My Kingdom for a Conscience

Hastening DeathSigns and portents that we are destined to go out with a whimper after all.

The first is a little-noted incident in Luxembourg. Luxembourg is easy to laugh at: it is so miniscule as to be invisible. But it was there, earlier this month, that one of the battles for “the core” of Western values, i.e., respect for individual human life, was lost…again.

The Grand Duke Henri had the temerity to veto legislation that would permit euthanasia. For this exercise of his constitutional duty he was duly punished:

As a result of the Grand Duke’s opposition, Article 34 of Luxembourg’s constitution has been changed by the Parliament to strip him of veto power. When Parliament votes on the third reading of the euthanasia bill, the Grand Duke will be forced to enact it. The price of obeying his conscience and religious faith has been that he has been reduced to a pointless cipher.

That appears to be the end point of acting from conscience for a conservator: to be pushed to the sidelines while the dark business of killing at both ends of life’s spectrum continues apace.

Here in America, we are no better. Our abortion “laws” – in reality, our abortion judicial edicts – the most lax interpretations regarding human life to be found on this planet, have resulted in fifty million “procedures” ending prenatal life. Now our states are gearing up to snuff them out on the other end, and still it is our judges, not our legislators, who will do the deciding:
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On December 5, Montana District judge Dorothy McCarter ruled in Baxter v. Montana that the state law banning assisted suicide violates not only the right to privacy guaranteed in the Montana constitution but also the constitutional clause that reads, “The dignity of the human being is inviolable.” McCarter found here a “fundamental right” for the terminally ill to “die with dignity”–meaning in the case at hand, to commit suicide by drug overdose.

McCarter also ruled that doctors have a concomitant right to be free from “liability under the State’s homicide statutes” if they help a patient commit death with dignity: “If the patient were to have no assistance from his doctor,” she explained, “he may be forced to kill himself sooner…in a manner that violates his dignity and peace of mind, such as by gunshot or by otherwise unpleasant method, causing undue suffering to the patient and his family.” That suicide is not a necessity apparently never entered the judge’s mind.

An ugly malignment of the stars for December. Public displays, one of them meant to celebrate the birth of the Messiah and another the celebration of light in the face of annihilation, are being outlawed and in their stead we have two more polities furthering the enthralling darkness of death.

In any other context, the juxtaposition of Luxembourg and Montana would be amusing. Here, however, their inclination to annihilate the inconvenient among us does not portend well for anyone. You have only to look at the consequences of euthanasia in, say, the Netherlands, to understand how the creep of evil slowly smothers human decency:

In 30 years Holland has moved from assisted suicide to euthanasia, from euthanasia of people who are terminally ill to euthanasia of those who are chronically ill, from euthanasia for physical illness to euthanasia for mental illness, from euthanasia for mental illness to euthanasia for psychological distress or mental suffering, and from voluntary euthanasia to involuntary euthanasia or as the Dutch prefer to call it “termination of the patient without explicit request”.

Call it what it is: murder for the sake of convenience.

Do not send out to ask for whom the bell tolls. You know already that they are preparing the death bed for you and for your children. You are being granted your final “right to privacy”, a privacy you are no longer free to abjure.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/28/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/28/2008Notice that the dreaded phrase “disproportionate force” has finally appeared in the news stories about the airstrikes on Gaza. I don’t know what took it so long — it’s been two days now…

Thanks to Abu Elvis, Diana West, Gaia, JCPA, JD, KGS, Nilk, PB, RRW, Scott SA, Srdja Trifkovic, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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“Clash of Civilizations” Author Huntington Dies at 81
Amateur Crimefighters Surge in US
Culture Barriers Stall Search for Girl
Parody on Obama Splits Republicans
Cash-strapped US states may sell roads, airport
States Consider Selling Off Roads, Parks to Confront Financial Meltdown
Europe and the EU
How Sahar Daftary’s Death Fall Exposed Polygamy in Britain
Iceland “Like Chernobyl” as Meltdown Shows Anger Can Boil Over
Italy: Media Ignores ‘Mafia War’
Bosnia, Hillary’s Playground
North Africa
Algeria: Al-Qaeda Leader to be Tried on Terror Charges
Israel and the Palestinians
A Year’s Intel Gathering Yields ‘Alpha Hits’
Analysis / IAF Strike on Gaza is Israel’s Version of ‘Shock and Awe’
Did Israel Use “Disproportionate Force” in Gaza?
Friends and Enemies
Gaza Operation Day 2: Israel Calls Up 6,500 Reservists
‘Hizbullah Will Not Join Hamas in Fighting Israel’
How Israel Led Hamas Into False Sense of Security
IDF Releases Photos of Hamas Targets, Terror Training Facilities
PA Leader ‘Begged’ Israel to Hit Hamas
Wapo: Israeli Airstrikes on Gaza Strip Imperil Obama’s Peace Chances
Middle East
Kuwait Cancels $17 Bn Deal With Dow Chemical
Suicide Bomber Hits Anti-Israel Protest
Dictator Stalin Strong Contender for Most Popular Russian
South Asia
Pak Says Evidence Gathered by US, UK Won’t Stand in Court
Australia — Pacific
Don’t Force US Into Ghettoes: Trad
Sub-Saharan Africa
United Nations Cuts Aid to Zimbabweans
Zimbabwe to Prosecute 140 White Farmers
Culture Wars
2008 Was the Year Man-Made Global Warming Was Disproved
Interpal Bank Closure Delayed Until New Year


“Clash of Civilizations” Author Huntington Dies at 81

Influential U.S. political scientist and “Clash of Civilizations” author Samuel Huntington has died at the age of 81, Harvard University announced Saturday on its website.

Huntington, who retired from active teaching at Harvard in 2007,died on Dec. 24 in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, the university said. It did not give the cause of his death.

Huntington was best known for his theory on the so-called clash of civilizations. He believed that post-Cold War violent conflicts would come from cultural and religious differences rather than ideological rifts between nation states.

He first made the argument in a 1993 article for the Foreign Affairs journal and then expanded it in his 1996 book “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” which has been translated into 39 languages.

“The Clash of Civilizations” theory has been hotly debated by academics and the general public especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

“Sam was the kind of scholar that made Harvard a great university,” Huntington’s long-time friend, economist Henry Rosovsky, was quoted by the website as saying.

“People all over the world studied and debated his ideas. I believe that he is clearly one of the most influential political scientists of the last 50 years,” Rosovsky said.

Huntington was the author, co-author, or editor of 17 books and over 90 scholarly articles. His principal areas of research and teaching were American government, democratization, military politics, strategy and civil-military relations, comparative politics and political development.

A life-long Democrat, Huntington served in the White House under President Jimmy Carter in the National Security Council in 1977 and 1978.

Born in New York City on April 18, 1927, Huntington received his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1946, served in the U.S. Army, then earned a Master’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1948. He obtained his doctorate in 1951 from Harvard, where he had taught nearly without a break since 1950.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Nancy Arkelyan Huntington, and two sons.

[Return to headlines]

Amateur Crimefighters Surge in US

For Mr Invisible, the first and last blow to his burgeoning career as a superhero was an unexpected punch that flattened his nose.

“After months of designing my costume, getting my street moves just right, it was my first week out as a Real Life Superhero — and probably my last. This tiny girl did not like me trying to calm down her screaming boyfriend. She blindsided me, I’m still bruised. It’s dangerous out there,” said the deflated would-be crime fighter last week.

Mr Invisible is cheered that at least his grey one-piece “invisibility suit” works, proven when a drunk urinated on him in an alley. But he is weary of lurking in Los Angeles after dark.

There are, according to the recently launched World Superhero Registry, more than 200 men and a few women who are willing to dress up as comic book heroes and patrol the urban streets in search of, if not super-villains, then pickpockets and bullies.

They may look wacky, but the superhero community was born in the embers of the 9/11 terrorist attacks when ordinary people wanted to do something short of enlisting. They were boosted by a glut of Hollywood superhero movies. The rules are simple. They must stand for unambiguous good.

They must create their own Spandex and rubber costumes without infringing Marvel or DC Comics copyrights, but match them with exotic names — Green Scorpion in Arizona, Terrifica in New York, Mr Xtreme in San Diego and Mr Silent in Indianapolis.

They must shun guns or knives to avoid being arrested as vigilantes, even if their nemeses may be armed. Their best weapon is not muscle but the internet — an essential tool in their war on crime is a homepage stating the message of doom for super-villains.

Utah cops appreciate Ghost, a 33-year-old concrete worker, and his colourfully costumed cohorts Insignis, Oni, Ha! and Silver Dragon. But other police departments recall that America’s most feared gangs, the Crips and the Bloods, were also born as idealistic “community defenders”.

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Culture Barriers Stall Search for Girl

Police say suspicion of outsiders among Bengali immigrants a factor in hunt for missing toddler.

HAMTRAMCK — Nearly three months after 2-year-old Tangena Hussain disappeared, police acknowledge thorny cultural differences are complicating their investigation.

The probe involves immigrants from Bangladesh, who police say are close-knit and often suspicious of outsiders.

“A lot of times, the only people we can interview are children, because they’re the only ones in the family who speak English,” said Hamtramck Detective George Voight, a 21-year veteran. “And when you’re dealing with people from Bangladesh, or others who are Muslims, a lot of times the women won’t talk to the police, because a lot of times women in Muslim communities aren’t allowed to talk to men.”

Tangena, whose mother is a Bengali immigrant, was reported missing in Detroit on Oct. 2 by her mother’s boyfriend, Jamrul Hussain, who shares the girl’s last name but is not related. Hussain, 27, is also from Bangladesh.

Shortly after the disappearance was reported, Detroit Police and FBI investigators enlisted the aid of the Wayne State International Student Affairs Department to help understand the Bengali culture, said Wayne State Police Chief Tony Holt.

“They wanted to get the lay of the land, so some students from Bangladesh gave the detectives some tips on dealing with people from that culture,” Holt said.

The same day Hussain reported Tangena missing, he was arrested in an eight-month-old kidnapping and rape case involving a 15-year-old girl. Prosecutors dropped the charges after the girl admitted she lied about being kidnapped. Instead, prosecutors charged Hussain with criminal sexual conduct

Hussain’s attorney, Shawn Patrick Smith, insisted from the start that his client hadn’t kidnapped the girl, but instead was involved in a romantic relationship with her.

“There’s nothing unusual in Bengali culture for a 27-year-old man to have a relationship with a 15-year-old girl,” Smith said. “What is frowned upon in that culture is having premarital sex, which is why the girl lied; she had to say it was a kidnapping because it’s taboo to have sex before marriage in their Islamic culture.”…

           — Hat tip: RRW [Return to headlines]

Parody on Obama Splits Republicans

The chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) said on Saturday he was “shocked and appalled” that one of his potential

successors had sent committee members a CD this Christmas featuring a parody song called “Barack the Magic Negro.”

In spite of RNC chairman Robert “Mike” Duncan’s sharply negative reaction, former Tennessee Republican Chip Saltsman said party leaders should stand up to criticism over distributing the song. He earlier defended the tune as one of several “lighthearted political parodies” that have aired on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.

Saltsman, who managed former Arkansas Gov Mike Huckabee’s presidential campaign, is seeking the RNC chairmanship. During the presidential campaign, Republicans officials denounced efforts by those in the party who criticised or mocked Democratic nominee Barack Obama along racial lines. Obama was vying to be the nation’s first black president.

The ditty by conservative comedian Paul Shanklin refers to a March 2007 opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times by David Ehrenstein titled ‘Obama the ‘Magic Negro.’ Ehrenstein argued that voting for Obama helped white voters alleviate guilt over racial wrongs in the past. “Barack the Magic Negro” calls into question Obama’s racial identity. Born to a black father and white mother, the president-elect was raised primarily by his white grandparents.

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Cash-strapped US states may sell roads, airport

Minnesota is deep in the hole financially, but the state still owns a premier golf resort, a sprawling amateur sports complex,

a big airport, a major zoo and land holdings the size of the Central American country of Belize.

Valuables like these are in for a closer look as 44 states cope with deficits.

Like families pawning the silver to get through a tight spot, states such as Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Illinois are thinking of selling or leasing toll roads, parks, lotteries and other assets to raise desperately needed cash.

Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has hinted that his January budget proposal will include proposals to privatize some of what the state owns. The Republican is looking for cash to help close a $5.27 billion deficit without raising taxes.

GOP lawmakers are pushing to privatize the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport and the state lottery. Both steps require a higher authority — federal legislation in the case of the airport, a voter-approved constitutional amendment for the lottery. But one lawmaker estimated an airport deal could bring in at least $2.5 billion, and the lottery $500 million.

Massachusetts lawmakers are considering putting the Massachusetts Turnpike in private hands. That could bring in upfront money to help with a $1.4 billion deficit, while also saving on highway operating costs. In New York, governor David Paterson appointed a commission to look into leasing state assets, including the Tappan Zee Bridge north of New York City, the lottery, golf courses, toll roads, parks and beaches. Recommendations are expected next month.

Selling or leasing public assets can produce an immediate infusion of cash for the state, while foisting the tough decisions, such as raising tolls, onto private operators instead of the politicians.

[Return to headlines]

States Consider Selling Off Roads, Parks to Confront Financial Meltdown

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota is deep in the hole financially, but the state still owns a premier golf resort, a sprawling amateur sports complex, a big airport, a major zoo and land holdings the size of the Central American country of Belize.

Valuables like these are in for a closer look as 44 states cope with deficits.

Like families pawning the silver to get through a tight spot, states such as Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts and Illinois are thinking of selling or leasing toll roads, parks, lotteries and other assets to raise desperately needed cash.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has hinted that his January budget proposal will include proposals to privatize some of what the state owns or does. The Republican is looking for cash to help close a $5.27 billion deficit without raising taxes.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

How Sahar Daftary’s Death Fall Exposed Polygamy in Britain

Muslim marriage rules ‘leave women at risk’

The death of a model who learnt that her husband was already married has shone a light into the murky world of Muslim polygamy in Britain.

Sahar Daftary, 23, fell 150ft from the twelfth storey of a block of flats where she had gone to collect her belongings at the home of a businessman whom she had married in a religious ceremony last year.

Her husband, Rashid Jamil, 33, was arrested on suspicion of murder but bailed by police after they found no evidence that the death was anything other than an accident or suicide.

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, the head of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, told The Times: “This story is very common, unfortunately. We have tried to plug some of the holes in the whole system, but unfortunately our clerics do not live on this planet.

“They don’t understand. For them, controlling the sexuality of the woman is far more important than justice, so we have this problem.”

Ms Daftary, a Sunni Muslim from London whose family comes from Afghanistan, was crowned Miss Face of Asia in a beauty contest last year. She was found critically injured by the apartment block in Salford Quays near the Manchester United football ground on Saturday. She had been helping with make-up at a fashion show in the city but left early to collect clothes from Mr Jamil’s home.

Ms Daftary also wanted to arrange an Islamic divorce from him. She had undergone a Muslim wedding ceremony in Brentford, West London, only to learn later that her husband already had a wife.

Her sister, Mariya Massumi, a hairdresser, said: “A few months after they got married we had a phone call from Narissa Amjad, and she said she was Rashid’s wife. We were very shocked and we confronted him.” Relatives learnt that Ms Amjad, 29, a marketing executive, was expecting a second child by Mr Jamil.

Islam traditionally allows husbands to take up to four wives at a time. A confrontation took place at Mr Jamil’s detached house in Altrincham, Manchester, where Ms Amjad lived.

Ms Massumi said: “When we arrived he was very calm. He said to Sahar he was not happy with his wife. He said in front of his wife he wanted to live with Sahar. His wife Narissa was also very calm and said that was OK. We were all so shocked. Rashid told Sahar he loved her.”

Mr Jamil also had a former wife, Sebina Malik, a lawyer. They had a daughter but were formally divorced. According to relatives, Mr Jamil had also undergone an arranged marriage in Pakistan that ended in divorce.

Dr Siddiqui said some British Muslim clerics performed polygamous marriages. The ceremonies are unrecog-nised by law. Clerics let husbands end marriages by saying “I divorce you” three times. Ex-wives have no rights.

Ahmad Thomson, a barrister and founder of the Association of Muslim Lawyers, said that polygamous marriages could work in Britain if all parties were open and in agreement. But he added: “Sometimes the husband has tried to keep the earlier marriage secret. When the second or third wife finds out, it’s devastating.”…

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Iceland “Like Chernobyl” as Meltdown Shows Anger Can Boil Over

Unrest following the end of a five-year economic boom is overshadowing the holidays in a country of 320,000 near the Arctic Circle, where the folklore is filled with magic, trolls and elves. Expansion ended with the collapse of the U.S. subprime mortgage market. The fallout in Iceland may presage civil disruptions elsewhere, as job losses multiply and credit bills come due. Few nations can count themselves safe, says Ian Bremmer, president of the New York-based Eurasia Group, which analyzes political risk for businesses.


Hauksdottir, the owner of a Reykjavik witchcraft shop, says over a cup of thyme and juniper tea that only civil disobedience can force banks to stop collecting debts that people can’t pay.

“We’ll use our voices, and then if we have to we’ll use our hands, and maybe axes,” Hauksdottir says.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Italy: Media Ignores ‘Mafia War’

Internationally acclaimed author and journalist Roberto Saviano has told hundreds of young Italians a war is being fought by the Mafia in southern Italy every day. Speaking at Rome Tre University in the Italian capital late Wednesday, Saviano, author of the top-selling book ‘Gomorrah’, also said many of the victims of organised crime in Italy were under the age of 35.

“We should remind ourselves that the criminal organisations such as the Camorra, the ‘Ndrangheta and Cosa Nostra, are the organisations that have killed the most people in Europe, much more than those caused by Islamic fundamentalism, which at present appears to be the daily obsession of the security of every country,” Saviano said.

Saviano, who was surrounded by five bodyguards during his visit, showed a packed hall of 700 students and faculty members shocking photographs of young victims who had been killed by the Mafia in the southern city of Naples.

“This is a silent war, that the media rarely talks about. Most of the victims that you will see are not over 35 years old, they are all very young,” he said.

The 28-year-old author, who lives in hiding under a 24-hour police escort, spoke to the students after the screening of the film ‘Gomorra’ based on his book and now nominated for an Academy Award. It was the first time he had ever been invited to address a university in Italy.

The students were shocked and silent as he showed them more than 20 grisly colour photos of young men most of whom had been shot to death by the Mafia.

“I will show you pictures that are terrible. They are about a war that is being fought everyday in southern Italy, a war that has killed 4,000 people in my territory since I was born,” said Saviano. “This is in Naples, Italy, Europe.”

The author also spoke about all the industries that the Mafia had infiltrated, such as garbage collection, textiles, restaurant business, petrol, discotheques and more recently, bakeries.

Saviano’s international best-seller ‘Gomorra’ exposed the activities of Naples’ ruthless Camorra crime syndicate. The book has been translated into 42 languages.

The journalist carried out his own research for the documentary-style book, which denounces the activities of the Camorra and reveals how and where it operates.

The film ‘Gomorra’ won a prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie was recently named Italy’s entry for next year’s Oscars, reportedly further incensing the Camorra.

Saviano appealed to students to choose different leaders regardless of their political affiliation to stop the spread of the Mafia.

“Voters from the Left or the Right must once and for all, regardless of their political views, choose different people to represent them,” he said.

Saviano stressed Italy’s southern regions of Calabria and Campania were the easiest places for the Mafia to operate and even though they had had Centre-Left governments for the past 10 years it made no difference to stopping their expansion.

He also said that the Italian capital Rome, was one of the Mafia’s favourite places to operate.

“Rome is one of the favourite places for the Mafia cartels to infiltrate and operate,” said Saviano…

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Bosnia, Hillary’s Playground

by Srdja Trifkovic

At a time when the U.S. power and authority are increasingly challenged around the world, the incoming team sees the Balkans as the last geopolitically significant area where they can assert their “credibility” by postulating a maximalist set of objectives as the only outcome acceptable to the United States, and duly insisting on their fulfilment. We have already seen this pattern with Kosovo, and it is to be expected that we’ll see its replay in Bosnia under the new team.

Now that intervention is “an American tradition,” Hillary Clinton is getting ready to practice some more in the Balkans — as if her husband’s contribution in the 1990s had not brought sufficient misery to the former Yugoslavia. She wants to place the Balkans, and specifically Bosnia, near the top of her list of foreign priorities. Barack Obama’s foreign policy and national security team includes a number of influential figures, and notably Vice-President-elect Joseph Biden, who are committed to the establishment of a centralized, unitary Bosnian state dominated by Muslims. Mrs. Clinton’s commitment to that goal is of an altogether different order of magnitude, however.

There have been strong pressures from the West, ever since the signing of the Dayton Accords 13 years ago, to reduce the authority of the Republika Srpska, to question its legitimacy and to label it a “genocidal creation” unworthy of existence. Prime Minister Milorad Dodik was able to weather the latest storm — caused by the pro-Muslim slant of the “international high representative” (i.e. unelected governor, jointly appointed by Brussels and Washington) Miroslav Lajcak and his crew — but the political momentum in Washington has taken an alarming turn for the Serbs in general and for the Republika Srpska (RS) in particular.

Her “framework for peace” in the Balkans is the same as her husband’s and that applied by her friend and role-model, Dr. Albight: unqualified U.S. support for Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo against their Christian neighbors. During the primaries Mrs. Clinton listed a number of fact-free, Balkan-related foreign-policy “accomplishments” based on her husband’s legacy. Among them she repeatedly invoked her embelished mmories of a “dangerous” trip to Bosnia in 1996, when she was supposedly threatened by Serb sniper fire at uzla airport — although the Bosnian war had ended six months earlier, and video footage shows smiling schoolchildren greeting her in Tuzla. Her exact reasons for wanting to abolish the Bosnian Serb Republic are likely personal and psychological rather than rational, but her motives are less important than the fact that this is indeed what she wants…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Al-Qaeda Leader to be Tried on Terror Charges

The leader of North Africa’s Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Abdelmalek Droukdel, is to be tried in absentia with 56 others accused of terrorism and other crimes. According to Algerian daily, El-Khabar, the suspects linked to the militant Islamic group — including 40 who are now in prison — is scheduled to take place from the end of December to February.

