Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/16/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/16/2009The torrent of behavioral sink stories from the UK continues. It’s an unholy combination — social decadence and depravity, an appalling level of crime and violence, and the expansion of state power manifested in pointless politically correct micromanagement of people’s lives.

Also, check out the article about Gazprom, the Ukraine, and the current gas crisis: the author believes that Vladimir Putin has overreached this time, and is in for a fall.

There were so many news feed submissions tonight that I couldn’t create headline links for all of them. When you find something you’re interested in, scroll down past the end of the article to see any related articles below it.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Gaia, Henrik, Holger Danske, Insubria, JD, KGS, Tuan Jim, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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A Tax-Evading Treasury Secretary?
American Muslim Group Calls for Action Against Israel
Former Top Aide to [Gov. Blagojevich] Providing Information to Prosecutors
Gaza Protests in Chicago Stir Charges of Anti-Zionism
‘Hate Crimes!’ They’re Ba-ack!
Michael Moore Misuses War Picture
More Persecution of Our Military Officers
Mosque Construction to Begin in Spring
O.J. Lawyer: ‘He’s a Sociopath’
Obama Inaugural a CO2 Disaster About to Happen! Will Green Loving Media Report?
Obama at the Washington Post
Shocker! Senators Accused of Ethics Lapse
Young Arab-American Rhodes Scholar Sees Hope Through Obama
Canada’s Finest Moment
Europe and the EU
Finland: Self-Censorship Hit Fast in Early 70s
Finland: Proportion of Women Growing in Leading State Jobs
Finland: Attempting to Avoid the Problems of Europe’s Immigrant Suburbs
Forty Held as Lithuanian Austerity Drive Demo Turns Violent
France: a Robbery Attempt Turned Into an Anti-Semitic Attack
Holland Under Fire From UN Over Children
Lithuania’s Parliament Pelted With Eggs and Bottles
Spain: Researchers find Moors built with powdered bones
Sweden: Teen’s Brazen Spree of Crimes Frustrates Linköping Police
The Obama Challenge: is Europe Just a Spectator?
UK: Brown to Launch Another Bank Bail-Out With Plans to Buy Up Billions of Pounds of Toxic Debts
UK: Britain’s ‘Completely Useless’ Trident Nuclear Deterrent Will be a £20bn Waste of Money, Say Retired Generals
UK: David Miliband is Wrong on the War on Terror
UK: Harriet Harman: if You’re Middle Class, You Can’t Work Here
UK: Labour-Supporting Thug Jailed for Attack on BNP Man’s House
UK: Murder Inquiry After Woman, 81, Dies in Violent Street Mugging
UK: Yes, Your Home is Your Castle: Top Judge Says Burglars Must Face Stiff Sentences
Serbia Interested in Ex-Al Qaeda Officer
Serbia: “Yellow House Documents Destroyed in Hague”
North Africa
Algeria: 5 Members of Armed Groups Killed
Israel and the Palestinians
Arab-Israeli Conflict: It’s Religion, Stupid!
Exclusive One Jerusalem Call With Benjamin Netanyahu [Audio]
Internet: Gaza, E-Mail Calls Israelis to Boycott Turkey
Israel: Gaza Impact on Elections Unclear, Analysts Say
Middle East
Dubai:1,500 Foreign Worker Visas Revoked Every Day
Erdogan: Israel Should be Banned From the UN
Fresh Clues of Iranian Nuclear Intrigue
Internet: Turkey; New Search Engine for Muslims Only
Jordan: Pope Urged to Cancel Visit to Israel
World’s Leading Muslim Cleric Rules That Marriages for Ten-Year-Olds Are Just
Germany/Russia: Opera Ball Scandal: Dresden Medal of Honor for Ex-Kgb Agent Putin
Putin’s House of Cards Coming Down
Russia to Create Naval Bases in Syria, Libya, and Yemen
South Asia
Afghan Girls Risk Lives to Go to School
India: New Delhi Aware of Pakistani Troops on Border
Kyrgyzstan: Human Rights Activists Condemn New Religion Law
Far East
Congressman Lauds Korean Americans for Contributions to Building America
FTA Floundering
How China Could Scupper US Naval Power
Philippines: No Sign of Kidnapped Red Cross Workers; Sayyaf Role Eyed
Taiwan: Making a Mockery of Justice
Sub-Saharan Africa
Company Pays Pirates to Release Ship
Latin America
Chavez ‘Part of Evil Side of Politics’
Immigrants Do Not Integrate, Admits Ugandan-Born Archbishop of York
Italy: Residence Permit Charge to Stay in Place
Italy-Libya, Joint Patrols Soon With 6 Motorboats
Malta: Rescued Migrants Land
Turkish in Cyprus ‘Black Hole’ for EU Entry
Culture Wars
D.C. Cops Ban Pro-Life Messages
UK: Christian Bus Driver Refuses to Get Behind the Wheel of Vehicle With ‘There’s Probably No God’ Ad on the Side
UK: Diamonds Are a Boy’s Best Friend: the Launch of the Male Engagement Ring
Bush Will be Vindicated in the War on Terror
Calling for Genocide in Your Neighborhood
Kissinger Affirms Call for ‘New World Order’


A Tax-Evading Treasury Secretary?

I guess it’s an understatement to say that standards are somewhat lacking in Washington today.

Just before Barack Obama named Timothy Geithner to be his treasury secretary, the president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank quickly and quietly paid $26,000 in back taxes and interest due since 2001 and 2002.

Asked about the propriety of nominating a treasury secretary who was a major tax scofflaw, Obama characterized the eight-year tax evasion as “an innocent mistake.”

Geithner’s tax evasion can be called many things — grand larceny, highway robbery, white-collar crime, racketeering, thievery, swindling, cheating, defrauding, plundering the public treasury, fleecing, looting.

However, to call it “an innocent mistake” gives us an idea of just how perverted Obama’s standard’s of justice will be for the next four years.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

American Muslim Group Calls for Action Against Israel

WASHINGTON, Jan 16 (Bernama) — A prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group Thursday called on the Bush administration to request that the United Nations immediately refer Israeli war crimes in the Gaza Strip to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued the call after Israel today bombed not only the U.N. headquarters in Gaza, but also targeted several hospitals and an international media centre.

Israeli Strikes Hit Gaza Hospitals and UN Aid Headquarters, agencies reported.

Witnesses said the U.N. compound was hit by Israeli white phosphorus shells. Under the rules of war, white phosphorus can only be used in open spaces away from civilian populations.

CAIR also reiterated its call for immediate action by the Bush administration to safely evacuate American citizens and their families trapped under Israeli bombardment in Gaza.

Various Muslim groups are designating Friday, Jan 16, 2009, as “National Call-In Day for Gaza.”

The groups called on American Muslims to take action by calling their national elected representatives, President George W.Bush, President-elect Barack Obama, and their state representatives.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]

Burris Linked to Troubled Trade Association

Issued license for controversial trust fund, later served group as lobbyist

Newly appointed Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., has dealt with questions about his ties to impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich, but now questions are being raised about his links to an Illinois trade association where a trust fund is reporting tens of millions of dollars in losses.

The fund, run by the Illinois Funeral Directors Association, is a repository for money paid by families in advance for funeral services.

According to state records, Burris issued the license the IFDA needed to run the insurance-type setup while he served as comptroller for the state of Illinois years ago. But within the last two years apparently he has been the beneficiary of IFDA funds, since the organization was a client of his consulting and lobbying firm, Burris & Lebed.

The license now has been voided by Illinois, forcing the association to find another trustee to manage the funds.

R. Brian Burkhardt, a funeral director in the state and the author of a book on saving money on funeral costs, told WND he noticed a year ago that the fund set up under the license granted by Burris had reported a $40 million loss — $59 million at the most recent reporting.

“One of the complaints that have been made against the IFDA is that excessive fees were paid to lobbyists,” Burkhardt told WND.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Dubya Was No Dummy

There are enduring caricatures for U.S. political partisans regarding presidents. For the Democrats, Republican presidents are numbskulls, barely able to walk and chew gum, let alone manage any cerebral activity at a university level. For Republicans, Democratic presidents are immoral, sexual reprobates with no female from ages eight to 80 immune from molestation.

And when a Republican “exception” appears (nobody could describe Richard Nixon as dumb), the individual is characterized as evil and immoral. For the Democrats, Jimmy Carter’s born-again Christianity was so profound that he chastised himself for having “lust in his heart,” and Republicans then depicted him as simply a silly naïf.

The problem for Democrats is that Republican depictions of the immorality of Democratic presidents are essentially correct. Whether it be FDR, JFK, LBJ, or (sigh) William Jefferson Clinton of the semen-stained dress , journalists and historians have found an extended string of extramarital activity that their partisans must either forgive, ignore, or depict as personal proclivities of interest only to narrow-minded Puritans. The question is whether their accuracy is 21st-century politically relevant. Still, there remains a segment of the electorate that hypothesizes an individual who commits adultery might well, to put it in the vernacular, have fewer inhibitions about screwing over the interests of the electorate.

Nevertheless, when most of the high-profile Republican candidates for president in 2008 (except Mitt Romney) had married and divorced at least once, often with blithe unconcern for the abandoned partner, one might begin to conclude that personal morality is seen as less connected to public morality. Or that in their search for a paladin, the Republican moralists are willing to swallow personal circumstances that earlier would have gagged a goat (such as Gov. Sarah Palin’s questionable parenting guidance in regard to her unwed teenage daughter/mother).

Thus, while the question of Senator Barack Obama’s personal morality was not an issue, Republicans may well find themselves in the blackened pot commenting on the colour of the kettle in a future election campaign.

Which brings us to the intelligence question.

Intelligence has become the be all and end all of modern life. And indeed, you can do more with intelligence than you can with stupidity. However, you do not have to adhere to the maxim of one conservative commentator, who preferred to be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by the faculty of Harvard, to appreciate that pure intellect and practical politics do not necessarily equate. Was Albert Einstein more intelligent than FDR? Presumably, but how would he have fared as the U.S. leader in the Second World War (even aside from his constitutional ineligibility since he was not born a U.S. citizen)?

What political observers need to admit is that U.S. candidates for the presidency — and those who become president — are significantly more intelligent than the average adult. One does not lead a fractious military coalition as did General Dwight Eisenhower and be nothing more than a smiling grandfather figure. The compilation of Ronald Reagan’s diaries, private letters and early speeches largely published after his death demonstrate a thoughtful, insightful individual far beyond the caricature of a second-rate actor confined to cue cards for any speech longer than, “Good to meet you.”

And the most recent candidate for the dumb president label, George W. Bush, is anything but. One does not obtain a Yale degree in history and an MBA from Harvard without intelligence; he was the only major candidate in 2000 with an advanced degree.

Nor does one learn to fly high-performance jet aircraft with no more qualification than “jock” reflexes; the U.S. government doesn’t give dummies the chance to destroy multimillion-dollar aircraft.

To be sure, “Dubya” has presented an “everyman” persona as an “Aw shucks” good ol’ boy for public campaign consumption — and great electoral success. The Kennedy family is the repository of pretenders to American aristocracy; others need the equivalent of 19th-century log cabin upbringing — so Republicans have ranches on which they chop brush and show manly maleness by shooting unoffending birds and animals.

But separately and privately (in contrast to the self-indulgent announcements by Clinton of what he was reading), Bush has read seriously and deeply during his presidency. An end-of-year article by Karl Rove revealed that Bush in 2006, 2007 and 2008 read respectively 95, 51, and 40 books — primarily history and biography. And this in an era when only 30 per cent of over age 60 males read more than 10 books per year.

In short, excoriating Dubya for ghastly political decisions, e.g., invading Iraq, is legitimate criticism, but terming him stupid makes the commentator look dumb.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Former Top Aide to [Gov. Blagojevich] Providing Information to Prosecutors

John Harris — the highest-ranking employee under Gov. Blagojevich to be hit with federal corruption charges — has been providing information to federal prosecutors, the Sun-Times has learned.

Harris’ attorney, Terry Ekl, told the Sun-Times the governor’s former chief of staff has had “preliminary discussions” with the feds.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Gaza Protests in Chicago Stir Charges of Anti-Zionism

Jewish leaders in the Chicago area said they fear placards at two recent pro-Palestinian rallies that twist the Star of David into a Nazi swastika and compare the deaths in Gaza to the Holocaust inspired a string of attacks in the last two weeks on several synagogues and a school.

The “blatant anti-Semitic language” at the rallies, which were held Jan. 2 and Jan. 9, have delayed a collaboration between local Jews and Muslims to draft principles for civil discourse on the Middle East conflict, they said.

Organizers of the pro-Palestinian rallies said they don’t condone the vitriol in the placards. Some condemn it. But some say complaining about cardboard won’t solve the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Middle East.

“I think both the protesters who exaggerate the message out of emotion or to draw attention-as well as their critics who jump on it to score a ‘gotcha’- are distracting from the real and tragic humanitarian crisis at hand,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council for American Islamic Relations.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]

Geithner’s Tax Problem Gives Obama a Chance to Get it Right

Timothy L. Geithner, President-elect Obama’s choice for Treasury, has a problem. He is not only a free-trade ideologue but he also failed to pay some of his taxes. The Senate hearing on his nomination, originally scheduled for today, was just postponed for a week, perhaps to give Obama time to find a replacement. If Obama were to pick a balanced-trader like Warren Buffett for Treasury, then America would immediately start to boom. Unfortunately, Obama has chosen to continue Bush’s economic policy of stimulating the economy without balancing trade. This plan has failed twice and is about to fail a third time: […]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

‘Hate Crimes!’ They’re Ba-ack!

Plan to federalize penalties for ‘perceptions’ reappears in Congress

A federal “hate crimes” bill that officially is to enhance punishments for “violence motivated by bias that is a relic of slavery” but is feared by Christians as a potential bludgeon against basic biblical teachings has been returned to the congressional agenda by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas.

The proposal had been stymied during the Bush administration by the president’s threat of a veto but President-elect Barack Obama’s own website has promised an expansion of federal “hate crimes” laws.

The bill, the “David Ray Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009,” has been pending in Congress in one form or another since at least 2007 but never was advanced into law because of stated opposition from President Bush, who found it unneeded and probably unconstitutional.

However, the plan by Jackson-Lee, who has advocated for the special protections for those with issues involving “gender identity,” already has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary for the 2009 Congress.

On her website, Jackson-Lee states “hate crimes” are so much worse than ordinary crimes because of their impact.


Former White House insider Chuck Colson, in his Breakpoint commentary, has called such proposals “Thought Crimes” plans.

“This bill is not about hate. It’s not even about crime. It’s about outlawing peaceful speech — speech that asserts that homosexual behavior is morally wrong,” he said.

A new twist for 2009, however, is the introduction of a companion piece of legislation by Jackson-Lee that would “provide support services for victims of hate crimes.”


In the United Kingdom, the Christian Institute today issued an updated report on some of the cases that have developed there under similar legislation. For example, a pastor was detained for “homophobia” for reading from the biblical book of Romans, a Christian campaigner was arrested for handing out tracts and a Roman Catholic archbishop was investigated for criticizing homosexual partnerships.

“Lynette Burrows, an author and family-values campaigner, took part in a radio talk show about civil partnerships for homosexuals. Mrs. Burrows said she did not believe that adoption by two gay men would be best for a child. Subsequently, a policewoman telephoned Mrs. Burrows to speak to her about her comments,” the report said. “The police officer said a ‘homophobic incident’ had been reported against her and that record of it would be kept by police..”

The UK law has a provision recognizing that “the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


The American economy would limp along — cleansing itself of mounds of bad debt and worthless, illiquid assets — if not for the American government. It now consumes more than its citizens are worth.

The government’s “debts, liabilities and unfunded promises for Medicare and Social Security” amount to a stupefying $56.4 trillion. The household net worth of Americans is around $56.5 trillion.

The first frightening figure doesn’t take into account the bailout bonanza. The last omits more recent market losses. Nevertheless, warns David M. Walker, former Comptroller General of the United States, now of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, as of Sept. 30, 2008, “the sum of the U.S. government’s liabilities and other financial commitments now exceeds the collective net worth of its citizens.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Michael Moore Misuses War Picture

MICHAEL Moore may wind up in court with a prize-winning journalist who claims the mountain-size moviemaker ripped off his most famous photo to use in a George W. Bush-bashing rant.

Last year, to illustrate one of his anti-administration bombasts, the portly polemicist posted on his Web site a heartbreaking photo from Iraq of an American soldier carrying the blood-spattered body of a child. The picture was snapped by acclaimed independent war correspondent Michael Yon, who has been very careful about how his images are distributed and goes out of his way to make sure they aren’t used for demagogic diatribes.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

More Persecution of Our Military Officers

Most sequels I don’t like but now we are to be treated again with another Groundhog Day movie, where things repeat themselves every day without end. It wasn’t enough insanity and betrayal as a nation to shred and force into retirement war hero, Lt. Col. Allen B. West, serving bravely in Iraq several years ago. You may recall, Lt. West had intelligence that a captured terrorist knew where snipers were hiding that were primed to kill off his men. This guy wouldn’t talk after several attempted interrogations by Allen’s troops so like any of us wanting to save lives and get to the bottom line, he faked him out by shooting at the ceiling and threatening him if he didn’t talk. The guy did finally talk and for you very sensitive touchy types, the terrorist was fine. In case you want the important conclusion to the story…Allen’s men were all saved. However, as you may recall, the politically correct illness that grows like cancer through parts of the military, our media and members in congress, freaked out.

He went through public and private hell as his brilliant and popular war record was tarnished, shredded and he even faced potential court martial and prison, why, for scaring a terrorist in a war zone into talking and saving his men. I know, I interviewed him many times over the years. Eventually after a long and public fight, he was forced into early retirement after 22 years of loyal and brave experience. Here is the epilogue on this man. You might wonder, losing all he did if he dried up and became an alcoholic and lost all hope, not Allen. He went on as a civilian to serve our troops in Afghanistan. He was training and supporting our military even as a civilian contractor. After this continued service he came back and ran for congress and almost got elected this last year. It was a very tight race and he plans to run again much to our excitement. Lt. Col. Allen B. West is a rare bread. We need him in congress and continued leadership.

