Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/14/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/14/2009Don’t miss the photos of the Czech sculpture on display in Brussels. Each country in the sculpture is represented by an… er… unusual sculpted map. Romania is a Castle Dracula theme park, Italy is a football pitch, and Denmark is made of Lego. But go see what image is formed in the Lego — I’m not going to spoil the suspense by telling you…

Thanks to Aeneas, Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, Gaia, Holger Danske, Insubria, Islam in Action, JD, KGS, SS, Tuan Jim, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Al-Qaida Recruits at U.S. Mosques
Big Brother’s New Target: Tracking of All Firearms
Bush Grants Federal Aid for Obama Inauguration
Feds Cite Racist Chatter for ‘Higher State of Alert’ in Inauguration
Globalists ‘Salivating’ Over Collapse of U.S.
Is the Trans-Texas Corridor Dead?
Soros Flunky Runs Obama Pro-UN Policy
U.S.-Based Imam Urges Muslims to Join the Gaza Battlefield
Editorial: Canada Chooses to Betray Palestinians
Europe and the EU
Czech Sculptor Cerny Apologises to Govt for EU Mystification
Denmark: Musician Accused in Rape Case
Denmark: Bomb Squad After Demonstration
EU: Entropa Project to be Presented in Prague After Brussels
Finland: Vanhanen Speaks Out Against Racism
Finland: Plan to Forcibly Medicate Paedophiles in the Works
France: in Aubervilliers, Atmosphere is Tense
Gaza in the Netherlands
Gaza: France, Molotov Hits Jewish Place of Worship in Alsatia
Ireland: Dissident IRA Threat on the Rise
Italy: Warns Muslims to Stop Protesting
Norway: Fear Demonstrations Lead to More Racism
Outrage Over Demonstration in Germany
Russian Oligarch Alexander Lebedev to Buy London Evening Standard
Sweden: Jewish Burial Chapel Attacked in Malmö
Sweden to Ban Mercury
UK: Half of Teenagers Leave School Unable to Read, Write or Add Properly
UK: Waltham Forest: Imam Warning Over ‘Jihad’ Posters
Croatia: Frattini, Satisfied With Protection of Minority
Kosovo: Turkey to Support Recognition Within Islamic States
North Africa
Gaza: Egyptian Protest, 180 of Moslem Brotherhood Arrested
Terrorism: Algeria, Woman and Child Killed in West
Tunisia: Appeal Trial for Gafsa Demonstrators
Israel and the Palestinians
Bin Laden Urges Jihad Against Israel
For the First Time, Gaza Militants Fire Phosphorus Shell at Israel
‘Iranians Are Pro-Israel’ — Part II
Rocket Attack on Northern Israel From Lebanon
Spiegel Interview With Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
Middle East
Frattini Wants ‘Constructive’ Hezbollah
Iran Tries 4 in Alleged U.S.-Backed Coup Plot
Iran Fires at Ahwazi Arabs During Pro-Palestinian Protest
Jordanians Burn Mubarak’s Pictures in Anti-Israel Demo
Saudis Cut Oil Output Beyond OPEC Limit
Europe: The Gas Hostages
Ukraine Admits Blocking Gas to Europe
South Asia
India: Joint Afghan-Indian Statement Denounces Terrorism
Indonesia, Netherlands to Strive for Cease-Fire in Gaza
Pakistan: Abducted Protestant Clergyman Freed in Peshawar, With Signs of Torture on His Body
Sub-Saharan Africa
British Ship Escapes Somali Pirates
Chinese Army Protects Taiwanese Ship From Somali Pirates
Ethiopian Troops Begin Pulling Out of Somalia
Mauritania: Chinese Investments for Nouakchott Port
Norwegian Ship Attacked by Pirates
Piracy: Turkish Ship Released by Somali Pirates
Russian Navy Thwarts Pirate Attack on Dutch Ship
South Africa: Where Have All the Whites Gone That I Used to Know?
Latin America
Chavez — a Worse Threat Than Bin Laden?
Ex-Terrorist Gets Asylum in Brazil
Kuwaiti MP Calls to Move Arab League to Caracas
Immigration: Weather Stops Migrant’s Transfer South of Malta
Immigration: Maroni, Drastic Fall With Libya Agreement
Libya Treaty to be Ratified by End of Month, Frattini Says
More Iraqis at Risk of Losing Asylum Appeals in Sweden
Culture Wars
CU’s College Democrats Oppose Hiring of Right-Wing Prof
UK: The Secular War Against Religion in Schools


Al-Qaida Recruits at U.S. Mosques

WASHINGTON — He was 17 years old and lived with his mother in Minneapolis.

On election night, while the world watched one man of African descent make headlines in the United States, Burhaan Hassan and several others were about to make news as well.

Hassan and a few friends slipped away from their homes that night and boarded an airplane bound for Kenya. Their final destination was Somalia — allegedly to fight alongside al-Qaida-inspired militants against what’s left of the Somali government.

Startling, but not unusual, their stories raise questions: How did children who relied on their single mothers for an allowance pay for one-way flights from the the U.S. to Kenya?

And who sent them?

“The FBI has had reports that some young men have left America to travel back to Somalia to fight in a cause that they’ve have chosen to fight in,” FBI spokesman Rich Kolko says.

This sequence of events has sent shock waves through Somali communities across the country.

“We are very much concerned about our young people going back to fight back home,” says Ahmed Elmi, chairman of the Somali-American Community Association (SACA) in Washington, D.C.

While extremely concerned, Elmi is skeptical.

“We don’t really have any evidence to believe that such things have happened,” Elmi says. “The law enforcement officers have not come forward about their findings. There’s cases that they have reported, but there is not enough information available, so we don’t know the extent to which this thing is happening, and if it’s really something that’s happening.”

The skepticism also rises from an undercurrent that has coursed through the U.S. since the Sept. 11 attacks. Many Muslims living in the U.S. and other countries say they’ve seen a backlash against them and their religion.

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, Muqtedar Khan, author of “American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom”, wrote, “the American government itself has become a threat to our civil rights.”

But another threat is lurking in their own communities: terrorist recruiters.

A journalist working for the Warsun Times, a small online newspaper that covers Somali affairs in Minneapolis, made a very bold statement.

“The Mosque brainwashed those kids,” he said, suggesting the recruiters are working inside mosques in Minneapolis and other locations throughout the nation.

He talked with WTOP on the condition of anonymity, because of concerns about community backlash.

But another man, Abdizirak Bihi, is not worried about a backlash. The Warsun Times reporter told WTOP he stood up at a community meeting and stunned the crowd saying, “My nephew, a U.S. citizen from Minneapolis, was brain-washed, smuggled to Somalia and he blew himself up.”

Bihi added, “There were two of them (suicide bombers) and the American government knew about it because they were (American) citizens and the American government returned their remains to the U.S.”

Kolko says the FBI is working with the Somali-American community to reach out to the boys that may be vulnerable to the recruiters.

“The FBI is aware of this issue and we’re certainly concerned about it and we know that the Somali-American community is equally concerned because these are their children and their family members,” Kolko says.

Despite his skepticism, Elmi’s organization is working in the Washington Metropolitan area to warn young men that going off to Somalia to fight effectively means they’re closing the door to the U.S. for good.

“A lot of the immigrants and families run away from the conditions in Somalia,” Elmi says. “And it’s inconceivable to think about people who are going back to fight back home for something they’ve left their country for.”

Kolko says going back to fight is “not a good cause of action” and trouble awaits them in the U.S. should they try to return.

“If someone comes back from anywhere in the world that has had terrorism training, the FBI would do the things that are necessary to help protect America,” Kolko says.

These cases seem to reveal the reasons federal law enforcement across the country are paying close, but respectful attention to activities inside mosques.

Their focus sharpened in June of 2005 when a Korea Airlines flight from San Francisco was diverted to Japan. Authorities nabbed al-Qaida suspect Hamid Hayat and his father Umer, from Lodi, Calif.

“They came to our attention at least a year and a half before,” says Frank Scafidi, now retired from the FBI Sacramento Field office.

“We began collecting information about him and his father Umer. Who their associates were, what their travels were, and were any of those activities something that we should be concerned about,” Scafidi says.

Scafidi confirms the Hayats’ mosques were a focal point of their investigation.

The younger Hayat admitted that he attended an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan to learn how to kill Americans. He’s serving a long prison term. His father plead guilty to lesser charges.

(Copyright 2009 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

J.J. Green,

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]

Big Brother’s New Target: Tracking of All Firearms

‘This is nothing less than a declaration of war on American gun owners’

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., is hoping to pass a firearm-licensing bill that will significantly rewrite gun-ownership laws in America.

Among the more controversial provisions of the bill are requirements that all handgun owners submit to the federal government a photo, thumb print and mental heath records. Further, the bill would order the attorney general to establish a database of every handgun sale, transfer and owner’s address in America.


If passed, the bill would make it illegal to own or possess a “qualifying firearm” — defined as any handgun or any semiautomatic firearm that takes an ammunition clip — without a “Blair Holt” license.

To obtain a “Blair Holt” license, an application must be made that includes a photo, address, all previous aliases, thumb print, completion of a written firearm safety test, release of mental health records to the attorney general and a fee not to exceed $25.

Further, the bill makes it illegal to transfer ownership of a qualifying firearm to anyone who is not a licensed gun dealer or collector. Exceptions to this rule include transfer to family members by gift or bequest and loans, not to exceed 30 days, of a firearm for lawful purposes “between persons who are personally known to each other.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Bush Grants Federal Aid for Obama Inauguration

President declares state of emergency so president-elect may use funds

President Bush declared a state of emergency in the District of Columbia today and ordered the use of federal funds for Barack Obama’s inauguration.

“An emergency exists in the District of Columbia,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said in a statement.

In the next week, as many as 2 million people are expected to travel to the area from all over the world to see Obama become the 44th president of the United States.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Feds Cite Racist Chatter for ‘Higher State of Alert’ in Inauguration

Federal agents are on “a higher state of alert” because of hate talk by white supremacists about Barack Obama’s Inauguration, officials told the New York Daily News on Tuesday.

“That chatter is out there, no doubt about it,” one senior FBI agent in Washington told me this afternoon, adding that no credible plots against the 56th Presidential Inauguration have been detected.

The Bureau has ordered agents in all 56 field offices to “shake the trees” in advance of the Jan. 20 swearing-in of the 44th President, who will become the first African-American to occupy the Oval Office. “They’re talking to sources to determine if there is any threat information in regard to the Inauguration,” the FBI source said.

“Everybody in law enforcement dealing with that particular white supremacist ‘clientele’ is on a higher state of alert,” a senior agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told The News.

The ATF has expertise infiltrating white supremacist groups. A classified threat assessment for the Inauguration by the FBI and Homeland Security Department citing agitated hate groups was sent to police agencies this week.

Counterterrorism officials have also picked up chatter from Islamic militants, but the agitated domestic hate groups are “the big concern,” said another FBI official.

But Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told reporters at a briefing with local officials: “We have no credible intelligence to suggest a credible threat to Obama’s Inauguration.”

During Obama’s campaign, white racists in Colorado and Tennessee were charged in separate plots against the candidat

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Globalists ‘Salivating’ Over Collapse of U.S.

Warning issued over drive for Constitution Convention

Globalists are “salivating” over the possibility of a Constitutional Convention at which issues such as the 2nd Amendment could handily be dismissed, according to a leader who warns Virginia likely is the next target for the drive.

“There is no question in my mind that, should a new Constitutional Convention be called, it would be the end of the United States of America as we know it, and our current Constitution and Bill of Rights would be forever altered beyond recognition,” Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin wrote in his latest commentary.

“The globalists who currently control Washington, D.C., and Wall Street are, no doubt, salivating over the opportunity to officially dismantle America’s independence and national sovereignty, and establish a globalist North American Union — in much the same way that globalists created the European Union. A new Constitutional Convention is exactly the tool they need to cement their sinister scheme into law.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Is the Trans-Texas Corridor Dead?

Gov. Rick Perry and TxDOT want you to think so

“Still,” Corsi says, “close examination shows Perry’s declaration from Iraq involves yet more public relations efforts by the governor and TxDOT to defuse criticism from voters and reposition a hugely unpopular initiative by dropping the designation ‘Trans-Texas Corridor,’ or ‘TTC,’ while still allowing TxDOT to proceed with the components of the original TTC plan that had been scheduled for implementation now.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Bailout for Trial Lawyers

Barack Obama has been preaching that our economy is in crisis and Congress absolutely must pass another mammoth stimulus package right now. “Today’s jobs report,” he said, “only underscores the need to move with a sense of urgency and common purpose.”

But, alas, his first legislative priority is a stimulus package for trial lawyers and liberal-feminist special-interest groups. The only things these two bills will stimulate is more litigation and a further exodus of jobs out of the United States.

President-elect Obama has promised to sign these bills if the Senate passes them. They are loaded with real money, so they are a big payback to the lawyers and feminists who supported him and the Democrats in 2008.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would eliminate the current statute of limitations (either 180 or 300 days, depending on the state of employment) on discrimination claims so that a worker can sue in federal court for alleged pay discrimination 20 years earlier. This bill would reverse the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would remove existing statutory caps and allow for unlimited money damages to be awarded, even without proof of discriminatory intent. It would mandate new federal “guidelines” about the relative worth of different types of jobs, a long-sought feminist goal called “comparable worth,” which means imposing wage control by freezing wages of jobs traditionally held by men and inflating wages of jobs traditionally held by women.

Obviously, these bills would expose large and small companies to vast new liabilities extending back decades. What our economy needs now is for business to hire more workers, but they are not going to do that if it means exposing themselves to expensive and frivolous litigation. […]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Inauguration Attractive Target for Terrorists

Although no credible or specific threat is being reported or investigated, the upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama is no doubt an attractive target for both international and domestic terrorists.

According to AP sources, an internal intelligence assessment, says the high visibility of the event, the presence of dignitaries and the significance of swearing in America’s first black president make the inauguration vulnerable to attacks.

What concerns analysts most, the report says, is the potential use of improvised explosive devices, a hostage situation or suicide bombers.

