Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/5/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/5/2009Read through the official European reactions to Israel’s ground offensive into Gaza: Zapatero, the Vatican, the Italian government — all are pressuring Israel for a ceasefire. The surprise is Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who states that it would be pointless to condemn Israel without addressing what Hamas is doing. Do you think he’s mindful of Geert Wilders and the wind blowing from his right?

Thanks to Abu Elvis, Folly, Insubria, JD, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Obama’s Lies About Government Bailout Plan
Obama’s Intel Picks Short on Direct Experience
Keeping the Tigers Out of Canada
Europe and the EU
Condemning Israel’s Actions “Pointless”: Dutch PM
Czech Republic Takes Over Helm of EU, Causes Fears
Czech Court Sends Neo-Nazis Behind Bars for Attempted Murder
Denmark: Military Weapons Depot Looted
Denmark: Liberal Alliance Founder Leaves Party
Finland, Risikko: Parents Should Pay for Circumcisions
France Braces for ‘Rebirth of Violent Left’
Greece: Policeman Seriously Injured in Athens
In Gaza, the Vatican Raises the White Flag
Italy Urges Gaza Truce
Italy: Verona to Target Home Sex-Workers
Spain: Zapatero Condemns Israel’s ‘Disproportionate Reaction’
Switzerland: Illegal Immigrants to Move to New Church
UK: Children Aged Five Expelled for Sex Offences, Girls Molested by Classmates…
UK: Media is Partly to Blame for the Recession
UK: Teenager Died of Brain Haemorrhage… After Doctors Denied Her a Vital Scan
UK: Why is Labour So Keen to Imprison Us?
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: Erdogan, Israel to be Cursed for Killing Children
Gaza: Muslim Intellectuals, Wrong to Pray in Demonstrations
Gush Katif Expulsion Victim Returns ‘Home’ as Soldier
Have Israelis Finally Learned the Strategic Value of Territory?
IDF Cuts Gaza Strip in Two as it Readies Expanded Ground Operation
Lone Golani Soldier Fights Gunmen, Escapes Kidnapping
Peace is the Last Thing Hamas Want
Study: Most Sderot Kids Exhibit Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms
Swedes Stranded in Gaza
The Necessity of Israel
Middle East
For Jewish State, Real Enemy is Iran
Is Iran in Trouble?
Video: Iranians Urge Kids to Fight ‘Evil’ Israel
Yemen: Jews in North Increasingly Being Harassed
Behind the Russia-Ukraine Gas Conflict
Estonian Court Acquits 4 in Deadly Statue Riots
Interview With Georgian Opposition Leader
South Asia
Malaysia 5 Opposition Members Arrested
Singapore: Terror Trial Delayed
Far East
China Steps Up Internet Censors’ Scrutiny
Philippines: Military to Go After All Insurgents
Australia — Pacific
Aussie Muslims Critical of Rudd Stance
Sub-Saharan Africa
Piracy: Rumours of Saudi Sirius Star Release
Polio: ‘Nigeria Worst Hit Country in 2008’
Britons Flee London to be Replaced by Immigrants
Denmark: More Immigrants Stopped, Fewer Deported
Immigration: Greece, 59 Migrants on Way to Italy Stopped
Number of Migrant Workers Underestimated
Culture Wars
Britain’s Betrayed Tribe: the White Working Class
Know Your History, or Die [Malta, 1565]
Slowing Global Warming With Antarctic Iron
Why Liberals Still Think Like the KKK


Obama’s Lies About Government Bailout Plan

Obama’s Saturday radio address, where he talked about his “American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan,” was as masterful as any professional magic show full of misdirection and illusions.

Explaining why we must spend more federal money and go further into debt, an approach that could spark hyperinflation and even national bankruptcy, Obama said that “We must make strategic investments that will serve as a down payment on our long-term economic future.” He declared that “this plan must be designed in a new way — we can’t just fall into the old Washington habit of throwing money at the problem.” Yet this is precisely what his plan does.

Obama says that “we must restore fiscal responsibility and make the tough choices so that as the economy recovers, the deficit starts to come down.” The deficit will be increased so that it can eventually “come down”? This is strange logic sometimes called “doublespeak” but also known as lying.

Taking this reckless and dangerous approach one step further, Obama says that, rather than cost money, the spending and debt program will “save” money and “help reduce health care costs by billions of dollars each year.” For too many families, “debts continue to mount,” he says. So the answer is for the federal government to go further into debt and pass on these costs to those who pay the bills — those same families. This will “save” us money?


Peter Schiff of Euro Pacific Capital warns that a proposal of this kind is comparable to an individual trying to “forestall a personal recession by taking out newer, bigger loans when the old loans can’t be repaid.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Intel Picks Short on Direct Experience

Obama fills key intelligence positions

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama’s decision to fill the nation’s top intelligence jobs with two men short on direct experience in intelligence gathering surprised the spy community and signaled the Democrat’s intention for a clean break from Bush administration policies.

Former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, an eight-term congressional veteran and administrative expert, is being tapped to head the CIA. Retired Adm. Dennis Blair is Obama’s choice to be director of national intelligence, a selection expected for weeks, according to two Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity because Obama has not officially announced the choices.

The Obama transition team’s long delay in selecting CIA and national intelligence directors is a reflection of the complicated demands of the jobs and Obama’s own policies and priorities.

Obama is sending an unequivocal message that controversial administration policies approving harsh interrogations, waterboarding and extraordinary renditions — the secret transfer of prisoners to other governments with a history of torture — and warrantless wiretapping are over, said several officials.

The search for Obama’s new CIA chief had been stalled since November, when John Brennan, Obama’s transition intelligence adviser, abruptly withdrew his name from consideration. Brennan said his potential nomination had sparked outrage among civil rights and human rights groups, who argued that he had not been outspoken enough in his condemnation of President George W. Bush’s policies.

And despite an internal list of former and current CIA officials who had impressive administrative credentials, all either worked in intelligence during the Bush administration’s development of controversial policies on interrogation and torture or earlier, during the months leading up to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Neither Panetta nor Blair are tainted by associations with Bush administration policies, in large part because they both come from outside the intelligence world. Blair was posted at the CIA for about a year.

           — Hat tip: Folly [Return to headlines]


Keeping the Tigers Out of Canada

On Friday, Sri Lanka’s army captured Kilinochchi, the de facto capital of the Tamil Tigers. This marks a crippling blow for the Tigers, a rebel militia and terrorist group that first took up arms more than a quarter-century ago. It also poses an indirect security risk for Canada: As the Tigers are routed from the battlefield, Ottawa must guard against fleeing Tiger leaders seeking sanctuary among this country’s large Ontario-based community of expatriate Tamils.

The Tigers — more formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — have been on the defensive for several years now. In the northern part of the country, the Sri Lankan army has taken a number of Tiger-held towns and outposts. In the eastern part of the country, the LTTE military apparatus has disintegrated completely, thanks largely to defections and infighting.

Western governments, too, have played a role. In the wake of 9/11, which brought increased attention to all manner of terrorist groups, our law enforcement agencies largely succeeded in shutting off the international money pipelines that funneled cash to the LTTE.

Here in Canada, much of the Tigers’ “donations” came through the extortion of small Tamil-Canadian businesses in the Toronto suburbs. In this regard, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government deserves some of the credit for Sri Lanka’s success against the Tigers. Prime Minister Harper did what neither Paul Martin nor Jean Chretien had the courage to do: explicitly declare the Tigers a terrorist organization, thereby rendering their fund-raisers criminals.

The capture of Kilinochchi marks a decisive turning point in Sri Lanka’s civil war. The LTTE captured the northern city a decade ago, and have turned it into their administrative centre, establishing government offices, courts, a clinic and even a Tiger bank.

The LTTE governed ruthlessly, making a mockery of its claim to be a group of honourable freedom fighters seeking justice for the island nation’s Tamil minority. To raise funds, the Tigers diverted relief cash earmarked for victims of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, and captured relief supplies for resale on the black market. They swept through refugee camps press-ganging orphans as young as 10 into frontline combat against the Sri Lankan army. Expat Tamils’ relatives still living in Sri Lanka were threatened with death until their relatives in Canada, Britain and Australia agreed to pay a “war tax” for their release. Tamils seeking to work for a democratic and peaceful solution to their people’s grievances were murdered by the LTTE.

All this has been done under the orders of LTTE supreme leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, pictured, who has transformed the Tigers into a death cult. Sri Lanka — its Tamil minority and Sinhalese majority alike — will be better off when the Tigers are no more.

As it becomes harder for the Tigers to operate in Sri Lanka, their next logical move is to seek refuge abroad — especially in Canada. There is certainly plenty of support for the Tigers among many of the Tamils living in Ontario’s urban centers. It would come as no surprise if defeated LTTE leaders tried to set up base here until they can regroup in Sri Lanka. In the past, Tiger lieutenants have come to Canada as refugee claimants. No doubt, they will try that trick again.

We don’t need such brutal people spreading their hate in Canada, and leaning on Tamil-Canadians to provide shelter or cash. Mr. Harper already has done the right thing by declaring the LTTE a terrorist organization. As the group’s leaders flee their failing insurrection, the Prime Minister should make certain that Kilinochchi’s erstwhile governors do not end up in Toronto, Scarborough or Markham.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Condemning Israel’s Actions “Pointless”: Dutch PM

Israel’s offensive against Gaza can’t be condemned as long as Hamas continues firing rockets, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said Sunday, while urging both parties to end the violence. “Condemning Israel is pointless because both parties have to be addressed,” he said in an interview with Dutch television. “As long as the rocket attacks continue, Israel will always say ‘we cannot accept this’, and I understand that.” Several nations have described Israel’s latest offensive on Gaza as disproportionate and warned it would hamper diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. “It is always regrettable when there are civilian casualties. But at the same time, I see Hamas continuously firing rockets on Israel,” Balkenende said. He said he hoped for a ceasefire as soon as possible, for humanitarian aid to be allowed to reach Gaza, and for “work towards a peace process, however difficult that might be,” he said. “It is essential that both parties renounce violence…but then it is also essential that Hamas stops firing rockets because it isn’t acceptable that Israel finds itself in a sphere of threat.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Czech Republic Takes Over Helm of EU, Causes Fears

• Concern grows over ability to cope with crises

• President is Eurosceptic and government weak

Václav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, is the strongest Eurosceptic in office in the EU; today, his country assumes its presidency. Photograph: Petr Josek Snr/Reuters

The Czech Republic becomes the first former Soviet satellite to run the European Union today, as it takes over the EU presidency from President Nicolas Sarkozy after six months of dynamic crisis management.

With its centre-right government weak and unstable and the country’s head of state, President Václav Klaus, the strongest Eurosceptic in office anywhere in the EU, fears are widespread that Prague might struggle to lead Europe at a time of multiple and fast-moving international crises.

In the first move of the Czech presidency the foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, will go to the Middle East this week to try to mediate in the Gaza crisis, after voicing support for Israel’s onslaught against Hamas.

The run-up to the Czechs’ six months in charge has already been embroiled in rows between Prague and western Europe. Klaus used his Christmas message to attack Sarkozy and the other stronger powers of western Europe.

“They have absolutely no right to wave Europe in our face,” said Klaus, who enjoys a reputation as a brawler — particularly on Europe, one of his pet subjects.

The head of state, who engineered the peaceful break-up of Czechoslovakia and successfully steered the new Czech Republic from communism to capitalism in the 1990s as finance minister and prime minister, cannot stomach Brussels.

The European Union is the new Soviet Union, environmentalism is the new communism, climate change is a myth and there is nothing wrong with the international economy that a bit of patience will not fix, according to Klaus. While influential, however, he has little real power as head of state.

Alexandr Vondra, the deputy prime minister in charge of European policy, admits that the challenges are immense and it will be tricky following the presidency of Sarkozy, whose period in charge turned into a mammoth exercise in crisis management.

Vondra, a seasoned diplomat and the brain behind the country’s integration into the EU and Nato over the past decade, will seek to make the most of the presidency by striking deals and mediating between the bigger EU states.

