept in Israel by 400 million dollars (from the current 800 million to 1.2 billion) as a sort of guarantee against threats to regional security. It is a move which seems targeted at softening the Netanyahu’s position on the settlement issue. On this subject Yediot Ahronot added that the premier may announce a much-hoped for extension of the moratorium on settlement building (with the exclusion of certain compact blocks of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem) in exchange for a new agreement with the US for security and real time access to data from US satellites for Israeli anti-missile defense. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Christians in the Middle East Essential for the Survival of the Arab World

For the Saudi journalist Mshari Al — Zaydi, fundamentalism and the economic crisis have overshadowed the importance of Christians to Muslims in the construction of their countries. Arab society is self-destructing and attacks against minorities are an excuse to vent the blame on someone for the failures of the Islamic world. “Pluralism is the best protection against ignorance and intolerance.”

London (AsiaNews / Agencies) — “Christians are an essential part of the Middle East. Jesus himself was born in Palestine and was baptized on the banks of the Jordan. The Arab nations should co-exist with them and defend them. “ This, the assertion of Mshari Al — Zaydi, Saudi journalist and expert on Islam in Asharq Al-Awsat Arabic newspaper based in London.

In an article entitled “Our citizens Arab Christians” published today, Mshari examines the plight of Christians in the Middle East, starting with the recent attack against the church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. He writes”The bloody assault on Baghdad’s Church of Our Lady of Salvation has opened the door to a bigger question about the fate of Christian citizens in Middle Eastern countries, and the future of their presence there. Furthermore, it has exposed an Arab and Islamic wound, and we must get to the source of this crisis”.

Mashari stresses that recent events in Iraq is just the latest chapter in a campaign of murder that has as its goal to drive all Iraqi Christians from Mosul to Baghdad. “What is happening in Iraq — he continues — cannot be exclusively attributed to the deterioration of the security situation and the stagnation of the political condition. We cannot say that the attacks on Iraq’s Christians is a direct result of American incitement in the region, or part of some secret plan to drive a wedge between the people Iraq. “ The journalist mentions, in addition to the episodes in Iraq, attacks and other situations of intolerance against Christians and other minorities in Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and other Muslim-majority countries.

Citing the Lebanese intellectual Radwan al-Sayyid, Mshari points out that the situation experienced by Christians does not depend only on the growth of Islamic extremism and its rhetoric against the West. He points out that the economic crisis contributes to the exodus of Christians and is often the real excuse for the attacks against minorities.

“We suffer from a self-consuming syndrome in our Arab societies — he says -, and a desire to search for a scapegoat to blame for our general failure and decline. The minorities have always represented this scapegoat to the radicals and extremisms; with these minorities becoming the object of condemnation, taking the blame for polluting our nations. The idea that there is a pure untainted national identity with its own unique characteristics is a form of intellectual naivety. However the most dangerous thing about this is that it is an idea that resonates with the instincts of the general public who are looking for a demon to blame for society’s ills”.

Mshari stresses that Christians have taken part alongside the Muslims in the construction of the various Arab nations. “The ideas of those years — he says — served — and continue to serve — as categories for political identity, which have included many Arab intellectuals under non-religious and non-sectarian banners”. For the journalist the nature of the Arab world must be reconsidered starting from those ideas which previously succeeded in removing the influence of religious extremism, taking the best from various faiths. “If the Christian presence is removed completely from the Arab world — he concludes — this region will be characterized solely by Muslims and lose its Arab identity.” “Pluralism — Mshari insists — is the best protection against ignorance and intolerance.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Hillary Clinton’s Silence on Iraqi Christian Genocide Must End

Iraq’s 2,000-year-old Christian community is on the brink of extinction, its members targeted by al Qaeda attacks and fleeing abroad. But Hillary Clinton, the one person who could force the Iraq government to act, is keeping her mouth shut.

A full-scale genocide is under way in Iraq: a well-planned, well-financed, deliberate plot to cleanse the country of its Christian citizens. And thus far, neither the Iraqi government nor the United States is doing anything to stop it.

On Wednesday, al Qaeda militants launch a synchronized bombing attack on 11 Christian communities throughout Iraq, killing six and wounding more than 30. That attack followed on the heels of the ghastly assault last month on Christian worshippers attending a service at Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad, in which 58 people were brutally murdered and another 60 wounded.

After that attack, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a statement condemning the violence: “Those with deviant thoughts from al Qaeda and their allies belonging to the followers of the ousted regime targeted our Christian brothers in a terrorist crime that aims at undermining security and stability, inciting strife and chaos and sending Iraqis away from their home.”

Yet beyond these empty words, the Iraqi government has done absolutely nothing to protect the besieged Christian community from further attack, despite a promise from al Qaeda in Iraq that “all Christian centers, organizations and institutions, leaders and followers, are legitimate targets for Mujahedeen wherever they can reach them.” Indeed, just a couple of days after Maliki’s speech, three more bombs aimed at Christians went off in western Baghdad.

But now this historic community is on the brink of extinction. Since the American invasion in 2002, more than half of Iraq’s Christians have fled the country. The Christian community, like everyone else in Iraq, was caught up in the ethnic war that erupted in 2004 between the Shiites and Sunnis, and they have frequently been targeted both by Iraqi militants and by the mostly foreign fighters who constitute al Qaeda in Iraq. But Iraq’s Christians have not experienced anything like the deliberate targeting of their community over this past year. Hundreds of Christians have been murdered in 2010 and thousands more have left the country, fearing for their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Despite this unprecedented bloodshed, little effort has been made by the Iraqi or U.S. governments to secure the livelihoods of Iraq’s Christians. “I blame the government for all these attacks. It’s a very weak government and it can’t protect us,” Zeya Moshi, an Iraqi Christian, told the Christian Science Monitor. After meeting with Maliki, the Syrian Archbishop Matti Shaba Matoka sounded less than confident in the government’s ability to protect his congregation. “The security authorities promised to protect us, but we don’t know what kind of procedures they’ve put in place,” he told the Christian Science Monitor.

The silence of the Iraqi government has led to calls from the U.K.-based Syriac Archbishop Athanasios Dawood for Iraq’s Christian community to flee the country. “The Christian people should leave their beloved land of our ancestors and escape the premeditated ethnic cleansing,” he said in a statement to CNN. “This is better than having them killed one by one.” Many Christians have already left Iraq; almost 150 were recently granted asylum by the French government. Those who cannot afford to do so have found some measure of refuge in the Kurdish north.

Maliki has not taken kindly to the offers of international organizations and foreign governments to take in Iraq’s beleaguered Christian community. “The countries that have welcomed the victims… of this attack have done a noble thing,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse. “But that should not encourage emigration.”

The prime minister is right. Emigration is not the answer. Christians were residing in Mesopotamia more than 500 years before Muslims arrived in the region. This sacred land belongs as much to them as to anyone else, and it would be a tragedy if it were stripped of its Christian presence. But without a concerted effort to protect the Christian population, the Iraqi government will be complicit in what is fast becoming a catastrophic act of ethnic cleansing.

Now that a new government has finally formed, it is time for Maliki to switch his focus from trying to remain prime minister to fulfilling his duty as head of state to protect the most vulnerable among his population. But let’s be honest—without enormous pressure from his backers in the U.S., Maliki has little incentive to turn his attention to this problem. And yet the U.S. and the international community thus far have barely managed to muster the most muted response to anti-Christian violence in Iraq. This week the United Nations Security Council and the United States released a bland and utterly ineffectual statement condemning the attacks on Iraq’s Christians “in the strongest terms,” while at the same time reaffirming its support “for the people and government of Iraq.”

That is not nearly enough to get the attention of the Iraqi government. What is needed is a firm condemnation by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacting specifically to al Qaeda’s explicit plans to rid Iraq of its Christian communities and warning the Iraqi government that there will be dire consequences to its continuing inaction on this urgent matter. A number of online petitions have sprung up on the Internet urging Clinton to do just that, but so far there has been no official statement by the U.S. government.

This silence cannot stand. Americans of all faiths must band together and pressure the State Department to do something about the wanton murder of Iraqi Christians before it’s too late and there are no more Christians in Iraq to protect. What is happening in Iraq is genocide, plain and simple. It must be stopped now.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian [Return to headlines]

Injured From Iraq Church Attack to be Treated in Rome

Rome, 12 Nov.(AKI) — More than two dozen Iraqis wounded in an deadly attack on a Christian church in Baghdad are expected to arrive in Rome on Friday for treatment, the Italian Foreign Ministry said.

Italy transported 26 wounded aboard a military aircraft after Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, asked Italy to treat survivors of the assault on Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation church which left 58 people dead and 78 wounded on 31 October, according to the Friday statement.

The attack — the deadliest against Christians in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq — was condemned by Pope Benedict XVI as “senseless” and “ferocious”.

Many Muslims also denounced the killings.

Militants have carried out further bombing assaults targeting Iraqi Christians following the church attack.

The injured will be transferred to a Rome hospital after arriving at a military base near the Italian capital.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Man Jailed for Displaying Photo of Hezbollah Leader

Riyadh, 15 Nov. (AKI) — A Saudi court has sentenced a Shia man to 15 days in prison for displaying a photo of a Lebanese Hezbollah leader in his office in the al-Ahsa governorate, according to Arab-language news service Al-Rased.

Samir Ahmad al-Hamadi was arrested for having a photo of Hassan Nasrallah — the current secretary general of the powerfulLebanese political and paramilitary organisation Hezbollah.

Security forces have in the last few days arrested other members of the minority Shia community for fixing a sticker of Nasrallah onto a car window.

Shias make up only a tiny minority of the overwhelmingly Sunni Saudi Arabia.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

‘Virginity Healer’ Seized in Saudi Arabia

Saudi authorities have arrested an Arab woman who had claimed she can restore lost virginity for girls by simply inhaling burning incense, the Saudi Arabic language daily Okaz reported on Saturday.

The unidentified woman had lured many girls into her house in Makkah and made them inhale burning acacia wood, the paper said.

The woman had charged SR200 for each treatment session and required victims to undergo many sessions for a full cure, the paper said.

A female relative was acting as the woman’s secretary by giving appointments by mobile phone to patients seeking to recover their lost virginity, it said.

“We have arrested this woman because her activities are mere deception and have no medical basis,” said Abdul Rahman Al Ruwais, head of the Arab Medicine Section at Health Department in Makkah. “We have handed her over to the concerned authorities to take the necessary measures against her.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghani Former Muslim May Get Death Penalty for Conversion

Our soldiers die for them and they kill Christian converts.

Celebrating Veteran’s Day is an important reminder that our soldiers die for our freedom and often the freedoms of others. So how should we respond when a country we have set free from tyranny is murdering their people that leave Islam for Christianity? That has been happening in Afghanistan and may happen again after a judgment today in an Afghani court.

Sayed Mossa, an Afghan convert from Islam to Christianity, has been scheduled to stand trial today and most likely will be sentenced to death. His trial for apostasy will probably be televised in the war-torn country, and it appears Mossa may not even have adequate representation. Every lawyer, all Muslims, that has been appointed by the courts to represent Mossa have refused. They dare not defend someone who converted to Christianity.

Mossa is a 45 year old, married, father of six children. His youngest is 8 and he has one disabled child. Mossa is an amputee and has spent 15 years of his life helping others with the International Red Cross. However a co-worker turned Mossa in for being a Christian convert — a crime in most Muslim nations practicing Sharia law.

In October Mossa gave a letter to a Western visitor so others may hear his story. Mossa said he has been imprisoned since May “due to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, saviour of the world.” He went on to describe much of what he has gone through while in prison.

The government appears to have been promoting such ill treatment. Many outside observers wonder how the courts could condemn Mossa considering some of the country’s commitments in UN statements and their own Constitution. The Karzai government is a signatory of the UN Declaration on Human Rights. That document calls for freedom of religion and equal access to “a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.” It also states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.”…

           — Hat tip: Nick [Return to headlines]

India: Talaq Uttered by Muslim Man on Cellphone Valid: Deoband

Talaq uttered thrice by a Muslim man on a mobile phone will be considered valid even if his wife is unable to hear it all the three times due to network and other problems, a fresh fatwa has ruled.

The fatwa was given by Darul-Ifta, the fatwa department of leading Sunni Islamic seminary Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband, in reply to a query by a man.

The man in his query had asked that in case no witness was present when he utters talaq thrice to his wife over phone whether it would be considered valid or not.

“I angrily said talaq three times to my wife on cell phone but she claimed that she didn’t hear it even once and nobody was around both of us. Please tell me whether talaq has taken place,” he asked.

In its reply, Dar-ul-Ifta said, “If you have given three talaqs to your wife, all the three took place and she became haram (forbidden) for you.”

The fatwa said the woman will be free to marry anywhere she likes after her iddat (three month period after divorce) is over.

“It is not necessary for talaq to take place that the wife hears it or the witnesses are present,” it ruled.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Persecution in the Name of Islam

Earlier this year the European Parliament passed a resolution highlighting the persecution of religious minorities in Pakistan. For the European Union, and in particular for MEPs, the right to freedom of worship is fundamental, universal and non-negotiable. In Pakistan, however, the free practice of religion — at least for non-Muslims — is difficult, hazardous and rare.

Part of the problem of religious persecution in Pakistan stems from the establishment of the country itself in 1947 and the promulgation of its constitution in 1956. It is officially called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which, in effect, makes the state indivisible from Islam. Pakistan placed religion at the heart of its raison d’etre in order to distinguish itself from its rival India, from which it had been separated.

But whereas India has developed into a sophisticated democracy in which people of all religions and none live side by side in relative harmony, Pakistan has gone the opposite way. Indeed, Pakistan’s attitude to religious freedom stems also from its attitude to political freedom.

Democracy — at least as we in the EU understand it — remains elusive in Pakistan. For much of its history Pakistan has been ruled by military dictators, and even during periods of civilian government the army has maintained ultimate power, as regular coups d’état have shown. Moreover, the military has cynically used Islamisation as a means of controlling the population.

This process gathered pace under General Zia ul-Haq, who imposed draconian and disproportionately harsh laws during the 1970s and 1980s in order to enshrine the dominance of Islam.

The Hudood Ordinance was a law passed in 1979 that replaced civil sentences for various crimes with sharia punishments as mandated by the Koran. One of its consequences was to make it extremely difficult and dangerous for women to prove an allegation of rape. Pakistan’s own National Commission on the Status of Women estimated in 2003 that eighty per cent of women in prison had been incarcerated for adultery because they had failed to prove an allegation of rape.

This part of the Hudood Ordinance was repealed in 2006 by a law that made rape a crime prosecutable under civil law. However, the new law has proved extremely difficult to enforce in a country with such a weak government and conservative society. Islamist groups, which maintain a powerful grip over Pakistani society, have demanded the reintroduction of the Hudood Ordinance calling it God’s divine punishment and a victim of unjust propaganda by human rights organisations.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Qantas A380 Sustained Worse Damage Than First Thought

The exploded engine was scary enough. But in the days following the emergency landing of the Qantas A380 in Singapore, it has become clear just how dangerous the situation was. Multiple systems on the aircraft failed and a disaster was only narrowly avoided.

Rarely had so much flying expertise been assembled in one cockpit. A training pilot was sitting behind Captain Richard de Crespigny, who was completing his annual flight test. Sitting next to them was a third captain whose job was to supervise the training pilot. Together, the Airbus A380 operated by Australia’s Qantas Airways had a total of 100 years of flying experience sitting in its cockpit.

Four minutes after takeoff from Singapore, that accumulated expertise was suddenly in great demand. At an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,560 feet), engine two of the double-decker aircraft exploded. The loud bang of the detonation had hardly faded away before 53 error messages appeared on the monitors.

Upon reading the matter-of-fact messages, the five pilots realized immediately how serious the situation was. Kerosene was leaking from two of the 12 fuel tanks, which meant that the plane could catch fire at any moment.

“It was unbelievably stressful. But in a situation like that, you have no choice but to keep on going,” says Richard Woodward. The captain knows what he is talking about. He also flies the A380 for Qantas, is the vice president of the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and has looked after the crew since the near-catastrophe almost two weeks ago. “The crew has dealt with this situation extraordinarily well,” Woodward reports. “They’re like horseback riders who, after a fall, are eager to get back on their horses.”

Failed to Activate

The men have given him their accounts of those dramatic moments in the air. There were no warnings before the engine exploded — no change in oil pressure, no unusual vibrations, nothing. When the explosion occurred, the captain quickly pressed an emergency button that activates an automatic extinguishing system when there is an engine fire. But the system failed to activate. “It was clear to him at that point that there must have been more damage,” says Woodward.

One of the training pilots ran back into the cabin, where he saw the holes in the wing caused by loose metal parts from the turbine. As a result, De Crespigny could not dump fuel properly to reduce the weight of the fully fueled aircraft for an emergency landing. He was also unable to pump kerosene from the back to the front of the aircraft, causing it to become increasingly unstable as kerosene escaped.

The incident raises serious questions for both engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and Airbus. “How could there have been this much loss of function?” asks Woodward.

One of the two hydraulic systems failed and important connecting cables were severed, including those leading to the outer engine one. Although the pilot could still control the engine manually, it could no longer be shut off, so that firefighters had to smother it with extinguishing foam after the emergency landing.

Bad Brakes

“This raises the question of whether the aircraft is improperly designed,” says Woodward. “Apparently certain connections are not redundant; or the two cables are positioned so close together that the shrapnel destroyed them simultaneously.”

The aircraft manufacturer is defending itself against such accusations. The aircraft, says Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath, was “controllable until the landing,” and the autopilot continued to function. “There are two separate hydraulic and electrical systems,” Schaffrath adds.

But some of the brakes were no longer working properly. Luckily, the pilots were able to land in Singapore, which has a very long, 4,000-meter runway.

Another dramatic aspect of the emergency landing was that an anti-lock system also stopped working. Three tires burst when the plane touched down as a result, sending sparks into the air. “And that was with two holes in the tank!” says Woodward…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Taliban Chief Mullah Omar Rules Out Afghan Peace Talks

In a statement, Mullah Omar said “rumours of negotiation” were a ploy by Western powers to “cover up” their military defeat in Afghanistan.

A BBC correspondent says some insurgents — including some Taliban — have spoken to the Afghan government.

But Western diplomats say there have been no high-level talks.

Mullah Omar’s wordy statement was released to media outlets and jihadist websites on the eve of the Muslim holiday Eid.

It comes four days before Nato leaders gather in the Portuguese capital Lisbon for a summit set to be dominated by the Afghan conflict.

Withdrawal In his statement, Mullah Omar says: “The enemy is retreating and facing siege in all parts of the country day in and day out. Their life casualties are spiralling up.

“It is because of this pressure that the enemy has resorted to spreading the misleading rumours of peace talks.”

Mullah Omar, who is rumoured to be in Pakistan, says the “sole way for our salvation is the armed jihad”, or holy war.

The “solution of the issue lies in withdrawal of the foreign invading troops and establishment of a true Islamic and independent system in the country,” he adds.

Mullah Omar also addresses former jihadi leaders working with Hamid Karzai’s administration, urging them to join the struggle against the invaders.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Your Signature to Save Asia Bibi and Pakistan

An online petition (to be sent to AsiaNews, or directly to the President of Pakistan) for the revocation of the death sentence for a Christian woman sentenced to hang for blasphemy. But we are also asking for the cancellation or overhaul of the blasphemy law, which is destroying harmony and development in Pakistan.

Rome (AsiaNews) — At our reader’s request, AsiaNews has decided to launch an international petition to be sent to President Asif Zardari to save the life of Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to hanging for blasphemy. AsiaNews is also asking President Zardari to cancel or change the unjust blasphemy law, which kills many innocent victims and destroys coexistence in the country. We are asking you to support this initiative by sending a message to the following email:

Or you can send a message directly to the Pakistani President:

Our campaign is one of many being launched in Italy (with Tv2000), Pakistan, India and the United States.

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman of 45, mother of five children, was sentenced to death for blasphemy on November 7 last. A Punjab court in ruled that the woman, a farm worker, offended the Prophet Mohammed. But in reality, Asia Bibi was first insulted as “impure” (because not-Islamic), then forced to defend her Christian faith in the face of pressure from other Muslim labourers. The husband of one of them, the local imam, decided to launch charges and denounce the woman, who was first beaten, then imprisoned and finally, after one year, sentenced to death.

Asia Bibi and her husband Ashiq Masih have decided to appeal to overturn the ruling. Meanwhile, the mother now faces months of imprisonment at the mercy of prison guards or some fanatic who could kill her under the misguided belief that he is giving glory to Allah.

Up until now, the blasphemy law had not led to an execution of any accused or convicted. But 33 people charged with blasphemy were killed in prison by guards, or in the vicinity of the court. The latest such case involved two Protestant Christians, Pastor Emmanuel and his brother Rashid Sajjad, shot at point blank range as they left the court in Faisalabad on 19 July. However we can group these deaths with those killed in the massacres of entire villages, in Gojra, Korian, Kasur, Sangla Hill, where hundreds of houses belonging to Christians were burned and where women and children were killed or burned alive, just because one member of the village had been accused of blasphemy.

It is now startlingly clear that this law has become a tool in the hands of fundamentalists that pit Muslims against Christians in order to measure the extent of their power over Pakistani society. It is also clear that almost all the accusations of blasphemy are born from envy, revenge, competition, and that the arrest of the accused is but the first step to allow the expropriation of land, looting and theft.

We desperately want to save Asia Bibi. But we can not content ourselves with this alone. We must strive so that this law, defined by the Pakistanis themselves as “obscene”, is changed or better yet, revoked. It was desired by the dictator Zia ul-Haq in 86, in exchange for the Islamic community’s support. But in doing so he laid the foundation for the destruction of Pakistan. This country, founded as a secular republic and neutral toward religion, has become an Islamic state that kills its own people, destroys its own social fabric and is of major concern to the international community.

The blasphemy law has become a sword of Damocles over every person’s head and especially those belonging to minorities, who are paying dearly; Christians, Ahmadis, Hindus, Muslims but also Shiites and Sunnis.

By eliminating this law — or at least curbing it — new impetus will be given to interfaith coexistence in Pakistan, to democracy and development. This will also give greater breadth to security and the international community, which views the spread of Taliban rule in a country that has nuclear weapons with concern.

We believe that the only bulwark to the growth of fundamentalism is to ensure equal coexistence between Christians and Muslims. For this reason we ask for the life of Asia Bibi to be saved. And with this we ask, we hope that Pakistan may also be saved.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Far East

Cote d’Azur: Second French Destination for Chinese

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, NOVEMBER 5 — The Cote d’Azur, where the Chinese President Hu Jintao is due to arrive this afternoon, is the second favourite destination for Chinese people visiting France, after Paris. The clientele (6%) has developed exponentially and is high-end,according to the head of tourism in Nice, Rudy Salles, especially if considered that tourism was practically non-existent ten years ago.

On the Cote d’Azur, Chinese tourists spend an average of 2’5 euros a day per person, less on organised trips and more individually or as part of family trips.

Nice hosts the majority of Chinese tourists (60%), who are particularly interested in shopping (60%), landscapes, monuments and museums (30%) and casinos (10%). Paris remains the favourite destination (80% of the market) and is the only French city directly linked to China. Salles has asked the Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific to extend one of its two flights from Hong Kong to Italy (Milan and Rome) as far as Nice. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Swedish Honeymooner Killed in South Africa

A Swedish woman on honeymoon in South Africa with her British millionaire husband has been found dead following a carjacking incident outside of Cape Town.

The 28-year-old Swedish woman, named by the Expressen newspaper as Anni Dewani from Mariestad in central Sweden, was traveling with her 31-year-old British husband, Shrien Dewani of Bristol, when two armed men stopped the minivan in which they were traveling, according to several media reports.

“It’s just terrible. She was the most beautiful girl in the world,” Dewani’s father, Vinod Hindocha, told Expressen.

Anni and Shrien Dewani had been married just three weeks ago in India and arrived in South Africa last week to celebrate their marriage.

The newlyweds had been out to dinner on Saturday night and taken a taxi from the restaurant when two men forced the driver out of the minivan and drove off with the couple around 11pm.

Upon being released by the kidnappers, Shrien Dewani called the police, who later found his wife murdered in the taxi.