I had hoped against hope that this kind of nightmare would never again happen to our brave officers in harms way…WRONG!

Ground hog Day #2: Let’s Shred Capt. Roger Hill […]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Mosque Construction to Begin in Spring

Step one — create a design.

Step two — raise the money.

And lastly, build the project.

If only it were that simple.

The Islamic Society of Stillwater has planned to build a new place of worship for more than two years.

In about three months, those plans will become a reality when a construction company begins to work on the first phase of a new mosque.

The group had originally planned to begin construction in the spring of 2007.

However, the plans were redesigned multiple times for various reasons, such as changing the plans to adhere to city codes, said Khaled Mansy, one of the main designers of the facility.

When the three phases of construction are complete, the new mosque will not only serve as a prayer hall, but it will also have a gymnasium, classrooms, apartments, a library, an exhibit room and more, said Mansy, an associate professor of architecture.

“This is not only a religious facility,” Mansy said. “It’s more of a community center.”

A past Muslim Student Association member donated a house in the 1980s that was converted into what serves as the current mosque on North Washington Street.

The house will eventually be demolished during the second phase of construction.

For now, the building will stay while the first phase of the mosque’s construction begins.

Once they receive the building permit, construction workers will begin phase one — a building with a gymnasium and five classrooms, Mansy said.

The Islamic Society of Stillwater has raised enough money to pay for the first phase, which will cost about $750,000.

The second phase is the largest part of the project.

It will include a larger prayer hall, women’s quarters, an exhibit room, a tea room, administrative offices, three apartments and an atrium with a skylight, among other things, Mansy said.

This will cost about $2.3 million to complete. All money used to build the mosque is from donations, Mansy said.

One problem encountered in receiving city approval was that there wasn’t anything written about mosques, Mansy said.

Muslims pray on a 2 foot by 4 foot prayer mat, so Islamic Society members used those calculations to determine how many people could fit in the prayer hall, Mansy said.

This calculation was used to answer city code questions that came up, he said.

The third phase is increasing the size of the parking lot.

When completed, the new mosque will be about four times larger than the current mosque, measuring about 18,000 square feet, according to the mosque design plans…

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]

Muslim Ads on County Buses Drive Jewish Group to Protest

The $60,000 ad was paid for by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“We owe it to our fellow Americans to let them know that Islam stands for peace,” said Altaf Ali, director of CAIR’s South Florida chapter. “Muslims are here and Muslims are part and parcel of the United States.”

But the words have inspired opposition from a group called Americans Against Hate, led by Jewish activist Joe Kaufman. The group says the ad is misleading because it implies that Abraham, Moses and Jesus were Muslim.

“That’s offensive to both Jews and Christians,” said Kaufman, a resident of Coral Springs.

County officials have rejected Kaufman’s request they remove the ads. Now he plans a rally outside County Hall at noon Friday.

“We want to send a message right to the commission that it’s not right to legitimize this organization,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

O.J. Lawyer: ‘He’s a Sociopath’

Time heals some wounds, so Ronald Goldman’s dad, Fred, might be interested in this. I ran into O.J. Simpson’s former criminal attorney, Robert Shapiro, night before last at a party celebrating Mickey Rourke’s Golden Globe win. I asked Shapiro, who led the Simpson “Dream Team” in 1994-95 that got Simpson acquitted of double murder, what he thought of his former client in retrospect.

Shapiro was quick to respond. “He’s a sociopath,” Shapiro said, surprisingly. This was just after I told him of seeing F. Lee Bailey last fall, and that Bailey was still defending Simpson.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Inauguration to Hit Big Screens

MSNBC strikes deal to put coverage in nation’s theaters

Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration is scheduled to hit big screens in 27 theaters around the country.

MSNBC struck a deal with Screenvision, the world’s leading cinema advertising company, to air its inaugural coverage in movie theaters in 21 markets.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Inaugural a CO2 Disaster About to Happen! Will Green Loving Media Report?

It ain’t easy being green, and in the case of Barack Obama’s inaugural, it seems like he’s not even trying to green it up. According to the Institute for Liberty, the Obamathon in Washington will produce about 575 million pounds of CO2 emissions.

In a study titled Carbon Bigfoot, the IFL concludes that the CO2 glut will be substantial. From the global warming wrecking celebs flying all over the place in their many private jets, to the many hundreds if not thousands of vehicles that will be used to get people to and in the midst of the inaugural, the CO2 carnage is at the amazingly high level.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama at the Washington Post

Obama arrived at the Washington Post headquarters today, as covered in priceless pool report by the New York Times Helene Cooper.


Post covers it, too. “Staff writers, photographers, editors and employees from other departments lined the hallway after word spread that the President-elect would be walking through the newsroom.” Now Kurtz: “There hasn’t been this much excitement in The Washington Post newsroom since Brad Pitt dropped by.” And Cillizza with actual news from the meeting.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Shocker! Senators Accused of Ethics Lapse

Panel refused to investigate Hillary Clinton’s scandals

A formal complaint has been filed with the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee over the refusal by the Foreign Relations Committee to investigate a wide range of scandals, including “Chinagate” and “Filegate,” in Sen. Hillary Clinton’s past while she was questioned for her appointment to secretary of state.

Larry Klayman, known for pursuing Clinton scandals in the 1990s as founder of the government watchdog Judicial Watch, filed the complaint after the Foreign Relations Committee ignored his request.

“I hereby file an ethics complaint against Senator John Kerry and Senator Richard Lugar and the other members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concerning their failure to conduct an investigation into the demonstrable unethical history of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton,” said Klayman’s letter, addressed to Sens. Barbara Boxer and John Cornyn of the Select Committee on Ethics.

The ethics committee did not respond to WND’s request for comment.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Young Arab-American Rhodes Scholar Sees Hope Through Obama

Ann Arbor, Mich. — He is the son of Egyptian immigrants, raised in a swanky Detroit suburb, a devout Muslim who used to flatten opponents on the football field.

Now 24, married and in medical school, he is a Rhodes Scholar bound for Oxford University in England in the fall.

Abdulrahman El-Sayed is a full-fledged member of the Obama generation.

“People of my generation, we come with our own bridge,” El-Sayed says. “The generation before us didn’t come with a bridge. Real integration happens with us. We were raised in this country.”

Anticipation is building for Barack Obama’s presidency among young Arab- and Muslim-Americans, like El-Sayed, who came of age in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

El-Sayed recalls watching the attacks unfold on a television set in high school. His chemistry class tuned in to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center towers. The world changed that day, in ways few could imagine — war in Iraq, the implementation of the Patriot Act.

For some Arab-Americans, the world was turned upside down. They know it well here, in southeast Michigan, home to the largest concentration of Arab-Americans in the country, around 400,000 people.

“Before, I was just a darkly pigmented guy with a funny name,” El-Sayed says. “No difference between Abdul and the rest of us. Suddenly, one’s association with Islam made it different with how people judged you.”

He remembers a football game in his senior season, when three opponents toppled him and one yelled, “Get the hell out of our country.” While playing lacrosse for the University of Michigan, he says one opponent shouted at him, “I didn’t know they played lacrosse in the Middle East.”

He navigated life in a post 9-11 world, excelled beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. In 2007, El-Sayed gave the commencement address at the University of Michigan spring graduation, in front of thousands, including former President Bill Clinton.

El-Sayed declared himself a “Michigan Man,” talked of the “contagious Michigan passion,” and “the audacity to believe we can change the world.”

But can the world really change that fast, that dramatically, especially for Arab-Americans? Consider the last presidential campaign, when some used the full name of “Barack Hussein Obama” to make the candidate seem somehow foreign, un-American, and, yes, Muslim.

The Arab-American community flocked to Obama’s side.

“I think people who first fell in love with Obama in the Arab-American community were the young people. They have a much bigger view of who they are,” says Hassan Jaber, executive director of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services.

Jaber is based in Dearborn, the thriving heart of Arab-American life in the region. It is a city sprinkled with mosques and built with muscle — home to Ford Motor Co.

Jaber is eager to see the new president come to Dearborn, to give a speech aimed at Arab-Americans.

“I know that he is not a miracle worker,” Jaber says. “I know that the damage that has been done to this country is really deep. And I believe regardless of who was in there in the last eight years, we were going to see this damage. We’ll have to re-evaluate what kind of society we do want.”

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]


Canada’s Finest Moment

You know what makes me proud to be Canadian? The Harper government standing alone in the UN Human Rights Council. That body’s latest one-sided anti-Semitic resolution passed 33 to one, with 13 abstentions. We were the one, alone, and you couldn’t ask for better company.

Of course the usual suspects started squawking about our having “abandoned a more even-handed approach.” But what sort of idiot would take an even-handed approach to Hamas? Unless you count pounding it with both fists.

In a column three years ago, I quoted Article 7 of the Hamas Charter: “The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (evidently a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews.’“

I think I’ll plant me some Gharkad trees. Because the question now is not what sort of compromise one might reach with people who talk like that but why you’d want to. It is a point of pride with radical Islamists that they are in love with death. Hamas certainly is: Other people’s if possible, ideally Jews, lots of Jews, but if not, then the deaths of one’s neighbours and family and if all else fails one’s own. Only on the last point do I sympathize.

Hamas is flat-out loathsome. During the Cold War, I was frustrated by those who drew a spurious moral equivalence between the West and the Soviet Union. Now I miss them. Communism was evil, stupid and dangerous, to be sure. But it didn’t say God would one day finish the work Hitler started.

Periodically I encounter people arguing that Israel, though not perfect, should be preferred because it is democratic, has free speech, has a sizable peace movement, and extends to its Muslim citizens an extensive array of rights denied not only to Jews but to Muslims in Israel’s neighbours.

Such people note that other democratic governments urging “restraint” on Israel cannot even say what this restraint would be, except it involves Jews submitting to a rain of terrorist rockets these same governments would not tolerate hitting them. They also point out that Israel actively seeks peace with neighbours who run newspaper stories based on the blood libel and TV series based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Sometimes they discuss the political usefulness of xenophobia, specifically anti-Semitism, for regimes unable to satisfy their citizens’ desire for freedom, prosperity or anything else worth having.

I pay these arguments little heed. Not because they are wrong but because they are so obviously right that they manage to be beside the point. No one of good will and sound mind is unaware that Hamas dreams of exterminating Jews and dancing in the gore. People’s position on the Middle East nowadays is based on how they feel about that fact, not whether they know about it.

On that basis I welcomed Michael Ignatieff’s lucid statement last Thursday that “Hamas is a terrorist organization and Canada can’t touch Hamas with a 10-foot pole. Hamas is to blame for organizing this, for these rocket attacks and then for sheltering among the civilian population. And Israel is justified in continuing military operations.” And while I’m giving credit where it’s due, in her confirmation hearings as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton bluntly told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “We cannot negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements.” Curiously, the emphasis on past agreements is a nice touch; although Hamas’s perfidy is hardly its most atrocious characteristic, this condition makes even a tactical deception harder to perpetrate on the U.S. which, of course, would also have voted no if it were on the UNHRC.

If the situation in Gaza were reversed, with Hamas overrunning Israel, civilian casualties would not number in the hundreds but the hundreds of thousands and the UN would do nothing. If Israel’s defences were to crack, its neighbours would conduct the “war of extermination” and “momentous massacre” promised by the Secretary-General of the Arab League in 1948, and the world would not lift a finger even if it could. Or rather, some governments would cheer. Others, like the sanctimonious Scandinavians, would wring their hands and urge mutual restraint.

To be alone in one’s position on Israel in the UNHRC is no embarrassment. It is the only place of pride.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Finland: Self-Censorship Hit Fast in Early 70s

[TJ: This looks like it might be explain some of what Fjordman has mentioned before re: media self-censorship]

Newspaper edition pulped, editor sacked over editorial mentioning Soviet human rights violations

At the turn of the year 1972-1973, Finland was recovering from the 50th anniversary celebrations of the establishment of the Soviet Union, and preparing to raise glasses for the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Finnish-Soviet Treaty on Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (FCMA).

Businessmen were dreaming about the Kostamuksha project (the construction by Finnish companies of a mining community in the Soviet Union near the Finnish border as part of Finnish-Soviet bilateral trade). President Urho Kekkonen was working to persuade the Kremlin to give its blessing to a free trade agreement between Finland and the European Economic Community.

When the United States launched extensive bombardment of civilian targets in Vietnam, 300 renowned Finns signed a petition opposing the bombings.

At the same time, in the editorial offices of InsinÃÃriuutiset (a professional publication for Finnish engineers), on YrjÃnkatu in the centre of Helsinki, the paper’s first edition for 1973 was under preparation.

At the beginning of each year, editor-in-chief Heikki Ranssi was in the habit of writing about world events of interest to engineers on a more general level than in other editions.

This time, the paper’s journalist Paul Serko offered a text as background, criticising the US bombing in Vietnam. Ranssi had something else in mind.

Ranssi wrote an editorial touching upon the war in Vietnam, as well as violations of human rights in the Soviet Union.

“The war in Vietnam involves a power struggle between two ideologies and two power blocks”, he wrote in his piece, which was given the headline “Balanced condemnation”. Ranssi compared the “negotiation bombings” by the United States in Indochina with how the Soviet Union acted toward Finland during the Second World War.

Then came some text of a kind that had rarely been seen on the pages of Finnish newspapers since the wars. Ranssi took up the treatment of Soviet dissidents, including torture and prison camps. He wrote about “terrorism that is practiced in the Soviet Union against its own citizens”. He added that the Finnish press had also remained silent on the matter, even though 1972 had again been a year of a rising wave of terror in the eastern neighbour.

This was too much for the publishers.

The forces behind Insinööriuutiset were Finnish, and Swedish-language engineer organisations. The biggest of them was the Finnish Technical Society. Its executive director was Matti Kaario, whose task was to promote the interests, reputation, and honour of the owners.

After reading Ranssi’s editorial Kaario decided that the entire edition of the paper was to be scrapped. The editor himself was given the task.

With the precision of an engineer, Ranssi got to work. The paper was to have appeared on Friday, January 5th, 1973. As usual, the paper was printed the previous evening. When Ranssi was given the order to destroy it, the entire edition of 46,000 copies had already started its journey to subscribers around the country, in bundles arranged according to postal codes.

Ranssi rushed to the main post office in Helsinki and got in touch with the head of distribution, who wondered if the edition might have contained pornographic pictures. At that time, there was an intense debate on pornography in Finland, that had reached the halls of Parliament.

“I made a mistake and said that there was nothing like that. There was just an editorial that was not to the liking of the board of the publishing company”, Heikki Ranssi recalls.

“I probably should not have said that. Word quickly spread at the post office that the text criticised human rights violations in the Soviet Union. That speeded things up.”

A postal strike force quickly got back most of the edition. The censored edition only reached a few thousand subscribers in the Helsinki region.

Ranssi brought a lorry to the main post office, onto which the bundles were loaded. The truckload was to have been taken to the Vuosaari landfill. Unfortunately the dump was closed for the weekend. “All I could do was to ask the driver to park in front of my home to wait for the opening of the final storage area. That is what I had to look at all through the weekend”, Ranssi says.

On Monday he faced a real surprise. The newspaper’s board of directors had convened in the morning in a rapid meeting and drawn its conclusions. Holger Liljestrand, managing director of the publisher, InsinÃÃrilehdet Oy told Ranssi that the editor had a couple of hours to collect his things and go. The decision to sack him was made easier by the fact that the publisher had discussed the competence of the editor before.

A new editorial was written, and the paper was quickly reprinted. The headline was “Year of decisions”. The text was about “dealing with the labour policy of the engineering community to the contract level”. It was signed by Jaakko Liede, executive director of the Union of Engineers. The contact information box in the issue also contained the name of a new acting editor-in-chief: Holger Liljestrand.

The greatest amount of media attention came from Ajankohtainen kakkonen, a current affairs television programme of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE). One of the programme’s journalists came to Ranssi’s home to interview him. His young wife Paula was so frightened by the situation that during the interview, she walked around a nearby park with their child.

Ranssi recalls that he suspected that there might be some ulterior motives behind the interview. He was afraid that comments would be taken out of context and turned against him.

“I tried to talk fast without commas or full stops, to make it as difficult as possible to cut the responses on television. It succeeded. I was surprised in general at how appropriate the attitude of the YLE people was toward my comments”, Ranssi said.

In the interview, he was humble and did not speak against his former employer. He said that he understood the situation, and the reasons for his dismissal quite well. He defended the editorial itself by referring to his Christian convictions.

Matti Kaario, who gave the order to destroy the whole edition, still remembers the morning when he got the paper, hot off the press.

“It was quite clear that Ranssi deviated from the editorial policy line that had been determined by the publisher. We wanted to concentrate on technical and scientific topics in the editorials”, Kaario says.

“In the midst of social upheaval, we had to be careful to avoid excesses.”

Reflecting on the matter in hindsight, Kaario says that the editorial might have been acceptable without special actions, if the policy line of the paper had not been clearly defined in advance. “Today something like this would bring no more than a warning.”

However, in the early 1970s all texts making reference to the Soviet Union carried weight which exceeded the amount of column space that they took. Professor Emeritus Esko Salminen, who has studied press censorship, says that the decision to sack Ranssi was not surprising. In fact, it depicted the state of Finnish freedom of expression quite well. “At that time, the heavy hand of the Soviet Union hung over the Finnish press. The greatest blows of postwar [self-] censorship occurred in 1973”, Salminen notes.

