Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/10/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/10/2008The riots are still going on in Greece, and they are composed of two distinct elements: the anarchists/students, and the asylum seekers. The latter has a jihad component — rioters yelled “Allahu Akhbar” while on the rampage — but the former is probably doing more damage.

According to a report from earlier today, the “vice-rector of the University of Athens, Christos Kittas, resigned today as a protest to the complete destruction of a university building that police were not able to protect. ‘The centre of Athens is burning’.”

Thanks to C. Cantoni, CB, Contadina, Insubria, JD, KGS, Pedestrian Infidel, TB, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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USA
Congress Oversteps Its Bounds — Again
Cyber Cops on Their Way?
Durbin Calls for Special Senate Election
Group Asks States to Track Citizens’ Ammo
Keyes’ Lawyers Invite Public to ‘Join the Fight’
Now a Federal Bailout for Nation’s Schools?
What Did Obama Know … and When Did He Know it?
 
Europe and the EU
“Film ‘Interview With Mohammed’ is Respectful Invitation to Debate”
Charles Martel Defeated: A Grand Mosque for Tours
DPP: Re-Visit Conventions
Dutch Government: Jami “Deeply Offends” Muslims With Film
France: Graduates Muslim Chaplains Looking for Work
Germany: Lebanese Man Found Guilty of Bomb Plot
GM Food: EU Court Slams France for Not Applying Ruling
Greece: Athens Uni Vice-Dean Quits, Protests Destruction of Building
Netherlands Minister: ‘HIV Healings’ Come Under Freedom of Religion
Piracy: Spain Delays Ship for EU Force
Poland: Beavers Snitched on for ‘Illegal Logging’
Researchers: Wilders is Extreme Right
Switzerland is “No Longer an Island”
UK: ‘Christmas is the Pathway to Hell’
UK: Law to Protect the Young Must Cover Madrassas as Well
‘We Have Saved the World’: Brown’s Gaffe
 
Balkans
Serbian Pirates Attack Bulgarian Ships on the Danube
 
Mediterranean Union
Italy: ‘No Problems’ Giving Libya Stake in Eni, Says Minister
Italy-Libya: Trade Tops 14 Bln Euro in First 8 Months
Tourism: Rimini Airport Doubles Red Sea Flights to Hurghada
 
North Africa
Egypt: Cairo; 1mln People Live in Ancient Islamic Cemetery
W.Sahara: Rabat Stops Negotiations, Insists on Self-Government
 
Israel and the Palestinians
Eldad to Push ‘Anti-Islamization’ Laws
Israel: Elections, Likud’s Primaries Launch ‘Hawk List’
 
Middle East
Islam: Expert, Better Say Arab World and Not Middle East
Islam: Aid, Too Much Unregulated Slaughtering in Mecca
Saudi Arabia: Half a Million Pilgrims Arrive Without Permits
Turkey’s Faltering Reform Drive
 
South Asia
Did Saudis Fund Terror School Behind Mumbai?
India-Pakistan: Civil War or Nuclear War?
Indonesia: Clashes in Maluku, 45 Houses and a Church Set on Fire
 
Australia — Pacific
‘Asylum Bid’ by Football Homeless
 
Immigration
EU Seeks to Improve Treatment of Asylum Seekers
Fini: Good Italian Citizens Are Against Xenophobia
UK: ‘Back Door’ Amnesty for 180,000 Asylum Seekers Who Slipped Through the Net
 
Culture Wars
Italy: Group Slams TV Censorship of Gay Cowboy Film
Newsweek: Bible Supports Same-Sex Marriage
UK: Euthanasia Broadcast on TV
UK: Outrage After 13-Year-Olds Get Free Condoms at School Without Their Parents’ Knowledge
 
General
Mideast: Mons. Twal, We Ask Obama to be Honest With Israel
Orthodoxy Assembly Favours Relations With Islamic Conference
Still Asleep After Mumbai

USA


Congress Oversteps Its Bounds — Again

Let’s not allow Congress and members of the bailout parade panic us into allowing them to do things, as was done in the 1930s, that would convert a mild economic downturn into a true calamity. Right now, the Big Three auto companies, and their unions, are asking Congress for a $25 billion bailout to avoid bankruptcy. Let’s think about that a bit.

What happens when a company goes bankrupt? One thing that does not happen is their productive assets go poof and disappear into thin air. In other words, if GM goes bankrupt, the assembly lines, robots, buildings and other tools don’t evaporate. What bankruptcy means is the title to those assets change. People who think they can manage those assets better purchase them.

Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, where the control of business operations are subject to the oversight and jurisdiction of the court, gives companies a chance to reorganize. The court can permit complete or partial relief from the company’s debts and its labor union contracts. A large part of the problem is the Big Three’s cozy relationship with the United Auto Workers union, or UAW. GM has a $73 hourly wage cost including benefits and overtime. Toyota has five major assembly plants in the U.S. Its hourly wage cost plus benefits is $48. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out which company will be at a competitive disadvantage. Then there’s the “jobs bank” feature of the UAW contract where workers who are laid off get 95 percent of their base pay and all their benefits. Right now there’s a two-year limit, but in the past workers could stay in the “jobs bank” forever unless they turned down two job offers within 50 miles of their factory. At one time job bank membership exceeded 7,000 “workers.” GM, Ford and Chrysler face other problems including poor corporate management and marketing, not to mention costly government regulations.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Cyber Cops on Their Way?

Obama urged to establish new office for regulating Internet

A panel of web experts from government, private and the military sectors released a report yesterday urging the next president to establish a new office of cyberspace security and begin federal regulation of the Internet.

The report, “Securing Cyberspace for the 44th Presidency,” from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank established during the Cold War, alleges the Department of Homeland Security has failed to secure the Internet and new measures are needed ? despite inevitable concerns about online privacy ? to keep America safe.

“We still have an industrial-age government that was organized a century ago,” said Jim Lewis, one of CSIS’s directors, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. “The DHS has a 1970s-style solution to a 21st century problem.”

“The United States must treat cybersecurity as one of the most important national security challenges it faces,” the CSIS panel asserts in its report. “This is a strategic issue on par with weapons of mass destruction and global jihad.”

To back its claim, the panel cites a litany of cybersecurity breaches that it claims hit sensitive areas in 2007 alone:

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Durbin Calls for Special Senate Election

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Tuesday called for a special Illinois election to fill President-elect Obama’s Senate seat, instead of leaving it to arrested Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Calling it “a sad day for my state,” Durbin said Blagojevich deserves his day in court and that he was “shocked” at the Democratic governor’s arrest on charges of trying to corral influence for naming Obama’s successor.

A former state legislator, Durbin said he spoke to a former colleague in the Illinois legislature early Tuesday to suggest a special election instead of any gubernatorial appointment.

“If the allegations are proven true, he has clearly abused the public trust,” Durbin said of Blagojevich. “I think the Illinois legislature should enact a law as quickly as possible calling for a special election to fill the Senate vacancy of Barack Obama. No appointment by this governor under these circumstances can produce a credible replacement.”

The Blagojevich case throws a wrench into Democratic efforts to reach closer to 60 seats in the chamber. If the seat stays vacant for months, or if an appointment is made under questionable circumstances, the party could find itself short on critical votes next year just when it most needs traction.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Group Asks States to Track Citizens’ Ammo

Organization claims it is ‘saving lives 1 bullet at a time’

Legislation to trace ammunition is pending in several states, and many gun owners are concerned that it is just another attempt by anti-gun groups to violate citizens’ Second Amendment rights.

An organization known as Ammunition Accountability is pushing to make coding technology mandatory across the nation. Its website claims it is a group of “gun crime victims, industry representatives, law enforcement, public officials, public policy experts, and more” who are “saving lives one bullet at a time.”

If states pass the legislation, manufacturers will be required to laser etch a serial number into the back of each bullet and the inside of cartridge casings, a patented process developed by Seattle, Wash., resident Russ Ford and his business partners, Steve Mace and John Knickerbocker.

According to Seattle Weekly, the men couldn’t find an ammunition manufacturer to agree to stamp bullets, so they hired a lobbyist to push for state legislation to require the laser coding. They launched the Ammunition Accountability website and successfully introduced bills in the following 18 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Keyes’ Lawyers Invite Public to ‘Join the Fight’

A California public interest legal group has taken on a high-profile battle that already has at least three entire law firms lining up on the other side. But the group has promised to fight until a resolution is reached in the dispute over Barack Obama’s eligibility to be president.

The legal action by the United States Justice Foundation seeks to stop the state’s Electoral College voters, who already have been served with formal notices, from voting for Obama unless and until documentation proving his eligibility to occupy the Oval Office has been provided.

“For the sake of our Constitution and our republic, the issue MUST be resolved,” the legal advocacy group says in a new campaign seeking support for its work.

[…]

The USJF team said its goal is simply to make certain that the Constitution’s clear requirements are met.

“Protecting the Constitution is not ‘garbage,’“ the group said, responding to an earlier WND report in which an Obama campaign spokeswoman said of challenges to his eligibility: “All I can tell you is that it is just pure garbage.”

[…]

“Here’s the bottom line,” says USJF. “Team Obama presently has THREE LAW FIRMS at its disposal — and a seemingly unlimited ability to raise funds from the far-left for re-enforcements. Three law firms potentially translates to scores of attorneys and possibly hundreds of clerks who can literally throw paperwork at us until we crack under the sheer pressure and cry uncle.

“The only thing they fear is you! They hope and pray that you will not support our efforts or that you will grow tired of the fight. Conversely, what they fear most is that you will join us and support our efforts!”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Now a Federal Bailout for Nation’s Schools?

1 superintendent to seek as much as $500 million for district

Saying that renovating old schools and buying state-of-the-art equipment will create jobs and boost Florida’s sagging economy, the Broward County School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution giving its superintendent permission to seek millions from the federal government.

Broward Schools Superintendent James Notter said he would seek as much as $500 million for the district, most of which would be earmarked for the capital budget. That money goes toward construction projects and purchasing equipment such as computers and buses.

“It is an economic stimulus package,” Notter said. “… That puts a lot of people to work.”

Though the resolution doesn’t call the request a bailout, some board members likened it to the federal money loaned to the financial industry and what’s proposed for the automobile industry.