While security will be tight around the U.S. Capitol, the joint FBI and Homeland Security assessment says nearby hotels, public gatherings, restaurants and roads could be vulnerable to some kind of attack.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said security concerns during inaugurations have been elevated since the 2001 terror attacks. “I think it will be the most security, as far as I’m aware, that any inauguration has had,” Chertoff said in an interview .

Chertoff also said there is no specific intelligence pointing to terrorist plots during the event.

“We have scrubbed very hard to look at anything that would suggest a credible, imminent threat or one that was specifically focused on the inauguration,” Chertoff said, though not referring to the intelligence assessment. “We’re not, at this point, aware of a credible, specific, imminent threat that would affect the inauguration.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Soros Flunky Runs Obama Pro-UN Policy

[JD: This is nothing less than several steps towards making the USA subservient to the UN. Spread this article URL far and wide across the blogosphere — this issue is that important.]

In violation of Barack Obama’s promise to run an open and transparent transition to the next administration, an associate of convicted document thief Sandy Berger has been secretly meeting with far-left groups under the auspices of the Obama-Biden Transition Project to develop a range of pro-U.N. policies. These include placing “more [U.N.] blue helmets on U.S. troops” and forcing the U.S. to join the U.N.’s International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC is an international entity that could prosecute American citizens and soldiers for “war crimes” and other offenses, in violation of U.S. Constitutional protections.

The ICC treaty was signed by President Clinton, who expressed concern about some of its provisions, but under President Bush it was “unsigned” by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton in what he called his “happiest moment” at the State Department.

In response to the possibility of the ICC prosecuting American soldiers, the Congress in 2002 passed the American Service members Protection Act, in order to protect U.S. soldiers from the jurisdiction of the court.

While Obama comes across in the media as a “moderate” or “centrist” in foreign policy, his Transition Project is developing an extreme pro-U.N. policy that is supposed to be implemented by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan E. Rice.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

U.S.-Based Imam Urges Muslims to Join the Gaza Battlefield

by Steve Emerson

A North Texas imam is calling on Muslims to take up arms in defense of Palestinians in Gaza. Sheikh Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti, director of the Islamic Center of South Plains in Lubbock, Texas, participated in an online chat, “Fatwas on Gaza,”at the web site

El-Shinqiti encouraged readers to fight — or if they can’t, to send money to those who are fighting — in response to six out of the eight questions posed to him in the online chat. When asked what can be done to help the people in Gaza, El-Shinqiti emphasized war over sending food or medicine or other supplies that might directly help people:

“For Muslims who have access to the battlefield, their duty is to join the resistance to defend the oppressed. For those who don’t have access to the battlefield, their duty is to use all possible ways of lending support for the oppressed such as donation, the media, communication and first and foremost du’a’.”

Taking El-Shinqiti’s advice would mean joining forces with Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. Israel’s incursion into Gaza is in its third week, prompted by a new wave of rockets sent by Hamas into Israeli cities. The fighting has left more than 900 Palestinians dead — most of them Hamas fighters — yet Hamas continues to fire rockets at Israeli towns.

U.S. law prohibits providing material support to Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. Last November, five men who worked with a Dallas-area charity were convicted on 108 counts of illegally supporting Hamas.

While El-Shinqiti’s speech is well within First Amendment protections, said Bob Blitzer, who served as the FBI’s domestic terrorism chief in the 1990s, the line is crossed when the suggestions advance into providing instructions on how to join the fight or whom to contact.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]

USA: Finance the Islamic Way at Michigan Bank

DETROIT (AP) — Big financial institutions have been battered by mortgages gone bad. But a tiny Michigan bank is getting attention in the industry by turning a profit on loans without even charging interest.

Its specialty: financial products that comply with Islamic law. That means no collecting interest, no short selling and no contracts that are considered exceedingly risky.

It also rules out some of the activity that got Western finance in trouble?subprime mortgages, credit default swaps and the like.

“When you look at the economic crisis we’re in, if you were to follow Islamic or Sharia financing, you couldn’t have this crisis,” said John Sickler, corporate director for the bank, University Islamic Financial Corp. in Ann Arbor.


Even at University, not everyone is on board. Some customers have closed their accounts when they learned it was engaging in Islamic finance. Some employees who objected to the move quit. The bank also stopped having a Christmas party and no longer serves alcohol at after-hours events.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Editorial: Canada Chooses to Betray Palestinians

Canada has, in the past, rarely done anything to anger anyone. It has a history of being moderate, balanced and generally unjudgmental in its foreign policy. On the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular, it always took a middle-of-the-road line, its policies being rooted in seeing both sides of the problem. Unlike other Western countries, it has also maintained a welcoming open door to migrants from other parts of the world, notably to Arabs and even more notably to Palestinians. If generalizations can be permitted, it has been a Palestinian-friendly country — in marked contrast to its southern neighbor.

No longer. The decision by Canada to vote against a motion in the UN Human Rights Council condemning Israel’s brutal onslaught in Gaza and calling for an investigation into Israel’s human rights violations — the only country among the 47 nations in the body to do so — is astounding and abhorrent…

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Czech Sculpture No Laughing Matter in Brussels

A new sculpture in Brussels, commissioned by the Czech Republic in honor of its stint as holder of the European Union presidency, has rankled some EU members. The artwork depicts countries using stereotypes, not all of them terribly flattering.

It’s no secret that the Czech Republic is one of the more euro-skeptic members of the European Union. The country’s president, Vaclav Klaus — who, as it happens, is the current holder of the EU’s rotating presidency — called in 2005 for the bloc to be “scrapped” and was a vocal opponent of the Lisbon Treaty, which was rejected by Irish voters in 2008 before the Czech Republic had a chance could torpedo it.

Still, a new art project commissioned by Prague in honor of its six-month stint at the head of the 27-member bloc has caused the Czechs to blush with embarrassment. Called “Entropa,” the piece is a €373,000 over-sized mosaic map of Europe that relies on stereotypes to depict each country. And a number of countries are furious about it.

“It is preposterous, a disgrace,” Betina Joteva, press officer for Bulgaria’s permanent representation in Brussels told the euobserver Web site. “It is a humiliation for the Bulgarian nation and an offence to national dignity.”

Joteva has, perhaps, reason to be upset. Her country is depicted in the eight-ton sculpture as a Turkish toilet. Many speculated that the reference might be to the centuries Bulgaria spent under Turkish rule.

But in a conversation with SPIEGEL ONLINE, the artist responsible for the sculpture, David Cerny, said it was intended to point to one of the things that is most obviously different for people who travel to Bulgaria. “No other country in Europe has those kinds of toilets,” he said, before adding that he had officially apologized to Bulgaria for offending them.

Bulgaria’s depiction, though, wasn’t the only part of the sculpture that created controversy. Germany is shown as being criss-crossed by autobahns — and some thought they recognized a slightly deformed swastika in the resulting design.

Cerny was categorical in his denial. “It has nothing to do with the swastika,” he said. It is about highways and Germany’s obsession with cars. Nothing else.” Cerny said that the autobahn belts on the sculpture will move once turned on, meaning that the pieces had to be straight, thus leading to the misunderstanding.

Still, other depictions make it clear that flattery was not one of Cerny’s goals. Romania is shown as a Dracula theme park; Spain is merely a slab of concrete, in reference to its recently burst real-estate bubble; Holland is shown as being flooded over with only a few minarets poking out above the waves; Luxembourg is a gold nugget with a huge “For Sale” sign sticking out of it; and France is covered with a large sign reading “strike,” an allusion to that country’s frequent labor battles.

The Czech government commissioned the work in the belief that it would be completed by artists from the 27 EU member-states. That, at least, is what Czech artist David Cerny promised in his project application. Instead, Cerny made up the names of the European artists supposedly participating in the project and put it together with a couple of friends.

“We were hoping that it wouldn’t be taken with the kind of seriousness that it has been and that it would be fun,” Cerny said. “It wasn’t about insulting anyone. I am shocked that certain states don’t have a sense of humor.”

The piece was unveiled on Tuesday after having been carted to Brussels in three trailer trucks. But it is unclear how much longer it will remain on display. Bulgaria has demanded that it be removed from the sculpture and Czech Republic Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra said his government would be deciding on Thursday how to proceed. “The full responsibility for violating this assignment … lies with David Cerny,” he said.

Not all countries are angered by the piece. Sweden is depicted by an IKEA cardboard box and Belgium is a box of chocolates, both references to popular exports from those countries.

Responses from Great Britain, Cerny reports, have likewise been quite positive. The historically euro-skeptic country was left off the sculpture altogether.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Czech Sculptor Cerny Apologises to Govt for EU Mystification

Prague — Czech sculptor David Cerny apologised today to Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and some other government members for the Entropa project for the EU Council seat not being what he promised to be, but a mystification.

Entropa that has been installed in Brussels as presentation of Czech EU presidency that started on January 1 depicts the EU member countries in quite a shocking way that challenges well-known European cliches and prejudices.

Cerny claimed he created the map with artists from the 26 other EU countries, but in fact it is a work of his own and a few collaborators, both Czechs and foreigners, he said today.

Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra told CTK tonight that the information about the authors of the work was an unpleasant surprise.

“The agreement with the Government Office clearly states that the work will be a joint project of artists from 27 EU countries,” Vondra said.

“We are considering further procedure in this connection and we will make public further information Thursday,” Vondra said.

According to CTK´s information, the Czech Foreign Ministry expects protests from other states, not only from Bulgaria.

Bulgaria, that feels very offended by the work that depicts a Turkish toilet on its map, has already urgently summoned Czech ambassador to Bulgaria Martin Klepetko to the Foreign Ministry in this connection.

It conveyed to him a “sharp protest” against the decoration.

The Czech Foreign Ministry would not speculate before official protests are possibly submitted whether it will have to remove the work.

It has been completed since Monday,but it is to be in full operation on Thursday because some of its parts are kinetic.

The Czech Republic, for instance. is depicted on the map as a blue country “intoxicated” by its President Vaclav Klaus, with a display in the middle where Klaus´s controversial statements are screened.

Klaus is a famous Eurosceptic.

“Grotesque exaggeration and mystification are signs of Czech culture and the creation of false identities is one of the strategies of current arts,” the authors say in a press release they sent to CTK.

“We apologise to Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra, Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg and their offices for not having informed them about what is true and for having misled them,” the authors write.

They write they did not want politicians to bear responsibility for this kind of politically incorrect satire.

“We knew that the truth will be uncovered. Still before we wanted to find out whether Europe is capable of laughing at itself,” they write.

The depiction of particular parts of Entropa uses artistic methods that are often characterised by provocation.

“The work thus parodies socially committed art that balances on the brink of would-be controversial attacks on national characters and an innocent decoration of official spaces,” the authors write.

They say they believe the Brussels environment is capable of an ironic self-reflection and that “European nations and their representatives have a sense of humour.”

The long prepared project that has been kept secret aims to present unwanted stereotypes with which particular countries are connected.

It is expected that the work will meet with contradictory reactions.

Non-existent artists represent individual states in the EU “puzzle”. They have their names, artificially created identities and some of them their own web pages.

Each of them is the author of a text in which he/she explains the motivation of their participation in the joint project.

Cerny and his colleagues claim they first wanted to address 27 European artists, but they eventually failed for time, production and financial reasons.

That is why they decided without the knowledge of the Foreign Ministry to produce fictitious artists to represent individual European national and artistic stereotypes, they write.


BBC — pictures of some of the EU representations — unfortunately missing the excellent Denmark image — although the Netherlands one isn’t too bad.

Der Spiegel — a better collection of images — much larger. See the image of France with the “Strike” sign — and the awesome lego model of Denmark that bears a remarkable resemblance to the Mo’ turban bomb cartoon. Good stuff all around.

Also note that Great Britain was completely left out of the entire display.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Sex Offender Snip

MPs want harsher sentences for sex offenders, including chemical castration

Politicians are calling for increased sentences, including chemical castration for sex offenders, after a 28-year-old man received a 10-month sentence yesterday for his fourth sexual assault on a child. The latest figures from 2006 show that three out of 50 convicted sex offenders had previously committed sexual crimes.

The Danish People’s Party has asked the justice minister to take a stand on the issue. ‘The hammer must come down hard every time a sex offender attack. They must be given a custodial sentence or chemical castration. We have to protect the children,’ said Marlene Harpsøe of the Danish People’s Party to Metroxpress newspaper.

A spokesman for the Conservative Party said the best solution was for an offender to voluntarily enter a treatment program with psychotherapy and chemical castration.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Musician Accused in Rape Case

Well-known singer warned to turn himself into police or face an international arrest warrant

A well-known male Iraqi pop singer is wanted by North Zealand police in connection with the alleged rape of his ex-girlfriend in Helsingør.

The 30-year-old woman was admitted to hospital on Friday and told police that the man had beaten and raped her after she broke up with him. She has since been discharged.

Helsingør Dagblad newspaper reports that the suspect is in his early 30s and is an Iraqi Kurd. His identity is known to police, who contacted him on his Swedish mobile telephone at the weekend, but they were not able to trace his whereabouts.

When presented with the allegations, the man said a friend had committed the crime. A police investigation ruled this out as a possibility and they contacted the suspect again. The man was presented with an ultimatum: he could either turn himself into the police today or an international arrest warrant would be issued and his identity released to the press.

Police said the man has had a number of pop hits in Arabic countries and European ethnic communities. The police are also working to accurately identify the man, because the suspect used one name during his stay in the Netherlands and another while in Sweden.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Bomb Squad After Demonstration

The bomb squad had to be called in after a peace demonstration for Gaza in Copenhagen.

A demonstration for peace in Gaza ended in sirens, arrests and the bomb squad having to be called in to deal with unexploded fireworks.

As the demonstration reached its conclusion on Tuesday evening, some of the demonstrators began lobbing fireworks and other missiles at police.

106 people were detained and police called in the bomb squad to deal with unexploded fireworks.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

EU: Entropa Project to be Presented in Prague After Brussels

[Comment from Tuan Jim: This Czech “art project” is awesome.]

Prague — The Entropa project showing a map of Europe that was unveiled in the European Council’s seat in Brussels on Monday within the presentation of the six-month Czech EU presidency will probably be also presented in Prague, Kristof Kintera, one of authors, told CTK today.

The authors plan to install the map on the new building of the National Theatre to make it possible for those who cannot travel to Brussels to see the decoration in Prague.

