Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/7/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/7/2009The gas pipeline standoff between Russia and Ukraine continues. Large chunks of southeastern Europe are without gas, and the EU has given the Russians a 24-hour deadline to resume the flow of gas. There’s no word on what penalty the Russians will face if they fail to comply.

Thanks to AA, Abu Elvis, C. Cantoni, Diana West, Fausta, Insubria, JD, Steen, Tuan Jim, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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$240,000 Dollars Awarded to Man Forced to Cover Arab T-Shirt
Another Constitutional Convention?
Fight Over “Margaritaville” Leaves GI Dead in Steamboat
Israel Against the Barbarians
Porn Industry Seeks Federal Bailout
Video: Kissinger: Obama Primed to Create ‘New World Order’ Policy Guru Says Global Upheaval Presents ‘Great Opportunity’
Why Does the New York Times Love Hamas?
Why Should Officers Risk Their Lives?
Canada: the Dangers of Hate-Hunting
Ottawa Blames Hamas for Civilian Deaths at School
Europe and the EU
Antwerp Authorities Put Limits on AEL Demo
Czech Senate Postpones Lisbon Treaty Ratification Until February
Denmark: Politicians Stay Out of School Prayer Dispute
France: Fear for Increasing Anti-Semitism Cases
Greece: Reaction to Officer’s Shooting
Housing: 63,000 Spanish Youth Receive Rent Contribution
Klaus Calls for Easing of Rules
Odense: Background of the Shooting Suspect
Spain: 332,000 Construction Jobs Lost in 5 Months
Sweden: Jews Under Increasing Threat
Sweden: Students Reported for Beating School Principal
The Netherlands: Police May Not Swear on the Koran
The True Extent of Britain’s Debt
UK: “Hit List” of Britain’s Leading Jews
UK: Britain’s Terror Threat Reduced
UK: Honoured at Last: the Policeman Killed by a Terrorist
UK: MI5 and How to Deal With Homegrown Muslim Extremists
UK: Synagogue Set Alight During Rise in Anti-Semitic Attacks in London
UK: The Day the Sea Froze: Temperature Plunges to Minus 12C…
UK: Violence Fears Over Rival London Protests
UK: We Cannot Afford to Ignore the Interests of Savers
Bosnia: NATO, Italian in Charge of Sarajevo Headquarters
Mediterranean Union
Economy: Tunisia, 50 Million-Euro Loan From Italy
North Africa
Gaza: Algeria Gives a Quarter of Zakat to Gaza People
Morocco: Among First 10 Countries in Field of Off-Shoring
Morocco: Female Quotas for Next Local Elections
Israel and the Palestinians
Alan Dershowitz: the CNN Strategy
Gaza: Save the Children Provides Aid to About 6000
Gaza: Hezbollah on the Offensive Despite War Rhetoric
Israel: Use More Force
Middle East: Hamas ‘Executes Six Suspected Collaborators’
Why Israel Will Lose — Again
Middle East
Defence: Israeli Suppliers for Turkey Air Force F16 Fighter
Military: Turkish Soldiers to be Equipped With Latest Tools
Turkey: “Marriage School” to Counter Divorces’ Increase
Cold War! EU Gives Russia 24 Hours to Switch Pipeline Back on After 12 Countries Left Without Power
Hungary Restrictions Natural Gas Consumption
Lithuania Should Not Fear for Russian Gas
Moldovan Emergencies Commission Tackles Gas Supply Issue
Putin’s Gas Mace
Russia Has Cut Gas Supply to Europe, Says Ukraine
Schools Close, Industry Hit by Crisis Reaction to Russian Gas Freeze
Slovakia: Nuclear Plant to Reopen if Gas Freeze Lasts
The Battle of the Oligarchs Behind the Gas Dispute
South Asia
Dossier: Handlers Used Virtual Number to Contact a Mobile With One of the Terrorists
Indonesia: Jihadists the Last Thing Gaza Needs: Minister
Muslims Force Pop Star Rihanna to Cover Up
The MSM: Protectors of the Islamic Faith
The War Against Terror That No One Protested
Far East
Philippines: Two Bombs Explode in North Cotabato, Another One Found in Maguindanao
Sub-Saharan Africa
Navy Escorts 4 Vessels Off Somalia on Day One
Latin America
Venezuela: Times of Low Oil Prices
UK: The Ethnic Cleansing of London: Immigrants Pour in, White Brits Leave
Culture Wars
America’s Identity Crisis
UK: Atheist Buses Denying God’s Existence Take to Streets
Leading American Muslim Publicly Threatens U.S. for Supporting Israel
Mr. Gore: Apology Accepted
The Special Relationship


$240,000 Dollars Awarded to Man Forced to Cover Arab T-Shirt

NEW YORK (AFP) — An airline passenger forced to cover his T-shirt because it displayed Arabic script has been awarded 240,000 dollars in compensation, campaigners said Monday.

Raed Jarrar received the pay out on Friday from two US Transportation Security Authority officials and from JetBlue Airways following the August 2006 incident at New York’s JFK Airport, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced.

“The outcome of this case is a victory for free speech and a blow to the discriminatory practice of racial profiling,” said Aden Fine, a lawyer with ACLU.

Jarrar, a US resident, was apprehended as he waited to board a JetBlue flight from New York to Oakland, California, and told to remove his shirt, which had written on it in Arabic: “We will not be silent.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Another Constitutional Convention?

Is it time for a new Constitutional Convention?

A recent proposal for a new federal Constitutional Convention in Ohio failed, but another is now being considered in Virginia. While some people, rightfully concerned with the multi-billion dollar “bailout” of private companies and huge financial institutions by the U.S. Congress want to amend the United States Constitution to require a balanced budget, others, with entirely different motives, would like nothing more than to rewrite that document altogether.

I, too, share concern for the late action of Congress to give away taxpayer money to privately owned businesses, because such measures are without any justification under the Constitution already. And the prospect of powerful special-interest groups having anything to do with writing a new constitution should frighten anyone who loves the liberty we have enjoyed for over 220 years under our present form of government.


Throughout our history, many have warned of the dangers of a new Constitutional Convention. One of the first to recognize the perils of another Constitutional Convention was James Madison, the acknowledged “Father of the Constitution,” who warned:

Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first Convention which assembled under every propitious circumstance, I should tremble for the result of a second.

As recently as 1987, former Chief Justice Warren Burger, chairman of the U.S. Bicentennial Commission, commented on the prospects of another convention by stating:

There is no way, any more than the Continental Congress could control the convention in Philadelphia, to put a muzzle on a Constitutional Convention. Once it meets, it will do whatever the majority wants to do.. I would not favor it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Fight Over “Margaritaville” Leaves GI Dead in Steamboat

An Army sergeant who offended two patrons of a Steamboat Springs sports bar when he played one of his favorite Jimmy Buffett songs, “Margaritaville,” has died of the beating inflicted by the pair, authorities said today.

Sgt. 1st Class Richard Lopez, 37, of Fayetteville, N.C., died at 4:16 a.m. Monday at Denver Health Medical Center, according to Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae.


Rae said Lopez was obviously enjoying the song and that upset the two other patrons. The pair — whose names were not released — made disparaging remarks about the song’s selection, and the argument escalated on the street near the bar.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Israel Against the Barbarians

Yet here in America, and even more so in Europe, you will find millions of theoretically civilized people who find a moral equivalence between Israel and her sworn enemies — and even more millions who favor the Arabs.

In a recent Rasmussen Poll, 62 percent of Republicans in America sided with Israel, while a mere 31 percent of Democrats favored Israel in the current conflict.

As you may have noticed, the world’s media rarely if ever remarked about the thousands of missiles Hamas fired into Israel over the past few years. However, once Israel finally got around to announcing that enough was enough and went on the offensive, Condoleezza Rice and the European Union didn’t waste a second before crying “Foul!” and throwing a penalty flag.

This same pattern is followed each and every time Israel responds to unprovoked attacks. You can invariably count on the nations of the world agreeing that Israel is out of line. While it’s nice they can agree on something, it’s a shame that “something” never seems to be Islamic terrorism, Arab barbarism or slavery in modern-day Africa.

Can you imagine anyone in his right mind 67 years ago claiming that America was over-reacting to Pearl Harbor? Would anybody but an idiot have suggested that once America had sunk an equal number of Japanese battleships or killed an equal number of Japanese soldiers and sailors that we should have ceased hostilities and turned things over to European diplomats, especially after seeing how well those fellows had kept Hitler and Mussolini in check?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Porn Industry Seeks Federal Bailout

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Another major American industry is asking for assistance as the global financial crisis continues: Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis said Wednesday they will request that Congress allocate $5 billion for a bailout of the adult entertainment industry.

“The take here is that everyone and their mother want to be bailed out from the banks to the big three,” said Owen Moogan, spokesman for Larry Flynt. “The porn industry has been hurt by the downturn like everyone else and they are going to ask for the $5 billion. Is it the most serious thing in the world? Is it going to make the lives of Americans better if it happens? It is not for them to determine.”

Francis said in a statement that “the US government should actively support the adult industry’s survival and growth, just as it feels the need to support any other industry cherished by the American people.”

“We should be delivering [the request] by the end of today to our congressmen and [Secretary of the Treasury Henry] Paulson asking for this $5 billion dollar bailout,” he told CNN Wednesday.

Flynt and Francis concede the industry itself is in no financial danger — DVD sales have slipped over the past year, but Web traffic has continued to grow.

But the industry leaders said the issue is a nation in need. “People are too depressed to be sexually active,” Flynt said in the statement. “This is very unhealthy as a nation. Americans can do without cars and such but they cannot do without sex.”

“With all this economic misery and people losing all that money, sex is the farthest thing from their mind. It’s time for congress to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America. The only way they can do this is by supporting the adult industry and doing it quickly.”

So far, there has been no congressional reaction to the request.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis [Return to headlines]

Video: Kissinger: Obama Primed to Create ‘New World Order’ Policy Guru Says Global Upheaval Presents ‘Great Opportunity’

According to Henry Kissinger, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former secretary of state under President Nixon, conflicts across the globe and an international respect for Barack Obama have created the perfect setting for establishment of “a New World Order.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Why Does the New York Times Love Hamas?

The paper of record refuses to call them terrorists, extols the group?s humanitarian efforts, and whitewashes its behavior during the now-broken cease-fire.

In the past week, the Fourth Estate?s Hamas cheerleaders have stripped away any pretense of being honest or neutral, with The New York Times continuing to take the side of the terrorist group in one of the most shameful journalistic episodes I have ever seen. In following The Times’ coverage for the past six months and checking external sources of information, one can see a clear pattern of propagandistic reporting favoring Hamas that selectively suppressed or willfully misrepresented information.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Why Should Officers Risk Their Lives?

Last week, Pennsylvania Republican Congressman Charlie Dent became another influential voice calling on President Bush to pardon two former border patrol agents convicted of shooting an unarmed drug smuggler who was trying to escape across the US-Mexico border. Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean are serving more than 10 years each for shooting Osvaldo Davila in the buttocks while he was fleeing from an abandoned van loaded with 750 pounds of marijuana.


How can you expect law enforcement officers to do their jobs if they risk prison time on the word of criminals they are paid to protect us from? Case in point: last month, just south of Tucson, Arizona, Mexican drug smugglers unloaded $1 million in drugs across the US border and fired automatic weapons at Border Patrol agents. The agents did not return fire because they fear losing their jobs or ending up behind bars like Ramos and Compean. Can you blame them?

During the trial, an Assistant US Attorney told the court that the agents had violated an unarmed man’s (Davila’s) civil rights. How they could prove he was unarmed is beyond imagination since he left the scene and wasn’t heard from until he became a witness against the same men who have the duty to keep him from being where he was in the first place. Furthermore, agent Ramos testified that he heard shots and saw his partner, Compean, on the ground. Then he saw Davila turn toward him, pointing what appeared to be a gun. Ramos fired at Davila, but was unaware that the man was hit because he watched him continue running and jump into a waiting van and flee across the border.

Notwithstanding the ludicrous nature of having an illegal alien drug smuggler be responsible for putting 2 border patrol agents in prison, this case underscores the serious disconnect between those who face crime in the real world and those who read about it in the safety and security of a law library.

The imprisonment of these 2 men is more than a national disgrace; it’s an example of a country that has lost its will to survive. When we put lawmen in prison based on the word of the lawless, how interested are the lawmen going to be in risking their lives for us?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Canada: the Dangers of Hate-Hunting

If you believe the Criminal Code should be amended to make it easier for police to charge suspects with hate crimes, then you must believe there exists a hierarchy of hate; all hate is equally bad, but some hate is equally worse than others.

I know that’s a head-scratching tautology. Yet equally head-scratching is the belief that we may look inside a criminal’s mind, know with certainty what motivates him and determine, God-like, which motivations are more or less reprehensible than others — not merely which criminal acts are worse than other, but which of the thoughts behind those acts are worse as well.

Take for instance the husband who murders his wife (or the wife who murders her husband) because he has come to hate everything about her. He is so thoroughly disgusted by the way she talks, the way she chews, by her family and her constant belittling of his lack of career success that his loathing drives him to kill her.

Then consider the racist who has become so consumed by his hatred of Jews, Muslims, blacks, aboriginals or even whites that he bludgeons to death a member of the group he despises.

Is the second murder worse than the first? Is the victim in the former less dead because the hatred that led to his or her killing was personal rather than political?

The trouble with the recent proposal to extend the authority over whether to lay hate-crimes charges beyond prosecutors and Cabinet ministers to police is that it give politics and ideology even bigger roles in court than the existing hate-crimes statute does.

The existing law, passed in 2004, is bad enough, but at least it has been contained in the damage it can do by the need to have all hate-crime prosecutions sanctioned in advance by Crown prosecutors and even attorneys-general.

The new proposal, put forward by crusading Edmonton hate-crimes cop Stephen Camp, would let the law out of the box. Full-time hate-hunter cops such as Sgt. Camp could become, essentially, human rights commissioners with guns, badges and the power to arrest and lay charges.