“This would be the perfect time. They’re bailing out financial institutions. They’re bailing out the car companies,” said board member Beverly Gallagher. “… Without a good public education system, you don’t have a good workforce.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



What Did Obama Know … and When Did He Know it?

Unanswered questions alarm anti-corruption investigators

The corruption arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich is raising questions about what Sen. Barack Obama knew of the Illinois Democrat’s alleged activities, including his apparent offer to appoint Obama’s preferred candidate to serve in the U.S. Senate in return for “private sector” help from Obama.

“This is a burgeoning crisis for Obama that should shake his presidency to its core,” said Tom Fitton, chief of the Judicial Watch organization today.

“The criminal complaint filed today indicates that Obama and his team knew about Blagojevich’s efforts to sell Obama’s Senate seat,” he said.

“Did Obama report Blagojevich to investigators about any efforts to sell his Senate seat?” Fitton asked.

ABC’s Jake Tapper also expressed concern over the same issue.

On his blog, he wrote that while appearances seem to indicate Obama “refused to go along with the ‘pay to play’“ Blagojevich plan, there were significant questions.

For example, he wondered “how Blagojevich knew that Mr. Obama was not willing to give him anything in exchange for the Senate seat — with whom was Blagojevich speaking? Did that person report the governor to the authorities?”

Judicial Watch said it has been investigating Blagojevich for more than two years and has an ongoing open records litigation concerning “the sale of government jobs for which he was arrested today.”

[…]

Obama told reporters, “I had no contact with the governor or his office, so I was not aware of what was happening,” clearly distancing himself from his home state and its governor, whom he previously had endorsed for re-election.

“I am saddened and sobered by the news that came out of the U.S. attorney’s office today. But as this is an ongoing investigation involving the governor I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment at this time,” he said.

But Tapper noted Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, appeared “said something quite different” in an interview Nov. 23 with Chicago’s Fox affiliate.

“While insisting that the president-elect had not expressed a favorite to replace him, and his inclination was to avoid being a ‘kingmaker,’“ Axelrod said, “I know he’s talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them.”

Campaign officials today said Axelrod mispoke but offered no further information

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU


“Film ‘Interview With Mohammed’ is Respectful Invitation to Debate”

THE HAGUE, 10/12/08 — Ex-Muslim Ehsan Jami presented his short English-language film ‘Interview with Mohammed’ in The Hague yesterday. Afshin Ellian, phlosopher, columnist and advisor to Jami, says it is not possible to find the film shocking or disrespectful.

Opponents of criticism of Islam feared the film, in view of earlier statements by the 23 year old Jami, who earlier said Islam was “Fascist” and Mohammed “disgusting”. The film he showed in Nieuwspoort press centre yesterday, which was viewed beforehand by the government’s anti-terrorism unit NCTB, is however serene in tone.

An unidentifiable person plays Mohammed, who is interviewed by Jami about the way in which Muslims today interpret his revelations of 1,400 years ago. In it, the Prophet suggests that there are misconceptions about his work.

“It is really an interview with Prophet Mohammed, as that could also be done by (TV programme) NOVA,” was Ellian’s analysis yesterday on the website of Elsevier weekly. “Finally, after 1,400 years, a Muslim interviews Prophet Mohammed. And this is a unique event in the history of Islam. This has never happened before in any way whatever.”

“Because Jami deals with Mohammed so amiably, a mystic link unconsciously arises with the masked Prophet Mohammed,” Ellian continued. “Thus, he does not want to extirpate the Prophet Mohammed. Ehsan, the ex-Muslim who has called down the anger of Islamists and leftwing Europe on himself, only wants to see the rebirth of a softer, more forgiveness-inclined, more critical Mohammed.”

In the dialogue, Jami indicates that he comes from an Islamic culture, says Ellian, who like Jami was born in Iran. “And this is an effective weapon for unleashing a debate in the Islamic world. This debate may not take place in front of the cameras, but it will in the heads of thousands of young Muslims.”

Elllian criticises media that “were not prepared just to report on this film.” Some people and institutions are simply cowards, he concludes. “How can we enhance civic courage among people that have no courage at all? They are perhaps the same people who often admire the courage of journalists and intellectuals in junta-led countries Chile under Pinochet. But (showing courage) themselves? Oh no, that goes too far.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Charles Martel Defeated: A Grand Mosque for Tours

Two French websites — Islamisation, administered by Joachim Véliocas, and Bivouac-Id — have posted reports on the laying of the first stone of the new Grand Mosque of Tours. Notable among the dignitaries present were the Algerian Minister of Religion, the Socialist mayor of Tours, Jean Germain, and the archbishop of Tours, Monsignor Aubertin.

Tours will have its Grand Mosque when the 5 million euros necessary for its financing have been found — in 3 years, at the earliest. A quarter of the sum has already been collected. The land was purchased by the Paris Mosque, subsidized by Algeria. On November 29, 2008, amidst great ceremony, the first stone was laid. In 732, a Muslim army was defeated outside the city of Tours by Charles Martel and the Franks. The Battle of Tours was one of the most decisive battles in history since it stopped the Islamization of Europe (at least for 13 centuries). Adolf Hitler bitterly regretted that the Muslims had not won in Tours.

The Algerian Minister of Religion, Bouabdallah Ghlamallah made a stopover in Tours to attend the laying of the first stone of the Grand Mosque of Tours, before taking off for Saudi Arabia… a land where the practice of Christianity is forbidden, as in Algeria where spreading it is punishable by heavy fines and prison sentences! But Algeria will contribute up to 490,000 euros towards financing the mosque.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



DPP: Re-Visit Conventions

The Danish People’s Party wants Denmark to re-visit conventions that allow a man on tolerated residence to visit his family.

The Danish People’s Party is calling for a thorough study of the various conventions to which Denmark is a party following a Justice Ministry report that gives a Tunisian on tolerated residence the right to visit his family.

The man, whom the Security and Intelligence Service allege was party to a plan to kill one of Denmark’s Mohammed cartoonists, is on tolerated residence as he cannot be administratively extradited to his home country for fear of persecution. He is currently confined to reporting to and living in an asylum centre.

His family lives in Århus in Jutland, a short distance from the cartoonist in question, Kurt Westergaard.

“Now we’re talking about the human rights of a Tunisian on tolerated residence. What about the human rights of Kurt Westergaard. I am outraged and we are going to have to react against these conventions,” says Pia Kjærsgaard, the leader of the Danish People’s Party…

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Dutch Government: Jami “Deeply Offends” Muslims With Film

THE HAGUE, 11/12/08 — Ehsan Jami has offended Muslims with his film ‘Interview with Mohammed’, according to an official statement released yesterday by Premier Jan Peter Balkenende on behalf of the Dutch government.

“The Dutch government has taken notice of Mr Jami’s film, in which he expresses his personal opinions about Islam. The Netherlands has a tradition of freedom of religion and belief as well as a tradition of freedom of expression. We also have a tradition of respect, tolerance and responsibility. Offending other people is not in keeping with these traditions. Conversely, free and unrestricted debate and respectful treatment do reflect these traditions. In this light, the government regrets the fact that Mr Jami’s film deeply offends the feelings of many Muslims.”

“Reports in the foreign media have given rise to concern in the Dutch government about the image of the Netherlands that has emerged in some other countries. Islam occupies a fully respected place in the Netherlands. The Dutch government highly values the good relations that exist, both in the Netherlands and abroad, between Muslims and people of other faiths and beliefs.”

“The government emphatically rejects the way that some have misused religion to spread hate and intolerance. Respect for the deeply held convictions of others is something that we share with people in many countries. The Netherlands will continue striving to ensure that freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression are respected both in this country and worldwide.”

Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has spoken about Jami’s film with the Islamic countries’ ambassadors to the Netherlands. He has told them that the film is not a product of the government, that the Netherlands has freedom of expression and that a film must be no reason for violence against Dutch people or companies. The cabinet is not planning to comment on the contents of the film.

‘Interview with Mohammed’ can be seen on the blip.tv website. In his film, Jami asks a masked actor dressed as the Prophet Mohammed what he thinks of modern Islam. The Prophet says the times have changed since he lived 1,400 years ago and that Muslims should adapt to these changes.

For example, the Prophet says his marriage with a 6 year old child was normal in the seventh century but would be “inhuman” nowadays. Asked what he thinks of people that leave Islam, ‘Mohammed’ says that apostasy is “fine” with him. He also rejects death threats to people like Wilders and Salman Rushdie.

A number of organisations of Moroccans and Muslims in the Netherlands have rejected the film. They termed ‘An interview with Mohammed’ a “feeble lightweight piece without a clear message.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



France: Graduates Muslim Chaplains Looking for Work

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 9 — The Head of the Al Ghazali Institute of the Great Mosque of Paris, Djelloul Seddiki, launched an appeal to the Justice Minster, Rachida Dati, to become involved with the problem of Muslim “chaplains” in prisons and to hire those who received diplomas after having attended courses at the Al Ghazali Institute and the Institut Catholique in Paris. No job proposals have been formulated for the new graduates, and “if our students see that that are no outlets, they will be discouraged”, said Seddiki underlining that the training of an imam (4 years of study) costs 12,000 euro. According to him, there are currently 352 jobs to award as Muslim chaplains in French prisons, where 60% of the inmates are Muslims. On November 22, 40 imams and chaplains, among which were 9 women, received a diploma. The imams can work as chaplains, but those who were trained as chaplains cannot be imams. “They can find work as imams in prayers halls and mosques, but chaplain jobs depend on the administration that can hire them in prisons, hospitals, and education”, specified Seddiki. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Germany: Lebanese Man Found Guilty of Bomb Plot

Dusseldorf, 9 Dec. (AKI) — A Lebanese man has been sentenced to life in prison for a failed plot to bomb a German commuter train in 2006. A regional court in the city of Dusseldorf on Tuesday convicted 24-year-old Youssef Mohammed el-Hajj Dib of multiple counts of attempted murder and attempting to cause an explosion.

Prosecutors said el-Hajj Dib and an accomplice, Jihad Hamad, boarded two trains in Cologne, one headed for Koblenz, one for Dortmund, in July 2006 with two suitcase bombs that failed to explode.