“We have discussed our plan with the National Theatre. Although it seems technically very complicated it would be possible to place the artifact on the theatre building,” Kintera said.

The Entropa project initiated by Czech sculptor David Cerny is a giant “puzzle” of the 27 EU countries.

It is to be officially presented on Thursday when the map is to start shining and playing and it is to be on display in the EU Council’s seat until the end of the Czech EU presidency in June.

When the artifact was initiated the National Theatre building was considered as the place for its installation. Originally, the project was to become a sort of communication between Prague and Brussels. One Entropa was to be placed in Brussels and the other in Prague.

However, it has proved to be too expensive, Czech Deputy Prime Minister for EU Affairs Alexandr Vondra said previously.

The new building of the National Theatre was considered because the official ceremony of the start of the Czech EU presidency was planned in the nearby historical theatre building.

Another condition for the success of the project was for it to reflect the Europe without Barriers motto in a sense of the abolition of various cliches, Vondra said.

The artifact was to be creative and innovative because 2009 is a year of creation and innovation, he said.

It surfaced on Tuesday that the existence of 26 European authors who were supposed to participate in the creation of the artifact along with Cerny is dubious and it has become clear that Cerny and his aides were the only authors of the decoration.

The decoration has been sharply criticised by Bulgarian officials. On Tuesday, Czech ambassador Martin Klepetko was urgently summoned to the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry that conveyed to him a “sharp protest” against the decoration of the Czech EU presidency in the EU Council seat in Brussels.

A squat toilet (also known as an Eastern, floor-level or Turkish toilet) is depicted on the map of Bulgaria that is part of the controversial art project.

Sofia considers it insulting and demands that the panel “presenting” Bulgaria be immediately removed from the sculpture.

Diplomats are expecting protests from other countries, according to CTK sources.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has not yet seen Entropa in Brussels, he said today. He declined to comment on it in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

“I do not understand art to such an extent and I thus do not know whether it is an artifact,” Topolanek said at a press conference after his address in the European Parliament in which he presented the Czech EU presidency priorities.

He said he hoped when he reached Brussels he would find Entropa still there and would see “what it is that caused laughter of some and angered others.”

The EU countries are depicted in quite a shocking way that challenges well-known European cliches and prejudices. The artifact is expected to stir up controversial reactions in Brussels.

Cerny apologised to Topolanek and some other government members on Tuesday.

“Grotesque exaggeration and mystification are signs of Czech culture and the creation of false identities is one of the strategies of current arts,” Cerny said in a press release he sent to CTK.

The Czech government invested two million crowns in the preparation of the project and has leased it for 1.2 million crowns till the end of June.

“According to the agreement the author himself will find means to implement the project,” Michaela Jelinkova from Vondra’s office said.

The New World Resources Dutch mining company has provided some ten million crowns for the project.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Finland: Vanhanen Speaks Out Against Racism

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Anyone have a translation for the original article?]

Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said he is prepared to take drastic measures to defend immigrants.

In an interview published by the Swedish-language newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet on Wednesday, the premier argued that foreigners do not pose a threat, and that Finland is dependent on them.

The prime minister welcomed a public discussion on immigrants. He added this would force political parties to state their views on the issue.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Finland: Plan to Forcibly Medicate Paedophiles in the Works

A government working group is putting together a proposal to forcibly medicate convicted paedophiles.

Currently it is illegal to require individuals to take medication in Finland.

The number of persons accused of paedophilia has more than doubled since the turn of the century. Many of the culprits are repeat offenders.

Last year, the Justice Ministry established a working group to determine if perpetrators could be forcibly medicated. According to information obtained by YLE, the group feels that persons guilty of aggravated paedophilia could be prescribed such treatment. The drugs are already in use in Denmark and Sweden.

“The drugs interact with hormonal systems and suppress sex drive. This is an extreme solution and should only be used as a last resort,” said Hannu Lauerma, the chief physician at the Psychiatric Hospital for Prisoners.

The working group has challenges ahead if it wants to see this legislation passed. Under Finland’s current law, individuals cannot be medicated against their will. Furthermore, there is the question of how to monitor the use of the medication. The working group is also considering whether failure to take the drugs could be grounds for shipping convicts back to jail.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

France: in Aubervilliers, Atmosphere is Tense

Israeli offensive in Gaza is taboo for Jews and Muslims who live together in suburb of french capital.

The fighting in Gaza is on everyone’s mind, but in this mixed Paris suburb, Jews and Muslims tread carefully around the issue, anxious to keep the peace in their own community.

Home to Europe’s biggest Muslim and Jewish populations, France has seen a spike in anti-Semitic attacks since Israel launched its Gaza offensive last month, sparking appeals for calm from politicians and religious leaders.

In Aubervilliers, a working class town on the northern outskirts of Paris that is home to three mosques and two synagogues, residents say the two communities have long rubbed shoulders peacefully.

“We have always worked in a good atmosphere,” said an Arabic nurse from a local clinic, who asked not to be named. […]

In a fortnight which has seen arson attacks on three French synagogues, and huge crowds turn out for pro-Palestinian rallies across the country, Aubervilliers has not been spared from the rise in tensions.

On Tuesday, a local Jewish school was evacuated following a bomb scare, which turned out to be a false alarm. Two weeks ago, the school rabbi’s car was vandalised in the night.

In Saint-Denis, a few kilometres away, vandals hurled nine firebombs at a synagogue on Sunday night, setting fire to the next-door kosher restaurant.

Mayor Jacques Salvatore admitted the Gaza conflict had become a taboo subject for many in the town, where Muslims of north African descent account for nearly a third of the 74,000 residents, and Jews for 10 percent..

“We just don’t know how to tackle the issue. It is a conflict where even words can be deadly,” said Salvatore, who runs a Palestinian support group, AuberPalestine, but has both Jewish and Muslim officials on his staff. “Even people who are in favour of peace are having real trouble finding the right words. So we avoid the subject altogether.”

Steve, a Jewish jeweller from Aubervilliers who declined to give his last name, said: “Those who want to import the conflict are just a bunch of idiots. I am French first and foremost. France is my country.”

The 34-year-old, who visits both Israel and Morocco regularly and counts many Muslims among his friends and customers, said France should ban demonstrations linked to Gaza, to avoid fanning tensions.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has joined Muslim and Jewish religious leaders in appealing for calm in the wake of the recent violence, warning that the perpetrators of hate crimes will be severely punished.

But with some 55 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in under three weeks, the Jewish Students Union says the violence is already more intense than in 2001 when France was rocked by the spillover from the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

Meanwhile, two north African students were assaulted last week outside their high school in Paris, in an attack blamed on pro-Israeli activists.

Salvatore says he has seen local Arab youths in Aubervilliers gravitate towards the Palestinian cause since the start of the US-led Iraq war in 2003.

Anxious to safeguard good relations between Jews and Muslims, the town has set up a working group on religious equality and Salvatore says officials are “keeping a watchful look-out.”

“Better to do too much to prevent risks than to ignore them,” he said.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Gaza in the Netherlands

In occupied territory, there is the occupying force, usually a force that is considered alien. The people living under occupation see land that is rightfully theirs ruled by an alien government they do not want, do not recognize as legitimate. So, if Tachi is right, and the majority of Moroccans feels the way he describes: Does that mean the Moroccan community in Rotterdam do not recognize the Dutch police, Dutch authority as legitimate? Do they feel Rotterdam is their home ground and Dutch police are alien invaders? Do they believe they have a legitimate claim on Rotterdam as Moroccan territory, that is unfortunately occupied by Dutch forces?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Gaza: France, Molotov Hits Jewish Place of Worship in Alsatia

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 12 — Three molotov cocktails were thrown last night in Schilttigheim, Alsatia, against a building serving as a place of worship for the local Jewish community. No damage was reported, and no messages were found written at the site. The CRIF (Representative Council for Jewish Institutions in France) departmental director, Pierre Levy, condemned it as “a cowardly and hateful act”. Last night as well, a molotov mocktail was thrown against a synagogue in Saint Denis, on the outskirts of Paris, causing a fire in a nearby Jewish restaurant. On January 5, a car was set on fire after it was rolled into the gates of a synagogue in the suburbs of Toulouse, in southern France while yet another car was found near a place of worship with bottles filled with flammable liquid inside. Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie spoke then of a “stupid and revolting act”, but was prudent on possible connections between the episode and the situation in the Middle East. “Our country — added President Nicolas Sarkozy — will not tolerate that international tension turns into violence between communities” in France. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Ireland: Dissident IRA Threat on the Rise

‘Most people think it’s all over in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately it is not’

LONDON — Jonathan Evans, the head of Britain’s MI5 Security Service, is warning the threat from dissident Irish Republican groups — the Continuity IRA and the Real IRA — is on the rise, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Italy: Warns Muslims to Stop Protesting

Italy, one of the few countries in the world that is actually fighting back against the attempted Islamic takeover has come out and warned their Muslim community to stop with the pro-Hamas protests. Government members have called the protests a threat to peace.

           — Hat tip: Islam in Action [Return to headlines]

Norway: Fear Demonstrations Lead to More Racism

The Norwegian Centre against Racism fears for more racism following the street clashes during the demonstrations against the Gaza war held in the Norwegian capital Oslo over the past few days. — “We see that after each time there are clashes or criminal acts where immigrants are involved, that the negative reactions gainst immigrants as a whole increase”, says the leader of the Centre against Racism, Kari Helene Partapuoli.

She is afraid that the general public’s reactions will be more negative, since most of the 200 detained or arrested by the police following last week’s clashes have immigrant background.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Wow. Cause and effect. What a stunning concept.]

The last incidents here described by our reporter on the scene took place Saturday night:

The screech of sirens and the thrum of police helicopters drowned out the usual city din in downtown Oslo Saturday night as pockets of minor rioting orchestrated by pro-Palestine protestors erupted throughout the city. Small gangs consisting mostly of young men clashed with police, overturned garbage cans, set off fireworks, and smashed windows in several storefronts.

The riots followed a pro-Palestine demonstration, calling for an end to Israel’s ongoing military action in the Gaza Strip, in front of the Norwegian parliament building, Stortinget. Several thousand demonstrators, many wearing the black-and-white checkered khaffiyas popularized by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, assembled at 2 p.m., shouting slogans like “Let Gaza Live!” and waving Lebanese and Palestinian flags. The group proceeded to march towards the Israeli embassy, where the protest was to continue. But before protestors could reach the embassy police intervened, employing fences and police vans to halt the march. Participants began to hurl rocks and bottles at police as officers tried to disperse the crowd.

A number of those involved in the march refused to leave and were subsequently contained by police, who deployed teargas to subdue the recalcitrant protestors. Within the police cordon, protestors continued to set off fireworks and accost officers. Police in riot gear apprehended protestors as they attempted to climb over the police barricades. According to officers on the scene, the protestors would be charged with civil disobedience and released. Throughout the night, rioting continued to flare up in downtown neighborhoods but failed to become widespread due to quick action on the part of the police.

The Saturday evening riots come on the heels of downtown rioting Thursday night following a pro-Israel rally in front of Stortinget, which drew a large number of pro-Palestine protestors.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Outrage Over Demonstration in Germany

Police Remove Israeli Flag during Islamist Protest March

Police in the western German city of Duisburg have admitted they removed flags a student had hung in his apartment in support of Israel during a pro-Palestinian protest march in the city. Officers broke down his door and removed the flags. The city’s police chief has issued an apology, but outrage is spreading.

It’s certainly not a new phenomenon in Germany for feathers to be ruffled every time bombs fall or rockets fly in the Middle East. It is unusual, though, for German police officials to use force to enter into an apartment and remove an Israeli flag from a bedroom because people protesting the Gaza Strip invasion on the street below are bothered by it.

But that’s what happened this weekend in Duisburg in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Around 10,000 people had gathered on Saturday morning at the central station in the city, located in the Ruhr region, to protest against Israel’s course of action in the Gaza Strip. The protest, organized by the Islamist group Milli Görüs, which, although legal, has been monitored for years by German domestic intelligence agencies in charge of observing potentially radical or fundamentalist groups.

After a short time, the protest passed along one of the city’s main thoroughfares. At a house on the corner, protesters spotted two Israeli flags — one hanging from a balcony and the second from the window of a bedroom inside the apartment. Twenty-five-year-old student Peter P.* and his 26-year-old girlfriend had mounted them there.

‘Suddenly I Saw a Police Officer in my Bedroom’

It wasn’t the first time, either. At the beginning of the year, P. flew the Israeli flag on the day commemorating the Holocaust. And in May, he flew the flag for several weeks because the state of Israel was celebrating its 60th birthday. For years, Hamas fired rockets at Israel, and few people took notice, P. told SPIEGEL ONLINE, explaining his reasons for flying the flag. This time around, he said, he did it to express “solidarity with the sole democracy in the region.”

P. also knew that on that day people participating in the protest march against the Israeli offensive would go past his house. But he said he was also concerned about what he saw as the “greatest onslaught of anti-Semitism in Europe since 1945,” namely marches against Israel’s actions that included anti-Semitic hate campaigns that he claims are being tolerated in cities like Paris and London.

As the first protesters recognized the flag, P. and his girlfriend were standing on the street nearby. He said he followed the march because he wanted to document any incidents of anti-Semitism or hate campaigns. He described the sentiment that developed within the crowd as it viewed the Israeli flag as tantamount to that of a “lynch mob.” “Death to Israel,” some of the protestors shouted. He said the police appeared to be overburdened.

“Suddenly,” the student explained, “I saw a police officer on the balcony on the second floor” in the apartment located directly beneath his. The officer ripped down the Israeli flag that had been affixed to P.’s balcony. A short time later he witnessed an officer inside his own apartment taking down the flag that had been hung in the bedroom.

A Hail of Icicles, Nail Clippers and a Pocket Knife

The police’s moves caused loud cheering amongst the protesters — a fact not only reported by the student, but also confirmed in videos of the event that have been widely circulated on YouTube. The incident first came to the attention of the media after journalists at the local blog “Die Ruhrbarone” reported on it. The objects reportedly thrown at the apartment included what appeared to be small chunks of ice, a folded up pocket knife, nail clippers and also what looked like a stone.