Part of the prompting for Sgt. Camp’s amendments, apparently, is a November attack in Oshawa in which a lesbian couple was violently assaulted in front of their child by a man shouting insults about their orientation.

That’s appalling to be sure, but is it any worse than an assailant attacking a straight couple in front of their kids while shouting hateful insults about their honesty/fidelity/sobriety?

There is no difference, unless the political expressions of one attacker strike you as more important than the personal expressions of another.

The children in both instances will be equally emotionally scared. The assault victims will be equally hurt and take equally long to heal. The only difference is that some interest groups and some members of the public may be more offended by the expressed motives of one attacker over the other.

But our courts have no business using the criminal justice system to appease the political agendas of third parties. Yet it is third-party interests that hate-crimes laws serve the most…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Ottawa Blames Hamas for Civilian Deaths at School

Harper government’s staunch support for Israel stands in sharp contrast with international reaction to incident

OTTAWA — Canada’s Conservative government says Hamas is responsible for civilian deaths at a UN school where Israeli mortar fire killed at least 40 yesterday, arguing they have used civilians to shield fighters.

The Harper government says a ceasefire can work only if Hamas not only stops rocket attacks but permanently disarms, maintaining a staunchly pro-Israel position as many other Western nations pressed for an immediate ceasefire.

The Israeli military operation in Gaza has now killed more than 660, including an Israeli mortar blast yesterday at a United-Nations-operated school in Jabalya, northeast of Gaza City, where at least 40 were killed. Six Israeli soldiers and four civilians have been killed.

Canada’s junior foreign minister, Peter Kent, said that despite sketchy details on the school strike, it is clear that Hamas “bears the full responsibility for the deepening humanitarian tragedy.

“We really don’t have complete details yet, other than the fact that we know that Hamas has made a habit of using civilians and civilian infrastructure as shields for their terrorist activities, and that would seem to be the case again today,” he said in an interview.

He added: “In many ways, Hamas behaves as if they are trying to have more of their people killed to make a terrible terrorist point.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the firing on the UN school “totally unacceptable,” but the Israeli military said its shelling was a response to mortar fire from within the school.

Canada’s position now places it among Israel’s most staunch supporters in the world during the 11-day military offensive in Gaza.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for an immediate ceasefire, as has a European Union mission — calling on Israel to stop its offensive but also on Hamas to end rocket attacks into Israel.

Like the United States, Canada insists that any ceasefire must be durable, but as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday stressed the need to “urgently conclude a ceasefire,” Mr. Kent seemed to attach greater conditions.

He said that Hamas must not only end its rocket attacks, but to “down arms and to cease and desist its terrorist activities,” and agree not to rearm.

“Canada believes there should be an immediate ceasefire, but only if it’s a permanent ceasefire, if it’s a durable ceasefire, and if Hamas is prevented or is willing not to rearm and resume its terrorist rocketing at some point down the road,” Mr. Kent said.

The comments from Mr. Kent, usually responsible for relations with the Americas, are the Conservative government’s most extensive since the Israeli military operation began; Prime Minister Stephen Harper has yet to speak of it, while Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has issued written statements.

Mr. Kent also said that Canadian officials were working with Israeli officials to help 39 Canadian citizens leave Gaza. They were stranded yesterday for a second straight day when Israeli officials said it was too risky to try to bus them across northern Gaza’s Erez Crossing into Israel, then on to Jordan.

One of the Canadians seeking to get out of Gaza, Marwan Diab, said in a telephone interview that Canadian embassy officials told him by phone that the Red Cross would try to get him out today with his wife and four children, ages 9, 7, 5 and 3.

“They are very terrified, and they are not really able to handle it,” he said of his children.

Mr. Diab, 39, emigrated to Calgary in 1994 but said he has for several years spent part of each year in Gaza where he works for a mental-health organization.

“There is no safe place anywhere in Gaza,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Antwerp Demo Nipped in the Bud

[Translation by VH]

The unannounced pro-Palestine demonstration in Antwerp today did not get out of hand. The police picked up all possible activists, even before they could gather together. There were already 56 administrative and 1 judicial arrest accomplished. The latter was a man who carried a forbidden weapon on him.

It didn’t get to a demonstration, eventhough at circa 16:00 the Turnhoutsebaan was being blocked when a large group of youth that was hanging about had to be taken in custody. Actually the Islamic youth had called via sms to gather in the Kerkstreaat to move on together to the Cantral Station, but they didn’t make it that far.

Hanging About

The youngsters where already hanging about the Turnhoutsebaan and constantly got in and out the trams that go there. To lead them away safely, the police stopped traffic for a short while. because of the demonstration De Lijn [public transport company] took precautions. Bus number 23 was diverted so as not to have to go through the Kerkstraat and the trams on the Turnhoutsebaan also took another route.

Equally, there was mentioned that the event had been transferred ti the Groenplaats, but that was just a rumor. The number of arrests might increase, but major trouble is not expected anymore.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Antwerp Authorities Put Limits on AEL Demo

[Translation by VH]

The Arabic European Legue (AEL) has filed a request for a demonstration this Saturday in Antwerp. The municipal authorities this morning where in talks with the AEL on the conditions for the manifestation to receive a permit. The AEL does not agree and now says that the police must make sure the demonstration will go well. They consider a definitive answer, that is expected tomorrow.

In short: The municipality demands a different route and that the AEL arrange an internal security service of at least one hundred well recognizable persons, older than 20 years, and they have to provide a list with the names of them. The City also demands a scenario and forbids the wearing of masks.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Czech Senate Postpones Lisbon Treaty Ratification Until February

Prague — The foreign committee of the Senate, the upper house of Czech parliament, today approved a senior ruling Civic Democrat (ODS) senators’s proposal to postpone the debate and ratification of the EU reform Lisbon treaty until mid-February.

ODS Senator Vlastimil Sehnal justified the proposal by the need to ensure the votes of all seven ODS senators necessary to achieve the constitutional or three-fifths majority in the 81-member Senate necessary for the ratification of the document.

ODS Senator Jiri Pospisil pointed to the conclusions of the ODS national congress that recommended to give preference to the ratification in parliament of the Czech-U.S. treaties on the stationing of a U.S. missile defence radar base on Czech soil before the ratification of the EU Lisbon treaty.

The Senate has approved the Czech-U.S. radar treaties and the Chamber is to deal with them at the beginning of February while the government coalition has a problem to have the treaties approved in the Chamber of Deputies because of the objections raised by the opposition and of an uncertain position of the junior government Green Party (SZ).

The Chamber could take the final vote on the treaties at its session that starts on February 3.

Rostislav Slavotinek, head of the senators’ group of the junior ruling Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), and Senate foreign committee chairman Jiri Dienstbier (for the opposition Social Democrats, CSSD) also supported the ODS senators’ proposal for the postponement of the Lisbon treaty ratification.

“I personally see no reason why the Lisbon treaty should be ratified immediately,” Dienstbier said.

ODS senators who are members of the Senate constitutional and legal committee and who pushed for the ratification postponement at a committee meeting on Tuesday recommended to postpone the vote on the document pending the passage of two bills — an amendment to the Senate order of procedure and a bill on relations between the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, or the “liaison bill.”

The liaison law is to ensure that the government respected the position of both parliamentary houses while discussing European laws and decisions.

The bill on the Senate order of procedure is to enable the Senate to address the European Court if the government or the European Commission failed to take the senators’ position into consideration.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Politicians Stay Out of School Prayer Dispute

Parents of children at Jutland primary schools have complained about the practice of morning prayer

A state school in northern Jutland has been put in the limelight in recent days, after a parent of one of its students lodged a complaint about the school’s practice of having the children recite the ‘Our Father’ prayer.

Children at Houlkær School in Viborg start each school day with the prayer — something that did not sit well with one parent, who complained about the practice to atheist organisation Humanistisk Samfund.

Another parent of a child at Nørre Nissum School in Lemvig pleaded her identical case in an article in Kristeligt Dagblad newspaper. The two parents argue that, unlike at private schools, prayer has no place in a state-funded school.

Houlkær School plans to take up the issue at a parent-administrators’ meeting on 12 January.

But should the schools continue to conduct the prayer sessions, the issue may become a legal one. According to the Education Ministry, parents have the right to demand their children be excluded from prayer at state schools.

Nørre Nissum School has indicated it has no plans to abide by that rule. But the subject is one that many politicians are unwilling to address.

‘This issue is completely and exclusively a local one,’ said Marianne Jelved, education spokeswoman for the Social Liberals. ‘It’s nothing we’re going to take up at parliament.’

Jelved’s position was backed up by a number of other party spokespersons — including that of the left-of-centre Socialist People’s Party.

‘Parents may have a more difficult time having to live with the common rules, but otherwise we’ll end up with a state-run school where everything is controlled by MPs,’ said the party’s Pernille Vigsø Bagge.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

France: Fear for Increasing Anti-Semitism Cases

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, JANUARY 6 — Fear is on the rise in France for the increasing number of threats or anti-Semitism cases provoked by the conflict in the Middle East, according to two press releases by the Union of the Jewish students in France and the national authority for security service against anti-Semitism. “We must not allow that the conflict contributes negatively on our living together”, the president of the Union wrote. “We think that this situation is the consequence of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, exploited by some expremists supporters of Hamas with the excuse of supporting the Palestinian people, in order to express their hate to Israel”, the national authority for security service adds. Also SOS Racisme, which expressed preoccupation for the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, asked for this conflict “not to be imported on the French territory”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Greece: Reaction to Officer’s Shooting

Greek leadership and political parties on Monday emphasised that an early morning attack against three police officers in the Exarchia district directly targets the country’s democracy and all that has been attained by the Greek people through sacrifices and struggles.

A three-man police squad guarding a culture ministry building in the Exarchia district of Athens was attacked at approximately 3:05 a.m. Monday by three assailants using a with a Kalashnikov-type assault rifle and at least one more firearm, an attack that resulted in the serious injury of 20-year-old police officer Diamantis Mantzounis, who suffered two gunshot wounds, to the chest and leg.

Mantzounis, who was rushed to a nearby hospital by his colleagues, was diagnosed upon arrival as in extremely critical condition and immediately taken to surgery, where multiple injuries of vital organs in the abdomen and chest area ascertained. A second wound from a bullet, which had exited the officer, was also detected in his thigh.

A medical bulletin stated that, following the operation, which was successfully completed at 9 a.m., and several blood transfusions, the patient was in a very serious but stable condition, and due to the severity of his condition was placed in the Erythros Stavros (Red Cross) Hospital’s ICU.

Both President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis sharply condemned the incident, reminiscent of past decades’ urban attacks by once-active ultra-leftist terror groups, most notably the now defunct “November 17” gang…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Housing: 63,000 Spanish Youth Receive Rent Contribution

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 5 — So far 63,166 young Spanish citizens have received state aid totalling 210 euro per month as a contribution to rental expenses one year after the measure came into force, according to the data released today by the Housing Ministry, which stressed that 32.2pct of requests had been granted. In the fourth quarter of 2008 the number of those benefiting from the aid was up by 41.5pct, with 18,552 young people having begun to receive the monthly contribution. In the year since the measure was brought in, 196,141 requested have been submitted, and 130,113 have been accepted — 79.1pct of the total. Just before the measure came into force on 1 January 2008, the Housing Ministry had estimated that about 360,000 young people met the age and income requirements to have access to the aid. Madrid is the community which saw the largest request, followed by Catalonia and Andalusia. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Klaus Calls for Easing of Rules

The European Union should weaken or even repeal its environmental, labour and health rules to help pull Europe out of economic recession, according to Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, the new holder of the EU’s rotating presidency.

In an article in today’s Financial Times, Mr Klaus confirms his reputation as the EU’s most politically incorrect head of state by pouring scorn on “global warming alarmists”, and by expressing the hope that the government will not use its presidency to advance closer EU integration…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Odense: Background of the Shooting Suspect

Though he had a very violent childhood, the suspect in the shooting of the two Israelis in Denmark was considered a success story and a role-model. However, even then, he never did share the Danish ideals, holding hostile attitudes towards Israelis, Jews and even women.


The Danish-Palestinian suspected of shooting the two Israelis in Odense, Denmark, last week had a very violent childhood but was thought to have turned around. In 2003 Wissam Freijeh even appeared in a municipal campaign to further education under the title “you choose yourself how your life will be lived.”

There he said that it’s not fun to be on welfare, because you get letters from the municipality the whole time. He felt he was under constant inspect and that he was going in a direction he hadn’t chosen for himself.

He therefore signed up to learn metal working and said that he enjoys his job since he can see that what he’s making can be used. It’s hard work, but it’s also fun. He is proud of earning his own money and is making more than on welfare.

In 2004, a year before he finished his apprenticeship, he said in an interview to Fyens Stiftstidende that he wanted to contribute to getting Danes to have a better opinion of foreigners.

As a teenager he was frustrated, criminal, hotheaded and violent towards teachers and students in his public school, but according to somebody who knows him since childhood, he grew up, got married to a woman of Palestinian origin, had two children, got an education and settled down. He broke off connections with some of his old friends.

According to the municipality he was one of the worst boys from the Odense neighborhood of Vollsmose, who changed his life and became a role-model for others, speaking up for education and working.

“I regret a lot, but I have a future,” he said, while he was a student at the manufacturing school.

Though the reason for the attack is not yet known and his court appearance was behind closed doors, like his three brothers and two sisters Freijeh was born in Lebanon and has radical points of view regarding the situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He was gang-ho when talk turned to politics. In discussion of the conflict in the Middle-East Freijeh spoke out patriotically and like many other Palestinians did not hide his hate to Israel and Jews. “It’s my land — Palestine,” he said in the 2004 interview.

However, several sources Fyens Stiftstidende spoke with are confounded by the fact that he’s now sitting in jail on suspicion of trying to kill two Israelis. An acquaintance since his school-days put it this way: he must have completely snapped.