The defendants face several charges, including belonging to terror group, committing premeditated murder and being murder accomplices.

Meanwhile, the Algerian media is reporting serious divisions have emerged inside the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb recently.

According to the Arab daily, al-Hayat, Droukedel and the Al-Qaeda leader in the Sahara region, Yahya Jawadi, known as Abu Amar.

Abu Amar has reportedly expressed his desire for a truce with Algerian armed forces.

The decision is believed to have been taken after former leader of Al-Qaeda in the Sahara, Mukhtar Belmukhtar, distanced himself from Droukedel’s group and recently abandoned armed conflict and sought refuge with several tribes in northern Mali.

According to Algerian security services, Droukedel brought the issue to the attention of the Sharia Council called to assess Jawadi’s behaviour which could move distance him from the group if he is found to be untrustworthy.

Jawadi appears to have proposed a truce in exchange for an end to attacks on his men in Algeria and Mauritania. Several government mediators are reported to have met during November in the village of Minaka in northern Mali to discuss a national reconciliation proposal.

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

A Year’s Intel Gathering Yields ‘Alpha Hits’

A year of information-gathering by Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) paved the way Saturday for Operation Cast Lead.

At 11:30 a.m., more than 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters swept into Gazan airspace and dropped more than 100 bombs on 50 targets. The planes reported “alpha hits,” IAF lingo for direct hits on the targets, which included Hamas bases, training camps, headquarters and offices.

Thirty minutes later, a second wave of 60 jets and helicopters struck at 60 targets, including underground Kassam launchers — placed inside bunkers and missile silos — that had been fitted with timers.

Their locations were discovered in an intensive intelligence operation. The goal: to strike at Hamas’s ability to fire rockets into Israel.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Analysis / IAF Strike on Gaza is Israel’s Version of ‘Shock and Awe’

The events along the southern front which commenced at 11:30 on Saturday morning are the closest thing there is to a war between Israel and Hamas. It is difficult to ascertain (geographically) where and for how long the violence will reach before international intervention forces a halt to the hostilities. However, Israel’s opening salvo is not merely another “surgical” operation or pinpoint strike. This is the harshest IDF assault on Gaza since the territory was captured during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Palestinian sources in Gaza report that 40 targets were destroyed in a span of three to five minutes. This was a massive attack much along the lines of what the Americans termed “shock and awe” during their invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Simultaneous, heavy bombardment of a number of targets on which Israel spent months gathering intelligence. The military “target bank” includes dozens of additional targets linked to Hamas, some of which will certainly come under attack in the coming days.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Did Israel Use “Disproportionate Force” in Gaza?

by Dore Gold


Israeli Population Centers Under Rocket Attack

There are good reasons why initial criticism of Israel has been muted. After all, Israeli population centers in southern Israel have been the target of over 4,000 rockets, as well as thousands of mortar shells, fired by Hamas and other organizations since 2001.1 The majority of those attacks were launched after Israel withdrew completely from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. Indeed, rocket attacks increased by 500 percent (from 179 to 946) from 2005 to 2006.

Moreover, lately Hamas has been extending the range of its striking capability even further with new rockets supplied by Iran.


Proportionality and International Law: The Protection of Innocent Civilians

The charge that Israel uses disproportionate force keeps resurfacing whenever it has to defend its citizens from non-state terrorist organizations and the rocket attacks they perpetuate. From a purely legal perspective, Israel’s current military actions in Gaza are on solid ground. According to international law, Israel is not required to calibrate its use of force precisely according to the size and range of the weaponry used against it (Israel is not expected to make Kassam rockets and lob them back into Gaza).

When international legal experts use the term “disproportionate use of force,” they have a very precise meaning in mind. As the President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Rosalyn Higgins, has noted, proportionality “cannot be in relation to any specific prior injury — it has to be in relation to the overall legitimate objective of ending the aggression.”8 In other words, if a state, like Israel, is facing aggression, then proportionality addresses whether force was specifically used by Israel to bring an end to the armed attack against it. By implication, force becomes excessive if it is employed for another purpose, like causing unnecessary harm to civilians. The pivotal factor determining whether force is excessive is the intent of the military commander. In particular, one has to assess what was the commander’s intent regarding collateral civilian damage…

           — Hat tip: JCPA [Return to headlines]

Friends and Enemies

by Diana West

It’s quite simple, really: Israel strikes back at jihad, finally, and the world takes sides. So far, the sides looks like this: On Israel’s side in its strike against jihad are the US and Australia (here); against Israel’s strike on jihad are, well, just about everyone else, from France to Iran, from Russia to the UN, from Iraq (hat tip Andrew Bostom) to Afghanistan.

Hey—aren’t Iraq and Afghanistan, after all that American blood and billions spent “democratizing” them, supposed to be allies in the “war on terror”? And isn’t Hamas a terror organization? So, wouldn’t that make Iraq and Afghanistan opponents of the Hamas jihad on Israel? (Insert hysterical peals of laughter here.)

Answer: Not if the teachings of Islam on jihad and dhimmitude have anything to do with it. And they do, despite the West’s cowardice to face these politically incorrect, politically inconvenient, politicially demanding facts.

For the record, here’s what the Foreign Ministry of what President Bush styles as the “young democracy” of Afghanistan said:

The Afghan Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Sunday strongly condemning Israel’s air raids on the Gaza Strip of Palestine that left hundreds of civilians dead and injured, Xinhua reported.

“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is following the recent attacks by Israel on the innocent people of Palestine with great concern and strongly condemns these attacks,” the statement said.

The statement noted that “the bombardment and killing of civilians cannot be justified with the policies of Hamas.”

That’s just great. Really glad to know the incoming Obama administration will be sending thousands of American troops to Afghanistan to attempt to shore up this stalwart Afghan “ally” in global war on terror, or whatever they’re calling it now. And how different would a Taliban statement on Gaza be from the Afghan government’s? Never mind…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Gaza Operation Day 2: Israel Calls Up 6,500 Reservists

Hamas steps up long-range rocket attacks

The Israeli cabinet Sunday, Dec. 28, approved call-up orders for 6,500 reservists the day after Israel’s devastating assault on hundreds of Hamas military sites in Gaza, in which 282 Palestinians, 90 percent in uniform, w= ere killed. Two thousand were recruited Saturday. Hamas activated its Iran-made improved Grad Katyusha unit, sending rockets winging as far as Moshav Bnei Ayish near Yavne to the northeast and the big port city of Ashdod to the north, both nearly 40 km from the Gaza Strip. One fell in the yard of an Ashdod home. Four landed in Ashkelon, injuring three people.


Israel launched its massive air attack Saturday eight days after Hamas terminated the agreed six-month Gaza ceasefire by showering missiles and mortar rounds on 250,000 Israeli civilians day after day. They kept on fall= ing even as Israel opened the crossings to allow 90 trucks of food and medicines to cross into the Gaza Strip. A further 30 trucks of assistance required by international aid agencies went through from Israel Sunday.

Since Israel evacuated the enclave in 2005, Palestinian factions have fired 6,000 missiles.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

‘Hizbullah Will Not Join Hamas in Fighting Israel’

Hizbullah will not join Hamas in fighting Israel and will not open a second front against it in the current conflict, London-based newspaper Al-Hayat quoted a source in the organization as saying Sunday.

The source explained that Hizbullah was not interested in a conflict with Israel at this time.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]

How Israel Led Hamas Into False Sense of Security

Carefully calculated maneuvers utilized by cabinet lulled Islamist group into arrogant calm ahead of airstrike offensive in bid to maintain element of surprise. Primary aim of operation is to stop rocket attacks on Israel’s south, rebuild deterrence.

Maneuvering the enemy: The Israel government reportedly employed several measures in order to lead Hamas into a false sense of security and ensure the operation against the Islamist group would take the organization by complete surprise.

The tactic called for Defense Minister Ehud Barak to allow trucks carrying humanitarian aid into the Gaza, despite the ongoing rocket fire on the western Negev.

Last Sunday afternoon saw Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Barak reportedly agree on launching a wide-scale military offensive in Gaza. Then on Wednesday the National Security Cabinet approved the proposed operation, with the 11 ministers comprising the forum lodging a unanimous yea vote.

However leaks to the media prompted Hamas officials to go underground in anticipation of the operation, forcing Israel to rethink its strategy and attempt a three-stage deception maneuver.

– Stage one called for the press to learn that the cabinet was only briefed on the situation in Gaza, but that no operational decisions were made.

– Stage two called for Barak to announce that humanitarian aid would be let into the Strip on Friday.

– Stage three had the media learn that the “kitchenette” ?” the narrow forum comprised of Olmert, Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni ?” would be meeting on Sunday to discuss future options.

These steps, said political sources, bore fruit.

“Hamas pulled its people out of hiding and resumed normal operations,” said the sources. “It would seem that Hamas believes the Israeli media, and thought it had a few more days before Israel launched an operation? once the tactical opportunity presented itself, the prime minister called Barak and Livni to his home on Friday night and they made the decision.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

IDF Releases Photos of Hamas Targets, Terror Training Facilities

( The IDF on Saturday night released aerial photos of Hamas facilities targeted by IAF fighter pilots on Saturday in Operation ‘Cast Lead.’

The photos show the military training facilities Hamas has developed in Gaza, from where Israel forcibly evicted close to 10,000 of its Jewish citizens in August 2005 in hopes of establishing peace with its Palestinian Authority Arab neighbors.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

PA Leader ‘Begged’ Israel to Hit Hamas

To world, however, Abbas condemns Gaza strikes as ‘barbaric,’ ‘unnecessary’

JAFFA, Israel — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his office today slammed as “barbaric” and “unnecessary” Israel’s air strikes in Gaza, but according to top diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, Abbas for months now has been petitioning Israel to launch a massive military raid against his Hamas rivals in Gaza.

The sources, speaking to WND on condition of anonymity, said Abbas and his top representatives have waged a quiet campaign for months asking the Israeli government to target Hamas in Gaza just before his term in office is scheduled to expire on Jan. 9.

Hamas leaders have repeatedly warned they will not recognize Abbas after the 9th, and that they will launch a major campaign to delegitimize the PA president and install their own figures to lead the Palestinian government.

Abbas hopes a large-scale Israeli military campaign in Gaza would distract Hamas from attempting to undermine his rule, the diplomatic sources told WND.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

PA ‘Ready’ to Take Gaza if Hamas Ousted

Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah said Saturday that they were prepared to assume control over the Gaza Strip if Israel succeeds in overthrowing the Hamas government.

“Yes, we are fully prepared to return to the Gaza Strip,” a top PA official told The Jerusalem Post. “We believe the people there are fed up with Hamas and want to see a new government.”

Another PA official said Fatah had instructed all its members in the Gaza Strip to be prepared for the possibility of returning to power.

“We have enough men in the Gaza Strip who are ready to fill the vacuum,” he said. “But of course all this depends on whether Israel manages to get rid of the Hamas regime.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Wapo: Israeli Airstrikes on Gaza Strip Imperil Obama’s Peace Chances

Likely Escalation Complicates Already-Delicate Diplomacy

Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza yesterday, in retaliation for a nonstop barrage of rocket attacks from Hamas fighters, raised the prospect of an escalation of violence that could scuttle any hopes the incoming Obama administration harbored of forging an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

“If the casualty reports are accurate, Hamas is going to respond. And this isn’t a two- or three-day deal in which the genie is put back in the bottle,” said Aaron David Miller, a Middle East scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and author of “The Much Too Promised Land.” “This takes the already slim chance of an early, active and successful Obama engagement on Israel-Palestinian peace and lowers it to about zero.”

           — Hat tip: PB [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Kuwait Cancels $17 Bn Deal With Dow Chemical

Kuwait decided on Sunday to scrap a deal to form a $17.4 billion petrochemical joint venture with US company Dow Chemical, state news agency KUNA said.

The cancellation of the deal, which had met opposition in Kuwait’s parliament, is a blow to the largest US chemicals company that had planned to use the proceeds to repay a large part of $13 billion in debt it will have to shoulder once its acquisition of rival Rohm & Haas closes in early 2009.

The Supreme Petroleum Council, at a meeting headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, “arrived at the decision to cancel the contract,” KUNA said.

State-run Petrochemical Industries Co (PIC) signed a deal earlier this month with Dow to launch the joint venture, K-Dow Petrochemicals, and was due to pay $7.5 billion. The deal was part of Dow’s strategy to reduce its exposure to the cyclical nature of the commodity chemicals business.

The deal had angered some Kuwaiti parliamentarians who said the project was not economically viable in light of the global financial crisis and slumping petrochemical sales.

A cabinet statement said the global crisis had prompted the cabinet to ask the council “to take the necessary measures to cancel the contract … within a sound legal framework while safeguarding the state’s rights and interests,” KUNA reported.

Four liberal MPs had threatened to question the prime minister, a senior member of the ruling family, unless the deal was scrapped.


Dow and other chemical makers around the globe face one of the worst slumps ever in chemical demand, due to recessions in most developed countries and a sharp slowdown in emerging economies.

Earlier this month, Dow said it would close 20 facilities, divest several businesses and cut 5,000 jobs, or 11 percent, of its workforce. It also plans to temporarily idle about 180 plants.


The new company had been due to market petrochemicals and plastics such as polyethylene, polypropylene and polycarbonate, used in products ranging from plastic bottles and compact disks to computers and agricultural compounds. In July, Dow said it would acquire Rohm & Haas for $15.3 billion in a move to broaden its specialty product offerings.

[Return to headlines]

Suicide Bomber Hits Anti-Israel Protest

MOSUL — A suicide bomber on a bicycle in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul targeted a protest condemning Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip, killing one civilian and wounding 16, police said.

“One civilian was killed and 16 were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up when he rode his bicycle into the middle of an anti-Israeli demonstration in the city,” local police Major Wael Rasheed told AFP.

The protest against Israeli air raids on the impoverished Gaza Strip that have killed at least 280 in the past 24 hours was sponsored by the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP).

“The suicide bomber attacked a demonstration in which most participants were prominent members of the IIP,” Nineveh province politician Yahya Abed Mahjoub told AFP.

The Baghdad government on Saturday condemned the Israeli air raids, saying they left behind “many victims — innocent people and children.”

Mosul, the country’s second largest city, is believed to be the last urban stronghold of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has been behind hundreds of bombings since the 2003 US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]


Dictator Stalin Strong Contender for Most Popular Russian

MOSCOW (Reuters) — Soviet dictator Josef Stalin remains one of Russia’s most popular historical figures despite the purges that marked his rule, according to the latest results in a nationwide poll.

The Georgian-born Stalin is in third place in the poll of most popular Russians run by Rossiya state television channel and which will close on Sunday night with a final vote.

Millions of Soviet citizens perished from famine during forced collectivization, were executed as “enemies of the people” or died in Gulag hard labor camps during Stalin’s rule which lasted for almost 30 years until his death in 1953.

But he still won an 11.5 percent share of the voting so far.

The 12 finalists are led by 13th century prince Alexander Nevsky, who defeated German invaders, with 11.7 percent. He is followed by Pyotr Stolypin, a prime minister in the early 20th century known for agrarian reforms and a clampdown on leftist revolutionaries, with 11.6 percent…

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pak Says Evidence Gathered by US, UK Won’t Stand in Court

Pakistan has rejected evidence provided by the US and UK on involvement of its citizens in the Mumbai attacks. It has said the information provided would not stand scrutiny in any court.

The evidence includes a confession by arrested terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab but Pakistani officials have contended that since it had been obtained by Indians under duress, this could not be admissible in court.

Meanwhile, India kept up the pressure on Pakistan. Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Sunday that India had not served any ultimatum to Pakistan to take action on terrorists or terror camps. However, India insisted thatPakistan eliminate all terrorist groups from its territory as it had promised.

Addressing a group in Jharkhand, Mukherjee said Pakistan should admit that terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks came from there. “If all these things are done, then there is no problem at all,” he said. “Not once, but twice Pakistan had made a commitment. Once by Musharraf and now by President Zardari. Where is the commitment? Where is the action against terrorists,” he added.

Telephone numbers of LeT commanders like Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah had been given, reports from Pakistan said, as well as call logs and intercepts. Both US and UK have told Pakistan that India’s allegation that the LeT had masterminded the operation was correct.

Officials said US and UK came armed with a much more evidence of Pakistan’s complicity than even India had access to. Thanks to their superior tech-int, they gathered more evidence against Pakistan, which, incidentally they did not share with India.

Pakistan’s excuse now is that if it’s expected to use all this evidence to put people like Lakhvi and Shah on trial, it would need testimonies from Indian witnesses, and all the mobile phones and satphones that were used for evidence.

Evidently, this is a dead end-road. If and when India gives up its own information to Pakistan, it would be met with exactly the same kind of belligerence, say officials.

Within India, though, as more information becomes available, officials are coming round to the view that there was substantial involvement of the army-ISI complex.

“We have evidence and gave the names, not once but ten times. Pakistan had earlier accepted that the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks emanated from there. But now they are contradicting it,” Mukherjee said. However, on the Mumbai attacks, he said India would give all information to Pakistan after the investigations were over.

Meanwhile, Mukherjee regretted that Pakistan had gone back on its statement that Maulana Masood Azhar had been detained. He said, “The Pakistani defence minister had earlier said that the Jaish chief was under house arrest. Now some others say he is not in Pakistan. Who is telling the truth? It is Pakistan which has to tell that.”

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Don’t Force US Into Ghettoes: Trad

LOCAL councils around Australia have been warned they risk imposing a “ghetto mentality” on the Islamic community if they continue to oppose religious projects such as the controversial proposals to build Islamic schools at Camden and Bass Hill.

The warning was issued yesterday by the founder of the Islamic Friendship Society, Keysar Trad, as he opened a prayer centre at St Marys.

Mr Trad said the centre, which took 31/2 years to be approved by Penrith City Council, will participate in a number of multi-faith and community events, such as Clean Up Australia Day.

Asked about recent controversies surrounding other developments — such as a proposal for a Muslim school at Camden and a stalled project by sportsmen Anthony Mundine and Hazem El Masri to convert a church into a mosque in Canterbury — he said their rejection would hurt his community.

“As long as we’re able to establish centres like this one [in St Marys], then we’re able to keep safe from the ghetto mentality,” he said. “Islam is not about ghettoes, Islam is about being part of society and contributing to every aspect of society. As long as we’re able to do that, it’s great. When we’re not able to do that in some places, where the approach is unfairly delayed and unreasonably delayed, then it’s forcing people to go to one particular area, even though they don’t live in that particular area.

“Historically, we have been very resistant to ghettoisation. We have always been a part of our wider communities and we want to always contribute.”

Mr Trad said that wrangling with local councils has meant that Muslim residents in remote parts of Sydney face barriers to settling into their communities, and other challenges such as an increased travel burden.

He also said there was a wider psychological impact of being rejected. Using the example of an attempt by Mr El Masri, a prominent Canterbury Bulldogs footballer, to convert a church in Ludgate Street, Roselands, he said some councils and residents were focusing on trivial planning issues to sink projects that would have an otherwise broad appeal…

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

United Nations Cuts Aid to Zimbabweans

THE United Nations food aid agency has cut the amount of food it hands out to hungry Zimbabweans as it lacks the cash to keep up with the worsening crisis, it said on Tuesday.

The World Food Programme (WFP) fed 2 million people in October, the first month of a large-scale aid project.

That will double this month and rise to 5.1 million — almost half the population — by early 2009.


A harvest the WFP described as “disastrous” has pushed millions of people into hunger.

WFP said it had cut cereal rations per person to 10kg per month from 12kg and cut the pulse ration to 1kg from 1.8kg.

Zimbabwe has been grappling with food shortages since 2001.

Opponents of President Robert Mugabe say his policy of forcing white farmers off their land has exacerbated the problem in a country where hyper-inflation has crippled the economy.

[Return to headlines]

Zimbabwe to Prosecute 140 White Farmers

ZIMBABWE will prosecute 140 white landowners on charges of failing to vacate their farms under the country’s controversial 2000 land reform program, state media has reported.

“A total of 140 farmers are to be prosecuted for failing to vacate farms after being issued with eviction notices,’’ The Sunday Mail said, citing a report presented at the ruling ZANU-PF party’s national conference.


Under President Robert Mugabe’s program, at least 4000 properties formerly run by white farmers have been seized for redistribution to blacks, the majority of whom lacked the skills and means to farm.

The chatoic program is held largely responsible for the country’s economic crisis, which has saddled Zimbabwe with the world’s highest inflation rate and left nearly half the population in need of aid.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

2008 Was the Year Man-Made Global Warming Was Disproved

Looking back over my columns of the past 12 months, one of their major themes was neatly encapsulated by two recent items from The Daily Telegraph.

The first, on May 21, headed “Climate change threat to Alpine ski resorts” , reported that the entire Alpine “winter sports industry” could soon “grind to a halt for lack of snow”. The second, on December 19, headed “The Alps have best snow conditions in a generation” , reported that this winter’s Alpine snowfalls “look set to beat all records by New Year’s Day”.

Easily one of the most important stories of 2008 has been all the evidence suggesting that this may be looked back on as the year when there was a turning point in the great worldwide panic over man-made global warming. Just when politicians in Europe and America have been adopting the most costly and damaging measures politicians have ever proposed, to combat this supposed menace, the tide has turned in three significant respects…

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]


Interpal Bank Closure Delayed Until New Year

Lloyds TSB has reportedly agreed to postpone the closure of Interpal’s bank account from 8 December until 30 January 2009 after representations from the charity’s bank, the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB).