P. said he was “shocked” by the incident. Afraid to return to his apartment, he first went to a friend’s place nearby. Around two hours later he returned with his girlfriend and an acquaintance — but he claims youths were still throwing things at the house.

He said he didn’t return to the apartment until they had left. A police car passed by and P. asked the officers to come to his apartment. The officers warned that P. and his girlfriend should stay away from the window and that police would watch the house for a few hours.

“I was beside myself,” P. said, “I was afraid.” Two hours passed without any incident. Then P.’s acquaintance, also in the apartment, went out to the balcony for a smoke and claims he was immediately cursed as a “shit jew”.

Two minutes later, the police returned to P.’s door — and for the second time they did something unexpected. They ordered the acquaintance to leave the apartment.

A Police Apology

The actions of Duisburg officials have since caused outrage — sparking criticism from the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Rainer Wendt, the head of the German Police Union for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said: “It is intolerable that German Islamists be able to determine police actions.” At the same time, he expressed understanding for what he described as a “difficult deployment situation” police officials in Duisburg had run up against. He said it appeared too few officers had been dispatched to the protest. Frank Richter of the Union of Police, another organization representing officers in the state, said the police mission should be explored and clarity brought to the incident.

Initially, Duisburg police defended their actions. In its Monday issue, the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper quoted a police spokesperson stating that the flags had been removed in order to de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation. German news agency DDP quoted the spokesperson on Tuesday saying “the right thing had been done here.”

But by Tuesday afternoon, the city’s chief of police, Rolf Cebin, expressed his apologies for the incident. “I deeply regret the fact that, especially, the feelings of Jewish people were hurt. From the standpoint of the present, it was the wrong decision.”

Despite the apology, the row may not be over yet. The state chapter of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) wants a discussion about the police actions to take place in the state parliament in Düsseldorf. “We are going to raise the issue during a meeting of the state domestic affairs committee on Thursday,” the party’s deputy parliamentary chief, Ralf Jäger, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “The central question is this: Why was the potential for danger during the protest so underestimated that police were forced into a situation in which they had to concede to the demands of violent (protesters) rather than (protect) the right to the freedom of speech of others?”

The politician claims that Duisburg police believed 1,000 people would attend the rally, far fewer than the 10,000 who eventually turned up. He claims they should have better predicted the situation and the fact that they didn’t raises the question of whether the state’s Office of Criminal Investigation had done enough “preparation.”

As of Tuesday, Milli Görüs has not yet provided any statement about the incident. The acting spokesperson for the organization’s secretary general could not be reached for comment, and the group’s office said its chairman was currently outside the country.

On Tuesday, Peter P. said he had obtained the services of a lawyer. He still hasn’t been told who will be held responsible for paying for the door broken down by police.

* The name of the main source of this story has been changed at his request by the editorial staff.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Russian Oligarch Alexander Lebedev to Buy London Evening Standard

The billionaire and former KGB agent Alexander Lebedev is to buy London’s Evening Standard tomorrow, in a dramatic move that would see him become the first Russian oligarch to own a major British newspaper, can reveal.

Lebedev is poised to buy a controlling stake in the ailing title, following a year of secret negotiations with Lord Rothermere, its owner and the chairman of the Daily Mail & General Trust.

Under the terms of the deal Lebedev will purchase 76% of the newspaper, with the Associated Newspapers group retaining 24%. His son Evgeny, who lives in London, is due to sign the deal with Daily Mail & General Trust tomorrow. The agreement will make Lebedev the paper’s controversial new proprietor.

A source close to DMGT admitted: “The deal is still very much alive.” DMGT failed to comment.

The purchase will be an astonishing moment in British press history — the first time a former member of a foreign intelligence service has owned a British title…

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Jewish Burial Chapel Attacked in Malmö

A burial chapel in the Jewish cemetery in central Malmö was fire bombed early on Tuesday morning. It is the third time the chapel has been attacked in recent weeks, according to a report in Sydsvenska Dagbladet.

Bottles containing a flammable liquid were thrown into the chapel located in the Jewish cemetery on Föreningsgatan in central Malmö at 5.24am on Tuesday. A small fire broke out and emergency services were called to the scene.

Fire-fighters quickly bought the fire under control and little damage is reported to have been inflicted on the chapel. “The fire was extinguished at 5.37am,” an operator at SOS Alarm said to Sydsvenska Dagbladet.

Malmö police confirm that this is the third time in recent weeks that the chapel has been the target of attacks.

Jews living in Sweden have come under increasing threat recently following a rise in anti-Semitic attacks around the country in the wake of Israel’s campaign against Gaza-based Hamas militants.

The Israeli embassy in Stockholm has been targeted with offensive graffiti, and a Jewish centre in Helsingborg has been the subject of repeated arson attacks, as tensions rise, and the bombing of Gaza continues.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Bandidos Leader Gets Nine Years in Jail

The leader of the Bandidos criminal gang, Mehdi Seyyed, has been sentenced to nine years in jail for his part in two 2006 car bombing incidents in Gothenburg.

Seyyed was found guilty by Gothenburg District Court of instigating attempted murder and two counts of instigating devastation endangering the public.

Four other Bandidos members received shorter sentences for their involvement in the attacks on two cars in Gothenburg on September 19th and 20th 2006.

In both cases, hand grenades were detonated when the owners of the vehicles put their cars in reverse. In the first incident, a taxi driver was targeted as part of a suspected revenge attack after he had testified against Seyyed, Expressen reports.

The following day, the security manager from a popular Gothenburg nightspot was fortunate to escape with only minor injuries when his petrol tank caught fire in the blast and his car exploded.

The prosecution was assisted in the case by a 23-year-old former member of Bandidos “supporter group”, X-team. The new witness came forward with incriminating evidence against Meyyed during the summer, Expressen reports.

The witness has lived under state protection at a secret address ever since his apartment was vandalized when he testified in an earlier case to being assaulted by Meyyed. The 23-year-old’s testimony led to a conviction in March last year and a two and a half year prison sentence for the Bandidos leader.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Sweden to Ban Mercury

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I wish it was this easy to ban naturally occurring elements everywhere — that’ll show them. Next up — France bans Francium]

Mercury is to be banned in Sweden starting June 1st, environment minister Andreas Carlgren has announced.

The ban prohibits products containing the heavy metal from being brought to market in Sweden.

“Mercury is now dead and buried,” Carlgren said.

The actual decision is set to be taken by the government when it meets on Thursday.

In addition to a ban on products containing mercury, the prohibition also means the substance can no longer be used in manufacturing or dentistry.

Certain exceptions will be allowed and the ban won’t come into force for manufacturers until 2013, but the ban will be comprehensive for the most part.

The decision makes Sweden, along with Norway, the country with the most stringent restrictions on mercury.

The ban is the last chapter in a long line of decisions which have reduced the use of mercury in Sweden.

Data from 2003 shows that Swedes use about half a tonne of mercury annually, consisting mainly of batteries, neon tubes and other light sources, as well as mercury alloy.

“Alternative products will be needed, but they are on the way. This is a strong signal to other countries,” said Carlgren.

Mercury waste, of which there is roughly 1,400 tonnes, will be shipped to Germany, the government has decided.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Half of Teenagers Leave School Unable to Read, Write or Add Properly

Fewer than half of teenagers finish compulsory schooling with a basic set of GCSE qualifications including English and maths, official figures have revealed. Results for the first pupils to go through an entire education under Labour showed that 345,000 last year failed to meet the Government’s benchmark for secondary school achievement. Despite a rise on 2007, only 47.6 per cent of pupils achieved the desired five A* to C-grade GCSEs including English and maths, leaving ministers struggling to hit a 53 per cent Treasury target by 2011.

One in six pupils finished 11 years of compulsory schooling without achieving a single C grade in any subject. It means one in seven schools is failing to hit official targets. Statistics published today by the Department for Children, Schools and Families show that 440 schools are currently falling short of this benchmark — though that is an improvement on last year’s dire figure of 631. The figures also show the GCSE gender gap widening again with girls pulling further ahead. Teachers’ leaders declared the scale of failure shameful but ministers insisted trends over the long term showed ‘sustained improvement’. Figures for core subjects such as the three Rs, however, showed that attainment is rising more slowly than for other subjects.

The proportion gaining any five GCSEs rose sharply to 64.6 per cent — 3.2 percentage points up on last year. But the numbers able to count English and maths towards those five qualifications — the Government’s preferred measure — went up just 0.9 per cent. Only 50 per cent of teenagers were awarded the Government’s desired two Cs in science — up just 0.2 per cent on last year. While the top-performing teenagers celebrated record numbers of A and A* grades, the figures sparked renewed concern over the fate of those at the other end of the spectrum…

…’But there are still far too many pupils leaving school without five A* to C grades including English and maths at GCSE. ‘It is truly shameful that half the pupils in England do not achieve this level.’ David Laws, Liberal Democrat schools spokesman, said: ‘It’s completely unacceptable that so many children are still not getting a good basic set of qualifications. ‘After 11 years of Labour promises, whatever happened to “education, education, education”?’ The Tories said the gap between rich and poor areas had widened. According to the figures, GCSE results will need to improve at twice their current rate if the Government is to meet its 2011 target. Ministers have introduced a new secondary curriculum with increased flexibility for schools to focus on the three Rs. Schools Minister Jim Knight said: ‘These are very positive results that build on the improvements of the last decade.’ Only three in ten school-leavers score C grade or above in a languages GCSE The Government published the figure for the first time this year, aiming to shame schools which neglect languages. Only 30.6 per cent of pupils nationally achieved a good grade in a language this summer and school league tables due out next year will show the proportion at individual secondaries. These will allow parents to judge schools on their performance in languages for the first time. The poor showing follows a 2004 Government decision to make language learning optional for 14-year-olds. The slump in entries for language GCSEs has led to fears our school-leavers will be ill-equipped on the job market. This summer only 382,228 took GCSEs in languages — down from 559,115 in 2002. French and German suffered particularly while Spanish entries rose but from a lower base. Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, Russian and Polish also rose but only a few thousand pupils took them. Fewer than a quarter of state schools require GCSE students to learn languages, according to a report last year. It found they are fast becoming the preserve of grammar and fee-paying schools as many comprehensives allow them to decline to ‘extremely low levels’. Under plans to reduce academic demands on students, teenagers will be able to gain a ‘short’ course GCSE in a foreign language without having to show they can speak it. A second short course — worth half a GCSE — will focus only on speaking and listening, meaning students can pass it without ever reading or writing the language.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: The Migrants Who Just Don’t Belong, by the Archbishop of York

Immigrants to Britain in the past five decades have been treated like hotel guests who ‘do not belong’, the Archbishop of York said yesterday.

Dr John Sentamu said the failure of migrants to integrate had contributed to the collapse of a common British culture and the lack of a national sense of direction.

He called for recognition of the Christian heritage which used to bind the nation together and for a revival of the civic values once represented by myriad local clubs, churches and trade unions.

The Archbishop’s powerful attack on uncontrolled immigration and on the Left-wing interpretation of multiculturalism that encourages migrants to ignore traditional British values, was made in a speech to Gordon Brown’s think tank, the Smith Institute.

Dr Sentamu, a trustee of the Institute, has previously criticised multiculturalism and official neglect of the importance of Christian thinking and history.

But yesterday’s speech was the first admission from a senior Church of England figure that large-scale immigration has brought serious problems as well as benefits.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Waltham Forest: Imam Warning Over ‘Jihad’ Posters

POSTERS advocating terrorism have appeared near a college and a mosque in Waltham Forest — fuelling fears that extremists are using the Gaza crisis to recruit young people.

Dr Usama Hassan, imam of the Al-Tawhid Mosque, spotted a poster saying “Jihad is the only solution” opposite Leyton Sixth Form College in Essex Road and another calling on Muslims to “rise up against Britain” close to his mosque in Leyton High Road.

He removed both posters, saying: “We are making a lot of progress in combating extremism. The failed plots and convictions have made people see the complete stupidity of it all.

“But the Gaza crisis has the potential to undo a lot of the good progress we have made.”

“Some people think it is cool to be a gangster, and for some people being a terrorist is the ultimate gangster.”

He also said that the economic climate has made people insecure and poor, which could also play into the extremists’ hands as people are more likely to want to blame others for their plight.

Dr Hassan, was among a group of community leaders who met senior cabinet ministers, including foreign secretary David Milliband and communities secretary Hazel Blears, this week.

The imam wants to see stronger words from the UK Government and he believes the possibility of expelling Israeli diplomats from the UK should be considered.

The Arab Peace Initiative, a plan which would see Israel withdraw to its 1967 borders, release Palestinian prisoners and see Israel recognised as a sovereign state, would be a potential solution to the long-running crisis, according to Dr Hassan.

He also praised Leyton & Wanstead MP Harry Cohen for his strong condemnation Israel’s actions, saying a Jewish MP criticising Israel sends a “powerful” message to some extremists, who talk about a war between Muslims and non-Muslims.