Sarkozy ended his presidency last month with a successful summit that took three big decisions: an EU accord on the world’s first big climate change package, agreement on European fiscal stimulus measures to try to counter recession, and a deal with Ireland to force a second referendum on the ill-fated Lisbon Treaty reforming the EU, in return for concessions to Irish sensitivities.

It will fall to the Czechs to manage implementation of these accords and oversee the run-up to European elections in June. Klaus has contemptuously dismissed all three and his aides are expected to launch a new party of eurosceptics this month to contest the European ballot.

“This [Lisbon] treaty must be rewritten somehow or other,” Klaus declared. “The current ratifications are no longer valid. A new vote is needed in every country.”

The economic crisis, he added, was the kind of affliction which is over in a week if you went to the doctor and over in seven days if you didn’t. The world economy would recover “with or without Mr Sarkozy, the G20 summit, or the expensive rescue packets of Paulson and Bernanke [in the US]”.

As for global warming, the Earth had had the same climate for 10,000 years. The problem was not climate change, but “climate change ideology”. Klaus warned: “We will not be campaigners for the climate package.”

In Prague Castle, the presidential seat, Klaus is refusing to fly the European flag for the next six months. He came face-to-face there with another verbal brawler, Danny Cohn-Bendit, the Franco-German Green. The encounter pitted the arch Eurosceptic against an ardent Euro-federalist. Cohn-Bendit accosted Klaus, unfurled the European flag and demanded to know why it was not fluttering over the castle.

“No one has ever spoken to me here in this tone. You aren’t on the barricades of Paris. I have never heard anything so insolent in this hall,” Klaus spluttered. “The way Cohn-Bendit speaks to me is exactly the way the Soviets used to speak.”

If Klaus is seen as having extreme anti-EU views, Poland’s rightwing president, Lech Kaczynski, is similar. And with his populist dismissal of Brussels, Klaus strikes a chord with many Czechs who are pragmatically in favour of being in the EU, but hardly zealous in their support.

Mirek Topolánek, the prime minister, sees parliamentary approval of the plan to host facilities for the Pentagon’s missile shield project as the priority. He is trying to strike a deal with the social democratic opposition which is against installation of a radar station south of Prague. Weakened by big election losses in October and a party leadership challenge last month, Topolánek could be toppled by a vote of no confidence during the EU presidency.

Explainer: Europe’s big issues

Economic crisis The new EU presidency will have to implement a concerted European response to the downturn agreed in December, in the face of German-led scepticism.

Russia and energy security The EU-Russia relationship has hit an all-time low and may get worse if Gazprom (right) cuts off gas supplies to Ukraine with a possible knock-on effect on Europe.

Middle East Europe is in an unusually influential position during an interregnum in Washington.

The Lisbon Treaty The EU presidency is expected to build momentum in the run-up to an Irish referendum. But the Czech Republic has yet to ratify it, and faces internal Euroscepticism.

Kosovo EU officials are in place in Albanian and Serbian parts of Kosovo, so it will be the EU’s responsibility to keep the peace as the economic downturn hits a fledgling country blighted by high unemployment.

Transatlantic relationship Tough talks ahead on climate change, the Middle East, Afghanistan, economic recovery and trade.

Climate change The EU has agreed a position but faces hard bargaining with the US, China and India.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Czech Court Sends Neo-Nazis Behind Bars for Attempted Murder

Ceske Budejovice — The Regional Court in Ceske Budejovice sentenced a 20-year-old Czech extremist to 12 years in prison for the attempted murder of a young man who reprimanded him for shouting Nazi slogans in public.

In May, 2008, Lukas Vorobel stabbed Jakub Sterbik who rebuked him and his friend Martin Vachta for giving the Nazi salute and shouting racist slogans in Strakonice, south Bohemia.

Although Vorobel did not kill Sterbik the man has been paralysed since the stabbing and he still has health problems even after many months of treatment and rehabilitation.

Vachta was sentenced to three years in prison for an attempted bodily harm. According to the state attorney, he cut Sterbik’s friend with a knife when the latter tried to prevent the attack.

The two men have been charged with the promotion of movements aimed at suppressing people’rights.

Apart from extremist public expressions they also have Nazi symbols on their bodies. Vachta, for instance, has an SS symbol tatoo on his body and Vorobel has a swastika burned into his chest.

According to the state attorney, Vorobel and Vachta were shouting Nazi slogans “Sieg Heil” and “Jews to Gas” and were giving the Nazi salute in Strakonice on May 10.

When Sterbik reprimanded them Vorobel stabbed him in the neck with a knife from behind. Sterbik’s friend tried to help him and Vachta cut him with a knife.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Czech Foreign Minister Warns Against Neglect of the Balkans, Against Russia

Berlin — The possible breakup of a new conflict in the Balkans and energy dependence on Russia are threats that Europe must avert, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said in an interview for the January issue of the German political monthly Cicero at the start of Czech EU presidency.

Cicero described Schwarzenberg, 71, a politician coming from an aristocratic family, as the most remarkable foreign minister in Europe.

Support to the Balkan states on their path to the EU is one of the major priorities of the Czech EU presidency.

“We are readily forgetting that many large continental conflicts at the beginning of the 19th century were born in the Balkans,” Schwarzenberg said.

He said unless Europe quickly integrates the Balkan states, someone else will soon settle down there just as it used to happened in history.

“We would so place a bomb under our own bottom. We should not be surprised if it blew up,” Schwazenberg said.

He challenged the duty to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) set to Serbia as a condition for the start of its integration in the EU.

Schwarzenberg noted that only one Serb, General Ratko Mladic, is still wanted.

“Just think how many murderers in my country and in your country went unpnished after World War Two. Therefore, we are not competent to say that Serbia must not be integrated over one sole murderer,” Schwarzeberg said.

He also explained his clear-cut relation to the current Russia, which he says is “again a revisionist power” that is on the path back to Tsar Nicholas I policies.

Schwarzenberg said Moscow must be returned to certain limits.

He said Russia does not pose a danger of a military, but of an energy-political character.

“This may be the most important reason for the EU to pursue an effective energy policy,” he said on a topic that is also among the Czech EU presidency priorities.

He said he would, however, advise U.S. president-elect Barack Obama not to try and seek confrontation with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin too quickly.

“He reminds me of (J.F.) Kennedy. He was also intelligent, young and charismatic. Then he met (Nikita) Khrushchev in Vienna,” Shwarzenberg said.

The Soviet leader considered Kenendy to be “light weight” and sent Soviet missiles to Cuba.

“I hope this will not be Obama’s case,” Schwarzenberg said.

Turning to his relations with Czech President Vaclav Klaus, he said he shows him due respect.

“We have different opinions, but Klaus must have soon found out that he had would loose the media battle with me. Since he learnt this, our relations have been entirely correct,” Schwarzenberg said.

He said Klaus (who is famous for his Eurosceptic views) abides by the motto of the entertainment industry: what matters is to always be in the news.

“Allow me to say so, but which European President with the exception of (French Nicolas) Sarkozy appears so often in the news as Vaclav Klaus?” Schwarzenberg said.

He said, however, he knows that many people share Klaus’s opinions of the EU over its bureaucracy.

“The EU is threatened neither from outside, nor by certain politicians, but by that it has completely diverted from the citizen’s everyday worries,” Schwarzenberg said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Military Weapons Depot Looted

Guns and ammunition — some of which was destined for Afghanistan — were stolen from a Zealand military base

Three armed men stormed a military base guardhouse in the southern Zealand town of Slagelse on Sunday, making off with a cache of weapons that included automatic rifles, semi-automatic pistols and ammunition.

It is the first time in the country’s history that a military facility has been robbed.

The base in Slagelse was guarded by three soldiers. But two were sleeping when the armed thieves stormed into the guardhouse and forced the third to open the locked room were the weapons were stored.

The guards later stated that the robbers spent about half an hour in the room, selecting what they wanted to take.

Southern Zealand police indicated that a witness saw a silver-toned Audi A6 station wagon with German licence plates and tinted windows at the scene during the time of the robbery.

Colonel Michael Bundesgaard said some of the weapons stolen were to be sent to soldiers in Afghanistan.

Police have not yet indicated whether they have a suspect in the robbery, but detective inspector Svend Foldager said criminal gangs may be responsible.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Liberal Alliance Founder Leaves Party

The founder of the New Alliance party — now the Liberal Alliance — has quit his party

Naser Khader dropped a bomb on his party colleagues Monday when he announced his departure from the the Liberal Alliance — a party he founded in May 2007.

Khader indicated that he no longer ‘had his heart’ in the party, whose platform he believed had become too economically liberal since its name change in August to the Liberal Alliance.

‘I’m not a liberalist, I’m a liberal. A social liberal,’ Khader stated in his farewell e-mail to the party. ‘I envisioned the New Alliance to be a bridge-building party, a party of values, an integration party. But it has lost its social dignity and human warmth.’

He acknowledged, however, his own failures to the party that he was the primary force in creating.

‘I have to admit that I dropped the ball on my share of the project. I think I lost my vision when it was no longer a question of ideals but one of political power,’ stated Khader.

The Syrian-born Khader became known in political circles for his moderate views that often conflicted with that of the Muslim population inevitably associated with his origins.

Khader, who had been an MP for the Social Liberals, left that party and established the New Alliance together with Social Liberal MEP Anders Samuelsen and Conservative MEP Gitte Seeberg. The party, which promoted a centrist platform, originally hit with voters, garnering enough support to have given it 22 seats in an election.

But the novelty quickly wore off. By the time the 2007 election actually took place in November, New Alliance won only five parliamentary seats. Seeberg left the party in January of last year and, as of June, the New Alliance had only 0.2 percent of the vote according to polls.

A new group of independent MPs subsequently joined Khader and Samuelsen in changing the New Alliance to the Liberal Alliance.

But Khader indicated in his e-mail that he would not be creating any new political parties in the future.

He did say he would stay involved in politics and work for the causes most important to him, including balancing the war on terror with integration and the defence of democracy and human rights.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Finland, Risikko: Parents Should Pay for Circumcisions

Health and Social Services Minister Paula Risikko says parents should pay the cost of their sons’ elective circumcisions performed on the basis of religious beliefs. In an interview with the regional paper Ilkka, Risikko called for an end to circumcisions performed at home.

The Minister has set up a working group to re-examine legislation governing the practice. Current legislation allows the circumcision of boys by a medical doctor on the basis of religious beliefs.

However, the Minister feels that footing the bill for circumcisions is not a municipal responsibility. “I think that they should not be supported by public funds, because it’s a matter of culture and faith,” Risikko said, outlining her personal position on the issue.

The Finnish League for Human Rights says that circumcisions performed on non-medical grounds should be paid for by public funds. The League says it does not support the criminalisation of the practice, and says that legislation will not prevent home circumcisions.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

France Braces for ‘Rebirth of Violent Left’

Reports warn new generation of extremists to soon launch wave of sabotage, bombings

[Comments from JD: This is a direct result of the communist indoctrination program aka “the government school/university system”. ]

The French government fears a wave of extreme left-wing terrorism this year with the possible sabotage of key infrastructure, kidnappings of major business figures or even bomb attacks.

Secret French government reports, seen by the Observer, describe an “elevated threat” from an “international European network … with a strong presence in France” after the radicalisation of “a new generation of activists” in recent years. Senior analysts and experts linked to the government have drawn parallels with the Action Directe group, which carried out 50 or more attacks in the early 1980s. Others cite the example of the Baader-Meinhof gang.

A report by the French domestic intelligence service talks of “a rebirth of the violent extreme left” across Europe that is likely to be aggravated by the effects of the economic crisis. Other secret documents expose alleged links with activists in Italy, Greece, Germany and the UK. “It has been growing for three or four years now and the violence is getting closer and closer to real terrorism,” said Eric Dénécé, director of the French centre of intelligence research and a former Defence Ministry consultant.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

France Tries Trio Over Djerba Synagogue Bombing

PARIS (AFP) — Two alleged Al-Qaeda kingpins and a third man go on trial in Paris on Monday, accused of plotting the 2002 suicide bombing of a historic synagogue in Tunisia that left 21 dead.