The delay gives the UK-based Palestinian charity…a few extra weeks breathing space but still gives it just two months, with Christmas and new year in the middle, to find a new bank.

Interpal was told on 11 November that Lloyds TSB, as one of the four big clearing banks, planned to stop clearing the IBB’s cheques unless it closed down Interpal’s account. While Lloyds has refused to comment on the situation, it is understood to have been influenced by the US sanctions on Interpal and pressure from other groups concerned that Interpal has links with terrorists associated with Hamas.

The IBB is powerless to obstruct Lloyds, even though Interpal believes it does not want to close its account.

Interpal claims that support has been growing for its case, with various groups taking the initiative and encouraging supporter action. A spokeswoman for Interpal said the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign staged a demonstration outside Lloyds TSB in Edinburgh’s Hanover Street on Saturday, and Islamic student group FOSIS had launched a petition that had so far attracted 700 signatures.

Mpac, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, has also covered the story on its website, urging Muslims to write or telephone Lloyds TSB’s chief executive to complain about Interpal’s treatment.

The spokeswoman added that while the IBB had informed Interpal that the closure had been delayed until the end of January, the charity had had no official notification from Lloyds. The bank has refused to meet with the charity despite requests to discuss the case.

As a result, Interpal is still trying to make alternative arrangements just in case it cannot access its IBB account on 8 December.

Lloyds TSB refuses to comment, citing client confidentiality.

Interpal claims that support has been growing for its case, with various groups taking the initiative and encouraging supporter action. A spokeswoman for Interpal said the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign staged a demonstration outside Lloyds TSB in Edinburgh’s Hanover Street on Saturday, and Islamic student group FOSIS had launched a petition that had so far attracted 700 signatures.

Mpac, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, has also covered the story on its website, urging Muslims to write or telephone Lloyds TSB’s chief executive to complain about Interpal’s treatment.

The spokeswoman added that while the IBB had informed Interpal that the closure had been delayed until the end of January, the charity had had no official notification from Lloyds. The bank has refused to meet with the charity despite requests to discuss the case.

As a result, Interpal is still trying to make alternative arrangements just in case it cannot access its IBB account on 8 December.

Lloyds TSB refuses to comment, citing client confidentiality.

           — Hat tip: Scott SA [Return to headlines]

Working Together for Peace

Within the last twenty-four hours we received a pair of very similar emails that originated on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Two activist organizations working tirelessly on behalf of justice and peace have reached the same conclusion: it’s time to stop the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians by the IDF.

Bear in mind that a “massacre” is what occurs when one or more Palestinians are killed by Israelis. When a suicide bomber blows up dozens of Jews, or a Qassam rocket drops into a school, that’s not a massacre. It’s an act of random vandalism, or a criminal matter to be investigated by the appropriate authorities, or justifiable resistance against illegal occupation by a foreign power, or an understandable reaction to decades of apartheid oppression.

Take your pick. But, unless Palestinians are dead, it’s not a massacre.

The first email was an alert from International ANSWER (an online version may be found here):

Stop the Massacre of Palestinians!

Tuesday, December 30: National Day of Action
Emergency Demonstrations on Tuesday, December 30 and other days (listed below)

The ANSWER Coalition, Muslim American Society Freedom, Free Palestine Alliance, National Council of Arab Americans, and Al-Awda, International Palestine Right to Return Coalition are calling for Tuesday, December 30 to be a National Day of Action to show solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and to demand an immediate end to the murderous attacks carried out by the Israeli military against the people of Gaza.

In Washington, D.C., there will be a demonstration at the State Department at 4:30 pm. Demonstrations will also be held in cities around the country…

Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza have been massacred and wounded today as Israel has launched a massive bombing campaign against the people of Gaza. The bombing rampage took place as thousands of Palestinian children were in the streets on their way home from school. Palestinian parents were running frantically in the streets looking for their children as U.S.-provided F-16s and Apache helicopters rained down more than 100 bombs and missiles on Gaza.

The U.S.-backed Israeli Occupation Force destroyed every security station in Gaza. AFP reported: “There was no space left in the morgue and bodies were piled up in the emergency room and in the corridors, as many of the wounded screamed in pain.”

Because of the U.S.-backed Israeli blockade and strangulation of the people of Gaza for the past 18 months there is little or no medicine to treat the wounded, electricity for hospitals, or food or clean water for much of the population.

An Israeli military spokesperson said, “The operation is ‘only just beginning’.” The Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement: “The action will continue and will widen as much as is demanded according to the evaluation of the situation by the high command of the army.”

Take Action:
– Demonstrations Across the Country
– Send a letter to the State Department and Congress…

Judging by the second email alert, great minds think alike. From MPACUK (the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK, online version here):
– – – – – – – –

Action Alert — Stop the Slaughter of Palestinians!

The problem

In the last month, not only have Israel and the Zionist lobby tried to take away crucial aid to the Palestinians, by trying to shut down charity Interpal, now they are unashamedly committing murder, AGAIN.

Nearly 300 Muslims have been killed with another 700 injured, in the latest attacks by Israel, which also include targeting a mosque. The air raids are reported by the BBC as some of the heaviest in decades.

Israeli “Defence” Minister Ehud Barak said “Operation Cast Lead”, will continue “as long as necessary” according to an article by AFP.

Why should it matter to you?

These Muslims who are being killed are your brothers and sisters and it is each and every Muslim’s responsibilty to defend them.

“The Believers, men and women, are protectors of one another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil” (Qur’an 9.71)

Praying alone will not do when Allah given you the ability to take action to protect your brothers and sisters. There are many steps you can take to stop the dangerous and ruthless Zionist machine taking more Muslim lives:

The Solution — Take action now!

Write to your local MP and ask them what they are doing to oppose the attacks in Gaza. Ask your local mosque to do the same. If you don’t have time to compose an email yourself, don’t worry, you can use the following template…

So these dedicated activist groups in Britain and the USA, acting totally independently from one another, just happen to be singing from the same hymnal. Amazing!

Whoops — is that offensive to Muslims, “singing from the same hymnal”? Sorry!

By the way, if you live in or near our nation’s capital and have a free afternoon next Tuesday, you may want to check out the ANSWER coalition demo at the State Department:

Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, December 30
4:30 pm
State Department: 22nd St & C St NW
Contact: 202-544-3389 x14,

Don’t forget your giant George W. Bush puppets — it may be the last chance you’ll ever have to use them!

Hat tips: Refugee Resettlement Watch and Scott SA.

A Response to Mr. Oz

Reading the Baron’s post on the situation as it currently stands between Israel and Hamas created an overwhelming sense of ennui. Been there, done that so many times now that it numbs the soul.

What remains for us to do? The best thing for Israel is to achieve a total ceasefire in exchange for alleviating the blockade of Gaza.

Fat Fatima fakeSurely you jest, Mr. Oz. This brings to mind the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”.

Israel may decide to stop the blockade of Gaza, but to couch doing so in terms of an “exchange” for anything is stupefyingly insane. Hamas honors nothing but death, it breaches every promise it makes. Even its allies don’t trust it.

This set piece reminds me of nothing so much as the cycle of family violence I used to watch play out during my years as a crisis counselor for battered women. Israel’s leaders act like traumatized family victims, willing to believe the most transparent lies in order to bring back the status quo ante.

Meanwhile the children in such families (or Israel’s citizens, in this case), traumatized too, feel impotent to do anything in the face of their deluded leadership. Some side with those in office, hoping against reality that things will be “different” this time. The others, sadder but wiser, make their own private plans for trying to maintain a safe space for themselves. But there is never a place safe enough when you have an enemy which is essentially depraved and insane.

Mr. Oz is right that Israel must protect its citizens. But “the best thing” he proposes is actually no protection at all. Israelis know this, Hamas knows this, and the immoral international press that ratchets up these events knows it best of all.

Oh the press! It loves this murderous music; the tunes give it a raison d’être. Hamas may be the composer of these obscenities but the press acts as both the conductor for the falsetto screech coming out of Gaza and the drama critic of the production.
– – – – – – – –
A pox on both of them.

You know what happens when Israel backs down, don’t you? Hezbollah will start in from the Lebanon side. This current kabuki set-piece is just Act I. Meanwhile, the busy terrorists in Lebanon are moving the backdrops and stage pieces in for Act II.

Welcome to 2009, Mr. Obama. We wish you all the good fortune you are going to need to deal with this decades-old mess. Don’t kid yourself, sir: unless crazy-like-a-fox Iran decides to irradiate the show, it will still be going on when your children are great-grandmothers.

Win-Win for Hamas

Palestinian mediaThe behind-the-scenes Pallywood photos at right are a reminder of the nature of the conflict between Israel and “Palestine”.

There is no doubt that civilians in Gaza are suffering in the current conflict. Civilians suffer in every conflict.

But the nature and extent of that suffering will not be found in the media — and cannot be found in the media — because all news reports and images of suffering Palestinians are carefully choreographed as a part of staged media events. Western news agencies depend on Palestinian stringers for their news, and must depict the approved version of events in order to retain their access to the news hot spots in the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, many Western reporters and photographers are in ideological sympathy with the enemies of Israel, and thus are willing to be complicit in the staging of news events.

So the grieving women arrange themselves in the appointed places and weep for the cameras. Volunteers take turns throwing rocks, discharging weapons, and pretending to be corpses. Hamas places all its important command centers and armories in the middle of civilian population centers, guaranteeing a feast of innocent corpses for the uncritical Western videographers.

AFP, Reuters, CNN, and AP dutifully run the stories. Shrieking women, volunteers carrying casualties through the rubble in the midst of dust and smoke, corpses buried under shattered masonry…

But none of it is guaranteed to be real. All of the information coming out of Gaza is questionable, every single byte and pixel of it. Whatever the truth might be, it will not be found in the Western news media.

If the wall-to-wall anti-Israel news coverage keeps the Jewish state from retaliating, then Hamas gets to kill Jews and terrorize southern Israel with impunity. If Israel strikes back, the Palestinians get unlimited free propaganda via all the sob stories in the Western media. The pressure inevitably builds, and eventually the State Department will turn the screws and force the Israelis to back off. Then the situation returns to the status quo ante, except that the citizens of Israel are a little more exhausted and demoralized.

It’s a win-win situation for Hamas.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

From the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs comes this op-ed (pdf) by Amos Oz.

Mr. Oz is a famous Israeli novelist and an associate of Shimon Peres. In the past he has been noted for his dovish stances on political issues. However, unlike many of Israel’s suicide-lefties, he has his limits. During the war with Hizbullah in 2006 he spoke out prominently against the peace-at-any-price movement, and he is doing the same thing now over the current crisis in Gaza:

Israel Must Defend Its Citizens
by Amos Oz

The systematic bombing of the citizens in Israel’s towns and cities is a war crime and a crime against humanity. The State of Israel must defend its citizens. It is obvious to everyone that the Israeli government does not wish to enter Gaza; the government would rather continue the ceasefire that Hamas violated and finally revoked. But the suffering of the citizens surrounding Gaza cannot go on.

The reluctance to enter Gaza stems not from indecisiveness but from well knowing that Hamas is actually eager to cause Israel to embark on a military operation: If dozens or even hundreds of Palestinian civilians, women and children are killed in an Israeli action, radicalism would gain strength in Gaza, Abu Mazen’s rule in the West Bank might collapse, and Hamas extremists could replace him.

– – – – – – – –

The Arab world will rally together around the atrocious sights that Al-Jazeera will air from Gaza, and the world court of public opinion will rush to accuse Israel of war crimes. This is the same court of public opinion that remains unmoved by the systematic bombing of population centers in Israel.

Massive pressure will be exerted on Israel to restrain itself. No such pressure will be placed on Hamas because there is no one to pressure them, and there is almost nothing left with which to pressure them. Israel is a country; Hamas is a gang.

What remains for us to do? The best thing for Israel is to achieve a total ceasefire in exchange for alleviating the blockade of Gaza. If Hamas insists on refusing the ceasefire and continues bombing Israeli citizens, we must take care lest the military action play into Hamas’ hands. Hamas’ calculation is simple, cynical and evil: If innocent Israelis are killed — good. If innocent Palestinians are killed — even better. Israel must act wisely against this stance, and not out of the heat of the moment.

Hat tip: KGS.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/27/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/27/2008The most ominous story of the day (besides Mad Jad’s continued determination to eradicate Israel) is the move by the UN to create a new category of refugee: “climate change refugees”. Since virtually any weather disaster may be ascribed to global warming, then refugees from, say, droughts will be the equivalent of political refugees, and UN member states will have an obligation to take them in.

Thanks to ESW, JD, Reinhard, RRW, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Global Warming: the New Eugenics
Europe and the EU
UK: Beauty Queen’s Grieving Family Ask: How Was Our Sahar’s Life Cut So Tragically Short?
UK: Bailiffs Get Power to Use Force on Debtors
Vendée French Call for Revolution Massacre to be Termed ‘Genocide’
Israel and the Palestinians
3 Palestinians Held for Raping UN Worker
Middle East
‘Consanguineous Marriages Increase Genetic Problems’
Eradicating the “Little Satan”
Far East
China: ‘Tis the Season to Arrest Christians
China to Build World’s Largest Telescope
Sub-Saharan Africa
Al-Qaida-Linked Islamists Set to Take Control of Somalia
As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God
Culture Wars
Fla. Woman Claims “Merry Christmas” Got Her Fired
Climate Change Refugees Seek a New International Deal


Global Warming: the New Eugenics

Eugenics pioneer, Francis Galton, defined eugenics as “the study of all agencies under human control which can improve or impair the racial quality of future generations.”

Global warming can be defined as: “The study of all agencies under human control which can improve or impair the environmental quality of future generations.”

The eugenics movement and the global warming movement are similar in many respects. Both ideas were introduced by scientists, advanced by politicians, popularized by the media, embraced as a moral necessity, resulted in severe consequences and eventually rejected as harmful hogwash.

Eugenics, thankfully, has run its course. Global warming, however, is approaching its zenith, just before imposing severe consequences, and is, perhaps, still a generation away from being rejected as the hogwash it is.


The more than 31,000 scientists who reject this vision are outcasts, and are ridiculed by the elite politicians who are caught up in the global warming movement. More than 650 climate scientists, many of whom have been a part of the U.N. global warming studies, have publicly renounced the claims of the global warming movement.

These people too, are outcasts, ridiculed by the Obama global warming elite.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

UK: Beauty Queen’s Grieving Family Ask: How Was Our Sahar’s Life Cut So Tragically Short?

Friends say Sahar Daftary had never been happier since splitting from her ex. So why did she arrange to meet him late at night at his luxury apartment — and what caused her to plunge to her death from its 12-floor balcony?


Initial reports — which suggested the police were treating the fall as either a suicide or a tragic accident — have infuriated Sahar’s family, and while they know no more than anyone else about what happened that night, they say they rue the day Sahar fell in love with Jamil and believe she’d be alive today had she never met him.

Sahar’s sister Mariya Massumi, 34, a part-time hairdresser said: ‘We are determined to find out the truth because our only wish now is for Sahar’s soul to rest in peace and she will not until we have justice for her.

‘We believe there is absolutely no way she would have committed suicide. She was a religious girl, she prayed every day, she knew committing suicide would mean going to hell and she wanted to go to heaven. She had everything to live for.’

One of Sahar’s closest friends, who was due to go on holiday to Dubai with her and has asked to remain anonymous, said: ‘She was so looking forward to her birthday and we were going to stay with her best friend Fatima in Dubai. We’d booked our flights for her birthday, Christmas Day, because it was a bit cheaper and were due to arrive that evening.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Bailiffs Get Power to Use Force on Debtors

The government has been accused of trampling on individual liberties by proposing wide-ranging new powers for bailiffs to break into homes and to use “reasonable force” against householders who try to protect their valuables.

Under the regulations, bailiffs for private firms would for the first time be given permission to restrain or pin down householders. They would also be able to force their way into homes to seize property to pay off debts, such as unpaid credit card bills and loans.

The government, which wants to crack down on people who evade debts, says the new powers would be overseen by a robust industry watchdog. However, the laws are being criticised as the latest erosion of the rights of the householder in his own home.

“These laws strip away tried and tested protections that make a person’s home his castle, and which have stood for centuries,” said Paul Nicolson, chairman of the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust, a London-based welfare charity. “They could clearly lead to violent confrontations and undermine fundamental liberties.”


It is claimed these powers are already abused. In one case, an 89-year-old grandmother returned home to find a bailiff sitting in her chair having drawn up a list of her possessions. He was pursuing a parking fine owed by her son, who did not even live at the address.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Vendée French Call for Revolution Massacre to be Termed ‘Genocide’

It was one of the most infamous episodes of the bloody French Revolution.

In early 1794 — at the height of the Reign of Terror — French soldiers marched to the Atlantic Vendée, where peasants had risen up against the Revolutionary government in Paris.

Twelve “infernal columns” commanded by General Louis-Marie Turreau were ordered to kill everyone and everything they saw. Thousands of people — including women and children — were massacred in cold blood, and farms and villages torched.

In the city of Nantes, the Revolutionary commander Jean-Baptiste Carrier disposed of Vendéean prisoners-of-war in a horrifically efficient form of mass execution. In the so-called “noyades” — mass drownings — naked men, women, and children were tied together in specially constructed boats, towed out to the middle of the river Loire and then sunk.

Now Vendée, a coastal department in western France, is calling for the incident to be remembered as the first genocide in modern history.

Residents claim the massacre has been downplayed so as not to sully the story of the French Revolution.

Historians believe that around 170,000 Vendéeans were killed in the peasant war and the subsequent massacres — and around 5,000 in the noyades.

When it was over, French General Francois Joseph Westermann penned a letter to the Committee of Public Safety stating: “There is no more Vendée… According to the orders that you gave me, I crushed the children under the feet of the horses, massacred the women who, at least for these, will not give birth to any more brigands. I do not have a prisoner to reproach me. I have exterminated all.”


The bloody events of the Vendée were long absent from French history books, because of the evil light they shed on the Revolutionaries. However, they were well known in the Soviet bloc. Lenin himself had studied the war there and drew inspiration for his policies towards the peasantry.

According to the historian Alain Gérard, of the Vendéean Centre for Historical Research, “In other parts of France the revolutionaries killed the nobles or the rich bourgeoisie. But in Vendée they killed the people.

“It was the Revolution turning against the very people from whom it claimed legitimacy. It proved the faithlessness of the Revolution to its own principles. That’s why it was wiped out of the historical memory,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

3 Palestinians Held for Raping UN Worker

Three Palestinian teens were under arrest Thursday for allegedly raping and robbing a 60-year old UNIFIL worker in her east Jerusalem home, police said.

The three suspects, including two minors, were arrested after the woman, who is from a Scandinavian country, filed a complaint with police, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said.

A fourth suspect remains at large.

The four Palestinians, who are residents of the West Bank and are not connected with the UN institution, are alleged to have carried out the December 4 attack and robbery at the woman’s Beit Hanina home.

The two minors were remanded in custody by a Jerusalem court on Thursday for seven days, while the third suspect has been ordered held for eight days, police said.

The police plan to press charges against the suspects when they complete their investigation.

           — Hat tip: Reinhard [Return to headlines]

Middle East

‘Consanguineous Marriages Increase Genetic Problems’

“The rate of consanguineous marriages is quite high in this part of the world and has to go down if the incidence of genetic diseases including heart problems has to come down,” Dr. John Deanfield, adviser on cardiovascular diseases at Britain’s Middlesex Hospital, told Arab News on the sidelines of a symposium on cardiovascular treatments this week. Deanfield gave lectures at various sessions here attended by consultants and physicians in the field of cardiovascular treatment from around the Kingdom. The symposium gave them an opportunity to learn about many field developments and techniques and enabled them to share their experiences with the visiting professor.

He explained that the severity of cardiovascular diseases is determined by risk factors accumulating in the patient’s body…

…The accumulation of these factors in the patient’s body causes serious disruption to the body’s activities leading to damage to the wall of the blood vessels, which in turn causes death either by cardiac infarctions or strokes, he added. “In addition, the latest clinical studies state that most cases related to high blood pressure and cholesterol levels are linked to dysfunction in the biological activities of blood vessels,” he said. Consanguineous marriages can contribute to the increase in such diseases, he added.

[Return to headlines]

Eradicating the “Little Satan”

The accession of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been accompanied by a sharp transformation in the Iranian attitude to, and depiction of, the state of Israel. This change includes not only an amplification of the traditional hostility toward the Jewish polity, but also — most ominously — a new conception of that polity as weak and unstable, an easy target for a united Muslim (or united Shiite) offensive.

The prevailing opinion among Middle East experts and Iran watchers, however, is that the revised rhetoric is just that — rhetoric — and that it harbors no significant ramifications for policy-making on the part of Israel or any other states in the region or the world. Vociferous Iranian declarations about the need to erase Israel from the map are seen as nothing more than a means toward achieving certain pragmatic goals, such as eventual détente with the West.

This view is wrong. Iranian-Islamist threats to Israel’s existence are sincere, and they signal the determined pursuit of tenaciously-held ends.


For this reason, among others, genuine anger and hatred, of the kind that is really “meant” and strongly felt, are inefficient tools for creating or sustaining an atmosphere conducive to long-term persecution or mass murder. That is why the truly horrific atrocities in human history — the enslavements, the inquisitions, the terrorisms, the genocides — have been perpetrated not in hot blood but in cold: not as a result of urgent and immanent feeling but in the name of a transcendent ideology and as a result of painstaking indoctrination.