           — Hat tip: SS [Return to headlines]


Croatia: Frattini, Satisfied With Protection of Minority

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, JANUARY 12 — “Satisfaction” over the steps taken towards “full protection of the Italian minority in Croatià was expressed today in Zagreb by Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, at a press conference with his Croatian counterpart Gordan Jandrokovic. Frattini said: “In the past we urged Croatia to modify legislation to allow non-Croatian citizens, including Italians, to purchase goods in Croatia. The modifications to the law have been passed, the housing market has been liberalised and the obstacle to achieving an objectively European principle has been removed”, that is, the free movement of goods and people. As for compensation requested by the exiles, the minister observed that Croatiàs constitutional court should quickly make a decision on the transfer of denationalised goods for non-Croatian citizens, including Italians, and the Italian Government “has every confidence in the decision of the court, and trusts that the Croatian Government will adopt the consequent laws.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Turkey to Support Recognition Within Islamic States

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, JANUARY 14 — Turkey intends to commit itself to the recognition of Kosovo as an independent nation within the members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said Turkish Foreign Minister, Ali Babacan, from Pristina. “We intend to commit ourselves as a part of the OIC for Kosovòs recognition”, affirmed Babacan speaking to journalists during a two day visit to Kosovo, the first since the unilateral declaration of independence of the Southern Serbian province on February 17 2008. “My impression is that the countries which have not yet recognised Kosovòs independence only need time”, added Barbacan. Speaking in the Parliament in Pristina, the Foreign Minister reminded how Turkey was one of the first countries to recognise independence for Kosovo, and stressed that Ankara “is ready to help Kosovo in every way”. Until now, 53 countries — out of the 192 represented at the United Nations — have recognised Kosovòs independence, including the USA and the primary members of the EU, Italy included, Russia, Spain and obviously Serbia have not, having denied the validity of the unilateral decision. Of the 57 countries which constitute the Islamic Conference, only seven have recognised an independent Kosovo: Turkey, Albania, Senegal, United Arab Emirates, Burkina Faso, Afghanistan and Malaysia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Gaza: Egyptian Protest, 180 of Moslem Brotherhood Arrested

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 13 — Egyptian security forces have arrested 180 members of the Moslem Brotherhood who are alleged to have been behind the protest by 10,000 people in Damanhour, the capital of Behera province, on the Nile delta. The news came yesterday from sources inside the security forces, who failed to specify where the arrested persons have been taken. The Moslem Brotherhood has been outlawed since 1974, but 88 of its members sit in the Popular Assembly (Egypt’s lower house) — all having been elected as independents. Since Israel’s operation ‘Cast Lead’ got under way on the Gaza Strip on December 27, dozens of members of the Moslem Brotherhood have been arrested for promoting protests in Egypt, which are banned by the government. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Algeria, Woman and Child Killed in West

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 13 — Two civilians were killed and two injured on Sunday afternoon by a group of suspect terrorists near the village of Merine, at Sidi Bel Abbes, 450 kilometres south-west of Algiers. According to reports in the Algerian press, which cite sources from the security forces, the victims, all members of the Bihllil family, were on their way back home on board of their van after spending the day in the forest collecting firewood, when they ran into a fake road-block, set up by some members of an armed Islamic group. The four or five men armed with Kalashnikovs opened fire on the vehicle, killing the mother and child, Ali and Melha Bihllil, and seriously injuring the other two members of the family. Security forces closed off the area and only overnight were they able to recover the bodies of the victims. In western Algeria, writes the paper Liberté, past months have seen several terrorist attacks even though eastern regions of the country, and Cabilia in particular, remain the most affected by armed groups affiliated to Al Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb (formerly the Salafite group for preaching and combat). (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Appeal Trial for Gafsa Demonstrators

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 13 — An appeal hearing began this morning in the tribunal at Gafsa (350 km south of Tunis) against demonstrators who were convicted in December of demonstrating in June 2008 against unemployment and the cost of living. During the original trial 33 people were sentenced to up to 10 years in prison, and five were discharged. Among those convicted in their absence were Mojeddine Cherbib, who coordinated from France the support committee for the Gafsa residents, and Fakem Boukaddous, the correspondent for the satellite broadcaster Al-Hiwar, who has been on the run since last July after filming clashes between demonstrators and police. On June 6 hundreds of people took to the streets in Redeyef, the centre of an area rich in phosphate mines. Police shot into the crowd, killing a 25 year-old man and injuring 18 others. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Bin Laden Urges Jihad Against Israel

Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden urged Muslims to launch a jihad against Israel and condemned Arab governments as allies of the Jewish state in a new message aimed at harnessing anger in the Mideast over the Gaza offensive.

Bin Laden spoke in an audiotape posted Wednesday on Islamic militant Web sites where al-Qaida usually issues its messages. It was his first tape since May and came nearly three weeks after Israel started its campaign against Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers.

The al-Qaida leader also vowed that the terror network would open “new fronts” against the United States and its allies beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. He said President-elect Barack Obama has received a “heavy inheritance” from George W. Bush — two wars and “the collapse of the economy,” which he said will render the United States unable to sustain a long fight against the mujahedeen, or holy warriors. […]

— Adding:

U.S. says bin Laden tape demonstrates isolation

The White House on Wednesday said a new audio tape from Osama bin Laden calling for jihad demonstrated the al Qaeda leader’s isolation and was likely an effort to raise money.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

For the First Time, Gaza Militants Fire Phosphorus Shell at Israel

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday fired their first phosphorus shell into Israel, which exploded in an open area in the Eshkol area in the western Negev.

No injuries or damage were reported.

The phosphorus shell was among the 14 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel on Wednesday.

White phosphorus is not considered a chemical weapon. Militaries are

permitted under laws of warfare to use it in artillery shells, bombs and

rockets to create smoke screens to hide troop movements as well as bright bursts in the air to illuminate battlefields at night.

However, the substance can cause serious burns if it touches the skin and can spark fires on the ground.

Human Rights Watch on Sunday accused Israel of firing artillery shells packed with white phosphorus over populated areas of Gaza during recent fighting, including a crowded refugee camp, putting civilians at risk.

Israel maintains that it uses munitions in complete accordance with international law.

Palestinian militants have fired at least 14 rockets into Israel since Wednesday morning, all of them hitting open areas near Ashkelon, Be’er Sheva and in the western Negev.

No injuries or damage were reported in the attacks.

More than 15 rockets were fired at Israel Tuesday, some of them during a three-hour humanitarian truce. One rocket hit an Ashkelon educational institution, causing some damage.

The Shin Bet security service said Tuesday that Palestinian militants in Gaza have fired some 565 rockets and 200 mortar shells at southern Israel since the Israel Defense Forces launched its offensive on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory on December 27 — an average of more than 30 a day.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Gaza: Israel, Rockets From Lebanon and Gaza Strip

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JANUARY 14 — On the 19th day of Operation ‘Cast Lead’, tension remains high in Israel, where the country has undergone rocket attacks today from both Gaza and Lebanon. In Galilee, on the border with Lebanon, the Israeli population moved into shelters this morning when explosions of three Katyuscia rockets were heard in Kiryat Shmona. Israel responded with a series of gunshots. No victims have been reported. Following this, the military spokesman has reasserted that it is the Lebanese government and national forces’ responsibility to stop such attacks. Rockets were also fired from Lebanon towards the Israeli city of Naharya last week. Palestinian rockets and mortar strikes from Hamas have also rained down on the fields of western Neghev, without causing any casualties. In the late morning, several cities (including Beer Sheva, Ashdod, Ashqelon and Netivot) were hit simultaneously by Palestinian rockets. There has also been violence in the Gaza Strip. During the night, the Israeli air force hit around sixty objectives. In the morning a Palestinian kamikaze bomber was killed by Israeli parachute forces north of Gaza. After all this, Israel suspended combat for three hours to allow the restocking of humanitarian aid supplies. In the meantime, many different parties are at work to negotiate a ceasefire. The secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, has embarked on a trip around the region. In a press conference in Cairo, the UN leader revealed that he had tried to get to Gaza, but was unable to due to the “current circumstances”, whilst also defining Israelìs use of force as “excessive”. Diplomatic talks are therefore continuing in Cairo to try and convince Israel and Hamas to reach a truce. According to the Palestinian press, this phase could see the reaching of a preliminary agreement for a week-long humanitarian truce. But the main obstacle to peace is still Israel’s request to have clear guarantees that there will be no more traffic of weapons across the border between Egypt and Gaza. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

‘Iranians Are Pro-Israel’ — Part II

( The following is Part II of an interview Israel National News conducted in recent days with Amil Imani, an Iranian-born pro-democracy activist currently living in North America. The discussion focused on an effort to understand Iran at this critical time in history.

[Click here for Part I of the INN interview with Iranian dissident Amil Imani.]

INN: What do you think would be the reaction of Iranians to an Israeli attack to take out the nuclear sites in Iran?

The mullahs are highly vulnerable, given the ruin they have visited upon Iran and their stone-age discriminatory practices.

Imani: It would be a mixed reaction outcome which would not be easy to envisage. Some people think that it is our right to have the technology, but not under the helm of the irresponsible present regime. That includes me.

Therefore, it is obvious that many people will not appreciate an attack on the nuclear facilities in Iran that will turn our national wealth into dust. That alone will create uncertainty in predicting what would be the reaction of Iranians towards demolishing the nuclear facilities. Knowing the Iranian patriotism, they would be more or less forced to set aside their differences and fight with the invaders. They think that the present irresponsible regime will pass sooner or later; therefore, we have to safeguard our national assets.

An unsuccessful military action would give [Iranian President Mahmoud]Ahmadinejad more power and popularity in the Islamic world, particularly in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The regime also has its own missile program that can reach up to London. They can hit Israel with ease and also attack other U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf region.

INN: Do you think such an attack is possible?

Imani: I am not the authority to comment on this question. It is the responsibility of the Israelis’ relevant authorities to examine the possibility of such a full-fledged undertaking. I believe neither the military option nor the appeasement of the present regime is the way to defeat the Islamofascists. The mullahs are highly vulnerable, given the ruin they have visited upon Iran and their stone-age discriminatory practices. A comprehensive political, moral and economic measure by the United States and others offers the best chance of ending the mullah’s reign of terror and re-enlisting Iran in the rank of free democratic nations.

Iranians are much different today than a few years ago. There are many elements, even within the regime itself, that advocate that mullahs must give up power and go back to their mosques.

INN: How close is a “new Persian revolution”?

Imani: I hear many people always ask me the same question: Why couldn’t the Iranian people extricate themselves from their present, very suboptimal circumstances in terms of economic opportunity, freedom of speech and vital human rights? When are they going to revolt?

The previous revolution was not so much a revolution, but a restoration, a significant move backward in time. Let me also say this, most Iranians are not really devoted to the orthodox Shi’a faith, regardless of what the flickering images on Western TV screens show after Friday prayers…

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani [Return to headlines]

Rocket Attack on Northern Israel From Lebanon

Israel says three rockets fired from Lebanon slams into northern Israel early on Wednesday.

TEL AVIV — Three rockets fired from Lebanon slammed into northern Israel early on Wednesday in the second such attack in less than a week that comes amid a devastating war on the Gaza Strip, Israeli officials said.

“Three rockets landed outside Kiryat Shmona,” a town at the border between Israel and Lebanon, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.

In Lebanon, a security official said that one or more rockets were launched into Israel from the southern Lebanese border area of Habaniyeh and that the Israeli army retaliated.

“Between one and three rockets were launched from an area four kilometers west of the village of Shebaa and Israel responded within a minute with four rockets that landed north of Ghajar,” the official said. […]

On January 8 three rockets slammed into northern Israel from inside Lebanon, lightly wounding two Israelis in an attack in which the Hezbollah denied any involvement. […]

According to analysts, last week’s incident was likely carried out by a Palestinian faction without the approval of Hezbollah. Last week Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that “all possibilities” were open if Israel attacked Lebanon. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Spiegel Interview With Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni

‘No Negotiations’ with Hamas

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni talks to SPIEGEL about the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip and why she believes it is a mistake to negotiate with Hamas.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Livni, has Israel achieved its aim of destroying the radical Islamist group Hamas?

Tzipi Livni: No, but Israel has successfully weakened Hamas and dealt it a heavy blow. The operation was never about destroying Hamas — rather our aim was to restore our deterrence capability. We took their leaders by surprise with our operation. They will think twice before they dare to fire the next rocket at Israel.

SPIEGEL: In Lebanon in 2006, you pushed early on for a strategy to end the war. What is your exit strategy for the current war in the Gaza Strip?

Livni: The Lebanon war involved two states facing each other, and at the end there was an agreement. But for me, there can be no settlement with terror — I only know the war against terror. The most important thing is to strike a blow against Hamas. In addition, we have to get the problem of weapons smuggling across the Egyptian border under control.

SPIEGEL: Are you in favor of a formal cease-fire with Hamas?

Livni: We are not thinking about pulling back. This is not a war which can be ended with a peace treaty. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and is not prepared to stop the terror and violence. Our war against Hamas is far from over, even if the current military operation comes to an end at some point.

SPIEGEL: Then why did Defense Minister Ehud Barak send a negotiator to Cairo to discuss a cease-fire? Are such talks useless?

Livni: I for one do not negotiate with Hamas and believe it is a mistake to do so.

SPIEGEL: But Egypt is Israel’s most important ally in the Middle East.

Livni: Naturally the Egyptians are concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. They want peace, which I can understand — the weapons smuggling also affects them. But I was and am against giving legitimacy to Hamas. We do not negotiate with people who announce in advance that they do not recognize Israel. And we also ask the international community not to do so.

SPIEGEL: How long can Israel resist the international pressure?

Livni: On the one hand, there is international sympathy for the fact that Israel is fighting against terror — as are many other countries too. On the other hand, the images from the front are not useful for Israel. Therefore, we must find a balance between the war against terror and the humanitarian situation. Israel is doing that. We have opened up a humanitarian corridor. We try to help where we can.

SPIEGEL: Isn’t that a cynical thing to say, given the images of dead women and children coming out of Gaza?

Livni: No. I am receiving regular reports about the situation in the Gaza Strip. I just met with representatives of all the relief organizations. It turned out that the problems lie less with how to get supplies across the border into Gaza, but rather with how to get them to Gaza City. We have to find a solution for that, and we are trying hard to do so.

SPIEGEL: Was the decision to bombard the United Nations-run school in the Jabaliya refugee camp not a serious mistake? About 40 people were killed in the attack.

Livni: One needs to understand that the UNRWA schools have been repeatedly used by terrorists as a hideout. In this specific case, they deployed right next to the school and fired shots from there. Our shells landed there, outside the school, but unfortunately a wall collapsed as a result.

SPIEGEL: Eyewitnesses dispute this version of events. The unscrupulous abuse of civilians as “human shields” does not relieve Israel from the responsibility to carefully consider the consequences of a bombardment.

Livni: Naturally I regret every civilian casualty, but what happened in the UN school was not a mistake. We hit the location from where we were being fired upon. We wanted to hit the terrorists, not civilians.

SPIEGEL: The war has weakened your negotiating partner, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Livni: Yes, but only temporarily. We will continue the peace process with Abbas and continue the war with Hamas. The weaker Hamas is, the stronger Abbas is — and vice versa.

SPIEGEL: Do you hope that Fatah will regain control in the Gaza Strip after the war?

Livni: If I were to say that, Abbas would get even less support from the Palestinians. An endorsement from Israel would not help him. That would be like a deadly embrace.