Held at the US Guantanamo prison camp, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be tried in absentia on terrorism charges but German national Christian Ganczarski and Tunisian Walid Nawar, the bomber’s brother, will be in court.

Sheikh Mohammed, who has confessed to being the architect of the September 11, 2001 attacks, is said to be Al-Qaeda’s military commander responsible for all foreign operations.

The trial before a Paris court specialising in terror offences will focus much of its attention on Ganczarski, a German of Polish origin who converted to Islam and allegedly played a leading role in Al-Qaeda’s network in Europe.

The trio are charged in France with “complicity in attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise” and face a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail if convicted of the April 11, 2002 attack.

On that day, suicide bomber Nizar Nawar detonated a fuel tanker rigged with explosives in front of the Ghriba synagogue on the Tunisian island of Djerba, killing 14 German tourists, five Tunisians and two French nationals.

Nawar is alleged to have contacted both Ganczarski and Sheikh Mohammed shortly before the bombing. Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack.

French and German investigators believe Ganczarski travelled several times between 1999 and 2001 to the Pakistani-Afghan border to meet Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The top operative, who was in regular contact with Sheikh Mohammed, put his considerable expertise in radiocommunications and web production at the service of Al-Qaeda and helped recruit members in Europe, according to investigators.

Western intelligence agencies managed to track down Ganczarski after intercepting a call from the Djerba suicide bomber’s cell phone and he was arrested in June 2003 at his arrival in France from Saudi Arabia.

Ganczarski is said to have given Nawar the green light to carry out the attack during the phone call.

Tunisian national Walid Nawar is said to have helped his brother carry out the Djerba bombing, notably by purchasing in France the cell phone from which he called Ganczarski and Sheikh Mohammed.

The bomber’s uncle, Belgacem Nawar, was convicted in Tunisia in June 2006 of involvement in the attack and sentenced to 20 years.

The uncle was found guilty of helping his nephew build the bomb — a large fuel container and detonator — inside the truck.

The trial in Paris opens one month after Sheikh Mohammed appeared before a US military tribunal in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to answer charges that he was the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The Paris trial is scheduled to end on February 6.

Two other suspects in the attack — Jouar Suissi and Tarek Hdia — are to stand trial before a separate Paris court in February on minor charges of violating immigration rules and possession of fake documents.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Greece: Policeman Seriously Injured in Athens

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 5 — A Greek policeman was seriously injured last night in Athens by bullets fired from an automatic weapon on him and his colleague by unknown attackers. Police sources report this. The policeman, wounded on chest and a foot, has been taken to hospital. The incident took place just after 4am local time. The two policemen found themselves near the Ministry of Culture in the centre of Athens. The attackers managed to get away, 20 projectiles have been found on the spot of the attack, probably from a Kalashnikov. The police has started to search the city and heard around people in the Exarchia district, where the policeman was injured. On December 23 shots were fired on a van of the riot police of Athens. Responsibility for the attack was claimed the day after by an unknown group, which calls itself “People’s Attack”, in an anonymous call to an information website. In that case the bullets had been fired from two different Kalashnikovs. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

In Gaza, the Vatican Raises the White Flag

Hamas denies Israel’s right to exist. But for pontifical diplomacy, the Jewish state is wrong to defend itself with force. The custodian of the Holy Land reveals the thinking behind the Church’s policy in the Middle East

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, January 4, 2009 — During the days of the Christmas celebrations, Benedict XVI spoke out repeatedly against the war centered on Gaza.

But his words have fallen on deaf ears. Failure isn’t new to the authorities of the Holy See, every time they address the question of Israel.

In more than three years of pontificate, Benedict XVI has introduced innovations in relations between the two faiths, Christian and Jewish. These innovations have come at the risk of misunderstanding and opposition, both among Catholics and among Jews.

But in the meantime, little or nothing seems to have changed in Vatican policy toward Israel.

The only change — and it’s a marginal one — is in tone. Until a couple of years ago, with Cardinal Angelo Sodano as secretary of state and Mario Agnes as director of “L’Osservatore Romano,” the criticism of Israel was incessant, heavy-handed, sometimes shameless. Not any more. With Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the secretariat of state has softened its tone, and under the direction of Giovanni Maria Vian, “L’Osservatore Romano” has stopped launching invective and has made more room for religious and cultural debate.

But the general policy has remained the same…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy Urges Gaza Truce

President and foreign minister blame Hamas for crisis

(ANSA) — Naples, January 5 — Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Monday expressed his hope that peace missions by the European Union and French President Nicolas Sarkozy would lead to an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

‘‘The situation is a very difficult one. Despite all the appeals being made nothing appears to be efficient from a political and diplomatic point of view,’’ the head of state observed.

‘‘Europe is trying to do something but it is not easy. It is my hope that that the EU missions coordinated by (the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier) Solana and Sarkozy will be successful in achieving a truce and that a suspension of hostilities will open the way for peace,’’ Napolitano said.

Looking at the overall picture, the Italian president observed that ‘‘the situation in Gaza is marked by the presence of a force like Hamas which has divided the Palestinian people’’.

‘‘This was apparent to me when I visited there a few months ago. Hamas has aggravated an already complicated crisis,’’ he added.

In regards to Italy’s position, the president said he did not see ‘‘any great difference of opinion between the leading political parties on the crisis in Gaza’’.

‘‘There is common ground between all political parties on Israel’s right to defend itself and for the Palestinians to have their own sovereign state,’’ Napolitano said.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has also called for a ceasefire in Gaza but put the blame for the current crisis on Hamas.

Hamas, he explained ‘‘not only violated a truce, it also violated the principle of land for peace’’.

The minister added that while Israel ‘‘has the right to defend itself’’ from missile attacks on its border towns, ‘‘it also has the duty to avoid civilian casualties’’.

According to Frattini, ‘‘the Palestinian people are the real victims of Hamas, which holds them hostage in Gaza’’.

Frattini was critical of the EU sending two missions to the Mideast — one headed by the Czech Republic which holds the EU rotating presidency and the other by Sarkozy — on the grounds that Europe’s credibility and political clout was undermined by not speaking in a single voice.

However, he recognised that France, which held the EU presidency in the second half of 2008, ‘‘worked hard on this problem and is interested in finding a solution’’.

Frattini ruled out making any visit to the Mideast himself because ‘‘missions like these need to take place when they are useful. I will go there when the time is right’’.

Italy this year holds the presidency of the Group of Eight (G8) most industrialised countries and has made the Mideast one of the priorities of its term.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy, Napolitano: Hamas Has Split Palestinians

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, JANUARY 5 — Whilst on a private visit to Naples, President Giorgio Napolitano has told journalists that “the situation in Gaza is conditioned by the presence of Hamas, which has marked a split in the Palestinian world”.”I observed this when I went there a little more than a month ago — it is a complication in a serious crisis which is dragging on”. Napolitano also expressed hope that an immediate truce can be found, wishing for success in Javier Solana and Nicolas Sarkozy’s missions. “The situation seems very difficult to me”, added the head of state, “appeals are coming from many directions, but I think that the difficulty is in concentrating an effective effort on the political and diplomatic levels. Europe is trying, but there have been some difficulties. I hope that with the European mission coordinated by Solana, and the mission of President Sarkozy, that a possible route to peace can be found, with a suspension of hostilities and the beginning of a peaceful outlook”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy: Verona to Target Home Sex-Workers

Mayor mulls fines for prostitutes working from apartments

(ANSA) — Verona, January 5 — After clearing prostitutes from its streets, Verona is planning the country’s first crack-down on sex workers who operate in private apartments, Mayor Flavio Tosi said Monday.

The right-wing Northern League mayor said residents will be asked to report people causing ‘‘disturbances’’ in their apartment blocks, who will then be slapped with a heavy fine.

‘‘We have moved them off the streets, but now we want to hit the prostitutes — and there are many — who work from home,’’ said Tosi, who has been battling against prostitution in the city for almost two years.

Under current Italian law only the exploitation of prostitution — pimping — is illegal in Italy, but city mayors combat the phenomenon through the use of fines, often via traffic or public decency laws.

Verona and Padua were the first Italian cities to introduce an experimental scheme in 2007 cracking down on clients and introducing fines of 50 euros, which resulted in prostitutes demonstrating against the measure in the streets and offering anyone slapped with a fine a ‘‘free service’’.

Last summer the two cities also led the way in introducing more effective fines of 500 euros for clients caught with streetwalkers, thanks to greater powers given to city mayors as part of the centre-right government’s emergency security decree.

Although the maxi-fines have helped clear city streets across the country, Tosi stressed that mayors’ powers are still limited.

‘‘Until there is a national law that governs the phenomenon of prostitution, city councils can only try to minimize the problem by using the few tools available to them,’’ he said.

‘‘These are stop-gap measures that certainly do not resolve the problem of prostitution, but we we hope they serve to make the phenomenon less irksome for citizens’’.

Rita Sanlorenzo, secretary of a magistrates’ organisation, meanwhile expressed concerns about Tosi’s plans to fine prostitutes working in private houses.

‘‘Tosi wants to put a stop to an activity that is not banned by law,’’ she said.

‘‘Mayors have a general power to supervise public welfare, but if Tosi’s ordinance is aimed (specifically) at prostitutes, it strikes me as illegal and unequal treatment,’’ she said.


The government is currently mulling plans to criminalise street prostitution, and in September the cabinet gave a first green light to a new bill.

If passed, the bill will hit both sex workers and clients with fines ranging from 200 to 3,000 euros and jail terms of between five and 15 days.

It also foresees harsher penalties for clients who have sex with minors and the repatriation of teenagers without family in Italy who are caught prostituting themselves.

Critics have slammed the bill, saying that clearing the streets will simply force the sex trade further underground, where they will be less accessible to both police and social workers.

Prostitutes’ Rights Committee spokesperson Carla Corso said at the time that the bill would make sex workers ‘‘more invisible and at the mercy of traffickers’’.

‘‘The traffickers will take the women off the streets but they will set them to work in apartments, buying up old buildings in the suburbs, and they will do so with the government’s good wishes,’’ she said.

‘‘This bill gives traffickers a licence to exploit women — it’s like reopening the brothels but without any regulation’’.


According to a study carried out before the increase in mayors’ powers last summer, there were some 100,000 prostitutes in Italy, 65% of whom worked on the streets and 35% in private residences or clubs.

Most prostitutes were said to be foreigners, from some 60 different countries, 20% were minors and 10% were forced into prostitution by criminal gangs.

The study also calculated that prostitutes in Italy charge an average of 30 euros per customer and generate a turnover in the neighborhood of some 90 million euros a month.

Clients were said to number around nine million with 80% seeking unprotected sex.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Zapatero Condemns Israel’s ‘Disproportionate Reaction’

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 5 — “This is not the road which will lead the people to peace”, said the Spanish premier, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has today “vigorously” condemned Israel’s “absolutely disproportionate reaction” in the Gaza Strip and Hamas’s attacks on the Israeli people, asking for the international community to intervene to stop the escalation in violence. In an official statement Zapatero defined the conflict as “extremely serious” and called for an immediate halt to attacks. With regard to Israel, Zapatero underlined that “this is not the road which will lead the people to peace”. “To entrust this subjugation to the armed forces is a dead-end idea: the road to democracy must be opened”, urged the premier, underlining that “the population cannot be taken hostage”. Zapatero revealed that he has had telephone conversations with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy (who is currently visiting Egypt and the region), and with the Turkish premier, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with whom he has agreed to exert pressure “in all international circles” for the effecting of “an immediate ceasefire”. “We agree on the fact that the EU can, and should, give impulse to an effective initiative”, explained Zapatero, “which will bring a system of supervision of the ceasefire”. The Spanish premier has suspended his visit to Syria and Lebanon which was scheduled to take place today and tomorrow, and which would have been his first such trip to the area since his election in 2004. In line with its European partners, Spain has called for an immediate stop to the violence, offered 1.5 million euros of humanitarian aid and proposed the deployment of EU observers in the area to verify the conditions of any eventual truce. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Illegal Immigrants to Move to New Church

A group of illegal immigrants who have been occupying a church in the city of Zurich for just over two weeks have agreed to move on Sunday.