“Finland lived in a pit of Finlandisation and cow-towing. Self-censorship had reached the subconscious level. The situation was ultimately not even recognised by the journalists or the readers. If some enlightened individuals with special expertise noticed it, even they would generally go with the mainstream in order to protect various interests.”

For instance, in 1973, the Soviet Embassy complained to the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs about articles in 12 Finnish publications that were seen as hostile to the Soviet Union. The list ranged from the conservative daily Uusi Suomi to the soft porn magazine Ratto. It was only the quick action that spared Insinööriuutiset from being the target of such a complaint.

Esko Salminen sees the Insinööriuutiset affair to be a refreshing deviation. “Self-censorship of the mainstream media had gone so far that an equivalent text could hardly have been written elsewhere.”

The sacking of Ranssi is a good example of how different groups were conscious of the need to consider the interests of the eastern neighbour. Leaders of Finnish engineer organisations would also be invited for sauna evenings at the Soviet Embassy. The hosts were interested in politics, but the guests meticulously tried to stay in the realm of technology and science.

Especially active in establishing contacts was Sergei Sidoroff, and assistant to the Technical AttachÃ(c) at the embassy, who was finally expelled from Finland because of industrial espionage. Matti Kaario recalls that it took considerable efforts to convince him that Finnish engineers should not be expected to organise a seminar with the Soviets, marking the centenary of the birth of Lenin.

After Sidoroff left, contacts between the Soviet Embassy and engineers’ organisations decreased.

Ranssi still refuses to see himself as a victim of Finlandisation. He was satisfied with his severance pay, and a couple of weeks later, he got a job as a journalist for Rakennuslehti, a publication of the construction industry. The new job paid as well as the old one.

“Of course I knew that the topic was a sensitive one. The limits of what can be written about are in the back of the mind of each journalist. At that time even asking the wrong questions could be seen as an insult to the Soviet Union. However, I was just over 30 years old. At that age the consequences do not scare a person very much”, Ranssi says.

Now retired at 73, Ranssi regrets that he acted as quickly as he did. “I could have dragged my feet a bit in cutting off the distribution”, he ponders.

Ranssi was also very efficient. None of the censored copies are to be found in the archives of Insinööriuutiset (now called Tekniikka & Talous — “Technology & Economy”). None can even be found in the National Library. Only scattered copies are left. A columnist for the newspaper Karjalainen made a forecast in February 1973: “If readers have a copy, it should be handled like a valuable rare object. Nobody knows what someone will pay for it some day, albeit that money is not the appropriate measure of value in this.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Finland: Proportion of Women Growing in Leading State Jobs

Call for further measures to improve gender balance

The proportion of women in the highest-ranking state positions is growing. Nevertheless, only one third of leading management positions in state institutions are held by women.

While middle management positions already have a fairly high proportion of women, the top spots at universities and other institutions of higher education, and in courts is only about 20 per cent.

A working group headed by Tiina Astola, Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Justice, submitted its report to Minister of Administrative and Municipal Affairs Mari Kiviniemi (Centre) on Thursday.

The report calls for measures to promote women’s career advancement in the recruitment phase, as well as training, and the establishment of career paths.

The report also calls for a reassessment of the concept of “managerial experience” already at the stage when vacancies are advertised.

“A business card does not have to read ‘manager’ or ‘chief’. It is possible to acquire management skills in connection with leading a demanding project”, Astola points out.

The working group also recommends clarifying the recruitment phase in such a way that the applicant’s potential for development as a manager is taken into consideration, instead of requiring lengthy experience in management from the outset. Approximately equal numbers of men and women should be taken into management training, the report says. In addition, management training specifically aimed at women should also be developed.

Astola emphasises the possibilities for variety. The same person can serve alternately as a manager or as an expert in different life situations. “One must be able to step aside and come back. Variety needs to exist without any road being cut off.”

Astola herself started working a shorter work week when her children were young. “It was a big, but necessary decision for me, even though I felt that I had betrayed my work community.”

Astola hopes that alternation of management responsibility and other tasks could be adaptable to cases such as that of Sari Sarkomaa, a government minister who recently resigned her post to devote more time to her family.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Finland: Attempting to Avoid the Problems of Europe’s Immigrant Suburbs

Immigrants do not want to be packed into the same areas

The concentration of immigrants in specific residential areas could lead to increasing problems, if the development of these areas and the risks of marginalisation of immigrants are not speedily addressed.

This is the conclusion to be drawn from the government’s report on the assimilation of immigrants in Finland, now being processed by Parliament prior to amendments to the existing legislation.

“Things in Finland are still in the early stages, but the development could accelerate”, believes Venla Bernelius, a project researcher at the University of Helsinki’s Geography Department.

The concentration of immigrants in certain suburbs is feared to be the cause for problems that have emerged elsewhere in Europe.

A dispute in a Mälmà suburb over the closure of a club room for the local Islamic cultural association turned ugly in December and resulted in several nights of youth violence in the Swedish city.

In Finland the risks are smaller than in a good many other countries, argues another Helsinki University researcher, Katja Vilkama.

“The reasons for this are the relative small size of rental housing areas in Finnish cities and the small number of immigrants who have moved here in the first place.”

Even so, in some areas the share of immigrants in the local population is already quite large. Many of them are from refugee backgrounds.

For example in the Varissuo area of Turku, immigrants account for something like 30% of the population, and in Helsinki’s Jakomäki the figure is approximately 20%.

In some Espoo rental apartment blocks more than half of the residents can be of immigrant backgrounds.

There is no unequivocal sense of concentration by design.

For instance in Helsinki as a whole, the concentration of nationalities in certain areas has been estimated to be on the decline.

Nevertheless, there is an impact, and it is felt among the immigrant population as well.

Nexhat Beqiri, who examined the wishes of the immigrant population vis-a-vis housing on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior, says that the process of integration with the mainstream Finnish population is materially hampered if one’s neighbours are only other immigrants.

In another recent study, some of the immigrants who were interviewed felt that the maintenance of their living environment and the intervention of the authorities in cases of illegal behaviour had become weaker in certain properties, as and when the number of immigrants had grown.

In everyday intercourse, relations between the newcomers and the natives had been tested to the point of friction by the use of common areas and even by complaints of the pungent smell of food and cooking.

Nevertheless, these conflicts have declined over time, believes Mikko Luukkonen from the City of Helsinki’s Housing Department.

Foreign studies have noted that the indigenous population begins to steer clear of areas when the share of immigrant groups exceeds around one-fifth of the total.

Katja Vilkama acknowledges that even in Finland, there has been a drop-off in the willingness of people to move into certain areas.

And when the native population ups and moves out, often it is more immigrants who move in.

“Immigrants seek out these areas as it is the surest way of finding a place to live”, says Mikko Luukkonen.

Nexhat Beqiri also emphasises that it is not the wish of the immigrants to be concentrated in individual suburbs.

Yes, living close to one’s friends and acquaintances is important to some, but hardly anyone wants to be surrounded only by other immigrants.

In the view of Bernelius and Vilkama, the direction can be changed if the suburban immigrants could better find work, for then their dependence on council-owned rental apartments would automatically decline.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Forty Held as Lithuanian Austerity Drive Demo Turns Violent

VILNIUS (AFP) — Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to ward off protesters outside Lithuania’s parliament Friday, as thousands joined a demonstration against an austerity drive.

At least 40 people were arrested and a dozen injured in scuffles between protesters and 300 security forces in troubles which erupted only three days after similar protests in neighbouring Latvia also turned violent.

Police said 7,000 people attended the Vilnius rally called by trade unions.

Several hundred mainly young protesters hurled smoke bombs, snowballs, eggs and stones, trying to force their way towards parliament, smashing windows across the building.

Officials said they were investigating the possible use of a weapon, after discovering what appeared to be a bullet-sized hole in a parliament window.

Tear gas and rubber bullets were fired to force the protesters back from the building.

President Valdas Adamkus criticised the protests, saying public concerns should be expressed “not by street riots and clashes, but by normal, calm dialogue between the people and the government”.

However, he told reporters he agreed “to a certain extent” that the government was detached from the public.

Simmering political and economic frustration fed a similar protest in Latvia, where hundreds of protesters from a rally of 10,000 clashed with riot police in the capital on Tuesday night. Almost 100 people were arrested and dozens hurt.

Like their counterparts in Latvia, which is in the grip of the sharpest recession in the 27-nation European Union, Lithuania’s labour organisations have blasted belt-tightening moves.

The centre-right government which took office last month is introducing measures that it says are meant to tackle growing economic problems.

On the horizon are public sector pay cuts of 12-15 percent and reduced social security payments.

The government has also decided to raise the value added tax from 18 to 19 percent, and to end the favourable five-percent rate on medicine and home heating.

In addition, it plans a 21-percent personal income tax — currently 24 percent — rather than a promised 20 percent.

Lithuanian officials have said the goal is to save 5.3 billion litas (1.5 billion euros, 2.0 billion dollars) this year, to close a gaping deficit.

Lithuania, which declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990, has enjoyed a reputation as an economic “tiger,” notably since joining the EU in 2004.

The economy of this country of 3.4 million people grew 8.9 percent in 2007 after 7.8 percent in 2006.

But in the face of rampant inflation and the global economic crisis, growth is believed to been slowed to 3.5 percent in 2008 — final figures are yet to be released — and a 4.8-percent recession is expected this year.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

France: a Robbery Attempt Turned Into an Anti-Semitic Attack

EXCLUSIVE INFO. A young man (24) was attacked Thursday evening at 20:30 in Fontenay-sous-Bois (Val-de-Marne) [suburb of Paris] by two individuals.

They wanted to steal his car, a Toyota Yaris, but the victim resisted. In the scuffle, the criminals found a religious object that gave them the indication that the religious affiliation of the young man was to Judaism. They then stabbed him with a knife and shouted anti-Semitic threats.

He left the hospital in Montreuil (Seine-Saint-Denis) late in the evening after having being treated. This morning, Michèle Alliot-Marie, the Interior Minister condemned the attack.

— A comment under the news item:

David H.: And another one … says Aliot-marie*, what you waiting for France, to expel the anti-Jewish aggressors? Are you waitng for a new May 68 to appear as an economic crisis or an ethnic religious war? Or a mix of both? I tried to contact the LDJ [“Ligue de défense juive”, Jewish Defense League] but the option “send” does not appear …

Galliawatch more or less says the same in the article “An Imported War?”: “Sooner or later, the lid will blow off.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Holland Under Fire From UN Over Children

The Dutch have once again been criticised by the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child for their treatment of children, reports the NRC. It is the third time the Netherlands has been rapped on the knuckles for failing to observe the treaty.

The UN has serious concerns about the way the Netherlands occasionally tries young people of 16 and 17 as adults in the criminal system but the paper points out this only happens in around a hundred cases a year.

The committee also has questions about the ‘excessive institutionalisation’ of children in Holland and says under-age illegal immigrants are disadvantaged.

Dutch family minister Andre Rouvoet has spent two days in Geneva answering the committee’s questions, the paper said. The UN committee will publish its recommendations at the end of the month, the NRC reported.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Lithuania’s Parliament Pelted With Eggs and Bottles

Thousands of people, outraged by Lithuania’s economic policies, have tried to storm the country’s parliament building in Vilnius. Thirteen are reported injured.

The protest turned violent when several hundred protesters began to throw eggs and empty bottles at the building, smashing several window panes. Police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators. According to preliminary estimates, about 580,000 euros damage has been done.

The riots follow similar unrest this week in the capitals of Latvia and Bulgaria with dozens injured in the clashes and almost two hundred protesters arrested.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Spain: Researchers find Moors built with powdered bones

MADRID, Spain (AP) — A chance discovery of a medieval clay oven has revealed that Moorish architects used powdered animal bones to protect the walls of fortresses close to the Alhambra Palace in southern Spain.

The finding represents the first evidence of powdered bones being used in protective coats, or patinas, in Moorish architecture, said Granada University geologist Carolina Cardell, who headed a yearlong scientific research project at the site.

“We know this method was used in Greek, Roman and Celtic structures, but this is the first report of it in a Moorish building,” Cardell told The Associated Press.

Cardell’s team’s findings were published Wednesday in the U.S. journal Analytical Chemistry.

The discovery began when archaeologists restoring a 13-foot (4-meter) rampart a short distance from the Alhambra stumbled across the remains of a clay oven beside a pile of bones and ashes.

The wall was built sometime between 1333 and 1354 by Moorish ruler Yusuf I, who also constructed a key section of the Alhambra Palace complex.

The palace is the architectural jewel near the city of Granada from which Moorish caliphs ruled most of Spain until King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled them in 1492, ending 800 years of Muslim rule. The palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major tourist attraction.

Suspecting the find had something to do with the wall’s coating, the archaeologists asked Cardell and her colleagues at the city university’s mineral and petrology department to investigate.

The team first found that the oven — estimated to have measured some 22 square feet (2 square meters) — had operated at temperatures of around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 Celsius).

“This was far higher than the temperature normally used in firing ovens, so it was obvious they used it for something else,” Cardell said.

Traces on the oven’s brickwork revealed hydroxyapatite, a mineral that is the main component of bone. Bones must be heated at high temperature in before they can be powdered.

The scientists then used a series of ultra-sensitive detection methods and found the same substance on the wall.

“The bone powder would have strengthened the wall’s coating better than any other substance,” Cardell said.

Cardell said there is evidence that the bone powder, mostly from pigs, may have been used in other Moorish structures in the area but so far there is nothing to indicate it was used in the Alhambra itself.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Teen’s Brazen Spree of Crimes Frustrates Linköping Police

A 14-year-old in Linköping in central Sweden suspected in dozens of crimes continues to evade authorities in part because he is too young to be investigated by police.

As a 12-year-old, the boy committed his first known home burglary. Today, he is suspected for a wide range of crimes, including sexual molestation, threatening a witness during a trial, and several other cases of assault.

The teen is also believed to have participated in the beating of a player on Linköping’s professional ice hockey team.

All told, authorities believe the 14-year-old is culpable for a total of 48 serious crimes in Linköping, reports the Östgöta Correspondenten newspaper.

His most common crime, according to police, is approaching people in the city and asking to see their mobile phones. He then takes the phone and leaves the area.

But the police are unable to take action against the budding career criminal because Swedish law prohibits them from investigating suspects younger than 15-years-old.

Instead, young offenders are the responsibility of social services.

“We warned social services a year ago. But they haven’t done enough,” Sofia Larsson of the Linköping police told the paper.

“The signal sent to other children and young people in Linköping is that ‘everyone’ knows that this guy commits crimes but see that nothing happens.”

Niklas Borg, who heads the town’s social welfare board said he is sure there is “reason for the social services office to be self critical”.

The head of the office, Eva Pettersson, remained tight lipped about the boy’s case, however, pointing to Sweden’s secrecy laws.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

The Obama Challenge: is Europe Just a Spectator?

Among my European friends (and that includes the British), Barack Obama’s task is simply stated.

First, he should stop throwing America’s weight around; next he should deploy his country’s unmatched might to solve the world’s myriad problems. If he consults closely, Mr Obama can be assured that his allies will give of their best: they will cheer him loudly from the security of the sidelines.

There has been much talk lately that the world, and Europe in particular, is destined to be disappointed in Mr Obama. To my mind it would be more tactful to wait at least until he has taken the oath of office before losing faith in this remarkable politician. But if we are talking about disillusionment, it is worth asking on which side of the Atlantic it might set in first.

Watching the feebleness of Europe’s response to the latest interruption of its gas supplies from Russia or the dispatch of competing delegations to the Middle East, one wonders if Europe will be trying Mr Obama’s patience long before the new US administration is accused of letting down its friends.

In advance of the hoopla of next week’s inauguration, the messages in Europe are mixed. Publicly, policymakers talk of reviving the old transatlantic alliance; privately they fret that expectations are so high that they are bound to be dashed.

European leaders have yet to address what Mr Obama might reasonably expect of his allies. The semblance of a common European approach to Russia’s new assertiveness, perhaps? A policy towards the Israel-Palestine conflict that reaches beyond what Lord Patten, the former European external affairs commissioner, once called a solemn strategy of “attending meetings of the Quartet”?

Behind this lies the deeper ambivalence about Washington’s role. Most Europeans want the US to continue to exercise global leadership. The alternatives, after all, are unappealing. The contradiction lies in the caveats: Washington must not challenge European sensibilities or ask too much of its allies.

Thus while Mr Obama’s decision to withdraw from Iraq wins universal applause, his determination to reinforce Nato’s effort in Afghanistan is cause for foreboding. One of the refrains I have heard often in recent weeks is that the new president cannot expect Europe to send more troops to Afghanistan until there is a credible political strategy. That seems an eminently sensible condition. More than six years after the toppling of the Taliban, Afghanistan remains a mess. But how will, say, Germany and Italy respond if Mr Obama picks up the ball and produces just such a strategic plan?

I do not want to be overly pessimistic. There is plenty of goodwill on both sides. Hillary Clinton, awaiting confirmation as secretary of state, turned in an assured performance at her Senate confirmation hearings this week. Though she spoke in generalities, the welcome worldview was of someone looking to make friends for America rather than search out enemies.

For all the contradictions mentioned above, I caught a similarly upbeat tone at an excellent conference hosted in Washington last month by Aspen Italia. European leaders want to catch some of Mr Obama’s stardust. And deep down there is an acceptance that they must stump up the entry fee if they want to be taken seriously at the White House. Mr Obama’s popularity among European electorates should make it easier for governments to find that fee.

There are plenty of good reasons why Europe and the US should strive to build a new alliance. The central geopolitical truth of the coming years will be the progressive erosion of the effortless hegemony the west has exercised over global affairs for the past two centuries. There could be no more important time to champion the values it has embedded in the present multilateral order.

What the US and Europe cannot do, however, is simply to start again where they left off eight years ago. A cohesive transatlantic community must be rebuilt on three pillars.