Since after his years of violence, fights and break-ins, most of his acquaintances thought he was settling down.

A former colleague at the school says that he had respect for the work and for the others and there were never any problems with him. He came on time and fit in, coming to the Christmas party and other social events.

But the colleague does remember one episode where Freijeh’s background and attitudes collided with the old-time metalworker apprentice attitudes. There was a story in the media about a man who shot his wife because she left him. Freijeh thought it was reasonable because a woman shouldn’t leave her husband, that the man had a right to shoot her.

In May 2005 he got a job in his profession, but long-time problems with his hip made it harder and harder to him to continue as a metal-worker. Finally he had to give up due to hip dysplasia and he quit his job.

One of Freijeh’s friends, who used to meet in in Vollsmose regularly till the shooting incident, says that Freijeh was always cheerful. “Therefore it completely confounds me, that he could do that,” he says.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Spain: 332,000 Construction Jobs Lost in 5 Months

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 5 — Spain’s construction sector is in serious decline: around 332,600 jobs have been lost in the last five months bringing the number of unemployed in the sector to 520,000, according to data released by the Union General Trabajadores (Ugt-Mca) labour union. In a document, the union bemoans the inability of the Spanish economy to continue to create work and cushion the repercussions of the economic crisis, leading it to call for “urgent intervention” from the public administration to kick-start construction. According to Ugt, from the Government to the Regional authorities, through the autonomous communities to the provinces, the public sector must “plan and execute long term infrastructure, non-residential and protected building projects”. With respect to the infrastructure programmes, the union is expressing concern over the 17% reduction, over the first nine months of last year, of public works tenders from regional authorities and local administrations. The union also underlines the need for the national government, along with the rest of the public sector, to promote a change in the country’s productive model so that industry can substitute construction as the economy’s motor. In the meantime, the union is calling for urgent measures to dampen the effects of the crisis on families — above all for the 3 million unemployed and for temporary workers and those most vulnerable, including immigrants in particular. A report on the current state of the economy written by the Cajamar Foundation emphasises that the collapse in the construction sector principally affects the residential construction sub-sector, for which there “is no sign of a forthcoming stabilisation in its indicators”. According to the report, the pace of job-losses in the sector will remain as it is for the coming months and, in the first quarter of the year, the number of jobs in construction will fall to below two million. The pace of job losses could only be slowed, says the report, through a considerable increase in public works projects. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Economic Crisis, Applications to Join Up Army Rose

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 6 — In the last few months, Spain is registering a peak in applications to join up the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The decision is often due to the economic crisis and to the consequent increase of the unemployment. In 2008 the apllications to join up the armed forces were 78,575, accordign to Defence sources quoted by today by Spanish daily El Pais. Last January 1, the Army, the Navy and the Air Force counted on 81,607 soldiers, the highest number since the abolition of compulsory national service. If in 2002 the numbers of would-soldiers was equal to 0.73, in 2008 the average number rose to 3.42. The goal to be reached in December 2009 was equal to over 81,000 soldiers, according to the State forecasts. The plan was changed with the increase of another 5,000 units. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Jews Under Increasing Threat

Police in Sweden are on heightened alert following a spike in anti-Semitic attacks around the country in the wake of Israel’s campaign against Gaza-based Hamas militants.

A wooden staircase at a Jewish center in Helsingborg in southern Sweden was set alight twice in three days in the past week in a blaze police suspect was caused by flammable liquid spread over the stairs, according to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

Technicians continue to examine the scene to determine the exact cause of the fire.

And late Sunday night the Israeli embassy in Stockholm was covered with graffiti proclaiming, “Crush Israel, you broke the ceasefire!” and included other proclamations such as “Die!” and “Murderers”.

Another embassy wall was also emblazoned with a graphic likening the Star of David to a swastika — something which has also been found at other locations around Sweden.

“What’s happening in the Middle East, and especially in Israel, always has repercussions for Jewish congregations in Europe. We also see it in Sweden,” said a source from the security department at the Jewish congregation in Stockholm to SvD.

The source told of other threats against members of Jewish congregations, including cases of graffiti, as well as an arson attack at a Jewish burial chapel in Malmà which occurred late on Sunday night.

“A door burned down and there was soot and smoke damage, but the object which burned extinguished itself,” said the source.

Anti-Semitic statements have also increased on blogs and internet forums.

“Legitimate criticism of the Israeli military and the attack against Palestinian civilians is mixed with anti-Semitic clichÃ(c)s and that’s where we end up with a mish-mash seen in commentaries and on blogs,” freelance writer and Swedish Committee against Anti-Semitism activist Jonathan Leman told SvD.

A similar rise in anti-Semitic opinions posted on blogs and internet forums occurred back in 2006 following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, he said.

In Stockholm, police plan to increase surveillance around the offices of the Jewish congregation as well as the Israeli embassy.

“Of course congregation members are worried,” said the Jewish congregation source to SvD.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Students Reported for Beating School Principal

Three students from a school in western Sweden have been reported to police for assaulting their principal.

Hans Ã…kerlundh, the principal at the Haga School in Dals-Eds municipality, was in the process of disciplining the students when they suddenly began hitting and kicking him, reports Sveriges Radio.

According to Ã…kerlundh, the students likely felt cornered, which may explain their reaction.

He added that the school planned on developing new procedures so that similar events don’t occur in the future.

“I believe that we can work together. Not only the police and the school, but also with these students and their parents, to look at how their school attendance should be,” said Ã…kerlundh.

As the students are minors, police don’t plan to pursue a preliminary investigation but will instead send the matter along to social services.

However, Per-Erik Vister of the nearby Ã…mal police force thinks police involvement could help send youth a message that such behaviour is not acceptable.

“I’d actually really appreciate it if the police got involved in the case because this is so serious,” he told Sveriges Radio.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

The Netherlands: Police May Not Swear on the Koran

Police officers will not be allowed to swear their allegiance to the force on the Koran, home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst told parliament on Tuesday.

As is the case with civil servants, they will only be able to use a Christian or a neutral oath. reports news agency Novum.

Members of the armed forces and civilians working for the defence ministry are allowed to use the Koran.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

The True Extent of Britain’s Debt

How much is Britain’s true national debt? Gordon Brown says 37% of GDP, the ONS says 43% of GDP — but this is just government debt. The reason Britain is in so much trouble is that our corporate and household debts are huge. It is the combination that makes us such a credit liability — but no one has ever put together a combination.

Until now.

Michael Saunders from CitiGroup has calculated “external debt” — ie, what Britain owes the rest of the world. It is not 40% but 400% of GDP, the highest in the G7 by some margin. The next down, France, is 176%. America, flagellating itself for blowing such a debt bubble, is just 100%. Japan is about half America. The below graph shows “external debt” — both in mid-2008, and five years ago.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: “Hit List” of Britain’s Leading Jews

FEARS grew last night that hate-filled Islamic extremists are drawing up a “hit list” of Britain’s leading Jews — bringing the Middle East conflict terrifyingly close to home.

TV’s The Apprentice boss Sir Alan Sugar and Amy Winehouse record producer Mark Ronson are among prominent names discussed on a fanatics’ website.

Labour Peer and pal of Tony Blair Lord Levy, Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Princess Diana’s divorce lawyer Anthony Julius are also understood to be potential targets.

British anti-terror expert Glen Jenvey is convinced online forum Ummah is being used to prepare a deadly backlash against UK Jews.

His warning came as Europe was hit by anti-Semitic attacks over Israel’s push into the Gaza Strip.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

UK: Britain’s Terror Threat Reduced

Jonathan Evans said extremists had been “chilled” by a succession of court cases where their former comrades pleaded guilty to involvement in plots.

In a rare interview given by a serving head of MI5, he said they have been forced to “keep their heads down” following the 86 prosecutions in terror trials since January 2007.

However, he said the terror networks had not gone away, adding: “There is enough intelligence to show they have the intention to mount an attack here.

“There is a significant number of individuals in active sympathy. They are doing things like fund-raising, helping people to travel to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia.”

The security chief also predicted that the Israeli invasion of Gaza would see “extremists try to radicalise individuals for their own purposes”.

And he warned that the global economic crisis was bringing potential new dangers for the UK.

Our focus in the next few years will be international terrorism, al Qaeda and its associates, but we are also looking at the global economic crisis.

UK spymaster comes out of the shadows

“We have to maintain flexibility and respond to threats. The world will not stay the same,” Mr Evans said in an interview to mark the centenary of MI5.

Although he stressed there was no direct correlation between wealth and extremism, he said it was important to consider what would happen if the “West becomes less economically dominant”.

Mr Evans disclosed that the terrorists who caused the Mumbai massacre in November had indirect links to Britain.

And he stressed the importance of events in Pakistan and Afghanistan for the UK’s security, revealing that 75% of MI5’s investigations had connections with Pakistan.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Economic Crisis Increases Our Terror Risk, Warns MI5 Head

The world economic crisis could heighten the terrorism threat facing Britain, the head of MI5 has cautioned.

In an interview Jonathan Evans, the director general of the security service, said a potential shift in the balance of economic power away from the West could prove to be a “watershed moment” causing new risks to security to emerge.

The 2012 Olympics remained a major target, he said, but a “chilling effect” of 86 successful terror prosecutions over the past 18 months had diminished the overall threat faced by the UK. His most significant assessment was that the economic slump could leave the country more vulnerable to radicalisation, spying and terrorism.

Mr Evans did not specify how this might occur, but said history had shown that previous worldwide recessions had serious repercussions. “Where there have been watershed moments, there have been national security implications from that — a new alignment,” he said. “The world will not stay the same.”

“Our focus in the next few years will be international terrorism, al Qaeda and its associates, but we are also looking at the global economic crisis.” Among the threats are spying by Russia and China, which are understood to have stepped up espionage interest in key economic sites in this country. Mr Evans also said telephone calls had been discovered between members of the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba group, accused of being behind the Mumbai bombings, and people in Britain, but these had not been of “security significance”.

British Muslims were still travelling to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia for terrorist training. Pakistan remained the main source of danger, with 75per cent of MI5 investigations revealing links between that country and extremists here.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

UK: Honoured at Last: the Policeman Killed by a Terrorist

He was stabbed to death while valiantly protecting fellow police officers from a knife-wielding Al Qaeda terrorist. Yet after his murder six years ago Stephen Oake was snubbed as ‘unsuitable’ when it was suggested he receive a George Cross.

At the time, Tony Blair was accused of betraying the memory of Detective Constable Oake, the first British policeman to be killed by Al Qaeda. Today, however, the Special Branch officer will finally be honoured for his bravery.

The 40-year-old father of three’s courage has been recognised with a Queen’s Gallantry Medal, one of nine royal bravery accolades announced today. His widow Lesley spoke of her pride at the ‘great news’ for herself and her family. ‘Steve’s actions on that fateful day in January 2003 were typical of a man who was committed to his job and to his colleagues,’ she said.

We are extremely proud that his sacrificial act of bravery has resulted in this prestigious award. ‘We accept this award not only on behalf of Steve but in recognition, too, of the bravery of the many officers that were involved on that day.’

Another officer in the Greater Manchester Police — a detective sergeant who wishes to remain anonymous — was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery for his part in the counter-terrorism operation.

The raid on a flat in Crumpsall, Manchester, led to terrorist Kamel Bourgass killing DC Oake and injuring several other officers. The detective sergeant went to the assistance of DC Oake and was stabbed in the arm. Despite his injury, he tried to restrain Bourgass, managing to punch him in the face, before being stabbed a second time. DC Oake, who was not wearing body armour, was wounded eight times and bleeding to death but clung desperately to his attacker to protect his colleagues until Bourgass was overpowered.

News of the award comes after a long campaign — spearheaded by the Daily Mail — to officially recognise DC Oake’s courage.

At the time of his death, then prime minister Mr Blair praised DC Oake’s bravery but it later emerged that a Cabinet committee questioned whether it was ‘greater than the call of duty’. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

UK: MI5 and How to Deal With Homegrown Muslim Extremists

MI5 has faced a series of criticisms about the way it has tackled the threat posed to Britain by homegrown Muslim extremists. Now the Security Service has decided to publicly celebrate its success, albeit cautiously.

In the wake of the July 2005 bomb attacks on London and a series of other plots, MI5 faced accusations they had not done enough to counter the threat of al-Qaeda. Officers were found to have had a number of terror suspects who launched plots under surveillance without stopping them.

Now, following a series of successful terror prosecutions, Mr Evans has given a relatively upbeat assessment of the battle against Muslim fundamentalists in Britain. The battle is not won, he says, but MI5’s actions are forcing them “to keep their heads down”. New challenges may now lie abroad, he said.

His interview is pat of a wider strategy to gradually open up the work of the security services to the public. The first interview by a director general of MI5 was timed to coincide with the centenary of the founding of the Security Service. But is part of a more gradual opening up in which the “spooks” come in from the cold. “I don’t view this as lifting the lid,” Mr Evans said. “As a secret intelligence agency it is important that quite a lot of what we do, we don’t lift the lid on..”

Nevertheless there is a recognition that MI5 has to be accountable and it now faces behind closed doors investigations by the Intelligence and Security and Committee of parliament. His last significant speech — in which he warned that al-Qaeda was attempting to recruit British Muslims as young as 15 — was delivered on the eve of a Government announcement of new anti-terror measures.

This time, there is no such political debate on the horizon. But there is a growing feeling that MI5 needs to explain its role to the public. MI5 also needs recruits, particularly from ethnic minorities, and the more it is seen as a shadowy organisation the harder that has become.

Mr Evans made great play of the Cheltenham Ladies College heritage of many of MI5’s agents of past years and the proud traditions of renowned interrogator Robert “Tin Eye” Stephens. But he also pointed out that the average agent is now aged under 40, that eight per cent come from ethnic minorities and 47 per cent are female — all signs of changing times..

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

UK: Synagogue Set Alight During Rise in Anti-Semitic Attacks in London

The number of anti-Semitic attacks in London has risen sharply following Israel’s land assault on Gaza, Jewish community groups said today.