They announced on Saturday that they would take up the offer of asylum in another Zurich church.

The decision opens the way to a meeting with the cantonal authorities on Monday to discuss their demands. The authorities had said they would not meet the protestors as long as they remained in the church.

The 150 or so immigrants occupied the church on December 19 to draw attention to their difficult situation and to call for a more humanitarian attitude to hardship cases.

They accuse the authorities of reneging on promises made to squatters after they ended a high-profile protest at another church in the city a year ago.

Meanwhile a demonstration was held in Zurich on Saturday to call for all refugees living in Switzerland to be allowed to stay in the country and to be allowed to work.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Children Aged Five Expelled for Sex Offences, Girls Molested by Classmates…

…Playground bullying takes a shocking twist

Arriving punctually at her school in South London, the 15-year-old girl — let’s call her Sarah — would not have expected that day to be different from any other. She would have greeted friends, familiar faces gliding past hers in the corridor as she prepared for the first classes of the morning. But for her, those classes did not happen.

Her headmaster told me the brutal story of what happened next: how Sarah went missing some time between her arrival and assembly and then, a while later, reappeared looking withdrawn and anxious.

Initially, her teacher wondered why she had entered her classroom late. Then Sarah became distraught and the teacher took her to one side. Eventually she revealed how that morning, she had been marched into an empty classroom by a group of boys — themselves pupils at the school and all aged under 16 — who had physically forced her to perform a sex act on one of them.

Arrests and court action followed. The boys later pleaded guilty to sexual assault and were given custodial sentences. But Sarah’s story did not end with their conviction. She left the school and remains terrified that she might see her attackers again.

Her father told us that even now, 18 months on, he is still shell-shocked. “You see your child off safely to school and you don’t worry about them, really, until the point when they leave school to come home. This was something that occurred at a time when I just couldn’t have possibly expected her to be a victim of anything.”

Yet when he complained to the council and asked for a home tutor for his daughter so that she did not have to go straight back to the same classrooms where her attackers were taught, they refused. “The council official I spoke to said: ‘I’m very sorry, we only provide home tutoring for children who’ve been excluded from schools, such as the boys who’ve assaulted your daughter. We don’t provide it for their victims.’ “


Yet this case is just one example of a shocking new trend in sexual bullying among children that is the subject of a BBC Panorama report on Monday night. We investigated Sarah’s story, and others like it, to see whether they tell us anything about the world our children inhabit when they congregate at school.

For among experts there is a growing conviction that, up and down the country, something disturbing is happening.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Council Spends £10,000 on ‘Monty Python-Esque’ Pigeon Awareness Day

A council’s plan to host ‘pigeon-awareness days’ has been ridiculed by politicians as something “straight from a Monty Python sketch”.

The £10,000 action plan, in a report to Calderdale Council’s health and social care scrutiny panel, includes suggestions for hosting pigeon-awareness days alongside building dovecotes and removing eggs in a bid to get rid of feral pigeons from Brighouse, West Yorks.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Council Bans Mourners From Laying Artificial Flowers on Graves…

…Because of the Health and Safety Risk

The use of artificial flowers has been banned from a crematorium on grounds of health and safety.

A council has prohibited the laying of artificial wreaths or flowers and also barred pottery, glass items and wire mesh fences.

The rules have outraged mourners who claim people should be allowed to grieve in their own way and point out many cannot afford to place fresh flowers on a plot every week.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Judge Lets Drug Addict Who Owned Up to 145 Crimes Walk Free From Court

A recovering drug addict who owned up to 145 crimes walked free from court today after a judge ruled his “substantial progress” earned him the right to rehabilitate in freedom.

Dean Weaver, 25, who raided homes and businesses throughout Gloucestershire to feed his heroin addiction was told by a judge that granting him his liberty was “not an easy decision”.

Last October Judge Martin Picton put off sentencing Weaver for three months telling him he would not go prison if he stayed drug-free for that time and worked with the Probation Service.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Media is Partly to Blame for the Recession

This may come as a surprise to friends and acquaintances, given how many hours I have spent over the past year droning on that journalists cannot be blamed for recession.

I don’t agree with the hysterical moaning that newspapers are to blame for denting public confidence and sowing the seeds of economic doom. This is rubbish. If people took that much notice of headlines they would have sold their homes en masse three or four years ago when so many of us started warning that property prices were heading for a slump.

But we were guilty of a more fundamental failing — one about which most of the financial press has remained shamefully silent. We should have made more noise about the risks of a crisis before it erupted.

And I feel this more keenly than most. You see, I was among the few writers privileged to have been shown the evidence that the crisis was heading our way — more than a year before its earliest impact.

I remember the moment that I twigged that something was wrong. I was sitting in a wood-panelled room in the Bank of England on a rather warm July morning. In front of me were three of the Bank’s leading experts in financial stability — the emergency room surgeons of the City. On the table was an intriguing chart. What it seemed to be saying was rather alarming, or at least that is how it struck me.

Cast your mind back to summer 2006, when the idea of a run on a British bank was among the most peculiar conceits imaginable. Although we had issued plenty of warnings on the levels of debt being taken on by anglophone households around the world, the notion that the entire British banking system could, in little more than a year, find itself on the brink of collapse would have sounded ridiculous. But on this chart was a wiggly line screaming that something was going very wrong: the banks and building societies were lending significantly more than they had in their vaults.

Wasn’t this, well, a bit of a worry? I asked (in the Bank of England understatement is the modus operandi — or at least it was then). The faces that stared back looked drawn, fearful and rather weary. They pointed me towards another set of figures, even more worrying. They implied that if there was an unexpected shock that made it difficult to fill that gap by borrowing short term from other investors, home and abroad, the consequences would be disastrous: we were talking about a year’s worth of profits — £40 billion — being wiped out; about house prices falling by a quarter and the economy shrinking by 1.5 per cent.

The boom went on for another year and a bit, and the eventual slump looks like being even worse, but the fact remains: there was a distinct bat-squeak of worry in the Bank of England in 2006 — and it was more or less ignored. Granted, the Bank had not identified all of the details, nor precisely how this crisis would become the worst since the Great Depression, but it did enough; it identified the root cause of the credit crunch.

So what went wrong? There was enough time to have prevented Northern Rock from embarking on the horrendous borrowing and mortgaging spree that led to its destruction; enough time to have ensured that a fatal breath was blown into the housing bubble; enough time to ensure that while a slowdown was inevitable, it needn’t have been so panicked and painful.

The large part of the answer was the failure of the Bank’s experts to send out a louder clarion call to chief executives; the failure of Gordon Brown to take seriously this threat, relayed directly by his central bank; the failure of City regulators to turn this worrying little chart into action.

It was the media’s duty to make more noise, to scream rather than mutter our worries about the instabilities of the economy. We did our fair share of screaming — in fact, we made rather a lot of that Bank of England report in 2006 — but in hindsight we all ought to have done more. The politicians and policymakers who ignored the warnings might not have been able to so had the commentators and analysts in the City made it too embarrassing for them to have done otherwise.

UPDATE: For those who are curious, the chart I refer to in the piece is to be found in the Bank of England’s Financial Stability Report in 2006 . Chart 2.7 — which measures the “funding gap” of UK banks, in other words the amount they were lending out in excess of what they had in their vaults, can be found on page 28 — or p30 of the electronic version — of the full report.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Teenager Died of Brain Haemorrhage… After Doctors Denied Her a Vital Scan

When Jenna Lester’s parents told doctors she had been suffering severe headaches, bouts of fainting and vomiting, they might have expected their fears of a serious illness to be shared.

But medical staff thought the 16-year-old simply had a stomach infection and did not offer a brain scan.

A week later she died of a brain haemorrhage.

Now, after a legal battle lasting almost three years, the NHS has admitted that the teenager might still be alive if doctors had acted sooner.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Why is Labour So Keen to Imprison Us?

We know there has been a tidal wave of legislation, but it is mind-boggling to discover the size of the tsunami. It is estimated that more than 3,600 new offences have been created. But even more astonishing, as Baroness Stern, a crossbench peer, discovered when she asked, is the number of these that can result in a prison sentence. Believe it or not, there are 1,036 that the official could identify. There may well be more.

It is now an imprisonable offence to allow an unlicensed concert to take place in a church hall. You can go to prison if your child fails to attend school, or if you smoke in a public place, or if you fail to obtain a passport for your pet donkey or if you are a child caught in possession of a firework at any time other than on or around November 5 or New Year’s Day. No doubt, children letting off fireworks are behaving in an anti-social way; but no reasonable person regards this as meriting imprisonment.

This development is uniquely a New Labour phenomenon. All governments introduce new laws; but this one has turned legislation into an obsessive political tic, and one that has become more pronounced, not least with the requirement to implement EU directives.

In 1997, there were 52 imprisonable new laws; by 2003, the annual tally was 181, there were another 174 in 2005 and 133 in 2007. Bizarrely, fishermen who do not ask for permission before fishing on the Lower Esk in Scotland can also be jailed, as can anyone caught importing “an unauthorised veterinary product”.

Among the offences created in the past five years, though not necessarily imprisonable ones, are disturbing a pack of eggs when instructed not to by an authorised officer; offering for sale a game bird killed on a Sunday or Christmas Day; attaching an ear tag to an animal when it has previously been used to identify another animal; landing a catch which includes unsorted fish at a harbour without permission; selling types of flora and fauna not native to the UK, such as the grey squirrel, ruddy duck or Japanese knotweed.

The crimes which most of us consider to be such have been illegal for centuries, though it must be conceded that the new offence of “creating a nuclear explosion” is both contemporary and necessary, and certainly criminal. It was created in 1998; was it not a crime before?

It is, however, shocking to find so many new imprisonable offences when so many long-standing crimes, like assault and theft, go unpunished. What people want is the enforcement of the laws we have, not the creation of more than 1,000 new ones of marginal importance.

Most of these “crimes” would never have been regarded as such in the past. They would have been minor infractions of prevailing social mores, or misdemeanours that might warrant a fine, a ticking-off, or even ostracism. But the criminalisation of what would once have been considered bad behaviour has been marked over the past 20 or so years.

Activities that were never unlawful, like smoking in a public place, are now crimes because they are objectionable; yet eating a burger and chips on a crowded train, equally revolting, is not and nor should it be. This failure to distinguish between a crime and a wrongdoing has warped the criminal justice system. As Lady Stern said: “The Government has gone mad in looking to use criminal justice law as a way to deal with social problems. It is extraordinary.”

However, it is almost certainly the case that many imprisonable offences created in recent years are not used to incarcerate anyone. Given the unwillingness of the courts to lock up people who deserve to be, it would be bizarre if they were handing out jail terms to anglers. The potential prison sentence is just tacked on to the end of the legislation for no obvious reason other than because it can. The Government says these offences are all fully debated by Parliament, but many are brought in on secondary legislation which is hardly scrutinised at all; and all Bills are timetabled in any case. It does not make a newly-created crime any more palatable simply because it has been rammed through Parliament using a heavily-whipped government majority and by MPs who pay hardly any attention to what they are doing.

In a House of Lords debate before Christmas, Lady Stern quoted from Governing Through Crime by Jonathan Simon, professor of law at Berkeley in California. He wrote: “Social problems have been reconceptualised as crimes, with an attendant focus on assigning fault and imposing consequences.” The outcome is “to erode social trust and, with it, the very scaffolding of a ‘free’ society”.