The first is humility. In America’s case that means recognition that its power is insufficient as well as indispensable in the effort to create a stable world order. Allies are a vital source of legitimacy.

For Europe it demands a recognition that the postmodern world of cuddly multilateralism that some imagined would come to pass after the fall of the Berlin Wall has not materialised. The US war in Iraq may have tested to destruction the efficacy of unilateral military might. But events since 1989 have shown also that normative, or soft, power is an inadequate answer to conflict and disorder. Europe needs to accept more of the burden of action.

The second pillar is realism — a strong relationship can be built only on an honest assessment of the possible. The old cold war alliance cannot be revived. Without the existential threat of the Soviet Union, the new alliance is much more one of choice rather than necessity. America’s security interests, as Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in these pages earlier this week, have shifted to Asia and the Middle East. Europeans, for their part, feel less compelled to shelter under the US nuclear umbrella. So there will be frequent occasions when strategic perspectives differ.

Yet almost any list of threats and challenges — from climate change and weapons proliferation to the Middle East conflict, from Afghanistan and al-Qaeda to Russian bellicosity — shows a strong coincidence of interests. What is required is the political will to keep this understanding at the centre of the relationship.

The third prerequisite is imagination. The instinct of politicians and policymakers is to put issues into silos: the Middle East is for this week, Russia for next, Iran for the week after that; climate change and nonproliferation can wait a month or two. The challenge here is to admit the complexities and make the connections. Not just the obvious ones, such as between Islamist extremism in Pakistan and the war in Afghanistan, but across a broader geopolitical sweep. What is the incentive, say, for China to play the role of responsible stakeholder in the effort to forestall a nuclear Iran when the US and Europe refuse to share power in global institutions?

The old alliance was never quite as perfect as it sometimes seems in retrospect; and the uncomfortable realities of a world in which power is flowing eastwards mean that things can never be as they were. That is not a reason to miss the opportunity that now presents itself.-Financial Times

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Brown to Launch Another Bank Bail-Out With Plans to Buy Up Billions of Pounds of Toxic Debts

A state-owned ‘bad bank’ could buy up tens of billions of pounds worth of bank debts in a fresh attempt by Gordon Brown to shore-up Britain’s fragile financial industry.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor Alistair Darling are drafting plans to take on the ‘toxic’ assets and loans undermining the balance sheets of many banks.

The move, which could be part of a package of new measures unveiled by the Treasury next week, came as the US government today launched another massive bank bail-out.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Britain’s ‘Completely Useless’ Trident Nuclear Deterrent Will be a £20bn Waste of Money, Say Retired Generals

Britain’s decision to spend £20billion on renewing its independent nuclear deterrent was today challenged by a group of retired senior military officers, who branded the Trident system ‘completely useless’ against the threats of the modern world.

The former head of the armed forces Field Marshal Lord Bramall, backed by General Lord Ramsbotham and General Sir Hugh Beach, argued in a letter to The Times that the nuclear deterrent is no longer truly independent and does not guarantee Britain a seat at the top table of international diplomacy in the United Nations Security Council.

The large sums being spent on replacing the ageing submarines which carry the Trident ballistic missiles could be better used on conventional weapons which are much needed by the armed forces, they suggested.

‘Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently face or are likely to face, particularly international terrorism,’ the letter stated.

‘Our independent deterrent has become virtually irrelevant, expect in the context of domestic politics.’

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Chinese Conman Murdered Reclusive Author in £4m Home to Steal His Identity and Plunder His Fortune

[JD: perp’s defence held private for “national security reasons” !? ]

A Chinese conman tortured a reclusive writer in his £4million home and then bludgeoned him to death ‘like a seal pup’ to plunder his fortune.

Wang Yam hatched the evil scheme to steal the identity of Allan Chappelow, the prize winning biographer of George Bernard Shaw, after running up massive debts to fund his lavish lifestyle as a bogus financial advisor.

As the 86-year-old author’s battered body lay decomposing under half a ton of papers in his study, the fraudster impersonated his victim in phone calls to the bank to move cash to his own account.

But Yam’s plan collapsed when he called to query a delay in a £20,000 transaction and bank staff became suspicious that his heavy Chinese accent did not sound like the eccentric English writer.

Police broke into Mr Chappelow’s run-down Grade II-listed home in Hampstead, Northwest London, where they discovered the author’s brains had been literally bashed out in the sadistic murder.

The writer is believed to have had hot wax poured over him as he was tortured for information in the attack which left ‘more blood than in Sweeney Todd’, the Old Bailey heard.

Yesterday Yam was convicted of murder, burglary and theft after two extraordinary trials in which most of his defence was held private for national security reasons.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: David Miliband is Wrong on the War on Terror

For David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, precision of language is evidently important. In an article on Thursday, he complained that the phrase “war on terror” is “misleading and mistaken”. Urging less belligerent phraseology, he opined that the “best antidote to the terrorist threat in the long term is cooperation”. Is he suggesting, then, that instead of waging a “war on terror” we should be engaged in “co-operation on terror”? We do not intend to be facetious, but Mr Miliband’s posturing makes it hard to resist.

How do his musings apply to Afghanistan, where another two British servicemen were killed yesterday, bringing the total number of dead to 141 since 2001? Our forces are responding heroically to the most intense close-quarter combat since the Korean War. Is the Foreign Secretary telling them they are not engaged in war? If not war, what is it? Mr Miliband’s Cabinet colleague John Hutton, the Defence Secretary, displays no such linguistic hair-splitting. He said yesterday that Afghanistan was a “defining issue” in “the worldwide campaign against terrorism” and was “absolutely fundamental to Britain’s national security” because the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies pose a direct threat to “British citizens on British streets”.

Mr Miliband probably does not like this kind of talk (though we find it admirable). He claims that Islamist terrorists are “disparate”, every bit as diverse in their views as the IRA, Baader-Meinhof and Eta were in 1970s Europe. This is the purest casuistry. Islamist fundamentalists may not be organised or unified in a conventional sense, but they have a unifying creed, jihadism: they are waging a holy war and they must be resisted.

It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the Foreign Secretary’s unhelpful comments are prompted more by personal political positioning than anything else. He has still not recovered from the fiasco of his half-cocked challenge to Gordon Brown last summer when the polls turned nasty for Labour, compounded by his unfortunate appearance at the party conference with a banana. At the head of the Foreign Office, he has been worryingly anonymous. It is hard to recall anything of weight he has said on any issue — and his tenure has hardly been short of international incident. This intervention appears to have been aimed at restoring his standing inside the Labour Party, while seeking to ingratiate himself with the new regime that is about to take over in Washington by taking a long-overdue tilt at Guantanamo.

In short, it appears to have more to do with Mr Miliband’s interests, not the national interest. Is that what we want from the Foreign Secretary?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Driver Snatched a Bite of Her Sandwich at the Wheel — and Had to Swallow a £60 Fine

She took her hand off the wheel only for a moment. So when Ediri Tsekiri grabbed a bite of her sandwich while driving, she didn’t think it was any more dangerous than changing gear or indicating.

Unfortunately, the police officer didn’t see it that way.

And after watching the 36-year-old university researcher pop the 2in crust into her mouth, he pulled her over and accused her of breaking the law by not being in proper control of her vehicle.


Miss Tsekiri, who works at Manchester University’s school of nursing, paid a £60 fine and accepted three penalty points rather than go to court and risk a fine of up to £1,000.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Harriet Harman: if You’re Middle Class, You Can’t Work Here

Simon Heffer wonders if Miss Harman is modelling herself on Stalin with her latest attempts to remove Britain’s class divide.

With all the zeal of one born into upper-middle-class comfort — she is, after all, the niece of an earl — Harriet Harman is setting out to remove Britain’s class divide . She has done her bit by marrying a prominent trade unionist; though the gilt went off that particular piece of gingerbread when she contrived to send one of her children to a school miles from her home to get a decent education.

However comical it may seem, Miss Harman thinks she has a chance of being the next leader of the Labour Party. Those who want to accept this increasingly poisoned chalice know they must grease up to Labour’s somewhat neglected core vote of disadvantaged working-class people and the hard Left. Miss Harman does it by saying she will ensure that working-class people have the same advantages as middle-class ones.

She is going to outline this doctrine in a speech to the Fabians on Saturday. However, she has intimated that public bodies will have a duty placed on them to ensure favourable treatment for working-class people. How that will be implemented and policed beggars comprehension. No doubt some minion is drawing up a prole index that will have to be consulted by all public sector employers to ensure that they have their quota of people from council houses, people without GCSEs, clients of social workers, ex-convicts and people with Asbos. It can only be a matter of time before employment according to social class (or social disadvantage) rather than merit is forced on the private sector: and under Miss Harman’s Single Inequalities Bill we can expect it will soon be illegal to call anyone a prole too.

Alan Milburn, cynically brought into Mr Brown’s increasingly desperate circle, had laid the ground for some of this by complaining it was unfair that middle-class youngsters found internships whereas working-class ones, lacking the contacts and the qualifications, did not. We are not far, on that analysis, from Mr Milburn saying that the Duke of Devonshire has rather too much grouse shooting, or that Roman Abramovich keeps Chelsea FC too much to himself, and that all these things should be shared around.

Let there be no doubt why there is so much social immobility. It is Labour’s choice. The Wilson government’s decision in 1965 to abolish grammar schools removed the most effective way yet devised to haul people out of poverty. It institutionalised a lack of ambition and of aspiration, and has cruelly denied the chance to millions to reach their potential. The comprehensive system, while it has occasional jewels, has largely dumbed down education and achievement.

And for all their bragging about “taking children out of poverty”, Labour’s welfare state has suffocated aspiration for many poor people. It does not ease them out of poverty; it traps them in it. Do not misunderstand me: I want a welfare state for those who through no fault of their own are on hard times, and I want it to be generous. However, the present arrangements encourage fecklessness among those who could work and could do better, but choose not to.

If Labour makes life sufficiently appalling for the middle classes they too will cease to see the point of working hard. They will pay less tax and contribute less to society. There will be less money to look after Labour’s people, and fewer opportunities too. Stalin tried an extreme version of what Miss Harman is now suggesting; and just look at how fondly history remembers him. ….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: If There Isn’t a War on Terror, Then What Exactly Are Our Boys Dying for?

The two British soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan on Thursday died fighting for their country against a deadly and determined foe. Gereshk, the area in central Helmand where they were engaged in a night-time operation against enemy forces, is a stronghold of the Taliban, the hardline Islamist movement that is trying to overthrow the democratically elected government.

The British Army has been at war with the Taliban for more than seven years, since the latter provided a safe haven from which Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terror network planned the September 11 attacks against the US. Yesterday’s deaths brings the total number of British fatalities to 141. Add to that the 178 British service personnel who have been killed during our six-year involvement in Iraq, and the scale of the country’s commitment to fighting Islamist militants is not inconsiderable.

And yet David Miliband, our Foreign Secretary, would have us believe that we are not a nation at war, but one that is simply trying to disrupt a number of disparate terror groups. For this reason, Mr Miliband has taken exception to the use of the term “war on terror” to describe the military campaign in which young British men and women are risking their lives on an almost daily basis.

“Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology,” Mr Miliband claimed in an article published in The Guardian, his newspaper of choice when it comes to making public pronouncements. “The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common.”

The timing of Mr Miliband’s comments, which amounted to a public condemnation of the outgoing Bush administration’s approach to tackling the modern menace of Islamist-inspired terrorism, was aimed at currying favour with the new US foreign policy team, led by Hillary Clinton, that is preparing to take office following President-Elect Barack Obama’s inauguration next week.

Mrs Clinton made an alarming intervention of her own this week, when she pledged to pursue a policy of “smart power”, in stark contrast to the “hard power” approach of the Bush White House. Mrs Clinton showed a disturbing lack of understanding about the threat America faces, when she ruled out having any dialogue with the militant Palestinian group Hamas, so long as it continued to deny Israel’s right to exist, while at the same time suggesting she wanted to open talks with Iran over its controversial nuclear programme. Iran is one of Hamas’s staunchest allies, providing it with many of the missiles that are now being fired at Israel, which means that Iran and Hamas share similar objectives.

Likewise, while Mr Miliband’s comments will no doubt help to win him brownie points in Washington, they suggest a worrying misconception about the nature of the conflict Britain and its allies are engaged in fighting.

Talk to any of the young Pashtun tribesmen volunteering to risk their lives fighting for the Taliban against the British and other coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, and they will tell you they are joining the jihad, the holy war, against the West and all it stands for. The same goes for the young Shia recruits joining the many Iranian-backed militias that have been engaged in fierce combat with coalition forces in Iraq.

Again, counter to Mr Miliband’s view, the Islamists bring together terror tactics and ideology. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the fanatics leading the respective insurgencies are fighting to overthrow pro-western, democratically elected governments. Their intention is to replace them with administrations that would impose hard-line Islamic regimes, such as the barbaric dictatorship the Taliban established in Kabul, under which adulterers were stoned to death and women beaten if they dared to show their faces in public.

The Israelis face a similar challenge in Gaza, where Hamas wants to establish an Islamic government. Hamas may have come to power through the ballot box, but since taking office it has done everything in its power to destroy the democratic principles underpinning the fledgling Palestinian state, from murdering its secular-minded Fatah opponents to forcing Palestinian women to wear the veil.

The Gaza crisis also belies Mr Miliband’s claim that these Islamist groups act independently of each other. Long before Israel launched its invasion, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were smuggling missiles and combat equipment through a well-established smuggling route that begins in Sudan and makes its way to the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing point, by way of Port Said.

Osama bin Laden has made a rare broadcast from his Hindu Kush lair, urging Muslims to join the worldwide jihad against Israel, the West and any Muslim government that is deemed to be pro-western. Hamas, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Iran: they all share the same goal — to inflict maximum carnage against the West and its interests. And if that’s not war, then I don’t know what is.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Labour-Supporting Thug Jailed for Attack on BNP Man’s House

A Labour Party supporter thug has been jailed for nearly six months for an attack on a BNP member’s house in an incident linked by police to the leaked BNP membership list.

Daniel Searle, of Roundhay Road, Harehill, Leeds, was jailed today for 24 weeks by Leeds Magistrates Court for an attack on a BNP member’s house on 28 November last year.

The criminal had appeared previously in court before Christmas, and even though he had been warned that he would be sentenced to jail, BNP News’s correspondent reports that Searle was ashen-faced when removed from the court in handcuffs.

He had been charged with causing criminal damage after admitting that he had obtained the BNP member’s address from the leaked list and had decided to attack the house at night.

Searle had beaten on the door with a club, obviously hoping that someone would answer. Fortunately the BNP member had the good sense not to respond and to call the police instead. When arrested, the criminal thug said he had obtained the address from the leaked membership list.

“It is my view that there should be further charges to answer here so far as certain militant left-wing organisations are concerned, especially when you consider that at least one of these organisations has stated that the publication of the membership list was not intended to incite violence ‘nor would it’,” Peter Hollings, BNP Leeds organiser said earlier. “Clearly the events have proven that incitement to violence has occurred.”

In his response, BNP leader Nick Griffin said it was a first for a Labour supporter to be sentenced to jail for an attack on a Nationalist. “The sentence was rather light, as one can only imagine what the court’s reaction would have been if a BNP supporter had attacked a Labour supporter’s house,” Mr Griffin said.

“Nonetheless, BNP members can be thankful to the police in this regard for their swift response to this outrage and we look forward to their equally unbiased reaction in the event of any other incidents.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

UK: Murder Inquiry After Woman, 81, Dies in Violent Street Mugging

A murder inquiry was launched today after a pensioner died following a violent street robbery.

The 81-year-old died in hospital in the early house of this morning after she was attacked in the street.

Police said a man grabbed the frail woman’s bag as she was walking along Streatfield Road, in Harrow, West London last night.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Pensioner Died in Agony After Doctors Twice Failed to Spot Broken Back

A great-grandmother was forced to crawl around her house in agony and eventually died after doctors TWICE failed to diagnose a broken back.

Keen gardener Elsie Wilkinson, 85, was sent home with painkillers after suffering severe back pain when she fell while tending to her plants.

A few weeks later she was found crawling around the house on her hands and knees with cuts so severe that they left bloodstains on the carpet.

Mrs Wilkinson was assessed twice for her injuries but died more than two months after her fall.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Pensioner Dies of Heart Attack After Bailiff Drives Him to Cash Machine ‘Under Duress’ to Pay Speeding Fine

A pensioner collapsed and died from a heart attack after a bailiff went to his house and drove him to a cashpoint to pay an overdue speeding fine.

Retired pub landlord Andy Miller, 78, had suffered a heart attack and stroke just weeks before bailiffs appeared on his door.

His family said the action was unnecessary as they had written to the court explaining he had been ill in hospital and could not pay the £60 fine.

Justice Minister and Blackburn MP Jack Straw has now ordered court bosses to launch an investigation into Mr Miller’s death.

The father-of-five, who had been speeding on the M55, had been released from a two-month stay in hospital a fortnight earlier.

He was hospitalised after suffering a heart attack and stroke in October and was in a coma for 10 days.

But Blackpool magistrates still gave permission for the bailiff to go to his home in Accrington, Lancsashire.

The court also added on £290 to what Mr Miller owed in court costs.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Yes, Your Home is Your Castle: Top Judge Says Burglars Must Face Stiff Sentences

Burglars must expect stiff punishment for violating homes, says Britain’s top judge.

The Lord Chief Justice yesterday urged the courts to impose harsh sentences on thieves who target vulnerable victims, steal irreplaceable sentimental items or terrify residents.

Lord Judge said: ‘There is a long-standing, almost intuitive belief that our homes should be our castles.

‘Something precious is violated by burglary of a home, and those who perpetrate this crime should be sentenced and punished accordingly.’

His strongly-worded guidance marks a significantly tougher approach to burglary following years of mounting concern over ‘softly-softly’ punishments, and police forces treating the offence as a low priority.