The vast majority of Germans in World War II did not personally and passionately hate the Jews: they had never even met the men, women, children, and infants whom they would eventually butcher en masse. It was, for the most part, a methodically drilled-in ideology that powered the genocide machine, a machine that killed six million Jews despite the fact that the Germans did not hate them.

Similarly with the events of September 11, 2001. Did Muhammad Atta, the ringleader of the terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers, genuinely and fervently hate every single individual working there on that fateful day, let alone all of the passengers on the plane he commandeered? How could he? He had never met them, and they had never personally done anything to him. What is more, Atta had spent many years in the United States preparing for his mission, during which time he rubbed elbows with all types of Americans. Is it plausible that he managed to maintain a constant boiling rage all day every day toward every one of these acquaintances and their fellow countrymen? How could such a creature survive, or master the self-control to carry out his assigned role?

What is true for Nazi storm troopers and al-Qaeda operatives is true for today’s fundamentalist Shiites. It is not their genuine, vehement hatred that we have to fear; it is their endless, drone-like training. Their militant hostility to Israel is no more a function of immediate, genuine, blood-boiling rage than it is the result of some heinous act or other performed by the Jewish state, however frequently such purported crimes are exploited as triggers of “popular” protest. The hostility is, unfortunately, something far more durable and deeply implanted.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Far East

China: ‘Tis the Season to Arrest Christians

China cracks down on house church believers

The arrests and threats come just a week after authorities demolished a building used by a Christian church group, leaving nearly a dozen church participants who tried to defend their facility beaten.

The government’s Christmas attacks were confirmed in two different provinces and another region, the organization said.

In Henan province, an eyewitness told China Aid officers from the Public Security Bureau raided a house church Christmas party in the middle of the day on Christmas Eve and detained nine Christian woman.

They had been re-enacting the nativity, and police charged the women with “organizing illegal religious activities,” the China Aid source reported. The women were being held at the Yucheng County Detention Center, and authorities were demanding fines from family members before they could be released,

Authorities in Anhui province were a lot more thorough in their attacks, the organization reported.

It started on Dec. 22 when authorities conducted a raid on a Shepherd Fellowship Bible training class linked to a house church in Dongzhi County. The attack force included officers from the Domestic Defense Protection Squad Branch of Chizhou Municipal Public Security Bureau of Anhui Province, the Domestic Defense Protection Squad of Dongzhi County Public Security Bureau, the Yanghu Township Police Station and the Dongzhi County Bureau of Religion.


“During the interrogation, the Public Security cadres pounded on the desk to scare the Christians and lectured the students with political propaganda in an effort to force the students to say that the church lured them to participate in the study. At about 10 p.m., the students were released, but the two church leaders were not released until about 12 a.m.,” China Aid said.

The next day police called the church leaders and warned hem to send the students home before government officials arrived at the site of the training, and authorities sealed the house church building, stating that it was an illegal school and the building would be demolished or sold.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

China to Build World’s Largest Telescope

China officially started construction of a Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the largest in the world, in a remote southwest region on Friday.

Preparation and research for the project took some 14 years.

The dish-like telescope, as large as 30 football fields, will stand in a region of typical Karst depressions in Guizhou Province when it’s done in 2013.


FAST’s main spherical reflector will be composed of 4,600 panels. Its observation sensitivity will be 10 times more powerful than the 100-m aperture steerable radio telescope in Germany. Its overall capacity will be 10 times larger than what is now the world’s largest (300 m) Arecibo radio telescope developed by the United States, according to Nan Rendong, the chief scientist of the project and an NAO researcher.


Scientists have so far observed only 1,760 pulsars, which are strongly magnetized spinning cores of dead stars. With the help of FAST, they could find as many as 7,000 to 10,000 within a year, Nan said.

Pulsars have allowed scientists to make several major discoveries, such as confirmation of the existence of gravitational radiation as predicted by the theory of general relativity.

FAST could also be a highly sensitive passive radar to monitor satellites and space debris, which would be greatly helpful for China’s ambitious space program.

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Al-Qaida-Linked Islamists Set to Take Control of Somalia

‘I’m not optimistic. The future looks bleak and is likely to be bloody’

An armed group styling itself Al-Shebab is likely to take over. Already, its fighters are believed to control more than 80 per cent of southern Somalia. These radical Islamists believe in imposing Sharia law and they recently approved the stoning of a 13-year-old girl.

Al Shebab, the fanatical armed wing which broke from the Islamic Courts Union which ran Somalia for the second half of 2006, now holds more than 80 per cent of the country ? more territory than the Courts controlled during their reign.

Rashid Abdi, Somalia analyst for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said: “They may be forced to moderate their radical line once they take over just to stay in power.

“But there are those who predict al Shebab turning into some kind of Frankenstein’s monster taken over by, or at least sympathetic to, foreign elements who have ambitions outside Somalia, to spread radical Islam or mount terror attacks, in northeastern Kenya or eastern Ethiopia.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding — as you can — the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world — a directness in their dealings with others — that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers — in some ways less so — but more open.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Fla. Woman Claims “Merry Christmas” Got Her Fired

PENSACOLA, Fla.: A Christian woman claims she was fired from her job because she greeted callers with “Merry Christmas,” but the vacation rental company says it’s no Scrooge and the woman is just a disgruntled employee.

Tonia Thomas, 35, said she refused to say “Happy Holidays” and was fired, even after offering to use the company’s non-holiday greeting. The Panama City woman filed a federal complaint that accuses the company of religious discrimination. She is seeking compensation for lost wages.

“I hold my core Christian values to a high standard and I absolutely refuse to give in on the basis of values. All I wanted was to be able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or to acknowledge no holidays,” she said Tuesday. “As a Christian, I don’t recognize any other holidays.”

Thomas said she is Baptist.

Her former employer, Counts-Oakes Resorts Properties Inc., said she wasn’t fired for saying “Merry Christmas,” but would not elaborate.

“We are a Christian company and we celebrate Christmas,” said Andy Phillips, the company’s president. Thomas is “a disgruntled employee,” presenting a one-sided version of what happened when she was fired Dec. 10, Phillips said.

Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based legal group that advocates for people discriminated against because of their religion, is representing Thomas before the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. Their complaint also accuses the company of harassing and taunting Thomas after she was fired by calling the police to watch her pack her belongs and leave.

Thomas could have hard time winning the case, said G. Thomas Harper, a Jacksonville-based labor attorney who writes a newsletter on Florida employment law.

“I wouldn’t think an employee has the right to insist (on saying Merry Christmas) unless that really is a tenet of their faith. She would have to make a strong case that was part of her beliefs, if not, it becomes insubordination,” he said.

Thomas has found another job, but she makes less than the $10.50 an hour she earned with the rental company. She said the trauma of being fired and the pay cut has made for a tough holiday season for herself, her husband and their 6-year-old son.

Harper said when it comes to holiday greetings, the smartest choice might be ignoring the season.

“The best option is just not to say anything,” he said.

           — Hat tip: ESW [Return to headlines]


Climate Change Refugees Seek a New International Deal

Millions of people are predicted to become climate refugees as global warming increases. A new international pact will be needed to protect their rights to live.

Global warming caused by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions has been linked to a host of environmental disasters. These include sea-level rise, flooding, spells of droughts and cold and other extreme weather conditions such as frequent hurricanes and cyclones. As such natural catastrophes push inhabitants to flee to safer places, environmental refugees are fast becoming an international security issue.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that there will be 150 million environmental refugees by 2050. The Institute for Environment and Human Security, affiliated with United Nations University, estimated the number of environmental refugees at 20 million in 2005 and predicted the number could be 50 million as early as 2010.

In spite of millions in danger of becoming refugees, at present there is no international law to protect their rights. UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, does not recognise climate or environment refugees as these categories are not included in the list of legal refugees under the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention. The Convention currently defines a legal refugee as a person who has fled his or her country due to persecution by the state for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Anthony Simms, head of the climate change programme at UK-based New Economic Foundation, and the author of a book titled “Environmental Refugees: The Case for Recognition” argues that environmental refugees should be given UN refugee status as environmental displacement of people amounts to “environmental persecution”. Simms argues that developed nations should take responsibility as climate change comes a result of their policies.

UNHCR however says it does not want to expand the Refugee Convention to include climate refugees as that may reduce protection for the conventional political refugees.

Sources at UNHCR, who want to remain anonymous, add that UNHCR is not equipped or designed to handle hundreds of millions of refugees from climate change. It already finds its resources stressed in handling the 14.3 million political refugees in the world.

Clarifying UNHCR’s position, Yoichiro Tsuchida, UNHCR Senior Advisor on Climate Change, explains that the case for environment refugees is too complicated and disparate to fit within the current refugee framework. Justifying international migration due to natural disasters is difficult, as is the task of attributing environmental phenomena directly to climate change. “While environmental factors can contribute to prompting cross-border movements, they are not grounds, in and of themselves, for the grant of refugee status under international refugee law,” she says…

           — Hat tip: RRW [Return to headlines]

The Freedom-Fighters of Hamas

Update: The word “proportion” has finally made an appearance, in a Bloomberg article that refers to the opinion of an Israeli political scientist:

Within Israel, some questioned the scope of the action, suggesting it was out of proportion to Hamas’s provocations.

“The military move was a mistake,” said Galia Golan, a political scientist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya north of Tel Aviv. “It is very terrible, way beyond anything that could be justified and I don’t think it will make a difference.” [emphasis added]

Let’s hear it for disproportionate response!

Disproportionate ResponseOur Flemish correspondent VH suggests that it might be time to revive my graphic from a couple of years ago. He points out that the quote from the spokesman for EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana qualifies as a call for “proportionate response”:

“We are very concerned at the events in Gaza. We call for an immediate ceasefire and urge everybody to exert maximum restraint.”

Israel is routinely excoriated for violating the human rights of the Palestinians by building a wall or putting up roadblocks. This article from YNet News is a reminder of what “human rights” means to Hamas:

Hamas passes bill allowing executions

London-based al-Hayat newspaper reports Gaza parliament sanctions bill allowing whipping, hanging as standard punitive action

Where are the human rights groups? Hamas has recently passed a radical Islamic bill ushering whipping, dismembering and execution as standard punitive action into the Gaza penal code, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported Wednesday.

According to the report, the bill passed its second reading in the Gaza Parliament, by unanimous majority of three — the only three members of parliament who were present at the meeting.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is unlikely to sanction the bill, as required by the Palestinian law, but Hamas would have little problem implementing it in Gaza — which is under its complete control.

The bill is made up of 214 subsections. Section 59 states that “any Palestinian found guilty of raising a weapon against Palestine in favor of the enemy; countering Palestine’s interests in a negotiation with a foreign government; and placing Palestine’s existence in danger by committing an act of aggression against a foreign country… will be sentenced to death.”

A similar fate awaits anyone found guilty of the following: “Joining a foreign army fighting Palestine or facilitating such action; demoralizing the Palestinian people to any of its resistance movements; spying on Palestine or engaging in espionage during wartime.”

Section 84 stipulates that anyone found guilty of “drinking to making wine will be subjected to 40 lashes… drinking and harassing the public will be punishable by 40 lashes and three months in jail.”

– – – – – – – –

The whip will be used on anyone “engaging in games of chance, offending religious beliefs and defaming others’ character,” as well. The bill also calls for dismembering — mostly of the hands — of anyone convicted of theft.

VH also included a link to this Google map in his email:

Map of Gaza
©2008 Google

This map of south Israel may be interesting to your readers. Just click away the labels (in the menu “Satellite”) and look again at the border between Israel and the Sinai, the border between civilization and backwardness.

Airstrikes in Gaza

The long-expected Israeli response to Hamas’ rocket attacks from Gaza has begun. So far there has been no ground action, only airstrikes. At least 200 Palestinians are dead, and one Israeli has been killed by a Palestinian rocket fired after the fighting began.

According to Fox News:

Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing at least 205 people and wounding 400 others in the single bloodiest day of fighting in decades.

Most of those killed were security men, but civilians were also among the dead. Hamas said all of its security installations were hit and responded with several medium-range Grad rockets at Israel, reaching deeper than in the past. One Israeli was killed and at least four people were wounded in the rocket attacks. With so many wounded, the Palestinian death toll was likely to rise.

The air offensive followed weeks of intense Palestinian rocket and mortar fire on southern Israel, and Israeli leaders had issued increasingly tough warnings in recent days that they would not tolerate continued attacks.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would expand the operation if necessary. “There is a time for calm and there is a time for fighting, and now is the time for fighting,” he told a news conference. He would not comment when asked if a ground offensive was planned.

But asked earlier if Hamas political leaders might be targeted next, military spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibovich said, “Any Hamas target is a target.”

The strikes caused widespread panic and confusion in Gaza, as black clouds of smoke rose above the territory, ruled by Hamas for the past 18 months. Some of the Israeli missiles struck in densely populated areas as children were leaving school, and women rushed into the streets frantically looking for their children. Most of those killed were security men, but civilians were among the dead.

– – – – – – – –


Streets were nearly empty in Sderot, the Israeli border town that has been pummeled hardest by rockets. A few cars carried panicked residents leaving town. Dozens of people congregated on a hilltop to watch the Israeli aerial attacks.

Israel declared a state of emergency in Israeli communities within a 12-mile (20-kilometer) range of Gaza, putting the area on a war footing. A siren went off in Kiryat Gat, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the border, but early reports that the town was hit by a rocket for the first time were incorrect.

Barak, the Israeli defense minister, said the coming period “won’t be easy” for southern Israel.

Protests against the campaign erupted in the Abbas-ruled West Bank and across the Arab world.

Several hundred angry Jordanians protested outside a U.N. complex in the capital Amman. “Hamas, go ahead. You are the cannon, we are the bullets,” they cried, some waving the signature green Hamas banners.

World reaction has been predictable, with only the United States laying the blame squarely on the actions of Hamas:

Spokesman For Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General

“The secretary general is deeply alarmed by today’s heavy violence and bloodshed in Gaza, and the continuation of violence in southern Israel.

“[He] appeals for an immediate halt to all violence [and reiterates] previous calls for humanitarian supplies to be allowed into Gaza to aid the distressed civilian population.”

Gordon Johndroe, White House Spokesman

“Hamas’ continued rocket attacks into Israel must cease if the violence is to stop. Hamas must end its terrorist activities if it wishes to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people.

“The United States urges Israel to avoid civilian casualties as it targets Hamas in Gaza.”

Spokesman For Javier Solana, EU Foreign Policy Chief

“We are very concerned at the events in Gaza. We call for an immediate ceasefire and urge everybody to exert maximum restraint.”

British Foreign Office Statement

“The only way to achieve lasting peace in Gaza is through peaceful means. Whilst we understand the Israeli government’s obligation to protect its population we urge maximum restraint to avoid further civilian casualties.

“We also call on militants in the Gaza Strip to immediately cease all rocket attacks on Israel.”

Russian Foreign Ministry Statement

“Moscow considers it necessary to stop large-scale military action against Gaza, which has already led to major casualties and suffering among the civilian Palestinian population.

“At the same time, we call on the Hamas leadership to stop shelling Israeli territory.”

Amr Moussa, Arab League Secretary General

“We are facing a continuing spectacle which has been carefully planned. So we have to expect that there will be many casualties. We face a major humanitarian catastrophe.”

Syrian Foreign Ministry Statement

“Syria is following with great anxiety the barbaric Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza… a horrific crime and terrorist act.


“Syria as president of the Arab League calls on Arab leaders to hold an emergency summit to assess the dangerous situation in Gaza.”

Hasan Qashqavi, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman

“Iran strongly condemns the Zionist regime’s wide-ranging attacks against the civilians in Gaza.

“The raids against innocent people are unforgiveable and unacceptable.”

And the most useless and mealy-mouthed reaction of all comes from — surprise! — the Vatican:

Rev Federico Lombardi, Vatican Spokesman

“Hamas is a prisoner to a logic of hate, Israel to a logic of faith in force as the best response to hate.

“One must continue to search for a different way out, even if that may seem impossible.”

The Fascist Shell Game

In the early 1920s in Italy, the Fascists and the Communists were rival socialist movements. During the same period in Germany, the Communists and the Nazis were also contenders for socialist revolutionary dominance. The difference between the Communists and the Fascists/Nazis was that the former advocated a world revolution — on behalf of the international proletariat and without regard for national boundaries — whereas the latter proposed to institute socialism for the sole benefit of the Italian and German people, respectively.

To the fascists and the Nazis, Communism was an enemy alien, imported from Soviet Russia and directed by Moscow. But from a doctrinal standpoint, national and international socialism were in broad agreement: it was necessary for a “revolutionary vanguard” to seize control of the government to effect a socialist revolution; there should be state ownership of the means of production to benefit the workers; citizens were obliged to work for the common good under the direction of the state; control of speech and the media was required to serve the aims of the revolution and protect the populace from counter-revolutionary propaganda.

In other words, Nazis, Fascists, and Communists were close competitors in a hard market.

So, eighty years later, it’s no surprise that the “anti-fascists” are functionally indistinguishable from Nazis and Fascists. Once again they represent a vaguely international form of socialism, and much of their doctrinal material and iconography is drawn from the Red Nostalgia archives of their predecessors. The “fascism” that they fight, however, is largely imaginary. The epithet is indiscriminately applied to any organized political resistance to the Marxist agenda advocated by the new bully-boys of the Left.

Concerning the fascistic tactics of the “anti-fascist” squads, consider this article from The Jerusalem Post. I missed the story when it first appeared, just after the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Thanks to Reinhard of FOMI for pointing it out:

German kids, activists destroy anti-Nazi exhibit

Roughly 1,000 pupils and left-wing activists who unlawfully occupied Humboldt University (HU) and some of whom destroyed an anti-Nazi exhibition on Wednesday were reacting to the university’s close ties to Israel, the university president has said.

Christoph Markschies told The Jerusalem Post that one of the protesters in the lobby of the university said “Damn Israel” when asked by another student to “stop” vandalizing the exhibit “Betrayed and Sold,” about the plundering of Jewish businesses under the Nazis.

“Friendship with Israel is part of the HU’s identity,” said Markschies, adding that “no one can tell me that the exhibit was damaged because it was a mistake.”

Markschies had to barricade himself in his office to escape what he called “the mob.” He said that “HU was directly targeted” because of its solid partnership with Israel.

– – – – – – – –

The university is repairing the damaged displays and plans to remount the exhibition.

HU, which frequently mounts exhibits documenting the persecution of German Jewry in its lobby, has close ties with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and scholars from the Albert Einstein Center of the Hebrew University were at an HU-sponsored symposium in Berlin last week.

Markschies charged the pupils and a group of hardcore leftists known as the “Black Block,” a group that terms itself anti-fascist, with disguising their anti-Semitism as anti-Zionism.

With the appearance of the Black Bloc, we once again encounter our anti-fascist friends (a.k.a. Antifa, AFA, or the Autonomer). These are the anarchist youths who pull black hoods over their faces and take to the streets to combat “racism” — meaning any political opinion that does not advocate an anarchist or socialist revolution.

Malmo demo

We’ve seen the Black Bloc in action previously in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Malmö, and Stockholm. Its preferred tactics include threats, intimidation, vandalism, arson, and general violence, all in the name of combating “fascism”.

Lee Hielscher, a spokesman for a pupil association that participated in the demonstration in Berlin, told the Post that he is currently investigating the eyewitness reports from the protest and was unable to confirm the statement “Damn Israel.”

He said the vandalism and alleged statement were not driven by anti-Semitism, but that the expression “Damn Israel” highlights the “problems of the State of Israel.”


When asked about the “Damn Israel” statement, Wuchenauer said the statement is not anti-Semitic and simply means it “would it have been more meaningful if the UN had not created two states in 1947 and had integrated the Jews into one state.”

Wuchenauer stressed that the demonstrator was expressing the opinion that creating the State of Israel was a bad decision.


The ostensible aim of the protest — to increase funding for the educational system — turned into an orgy of political violence.

Several days ago, Germany commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht. Directly across from HU is Bebel Square, the site of an infamous Nazi book-burning spectacle in 1933, when university students at the former Frederick William University, which was renamed Humboldt after World War II, burned the books of Jewish authors.


Markschies charged the pupils with playing down the violence of the demonstration and invoking a cheap excuse to justify the destruction of the exhibit.

Belinda Cooper, who taught at Humboldt University and is now a fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York, told the Post that, “I think they did a good job of proving their point. If schoolchildren can be so ignorant, they really do need a better educational system.”

Unfortunately, the educational system is merely a reflection of the culture at large. Rioting “pupils” are an expression of the Zeitgeist.

Why Israel? Even if I were to concede the fascist nature of the state of Israel — which I don’t — why is it singled out for absolute censure? What about Iran, China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia? Why are the blackhoods uninterested in them?

If you believe the party line, this focus on Israel has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. The fact that the tiny nation of Israel is the world’s only Jewish state is mere coincidence. The idealistic anarchists are simply out there combating fascism, which for some reason always has Israel at its center.

It’s no surprise that AFA’s struggle against the twin evils of the United States and Israel lines up perfectly with the ideology of radical Islam. The mujahideen and the anarchists are making common cause against their mutual enemies all across Europe.

Jews in general are targets because they’re associated with Israel. And Israel’s right to existence is denied because of the “legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people”.

European Jews, take note: you’re firmly in the crosshairs. It’s 1938 all over again.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/26/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/26/2008There is mounting evidence that the earth is cooling, not warming, and more and more climate scientists are publicly criticizing the “science” behind the global warming hysteria. But this just makes the supporters of climate orthodoxy clamp down all the harder on dissenters and skeptics. See the “Culture Wars” section in the articles below.