“We know that a Swedish citizen has been found dead in South Africa and that the police are looking into it,” Swedish foreign ministry spokesperson Camilla Åkesson told the Aftonbladet newspaper.

According to the foreign ministry, the woman is from central Sweden.

The carjackling and murder has received a great deal of attention in the South African and British media. The Cape Town tourism office said that the murder was the first killing of a tourist since last summer when South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup football tournament.

The two men stopped the taxi as it was traveling in Guguletu, a township about 15 kilometres outside of Cape Town, the tourist office told the Sapa news agency on the news website.

After being released near the Khayelitsha shantytown, Shrien Dewani received a ride to a nearby police station from a passing motorist.

The police launched a search for Anni Dewani and later found the taxi in Lingelethu West. The murdered woman’s body was in the back seat. The killers disappeared without a trace.

Alan Winde, a tourism official for the Western Cape, theorised that the taxi driver may have gotten lost.

“They were returning to the city at 10pm and they asked the driver to take them to a very well-known hotspot in Guguletu,” Winde told SkyNews.

“It sounds as though they had gone a little off course when the carjacking took place.”

Police spokesperson André Traut refused to comment on how the woman was killed prior to an autopsy, he told Sapa.

But Anni Dewani’s father told Expressen his daughter had been shot.

“She took three bullets to the chest,” he told the newspaper.

“There aren’t words to describe her. She was a dream girl.”

According to Expressen, Anni Dewani grew up in Mariestad and studied engineering at colleges in Gävle in eastern Sweden and Halmstad in western Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Latino Kids Now Majority in California’s Public Schools

Latinos now make up a majority of California’s public school students, cracking the 50 percent barrier for the first time in the state’s history, according to data released Friday by the state Department of Education.

Almost 50.4 percent of the state’s students in the 2009-10 school year identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, up 1.36 percent from the previous year.

In comparison, 27 percent of California’s 6.2 million students identified themselves as white, 9 percent as Asian and 7 percent as black. Students calling themselves Filipino, Pacific Islander, Native American or other total almost 7 percent.

While the result was no surprise to educators, experts say the shift underscores the huge impact Latinos already have on California’s politics, economy and school system.

That influence will only grow as Latino parents — now in the majority — realize many of the schools their children attend are underfunded, said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley.

“It turns upside down how we think about California students,” he said.

“A lot depends on the extent to which Latino parents come together and organize,” Fuller added. “These are parents who historically have not had much political power. But as they are coming together and feeling their oats, they may organize around education.”

Corresponding growth

It’s no surprise that Latinos make up the new majority in California schools, considering that their numbers have grown by leaps and bounds in recent decades. In 2009, Latinos made up 37 percent of the state’s population, a number that continues to increase, according to the California Department of Finance.

But their electoral sway has not grown by similar amounts, because almost 40 percent of adult Latinos in California are ineligible to vote, said Lisa Garcia Bedolla, an associate professor at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education.

The challenge, she said, is finding ways to get Latino parents involved in schools when they cannot vote for members of their local school board.

“How do we come up with constructive ways to do that, considering the limitations on how these parents can participate? That’s the question from here,” she said.

In San Francisco, where an estimated one-third of public school students have a parent who was not born in this country, voters were asked this month to allow noncitizens to vote in school board elections. While Proposition D lost, 45 to 55 percent, the support the ballot measure received from civic leaders showed the growing concern about the role of immigrant parents in local schools.

Electoral clout

While underrepresented on the voting rolls, Latino voters are an increasingly important factor in California elections.

In this month’s gubernatorial election, Republican candidate Meg Whitman’s firing of an undocumented immigrant housekeeper who worked for her for nine years, and her handling of the controversy after the employment was disclosed, was seen as damaging her standing among Latinos and hurting her at the polls.

In that election, 16 percent of likely voters were expected to be Latino, according to a Field Poll released the day of the election. Latinos now make up 22 percent of the state’s registered voters, according to the same survey.

California schools need to do a better job of reaching out to that increasing number of Latino students, said David Gomez, president of the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators and a school superintendent in Ventura County.

Everybody bilingual?

Nearly 1.5 million students are English language learners, but many more still struggle in the classroom with difficult, subject-specific terms, he said.

“For example, if you are studying social science, understanding words like ‘justice’ and ‘beauty’ can be difficult,” he said. “In math, it can be even harder.”


[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: VVD: Romania, Bulgaria Not in Schengen Yet

AMSTERDAM, 16/11/10 — The conservatives (VVD) fear a flood of poor Romanian and Bulgarian fortune-seekers if these countries join the Schengen zone next year. The biggest government party wants the cabinet to follow the critical line that France has taken.

Citizens from Schengen counties can travel to other Schengen countries without passport control and visas. Romania and Bulgaria became EU members in 2007. Currently, their citizens are still subject to controls at the border of, for example, Hungary. But under current planning, they will become Schengen countries from March 2011.

For the VVD, a flood of poor East European fortune-hunters is a spectre of horror. The party has asked Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal and Immigration and Asylum Minister Gerd Leers to follow the French wish not to award Schengen membership for now and to link the question to the results of a report to be presented next summer by the European Commission on the progress in the fight against corruption and organised crime in Romania and Bulgaria.

French Economic Affairs Minister Lellouche said last week that he hoped to postpone the decision with Dutch support at least until the summer. According to VVD MP Han ten Broeke, the Dutch government shares the same wishes as Paris but The Hague must be “much more active and immediately seek to join up with France.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Home Office Sends Boy, 4, Letter Telling Him He and His Mother Will be Deported

A boy aged four has been sent a letter from the Home Office informing him that he and his mother are facing deportation.

British-born Cher Siyamuanya, and his mother Netsui Karota, 28, received separate letters telling them they were ‘liable to removal’ from the UK.

But Ms Karota fears if she is returned to her homeland of Zimbabwe she will be executed or jailed for speaking out against Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime.

This would mean that Cher could be thrown into prison with her, or forced to live as an orphan on the country’s lawless streets.

An immigration judge said her story was ‘a pack of lies’ and ordered her out of Britain.

In a heartfelt plea to Home Office officials, she said: ‘I can’t go back there, I don’t know what will happen.

‘They sent me and Cher letters last month saying we are ‘liable to removal’, he can’t read or understand his, but he is worried when he sees me worried.’

A Home Office spokesman said it was a legal requirement for all members of a family facing deportation proceedings to be served with such a notice.

Ms Karota came to the UK in 2006 after fleeing Zimbabwe via Malawi. Her parents were both murdered.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Germany: Funeral Home Tries to Cater to Gay Funerals With Erotic Caskets

A Cologne funeral home is hoping to draw in gay clientele by offering erotic caskets with nude renaissance imagery or rainbow-coloured urns, along with other tailored services for homosexuals and their mourners.

A casket featuring the figures of muscular young men in athletic poses has been in the display case at Königsfeld & Brandl for the last three weeks.

The operators of the funeral home Thomas Brandl, 32, and Michael Königsfeld, 34, are themselves are a couple and aim to cater to both gays and lesbians in addition to straight customers.

Their ad reads: “Those who want a warmer, somewhat more fantastical departure, will find us to be a sensitive partner.”

They put gay customers in contact with special speakers and religious leaders for funeral services, organise natural burials in places where only other gays or lesbians have been laid to rest, arrange for graveside champagne toasts and colourful balloon decorations.

“There is also a casket in rainbow colours, but I think it looks awful,” Brandl says.

The mortician couple hopes tap into the community needs in the Rhineland city, one of Germany’s centres of gay culture where every tenth resident is estimated to be gay.

“Naturally there were people who threw their hands up in horror in front of the display window,” said Königsfeld.

But most passers-by are delighted by what they call their “gay caskets,” including women of a certain age, he added.

“We had a widow in the office whose husband we buried and she was quite taken with the firm young men on the casket,” he said.

In particular, women between the ages of 60 and 80 seem particularly open to the model, he said.

But one rival undertaker has called the caskets “borderline,” while another said he wasn’t sure such a casket provided a dignified burial.

Still Brandl and Königsfeld believe they are on the right track.

“It’s not easy for gays and lesbians to tell an undertaker that they must bury their life partner,” they said together in an advertisement. “In this most difficult of situations it is easier for them to have a contact person who understands them.”


           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]


World’s Oldest Embryo Fossils Shed Light on Dinosaur Parenting

Fossilized dinosaur embryos, found still in their eggshells, have claimed the title of the oldest vertebrate embryos ever seen—they were fossilized in the early Jurassic Period, around 190 million years ago, researchers say. The embryos are from the species Massospondylus, a prosauropod, the family of dinosaurs which gave rise to iconic sauropods like the Brachiosaurus.

Robert Reisz and his team found the embryos when analyzing a clutch of fossilized eggs collected in South America in 1976. The find was just published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

“This project opens an exciting window into the early history and evolution of dinosaurs,” said Professor Reisz. “Prosauropods are the first dinosaurs to diversify extensively, and they quickly became the most widely spread group, so their biology is particularly interesting as they represent in many ways the dawn of the age of dinosaurs.” [BBC News]

The well-preserved embryos are about 8 inches long and are detailed enough to give researchers a good look at what the juvenile Massospondylus looked like. What they found wasn’t exactly elegant. The juveniles looked similar to adult sauropods like Brachiosaurus, with an oversized head and four-legged strut (unlike the adult Massospondylus, which walked on two legs).

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

News Feed 20101114

Financial Crisis
» Debt Crisis: Spanish Fears Amidst Irish Black Humour
» Portugal: International Beijing is Buying Our Connivance
» Blind Student Saves for Three Years to Buy a Guide Horse Because Her Strict Muslim Parents Consider Dogs Unclean
» Ground Zero Imam’s Union City Building is Put Into ‘Custodial Receivership’ Due to Bedbugs, Other Issues
» Muslim Who Shot Soldier in Arkansas Says He Wanted to Cause More Death
» Still Hating: Our Summer of Islamophobia
» U.S. Army Cracks Down on Unauthorized Violence
» Metro Vancouver Ethnically Much Different Than Experts Predicted in 1980s
Europe and the EU
» Austrian Press Likens Turkish Envoy to Debated German Figure
» Austria: Turkish Ambassador to Keep Post
» Demonstrators Protest U.K. Poppy Burnings Outside Mosques
» EU Grows Weary of Enlargement
» France: Excrement Thrown on Church in Avignon
» George Galloway ‘Can Stand in Scottish Elections’
» Goodspeed Analysis: Is Jensen What Norway Wants?
» Italy: Main Centre-Left Opposition Party Eyes Muslim Vote
» Italy: Free Palestine Protests Against Amos Oz in Turin
» The Jewish People vs George Soros
» UK: Dutch Lesbian and Nigerian Man Arrested at Altar Moments Before Sham Marriage
» UK: Join the Campaign to Keep Greenwich Mean Time
» UK: Man’s Severely Burnt Body Found After Explosion Rips Through Flat
» UK: Poor? Disadvantaged? Pull the Other One… The Rich, Rioting Students Are Unmasked
» UK: Police Told to Send Text Messages Because it is Too Expensive to Speak on Their Radios
» UK: Students Winning Thousands of Pounds in Refunds for Poor Teaching
» UK: Smith…a Decent Man Who’s Been Conned by the Fake Conservatives
» West Cannot Defeat Al-Qaeda, Says UK Forces Chief
Mediterranean Union
» Brussels-Vienna-Ankara
North Africa
» Egypt Frees Brotherhood Candidates
Israel and the Palestinians
» Israeli Student Attacked by Palestinians in Italy
Middle East
» IAEA Fears That Syria Will Follow Iran’s Steps
» ‘Islamophobia Rising’
» Muslim Cleric Omar Bakri Muhammad Arrested in Lebanon
» Saudi Arabia Blocks Facebook Over Moral Concerns
» Saudi Arabia’s Spot on the Board of UN Women a Sad Joke
» The Tragedy of Iraq’s Christians is That it Does Not Interest Anyone, Chaldean Catholic Says
» Top Tories Are Accused of ‘Abandoning’ Gay Briton After His Arrest by Syrian Secret Police
» Inquiry Into Police Requests for Data on Moslems Underway in Voronezh Rgn
South Asia
» “Islamic Love Jehad” Making Inroads Into Jammu: VHP
» An Ugly Reality — The Persecution of Christians in Malaysia
» Chinese Mine in Afghanistan Threatens Ancient Find
» Eight Suicide Bombers Killed in Foiled Taliban Plot to Blow Up NATO Base in Afghanistan
» Pakistani Bishops Urge Pope to Save Pakistani Woman From Execution
» Pakistan: Asia Bibi’s Conviction is an Incitement to Crime, Says Justice and Peace Official
Far East
» Japan: Islamic Community Lays Down Roots
Sub-Saharan Africa
» British Yacht Couple Kidnapped by Somali Pirates Are Finally Released After 388 Days of Captivity
» Libya Says No to Legislation on Asylum and UNHCR
» Xenophobia: What’s Gone Wrong in Denmark?
Culture Wars
» Building Bridges With Graffiti Art
» UK: Tribunal Fight for Christian Doctor Axed by Panel in Gay Adoption Row
» Phyllis Chesler: The Feminist Politics of Islamic Misogyny

Financial Crisis

Debt Crisis: Spanish Fears Amidst Irish Black Humour

“Market pressures are forcing Ireland to the edge of the abyss,” runs El País’ dramatic headline, as yields on 10 year Irish bonds rocketed to 9.26% on the morning of 11 November. With rumour rife that a Greek style bailout for the economically stricken country is imminent, the Spanish daily notes that this is not without consequence for its Eurozone partners. “Ireland is burning and the weakest economies of southern Europe fear that the flames will come creeping into their own territories.” While Spanish bonds hit 4.52% on November 10, Greek and Portuguese yields surged to 11.65% to 7.33% respectively. “Investors have spent several weeks criminalizing everything that smacks of European periphery,” the Spanish daily notes, adding that “to make matters worse the investment bank Goldman Sachs yesterday requested a rescue plan for Ireland and Portugal from the European Financial Stability Facility.”

Meanwhile, the front pages of Irish press are refraining from such blood curdling pronoucements. However, Irish Independent columnist Lise Hand reports that the mood in the national parliament is bleak. “‘It’s like the last days of the Roman Empire around here at the moment, Taoiseach,” quipped one opposition member to Irish PM Brian Cowen. “And yesterday,” writes Hand, “the Irish bonds soared to hitherto unimaginable heights and some of the uglier Masters of the Universe had the insolence to pronounce on Irish sovereign matters by proclaiming that only a general election would settle international jitters.” “Unfortunately for Caligula Cowen,” she concludes, “the impression continues to build that he is the head of a Nero Government which continues to fiddle about while the homeland burns.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Portugal: International Beijing is Buying Our Connivance

Portugal, a nation battered by the crisis, is welcoming Chinese investment with open arms — as are Greece and France. But there’s a price to be paid for doing business with Beijing: the end the West lecturing China on democracy.

It was a very special Sunday morning indeed. Attended by the entire inner circle of major Portuguese corporate CEOs (Energias de Portugal, Banco Comercial Português, Portugal Telecom) at the Palácio das Necessidades in Lisbon, Chinese president Hu Jintao and Portuguese prime minister José Sócrates made no effort to conceal their satisfaction at the deals just signed by companies from both countries [see box below]. Not a word was said in public about sovereign debt purchases, but Portuguese diplomacy had ample cause for contentment. China is an emerging power to be reckoned with, and a little country like Portugal has everything to gain from a partnership with the Middle Kingdom.

Then again, there’s another side to doing business with Beijing. There is the issue of China’s growing influence in the world — and that of democracy and human rights going by the board. The whole quandary is how to reconcile these two conflicting aspects of the rise of the Chinese leviathan, and there is no consensual answer.

The consequences of rapprochement

Hu Jintao’s visit to Lisbon shows that Portugal is yet another stop on the road to the fulfilment of China’s global ambitions, the reason being that Portugal happens to be a member of the European Union. It would now be absurd to foment fears of economic partnership with China: besides, the Chinese manifestly treat us better than the markets in some democratic countries do.

Still, we mustn’t overlook the consequences of this budding rapprochement between Europe and China. A rapprochement which, incidentally, comes at the very time that Europe and the United States are gradually pulling apart. The geostrategic balance of the whole planet is now shifting in the wake of a war waged with euros, yuans and dollars. And this war spells the death of the Western dream of giving Beijing lessons in democracy. That is the biggest risk of doing business with China. Our oh-so-convenient forgetfulness poses a threat to Europe’s most intangible and yet most important asset: being viewed throughout the world as a realm of freedom.

The contracts and bilateral trade agreements signed by Chinese president Hu Jintao and Portuguese prime minister José Sócrates on 7 October in Lisbon amount to $1 billion (€718 million), according to estimates in the Chinese press relayed by Diário de Notícias. The Portuguese daily explains that Portugal and China signed four cooperation deals and nine trade agreements, involving companies such as Portugal Telecom, EDP, Huawei, Millennium BCP and ICBC. Even though the question of Beijing’s buying Portuguese debt was scrupulously avoided in the official statements, “it was discussed in the meetings that preceded the signing ceremony,” reveals the Lisbon-based daily, adding that “Portugal has already put on the market 93% of its planned bond issues for this year”. Meanwhile, new Portuguese newspaper i observes that the deals with China are but the first step towards the financial recovery of Portugal, which also aims to forge ties with other emerging markets like Indonesia and Singapore.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]


Blind Student Saves for Three Years to Buy a Guide Horse Because Her Strict Muslim Parents Consider Dogs Unclean

The 28-year-old’s strictly religious parents would not allow a dog in the house, considering the animal unclean.

But then Miss Ramouni stumbled across a website article about miniature guide horses in April 2008.

‘It was something that I never thought about for myself,’ she said.

The psychology student used three years of savings from her job at a Braille proofreading company to pay for a horse to be trained to act as her guide.

Since welcoming three-year-old guide horse Cali into her Dearborn, Michigan, home last year, Miss Ramouni has seen her life turned around.

Cali measures about 2ft 6in tall and has been taught to stand still indoors. She also helps Miss Ramouni get out of vehicles and move through crowds.

Her proud mistress said: ‘She is an awesome little horse. What I really want is to be able to take her places neither of us would have been able to go without each other.

‘Before Cali, I had given up. I got to the point where I thought, ‘I’m going to get nothing out of my life’. Cali has given me the confidence back I used to have as a kid.’

Born three months premature, Miss Ramouni lost her sight shortly after birth.

Among the challenges she had to overcome in order for Cali to stay at her home were getting a permit to place a large shed in her family’s garden and to find a farrier to look after the horse’s hooves.

Her friends warned her it would be a difficult thing to do.

But Miss Ramouni said: ‘The more everybody told me “No, don’t do it,” the more I wanted to do it,’ she said. ‘I got to a point in my life where I thought… “Why should I settle for something less than I can have?”

‘There have been so many obstacles. People said ‘You’ll never find a vet. You’ll never find a farrier.” I found them all.’

She added: ‘More than even the independence, I found that Cali showed me that there are possibilities.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Ground Zero Imam’s Union City Building is Put Into ‘Custodial Receivership’ Due to Bedbugs, Other Issues

[Note: most reports on this story lead with the following edit:]

The bedbug-infested building owned by the imam embroiled in controversy over his request to build a mosque near the World Trade Center site has been placed into temporary custodial receivership by Hudson County Judge Thomas Olivieri, who cited a lack of improvements as the reason for his decision.

According to Tuesday’s decision, the custodial receiver, Raymond Bulin, will be in charge of using the October rent money to eliminate bedbugs from four apartments, cap sewer lines in the basement and improve the fire escape ladder.

The building, located at 2206 Central Ave., is owned by Feisal Abdul Rauf, who was sued by the city in late September for failing to address multiple health and fire code violations, from moldy bathrooms to a non-working fire alarm system.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Muslim Who Shot Soldier in Arkansas Says He Wanted to Cause More Death

Memphis man drifted to the dark side of Islamic extremism and then plotted a one-man jihad against his homeland

What I had in mind didn’t go as planned but Allah willing He will reward me for my intentions.

He planned for weeks, buying guns secondhand to avoid the FBI.

Then, to test whether the feds were watching, he bought a .22-caliber rifle over the counter at Walmart. He stockpiled ammo and practiced target shooting at empty construction sites.

By his own account, he was preparing for jihad.

From a black Ford Explorer Sport Trac, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a Memphis native, watched two soldiers in fatigues smoking outside a military recruiting center in Little Rock. He aimed an assault rifle out the window and fired.

Muhammad sped away, hoping to flee 150 miles to Memphis where he would switch cars. But a wrong turn in a construction zone led him to police.

He stepped out of the SUV wearing a green ammo belt around his waist.

“It’s a war going on against Muslims, and that is why I did it,” an officer heard him say. “You see how I gave up with no problem.”

Much of this account emerges from police reports and an 18-page mental-health evaluation contained in court files. But Muhammad tells a far broader, detailed story in seven handwritten letters to The Commercial Appeal. Taken together, those letters are not just an admission of guilt but a profession of failure for having not caused more death and destruction.

The letters, written in pencil between May and October, provide a rare glimpse into the thoughts of a self-described jihadist, according to one national security expert. Muhammad describes in his own words how he took his declaration of Muslim faith in a Memphis mosque; his motives for moving to Yemen and his attempt to travel to Somalia for weapons training; how and why he planned multiple attacks in the U.S, including ones in Nashville and Florence, Ky., that didn’t go as intended; and how he allegedly executed the Little Rock assault.

In his own words:…

           — Hat tip: Freyja [Return to headlines]

Still Hating: Our Summer of Islamophobia

After 9/11, Muslims Spent Nine Years Educating Neighbors, Coworkers About Islam

This summer, we rolled over and showed our ugly underbelly.

While hounds bayed over a not-mosque planned for not-Ground Zero, a nutty pastor in Florida threatened to mark 9/11’s ninth anniversary by burning the Qu’ran. People who in times of floods might volunteer to fill sandbags contributed to a different kind of deluge by staging loud opposition to the construction of mosques in their neighborhoods in Tennessee, in California.

We can still hate in America. We have this summer to prove it.

Imam Abdullah Antepli is a former Hartford Seminary student, former Muslim chaplain at Welseyan University, and now Duke University’s first Muslim chaplain. Right after college, Antepli left his native Turkey to avoid pressure to homogenize in a land once proud of its colorful tapestry of cultures.

We are not the same, we won’t ever be, and it suits us better to embrace our differences. As Antepli earned his education around the world, he discovered the golden truth about multi-faith efforts.

“Some of my most transcendental personal moments have not come in a mosque, not when I am dealing with a uniquely Muslim community, but when I am dealing in a cross-religious, cross-lingual society,” Antepli said. “That’s when I say, ‘Oh, my God. There you are.’“

The terrorist attack of 9/11 was a horrible way to be introduced to Islam because that act was not Islam. That was evil, and for nine long — and, up until the summer, fruitful — years, Muslims in this country made important inroads educating neighbors and co-workers about what Islam is not.

There should have been time to talk about what Islam is, but ignorance is an ugly beast and sometimes, the terrorists win. They may not kill our physical selves, but they kill the American tradition of standing together.

And then this cancer of a summer happened, and the beast arose again.

Antepli chose Duke over Princeton or Yale. He was drawn to the opportunity to serve the school’s 6,600 undergraduates, including its 500 Muslim Blue Devils. He became the face and voice of Islam for a land not overly familiar with his religion.

That has been challenging, to say the least. Duke Country is dotted with church signs that say things like “Hell is Full of Fags and Muslims.” Antepli has visited churches where, before he settles into a pew, someone asks him about the virgins he can expect in the afterlife.

In answer, he hands them his Qu’ran and asks them to find the verse that promises virgins. In fact, it’s not there. My response? People generally don’t read their own sacred text, much less the holy verses of someone else. They prefer someone to spoon-feed them their religious beliefs because learning for themselves takes blood, sweat and tears. Ignorance is and ever will be easier. But that’s me talking, not Antepli.

Dawn pierces even the darkest night. As a Duke chaplain, Antepli befriended U.S. Rep. David Price, who invited him to deliver the opening prayer for a House session in March. That, in turn, has led to more contacts in Washington.