Lord Judge, sitting with two other senior judges at the Appeal Court in London, made his call for a renewed focus on the often terrible impact on victims as he threw out attempts by six convicted burglars, including heroin addict Rebecca Saw, who terrorised a young family, to have their jail terms reduced.

He took the opportunity to issue formal guidance for all courts in England and Wales calling for a robust approach to domestic break-ins.

In unusually emotive terms, he said: ‘The principle which must be grasped is that when we speak of dwelling house burglary we are considering not only an offence against property, but also, and often more alarmingly and distressingly, an offence against the person.’

Writing just weeks after he called for tougher sentences for knife crime, Lord Judge quoted the 17th century judge Sir Edward Cooke’s description of an Englishman’s home as his ‘safest refuge — where above all we should enjoy secure tranquillity and untroubled peace’.

The ruling observes that the declining years of elderly victims can be ‘overshadowed by what sometimes becomes an ever-present, pervading fear and constant nervousness’.

Lord Judge added: ‘Many warm and happy memories of bygone years can be destroyed as a direct consequence of burglary and for some indeed their home becomes something of a prison, as they barricade themselves behind the security arrangements they believe they need.’

On the loss of sentimental items, he said: ‘A photograph is worth nothing, except to the person who owns it, but may be the only image left of grandparents or now-deceased parents.

‘The loss or destruction of letters written in the early days of courtship may distress the widow or widower who has lost them far more than the disappearance of valuable electrical equipment.’

Labour initially adopted a tough stance on burglary, enacting a Tory plan in 2000 to impose minimum three-year jail terms for those convicted of a third offence, although the measure was watered down to give judges more discretion.

But since then magistrates and judges have increasingly been encouraged to hand out more community punishments, and the proportion of convicted burglars sent to jail has plunged from 51 per cent to less than 40 per cent last year — down from 14,338 offenders to just 9,237 — while the number of suspended sentences has soared.

Police recorded more than 280,000 domestic burglaries in England and Wales last year but clear-up rates are low at just 13 per cent, and a quarter of all burglars caught by police are let off with a caution.

The Home Office’s recent ‘policing pledge’ does not expect forces to visit burglary victims promptly unless they claim to be ‘distressed’, and sentencing guidelines published last month urge courts to consider softer punishments for burglars who steal to fund a drug habit.

Yesterday’s ruling still leaves judges and magistrates free to use their discretion in individual cases, but it sets a tougher tone and establishes clear principles for the lower courts, stressing the importance of the impact on burglary victims.

Recently the Sentencing Advisory Panel — the official body drawing up guidelines for the courts — suggested that first-time knife offenders should not be jailed.

By contrast the Lord Chief Justice recently tripled the sentence on a 16-year- old knife attacker, and said: ‘Those who carry knives on the streets, and use them to wound and injure, must expect severe punishment. No ifs, no buts, no perhaps.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Serbia Interested in Ex-Al Qaeda Officer

BELGRADE — The War Crimes Prosecution is interested in questioning former Al Qaeda officer in Bosnia-Hercegovina Ali Hamad.

During the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina, he commanded a unit of the notorious El Mujaheddin regiment, and is now seeking transfer to Serbia.

Prosecution spokesman Bruno Vekaric told B92 that Hamad might be able to shed light on crimes against Serbs in ZavidoviCi, where an investigation was still in its preliminary phase.

Interior Minister Ivica DačiC said that media speculation could be harmful to the case.

“Especially newspaper articles. It needs to be discussed seriously. An asylum law has been passed, as far as we’re concerned it’s not just a matter of the police, but a also our judicial organs,” said DačiC.

“But I think that it would have been much better if these things had been carried out without the newspaper headlines, than this way. I think the whole procedure and matter, not to mention security, has been compromised as a result,” he said.

The former Al Qaeda officer, whose fighting name was Abu Ubayda, is currently in the custody of the Bosnia-Hercegovina Immigration Center, awaiting deportation.

He has voiced his wish to be granted temporary refuge in Serbia in order to help Serbian authorities solve certain crimes committed during the Bosnian war.

Ali Hamad is a “penitent” terrorist. He testified before the Hague Tribunal against former Bosnian Muslim commander, General Rasim DeliC, and recounted all he knew of the El Mujaheddin’s crimes.

He believes that the Serbian authorities will have a keen interest in what he knows about Mujaheddin crimes against Serbs and Croats during the Bosnian war.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Serbia: “Yellow House Documents Destroyed in Hague”

BELGRADE — War Crimes Prosecution spokesman Bruno Vekaric says that documents related to the “yellow house” case were destroyed in The Hague.

He told B92 that all the new findings regarding the case had been given to the Council of Europe. The Serbian War Crimes Prosecution asked UNMIK for information on the investigation regarding missing Kosovo Serbs.

Vekaric said that UNMIK had claimed that no investigation had ever been conducted, which the Serbian prosecution had, through various sources, established as being a lie.

“I can document that after the beginning of our investigation on April 22, 2008, we asked UNMIK for information on human organ trafficking. We received an answer on June 6, 2008 that they had not knowledge whatsoever. We then found an informal report from which it is clear that an investigation was conducted,” Vekaric said.

The War Crimes Prosecution will continue its investigation into the mass killings of Serbs and human organ trafficking in northern Albania.

The prosecution states that some of the evidence was taken to The Hague, including a medical container suspected of having been used during operations.

“We have information that it ended up in The Hague, which you can see from this signature here. This was signed by a credible person, who was a Hague Tribunal investigator at the time. According to this, the documents were destroyed in The Hague once the investigation was complete—that material was no longer any use to them,” Vekaric explained.

The spokesman said that the fact that the evidence had been destroyed did not matter so much, because the documentation had been kept safe. Vekaric claims that Hague Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz is prepared to help with the investigation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: 5 Members of Armed Groups Killed

(ANSAmed)- ALGIERS, JANUARY 15 — Five members of armed Islamic groups have been killed by the Algerian army close to Boumerdes, at the gates of Cabilia 50 km east of Algiers. According to the APS, which quotes sources from the security forces, the five terrorists were killed on Monday night during a scouring operation in the mountains between Khmiss El khechna and Keddara. Several weapons were also recovered during the operation. A few days ago another two fighters who were preparing suicide attacks in Cabilia, according to the Algerian press, were killed in Tadmait, in the Tizi Ouzou region, provincial capital of the Berber region 100 km east of Algiers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Algeria: 56 Salafite Group Members Trial Begins

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 15 — The trial of 56 suspected terrorists belonging to the Salafite Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC), the Al Qaida of Islamic North Africa, opened today at the high court in Chlef, 200 km west of Algiers. According to the Algerian press, 39 members of the group, all from the Khemis Miliana region (west Algeria) were present in court, which the others will be tried in their absence. The defendants are accused of several attacks between 1996 and 2006 against the public and members of the security forces in Ain Defla, Medea and Boumerdes. Dozens of trials linked to terrorism are under way in several courts in Algeria. Yesterday Djelloul Kallal, alias Abou Kaithama, was sentenced to death by the Algiers High Court for “belonging to an armed terrorist group and committing about a hundred murders”, said Aps. Khallal admitted being “an active member of the death phalange of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) between 1996 and 2005” and “taking part in massacres of civilians and raping several women seized during the terrorist raids”. In 2008 more than 200 members of the North African Al Qaida network were sentenced to death, most in their absence. Capital punishment is still in use in Algeria, though the last execution dates back to 1993 when seven terrorists convicted of an attack on the Algiers airport were shot. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Arab-Israeli Conflict: It’s Religion, Stupid!

‘Newsrooms are made up of people who are pretty much secular’

‘Most people in the world take their beliefs very seriously,” says Roberta Green Ahmanson. “Some deadly so.” Which is precisely why the 59-year-old, California-based writer and philanthropist bemoans what she calls the media’s “blind spot” in relation to religion. Blind Spot: When Journalists Don’t Get Religion, in fact, is the title of her newly released book (published by Oxford University Press, and co-edited with Paul Marshall and Lela Gilbert).

Indeed, warns the award-winning former religious-affairs reporter and editor, and co-author of Islam at the Crossroads (Baker, 2002), there is a tendency on the part of the Western press to pooh-pooh faith as a motivating force. As a result, she asserts, citizens and voters are basing their choices and decisions on false premises.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Arabs Quietly Backing Israel Against Hamas

Yesterday, a friend of One Jerusalem who lives in Tel Aviv sold a car he owned to an Arab who lives in Haifa. After concluding the transaction that Arab taxi driver and our friend engaged in a little chit chat about the ongoing battle between Israel and Hamas.

The taxi driver told our Jewish friend that he should not misinterpret the silence of Arab Israelis on the topic of Hamas. He said it would be personally dangerous for Israeli Arabs to voice their real feelings on the topic of Gaza and Hamas. But he prayed that Israel does not finish its operations in Gaza before Hamas is destroyed.

Last night, a poll conducted in Israel showed that a large majority of Israelis support continuing the operation in Gaza until Hamas is destroyed. You even get the sense from the reports that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are stepping up diplomatic efforts to end the conflict that there is no sense of urgency to bring the Israeli military operation to a close.

Israel is not only defending its citizens against attacks from Hamas but it is crippling a terrorist organization that threatens other Arabs. If you have not done so read British MP Michael Gove’s article on this topic.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Exclusive One Jerusalem Call With Benjamin Netanyahu [Audio]

In a news-making and fact-filled presentation, Israel’s former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, briefed American and international bloggers on Israel’s defensive action against Hamas, Iran’s role in the conflict and its threat to the free world, and the need for friends of Israel to set the record straight — by repeating the facts.

The facts include:

  • Eight years of rockets being fired on innocent Israeli citizens

    Hamas’s commitment to the destruction of the State of Israel

    Israel’s humanitarian treatment of Arabs caught in the crossfire.

In answer to the charge that Israel is targeting civilians, Mr. Netanyahu reminds listeners that during World War II, Britain carpet-bombed German cities. In contrast, Israel’s air strikes have been directed against military targets. Netanyahu also noted that Israeli hospitals are treating wounded civilians from Gaza.

In response to a question about the goals of this operation, Mr. Netanyahu said that objectives are to re-establish Israel’s security and to end the supply of armaments for Hamas.

Time and again, Mr. Netanyahu reminds the audience that Hamas is a proxy for Iran. Defeat of Hamas is a defeat for Iran. Netanyahu ended the call with an interesting insight into the dangers of Iran any any radical Islamic regime that possesses nuclear weapons. Mr. Netanyahu further recalled President-elect Obama’s comment about raising children under the threat of enemy rockets.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Internet: Gaza, E-Mail Calls Israelis to Boycott Turkey

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 15 — An e-mail traveling through the Internet is calling on Israelis not to visit Turkey due to its objection to the country’s attack on Gaza, Hurriyet Daily reported. Under the title, “We must beat them through their pockets and boycott the Turkish hotel industry”, an e-mail sent over the Internet called on Israelis to boycott Turkey as a tourist destination due to Ankara’s harsh criticism of Israel, as well as the mass demonstrations held in the country against the attack in Gaza, Hurriyet wrote quoting Israeli Ynetnews. The e-mail included a short caption: “No more Turkey! No more traveling to Turkey!. The Turks should go search for their friends in Gaza. We are not coming”. Attached to the e-mail there is a photo taken at a store in Turkey where a sign in English reads, “For children-killer Israelis, no sale, no entry”. On the other hand Israeli defense industry executives are concerned the Gaza war may cause Turkey to cancel orders, Bloomberg reported, citing daily Yediot Ahronot. The newspaper estimated local companies have about USD 2 billion in Turkish orders on their books. Israeli companies said they expected Turkey to take steps ranging from delaying negotiations on future purchases to canceling contracts that have already been signed, the newspaper reported, citing an unnamed industry executive. Defense companies based their concern on remarks by Turkish leaders since the offensive in Gaza began. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel: Unsung Hero Rescues Palestinian Lives

Jewish ambulance driver risks life to bring injured out of Gaza

At the end of last month, with fighting between Gaza and Israel already in full swing, Israeli medic Moshe “Moshon” Vaknin drove an ambulance to the Erez Crossing, between Israel and Gaza, and got ready to evacuate an injured Palestinian child.

With Israeli mortars fired on one side, and bullets passing overhead from the other, Vaknin, the deputy director for the south district at Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s version of the Red Cross, risked his life to bring the Palestinian child out of Gaza and take him to an Israeli hospital for life-saving treatment.

Since then, he’s brought out two more wounded Palestinian children for treatment in Israeli hospitals, and last week, was one of a team of medics who drove in to the checkpoint, the most dangerous in Israel and possibly the Middle East, in a special bulletproof ambulance to rescue Palestinian truck drivers, hired by the United Nations, and attacked while delivering humanitarian aid.

“It’s unbelievably dangerous. It’s crazy. The scariest place,” says Vaknin, who took the injured truck drivers to Barzilai Hospital in Israel, and normally never goes so deep inside the checkpoint.

Vaknin doesn’t look like a hero, but over the last four years in his job working for the MDA, he has helped bring thousands of sick and injured Palestinian children and adults from the Gaza strip to Israeli hospitals for vital medical care, often on a daily basis.

Even before the current conflict began, it was a dangerous job. So dangerous in fact his wife simply “doesn’t want to know about it.” Hamas sniper fire and rockets have been aimed many times at both Vaknin and the Palestinian patients he was transporting.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Israel: Gaza Impact on Elections Unclear, Analysts Say

Israel’s elections are to be held on 10 February since foreign minister,Tzipi Livni, failed to form a government last October to replace outgoing prime minister Ehud Olmert, who was forced to resign over serious fraud and corruption charges.

Rome, 16 Jan. (AKI) — By Klaus Heiss — As international diplomatic efforts were continuing to seek an end to Israel’s attacks in the Gaza Strip on Friday, analysts said it was too early to determine how the latest military action would influence voters in the forthcoming Israeli elections.

Former senior US diplomat and president of the Foundation of Middle East Peace, Philip Wilcox, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the outcome of the elections was too difficult to predict, due to volatile public opinion until there was a clear outcome to the military offensive.

Wilcox, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Middle East affairs, said one reason for the Gaza offensive was to prove that the leadership of the Kadima-Labor coalition, including defence minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni, were willing to counter Hamas rocket attacks against southern Israel.

“One of the objectives of Barak, Livni and Olmert, and thus the Kadima-Labor coalition, was to demonstrate they are strong and willing to use force in the face of this Hamas rocket fire,” he said in a telephone interview from Washington D.C.

Livni, leader of the ruling centrist Kadima party, is now running in a close race with Binyamin Netanyahu of the hardline Likud party in the lead-up to the general elections scheduled for February.

The latest opinion polls published by Israeli daily Haaretz on Thursday showed that Kadima and Livni have held firm in the polls, and Kadima is expected to win up to 25 seats in the parliament or Knesset.

However, Netanyahu’s Likud is expected to win 28 or 29 seats, after gaining four seats during the Gaza offensive.

However, Barak’s popularity has risen considerably during the Gaza conflict and his party could win up to 16 seats in parliament, making a Kadima-Labor victory ever more feasible.

Wilcox said although both Livni and Barak had improved their standing in the polls initially because of their tough stance towards Hamas, that could change.

He also predicted an inconclusive end to the Gaza offensive and said that the Islamist Hamas movement was likely to claim victory.

“Hamas will make every effort to convert any military stalemate or defeat into a victory, thereby weakening their adversary, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah,” Wilcox said.

The Palestinian Authority is currently engaged in peace negotiations with Israeli leaders as diplomatic talks continued between key leaders in Cairo and Washington.

Wilcox also said the administration of US president-elect Barack Obama would prefer a moderate, centrist, Livni-Barak government.

Uriya Shavit, political analyst from the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies in Jerusalem, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that rightist prime minister Netanyahu had a good chance of winning the elections if the Gaza war ended inconclusively.

However, Shavit said if the Israeli public has a positive perception of the end of the war, it could tilt the election in favour of Livni and Barak.

Whatever the outcome of the war in Gaza, he said in the past the right-wing had been victorious when it came to matters of state security.

“If history is any guide, what we will see in three weeks, is an overwhelming and decisive victory by Netanyahu,” he told AKI.

“At least since the 1980’s whenever the elections were about society and economy in Israel, it was the left-wing government that won. Whenever the election was about security it was the right-wing that won decisively.”

However, he did not rule out a Livni-Barak victory.

“If the war ends with something the Israeli public would perceive as an Israeli victory, in a way that erases the shame of the 2006 Lebanon war, then there is a good chance Barak will do much better than he did recently, (thus helping Livni),” said Shavit.

Shavit, who is also a research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, said there was clearly political manoeuvring behind the Gaza offensive.

“It is improbable that Israeli politicians did not have elections in mind in light of the offensive. I am absolutely sure they did,” said Shavit.

Shavit said one of the keys to the election outcome were Israeli Arabs, especially in light of the Gaza offensive.

“If Israeli Arabs do not go and vote, the left loses about 20 percent of its electorate. That would be the end of the story for the left,” said Shavit, signalling the failure of the centrist government of Livni to secure a majority coalition of centre-left and leftist parties.

Wilcox pointed out that if Netanyahu won the election, it could make it easier for the new Barack Obama administration to pressure Israel to make peace with the Palestinians.

“There is a theory at least, that if you have a radical, intransigent Israeli government that seems unwilling to compromise, (and) does not genuinely support a two-state solution, that is somehow easier for the US government to deal with,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox also pointed out that Netanyahu had quickly developed an adversarial relation with the former Clinton administration during his tenure as prime minister in the 1990’s.

“In a way, that made it easier for (President) Bill Clinton to put pressure on the Israeli government and support Palestinian positions.”

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

Michael Gove: if Hamas is the Victim, Why is Ramallah So Quiet?