Thanks to Abu Elvis, JD, RRW, Tuan Jim, VH, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Festivus Pole Goes Up in the Illinois Capitol, and the Gripes Begin
Homeland Security Forecasts 5-Year Threat Picture
Intel Report: Hezbollah to Strike in U.S.?
Rezko Attorney ‘Owns’ Obama Mansion
Surgeon Uses Human Fat to Run His Cars
U.S. Economy: Home Prices Fall Near Depression Pace
Europe and the EU
Bombs Found in France
Finland: Mosquito Blood ‘Identifies Thief’
Finnish Court Moves to Deport Two Somalis
Germany: Journalists Worry ‘Big Brother Law’ Will Kill Press Freedom
Not All Russians to Receive Czech Pension
Sweden: Violent Fire Destroys Umeå Student Housing
UK: Brown’s U-Turn as 2,000 Foreign Prisoners Granted Early Release… With a £168 Gift From Taxpayer
UK: Cheer Up — There Are Blue Skies Round the Corner
UK: Mother Forced to Give Birth on Hospital Floor After Two-Hour Wait for Midwives to Find Her a Bed
UK: Secret Nuclear Sell-Off Storm
UK: Teachers Banned From Using ‘Confrontational’ Red Ink in Case it Upsets Children
Israel and the Palestinians
Abbas: ‘Hebron is Ours, Settlers Have to Leave’
Bethlehem Christians Flee Religious Persecution by Muslims;
Gaza Group: We’ll Abduct Female Soldier
Negev Residents Outraged Over Aid Delivery to Strip
UK: Indulgence of Islam is Harming Society
Middle East
Lebanese Troops Dismantle Rockets Aimed at Israel
On Christmas, Iraq Christians Eye Uncertain Future
Report Says Ahmadinejad Squandered $140 Billion
UK: We Must Refight the Battles of the 1970s
Yemen to Build Ghetto for Jews
Another ‘Unrecognized Republic’ is Born — This Time in Ukraine
Russia Starts Arms Delivery
Ukrainian Apartment Blast Kills 22
Georgia President Saakashvili ‘Punched’ Prime Minister in the Face
Russia Kills 12 Militants
South Ossetia Becomes Thorn in Russia’s Side
South Ossetia Becomes Thorn in Russia’s Side Part 2
South Asia
India Sets Dec 26 Deadline for Pakistan
New Ploy: Pak Blames Indians for Blast
Pak Warns of Stern Response, Intensifies Troop Movement
‘What Fuels Global Terror & the Palestinian Conflict? Islamic Intolerance, Supremacism, & Imperialism,’ Claims Muslim-Reformist.
Far East
China: US Should Return 17 Chinese Terror Suspects if Guantanamo Closed
Japan Auto Production Marks Worst Drop Since 1967
Sub-Saharan Africa
China Sends Navy to Fight Somali Pirates
UK: Secret Gag Orders Undermine Core Western Values
Culture Wars
Children’s Books Use Christmas to Push Global Warming Agenda
It’s Cold Outside, But Global Warming Industry Still Hard at Work
Princeton Physicist Calls Global Warming Science “Mistaken”
Secret of the Lusitania: Arms Find Challenges Allied Claims it Was Solely a Passenger Ship


Festivus Pole Goes Up in the Illinois Capitol, and the Gripes Begin

SPRINGFIELD — In the world of the TV sitcom “Seinfeld,” Festivus is a goofy, high-tension Christmas substitute dreamt up by George Costanza’s angry dad. Revelers gathered around an aluminum pole and couldn’t leave until someone pinned the head of the household to the floor.

Festivus is still good for a laugh among “Seinfeld” loyalists, even 11 years after the episode was first broadcast.

Funny, but nobody’s laughing much about the Festivus pole that popped up under the dome of the Illinois Capitol this week.

Not the people who set up the nearby nativity scene.

“I think it’s a mockery,” said Dan Zanoza, chairman of the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee.

Not the atheists who set up their own Capitol display.

“If the state’s going to create a forum for religion at this time of year, which we do not approve of, this is what’s going to happen,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Even the 18-year-old who created the pole isn’t laughing much. State workers, he gripes, set it up too far out of the way for anyone to see.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Homeland Security Forecasts 5-Year Threat Picture

WASHINGTON (AP) — The terrorism threat to the United States over the next five years will be driven by instability in the Middle East and Africa, persistent challenges to border security and increasing Internet savvy, says a new intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks are considered the most dangerous threats that could be carried out against the U.S. But those threats are also the most unlikely because it is so difficult for al-Qaida and similar groups to acquire the materials needed to carry out such plots, according to the internal Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013.

The al-Qaida terrorist network continues to focus on U.S. attack targets vulnerable to massive economic losses, casualties and political “turmoil,” the assessment said.

Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction remains “the highest priority at the federal level.” Speaking to reporters on Dec. 3, Chertoff explained that more people, such as terrorists, will learn how to make dirty bombs, biological and chemical weapons. “The other side is going to continue to learn more about doing things,” he said.

Marked “for official use only,” the report does not specify its audience, but the assessments typically go to law enforcement, intelligence officials and the private sector. When determining threats, intelligence officials consider loss of life, economic and psychological consequences.

Intelligence officials also predict that in the next five years, terrorists will try to conduct a destructive biological attack. Officials are concerned about the possibility of infections to thousands of U.S. citizens, overwhelming regional health care systems.

There could also be dire economic impacts caused by workers’ illnesses and deaths. Officials are most concerned about biological agents stolen from labs or other storage facilities, such as anthrax.

“The threat of terrorism and the threat of extremist ideologies has not abated,” Chertoff said in his year-end address on Dec. 18. “This threat has not evaporated, and we can’t turn the page on it.”

These high-consequence threats are not the only kind of challenges that will confront the U.S. over the next five years…

           — Hat tip: RRW [Return to headlines]

Intel Report: Hezbollah to Strike in U.S.?

The terrorism threat to the United States over the next five years will be driven by instability in the Middle East and Africa, persistent challenges to border security and increasing Internet savvy, says a new intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks are considered the most dangerous threats that could be carried out against the US but those threats are also the most unlikely because it is so difficult for al-Qaeda and similar groups to acquire the materials needed to carry out such plots, according to the internal Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Rezko Attorney ‘Owns’ Obama Mansion

Lawyer at firm where Democrat worked receives tax bill

An attorney for convicted fundraiser Tony Rezko is listed as the owner and taxpayer for Barack Obama’s Chicago mansion, according to records obtained by WND.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Surgeon Uses Human Fat to Run His Cars

Health department raids liposuction clinic as doctor leaves for South America

A leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeon claims to have found an environmentally friendly way to combine two of America’s great obsessions — after converting his 4×4 to run on fat removed from clients during liposuction operations.

Alan Bittner, who founded a high-profile clinic on Rodeo Drive, the Bond Street of Los Angeles, claims to be able to power both his Ford Explorer and his girlfriend’s Lincoln Navigator on biofuel converted from excess flesh from human tums, bums and thighs. “The vast majority of my patients request that I use their fat for fuel — and I have more fat than I can use,” he says. “Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly, but they get to take part in saving the Earth.”

Dr Bittner made his claim in a posting on the internet site, adding that he has performed roughly 7,000 liposuction operations, and that a gallon of human fat will produce roughly the same quantity of biofuel.

Scientists say there is no reason why human fat cannot be turned into biofuel, since it contains triglycerides which are no different from those found in waste animal fats that are already being used for the same purpose. However the discovery left medical regulators unimpressed. Using human medical waste to power vehicles (or indeed for any other commercial purpose) is largely illegal, and Dr Bittner’s clinic has been raided by California Health Department officials. The magazine Forbes says that Dr Bittner’s ability to create what he calls “lipodiesel” first came to light in lawsuits filed by several former patients, who recently accused him of allowing his girlfriend and assistant, who were both unlicensed, to carry out intricate operations.

A gallon of “lipodiesel” will give motorists roughly the same mileage as they would get from regular diesel, the magazine added. At present, most biofuel is made from a mixture of specially grown corn, and left-over beef or pork products.

Sadly, Dr Bittner is no longer around to bask in his new-found fame. His practice in Beverly Hills suddenly closed shortly after last month’s raid, and he is believed to have moved to South America.

Lawyers representing several former patients are currently attempting to track him down. One of them, Andrew Besser, claims Dr Bittner’s unlicensed girlfriend removed too much fat from his three clients, leaving them horribly disfigured. Dozens of other patients have complained to the State Medical Board, he added.

Dr Bittner’s lawyer is yet to comment. A notice on his website claims that the doctor is currently living in Colombia.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]

U.S. Economy: Home Prices Fall Near Depression Pace

Sales of single-family houses in the U.S. dropped in November by the most in two decades and resale prices collapsed at a pace reminiscent of the Great Depression, dashing speculation the market was close to a bottom.

Purchases of both new and existing houses dropped 7.6 percent from the prior month, the biggest decline since January 1989, to an annual rate of 4.43 million, government and industry figures showed today. A 13 percent drop in the median resale price from a year earlier was the most since records began in 1968 and was likely the largest since the 1930s, the National Association of Realtors said.

“Housing is still in a freefall,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

The figures were worse than economists had forecast and signal that the battered housing market that led the economy into a recession may be taking another lurch down. Sliding property values mean more Americans will be under water on their mortgages, destroying household wealth and undermining consumers’ purchasing power.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bombs Found in France

[Comment from Tuan Jim: From the location and description — at least one of these may be more likely to be Basque-related than islamic.]

PARIS — POLICE defused an explosive device found at an athletic centre in south-western France on Thursday, but another device exploded at a real estate agency in a neighbouring region, a police official said.

The first device, a container of flammable liquid connected to a live detonator, was found in the town of Capbreton around midday, the official said. No one had claimed responsibility.

He said the anti-terrorism division of the Paris prosecutors office had opened an investigation.

Graffiti at the site of the device that exploded, in the French Basque country where separatists occasionally attack real estate agencies but rarely injure anyone, read: ‘The Basque Country is not for sale.’

Police from the city of Bayonne were investigating that incident, the official said. No one was hurt in the explosion. — REUTERS

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Finland: Mosquito Blood ‘Identifies Thief’

Police in Finland believe they have caught a car thief from a DNA sample taken from a mosquito they noticed inside an abandoned vehicle.

Finding the car in Seinaejoki, north of Helsinki, police saw that the mosquito had recently sucked blood and decided to send the insect for analysis.

The DNA found from laboratory tests matched a man on the police register.

The suspect denies stealing the car and says he was just hitch-hiking a lift with a man.

The car was stolen in June in the town of Lapua, some 380km (235 miles) north of the Finnish capital, the AFP news agency reports.

It was recovered several weeks later in Seinaejoki, about 25km from where it disappeared.

Sakari Palomaeki, the police inspector in charge of the case, said it was the first time Finnish police had used an insect to solve a crime.

“It is not usual to use mosquitoes. In training we were not told to keep an eye on mosquitoes at crime scenes,” he said.

“It is not easy to find a small mosquito in a car, this just shows how thorough the crime scene investigation was,” he added.

A prosecutor must now decide if the sample is strong enough for charges to be pressed.

[Return to headlines]

Finnish Court Moves to Deport Two Somalis

Chairman of the Finnish Somali League Cries Foul

YLE: The Supreme Administrative Court has upheld a decision to deport Somali youths who were earlier found guilty of committing a series of crimes in Finland.

The court also considered deporting a third Somali youth for similar offences. However, the court found his deportation would be inappropriate as he came to Finland at the age of ten and has lived here for sixteen years.

All of the men had been found guilty of a series of crimes as and had received terms of imprisonment or fines. They had appealed a decision first made in 2005 for their expulsion.

           — Hat tip: RRW [Return to headlines]

Germany: Journalists Worry ‘Big Brother Law’ Will Kill Press Freedom

A new law working its way toward passage in Germany has journalists worried. Certain provisions, they say, could eliminate the ability for reporters to protect their sources. Still, the measure is likely to go into effect early next year.

It has been called the “Big Brother” law in the German media due to its provisions allowing online and telephone surveillance. The Interior Ministry in Berlin describes it as a necessary step to protect the country from the dangers of international terrorism.

But journalists in Germany see the bill — currently in the parliament’s arbitration committee after having failed to get through the country’s upper legislative chamber, the Bundesrat, in November — in a different light. They are concerned the law would make it much easier for investigators to spy on reporters without their knowledge, giving the state access to both their computer files and their sources. That, they say, represents an unacceptable attack on freedom of the press in Germany. Publishers, journalists and media lawyers are up in arms.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Not All Russians to Receive Czech Pension

Prague — Russians who permanently live in the Czech Republic and who have not paid pension insurance in the country will no longer receive Czech pension automatically as the agreement on the basis of which pensions were paid to Russians will expire at the end of this year.

Czech parliament abrogated the Czech-Russian bilateral social insurance agreement that had been in force for over 50 years this year. The validity of the document will end with the end of 2008.

As of new year, only Russians who have reached 65 and who have paid pension insurance in the Czech Republic for at least 15 years will be entitled to receive Czech pension.

Some Russians will not meet the condition because they only moved to the Czech Republic a couple of years ago.

The agreement was signed in 1959 by the former Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. Under it, it was enough for Russians to stay in the Czech Republic permanently to receive Czech pension. They did not have to pay pension insurance in the Czech Republic and the amount of their pension was calculated on the basis of their current income.

Czechs who permanently stayed in Russia received Russian pension on the same conditions.

The deputies described the agreement as outdated. They argued that its abrogation could entice Russia to quickly start negotiations on the new agreement.

The Czech Republic tried to amend the document many times in the past and it made the first attempt in 1989.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia as its successor state recognised the validity of the document and wanted the practice to continue.

Another attempt to change the document was made by Czech diplomats after the appearance of the independent Czech Republic in 1993.

In 1994 talks on the new agreement began. The text was prepared in 2001 and the Czech government approved it.

However, the Russian side did not sign it due to the reform of the Russian pension system. The talks were resumed in 2003. The text of the new agreement was to be signed during Czech President Vaclav Klaus’s visit to Moscow last year but the signing did not take place.

The agreement is not valid in other post-Soviet republics. So far, the Czech Republic has only signed a new agreement on pension insurance with Ukraine. The EU rules are valid for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia who are members of the European Union.

Last year, the Czech Labour and Social Affairs Ministry asked the Foreign Ministry to address the remaining former Soviet republics but only Moldova has shown interest in a new agreement.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Violent Fire Destroys Umeå Student Housing

A huge fire destroyed student housing in Umeå in northern Sweden on Christmas Eve. Fire services had a busy night as a wave of arson attacks were reported across the country.

The head of the fire services in Umeå, Lars Tapani, reported that the fire broke out in the attic of the building and spread to the apartments below. The building is described as three-story, with several stairwells and organised in a u-shape.

“It is also burning violently on the roof and you can smell the smoke over half of Umeå,” he said to news agency TT early on Christmas Day.

Tapani was speaking from a primary school in the vicinity that had been taken over to provide temporary accommodation to people evacuated from some 90 apartments in the student housing area of Ålidhem.

Many others that had been affected by the fire during the night had been able to sort out alternative accommodation, Tapani said.

The fire still raged at 8am on Christmas morning in the house which is made of concrete and has a brick facade. 20 firefighters from Umeå, Sävar and Holmsund were involved in fighting the fire.

Kenneth Jonsson of the fire services reasoned that the house would not be inhabitable for the foreseeable future.

Jonsson told TT that embers from a fire in one of the apartments, extinguished on Christmas Eve, could have spread via the ventilation system into the attic of the building.

No one is reported to have been physically injured in the fire.

“But many were at home and are suffering from shock,” Jonsson said.

Several fires broke out across Sweden on Christmas Eve and fire services had a busy night.

On Järntorget in Eskilstuna, west of Stockholm, a fire began in a video store at around 2am. Police suspect that the fire, which was quickly put out, was a case of arson.

At a school in Bandhagen in southern Stockholm a further fire broke out in a classroom in the early hours. A guard at the school was able to extinguish the fire before it caused any considerable damage.

Shortly before 5am a fire broke out in a restaurant in Helsingborg in southern Sweden. Police suspect that the fire was deliberate.

There are similar suspicions over a fire in a two-storey building in Alvesta in central Sweden which destroyed the building on Christmas morning. The building was empty at the time but has previously housed a pizzeria.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Brown’s U-Turn as 2,000 Foreign Prisoners Granted Early Release… With a £168 Gift From Taxpayer

Almost 2,200 foreign prisoners have been released from jail early with up to £168 each of taxpayers’ cash to compensate them for the loss of bed and board.

The criminals were released back on to the streets despite a promise by Gordon Brown that they would all be deported.

The total cost of funding the handouts for the foreign inmates could be as much as £370,000.

The revelations will overshadow today’s announcement by the Home Office that it removed a record 5,000 foreign criminals last year.

Ministers said they were fulfilling a commitment by the Prime Minister, made in July 2007, to take tougher action in the wake of the foreign prisoners scandal.

Those removed last year included 50 killers and attempted killers, more than 200 sex offenders and more than 1,500 drug offenders.

But the Tories pointed out that Mr Brown had said all overseas criminals would be removed when he declared: ‘If you commit a crime you will be deported. You play by the rules or you face the consequences.’

Research by the Tories discovered that not only did 2,196 foreign criminals escape removal, but they were allowed to leave jail 18 days before their sentence reached even the halfway point to ease overcrowding.

To compensate them for the loss of accommodation and food they would have received in prison during this 18-day period, they were given up to £7 a day from public funds, up to a maximum of £168.24 each.

In a dossier released last night, the Tories revealed that an estimated 3,000 foreign criminals were released without being deported last year, including those who were set free 18 days early.


Many of them cannot be deported because of a combination of EU law and the Human Rights Act.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Cheer Up — There Are Blue Skies Round the Corner

The economic forecasts point to a stormy year of bankruptcies and rising unemployment. But there is a little light amid the gloom — the weather in the coming year is likely to be a happy contrast to the dreary, sodden summer of 2008 and the bitterly cold start to this winter.

Trying to predict the weather a day ahead is tricky enough — and everyone loves to bash the Met Office when its forecast is hopelessly wrong — so it is a brave forecaster who hazards a guess at a year of weather. But there are tantalising signs that the outlook for the weather will be brighter in 2009.

My first punt is that winter will finish on a warm note. The omens may not be good — it snowed in London in October for the first time in more than 70 years; ski slopes in Scotland opened a month early; and it was the coldest start to December for more than 30 years. But the Met Office is predicting that by February winter will have melted away, possibly heralding a bumper spring.

Why think this? The answer lies a few thousand miles away. For the past two years the tropical warm waters of the Pacific have turned unusually cool — this phenomenon is called La Niña, Spanish for Little Girl. Usually La Niña pops up once every few years and makes her present felt for only a year.

Not this time. By sticking around for two years the little minx has stirred up a lot of trouble — spurring on hurricanes in the US and Caribbean, tornados in the US, severe monsoons in India, Indonesia and northern Australia and savage winters in China. Britain was not immune from all this anarchy: La Niña helped to unleash the abysmal summers of 2007 and 2008, the biggest washout in years and the dullest August on record.

La Niña achieved this by shunting the high-altitude jet stream winds off course as they flowed around the globe — delivering buckets of wet and windy weather to Britain. Globalisation existed in the weather long before an economist coined the word. By springtime La Niña should finally be dead and buried, paving the way for a much calmer and much improved summer.

The US Climate Prediction Centre dares to look way ahead to next August and it sees a return to warmer, drier times for the UK and much of Europe.. With the soaring cost of foreign holidays, and a violent hurricane season forecast for the US and Caribbean, this could be the perfect time to take a seaside holiday in Britain.

And more good news. There should be no shortage of water next year as reservoirs are brimming and underground aquifers filled to bursting, after two sensational years of rain. So what imaginative excuses will the water companies dream up for hosepipe bans in 2009?

The Gulf Stream has also perked up. As this warm ocean current races up the Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico, it gives us the best winter fuel allowance in the world, the equivalent of a million power stations’ worth of free heat each year.

For the past few years scientists have feared that it was running out of steam and was even in terminal decline. This nightmare prospect was chillingly illustrated in the sci-fi film The Day After Tomorrow — when the Gulf Stream suddenly stops working half the northern hemisphere freezes over.

But the Gulf Stream has recovered its poise, which means no frozen apocalypse. Or at least the nightmare is delayed for the time being.

An unorthodox branch of meteorology also points to a warmer year for Britain. In 1801 The astronomer Sir William Herschel observed a link between the number of spots on the face of sun and the price of wheat — the more spots, the lower the price of wheat, because he reckoned that the weather was more temperate and crop yields greater. His claim met with much ridicule.

Nonetheless, others also drew links between sunspot activity and all manners of things, from the height of the Nile’s waters to the lengths of womens’ skirts. The effects of sunspots remain controversial, but there is increasing evidence that strong solar activity over decades and centuries can match the severe droughts that helped to bring down ancient civilisations such as the Maya and Romans.

Every so often the Sun has rashes of spots — they look like freckles but are actually huge storms on its surface. The Sun goes through a cycle that lasts about 11 years — it starts with none, gets spottier and spottier, and then finally it calms down again.

For the past year the Sun has been unnervingly spotless, its quietest sunspot episode for more than 50 years. But it has now woken up again and a new sunspot cycle spluttered into life. Some believe that this upsurge in solar activity will herald warmer and possibly drier weather.

Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, is reputed to take a keen interest in weather forecasting techniques. If the economic forecasts brighten up in the same way as the meteorological ones look like doing, then 2009 will be a better year on many fronts.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Gordon Brown Redistributes Wealth From Taxpayers to City Bankers in Bonuses

Christmas is a time for giving — but there should be limits. It has emerged that four major banking firms in London — Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Dresdner Kleinwort — are handing out bonuses to traders totalling £6.4 billion. In view of the bailout gifted by Gordon Brown, Saviour of the World, to the banks, this means that these pots of gold come straight from the pockets of taxpayers.