Their leaders have compiled a dossier of attacks against Jews which will be handed to seniors officers in the Metropolitan police.

The attacks include claims of:

  • An attempt to burn down a synagogue in north-west London.

    An assault on a Jewish motorist who was pulled from his car and punched.

    A gang of youths chanting anti-Semitic slogans as they tried to enter restaurants and shops in Golders Green.

The Community Security Trust, which is responsible for the safety of Jews in Britain, has also noted the emergence of anti-Semitic graffiti in Jewish areas across London. Slogans sprayed on walls include: “Kill Jews” and “Jews are scumbags.”

The trust has now logged 24 anti-Semitic incidents — most of them in London — in the past week. Police are said to be stepping up patrols in Jewish areas. Mark Gardner, the trust’s spokesman, told the Standard: “There has been a significant rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, especially when compared with what is usually a very quiet time of year for racist, anti-Jewish attacks.

“It is a pattern with which we and police are now sadly familiar, whereby hysteria is whipped up against Israel: and British Jews then suffer a wave of anti-Semitism.” The arson attack on the synagogue in Brondesbury took place on Sunday night. The arsonists first tried to smash open a window but failed because of the toughened glass in place to protect such buildings from terrorist attacks.

Mr Gardner said: “Having been thwarted they then appear to have attempted to set the front door alight with petrol, causing some damage to the exterior of the premises. Police, CST and fire brigade attended the scene..”

On New Year’s Eve, a man was pulled from his car just as he was about to drive off and assaulted by three men whom he described as being of Arab appearance. The victim did not suffer any serious injury. The same night a gang of youths alarmed locals in Golders Green by trying to enter Jewish shops while chanting anti-Israeli slogans.

Joey Ben-Yoav, manager of nearby Met Su Yan, a kosher Chinese restaurant in Golders Green, said: “It was scary. They were waving flags and shouting. It felt like if we went out they would hit us or something. “They walked past a few Jews and just shouted ‘Jew’ at them. They did not look like they were in the mood for making peace.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

UK: The Day the Sea Froze: Temperature Plunges to Minus 12C…

…and forecasters say it won’t warm up until Sunday

Temperatures plunged so low today that the sea actually began to freeze as Arctic conditions continued to grip the UK.

In the exclusive enclave of Sandbanks in Poole, Dorset the surf had frozen solid as the waves lapping the shore began to frost over.

A half-mile stretch along the shoreline reaching about 20 yards out to sea is covered in ice on the expensive peninsula.

In southern England, normally immune to the worst of the cold weather in winter, temperatures fell as low as -12C — and the chill will go on for several days according to forecasters.

Benson in Oxfordshire and Chesham in Bucks were both close to -12C and the UK’s coldest areas, with other large parts of the south also recording -9C and -10C.

Snow flurries also moved south from Yorkshire and the Humber, leaving drivers facing another day of wintry chaos.

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

UK: Violence Fears Over Rival London Protests

There were fears of violent street clashes in London today after it emerged that a mass pro-Israeli rally has been planned for minutes after a demonstration against the country’s attack on Gaza, the Evening Standard can reveal.

Police sources said riot officers are on standby amid concerns the two demonstrations may overlap, leading to angry confrontations.

Demonstrations against Israel’s military action are being held all week outside the country’s embassy in Kensington as the civilian death toll of the ground assault grows. Yesterday evening about 100 people gathered outside the building and shouted slogans against Israel’s campaign.

On Monday last week there were 12 arrests after 2,000 people surrounded the embassy in Palace Green to voice their anger.

The Standard has learned that a rally in support of Israel’s actions has been planned at the same spot this evening — half an hour after the pro-Palestinian demonstration is due to end. The pro-Israel rally has been organised by a group on Facebook called London Solidarity Stand for Israel. Within hours of it being set up 1,600 people had said they would come to the event with another 1,811 saying they might attend.

Organiser Moti Friedlander said the group had told police about their plans but they would probably go ahead with or without official approval. The 28-year-old property dealer from Hendon said: “It will be very hard to stop the demonstration now. We are British citizens who have friends in the Israeli army and we have a right to have our say. Hamas are terrorists who hide behind civilians.”

Local MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the plans were “risky” and called on both sets of demonstrators to work with police to ensure there was no disorder.

He added: “The right of peaceful protest is precious and needs to be protected. There are people who feel strongly on both sides of this issue and they must not be stopped from doing that.

Pro-Palestinian protest organiser Mohamad Sawalha, of the British Muslim Initiative, said: “It would be better for them not to organise it this way. It will be strange watching people support killing in Gaza. But this is a free country.”

Scotland Yard was not able to confirm whether it had given the pro-Israel rally the go ahead.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

UK: Warning Over Gaza Reprisals

High-profile British Jews were warned to review their security amid fears of reprisal attacks as bloody violence continues in Gaza.

Celebrities, politicians and wealthy business people were among prominent names highlighted on a series of controversial web forums. Among those singled out are The Apprentice boss Sir Alan Sugar, pop producer Mark Ronson, Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Labour peer Lord Levy. One terror expert warned that those listed should take the matter “very seriously”.

Mark Gardner, of The Community Security Trust (CST), said prominent Jewish individuals had been warned to beware of potential threats. He said: “We sent out a security advisory note when the violence began and updated it today. It is a constant process of liaison between us and the community. Our community is conscious, very conscious of security and expects to hear from us at these times.

“It is a notice reminding people to ensure security routines are properly implemented, that CCTV cameras are clean and working. We were aware of these chatroom postings and of course we have spoken to people, I cannot say everyone that is mentioned, but we have discussed it with some of them.”

Two popular Islamic websites hosted forums with calls for a list to be drawn up with the names of British people who support Israel. One user wrote: “It would be beneficial to start compiling a list so that we can write polite letters reminding them of the injustices of Israel.”

Glen Jenvey, a counter terrorism expert who monitors suspected extremists using website forums, said some are being used to prepare a backlash. He told The Sun newspaper: “The website has been used by extremists. Those listed should treat it very seriously.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

UK: We Cannot Afford to Ignore the Interests of Savers

After years of being neglected, Britain’s beleaguered savers suddenly find themselves besieged by political suitors. The Tory leader David Cameron yesterday pledged to help “the innocent victims” of recession by abolishing the tax on savings for basic rate taxpayers and raising the tax free personal allowance for pensioners. The Conservatives are not alone in turning their attention to those with some money in the bank. Gordon Brown said at the weekend that he plans to do “more to help savers” in the run up to March’s Budget.

It is quite right that our politicians should pay some attention to this particular constituency. Savers have had a wretched time of late. The Bank of England has been busy cutting interest rates in recent months. The Bank’s base rate is now below the level of inflation, making it cheaper (in theory) to borrow money than to save it. Those who live off their savings and those buying annuities are being particularly hard hit.

Falling interest rates for savers also seem to offend our sense of natural economic justice. This economic crisis is, in part, a consequence of businesses and households loading up on cheap borrowing. The near collapse of the global financial system last October has taught us that an economy fuelled by debt is simply unsustainable. As a country, we need to start living within our means.

And yet there are big problems in trying to right the wrongs of the years of excess in a sudden burst of economic prudence, especially in the present environment of collapsing consumer confidence. Banks, businesses and households are in a state of deep shock at the bursting of the credit bubble. All these economic actors are retrenching frantically, reducing their lending, cutting their outgoings and paying off their borrowing. After years of reckless spending, they are furiously saving.

This might seem rational to each of them, but the consequence of this collective prudence is that spending power is being sucked out of the economy at a destabilising rate. Collapsing demand is likely to make this downturn even longer and more painful than it otherwise would be.

If ministers were to attempt to take drastic action to make saving more attractive, for instance by seizing back control of interest rates from the Bank of England and putting them up, it would crucify the wider economy. And savers would suffer as much in those circumstances as those who borrowed recklessly in the boom. It is also worth bearing in mind that if deflation were to take a grip on the UK this year (something many economists are predicting) the value of people’s savings would actually increase in relative terms. There is a danger that Government action to help savers could end up being counter-productive.

There should, however, be a middle way. In the immediate term, the Government could do more to protect the investments of savers, particularly those who rely on their investments to live, without undermining demand still further. Tax relief, as the Tories are advocating, could be the answer (although there is an inevitable risk that the extra income will simply be saved rather than spent).

It will be a difficult balancing act. And there will be powerful influences calling for the ministers to forget savers and focus exclusively on maintaining spending and employment. That would be a mistake. We need to get out of this economic hole, but, when that is done, the hard work of building a sustainable economy begins. We will need savers for that task ahead.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Welcome to 2009. Heads We Lose, Tails We’re All Doomed

Mind you, it’s not surprising that most people enter 2009 with a sense of foreboding. Unemployment is heading for three million and Gordon Brown’s brilliant plan for saving the world at our expense has fallen flat on its face.

The banks still won’t lend, even to each other, and home repossessions are expected to set a new record.

Even if you are fortunate enough to hold on to your house, you won’t be able to sell it — which is just as well since it will be worth about 50 per cent less than you paid for it.

That won’t stop the Government charging you ever higher taxes for the privilege of living in it. Over the Christmas holidays, it was confirmed that those of us lucky to live in a pleasant area, with a nice view and a low crime rate, are to be punished through big increases in council tax.

Either that, or you’ll find a gipsy site being built next door. Look on the bright side, though. You’ll get your drive tarmacked at half price — whether you want it or not — provided you don’t mind paying cash.

Labour is big on punishment. Ministers are pressing ahead with an exciting range of fines for householders who put out their rubbish on the wrong day, or put the wrong kind or rubbish in the wrong container, in the name of saving the polar bears.

Yet has just been revealed that all this recycling at gunpoint is a complete waste of time since the market for our carefully sorted refuse has collapsed and most of it is being left to rot in warehouses.

That’s going to mean higher council tax, too. Heads, we lose. Tails, we’re screwed.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Bosnia: NATO, Italian in Charge of Sarajevo Headquarters

(ANSAmed) — SARAJEVO, JANUARY 5 — General Sabato Errico, who will be taking on the command of the NATO headquarters in Sarajevo in a week to replace US General Richard Wightman, has arrived today in Sarajevo. For the first time a non-American officer will be taking on the command of the Atlantic Alliance headquarters in Bosnia. NATO has been in the Balkan country since the end of the war (1992-95), when it deployed 60,000 soldiers on the field. After nine years in which it managed to stabilize the devastated and divided country, the Alliance yielded command of the military mission in Bosnia to the European Union in 2004 but kept control over the Sarajevo headquarters. General Errico will be taking on the position on 14 January, and the handing over ceremony is to take place in the Parliament in the presence of the highest-ranking Bosnian authorities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Economy: Tunisia, 50 Million-Euro Loan From Italy

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 6 — As part of the plan to support balance of payments, Italy has granted Tunisia a 50-million-euro loan (about 90 million dinar) (80% of which as a gift), which is to be paid back without interest over the next 34 years. The loan will be used to finance the acquisition, by the Tunisian public administration, of Italian equipment and materials in environmental protection and the development of human resources, culture, social services and healthcare. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Gaza: Algeria Gives a Quarter of Zakat to Gaza People

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 5 — Algeria will donate a quarter of its Zakat, the compulsory alms which is the third pillar of Islam, for 2009 to the population of Gaza. “Helping our brothers in Gaza with financial aid is our duty” said Algeriàs ministry for religion, adding that all the country’s Imams would dedicate next Friday’s prayers to raising awareness over raising donations. The Zakat can be given during different periods, although traditionally in Algeria most of the population will make their contribution on the day of the Ashura — the tenth day of the Muharram, the first month of the hejira, which this year will be January 7. Initiatives to help Gaza in Algeria have multiplied. Yesterday hundreds of students demonstrated outside the central university in Algiers while a meeting was organised by government parties to condemn “the terrible holocaust” by Israel against the population of Gaza, declared the secretary of the National Liberation Front (FLN). Algiers has already sent several military planes loaded with around 100 tonnes of medical and food supplies. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Morocco: Among First 10 Countries in Field of Off-Shoring

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, JANUARY 5 — Minister of Foreign Trade, Abdellatif Maazouz said Morocco, which was not on the Off-shoring map three years ago, ranks among the first ten countries in the field nowadays. “The arrival of major investors like Renault, Capgemini (ITs and consulting), Safran (professional electronics) is a positive thing, and would lead other renowned groups to follow suit,” the minister underlined, as Map news agency reports. The international crisis is an opportunity to reconsider our products portfolio and targeted markets, the minister said, adding that “it constitutes an opportunity to reach investors who went as far as Asia and who now seek closer markets”. Maazouz also stressed the necessity to make the utmost use of the free trade agreements Morocco signed with several countries, notably the Agadir Accord (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Morocco: Female Quotas for Next Local Elections

(by Cristiana Missori) (ANSAmed) — RABAT, JANUARY 5 — A support fund for women standing for the elections on June 12, and the introduction of “female quotas” in Morocco’s city councils. These are the initiatives announced by officials following months of calls for intervention by a group of MPs to modify electoral regulations at the local level. Women who decide to challenge traditionalism and prejudice in Morocco will have 2,822 seats made available to them, or 12.08 percent of the total number of seats. This is an enormous step forward considering that in 2003, when the last local elections were held, women were totally marginalised. There were just 127 women elected out of 24,000, or 0.55 per cent. Thanks to new electoral rules, 30 women out of 34 were elected in 2007 through the female quota system, which led to women MPs in the Moroccan parliament urging the adoption of a bill to force local councils to make at least 33% of seats available to women. This has only partially been achieved with the new regulation on electoral mechanisms for local elections. In all areas the participation of women in managing public affairs is still a problem. In Morocco, their inclusion in Parliament and government dates from the 1990s. Some observers think that it is quite natural that at the local level there are no established models. According to a study carried out by the USAID organisation (United State Agency for International Development) in 2007 — the date of the last elections — the same parties which are keeping women away are “sick with misogyny and sexism”. Many women exclude themselves because there are still too many people who think that women who choose politics “are masculine or destined to remain spinsters”; or it’s a question of the working hours of politicians (not conducive to family life); or because the places where certain ideas are discussed or decisions taken (bars, cafes or clubs) are forbidden to them for socio-cultural reasons, or because they represent a real threat to their “morality”. Finally there is the question of money. Women often lack the means to take on long and costly election campaigns. The new fund just set up by the authorities to “encourage a female presence at the local level” aims at resolving this problem. The State will contribute to the fund, through the Ministry for the Interior which manages public funds. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Alan Dershowitz: the CNN Strategy

As Israel persists in its military efforts — by ground, air and sea — to protect its citizens from deadly Hamas rockets, and as protests against Israel increase around the world, the success of the abominable Hamas double war crime strategy becomes evident. The strategy is as simple as it is cynical: Provoke Israel by playing Russian roulette with its children, firing rockets at kindergartens, playgrounds and hospitals; hide behind its own civilians when firing at Israeli civilians; refuse to build bunkers for its own civilians; have TV cameras ready to transmit every image of dead Palestinians, especially children; exaggerate the number of civilians killed by including as “children” Hamas fighters who are 16 or 17 years old and as “women,” female terrorists.