There is a message here for all the political parties, not just Labour, to stop the criminal justice arms race. Could they resolve for the New Year neither to introduce nor propose any more laws unless absolutely necessary?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Erdogan, Israel to be Cursed for Killing Children

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 5 — “Israel caused a humanity tragedy in the Gaza Strip by using excessive force”, Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, said. Speaking at an opening ceremony in the Southern Turkish province of Antalya, as Anadolu Agency reports, Erdogan stressed that “This tragedy will cause many problems in Israel itself. Israel will be cursed for the children and the defenseless women who died under bombs. Israel will be cursed for tears shed by mothers”. “As you know, Turkey has been elected a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for two years. We will fulfil our responsibilities. We have already initiated a shuttle diplomacy in search for a cease-fire in the region. I paid visits to Syria which holds the rotating presidency of the Arab League, and Jordan”, Erdogan declared. Asked about the prime minister’s statements, the Israeli Foreign Office spokesperson, Ygal Palmor, told ANSA that “we expect any responsabile leader to understand that the source of the problem is the radical and extreme ideology of Hamas. Those who want to promote peace between Israel and Palestinians — he added, referring to the Palestinian extremist movement — should make an effort to remove this mine”. Under his initiatives to halt Israeli bombing in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Erdogan held telephone conversations with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain. Erdogan called on his counterparts to cooperate with each other to mobilize the international community as soon as possible. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gaza: Muslim Intellectuals, Wrong to Pray in Demonstrations

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 5 — “The crisis in Gaza is a political crisis. It is wrong to give it a religious value by joining together public demonstrations and public prayers” said Ahmad Gianpiero Vincenzo, President of the Italian Muslim Intellectuals and consultant for immigration in the Senatés Commission for Constitutional Affairs, speaking about the demonstrations against the attacks on Gaza taking place in several Italian cities. “If political demonstrations have their legitimacy, even though it is shameful to burn the Israeli flag” observed Vincenzo “they have nothing to do with prayer and its spiritual significance”. In Islam, as in other religions “we pray to God, and not to cement hatred against our fellows, who are all children of Abraham”. But it is not an accident that scenes of demonstrators on their knees praying have been seen in cities like Milan “unfortunately in the hands of fundamentalists”. Even though in Gaza “a war started by fundamentalism” is being fought and must be stopped. “There is Islamic fundamentalism, and there is also Jewish fundamentalism. At the current time they are facing each other and the terrible results are being seen by everyone.” “Without a determined intervention by the international community there will be no concrete result,” added Karim Mezran, Secretary of the Association. “If Italy really intends to make a positive contribution, as it did in Lebanon, it must immediately send a peacekeeping force to guarantee at least a humanitarian corridor through the Rafah crossing. And this could be the start of an international mandate on Gaza”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gush Katif Expulsion Victim Returns ‘Home’ as Soldier

( A paratroop officer led his troops to the site of his destroyed home in the former Netzarim town Sunday, three years after the government expelled him and other residents and then turned over the former Jewish communities to the Palestinian Authority.

Rabbi Zev Cruz, father of the officer, said his son had mixed feelings about returning to Netzarim. The officer said he was happy to return to his former home grounds but asks why the government decided to force Jews out of the area. After the expulsion, then Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres stated, “We never will return to Gaza.”

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]

Have Israelis Finally Learned the Strategic Value of Territory?

It’s called learning the hard way. After all, the same lesson was evident in 2006, when Hizbullah took advantage of the IDF’s 2000 retreat from its Lebanese cordon sanitaire to snuggle right up to the border and shoot off missiles. As the Hamas rockets improve, an ever-larger portion of Israel’s population comes under fire, now estimated between 700,000 and a million persons, with the number steadily growing. It’s only a matter of time until the rockets reach Tel Aviv, the country’s largest city, and Dimona, the site of its nuclear plant.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

IDF Cuts Gaza Strip in Two as it Readies Expanded Ground Operation

The IDF is prepared to deepen and escalate its ground operations in Gaza, defense officials said on Sunday, after the army split the territory in half and began surrounding Gaza City. Hamas, the officials said, was encountering difficulties in delivering orders to its forces.

St.-Sgt. Dvir Emmanueloff, 22, from Givat Ze’ev and of the Golani reconnaissance unit, was killed on Sunday by mortar shell shrapnel during clashes with Hamas terrorists near Jabalya.

Another soldier was critically wounded in the attack.

Earlier in the morning, 30 soldiers from Battalion 51 of the Golani Brigade were injured in clashes and on Sunday night four soldiers were shot and wounded by Palestinian snipers.

The defense officials said it was likely that a number of senior Hamas operatives and terror chiefs were hiding and conducting their operations from within Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

“Hamas operatives are in the hospital and have disguised themselves as nurses and doctors,” one official said.

OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the cabinet that Hamas was using mosques, public institutions and private homes as ammunition stores.

By Sunday afternoon, the IDF had divided the Gaza Strip into two segments, in a move aimed at cutting off the flow of arms, supplies and fighters to the northern part. Palestinians reported that IDF tanks had taken up positions near the former settlement of Netzarim and troops had began surrounding Gaza City.

Some 40 rockets landed in Israel on Sunday, scoring direct hits in Sderot and Ashkelon, but causing no casualties.

According to Palestinian media reports, IDF troops had deployed throughout the north and on the outskirts of Beit Lahiya, Saja’iya, Jabalya and al-Attatra. The Paratroopers, Golani and Givati Brigades were all operating inside Gaza. In the south, near the closed Dahiniye Airport, Palestinians also reported clashes with IDF troops.

Military sources said that since Operation Cast Lead was launched last Saturday, more than 1,000 targets had been bombed by the air force. On Sunday, the Palestinian death toll climbed past 500 as IDF troops killed close to 40 Hamas gunmen during the ground operation in northern Gaza.

Defense officials said the IDF operation was having an effect on Hamas’s command-and-control capabilities and that the group was not able to mobilize large forces to fight against the IDF.

They said Hamas was trying to kidnap soldiers operating inside Gaza and that commanders had been ordered to take extra precautions to ensure their soldiers’ safety.

The IDF dismissed reports of Hamas claims that it had killed several soldiers and abducted others…

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]

Lone Golani Soldier Fights Gunmen, Escapes Kidnapping

A Golani soldier managed to single handedly foil an attempt to kidnap him during nocturnal operations in the Gaza Strip Sunday overnight, Israel Radio reported.

Soldiers from the IDF’s Golani infantry brigade were fighting in the northern part of the Gaza Strip when they entered a house on which they had previous intelligence it was used as a Hamas command center.

Upon entering the house, the soldiers discovered entrances to several tunnels; the Hamas terrorists holed in the house used these to escape underground to neighboring houses and were shooting into the building where the unit entered.

One of the soldiers followed the gunmen into a tunnel and managed to contain several Hamas fighters in a firefight while underground inside the tunnel, before teaming up with his comrades again. Two IAF helicopters were scrambled to support the infantrymen, Israel Radio reported.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]

Peace is the Last Thing Hamas Want

IMAGES of distraught parents bearing the corpses of their mutilated children make “great” TV. Great, as in powerful, I mean. They are potent, heart-rending evidence of the atrocity that is war.

Sympathy instantly focuses on the innocent victims. Which, of course, is precisely what the Hamas fanatics who run Gaza want.

For such zealots, global television news is priceless propaganda.

Never forget the difference between Islamist fanatics and those they aim to destroy.

“You love life,” they sneer. “We love death.”

The world was shocked when a suicide bomber made this chilling boast for the first time after 9/11.

Today it is the common mantra of radical Islamic clerics and terrorists. Shrewdly, they identify our squeamishness as weakness and use it as a weapon of war.

Since we love life, how can we fail to blame the Israelis when their tanks and bombers bring death to impoverished Palestinians?

Certainly it is hard to ride to the defence of what looks like utterly disproportionate use of air power against a near-defenceless civilian enclave.

But how would you feel if you lived in a country the size of Wales surrounded by enemies who have vowed to destroy you?

Where terrorists, armed and funded by powerful neighbours, are bombarding towns and villages every day with increasingly lethal rockets?

And where every attempt at a negotiated peace is rebuffed by suicide attacks on your own innocent women and children? The Israelis have offered to end the fighting if Hamas stops firing rockets.

No response.

The last thing Hamas or Hezbollah — or their puppet masters in Iran or Syria — want is peace with Israel.

They want the Jewish state exterminated — just as Hitler wanted to exterminate the Jewish people.

Yes, Gaza is an appalling example of man’s inhumanity to man.

Fanatics But without doubt, this invasion was systematically and skilfully provoked by fanatics elected by the Palestinians to run Gaza.

If they are eager for a short cut to Paradise, why not take a few hundred, a few thousand or a few hundred thousand with them?

Saturday’s demo by thousands of Muslim men and veiled women would have been more impressive if they’d done the same after London’s 7/7 bombings.

Were they the same stooges police escorted through London with placards threatening to slit the throats of anyone who supported cartoons about Mohammed?

These marchers claim the Israeli onslaught cannot be justified by the amateurish bombardment of nearby Israeli towns such as Ashkelon and Sderot with primitive Kassam rockets.

Thousands of these home-made missiles are launched from Gaza, peppering the townships where, ironically, the residents moved for a quiet life.

Instead, as I found during a visit to Sderot last year, the constant fear of incoming missiles is a living nightmare.

New missiles are reaching deeper into Israel. More sophisticated versions are being smuggled by Hezbollah into neighbouring Lebanon.

Soon they will be able to reach the capital, Tel Aviv, and its airport.

It is fair to say that, no matter how provoked, Israel is not above reproach.

The presumption that Jews are the “Chosen People” can make them shockingly arrogant.

There are Israelis who speak with undisguised contempt about their Arab neighbours. Equally, in this Middle East oasis of free speech, Israeli citizens will vehemently attack their own government for any perceived injustice towards Palestinians.

Jews are the first to admit they are paranoid. Having survived the Holocaust, who wouldn’t be? They live in constant fear that Iran will carry out its deadly threat to wipe them off the map.

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is putting his words into deeds, bankrolling, training and arming Hamas and Hezbollah.

After decades of fighting for survival, there is an almost desperate desire for Israel to achieve a peaceful settlement, along the lines of those negotiated with Arab neighbours Jordan and Egypt.

Until then, Israel is fighting for its very life — just as it has been every day since it was born 60 years ago.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Study: Most Sderot Kids Exhibit Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms

Between 75 percent and 94 percent of Sderot children aged 4-18 exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress, says Natal, the Israel Center for Victims of Terror and War.

Natal’s study, set to be released in the coming days, was based on a representative sample. The study found 28 percent of adults and 30 percent of children in Sderot have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study was conducted by Dr. Rony Berger, director of Natal’s Community Services Department, and Dr. Marc Gelkopf, with the assistance of pollster Dr. Mina Tzemach.

The town of Sderot and the western Negev as a whole have been subjected to barrages of rockets launched by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip for over seven years.

Berger emphasizes the distinction between post-traumatic stress symptoms, such as problems sleeping and concentrating, and PTSD itself, which can interfere seriously with daily life. Berger says the study found school-age children had severe symptoms of anxiety and pointed to a correlation between parent and child anxiety.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]

Swedes Stranded in Gaza

Around twenty Swedes stranded in Gaza have been in contact with the Swedish consulate in Jerusalem to seek help leaving the war-torn area.

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt is among those trying to broker an end to the conflict which entered its tenth day of fighting on Monday.

André Mkandawire at the Swedish foreign ministry confirmed to news agency TT that requests from Swedes wanting to leave Gaza have been forwarded to the government of the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency and has responsibility for maintaining contact with Israeli authorities.

Mkandawire confirmed that the Czechs are working hard to enable the Swedes and other EU citizens to leave the war-torn Palestinian area. But as Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza on Sunday night this process was being complicated.

“There are bombs everywhere, we can’t sleep at night. My sisters are crying. Please, please, help us to get out of here,” said the 13-year-old son of Swedish doctor Yossuf Abo Mery to Aftonbladet. Mery travelled to Gaza with his 37-year-old pregnant wife Kefah and their four children to visit a sick relative. They are now stuck in Deir-al-Balah, 15 kilometres south of Gaza City.