What kind of cynical, amoral madness is this? Do these people even know the meaning of the term “bonus”? It is supposed to be a reward for performance above and beyond the call of duty. What kind of performance have traders put in at Goldman Sachs, whose earnings fell by 47 per cent this year? Yet its bonus handouts total £1.73 billion. Morgan Stanley is handing out £2 billion, Merrill Lynch £2.33 billion.

Even so stalwart a member of the banking establishment as Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC, admitted three months ago that bonuses had contributed to the financial crisis. Any normal people, standing amid the ruins of the banking system they had brought down, would have recognised the fat days were over, that they were lucky to be bailed out by the taxpayer and to retain their jobs — in some instances, as Vince Cable has pointed out, to avoid going to jail.

Yet here they are, with undimmed arrogance, doling out public money to cronies. That money came from hardworking people who have never earned anything like the fortunes paid to bankers and many of whom now stand to lose their jobs in a recession provoked by the banking industry.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Mother Forced to Give Birth on Hospital Floor After Two-Hour Wait for Midwives to Find Her a Bed

An expectant mother gave birth on a hospital assessment room floor because busy staff failed to put her in a maternity unit bed.

Lynne Neilson had been waiting for two-and-a-half hours when she went into labour standing up, clutching the side of a trolley.

A midwife who arrived just as her daughter Orla’s head appeared put down a disposable mat, caught the baby and unwound the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.

Even then, Mrs Neilson had to wait a further hour before being transferred to the labour ward.


They said they had learned the labour ward was not full when they arrived and the room they were placed in had been empty all along.

Mrs Neilson added: ‘The service we received and the treatment we got were virtually non-existent.

‘The cord was around her neck when she was born, so had someone not arrived to help, it could have been pretty bad news.

‘The whole thing was just unbelievable. I just want them to change the process.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Secret Nuclear Sell-Off Storm

Britain no longer has any stake in the production of its nuclear warheads after the Government secretly sold off its shares in the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston.

Ministers agreed to sell the remaining one-third ownership to a Californian engineering company. The announcement, which means that Americans will now produce and maintain Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent, was slipped out on the eve of the parliamentary Christmas holiday. Officials refused to say how much the deal raised.

Opposition MPs last night expressed concern that the stake may have been sold off below market value to raise much-needed money for the Treasury. They accused the Government of trying to conceal the sale of the stake in AWE Management Limited by failing to make an announcement in Parliament.

There was also anger that Britain would no longer directly control the site where Britain’s nuclear warheads are produced and maintained. What’s for sale next?


The Treasury is considering privatising other state assets in what critics have called a recession “fire sale”. These include:

  • Ordnance Survey
  • The Met Office
  • The Forestry Commission
  • The Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster
  • The Covent Garden Market Authority
  • The Royal Mint
  • The Tote
  • Buildings owned by British Waterways
  • British Nuclear Fuel’s stake in uranium enrichment company Urenco
  • The Oil & Pipeline Agency, which manages the UK’s underground network of fuel distribution pipelines.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Teachers Banned From Using ‘Confrontational’ Red Ink in Case it Upsets Children

Hundreds of schools have barred teachers from marking in red in case it upsets the children.

They are scrapping the traditional method of correcting work because they consider it “confrontational” and “threatening”.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Tattooed? Overweight? Criminal Record? Your Country Needs You…

Desperate Army chiefs want to accept more criminals, the overweight and applicants with visible tattoos in a bid to solve a recruitment crisis.

The startling plans are part of a drive to boost Army numbers in 2009 after years of worsening shortages.

Top commanders are anxious to attract more recruits during the current dire economic conditions which in the past have provided a boost to recruitment as civilian jobs become scarce.


Critics of the idea accuse the Defence Ministry of ‘missing the point’, saying the real problem is the exodus of seasoned soldiers who have become disillusioned with their treatment by the Government.

One commenter said:

This has been happening in the states for some time. Many believe politicians want an army with no scruples, filled with criminals — such an army would present a grave threat to the democratic rights of people of the UK. — R McAuley, Antrim UK, 26/12/2008 09:50

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Victim of the ‘Can’t Touch’ Culture: Teacher Throttled by Pupil as Colleagues Looked on

A teacher who won £250,000 compensation after a pupil tried to strangle him has criticised a ‘can’t touch’ culture in schools after other staff initially refused to intervene.

Colin Adams, 50, was attacked by a 12-year-old boy, who knocked him to the floor before punching and kicking him, and grabbing his neck. But despite other teachers yelling at the boy to stop, no one stepped in to help.

Mr Adams’s ordeal ended only after another teacher eventually came to his aid by forcing the boy’s thumbs back to release his hold. Later, the unnamed teacher admitted to Mr Adams that he was afraid the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, would accuse him of assault.

It later emerged the boy had a history of violence, having previously attacked pupils and a security guard at a library opposite Kingsford Community School in East London.

However, he was not properly disciplined over the assaults and staff were not warned about his past.

Mr Adams yesterday criticised Government-backed ‘inclusion’ policies, which he claimed had led to pupils with severe behavioural problems being taught in schools where staff are not trained to cope with them.

His comments come only days after figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed police were called to schools 10,000 times last year to deal with violent incidents.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Abbas: ‘Hebron is Ours, Settlers Have to Leave’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday visited Hebron for the first time since he took office in 2005 and demanded that the settlers get out. “Hebron is ours, and they have to leave if they want peace,” he said.

Abbas also called on Israel to accept a 2002 Arab peace initiative, which offers peace between Israel and the Arab world in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. “Come to the ocean of peace that starts from Mauritania and ends in Indonesia,” Abbas said.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Bethlehem Christians Flee Religious Persecution by Muslims;

Journalists blame Israel, mollify world to reality, defending against Jihad

Muslim mafia’s intimidating and usurping of Christians’ lives, homes, businesses responsible for Christian emigration. Journalists wrongly laying blame on Zionism distract world from appropriate reaction, response.. Even the New York Times had to admit that business is strong in Bethlehem.. So who is making life so harsh for many Christians that they are forced to flee?

Correspondent Aaron Klein in WorldNetDaily writes “Media’s ‘cold deceit’ descends upon Bethlehem”

…the mainstream media, which, like clockwork, file misleading reports from this important Christian city every year. They completely ignore Muslim intimidation of Christians while blaming Israel for ruining Christmas and for the drastic decline of Christianity in one of the holiest cities for that religion.

The reality of Muslim on Christian crime was addressed by CBN News several weeks ago:

Some Christian leaders said one of the most significant problems facing Christians in Bethlehem is the rampant confiscation of land by Muslim gangs. “There are many cases where Christians have their land stolen by the [Muslim] mafia,” said Samir Qumsiyeh, a Bethlehem Christian leader and owner of the Beit Sahour-based private Al-Mahd (Nativity) TV station.

“It is a regular phenomenon in Bethlehem. They go to a poor Christian person with a forged power of attorney document, and then they say we have papers proving you’re living on our land. If you confront them, many times the Christian is beaten. You can’t do anything about it. The Christian loses, and he runs away,” Qumsiyeh told WND, speaking from his hilltop television station during a recent interview.

Qumsiyeh himself said he was targeted by Islamic gangs. He said his home was firebombed after he returned from a trip abroad during which he gave public speeches outlining the plight of Bethlehem’s Christian population.

One Christian Bethlehem resident told WND last year her friend recently fled Bethlehem after being accused by Muslims of selling property to Jews, a crime punishable by death in some Palestinian cities. The resident said a good deal of the intimidation comes from gunmen associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization.

A February Jerusalem Post article cited the case of Faud and Georgette Lama, Christian residents of Bethlehem who said their land was stolen by local Muslims and when they tried to do something about it, Faud was beaten by gunmen.

One religious novelty store owner I met recently told me Muslim gangs regularly deface Christian property. “We are harassed, but you wouldn’t know the truth. No one says anything publicly about the Muslims. This is why Christians are running away.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Gaza Group: We’ll Abduct Female Soldier

Popular Resistance Committees spokesman says group plans to kidnap female soldier should IDF enter Gaza, so that ‘Gilad Shalit will be able to start family’; Gaza groups have more than 10,000 rockets, ‘can drop martyrs from sky into Tel Aviv,’ he says

Specifically, the group would aim to kidnap a female soldier, the PRC’s Abu Abir told the Nazareth-based Arb al-Dahel. “The resistance movement is talking about the abduction of a female soldier, and we’re certain we’ll succeed,” he said. “Then, Gilad Shalit will be able to start a family, and the negotiations will be for the release of the Shalit family.”


           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Negev Residents Outraged Over Aid Delivery to Strip

Heads of Gaza-vicinity communities slam defense minister’s decision to allow transfer of aid into Gaza despite ongoing Qassam, mortar attacks. ‘Why are humanitarian concerns always one-sided?’ they ask

Heads of the Gaza vicinity communities were outraged Friday by Israel’s decision to allow 40 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip, despite the incessant rocket and mortar fire at the western Negev. Dozens of mortar shells and one Qassam were fired at the area from the northern Gaza Strip in a number of barrages Thursday night. No injuries or damages were reported in any of the attacks.

Head of the Eshkol Regional Council Haim Yelin said that after such a night he had hoped that the border crossings would remain closed. “I must say that I fail to understand the reasons behind continuing to deliver aid to those Palestinians for ‘humanitarian ground’,” he stated.. “Why is the humanitarian need always one-sided? Why are there no humanitarian concerns towards us and a stop to the rocket fire?”

Ashkelon Deputy-Mayor Shimon Cohen said he was shocked to learn about the decision to open the crossings. “This is a failure on the national level. The government’ treatment of us is simply humiliating,” he stated.


Meanwhile, MK Arieh Eldad (Hatikva) requested Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Friday to prosecute Defense Minister Ehud Barak for aiding the enemy at a time of war, following the defense minister’s instructions to open the crossings. Eldad noted that the aid was delivered while rockets continued to rain on western Negev communities from the Gaza Strip and said, “There is no other definition for the term ‘aiding the enemy at a time of war’ and anyone who does so must be prosecuted.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

UK: Indulgence of Islam is Harming Society

Islam is the fastest-growing religion in Britain: the number of Muslims has grown from 1.6 million to two million since 2000. Moreover, every major public institution has changed its policies to accommodate the demands of Islamic “community leaders”. The Government, the Opposition, the police, schools, the Church of England, the BBC and now Channel 4 are all helping Muslims construct a parallel Islamic state.

Early next year, the think tank Civitas will publish a survey of 100 British Muslim schools. Entitled When Worlds Collide, it will argue that some of them are pushing pupils into ghettos. Young women, in particular, are forbidden to pursue career opportunities. “Every year, an incalculable number of Muslim young women are lost to the wider world,” says the report. One school website links to al-Qaeda; another directs pupils to a scholar who advocates the murder of Jews.

Until recently, these radical mullahs were blamed for turning disaffected youths into bombers. But, in August, a leaked MI5 report revealed that Islamist terrorists tend not to be obvious religious extremists. The Muslim community usually knows nothing about them.

For years, the Government has offered Muslim leaders self-governance in return for information about “dangerous” elements. But if terrorists cannot be accurately identified, this is a waste of time. Unelected community leaders extend control over Muslims, yet society is no safer.

Self-censorship is crucial to this growing separatism. The BBC’s director-general, Mark Thompson, says that Muslims should be treated more sensitively than Christians.

In America, Random House cancelled publication of Sherry Jones’s novel The Jewel of Medina, about Mohammed’s six-year-old bride Ayisha. But Martin Ryna of Gibson Square in London did agree to publish. Three men were subsequently charged with conspiring to damage his home. Islamic groups have threatened Borders bookshops with violence if they sell the novel.

Although most Muslims do not condone such attacks, many support the proposal that Islam should enjoy privileged status. After the 7/7 terrorist murders, the Home Office commissioned reports from Muslim working parties. Their recommendations included “Muslim teacher accreditation” to ensure special treatment for Muslim children; Muslim oversight of policing methods; and a new verbal etiquette in which Islamist terrorism should be referred to as “criminal” rather than religiously inspired. There were also hints that British Muslims should be allowed an unofficial veto over foreign policy.

In the event, the Government backed away from the more extreme demands. Others have been quietly met. A National Association of Muslim Police was set up in 2007 and is regularly consulted by senior officers.

Government ministers rarely put the words “Islam” and “terrorism” in the same sentence. Conservative front benchers follow the same practice, except when addressing the Conservative Friends of Israel. “I have been told off by three members of the shadow cabinet for using the phrase ‘Islamist terrorism’ when I have appeared with them,” says Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion.

The major development, however, has been the encroachment of Sharia law into public life. Last February, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, declared that British Sharia was “inevitable.” In fact, instruments for expanding it already exist. A network of Muslim Arbitration Tribunals (MATs) has been set up with Home Office support. In theory, these bodies are just a form of “alternative dispute resolution”. They are “unable to deal with criminal offences”, says the MAT website. Yet it also confirms that they can “assist” the police with domestic violence, sometimes “with a view to reconsidering criminal charges”.

MATs also deal with wills, where Sharia discriminates against females. The Government is also anxious to attract Muslim investment by regulating British Islamic banking; the only way to do that is to grant legal recognition to Sharia.

According to Murray, “what we are seeing is the state deferring to a seventh-century Arabian tradesman as a source for secular law”. He was speaking on Christmas Eve. The next day, Ahmadinejad spoke to the nation. Yesterday it was reported that Baroness Butler-Sloss, one of Britain’s most senior legal figures, wants Sharia divorces to be enshrined in law. For the first time in decades, religion is moulding public life in this country; but that religion is not Christianity.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Lebanese Troops Dismantle Rockets Aimed at Israel

Lebanese troops on Thursday found and dismantled eight rockets set up for launch at northern Israel, Lebanese security sources said, Reuters reported. They said the Grad and Katyusha rockets were found near the village of Teir Harfa just north of the border with Israel.

It was not immediately clear who set up the projectiles in the area controlled by a U.N. peacekeeping force and the Lebanese army.

The area was a hotbed for Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas until the 2006 war with Israel led to the deployment of the Lebanese troops and expanded the mandate of U.N. peacekeepers. Hezbollah had no comment on the incident.

There had been at least two incidents of rockets fired into Israel from south Lebanon since the 2006 war, but both were blamed on Palestinian militants. The rockets were found as tensions rose in the Gaza Strip after the end of a truce between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants there.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

On Christmas, Iraq Christians Eye Uncertain Future

Baghdad. Rushing to Christmas mass, Iraqis in their Sunday best hurried into Baghdad’s Sacred Heart church, pausing just long enough so a uniformed security guard could pat them down for suicide vests or dangerous weapons, Reuters reported.

The juxtaposition of faith and fear is one that resonates across Iraq, where as violence drops people are cautiously venturing out from homes bunkered by blast walls and sand bags and taking up activities abandoned during years of bloodshed.

Christians, who with Yazidis, Shabaks and others make up Iraq’s fragile minorities, marked perhaps their safest Christmas since 2003 on Thursday, but many still talk of a precarious future in a nation at risk of backsliding into civil war.

Iraqi Christians, believed to number around 750,000, have been targeted like others in Iraq’s 28-million, mainly Muslim population by the horrific violence since the 2003 invasion. Their plight often gains heightened attention in the West.

Reliable figures are hard to find on how many Christians are among the millions who have fled the country, but some Christian leaders warn of a threat to the existence for their community.

A series of high-profile attacks against Christians in the northern city of Mosul this fall prompted the flight of thousands of families and fueled a fear of being singled out. “Christians have no political ambitions and they don’t have militias to defend themselves. They are peaceful people,” Thaier al-Sheikh, the pastor of the Sacred Heart church, said as he sipped tea in his rectory.

“Christians have been here longer than Muslims, 600 years longer. We are the roots of Iraq,” he said.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Report Says Ahmadinejad Squandered $140 Billion

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s financial policies came under attack recently, as those opposing him within the Islamic Republic claimed that he has singlehandedly driven the country into financial ruin.

Several weeks ago, Ahmadinejad appeared before his parliament in order to defend his policies and announced that his government will allot the failing Iranian market a bailout plan, which will allow it, and the weaker socioeconomic classes, to get back on their feet.

The Iranian president’s promises, however, proved empty. Earlier in the week, the reformist Iranian daily Saramiya reported that Ahmadinejad has depleted the Iranian reserve fund meant to aid the country’s poor — somewhat of a problem when you consider the fact that Ahmadinejad won his presidency based on campaign promises pledging to improve the low social echelons’ status.

According to the report, Ahmadinejad has managed to “irresponsibly and illegally” squander $140 billion. The blame, added the repot, lies with the continuous funding of projects is various Iranian provinces, which — according to his criticizers — is devoid of any financial logic, and demonstrates mainly fiscal foolery.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: We Must Refight the Battles of the 1970s

Boxing Day is for eating leftovers. Today, Britain tucks into cold turkey. And we’d better get used to a spot of austerity. We are facing a crisis as bad, if not worse, than that of the 1970s. The lights might not be going out and our dead are being buried, but don’t be fooled. Our economy and most public institutions are, in Whitehall-speak, not fit for purpose. Unless Britain has a radical change of direction, prepare yourself for an era of decline.

For evidence, I present Exhibit A — the state. The public sector is sucking the private sector dry. It presents a structural problem just as corrosive as trade union domination or nationalised industries in the 1970s. Two facts: the public sector is roughly the same size as Scotland’s population; and taxpayers will have to fill a £1 trillion black hole in public sector pensions — while private sector pensions have been trashed.

Exhibit B: our dependency culture, another aspect of the client state — 3·5 million working-age people (three times Birmingham’s population) are on out-of-work benefits that place little or no work expectations on them, even though many could do some work. Labour calls this “social justice”. Enough said.

Exhibit C: the conquest of cultural and social organisations by “progressives” — those who subvert our institutions to instill a socialist, “all must have prizes”, centralised ethos. In our schools, the concept that education should focus on the transmission of a body of knowledge; the belief that children learn through structured teaching, not play; the concept that a good exam is not one that everyone passes — all these ideas have been junked.

You may know this already. You might also have also thrown your radio across the room while listening to another “quangocrat” on the Today programme whingeing on about the need for “more resources”. But consider Exhibit D.

This is the battle cry of the Left. Across Europe, socialists claim that the economic crisis was caused by free markets — and we need more socialism, not less, to dig us out of the hole. Listen to the new leader of France’s opposition Socialist Party: “Liberal global governance and financial liberalism have suffered a social, moral and economic failure.” This was echoed by Sweden’s Social Democrat leader: “Conservatives have perhaps suffered a policy for sunny days, but now it is rainy and cold. This crisis is an opportunity for social democrats.” Back home, there is the leader of the civil servants’ PCS union: “The arguments for more free markets, less regulation and more privatisation have now been found wanting and hollow.”

As to their solution, socialists are calling for — in the words of the European Trade Union Confederation — “a complete change in the way the financial world works”. More public spending, more regulation and more workers’ rights: “Strong collective bargaining practice, independent of and not subordinated to law courts and judges.”

Has this spirited you back to the 1970s? If not, try this from another Labour paymaster, Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite. Welcoming the Government’s spending bonanza that will push us into a black hole of debt, he said: “This is a welcome warm up exercise after 30 years of inaction and neo-liberal economics.” If this is the warm-up act, heaven help us when the star turn gets going.

The Left sees capitalism gasping for breath, and hopes a well-aimed blow could do mortal damage. Invigorated by the market’s collapse, socialists are on the march. No more talk about a third way. No more twaddle like the Blairite “what matters is what works”. Pulsating with core belief and conviction, the Left are preaching “the state can save us”.

Belief and conviction. Where does this leave the Conservatives? Having worked with David Cameron, I can vouch for his strong Conservative beliefs, as well as his cool head in a crisis. The task that befalls him and his team is to spell out those convictions, loud and clear, and to join battle with the Left. Britain needs a clarion cry for a just cause, a noble object, something appeals not just to the head, but also the heart and makes people understand that, unless we have a change of government and direction, we will all go the way of Woolies.

What is that noble object? Not a policy, but a call to arms. “We want to work with the grain of human nature, helping people to help themselves — and others. This is the way to restore that self-reliance and self-confidence which are the basis of personal responsibility and national success. Attempting to do too much, politicians have failed to do those things that should be done. This has damaged the country and the authority of government. The balance of our society has been increasingly tilted in favour of the state at the expense of individual freedom. This election may be the last chance we have to reverse that process, to restore the balance of power in favour of the people. It is therefore the most crucial election since the war.”

I lifted those sentences from the 1979 Conservative Party manifesto. They may be 30 years old, they may not convey the hope of a Barack Obama speech or pack the punch of a Saatchi advert, but they make a point. We are at one of history’s turning points. Just as in 1979, a battle of belief is upon us, and it will be won by conviction.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Yemen to Build Ghetto for Jews

President Ali Abdullah Saleh announces plan to build secured residential compound for Jews in capital of San’a

Two weeks after the murder of Moshe Yaish Nahari, the brother of Yemen’s Jewish community’s head, the country’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh pledged to build a secured Jewish ghetto in the outskirts of the capital San’a.

The new neighborhood will house the 300 Jews of the Umran province where the murder took place.

Yemen’s president has informed human rights organizations and the heads of the Jewish community in the country of his decision to allocate an area in Sana’s northern suburb for the construction of a residential neighborhood for Jews on the state’s expense.

Any family who decides to move there from Umran will receive $10,000 in compensation.

According to President Saleh, the Jewish neighborhood will be guarded by security forces at all hours.

Since Nahari’s murder dozens of Jews in Umran have reported receiving death threats and falling victim to violent harassment in the streets of the Umran province.

A Yemeni judge on Monday ordered the man accused of murdering Nahari to go for a medical checkup to determine if he was competent to stand trial.

At the opening of the trial, lawyers for defendant Abdel Aziz Yehia Hamoud al-Abdi appealed to the judge that he was mentally unfit to stand trial and asked for a medical examination.