The bombs failed to detonate, but prosecutors said the planned attacks in western Germany could have caused up to 75 casualties.

Ottmar Breidling, the presiding judge, said el-Hajj Dib was guilty of a “terrorist act” and dismissed the defendant’s claim that he had only deposited a mock bomb packed in a suitcase in a rail carriage to scare the German public.

“This was a crime for which only the highest penalty under the law can apply,” Breidling said.

The bomb plot shocked German authorities at the time, particularly because it occurred soon after the World Cup which the country hosted.

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



GM Food: EU Court Slams France for Not Applying Ruling

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 9 — The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has condemned France and fined it a lump sum of 10 million euro for not having carried out its 2004 ruling on genetically modified organisms “rapidly”. Judges found that Paris had violated community law in not integrating the directive on the introduction of genetically-modified organisms into its national legislation. Having found that France had promised a complete transposition in June 2008, the Court, a note reads, found it “did not have to impose the payment of a penalty”. The judges also revealed that the imposition of a lump-sum fine will not follow automatically, but will depend on the kind of default shown by the member state in question. The directive should have been transposed into national law by 17 October 2002. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greece: Athens Uni Vice-Dean Quits, Protests Destruction of Building

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 9 — The vice-rector of the University of Athens, Christos Kittas, resigned today as a protest to the complete destruction of a university building that police were not able to protect. “The centre of Athens is burning”, the vice-rector said yesterday to the media. And referring to the day’s encounters of Karamanlis with the president and other political leaders, he defined them as “unacceptable”. “They should meet now, not tomorrow”, he said. Some 87 people were arrested in Athens following clashes that have engulfed the capital, along with other main cities in Greece over the past three days. Some 176 people have been stopped and interrogated. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Greek Ricochet Claim Fails to Quell Riots

[Note from Tuan Jim: The last paragraph in this article really boils my blood.

As I originally noted, the ballistics reports for the Greek shooting are showing a ricochet rather than intentional targeting. Why a major elected leader would want to undercut his security forces by blaming/charging them with murder without a proper investigation continues to stagger me.]

Rioting continued in Athens for a fifth successive day today despite claims that the death of a teenage boy, which sparked a wave of violence, was caused by a bullet ricochet rather than a direct hit from a policeman.

Lawyers representing the officer charged with murdering Alexandros Grigiropoulos, 15, said a ballistics report proved that the boy was accidently struck by a stray warning shot.

The teenager’s death on Saturday night unleashed a convulsion of violence across the country that has not been matched since the 1970s.

The confrontations with police continued today as a general strike against the Government’s economic policies prompted yet more protestors to fill the streets of Athens.

Grigiropoulos was buried yesterday in a funeral marred by clashes with riot police four days after he was shot in the chest by a policeman. Forensic reports, which have not been officially published, suggest that the bullet was deformed and could therefore have been deflected before killing the boy.

[…]

More than 10,000 people marched through the centre of the city to protest against the conservative government’s fiscal policies. The march descended into violence when riot police began firing tear gas at a small group of youths who threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at them near parliament in the centre of the Greek capital.

Flights to and from Athens International airport were cancelled, and public hospitals across Greece were operating with a skeleton staff. Schools and universities were closed.

Today’s confrontations were milder as the anarchist wave that had devastated parts of central Athens and the major cities for four days seemed to be ebbing.

[…]

“They’re just bored louts, living off their parents’ money,” said one shopkeeper surveying the acres of broken glass around what had once been a clothes shop in central Athens, as the ominous sound of tear gas and petrol bombs echoed a few streets away.

On the other hand, the private television channels have been one-sided and anti-police in reporting the riots. “Unprovoked murder” is the term the Greek media uncritically use to describe last Saturday’s police shooting.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Netherlands Minister: ‘HIV Healings’ Come Under Freedom of Religion

THE HAGUE, 10/12/08 — Health Minister Ab Klink sees “insufficient points of departure” to have the Healthcare Inspectorate (IGZ) investigate healing sessions at which people are supposed to be cured of their homosexuality and HIV.

At the healings, homosexuals and HIV-infected people, often Surinamese, Antillean and African, are told that they can get rid of their sexual orientation or illness through prayer. In answer to Lower House questions, Klink has stated that taking action against these healings, particularly popular in Amsterdam, is constitutionally complicated. “It touches people’s freedom of religion.”

The IGZ in principle only supervises regular healthcare. If a doctor shows deficiencies in his work, the IGZ can make a disciplinary complaint. For alternative medicines methods, the IGZ does not have this authority. Quacks can indeed be tackled via criminal law but Klink does not yet see any punishable offence.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) can only take action if the IGZ reports abuses, or if someone feels victimised and makes a police report. Amsterdam’s Labour (PvdA) Diversity Alderman Freek Ossel has called on people involved in the healings to make police reports.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Piracy: Spain Delays Ship for EU Force

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 9 — Spain could delay its participation in the anti-piracy fleet off Somalia, set up by the European Union, wrote daily ABC, quoting military sources. Defence Minister Carme Chacon had promised in November that it would send the warship ‘Victoria’ with 196 military on January 8 as part of the Atalanta mission, along with eight European countries. But ABC revealed that the Minister will not ask for authorisation from Parliament tomorrow, so the frigate will not leave on the scheduled date. The newspaper did not explain the delay and the Spanish Defence Minister has not replied to the article. Military sources explained to the paper that Spain could participate in a second part to the naval mission in Somalia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Poland: Beavers Snitched on for ‘Illegal Logging’

Police: ‘The [environmentalist] campaigners are feeling pretty stupid’

GREEN campaigners called police after discovering an illegal logging site in a nature reserve — only to find the culprits were a gang of beavers.

Environmentalists found 20 neatly stacked tree trunks and others marked with notches for felling at a beauty-spot in Subkowy, northern Poland.

But when officers followed a trail left by a tree which had been dragged away, they found a beaver dam right across the river as reported by the Austrian Times.

A police spokesman said: “The campaigners are feeling pretty stupid. There’s nothing more natural than a beaver.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



Researchers: Wilders is Extreme Right

THE HAGUE, 11/12/08 — The Party for Freedom (PVV) can be classified as extreme right, the University of Leiden and the Anne Frank foundation conclude. They presented their Racism and Extremism Monitor yesterday.

“The problem of ‘Islamophobia’ has increased substantially in the Netherlands during the past year,” the Anne Frank foundation stated. “This is not just a question of the climate of negative opinion concerning Muslims, but also of the rise in violence against this community”.

The foundation went on to say that “the extreme right-wing landscape in the Netherlands has changed fundamentally in recent years, on the one hand due to a sharp rise in far-right street activism, and on the other hand because of the way the increasingly radical Party for Freedom has manifested itself. The PVV can be classified as extreme right.”

Head researcher Jaap van Donselaar observed that the PVV is extreme right because of “the positive orientation on that which is indigenous (nationalism) and the strong aversion to that which is foreign (racism)”. A court should decide whether the PVV should be banned, he declared.

The report implies that strict enforcement of the law represents extremism. “The way the PVV manifests itself contains several aspects of radicalism. We are not only referring to the anti-foreigner views, but also to the rest of its political programme. For example, the PVV is explicitly a law and order party. Zero tolerance, but tough action and heavy penalties.”

PVV leader and founder Geert Wilders responded furiously to the study. “Have they gone completely nuts? This is an insult to the PVV and our voters,” he fumed.

The conclusions of the Anne Frank foundation do indeed seem controversial and are at least ironic; the PVV is the most pro-Israeli party in parliament. The question also arises of how the foundation, named after the world-famous Jewish girl killed by the Nazis in WWII, reached their conclusion that there is a “sharp rise in far-right street activism”. Although demonstrations are regularly held by neo-Nazis, these are on a very small scale and almost always broken up within minutes. The police do so when they are disrupted by violence by extreme left-wing gangs.

However, Van Donselaar maintained that “the balance between freedom to express opinions and protection against discrimination has been disturbed during the past monitor period”. The “causes can be found in a changed political climate — ‘everyone must be able to speak their mind’ — and in the side effects of policies against terrorism and radicalisation.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]



Switzerland is “No Longer an Island”

Switzerland is not so very different to its European neighbours, despite the country’s traditional isolation from the European Union, a study has found.

The Swiss Social Report 2008 revealed, however, that there was still some way to go to close the gaps in income, education and between the sexes.

The report, unveiled on Tuesday in Bern, compared economic, social and cultural developments between Switzerland, several European countries and the United States.

It found that social differences were becoming smaller across Europe and that this did not depend on whether a country was an EU member or not.

“Women’s participation in the workforce has consistently increased in Switzerland so that it now about average for Europe,” Christian Suter, a sociology professor at Neuchâtel University who headed the research, told swissinfo.

The report, the third of its kind but the first to compare Switzerland with other countries, was carried out by the Swiss Foundation for Research in Social Sciences.

It found the same trend towards the middle ground in marriage, divorce, the birth rate and in the population age structure.

Switzerland’s political landscape seems to be adapting as well. “For a long time in Switzerland there used to be parties that were only really anchored in one canton or region,” explained Suter.

“Now they are all over the country, like in other European countries.”

Surprising attitudes

Attitudes towards foreigners — who make up one fifth of the population — were also examined. Much to the authors’ surprise, they were mainly positive, with only a little more than 20 per cent saying they feared the effects of migrants on the economy and Switzerland’s cultural life.

This was a better result than in the other European countries surveyed, which included neighbours Germany and France, as well as Britain.

Suter said that this could be a result of the Swiss system of direct democracy, in which the population votes on issues of importance.

In the 1960s and 1970s several initiatives dealt with the high numbers of foreigners in Switzerland, particularly following an influx of migrant workers from southern Europe.

In this way, Suter says, Switzerland managed to give the immigrant question a political legitimacy much earlier than other European countries.

Inequalities still rife

However, the Swiss fell down when it came to equal opportunities in education.

“There is a strong ‘inheritance’ in families in the education system in Switzerland,” said Suter. This means that family background is often key in educational achievement, with hurdles especially high for those of a lower socio-economic status.

This trend already starts at primary school and can continue through a child’s life. Particular criticism was levelled at the fact that a sizeable minority of school leavers cannot find an apprenticeship or continue their studies.