Nils Eliason, Sweden’s cons-general in Jerusalem, confirmed that negotiations with the Israelis are ongoing over the complicated regulations involved in getting the people out of Gaza, Dagens Nyheter reports.

One of the current obstacles is that the Israelis are demanding that all those permitted to leave be citizens of a foreign state, while many of those falling under Swedish responsibility in Gaza have only permanent residents permits and are not formal Swedish citizens.

Further factors complicating matters is that the Israelis are demanding that those allowed to leave Gaza be in possession of an approved exit visa — something that few of the 20 Swedes in the territory have.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: They weren’t planning on leaving?]

Norway’s representative for the Palestinian territories, Tor Wennesland, reported to TT that despite assurances from Israeli authorities they had neither been able to extract their citizens from Gaza.

“There is no one who is able to drive people through the front in northern Gaza,” Wennesland said.

The Czech Foreign Minister, Karel Schwartzenberg, is heading an EU delegation which also includes the Swedish and French foreign ministers, Carl Bildt and Bernard Kouchner, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, which has been in Cairo to broker contact with Hamas leaders. According to the BBC, a delegation from Hamas is on its way to Egypt for talks.

The EU appealed on Sunday for a ceasefire and an end to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and Israel’s shelling of Gaza.

The Israeli assault against Hamas militants entered its tenth day on Monday and Palestinian authorities report that the conflict has claimed more than 500 lives so far with a further 2,500 wounded.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

The Necessity of Israel

WASHINGTON — Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating.

Israel is so scrupulous about civilian life that, risking the element of surprise, it contacts enemy noncombatants in advance to warn them of approaching danger. Hamas, which started this conflict with unrelenting rocket and mortar attacks on unarmed Israelis — 6,464 launched from Gaza in the last three years — deliberately places its weapons in and near the homes of its own people.

This has two purposes. First, counting on the moral scrupulousness of Israel, Hamas figures civilian proximity might help protect at least part of its arsenal. Second, knowing that Israelis have new precision weapons that may allow them to attack nonetheless, Hamas hopes that inevitable collateral damage — or, if it is really fortunate, an errant Israeli bomb — will kill large numbers of its own people for which, of course, the world will blame Israel.

For Hamas the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians. The religion of Jew-murder and self-martyrdom is ubiquitous. And deeply perverse, such as the Hamas TV children’s program in which an adorable live-action Palestinian Mickey Mouse is beaten to death by an Israeli (then replaced by his more militant cousin, Nahoul the Bee, who vows to continue on Mickey’s path to martyrdom).

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

For Jewish State, Real Enemy is Iran

Yossi Halevi & Michael Oren: Attacks must not stop until Hamas is defeated

Reporting from Jerusalem — The images from the fighting in Gaza are harrowing but ultimately deceptive. They portray a mighty invading army, one equipped with F-16 jets that have bombed a civilian population defended by a few thousand fighters armed with primitive rockets. But widen the lens and the true nature of this conflict emerges. Hamas, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, is a proxy for the real enemy Israel is confronting: Iran. And Israel’s current operation against Hamas represents a unique chance to deal a strategic blow to Iranian expansionism.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Is Iran in Trouble?

by Michael Ledeen

After years of refusing to see Iran’s aggressive intentions, most sensible observers of things Middle Eastern now recognize that the most important terrorist organizations, from Islamic Jihad to Hezbollah and Hamas, are essentially Iranian proxies. Figaro this weekend carries a story bluntly headlined “Iran Behind Hamas’ Grad Missiles,” and flatly states that Hamas military commanders have been trained in Iran and Syria to use the deadliest missiles in their inventory. The battle of Gaza is therefore the second between Israel and Iran in two and half years, the first being the 2006 conflict with Hezbollah (which, lest we forget, was kicked off when Hamas kidnaped three Israeli soldiers).

It follows that Iran could well lose this battle, and defeat is very dangerous to a regime like Tehran’s, which claims divine sanction for its actions and proclaims the imminent arrival of its messiah and of the triumph of global jihad. If Allah is responsible for victory, what can be said about humiliating defeat? The mullahs are well aware of the stakes, as we can see in their recent behavior.

For some time now, the regime in Tehran has shown signs of urgency, sometimes verging on panic. Of late, the mullahs have organized raucus demonstrations in front of numerous embassies, including those of Egypt (with chants of “Death to Mubarak”), Jordan, Turkey, Great Britain, Germany and today (imagine!) France. These demonstrations were not mere gestures; the regime’s seriousness was underlined on Sunday, the 4th, when it offered a million-dollar reward to anyone who killed Mubarak (the Iranians called it a “revolutionary execution”). Significantly, the announcement came at a rally of the Basij, the most radical security force in the country, at which the Revolutionary Guards official Forooz Rejaii spoke. The Egyptians take it seriously; they have been on alert of late, looking for the possibility of a Mumbai-type operation in Cairo or elsewhere.

At the same time, the regime intensified its murderous assault against its own people, most notably hanging nine people on Christmas Eve, and assaulting the headquarters of Nobel Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi.

This intense tempo of activity bespeaks alarm in Tehran…

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]

Video: Iranians Urge Kids to Fight ‘Evil’ Israel

Children’s TV program embraces ‘martyrdom’ amid Gaza conflict

Amid Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza to stop rocket attacks against its civilian population, an Iranian children’s TV show taught toddlers to embrace “martyrdom” and hate their Jewish “enemies.”

“We all loathe those enemies. We all loathe them. We are furious at them. We identify with the Palestinian children,” said the female host of the program on Iran’s Channel 1 Monday, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI

The host, noting the children were wearing traditional Palestinian kaffiyeh scarves as a sign of solidarity, said the “enemy” was turning “the oppressed children of Gaza into martyrs.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Yemen: Jews in North Increasingly Being Harassed

[Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs — Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)]

Members of the small Jewish community of some 270 people in Amran Governorate, northern Yemen, say they have been receiving renewed death threats from their Muslim neighbours since the start of the Israeli offensive against Gaza on 27 December.

Harassment and intimidation have been stepped up: On 4 January a number of schoolchildren attacked Jews with sticks and stones in Raydah District during a protest against the Israeli attacks on Gaza, local Jews said.

“Zaher Salem, 36, was injured after boys threw stones, hitting him in the head. The boys also attacked Jews in a number of houses, breaking windows and frightening children,” Hayeem Yaish, a Jewish activist, told IRIN.

Yaish said Jews had been receiving threats from Muslim extremists since the killing of a Jew on 11 December by a Muslim extremist, but that harassment had increased since the Israeli action in Gaza.

“The protesters told us the state won’t protect us and that they would attack us secretly if not openly,” he said, adding: “We are intimidated every day and our pain grows constantly. We even receive threats on our mobile phones.”

The Interior Ministry’s Information Centre said on 4 January that the boys who had attacked the Jews — along with the boys’ fathers — had been arrested by the authorities.

Relocation delayed

According to Yaish, the Jews were told by the authorities they would be moved to Sanaa City on 4 January, but that has not yet happened. “The Jews got ready to be relocated to Sanaa but the process of transferring us was delayed. We don’t know when we can move,” he said.

“The longer we stay here in Raydah, the more the threats against us. We really fear for our lives and the lives of our children.”

The Jews, unlike other local people in Amran Governorate, do not carry guns or daggers. Only the state can provide protection for them, said Yaish.

“When a minor problem occurs between a Muslim and a Jew, you can see armed men gather to protect the former. But when we get harassed, no one stands by us,” he said, adding that tension had been simmering in Amran since two Jews were killed by Muslims in separate incidents a few years ago.

Apart from the Jewish community in Amran Governorate, some 45 Jews live in Sanaa City, having been moved there from Saada Governorate, northern Yemen, in early 2007.

[Return to headlines]


Behind the Russia-Ukraine Gas Conflict

It has become a New Year’s tradition: With the clock inching closer to midnight, Russia and Ukraine trade threats and accusations as talks over the next year’s gas contract come down to the wire. The two neighbors squabble over the price Ukraine will pay for Russian gas, and the tariffs Russia will pay Ukraine for the use of pipelines that cross its territory, sending Russian gas to Europe.

Only once before did the situation get so dire that Gazprom, Russia’s state-run gas monopoly, followed through on threats to turn off the taps. That was in January 2006, when Russia sought to hike prices sharply in the wake of the Orange Revolution that ushered a Western-leaning government into power in Kiev. But once again this year, Gazprom cut all gas to Ukraine on New Year’s Day, arguing that Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state-run gas company, had failed to pay its gas bill in full and that talks on a price for 2009 had stalled completely.

What’s behind the dispute? Gazprom maintains that the conflict is purely commercial. In fact, both economic and political considerations are at play in both countries. That makes it likely the fight will drag on for several days or longer, in contrast to 2006, when the neighbors found a resolution within three days. Coming less than five months after Russia’s heavy-handed war with Georgia, the dispute will surely raise questions about Russia’s intentions toward its ex-Soviet neighbors, as well as its ability to reliably supply gas to Europe. The European Union imports about a quarter of its gas from Russia, and 80 percent of that amount travels through pipelines that cross Ukraine. The conflict with Ukraine also comes at a time when Russia has been trying to increase its sway among global oil and gas players, regularly attending OPEC meetings and floating the idea of setting up an OPEC-style group for the global gas industry…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Estonian Court Acquits 4 in Deadly Statue Riots

An Estonian court has acquitted four ethnic Russians accused of organizing deadly riots in April 2007 after authorities relocated a Soviet war grave and statue.

The unrest left one dead and over 100 injured.

The low-level court did not provide reasons for the Monday acquittal, but a spokeswoman said a judge would issue a detailed ruling in two weeks. Prosecutors vowed to appeal.

Defense lawyers said prosecutors failed to provide evidence showing the accused — Dmitry Klensky, Dmitry Linter, Maxim Reva, and Mark Sirok — had instigated the riots.

The Bronze Soldier statue is sacred for ethnic Russians, who comprise some 25 percent of Estonia’s 1.3 million people. Many ethnic Estonians say the statue is a reminder of a half-century of Soviet occupation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Interview With Georgian Opposition Leader

‘I Can’t Allow My Government to Lie to the World’

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has promised to redress democratic shortcomings in his country. Nice words, says opposition leader Nino Burdzhanadze in an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE. But she says it is time for real reform in the country.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Ms. Burdzhanadze, three months have now passed since the beginning of the Russian-Georgian war. What do you think the repercussions have been for your country?

Nino Burdzhanadze: Despite the assistance from the US and from the European Union, for which we are grateful, Georgia finds itself in a very difficult situation. In violation of the cease-fire agreement negotiated by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russian troops are still stationed on Georgian territory, including outside of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. These are areas that Russia didn’t control before…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Malaysia 5 Opposition Members Arrested

FIVE Malaysian opposition members were arrested in north-eastern Terengganu state on Monday as they campaigned for a hotly contested by-election, officials said. The opposition Keadilan party said the group, including its deputy youth chief Faris Musa, were detained for putting up posters linking Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak with the high-profile 2006 murder of a Mongolian woman.

‘Five people were arrested and released on police bail,’ said Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar, adding that the five were suspected of defamation.

‘You can’t breach the law. If they spread criminal defamation the police should take action. In a democratic system we should act with responsibility,’ he told a press conference.

Keadilan officials said the poster featured a photograph of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu, the lover of a close associate of Mr Najib, whose body was blown up with military-grade explosives in a jungle clearing.

Mr Najib’s associate Abdul Razak Baginda was last October cleared of involvement in the case, but two police officers from an elite unit which guards the prime minister and his deputy are yet to mount their defence.

The incident occurred in the run-up to a Jan 17 by-election in the state capital Kuala Terengganu for a parliamentary seat that will not alter the balance of power, but which will deliver a big boost to the winning side.

The government is striving to show its reform credentials after a disastrous setback in general elections last year that forced Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to agree to hand over to Mr Najib next March.

For the Keadilan-led opposition, the vote will serve as an indication of whether voters approve of their work in the months since they won control of five states and a third of the national parliament.