“Every one who knows him, knows he is insane,” lawyer Khaled al-Shalali told the court, describing the defendant as a retired pilot in the Yemeni army.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]


Another ‘Unrecognized Republic’ is Born — This Time in Ukraine

Vienna, December 24 — The Transcarpathian Rusins (Ruthenians), who are estimated to number more than a million, are calling on Moscow to recognize the independence of Subcarpathian Rus because Kyiv has ignored their demands for autonomy within Ukraine, an appeal that could create yet another “unrecognized” republic in the former Soviet space.

That appeal, which was given prominence two days ago when Petr Getsko, the self-proclaimed prime minister of the self-proclaimed republic, gave an interview to the Russian government newspaper, “Rossiiskaya gazeta, in fact has deeper roots.

On the one hand, there has been a resurgence of Ruthenian activism across eastern Europe, with most countries in the region providing some support to what is the fourth largest East Slavic group in the world. And on the other, Kyiv has infuriated many Rusins by refusing to acknowledge them as a separate nation, anger that Moscow has clearly sought to tap into.

The current Ruthenian campaign for greater rights began at the end of October when the Second European Congress of Ruthenians met in Mukachevo and formally demanded that Kyiv grant them the status of an autonomous republic before December 1. If that did not happen, the participants said, they would see national self-determination outside of Ukraine.

December 1 came and went, but on December 19, an international scientific practical conference on “Genocide and Cultural Ethnocide of the Rusins of Carpathian Rus (the end of the 19th Century to the Beginning of the 21st Century) assembled in Rostov-na-Donu and adopted a resolution on the Ruthenian cause.

Among the resolution’s key points was an insistence that alongside the Armenians, the Ruthenians were the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century, one carried out by the Austro-Hungarians. Today, the resolution continued, Kyiv is extending this through “a policy of cultural ethnocide.”

In addition, the resolution insisted that the Ruthenians are recognized as a unique people in all countries of the region except Ukraine and that they enjoy the support of international organizations like the UN whose committee on the liquidation of racial discrimination in August 2006 criticized Kyiv for not supporting them.

And the resolution specified that the status of the Transcarpathian Ruthenians has not yet been defined — Kyiv has not yet recognized the 1946 treaty which incorporated them into the Soviet Union — and that the Ukrainian government continues to ignore the December 1991 referendum in which Ruthenians voted for autonomy as well as for Ukrainian independence.

Eduard Popov, a Russian expert on Ukraine, subsequently argued that “Subcarpathian Rus has experience as an independent government and an autonomous republic” and thus has the historical basis for demanding recognition either from Kyiv or the international community.

And because of both that history and the higher status Ruthenians have received elsewhere, Popov continued, the refusal of the Ukrainian government to recognize them as a separate nationality and to offer courses in their distinctive language are increasingly offensive — all the more so since the ethnonym “Rusin” is much older than the one for Ukrainian.

At least some observers in Moscow dismiss the current Ruthenian cause as nothing more than the babblings of a few underemployed academics and any Russian government interest in them as a foolish policy that will infuriate the Ukrainian government and do little or nothing to advance Moscow’s interest in the region.

But however that may be, the Rusins of Ukraine are pressing ahead, and at least those who have taken part in these recent meetings believe that they have both a good case as a nationality whose interests have been ignored and a geographic advantage that makes them an even better candidate for Russian support than other “unrecognized” states have.

“Prime Minister” Getsko told “Rossiiskaya gazeta” that “we have sought autonomy for a long time and have appealed to the authorities of the country almost every month during recent years. But nothing came of this, and now we will seek independence” and international recognition.

Moreover, he pointedly told the paper in the kind of language the Russian government and business elite are certain to understand, “the lion’s share” of Russian gas on its way to European markets flows through Subcarpathian Rus, “twice more than through the Baltic states and twice more than through other neighboring countries.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Russia Unveils List of Strategic Enterprises

MOSCOW, Dec 26 — Russia has unveiled a list of strategic enterprises entitled to preferential government support in the economic crisis but said the list was not complete and did not guarantee the receipt of the financial help.

The cabinet published the list made of 295 companies from various industries and compiled by a government commission for increasing sustainability of the economic development on its Web site late on Thursday.

Moscow has pledged over $200 billion to stave off the crisis, which has already seen companies cut jobs, salaries and investment plans, forced consolidation in Russia’s 1,000-plus banking sector and prompted a rise in corporate debt defaults. “The inclusion of a company in the list does not guarantee the receipt of the financial support,” the government said in a statement on its web site

“The main objective…is supporting their stability using not only credit instruments but other measures,” it said adding the measures included restructuring tax arrears, altering tariff policy and granting government orders.

“Besides, if it is needed, the government will (act to) minimise negative social and economic consequences of the closure of these enterprises,” the government said.

Among others, the list includes oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, Russian Railways, flag carrier Aeroflot, gas export monopoly Gazprom, the largest oil producer Rosneft, No.2 mobile operator Vimpelcom, Norilsk Nickel, the world’s biggest producer of nickel and palladium, and others.

However, the list lacks some major companies key for their industries, such as Russia’s largest silver miner Polymetal or oilfield services firm Integra, while some companies are mentioned twice. “The list…is not complete and may be modified by resolution of the commission,” the government said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Russia Starts Arms Delivery

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Please note that these are NOT the S-300 missiles that Russia “supposedly” is in the process of selling to Iran]

MOSCOW — RUSSIA has begun to fulfil a US$250 million (S$361 million) contract to deliver surface-to-air missiles to seven countries including Libya, Syria and Venezuela, the Vedomosti business daily reported Friday.

Russia will also deliver the S-125 Pechora-2M missile batteries to Egypt, Myanmar, Vietnam and Turkmenistan under the contract, the newspaper said, citing a source in the state-owned Russian Technologies corporation.

Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for the company declined to comment.

Russian Technologies includes arms exporter Rosoboronexport among its holdings.

The paper did not say which parties had signed the contract.

The Pechora-2M — known as the SA-3A Goa in Nato parlance — is an upgraded version of a surface-to-air missile originally developed in the 1960s that was widely shared with the Soviet Union’s allies around the world.

Under the contract, 200 missiles are to be delivered including 70 for Egypt, an unnamed manager at a Russian defence-industry factory told Vedomosti.

He added that most would be built at the Obukhov factory in Saint Petersburg.

‘It is a simple but effective system, like the Kalashnikov assault rifle,’ he said of the Pechora. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Ukrainian Apartment Blast Kills 22

At least 22 people were killed after a massive explosion ripped through a five-storey apartment block in a Ukrainian Black Sea resort town, local officials say.


Ukraine’s Emergency Situations Minister Volodymyr Shandra, reported earlier that the “catastrophe had happened because of an oxygen or carbide explosion.”

“All the repair and maintenance crews are storing their oxygen in basements. This is the practice all over Yevpatoria,” a witness said in comments broadcast by Russian television.

Yevpatoria residents said they had not smelled gas but heard a explosion. “There was no smell of gas,” said local resident Svetlana Sergiichuk.

Another resident, Lidia Kovalenko, said: “I saw a blue flame and smoke and…. a horrible explosion.”

“It felt like an earthquake but it must have been something else,” said another resident.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Georgia President Saakashvili ‘Punched’ Prime Minister in the Face

[Comment from Tuan Jim: No idea how reputable this source is…entertaining though]

Russian media widely picked up the report by Georgia’s Alia tabloid newspaper, which cited an unnamed source as saying Mr Saakashvili attacked Prime Minister Grigol Mgaloblishvili, without providing a reason why.

Mr Saakashvili is known for his hot temper, and at times strange antics. BBC footage of the Georgian president chewing his tie while speaking on the telephone during the country’s war with Russia this August was widely circulated.

Mr Mgaloblishvili, appointed in November in a Cabinet shake-up that followed the war, handed in his resignation after the incident, but Saakashvili refused to accept it, according to Alia.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Russia Kills 12 Militants

Russia — POLICE and security forces have killed 12 suspected militants during a sweep in a volatile province in southern Russia, officials said on Thursday.

The two-day security sweep which ended on Thursday targeted a group of militants hiding in the forested mountains of Ingushetia province, according to the regional branch of the Russian Interior Ministry.

Police and security agents found a large number of weapons and ammunition that belonged to the militants, the ministry branch said.

Ingushetia sits to the west of Chechnya, where large-scale battles between Russian troops and separatists ended years ago.

Militants based in Chechnya continue, however, to stage regular attacks against authorities, and the violence often has spilled to neighboring North Caucasus provinces.

Unidentified gunmen ambushed police vehicles in Ingushetia’s town of Malgobek, killing an officer and wounding two passers-by in two separate attacks on Wednesday, the ministry branch said.

It said an unknown assailant also threw a hand grenade on Thursday into a house belonging to a prosecutor in Ingushetia’s village of Ekazhevo. No one was hurt. — AP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

South Ossetia Becomes Thorn in Russia’s Side

South Ossetia has been a de facto Russian protectorate since Moscow’s victory in the five-day war in Georgia. But the breakaway republic is becoming an embarrassment for the Kremlin, with a corrupt president, disappearing aid money and brewing social unrest.

Thick clouds hang over the roofs of Tskhinvali, as if fog had enveloped the houses there. But they are clouds of smoke coming from the wood-burning ovens in the homes of the city’s 27,000 inhabitants. There is no central gas supply in the South Ossetian capital, where gas pipes are not expected to be installed until next year.

Snow and cold temperatures have descended on this small town in the Caucasus, forcing Valentina Tadtayeva and her family to move once again. “It’s already the third time since the war,” says Tadtayeva, a thin, gray-haired woman. In the night before Aug. 8, when Georgian forces launched a surprise attack on South Ossetia, a breakaway province northwest of the capital Tbilisi, three artillery shells tore off the roof and one wall of her house. Valentina, 59, and her husband Pavel, 62, had fled to the basement, together with their two sons Alan, 27, and Oleg, 26, as well as their daughter-in-law Asa, 21. “We feared for our lives,” says Valentina.

The war lasted three days for the Tadtayevs. When the Russians liberated Tskhinvali, the family moved to the apartment of the youngest son’s mother-in-law, where 14 people lived in two small rooms. Four weeks later, the soldiers set up an army-green tent in the courtyard, and the city administration promised to repair the damaged house within a few weeks. “Nothing has happened yet,” Valentina complains. Instead, the family is now forced to move in with relatives once again. “They forgot about us,” says Valentina. “Now the peace is becoming a burden.”

It has been four months since Russia and Georgia went to war over the tiny state, only slightly larger than Luxembourg and with about 70,000 inhabitants, triggering a geopolitical earthquake. Moscow came to the aid of the South Ossetians. With their concentrated military might, the Russians repelled the Georgian troops from Tskhinvali and made it clear to the world that Georgia is part of their sphere of influence. What had seemed like a struggle between Georgia and Russia had turned into a conflict between Russia and the West.

But what did this victory do for South Ossetia, a mountainous strip of land that declared its independence after the hostilities ended? The state whose fate was allegedly the Kremlin’s greatest concern at the time? And for which Moscow continues to collect donations through its embassies abroad — funds intended for the “victims of the humanitarian disaster in South Ossetia?”

Besides Russia, so far only Nicaragua has recognized the separatist republic. Foreign journalists are only permitted to travel in the tiny country when accompanied by officials from the foreign ministry in Moscow. Even the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union, which brokered the cease-fire between Russia and Georgia, are being denied entry by the South Ossetians and their protective power, Russia. For this reason, very little reliable information makes it out of the region.

Russian Criticism Mounting

This makes what recently appeared in Russian newspapers all the more surprising: that the republic is on the brink of social unrest, just as winter is beginning, because the government has allegedly embezzled Russian reconstruction aid funds, as the former South Ossetian defense minister and head of the security council, a Russian lieutenant general, explained; or that South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity fled spinelessly during the war; and that millions of rubles deposited in the safes at the national bank in Tskhinvali had gone missing and that Russian businesspeople are refusing to invest in South Ossetia while its brawny separatist leader remains in power.

Kokoity, a former freestyle wrestler who now sits in the “Office of the President,” a six-story concrete building from the Soviet era, calls the criticism in Russian newspapers “arranged.” Certain pro-Georgian forces in Russia, he says, are attempting to “discredit South Ossetia and its leadership in the eyes of the Russians.” Yes, says Kokoity, it is cold now in Tskhinvali, but “we are occasionally warmed by the joy of victory and independence,” he tells his freezing fellow South Ossetians — while his own office has thermopane windows from Turkey, installed after the war.

In the city, 10 schools, kindergartens and the hospital have been rebuilt. But in many houses there are now plastic tarps and blankets where windows used to be. “We brought enough glass to Tskhinvali to provide it with three times as many windows as it needs,” Russian Disaster Protection Minister Sergei Shoigu said angrily.

No one knows exactly what happened to all the glass and other building materials. The same appears to apply to much of the €350 million ($490 million) in Russian reconstruction aid. To be on the safe side, Moscow did send two of its own people to Tskhinvali to serve as prime minister and finance minister. But President Kokoity has declared the budget, filled almost exclusively with Russian funds after the war, a state secret. A former security advisor accuses Kokoity of having surrounded himself with confidants from the Russian regions of Samara and Ulyanovsk and of conducting money-laundering operations with dubious companies.

Yuri Morosov, the former prime minister who resigned after the war — supposedly of his own free will — voices similar complaints. According to Morosov, 100 million rubles or about €2.7 million ($3.8 million) in salary payments for public servants were embezzled shortly before the conflict. Most of the money was intended for South Ossetia’s armed militias.

It’s a difficult situation for Russia. While war refugees in the rest of Georgia will receive new houses, thanks to €3.4 billion ($4.8 billion) in aid money, mainly from the EU and the United States, the reconstruction of South Ossetia could prove to be an embarrassment for Moscow. If so, Russia’s efforts to present itself as an protective power to the people of the Caucasus and the world will suffer.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

South Ossetia Becomes Thorn in Russia’s Side Part 2

Part 2: Potential Embarrassment for Moscow

There is at least one location in Tskhinvali that looks how Moscow wants it to look. At Stalin Street 27, across from the seat of Kokoity’s government, Russian mobile phone provider Yevrozet has opened a shop. Fashionably dressed saleswomen use computers as cash registers — as long as there is no power outage. It is warm in the shop, where Nokia mobile phones and Canon cameras glitter in glass cases. The shop is an island of modernity in a city in which the scars of the war are in full view on every street corner.

The shop sees about 1,000 visitors a day, which would even be considered a success for a retail business in downtown Moscow. The trouble is, hardly anyone is buying mobile phones and cameras. “People come here because they want to see normal life,” says Irma Alborova, a saleswoman.

Normal life? South Ossetia, which the Russians seem so keen on controlling, has had a bad reputation since the early 1990s. Today it is considered a hub of crime and smuggling. It rebelled against the Georgian central government in a bloody war in the early 1990s, and after the war South Ossetia became impoverished and isolated. Many residents earned a living dealing in vodka on the black market.

Kokoity made a name for himself as the region’s “trade representative” in Moscow, and then, with Kremlin support, he managed to catapult himself to the presidency of the rebel republic. But now there are growing doubts, even in Moscow, over whether Kokoity is the right man for the job.

Russian Control of Caucasus at Stake

If South Ossetia plunges in chaos, Russia could lose control over the entire unstable and majority Muslim Caucasus region. In the Russian autonomous republics of Dagestan and Inguchetia, government forces wage battles with underground fighters almost daily. Even in Christian North Ossetia, a pillar of Russian imperialism until now, religious warriors are now trying to stir up resistance within the Muslim minority against the “Russian occupiers.”

Kokoity governs his territory like a mafia boss. Critics are threatened with deportation by his security staff, while family members are awarded positions in the administration. Kokoity made his brother Robert, a feared gangster in Tskhinvali, ambassador in sunny Abkhazia on the Black Sea.

The Ossetians certainly have Russia to thank for stopping the invasion of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in August, thereby preventing reintegration of the province into Georgia. But they are increasingly skeptical about Kokoity’s regime.

The Ossetian leader, who publicly drained a tankard containing three liters of wine to celebrate the Russian victory, now intends to give his regime a civilized makeover and curry favor in Moscow. Stalin Street, the only street with this name in a state capital, is to be renamed Medvedev Street..

But even Russian President Dmitry Medvedev knows that “by far not everything is going well” in South Ossetia, as he admitted in public recently.

But to avoid completely isolating itself internationally, Russia has stopped short of formally annexing the captured mountain province. This has its downsides. For example, the Kremlin cannot simply dismiss Kokoity like any other governor. Instead, it must court him as if he were a foreign head of state — even though Kokoity’s militias were apparently involved in gun battles with Russian troops recently. Many in Moscow are realizing that Russia went to war over a region that is not only insignificant, but also has a leadership every bit as unpredictable as Saakashvili.

In Tskhinvali, Valentina Tadtayeva and her sons packed together their few remaining belongings: blankets, a tea kettle, silverware and family photos. They will also take a basket of apples along to their relatives. The apples are from Kechvi, one of the Georgian villages on South Ossetian soil that were “flattened,” as Kokoity says, and burned to the ground in the war. “We picked the apples after the war, otherwise we wouldn’t have much,” Valentina explains.

She remembers the days when Georgians sold their fruit at the market in Tskhinvali. “Somehow it seems long ago now,” she says. “Even the market is now bombed out.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

South Asia

India Sets Dec 26 Deadline for Pakistan

NEW DELHI: India has given a deadline of December 26 to Pakistan for crackdown on people involved in Mumbai terror plot, said a report.

Stratfor, the publisher of geopolitical intelligence on Tuesday, in its report says after Mumbai attacks, India relayed a message to Pakistan via the US that they would be given “30 days to carry out significant actions in cracking down on militant groups operating on Pakistani soil”.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

India Tells Its Citizens: Pakistan is Not Safe, Avoid it

New Delhi, Dec 26 (PTI) Fearing trouble for its nationals in Pakistan, India today advised them to avoid being in the neighbouring country even as it rubbished as “hogwash” the reports that some Indians were involved in terrorism there.

In the first such advisory since the 1971 war, the Ministry of External Affairs cautioned that travel to and presence in Pakistan was not safe for Indians in the wake of media reports there that some Indians have been held on the charge of terrorism.

New Delhi said the reported “arrests” in Lahore and Multan were suspected to have been made by elements who work outside of civilian control as top police officers there were ignorant about any such development.

Media reports in Pakistan have claimed that “Indian nationals” identified as Satish Anand Shukla, Ram Kumar, Ram Chandar and Prakash were arrested for a bomb blast in Lahore two days back.

“It is hogwash and meant to confuse people,” Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma told reporters when asked to comment on reports on the arrests.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said “there have been reports in the Pakistani media that several Indian nationals have been arrested over the last two days in Lahore and Multan and are being accused of being terrorists.” He said “since it has also been reported in the Pakistani media yesterday that the senior police officer in Lahore was unaware of the arrest in his city, it seems that this is the work of other agencies in Pakistan that operate outside the law and civilian control.” “Indian citizens are, therefore, advised that it would be unsafe for them to travel or be in Pakistan,” Prakash said.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

New Ploy: Pak Blames Indians for Blast

NEW DELHI: Even as India persists with its protests against Pakistan’s refusal to take action against the perpetrators of 26/11, Islamabad’s diversionary tactics have touched a new low.

On Thursday, Pakistan pulled another rabbit out of its hat. That the car bomb blast in Lahore on Wednesday, which left a woman dead and 3 others injured, was triggered by four Indians.

Pakistan media, quoting anonymous sources, identified one of the bombers as one Satish Anand Shukla, allegedly a resident of Kolkata.

The stunt, clearly fabricated to justify inaction against Lashkar leaders by drawing a parity between the jihadis who attacked Mumbai and fictional Indian agents, left Indian officials seething with anger.

Senior Indian officials were quick to rubbish the reports in Pakistan media, saying this had not been conveyed to any Indian agency by Islamabad. The Indian High Commission in Islamabad too denied having received any information from the Pakistanis.

“Nothing has been conveyed officially and we suspect this is yet another ploy to divert attention from the real issue, which is to bring the guilty in Mumbai attacks to justice. We don’t believe these reports are true and if they are, we would like Pakistan to inform us officially,’’ said a highly placed source, adding that it was mischievous on the part of Pakistan authorities not to have confirmed or denied it.

Aghast at the crude ploy, officials also said that India would not have chosen this moment to trigger off a blast in Pakistan, knowing that the bellicose neighbour would leap upon even a small excuse to justify its refusal to cooperate with the Mumbai probe…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Pak Warns of Stern Response, Intensifies Troop Movement

Lahore, Dec 25: Sabre-rattling from Pakistan reached a new level on Thursday as its Foreign Minister warned India of “stern response” to any surgical strikes and Pakistani armed forces marched towards Jhelum.

Pakistan did not want war but is ready to defend its frontiers, Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in his hometown of Multan. If India made the “mistake of carrying out a surgical strike”, Pakistan will deal sternly with such an eventuality. Pakistan has purportedly moved its tenth brigade to Lahore and ordered its third Armed Brigade to march towards Jhelum.

It has also reportedly put its 10th and 11th divisions on high alert. Unconfirmed reports have said militants have also been stationed along with the Army at the said locations.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Pakistan Moves Troops Toward Indian Border

Pakistan began moving thousands of troops away from the Afghan border toward India on Friday amid tensions following the Mumbai attacks, intelligence officials said.

The move represents a sharp escalation in the stand off between the nuclear-armed neighbors and stands to weaken Pakistan’s U.S.-backed campaign against al-Qaida and Taliban close to Afghanistan.

Two intelligence officials said the army’s 14th Division was being redeployed to Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border. They said some 20,000 troops were on the move. Earlier Friday, a security official said that all troop leave had been canceled.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

‘What Fuels Global Terror & the Palestinian Conflict? Islamic Intolerance, Supremacism, & Imperialism,’ Claims Muslim-Reformist.