Hamas itself has a name for this. They call it “the CNN strategy” (this is not to criticize CNN or any other objective news source for doing its job; it is to criticize Hamas for exploiting the freedom of press which it forbids in Gaza). The CNN strategy is working because decent people all over the world are naturally sickened by images of dead and injured children. When they see such images repeatedly flashed across TV screens, they tend to react emotionally. Rather than asking why these children are dying and who is to blame for putting them in harm’s way, average viewers, regardless of their political or ideological perspective, want to see the killing stopped. They blame those whose weapons directly caused the deaths, rather than those who provoked the violence by deliberately targeting civilians.

They forget the usual rules of morality and law. For example, when a murderer takes a hostage and fires from behind his human shield, and a policeman, in an effort to stop the shooting accidentally kills the hostage, the law of every country holds the hostage taker guilty of murder even though the policeman fired the fatal shot.

The same is true of the law of war. The use of human shields, in the way Hamas uses the civilian population of Gaza, is a war crime — as is its firing of rockets at Israeli civilians. Every human shield that is killed by Israeli self-defence measures is the responsibility of Hamas, but you wouldn’t know that from watching the media coverage.

The CNN strategy seems to work better, at least in some parts of the world, against Israel that it would against other nations. There is much more protest — and fury — directed against Israel when it inadvertently kills approximately 100 civilians in a just war of self-defence, than against Arab and Muslim nations and groups that deliberately kill far more civilians for no legitimate reason.

It isn’t the nature of the victims, since more Arabs and Muslim civilians are killed every day in Africa and the Middle East by Arab and Muslim governments and groups with little or no protests. (For example, on the first day of Israel’s ground attack, approximately 30 Palestinians, almost all Hamas combatants, were killed. On the same day an Islamic suicide bomber blew herself up in a mosque in Iraq, killing 40 innocent Muslims. No protests. Little media coverage.) It isn’t the nature of the killings, since Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid killing civilians — if for no other reason than that it hurts its cause — while Hamas does everything in its power to force Israel to kill Palestinian civilians by firing its missiles from densely populated civilian areas and refusing to build shelters for its civilians…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Gaza: Save the Children Provides Aid to About 6000

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 5 — Save the Children has handed out aid to about 6,000 people in the Gaza Strip but, as noted in a statement from the organisation, “the violence is ongoing in the area, and has already caused the death of about 87 children.” The organisation’s staff has supplied food and basic necessities in the Gaza City, East Jabalyah, Beit Lahia, Beit Hanoun and Un Al Nasser areas, and is planning to distribute goods also in the southern zone of Rafah. Yesterday, despite the precarious security conditions, after the Israeli ground operation got underway, Save the Children staff distributed aid, especially food, to children in Gaza and their families. According to the organisation, “the impossibility of brining into Gaza additional supplies as well as the lasting violence may bring aid distribution by the humanitarian organisation to a halt.” According to Valerio Neri, general director of the organisation, “the situation is growing ever more critical. Since the beginning of the fighting 87 children have lost their lives and 2000 families have had to leave their homes. The children not only have to deal with a lack of food, drinkable water, electricity and medical care, as well as not being able to attend school, but they must constantly deal with violence, fear and uncertainty.” Neri added that “the cold adds to the other problems and the health threats that children in Gaza and their parents have to cope with. Families are forced to leave their windows open during the night to prevent them the shaking caused by bombing from breaking them, as well as the resulting shards from hitting them. The children, for the most part, already poor and malnourished, are forced to spend the night in the cold.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Gaza: Hezbollah on the Offensive Despite War Rhetoric

(by Ziad Talhouk) (ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JANUARY 5 — Lebanon’s Hezbollah has so far kept a defensive war rhetoric against Israel, indicating that it will not actively support Gaza by opening a “second front” with the Jewish state. “The Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah) is ready to stand up against any possible Israeli aggression,” said Hezbollah’s commander in southern Lebanon, Sheikh Nabil Qawouq. “The Israeli reinforcements along the borders do not scare us, but we do not take them lightly neither, so that the enemy would not take us by surprise,” he added. Gen. Claudio Graziano, chief of the UN peacekeeping force in south Lebanon (Unifil), has urged Lebanese Premier Fuad Siniora “to avoid turning south Lebanon into a launch pad for attacks against Israel and to prevent any dramatic development in the south”, according to the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat. But Saad Hariri, Sunni leader of Lebanon’s parliamentary majority which is hostile to Hezbollah, said he is “sure” the Shiite group, backed by Iran and Syria, will not attack Israel. “The Lebanese political parties know very well the consequences of war with Israel,” said Hariri from Paris. “I am sure that Hezbollah will not make any mistake this time,” added Hariri, in reference to Hezbollah’s cross-border attack in July 2006 that drew a devastating 34-day Israeli campaign in Lebanon. The Lebanese Daily Star noted that Hezbollah has stepped up declarations of support for Hamas, “but nothing in its words hints at possible military action.” For the pan-Arab daily Asharaq al-Awsat, “Hezbollah has refrained from entering the war because it knows the devastation Israel can inflict on Lebanon, based on the experience of 2006.” However, the head of Israel’s military intelligence, Gen. Amos Yadlin, did not exclude the possibility of an attack by Hezbollah to draw Israel into a “second front”. “We have our eyes on the north (of Israel) and are ready to any development,” said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. But south Lebanon is also “under the strict watch by the Lebanese military and security forces as well as the Unifil,” according to As-Safir daily, while Asharq al-Awsat said the Army is monitoring Islamic Palestinian groups who might use south Lebanon to bomb Israel. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel: Use More Force

As rockets poured into its country for years terrorizing and traumatizing its citizens, Israel was indeed guilty of reacting disproportionately ? it did nothing at all. Israel not only responded with disproportionate patience and waited an unconscionable amount of time before defending its homeland, but it also compromised its own military edge by pre-warning Hamas where they were going to hit and urging them to vacate citizens from the premises. Has Hamas afforded innocent Israelis that decency? No? How disproportionate!

What appears to be disproportionate is the wide and wailing claims by Hamas that they care about the lives of innocent women and children. Facts seem to work against them. Just last week, Israel forewarned Nizar Rayyan, a prominent member of Hamas, to leave his house where he had hidden a weapons cache. He refused to leave, and in true bravery, let one of his wives and eight of his kids die along with him. But then again, his kids appeared to be dispensable to him, as he sent his own son on a suicide mission in Israel in 2001 that killed two Israelis.

What stands out here as disproportionate is that Israel, the vilified enemy, cares more for the civilians of Gaza than their own people do, which is further evidenced by the fact that Hamas hides themselves and their ammo and explosives in schools, mosques, universities and even their own homes. Israel ushers their people to shelters, while Hamas uses their own people as human shields.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East: Hamas ‘Executes Six Suspected Collaborators’

Jabaliya, 7 Jan. (AKI) — Hamas security officers have executed six Palestinians suspected of supplying information to the Israeli military and guiding its warplanes in its offensive in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahranot reported on Wednesday. The Israeli assault is believed to have killed more than 600 Palestinians and injured nearly 3,000 since it began 12 days ago.

Among the alleged collaborators were three brothers, one of whom attempted before his arrest to swallow a cell phone SIM card believed to contain evidence of his conversations with Israeli security officials.

A fourth brother from the same family was executed last week after trying to flee from a bombed Gaza jail. He was imprisoned for collaborating with Israel in relation to the assassination of the head of the Salah al-Din Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committee.

Reports on summary executions have also been received from other parts of the Hamas-ruled territory but the exact number of victims is unknown.

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

Why Israel Will Lose — Again

Clearly, the Palestinian Arabs and their allies, all of whom wish that the gas chambers of Nazi Germany had been big enough to fit all the Jews worldwide, are to blame for the endless violence. The Israel-Arab conflict isn’t about faux outrage over borders or supposed anger over refugees. It’s about the Arab desire to wipe Israel off the map. The Arabs aren’t concerned about an independent Palestinian Arab state ? after all, they’ve been spending billions on rockets instead of working toilets. When Israel handed over the Gaza Strip, including beautiful Jewish-built greenhouses, the Palestinian Arabs promptly razed the greenhouses and elected Hamas. The Arabs are concerned about killing Jews.

So the Palestinian Arabs aren’t any mystery. The real mystery is the utterly suicidal nature of the Israeli government.

Israel always concedes. Israel always leaves her enemies intact. Israel always stops short. This conflict continues because Israel refuses to end it.

But why?

There are three major reasons why Israel, like Europe, is more interested in appeasement than victory…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Defence: Israeli Suppliers for Turkey Air Force F16 Fighter

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 5 — Turkey has awarded two Israeli companies contracts worth a combined $141 million to provide pod-housed surveillance equipment for its Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters, military sources revealed. Elbit Systems subsidiary Elop will supply Long-Range Oblique Photography Systems (LOROPS) worth $87 million, and synthetic aperture radar systems valued at $54 million will be provided by Israel Aerospace Industries’ Elta Systems subsidiary. Deliveries will be made over four years, with the companies to work as subcontractors to Turkish electronics house Aselsan. Also dubbed ‘Condor 2’, Elop’s LOROPS system is housed within a modified 1,140 litre (300USgal) fuel tank and features electro-optical/infrared cameras for day or night reconnaissance, plus a video processing unit and datalink. Eltàs contract is for 1,140 litre tank-housed versions of its EL/M-2060P SAR sensor, which can cover 50,000 km (19,300 miles) per hour. This will record and transmit imagery to a ground exploitation station, which industry sources say will also be capable of receiving data from the LOROPS payload. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Military: Turkish Soldiers to be Equipped With Latest Tools

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 5 — A modernization project will provide the Turkish Armed Forces (Tsk) with the latest technologies in various fields such as electronics, communication, defense, health, clothing and education, daily Today’s Zaman reported. The decision was taken during a symposium held in Ankara, hosted by the Undersecretariat for the Defense Industry (Ssm) with the support of the Defense Ministry and the Defense Industry Manufacturers Association (Sasad), and brought together defense-related individuals and institutions to launch a project called “Modernization of the Individual Private”. Meanwhile, the General Staff has prepared a conscription exemption bill for the brothers of soldiers killed in battle in order to improve the relationship between the Tsk and the public opinion. A previous law exempted only the second son of a family that had lost a son in battle from serving in the army, but the new bill aims to expand the scope of the law to cover all brothers of a fallen soldier. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: “Marriage School” to Counter Divorces’ Increase

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 5 — The Turkish ruling Justice and Development Party (Akp) deputy, Osman Coskun, claimed a recent increase in the number of divorces and suggested that a “marriage school” should be established to counter this trend, daily Today’s Zaman reported. Coskun sent the project to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, Education Minister and the State Minister for women and family issues, arguing that the number of divorce cases had increased significantly and that people should take marriage more seriously. “Families give greater importance to the financial aspects of marriage rather than to the question of whether their sons or daughters are really ready for marriage”, Coskun said, adding that “prospective brides and grooms should be taught about human psychology and sexuality as well as the cultural norms and personal development skills needed to maintain a healthy marital union”. According to Coskun “A medical report is necessary for a couple seeking to get married and a certificate showing the couple passed a course on marriage should also be required. If experts give lessons on marriage, this will eventually decrease the rate of divorce. According to statistics, the Aegean region ranks first on the list of the number of divorces and is followed by the Marmara, Mediterranean and Central Anatolian regions. Izmir has the highest number of divorce cases. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Turkey: In Instambul the Largest Number of NGOs, Most Islamic

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JANUARY 5 — According to research on NGOs in Turkey, there are a total of 80,212 associations, most of which are in Istanbul, and 14,744 of those are related to organizing courses on the Koran or the building of mosques, Hurriyet daily reported. Further research on NGOs made by Istanbul Public Accountant Financial Adviser (Ismmmo) has revealed there are a total of 80,212 charities and 4,471 foundations. Ankara, Izmir and Bursa follow as a popular location for NGOs in Turkey. The cities of Ardahan, Sirnak, Tunceli, Kilis and Hakkari do not host any such organizations. Out of the total number of NGOs, 14,744 work to raise funds to build mosques and organize Koran courses, 13,860 are concerned with sport, and income support and protection foundations rank third with 13,382. Human rights, women, children, the environment and the elderly are largely left out of matters of concern to NGOs. Earning the status of a foundation or of an association working for society’s benefit has many advantages such as the exemption from corporate tax. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Cold War! EU Gives Russia 24 Hours to Switch Pipeline Back on After 12 Countries Left Without Power

Russia today shut off all gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine, leaving 12 countries without fuel in freezing winter conditions. As millions of people struggled to cope in sub-zero temperatures, the European Union said the continent had effectively been ‘taken hostage’ by a trade dispute. The Commission subsequently issued an ultimatum giving Russia and Ukraine a 24-hour deadline to resolve the situation or face an intervention.