Also highlighted was the continuing pay gap between the different social classes and the sexes. Women of the same training and education were still earning less than men.

The authors said that the situation had not changed much over the past 20 years.

Sweden and France had the smallest pay gap and in all other countries the difference was much smaller than in Switzerland, the study found.

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



Switzerland: Maurer Takes People’s Party Back Into the Fold

Hardline and uncompromising, new cabinet minister Ueli Maurer has helped shape the rightwing Swiss People’s Party into Switzerland’s largest political force.

But Maurer says he is willing to collaborate with his colleagues in the seven-member, multiparty government, where consensus and providing a united front is key.

Maurer was elected by parliament on Wednesday, in what marks a return to cabinet for the People’s Party after one year of self declared opposition. This was despite the fact that Maurer had declared several times in the past that he was not interested in the post.

“What counts is the decision of the party. If they want to return to government, I am ready to take on the task,” Maurer told a newspaper before his election.

This year has been one of great change for the Zurich politician. In March he gave up the party presidency to concentrate on his work as a parliamentarian and communications consultant.

A few months later, however, he was back at the helm of the party’s Zurich branch, the party’s hardline core and guiding force.

According to those who know him, Maurer, who trained in business and accountancy, is a hard worker and completely devoted to his cause.

During his time as president, the party increased its share of the electorate from 14.9 per cent in 1996 to 29 per cent in 2007.

He mobilised support in non-stronghold areas and sought to build a strong basis around party leading light and former Justice Minister Christoph Blocher.

In all, 12 new cantonal parties and 600 local chapters were founded under Maurer’s reign…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘Christmas is the Pathway to Hell’

Muslim lawyer’s extraordinary rant at ‘evil’ celebration

A Muslim lawyer has launched an extraordinary rant against Christmas, branding the celebration ‘evil’.

Hate preacher Anjem Choudary claimed the festival was the ‘pathway to hell’ and urged his followers to boycott it.

‘In the world today many Muslims, especially those residing in Western countries, are exposed to the evil celebration Christmas,’ he raged in a sermon broadcast on the internet.

‘Many take part in the festival celebrations by having Christmas turkey dinners.

‘Decorating the house, purchasing Christmas trees or having Christmas turkey meals are completely prohibited by Allah.

‘Many still practise this corrupt celebration as a remembrance of the birth of Jesus.

‘How can a Muslim possibly approve or participate in such a practice that bases itself on the notion Allah has an offspring?

‘The very concept of Christmas contradicts and conflicts with the foundation of Islam.

‘Every Muslim has a responsibility to protect his family from the misguidance of Christmas, because its observance will lead to hellfire.

‘Protect your Paradise from being taken away — protect yourself and your family from Christmas.’

His comments were condemned by Robin Tilbrook, chairman of the English Democrats, who branded them ‘nonsense’.

‘You really start to wonder why the people behind this want to be in Britain in the first place,’ he said.

‘Why live here if that’s how you feel?

‘It’s an extremely narrow-minded, jihadist, anti-Western viewpoint. It’s such a backwards take on things.

‘The ironic thing is Islam recognises Jesus as a leading prophet, and Christmas is based around him.

‘I’m happy for these people to spout nonsense like this because it just shows them up for what they really are.’

Fanatic Choudhary, 41, who is chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers, is the right-hand man of exiled preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed.

His family lives on £25,000-a-year benefit handout while he has gained notoriety as a firebrand speaker lauded by extremist groups.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Law to Protect the Young Must Cover Madrassas as Well

Child protection legislation may as well not exist for Muslims who operate and teach at some of Britain’s 1,600 or so madrassas, or Islamic schools. For such people, who either consciously flout the law or are completely ignorant of it, beating children is not a form of abuse but a method of enforcing discipline.

It may surprise many people to find that, unlike schools and other institutions dealing with children, madrassas are not subject to government regulation. The situation is compounded as even many mosque-run madrassas are not registered with anyone.

A recent survey by the Charity Commission found that 11per cent of mosques in London were unregistered. Travel north to the Midlands and that figure mushrooms to 70 per cent. But even the registration of mosques is limited in the type of protection that it offers children, because, while registration ensures random checks by the commission, it does not ensure the regulation of madrassas within the mosques.

Only two years ago my organisation, the Muslim Parliament, published a report to highlight the problem of child abuse in madrassas, including the mentality that holds such abuse as a taboo subject that is best kept quiet. We said then that too many members of the community seemed more interested in protecting it from embarrassment than in ensuring the wellbeing of innocent and voiceless children.

The report highlighted that up to 40 per cent of madrassas exclude uncooperative pupils, and its estimate of 15-20 cases a year of sexual abuse was considered an understatement. Those parents whose children are abused remain silent for fear of being ostracised by their community or stigmatised by mainstream Britain…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Madrassas Case Study: a Brave Face, Then the Tears

Salma would put on a brave face when her teacher hit her with a cane for mispronouncing Arabic words. But then came tearsRichard Kerbaj

When Salma’s name was called out by her madrassa teacher during Koran class, it was often only a matter of seconds before she felt a stinging pain on her back, her buttocks, or her palms.

At times she’d frown and put on a brave face when her teacher laid into her with a cane for mispronouncing Arabic words or forgetting a verse. But in most cases the staged bravery would give way to tears.

After the punishment, Salma, then 12, would join her dozen or so female friends, who would be seated in a circle in their Asian teacher’s living room — which doubled as a madrassa on weekday nights — awaiting their own name to be called.

“We would sit in the circle and read and he would walk around and hit you if you were talking or chattering to your friends or getting the words wrong,” said Salma, now 16. “He hit everyone there at one time or another,” she said. “The madrassa was in a house — boys in one room, girls in another.”

She admitted that the girls got away lightly compared with boys, even though at times they also got their “ears twisted” before or after the caning.

“The boys always got more severe hits than the girls,” she said. “My little brother hated going to school because of that.”

Just as painful as the throbbing red marks left on Salma’s skin by her teacher was her mother’s refusal to do anything about them. “Mum would say, ‘You deserve it for not learning or for misbehaving’,” she said.

Salma eventually persuaded her mother to move her to another more formal, mosque-based madrassa in Rochdale that has a policy against physical punishment.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



UK: Teachers ‘Beat and Abuse’ Muslim Children in British Koran Classes

Muslim children are being beaten and abused regularly by teachers at some British madrassas — Islamic evening classes — an investigation by The Times has found.

Students have been slapped, punched and had their ears twisted, according to an unpublished report by an imam based on interviews with victims in the north of England. One was “picked up by one leg and spun around” while another said a madrassa teacher was “kicking in my head — like a football”, says the report which was compiled by Irfan Chishti, a former government adviser on Islamic affairs.

Almost 1,600 madrassas operate in Britain, teaching Arabic and the Koran on weekday evenings to about 200,000 children aged from four to their mid-teens.

While there is no hard evidence to indicate how many are involved in the physical abuse of children, The Times has uncovered a disturbing pattern in one town — Rochdale — through interviews with mainstream school teachers, Muslim parents and the children themselves.

One woman told The Times that her niece Hiba, 7, was slapped across the face so hard by her madrassa teacher that her ear was cut. It later became inflamed and she had to have emergency medical treatment.

When the teacher refused to apologise, Hiba’s aunt, Jamila, insisted that her niece should be moved to another madrassa. “I have absolutely no respect for religious teachers who behave like this,” she said.

Another girl described how, at the age of 12, she was hit by her madrassa teacher whenever she mispronounced a word or forgot a verse of the Koran…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



‘We Have Saved the World’: Brown’s Gaffe

[Video at URL above]

Gordon Brown blundered in the Commons today by declaring he had saved the world when he meant to say he had rescued the British banking system.

Defending his billion-pound bailout of the financial sector in Prime Ministers’ Questions, he said: ‘The first point of recapitalisation was to save banks that would otherwise have collapsed. We not only saved the world…’

Flushing with embarrassment, he quickly corrected himself, adding ‘saved the banks’ but the gaffe was too much for the Tories who fell about with laughter.

Instead of shrugging off their guffaws like his predecessor Tony Blair might have done, Mr Brown immediately launched into a serious defence of his economic rescue to try and claw back control.

‘The Opposition may not like the fact that we led the world in saving the banking system — but we did,’ he insisted defiantly.

But the laughter in the chamber was so loud that he had to battle to make himself heard, and David Cameron wasted no time before sticking in the knife.

The Tory leader immediately leapt on the slip-up as proof Mr Brown was more concerned with his global standing than the plight of Britons.

‘Well, it’s now on the record,’ the Tory leader said. ‘He’s so busy talking about saving the world he’s forgotten about the businesses of this country.’

Mr Cameron, who yesterday accused Labour of ‘economic crimes’, insisted the bailout was not working because it had not freed up lending.

‘All over the country there are businesses who have had interest rates increased and overdrafts restricted. While he thinks he is saving the world, we are talking about businesses in the real world,’ he said.

‘I know he has been around the world boasting about his recapitalisation scheme so he is reluctant to change it but for the good of the economy and our businesses, it has got to change.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Balkans


Serbian Pirates Attack on Danube

LONDON — Bulgaria’s national river shipping company says that pirates from Serbia attacked its ships on the Danube 38 times in the past two years.

The company’s deputy director Ivan Ivanov told the BBC’s Serbian language service that the attacks, which he says are taking place near the river port of Smederevo, “are becoming increasingly aggressive”.

Ivanov said that mostly armed pirates are taking cargo, cables and fuel.

He spoke about one incident in October, when armed assailants boarded several Bulgarian ships moored at Smederevo.

When a member of one of the crews tried to confront then, he was pushed into the river and sustained serious injuries, according to Ivanov, who added that the pirates were targeting Ukrainian ships as well.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Serbia’s Ships Also Attacked by Pirates Along the Danube in Bulgaria and Romania

After last week’s reports of Serbian pirates attacking Bulgarian ships along the Danube, officials announced that Serbian ships sailing along the river are also targeted by pirates on the territory of Bulgaria, Romania and the Ukraine.

These attacks have been reported to the countries’ port authorities, Srecko Nikolic, head of the Serbian captain’s union, told the Serbian Danas newspaper. He also confirmed that pirate attacks were indeed taking place in Serbian waters and claimed that the country’s Interior Ministry and the appropriate port authorities will begin taking measures against them.