[Michael Gove is Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families]

IT’S been one of the longest-running conflicts in the world, a case study in how difficult it is for modern states to fight counter-insurgency wars against determined terrorist groups. But in the days just after Christmas a massive offensive appears to have changed the terms of trade. Battle-hardened troops have made significant advances against their opponents. The terrorists have been using civilians as human shields, just one f actor amid many in this conflict which has provoked calls for outside intervention, but at the moment the conflict rages on without foreign intervention to separate the contending forces on the ground.

Gaza? Not quite. My first paragraph is actually an account of what’s going on at the moment in Sri Lanka, where government forces launched a roll-up operation against the separatist Tamil Tigers just over a week ago. As it happens, the Sri Lankan authorities appear to be on the brink of a significant victory — demonstrating, as in Iraq, that it is possible for conventional armies to defeat modern terrorist or militia groups. But, telling as that development may be, the most significant thing about the Sri Lankan conflict is how little we have heard about it. If you compare the coverage secured by the conflict in Gaza, and the reporting of what is happening in Sri Lanka, the disparity is stunning.

And part of a curious trend. Like most BBC viewers I have been moved beyond words by the human suffering which has been reported in horrific detail every day. But coverage of the conflict in Gaza has eclipsed entirely reporting from Congo, where hundreds more died last month, from Somalia, where civilians are caught in the most horrendous conflict, and from nations such as Zimbabwe or Burma, where the infliction of unbearable suffering on innocents has long been a tool of state policy.

Why so much coverage of one conflict and so little of others? And why so little context, analysis or understanding? If this is a struggle between Israel and the Palestinians then why are the streets of Ramallah so quiet? Indeed why are the streets of Cairo, Amman, Riyadh and Tunis so muted? Why so much concentration on the position of politicians, and the precise kind of ceasefire they favour, and so little on the political position of Arab leaders? There has been a great deal of focus on Israeli tactics and very little examination of the strategic context — the nature of the real threat Israel faces.

Whatever view one takes of Israel’s actions, either in moral or military terms, no proper judgment of this conflict is possible without context. And that is what so many seem to miss. Hamas is not a national liberation movement, it is not a force dedicated to establishing a free and democratic Palestine. It is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Islamist organisation which wants to unite the Islamic world in submission to its own, austere and totalitarian, view of Islam.

In all the reporting of events in Gaza how much attention has been paid to the ideology and history of Hamas, to the thinking of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder Hassan al-Banna and the preaching of Hamas leaders such as the late Sheikh Yassin? How much space has been given to analysing the Hamas covenant [Hamas Convenant 1988 can be read here] with its proclamation that the Jews were behind the French revolution and its prediction that ‘The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out, ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him’.”

The reason there has been so relatively little support and agitation on Hamas’s behalf among Arab leaders is their recognition that Hamas does not want to see Palestine take its place among other stable Arab nations, Hamas wants war in Palestine to be the launch pad for a jihad against those it considers apostate secular rulers in Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere. Worse than that, as far as other Arab states are concerned, Hamas, like its sister party in Lebanon, Hezbollah, is a tool of the Iranian regime and Iran’s ambitions to become the dominant regional power in the Middle East threaten their own interests and security.

If the Arab political context matters, so, just as much, does the Israeli strategic position. Israel also recognises that the greatest threat it faces comes from Tehran. The Iranian president has made it clear he would prefer a world without Israel and is busy acquiring the nuclear weapon technology to make that dark fantasy a terrifyingly plausible reality. Faced with that threat, Israel feels it needs to do everything it can to show it will confront, and challenge, Iranian power. Hence the willingness to defy world opinion to defang Iran’s proxy soldiers in Hamas. Again, you don’t need to think Israel’s current tactics wise or right to appreciate why it feels it has to show Iran it means business.

Because, viewed from Israel’s position, the world doesn’t seem willing to confront Iranian aggression. The world hasn’t prevented the Iranian nuclear programme advancing nor has it stopped Iran shipping missiles and munitions to Hamas and Hezbollah.

What the world has done, however, has shown itself all too ready to fit events in Gaza into a ready-made template where Israel is once again the wicked colonial aggressor. That is why, when conflicts rage around the globe, the focus is once more on seeing which western politician can find the strongest language to condemn the Jewish state. All I can say is that sometimes it is appropriate to condemn a little less, and understand a little more.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Dubai:1,500 Foreign Worker Visas Revoked Every Day

The global economic crisis is having a strong impact on commercial activity connected to foreign consumers. The drop in oil prices is lowering the cost of food after the spikes of 2008.

Dubai (AsiaNews/Agencies) — In the most populous and best-known Arab emirate, 1,500 residency permits are canceled each day for foreign workers. It is the effect of the global crisis that is impacting, in the first place, the multinational companies in Dubai. The labor ministry expects the cancellations to increase in the upcoming months. The phenomenon will affect recently fired workers, who are having a hard time finding new jobs after the major companies have frozen hiring.

Together with the increase in firings of foreign workers and the revocation of residency permits, the ministry is also registering an unprecedented number of worker complaints. Officials at the ministry say that they have received claims from workers who have not been paid, have been subjected to unpaid trial periods, or have been fired without the agreed severance.

For now, the global crisis has had a limited effect on the population of the emirate. The sectors most affected by the economic crisis are those that are connected to foreign consumers. Luxury stores have shown a steep drop in sales with the beginning of the new year. The heads of the main boutique stores and shops for foreign brand products say that in December of 2008, purchases were down by 70% compared to the same period in 2007.

Michael P. Niemira, director of the International Council of Shopping Centres, says that these numbers should be interpreted in relation to the economic recession in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan, which “has to have an effect on buyers and travellers to the Middle East.”

Some analysts maintain that the negative trend will mean changes and cuts for most stores that rely on foreign consumers. This involves a significant proportion of the commercial activity and employment in which the emirate has invested a great deal recently. In November of last year, the Dubai Mall was opened, which should host more than 1,200 stores at full capacity. The Mall of Arabia, projected to be the largest in the world, should be opened by 2010.

Despite the numbers for the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, representatives of the leading international brands are not yet speaking of a crisis in the sector, but rather of a revision of commercial policies in anticipation of a rebound. An initial test for the real conditions in the sector is offered by the Dubai Shopping Festival, which begins on January 14.

The automobile sector has also shown signs of a serious crisis, beginning at the end of 2008, especially after the announcement of the crisis among the Japanese manufacturers. The drop in sales in the sector — which so far is mostly affecting the dealers — has also contributed to the decision of banks in the region to raise the minimum salary required for loans to fund purchases or small and medium-sized businesses.

Food prices are going in the opposite direction. Thanks to the drop in the price of oil and the value of the dollar, staples have stopped weighing so heavily on family budgets. Inflation reached record levels in March, and the following month the government reached a price freeze agreement with the major food retailers.

In the country, which imports 80% of its food, the new economic conditions have meant a drop in prices, which in the early months of 2008 had spiked as never before: the price of a ton of rice went from 650 dollars to 1,000 dollars, the most substantial increase in the past 25 years.

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

Erdogan: Israel Should be Banned From the UN

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 16 — Turkish Prime Minster, Tayyip Erdogan said today that Israel should be banned from the United Nations for having ignored the request by the Security Council of a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. The premier made his statements during a speech held in front of Parliamentary representatives of his party, the pro-Islamic Justice and Development (Akp) party, broadcast on state television. Since last year Turkey has been a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council. “Israel”, said Erdogan, “does not respect the binding resolution of the UN regarding the ceasefire. For Israel this is a habit. The Jewish state is a country that in the past has not respected hundreds of UN resolutions. I want to ask the United Nations”, said the Turkish Premier again, “how can they allow a country that constantly ignores Security Council resolutions to pass through the doors of the UN?”. Erdogan did not specify if he intended to suggest a ban on Israel from the UN, whether it be temporary of definitive. (ANSAmed)

2009-01-16 18:14

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Fresh Clues of Iranian Nuclear Intrigue

WASHINGTON — U.S. security and law-enforcement officials say they have fresh evidence of recent efforts by Iran to evade sanctions and acquire metals from China used in high-tech weaponry, including long-range nuclear missiles.

Iran’s efforts are detailed in a series of recent emails and letters between Iranian companies and foreign suppliers seen by The Wall Street Journal. Business records show one Iranian company, ABAN Commercial & Industrial Ltd., has contracted through an intermediary for more than 30,000 kilograms (about 66,000 pounds) of tungsten copper — which can be used in missile guidance systems — from Advanced Technology & Materials Co. Ltd. of Beijing. One March 2008 email between the firms mentions shipping 215 ingots, with more planned.

The United Arab Emirates has informed the U.S. that in September it intercepted a Chinese shipment headed to Iran of specialized aluminum sheets that can be used to make ballistic missiles. A month earlier, UAE officials also intercepted an Iran-bound shipment of titanium sheets that can be used in long-range missiles, according to a recent letter to the U.S. Commerce Department from the UAE’s Washington ambassador.

Evidence of Iran’s efforts to acquire sensitive materials also is emerging from investigations by state and federal prosecutors in New York into whether a number of major Western banks illegally handled funds for Iran and deliberately hid Iranian transactions routed through the U.S. One focus of the inquiries is the role of Italy, including the Rome branch of Iran’s Bank Sepah and Italy’s Banca Intesa Sanpaolo Spa. Banca Intesa said it is cooperating in the inquiries…

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Internet: Turkey; New Search Engine for Muslims Only

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 14 — A new search engine on the Internet was launched recently, but this time it is for Muslims only, Hurriyet Daily reported. According to the website, it uses the database of the search engine Google and is powered by it, but filters search terms in accordance with Islam. It is stated on the Web site’s ‘About Us’ section that the engine was built on the substructure of Google and anyone could build a similar site. Some terms are not available to search at all, while in the results for searchable terms, answers about Islam come first. “The best search for Islam”, the website states on its main page, on which the color green, known as Islam’s color is used. For example, a search for “alcohol” first lists results about alcohol in Islam. Meanwhile, words like “porn” or its Turkish version “porno” and the word “sex” cannot be searched while “seks”, the Turkish word for “sex”, can be searched. The Web site states that all advertising income will be donated to charitable foundations that send aid to Palestine. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Jordan: Pope Urged to Cancel Visit to Israel

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, JANUARY 15 — A governmental human rights association has urged the Pope to cancel his scheduled visit to Israel in May in response to “the genocide” committed by Israel in Gaza, head of the centre said today. “If the Pope goes to Israel, it will be as if he is blessing their actions in Gaza. Particularly that hundreds of civilians died in the attack including women and children,” Muhyiddine Touq, head of the government funded National Centre for Human rights told ANSA. The letter has been delivered to representatives of the Vatican in Amman, he said. “We respectfully request Your Holiness to call-off your intended visit to Israel next May. Such a gesture by your high moral authority will certainly send a loud and an unambiguous message to Israel to cease her aggression, and set free the Palestinian people from their captivity which has been going on since the year 1967,” said the letter. “I am addressing this appeal to you hoping that you will invest your moral authority in speaking out against the brutal atrocities which the Israeli government and its armed forces are perpetrating against the innocent people of Gaza,” added the letter, made available to ANSA. “In doing so, your holiness will be giving a moral example to the rest of the people of conscience all over the world who value the sanctity of human life and raise their voices against the oppressors and wrongdoers.” Touq said the Pope had a moral responsibility as head of the biggest church in the world to condemn the crime against people of Gaza and take a firm stand against Israel. At least 1000 Palestinians have died in the attacks on Gaza which started on December 27 th. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

World’s Leading Muslim Cleric Rules That Marriages for Ten-Year-Olds Are Just

One of the Muslim world’s leading clerics has ruled that it is an injustice not to marry off ten-year-old girls. Sheik Abdul-Aziz bin Baz, Arabia’s most senior Muslim cleric, was quoted as saying those who think such girls are too young to marry are doing them an injustice.

“It is wrong to say it’s not permitted to marry off girls who are 15 and younger,” Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh, the country’s grand mufti, was quoted as saying.

“A female who is 10 or 12 is marriageable and those who think she’s too young are wrong and are being unfair to her,” he said during a Monday lecture, according to the pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper.

The Saudi Al-Hayat quotes Sheik Baz, who is the country’s grand mufti, as also saying that critics who say women should not marry before the age of 25 are following a “bad path.” The mufti’s pronouncements are respected and provide guidance for the government of Saudi Arabia, although they have no legal standing.

Last month a court in Oneiza in central Saudi Arabia dismissed a divorce petition by the mother of an eight-year-old girl whose father married her off to a man in his 50s. Newspaper reports said the court argued that the mother did not have the right to file such a case on behalf of her daughter and said that the petition should be filed by the girl when she reaches puberty.

Responding to a question about parents who force their underage daughters to marry, the mufti said: “We hear a lot about the marriage of underage girls in the media, and we should know that Islamic law has not brought injustice to women.”

The mufti said a good upbringing will make a girl capable of carrying out her duties as a wife. “Our mothers and before them, our grandmothers, married when they were barely 12,” said Al Sheikh, according to Al-Hayat. […]

* Meanwhile the head of the Catholic Church in Portugal is advising Portuguese women to think twice before marrying a Muslim.

Cardinal Jose Policarpo said Christians should learn more about Islam and respect Muslims. But he says marrying a Muslim man can bring “a whole lot of trouble” because Christian women become subject to Muslim conventions.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]


Germany/Russia: Opera Ball Scandal: Dresden Medal of Honor for Ex-Kgb Agent Putin

It’s a big night for Russian Prime Minister Putin. The former KGB officer will return to his old Dresden haunt for the Semper Opera Ball. There, the man who just turned off natural gas supplies to half of Europe will receive a medal of honor — handed to him by a man with a communist past of his own.

The medal is of unsurpassed beauty. Handmade by a Dresden jeweller, the decoration is formed of solid 18 carat gold and white gold.

It is a stunning replica of the “Heilige Georg zu Pferde,” a work featured in the city’s famous GrÃ1/4nes Gewolbe, or Green Vault, the exquisite Baroque collection of August the Strong, who died in 1733. And it is a special symbol: St. George symbolizes the victory of good over evil. The ornament has also been engraved with a seminal line: “Adverso Flumine,” or “against the current.”….

The motto seems more applicable to those handing out the medal than to its recipient. The award, after all, is to be pinned to the breast of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Dresden’s Semper Opera House on Friday night, a man who has just cut off natural gas supplies to half of Europe. It is hard to imagine such an event taking place anywhere other than in Saxony. By bestowing the honor, the state is apparently creating just what it needs to make people take its annual Opera Ball seriously: a scandal-rich event.

“It is cynical and scandalous,” says Werner Schulz, a former Green Party member of German parliament who currently heads a government-funded organization devoted to the examination and reappraisal of the Communist dictatorship in East Germany.

The head of the Green Party in Saxony’s state parliament, Antje Hermenau, acerbically quips: Why not just give next year’s award to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to draw more attention to the event? And the head of the conservative Christian Democrats in the state, Heinz Eggert, says, rather diplomatically, that the state has demonstrated, at the very least, a “lack of political instinct” by awarding the honor to Putin.

Just why Putin was chosen for the award is not entirely clear. The honor is normally given to “extraordinary people” who have dedicated themselves “courageously and single-mindedly to the present and future of the state of Saxony and to Germany.” Putin, though, is being officially honored for the “exchange of culture between Saxony and Russia.” The ball’s organizers assure that there are regular exchanges between the state’s museums and chapels and Russia. They also note that Putin has done his part to make sure that art looted from Germany by Russian troops during and after World War II is returned.

The people responsible for handling the negotiations over the return of the art have a different story though: At best, Putin didn’t escalate what was already a tense situation. But they say he didn’t do much to improve the situation, either….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Putin’s House of Cards Coming Down

To little notice in America, a drama is being played out in Eastern Europe that future historians may mark as the beginning of the end of Russia’s neo-imperialist ambitions under Vladimir Putin, as the economic house of cards he built collapses and the tyrant himself heads for the dustbin of history.

Turning off the natural gas spigot in the middle of a harsh winter to much of Eastern Europe that is completely dependent on it — and has few alternative sources to heat its schools and hospitals — is the kind of overreach that imperial hubris often drive dictators past the tipping point and ultimately to their downfall.

Few believe that to be the case today and indeed most enlightened opinion in Europe seems to be playing to Putin’s tune. Thus, the ever-eager-to-appease-Russian-misdeeds Western European elites have fallen in line behind the Kremlin mantra that the conflict with Ukraine is a purely commercial affair unworthy of European involvement. Meanwhile, Moscow’s army of European lobbyists, led by paid Gazprom lapdog and former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, sing the praises of ever greater European dependence on Russian energy.

Yet, Europe’s cowardice notwithstanding, it is difficult for anybody with even a basic knowledge of the facts not to see that this time Putin has miscalculated badly and is playing a losing hand from an increasingly untenable position. None of this is to say that Ukraine is totally without fault in the conflict or that we should disregard some disturbing evidence of corruption in high places in Kiev with respect to the gas business.

Still, Putin’s gamble has little to do with business and everything to do with a desperate attempt to get some political mileage and perhaps temporarily arrest Russia’s accelerating economic and political slide. But by doing that with his favorite strong-arms methods of economic and political blackmail, he has guaranteed that this time his policies will backfire dramatically.

There are several facts seldom discussed in the Western media that need to be considered before one can truly understand the nature of the conflict…

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Russia to Create Naval Bases in Syria, Libya, and Yemen

(ANSAmed) — MOSCOW, JANUARY 16 — In the span of a few years Moscow will have naval bases in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, reported Itar-Tass citing Russian Naval headquarters. “The political decision on this issue has been made”, explained a leading Russian Naval official. “It is difficult to say now how much time will be necessary to have naval bases in these countries, but it will be done in a few years. Otherwise it will be impossible to fulfil the objective of a regular presence of our navy in remote locations for the protection of national interests, both from an economic and technical-military standpoint”, continued the source. (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Girls Risk Lives to Go to School

The girls who had acid thrown into their faces in November in Kandahar have gone back to school. The difficult situation for women in Afghanistan, where being raped is a grave dishonor. The majority of beggars today are women.