Campaigning officially kicks off on Tuesday when the two sides will announce their candidates.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Singapore: Terror Trial Delayed

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Last couple paragraphs may have been cribbed from earlier articles since those 3 guys are already dead.]

The trial of Singaporean terror suspect Mohammad Hasan alias Fajar Taslim, has been delayed to Tuesday or Thursday.

A state prosecutor in charge of Fajar Talim case on Monday filed a last minute request for the delay as he needed more time to prepare his charge paper.

Fajar taslim’s lawyer Asludin Hatjadi said he will meet the prosecutor and judges at 1 pm (2 pm Singapore time) on Monday at the court house to firm up the trial date.

The Singaporean and nine other terror suspects were nabbed at a rented house in Palembang, South Sumatra, in early July last year.

The raid also uncovered 22 home-made bombs that were ready to use as well as cachets of explosive.

Earlier reports said the the authorities are most likely to base their charges on Clause 9 of the anti-terrorism law, which carries a maximum death penalty and a minimum three-year imprisonment.

Clause 9 targets anyone found to possess, keep, transport, hide explosive materials and other dangerous materials meant to be used to commit an act of terrorism.

The amount of dangerous firearms and the extent of damage they could have inflicted would affect the penalty meted out.

In the case of the Palembang terror suspects, Indonesian national police chief Sutanto had previously said the bombs seized by police were even more deadly than those used in previous terror attacks.

So, it is very likely that 35-year-old Fajar Taslim, also known as Mohamed Hassan, and his compatriots could face the firing squad.

If convicted, Fajar Taslim would be the first Singaporean to be charged with terror-related activities in Indonesia.

He is said to be a member of the Singapore chapter of the Jemaah Islamiah, headed by wanted fugitive Mas Selamat Kastari since 1999. Mas Selamat and his team, including Fajar Taslim, had allegedly planned to hijack a plane in Bangkok and crash it into Singapore’s Changi airport in 2002.

Police also believe that Fajar Taslim, who was working as an English teacher in Palembang at the time of the arrest, had previously been trained in Afghanistan and met wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden several times.

But Mr Asludin claimed that Fajar Taslim, since coming to Indonesia, no longer has ties with international terror networks. ‘Fajar came to Indonesia in 2001 and has lived here ever since and has become well-assimilated. He was married to an Indonesian and has two children,’ he said.

Since the October 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people — most of whom were foreign tourists, Indonesia has been seen as taking a tough stance on terror.

Three men — Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Ali Ghufron — were convicted and sentenced to death in 2003 over the bombings.

But their execution has been repeatedly delayed due to series of failed appeals and most recently for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended in September.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Far East

China Steps Up Internet Censors’ Scrutiny

China’s government is stepping up internet scrutiny by equipping its web censors with more advanced software that allows them to spot risks of subversion much earlier and root it out more efficiently, according to the country’s internet security market leader.

The revelation from Beijing TRS Information Technology, China’s leading provider of search technology and text mining solutions, that it is thriving on the government’s desire to better “manage” public opinion, comes as the political leadership is facing growing challenges, mostly voiced through the internet.

Currently, the security forces are cracking down on intellectuals associated with Charter 08, an appeal for democracy and human rights that many see as the most significant such document since 1989 and which has, defying Beijing’s net censorship, been collecting signatories over the web.

Traditionally, so-called internet cops look for subversive content via keyword searches on Google or Baidu, He Zhaohui, marketing manager at TRS, told the FT.

But, he claimed that TRS is increasingly selling ad-vanced text mining solutions enabling censors to monitor and forecast public opinion rather than take down dangerous talk after it happened. Mr He argued, for example, that state-of-the-art internet spying could have prevented the Shanxi brick kiln slavery scandal and the damage it did to the country’s image.

In June 2007 China shocked the world when a posting on the internet forum Tianya by desperate parents searching for their kidnapped children led to the discovery that hundreds had been sold into slavery to illegal brick kilns in the Northern Chinese province.

The government has clearly moved on since then. “On high-end applications, Chinese police now basically use TRS technology,” said Mr He. “We did such systems for eight police stations in Shanghai. The work formerly done by 10 internet police officers can now be done by one.”

Police focus on certain groups of people. “For example, some internet propaganda departments supervise forums of university students — students tend to have more extreme opinions,” said Mr He.

Events like the Sichuan earthquake, the Olympics, and the economic crisis, combined with the transparency enforced by the web, are putting officials under huge pressure. “Among those working in the news and propaganda in China the heart attack rate is highest,” said Mr He.

This as an opportunity. With pride, he sees his company’s algorithms helping drive internet surveillance to perfection. “There are many different demands — early warning, policy support, competitive spying between government departments. In the end, this will create a whole industry.”…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Philippines: Military to Go After All Insurgents

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Ernesto Torres said Sunday the military would endeavor to serve arrest warrants on known leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing, the New People’s Army, and the Abu Sayyaf, which has been linked to the international terrorist organization al-Qaida.

“Among our plans for the coming year is to defeat insurgency. We will push through with our military operations and strengthen our legal offensive, which is serving arrest warrants,” Torres said.

The arrest orders were issued as a result of various cases filed against CPP-NPA and Abu Sayyaf leaders over the years, among them, cases of rebellion and murder.

The military is working with a 2010 deadline to end the decades-long communist insurgency. Armed clashes between government troops and rebel fighters have been erupting since last month in hot spots such as Bicol, Quezon and Mindanao, with casualties reported from both sides.

Torres released a partial arrest list Sunday which identified 14 individuals.

On the list were CPP chair Jose Maria Sison, exiled in the Netherlands, CPP spokesperson Gregorio Rosal, CPP Central Committee members Francisco Fernandez, Ma. Concepcion Bocala and Jorge Madlos, and regional party committee members Loida Magpatoc, Myrna Malaya and Menandro Villanueva.

Wanted from the Abu Sayyaf were Isnilon Hapilon, Radulan Sahiron, Abu Pula, Mubin Ibba, alias Abu Black; Suhod Tanadjalan, alias Commander Duhod; and Albader Parad. Hapilon and Sahiron, listed as among the country’s most wanted, each have a P5-million bounty on their head.

Torres said operations aimed at arresting the individuals were being coordinated with the Philippine National Police.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Aussie Muslims Critical of Rudd Stance

AUSTRALIAN Muslims have described as “muted” the Federal Government’s response to the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

The Government is refusing to condemn the incursion, but is supporting calls for a halt to all violence.

Tens of thousands of Israeli troops backed by tanks have battled Hamas fighters as the death toll from the offensive to end militant rocket attacks passes 510.

The Israeli Government is resisting intense international pressure over its biggest military operation since the 2006 war in Lebanon.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says Australia recognises Israel’s right to self-defence, but added the ongoing violence highlighted the need for a solution to the conflict.

“The escalation in the conflict, following the insurgence by Israeli ground forces, underlines the absolute importance of bringing about an effective diplomatic solution,” he said.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils says Israel is taking advantage of the lack of condemnation from nations such as Australia and the United States.

“The international community including the US and Australia cannot continue to ignore the plight of the Palestinian people any longer,” federation president Ikebal Adam Patel said.

It was not the time for both nations to blame Hamas for provoking the Israelis.

“They should speak against the brutal aggression of Israel and force Israel and Hamas to bring to halt its attack on each other.”

Mr Rudd said any diplomatic solution must include a halt to rocket attacks against Israel and the reopening of Gaza crossings.

“Any diplomatic solution must also involve an immediate ceasefire,” he said.

Mr Rudd acknowledged that many Australians were concerned about the humanitarian impacts of the conflict and called on Israel to recognise basic human rights.

“It is critical therefore for Israel to meet its humanitarian obligations under international humanitarian law, towards the people of Gaza, ensuring that they have access to basic goods, food and humanitarian assistance and medical supplies.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Piracy: Rumours of Saudi Sirius Star Release

(ANSAmed) — NAIROBI, DECEMBER 31 — The huge Saudi oil tanker Sirius Star, 330 metres long and loaded with two million barrels of crude oil, may soon be released. The rumour has been going round since yesterday, and today the reliable Somali network Shabelle has spoken of it on its web site. Officially, the release is to come about without any conditions (the request was for 25 million dollars in ransom), but intelligence sources in Kenya believe instead that some sort of deal had been worked out, though speaking of paying ‘homage’ to the Saudis, the guardians of the holy places of Islam, is preferred. The Sirius Star was taken hostage on 25 November in waters far from those in which Somali pirates usually operate, 1,000 kilometres further south. An agreement for the Ukrainian Faina, taken hostage on 15 September, on which there are over 30 armoured vehicles and a large quantity of heavy arms and munitions, also seems imminent. (ANSAmed).

2008-12-31 17:11

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Polio: ‘Nigeria Worst Hit Country in 2008’

Nigeria on Wednesday ended 2008 with about 783 cases of wild polio virus, thereby registering itself as the most polio endemic country worldwide in 2008.

Also, the global Advisory Committee on Poliomyelitis Eradication in Geneva, Switzerland, has stated that Nigeria would continue to pose a high risk to the eradication of the disease globally due to uncontrolled rate of spread of the disease across its borders.

Investigations by our correspondent on Wednesday in Abuja showed that Nigeria began the year with about 50 cases of the virus, after ending 2007 with a total of 285 cases.

However, by the last week of December 2008, data from the spread of the virus showed that Nigeria had beaten every other country to the topmost position with 783 polio cases nationally.

A breakdown of the data showed that the number of children being paralysed by the disease was increasing in Kano State, which alone recorded about 30 per cent of the cases.

The World Health Organisation had last year stated that the world was close to eradicating the disease, but for some continuous cases of outbreak in Nigeria, along with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.

Meanwhile, the fifth session of Advisory Committee of Poliomyelitis Eradication has told WHO that Nigeria will continue to pose a high risk to the international community.

It said, “Nigeria will continue to pose a high risk to international health until the new top political commitment is translated into field level improvements in campaign quality.

“More than 30 per cent of children are still unvaccinated in Kano. This has resulted in the ongoing co-circulation and international exportation of WPV1, WPV3, and cVDPV type 2.

“The international risks posed by Nigeria are compounded by the current economic climate which severely compromises the capacity of the international community to respond to any new international spread from the large areas of uncontrolled poliovirus transmission in the northern part of the country.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Britons Flee London to be Replaced by Immigrants

The figures underline the huge flux within the population from not just international migration, but also British people moving around the country.

According to the Halifax, the country’s largest mortgage lender who closely monitors house ownership, 345,000 more British people left London than moved to the capital between 1998 and 2007.

It is the only area in Britain that has suffered from a loss of population due to internal migration, suggesting its character is swiftly changing.

However, this net loss from internal migration was more than offset by 1.8 million international migrants who arrived in the city during this period — many eastern Europeans willing to undertake low-paid work.

John Philpott, the chief economist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said: “One in three workers in London is an overseas worker. Many indigenous people just do not want to do jobs such as cleaning and can not afford the high property prices so move to the suburbs to bring up their families.”

The figures bring into question the Home Office’s promise to keep the overall population below 70 million.

The balance of those settling here over those leaving must be cut to just 50,000 a year if the population is not to pass the landmark total, according to Karen Dunnell, the National Statistician, in a letter to MPs last month.

The current net level of international migration is 237,000.

Keith Woolas, immigration minister, announced the Government is keeping restrictions in place for at least another year on low-skilled workers from Romania and Bulgaria, in an attempt to keep migration under control.

Mr Woolas vowed in October that the Government would not let the population go above 70 million but on current projections it will pass that within two decades.

The severe economic downturn could underline some of the migration trends, according to experts.

Mr Philpott said: “During the recession of the early 80s there was the so-called Auf Wiedersehen Pet generation of workers, who left Britain in search of overseas jobs.

“This time around you’re more likely to see financial sector workers, who have lost their jobs, moving to Dubai or Indonesia, especially if they are young and without families.”

Falling property prices may, however, encourage more British people to stay put, either because they do not want to crystalise a loss by selling their homes, or because they can finally afford a property in their home region.