As BalkanTravellers.com reported last week, Bulgarian officials announced that about 40 Bulgarian ships were attacked at the Serbian port of Smederevo in the last two years. During these attacks, the pirates would steal cables, fuel and other ship equipment in addition to the ship’s cargo.

However, according to a publication by the Glas Javnosti newspaper from today, the pirate attacks in Serbia were nothing more than collaboration between foreign sailors and local smugglers.

“The sailors sell fuel from the ship’s supplies, as well as anything valuable from the ship, and after returning to their country, they talk about attacks and robberies, in order to hide the missing goods and receive insurance coverage. This ‘business’ has been flourishing ever since the time of the sanctions, and the cooperation is so advanced that most of the captains call their ‘business partners’ on the phone when the ship comes alongside a quay,” a source from the river police told the newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]



Serbian Pirates Attack Bulgarian Ships on the Danube

The recent Serbian pirates’ raids on ships in the Danube’s waters proved that piracy is neither a thing of the past nor limited to the coast of Somalia.

About 40 Bulgarian unstaffed ship convoys were attacked and robbed in the past two years at the Serbian port of Smederevo, located to the east of Belgrade, Captain Ivan Ivanov, deputy director of Bulgarian River Shipping J.S.Co, told media today. The last attack took place on October 10, but was announced only on Thursday.

Although the Serbian pirates’ attacks are not as spectacular as those taking place in Somalian or Indonesian waters, as the former usually don’t have any casualties, they nevertheless attack ships with armed men and steal cables and various goods, such as metals, coke, wheat, and sugar.

In most of the cases, the Serbian police is helpless against the attacks, as it does not have enough vessels to escort the ships through the Serbian part of the Danube. Ukrainian sailing vessels had also become victims of pirates, according to the reports.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union


Italy: ‘No Problems’ Giving Libya Stake in Eni, Says Minister

Rome, 9 Dec. (AKI) — Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says there is no “political problems” for Libya to buy a stake in the energy giant Eni in which the government has a 30 percent stake. “The terms for access to a financial investment are those stipulated by the Santiago treaty which provides for transparent financial investments,” Frattini told the media.

“Above all, the step taken by the Libyans to give prior notice demonstrates their intention not to seek control of the company, but rather a financial investment. They are the principles that we have endorsed.

“I do not see any political problems.” he said.

Frattini made the remarks after Tripoli’s state-run energy fund, National Oil Company, expressed interest in taking a 10 percent stake in Eni last week, saying the deal would go ahead if there were no objections from the government.

Libya’s intentions were aired by Libya’s ambassador to Italy, Hafed Gaddur, in the Italian media on Sunday. The move would make it the largest shareholder in the company after the Italian state.

Financial analysts said on Monday that Libya’s interest could support the Italian oil company’s expansion, while boosting the shares in the short-term.

Eni is one the most important integrated energy companies in the world operating in the oil and gas, power generation, petrochemical, oilfield services construction and engineering industries.

Eni is active in around 70 countries with more than 70,000 employees.

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



Italy-Libya: Trade Tops 14 Bln Euro in First 8 Months

(ANSAmed) — MILAN, DECEMBER 9 — While Libya tries to enter into Enìs capital, trade relations with Italy continue to grow, with import-exports in the first eight months of the year exceeding 14 billion euro and confirming the North African country as Italy’s top trading partner in the Mediterranean. The figures emerge from a study by the Milan Chamber of Commerce into the latest Istat figures for import-export between Italy and 13 Mediterranean basin countries (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Malta, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan). In January-August imports from Libya grew by 40% compared with the first eight months of 2007, exceeding 12.4 billion euro. This represents 45.9% of imports from the med area and puts the country in first place among Italy’s suppliers in the region. Exports grew in a sustained manner (+57%), even though absolute values were more contained, exceeding 1.7 billion (around 9% of the total). The figure makes Libya the fifth largest market for Italy in the Mediterranean. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Tourism: Rimini Airport Doubles Red Sea Flights to Hurghada

(ANSAmed) — RIMINI, DECEMBER 9 — Christmas, New Year and Epiphany in the sunshine of the Red Sea (Egypt) discovering Hurghada-El Quseir. The ‘Federico Fellini’ airport in Rimini has doubled its flights leaving for the beaches of North Africa. After the success of its connections to Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada-El Quseir is a new destination for the Fellinìs winter calendar. A ‘taste’ of the holidays to grab the attention of the residents of Emilia-Romagna, Marche, Abruzzo, Umbria and Tuscany in the same way as Sharm El Sheikh, and only four hours away from Rimini (take-off is every Tuesday from 23rd December). Cooperation is between I Viaggi del Turchese and Aeradria, the management company for the Rimini airport. The trial of the new destination will be dates close to Christmas (22nd December), New Year (29th December) and Epiphany (5th January), with a wide choice of accommodation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa


Egypt: Cairo; 1mln People Live in Ancient Islamic Cemetery

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 9 — Clean air, green surroundings, silence, calm and wide streets…sounds like a residential area in a big city, right? In fact this is the City of the Dead, situated in the east of Cairo on the foot slopes of the Moqattam mountain. The City of the Dead is the oldest Muslim cemetery in all Egypt that is still operational, and today it is home to around one million people, living people. Why have such a high number of people chosen to move to a cemetery, and what kind of relationship has been established between the land of the living and that of the dead? These are the questions which an Italian anthropologist, Anna Tozzi Di Marco, sets out to answer in her new book ‘Il giardino di Allah’ (The Garden of Allah), just released by the publishing house Ananke (pp. 160). Thanks to the support of the Italian Foreign Ministry and the Egyptian Ministry for Education, the scholar has been able to research this phenomenon by living in ‘Medinat al Amuat’ (the City of the Dead) from 1998 to 2005. “I spent a lot of time in the cemetery”, says the researcher, “observing, taking part in lives of its inhabitants, from weddings to exchanging visits to funeral rites”. The City of the Dead is an enormous area measuring 12km, criss-crossed by large and fast-flowing roads and subdivided into various zones. “Some of these zones are completely urbanised, with running water, electricity, schools, a doctor’s surgery for women and their newborn and a pharmacy”, explains the anthropologist. Despite what many people (erroneously) believe, it is not only poor people who live amongst the Fatimid, Mameluke and Ottoman graves, where holy Sufi, sultans such as Qaytbey and Barquq, and important imams have been buried. “The occupation of these burial grounds”, continues Tozzi Di Marco, “began in the 1950s, when many people moved from the countryside to the capital city. The high demographic pressure, the poor state of the workers’ housing, and more recently the exponential increase in housing prices were also root causes”. Those who count themselves as inhabitants of the burial ground include herdsmen, workers, professionals, traders, Muslims and Christians, who have turned these tombs into real homes. “Traditional tombs”, claims the anthropologist, “include a room for the dead, one or two adjacent rooms and/or a closed courtyard, allowing relatives of the dead to visit their loved ones for long periods”. “Muslims”, she concludes, “spend a lot of time at the cemetery, and above all the women who hold the family’s memory”. The Cairo graveyard is today home to around one million people. Among its residents there are some whose families have lived their for three generations, without finding a stable living situation. For the Egyptian authorities, this area of the capital is one of the many uncomfortable truths they must face which explicitly shows how the government’s housing policies have failed. The sad thing is that for many people in Cairo, this immense area (which is shown on maps as a white space, as if it was nothing even there) is a matter of disgrace, something that should never even be talked about. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



W.Sahara: Rabat Stops Negotiations, Insists on Self-Government

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 8 — Rabat has set as a condition to resume negotiations on Western Sahara, promoted by the United Nations in Manhasset and scheduled for next year, an open discussion on its project of self-government for the territory. According to Moroccan Foreign Minister, Taieb Fassi-Fihri, as reported by Spanish El Pais, the Moroccan government is willing to take part “at a serious negotiation on the self-government plan as a final solution of the conflict”. Peter van Walsum, former special envoy for Sahara of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, had concentrated the negotiations on the self-government plan proposed by Rabat saying that the independence of Sahara “is out of reach”. The Polisario Front asked and obtained the replacement of van Walsum who was considered to be “one-sided”. But the following appointment of American Christopher Cross as new special envoy for the area was not accepted by Morocco which poses as a condition that the negotiation resumes from the plan proposed by van Walsum. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians


Eldad to Push ‘Anti-Islamization’ Laws

MK Arye Eldad, who is currently with the National Union-National Religious Party but has founded the new Hatikva Party, says he is planning to introduce a package of emergency “anti-Islamization legislation” in the next Knesset to “confront the enemy within and without.”

The legislation would make military or civil service obligatory for both Arab and Jewish citizens, require all citizens to declare their loyalty to Israel “as a Jewish democratic state” as a condition for voting in national elections and ensure punishments are meted out for illegal construction, which is rife in the Arab sector.

“I am trying to preserve the state of Israel as a Jewish state,” Eldad told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “I’m trying to struggle against both a post-Zionist trend and the trend of ‘Islamization’ of some citizens of Israel, who are saying we no longer need a Jewish state and that this should be a binational state of Jews and Muslims.”

MK Ibrahim Sarsour, head of the United Arab List-Ta’al, said that he and other Arab activists will do everything possible to ensure that Eldad’s “discriminatory” legislation package, if introduced, does not pass.

The legislation, Sarsour said, would lead to the exclusion of the Arab minority from the Israeli system, something the community “will not accept.”

But even if it does pass, Sarsour said, “we will go on struggling within the limitations of Israeli law by peaceful means, [so] that Israel will be a state of all its citizens, not a Jewish state or a state of the Jewish community” in which Arabs are “simply a passing minority.”

Most Arab leaders are against making military or civilian service mandatory for Israeli Arabs, saying they want to create their own non-state mechanisms to serve their communities.

Eldad plans to reveal details of the package during a public conference he is hosting in Jerusalem on Sunday, entitled “Facing Jihad.”

The seminar at the Begin Heritage Center, which he says aims to educate Israelis about “the true nature of Islam,” will feature speakers such as writer Daniel Pipes and Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, who will screen his controversial film Fitna, which aims to demonstrate that the Koran encourages hatred of and violence against non-Muslims.