Interview conducted by Christoph Schult.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Frattini Wants ‘Constructive’ Hezbollah

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 13 — Italy wants a constructive attitude from Islamist group Hezbollah in the Gaza conflict, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said today. Frattini is set to visit Syria and Lebanon as part of a Middle East tour later this week that will also take him to Israel and Gaza. ‘‘Italy is aiming for dialogue with Syria and Lebanon, two countries which have inside them a force like Hezbollah which has already been urged to have a constructive and not destructive attitude,’’ he said. Frattini added that he would personally deliver Italian aid for Gaza to the Palestinian National Authority with the help of the Italian Red Cross which is already operating in the war-torn area. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Iran Tries 4 in Alleged U.S.-Backed Coup Plot

Charged with seeking to topple Islamic establishment with support of State Department

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran says four Iranians have been tried on charges of seeking to topple the Islamic establishment, allegedly with the backing of the U.S. State Department and the CIA.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Iran Fires at Ahwazi Arabs During Pro-Palestinian Protest

Ahwaz: A demonstration by Ahwazi Arabs in solidarity with Gazan Arabs was violently put down by Iranian security forces on Thursday 8 January with the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO) reporting that 37 Arab demonstrators were still being held today.

[…] Thousands gathered at an assembly point at the beginning of the march at Hay-al-Thora (Revolution Square) and proceeded towards Hay al-Azizieh (Bani-Hashem) square. Halfway into the march, Iranian security forces attacked the peaceful demonstrators, firing high caliber weapons into the air to disperse them. The security forces blocked some of the escape routes and arrested a large number of the participants. […]

In a statement, AHRO said that the “arrests of peaceful solidarity demonstrators reveals the nature of Iranian ‘support’ for the Palestinian movement. Iran uses the Palestinians to implement its expansionist policy in the Middle East and the east Mediterranean. Iran’s aim is to divide Arab unity and to use Gaza to retaliate against Egypt and other moderate states of the region. We request the immediate and unconditional release of the peaceful demonstrators.”

The Iranian regime has quashed all non-sanctioned displays of Arabic culture by the indigenous Arabs in the southwest region, which Persians once called “Arabistan”. Tehran fears a resurgence of Arab identity politics following a series of uprisings in the region, particularly following Israeli operations in Gaza which have mobilized and unified people across the Arab world. Meanwhile, the regime has conducted its own tightly controlled official demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Iran: Men Stoned to Death for Adultery, Murder in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) — Officials say two men in Iran have been stoned to death for adultery and murder, while another escaped death by digging his way out of the hole where he was buried to face a similar fate, according to media reports.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Jordanians Burn Mubarak’s Pictures in Anti-Israel Demo

Amman (ANTARA News/AFP) — Hundreds of Jordanians demanded Tuesday that Egypt open its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip in a protest against Israel’s war in the Palestinian territory.

Holding Jordanian and Palestinian flags as well as pictures of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, around 400 people took part in the demonstration outside Cairo’s embassy in Amman amid tight security.

They vented their anger against Egypt and its President Hosni Mubarak, bearing banners that read: “Egypt’s (truce) Initiative + Closure of Rafah Crossing = Zionist Massacres” and “Mubarak is Behind Gaza’s Bloodshed.”

Chanting “Mubarak is mean” and Palestinian president Mahmud “Abbas is mean,” some demonstrators set ablaze pictures of the Egyptian leader.

“The Egyptian regime should open the Rafah crossing to aid our people in Gaza,” Zaki Bani Rsheid of the powerful opposition Islamic Action Front told AFP. “Are 1,000 Palestinian martyrs not enough to kick the Israeli ambassadors out of Amman and Cairo?”

Egypt shares the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, the only one to bypass Israel and which has been opened only sporadically since the Islamist movement Hamas seized power there in June 2007.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries which have made peace with the Jewish state. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Saudis Cut Oil Output Beyond OPEC Limit

Saudi Arabia has unilaterally slashed its oil production by more than its agreed Opec limit, the kingdom said on Tuesday.

The rare and politically difficult move highlighted the huge losses the Saudis and other oil-producing nations face following the collapse in crude prices as the result of the global economic crisis.

Riyadh’s decision to step outside the group underlines how severely Opec, the oil cartel that supplies about 40 per cent of the world’s oil, is struggling to reverse the slide in oil prices, in spite of the record 2.2m barrel a day cut it announced last month. Oil prices traded on Tuesday at about $39 a barrel, boosted by Saudi Arabia’s decision, but remain well below the kingdom’s $75 target.

[Return to headlines]


Europe: The Gas Hostages

[Comment from Tuan Jim: As of this afternoon, still no gas flow — never mind that it’ll still take 3 days from the time Russia officially starts sending for the pressure to build up enough to actually start reaching the first customers in Europe.]

The drama being played out by Russia and Ukraine has been full of sudden reversals. Germans commentators argue that Europe must take its energy security more seriously in order to avoid an encore performance of this hostage drama.

Despite what looked like the beginning of a solution to the Ukraine-Russia gas dispute, gas is still not flowing to Europe through Ukraine. Many in Europe breathed a (visible) sigh of relief Tuesday morning when the news emerged that Gazprom would start pumping transit gas through Ukraine once again on its way to a Europe gripped by record colds. But they might have breathed easy a little too soon.

According to media reports, Russia’s state gas monopoly Gazprom starting pumping gas back into Ukraine at 8:00 a.m. (CET). Late in the morning, however, new reports emerged that the deliveries had been halted once again, with both sides blaming the other for the sudden reversal.

Whether the gas starts flowing again soon or not, given the distance it must travel, officials in Brussels still estimate that it will take between 24 and 36 hours for the gas to pass into European pipelines.

What originally started as a payment and pricing dispute between the countries led to charges from Russia that Ukraine was siphoning off gas destined for Europe. On Jan. 1, Russia cut off the gas used by Ukraine and, on Jan. 7, Gazprom halted all shipments of gas through Ukraine.

The decision to restart shipments came in the wake of a concerted and successful European effort led by the current Czech presidency of the EU to broker a deal, which will now see international observers deployed along the pipeline route to monitor whether Ukraine is siphoning off any transit gas. That is, of course, if and when the gas starts flowing again.

Although Europe welcomed what looked like a positive development, many issues have yet to be addressed. It’s anyone’s guess when Ukraine will start shipping Russian gas again, but even after the previous agreement, Moscow was still refusing to let Ukraine use the gas itself and the pricing dispute had been left unresolved.

More importantly, however, the crisis has shown just how dependent Europe is on Russian gas. Europe imports nearly a quarter of its gas from Russia, and 80 percent of that is piped through Ukraine. But the hardest-hit countries have been those in Eastern Europe, where a lack of gas reserves, infrastructure and alternative resources has given them much more limited options when their larger and more powerful neighbors scuffle.

In Germany, commentators seem to be less focused on the ongoing Ukrainian-Russian drama and more on how the situation has drawn many thick underlines under Germany’s — and all of Europe’s — need to improve the security and diversity of its energy supply.

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“In this conflict, which has both political and business relevance, the European Union has been unavoidably — and successfully — cast in the position of mediator. Now it should draw conclusions from lessons learned: Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas … is nothing new. But the recent dispute has revealed that Europe also relies on Ukraine’s pipelines. … This twofold dependence is felt most keenly by the new EU member states that were once part of the Soviet Union’s sphere of power. In the interests of solidarity and for its own benefit, the EU would be wise to diminish this dependence.”

“In terms of European energy politics, the EU must think more about the aspects of supply routes than it has in the past. It must strive for diversification, not only in terms of sources of gas but also in transport routes. A monopoly like Gazprom, with its strong ties to the Kremlin, isn’t going to budge unless the EU speaks with a unified voice. And Ukraine’s business structures lack transparency. Under these circumstances, the EU would benefit from commercializing (and depoliticizing) the business as much as possible. Progress in this direction — possibly through the involvement of Western businesses — is probably easier to achieve in Kiev than in Moscow.”

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“The most recent dispute over deliveries of natural gas has allowed the world to clearly see what it means to be dependent on the political calculus of a major power. …”

“However you assess the (gas) transit conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the fact is that the neighboring countries are freezing and must feel like mere hostages. They see now that (Russia) pays no heed to any collateral damage resulting from efforts to protect its interests. And, in a humiliating fashion, these countries are experiencing what it means to be second-class states that must sudden worry about their sovereignty despite the fact that they are geographically located in the middle of pacified Europe. In dramatic fashion, both they and all the observers in Western Europe are witnessing just how important the issue currently being so hotly debated in the EU on energy security really is.”

“The fact that the only thing being put on the table in Slovakia and Bulgaria in terms of (energy) alternatives is putting decommissioned nuclear reactors back into service goes to show just how depressingly hopeless the current situation there really is. And despite the fact that, a few years back, a lot of money was spent on purchasing Western safety technology for these reactors, they still do not meet EU standards. Now is the time for fresh ideas rather than tired fixes. At least then the crisis might have taught us something.”

The right-leaning Die Welt writes:

“It’s all about the money. … And in times of crisis, every dollar counts for Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly that recently suffered a marked decrease in market value. Since Ukraine is essentially incapable of paying up, the Russians are now casting a covetous eye on Ukrainian businesses. To compensate for unpaid gas deliveries, Gazprom would love to take some of these over — especially in the country’s gas-transit sector, of which Russia already owns up to 25 percent.”

“This time around, political aspects have played a more prominent role than they did during similar earlier conflicts. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev have unabashedly involved themselves in Ukrainian affairs like never before and revealed the political intentions behind their conduct as well. As they see it, the Ukrainian leadership has been dragged into criminal intrigues, and the Kremlin was simply hoping to aid the unfortunate Ukrainian population. Top Russian politicians have also made it quite clear that they view the present situation as a result of the Orange Revolution in Kiev, which has been a thorn in Moscow’s side from the start.”

The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes:

“Since the weekend, the pretense that this was really a fight between two commercial enterprises has finally dissipated. And the thing to make this clear was the fact that the heavy hitters among the political leadership of both Russia and the Ukraine made an appearance. …”

“The Putin-Medvedev and the Yulia Timoshenko- Viktor Yushchenko leadership duos could hardly be more different. But they do share one thing in common: No one can say that either the Russian or the Ukrainian leaderships entered into the current gas conflict with a political strategy. For Timoshenko and Yushchenko, the reason for this is simple: They have never had a single strategy but, rather, two. The leaders of the Orange Revolution are at such odds with each other that they are both primarily concerned with distancing themselves from the other on the domestic stage.”

“In Russia, things are different. Putin and Medvedev leave the outward impression of closeness. But, in the course of this crisis, it has only become clearer who is more powerful and who is guiding what they are so keen to describe as a ‘tandem’.”

“So, what is this drama really all about? We don’t know, at least not with the necessary degree of exactitude. We — meaning the EU — really have no insight into what the elites of Moscow and Kiev are really working out, and that makes the conflict completely absurd. When both Putin and Timoshenko complain in hushed tones about the meddling of obscure middlemen, the EU should address the issue and insist on transparency. The citizens of Russia and Ukraine are themselves in no position to insist on this transparency.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Ukraine Admits Blocking Gas to Europe

Just hours after Russia resumed delivery of natural gas to the European Union through Ukrainian pipelines, Kiev has admitted to blocking the supplies. Ukraine is claiming that Gazprom has established “unacceptable” conditions for the transit of the gas to Europe.

Calm in the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine lasted for only a few hours on Tuesday. After six days of blocking supplies, Russia began pumping natural gas through Ukraine at 8 a.m., bound for European Union customers.

But before the supplies could even get to the EU, the pipelines were reportedly shut down again. European Union observers in place to monitor gas flows said they had measured “little or no gas” in Ukraine. They said it was too early to draw conclusions from the observation, but the situation “is obviously very serious and must be improved quickly.”

Kiev soon admitted that it had, in fact, blocked the transit of Russian gas through its territory, citing “unacceptable conditions for transit” that had been imposed by Gazprom, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s state-owned Naftogaz, which manages the pipelines, told the French news agency AFP. […]

Gazprom officials also blamed the United States for the current state of the gas dispute with Ukraine, claiming that the US government was steering Kiev’s negotiations. The company claimed that Ukraine was stealing gas despite the presence of EU monitors and that it could, therefore, not provide supplies to Europe.

EU officials had no initial comment on the renewed gas stoppage on Tuesday. The European Union had been hoping to put the crisis behind it quickly, after bearing the brunt of the dispute between Kiev and Moscow in recent days. A handful of EU member states, led by Bulgaria, are massively dependent on Russian energy supplies. According to newspaper reports, the six-day energy outage caused by the gas dispute led to an estimated €35 million ($46.3 million) in losses for industry. Around 80 percent of the natural gas imported by the EU from Russia is delivered via Ukraine pipelines. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Joint Afghan-Indian Statement Denounces Terrorism

New Delhi, 13 Jan. (AKI/Asian Age) — India and Afghanistan spoke in united voice for the war on terror, after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai declared in a joint statement that no country should allow its territory to be used for terror activities.

The leaders “called for the full compliance with bilateral, multilateral and international obligations of states to prevent terrorism in any manner originating from territories under their control since terrorism emanates from the sanctuaries and training camps and the sustenance and support received by the terrorist groups”, said the joint statement.

While the statement made no mention of Pakistan, the joint statement contained enough indications of Pakistan’s alleged involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks.

New Delhi has not only accused Pakistan of being behind the Mumbai attacks but also presented a dossier containing evidence about its neighbour’s alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

During the meeting, the two leaders are also reported to have exchanged information about the Mumbai attacks.

India has blamed Pakistani militants for the November attacks in Mumbai that killed 179 people. The attacks,which targeted two luxury hotels and a Jewish centre, were carried out by 10 gunmen allegedly linked to the outlawed Kashmiri separatist group, Lashkar-e-Toiba.

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

Indonesia, Netherlands to Strive for Cease-Fire in Gaza

Jakarta (ANTARA News) — The Indonesian and Dutch governments have agreed to strive for the achievement of a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip where more than 900 Palestinians have been killed during three weeks of Israeli military aggression.

“At a meeting between the Indonesian and Dutch foreign ministers both states urged the declaration of a cease-fire in Gaza,” Retno LP Marsudi, the Indonesian foreign affairs ministry’s director general of American-European affairs, said here on Wednesday.