“The civic culture we have in this society is one of the best, shariah-compliant, in my understanding of Islamic theology,” Antepli said. “We’ve made huge progress. We’ve inspired the global community with our successes. And we have worked together, but the work is not done.”…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

U.S. Army Cracks Down on Unauthorized Violence

November 8, 2010: The U.S. Army is making changes in how it operates at home. This is in response to major Nidal Malik Hasan’s murder of 13 people at Fort Hood on November 5th, 2009. This was the act of an Islamic terrorist, although the U.S. government initially tried to explain it as just the act of a lone madman. Now it’s realized that this is what terrorist attacks often are. Meanwhile, the investigation of Hasan revealed that he had not made a secret of his beliefs, and that many of his peers, subordinates and superiors had complained about his Islamic radical beliefs and actions. But nothing was done.

Several officers were punished, or investigated, for their role in allowing Hasan to do what he did. But the army also realized that there were institutional problems, and these were addressed, at least on paper, with the newly introduced rules. First, the army is conducting more thorough background checks. Not just to catch actual or potential Islamic radicals, but also gang members or radicals of any sort. This has already caught some questionable recruits, and, based on the few who got into the news, kept some dangerous, although otherwise qualified, applicants out of uniform.

The army is also attempting to deal with the atmosphere of political correctness that underpinned most of the bad decisions that enabled Hasan to stay in uniform, and even get promoted. In the army, as in any large organization, all the rules are not written down. In the army, many of the unwritten rules come in the form of “the commanders’ intent.” Sometimes this “intent” is spelled out, but in many cases, subordinate commanders have to figure it out. In the Hasan case, the commanders’ intent was that Moslem officers, especially doctors, were to be kept happy and in uniform. When in doubt, look the other way, and hope for the best. In the case of Hasan, no one expected the guy to turn into a mass murderer. But, then, Hasan’s superiors were encouraged to be optimistic about their Moslem problem child. So Hasan’s radical rants and abusive behavior towards non-Moslems was, if not ignored, then played down.

Commanders have now been ordered to pay attention to religious or political activities of their subordinates, and sound off if radical or dangerous behavior appears to be in the works. This is a lot to ask from officers who know that some bad publicity not only makes the army look bad, but damages career prospects.

Another new rule is less risky to careers. Given the large amounts of stress troops undergo from numerous tours of duty in combat zones, troops coming back (and going to) combat zones now have to undergo a “risk assessment” (mostly answering questions about their state of mind.) This is something that’s been going on for a while, but now is more intense. This is part of the growing effort to treat PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which has already benefited from the large amount of information collected from troops who have experienced a lot of combat.

Considerable recent research is showing that PTSD is a distinct form of mental distress. For example, research turned up the fact those who had killed someone in combat, were 40 percent more likely to show symptoms of PTSD, or similar symptoms found in those who suffered concussions from roadside bombs. Thus it is becoming clear that there are several different conditions here, all with similar PTSD symptoms, but not with similar effects on the brain. Each strain of PTSD will require a different type of cure. Finding these cures is increasingly important, since better diagnostic capabilities has made it possible to more frequently, and accurately, diagnose PTSD.

Some counter-terrorism researchers see a connection between PTSD and the kind of mental state often found in Islamic terrorists, or those inclined to violent behavior in the name of some religious or political beliefs. The assessments are trying to detect those who are strongly inclined towards unauthorized violent behavior. It’s a tricky business, because soldiers are conditioned and trained to undertake authorized violent behavior. Some of the other changes are needed, or annoying. Bases will improve their 911 (emergency response) procedures, while registration and regulation of private weapons troops keep on base have also changed.

Would any of this have caught Hasan before he went at it with his murderous intentions? Probably. Hasan made no secret of his Islamic radical attitudes. Some of his fellow soldiers reported this, but nothing came of this. Now, at least on paper, something should happen. But, already there are complaints about medical personnel being required to report troops who indicate potentially violent behavior. Civil rights groups are questioning whether the army can punish, or even investigate, troops exercising their constitutional right to free speech or practicing religion as they choose to. Commanders are caught between stopping another massacre, or getting accused (especially in the media, which loves stuff like this) of violating the civil rights of soldiers, and their civilian dependents living on base. Officers will be tempted to back off, rather than risk their career on a hunch. Commanders closest to the potential problem are supposed to pass their findings up the line, with the FBI now sharing this information. But the media will head for the source, and the officers in the line of fire know it.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Metro Vancouver Ethnically Much Different Than Experts Predicted in 1980s

VANCOUVER — What a startling difference 26 years can make, particularly when you’re talking about immigration patterns in Metro Vancouver.

I recently uncovered an old, yellowing Vancouver Sun clipping by the excellent retired writer, Doug Sagi.

It was a Saturday Sun feature from 1984 headlined: “As Canada’s Faces Change … We Seem to be Growing Up.”

The article detailed how British Columbians were accepting that immigrants were no longer coming predominantly out of Britain but also emerging from Holland, China and India.

At the time, Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney was about to be elected, while Bill Bennett served as B.C. premier, and things seemed to be going smoothly as 90,000 immigrants a year flowed into the country.

Italian Rudy Bonora, head of B.C.’s Brotherhood-Interfaith Society, told Sagi that racism was declining compared to when he arrived in 1956.

“We were called ‘wops’ then and the Chinese were called ‘chinks’ and the Germans were called ‘squareheads.’ You don’t hear that any more.”

In his feature, Sagi remarked on how Metro Vancouverites were enjoying boasting that they have “the largest Chinatown outside San Francisco,” and how residents were revelling in being able to dine out at Greek and Vietnamese restaurants.

This is how Sagi concluded his 1984 essay: “Some of us stop to think we may, possibly, be on the way to becoming quite an interesting country, a cultural mosaic like no other country on earth.”

Well, the future is now. And no one would deny it’s been “interesting.”

It is revealing to reflect on how Sagi and company imagined the ethnic evolution of Canada, particularly Metro Vancouver, and what has actually happened.

For starters, Canada now welcomes 250,000 immigrants a year, almost three times more than in the 1980s.

And when Sagi interviewed immigration officers, they predicted the largest source countries of newcomers to B.C. would be, in order: Britain, the U.S., India, Hong Kong and China.

That wasn’t a particularly accurate guess. Global geo-politics has been transformed by war, economics and changing regimes.

The reality is that the largest source countries for immigrants to B.C. are now, in order: China, India and the Philippines, followed by Iran, South Korea and Britain.

While people of British origin still account for roughly 57 per cent of the B.C. population and Germans make up about 13 per cent, the number of ethnic Chinese, South Asians and Filipinos has grown exponentially.

Meanwhile, Greeks — who once made up the 22nd largest ethnic group in B.C. — have fallen to 37th, behind Iranians.

When Sagi wrote his feature more than 25 years ago, no one seemed to be predicting perhaps the most remarkable shift of all: that eight out of nine immigrants to the province, or almost 40,000 a year, would choose to settle in Metro Vancouver.

As a result, Metro Vancouver — especially Burnaby, Surrey, Richmond and the city of Vancouver — are growing sharply distinct from the rest of B.C. Four out of 10 of Metro Vancouver’s 2.1 million residents now belong to a visible minority.

Where people of Chinese origin made up less than three per cent of the B.C. population according to the 1981 census, by 2006 they made up at least 11 per cent of all B.C. residents, and 20 per cent of all Metro Vancouverites.

Instead of boasting about having “the largest Chinatown outside San Francisco,” Metro Vancouverites now consider Vancouver’s Chinatown a faded enclave compared to the thriving Chinese-language malls in Richmond, where 44 per cent of the population is Chinese.

The so-called “East Indian” population has skyrocketed even faster than the ethnic Chinese community, from just one per cent of B.C. residents in the early 1980s to six per cent.

In Metro, people with roots in India and Pakistan, now referred to as “South Asians,” make up one in 10 people, including a significant one out of four of those who live in fast-growing Surrey.

In the more than 25 years since Sagi wrote his feature on immigration, here are just a few more of the “interesting” things that have occurred in Metro: …

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austrian Press Likens Turkish Envoy to Debated German Figure

A Turkish ambassador’s remarks on Austrian integration policy have become a hot topic for news media in Austria with a daily likening Kadri Ecved Tezcan to a German figure who recently sparked an intense migration debate with a controversial book.

A columnist for Austria’s Die Presse, which published Ambassador Tezcan’s much-debated interview, wrote that “Austria now has its own Sarrazin,” referring to former Central Bank board member Thilo Sarrazin, who advocates a restrictive immigration policy and the reduction of state welfare benefits for immigrants in Germany.

In an interview with Die Presse, Tezcan said Turkish immigrants in Austria were treated like a virus and that leaders in the nation were not doing enough to help the 250,000 Turkish immigrants integrate. Both Turkey and Austria have played down any tension in ties and have said it was too early to judge the current state of relations as a “diplomatic crisis.”

However, Die Presse said Tezcan’s remarks have already provoked hysterical reactions by Austrian politicians and argued that the outburst revealed a political suppression of the issue. The daily said government officials were offended by Tezcan’s criticism of their political competence in dealing with the integration issue.

“Turkey now perceives itself as a big Eurasian player and does not want to be treated by the Austrian government only as the homeland of guest workers,” it added.

Common perception

Cengiz Günay, a political scientist and Senior Fellow at the Austrian Institute for International Relations, or OIIP, said in an interview with daily Der Standard that Tezcan’s remarks reflected what many in Turkey think given that many are disappointed by the anti-Turkish sentiments in the European Union, he said.

Wirtschaftsblatt, Austrian business daily, noted the harmonious economic relations with Turkey, warning of a possible “diplomatic crisis” in the event of Tezcan’s removal from office or a freeze in Turkey’s EU accession negotiations. “Turkey is booming and is lobbying with growth rates as sweet as Turkish honey,” the daily said.

Meanwhile, Tezcan found unexpected support from local administrations. Helmut Modlhammer, president of the Association of Local Councils in Austria, said he agreed with the Turkish ambassador.

“Local councils, federal states and the federal government, they all have failed in the context of integrating migrants,” Modlhammer said.

He also appealed to governors to be more active and for example aid in the prevention of what he called “ghettoization,” according to a report by Austrian Broadcaster ORF.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Austria: Turkish Ambassador to Keep Post

The Turkish ambassador in Vienna will not be removed from office — despite stressing he would relocate the United Nations (UN) from Vienna were he leader of the international organisation.

Turkish newspapers reported today (Fri) that the country’s government had no plans to dismiss Ambassador Kadri Ecvet Tezcan. The 61-year-old took over as Turkish ambassador in Austria just one year ago, but infuriated political leaders with a string of controversial claims made in an interview with daily newspaper Die Presse earlier this week.

Tezcan said children from families with a Croatian background were mostly doing better at schools in Austria “because they are welcome in the society for being Christians. Turks aren’t — that’s why they are constantly being pushed to the corners of society.”

The diplomat also attacked Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Interior Minister Maria Fekter. Tezcan called on Fekter — who represents the party’s right-wing branch — to “stop interfering” in the integration process. The ambassador said it was no surprise there were just “police solutions” to the issue as long as the current interior ministry was in charge.

All five parties represented in the Austrian parliament but the Greens generally criticised Tezcan for his remarks. Alexander Van der Bellen, the Green Party’s foreign affairs spokesman, however praised the ambassador for his “refreshingly undiplomatic approach” and called on political rivals to openly discuss raised issues.

Turkish dailies have it that the country’s government had no intentions to reprimand or dismiss Tezcan after the interview made headlines across Europe. Heidemarie Gürer, the Austrian ambassador in Ankara, announced today that the Austrian foreign ministry did not ask its Turkish counterpart to dismiss Tezcan.

Austrian ÖVP Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said yesterday that he considered Tezcan’s statements as “insulting”. The foreign minister is, however, understood to be trying to avoid a worsening of the political and economic relationship between his country and Turkey.

Around 150 Austrian firms are currently doing business in Turkey, according to Marco Garcia, the Austrian trade commissioner in Istanbul.

Garcia said the number of Austrian companies considering to start operating in Turkey was on the rise since the country “offers business-friendly policies, safe legal structures and a booming stock market.”

The trade commissioner emphasised Austria was currently the eighth biggest investor in Turkey which started accession talks with European Union (EU) leaders in 2005.

Gastronomy company DO&CO, which is currently quoted on the Vienna Stock Exchange (WBAG), said only a few days ago it would enter the Istanbul Stock Exchange (ISE) next month.

Other major firms doing business in Turkey are oil and gas company OMV, Bank Austria (BA) and electricity provider Verbund.

Meanwhile, ÖVP Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Othmar Karas appealed on the Austrian government coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the ÖVP once more to set up a integration affairs state secretary.

Karas said in an interview with the Kurier newspaper: “Only 10 of the EU’s 27 member states coordinate integration issues in the interior ministry.”

The European People’s Party (EPP) vice president also said: “We got problems (handling immigration and integration issues). They will not be solved by suggesting to banish the ambassador.”

Karas said political decision-makers must face the problems. “Hostility won’t lead to solutions, but mutual respect does,” he stressed.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Demonstrators Protest U.K. Poppy Burnings Outside Mosques

A British imam says he is “deeply hurt” by demonstrations outside two mosques protesting the actions of a Muslim group that disrupted moments of silence during Remembrance Day services and burned models of poppies.

On Friday, a mosque in Portsmouth on the south shore of England, had a poppy painted on the front of the building. On Saturday, protests were held outside two mosques.

“It deeply hurts me,” Muhammed Muhi Uddin told the BBC. “If they [the protesters] talked to us then we would explain where we stand.”

While Uddin said every group has a right to be heard, “it’s a matter of respecting each other.”

He denounced the burning of poppies during Armistice Day ceremonies Thursday.

A group called Muslims Against Crusades (MAC) were behind protests. On Thursday during the two minutes of silence, group members chanted, “British soldiers burn in hell,” and held signs saying, “Islam will dominate” and, “Our dead are in paradise, your dead are in hell.”

The group also vowed to disrupt Remembrance Sunday events in England.

MAC says it is “breaking the silence,” on its website. In an audio loop, voices chanting, ‘British soldiers, burn in hell” with the toll of a clock in the background is heard when the website is launched.

There are photos of children with the headline, “British soldiers kill one Muslim child every six hours.”

The group claims that statistic is “based on conservative estimates. Actual figures are likely to be much larger.”

There is also a video that starts with a still of Prince Harry in his military uniform, then shows what appears to be troops beating up and arresting civilians behind a wall. It then captures images of injured children ending with the words “Britain and its allies, the real terrorists.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

EU Grows Weary of Enlargement

For the European press, the publication of the annual “progress report” on prospective candidates for EU accession, has failed to dispel the general apathy that surrounds the question of enlargement.

“The heyday of European enlargement is well and truly at an end”, remarks Les Echos. The French business daily notes that on the 9 November in Brussels “(t)he change in attitude to the issue was apparent in the tone and words used by European Commissioner, Stefan Füle, who presented the report on the status of nine Balkan countries, as well as the applications made by Turkey and Iceland”.

According to the Les Echos, the Commission “has done little to move forward the applications of the nine countries that are knocking at its door, with the exception of the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Montenegro (FYROM), which has been awarded the status of candidate — a privilege not conferred on neighbouring Albania, which has been encouraged to do more to protect ‘the stability of institutions and safeguard democracy and the rule of law.’“

“Croatian accession in sight,” announces a delighted Vjesnik in Zagreb. Citing Commissioner Füle, the daily — which is close to the Croatian government — points out that “the last 100 metres of a marathon are always the most gruelling.” Most gruelling of all, Vjesnik notes, will be the last eight outstanding chapters in the 33-chapter negotiating process particularly concerning “the rule of law and the fight against corruption.”

Neither France nor Germany want to discuss the Turkey question

Novi List, another national daily, believes that Brussels “is waiting for Croatia to intensify its drive to combat high-level corruption, and to target scandals involving the ruling HDZ party, which has been accused of extorting funds from state companies.” Ongoing investigations have already implicated a government minister and the HDZ treasurer, as well as former prime minister, Ivo Sanader, who resigned for no apparent reason in 2009. In Poland, Rzeczpospolita argues that, Croatia aside, the EU has been “prudent and hesitant” in opening its doors to the new Balkan candidates. As for Turkey, which remains “an enormous problem for the EU,” the outlook is increasingly gloomy.

In Turkey, the press has barely raised the topic. Could it be that the Turkey is mainly focused on the anniversary of the death of Atatürk (10 November 1938), and is this yet another sign of waning enthusiasm for the EU? Hürriyet emphasises that the Commission was unhappy with Ankara’s failure to consult it on an amendment to the constitution approved on 12 September. The daily notes that the Commission report criticised the election threshold of 10% which parties must obtain if their representatives are to sit in national parliament, since because no EU state has such a harsh rule. According to the daily, this remark, which was absent from the 2008 and 2009 reports, is meant to encourage a greater Kurdish presence in parliament as a means to overcoming obstacles on the minority issue.

In Italy, La Stampa points out that dialogue between Brussels and Ankara “is apparently stalled over legal and political issues: the fate of the Kurds, unresolved disputes with Athens, human rights, and discrimination against women and religious minorities. However, the truth of the matter is that neither France nor Germany want to discuss the issue. And if these two countries are unwilling, no one will be able to put the application made on behalf of the Sublime Porte (ironic reference to the open court of the Ottoman sultan) back on track.”

We were overcome by feelings of weariness

More generally, “the EU has grown weary of enlargement,” notes Gazeta Wyborcza, explaining that apathy has been fuelled by the economic crisis and the significant influx of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants which followed the inclusion of both these countries in 2007. “The French, the Germans, and the Austrians are very reluctant to award rapid approval to new candidates. As a consequence, a number of Balkan governments, discouraged by the dwindling chances of accession in the next 10 years, are more likely to neglect the fight against corruption and violations of the right to free speech,” remarks the Warsaw based daily.

In this context, “the presentation of an annual report on enlargement and accession negotiations has become an empty and cliché-ridden exercise,” argues Der Standard. “Shortly after we ratified enlargement to the East and the inclusion of Romania and Bulgaria, we were overcome by feelings of weariness.” The Austrian daily goes on to point out that since then, whenever “the Commission certifies a number of small advances made by candidates like Croatia and Turkey — and more recently Iceland and Montenegro — it also highlights a number of unresolved political and economic problems. In fact, every one of these reports has resulted in heated public debate over Turkish accession.”

The widening rift over the question of enlargement has led us “to overlook fine details,” deplores Der Standard. “It is unfortunate that controversy over Turkish accession has obscured the fact that countries in the Balkans, the enlargement region closest to the Union, have made some major progress. […] And this is particularly important to Austria. We should give up bickering over Turkey and do more to prepare for the inclusion of small Balkan states in the EU — which will probably be well before the inclusion of Turkey.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

France: Excrement Thrown on Church in Avignon

I saw this story late last night while browsing through François Desouche. It’s one of many similar stories of church destruction and profanation. This time, however, the parish priest says it is connected to the recent brutal killings of Christians in Iraq. The following is from the local paper Avignews:

Wednesday, the church of Saint-Jean. Father Gabriel, the parish priest, speaks to the press almost in desperation. For several months his church has been the target of insulting and obscene graffiti, and of excrement… Last week the cypress tree next to the building (photo above) was set on fire, threatening the church itself. For the priest, “these acts have a direct connection with what has been happening in Iraq where Christians are being attacked.” Right away father Gabriel speaks of inter-ethnic tensions and denounces the “climate that is becoming more and more aggressive and violent because of a small group of young persons whose ages range from 12 to 16.” At first, father Gabriel thought it was a matter of “incivilities” by young idle neighborhood youth. Foolishness from teens trying to provoke.

Then, a few days before the burning of the cypress tree, a young person entered the church, in the middle of Mass, urinated on the floor and uttered these terrible words: “We’re going to burn you out, you and your church.” The priest filed a complaint at police headquarters on November 9.

How could such deeds perpetrated against a house of worship, whatever it may be, pass unnoticed by the public authorities? At City Hall, the chief of staff admitted he was “shocked and dumbfounded”. “We learned the facts through the press this very morning,” declared the spokesman at the mayor’s office. Dumbfounded by the deeds themselves but also by the absence of communication and the lack of information between the neighborhood and the mayor’s office… “We traced all the mail received in the office over the last few months, but there is nothing about the Saint-Jean church.”

Another reason for their shock is the fact that the archbishopric did not directly phone the mayor to designate these acts as “intolerable.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

George Galloway ‘Can Stand in Scottish Elections’

Galloway can stand for the Respect party in the next Scottish election after it agreed to changes at its annual conference.

The Respect party reversed a policy which stopped it from campaigning and organising in Scotland.

He said he was “buoyed up” by the change and by the party’s “confidence”.

Dundee-born Mr Galloway was elected MP in the Bethnal Green and Bow constituency in 2005 but failed to win a seat in May’s general election.

He had attempted to secure the nearby Poplar and Limehouse seat in London’s East End as a Respect party candidate.

Respect said it had not previously targeted Scotland because it was already represented by Socialists in Parliament but the political landscape shifted in 2007 when the Scottish Socialist Party failed to return any candidates.

Respect said the change was supported by about 80% of the vote but also said a final decision was yet to be taken on whether the party would fight the election.

Mr Galloway said: “I’m buoyed up by today’s vote and by my party’s confidence, even more so by the sentiment from the overwhelming majority of delegates and from supporters in Glasgow encouraging me to stand.”

           — Hat tip: 4symbols [Return to headlines]

Goodspeed Analysis: Is Jensen What Norway Wants?

Siv Jensen, the 41-year-old leader of Norway’s Progress Party, is something of a curiosity in socialist-inclined Scandinavia.

Her parliamentary office in Oslo sports a bust of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan and a small Israeli flag. She brags that her chief political hero is former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

“I think she is one of the toughest politicians ever,” Ms. Jensen said, who has been dubbed a “Norwegian Thatcher,” told the National Post this week, as she toured Toronto after attending an international conference in Ottawa on anti-Semitism.

“She handled some serious reform work in Britain. She may not have been popular at the time, but her reforms still stand.”

A breakthrough politician in her own right, who came within a whisker of seizing power in Norway’s September 2009 elections, Ms. Jensen appears poised to transform politics in her homeland.

With 41 seats in Norway’s 169-seat parliament, she heads the country’s second-largest party and led the Progress Party to winning its highest percentage of votes ever — 22.9%.

She recently changed her formal party title, from the more male-oriented “foreman” to “leader.” But, more importantly, she intends to overhaul Norway’s cradle-to-the-grave welfare system.

“We are a classical liberal party that is very much in favour of market mechanisms,” she said.

“I think those values are applauded by a substantial number of people. They are sick and tired of politicians taking more and more of their salaries in taxes and then redistributing them for whatever reason.

“The problem with this is you make people so dependent on donations through budgets that you end up unable to think for yourself. I want these people to be free, to make their own decisions, to take more control of their own lives. That means they have to take more control of their own income as well.”

It is a message that resonates with voters weary of high taxes and declining social services. But it’s also a message that has shattered the old politics of Europe, which used to be split between a conservative Christian democratic right and the social democratic left.

Europe has experienced its biggest shake-up since the collapse of communism with a surge of support for right-wing political parties such as the National Front in France, the Northern League in Italy, Geert Wilders’s Dutch Freedom Party in the Netherlands, the Swiss People’s Party in Switzerland and Hungary’s Jobbik Movement for a Better Hungary.

Last month the far-right Sweden Democrats, a populist, anti-immigration party with neo-Nazi roots, garnered an unexpected 5.7% of the vote in national elections, winning 20 seats in parliament for the first time.

While most new right parties are manifestations of local economic discontent, they share a perceived loss of national identity and an anger over immigrants and outsiders who threaten established cultures.

Ms. Jensen has earned a reputation for taking a hard-nosed stance on immigration. She has demanded immediate curbs to limit immigration to no more than 1,000 people a year and advocates tough new measures to force new immigrants to integrate more fully into Norwegian society.

It should be easy to revoke the citizenship of immigrants who defy Norwegian laws, she said.

“We need to be better at integrating the immigrant population,” she insisted. “I want Norway to be a free country — where everybody has the right to free speech, to experience democracy and is not afraid, where women have the same rights as a man.”