Over the last decade, the pronounced property bubble was one of the main reasons why Londoners flocked to the counties, unable to afford a home in the city.

The Halifax figures also show that the north-south divide for jobs has widened considerably over the last decade.

The population of the South East swelled by more than half a million from internal migration, with a similar situation recorded in the South West as people from the north flocked to find better-paid jobs. The population of the counties surrounding London increased by 10 per cent as a result of internal migration, while the North West increased by just 2 per cent an the North East by just 3 per cent.

A study by the Commission for Rural Communities last year found that demand for housing in some areas made properties so expensive that some fetch 14 times the average local salary.

The problem has become so severe in Cornwall, Dorset and Norfolk, where homes are out of the reach of locals, driving out young people and leading to the slow death of village life.

Houses in the Isles of Scilly, Poole, Exeter, East Dorset, Arun, Harrogate, Test Valley, Carrick and many commuter towns in the South East are on the market for more than 10 times the average local salary.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Denmark: More Immigrants Stopped, Fewer Deported

The number of illegal immigrants stopped by authorities at the German-Danish border rose from 1,090 in 2007 to 1,239 in 2008, according to the Immigration Service. A significant increase in the number of those caught under the age of 18 was apparent in the 2008 figures, where the count rose to 257 from 100 in 2007. The number of people deported fell in 2008, to 347 from 727 the previous year. In all, 8,400 non-Danish citizens have been deported since 2002.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Immigration: Greece, 59 Migrants on Way to Italy Stopped

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JANUARY 5 — The port authorities of Patras have discovered 59 migrants on their way to Italy in a lorry. The driver of the vehicle, 46 years old, has been arrested. The migrants were hiding among the goods transported by the lorry, which was about to board a ferry. The migrants have been detained. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Immigration: Tens of Migrants Disembark at Linosa

(ANSAmed) — LINOSA (AGRIGENTO), JANUARY 5 — Tens of immigrants were surprised at dawn by the police of Linosa shortly after disembarking. Despite searching along the coast, the police failed to find any boat.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Number of Migrant Workers Underestimated

The Labour Force Survey (LFS), the main Government tool for measuring changes in the workforce, fails to include any foreigners in the country for less than a year. In addition migrant workers living in communal properties are also excluded, meaning many thousands more could also be under the radar.

The ommissions mask the total impact immigration has on the British labour force, prompting accusations from the Conservatives than ministers have misrepresented the situation.

In total, foreign workers make up one in seven of the labour market, despite Gordon Brown’s pledge to create “British jobs for British workers”.

Figures in November showed migrants have accounted for all the growth in employment over the past two years while the number of Britons in work has fallen.

Tory MP James Clappison, who uncovered the hidden workers, said: “This underlines the scale of penetration by foreign workers of the UK labour market and undermines still further the Government’s claims about generating new jobs for UK workers.

“This reflects the historically very high number of work permits handed out by the Labour Government to non-EU workers, which is clearly still continuing.

“Labour has systematically misrepresented the level of migration into the country and the effect of its failed efforts to bring it under control.”

The LFS is one of the official employment counts published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and is based on a survey of tens of thousands of households.

But statisticians in the House of Commons Library admitted it does not include temporary migrant workers in the count.

That is migrants who are working in the UK for less than a year but, in contrast, the survey does count temporary British workers who may only be in jobs for a few months.

In a letter to Mr Clappison, the official wrote: “Based on ONS experimental short term migration estimates it is estimated that the number of temporary foreign workers not covered by the LFS is approximately 170,000.

“In Jan-Mar 2008 the LFS estimated that there were 3,682,000 overseas-born individuals in employment in the UK (12.5 per cent of all in employment). If we add an extra 170,000 to the foreign worker total from the LFS, the proportion of all in employment who are foreign workers increases to 13 per cent.”

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: “Not only does this reinforce just how unwise Gordon Brown’s boast that he would deliver British jobs for British workers actually was, it also casts serious doubts on the integrity of the Government’s figures.

“Immigration can be of real benefit to the country but only if it’s properly controlled.”

The official said the LFS also ignores anyone, foreign or British, who lives in communal establishments, such as hostels, mobile homes, boarding houses, hospitals and care homes.

It is estimated there are at least 80,000 workers in such establishments at any one time but there is no estimate on the proportion who are foreign.

But given the nature of the some of the accommodation classed as communal, it is likely they are heavily used by temporary migrant workers.

The missing numbers could mean the foreign worker share of the increase in UK jobs between 1997 and 2008 could be as high as 57.4 per cent as opposed to 55.2 per cent as previously thought, the letter said.

However, that is based on the “extremely crude” premise that there were no temporary migrant workers in 1997.

The Daily Telegraph told in November how the overall level of employment increased by about 320,000 between September 2006 and September 2008 — up from 29.17 million to 29.49 million.

But during the two-year period the number of British workers in jobs fell by 149,000 while the number of migrant employees increased by 469,000.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Britain’s Betrayed Tribe: the White Working Class

Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, said yesterday that lower-income white people felt that their “acute fears” about immigration were being ignored. Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, now talks openly about the need to find jobs for the “indigenous population”. A decade ago, it would have been unthinkable for the Conservatives, let alone Labour, to say these things. Why have ministers started acknowledging the fears of people whom, until recently, they regarded as potential racists in need of multicultural re-education?

The obvious answer is that Labour is frightened of losing tribal voters whom it could afford to take for granted in 1997, 2001 and 2005. Ms Blears was reacting to a government report that identifies “a real and perceived sense of unfairness” felt on estates around the country. Many of those estates are in constituencies, ranging from Bristol to the Pennines, where the Labour vote is on the point of collapse.

It would be cynical, however, to assume that the Government is motivated only by electoral considerations. The more outspoken ministers, such as Ms Blears and Mr Woolas, know perfectly well that “health tourism” is stretching resources in NHS hospitals and encouraging anti-immigrant sentiment; they recognise that immigration must be limited (though they are not sure how); and they admit that the automatic translation of all official documents into myriad foreign languages “ghettoises people”, as Mr Woolas bluntly puts it.

Yet, even now, they refuse to take full responsibility for this state of affairs. For years, David Blunkett was supposed to be the unofficial voice of the white working class in the Labour Party; but it was Mr Blunkett who, as home secretary in 2003, declared that there was “no obvious limit” to the number of immigrants to our “crowded, vigorous island”.

The effects of the open-door policy of those years are still being felt. Since Mr Blunkett’s statement, more than half a million East European workers have arrived in this country, and statistics from the Labour Force Survey show clearly that they have displaced British-born workers at the bottom of the pay scale. The number of illegal immigrants, meanwhile, is impossible to assess accurately; but what no one disputes is that many of them bring families who have to be housed, directly or indirectly, by the state.

And yet still Ms Blears feels the need to dismiss stories of immigrants receiving preferential housing treatment as “myths”, while the government report implies that the white working class do not understand the concept of “integration”. In other words, Labour wants to acknowledge — even exploit — the justified anxieties of white British voters while still hinting that these “perceptions” are rooted in working-class ignorance. We suspect that this confused message will not play well at election time.

But that is Labour’s problem, not Britain’s. The real priority is that the disastrous policies that have punished both British-born and immigrant residents of poor housing estates should be reversed. Fear of violent crime is directly related to the swamping of police forces by politically correct experiments in social engineering. According to the latest report, white residents of estates rarely meet black and Asian people. Why? Because the Government and local authorities are, even now, allowing minorities to settle into ethnic and religious ghettos.

The white working class did not choose to become alienated: it has been pushed to the margins by the politicians for whom it has voted for generations. The consequences of that betrayal affect us all. Labour’s multiculturalism was divisive and wasteful at the best of times; its legacy in a period of economic crisis poses a dangerous threat to social cohesion.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Know Your History, or Die [Malta, 1565]

More than two centuries later, the fledgling United States will fight its first war against these Muslim slavers and pirates. But now we are at Malta, it is 1565, and our host for this expedition is Michael Davies, who told the story at the 2002 Dietrich von Hildebrand Institute Symposia in New York. You could also consult The Great Siege, by Ernle Bradford (New York, Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962).

Malta, in the western Mediterranean, was Christian, like the Holy Land, which the Muslims had raped, robbed and conquered after almost seven centuries of hegemony by worshippers of Jesus. Its strategic location endangered the lucrative Muslim piracy and slavery racket. Maltese vessels were harrying Ottoman Empire piracy routes.

Suleiman the Magnificent — Vice-Regent of God on Earth, Lord of the Lords of East and West, and Possessor of Men’s Necks, et cetera and so on — ruled Islam at the time and commanded the most awesome military force in the world. He sent 200 ships, 40,000 troops plus innumerable thousands of slaves and more than 6,000 elite Janissaries, the “Invincible Ones.”

Beside them were the drug-crazed Iayalars who wore the skins of wild beasts and whose raison d’etre was to reach paradise through death by slitting Christian throats in battle. Suleiman’s vengeance would be sweet and easy. Only 9,000 Christians waited to confront him, including 5,000 Maltese irregulars and 500 galley slaves. He would roll over them like the tide in the Bosporus, crush them; drown them in the sea.

Overcome by hubris, he may have overlooked the 700 knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem among them. Maybe he didn’t know about their leader, Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette, who had survived a year as a galley slave himself, sometimes rowing twenty hours a day stark naked in the bowels of a Muslim ship. De la Valette’s people hailed from Toulouse, which means he was French. What? Yes, French!

De la Valette told his Christian warriors this: “It is the great battle of the Cross and the Koran which is now to be fought. A formidable army of infidels are on the point of invading our island. We, for our part, are the chosen soldiers of the Cross, and if Heaven requires the sacrifice of our lives, there can be no better occasion than this. Let us hasten then, my brothers, to the sacred altar. There we will renew our vows and obtain by our faith in the sacred Sacraments, that contempt for death which alone can render us invincible.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Slowing Global Warming With Antarctic Iron

Recent research shows that melting icebergs in the ocean around Antarctica may actually slow global warming. The iron particles they carry feed algae blooms that suck up CO2. Could man-made algae blooms in the frigid waters help combat climate change?


Smetacek plans to put a great deal of metrological effort into investigating how much algae in fact sinks to the bottom of the ocean. To do this, he will focus on a particular species of algae that grows along the coast. Spores of this species are enclosed by a silicon dioxide shell, and they also incorporate carbon dioxide into their organic inner parts. When the spores then sink through the water, even fish can hardly digest them. “Then the greenhouse gas is sure to be out of the earth’s atmosphere for several hundred years,” Smetacek explains.

Smetacek has also suggested the establishment of an authority at the United Nations to oversee future iron fertilization projects undertaken to save the climate. The researcher doesn’t want to leave this matter in the hands of industry, allowing companies simply to buy their way out of other climate-related obligations with a tanker full of iron sulfate. “The issue is too complex not to be supervised by scientists,” he says.

To critics who call this too much playing around with the planet’s natural workings, Smetacek replies: “Their objections will be swept away when our powerlessness in the face of climate change becomes apparent.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Why Liberals Still Think Like the KKK

Anyone who spends time reading message boards related to online news articles today can see things that are readily self evident. One of these self evident truths is that today’s political and theological left still very much represent the racism they did when they initiated a secret society named the Ku Klux Klan. They do so in the policies they argue for and more importantly in the criticism they level against those who are brave enough to take action.

Their anti-war extremism is one of the most telling signs.

But don’t merely take my word for it. Here is a sample from the Jerusalem Post from an American named John Ash:

“I never realized Israel and its supporters had so many people who cheer on killing and destruction. The enthusiasm for the “brave IDF” is kind of weird when you consider that the air force is dropping bombs on defenseless people and the army is invading with tanks and artillery. The Gazans have not one airplane or tank, so where is the bravery in bombing and invading a defenseless area?”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

One thought on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/5/2009

  1. I wonder if it will be possible for us to have, when the time comes, a topic about President Hussein’s team here at GoV so that we can know who are the men of the president (especially those of us in the other side of the Atlantic).

    Keep up Baron, don’t give up.

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