Both countries would continue to push the United Nations to work for the realization of a cease-fire in the war-torn area, she said.

Like a number of countries in the world, the Dutch government also expressed concern over the Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip which had caused a humanitarian crisis, she said.

Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen is on a visit in Indonesia from January 13 to 17, 2009 to strengthen bilateral relations between the two nations. […]

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to help stop the war in Gaza. (*)

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Abducted Protestant Clergyman Freed in Peshawar, With Signs of Torture on His Body

The pastor was kidnapped last Friday by unidentified men for unknown reasons. The bishop of Peshawar refers to repeated threats towards local clergymen and a climate of “religious intolerance,” but reiterates his intention not to give in to violence.

Peshawar (AsiaNews) — Rev Tanzeel Zafar, a young pastor with the Church of Pakistan who was kidnapped last Friday evening by two unidentified men from the city’s Cantonment area, was found on Sunday night alive but badly injured near the gate of Saint John’s Cathedral Church in Peshawar, Bishop Mano Rumalshah, bishop of Peshawar, said.

“Even he was not able to move and walk properly [. . .] there is no bone fracture according to the initial report of the doctors,” the prelate told AsiaNews.

After first aid was performed the young clergyman was taken to Peshawar’s Mission Hospital where he was treated for his injuries.

Asif Bhatti, a Christian member of the North West Frontier Provincial Assembly, said that both his family and Church authorities have filed a First Information Report with two different police stations.

It is unclear why he was abducted but police should be able to apprehend the culprits very soon.

Bishop Rumalshah said he had no knowledge about the kidnappers but the police took Pastor Zafar’s statement and is now investigating the incident.

“But one thing is very clear, this incident is not one based on personal enmity”, Bishop Rumalshah explained “The kidnappers were well aware who Zafar was and where he was serving.”

“We were very much worried about our pastor because in some cases in the past people were not returned alive”, the bishop said.

“We received threatening letters”, he added, addressed specifically to certain clergymen, including Pastor Zafar.

Bishop Rumalshah reiterated his intention not to give in to threats and said that church activities will continue. “Religious intolerance is always hanging over” us, he said. “We have to face this situation and cannot run away”.

Last June the Taliban abducted 16 Christians in the Banarasabad area. The next day they were handed over to the authorities in Bara district (Peshawar) by militants of Lashkar-e-Islam, a fundamentalist group.

In January 2008 Sajid William, a 29-year-old Protestant church worker, was shot dead by unknown assailants when he was driving a car in January 2008 in Peshawar.

In May 2007, two incidents were reported of Christians receiving letters from militant groups telling them to convert to Islam or face death.

In April 2005, Babar Samson, a clergyman and a staff member of Shelter Now International, was also murdered along with his driver by religious extremists in Peshawar.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

British Ship Escapes Somali Pirates

A British container vessel has escaped an attempted hijacking by Somali pirates.

Some of the assorted firearms which the suspected pirates used Photo: AP

A Russian warship came to the rescue of the British vessel after pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades at it during a 30 minute chase on the high seas off Somalia.

At least six pirates in an open skiff tried to seize the British-owned and Dutch-managed cargo ship, which has not been named, as it steamed through the Gulf of Aden.

Its captain took evasive action and called for help from the coalition of navies now patrolling Somali waters in a bid to curb piracy.

The Russian navy sent a warship and a helicopter, which swooped over the pirates’ speedboat, forcing them to call off the assault, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur.

“The pirates chased the vessel for about half an hour, they fired two rocket-propelled grenades, but they pulled away when the Russians arrived,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]

Chinese Army Protects Taiwanese Ship From Somali Pirates

Since December, Chinese naval forces have been patrolling the area to protect Chinese commercial convoys. Yesterday, they escorted a Taiwanese oil tanker.

Taipei (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Yesterday, the Chinese army escorted a Taiwanese ship for 553 nautical miles, in the waters east of the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, infested with pirates.

The People’s Liberation Army sent naval and air forces to the area in December, for the declared purpose of protecting Chinese ships from pirates. Yesterday, it escorted its second convoy of four ships, including the cargo ships Zhenhua 13 and Zhenhua 14, the Filipino ship Saga Horizon (registered in China), and the 70-ton Taiwanese oil tanker Formosaproduct Cosmos, owned by the Formosa Plastics Marine Corp., a leader in the sector.

The agency Xinhua, which released the news, does not indicate whether the Chinese armed forces have responded to an express request, or are operating within their normal service.

Experts observe that the mission nonetheless has an important political meaning, since it emphasizes that Beijing is presenting itself as the only legitimate protector of all the Chinese, including those of Taiwan. However, some circles in Taiwan are seeking to minimize its importance, observing that it is natural to ask for the support of the armed forces in that area, and that this collaboration is part of the existing relations between the official bodies of the two countries, like the Chinese Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, and the Taiwanese Straits Exchange Foundation.

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

Ethiopian Troops Begin Pulling Out of Somalia

Ethiopia’s military commander in Somalia has handed over security of the country to a joint force composed of government troops and moderate Islamists. The landmark ceremony took place in the capital Mogadishu, following some of the worst insurgent violence there in recent weeks.

The ceremony at the presidential place marked the beginning of the end of Ethiopia’s deeply unpopular military presence in Mogadishu for the past two years. In his farewell speech, Ethiopian army Colonel Gabre Yohannes Abate said his troops are leaving because it is time for Somalia to stand on its own. Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein hailed the withdrawal as an opportunity to bring much-needed peace to the country.

The Somali leader says the insurgents have no cause to fight anymore and all Somali people should embrace peace. […]

Western analysts have predicted that Ethiopia’s departure from Somalia could drain support for the most powerful of the Islamist insurgent groups, the radical al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, and allow secular and moderate Islamist leaders to form the country’s first functioning government in 18 years.

But there have also been signs that al-Shabab and other groups, which had been united in opposing the Ethiopian occupation, are badly divided and could begin a violent struggle for power. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Mauritania: Chinese Investments for Nouakchott Port

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 13 — China will invest 282 million dollars to enlarge the Port of Nouakchott, according to an announcement made in a message by the Mauritanian Economic Affairs minister, specifying that an ad hoc agreement was signed yesterday. The agreement, according to the message, aims at increasing the port’s capacity threefold by adding a 900 meter platform in addition to its 509 meter long dock presently in use. The Port of Nouakchott, called “the port of friendship” was built by China in 1979. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Norwegian Ship Attacked by Pirates

The Norwegian ship “Viking Forcados” was attacked by pirates off the coast of Nigeria in the early hours of Tuesday morning, but the pirates failed in their attempt at capturing the vessel. No one was injured in the attack. The pirates used speed boats, and a few men managed to enter the vessel, but the crew barricaded themselves in the superstructure, and after two hours the pirates left, after having fired a couple of shots through a porthole.

However, no one of the 52-men crew was harmed, and the ship was early Tuesday moving out into open waters.

“Viking Forcados” was engaged in repairing a pipeline for the company Exxon Mobil in Eastern Nigeria when the pirates attacked.

Eidesvik Offshore CEO Jan Fredrik Meling says to NRK that the security in the area has up to now been considered good, but that this will now have to be considered carefully if the ship is to continue its mission there.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Piracy: Turkish Ship Released by Somali Pirates

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 13 — The Turkish ship Karagol, hijacked off Yemen with 14 crew by Somali pirates in November, has been released in return for a ransom, Dogan News Agency reported. The tanker was carrying more than 4,000 tonnes of chemicals to the port of Mumbai. Armed Somali pirates earlier in January had released another Turkish ship, ‘M/V Yasa Neslihan’, hijacked in October along with 20 sailors in the Gulf of Aden after a ransom was paid. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Russian Navy Thwarts Pirate Attack on Dutch Ship

A Russian warship helped foil a pirate attack on a Dutch container ship in the dangerous Gulf of Aden, a maritime watchdog and the Russian navy said Wednesday.

Six pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades Tuesday at the ship, which took evasive maneuvers while calling for help, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

The pirates chased the vessel for about 30 minutes in the waters off Somalia but aborted their attempt to board after a Russian warship and helicopter arrived, Choong said.

Russian navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said a Ka-27 helicopter was sent from the Admiral Vinogradov warship on patrol off the Horn of Africa and fired at three suspected pirate speedboats that were trying to attack the Dutch ship.

He said three pirates were wounded.

Dygalo said one of the speedboats was halted near Yemeni waters and Russian teams from the Admiral Vinogradov boarded the other two, finding ropes with grappling hooks and gas canisters but no fishing equipment.

Pirates last year attacked 111 ships and seized 42 off the Horn of Africa, many in the Gulf of Aden. An international flotilla including U.S. warships has stopped many attacks, but the area is too vast to keep all ships safe in the vital sea lane that leads to the Suez canal and is the quickest route from Asia to Europe.

Choong said it was nevertheless getting harder for Somali pirates to hijack ships because of increased naval patrols and the vigilant watch kept by ships that pass through the area.

“The attacks are continuing but successful hijackings by pirates have (been) reduced,” he said. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

South Africa: Where Have All the Whites Gone That I Used to Know?

I have worked in the computer industry in South Africa since 1983. And I’ve worked in Johannesburg in particular since 1985. There has always been a traditionally high turnover of people in our computer industry. Even in the 1980’s they said the average person only held on to his job for 2 years before moving. I used to move around a lot in my younger days in order to gain experience and exposure. Furthermore, I did a lot of contracting (temping/consulting) work which meant I moved around even more. And when I worked for myself, I had several clients at once.

So I’ve been around the block a couple of times. And I’ve met stacks of people in Johannesburg, during the course of my work over the years.

Recently, I made contact with an old friend I’d last spoken to 5 or 6 years ago. We reminisced about the people we knew. And then we had an interesting discussion: Where have all the people gone that we once knew?

It was quite common for me to run into people I’d known every now and then. But I remarked to my friend that during the last few years, I’ve NOT been coming across anyone, anywhere, that I used to know, even if I work in circles where I used to work in the past.

South Africa’s computer industry is small. At its height it probably only had 20,000 people in it, most of them in Johannesburg. So it was quite common for us to meet each other as we circulated and changed jobs.

But its actually been a number of YEARS since I’ve last met anyone that I’d known previously.

And this leads me to believe that either those people have lost their jobs and moved out of computers, or, they’ve left the country. Its making me wonder just exactly how many people have left the country, especially those who were qualified in the computer industry.

I know a bunch of my more recent co-workers (from the last 5 years), left the country last year. There was an enormous exodus last year.

The only conclusion I can reach is that either:-

1. The South African computer industry has shrunk tremendously

2. AND/OR: a heck of a lot of whites in the computer industry have left the country for good.

I would think it is a combination of both, with the preponderance being the latter. There are lots and lots of computer companies that used to exist, which have disappeared. Even large ones have disappeared by going bankrupt or having merged or having quietly shut their doors.

Like I’ve been saying for years now, I know of nobody who is making any money. All the businessnes just chug along. I can’t remember when last I heard a “success story” told by any of my friends. When I first came to South Africa, I used to hear success stories all the time. I used to be told about this guy who became a millionaire or that guy who started a business and got wealthy, and so forth. I was running into people who were making money and hear from their own mouths their success stories. When I did consulting work I consulted to people with small growing businesses. People used to be optimistic and they had plans for the future, and people were alive.

I am pretty certain that every single one of the businesses I used to consult to, except for a division of a large bank, have *ALL* ended up shutting their doors. Not one of those businesses exists any more.

You would think one would hear lots of “black success stories”, but I also don’t come across those either.

South Africa today is a very different place to what it was when I first came here. When I first arrived here, it was vibrant and alive. Now it just chugs along from day to day. The only businesses that are still surviving are the few monolithic corporations with big markets. But the day of the “entrepreneur” (be he white or black), seems to have disappeared.

As for the people I worked with, I suspect that most of them must have left the country for good. Unless of course some of them changed careers or found themselves unemployed and they were never able to get back into this industry. That too is possible.

It is sad what this country has come to, despite all the great positive publicity and hopes people had for it. But wait, we’ll see some really shocking stuff when the ANC wins the 2009 election and starts implementing real lunatic, hardcore communist policies. Then you’ll see these crazies finish off this fine country for good. Of course, they are telling the blacks: “We’re going to help you…” but I’ve heard that garbage and nonsense many times before. It is when “they try to help” that the real lunacy kicks in, and you’ll see them “help the blacks” while destroying the country. And when the dust settles, the blacks will be far worse off. That is not far away any more.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Chavez — a Worse Threat Than Bin Laden?

A former consultant to Bill Clinton says the U.S. is very naive about the threat posed by Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez, who he believes is at least as dangerous as Osama bin Laden.

Douglas E. Schoen is co-author of the recently released book entitled The Threat Closer to Home: Hugo Chavez and the War Against America. Along with co-author Michael Rowan, Schoen documents how the American government has shrugged off South American politics for nearly 40 years while Venezuela has grown into an unprecedented threat.

Chavez is a “bad actor,” says Schoen. “He’s been a bad actor for a long time, and he’s been supporting, aggressively, Hamas in their battle with Israel in the Gaza strip. He’s called what Israel’s done a holocaust,” he points out. “He’s been a supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah and Iran, and he has his own ‘axis of evil,’ which is designed to undermine and destabilize the United States.”

He adds that he is unsure what kind of Venezuelan policy Barack Obama is going to pursue.

Douglas Schoen”[It is] anyone’s guess. We don’t know. He’s had very, very little to say about Venezuela. He has said that he will sit down without preconditions with anyone. That presumably includes Chavez,” the author contends. “That’s not a good sign, but we will see. Hopefully, he will put Venezuela where it belongs on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.”

Schoen believes Chavez is a dangerous threat, so he co-wrote the book to warn the American people.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Chavez Turns Into Palestinian Hero

Venezuelan leader accuses Israel of being ‘murder arm’ of US, says solution to Gaza crisis is in Obama’s hand.

Venezuelan flags and portraits of President Hugo Chavez have been flying high during protests in the West Bank against Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip.

The Venezuelan president’s decision on January 6 to expel Israel’s ambassador from Caracas — the only country apart from Mauritania to take such a step — has made the left-wing South American leader a hero to Palestinians.