Norway, a small country of about 4.6 million people, is reeling under immigration from Muslim countries such as Pakistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Somalia and Turkey.

Foreign-born immigrants now account for about 10% of its population.

“In Oslo, the capital, now, almost 25% of the population is foreign-born. And in many schools you will find 95% non-ethnics and, of course, that creates disturbances, problems and debates. Of course, we have problems with integration,” said Ms. Jensen.

“There are demands for not wanting to adapt to the mainstream society. They don’t want to stick to Norwegian law. Some argue that they want to implement shariah laws. In schools children are prevented by their parents from participating in gymnastics or swimming because there are other children there.

“We have forced circumcision going on, forced marriages. We have equality in Norway, but for many young women from certain countries, they don’t experience it. We would like them to.”

In last year’s election, Ms. Jensen received a groundswell of support when she objected to government attempts to accommodate Muslim religious sensitivities and traditions by permitting female police to wear the hijab.

She angrily warned Norway was facing “sneak-Islamization” and accused the other political parties of being cowardly and ignoring the problem.

She has branded radical Islam, a “dark and scary ideology” and declared its defeat “the most important fight of our time.”

“We are not going to allow special demands from any single group in society,” Ms. Jensen promised voters.

“We will enforce Norwegian law and Norwegian rules.”

The Progress Party’s fortunes have soared along with its tough anti-immigrant rhetoric.

In the 2005 election, the party’s television ads showed a long-haired youth in a hooded sweat suit, pointing a gun at viewers.

A caption beneath the picture read simply, “The perpetrator is of foreign origin!!”

At the time, Statistics Norway had compared crime rates and ethnicity and concluded non-western immigrants committed twice as many crimes as native Norwegians.

But Ms. Jensen insists you can’t “win election in Norway on this issue [immigration] alone.” Health care, infrastructure spending and schooling are the main issues people really worry about she said.

Still, strong forceful leadership is important and she has developed a Thatcher-like reputation for firmness in the 13 years she has been in the Norwegian parliament.

She wasted no time castigating the current Norwegian government for being the first in the world to officially recognize Hamas’s hold on Gaza, saying, “You don’t negotiate with terrorists.”

Two years ago, her party was the only one in Norway to publicly support Israel during its invasion of Gaza in December 2008. In interviews she has recalled being in Sderot in Israel when it was bombed.

The Progress Party also advocates abolishing development aid to the third world, saying most of the money is spent on “arms and luxury goods” for corrupt elites.

Tax relief tops the party agenda. It wants lower income taxes, lower alcohol taxes, lower taxes on cars and more money for pensioners, police and care for the elderly.

It also favours more oil exploration in the Arctic, to offset dwindling oil and gas reserves in the North Sea, and it questions the need for measures to combat climate change, dismissing predictions of global warming as unreliable.

Party members, who oppose capital punishment, also support proposals to make euthanasia legal in Norway, saying the terminally ill should be allowed to end their lives under controlled circumstances involving at least two doctors.

“The hallmark of a free society is individual liberty,” said Ms. Jensen. “Individual liberty is a fundamental requirement for human progress and prosperity.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Italy: Main Centre-Left Opposition Party Eyes Muslim Vote

Milan, 12 Nov. (AKI) — A leader of Italy’s Islamic community has launched an appeal to Muslims living in the northern city of Milan, urging them to vote in primaries on Sunday to elect the country’s main centre-left opposition Democratic Party’s leader.

The party is currently led by Pierluigi Bersani, and the primaries are an opportunity to gauge current grassroots support for his stewardship. Snap elections are looming in Italy since prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s key former ally, parliament speaker Gianfranco Fini, formed a new party this month and threatened to withdraw his support from the government.

Milan has 208,021 immigrants making up 16 percent of its population — more than double the national average of 6.5 percent, according to a September report by the Milan city council. Many of the immigrants are Muslims arriving from northern Africa.

Abdullah Paolo Gonzaga, who heads the Islamic Relief charity, has issued a call to Muslims in Italy on the website, telling them to take part in the Democratic Party primaries to elect the party leader and top regional officials.

A major reason for Muslims to lend support to the Democratic Party is that it backs the construction of an official mosque in Milan. Italy only has one official mosque, the Grand Mosque in the Italian capital, Rome.

“Milan is the Italian city with the highest Muslim population, and which lacks a real mosque, thanks to the current city council,” Gonzaga said, quoted by

Muslims in Milan have for years sought to have their own mosque. The city’s conservative council has offered Muslims a series of makeshift venues to hold Friday prayers, most recently a velodrome on the outskirts of the city, claiming there is no suitable site to build a place for them to worship.

Muslims should also vote for centre-left candidates in local elections next March, Gonzaga said.

“We need to understand this is a major opportunity for Milan’s Muslim community and all its citizens to have a better city, “ he said.

“We have seen years of segregation and and passive acceptance of decisions that are often harmful and which are taken without any prior consultations,” he added.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Italy: Free Palestine Protests Against Amos Oz in Turin

(ANSAmed) — TURIN, NOVEMBER 12 — Today the Free Palestine movement protested two times against the Israeli writer Amos Oz in Turin. The first time this morning in the Regio Theatre, where the writer addressed 1,500 students in a lectio magistralis against fanaticism, and in the afternoon in the Luxemburg bookshop of Angelo Pezzana, a member of the Jewish community in Turin. In both cases leaflets were handed out against Israel and two banners were held up. One of these carried the text “Free Palestine. Boycott Israel”, the other listed the names of 1,800 Palestinians who died during the military operation Cast Lead in December 2008. Free Palestine also demonstrated in 2008 against the participation of Amos Oz, David Grossman and Abraham Yehoshua in the book salon, all Israeli writers who are considered to be pro-government. “These people waffle and refuse any debate”, said Pezzana, who added: “only people who are blinded by hate against Israel and deaf for any for dialogue can say, as these persons said today, that Oz is a warmonger”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Jewish People vs George Soros

Difference between a perpetrator and a rescuer. Between a collaborator and a hero

I spent yesterday evening in the company of a man whose grandfather spent much of the Holocaust dressed in a Nazi uniform. The difference between him and George Soros, is that he used that uniform as a disguise in order to find Jewish refugees and lead them to shelter.

And that difference is a profound one. It is the difference between a perpetrator and a rescuer. Between a collaborator and a hero.

Soros did not wear a Nazi uniform, but he might as well have, because he aided in the persecution of the Jews of Europe, without compassion, without guilt and without regret.

Various excuses have been made for his actions, and none of them hold the least bit of water.

Yes Soros was only a teenager at the time. So was my father, who nevertheless escaped to join the partisans, rather than accompanying a Nazi officer in his search for Jewish property he could loot. He had no choice? He certainly had a choice. Even in the worst of times, people still can and do make moral choices. And the choice for everyone, for Jews, Germans, Ukrainians, Poles, Frenchmen and so on down the line — was to collaborate with evil, or to do the right thing.

George Soros made the wrong choice then. As he has made the wrong choice over and over again. And he has never regretted any of them. And the one thing that clearly emerges from that, is that he has no understanding that evil is wrong. That participating in the persecution and murder of Jews is wrong. He didn’t know it back then, while the Holocaust was going on. He doesn’t know it today, when he helps set up and fund organizations like J Street, whose sole purpose is to help the Muslim terrorists who are murdering Jews today.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Dutch Lesbian and Nigerian Man Arrested at Altar Moments Before Sham Marriage

It was hardly a marriage made in heaven.

She was a lesbian from Holland and he was a man from Nigeria, with no right to live and claim benefits in Britain. Until their wedding was over that is.

But thanks to a sharp eyed vicar, this pair were arrested at the altar moments before they said their vows.

Police and Borders Agency staff hiding in the vestry leapt out and slapped them in handcuffs after a tip-off by the priest, Father Tim Codling.

‘Bride’ Roqsilmar Marti, 28, and ‘groom’ Abraham Akinola, 32, both pleaded guilty in Basildon crown court to conspiracy to commit an immigration offence.

Marrying a citizen of not only Britain, but of any European Union country, gives a non-EU national the right to live, work and claim benefits here.

Such sham marriages are a widespread problem, but Father Codling had become wise to such antics at his Church of England church, St John the Baptist in Tilbury, Essex.

And when the Dutch lesbian and the Nigerian man applied for their marriage banns on June 6 for a church wedding in August he realised the groom had given two different homes addresses on official paperwork.

The authorities were duly informed and lay in wait as the bride and groom arrived for the ceremony.

The court heard on Friday that Marti had been involved in a lesbian relationship for the past eight years, and that her worried female partner had flown to the UK and reported her missing on the day of the fake wedding.

Rotterdam-resident Marti, who speaks limited English, needed a translator in court. Judge John Lodge remanded the pair in custody and asked for reports into their background to be conducted so they could be sentenced at a later date.

A third man, Abdallah Magezi, 35, from Plumstead, south east, pleaded not guilty to conspiring to hold the sham marriage and will go on trial next year.

Father Codling said the number of weddings he carried out in his church had tripled following a Government clampdown of bogus weddings at registrar offices — although numbers noticeably dropped after the August arrests.

He began to suspect many of the weddings he carried out were bogus, but was legally powerless to stop them.

Father Codling said fraudsters were targeting his church because of its growing ethnic diversity and good train links with London making bogus marriage awaydays easy.

He said: ‘I think the vast majority of weddings we have at the church appear to be sham marriages. But the way the legislation works means if someone has been given a wedding licence I have to marry them.

‘We can only stop weddings if we have reasonable grounds to suspect they aren’t genuine.’

He said one suspect bride had stripped down to her underwear and the back of his church, pulled a wedding dress out of a black bin back and put it on, even though it was clearly twice her size.

He caught out another couple because when he asked the bride to repeat the vows, he began reading out train station names and she repeated them back.

And another couple walked off in opposite directions when their wedding was concluded.

Father Codling said: ‘I was asking the bride to repeat the vows and I just knew something wasn’t right.

‘So I started calling out the names of stations on the London to Shoeburyness line — Pitsea, Benfleet and Leigh-on-Sea, and the bride started saying them back to me.

‘She clearly couldn’t understand anything I was saying — I don’t think she even knew why she was in the church.’

Father Codling, 48, said that when he began questioning suspect weddings, his home was broken into and his wife threatened.

Detective Sergeant Andy Harvey of Essex Police said after the arrests in August: ‘Sham weddings are big business with the organisers charging £10,000 or more to arrange ceremonies and to pay ‘brides’ and ‘witnesses’.

‘The UK Border Agency and Essex Police are working closely to crack down on the criminals involved in these activities.’

Sam Bullimore of the Border Agency said: ‘Our immigration crime teams are cracking down on sham marriages all over the country.

‘If we uncover marriages that are not genuine, we will challenge them and prosecute where appropriate. Our main aim is to identify the organisers who profit from and fuel the demand for sham marriages, and destroy their criminal business.

‘We do not expect vicars or registrars to be experts in immigration law or spotting forged documents — that’s our job. But if they have any suspicions about whether a relationship is genuine, we urge them to get in touch.’

           — Hat tip: Bewick [Return to headlines]

UK: Join the Campaign to Keep Greenwich Mean Time

On December 3, MPs vote on the Bill which could abolish Greenwich Mean Time forever. Today, the Mail on Sunday’s Peter Hitchens launches a campaign against it.

Sooner than you think, we could all be living our lives on Berlin Time, an hour ahead of GMT in winter and two hours ahead of GMT in summer.

Such time is fine for that great and historic city, you might say. But Berlin is 580 miles and 15 degrees of longitude east of Greenwich, which means that the sun rises and sets there an hour earlier than it does in England.

The German capital, quite reasonably, does not fix its clocks to the time in Kiev or Minsk. Nor does it seem to suffer greatly by refusing to do so. So why should it be thought sensible for us to live as if we were far further east than we are?

And especially why should the people of the North of England and Scotland do so, when it will mean black darkness till around ten o’clock in the morning in the winter months?

According to Rebecca Harris, a chirpy, enthusiastic young Tory MP, this is a price worth paying for the many sparkling advantages of living our lives in step with Berliners. She believes that later, lighter afternoons in winter — and even later ones in summer — will make the roads safer, make old people less lonely, reduce crime, save energy and boost business.

She has all kinds of studies that appear to prove this, and is supported by a mass of pressure groups that agree with her.

My own impression is that many of these claims are pretty much guesswork. Shifting the clocks about changes less than you might think. The amount of actual daylight remains the same. It is just available at different times of day.


But Mrs Harris’s well-supported Bill is well on its way anyway, unlike several similar efforts on the subject over the past dozen years. These all ended in defeat, as did the 1968-71 experiment.

But this one is different. An active and busy lobby seems to have got behind this measure, as any careful student of the media will have spotted. How did all those breezy, uncritical articles come to be written? How did the Prime Minister find the time to imply his own support?

It goes before Parliament on Friday, December 3, and if passed it will trigger the first steps towards this momentous change, possibly separating us for ever from the Greenwich Mean Time which we invented.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Man’s Severely Burnt Body Found After Explosion Rips Through Flat

The badly burnt body of a man has been found after a suspected gas explosion ripped through a flat.

Neighbours have spoken of their shock after being woken by a ‘massive bang’ followed by their houses shaking.

The body was discovered in the loft of a first-floor maisonette in Battersea, south London.

After the explosion firefighters battled a blaze but were unable to stop fire devastating the block.

Dominique Fregiste, 17, said she felt her bed ‘shudder’ before she noticed flames billowing from the roof of the property on Crichton Street.

‘I was asleep when the explosion happened and the whole house shook,’ she said.

‘I thought someone had driven into the side of the house with a lorry.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Poor? Disadvantaged? Pull the Other One… The Rich, Rioting Students Are Unmasked

The six-man security team guarding Tory headquarters during the Millbank riot made a 999 call — but had to wait nearly an hour for police reinforcements.

They requested help at 1.50pm when they feared hundreds of protesters — who had broken away from the 52,000-strong march — would storm the building.

But by the time about 30 to 40 officers arrived, it was, according to a source, ‘too little, too late’. The failure to hold off the protesters at 30 Millbank, which is near the Houses of Parliament, was described by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson as an ‘embarrassment’. But the extent of the slow response to the disturbances has not been made clear until now.

The Met knew for weeks that thousands were due to march past the Conservative Party’s offices — but were still caught off-guard by the violence.

‘The security guys working at the building were left feeling acutely vulnerable,’ said a source. ‘There had been a chance for the police to get down in time to protect the building, because the protesters initially grouped outside Millbank Tower next door for 30 minutes, wrongly believing that building housed Tory HQ.

‘But the police didn’t come for nearly an hour and the opportunity was lost.’

Shortly after the first wave of rioters flooded the rear of the building, after forcing a reinforced glass fire door, others smashed down its glass front.

‘It all happened in front of the heavily-pregnant receptionist and she was left very badly shaken,’ said a source.

Over the following three hours, hundreds of rioters entered the building and caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage as they smashed windows, sprayed graffiti and destroyed office equipment.

Since Wednesday’s riot — during which a fire extinguisher was flung from the roof of 30 Millbank, landing inches from police — many questions have been asked about the social make-up of the protesters who occupied the building. Were they an unruly rent-a-mob, hell-bent on violence — or well-meaning students caught up in the dizzying excitement of civil disobedience? Probably a mixture.

On Friday a Guardian writer, John Harris, who does not appear to have witnessed the protest first-hand, wrote of speaking to an unnamed ‘Guardian colleague’ who was there.

He said: ‘He was also unimpressed by talk of an assembly of self-indulgent, bourgeois moaners: time and again, he said, he had bumped into people from such Northern towns as Bradford and Wakefield, who were students at FE colleges, angered to the point of fury by the Government’s axeing of the educational allowance.’

It is clearly difficult to chart precisely the social backgrounds of all 52,000 demonstrators. But after studying the video footage and learning more about some of those whose names have entered the public domain during the week, The Mail on Sunday has established a different picture. It seems the protest was distinctly southern-centred and middle class and that many of those involved had no experience of hardship or disadvantage.

Winchester & Wadham College, Oxford

Dressed in a hoodie, James Norrie was pictured last week at the front of the demonstration at Millbank Tower.

Hours later, the 22-year-old wrote on Facebook: ‘Why all the furrowed-brows over smashed windows from Cameron and Johnson now?

‘They were perfectly happy to engage in such acts with their fellow Bullingdon Club peers, and yet for what? Their own sickening self-indulgence. And yet neither act of vandalism is anything like of the same order of magnitude as what the Con-Dems are seeking to visit upon a whole nation.’

So it may come as a surprise to discover that last summer James completed a degree at Oxford’s world-famous Wadham College where alumni include former Labour leader Michael Foot and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

James was also a pupil at £30,000-a-year Winchester College, said to be Britain’s costliest public school.

His parents have an apartment in a stately home in West Sussex, and his father is majority shareholder in an investment company worth £25 million. James could not be contacted last night.

Fortismere School, North London

Liv Thurley was pictured laughing amid the rubble at the protest last Wednesday — which surprised her headteacher at Fortismere School in the affluent suburb of Muswell Hill in North London.

The 18-year-old lives with her parents in an £800,000 red-brick home.

Fortismere is one of the most sought-after comprehensives in London.

Admissions are so competitive that house prices in the catchment area are up to £150,000 higher than equivalent homes elsewhere.

Headmistress Helen Anthony said: ‘Anyone who absented themselves from school for the march has done so without my permission or knowledge.’

But Liv’s father Kevin, 49, said she had the day off and was probably there ‘because she was curious.’

Esher College, Surrey

Olivia Wedderburn, who admitted climbing on to the roof of 30 Millbank, is an 18-year-old student at Esher College in Surrey. The highly rated sixth-form college’s alumni include actress Keira Knightley.

Wedderburn lives in her family’s imposing £1.8 million townhouse on one of the most desirable streets of genteel Kingston upon Thames.

Her father Peter, 59, was a director of Reed Business Publishing but left to set up Kingston Bridge Communications, a successful events company and a PR consultancy.

Olivia maintains a web log called ‘Whatever Give A S***’ which advises readers to ‘check yourself before you wreck yourself’.

Last night Mr Wedderburn said: ‘I was perfectly happy for her to go. From what I understand she didn’t know where she was.

‘The students moved into the building after smashing their way in and she was carried with them.

‘She went up to the roof briefly but her friend with her had a panic attack and they spoke to the police and they let them leave.

‘An officer took her name but we haven’t heard from them so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.’

Asked how his daughter would afford higher education fees he said: ‘I suppose we’d be contributing but I’d expect Olivia would take out a loan as well.’

St Edmund’s Hall, Oxford

The day after the riot, Sky Herington, a student at Oxford, wrote on Facebook: ‘When they say cutback we say smash Millbank.’

She admitted to The Mail on Sunday she was inside 30 Millbank. Sky, 22, said: ‘I believe in direct action. That is the only way people will wake up and listen.’

Yet her radicalism is a far cry from her elite existence as a student at St Edmund’s Hall, which was founded in 1278 and is said to be Britain’s oldest undergraduate college.

Alumni include Sir Robin Day and Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. Her family live in a double-fronted house in Newton

St Margarets in Herefordshire. Sky gained five As at A-Level at nearby Fairfield High School, judged by Ofsted as one of the top ten state schools.

Extinguisher thug an ‘anarchist with dreads’

The thug who hurled a fire extinguisher 70ft off the roof of Tory headquarters is thought to be an anarchist with strawberry-blond dreadlocks in a black jacket — highlighted in TV news footage.

Police are examining the film in the hope of securing evidence to charge him with attempted murder. The extinguisher landed inches from policemen who said they would almost certainly have been killed if it had hit them. Police said the thug was one of a ‘hard core group of anarchists’ on the roof.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

UK: Police Told to Send Text Messages Because it is Too Expensive to Speak on Their Radios

Police officers are being ordered to send texts rather than speak on their radios because of the sums charged by the firm that owns the police communications network.

While chief constables face unprecedented cutbacks, the company that operates the system on which all the emergency services communicate has seen a massive rise in profits. Last year Airwave Solutions’ profit margin outstripped even that of mobile-phone giant Vodafone.

Airwave’s pre-tax profit was £170 million, a 26 per cent increase on the previous 12 months. It represents an eye-watering return of 45 per cent on the company’s £380 million turnover.

The company’s charges are said to be putting a severe strain on police budgets. Officers in one rural force have been told that a penalty charge of up to £2 a second is imposed as soon as the number of calls they make goes over a pre-arranged limit.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Students Winning Thousands of Pounds in Refunds for Poor Teaching

The financial compensation awarded has so far ranged from a few hundred pounds to £45,000.

And the country’s leading student watchdog has warned that complaints against lecturers and universities are set to rise as the tuition-fee cap increases from £3,290 per year to £9,000.

Student complaints to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), which looks into compensation cases on behalf of students, have doubled since 2005, to more than 1,000 last year.

‘Having looked at the figures, complaints rise as fees rise — that is very likely to happen. That is already a trend we have seen over the past few years,’ said Rob Behrens, the head of the OIA.

The highest amount that the OIA has secured is £45,000, which was awarded to a postgraduate student last year. Some students are calling in their own lawyers to sue universities independently.

A Freedom of Information request by The Mail on Sunday found that universities refunded a total of almost £60,000 to 50 successful claimants last year.

Mr Behrens added: ‘One of the effects of tuition fee rise is that students will act like consumers and will demand more.’

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

UK: Smith…a Decent Man Who’s Been Conned by the Fake Conservatives

For many years, most British Governments have followed a policy best called Fake Conservatism.

This involves loudly pretending to do what the public wants. But while the country is distracted by these stunts and spectaculars, the Cabinet gets on with its real task of turning Britain into a multi-culti socialist Euro-Province.


Well, now we have the same thing happening with welfare. Mr Blair’s New Labour Government is ably headed by his understudy David Cameron — while Mr Blair is on leave of absence addressing conventions of lavatory-paper makers. And among its many mini-Blunketts is poor old Iain Duncan Smith, a decent man fallen among liberals. IDS has indeed thought a lot about welfare.

But his colleagues forbade him to think about the real problem. This is that, since the catastrophic Labour Government of 1964-1970, the welfare state has deliberately encouraged parasitism, as well as flooding the country with professional social workers.

Nor can he actually do anything about the suicidal subsidy to single-mother families, which has helped destroy fatherhood and wreck our society.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

West Cannot Defeat Al-Qaeda, Says UK Forces Chief

General Sir David Richards, a former Nato commander in Afghanistan, said Islamist militancy would pose a threat to the UK for at least 30 years.

But he told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper a clear-cut victory over militants was not achievable.

The BBC’s Frank Gardner said the comments reflect a “new realism” in UK and US counter-terrorism circles.

Our security correspondent said such an admission five years ago might have been considered outrageous and defeatist.

Gen Richards, 58, took over as chief of the defence staff last month, after a spell as head of the British army.

He is due to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in London later as part of the UK’s Remembrance Sunday commemorations.

In his Sunday Telegraph interview, Gen Richards expressed confidence that al-Qaeda could be contained to such an extent that Britons could lead secure lives.

Gen Richards said: “In conventional war, defeat and victory is very clear cut and is symbolised by troops marching into another nation’s capital.

“First of all you have to ask: do we need to defeat [Islamist militancy] in the sense of a clear-cut victory?

“I would argue that it is unnecessary and would never be achieved.”

Gen Richards added: “But can we contain it to the point that our lives and our children’s lives are led securely? I think we can.”

He said the best weapon in the battle against al-Qaeda was the use of “upstream prevention” and the promotion of “education and democracy”.

He drew similarities between militant Islam’s “pernicious ideology” and that of Nazi Germany.

Gen Richards also admitted the Afghan people were beginning to “tire” of Nato’s inability to follow through with its promises to the country.

Britain has lost 343 soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001 but Gen Richards said their sacrifice had been worth it.

He said he saw no reason for Britain to intervene militarily in other countries like it had in Iraq and Afghanistan but added: “It would be barmy to say that one day we wouldn’t be back in that position.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


The good news is that after the 12 annual progress reports Brussels has released on potential Turkish membership, Turkey’s chief EU negotiator, Egemen Bagis, heralded that “membership has eventually begun to smell.” And the other good news is that there is no bad news.