It has also emerged that gas prices could soar in Britain if there is not a swift resolution to the crisis.

Moscow pulled the plug on three major pipelines after a pricing dispute with Ukraine. Supplies have dwindled throughout this week and today Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic confirmed their pipelines were empty.

Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey are already out of gas. Italy suffered a 90 per cent plunge, France was down 70 per cent and Germany was affected for the first time. Britain, however, is unlikely to run out of gas as only two per cent of supplies come from Russia which can be replaced from other sources if necessary.

The cutoff has also showed the first signs of hitting the European economy as the Hungarian unit of the Japanese automaker Suzuki said it was halting production because of restrictions on industrial users of gas.

There is little sign of resolution to the row with Moscow and Kiev both blaming each other for cutting supply. Russia has accused Ukraine of ‘stealing’ about 15 per cent of the gas it ships across its former Soviet neighbour to European states. ‘Ukraine has stolen gas not from Russia, but from consumers who have bought the product and paid for it,’ Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said. Ukraine’s pro-West President Viktor Yushchenko blamed Moscow for the supply disruptions, saying Moscow would continue to close the gas taps to Europe or stop them altogether

Despite reassurances from Russia that the move would have little impact on Europe, the move has plunged many countries into crisis. Two Bulgarian cities are completely without gas while shortages in Slovakia has forced the government to declare a state of emergency. Bulgaria’s President Georgi Purvanov even suggested a nuclear reactor branded unsafe could be brought back into service to cover shortages.

The European Union has called for flow to be restored and branded the situation ‘completely unacceptable’. EU spokesman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said: ‘It is unacceptable that the EU gas supply security is taken hostage to negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.’

Meanwhile, Ferran Tarradellas, spokesman for the EU energy commissioner, said: ‘It is indeed a crisis, a serious one.’

‘We are demanding that they restore gas supplies to the EU immediately.’ Last night, Britain’s biggest energy supplier warned gas bills could soar if the dispute over payment is not resolved soon. British Gas-owner Centrica said suppliers could be forced to import more expensive gas from continental Europe.

Wholesale gas prices — the price paid by big energy suppliers — jumped by almost a fifth on news that the stand-off is getting worse. Centrica warned that this could force suppliers to import more expensive gas from the continent.

A spokesman said: ‘Spot prices in continental Europe are higher than they are in the UK, but if the situation (between Russia and Ukraine) becomes protracted and there are continued shortfalls in gas supplies, then the situation in the UK is likely to change.’

Before yesterday’s jump, the price of gas on the wholesale market had fallen by about 30 per cent since the middle of last year, mirroring the big fall in the oil price.

This had been expected to lead to cuts in domestic energy bills of as much as 10 per cent, easing the burden on cash-strapped homeowners.

But a prolonged stand-off between the former Soviet partners could now scupper this. Freezing temperatures yesterday saw demand for gas in the UK reach its highest level since January 2004.

Britain’s reliance on gas imports is exacerbated by the lack of storage facilities in the country.

Britain only has capacity to store enough gas for 16 days, France has enough for 88 days and Germany 77.

But the Department for Energy and Climate Change said that it did not expect the dispute to affect gas supplies because the UK is not reliant on any single supplier.

It said: ‘We import less than 2 per cent of our gas from Russia and can replace this from other sources if we need to.’

Britain currently receives 56 per cent of its gas from the UK North Sea, with 15 per cent from Norway, 6 per cent from the Netherlands, and 1.5 per cent from other continental European countries.

Europe receives about 20 per cent of its gas from Russia, via the Ukraine pipelines.

Talks were due to resume between gas chiefs in Russia and Ukraine tomorrow as the EU demanded the two sides get round the table and resolve it this week.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Hungary Restrictions Natural Gas Consumption

Budapest, January 7 (Interfax Central Europe) — Hungary has imposed restrictions on natural gas consumption by large industrial, agricultural and commercial consumers, following a complete halt of Russian gas imports via Ukraine on Tuesday afternoon, Hungary’s gas pipeline operator Foldgazszallito said in a Wednesday morning statement.

Hungary limits industrial gas consumption Wednesday morning as imports via Ukraine stop

“To increase supply security, especially the supply security of protected consumers (residential and public users), Foldgazszallito ordered as of 8:00 CET a second round of consumption restrictions [involving consumers using 500-2,500 cubic meters of gas per hour],” Foldgazszallito said.

Industrial, agricultural and commercial gas consumers using more than 2,500 cbm of gas per hour were already ordered to limit their consumption at 20:30 CET Tuesday evening, according to a late Tuesday statement by Foldgazszallito.

The restrictions follow the complete halt of Russian gas imports to Hungary via Ukraine as of 15:30 CET Tuesday, in turn the result of unsuccessful negotiations between Russia’s Gazprom and its Ukrainian partners to settle gas price and transit terms for 2009. Gazprom already started cutting deliveries to Ukraine on January 1. Prior to the cut, Hungary imported more than 30 mln cbm of gas per day via Ukraine in the first days of January.

Foldgazszallito said that Hungary’s gas consumption totaled 68 mln cbm on Tuesday, while taking into account the restrictions on the largest consumers imposed Tuesday evening, consumption is expected to reach 64 mln cbm on Wednesday.

Foldgazszallito noted that total gas sources available in the pipeline system Wednesday — 52 mln cbm from underground storage, 9 mln cbm from domestic production, and 3 mln cbm from a smaller import pipeline via Austria — are just sufficient to meet expected demand, prompting the company to enact the second-round limitation on industrial users.

The company stressed that it is prepared to carry out further restrictions on consumption if necessary. According to rules applied by Foldgazszallito and the Hungarian Energy Office, a third round of restrictions would involve all remaining industrial, agricultural and commercial gas users. A fourth round of restrictions would involve all but a few public consumers, while residential gas users and a few selected public users would only be restricted as a last resort.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Lithuania Should Not Fear for Russian Gas

The probability that Lithuania may in the future get into a situation similar to that now faced by other European countries that are not recieving gas, is very unlikely, believes Kestutis Sadauskas, head of the representative office of the European Commission in Lithuania.

According to him, Russia is unlikely to be risking the welfare of Kaliningrad district residents, who receive gas via Lithuania. Moreover, the Russian energy concern Gazprom is interested in selling gas to Lithuania, which pays for it a very high price, because the gas monopolists suffer from the burden of debts. Meanwhile, Lietuvos Dujos claim that this situation is in a way beneficial to Lithuania, because the pressure of gas on the border has increased due to higher transit via Belarus, writes ELTA.

As reported, due to the dispute on gas between Ukraine and Russia the supply of gas to Europe via the transit through Ukraine has fully stopped. Lithuania has not experienced any difficulties because Russian gas reaches Lithuania via Belarus. Moreover, gas to Kaliningrad is supplied via transit through Lithuania.

“It would be very radical and difficult to understand if the gas supply was suspended and million of residents in Kaliningrad were left without gas. The main heating plants in Kaliningrad operate on gas,” the head of the representative office of the European Commission in Lithuania told ELTA.

According to Sadauskas, Russia”s economic interest is also highly important — Russia is interested in selling gas to Lithuania, because Gazprom already has many debts.

The debts of Gazprom reach several tens of billion of U.S. dollars, it has to return them, therefore it will be looking for markets. Russia is highly dependable on Europe — Europe is the main purchaser of gas,” Sadauskas said.

According to him, Russia will suffer a lot in the light of the conflict with Ukraine, because its image of a reliable energy supplier has cracked. Moreover, Europe can start considering alternative energy sources more actively and this is not beneficial to Moscow. On the other hand, this conflict has also raised questions regarding the reliability of Ukraine as a transit country. Purportedly the EU is yet not trying to decide who is more to blame, however, there are doubts regarding the statements of both parties.

“Ukraine”s statements about the necessity to suck part of the gas sound strange as well as Russia”s claims that Ukraine is stealing such a big amount of gas do — the reduction of gas supply was smaller than the amount needed by Ukraine,” Sadauskas underlined. According to him, even in the marginal case if the gas supply to Lithuania was ever suspended due to an argument between Russia and Belarus, our country would be able to use a reserve in a gas storage in Latvia for some time.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Moldovan Emergencies Commission Tackles Gas Supply Issue

Chisinau, 7 January /MOLDPRES/ — Prime Minister Zinaida Grecianii on 6 January evening chaired an extraordinary meeting of the governmental commission for emergencies to tackle the gas issue after Ukraine halted gas supplies to Moldova and the Balkan countries on the same day morning.

The government’s press service has specified that Ukraine cut off gas supplies to the southern gas measuring stations in Orlovka and Grebeniki. The existing stocks are enough to ensure the southern and central Moldova with gas for several days.

At the same time, gas supplies through the northern Ananiev-Cernauti-Pogoroceni pipeline have been doubled, which allows fully ensuring the northern districts and some industrial assets in the Chisinau municipality with gas.

First Deputy Premier, Economics and Trade Minister Igor Dodon said at the meeting that presently all Moldova’s districts are provided with power produced by the Chisinau-based power and thermal stations CET-1 and CET-2, the Balti-based CET-North, the hydroelectric stations in Dubasari and Costesti and the Transnistria-based Cuciurgan Power Plant. In addition, Moldova imports power from Ukraine as well. Dodon said that there is no power shortage in the country.

The participants in the meeting decided to allot 21,000 tons of crude oil from the state reserve to make sure that CET-1 and CET-2 operate normally and to save natural gas. Thus, if Ukraine fully stops gas supplies to Moldova, the two thermal stations will be able to provide the Chisinau municipality with heating for two weeks. At the same time, the commission worked out gas saving schedules for industrial consumers, which have been warned by the Moldovan gas operator Moldovagaz about the reduction of gas supplies starting from 7 January.

Grecianii told the participants in the meeting that she had sent two telegrams to her Russian and Ukrainian counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Yuliya Timoshenko, demanding the resumption of gas supplies to Moldova. Grecianii pointed out that Moldova has been observing its long-term contractual commitments with the Russian gas company Gazprom, adding that its misunderstanding with Ukraine should not affect the Moldovan consumers.

The prime minister said that the situation is under control and the government is undertaking all measures necessary to ensure the stable operation of social institutions, hospitals and enterprises and to supply gas and power to households. Grecianii also urged domestic consumers to save energy resources, according to the government’s press service.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Putin’s Gas Mace

Europe on the verge of an energy disaster. Gazprom has unexpectedly cut gas supplies through Ukraine to a fifth of previous levels. ‘It’s absolutely unacceptable,’ says the EU.

From the beginning of the year, the Russian gas giant turned the tap off for Ukraine, with which it argues over gas prices and transit fees. Late on Monday night, the supplies of gas that Europe imports from Russia through Ukraine also fell sharply. And those supplies satisfy a fifth of the EU’s overall gas demand.

Some countries are not receiving gas at all, others have seen their deliveries fall sharply. Over the course of a couple of hours Hungary, Bosnia, Bulgaria, and Greece saw their supplies of Russian gas stop altogether. Bulgarian prime minister Sergey Stanishev was so desperate as to personally call his Russian counterpart, Mr Putin, to persuade him that the EU must not fall victim to the Moscow-Kyiv row. Slovakia, in turn, has introduced a state of emergency for its economy.

Late on Tuesday the crisis reached France (a 70-percent fall in deliveries) and Italy (a 90-percent fall). Germany companies admit that are receiving less gas, but do not say how much less.

Though no country has so far reduced supplies for households or industry — because all have substantial reserves, and some import gas from sources other than Russia — the EU boiled with indignation.

‘Without prior warning and in clear contradiction with the reassurances given by the highest Russian and Ukrainian authorities to the EU, gas supplies to some member states have been substantially cut. This is completely unacceptable,’ the Czech presidency said in a joint statement with the European Commission.

Until now Prague ruled out European mediation in the Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute. But yesterday Czech minister for industry and trade Martin Rziman, on an urgent visit to Kyiv, said, ‘The situation has now changed radically.’

The Czech presidency does not rule out convening an EU-Russia-Ukraine summit. ‘This is an extreme option. For now, we are pressing both sides to reach a compromise,’ said Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek.

Who is responsible for the crisis? Russia accuses Ukraine of stealing EU-bound gas. Ukraine denies this, though it admits that following the cut in supplies it is using some of the EU-bound gas to maintain proper pressure in the pipes. Otherwise, no gas would reach Europe at all.

Gazprom admits it has cut supplies at the request of the Federal Customs Service in order to ‘minimise the retention of gas in Ukraine,’ a practice that has had an adverse impact on the group’s earnings. Vladimir Putin instructed Gazprom to reduce daily supplies to Europe by 65 million cubic metres, as that is supposedly what Kyiv unlawfully retains. But the Ukrainian gas group Naftohaz said that as recently as Monday Gazprom supplied 315 million cubic metres daily, whereas at noon on Tuesday the figure was down to 58 million cubic metres — a fivefold decrease. Later on Tuesday, a Gazprom spokesman confirmed the figures.

‘Russia may entirely cut off natural gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine,’ president Victor Yushchenko warned in a letter to European leaders.

Gazprom deputy CEO Alexandr Medvedev accused Ukraine of shutting down three of the four pipelines that pump Russian gas to the EU. He said that of the 200-400 million cubic metres pumped into the system by Russia over the previous 24 hours, Ukraine had transferred only 40 million cubic metres.

Perhaps the conflict will be solved through negotiations tomorrow, as Naftohaz and Gazprom pledged to renew talks late yesterday. Also on Thursday the Russians will meet the European Commission in Brussels. TVN24 reported last night Poland had called for an urgent meeting of the EU energy ministers.

The Russian gas giant is using the crisis to promote its Nord Stream and South Stream sea-bottom pipelines that will make it possible to supply gas to Europe circumventing Poland and Ukraine.