Sikh clergyman calls for public pressure to reform ‘Holy War’ from Isalmic practice

Brought together by empathy for the victims of the pious, Jewish victims of Kashmiri ‘unholy’ warriors, Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Sikh leader and Muslim-reformist call for a global reform of Islamic supremacy and imperialism. They feel that the world and Muslims must acknowledge and address this problem candidly.

Nirinjan Singh Khalsa, Executive Director of the California Sikh Council, says, “Any community of good and light has to stand together against this darkness and evil (Jihad). Evil flourishes when good people do nothing. It’s important that all communities together join to stop this insanity of terrorism.” Kashmir’s population which is 97% Muslim is less than 1% Sikh.

Egyptian born, Muslim-raised author Nonie Darwish explains, “Islamic cultural violence and political terror is a plague upon all peoples who must join to eradicate it from Islam.

The issue is not the land over Palestine- that’s the lie. It is not a land dispute. This is a religious, Holy War against any nation that rules itself, but not under Islamic leadership. And what is the closest autonomous, non-Muslim nation to the heart of the Middle East? It is Israel. And that is the truth. And until Muslims face that truth and admit it to the world instead of playing games and killing all these innocent people… We must face our internal problems — we (Muslims) must look within.”

Ms. Nonie Darwish just released her second book “Cruel and Usual Punishment: The terrifying global effects of Sharia law.” Amazon’s product description reads:

Nonie Darwish presents an insider’s look at Sharia and examines how radical Muslim laws are destroying the Western world from within. Cruel and Usual Punishment is an insider’s look at how Muslims sacrifice their basic human rights to obey the archaic and brutal laws handed down to their prophet centuries ago. Heed this warning: Sharia Law is attempting to infiltrate Western culture and destroy democracy.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Far East

China: US Should Return 17 Chinese Terror Suspects if Guantanamo Closed

Beijing announced on Tuesday it will demand the return of 17 muslim terror national suspects if President-elect Barack Obama decided to close the US military prison of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obama has promised to close the prison because it now represents aggressive detention and torture.

“The 17 terror suspects imprisoned in the U.S. military base of Guantanamo Bay are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which has been listed as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations,” said Qin Gang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. “For these terror suspects, the Chinese government has always requested they be sent back to China and firmly opposes any country accepting them,” he added. However, Washington detain them at Guantanamo because if it send them back to China, they are likely to face oppression.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Japan Auto Production Marks Worst Drop Since 1967

Vehicle production in Japan, home to Toyota Motor Corp. and other major automakers, plunged 20.4 percent in November compared to the same month a year ago to 854,171 vehicles, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said.

That marked the second straight month of on-year declines and the percentage slide was the biggest since the group began compiling such data in 1967, it said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

China Sends Navy to Fight Somali Pirates

Three Chinese navy ships, armed with special forces, helicopters and missiles, are on their way to join the international anti-piracy task force patrolling the waters off Somalia.

The three vessels — two destroyers and a supply ship — will sail from the southern island province of Hainan later today. China announced it was joining the anti-piracy mission on Tuesday after the UN Security Council authorized nations to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases.

It marks a break in tradition for the modern Chinese navy, which usually confines itself to patrolling coastal waters.

It has been spurred into wider action by the escalation of pirate attacks on merchant ships, including Chinese vessels, plying the shipping route linking Asia and Europe.

The three vessels — the missile-armed destroyers DDG-171 Haikou and DDG-169 Wuhan and the Weishanhu supply ship — are among the most sophisticated in the Chinese navy, all entering service this decade, the Xinhua news agency said.

China’s willingness to send ships so far from home is the latest example of the growing power and confidence of the country’s navy.

In recent years, the military has been stocking up on warships, planes, missiles and other weapons — a beef-up that has worried its neighbors.

The US and Australia have both expressed concern about China’s military build-up and its lack of transparency. Kevin Rudd, Australia’s Prime Minister, warned recently that Asia was in the grip of an arms race.

Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii, said while the move was a positive sign that China was willing to use its fire-power for constructive purposes, it raised unsettling questions over the country’s military buildup.

“The Chinese deployment gets at a question the US and other governments have been asking: ‘Why the big Chinese military buildup when no country threatens China?’ Or more bluntly, ‘Why do the Chinese need a blue-water navy when the US Navy already polices the world’s oceans?’ he asked.

China has said the mission’s purpose was to protect Chinese ships and crews that have come under attack from pirates.

The vessels would also be willing to share intelligence and conduct humanitarian rescue operations with other countries involved in the anti-piracy efforts, Senior Colonel. Huang Xueping, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, said.

The two Chinese destroyers — the Haikou and Wuhan — will carry special forces, two helicopters and traditional weapons such as missiles and cannons. Colonel Huang did not say how long the mission will last, but a Communist Party newspaper has said the ships would be away about three months.

Pirates have made an estimated $30 million hijacking ships for ransom this year, seizing more than 40 vessels off Somalia’s 1,880-mile coastline.

On Thursday, a German military helicopter rescued an Egyptian ship from pirates who shot and injured a crew member while trying to board the vessel off the Somali coast, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


UK: Secret Gag Orders Undermine Core Western Values

This month saw a secret UK court hearing, with secret participants, produce a secret order to secretly gag the population, the terms of which are secret and the revelation of which is punishable by upto 15 years of imprisonment. How many of these orders exist is unknowable—we glimpse at the severity of the problem only when the orders are violated.

Secret gag actions are usually associated with the likes of Saudi-Arabia, China or North Korea. Closed-door justice in the UK is not only detrimental to the state of British democracy, it permits repressive regimes across to point to the UK for validation.


In the last five years Britain has become the the world’s largest arms exporter, the preferred home of Russian and middle-eastern oligarchs, the world center for “libel tourism” and, as far as we can tell, the Western capital of secret gag orders.

Only a week ago, on December 17, the High Court of London gave the go ahead for a libel tourism action against the New York Times.

The same day the Hon. Denis MacShane (Labour) with two MPs from other parties, told Westminster that UK courts had become a “Soviet-style organ of censorship”.

The UK has recently introduced a national Internet censorship scheme, a national ID card and is about to spend 12 billion pounds pushing the British population’s web-searches, emails, sms messages and telephone callings records through a central database run by its spy agency, GCHQ.

This month also saw British police go into Parliament, without a warrant, and rifle through the files of a senior member of the opposition, the Hon. Damian Green MP, who was alleged to have leaked trivial details about immigration policy to the press.

What’s left? The Gulag?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Children’s Books Use Christmas to Push Global Warming Agenda

Global warming alarmists, picking up where the Grinch left off, are trying to steal Christmas, some critics say. From children’s books to school plays, the climate change crowd is dreaming of a green Christmas, angering opponents who say ‘tis NOT the season to be preachy.

The children’s book “Santa Goes Green” by Anne Margaret Lewis tells how a young boy named Finn gets Santa to leave the North Pole to help him track down Leopold, a polar bear he has adopted, because the sea ice is melting and Leopold’s home is in danger.

“You see, it’s like this Santa,” Finn tells Santa in the book. “I’ve adopted a polar bear named Leopold. He is in danger of losing his home. I’m sure you being in the North Pole you know about the melting glaciers. All I want this year Santa, is to save Leopold and his home.”

Santa is so inspired by his visit to the polar bear that he decides to re-use last year’s wrapping paper, recycle toys and start using wind to generate power for his toy shop.

The book ends with a note from Santa urging kids to send him notes on how to take care of the planet.

But the content has left some reviewers feeling bearish about the book. “The global climate change alarmists are now trying brainwash our kids by infusing their unproven and baseless climate change rhetoric into Santa books,” T. Wilkinson wrote on, giving “Santa Goes Green” a one-star review.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

It’s Cold Outside, But Global Warming Industry Still Hard at Work

[Comments from JD: Stripping of citizenship if global warming denied!? See last paragraph in excerpt below.]

The most expensive secret you’re not supposed to know is that George W. Bush leaves office with the planet cooler than when he entered. This dangerous trend threatens the multi-billion dollar “global warming” industry, adding new urgency to the ritual shriek of “we must act now!” in the scramble to impose a costly regime of mandates and energy taxes.

The global warming industry’s tactics already range from comical to reprehensible. As a result of a cooling atmosphere — which thanks to the “global cooling” panic we began measuring in 1979 — you are distracted with irrelevant surface temperatures. This is possibly because more than 90% of our surface thermometer network is in violation of rules for locating the instruments. For example, why are so many now on asphalt parking lots, black tar roofs, airport tarmacs, and even hanging directly above barbeque grills?

Such childishness is only the tip of the iceberg of outrages employed to advance an ideological agenda. Our schools torment those whom they are charged with protecting from abuse, with night terrors among the less egregious outcomes. Their brainwashing includes hate mail campaigns to skeptics, reporting on their parents? willingness to adopt an agenda, and even emotional breakdown requiring institutionalization.

High government officials around the world abuse their powers to expand government’s powers. The media moved from pushing catastrophism in order to sell copy, to expressly abandoning journalistic principles and declaring that, regarding global warming, “balance is bias.”

Last year, after Kevin Rudd was elected Australia’s Prime Minister, he addressed a gathering of that nation’s “best and brightest” pondering how to achieve their policy dreams. One idea floated was to strip Aussies of their citizenship if they expressed doubts about man-made climate catastrophe. So as to not be extremist, however, this allowed for the prospect of restoring one’s standing upon — you guessed it — reeducation.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Princeton Physicist Calls Global Warming Science “Mistaken”

Scientist fired by Al Gore was told, “science will not intrude on public policy”.

Noted energy expert and Princeton physicist Dr. Will Happer has sharply criticized global warming alarmism. Happer, author of over 200 scientific papers and a past director of energy research at the Department of Energy, called fears over global warming “mistaken”.

“I have spent a long research career studying physics that is closely related to the greenhouse effect”, said Happer. “Fears about man-made global warming are unwarranted and are not based on good science.”

Dr. Happer views climate change as a predominately natural process. “The earth’s climate is changing now, as it always has. There is no evidence that the changes differ in any qualitative way from those of the past.”

In 1991, Happer was appointed director of energy research for the US Department of Energy. In 1993, he testified before Congress that the scientific data didn’t support widespread fears about the dangers of the ozone hole and global warming, remarks that caused then-Vice President Al Gore to fire him. “I was told that science was not going to intrude on public policy”, he said. “I did not need the job that badly”.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Secret of the Lusitania: Arms Find Challenges Allied Claims it Was Solely a Passenger Ship

Her sinking with the loss of almost 1,200 lives caused such outrage that it propelled the U.S. into the First World War.

But now divers have revealed a dark secret about the cargo carried by the Lusitania on its final journey in May 1915.

Munitions they found in the hold suggest that the Germans had been right all along in claiming the ship was carrying war materials and was a legitimate military target.

The Cunard vessel, steaming from New York to Liverpool, was sunk eight miles off the Irish coast by a U-boat.

Maintaining that the Lusitania was solely a passenger vessel, the British quickly accused the ‘Pirate Hun’ of slaughtering civilians.

The disaster was used to whip up anti-German anger, especially in the U.S., where 128 of the 1,198 victims came from.

A hundred of the dead were children, many of them under two.

Robert Lansing, the U.S. secretary of state, later wrote that the sinking gave him the ‘conviction we would ultimately become the ally of Britain’.

Americans were even told, falsely, that German children were given a day off school to celebrate the sinking of the Lusitania.

The disaster inspired a multitude of recruitment posters demanding vengeance for the victims.


Gregg Bemis, an American businessman who owns the rights to the wreck and is funding its exploration, said: ‘Those four million rounds of .303s were not just some private hunter’s stash.

‘Now that we’ve found it, the British can’t deny any more that there was ammunition on board. That raises the question of what else was on board.

‘There were literally tons and tons of stuff stored in unrefrigerated cargo holds that were dubiously marked cheese, butter and oysters.

‘I’ve always felt there were some significant high explosives in the holds — shells, powder, gun cotton — that were set off by the torpedo and the inflow of water. That’s what sank the ship.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Terror Threat in France

The article below, originally published on the Vlaams Belang website on December 22, was translated for Gates of Vienna by our Flemish correspondent VH:

Terror threat in France

Last week the French capital Paris was startled by a new terrorist threat. Last Tuesday the famous department store Printemps was evacuated after a bomb threat. Not without reason, as it turned out: in the toilets of the department store, five (albeit useless) sticks of dynamite were found.

The letter that warned of the attack was placed in the postbox of the AFP news agency earlier that day. “Tell your President that he must withdraw French troops from Afghanistan before the end of February 2009, otherwise we will take action against your big capitalist stores, without warning you in advance,” the message read. The letter was signed by the “Afghan Revolutionary Front,” an organization totally unknown to the intelligence services.

At first glance one would think that this is a group of Muslim extremists, but the French State Security does not exclude anything, and prefers to think of “left-wing extremist groups,” wrote (17.12.08). “The language is not that of Islamists,” says Gerard Gachet, spokesman of the French interior minister, in Le Monde (17.12.08). According to him, the bomb threat contained blatant inconsistencies “Islamists think and act according to their religion. In every sentence of every letter they write, they refer to their faith. The only legitimacy of their actions is their faith. “References to “big capitalist shops” have not been seen before, according to Gachet.

– – – – – – – –

In recent weeks in Belgium, surprisingly many messages on Muslim extremists have also appeared. First there was the threat video, then the arrest of 14 persons who had links with Al Qaeda and were planning to commit an attack, and finally the articles in Knack on Muslim fundamentalism in Antwerp. A video appeared in which this Muslim extremism became apparent. The [undercover] video was recorded in an Antwerp mosque and shows a young man who threatens Vlaams Belang leader Filip Dewinter with death. Watch the disturbing images here. Also in France, Last Monday seven Muslim extremists were arrested, who are suspected of cooperating with Malika el Aroud, one of those arrested in our country.

Violent left-wing groups also make themselves heard. Just look at the ongoing riots and destruction in Greece. This violence has also spread to other European countries such as Spain [and Norway, and Sweden], and also to our country: the “left-wing anarchists” are on a violent rampage. On Monday, following a demonstration by the “Anti-capitalist Front”, some fifty rioters wreaked havoc in a Ghent shopping area. They used concrete clubs to smash the windows of several shops, and also threw bricks and paint bombs. Nineteen people were arrested.

France is in any case arranging all the necessary precautions. The highest state of alert was declared, and during the Christmas holidays there will be more than 2,500 additional officers deployed in French cities.

Rosengård is Not Unique

Our Swedish correspondent LN emailed us on Christmas Day to report on the latest from the Swedish Intifada:

Tensta riotsNew riots in Tensta, Stockholm tonight 24-25 — lots of fires and explosives, burning tires and cars. Police say the age of rioters is 13 to 16. Two outbursts — then nothing at 1:00 a.m. — then the police went home; new riots started at 6:00 this morning.

LN has kindly translated an op-ed from a Swedish newspaper. Here’s what he had to say about it:

This is an interesting piece of journalism — from Tuesday’s Expressen. It is, I suppose, just on the border of what officially can be printed, without the author being symbolically decapitated — probably you must be an old fox in the publishing world like Ulf Nilsson to get away with partially telling the truth like this.

Concerning Ulf Nilson, Steen says this (as translated by LN):

Nilson is about as tough and frank as can be published in a Swedish newspaper. And it’s not really all that tough, given what is at stake, but Nilson bills himself as being without “editorial modification”; well, call it censorship. In June a former UN officer formulated the whole horror scenario in a very unusual article: Sweden on the road to disaster. Stronger warnings are hard to come by.

And now the translation of Mr. Nilson’s op-ed:

Ulf Nilson: Unfortunately, Rosengård is not unique.

Malmö riotsRosengård exploded. Night after night there were bangs and detonations and fires. In newspapers and on the television we saw pictures that showed quite a different Sweden.

A Sweden in the middle of some kind of war. A Sweden full of policemen with shields and truncheons and all around them people with excited faces, sometimes knowingly frightened.

We can call them the ‘Rosengård Faces’, most of them Swedish for many long years, but still hardly Swedish — this is simply what it is all about.

Unfortunately, Rosengård is not unique. In Landskrona, 40 km north of Rosengård, there are serious problems, as well as in tiny Laholm (of all places). Gothenburg and Stockholm have heavily affected areas, and in Södertälje, police have not in a long time dared to appear without being escorted by — the police. The same applies to the most significant socially useful public institution that there is: the fire-department. Constant trouble and fights, constant stone-throwing — without protection there is no fire-extinguishing!

Just reflect for one second. Is it not utter madness that people are throwing stones at firefighters who are there to extinguish fires? Answer: yes, it’s insanity, but a very common form of insanity in those areas where cultures (try finding a better word) collide and people are getting on badly, feel marginalized, despised, depressed, kept out (try finding better words).

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For many years, too many, we who have reported on the mass-immigration problems have been told that we are xenophobic, that we are some kind of “folk-home-Nazis” (probably with a picture of Adolf in our wallets). We have been accused of voting for the Sweden Democrats, being in favor of discrimination and being against — yes, I do not know it all…

The truth is that what we have criticized — when we had the chance — is our own Swedish way of managing immigration. Everything went gallantly for all those years when we needed manpower. In the 1950s and 1960s Italians, Greeks, Yugoslavs, and some others arrived to find good jobs and excellent opportunities for adaptation and integration.

CANON: what we call integration, meaning that people of different kinds are living together in a civilized fashion, really happened then. Later new floods of strangers arrived, sometimes on the run from war and persecution, but at least just as often for economic reasons. We have received far too many in too short a time — I’ve written it before, and I write it once again right now.

Xenophobic, that’s what that is!


We were simply ill-prepared. No jobs — unemployment among the new arrivals has been sky-high for decades! — and there has been much discrimination.

Residence in ghettos (I cannot be bothered to list all the names) with all the problems that come with ghetto life: the most important being to get a crystal clear division between “us” and “them”, “the others”, “those who are not like us”.

Ordinary people have long been aware of the contradictions and problems, while the so-called elite has for a very long time chosen denial. Many have not even — and this is incredible! — noticed that the teaching of Swedish language (SFI), here in Sweden, has been totally inadequate.

In short, Rosengård, and the various ongoing outbreaks of riots, fights, gang violence and crime in different ghettos show us that we have to wake up — an pull up our socks.

Education, especially in Swedish, job creation (how do you do that?) and much greater efforts by the state, by municipalities, by various associations and by individuals, are needed to bring the various groups into positive contact.

The truth is that now we must succeed. Otherwise it will not be nice to live in the future Sweden…

Acting Locally

Our national capital correspondent Tuan Jim sent us an email with his thoughts about the current political situation in the United States and Europe:

The more I read some different postings from people, I have to wonder if Europeans share the same definition of “civic virtue” that we traditionally use in the US. For a point of reference, I know we have US posters here that are veterans, what about our European friends? I spent four years on active duty with the army in Iraq, Korea and elsewhere. I’m currently in the reserves although I’m in the process of applying to return to duty with a different service. I’ve been considering public service in local politics for a while now as well — but I don’t necessarily see it happening particularly soon — depending on where I get stationed.

I’m very curious if any of our European friends have served in the military — either as conscripts or volunteers? Have any worked in the police force or local government or run for local office? I know that there are many incredibly patriotic Europeans serving their countries in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world on many different missions — I’m curious if any of them are among the regular readers and posters here as well?

I’m curious if some of the disconnect I see regarding personal civil responsibility (at least in recent comments) is due to different experiences regarding public service in one sphere or another. I know that my world view was greatly shaped by twelve living in Southeast Asia, but things have changed greatly since then, and four years serving my country, particularly coming after university, has given me a whole new appreciation for civic duty — and a better understanding of what it means to serve for the good of the body politic — whether or not I voted for one president or another. I know many of the people I served with over the years are among the most politically knowledgeable and civically minded folks I’ve ever met.

I realize that we have come to regard blogs such as Gates of Vienna, not to mention essays by folks like Fjordman, to be exceptionally good outlets of information and opinions on topics that most of us consider do not receive enough or proper coverage in other media sources. That said, how many of us have actually taken the initiative to get seriously, physically involved in our communities? Sure we complain about how the local parties don’t represent us — but do we try and change them — or try to work independently?

A lot of what seems insurmountable on the national level begins at the local level. Simultaneously, we are beginning to see a shift in the balance of some parties in many European countries as well — as evidenced by many recent news articles in the feed. The Danish Peoples Party is gaining votes. The opposition parties in Austria picked up seats. The conservatives in Sweden, Finland and Norway are all gaining popularity as well.

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People across the EU continue to argue against the loss of national sovereignty while still appreciating the tangible benefits that the Union has also brought in more limited measures. The changes we have previously seen and posted on and railed about are not permanent by any stretch of the imagination, nor are they insurmountable in the long run if we just care enough to get involved.

Conferences like Pro-Cologne and the like are a great start, but Cologne itself is a long way (not necessarily in physical distance) from Charlottesville, Denver, Manchester, Prague, Milan, Vancouver, Copenhagen and Malmö. If we don’t care enough to get involved locally in our own neighborhoods, communities, states and even countries, does it really matter?

If you don’t care enough to regularly meet with your kid’s teachers at school with the PTA (in the US) or the local equivalent — how can you complain later about what’s being taught in the local schools? Sure we post articles about other parents complaining about one thing or another — but do we (those of us with kids) take the time to find out what our kids are actually studying and take it up with the local school board — or to the local media if necessary? There are certainly enough outlets interested in publishing stories on controversial issues when they are found.

These are just a few things that have been running through my mind over the last day or so following some of our recent discussions. Hopefully they’ll give us pause as we consider ways to better change our world this next year — one step at a time. Really hoping to hear back from some Euro Vets too.

Happy New Year, everybody!