As always the report gives everyone something to chew on — something to celebrate, ponder, criticize, give pats on the shoulder over, toast and praise… In modern social science this is called “being analytical.” So be it…

Ironically, Minister Bagis did not hide his “general contentment” over the commission’s report which clearly talked about Turkey’s “failure to revive key reforms in areas including media freedom and human rights.” That “failure” was established after 12 reports from Brussels and eight powerful years of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. But at least we can now smell membership!

Meanwhile, let’s hope that the Europeans do not copy Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s frequent reasoning and decide to take advice from the Vatican before deciding on Turkish membership. Most recently, Mr. Erdogan proposed taking advice from the Religious Affairs Directorate, or Diyanet, before Parliament moved to set the Islamic headscarf free on campuses.

Shortly after the prime minister’s suggestion, Professor Ali Bardakoglu, Diyanet’s president, said in an interview: “It would be against secularism to seek Diyanet’s advice before making laws. Our duty is to tell what is true about religion. For instance, alcohol consumption amounts to sinning. But it falls into the legislative jurisdiction to say under which circumstances alcohol consumption is illegal.”

Words of wisdom? No doubt. For some reason, I suspected too many typos when I read those lines. There were none. Then I joked to a colleague: “Professor Bardakoglu must be unhappy with his job.”

A week later, news reports told us that Professor Bardakoglu had been fired (and I am writing this several hours before Professor Bardakoglu spoke to the press about his departure).

Apparently, we need bureaucrats with better foresight in order to “smell” EU membership better. One such man is our ambassador to Vienna, Ecvet Tezcan, whose words in Austrian daily Die Presse did not only cause outrage among important Franks like Chancellor Werner Faymann and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, but also caused a mini crisis between Ankara and Vienna.

Pity… My dislike of the Franks who blocked the Ottoman march into the heart of Europe had started to subside after I read in fellow columnist Mustafa Akyol’s piece on Nov. 9 about how generously the Austrians welcomed with open arms and tolerated pious Turkish students. A day later, Ambassador Tezcan’s heart-breaking comments entered the public domain.

Mr. Tezcan was angry with Austria(ns) “because the freedom to swim naked existed but not to wear the Islamic headscarf.” Also, according to the interview published in Die Presse, because “he had been invited only by one Austrian family since he arrived in Vienna a year ago.”

When Die Presses reminded the Turkish ambassador that women’s employment rate in Turkey stood at a poor 39 percent, Mr Tezcan replied: “Oh, but housewifery too is a profession.”

Apparently, Mr. Tezcan is not happy in Vienna. He said that “he would not stay there a moment if he were the secretary general of the U.N. or the OSCE or OPEC.”

Naturally, tensions flared up in Vienna. But according to Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, “those words were the ambassador’s personal opinion.”

I personally do not know whom to view with more credibility: a respected ambassador who claims there is no freedom to wear the headscarf in Austria, or a respected journalist who only two days ago praised Austrian freedoms for pious Muslims. I incline towards Mr. Akyol, not because he is an acquaintance and Mr. Tezcan is not, but because the ambassador’s other remarks look a little bit… errr less convincing.

For instance, I had not heard of a profession called housewifery. But if it exists, women’s unemployment rate in Turkey automatically falls to zero. Imagine a country where all of the nearly 40 million women have jobs! I expect the EU’s next progress report to note and praise this.

But I felt offended by the Austrians no matter how warmly they embraced the children of Fethullah Gülen in their beautiful, free country. They should send more invitations to Ambassador Tezcan. Some occasions could be inviting the ambassador to deliver a keynote speech at conferences on employment, women’s rights and diplomatic courtesy.

And a final word of caution to two of the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s heavyweights, Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioglu and Ambassador to Washington Namik Tan: Watch out for your seats as you now have a powerful rival in Vienna!

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Frees Brotherhood Candidates

Egypt has released three Muslim Brotherhood candidates running for the November 28 parliamentary elections, says a judiciary official.

The three candidates, along with 16 Muslim Brotherhood members, were arrested in the port city of Ismailia on Wednesday and Thursday.

The candidates were released on bail to appear in court at a later date, the official was quoted by AFP as saying on Saturday.

A total of 44 Brotherhood members will be also freed on bail ahead of court hearings on November 20, 21, and 23, AFP reported.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement, holds 88 seats in the 454-seat parliament. Its candidates run as independents.

It plans to contest for 134 out of the 508 seats up for grabs at the end of the month.

The religious-political organization was banned in 1954 — 26 years after its foundation — but has continued to play a key role in Egypt’s political arena.

The government accuses the group of seeking to take over the country and has passed a series of constitutional amendments in an attempt to curtail the Brotherhood’s ability to participate in politics.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israeli Student Attacked by Palestinians in Italy

Student in Italian university threatened by Palestinian students, one of whom was armed. Police fail to apprehend suspects. Israeli: They shouted ‘slaughter the Jews’

An Israeli student at the University of Genoa in Italy was harassed and threatened by Palestinian students last Tuesday, only to be ignored by the police.

Assaf, a 26-year-old Israeli architecture student, was eating at the cafeteria when Ibrahim Haji, a student from Gaza, came and began taunting him.

“He came towards me, punched me and said ‘why are you looking at me?’ I told him I wasn’t looking at him, and asked him to let me eat in peace,” Assaf said. “A minute later he was back, swinging a fork, and called me in front of everyone to come outside while cursing Israel and declaring his intention to kill.

I understood that I have to avoid this dangerous situation. I told my Italian friends, who were eating with me, that I’m going back to my room so as not to respond to this provocation. On my way out I turned to the cashier and told her, ‘Call the police. You heard the man threatening to kill,’ and she responded, ‘It’s not my job to separate Jews and Arabs.’“

‘I saw death in front of my eyes’ Assaf’s attempt to distance himself from the fight failed. Ibrahim waited for him outside and went for the attack. As Assaf tried to defend himself, Italian passersby stepped in to intervene and held him back. Ibrahim took the opportunity to draw a large kitchen knife. The Italian students tried to stop him.

“I saw death in front of my eyes. I broke free and ran into the storage in the kitchen and locked myself in. After a few minutes more Muslim students arrived and began shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great) and ‘Itbach el Yahud’ (slaughter the Jews). Later I understood that there are over 40 angry students there.

The Italians disappeared; they were scared to deal with them. I managed to get myself into the trash facility. I climbed a three-meter wall and jumped. I told myself it’s better to break a leg than to get killed.”

Assaf said that he went to the police but was ignored, until he turned to the community rabbi and additional Jewish families for assistance. “We filed an official complaint with the police, and they even informed the local investigation agency,” said Chaim Amar, a 28-year-old medical student who serves as a security officer at the local synagogue. “Unfortunately, nothing came of it so far.”

According to Amar, the police are familiar with Haji from previous violent incidents. It wasn’t his first time threatening the life of an Israeli student, and he reportedly harasses female Israeli students regularly. “It’s a matter of time before his next violent outburst,” Amar said.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Middle East

IAEA Fears That Syria Will Follow Iran’s Steps

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 10 — There are growing suspicions that Syria, like Iran, might be developing an illegal nuclear programme. This is the fear of the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, who has said that he is ready to launch a special investigation into Syria as a result of President Bashar Al Assad’s reluctance to grant access to the country to UN inspectors. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Amano said that he was “open to a number of options” with regards to Damascus, and one of them, which is advocated by the United States, involves a special inspection of nuclear sites in the Arab republic.

Refusal by Damascus could lead to Syria being hauled in front of the United Nations Security Council and, like Iran, the country could face sanctions for failing to comply with the IAEA.

Syria’s nuclear history is a complex and mysterious one.

In 2007, Israeli fighter planes bombed a mysterious site along the river Euphrates. Israeli secret agents say that the Dair Alzour power station housed an atomic reactor with components made in North Korea, another country under “special surveillance” by the agency. Yet as George W. Bush recounts in his recently published memoirs, the then US President refused to sanction a raid, provoking the anger of the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. An initial IAEA inspection revealed traces of uranium particles, which suggests the possible production of nuclear material. Damascus has since blocked the subsequent investigations requested by the agency. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

‘Islamophobia Rising’

JEDDAH — Growing Islamophobia echoes the rise of anti-Semitism in the 1930s with US leaders resisting it, but Europeans abetting the trend for political gain, the head of the world’s largest Islamic group said.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said xenophobia directed at Muslim immigrants was taking hold, especially in Europe. Vote-seeking politicians were advancing extremist groups behind the anti-Muslim sentiment.

“This issue has become a political agenda item,” the Turkish head of the 58-member OIC told AFP in an interview, while stressing that Islam was also a European religion. What worries me is that political authorities or political parties, instead of stopping this, or fighting this, some of them are using this for their political ends, to gain more popular support in elections,” he said. — AFP.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Muslim Cleric Omar Bakri Muhammad Arrested in Lebanon

Police in Lebanon have arrested the radical Muslim cleric, Omar Bakri Muhammad, several days after a military court sentenced him to life in prison.

He was tried in his absence, accused of forming a militant group to weaken Lebanon’s government.

Omar Bakri Muhammad was born in Syria and also holds Lebanese nationality.

He lived in the UK for 20 years then travelled to Lebanon in 2005 amid a media storm over the London bombings. The UK excluded him from returning.

The British government said his presence was “not conducive to the public good”.

Lebanese security officials told news agencies that Bakri Muhammad had been arrested at his home in the northern city of Tripoli.

“He is currently being transferred to Beirut,” an official told the news agency AFP.

‘Terrorist acts’ Correspondents say it was not immediately clear why the authorities did not arrest Bakri Muhammad earlier.

He was among 54 people sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment in trials of militants who fought the Lebanese army in 2007.

He was convicted of membership of an armed group aiming to commit “terrorist acts” and plotting to kill Lebanese soldiers.

Speaking to reporters after the sentence was handed down he said he would “not spend one day in prison”.

“I will not hand myself in to any court. I do not believe in the law in Britain as in Lebanon,” he said.

Bakri Muhammad ran a radical Islamist group, al-Muhajiroun, from north London until it was disbanded in 2004.

He provoked outrage after the London bombings in July 2005 by saying he would not inform the police if he knew Muslims were planning such attacks.

He left the UK soon afterwards on what he described as a holiday to see his mother in Beirut, but while he was abroad the British government used its powers to ban him from returning.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia Blocks Facebook Over Moral Concerns

An official with Saudi Arabia’s communications authority said it has blocked Facebook because the popular social networking website doesn’t conform with the kingdom’s conservative values.

The official said Saudi’s Communications and Information Technology Commission blocked the site Saturday and an error message shows up when Internet users try to access it.

He said Facebook’s content had “crossed a line” with the kingdom’s conservative morals, but that blocking the site is a temporary measure.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam and religious leaders have strong influence over policy making and social mores.

Pakistan and Bangladesh both imposed temporary bans on Facebook this year.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia’s Spot on the Board of UN Women a Sad Joke

NEW YORK—It took years to make the United Nations’ newest agency, UN Women, a reality, and then just one day to effectively kill it.

Death was effected by allowing onto its board a kingdom where women are not just infamously prohibited from driving but are also virtual minors who need a male guardian’s permission to travel and to have surgery — and must be covered from head to toe in public.

As one of two countries guaranteed seats as emerging donor nations, Saudi Arabia essentially bought its way onto the board of UN Women, which is dedicated to gender equality

around the world.

Just three days after securing an automatic seat, Saudi Arabia gave us a reminder of just how oxymoronic its place on UN Women is, when its team showed up at the Asian Games in China without a single woman among the 180-strong delegation.

Iran, another country with a dismal women’s rights record, lost its bid for election to the board of UN Women after furious back-channel diplomacy by the United States and its allies. Still, at the games, which started in China on Saturday, Iran will field 92 female athletes in its 395-strong delegation.

Welcome to the ugly world of wrangling over women’s rights records depending on whether “we” like you or not.

Don’t misunderstand — Iran deserves to be kept out of UN Women. Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi had warned just before the vote that it was a “joke” that her country was in line to get a place on the board. But she said the same of Saudi Arabia, rightly pointing out that its women’s rights record was worse than Iran’s.

It’s not as if the UN was unaware of that abysmal record. After all, who could forget the farce that ensued when a Saudi delegation appeared for the first time before the UN women’s rights panel in Geneva in 2008 and absurdly insisted that women in their country faced no discrimination?

But the most ludicrous claim came when the UN committee asked why Saudi men could marry up to four wives. With a straight face, a Saudi delegate — a man, of course — explained that it was to ensure a man’s sexual appetite was satisfied legally if one wife could not fulfill it.

Not surprisingly, then-UN special rapporteur on violence against women, Yakin Erturk, soon went to Saudi Arabia on a 10-day fact-finding mission.

So where was the outrage on voting day, Nov. 10, as Saudi Arabia’s “generous contribution” landed it on UN Women’s board?

Distracted, at best.

U.S., European Union, Australian and Canadian diplomats had been working hard to kick Iran off the list of 10 countries from the Asian region up for election to the board. Iran — which for weeks has been threatening to stone a woman for alleged adultery — does not belong on the board.

But it was disgusting to hear American ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice celebrate Iran’s defeat and yet, when pushed on Saudi Arabia, say only that she would “not deny that there were several countries that are going to join the board of UN women that have less than stellar records on women’s rights, indeed human rights.”

Once again, women are the cheapest bargaining chips, thrown on the table to silence and appease allies and “major donors.”

Why are countries such as Saudi Arabia eager to join international bodies like UN Women? Because it translates into clout — membership in a powerful new agency — with very few obligations…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

The Tragedy of Iraq’s Christians is That it Does Not Interest Anyone, Chaldean Catholic Says

Under Saddam Hussein, Christians in Iraq were around a million. Today, more than half have fled, living as refugees in other countries, in particular Syria and Jordan. Those who are left behind feel betrayed and abandoned by the government and the international community, with only one desire, to be able to live and worship in peace.

Birmingham (AsiaNews) — “There is now a real danger that Christians in the Middle East, and in Iraq in particular, of being exterminated, due to both persecution and large-scale emigration,” this according to Dr Joseph Seferta, an Iraqi-born Chaldean Catholic living in Birmingham, Britain, where he is a member of the Commission for Inter-faith Dialogue of the Archdiocese of Birmingham. He gave an exclusive interview to AsiaNews about the difficult situation Christians face in Iraq and across the Middle East. Here it is.

“I belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church, which makes up the majority of Christians in Iraq. Others include Assyrians, as well Syrian, Armenian and Byzantine Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox. Christians under Saddam Hussein totalled some one million, but now only half that number remains in the country, the rest having fled and are living as refugees, particularly in Syria and Jordan.

The atrocity committed by Muslim fanatics, which resulted in dozens of Syrian Catholics dead and dozens of others wounded, was a big blow to the struggling Christian minority. It has been followed by other assassinations of Christians in their homes and shops. All these fanatics (known by various names) in the Middle East and other Muslim-majority countries, are bent on imposing Shari’a and running Islamic states that have no place for Christians in them.

Christians in the Middle East, of course, predate Muslims by hundreds of years and go back to Apostolic Times. Since the 7th Century Islamic conquest, they have been made second-class citizens with hardly any rights at all. They have undergone many waves of persecution, which have greatly reduced their numbers and influence. They suffer prejudice and discrimination on a daily basis, while Muslim minorities here in the West enjoy full rights and have built hundreds of mosques.

Tragically, Iraq’s Christians had nothing to do with the American invasion, but they always wrongly get accused of siding with the “Christian” West. Now they feel both isolated and betrayed by their own government as well as the international community. They have always been model citizens, serving their country in every field, and their only desire is to be left alone to live and worship in peace. But they have become a soft target for extremists.

There is now a real danger that Christians in the Middle East and in Iraq in particular, of being exterminated, due to both persecution and large-scale emigration, unless something is done urgently to stem the tide and save them. Too many cannot bear their suffering any longer and are sick and tired of waiting for someone to come to their aid. People either do not know or do not seem to care about them. Even the recent Middle East Synod convoked by the Holy Father was a disappointment, due to lack of both unity and courage. It is now high time that the United Nations seriously tackle this huge problem, for otherwise we will end up with the catastrophe of an Iraq and even a Middle East devoid of any Christians.

In October 2007, 138 Muslim leaders issued ‘A Common Word between Us and You’, a substantive invitation to Christians to dialogue based on the commandments to love God and love one another, found in the Bible and the Qur’an. The problem is that no such thing exists in the Qur’an.

While love is central in Christianity, it is hardly relevant in Islam. The few Qur’anic verses that mention love mean something that is totally different from the New Testament. In the Qur’an, Allah’s love is conditional upon man’s blind obedience to his laws. Thus, we read in verse 4:107, for example, “Allah loveth not the impious and the guilty.”

Love in the Qur’an is just an attribute rather than a part of God’s very essence (as in “God is love”, 1 John 4:8). The concept of love of neighbour does not exist either. There is only love for fellow Muslims, who, for example, are told in 5:59, “Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends”, and in 9:29, “Fight those who believe not in Allah or his Apostle, even if they are the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] until they submit”.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Top Tories Are Accused of ‘Abandoning’ Gay Briton After His Arrest by Syrian Secret Police

Three senior Tories have been accused of ‘abandoning’ a Syrian-born Briton who is being held by secret police in Damascus.

Sebastian Akkam, 31, an openly gay shop owner, has been denied access to UK consular staff since his arrest last month. No reason has been given for his detention.

His brother Mohammed said Sebastian had been let down by British establishment ‘friends’ he identified as MP Alan Duncan and former MPs Richard Spring and Michael Portillo.

The trio have privately expressed surprise as to why their names are being linked to the case.

Mr Akkam, who changed his name from Abdo in tribute to Oscar Wilde’s pseudonym Sebastian Melmoth, runs a shop in Damascus which has a shrine to Wilde — a risky move in a country where homosexuality carries a jail sentence.

As a teenager he was held naked for several weeks and badly beaten by the secret police. In 2006 he moved to the UK and took out citizenship on entering into a civil partnership, now dissolved, with a British man.

Mohammed says his brother was anxious about returning to Syria to visit their sick mother but claims in a phone call last month, Mr Spring, a director of the British Syrian Society, said his passport would protect him.

It is thought Mr Spring met him on a few visits to the shop. Mr Duncan and Mr Portillo also only met him briefly on trips to Syria.

British officials have made great efforts to gain access but believe public protests would be counter-productive. Last night Mr Spring said: ‘This man is fully entitled to consular access.’

Mr Portillo did not return calls, but has said he ‘did not know Mr Akkam well’. Mr Duncan did not want to comment until he had the full facts. The Foreign Office is pressing Syria daily to gain access to Mr Akkam.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]


Inquiry Into Police Requests for Data on Moslems Underway in Voronezh Rgn

VORONEZH, November 11 (Itar-Tass) — Prosecutor’s Office of the Voronezh region, some 600 kilometers to the southeast of Moscow, has opened an inquiry into the legitimacy of police requests for registration data on the Moslem believers living in the city of Voronezh, a senior aide at the Prosecutor’s Office said.

The inquiry was opened pending a complaint filed by the leader of a local Islamic religious organization, who said the police had sent in a request to provide personal data on all the Moslems living in the city, the educational institutions where their children study, and the sources providing finance for the Moslem religious community, said the regional prosecutor’s aide, Mikhail Ussov.

The police claimed it needed the data “for examining the situation in Voronezh”.

Ussov said on his part queries of this kind run counter to the law on the freedom of consciousness and religious associations.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia

“Islamic Love Jehad” Making Inroads Into Jammu: VHP

Vishva Hindu Parishad has termed the recent movement of interfaith marriages in Jammu among Muslim boys and Hindu girls as an “Islamic Love Jehad” to induct Islamic domination in the region. “The exercise contains government patronage as everything is being done openly without any administrative

check to it,’ said Ramakant Dubey, VHP president sounding a warning that if immediate containment is not maintained against the ‘unholy practice’, Jammu people would have to rise for a rebellion.

“The only way to fight against jehad is jehad,” said Ramakant adding that present dispensation instead of making tall claims on national and international levels must look into the state affairs first.

“We submit a request to chief minister to take serious note of the unholy practice and rein in such exercise, failing which, Jammu would be left with no option but to revolt which may lead to damaging consequences,” said the VHP chief.

Quoting a recent example of a Muslim married man of three children in government employment having fleeced a Hindu girl into ‘love trap’ and tried to elope, VHP chief said that since the incident came into light only, many girls in the remote and hilly terrains are being subjected to such ‘jehad’ which is unaccountable.

He also referred to government’s apathy by putting up a deaf ear to the recent incident while acting indifferently in “Rajneesh’s alleged custodial death’ where a Hindu boy had married a Muslim girl and invited administrative ire.

“It is a well planned network of activity which starts with Muslim girls making close acquaintances with Hindu Girls in Jammu province and then paving way for Muslim boys to intrude and fleece the gullible girls into their love traps,” said the VHP chief holding government equally responsible in the act.

He said the practice is still in vogue in Ladakh where a large number of Bodh girls have been converted as the area now have more of Muslim domination than its own identity as Buddhists.

“Same is the modus operandii embarked by the majority community here in Jammu province which is a grave danger towards which parental and administrative vigil is needed round the clock,” said the VHP chief.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

An Ugly Reality — The Persecution of Christians in Malaysia

Under Malaysia’s modern, moderate, harmonious veneer is an ugly truth. What is *really* happening here is that a Muslim government and Muslim religious officials — acting with the state’s sanction — are viciously oppressing anyone who dares to question and/or leave Islam. The regular media even outside of Malaysia won’t touch this issue — Muslims have successfully put their ruthless religious persecution of ‘apostates’ and others beyond the pale and out of public scrutiny. Not that it would much matter to most Malaysians, who either approve their government’s religiously-based persecution, or couldn’t care less.

But the Christian, American-based network CBN is not so easily cowed, and has filed this report on Malaysia’s deplorable treatment of people whose sole crime is wanting to no longer be Muslims.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Living as a Christian in a Muslim nation can carry severe risks and suffering.

CBN News traveled to Malaysia — a country that presents itself as a model for Islamic moderation, yet has many former Muslims who say they are persecuted after finding Christ.

A two-hour journey from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur revealed an isolated encampment where some Christian converts say they’ve been taken in order to be forced back to Islam.

The Malaysian government calls the facilities — retreat centers. Muslims willingly come there to strengthen their faith.

CBN News spoke to one Christian who wanted to remain anonymous, in fear he would be taken back to one of the “faith purification” facilities.

“They were clearly angry and they wanted to kill me, but they did not harm me physically,” he recalled. “I know of many others. They force you to recite Islamic prayers and the Koran, to do all the things you’re suppose to do as a Muslim.”

“They’re trying to force us to believe what we can’t believe,” the man continued. “These re-education centers come from the power of darkness.”

Read the rest if you have the stomach for it.

The outside world probably could not care one bit about any of this, and Malaysians — well, we are cowards or worse, we quietly applaud what our own ‘government’ does. And even if the fragmented opposition PKR took over — an unlikely event to say the least — would they do anything to stop this? You know the answer as well as I.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Chinese Mine in Afghanistan Threatens Ancient Find

MES AYNAK, Afghanistan (AP) — It was another day on the rocky hillside, as archaeologists and laborers dug out statues of Buddha and excavated a sprawling 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery. A Chinese woman in slacks, carrying an umbrella against the Afghan sun, politely inquired about their progress.

She had more than a passing interest. The woman represents a Chinese company eager to develop the world’s second-biggest unexploited copper mine, lying beneath the ruins.

The mine is the centerpiece of China’s drive to invest in Afghanistan, a country trying to get its economy off the ground while still mired in war. Beijing’s $3.5 billion stake in the mine — the largest foreign investment in Afghanistan by far — gets its foot in the door for future deals to exploit Afghanistan’s largely untapped mineral wealth, including iron, gold, and cobalt. The Afghan government stands to reap a potential $1.2 billion a year in revenues from the mine, as well as the creation of much-needed jobs.

But Mes Aynak is caught between Afghanistan’s hopes for the future and its history. Archaeologists are rushing to salvage what they can from a major 7th Century B.C. religious site along the famed Silk Road connecting Asia and the Middle East. The ruins, including the monastery and domed shrines known as “stupas,” will likely be largely destroyed once work at the mine begins.