The cutting off of supplies to the Balkans is also telling. There, Gazprom has been trying to block the construction of a rival pipe, the EU-backed Nabucco. It was to supply Europe with gas from non-Russian fields on the Caspian Sea and Central Asia through Georgia and Turkey.

Translated by Marcin WawrzyŔczak

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Russia Has Cut Gas Supply to Europe, Says Ukraine

RUSSIA was today accused of turning off the gas tap supplying Europe via Ukraine amid sub-zero temperatures.

The latest “gas war” between the Kremlin and Kiev escalated dramatically with reports that homes in eastern Europe were left without heating. The cost of gas on the wholesale market in Britain also soared, meaning consumers could face even bigger bills.

Slovakia declared a state of emergency as imports plunged and Hungary was reportedly limiting gas used by industry. Austria, Hungary, Greece, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia said their imports of Russian gas through Ukraine had stopped.

Italy said it had received a 10th of its usual supplies. Germany imports nearly 40 per cent of its gas from Russia, with four fifths of this coming through Ukraine.

Ukraine’s state gas company Naftogaz accused Russia’s Gazprom of halting supplies to European consumers this morning.. The Russians have accused Ukraine of failing to pay its bills and of siphoning off supplies intended for other European nations. Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin said the gas had been stolen “not from Russia but from western consumers because they have bought this commodity and paid for it”.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Russia Stops All Gas Supply to Europe Via Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia shut off all gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine on Wednesday — leaving more than a dozen countries scrambling to cope during a winter cold snap. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin publicly endorsed the move and urged that international observers be brought into the energy dispute.

As Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for the crisis, the effects of the gas cutoff reverberated across the continent, where some countries have substantial reserves and others do not. Tens of thousands of people, mostly in Bulgaria, were without central heating.

“It is a shame that in the last two decades our rulers did not look for alternative sources of energy supplies. It’s again up to Moscow,” retired teacher Anelia Petrova said in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The EU accused both nations of using consumers as pawns in their quarrel. “It is unacceptable that the EU gas supply security is taken hostage to negotiations between Russia and Ukraine,” EU spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said, demanding an immediate resumption of gas supplies.

U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley warned Moscow that using its energy exports to threaten its neighbors will undermine its international standing.

Russia supplies one-quarter of Europe’s natural gas, and about 80 percent of that is shipped through pipelines crossing Ukraine. Other smaller pipelines run through Belarus and Turkey.

Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom stopped all gas shipments to Ukraine on Jan. 1 after the two countries failed to agree on prices and transit fees for 2009, but kept supplies flowing to Europe over Ukraine’s pipelines. Gazprom then sharply limited gas supplies moving through Ukraine on Tuesday and by Wednesday, Putin ordered Gazprom to stop all shipments of natural gas to Ukraine.

“This should be done publicly and in the presence of international observers,” he told Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller.

As of Wednesday, nations including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Turkey all reported a halt in Russian gas shipments. Others — including Austria, France, Germany, Hungary and Poland — reported substantial drops in supplies.

In the Balkans, people celebrating Orthodox Christmas scrambled to find other sources of heat for their homes as authorities cut off some gas to conserve supplies. Croatia announced a state of emergency, which allows it to begin rationing to industrial users.

Schools and kindergartens in Bulgaria closed down as authorities tried to find alternative heating. In Bosnia, where gas operator Sarajevogas said the situation was close to a humanitarian disaster, woodcutters revved up chain saws to cut wood for fireplaces.

Romania and Bulgaria held national security meetings to address the issue, while Hungary and Slovakia, which receives all of its gas from Russia, began reducing natural gas deliveries to big industrial customers.

Norway, another big gas supplier to Europe, said it cannot do much to offset the Russian shortfalls because it was at near maximum production and pipeline capacity for exports.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, meanwhile, spoke with Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko, pressing for a quick resolution to the standoff.

“If this matter is not solved, it will raise very serious doubts about the reliability of Russia as a supplier of gas to Europe and Ukraine as a transit country,” Barroso said. “If Ukraine is trying to be closer to the European Union, it should not create any problems when it comes to the supply of gas to the EU.”

He said both countries agreed Wednesday to accept international monitors to verify the flow of gas.

On Thursday in Moscow, Ukraine and Russia will hold the first face-to-face talks since the breakdown of negotiations Dec. 31.

In 2008, Russia charged Ukraine about half what it charged its European customers for gas, a legacy of the Soviet era. Gazprom has long sought to charge Ukraine higher prices but Ukraine says if it pays more for natural gas, Russia should pay more for shipping that gas through Ukraine.

Ukraine, which has about 16 billion cubic meters of gas in a vast underground storage system, says it can weather the dispute until early April.

Gazprom, however, is losing substantial income during a peak season for gas consumption. It also will soon see an excess of gas in its system, which will create a costly storage problem.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Schools Close, Industry Hit by Crisis Reaction to Russian Gas Freeze

(VIENNA) — Eastern Europe took crisis measures in response to a complete cut in supplies of Russian gas on Wednesday, switching off heating in public transport, closing schools and curbing use by big industries.

Austria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania reported a total halt in Russian gas supplies for the first time, while Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia and Bosnia experienced a second day of complete stoppage, following a Russia-Ukraine dispute over gas prices.

While many remained confident their reserves would compensate for the Russian gas shortage for at least a few weeks, others had to resort to drastic measures.

Slovakia and Romania have declared a state of emergency.

Two fertiliser plants in Bulgaria, Neochim and Agropolychim, and many glass and metal-working plants, bread producers and breweries have halted production or face closure owing to the gas shortage.

In Hungary, the Japanese car manufacturer Suzuki announced it would close down until Monday.

In Sofia, mayor Boiko Borisov ordered heating in all public transportation to be switched off and buses running on gas were temporarily withdrawn from use, while gas-powered taxis, which make up 50 percent of the capital’s cabs, threatened to strike as they found gas stations closed.

Education Minister Daniel Valchev also ordered schools to be closed if temperatures dropped below minus 18 degrees Celsius (minus 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit), following a low of minus 16 degrees overnight, with colder weather expected in coming days.

The gas shortage in Bulgaria, which depends for 92 percent of its consumption on Russian gas, already led to a heating stoppage in the towns of Varna, Bourgas and Razgrada.

In Hungary, Croatia and Bulgaria, gas deliveries to major industries were reduced to guarantee supplies for households, schools and hospitals.

Slovakia and Austria were also considering such measures.

Hungary and Romania called on plants and factories to switch over to alternative fuels, if they could.

This was the case at Budapest’s Ferihegy international airport, which switched its heating system to oil consumption, as did a heating plant in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana and part of the power grid in Austria.

The Bosnian city of Sarajevo, where the majority of households rely on gas heating, was turning to alternative energy sources but only had enough reserves for another seven days, city officials warned.

In Bulgaria, major gas provider Overgas and the state-owned gas monopoly Bulgargaz halted all deliveries to major industrial customers except those that could not switch to alternative fuel.

Sofia also turned off facade lighting on public buildings to save electricity, as distribution companies warned of possible power outages after many people switched to electricity for heating.

Countries such as Hungary, Croatia, Austria and Romania said however that they could continue to rely on some domestic production, while Czech Republic noted it was still receiving gas from Russian and Norwegian sources via Germany.

Hungary has three billion cubic metres of gas in reserve, Austria 1.7 billion, Romania 2.2 billion. These stocks were estimated to be sufficient to provide for households through the winter.

In Bulgaria, 570 million cubic metres of gas in reserve could last for anything between one and three months.

Slovenia, whose gas consumption only makes up about 14 percent of total energy consumption, appealed to people to limit gas usage but had not taken any further measures to tackle the drop.

The governments in Croatia and Austria were holding meetings on Wednesday to discuss ways to tackle the crisis, which coincides with exceptionally cold weather. Temperatures have dropped to minus 20 degrees Celsius in Romania and minus 27 degrees in the Czech Republic.

Russia, the world’s biggest natural gas supplier, has halted gas supplies for European customers via Ukraine, following a gas dispute between the two neighbours which trade blame over the causes of the cuts now hitting customers in third countries.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Settle the Ukraine Gas Dispute

The European Union is, rather belatedly, waking up to the fact that the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute is more than a bilateral issue for Kiev and Moscow.

While Brussels would still prefer the two sides to settle the quarrel themselves, it is now considering the “extreme option” of a three-way EU-Russia-Ukraine summit…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Slovakia: Nuclear Plant to Reopen if Gas Freeze Lasts

BRATISLAVA — Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Wednesday that Slovakia might reopen a power generating unit at Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear plant if a freeze of gas supplies from Russia continued.

“Should Slovakia continue to be a hostage of this bilateral conflict between Russia and Ukraine, I can imagine reopening of the shut-down unit at Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear plant,” Fico told a press conference.

On Dec. 31, Slovakia shut down the last unit of the Jaslovske Bohunice plant, meeting a commitment it made to the EU that paved the way for its 2004 entry into the European Union.

Fico had said previously that the Soviet-designed VI nuclear block might be reopened to offset the fallout of the global financial crisis.

Slovakia has always argued that the plant is safe and could have continued to operate until 2020 or 2025.

Earlier on Wednesday, the biggest Slovak gas company SPP curbed deliveries for industrial clients after Russia cut off all gas deliveries to Slovakia.

Economy Minister Lubomir Jahnatek said the total cut of Russian gas deliveries to Slovakia would not have a major impact on the country’s economy.

“This situation won’t last forever, its a question of a few days … There will be no big impact on the economy,” Jahnatek said.

SPP chairman Bernd Wagner said at the same press conference: “This is the first time in history there are no deliveries coming from Ukraine .. . . SPP is doing everything to secure deliveries to eastern and western Slovakia, our key priority is the household sector,”

He added: “Its inevitable for industrial users to comply with emergency regime which has been declared,” he added.

According to Fico, Slovakia will probably host a meeting of the “Visegrad Four” countries of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia on Thursday.

“This is the European problem, not only problem of Slovakia or the Czech Republic,” said Fico.

“Europe’s depencency on the Russian gas will increase, in the years 2020-2030, it will be much higher than today,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

The Battle of the Oligarchs Behind the Gas Dispute

Amonolithic, Putin-led Kremlin using the “energy weapon” to browbeat neighbouring Ukraine and beyond and threaten the rest of Europe with natural gas shortages: the image has become commonplace during the “gas spats” of the past few years. Yet those spats have a longer history than is generally appreciated — they began in 1992 — and, what is more, Vladimir Putin and Gazprom cannot win a prolonged gas war, and they know it.

The Soviet gas industry was born in Ukraine in the 1930s and the infrastructure was built from there. Ukraine remained a central part of the gas pipeline network even as the focus of activity moved to western Siberia. Carving up the Soviet Union along along the borders of its former republics made for an often unworkable allocation of physical assets. Vital assets for Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, are located in Ukraine and thus no longer under its direct control: the pipelines are an obvious item, but, just as significantly, Ukraine controls most of the storage capacity of the Russian export system. On the other hand, Ukraine, a heavy industry country, has mostly depleted its gas reserves, making it dependent on gas from Siberia…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Dossier: Handlers Used Virtual Number to Contact a Mobile With One of the Terrorists

New Delhi: Amidst the clutter of telephone calls the Indian intelligence agencies were monitoring into and out of the Taj Mahal hotel on the night of the November 26 terrorist attack was one from a ‘virtual number’ — 12012531824 — generated by a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony service based in the United States.

According to the dossier prepared by the Indian government outlining select details of what investigators have uncovered so far about last November’s Mumbai attacks, Pakistan-based “controllers/handlers used the virtual number to contact a mobile telephone with one of the terrorists. This conversation was intercepted and, thereafter, all calls made through the virtual number were also intercepted and recorded.”

Providing the first-ever details of the investigations into the VoIP account, the dossier says the virtual number was initially set up with a U.S. company, Callphonex, by an individual who identified himself as Kharak Singh from India.

The account was activated by a money gram transferred in the name of Mohammed Ashfaq. “Kharak Singh also requested Callphonex to assign five Austrian Direct Inward Dialling (DID) numbers because his clients called from different countries, including India,” the dossier says. The account was paid for by a money transfer of $238.78 through Western Union by one Javaid Iqbal who provided, as a form of identification, a Pakistani passport (No. KC 092481).

The dossier adds: “Investigations have revealed that Callphonex asked Kharak Singh if he was from India why the Western Union Transfer was coming from Pakistan.

No reply

Apparently, Callphonex received no reply. The VoIP interceptions yielded more evidence to Indian agencies as they revealed the use of three Austrian numbers “which were given to the terrorists by the controllers/handlers and conversations with these numbers by the terrorists were also intercepted and recorded,” the dossier notes.

These Austrian numbers, in turn, correspond to the DID numbers assigned by Callphonex to ‘Kharak Singh.’ The details of the VoIP account are one of multiple pieces of evidence the Indian government has laid out before Pakistan and all Delhi-based foreign envoys to prove its claim that the attacks on Mumbai were staged by elements from Pakistan.

Several ambassadors who were present at the region-wise briefings at the Ministry of External Affairs on Monday and Tuesday told The Hindu that they found the Indian dossier compelling. “It is fully in line with our own belief of how this incident was planned,” said one of the envoys from the group of 14 countries who lost citizens in the attacks.

In their oral presentations, Indian officials told the envoys of their belief that the ISI was indeed involved in the incident. Though this claim was not contested, at least one nation, the United States, has told India it is still not in a position to share this perception.

One of the transcripts contained in the dossier provides the answer to why the terrorists left their satellite phone behind on the Kuber with potentially incriminating data. “Did you open the locks for the water below,” a caller from Pakistan asked one of the terrorists at the Taj Hotel at 0126 hours on November 27, presumably in a reference to a pre-arranged plan to sink the trawler. “No, they did not open the locks. We left it like that because of being in a hurry. We made a big mistake,” the receiver of the phone call answered. “What big mistake?,” he was asked. “When we were getting into the boat, the waves were quite high. Another boat came. Everyone raised an alarm that the Navy had come. Everyone jumped quickly. In this confusion, the satellite phone of Ismail got left behind,” the terrorist replied. The dossier also notes in passing that the GPS set contained trackback points which “were the RV for their intended return after the attack.”