Kabul (AsiaNews) — Shamsia Husseini has gone back to the Mirwais School for Girls in Kandahar. Shamsia is the 17-year-old young woman who had acid thrown into her face in November, to punish her because she wanted an education. She explains that “my parents told me to keep coming to school even if they want to kill me.” Local sources tell AsiaNews about the difficult situation for women in the country.

14 other women have been attacked with acid, between students and teachers at the school. For a little while, all of the girls stayed away from school. Then the authorities promised more police, more supervision, they spoke of the importance of education for their lives and for society. Now almost all of the 1,300 female students in the area have gone back to school.

Shamsia also suffered damage to her eyes, and sometimes has trouble reading. She says that “the people who did this to me don’t want women to be educated.” Her mother is illiterate, like almost all the adult women in the area. Many students are almost 20 years old, and are going to school for the first time.

Local sources tell AsiaNews that “Shamsia and her family are demonstrating heroic courage in the face of the total opposition of the Taliban toward education for women. This is all the more admirable because they live in Kandahar, the holy city of the Taliban. Afghan women have a great desire for education, in Kabul and in the other cities there are often more students in classes for girls than for boys. But this progress has not yet been seen in the villages, where the Taliban have more power.”

The Taliban are accused of the violence. In their regime, girls were forbidden to go to school. Now the schools are one of their main targets, and they have burned hundreds of them. Before these attacks, in the streets and in many mosques of Kandahar there were fliers with phrases like: “Don’t send your daughters to school.”

“In the country,” continue the sources for AsiaNews, “it is important to assert that women have the same dignity as men. Now there are women in parliament, female judges, female managers, university professors, but there are still few of them. There is still a widespread mentality that women must simply obey.”

Yesterday, a 14-year-old girl was hospitalized. An inhabitant of a small village in the province of Bamiyan, five months ago she was raped and became pregnant. Her parents, in order to conceal the “shame,” used a razor to open her abdomen, took out the fetus, and buried it. It was four days later before they brought her to the hospital for a serious infection, saying that a dog had bitten her in the stomach. But the doctors figured out what had happened.

“Being raped,” continues the source, “is considered a great dishonor. Yesterday, the minister for women’s affairs, Hasin Banu Ghazanfar, said that ‘there is an unacceptable tradition according to which Afghan women must only obey. This tradition has no religious or legal foundation, but is widespread’. In many areas, families still choose husbands for their daughters or force them to marry against their will, although — as the minister also recalled — this is forbidden according to Afghan and Islamic law. Many women commit suicide in order to avoid forced marriage. In marriage, in the family, women must simply obey.

“Their situation is getting worse in every way. For example, according to a recent survey by UNICEF, in Kabul alone there are 4,000 children living in the street and begging, and many of them are girls. There are 60,000 adult beggars, and many are women. That’s according to official data, but it is thought that the numbers are much higher. Many women beg because they are widows, and no one takes care of them, no one supports them. It was not this way during the 1970’s, the 1980’s, or the 1990’s, until the coming of the Taliban. At that time in Kabul there were few beggars, usually elderly men who had ended up alone.”

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

India: New Delhi Aware of Pakistani Troops on Border

New Delhi, 14 Jan. (AKI) — Pakistan deployed additional troops on the border with India since the Mumbai terror attacks, but New Delhi has not responded in the same way, India’s army chief said on Wednesday. “The aspect of some (Pakistani) troops coming towards the east … we are aware. That has happened,” General Deepak Kapoor said.

“They have come to the eastern border of Pakistan with India.”

Pakistan’s military has consistently denied a troop buildup on the Indian border since the attacks on India’s financial capital in November.

However, it did admit that it had transferred a “limited number” of soldiers from the Afghan border as tensions rose with India after the attacks.

An intense political exchange between the country’s leaders since the attacks has added to the tension as India, increasingly frustrated with what it sees as Pakistan’s failure to take action, has tried to increase international diplomatic pressure on Pakistan.

A senior Indian official also confirmed on Wednesday troops movement on the Pakistani side, but added New Delhi had been careful not to respond.

Kapoor said though India was not provoked and would not indulge in provoking war hysteria, its armed forces were in a state of full preparedness.

India has blamed Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e- Toiba for the November attack on Mumbai that left 164 people dead and is demanding that the government in Islamabad extradite those involved.

The two countries have fought three wars since independence in 1947.

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

Kyrgyzstan: Human Rights Activists Condemn New Religion Law

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev signed a controversial new religious law on January 12 that bans proselytism, private religious education, and the import or dissemination of religious literature. The law, which has encountered strong opposition from human rights activists, comes into effect the same week civil rights watchdog Freedom House criticized Kyrgyzstan for increasingly authoritarian tendencies.

The bill, “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations,” also proscribes children from membership in a religious community and mandates that religious groups must have a membership of at least 200 adult citizens who permanently reside in Kyrgyzstan before the groups can be registered. The previous law required only 10 members for registration.

In an interview with Forum 18, an Oslo-based religious freedom watchdog, Human Rights Ombudsman Tursunbek Akun condemned the law for failing to meet international rights standards and for imposing “a range of restrictions that will prevent small religious communities from developing.”

Three-quarters of Kyrgyzstan’s five million people consider themselves Muslim. Another 20 percent are Russian Orthodox Christians, while the remaining five percent are Protestants and members of other religious minority groups.

Proponents — including the heads of both the Russian Orthodox and official Islamic communities — say the new law is designed to prevent the spread of radical groups, such as the banned pan-Islamic party Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Other supporters admit fears that Protestant Christian groups are converting Muslims away from their “true” faith.

The deputy director of Kyrgyzstan’s State Agency on Religious Affairs hailed the new rules. “This is a demand and requirement of today’s reality. It is necessary to bring order to the chaotic processes we see in the religious sphere and society,” said Kanatbek Murzahalilov.

In an October interview with EurasiaNet, Kanatbek praised the then-draft law, saying that proselytism “damaged society” and violated others’ human rights.

But critics worry the law is an affront to those very human rights, including international charters the Kyrgyz government has signed. Kyrgyzstan’s constitution guarantees religious freedom.

Felix Corley, editor of Forum 18, says the directive is a step backwards.

“This law clearly violates Kyrgyzstan’s commitments to religious freedom,” Corley commented to EurasiaNet. “It remains to be seen how draconian the implementation will be, but many religious communities have expressed their fears to Forum 18.”

Citing examples in neighboring Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, Corley sees this as part of a wider trend: “Laws on religion across Central Asia have repeatedly been amended over the past decade, each time becoming harsher and more restrictive. . . . Let us not forget that repression of religious communities is already the norm in Central Asia, especially in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and increasingly in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and now Kyrgyzstan.”

Sergei Lysov, a pastor and head of Kyrgyzstan’s chapter of Bible League, a non-profit Christian group, sees the bill as yet another challenge to religious freedom in Kyrgyzstan and worries it will curtail his organization’s activities. “We prayed this law would not be passed,” Lysov said. But “I think it will only strengthen religious communities. For a true believer, it is important to have tests, because it only makes him stronger.”

Other minority groups told EurasiaNet they will go underground and complained their voices were not heard during the drafting process.

A week before the president signed the new law a group of American representatives wrote an open letter to Bakiyev, urging him to work with lawmakers to remove articles that threaten freedom of religion.

The leaders of the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, praised Kyrgyzstan’s previous development of democratic institutions, but warned Bakiyev that the law would “damage your country’s reputation.”

“We strongly urge you not to sign this law, which would mark a serious regression in your country’s observance of OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] norms,” the group wrote.

OSCE representatives in Bishkek did not outright condemn the bill, but expressed cautious optimism it could still be modified. Noting “discrepancies with international standards,” Lilian Darii, deputy head of the OSCE Center in Bishkek, said the OSCE had made recommendations on the draft law last fall, at the government’s request, but noted that much of the advice was ignored. “We hope there is still room for review,” he added.

Kyrgyzstan’s Muftiate officially supports the legislation.

Despite repeated attempts, EurasiaNet was unable to reach the administration of the Russian Orthodox community in Bishkek for comment. Last fall, church representatives told EurasiaNet that they broadly supported the law.

Since the hopeful Tulip Revolution in 2005, Kyrgyzstan has slid steadily backwards in human rights and corruption assessments. This week, the Washington, DC-based civil rights monitoring group Freedom House said that individual liberties in Kyrgyzstan had decreased in 2008 because of “new legislative constraints on the media and freedom of assembly, as well as moves by the authorities to enfeeble the political opposition and silence civil society.”

The government has not yet responded publicly to the criticism.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Far East

Congressman Lauds Korean Americans for Contributions to Building America

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 (Yonhap) — Millions of Korean Americans have helped the United States become a powerful nation in the past century as one of the top five immigrant groups, a U.S. congressman has said.

“Korean Americans have helped shape the United States into a powerful and influential nation,” Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey said in a speech to the House of Representatives on Wednesday, according to a transcript released by Congress….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

FTA Floundering

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the American Secretary of State-designate, said of the Korea-U.S. FTA at her confirmation hearing: “If the South Koreans are willing to re-engage negotiations on these vital provisions [automobile and non-tariff barrier rules] of the agreement, we will work with them to get to resolution.”

Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said that additional measures to revise the FTA would be on the agenda for 2009.

The Korea-U.S. FTA has entered a new phase. In fact, we understand that the incoming Obama administration is poised to call for a renegotiation of the agreement.

The Korean government maintains its official stance of having no plans to renegotiate the FTA. It is also still sticking to its line that the agreement was the result of negotiations that succeeded in maintaining the proper balance between the national interests of the two nations.

For example, American automobiles are a prime thorny issue. But the problem lies with the U.S. auto industry itself, hampered by low fuel efficiency and uncompetitive prices and quality. America’s Big Three automakers are staggering under the huge burden of paying medical benefits for retired union workers.

So why is America trying to shift the blame to Korea? America should realize why U.S.-made cars have fallen far behind their German and Japanese counterparts, even though they used to have a nearly 50 percent market share in Korea’s imported car market.

We had real concerns about such calls for renegotiation of the agreement. We continued to insist that the National Assembly should complete ratification of the agreement early to avoid exactly this miserable situation. But the National Assembly neglected its duty and let the chance slip by.

Now we should calmly approach the agreement again. The government and the ruling party should explore the best measure to protect national interests. Legislative ratification in both nations should be considered to avoid repeating the same mistake. It is unjustifiable that U.S. Democrats are using the FTA for political gain.

The government, and the ruling and opposition parties, should discuss whether we should renegotiate the agreement with the U.S. The Korea-U.S. FTA, which has been promoted as part of our efforts to strengthen the Korea-U.S. alliance, may hamper the very cause that the agreement was hoped to contribute to.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

How China Could Scupper US Naval Power

Outgoing US President George W. Bush is due to commission America’s newest aircraft carrier today at the Norfolk naval base in Virginia. Named after his father, former president George H.W. Bush, the ship, which carries 85 planes and more than 5,000 crew, is a potent symbol of America’s global power and presence, despite recent US economic and foreign-policy failures….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Philippines: No Sign of Kidnapped Red Cross Workers; Sayyaf Role Eyed

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Troops began the search for the three kidnapped International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers in the dense jungles of Jolo but have so far found no trace of them as fears mounted that the kidnappers may have handed them over to the Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for kidnap-for-ransom.

Officials said they have not received any communication from the kidnappers on the fate of the three Red Cross workers.

Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga said troops began to scour the dense jungles surrounding Patikul town, from where Swiss national Andreas Notter, Italian Eugenio Vagni, and Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba were snatched by unidentified armed men last Thursday.

The anti-terror Task Force Comet under Maj. Gen. Juancho Sabban led the military in the search for the kidnapped Red Cross workers.

Malacañang said yesterday that US Special Forces training Filipino troops in Mindanao will assist in the search.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the US Special Forces would provide technical assistance for the Filipino troops since two foreigners have been abducted.

Dureza said they are expecting the Swiss and the Italian governments to get involved in rescue efforts.

Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for its part, has activated its Crisis Unit at the Italian embassy in Manila to monitor the situation.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said the Crisis Unit was activated upon receiving word of the kidnapping of Vagni.

“The Crisis Unit is already in contact with Mr. Vagni’s family and is following the situation in close coordination with the embassy in Manila, the Philippine authorities and the Italian Red Cross. The ICRC in Geneva has in turn activated a ‘cellule de crise’ to follow the case,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Swiss embassy in Manila has yet to issue a statement regarding the kidnapping of their national.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has been coordinating with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and concerned agencies to gather the latest developments on the abduction.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Bayani Mangibin said the DFA also instructed its regional consular office in Zamboanga to monitor all developments…..

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Taiwan: Making a Mockery of Justice

It is commonplace in workplaces and companies around the globe during celebrations for members of staff to perform a play or song poking fun at their superiors for the enjoyment of their colleagues.

It is an entirely different matter when prosecutors involved in the highest-profile and most politically sensitive trial in the nation’s history — the upcoming trial of former president Chen Shui-bian (é(tm)³æ°´æ‰) — use such an occasion to poke fun at the defendant.

But this was the case on Sunday, when in an apparent “celebration” of Law Day, prosecutors — some of them directly involved in Chen’s case — performed a skit in which a detainee raised her handcuffed hands and shouted “judicial persecution,” openly mocking the former president, much to the amusement of an audience that included senior judges and prosecutors.

All the more perturbing was that the writer of the skit, Taipei’s Chief Prosecutor Ching Chi-jen (æ…啟人), who visited Switzerland and Singapore last year as part of the investigation into the allegations of money-laundering against the former first family, seemed to think there was nothing wrong with her behavior.

One might expect State Prosecutor-General Chen Tsung-ming (é(tm)³è°æ˜Ž), whose job it is to review the handling of cases and to discipline prosecutors, or Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) would order disciplinary action over such an act, except it appears that Wang was herself a member of the audience.

Wang tried to brush off concerns about the incident at a press conference on Wednesday, dismissing the play as something to “help everybody relax,” adding that “there’s no reason to take it too seriously.”….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Company Pays Pirates to Release Ship

The crew of the CEC Future sail to freedom after ransom is paid to pirates A shipper has paid an undisclosed ransom to pirates for the release of Danish clipper ship CEC Future and its 13-man crew, reports financial daily…

A shipper has paid an undisclosed ransom to pirates for the release of Danish clipper ship CEC Future and its 13-man crew, reports financial daily Børsen.

The ship was held for 68 days by the pirates, who hijacked the ship in the waters off the Horn of Africa on 7 November.

A container holding the ransom money was dropped by parachute on Tuesday into the sea by plane. Clipper Projects, which owns the ship, indicated the sum paid was in the millions but would not disclose the specific amount.

Despite getting the money on Tuesday, the ship was not released until Friday morning. The pirates required the vessel to be sailed 100 nautical miles north before they would allow it to be freed.

The CEC Future was escorted away from the pirates by a Russian warship with all hands on the Danish vessel reported to be in good condition.

No Danes were among the ship’s crew, which consisted of 11 Russians, a Georgian and an Estonian. The ship sails under the flag of The Bahamas.

The crew will be met by a crisis team when they reach the port of Salala in Oman.

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Chavez ‘Part of Evil Side of Politics’

Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the Venezuelan Embassy in Herzliya late Friday morning to protest the previous day’s decision by the Venezuelan government to break diplomatic ties with Israel. The majority of the protesters were Venezuelan-born, while some were from Argentina and Colombia.

“We feel that it’s very important, not only for the Venezuelan community in Israel, but also for the Jewish community in Venezuela to maintain these kind of ties,” said Daniel Translateur, one of the organizers of the demonstration.

“We hope [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez will see the importance, as we all do, of peace in the Middle East, while also recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself,” he continued. “Such a decision shows him to the world as being part of the evil side of global politics.”

The demonstrators also delivered a letter of protest to the Venezuelan chargé d’affaires. In the letter, the demonstrators urged Chavez to reestablish ties with Israel and recall Israeli ambassador Shlomo Cohen.

They also said “breaking the good relations between Venezuela and Israel won’t help solve the conflict at this moment of fear and uncertainly,” adding that they expected the Venezuelan government to support them and their families “instead of promoting attacks against the Jewish community in Venezuela.”

The letter also called on Venezuela to end its open support for Hamas and urged Chavez to stop his comments against the Jewish community and Israel, expressing hope that he would “encourage the international community to fight terror.”

On Thursday, Venezuela said it was severing the ties to protest the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. It followed last week’s expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. Jerusalem had no formal response, and Venezuela’s chargé d’affaires was summoned to the Foreign Ministry for talks.

Israel’s relations with Venezuela have, over the past five years, been limited primarily to the non-governmental sector and the Jewish community. There are some 15,000 Jews in the country, which is widely believed to be one of the reasons Israel did not sever ties after the expulsion of its ambassador.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]


Immigrants Do Not Integrate, Admits Ugandan-Born Archbishop of York

Immigrants to Britain have not integrated and it has brought serious problems to this country, the Ugandan-born Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu has admitted.

“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,” Dr Sentamu said at a speech to the leftist Smith Institute.

Attacking uncontrolled immigration and the left-wing interpretation of multiculturalism that encourages migrants to ignore traditional British values, Dr Sentamu said that immigration after World War II had been unlike any other before.

“For the first time, significant numbers of immigrants from a non Judaeo-Christian background settled in the UK,” he said. This echoes an earlier statement by Britain’s Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks that until the 1950s immigrants were like guests in a country house, who were expected to assimilate British values and belong to the existing society.

“With the decline of empire and the growth of Commonwealth immigration, the pattern had become more like a hotel,” Dr Sentamu said. “Guests are entitled to stay if they can pay their way and receive basic services in return for their payment. But they are guests — they do not belong.