Hanging over the situation is the memory of the Buddhas of Bamiyan — statues towering up to 180 feet high in central Afghanistan that were dynamited to the ground in 2001 by the country’s then-rulers, the Taliban, who considered them symbols of paganism.

No one wants to be blamed for similarly razing history at Mes Aynak, in the eastern province of Logar. The Chinese government-backed China Metallurgical Group Corp., or MCC, wanted to start building the mine by the end of 2011. But under an informal understanding with the Kabul government, it has has given archaeologists three years for a salvage excavation.

Archaeologists working on the site since May say that won’t be enough time for full preservation.

“That site is so massive that it’s easily a 10-year campaign of archaeology,” said Laura Tedesco, an archaeologist brought in by the U.S. Embassy to work on sites in Afghanistan. Three years may be enough time just to document what’s there, she said…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Eight Suicide Bombers Killed in Foiled Taliban Plot to Blow Up NATO Base in Afghanistan

Eight attempted suicide bombers who tried to storm a Nato base in eastern Afghanistan have been killed in a two-hour long gunbattle, officials said today.

The Taliban claimed to be responsible for sending the group of militants to the base — their second assault on the Nato base and an adjoining airport outside Jalalabad city in six months.

But Nato forces and Afghan National Army (AN) troops scrambled to suppress the attack in a ferocious dawn gunbattle that saw rocket-propelled grenades launched at two helicopters.

Heavy fire: An Afghan National Army soldier fires during the two-hour long gunbattle that killed at least eight suicide bombers near Jalalabad airport

The battle, which was around 95 miles from Kabul, came as a bomb attack in the north of the country killed a further seven people.

The militants attacked the Afghan army checkpoint outside the Jalalabad base shortly after dawn, sparking a gunbattle that lasted at least two hours and involved Nato helicopters firing from overhead, said Sgt Abdullah Hamdard, a national army commander at the site.

A spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial government, Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, confirmed the attack and said eight assailants were killed — including two who were wearing explosives vests.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said there were 14 attackers and that 11 of them were killed, though the insurgent group typically gives inflated numbers.

Nato forces said in a statement that the base received fire but initial reports indicated no foreign or Afghan forces were killed.

Aim: Two Nato helicopters and AK-47 rifles were used to overpower the group of Taliban suicide bombers at the military base in Jalalabad

Scrambled: Afghan National Army soldiers rush towards the site of a gunbattle between Nato forces and Taliban insurgents

A photographer at the scene saw three dead bodies laid out, all in Afghan army uniforms, which militants often wear as a disguise.

An AK-47 assault rifle, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and a grenade were laid out nearby.

Mr Abdulzai said the area was secure by late morning and that they had killed all the attackers.

In June, militants assaulted the Nato base with a car bomb, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons but did not breach its defences. Eight militants were killed in that attack.

Aftermath: US and Afghan security forces gather at the site of a previous suicide attack in which three soldiers were wounded in Kabul on November 13, 2009

The base is about 75 miles east of Kabul on the main road between the Afghan capital and the Pakistan border.

In northern Kunduz province a bomb hidden in a motorbike exploded on a busy street in Imam Sahib district, killing seven people.

The bomb was detonated just as a vehicle belonging to a police official drove past. The official — Commander Mohammad Manan — was killed, along with one of his bodyguards and five civilians, said Abdul Qayum Ebrahimi, the district police chief.

Mr Ebrahimi said they believed the bombers had targeted Mr Manan.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Pakistani Bishops Urge Pope to Save Pakistani Woman From Execution

Rome, 12 Nov.(AKI) — Pakistan’s auxilary bishop to Lahore Bernard Shaw has implored Pope Benedict XVI to save a Pakistani woman sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother Asia is believed to be the first woman sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy law.

“We send a heartfelt appeal to the Holy Father to pray, intercede, and speak out on behalf of Asia Bibi,” Shaw said an appeal launched on Friday via Vatican missionary agency Fides.

Shaw called on people around the world to “raise [their] voices, put pressure and use all means necessary” to save Bibi.

Bibi’s relatives announced on Monday there were appealing against the death sentence handed to her on Monday by a court in the town of Nankana, around 75 kilometres from the city of Lahore in eastern Punjab province.

Secretary to the Peace and Justice commission of the Pakistan church, Peter Jacob, condemned Bibi’s sentencing, calling it “an authentic outrage to human dignity and truth.”

Ashiq Masih, who is a field labourer, said his wife was accused of blasphemy after getting into an argument last year with a group of women when she was sent by the wife of a village chief to fetch water.

The other women challenged his wife and said it was sacrilegious to drink water collected by a non-Muslim.

Local clerics raised the issue with the police five days later and Bibi was arrested and charged with insulting the Prophet Muhammad, according to Masih.

Human rights activists want the blasphemy law repealed as they say it is often exploited by Islamist extremists or those harbouring personal grudges.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Asia Bibi’s Conviction is an Incitement to Crime, Says Justice and Peace Official

Peter Jacob, secretary of the Church’s Justice and Peace Commission, said the death sentence is unjust, that it does not take into account how the law is being abused. Nazir Bhatti calls on the government to cancel the sentence as it has done in the past for some of terrorists.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — “The sentence against Asia Bibi is a veritable incitement to crime. There was never any insult to Islam in the case and the judge did not take into account how the blasphemy law is being abused. So he came down with a harsh sentence,” said Peter Jacob, secretary of the Church’s Justice and Peace Commission, as he spoke to AsiaNews about the death penalty inflicted on a 37-year-old female farm worker by a court in Punjab last Sunday. “We absolutely condemn this way of doing things; we call on the government to intervene and stop the law from being abused,” he added.

Asia Bibi, mother of two, is the first woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy. She has been in prison since last year. The trial judge accepted the prosecutor’s contention that she insulted Muhammad in a heated discussion with colleagues. In fact, all she did was to object to her fellow workers’ name-calling (infidel) and their attempt to get her to renounce Christianity. For this, Asia was beaten and reported to police in Ittanwali (Punjab) who arrested her on false blasphemy charges.

For Nazir S. Bhatti, who heads the Pakistan Christian Congress (PCC), Asia’s case is a clear attack on inter-faith dialogue because she was sentenced to death for her comment on Muhammad, not for any insult to the prophet.

“According to the constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the president of Pakistan or the interior minister have the power to withdraw any case,” Bhatti said. “There are examples of cases of terrorism withdrawn by the government of Pakistan. Why then the Pakistani administration is silent on Asia Bibi’s sentence?”

“In Pakistan, some 2.8 million Christians are treated as second class citizens, whilst Islamic government feel no shame to release Muslim criminals and terrorists,” he said.

Yet, despite the authorities’ silence, many figures in Pakistan’s civil society, both Christians and Muslims, are mobilising on Asia Bibi’s behalf as well as calling for the repeal of the blasphemy law.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Far East

Japan: Islamic Community Lays Down Roots

Muslims try to shake negative perceptions

Noon prayers at Tokyo Camii, also known as Tokyo Mosque, began peacefully with Imam Ensari Yenturk reciting verses from the Quran, while worshippers, who included a middle-aged Japanese man, bowed and offered prayers toward Mecca.

The Tokyo Camii & Turkish Culture Center in Shibuya Ward, notable for its Ottoman architecture and intricate Arabic reliefs, is one of the mosques located across the nation that serve a small but thriving Muslim community estimated to number around 110,000 to 120,000, including roughly 10,000 Japanese Muslims.

The Islamic community was recently offended by leaked counterterrorism files that revealed police have been identifying Muslim residents as “terrorist suspects,” an embarrassing incident that coincided with a heightened police alert for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum that wraps up Sunday in Yokohama.

But despite the incident, the Muslim community solemnly embraces its religion while trying to adapt to Japanese society.

“Terrorism is an activity that Islam doesn’t accept,” said Yenturk, who is also the director of Tokyo Camii, an institution that serves as a cultural hub for those interested in Islamic culture.

This sentiment is shared by many Muslim residents in Japan.

“Myself and many Muslims in Japan love this country and consider it our home. Why would we destroy our own home?” asked Ehsan Bhai, a founding member of the Islamic Circle of Japan, expressing displeasure at the recent leak of police documents.

Tokyo Camii, which was built in 1938 and is the second-oldest mosque in Japan, is open to worshippers and visitors of any nationality. It also hosts classes, Islamic “nikah” marriage ceremonies and conversions to Islam, which require two Muslim witnesses.

While relatively few worshippers visit Tokyo Camii to pray during regular weekdays, Yenturk said 400 to 500 Muslims, many from other parts of Asia, including Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, regularly attend the important Friday noon prayers.

Although Islam is regarded as the world’s second-largest religion after Christianity, Japan’s population remains small compared with their numbers in the United States, where 2.454 million reside, or Britain, with a community of 1.647 million Muslims, according to a 2009 report by the Pew Research Center.

According to studies conducted by Hirofumi Tanada, professor of human sciences at Waseda University in Tokyo, there were 58 mosques in Japan as of April 2009, although he said more were founded recently, bringing the total to around 60.

Most of these mosques do not boast the elaborate decorations and Islamic architecture of Tokyo Camii or the Kobe Muslim Mosque — built in 1935 as Japan’s first mosque — but are funded through donations and situated in nondescript houses and buildings featuring prayer rooms.

Although hard statistics do not exist, Tanada said he believed that besides the mosques, which he defines as being open for services year-round, there are probably over 100 “musalla,” or temporary locations where prayers are performed or congregations held, scattered across the country…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

British Yacht Couple Kidnapped by Somali Pirates Are Finally Released After 388 Days of Captivity

Ransom of $1million believed to have been paid to Somali pirates

Couple released in Ethiopian border town Adado at 4am this morning

A British couple held for more than a year by Somali pirates have finally been released after a ransom was paid.

Paul and Rachel Chandler, who were seized in October last year while sailing from the Seychelles to Tanzania, were ‘tired but happy’ after being handed over to officials in Adado.

The couple, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, have now touched down in Kenya’s capital Nairobi, signalling an end to their 338 day ordeal that started when gunmen hijacked their boat.

The couple landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and were handed over to officials from the British High Commission.

In a statement, the family said: ‘Yesterday evening, we received the wonderful news that Paul and Rachel Chandler were to be released by the Somali pirates who had held them in captivity since October 23 2009.

‘The videos that were shown on television earlier this year indicated that they were coping with the conditions and were in relatively good health.

‘But we cannot yet be certain how the difficulties that they have had to endure in recent months will have affected them physically and emotionally.’

‘Throughout the protracted discussions with the pirates it has been a difficult task for the family to get across the message that these were two retired people on a sailing trip on a small private yacht and not part of a major commercial enterprise involving tens of millions of pounds of assets.’

Mrs Chandler’s brother, Stephen Collett, said: ‘We are very pleased at the news.’

Richard Neylon, a lawyer for the Chandler family, said: ‘I confirm that Paul and Rachel Chandler have reached a place of safety.’

TV footage showed Mr and Mrs Chandler, aged 60 and 57 respectively, walking unaided in Adado.

They were released at around 4am this morning at the small town on the Ethiopian border and were given mobile phones to make calls as soon as they entered the safety of the compound housing the administration headquarters.

Mayor of the town, Mohamed Aden, said the couple had been given breakfast.

He told Sky News: ‘They were tired but happy — I am very, very happy. We gave them a cold shower, we have them a breakfast.

‘Then we showed them to the community, and the community showed them they are sorry about what happened.

‘They apologised for the treatment they were subjected to in our neighbourhood.’

A Somali physician who saw the couple, Dr Mohamed Elmi Hangul, told Al Jazeera: ‘Aside from the deep emotional and psychological abuse they endured over the past 13 months, they are doing relatively well.’

Reports suggest that a ransom of up to $1million (£620,000) was paid to secure the couple’s release.

The money is said to have come from a mixture of private investors and the Somali government. The British Government’s policy is not to pay ransom demands.

The Foreign Office has not yet commented on the reports.

The Chandler’s release ends a 388-day ordeal which began on October 23 last year when their 38ft yacht was stormed by armed men.

A last message posted on the couple’s online travel blog read: ‘Please ring Sarah’ — thought to be a reference to Mrs Chandler’s sister.

News of their capture emerged four days later after a pirate contacted a news agency and said ransom demands would follow, sparking a long series of negotiations between the pirates and a host of UK and Somali government officials.

The Chandlers themselves also made a series of appeals for help during television interviews permitted by the pirates.

In them, the emaciated couple told of being beaten, starved and kept apart in makeshift tents.

The pirates also threatened to ‘burn the bones’ of the Chandlers if a rescue attempt was made.

They had been sailing around the world on their yacht, the Lynn Rival, for several years when they left the Seychelles on October 22.

Their route took them near Somali waters notorious for pirate attacks on ships and smaller boats.

After their seizure, the pirates demanded $7million (£4.35million) for their release, but that figure is thought to have dropped towards the $1million mark.

It also emerged that the crew of a Royal Navy vessel was forced to watch the couple being kidnapped.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary replenishment tanker Wave Knight, carrying 75 merchant seamen and 25 Royal Navy sailors, was within sight at the time.

Military officials insisted the crew could not have acted without endangering the couple’s lives.

In November last year, the couple appeared on Channel 4 News to say their captors were ‘losing patience’ and that they could be killed within a week.

Their last appearance came in May, when Mr Chandler called on the new coalition government to make a statement on whether it would assist the couple.

He said: ‘I would like to say “congratulations” to David Cameron first. As the new Prime Minister we desperately need him to make a definitive public statement of the Government’s attitude to us.

‘If the Government can help, and I think they should, then we would welcome that and would they please do so.

‘But either way they must make a statement so that we know where we stand.’

According to Professor Mohamed Omar Dalha, deputy speaker of the parliament in the East African state, the pirates had been on the brink of backing down and releasing the Chandlers on compassionate grounds after their health deteriorated alarmingly.

Hostage negotiator Andrew Mwangura said he believed an initial payment was made two months ago to the gang who have held the couple for more than a year.

He added that it was thought the British sailors were finally released this weekend once a second balance payment had been transferred to the pirates.

The maritime official, who runs the Kenya-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme, said: ‘We have been expecting a development for some time and we are now hearing word that the couple have been released.

‘We are still waiting to confirm everything with our sources on the ground, but I believe a significant ransom payment was made some time back — perhaps two months ago.

‘I believe that was followed by a balance payment made this month.

‘If it is true that the couple have been released then that would suggest the pirates have kept their side of the bargain and freed them once the second payment had been transferred.’

Friends of the Chandlers were delighted that the couple finally been released and looking forward to them coming home.

Jacqueline Charlton, a neighbour of the Chandlers, said: ‘It hasn’t really sunk in yet. We can stop wondering now.

‘It’s been such a long time. They’ve been given a punishment worse than most criminals.

‘We’ll be very happy to see them back.’

Mr Chandler’ sister spoke of her ‘happiness’ at the news that her brother and sister-in-law Rachel had been released.

Mother-of-three Jill Marshment, 70, said she was ‘absolutely delighted’ from her home in Bredon, near Tewkesbury, Glos.

Mrs Marshment declined to comment further until she had spoken to the couple.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]


Libya Says No to Legislation on Asylum and UNHCR

(ANSAmed) — GENEVA, NOVEMBER 12 — Today in Geneva Libya rejected the recommendations, given in the context of a UN examination, to adopt legislation on asylum and to sign an agreement on the presence of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the country.

Tripoli also rejected the advice to abolish the death penalty and to guarantee equality to women in word and deed.

The recommendations on asylum and the UNHCR had been formulated by countries like the USA and Canada, as part of the periodical examination of the human rights situation in Libya, last Tuesday in Geneva. Tripoli also rejected the advise to abolish the death penalty, but at the same time delayed its reply to the request to adopt a moratorium on executions ahead of the abolition of the death sentence. Libya — in its answers to the 97 recommendations made by the UN member States during the examination — also rejected the recommendation to adhere to the 1967 Protocol of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. All in all, Libya has accepted 66 recommendations (almost all those that were signed by countries with which it has friendly ties), and rejected 25 (mainly those signed by Western countries). Other requests that were rejected include the equal treatment of women in word and deed, presented by Israel.

Libya announced on June 8 that it will close the UNHCR office in Tripoli; later the presence of the UNHCR was accepted but only to deal with existing cases. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Xenophobia: What’s Gone Wrong in Denmark?

The Danish parliament has recently toughened up laws regarding family reunification for immigrants. German daily Frankfurter Rundschau fears that this marks yet another step towards in an openly aggressive anti-immigrant policy, one which could spread throughout Europe.

Hannes Gamillscheg

Once upon a time there was a small country in northern Europe that was proud of — and esteemed for — its liberal, humanitarian attitudes, which served as a model for others. That country was Denmark. Now the Danish are making headlines with their xenophobic policies and Europe’s harshest immigration regulations, which are a mockery of liberal broadmindedness. They are setting an example again, only the ones applauding them nowadays are from the other end of the political spectrum. “The decisions we are making now will soon serve as a yardstick for other countries too,” boast Danish rightwingers, and past experience shows that may well be true.

Calls to check the influx of “non-Western” foreigners are spreading like wildfire across Europe. And Denmark is spearheading the crusade. The government had already outdone all the others by requiring that spouses from outside the EU be at least 24 years old before even applying for family reunification in Denmark. In future, they will also have to have a certain number of “points” to qualify for admission.

Calling Islam a plague and a terrorist organisation

And the way the scoring system is rigged, non-academics from Third World countries are bound to fail — which is of course the whole point: “Some people are simply not supposed to make it into our country,” says Prime Minister Rasmussen. Copenhagen has already set the hurdles for permanent residency and naturalisation so high that, for all intents and purposes, immigrants without a university degree don’t stand a chance. Henceforth similar regulations will apply to those who assert their human right to start a family. Partners are welcome only if they are of use to Denmark. For the rest, the border’s closed till further notice.

There’s no denying the problems caused by the failed integration of some immigrant groups. But the solutions Danish politicians have been concocting for years have poisoned the atmosphere and nurtured a mindset that would still be unthinkable in most other countries. Where else could members of parliament call Islam a plague and a terrorist organisation, or say Muslims murder their daughters if they can’t hand them over to be raped by their uncles, without being swept out of office by a wave of public outrage? In Denmark even the grossest violations have become so common that most people just shrug them off now. And these immigrant-bashers [the Danish People’s Party] happen to be the faithful majority-makers for the centre-right coalition government.

Few make a stand against the xenophobic mainstream

So the liberalminded role model has morphed into a cautionary tale. How could it come to this? Not for objective reasons, at any rate. The proportion of immigrants from “non-Western” countries is comparatively low, at six per cent; the “ghettos” many of them inhabit are pretty, green housing estates; Denmark is not plagued by unemployment or a high crime rate.

And yet right-wing populists have made it big by relentlessly agitating against immigrants, the right-of-centre parties have already won three elections on the highly effective anti-immigration ticket; and for fear of renewed electoral setbacks, even social democrats and socialists are now toeing the xenophobic line. Only one social-liberal party and one left-wing party, which, combined, hold less than ten per cent of the vote, are making a stand against the xenophobic mainstream.

Empty coffers and recurrent scandals

The upshot is an endless series of laws and rule changes aimed at making life harder for immigrants. And every time it looks as though the crackdown has gone as far as it could possibly go, the government finds yet another screw to tighten: e.g. halving welfare benefits for the first seven years in the country, cutting benefits for parents if their children do not behave. Particularly among youths from hard-to-integrate groups, this ongoing exclusion is breeding a disaffection with Danish society that could morph into hatred. How, even centre-right politicians ask, are these immigrants supposed to integrate if they wake up every morning to hear that they are a problem.

And yet keeping the “migrant problem” simmering has kept the centre-right camp in power for nearly ten years now. With the next elections coming up in 2011, empty coffers and recurrent scandals have dimmed the coalition’s prospects of winning again. So once again they are playing the immigrant card that has already turned up trumps at the ballots three times running — to the detriment of integration and the values that once distinguished Denmark.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Building Bridges With Graffiti Art

Graffiti art seen as resource in addressing issues of multiculturalism, community cohesion.

We hear government officials, academics and politicians talking about the problems of multiculturalism and community cohesion, but I feel they have left one resource untapped when it comes to finding solutions: art. In fact, I often make the bold statement that graffiti art has the power to change the world.

Art that is bursting outside of conventional art spaces, outside of galleries, and is quite literally spilling onto the streets is an amazing means of connecting people. Murals I have painted on busy street corners have brought people together as every day perhaps thousands ponder the messages of the art I create.

Those who have seen my work say it brings together the best of both worlds. My pieces are an amalgamation of two almost opposite extremes, in terms of art forms at least. I take street art, born on the streets of the West, and combine that with a sacred, classical style of Islamic script and patterns — introducing this art form in places where I have permission to paint.

This is my personal attempt at challenging the notion of the “clash of civilisations”. The art I create actually merges two civilisations and communicates a unique message that we can be inspired by spirituality and faith, but that we should learn to apply these to modern life. We can deal with contemporary issues and connect with others in doing so.

In the post-9/11 world, Islam has come under the spotlight and is often portrayed negatively by the media and misunderstood by non-Muslims. Amid the negativity, I feel encouraged to stick my neck out even further, go against the grain and express who I am without any insecurity hindering my efforts. Despite this hype about Islam, I feel good about being a Muslim living in the West. I can be inspired by my faith, yet also contribute to developing a harmonious society.

It’s an important time to challenge these stereotypes and encourage real dialogue between ordinary people with different ideas, identities and backgrounds, not leave it to faith leaders sharing tea and biscuits.

Art is one way of facilitating this dialogue. In my art, I convey principles — peace, justice, brotherhood and respect — that I believe are fading away from our modern societies, but which I highlight to make people aware that they do in fact share common principles. For the average Joe or Jane who travels to work during rush hour traffic, and for local residents who walk past a particular mural every day, I want the walls that carry my messages to come alive and remind people of these shared principles.

Man has forever told his story by carving or scratching his message into a wall in a public space. Graffiti has been around for thousands of years, way before the spray painted subways of New York. So before we throw out the baby with the bathwater and view graffiti as something that is only for mindless youth, I ask everyone to stop and realise that we are all graffiti artists. It is an innate part of man’s nature. After all, when we are on the phone and we have a pen in our hand, what do we do? We create our own graffiti.

Let’s harness the energy and power of the spray can, and use our public spaces to convey something colourful and meaningful to deal with some of the problems we face in the world today.

Mohammed Ali is a UK-based artist whose work can be seen at This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Tribunal Fight for Christian Doctor Axed by Panel in Gay Adoption Row

A Christian doctor ousted from a council adoption panel after refusing to endorse gay couples is taking her case to an employment tribunal, claiming religious discrimination.

In a case that could go all the way to the European courts, Dr Sheila Matthews said there was ‘no reason’ the council could not find a compromise to accommodate her views.

She has now resigned from her £72,000-a-year post as a community paediatrician, claiming her career has been irreparably damaged.

Dr Matthews blames political correctness for creating a ‘hostile climate’ for Christians, adding: ‘It is getting really scary.

‘The anger I feel is not only for me but for lots of other people of faith who feel they have to choose between their beliefs and their job.’

Her case, which starts tomorrow in Leicester, follows that of Eunice and Owen Johns, a couple from Derby who were banned from fostering because of their traditional Christian views about homosexuality.

Dr Matthews says her objections to gay adoption are based on scientific findings as well as biblical teachings.

The 50-year-old mother-of-one was appointed as medical adviser to one of Northamptonshire County Council’s two adoption panels six years ago.

She medically examined couples who applied to adopt to make sure they were healthy enough to provide a child with long-term care. She then reported to the ten-strong panel made up of councillors, social workers and lay people, of which she was a full member.

The panel then interviewed applicants before members voted on whether the prospective adoptive parents should be recommended.

But the final decision in all adoption cases was made by the council’s head of children and young people’s services, who was not bound by the panel’s advice.

Dr Matthews’s problems arose in January 2009 when a gay couple applied to adopt, the first such case since the introduction in 2006 of equality laws that required adoption agencies to consider homosexual candidates in the same way as heterosexual ones.

Dr Matthews, a Christian since she was a teenager, said she had concluded after years of research that gay households were not as good for vulnerable children as a father and mother.