Meanwhile, the primary for Hatikva was held on Tuesday. The secular Zionist party, according to its Web site, aims “to return redemptive Zionism to the center stage of the Jewish state” and believes that “the Land of Israel is the exclusive inheritance of the Jewish people.”

Results of the primary were not available by press time.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]



Israel: Elections, Likud’s Primaries Launch ‘Hawk List’

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 9 — The list of candidates for the February 2009 elections produced by yesterday’s primaries in the Likud party has produced a list somewhat stuffed with “hawks”. Benyamin Netanyahu’s leadership — which had been hoping to produce a centre-oriented list — was not subject to the vote. But the presence of “hawks” is noticeable right from the top of the line-up, with the presences of Ghilad Erdan, Reuven Rivlin and Benyamin Begin, all of whom declared their hostility in 2005 to Ariel Sharon policy of a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. The main exponent of the Likud’s moderate line, former Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom, only came in seventh, followed by two further “hawks”: the former Chief in Command of the reserve, and one-time Chair of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Commission, Yuval Steinitz. But Netanyahùs biggest worry would appear to come from number 20 on the list, Moshe Feiglin, who is very close to the settler movement and in the past led the far-right protest group, Zu Arzenu. The initial reaction from the centrist Kadima party has been a critical one, saying that Likud has shown itself to be a party that is “leaning heavily to the right”, and which is therefore unable to come to any kind of understanding with the Palestinians. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Israel: Olmert, Likud is Far Right Wing, They’ll Isolate US

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 9 — “Likud has always been a right wing party, and it is a right wing party that risks pushing Israel into a corner of isolation, leading us into difficult days that we want to avoid”; this was the first comment of Israeli Premier, Ehud Olmert (Kadima, ex Likud) on the result of primary elections in Benyamin Netanyahùs party. “If Bibi (Netanyahu, editor’s note), Moshe ‘Boghi’ Yaalon (ex-Chief of Staff, editor’s note) and Moshe Feiglin are the main figures in Likud — said Olmert again — then the extreme right wing character of that party is evident”. According to the (outgoing) premier an electoral victory for Likud, expected by repeated polls, “would be damaging to the Israeli state”. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East


Islam: Expert, Better Say Arab World and Not Middle East

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, DECEMBER 5 — From the relation between Arab nationalism and Islam to the definition of the concept of ‘Arab-Islamic’ space and the role of the Arab League in the mediation in the conflict between Lebanon and Palestine. These are some of the topics in the book ‘Introduzione allo studio della storia contemporanea del Mondo arabo’ (Introduction to the study of modern history of the Arab World) (Editori Laterza, pp.208), by Antonino Pellitteri, professor of History of Muslim Countries at the University of Palermo, presented today during the congress ‘The Fatimites and the Mediterranean’, currently underway in Palermo. Pellitteri draws the picture of modern history of the Arab-Islamic world not biased by an Eurocentric vision. So he uses the term ‘Arab world’ rather than ‘Arab countries’ or ‘Middle East’. According to Pellitteri, the term Middle East is ‘awkward and controversial’. It was born in the Second World War when the Allies used the term for the region between Iran, Asia and Tripolitania, in North Africa. So it included non-Arab States like Turkey, Iran and in some cases Afghanistan. “The terms preferred by the Arabs” says Pellitteri “is the Arab world which corresponds with the Arab inspiration of unity and many components like the Arab language, the territory, the Nation, the desire for Arabism. Otherwise you fall back to the usual clichés”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Islam: Koran is Not Monochrome, it Can Contain Anything

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 5 — “The Koran is not a monochrome book; you can find anything in it. Terrorists take from it whatever is in their interests”. The Franco-Egyptian psychoanalyst and theorist, Moustapha Safouan, replies in no uncertain terms, when he is asked whether the sacred book of Islam can be considered the basis from which terrorism draws its strength. In Rome to present his latest book, “Perché il mondo arabo non è libero. Politica della scrittura e terrorismo religioso” (Spirali) (Why is the Arab World not free? The politics of writing and terrorism), Safouan does not use soft words against middle-eastern regimes. Indeed, the book that has just been published in Italy is a book of condemnation, which exposes “all of the contradictions and all of the falsehoods on which political power in Arab countries rests and from which it draws strength and legitimation”. “The sacred book”, states the author, “is divided into two parts, one which talks only of love and mercy (which refers to the period when Muhammad is in Mecca) and the other which encourages the extermination of the infidels (which refers to the moment of the escape to Medina). Terrorists use this second part”. Safouan’s reasoning starts from the idea that in the Islamic world there are mechanisms for manipulation and exclusion based on expressiveness, and only marginally on religion. “Although goods circulate freely”, he maintains, “men keep up insurmountable barriers, which feed fundamentalism and drifts towards terrorist”. The use of the classical language by those in power is a matter which keeps returning to the subject of debate amongst Arab intellectuals. “The masses”, continues Safouan, “are excluded from participating in the administration of power and culture. Dialect, which in actual fact is the language used everyday to communicate in Arab countries, is different from the language of the Koran that is used by governors”. Another fundamental passage in his reasoning is the problem of legitimizing political power in countries in the Middle East. “The Islamic state”, thunders Safouan, “is a deception”. The Koran, he says, does not mention anywhere political authority and government means. “The sacred book deals only with the relationship between man and God”, Safouan points out. “Those who want to link their power back to Islam are following a hadith (a saying) of the Prophet, which says that Islam is temporal and spiritual at the same time. This saying has been exploited to subordinate the Koran to absolute government”, he adds. Pushing his reasoning to the extreme, the Egyptian psychoanalyst states: “it is the state that has created the Koran and whoever opposes its powers is therefore named as an infidel, because they go against the religion from which power has drawn its legitimation”. But is Islam compatible with democracy? “There is nothing in the Koran which goes against democracy. The function of religion is to defend moral rules and protect the ‘set of rules’“, he responds. The point, in his opinion, is that the idea of political responsibility is totally missing from the vocabulary of Arab citizens. “Even for the people, concludes Safouan, “the idea of a director whose exercise of power is subordinated to peoplés control would seem contradictory if not blasphemous. And that is possible thanks to repression and corruption”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Islam: Aid, Too Much Unregulated Slaughtering in Mecca

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 9 — Islamic Development Bank (IDB) President Ahmad Muhammad Ali, who was personally supervising the Moaisem Abattoirs’ operation yesterday in Mina, was extremely upset with the “illegal” and “unregulated” slaughtering of animals in Mina, as reported by Arab News. The Kingdom launched a program for optimal utilization of sacrificial meat in 1983. According to the program for the Utilization of Sacrificial Animals During Haj, which is managed by the IDB, pilgrims can purchase coupons and delegate the bank to sacrifice an animal on their behalf. The idea behind the program is to make use of the meat by distributing it to the poor and needy both in the Kingdom and abroad. “The unregulated slaughtering of sacrificial animals around our facility and other parts of Mina is a serious health hazard as those animals have not been examined and cleared by veterinarians”, Ali said. “There is no freezing facility for those animals and this results in carcasses lying unattended for hours and becoming spoiled in the process”, he added. Ali also said that the global recession had in no way affected the demand for sacrificial animals. This year the IDB has planned to sacrifice 700,000 animals in the 84 hours of its operation, but indications say that the number will exceed expectations. In last year’s Haj, the IDB slaughtered 759,212 animals, out of which 520,202 were distributed in the Kingdom with the rest being sent to neighboring Muslim countries. Yesterday, 661,000 animals were slaughtered. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Saudi Arabia: Half a Million Pilgrims Arrive Without Permits

Riyadh, 9 Dec. (AKI) — Almost half a million Muslim pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia for their annual pilgrimage without legal permits, according to the Saudi newspaper, Okaz. Nevertheless, the number of unauthorised pilgrims who are visiting the country has fallen by 60 percent.

Okaz said 480,000 people had been found without necessary permits from local authorities and 100,000 police are monitoring the movement of pilgrims and ensuring that only those with permits reach the city.

More than three million Muslims arrived in Saudi Arabia at the weekend to perform the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which Muslims regard as the spiritual pinnacle of their lives.

The journey, also known as the Hajj, is one of the five pillars of Islam. The others are belief in one God and in Mohammed as his final messenger; praying five times a day; giving donations to the needy; and fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

According to the Saudi newspaper, the publicity campaign “no permit, no Hajj” run by the Interior Ministry has been a success. The government campaign made it clear it would not tolerate any behaviour that could cause accidents, like sleeping on the street.

Last year around a million pilgrims arrived in the holy city independently.

Saudi authorities have told local media that there have been no incidents this year despite the arrival of at least three million people in Mecca.

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



Turkey’s Faltering Reform Drive

Erdogan Striking Nationalist Tones

Amid corruption scandals and stagnating reform, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, praised in Europe as a modernizer, is seeking refuge in nationalist rhetoric, adopting a tougher stance on the Kurds and moving closer to the country’s military leaders…

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

South Asia


Did Saudis Fund Terror School Behind Mumbai?

Shady cash transfers link kingdom charities to French accounts, Arafat’s graft

Shady cash transfers link Saudi charities to Mumbai terror and French bank accounts to Arafat’s graft.

In Muridke, Pakistan, there is a toney boarding school set in a neatly trimmed green campus that includes a farm, swimming pool, and even a small hospital. Indian authorities believe this bucolic facility is also the headquarters for the terrorists who carried out the Mumbai attacks.

The school is officially an educational and charitable arm of Jamaat ud Dawa, or JUD, a radical Islamic group that is legal in Pakistan. The campus was originally constructed in 2005 by Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Islamic extremist group that American intelligence has tied to al-Qaeda, and that Pakistan outlawed in 2002 at the Americans’ behest. A senior CIA analyst told Whistleblower that Jamaat ud Dawa is only an alias for the banned LeT.

A CIA source says the Agency has known for two years that the school was “funded by the Saudis and protected by the Pakistanis.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



India-Pakistan: Civil War or Nuclear War?