“In the same way, migrants to Britain from the 1960s onwards have made their home with their cultural rights protected under legislation framed under a multicultural perspective. Consequently, any sense of a shared common culture is eroded, risking increasing segregation.”

Meanwhile, up to 275,000 British passports could be handed out to foreigners every year under Government plans unveiled whereby immigrants who have come to this country will be forced to become full British citizens.

If all immigrants who live in Britain but do not yet have British citizenship are forced to become citizens, it will increase the number of passports being issued each year by 110,00 to 274,400.

According to the Government plan, all except the worst criminals will be eligible. By becoming citizens, they are then entitled to the full range of state benefits, including housing.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Italy: Residence Permit Charge to Stay in Place

There will be a 10-400 euro fee — not a tax — comparable to charges levied in many other EU countries

ROME — A charge of 10-400 euros is to be levied, not as a residence tax but as a fee, for the issue or renewal of residence permits. The news of the Northern League amendment to the security bill came from interior ministry sources and was confirmed by the prime minister’s office. Fifty euros was the ballpark figure mentioned for the charge immigrants would have to pay for a permit. Clarification came on Tuesday evening during Silvio Berlusconi’s “friendly telephone conversation” with the interior minister, Roberto Maroni. According to informed sources, it has been established that the charge will not be the same as the so-called “residence tax”. Instead, it will be a contribution to costs, similar to charges levied in most European countries for the issue of residence permits, ranging from 10-400 euros.

PRINCIPLE ENDORSED — After a morning meeting with justice minister Angelino Alfano on amendments to the security bill, Mr Maroni said that the principle had been endorsed. “The amendment is in place,” Mr Maroni explained, “but instead of the 200 euros for the issue or renewal of a residence permit, there is provision for a fee, which will be established by decree”. He added that the principle had been “endorsed as proposed and voted”. He said that the bill maintains “the offence of illegal immigration, punishable by a fine and the supplementary penalty of expulsion decided by a justice of the peace, which is in addition to any expulsion ordered by the chief of police. It offers another way of expelling an illegal”.

FINI AND PM SAY NO — Criticisms had been levelled at the proposal within the majority. Lined up against the initiative were the leader of the lower chamber, Gianfranco Fini, who called the provisions “discriminatory”, and the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who said during a walkabout in the centre of Rome that he wasn’t aware of new developments on the introduction of the tax for immigrants’ residence permits. He said he had always opposed the move and had said so to Umberto Bossi, who had expressed no objections. The prime minister explained: “I am not aware of any new developments on that front. When it was presented to me, I said straight away that I was opposed to the amendment. There has been no U-turn”. When he was asked if he had spoken to Umberto Bossi at dinner on Monday evening, Mr Berlusconi replied: “I spoke about it and he had no particular objections on the subject”. But now the Northern League is reacting and it remains to be seen what will actually happen in Parliament.

FEWER APPLICATIONS — Mr Maroni pointed out that in the meantime, the global crisis had occasioned a drop in applications from non-EU citizens to come to Italy for work. “The flow decree authorised 150,000 permits but only 127,000 applications were submitted, 13,000 fewer than the ceiling that some observers considered too low”. He added that this “proves that there has been a drop in demand. There is a crisis that is causing non-EU citizens in particular to lose their jobs”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy-Libya, Joint Patrols Soon With 6 Motorboats

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 15 — Italy and Libya will begin joint patrols of the Libyan coast as soon as possible to fight illegal immigration, as contained in the Treaty agreement of friendship and cooperation signed on August 30 in Bengasi. The Libyan Embassy in Rome made the announcement yesterday at the end of a meeting between Ambassador Hafed Gaddur and Interior Minister Roberto Maroni. It was “decided that a delegation of Italian technicians would go to Libya in the coming days to agree an action programme for the agreement with their Libyan counterparts.” An agreement with “was delayed because of legislative and administrative procedures”, explained the Libyan Ambassador, saying that he had kept “in continuous contact with the Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini” and that “Libya is keeping to its commitments with the other parties and is acting in its interests”. He said that Minister Maroni “will visit Libya to sign the verbal agreement which will be agreed by the two technical delegations and to start the patrolling of Libyan, Italian and international waters with mixed crews, hoping for the good result of the agreement in the interests of the two States”. Minister Maroni said “almost all the obstacles have been removed. We have defined the contents for putting the agreement into effect, and in the next few days we will begin to put the agreement into action. We are satisfied.” Six Italian motorboats flying the Libyan flag, will be employed to stop departures of the boats from the coast of Libya, manned by mixed Libyan-Italian crews. The Radicals are against the agreement, saying that the treaty “does not include any safeguards over the basic rights of the migrants and asylum seekers who come to our country from Libya”. Alessandro Maran, the Democratic Party’s team leader in the foreign commission of the House, is asking that “an independent commission of experts in the field of human rights is appointed to monitor the implementation of the treaty, with particular reference to respect for human rights and basic liberties”. Today Italy, along with Greece, Cyprus, and Malta, will ask the EU for more commitment in fighting the flows of illegal immigrants from the southern Mediterranean: this is in a document which Minister Maroni will take to the round table at the informal meeting of EU Interior Ministers. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Top Rights Official Urges Respect for European Norms on Immigration

Rome, 15 Jan. (AKI) — A senior European rights official has criticised a controversial security bill approved on Wednesday by the Italian Senate which sanctions fines and immediate expulsion for illegal immigrants and imposes charges on immigrants for permits of stay and Italian citizenship.

Rights watchdog The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg told Adnkronos International (AKI) he hopes that the centre-right government will remove such “discriminatory” measures from the bill before it becomes law.

“There is a need for more coordination in Europe over illegal immigration,” he told AKI.

A joint statement sent this week to the European Union presidency by Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni and his Greek, Maltese and Cypriot counterparts shows this, he said.

“EU member states must accept that they need to coordinate and adopt the same policies on immigration all over Europe.”

Individual countries cannot enact ‘special’ measures that discriminate against immigrants, such as those contained in Italy’s security bill, Hammarberg argued.

“You have to accept European standards when it comes to human rights,” he stated.

Maroni’s plan to expel the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants now arriving annually on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa and the government’s repatriation of several Tunisian terror suspects despite the risk they would be tortured upon their return are in breach of rulings by the European Court, he argued.

“The major concern is that no steps will be taken which undermine the possibility of a genuine chance to have their asylum requests considered,” he said.

“My hope is that there will be a thorough discussion [of the security bill] in the Italian parliament again,” he said. The bill must now return to the lower house of parliament for final approval before becoming law.

Hammarberg said he visited the Casilina 900 Roma Gypsy camp in Rome where Roma Gypsies are living in “unacceptable” conditions. He also visited four other illegal camps.

Last July, Hammarberg issued a highly critical report of the living conditions of Italy’s Roma and Sinti Gypsies and the “xenophobic” climate of discrimination they and other immigrants faced.

“Partly because of the winter, the situation is now worse. The have no light in the evening, and when children come back from school in the evening, they can’t see because there is no light. That makes them very unhappy,” he stated.

“Sending the children to school is key to integration. The parents live for their children and want them to get education and have another life from that which they had themselves.

“In Italy and in other countries, they really want them to go to school,” he said.

“The parents I spoke to were very upset that the camps were so muddy that the children don’t arrive at school with clean clothes and shoes and so they stick out,” he said.

Some parents are reluctant to send their children to school because they are afraid they will be bullied and taunted, he said.

Hammarberg was in Italy for a two-day visit during which besides visiting the Roma and Sinti Gypsy camps around the capital, he held meetings with Italian government officials, human rights organisations, and members of the Italian Senate’s newly formed Human Rights Commission.

Commenting on the presence in Italy’s governing coalition of the anti-immigrant Northern League, which performed strongly in last April’s general election, he said: “If people voted in fear of migration, I think that begs for more information about who the migrants are and their background.”

Europe’s rapidly ageing population means it needs immigrant labour, he said. “There is a need for more, solid factual information about the whole situation instead of stirring up xenophobia.”

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

Malta: Vice Premier, High Pressure on Country

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA (MALTA), JANUARY 15 — The rising number of illegal immigrants is putting “enormous pressure” on the capacity of receiving them and on the fabric of Maltàs society. The vice premier and foreign minister of Malta, Tonio Borg, said this in a press conference organise by the Czech EU presidency. “The immigration question must stay high on the EU agenda” said Tonio Borg, adding that, despite all efforts of the previous French presidency, “it is crucial that the debate on immigration continues non-stop also during the presidency of Prague”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Malta: Rescued Migrants Land

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA (MALTA), JANUARY 15 — The 100 migrants rescued last Sunday from a 10 metre long craft, at the mercy of a storm about 60 miles south of the island, have landed in Malta yesterday. A total of 163 people were found on board the craft, who while the tempest was growing in intensity, had sent an SOS via satellite phone. The Maltese marine authorities had requested help because of the adverse conditions from the tanker Overseas Primar, flagship of the Marshall islands, which was cruising a few miles away. A helicopter from the Italian military mission based in Malta evacuated a pregnant woman on Monday evening, while about sixty other migrants were transported on a motor launch the day before yesterday. The transfer operation was delayed until yesterday evening due to the choppy sea, when the captain of the tanker was able to read Valletta to allow the 100 migrants on board to disembark. (ANSAmed).

2009-01-15 10:37

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkish in Cyprus ‘Black Hole’ for EU Entry

(by Luciana Borsatti) (ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 14 — ‘‘A black hole out of all control’’, through which illegal immigration can enter Europe from ‘‘one of the most instable regions in the world’’. This is how the Interior Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, Neoklis Sylikiotis, defines, in an interview with ANSAmed, the part of the territory of the island that his government says ‘‘cannot be controlled due to the occupation it is under’’. The occupation of Turkey, he means, a country with which no collaboration agreement is possible, he explains, because Ankara ‘‘refuses’’ to recognise the Republic of Cyprus. But at the same time, he accuses, Turkey uses its internal border on the island to free itself of illegal immigration which has reached its territory, allowing it to illegally pass into Europe. It is for this reason, he stresses, that the solution must pass for the entrance of Turkey into the European Union, so that Ankara is obligated to follow European policy in this matter. Sylikiotis is one of the four Interior ministers to have signed a common document, addressed to the European Union and which will be explained tomorrow in Prague during the informal Council of the Interior ministers, which will indicate a series of actions to solve the problem of illegal immigration and requests for asylum. Presenting the document with him, yesterday at the Interior Ministry in Rome, the Italian Minister Roberto Maroni and their Greek counterpart, Prokopios Pavlopoulos, as well as that of Malta, Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici. All agreeing to highlight the fact that, even if their countries suffer more from this phenomenon, illegal immigration should be addressed from a European perspective. ‘‘We have 19 thousand kilometres of coast and 9 thousand islands’’ stressed Greek Interior Minister Pavlopoulos. ‘‘We are the border countries’’ added the Maltese Interior Minister Mifsud Bonnici — ‘‘but this is a European problem and it should be addressed by European institutions’’. ‘‘A common solidarity policy is needed in the Union — added Sylikiotis — and a more correct distribution of funds’’. Reminding of the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, already adopted by the leaders of the 27 countries last October, but also stressing the issues considered to be priorities by the four signers of the new document, which everyone expects, emphasises Maroni, will have equally urgent responses. This response moves from the necessity of new readmission agreements with countries of origin and immigrant flows in Africa and the Middle East, to the urgent invitation, to the European Council to define cooperation agreements with these countries for a ‘global approach’ to migration. Cyprus, Greece and Italy consider the path to follow the patrol of the Mediterranean on the part of Frontex, the EU border agency, and ask the Council and the member nations to give this agency the necessary resources. As for the rescues at sea, the four countries declare themselves ready to continue to go beyond their own ‘‘legal responsibilities’’ to save human lives, but ask the other member nations to assume ‘‘long term responsibility for the people saved’’. And as for Spain, in its sharing many of these problems with the ‘‘group of four’’ launched by Maroni last October in Malta? ‘‘The pact is open to the adhesion by all countries in the Mediterranean — responded the Italian minister — and Spain has already shown interest in the document. But we have decided to write it in four for a more uniform approach’’. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

D.C. Cops Ban Pro-Life Messages

‘Is this the future of free speech and political dissent under President Obama?’

The Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department has forbidden a pro-life gathering and chalk display during Inauguration Week — and now the group is fighting back with a lawsuit against the department.

Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said the department is banning the event because of its message.

“For over 16 years, law enforcement officials have given permission to the Christian Defense Coalition to use public ‘sidewalk chalking’ as a part of their demonstrations and vigils in the nation’s capitol. The City of Washington, D.C., has also allowed numerous public ‘chalk art displays’ throughout the city,” he said in a statement. “It is therefore most troubling that for the first time the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department is banning this practice when it involves a pro-life display in front of the White House.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Christian Bus Driver Refuses to Get Behind the Wheel of Vehicle With ‘There’s Probably No God’ Ad on the Side

A shocked Christian bus driver refused to drive his vehicle after he turned up at work and discovered an advert on the side saying: ‘There’s probably no God.’

He then walked out of his shift in Southampton, Hampshire, in protest.

The First Bus vehicle was one of 800 across the country to feature the first-ever atheist advertising campaign, run by the British Humanist Association.

The slogan says: ‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.’

The campaign has been backed by archsceptic and evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins, who claims the existence of God is about as likely as that of the tooth fairy.

Now bosses at First Bus have had to make special arrangements to accomodate Mr Heather’s religious beliefs by making other buses without the advert available to him.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Diamonds Are a Boy’s Best Friend: the Launch of the Male Engagement Ring

A jewellery chain is set to be the first in the country to sell engagement rings exclusively for men.

H Samuel says the move comes after demands from female customers for equality — as increasing numbers of women propose to their partners.

Called the Tioro ring, it is a titanium band embedded with a discreet diamond and is priced at a modest £79.99.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Dying Patients Are Denied Drugs But the Obese Get £425 From the NHS to Diet

The NHS is to pay fat people up to £425 to lose weight.

Overweight men and women will get the handouts for meeting personal slimming targets.

Ministers are backing the scheme amid warnings that the obesity epidemic could bankrupt the health service through soaring cases of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Wanted for Hate Crime

[JD: Richard Littlejohn comments on a couple of other stories. Scroll down at the URL above for the gipsy camp story and the story about playing music publicly.]

After a week which has seen 11 football fans arrested for alleged homophobic chanting and the royals embroiled in a controversy over racist language, how long before the ‘hate crimes’ vigilantes widen their net still farther?

The Home Office definition of a ‘hate crime’ is: ‘Any incident… which is perceived by the victim or any other person (my italics) as being motivated by prejudice or hate.’

Circle the caravans! It’s a drive-by shouting…

South Cambridgeshire District Council is planning to spend £500,000 on a soundproofed wall to protect a gipsy camp alongside the A14 from being subjected to road noise and ‘abuse’ from passing motorists.

So that’s what they mean by garage music

The PRS, whose royalty-collection service keeps many a struggling musician in Class A drugs, recently raided the workshop of mechanic Len Attwood because he wasn’t displaying one of their stickers to prove he had a licence to play music in public.

Len told them he didn’t need one because he didn’t have a radio. Ah, but your customers have radios in their cars, he was informed, and they don’t always turn them off when they drive into the workshop.

Therefore, unless he bought a licence, he could be fined £2,000.

Either that, or put up a prominent notice ordering customers to switch off at the door.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Bush Will be Vindicated in the War on Terror

With the end of the Bush presidency in sight, it’s time to take stock of the War on Terror, something that didn’t begin with George W. Bush but which entered the American collective consciousness on his watch. So, where are we now, as we get ready to usher in a new era with a new president?

The measurement of the successes and failures under the Bush Administration isn’t a simple matter of calculus. Many questions make the final assessment complex and inextricable. Here are few examples:

1) Did the jihadi war against America begin on September 11, 2001? Of course not! It began in the years and decades before the attacks of 9/11.

The ideology of jihadism rose in the 1920s. The Islamist movement, through both Wahabism and the Muslim Brotherhood, indoctrinated large pools of recruits around the world during the Cold War.

In the 1980s the United States was targeted in Tehran and in Beirut. In the 1990s, Americans were attacked in New York in 1993, massacred in 1993 in Somalia, killed at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, attacked in 1998 in East Africa and again in 2000 in Yemen.

By the time Bin Laden’s men crumbled the towers in Manhattan and the Pentagon on 9/11, four presidents had been advised by their experts to avoid a “global confrontation” with terrorism.

In contrast, George Bush broke that taboo and on October 7, 2001 he declared a “War on Terror.” He should have identified the enemy with its real name, the jihadists, but at least he informed the nation, that indeed, we were at war with “an enemy.” And for that mere fact he was vilified for seven years.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Calling for Genocide in Your Neighborhood

by Robert Spencer

The mainstream media has taken little notice, but at rallies in America and Europe this week protesting Israel’s actions in Gaza, protesters have more than once declared how happy they would be if the Jews were simply wiped out once and for all.

Los Angeles: Muslim demonstrators in front of the Israeli Consulate chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” — a vision that can only be realized by the total destruction of Israel. They waved the flag of the jihad terrorist group Hizballah. To cheers from other demonstrators, some shouted, “Long live Hitler! Put Jews in ovens! Jews are fossil fuel!”

Fort Lauderdale: Leftist and Muslim demonstrators chanted, “Nuke, nuke Israel!” One yelled: “Go back to the ovens! You need a big oven, that’s what you need!”…

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske [Return to headlines]

Kissinger Affirms Call for ‘New World Order’

Proposes globalism to solve current world economic crisis

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger reaffirmed his call for the incoming Obama administration to use the current financial crisis to create a “new world order,” in a commentary piece for the International Herald Tribune.

Kissinger’s commentary makes clear globalists intend to utilize the current global financial meltdown to advance globalism.

In developing his call for action, Kissinger also makes clear his view of globalism involves a lessening of American power and influence to elevate other less advantaged countries in the global economy.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

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