Rather than voting against the gay applicants, however, she told the head of Northamptonshire’s adoption team that she would abstain.

In April last year, however, she was summoned to a meeting with the head of children’s services. A month later, she was removed as a full member of the panel.

In August, the NHS Primary Care Trust, which had allowed her to continue as the medical adviser without voting rights, replaced her in this role. In March this year she resigned.

Dr Matthews said the council had acted unreasonably as only a tiny number of cases involved gay couples, and it would have been easy to allow her to abstain or find a substitute for her on the panel on those occasions.

Her case is being backed by the Christian Legal Centre and she is being represented by human rights lawyer Paul Diamond.

Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘It cannot be right that a doctor of such standing is forced from her role on an adoption panel just because of her professional and Christian views.’

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: ‘It is inappropriate to comment on this matter at this stage’.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]


Phyllis Chesler: The Feminist Politics of Islamic Misogyny

Studying honor killings is not the same as sensationalizing them — but Columbia University professor Lila Abu-Lughod disagrees. Moreover, she believes that indigenous Arab and Muslim behavior, including honor-related violence, is best understood as a consequence of Western colonialism — perhaps even of “Islamophobia.”

On October 25, 2010, at the American University of Beirut, Abu-Lughod admonished feminists who ostensibly sensationalize honor killings, a position which, in her opinion, represents “simplistic, civilizational thinking.” She “warned that an obsessive focus on the so-called honor crime may have negative repercussions” and that “people should be wary of classifying certain acts as a distinctive form of violence against women.” (Her remarks are summarized in a press release published by the university. According to the university, the article on which the speech is based will be published early next year in Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies.)

Abu-Lughod opposed the “concept of clear-cut divisions between cultures, which she viewed as a form of imprisoning rural and immigrant communities,” and suggested that focusing on “honor crimes” allowed “scholars and activists to ignore important contexts for violence against women: social tensions; political conflicts; forms of racial, class, and ethnic discrimination; religious movements; government policing and surveillance; and military intervention.”

What kind of feminism does Abu-Lughod represent? She is a post-colonial, postmodern, cultural relativist, a professor of anthropology and women’s and gender studies who does not believe in universal standards of human rights. However, her allegedly feminist work primarily serves the cause of one nationalism only — Palestinian — and of one tradition only — Islam/Islamism.

Abu-Lughod has long held the positions she expressed in Beirut. According to her 2002 article in The American Anthropologist, “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?,” Abu-Lughod believes that wearing the Islamic veil signifies “respectability” for Muslim women. More, it can be “read as a sign of educated, urban sophistication, a sort of modernity.” She writes,…

[Return to headlines]

News Feed 20101113

Financial Crisis
» Bernanke’s Worst Nightmare: Ron Paul New Fed Overseer
» Ireland Has Been Betrayed by Its EU ‘Friends’
» Ireland ‘In Preliminary Talks With EU on Bailout’
» It’s Not the “Great Recession”. It’s the Great Bank Robbery
» Leading Chinese Credit Rating Agency Downgrades USA Government Bonds
» Paul Craig Roberts: Phantom Jobs
» Syria: Youth Unemployment Situation Worsens
» Why World Leaders Smacked Down Obama at G20 Summit
» 8 House Races Still Undecided
» America’s Clearest and Present Danger
» CAIR Tells Muslims How to Limit TSA Inspection
» Corrupt MSM Will Reap What it Has Sown
» Dupage Proposal Would Ban New Neighborhood Churches
» Expert: Past 10 Days Have Been Worst of President Obama’s ‘Political Life’
» How to Restore States’ Sovereignty
» How the West is Being Lost
» Muslim Group Advises Women Wearing Hijabs to Allow TSA ‘Enhanced Pat Downs’ Only on Head and Neck Area
» Tax Records Belie CAIR Spokesman’s Claim
Europe and the EU
» Autobiography of Danish Mohammed Cartoonist Goes on Sale
» Britain’s Top Soldier Says Al-Qaeda Cannot be Beaten
» Christopher Hitchens: ‘You Have to Choose Your Future Regrets’
» Germany: French Police Deployed at Anti-Nuclear Protests
» Germany Considers Loosening Arms Export Controls
» Germany: Jewish Doctor Refuses to Operate on Nazi Patient
» Italian Aids Vaccine ‘Working’
» Italy: Pompeii to Get Foundation After Gladiator School Collapse
» Italy: Most of Pompeii Site ‘At Risk of Collapse’
» Italy: House of the Vestal Virgins to Reopen After 26 Years
» The Indictment of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff
» UK: Disgusting Islamophobia: Woolas Smears MPACUK With Fake ‘Death Threat’ Leaflet [4 May 2010]
» UK: Election 2010 Success: Four Zionists Taken Out by MPACUK
» UK: MPACUK CEO Zulfi Bukhari: Election Wrap Up [7 May 2010]
» UK: Muslim Tactical Voting Brings UK Election Success [11 May 2010]
» UK: MPACUK Criticises Woolas Appointment [5 October 2008]
» UK: Muslim Fanatics: We’d Burn More Poppies
» UK: Muslim Group Plans Remembrance Sunday Protest
» UK: Oldham Pitt Street Mosque: Phil Woolas’s ‘Religous’ Thugs
» UK: Rolling Election Views From You — the Public! [7 May 2010]
» UK: The JC and the Phil Woolas Affair
» UK: The Sun Finds Poppy Thugs
» UK: Woolas Should Go Quietly
» Vatican: Envoys Set to Travel to Ireland for Abuse Probe
» Kosovo: Seven Indicted for Human Organs Trafficking
North Africa
» Egypt Raises Sinai Alert Level Over Gaza-Bound Terror Squad
» Egyptian Security Attempts to Stop Construction of Church
Israel and the Palestinians
» Barack Obama: The Most Anti-Israel President!
» Column One: Addressing Our Homegrown Enemies
» Six Years Ago, Yasir Arafat Died; Today His Legacy Still Prevails: No to Peace, No to Compromise
Middle East
» De Varthema’s Journey in Mecca of the 16th Century
» Fundamentally Freund: Why is Obama Arming Israel’s Enemies?
» Into the Iraqi Night
» Saudi Arabia: ‘Mecca Metro’ Ready for Pilgrims
» UAE: Nuclear Power in Dubai’s Future
» Yemen: The War on Terror and a Deadly Game of Cat and Mouse
South Asia
» Afghanistan: Taliban Insurgents in Attack on NATO Base
» Are Religious Fasts-Unto-Death Suicide?
» Coup in Pakistan ‘A Real Possibility’
» Malaysia: Boy Caned for Bringing Pork to School
» Repeal Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law
Far East
» Disney World in Which Chinese Children ‘Toil for 76 Hours a Week’
Australia — Pacific
» Indian Websites Do Your Homework for $2
» UK: Muslims Vow to Unseat Zionists [8 April 2010]
Culture Wars
» The Feminist Politics of Islamic Misogyny

Financial Crisis

Bernanke’s Worst Nightmare: Ron Paul New Fed Overseer

Promises to change House committee’s focus from commemorative coins to monetary policy

NEW YORK ( — Ben Bernanke has had his hands full since his first day on the job as Federal Reserve chairman nearly five years ago. It’s about to get even tougher.

His harshest critic on Capitol Hill, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, is about to become one of his overseers.

With the Republicans coming to power, Paul, who would like to abolish the Fed and the nation’s current monetary system, will become the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy.

If you’ve never heard of the committee before, you’re not alone. But Paul promises you’ll be hearing a lot more from it.

Paul doesn’t think he’ll be able to move his proposal to eliminate the Fed, or to allow Americans to use gold instead of paper money as currency. But he said he does intend to use his new position as “a mini-bully pulpit” to criticize Fed policy and call more attention to what he sees as its negative consequences. And he’s confident that American voters are ready to delve into those monetary policy questions.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Ireland Has Been Betrayed by Its EU ‘Friends’

The country is now effectively bust — its brutal cuts will have been in vain, says Jeremy Warner.

When politics and economics collide, it is often said, the economics always ends up winning. The curiosity of the euro is that it has managed to defy this otherwise universally applicable rule; the politics somehow continues to triumph over the single currency’s self-evidently flawed economics.

For how much longer can this continue? Events in the bond markets this week make it more or less inevitable that Ireland is going to have to follow Greece in seeking support from the European Union’s new bailout fund. Unlike Greece, Ireland is fully funded through to the middle of next year, so there is no immediate danger of a liquidity crisis. All the same, markets aren’t waiting around to find out: some kind of denouement seems to be fast approaching.

Yields on Irish government debt have rocketed to their highest level since the launch of the euro, threatening to wipe out virtually all the benefit that Ireland has derived from the eurozone’s low interest rate environment.

[Return to headlines]

Ireland ‘In Preliminary Talks With EU on Bailout’

The Republic of Ireland is in preliminary talks with EU officials for financial support, the BBC has learned.

It is now no longer a matter of whether but when the Irish government formally approaches the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF) for a bailout, correspondents say.

The provisional estimate for EFSF loans is believed to lie between 60bn and 80bn euros ($82-110bn; £51-68bn).

Dublin says there are no talks on an application for emergency EU funding.

A spokesman for Ireland’s department of finance said the country was funded until the middle of 2011, the public-service RTE broadcaster reported.

RTE had earlier said talks had been held on how a bail-out might happen in a theoretical worst-case scenario.

The European Commission would not formally comment on the matter.

Eurozone officials told the Reuters news agency on Friday that discussions were under way, with one saying that it was “very likely” Ireland would receive financial assistance.

The head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, said on Saturday that it had not been asked for aid.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

It’s Not the “Great Recession”. It’s the Great Bank Robbery

In case it’s not crystal clear, this isn’t the “Great Recession”.

It’s really the Great Bank Robbery.

First, there was the threat of martial law if the $700 Billion Tarp bailout wasn’t passed. Specifically, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson warned Congress that there would be martial law unless the Tarp bailouts were approved.


As I wrote in March 2009:

The bailout money is just going to line the pockets of the wealthy, instead of helping to stabilize the economy or even the companies receiving the bailouts:

  • Bailout money is being used to subsidize companies run by horrible business men, allowing the bankers to receive fat bonuses, to redecorate their offices, and to buy gold toilets and prostitutes
  • A lot of the bailout money is going to the failing companies’ shareholders
  • Indeed, a leading progressive economist says that the true purpose of the bank rescue plans is “a massive redistribution of wealth to the bank shareholders and their top executives”
  • The Treasury Department encouraged banks to use the bailout money to buy their competitors, and pushed through an amendment to the tax laws which rewards mergers in the banking industry (this has caused a lot of companies to bite off more than they can chew, destabilizing the acquiring companies)

And as the New York Times notes, “Tens of billions of [bailout] dollars have merely passed through A.I.G. to its derivatives trading partners”.


In other words, through a little game-playing by the Fed, taxpayer money is going straight into the pockets of investors in AIG’s credit default swaps and is not even really stabilizing AIG.


But certainly quantitative easing is helping the little guy?

Unfortunately, QE only helps the big banks and giant corporations, and the small number of investors who hold most of the stock. See this, this, this, this and this.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Leading Chinese Credit Rating Agency Downgrades USA Government Bonds

One of China’s leading credit rating agencies has downgraded United States of America government debt in response to what it sees as deliberate devaluation of the dollar by quantitative easing and other means.

If China, now the second biggest economy in the world, stops buying US government bonds this could have a very negative effect on the global recovery. The Dagong Global Credit Rating Company analysis is highly critical of American attempts to borrow their way out of debt. It criticises competitive currency devaluation and predicts a “long-term recession”.

Dagong Global Credit says: “In order to rescue the national crisis, the US government resorted to the extreme economic policy of depreciating the U.S. dollar at all costs and this fully exposes the deep-rooted problem in the development and the management model of national economy.

“It would be difficult for the U.S. to find the correct path to revive the US economy should the US government fail to understand the source of the credit crunch and the development law of a modern credit economy, and stick to the mindset of traditional economic management model, which indicates that the US economic and social development will enter a long-term recession phase.”

The analysis concludes: “The potential overall crisis in the world resulting from the US dollar depreciation will increase the uncertainty of the U.S. economic recovery. Under the circumstances that none of the economic factors influencing the U.S. economy has turned better explicitly it is possible that the US will continue to expand the use of its loose monetary policy, damaging the interests the creditors.

“Therefore, given the current situation, the United States may face much unpredictable risks in solvency in the coming one to two years. Accordingly, Dagong assigns negative outlook on both local and foreign currency sovereign credit ratings of the United States.”

[Return to headlines]

Paul Craig Roberts: Phantom Jobs

If we cannot trust what the government tells us about weapons of mass destruction, terrorist events, and the reasons for its wars and bailouts, can we trust the government’s statement last Friday that the US economy gained 151,000 payroll jobs during October?

Apparently not. After examining the government’s report, statistician John Williams ( reported that the jobs were “phantom jobs” created by “concurrent seasonal factor adjustments.” In other words, the 151,000 jobs cannot be found in the unadjusted underlying data. The jobs were the product of seasonal adjustments concocted by the BLS.

As usual, the financial press did no investigation and simply reported the number handed to the media by the government.

The relevant information, the information that you need to know, is that the level of payroll employment today is below the level of 10 years ago. A smaller number of Americans are employed right now than were employed a decade ago.

Think about what that means. We have had a decade of work force growth from youngsters reaching working age and from immigration, legal and illegal, but there are fewer jobs available to accommodate a decade of work force entrants than before the decade began.

During two years from December 2007 — December 2009, the US economy lost 8,363,000 jobs, according to the payroll jobs data. As of October 2010, payroll jobs purportedly have increased by 874,000, an insufficient amount to keep up with labor force growth. However, John Williams reports that 874,000 is an overestimate of jobs as a result of the faulty “birth-death model,” which overestimates new business start-ups during recessions and underestimates business failures. Williams says that the next benchmark revision due out next February will show a reduction in current employment by almost 600,000 jobs. This assumes, of course, that the BLS does not gimmick the benchmark revision. If Williams is correct, it is more evidence that the hyped recovery is non-existent.

Discounting the war production shutdown at the end of World War II, which was not a recession in the usual sense, Williams reports that “the current annual decline [in employment] remains the worst since the Great Depression, and should deepen further.”

In short, there is no employment data, and none in the works, unless gimmicked, that supports the recovery myth. The US rate of unemployment, if measured according to the methodology used in 1980, is 22.5%. Even the government’s broader measure of unemployment stands at 17%. The 9.6% reported rate is a concocted measure that does not include discouraged workers who have been unable to find a job after 6 months and workers who who want full time jobs but can only find part-time work.

Another fact that is seldom, if ever, reported, is that the payroll jobs data reports the number of jobs, not the number of people with jobs. Some people hold two jobs; thus, the payroll report does not give the number of employed people.

The BLS household survey measures the number of people with jobs. The same October that reported 151,000 new payroll jobs reported, according to the household survey, a loss of 330,000 jobs.

The American working class has been destroyed. The American middle class is in its final stages of destruction. Soon the bottom rungs of the rich themselves will be destroyed.

The entire way through this process the government will lie and the media will lie.

The United States of America has become the country of the Big Lie. Those who facilitate government and corporate lies are well rewarded, but anyone who tells any truth or expresses an impermissible opinion is excoriated and driven away.

But we “have freedom and democracy.” We are the virtuous, indispensable nation, the salt of the earth, the light unto the world.

[Return to headlines]

Syria: Youth Unemployment Situation Worsens

(ANSAmed) — ROME, NOVEMBER 12 — The lack of job opportunities and highly qualified personnel needed in the private sector have worsened the unemployment problems that young people in Syria are facing. The conditions for many jobs are seen as unfair, forcing the majority of people to turn to the public sector, according to the website of satellite network Al Arabiyya, which cited data from the statistics office. Eighty-one percent of university graduates, according to official data, wait for four years before getting their first job. This percentage drops to 61% for young people with secondary school diplomas or for those who have taken a professional training course. “The state absorbs about 30-40% of the 250,000 graduates,” commented economic researcher Samir Sefan, who added that the rest look for work in the private sector, which is not growing and which cannot create sufficient job opportunities. The Syrian population, according to a report from the Planning Agency, increased between 1991 and 2008 by 50%. During the same period the percentage of workers in the total eligible working population dropped during the same period from 46.6% to 44.8%. The average employment percentage for the younger segment of the population from ages 15-24 declined from 30.8% of the total workforce in 2001 to 20.4% in 2008. “The main interest for young Syrians is finding a job that can guarantee their future,” according to Bilal Urabi, a Professor of Sociology at the University of Damascus. Finding employment, he continued, is a very difficult task according to young people. As soon as a help wanted add comes out, you immediately find a long line of unemployed people applying. “The high rate of youth unemployment is due,” continued Bilal Urabi, “to demographic growth and an inadequate education system, which does not provide youngsters with the qualities that the private sector demands.” “When we are studying at university,” commented Lama, who recently graduated with a degree in journalism and who works for a small magazine, “we are very optimistic, but after graduating disappointment comes quickly because our qualifications are not sufficient to obtain a job.” The problem, added Lama, is that many of us do not have the necessary “drive to obtain a job”. The majority of young people who are not qualified prefer to work in the public sector because it is seen as safer and more stable than the private sector. “Due to the absence of trade unions in the private sector, employers act at times like ‘father-bosses’ and force us,” concluded Lama, “to work more than 12 hours per day for very low wages.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Why World Leaders Smacked Down Obama at G20 Summit

Fresh from his self-described shellacking in this month’s midterm elections, President Obama has gotten pretty much the same treatment from foreign leaders as he has made his way through Asia this week.

Leaders at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Seoul, South Korea — China and Germany topping the list — made it clear that they feel freer than ever to stand up to the United States on global economic issues. And South Korea refused to bow to Obama administration demands for reworking a US-Korea free-trade agreement dating from the Bush administration, putting off conclusion of the trade pact until at least next year.


But perhaps nothing played a bigger role in lining up international opposition to Obama than the Federal Reserve’s action last week — pumping $600 billion in new money into the economy. The world saw that move as devaluing the dollar to make American products cheaper, rather than as an effort to stimulate US economic growth.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


8 House Races Still Undecided

Republicans gained at least 59 House seats in last week’s election, but they are positioned to win more. While Democratic incumbents hold leads in three of the still-contested races, they trail in five others, with thousands of ballots still to be counted.

Here is POLITICO’s list of undecided races…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

America’s Clearest and Present Danger

Communists eat their own in pursuit of any means to an end. Stalin is the classic example, killing 50 million people under his control through purges, starvation, and any other means to his ends.

George Will stated in a recent writing the opinion that Obama is a spent volcano. The evidence is legion and growing. His swaggering and lecturing foreign leaders is mocked and now routinely rebuffed. His domestic policies ridiculed and reviled. His control of congress crippled. His only remaining usefulness to Soros is that of a rear guard continuation of sowing seeds of diversity within the American populace. Here too his effectiveness is shown by polls to be dwindling precipitously.

Obama has served several functions consistent with ‘Soros’ strategy, the quotation marks indicating that the strategy is a group effort. Their activities represent the classic model of first destabilizing a target government as a prelude to crushing it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

CAIR Tells Muslims How to Limit TSA Inspection

‘They SHOULD NOT subject you to a full-body or partial-body pat-down’

An Islamic group that was named an unindicted co-conspirator in a terror-funding case is telling Muslim women how to instruct Transportation Security Administration agents at airport checkpoints.

The advisory by the Council on American-Islamic Relations comes amid controversial new requirements set by the TSA for passengers traveling by air either to submit to a nude full-body scan or have a full pat-down that includes private parts of the body.

Now, according to CAIR, those procedures may be for others but not necessarily for Muslim woman.

“If you opt out of the full-image body scanner, you have the right to request that the manual search be conducted in private,” CAIR said on its website. “It is your right to be screened by an officer of the same gender. The TSA states in its Head-to-Toe Screening Policies: ‘It is TSA’s policy that passengers should be screened by an officer of the same gender in a professional, respectful manner.’“

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Corrupt MSM Will Reap What it Has Sown

John Ziegler’s film Media Malpractice — How Obama Got Elected

John Ziegler’s film Media Malpractice — How Obama Got Elected is finally getting the attention it deserves, mainly through the Internet blogosphere. The film exposes the morally bankrupt mainstream media (MSM) for the shameful role it played in having Barack Obama elected as U.S. President.

Many of the contributors to Canada Free Press have been warning for several years that the MSM in both the United States and Canada have abandoned any pretense of unbiased reporting in favor of political activism and propaganda.

What Media Malpractice does is tie it all together in a neat package using the MSM’s own words and images to expose them for what they are, namely liars, duplicitous cowards and ridicule to destroy their victims, ostensibly under the guise of news coverage. If I still worked in that industry I would be profoundly ashamed and embarrassed to call myself a journalist at any level.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Dupage Proposal Would Ban New Neighborhood Churches

Neighbors of a house on Army Trail Road where people come to pray together several times daily want to know why that’s being allowed.

The practice violates DuPage County zoning regulations, but enforcement of the code is on hold while the Islamic Center of the Western Suburbs completes a lengthy permitting process to use the site near West Chicago, now zoned for residential use, as a worship center.

“They are attempting to come out from underneath the violation through the zoning process,” said Paul Hoss, a county planner.

Jackie Sitkiewicz and her husband Ray have a driveway that adjoins the center’s western access point. The couple, who have blocked off their property with plastic cones and railroad ties, are incensed that the five-times-daily prayer continues.

“I’m 64 years old. I have never experienced anything like this in my life,” Jackie said. “When we were told not to do something, we didn’t do it.”

The case has assorted parallels to the Irshad Learning Center, which was proposed for property on 75th Street just east of the Naperville border. After county officials earlier this year turned down the center’s request for a conditional use permit to open an Islamic prayer site and school, they were named in a complaint alleging infringement of constitutional freedom. The 18 County Board and Zoning Board of Appeals members targeted in the suit are awaiting a court ruling on their request to have the case dismissed.

Restricting districts

The county also is taking steps to fend off future struggles between religious organizations and homeowners who don’t want them practicing their faith next door. Designed to encompass places of assembly in general, the proposed zoning code changes face considerable opposition from those who contend they would deny the faithful their right to religious freedom.

The ZBA on Monday will continue hearing what people have to say about the prohibition of group gathering sites in residential areas of unincorporated DuPage. County staff say the proposed modifications would keep intensive uses from taxing the neighborhoods’ finite street, sewer and water networks. Opponents who have spoken up at the two hearing sessions held so far say it would be at odds with a long tradition of religious places comprising a pillar of community life.

According to the Rev. Tim Casey, pastor of the church near Bartlett where the ICWS meets for larger gatherings, the proposal provides no “wiggle room” — for example, sites fronting on busy thoroughfares, that formerly were sleepy country lanes.

Does one size fit all?

The Rev. Linda Tossey, pastor at Community Baptist Church in Warrenville, said some kinds of worship spaces are distinctly well-suited to neighborhoods. Her church hosts a variety of weekday programs, and some participants and congregation members walk to the property. She agrees with the assertion that “mega church” buildings and large synagogues and mosques are better located in nonresidential areas near major roads.

“If this goes into effect, then are we saying there is only one type of church or place of worship that you can build?” Tossey said. “Merely by doing that, you are, by government regulations, really restricting when and where churches may be.”

There’s nothing new about houses of worship operating in people’s backyards. DuPage County has 79 assembly places outside of municipal boundaries, 90 percent of them situated in neighborhoods.

At least a half-dozen churches sit within a mile of the Irshad site, all of them abutting residential areas. A woman who lives on Tranquility Lane, adjacent to The Church in Naperville, said the facility doesn’t detract from her family’s quality of life. The former home has been used as a church since 1989.

“Honestly, it was six or eight months (after we moved in) before I even realized it was a church,” said the resident, who preferred not to have her name published. She added that neither of the much-larger churches that are also nearby creates a problem with noise, traffic or other crowd-driven factors, either.

Tony Michelassi, the County Board member who heads the Development Committee, said work is under way to modify the proposal so it accommodates issues that have been raised in the hearings — including the difference in the infrastructure requirements for a large church relative to a small one.

Islamic undertones

To some who have followed the controversy, apprehension of Islam is a significant issue.