December 10, 2008: The capture of one of the ten Mumbai terrorists has been a disaster for Pakistan. The captured terrorist talked, and his information checked out, and made it clear that Pakistan was tolerating Islamic terrorist groups operating openly inside Pakistan. This is nothing new, but such dramatic proof is. The U.S., the UN and most other major countries put the pressure on Pakistan to do something about this, or risk being officially branded a pro-terrorist state. Pakistan responded to that pressure in the last week by arresting several senior terrorist leaders known to be operating in Pakistan. But Pakistan refused to allow India to take these terrorists. That’s because if these guys began talking, they would confirm Pakistan’s long term support of Islamic terrorist activities. These are admissions that Pakistan does not want to deal with. Nevertheless, Pakistan has long been known as a supporter of Islamic terrorists, even though some of these terrorist organizations are trying to kill Pakistani leaders. That is a rather recent development, which came about after September 11, 2001, when the Pakistani leadership were forced to decide between backing the war on terror, or siding with the terrorists. At that point, some Islamic terrorists began attacking Pakistani leaders. But others, like those responsible for the Mumbai attacks (Lashkar e Toiba) did not support the overthrow of the Pakistani government (at least not right away), and continued to be protected by the government.

But Lashkar e Toiba continued to plan attacks inside India, which India has warned could lead to nuclear war. But Pakistan did not want to enrage another bunch of Islamic terrorists. Now they have no choice, or do they? India and the United States are watching closely exactly what Pakistan does to the “Kashmir (dedicated to taking Kashmir from Indian control) terrorists” like Lashkar e Toiba. Pakistan has made a few arrests, and everyone is waiting to see if, or when, Pakistan will do some real damage to these groups. So far, Pakistan has not. Groups like Lashkar e Toiba are very popular in Pakistan, because getting control of Kashmir is very popular. The government fears that going after the Kashmir terrorists would cause a civil war inside Pakistan. That has always been a risk, which even India acknowledged. But now the Indian government has a population enraged about the activities (like Mumbai, and similar attacks earlier) of the Pakistani Kashmir terror groups, and wants something done. Pakistan is being forced into a corner, where the choices come down to civil war with their Islamic conservatives and radicals (about a third of the population), or war with India, which could escalate into a nuclear conflict that Pakistan would lose. The civil war would be messy, but the government would almost certainly win it. Pakistani politicians, being risk averse, are looking for some way out of this mess. There doesn’t seem to be one.

           — Hat tip: Pedestrian Infidel [Return to headlines]



Indonesia: Country Accused of People Smuggling

Jakarta, 9 Dec. (AKI/The Jakarta Post) — Indonesia’s National Police are investigating possible bribery in the issuing of Indonesian visas to Afghan citizens bound for Australia, following the arrest last week of two human trafficking ringleaders.

“Based on the interrogation of the two men, we are tracing the case to Kabul, because we question how so many Afghans could have secured visas,” National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Abubakar Nataprawira said.

Last Friday, police arrested two people allegedly involved in smuggling migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan by boat to Australia.

The two alleged people smugglers, a Pakistani identified as Sakih and an Indonesian identified as Khairudin, had earlier this year landed a boatload of migrants on Australia’s Christmas Island, police said.

National Police transnational crimes director Brig. Gen. Badrodin Haiti said Sakih was a “big fish” in the human trafficking business, linked to the smuggling of Iranians, Iraqis and Afghans into Australia over the last three years.

Indonesia has long been used as a transit point for people from poor, often war-torn countries wishing to enter wealthy Australia to start a new life.

In recent years, most have come from Iraq or Afghanistan. They typically fly to Indonesia before continuing to Australia aboard cramped, barely seaworthy boats.

Australia has intercepted at least five boats carrying dozens of refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Sri Lanka, with Indonesian crews, since September this year.

Quoting members of Australia’s Afghan community, The Australian newspaper reported last week that corrupt officials at the Indonesian Embassy in Kabul were selling visas for 1,500 dollars, claiming it was the starting point in an organised people-smuggling racket.

Hassan Ghulam, an ethnic Hazara community leader living in Australia, said Kabul’s deteriorating security conditions had forced the price of the Indonesian visas up from 1,200 dollars four months ago to the current 1,500 dollars.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said his office had followed up on the report by seeking explanations from the embassy in Kabul, but added Jakarta doubted the claims made in the report.

“The initial response was there was no such practice. But we will continue to look into it. Visa issuance for conflict-ridden countries must be approved by Jakarta through an interdepartmental team, and takes at least two weeks for approval, not 24 or 48 hours as reported,” he said.

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



Indonesia: Clashes in Maluku, 45 Houses and a Church Set on Fire

Violence is sparked when a group of Muslims accuse a teacher of blasphemy. Intervention by anti-riot police re-establishes order, but tensions remain high. Stores and offices are closed.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A group of 500 Muslims wrecks havoc and spreads panic in Masohi, chief town of Seram, part of the Maluku Islands, during clashes with police and local Christians with the result that 45 houses, a church and a village hall are set on fire.

The spark that set off the violence is an in incident in which a teacher allegedly insulted Islam in front of some Muslim students.

Once the story spread the local Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) mobilised, rallying some 500 people in front of the Central Maluku Education Agency. For more than an hour they protested, accusing the teacher of blasphemy and calling for a dismissal.

After that the protesters marched to police headquarters, which is near the school.

Once told that the police chief was out of town most demonstrators left but a group confronted police.

In the following clashes violence spread to Letwaru district, involving Christians and Muslims. In the end five people were hurt.

As a result of the violence houses and church were set on fire as well as public vehicles parked nearby.

Only the intervention by anti-riot police re-established order, but tensions remain high.

News about the incident in Masohi spread across Seram Island and rekindled memories of the Maluku War of 1999-2000 when Muslims and Christians clashed, with thousands of dead.

At present police is on a heightened state of alert whilst stores and offices closed as a precautionary measure.

Law enforcement authorities have identified those responsible for the clashes.

For his part the teacher who sparked the incident is currently in police care.

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

Australia — Pacific


‘Asylum Bid’ by Football Homeless

Afghanistan player Jawad Zahid (C) and teammates celebrate with the trophy after defeating Russia 5-4 in the final of the 2008 Homeless World Cup football tournament, played in Melbourne on 7 December

Afghanistan were the victors in this year’s tournament

At least 15 players who participated in the football World Cup for homeless people in Australia are suspected to have applied for asylum.

To participate in the Homeless World Cup, players must be currently or recently homeless, an asylum seeker, in drug or alcohol rehabilitation or a street newspaper vendor.

           — Hat tip: CB [Return to headlines]

Immigration


EU Seeks to Improve Treatment of Asylum Seekers

The European Union is proposing a more humanitarian approach toward asylum seekers in order to ease its burden.

BRUSSELS — The European Union on Wednesday proposed extra rights and protections for asylum seekers and said it wanted to take the burden off the main receipient nations.

“Our aim is to put the asylum seekers at the heart of a human and fair procedure,” said EU Justice and Security Commissioner Jacques Barrot.

“We need to ensure higher standards of protection, a more equal level playing field and higher efficiency for the system,” he added.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, proposed modifying and easing several rules to work towards an EU asylum system.

Europe has already adopted a pact to organise legal immigration, fight illegal immigration and reinforce border controls.

The commission said asylum seekers should not be returned to the EU member state where they entered the bloc if it “cannot offer them an adequate standard of protection.”

Greece has come under particular criticism for its treatment of asylum seekers.

           — Hat tip: Contadina [Return to headlines]



Fini: Good Italian Citizens Are Against Xenophobia

(AGI) -Rome, 10 Dec. — “To be good Italian citizens today thanks to emigration means to have solid cultural antibodies against all forms of xenophobia”. This was stated by the President of the Lower House, Gianfranco Fini, speaking in the Hall at Montecitorio Palace, at the ceremony of the First Conference of Young Italians in the World. In front of President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, Senate President, Renato Schifani, Foreign and Youth Policy Ministers, Franco Frattini and Giorgia Meloni, numerous members of Parliament, and many young people, Fini underlined how: “Looking at pictures of Italians who 100 years ago left our country for foreign lands — added Fini — the same desire for social justice is revealed, to provide the best for one’s children, and a better quality of life which in many cases we find in the eyes of many who come from other countries moved only by the hope to find a better future here. Tomorrow many new Italian children with foreign parent will be integrated into our reality and they will respect values even before the rules of our society”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



UK: ‘Back Door’ Amnesty for 180,000 Asylum Seekers Who Slipped Through the Net

Up to 180,000 asylum seekers are to be granted a ‘back door’ amnesty to live in Britain.

They include failed refugees who should have been deported, and migrants whose claims were never even concluded by the Home Office.

Instead, their files were lost or left unfinished as the asylum system went into meltdown.

Now officials are finally wading through the backlog, and have already granted more than 50,000 approvals.

Based on the current rate at which cases are being rubber-stamped, the total number to benefit from the amnesty will be around 180,000.

The approval rate is 40 per cent and rising, with all those who are successful gaining access to housing and other benefits. Local councils will be expected to find homes for many of them.

The major reason why so many of the claims are being approved is the Human Rights Act.

Under it, those who have been here for many years can claim Britain is now their home and that they no longer have links to their country of origin.

If their claims had been considered when they were first submitted, many might have been sent home.

[…]

Town halls have been warned to make the migrants a priority for council housing. They have been given a ‘transitional grant’ of £1.1million of taxpayers’ money to help towards the cost, but the final bill is likely to be far higher. It is expected to be passed on in council tax rises.

The list of countries with most beneficiaries of the ‘legacy’ policy is headed by Turkey, with 2,400 successful claimants.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the pressure group Migrationwatch UK, said: ‘We are only now getting the measure of the disaster that befell the asylum system in recent years.

‘It is frankly absurd that tens of thousands of people should be given full access to the welfare state for no other reason than the administrative chaos that ruled in the Home Office.’

It also emerged yesterday that seven of the most dangerous criminals involved in the foreign prisoner scandal have been given permission to stay in Britain. They are rapists, killers and paedophiles.

One of the main reasons for being allowed to stay is that under human rights law they have a right to a family life.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars


Italy: Group Slams TV Censorship of Gay Cowboy Film

Rome, 9 Dec. (AKI) — Italian gay rights’ group Arcigay on Tuesday criticised the censorship of the award-winning cowboy movie, ‘Brokeback Mountain’, by the country’s state television channel. The movie was shown on Rai2 on Monday without controversial gay sex scenes. The group says it will ask Rai2’s director and Rai2’s president to publicly defend the channel’s decision to censor the movie and has asked Rai to screen it again in its original version.