Hamas has welcomed Chavez’s “courageous decision,” while Hassan Nasrallah, head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group, urged Arab states to follow the Venezuelan president’s example.

Chavez on Saturday accused Israel of being the “murder arm” of the United States and said the solution to the Gaza crisis was in the hands of Barack Obama when he becomes US president later this month.

Mohammed al-Lahham, an MP for the Fatah party of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, said Chavez was “a symbol of the struggle for liberty, like Che Guevara. This distinguishes him from the world’s other presidents.”

His opposition to Washington, Israel’s loyal ally, over the invasion of Iraq and to the Israeli offensive against Lebanon in 2006 have made Chavez a symbol for all peoples who “are resisting and fighting against occupation,” he said.

Venezuelan flags and portraits of Chavez could be seen lofted by demonstrators in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron during rallies last week.

Al-Jazeera television ran an interview with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro in which he slammed “the criminals who govern Israel” and who have “carried out a holocaust against Palestinians for 60 years.”

“I would like to be able to give Chavez a Palestinian passport so he could become a Palestinian citizen. Then we would elect him and he would become our president,” said Mahmud Zwahreh, mayor of Al-Masar, a community near Bethlehem where 8,000 people live in poverty.

“This is the right reaction” to American domination, said the mayor, who is printing out as many portraits as he can of the Venezuelan president to hand out to protesters.

“Everyone here knows about him. More and more people are coming to ask me for photos to carry during the demonstrations,” Zwahreh said.

Mohammed Brijeh, who heads an action group in the Bethlehem area against the security wall between Israel and the West Bank, said: “Chavez’s response is worth more than the UN’s.”

The United Nations “only does what Israel wants,” he said.

“If only we had leaders as strong as Hugo Chavez,” Brijeh said, while Zwahreh said: “We have no leader with a clear strategy and mission.”

Abbas and his moderate Fatah movement have been weakened by rivalry with Hamas and by the ever-present memory of his predecessor Yasser Arafat, whose portraits still adorn many public buildings and homes.

Iyad, who runs a shop near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, has no doubt: “Chavez is the best president. He always supports the Palestinians.”

“He is better than Arab leaders. Jordan and Egypt should have also expelled their ambassadors (from Israel). It is a real shame that we have no leaders like him,” said Assem, another shopkeeper..

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Ex-Terrorist Gets Asylum in Brazil

Italy voices disappointment over decision on Battisti

(ANSA) — Rome, January 14 — The Italian foreign ministry on Wednesday expressed its disappointment over Brazil’s decision to grant political asylum to leftist terrorist Cesare Battisti, convicted in Italy for four murders.

Italy, the ministry said, was ‘‘very surprised and disappointed over the decision by the Brazilian justice minister who, ignoring the position of the National Committee for Refugees, granted an appeal by Cesare Battisti, a convicted terrorist responsible for serious crimes which have nothing to do with the status of a political refugee’’.

The 54-year-old Battisti was arrested in Brazil last March, some four years after he had fled to that country to avoid extradition to Italy from France, where he had lived for 15 years and become a successful writer of crime novels.

According to the Brazilian justice ministry’s director for legislative affairs, Pedro Abromovay, ‘‘it is a tradition in Brazil to grant political refugee status when we believe there is a real risk that a citizen will be subjected to political persecution’’.

The justice ministry’s decision came two months after the National Committee for Refugees voted three to two against Battisti’s asylum request.

The ministry explained that the decision to grant asylum to ‘‘the Italian author’’ was based on a 1951 Brazilian statute and a subsequent 1997 law which defined the guidelines for granting asylum that included ‘‘the real threat of persecution due to race… or political opinion’’.

According to the Brazilian ministry, Battisti had been condemned in Italy only after he had fled to France in 1981 and on evidence not based on fact but on testimony given by a former terrorist turned state’s witness, Pietro Mutti. In a recent interview published by the Brazilian magazine Epoca, Battisti said he was convinced that he would be a ‘‘dead man’’ if he ever returned to Italy, the ‘‘victim of a vendetta’’.

He also claimed that in 2004 in Brazil he had been the target of an attempted kidnapping ‘‘by a special, secret branch of the Italian intelligence service’’.

Brazilian government sources said the decision to grant refugee status was the sole responsibility of the justice minister and thus did not involve President Luis Inacio da Silva.

In its statement on Wednesday, the Italian foreign ministry urged the Brazilian president to do whatever possible to have the justice ministry’s decision overturned.


Dismay and disappointed over Brazil’s decision was also voiced by family members of Battisti’s victims.

Alessandro Santoro, son of Udine prison guard commander Antonio Santori who was shot dead in 1978, said the justification given by Brazilian authorities ‘‘depicts an Italy which does not exist’’.

‘‘To believe that someone like Battisti, sentenced to life for four murders, is or would be the victim of political persecution in Italy is, frankly, unacceptable,’’ he told ANSA.

Adriano Sabbadin — the son of Venice butcher Lino Sabbadin, who was gunned down in 1979 by the leftist group for killing a robber during an attempted hold-up — said the news from Brazil ‘‘was much, much worse than a slap in the face’’.

‘‘There is no way Battisti can be considered a political refugee or the victim of persecution. He was tried and convicted by a court of law, even on appeal,’’ Sabbadin said. Venice prosecutor Ennio Fortuna, who won a conviction for Sabbadin’s murder, told ANSA that ‘‘it is impossible to combat terrorism when legal and political considerations like these (Brazil’s) prevail’’. According to Milan assistant chief prosecutor Armando Spataro, who put together the state’s case against Battisti’s terrorist group, ‘‘to maintain that Battisti could be the subject of political persecution by the Italian state is an offense not only to our judicial system but also to the memory of those he killed or had killed’’. Battisti was an ex-leader of the 1970s leftist terrorist group Armed Proletarians for Communism (PAC).

Italy’s request five years ago for his extradition made front-page headlines in France, with French left-wing parties and libertarian newspapers rallying to support the former terrorist’s battle to remain in Paris.

Battisti went missing in France in August 2004 while awaiting the outcome of his appeal against extradition and later turned up in Brazil.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Kuwaiti MP Calls to Move Arab League to Caracas

Waleed al-Tabtabai says Venezuelan President has proved he is more Arab than some Arabs.

A Kuwaiti Islamist MP called on Wednesday for moving Arab League headquarters from Cairo to Caracas after Venezuela expelled Israel’s ambassador because of its onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

“I call for moving the Arab League from Cairo to Caracas,” MP Waleed al-Tabtabai said during a special debate in parliament over the Israeli offensive.

Tabtabai said that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez “has proved that he was more Arab than some Arabs,” after he expelled Israel’s ambassador to Caracas on January 6. Israel retaliated a day later, saying it was expelling Venezuela’s charge d’affaires.

Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania, the only Arab countries to have diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, have ignored public calls to expel Israeli diplomats. An Israeli trade office in Qatar also remains open.

Tabtabai also criticised Egypt, which hosts the headquarters of the 22-member Arab League, for “refusing to open the Rafah” border to allow the passage of food and medical supplies to the battered Palestinian territory. He was echoed by other MPs who also called for sending more aid to the Palestinians in Gaza.

Meanwhile, the 50 members of Kuwait’s parliament agreed collectively on Wednesday to donate their February salaries to aid Gaza, an amount estimated to be 125,000 dinars (438,600 dollars).

Shiite MP Ahmad Lari had earlier urged Kuwaitis to donate one month of their wages to the people of Gaza.

Some MPs renewed their criticism of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas over his reaction to the Israeli offensive in Gaza, with one opposition MP calling him a “traitor.” A group of Kuwaiti MPs had said on Tuesday that Abbas was “not welcome” at an economic summit in Kuwait on Monday.

Arab governments are divided between supporters of the Islamist Hamas, which took over Gaza in June 2007, and supporters of Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which is in charge of the West Bank. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]


Immigration: Weather Stops Migrant’s Transfer South of Malta

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, (MALTA) JANUARY 13 — Some 163 immigrants rescued yesterday in a storm off the coast of Malta are still on board of a tanker due too poor weather conditions. Efforts from the Maltese Navy proved to be useless to get close to ‘Overseas Primar’, a ship registered to the Marshall Islands to transfer the immigrants. During the night, a woman in an advanced state in her pregnancy was evacuated with a helicopter by the permanent Italian military mission in Malta. The immigrants were aided by ‘Overseas Primar’ due to a request by the Maltese Navy which received a call for help via satellite phone. Their 10 meter boat was adrift about 60 miles south of Malta. Another attempt to transfer the immigrants from the ship to Maltese patrol boats will be made in the upcoming hours. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Immigration: Maroni, Drastic Fall With Libya Agreement

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 13 — “Tomorrow morning I will meet the Libyan ambassador to implement the important agreement for patrols in Libyan waters by Italian motorboats, but under the Libyan flag. This will cause a drastic reduction in landings, 99% of which originate from Libya”, said Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, during a hearing at the Senatés commission for constitutional affairs. “I hope that the agreement with Libya will be ratified quickly by Parliament, and then ratified by the Council of the Libyan people, which meets in January of next year; so we need to move quickly”. The minister then criticised the actions of Frontex, the European borders agency. “Frontex worked well for Spain, but it does not work at all in the Sicilian channel and I mean to raise the issue at the European round table: we are ready to continue financing Frontex, but it must be more efficient”. As regards to Lampedusa, Maroni remarked that “the 1,300 guests at the Reception centre belong to three countries with whom we have repatriation agreements. The problem should be resolved in the coming weeks”. He then confirmed that a special centre will set up for identification procedures. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Libya Treaty to be Ratified by End of Month, Frattini Says

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 13 — A treaty with Libya aimed at cutting migrant flows from the north African country will be ratified by the end of January, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said today. Frattini said Libya would also ratify the treaty by that time. Among other things, the treaty envisages sea patrols of the Libyan coast to stop migrant boats from setting off. Migrant facilities on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa have been strained to bursting point lately. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

More Iraqis at Risk of Losing Asylum Appeals in Sweden

Most of the thousands of Iraqis waiting for asylum in Sweden waiting will like have their applications rejected because of improved security conditions in the country.

The Swedish Migration Board (Migrationsverket) had previously found that 15 of Iraq’s 18 provinces had armed conflicts. But a new report indicates that armed conflicts persist in only five provinces, Sveriges Radio reports.

If an area is free from armed conflict, individual asylum seekers must present addition justification in order to be given refugee status.

Migration Board general counsel Mikael Ribbenvik couldn’t provide an estimate as to exactly how many Iraqis stand to lose their asylum claims because of the new findings.

“It’s hard to say, each case is reviewed individually,” he told Sveriges Radio.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, has asked western countries to refrain from deporting Iraqis back to their home country, however, because of continued adverse humanitarian conditions.

Ribbenvik added that the Migration Board agrees with UNCHR’s assessment, but pointed out that challenging humanitarian conditions are not sufficient grounds for granting asylum.

“They are two different things, and what we’re assessing now is the security situation; the humanitarian situation is something else entirely,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

CU’s College Democrats Oppose Hiring of Right-Wing Prof

Fresh off last fall’s historic push to help elect Barack Obama, the University of Colorado’s College Democrats have set their sights on a new target: the school’s plans to bring a professor of conservative thought to campus.

CU leaders last year announced plans to create a $9 million endowment to fund the Visiting Chair in Conservative Thought and Policy on the Boulder campus, which long has been derided as a liberal bastion.

So far, CU only has raised $575,000 in private funds toward that goal, campus officials said Monday.

But regardless of how long it may take the university to fully fund the conservative post, College Democrats say they’re not going to wait to launch a campaign against it.

“The entire concept of a Visiting Chair in Conservative Thought and Policy politicizes academics in a way that is contrary to the university’s mission,” senior Jesse Jensen, president of the College Democrats, said Monday. “By endowing a chair in one specific political ideology, we are not promoting intellectual diversity — we are tokenizing a point of view that should be presented in all classes on political thought.”


Sophomore Gregory Carlson, one such outspokenly conservative member of the student body, said he supports the endowed chair as an effort to help combat the left-leaning bias he believes is prevalent in campus classrooms.

“In my personal experience, there is ample opportunity for students to see the liberal philosophy on matters,” Carlson said. “But I think it’s important for students to see every part of the picture when coming up with opinions about the world.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: The Secular War Against Religion in Schools

It’s extraordinary how agitated people can become over religious education in schools. The Welsh Assembly has just announced that it intends to allow sixth-formers to withdraw themselves from daily collective worship if they so wish. This would bring Wales into line with England, which relaxed the rules for older pupils in 2007.

Dr Geraint Tudur, general secretary of the Union of Welsh Independent Chapels, responds by saying that the Assembly was throwing “1,500 years of Welsh Christianity to the winds.”

Odd that Wales should get so worked up about compulsory religion in schools. There is no established church in Wales, while the established Church of England conceded relatively quietly that schools could relax the rules and parents could withdraw younger children from religious education.

Further evidence, perhaps, that in nations where the church is separated from the state — such as the United States — people actually become more committed and passionate about their faith. By contrast, in England we have a state religion and rather take it for granted.

But I think the real problem here is aggressive secularism. Dr Rowan Williams said recently in an interview with the New Statesman that disestablishment of the Church of England wouldn’t be “the end of the world”. But he added that he would resist disestablishment, because it may be the consequence of a campaign to force faith out of the public sphere.

Secularists must accept much of the blame for this dilemma and intransigence on the part of church leaders. A while ago, I was on Radio 4’s Moral Maze alongside Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, who both on air and in the green room was entirely reasonable about religion not enjoying special privileges and powers in society, while saying that he was perfectly comfortable with people of faith holding public positions.

But the NSS’s website is full of “fighting” this, “lobbying” for that and “campaigning” against the other. It reads entirely like it is fighting a war to expunge religion from people’s lives, even to make it something of which to be ashamed and contemptuous.

That’s very much why religious education in schools is so contentious and the battle lines so firmly entrenched. It would help a great deal if secularists in general and the NSS in particular could be explicit: Are they simply for a secular society in which people of faith or no faith co-exist equally and peacefully? Or are they fighting an anti-religious war?

Come on, Terry, make it clear and put it on your website.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

One thought on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/14/2009

  1. Does anybody doubt that Obama will gladly ‘Kosovo’ any European anti-Jihadist movement? What an awful time to live on the continent.

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