“Certainly I have a concern that it is related to that,” said Tossey, whose church is hosting a four-session seminar designed to better familiarize participants with Islam.

Woodridge resident Tasneem Osmani was more openly critical of the county proposal.

“In essence, the county is banning Islamic groups from practicing in the county,” he said.

But according to the Naperville attorney representing the ICWS, at least part of the problem is that religious spaces aren’t homes.

“There’s an inherent conflict between residential and institutional uses,” said Kevin Gallaher of Nyberg & Cassioppi, who has worked with assorted religious groups seeking to locate in unincorporated areas. “I think it’s more the unknown, because to be honest, once the religious uses have moved in, it seems that everyone has been able to get along just fine.”

The neighbors of the Army Trail location appear disinclined to extend an olive branch just yet. Several of them last week grilled traffic engineer Javier Milan, hired by the ICWS, over his report that no more than seven cars at a time were seen on the site in his seven visits to the location. The project wouldn’t worsen travel on nearby roads, Milan said.

Nearby resident and project opponent Paul Ciolino queried Milan about his other studies, which have included work done for another Muslim organization hoping to locate in the county.

“Do you have a new stream of business dealing with Islamic centers exclusively?” Ciolino said.

Seeking proper fit

Some of those watching the county zoning process believe there’s a better way to accommodate the assorted concerns. Faiyaz Hussain, spokesman for a task force reviewing the proposal on behalf of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said he doesn’t see “discriminatory animus” as an underlying factor in the proposal. More consideration needs to be given to the different forms a house of worship can take.

“They’re taking a very blunt sledgehammer approach to solve a problem that really needs a more surgical strike,” Hussain said.

Local attorney Mark Sargis, a member of the Wheaton Planning and Zoning Board, has represented opponents of church zoning requests as well as applicants. He cautioned during the ZBA’s hearing against adopting a blanket provision countering the long-standing trend of neighborhood churches.

“Is there a problem that needs to be fixed?” he said. “And if there is a problem, how can it be addressed in the least burdensome way?”

Michelassi also sees the logic in taking a look at honing the zoning to make its impact more precise.

“The task that really lies before the county now is to take all the public comments that have been brought forward and bring them into a policy,” he said, declining to discuss the specifics of the discussions so far. “There’s going to be a lot more work done on this.”

Committee discussions begun more than two years ago recognized that finding a solution would not be a simple matter.

“We won’t be trying to make a one-size-fits-all solution that is perhaps too far-reaching,” said committee member and District 4 County Board member Debra Olson in May 2009.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Expert: Past 10 Days Have Been Worst of President Obama’s ‘Political Life’

WASHINGTON — President Obama is coming home from his overseas trip pretty much empty-handed.

After watching his party take a beating in the midterm elections, Obama wasn’t able to secure even a symbolic victory on a trip that was expected to give him plenty of opportunities to claim a win.

“This certainly was the worst 10 days of his political life,” said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio. “Given that he’s not going to be able to get any domestic achievements with the Republicans in control of the House … if he doesn’t do it in foreign policy that’s a big problem for him.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

How to Restore States’ Sovereignty

“What’s Harry Reid done for us lately?”

That question was posed in one of the informal voter opinion sessions in Nevada hosted by Fox News during the recent election cycle. The constitutional response would be: U.S. senators are not supposed to represent the citizens of the state.

When the First Continental Congress was convened via a resolution of the Congress of the Confederation, one of the first issues discussed on May 29, 1787, was the balance of power for a newly created federal government:


The framers of the Constitution wisely understood the absolute necessity of ensuring we the people would have the right to vote for our representative in Congress, and at the same time because they all jealously guarded freedom and liberty, the states must also have equal representation. We the people would have the ability to remove via the ballot box miscreants and scoundrels, while the state legislatures could recall their U.S. senators who acted against the best interests of their states.

The Senate was supposed to be a sort of check and balance, but that disappeared when U.S. senators began to be voted into office by special interests and mobs demanding more from the people’s treasury. The absolute right of the states to equal representation was wiped out when the 17th Amendment was declared ratified April 8, 1913.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

How the West is Being Lost

Wall Street financial scammer Bernie Madoff’s success stemmed from preying upon people’s trust, coupled with the naïve cooperation of federal regulators who failed to see what was coming. But Madoff’s scam pales in comparison to one being pulled off against unsuspecting Americans with the naïve cooperation of a President similarly disposed. The recent firing of NPR analyst Juan Williams is but one more telltale sign that the scam is working.

Formed in Egypt during the 1920s, the Muslim Brotherhood is an extremist Islamic group. Among its most revered thinkers is the martyr Sayyid Qutb who called for worldwide rejection of Western values before his 1966 execution. Ever since, his writings have radicalized Islamic thought, including that of al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.

A 2007 criminal investigation into organizers of a charitable Islamic organization’s terrorist funding links yielded evidence of the Brotherhood’s strategy for implementing Sharia law in the US through gradual erosion of the Constitution. Ironically, this evidence was found in the residence of an unindicted co-conspirator in Virginia—home to many of our Constitution’s framers.

The evidence included the “Ikhwan,” a 1991 document describing the Brotherhood’s work in America as “a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” Called the “civilianization-jihadist process,” it requires a “mastery of the art of ‘coalitions,’ the art of ‘absorption’ and the principles of ‘cooperation.’“ Audiotape evidence emphasized deception.

The Brotherhood’s mandate is to establish a global caliphate, governed under Sharia. The proposed infrastructure for doing this in the US is via a complex network of benign Muslim organizations, the missions of which are to spread militant propaganda and to raise money. One such group—also an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007 case—is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

CAIR has proven to be a political correctness (PC) gunslinger, quickly raising the issue to silence any criticism of Islam. After the interview in which NPR’s Juan Williams, obviously still traumatized by 9/11, expressed a personal uneasiness about seeing Muslims on airplanes, CAIR immediately demanded that action be taken against him for “inflammatory comments”—for which he was fired. CAIR’s linkage to the violent Muslim Brotherhood makes its demand about Williams’ comment the ultimate hypocrisy.


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Muslim Group Advises Women Wearing Hijabs to Allow TSA ‘Enhanced Pat Downs’ Only on Head and Neck Area

CAIR said Muslims who object to full-body scans for religious reasons should know their rights if they are required to undergo a pat-down, including asking for the procedure to be done in a private place. In addition, CAIR offered a “special recommendation” for Muslim women who wear a hijab, telling them they should tell the TSA officer that they may be searched only around the head and neck.

In the “special recommendations for Muslim women who wear hijab,” it states: “Before you are patted down, you should remind the TSA officer that they are only supposed to pat down the area in question, in this scenario, your head and neck. They SHOULD NOT subject you to a full-body or partial-body pat-down.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Tax Records Belie CAIR Spokesman’s Claim

In a heated exchange over the Juan Williams-NPR flap, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly cornered a senior Council on American-Islamic Relations official into making what appears to be a false statement about the embattled group’s financial dealings.

Kelly asked CAIR Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper if his Washington-based Muslim nonprofit organization, an unindicted terrorist co-conspirator recently cut off from FBI outreach, gives money to NPR.

The question was relevant, because, as WND reported, CAIR just days earlier had fired off a letter to NPR urging action against Williams, who it employed as a radio show host. Williams, also a Fox News political analyst, recently confessed on the air that since the 9/11 hijackings, flying with conspicuously Muslim passengers on commercial flights has made him nervous. CAIR was widely credited with pressuring NPR to fire Williams from his radio job for spreading “Islamophobia.”

“Does CAIR contribute to NPR?” Kelly asked Hooper.

“No, we don’t contribute to anybody,” Hooper replied, suggesting CAIR does not donate funds even to Islamic nonprofits and charities.

But tax records tell a different story.

The Holy Land Foundation, recently busted as the main fundraising arm for Hamas in America, commingled funds and assets with CAIR to a degree previously unreported, raising new alarms in the wake of Holy Land’s 2008 conviction on terror money-laundering charges.

As Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism has already revealed, Holy Land provided at least $5,000 in revenues to CAIR as it was starting up operations in the 1990s. CAIR, in turn, solicited funds for the Holy Land Foundation.

After 9/11, as rescue workers were still pulling bodies from Ground Zero, CAIR fooled visitors to its website into contributing to the charitable front by telling them their donations would benefit World Trade Center victims — including New York firefighters. The link it posted actually took contributors to the home page for the Holy Land Foundation — a charitable front for Palestinian terrorists.

Federal tax records also show CAIR’s chapters have donated money directly to the illegal charity. For example, CAIR’s regional office in Northern California sent at least $500 to Holy Land’s post office box in Richardson, Texas, in 1999. Signing off on the transaction was none other than Omar Ahmad, then chairman of CAIR National.

All this is well known, however, at least among jihad watchers.

What has not been reported is that CAIR’s national organization in late 1995 contributed at least $40,000 to a Holy Land subsidiary that also was raided and shut down after 9/11, according to never-before-seen tax records uncovered by investigative journalist and terrorism analyst Paul Sperry, co-author of “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America.”

The item is revealed on a balance sheet attached to the original corporation franchise-tax return that CAIR filed the following year with the District of Columbia. The subsidiary — InfoCom Corp. — fronted as a Web-hosting firm, and shared officers and funds with Holy Land. In fact, InfoCom was located across the street from Holy Land’s headquarters in Richardson, Texas.

The company was run by convicted terrorist and CAIR-Texas founding director Ghassan Elashi. InfoCom itself was convicted on charges of terror money-laundering in 2004. At least $250,000 in investment capital was funneled through InfoCom by senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook, who was designated a terrorist in 1995 and had his accounts frozen. The FBI says he “financed terrorist activities.”


           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Autobiography of Danish Mohammed Cartoonist Goes on Sale

The autobiography of the Danish cartoonist who sparked Muslim outrage by depicting the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb for a turban was quickly whisked off shelves by book buyers when it went on sale Friday.

In Denmark’s western town of Aarhus, the autobiography of Kurt Westergaard had already sold out and book stores there were “desperate” for more copies, John Lykkegaard, the author and publisher of the book, said Friday evening.

Book shop owners “visited me today to get more copies so I even handed out those that were meant for the press conference in Copenhagen on Monday,” he told AFP.

The book entitled “The Man Behind the Line” details the life of 75-year-old Westergaard, and also features a republished version of his controversial drawing that has earned him numerous death threats and assassination attempts.

Westergaard’s cartoon depicting Mohammed with a bomb-like turban with a lit fuse was one of a dozen first published in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in 2005 that caused violent and in some cases deadly protests the following year.

And the controversy has not gone away.

This past January a Somali man broke into Westergaard’s home and allegedly threatened to kill him with an axe and a knife.

In September a man was arrested after what appeared to be a letter bomb destined for the Jyllands-Posten went off prematurely, causing a small blast in a central Copenhagen hotel. Only the bomber was injured.

Suspected attack plotters against the newspaper have also been arrested in Norway and the United States over the past year.

Westergaard, who recently described Islam as a “reactionary religion” but said he would “stand up for people having the right to practice this religion,” has insisted on the importance of his cartoon in the defence of freedom of expression.

According to the back-cover of his autobiography, the book aims to tell the story of the cartoonist’s life, “and why he cannot give up his fight for freedom of expression.”

The offending drawing figures inside the book, while the cover is adorned with the last caricature Westergaard published in Jyllands-Posten before retiring in June.

That drawing features Westergaard riding a scraggy horse and carrying an oversized fountain pen and notebook, being pursued by a donkey carrying a weight with the words “freedom of expression” scrolled across it, topped with a live bomb and menacing clouds with the crescent moon of Islam lurking above.

Six thousand copies had been printed for the Friday release, although a technical problem meant Copenhagen shops did not receive the books on time Friday.

Lykkegaard nonetheless said 10,000 more copies would probably need to be printed early next week.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Britain’s Top Soldier Says Al-Qaeda Cannot be Beaten

He said defeating Islamist militancy was “unnecessary and would never be achieved”.

However, he argued that it could be “contained” to allow Britons to lead secure lives.

Gen Richards, 58, said the threat posed by “al-Qaeda and its affiliates” meant Britain’s national security would be at risk for at least 30 years. The general, who will tomorrow lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in memory of Britain’s war dead, said the West’s war against what he described as a “pernicious ideology” had parallels with the fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the general disclosed that Prince William was unlikely to serve in Afghanistan but suggested that his brother Harry, training to be an Apache helicopter pilot, could return to front-line duty in Helmand province.

He said the British military and the Government had been “guilty of not fully understanding what was at stake” in Afghanistan and admitted that the Afghan people were beginning to “tire” of Nato’s inability to deliver on its promises.

However, he said the sacrifice being made by the Armed Forces in Afghanistan, where 343 soldiers have been killed since 2001, “has been worth it”. Progress was being made and Nato was “in the right parish”. He said: “Don’t give up folks, it’s all to play for.”

The general also dismissed suggestions that troops badly injured fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan would ever be “forced” to leave the Armed Forces, but said most of those seriously wounded wanted to leave to begin new careers.

He rejected claims by former senior Royal Navy chiefs who said scrapping the aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the Harrier force would jeopardise the security of the Falkland Islands. But it is the general’s assertion that victory against militant Islam cannot be achieved that is likely to prove most contentious.

The general said: “In conventional war, defeat and victory is very clear cut and is symbolised by troops marching into another nation’s capital. First of all you have to ask: do we need to defeat it [Islamist militancy] in the sense of a clear cut victory? I would argue that it is unnecessary and would never be achieved.

“But can we contain it to the point that our lives and our children’s lives are led securely? I think we can.”

He also said the real weapon in the war against al-Qaeda was the use of “upstream prevention” as well as “education and democracy”. The problems that gave rise to militant Islamism were unlikely to be solved soon, he added.

On the issue of future wars, the general said he could see no case for military intervention in other countries “at the moment” but added that he would be “barmy to say that one day we wouldn’t be back in that position”.

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Christopher Hitchens: ‘You Have to Choose Your Future Regrets’

Hitchens genuinely believes radical or jihadist Islam to be an existential threat to civilisation. First because it is a pronounced enemy of free speech and social liberty and has succeeded in intimidating and silencing civilians across “an extraordinary number of countries in Europe” and the rest of the world. And second, he says, “because it has potential access to weapons of mass destruction.” In the end, he argues, there are no pain-free options. You have to choose which future regret you’re going to have.

“I was at a Hezbollah rally in Beirut about two and a half years ago,” he says. “Very striking. Everyone should go. But of the many things that impressed me about it, having the mushroom cloud as the party flag in an election campaign was the main one. You wouldn’t want to look back and think, I wish I’d noticed that being run up. Now I can give you all the reasons that it’s bombast on their part. Still, I know which regret I’d rather have.”

There appear to be two main criticisms of this stance. Either people think he’s a bonkers Islamophobe — though many who do were content enough to leave Muslims to their bloody fate in Bosnia — or they believe such antagonistic talk only serves to create the problem it seeks to prevent. Hitchens is contemptuous of the former, but scathing of the latter. He says that those who tell him to tread more softly believe that the price of not doing so is more violence. “Oh I see, so you’re always aware when you’re contesting the holders of this view of the threat that lies behind it? Would you care for their opinions if it wasn’t for that? Or are you telling me you’d be reading their stuff just for the sheer pleasure of it. I don’t think so. If you say that this looks like war, you’re accused of liking it. Not true. Demonstrably not true.”

Demonstrably? Certainly he can sound like he enjoys the conflict. He has said that he experienced “a feeling of exhilaration” while watching the World Trade Centre collapse on 11 September. “Here we are then,” he later recalled thinking, “in a war to the finish between everything I love and everything I hate. Fine. We will win and they will lose.”

He says the exhilaration was born of a sudden if overdue sense of clarity.

“What I felt is that we’d been suffering from all this for some time. And yet people’s main interest seemed to be in ignoring it or denying it, or if they were politicians or soldiers, running away from it: abandoning Somalia, leaving Afghanistan to rot, trying to subsume Islamism into multiculturalism. I thought: until yesterday, they knew they were at war, and we didn’t. And now we do: of course that’s exhilarating. It was the feeling that the somnambulance was over. Of course it turned out to be a very brief wake-up call, followed by a very long nap: ‘Turned over in bed briefly. It’s 8.59? No, it can’t possibly be!’“

           — Hat tip: DF [Return to headlines]

Germany: French Police Deployed at Anti-Nuclear Protests

A row has broken out over the use of French police officers in Germany during last week’s demonstrations against the nuclear waste transport to Gorleben. Meanwhile northern ports cities could refuse to let new waste transports through.

Opposition politicians have criticised the French policing operation as illegal, while Lower Saxony police and politicians were not informed by their federal colleagues, according to Saturday’s Berliner Zeitung.

A note from the Lower Saxony state Interior Ministry seen by the paper says the police force in the state, “was also not aware during the operation that French officers conducted operational duties in uniform and with equipment.”

The activities of the French officers only became apparent after photos merged of the elite unit CRS officers ‘taking action’ against protestors in Wendland, the paper said.

Lower Saxony police managers had no idea of the French officers’ presence, nor of how many there were operating in the area. The paper said that 17 photos show people wearing the French unit’s uniform, “obviously taking steps against demonstrators.”

The operation was being led by the federal police, the paper said, while the French police attaché, who was supposed to be overseeing his countrymen’s actions, lost contact with at least one officer during the operation.

The federal Interior Ministry has admitted the deployment of the CRS officers, with a spokesman saying they were only on site as observers. He said the photos showed the French officers helping the German federal police in an emergency situation. Opposition politicians in Berlin said this was not a credible explanation.

Meanwhile the greens in Hamburg’s state government coalition have said they would refuse permission for a nuclear waste transport heading for Russia to go through the port there.

“We are determined to use all possibilities to prevent the transport and transfer of nuclear waste en route to Russia via Hamburg harbour,” said Jens Kerstan, parliamentary party chairman of the Hamburg greens, GAL, which rules Hamburg in coalition with the conservative Christian Democratic Union.

Kerstan said he would be checking whether the contract with Russia was legally valid and whether a final decision had been made on the route the transport would take from the Westphalia temporary storage facility in Ahaus.

The 18 containers of radioactive waste originated at the East German nuclear research facility in Rossendorf near Dresden, and is planned to end up at the Russian nuclear centre in Majak, in the southern Urals. This has not yet been approved by the German authorities, which are planning to make a safety inspection there.

Environmentalists say a route is being planned from Ahaus to Hamburg via the Autobahn 1, through Lower Saxony and past towns such as Osnabrück, Wildeshausen and Buchholz.

The Bremen state government decided on Thursday to not allow any further nuclear transports to pass its port, while the city of Lübeck decided to ban such transports back in 1990.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany Considers Loosening Arms Export Controls

“Eurofighter,” “Leopard,” Submarine Class 214: Germany is the third largest weapons exporter in the world, despite restrictive guidelines. Now the federal government wants to make arms sales abroad even easier to make up for defense budget cuts at home.

It all started with the French. Years ago, the Defense Ministry in Paris presented an official plan promoting arms exports. The German response? Self-imposed limits. Arms exports should be “restrictive,” according to the “Federal Arms Exports Guidelines” from the year 2000.

The situation hasn’t changed much since. In a recent issue of the financial magazine Wirtschaftswoche, an unnammed head of a German weapons manufacturer complained about the French: “We are the ragamuffins here, and they are the heroes.”

That, though, will soon come to an end.

A recent report from the commission studying the structure of the German military, led by Frank-Jürgen Weise, the head of the Federal Labor Agency, states that the German defense industry will “depend more than before on their exports and civilian use of their products.” The commission forwarded a recommendation to Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (CSU) for the “alignment of national arms exports guidelines to European standards.”

“Export, Export, Export”

Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, a member of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), is alarmed. For 11 years, she was Germany’s development minister and sat on the so-called “Federal Security Council,” a group which decided on what weapons exports to allow, and to where. Wieczorek-Zeul told SPIEGEL ONLINE, that she fears “those who are now talking about aligning with EU partners only want to find a way around Germany’s restrictive arms exports laws.” For her, the coalition agreement between Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP) only has one goal in its chapter on arms, and that is: “Export, Export, Export.”

The coalition agreement reads: “We are committed to current arms export regulations and will continue to advocate the harmonization of arms export directives within the EU. We actively support fair competition in Europe.” The idea is to remove bureacratic red tape and speed up administrative procedures.

Elke Hoff, the defense policy spokeswoman for the FDP fraction in German parliament, finds many similarities between the recommendations of the Weise commission and the proposals included in the German government’s coalition agreement. They are so sensible, she said, that they could have “almost come directly out of our coalition agreement.”

Hoff can’t comprehend why her opponents are so agitated. “If we weren’t interested in selling German armaments to friendly nations, then we could shut down our defense industry right away, “ she says. “But we want to hold on to the jobs.” In all, about 80,000 German workers are employed in the defense industry, and another 10,000 jobs are tied to subcontractors.

Trade unions in Germany are estimating that Defense Minister Guttenberg seeks to cut the German military’s procurement budget by some €9 billion in coming years. Last Wednesday, in the Bavarian town of Manching, more than 2,000 employees of the defense company Cassidian (a division of the EADS Corporation) demonstrated against proposed cuts to the defense budget. A representative from the union IG Metall warned that the cuts could result in 10,000 lost jobs in Germany.

Are arms exports to provide a way out of this dilemma?

Florian Hahn, a defense expert from the Christian Social Union (CSU) — the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats — says, “because the domestic market will shrink due to the military reforms, we must actively support arms exports. Other nations are ahead of us on this.”

In India, for example, he says much too little is being done to advertise the “Eurofighter,” the European designed-and-built fighter plane. The Indians are currently interested in buying 126 fighter jets, a contract worth more than €10 billion. The European plane manufacturer EADS is competing with the Americans, Russians, French and Swedish for the contract. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle offered assurances during his visit to India in October that Germany has the “best and most reliable technology.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Jewish Doctor Refuses to Operate on Nazi Patient

A Jewish doctor in the North Rhine-Westphalian city of Paderborn has reportedly walked out of a surgery after discovering a Nazi tattoo on the arm of a patient.

A 36-year-old man needing an operation was tattooed with the image of the Reichsadler, or Imperial Eagle, perched upon a swastika, daily Bild reported on Friday.

The patient’s 46-year-old doctor said he could not reconcile proceeding with the surgery with his conscience, the paper reported.

“I will not operate on your husband,” the doctor told the man’s wife. “I’m Jewish.”

The doctor then had another physician finish the procedure, Bild reported.

Since the end of World War II the public display of Nazi party symbols, such as the swastika, have been forbidden in Germany, and carries punishment of up to three years in prison. The eagle, which was a German national symbol long before the Third Reich, is now called the Bundesadler.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Italian Aids Vaccine ‘Working’

Research chief Ensoli ‘thrilled’ by results

(ANSA) — Rome, November 12 — A ground-breaking Italian AIDS vaccine appears to be working, researchers said Friday.

“We have seen the vaccine reach parts where drugs cannot go,” said lead researcher Barabara Ensoli of the Higher Health Institute (ISS).

It was “thrilling” to see the results, which have been published in the Plos One journal, she said.

“The vaccine seems to bring the immune system back into kilter”. Testing is currently at the second stage and should be completed “with another 160 patients,” Ensoli said.

“Even so, we decided to publish now because we have achieved statistically significant results very quickly,” said the researcher, who has been working on the vaccine for 10 years.

Ensoli noted that 48 weeks after the vaccine was given to the volunteers, “their parameters are still improving and it appears we have managed to stop the damage”.

ISS Chair Enrico Garaci said the results “corroborate our efforts” and “confirm our model of research, from the lab bench to the patient’s bed”.

He made an appeal to private and public bodies for funding to complete the current round of tests.

The second stage of testing began in late 2008 in ten centres across Italy with 128 HIV-positive people between the ages of 18 and 55, both men and women.

In 2006 Ensoli ended the first phase of research and reported that her AIDS vaccine had passed its initial tests with flying colours.

She said all the Italian volunteers had shown a “100% response to the vaccine by producing specific antibodies”.

Ensoli’s vaccine is considered ground-breaking because it adopts a new approach to fighting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Traditional vaccines seek to bolster the immune system, the aim being to boost the body’s ability to fight off the disease.

This approach, however, has been relatively unsuccessful against HIV,