“We want to know who decided to show ‘Brokeback Mountain’ yesterday evening with such blatant, 1950s-style cuts,” said Arcigay’s president, Aurelio Mancuso.

“The film won the Golden Lion Award at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, as well as three Oscars and four Golden Globes,” said Mancuso.

“Who had the presumption to think an adult public could not handle the sight of kissing and intimacy between two men?”

Arcigay is demanding a public explanation from Rai2’s director and from Rai’s president, he said. The group will also take the case to Italian state television’s watchdog, Mancuso noted.

“Public broadcasting cannot be allowed to stoke the homophobia that is spreading in Italy,” he stated.

The group has asked Rai to show an uncut version of the film as “a conciliatory gesture”, he said.

Directed by Taiwan’s Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain is a love story between a ranch hand and a rodeo cowboy set in the American West over two decades, from the early 1960s to the 1980s.

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



Newsweek: Bible Supports Same-Sex Marriage

Mainstream magazine draws fire for declaring Scripture affirms ‘gay’ right to wed

In its cover story for next week, Newsweek magazine declares “religious conservatives” have been wrong all along — because the Bible supports same-sex marriage.

The cover of the Dec. 15 issue features a large black Bible with a silver cross on the front. A rainbow ribbon — a popular symbol for homosexual pride — bookmarks its pages.

Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told Politico Newsweek’s story is no shocking eye-opener.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “Newsweek has been so far in the tank on the homosexual issue, for so long, they need scuba gear and breathing apparatus. I don’t think it’s going to change the minds of anyone who takes biblical teachings seriously.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Euthanasia Broadcast on TV

Mr Ewert’s death will be the first assisted suicide shown on British television and is likely to trigger a fresh broadcasting standards row.

The program even provoked debate in today’s Prime Minister’s Question Time, with Gordon Brown hoping the broadcaster had ‘remembered it’s wider duty to viewers’.

Mr Brown said: ‘These are very difficult issues and we should all remember at the heart of any single individual case are families and people in very difficult circumstances who have to make for themselves very difficult choices and none of us would want to go through that.

‘I believe that it’s necessary to ensure that there is a never a case in the country where a sick or elderly person feels under pressure to agree to an assisted death or somehow feels it’s the expected thing to do.

That’s why I’ve always opposed legislation for assisted deaths.’

On the broadcast he said: ‘I think it’s very important that these issues are dealt with sensitively and without sensationalism.

‘I hope broadcasters remember that they have a wider duty to the general public and of course it will be a matter for the television watchdogs when the broadcast is shown.’

[…]

The programme was condemned last night as dangerous and grotesque amid fears that it would ‘undermine people’s right to life’ and risked glorifying suicide.

The anger provoked by the Sky documentary on the controversial Swiss euthanasia company Dignitas came as it was disclosed that the Crown Prosecution Service would bring no charges against the parents of a paralysed rugby player who also committed suicide in Switzerland.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Outrage After 13-Year-Olds Get Free Condoms at School Without Their Parents’ Knowledge

Teenagers as young as 13 are being offered free condoms at school without their parents’ knowledge.

All ‘non-faith’ secondary schools in Manchester have agreed to let their nurses hand out contraceptives and give advice about sex.

And the service could ‘in principle’ be offered to children aged 11 and 12 — although council sources say any evidence that children of that age engaging in sexual activity would trigger an investigation.

Older children are eligible, although each case is judged individually.

Parents are not told when their children ask for advice or contraception, although they were consulted before the scheme was phased in.

Eighty primaries are also teaching pupils about relationships, conception and childbirth.

The news triggered outrage from conservative campaign groups, with one claiming handing out condoms was an ‘incentive’ to sexual activity.

The moves came as new data showed teen pregnancy rates have risen in Manchester since the council was told to cut the figure by half 10 years ago.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]



UK: Town Introduces Swearing Fines in Crackdown on Anti-Social Behaviour

Swearing on the streets has been banned by a council in an effort to reduce antisocial behaviour in the run-up to Christmas.

Anyone caught uttering offensive language could be handed an on-the-spot fine of £80.

The regulation has been imposed by Preston City Council to try to curb drunk and disorderly behaviour in its town centre during the party season.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

General


Mideast: Mons. Twal, We Ask Obama to be Honest With Israel

(ANSAmed) — VATICAN CITY, DECEMBER 9 — ‘‘All the Presidents of the USA, without exception, are friends of Israel. We now ask the new President Obama to use this friendship for greater peace: a true friend must have the courage to tell his friend what is good and what is not so good’’. The call for a ‘‘true and honest friendship’’ as forerunner to peace between Israel and the USA, which in the Middle East they call ‘‘the monopoly on peace’’ arrived from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Mons. Fouad Twal. In a conversation with ANSA, the Bishop spoke of the Middle East question, starting from the premise that Christians ‘‘are not something apart, but integral to the population of the region and suffer like the others and with the others’’. The truth ‘‘is that there is no lack of humanitarian aid and gestures of solidarity towards the people of the Middle East. But what we need, peace, still hasn’t arrived because it is not in the hands of benefactors but is a monopoly of the big countries, Israel and the US. All the American Presidents, without exception are friends of Israel, but what we are asking is that they use that friendship for greater peace: a true friend must have the courage to tell his friend what is good and what is not so good. A person who supports his friend blindly, whatever he does, is not a true friend, because true honest friendship has to help all people who live in the Middle East’’. Speaking about Italy and Europe, the Bishop asked for ‘‘a more political role’’ from these countries, when so far the role has been mostly ‘‘financial help’’. Twal said that he was optimistic on one hand: ‘‘I have faith because everyone is tired of this situation’’. But on the other hand he added that ‘‘we make such efforts to manage the conflict, to live with the conflict and not to resolve it: my fear is that the help that arrives helps us to live in the sense of surviving, not dying, but it doesn’t give us a solution’’. What is missing, according to the Bishop, is ‘‘a political plan, timing which will give more credibility to the politicians who come to the Holy Land: we need action which lands on the ground’’. The Pope’s visit in May 2009 could be ‘‘a reason to have more faith’’ to proceed more quickly and with more conviction on the road of the peace process. Recently, explained Twal ‘‘people have begun to think of us religious heads as people who could have a role in managing the conflict, but so far I have seen that our efforts, for example to give Jerusalem back its vocation as a city of peace, have not had great results’’. Twal, who will celebrate Christmas in Gaza, finished by mentioning the ‘‘inhuman conditions’’ in which Palestinians in the Strip live: ‘‘There is no food, no water, they suffer from the cold, hunger, thirst, sickness is increasing. The Palestinians of Gaza live only not to die, and the world is forgetting them’’. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Orthodoxy Assembly Favours Relations With Islamic Conference

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, DECEMBER 9 — The Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO) has decided to intensify discussions and efforts for closer cooperation with international parliamentary organisations and to approach the Islamic Conference. The decision was taken during a joint meeting of the International Secretariat and the Committee of Chairpersons of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy, held in Nicosia. As reported by Cyprus news agency, IAO Secretary-General Aristotelis Pavlides described the meeting successful adding that the decisions which the meeting took in Nicosia concentrate on two fields. The first concerns enlarging the number of members. The second issue is cooperation with international organisations, that is the Council of Europe or the European Parliament and the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). Pavlides said that the effort to establish relations with the OIC began years ago but did not produce any results because of bureaucracy or political reasons. The IAO is an inter-parliamentary body which was set up at the initiative of the Hellenic Parliament 15 years ago. It projects the Orthodox values and traditions in the international parliamentary field and contributes to the development of the inter-religious dialogue. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]



Still Asleep After Mumbai

by Daniel Pipes

Victims caught in terrorist atrocities perpetrated for Islam typically experience fear, torture, horror, and murder, with sirens screaming, snipers positioning, and carnage in the streets. That was the case recently in Bombay (now called Mumbai), where some 195 people were murdered and 300 injured. But for the real target of Islamist terror, the world at large, the experience has become numbed, with apologetics and justification muting repulsion and shock.

If terrorism ranks among the cruelest and most inhumane forms of warfare, excruciating in its small-bore viciousness and intentional pain, Islamist terrorism has also become well-rehearsed political theater. Actors fulfill their scripted roles, then shuffle, soon forgotten, off the stage.

Indeed, as one reflects on the most publicized episodes of Islamist terror against Westerners since 9/11 — the attack on Australians in Bali, on Spaniards in Madrid, on Russians in Beslan, on Britons in London — a twofold pattern emerges: Muslim exultation and Western denial. The same tragedy replays itself, with only names changed.

Muslim exaltation: The Mumbai assault inspired occasional condemnations, hushed official regrets, and cornucopias of unofficial enthusiasm. As the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center notes, the Iranian and Syrian governments exploited the event “to assail the United States, Israel and the Zionist movement, and to represent them as responsible for terrorism in India and the world in general.” Al-Jazeera’s website overflowed with comments such as “Allah, grant victory to Muslims. Allah, grant victory to jihad” and “The killing of a Jewish rabbi and his wife in the Jewish center in Mumbai is heartwarming news.”

Such supremacism and bigotry can no longer surprise, given the well-documented, world-wide acceptance of terror among many Muslims. For example, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press conducted an attitudinal survey in spring 2006, “The Great Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other.” Its polls of about one thousand persons in each of ten Muslim populations found a perilously high proportion of Muslims who, on occasion, justify suicide bombing: 13 percent in Germany, 22 percent in Pakistan, 26 percent in Turkey, and 69 percent in Nigeria.

A frightening portion also declared some degree of confidence in Osama bin Laden: 8 percent in Turkey, 48 percent in Pakistan, 68 percent in Egypt, and 72 percent in Nigeria. As I concluded in a 2006 review of the Pew survey, “These appalling numbers suggest that terrorism by Muslims has deep roots and will remain a danger for years to come.” Obvious conclusion, no?

Western denial: No. The fact that terrorist fish are swimming in a hospitable Muslim sea nearly disappears amidst Western political, journalistic, and academic bleatings. Call it political correctness, multiculturalism, or self-loathing; whatever the name, this mentality produces delusion and dithering.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]