At Monday’s briefing for the 14 nations who lost citizens in the attack, one of the ambassadors asked Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon whether this meant the attack was perhaps not a suicide mission after all. Mr. Menon reportedly said that this was one of the issues which still needed to be probed.

The dossier also contains a second section in which India has attempted to draw attention to the contradictory nature of Pakistan’s response to the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan’s failure to respond appropriately to Indian requests for cooperation when evidence was provided to it about terrorist acts in the past, and an outline of Pakistan’s bilateral and international commitments and obligations.

The last section of the dossier contains an outline of what India expects Pakistan to do in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. “This was a conspiracy launched from Pakistan. Gaps in knowledge can be filled by investigation and interrogation of conspirators there,” the dossier states, adding, “Some of the actions that India expects Pakistan to undertake in extending cooperation to bring the terrorists to justice are: Hand over conspirators to face justice in India, hand over fugitives from Indian law based in Pakistan, Dismantle infrastructure of terrorism, Prevent terrorist acts from Pakistan, Adhere to and implement bilateral, multilateral and international obligations.”

The dossier notes that on the basis of the interrogation of Mohammed Ajmal Amir ‘Kasab,’ the lone terrorist to be captured alive, the role of Lashkar commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi in the training of the crew had been established. The terrorist group initially consisted of 32 persons but the team chosen for the operation was eventually whittled down to 10.

Other LeT commanders involved were Abu Hamza, ‘Kaahfa,’ and Yousuf alias Muzammil, the dossier says. Among the material evidence India has in its possession is the 11-seater inflatable dinghy the terrorists used to move from the hijacked trawler, Kuber, to Mumbai.

“An attempt was made by the terrorists to erase the engine number but it has been retrieved by investigators. The outboard motor number is 67 CL-1020015, manufactured by Yamaha Motor Corporation and imported into Pakistan and distributed by a company named ‘Business & Engineering Trends’ in Lahore.” Several items including toiletries, food articles, drums containing diesel and clothes “bear clear evidence of having been manufactured in Pakistan.” Photographs of all these items are provided in an annexure.

The transcripts in the dossier make it apparent that the six handlers were closely monitoring events in Mumbai through the live TV coverage which went on non-stop for 60 hours. “There are three ministers and one secretary of the cabinet in your hotel. We don’t know in which room,” a Pakistan-based caller tells a terrorist at the Taj at 0310 hrs on November 27. “Oh! That is good news” It is the icing on the cake!,” he replies. “Find those 3-4 persons and then get whatever you want from India,” he is instructed. “Pray that we find them,” he answers.

At the Oberoi at 0353 hrs on November 27, a handler phones and says:

“Brother Abdul. The media is comparing your action to 9/11. One senior police official has been killed.”

Abdul Rehman: “We are on the10th/11th floor. We have five hostages.”

Caller 2 (Kafa): Everything is being recorded by the media. Inflict the maximum damage. Keep fighting. Don’t be taken alive.

Caller: Kill all hostages, except the two Muslims. Keep your phone switched on so that we can hear the gunfire.

Fahadullah: We have three foreigners, including women. From Singapore and China.

Caller: Kill them. The dossier then notes that the telephone intercept records the “voices of Fahadullah and Abdul Rehman directing hostages to stand in a line, and telling two Muslims to stand aside. Sound of gunfire. Cheering voices in background. Kafa hands telephone to Zarar,” who says, “Fahad, find the way to go downstairs.”

In another call, to the Taj this time, a handler says, “The ATS chief has been killed. Your work is very important. Allah is helping you. The Vazir (minister) should not escape. Try and set the place on fire.”

At Nariman House at 1945 hrs on November 27, the handler ‘Wassi’ tells a terrorist: “Keep in mind that hostages are of use only as long as you do not come under fire because of their safety. If you are still threatened, then don’t saddle yourself with the burden of the hostages. Immediately kill them.” He then adds, “The Army claims to have done the work without any hostage being harmed. Another thing: Israel has made a request through diplomatic channels to save the hostages. If the hostages are killed, it will spoil relations between India and Israel.”

“So be it, God willing,” the terrorist replies.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Jihadists the Last Thing Gaza Needs: Minister

The government maintained Tuesday its stance of refusing to send Indonesian troops to the Gaza Strip despite mounting pressure from some Islamic groups to dispatch jihadists to the besieged Middle Eastern spot.

The Foreign Ministry said sending jihadists to Gaza to help Hamas fight Israel would not improve the situation, adding there were much more effective avenues Indonesia could take to help diffuse the situation.

A number of Islamic hardline groups, including the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), have said they wish to send volunteers to Gaza under the banner of jihad and have called on the government to support them.

“Is conducting a jihad effective? We must ask Gaza if that’s what they need, and most probably they (don’t). There are other more effective ways to help … So far, sending jihadists isn’t an option,” Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said.

AFP reported Tuesday that the 11-day-old Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip had claimed the lives of at least 635 Palestinians and wounded 2,900 more.

The toll shot up Tuesday when Israeli fire hit three schools, killing at least 45 people.

Speaking in his annual statement to the press, Hassan said what Gaza needed most was medicine and medical assistance.

“We are looking at the possibility of sending medical workers to field hospitals in the Egypt area of Sinai, which borders with Gaza. We’re awaiting clearance from Egypt, and the President has instructed the health minister to collect volunteers,” Hassan said.

Despite agreeing that the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip had nothing to do with religion, Islamic groups in Jakarta have hyped up the conflict between the two religious groups, paving the way for the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and other Islamic groups to seize the momentum ahead of the April elections.

Observers on Tuesday criticized nationalist parties for not shouting down calls by Islam groups to send volunteers to the war, which was defined by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday as a clash over the sovereignty of territory between Palestine and Israel, and not a religious matter.

“The nationalist groups should be more active in voicing their stance as Indonesia’s voice will be much more strong if the (the world) considers it to represent a pluralist Indonesia rather than only Islam,” University of Indonesia international relations expert Hariyadi Wirawan said.

He said a pluralist Indonesia would attract more sympathy from major non-Muslim countries, such as members of the European Union (EU), as well as powerful human rights groups world wide that see the attacks as a territory dispute and a human rights tragedy rather than an attack against Islam.

PKS, the FPI and HTI seized the spotlight immediately after Israeli began the attacks when the groups gathered thousands of supporters in Jakarta and other big cities in the country to rally against Israel and the US.

Other political parties and nationalist groups did not take part in the rallies, and media coverage has refused to voice their stance on the conflict.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Muslims Force Pop Star Rihanna to Cover Up

[Translation by VH]

Door Luc van Kemenade

The British singer Rihanna (Robyn Rihanna Fenty) will give in to the demands of the Muslim population in Malaysia. The otherwise scantily clad pop star has promised to cover her body during a performance on February 13 in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.


This is what the organizers of the concert told the press Tuesday. The Islamic Party of the Asian country warned that the “Good girl gone bad tour” of Rihanna — known for her hits Umbrella and Unfaithful — is “too sexy and dangerous”.


A majority of the Malaysian population is Muslim [52% according to Factbook] and require strict compliance with the rules that assign women to cover up fram the knees up to the shoulders.

The 20-year-old Rihanna is not the first artist to adapt her show in Malaysia. In 2007, Islamic student organizations went out on the streets to protest against singer Gwen Stefani. She then also adjusted her show. Stefani called that an “enormous sacrifice.”


Even Avril Lavigne and the Pussycat Dolls were earlier found to be too sexy. The Pussycat Dolls even received a fine of 3,000 dollars.

For that reason the singers Beyonce and Christina Aguilera abandoned their performances in Malaysia. Beyonce diverted to Indonesia and Aguilera decided to just skip that country completely.

—- Adding:

Rihanna banned in Indonesia

Most YouTube videos of Rihanna, like Umbrella”, are in the meanwhile banned in Indonesia. Viewers are shown the warning: “This video is not available in your country,” or “This video is not available in your country. Skipped to the next available video.” The same goes for a number of videos of Pussycat Dolls and Christina Aguilera.

Avril Lavigne’s and Beyonce’s videos though are in general unharmed by the wrath of the “majority”.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

The MSM: Protectors of the Islamic Faith

by Diana West

The Hindu of India broke several stories based on a dossier the Indian government just released pertaining to the jihadist assault on Mumbai that left 163 people killed at the end of November.

One of those stories, picked up by news organizations around the world, was about conversations the Indian authorities were able to intercept during the atrocities between the ten terrorists—or “gunmen,” as the MSM likes to style them—and their handlers in Pakistan.

The dossier includes selected excerpts of exchanges marked by their fiendish, bloodthirsty cruelty. The media, of course, has chosen to excerpt these excerpts. Guess what goes either missing entirely or gets buried in the B-matter?

Islam. While these few excerpts released by the Indian government contain orders to the terrorists to spare Muslims, and exhortations about Allah and Islam, these facts are treated as extraneous details of little consequence.

The AP gets around to mentioning “Allah” in paragraph 17, “Islam” in paragraph 18, and “Muslims” in paragraph 19. The New York Times coverage is even more deficient, parenthetically reporting on “Muslims” once in paragraph 18 and mentioning “Islam” in paragraph 25. And that’s it.

Here’s the problem with this oblique, Islam-lite coverage: Without understanding the Islamic context of these Mumbai attacks, we understand nothing about these Mumbai attacks. These attacks were not non-ideologically “terrorist” in conception and purpose, which is the common subtext of such media coverage. Rather, they were attacks conceived as acts of jihad against the West. And it is worth noting that the voices directing the attacks by phone saw fit to continue reminding the killers of that fact.

Thankfully, The Hindu has made the dossier available for downloading here.

Below are what I think count as important excerpts, and what the mainstream media saw fit to cut down or omit entirely…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

The War Against Terror That No One Protested

The jets bombed the daylights out of them. The ground forces invaded. At long last the murderous suicide-bombing terrorists were being suppressed in a military campaign. Their total defeat put an end to any notion that the terrorists and their sponsors would be granted their own state. Many civilians were killed and wounded, yet not a single protest was made against the invasion anywhere.

I refer to the conquest over the past few days by the army of Sri Lanka (once called Ceylon) of the holdout city of the Tamil independence rebels.. Kilinochchi was the last town held by the Tamil “Tiger” Rebels, a group considered a terrorist group by the United States. With it fell the last Tamil hope of setting up an independent state or even of getting autonomy inside Sri Lanka.

The Tamils do have their own state inside India but were not satisfied with that manifestation of “self-determination.” Kilinochchi, 579 kilometers north of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, was until recent months the center of political power for the rebels.

Over the years, 65,000 people have been killed in the war with the Tamils in Sri Lanka, almost all of them civilians.

Meanwhile not a single Solidarity-with-the-Tamil-Tigers protest has been organized on a single Western campus or in a single downtown square. Jewish leftists have not taken to the streets to demand an end to the war of aggression against the Tamils. Leftist websites have not proclaimed every injury of a Tamil civilian to be a Nazi-like war crime by Sri Lanka and an act of genocide.

The Eurocrats have not pontificated about how the Sri Lankan response to terror was out of proportion. The BBC did not describe the Tamil suicide bombers as activists. The International Solidarity Movement has not sent in protesters from the West to try to defend the terrorists. Communists and fellow travelers have not organized flotillas of boats carrying aid to the terrorists to “break the siege.”

Hundreds of non-governmental organizations claiming to be concerned about human rights have not rushed aid to the terrorists in the name of humanitarian concerns.

And then there was the eerie silence of Israeli politicians. Not one of them chose to lecture the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka about how the whole problem is their insensitivity to the needs of the “Other.” None of them explained to the Sri Lankans that if they did not capitulate to the demands of the Tiger terrorists, really radical and implacable enemies of Sri Lanka would arise from among the Tamils.

Ehud Barak did not demand that the Sri Lanka government enter talks with the Tigers and provide them with guns and funding. Israeli professors did not organize petitions of solidarity with the Tamil suicide bombers. Columnists at the far-left Israeli daily Haaretz have not turned out column after column explaining that the Tamil suicide bombings are all about the Tamils living under an inhumane siege. Israeli literary stars David Grossman, Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua have not produced poems and essays urging that the demands of the Tamil Tigers be met.

Israeli Minister of Education Yuli Tamir did not suggest to her Sri Lankan counterpart that poems by Tamil terrorists be introduced as part of the school curriculum there or that they be taught that Sri Lanka’s very existence is a catastrophe and a crime.

Strangely, not a single Sri Lankan professor who had a family member killed by terrorists has endorsed their demands — unlike several such professors in Israel. Not a single Sinhalese public figure has proposed that Sri Lanka be dismembered and stripped of its Sinhalese symbols and flag.

No Sinhalese members of parliament have proposed a change in the national anthem. No one in Sri Lanka has proposed dividing Colombo and handing over half to the Tamils. The UN did not denounce Sri Lanka for misrepresenting the traditional Tamil drink of Ceylon tea as Sinhalese cuisine.

Virtually no one knows that 65,000 civilians have died in Sri Lanka’s fight with the Tamil terrorists — in fact, most people couldn’t even find the country on a globe. The Western media have shown no interest in covering the story. In the first week of fighting in Operation Cast Lead, the number of Gazans killed, most of whom were terrorists, was far less than 1 percent of the number of Sri Lankans killed in their battle against terrorism.

But then again, Sri Lanka is just not as advanced a country as is Israel. No one bothered to explain to the Sri Lankan leaders that there can be no military solution at all to the problem of terrorism and that the only choice is to hold talks and meet the demands of the terrorists.

Those silly, naïve Sri Lankans ignored all the sage advice and just went ahead and solved their problem of terrorism with a military solution.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Far East

Philippines: Two Bombs Explode in North Cotabato, Another One Found in Maguindanao

COTABATO CITY, Jan. 7 (PNA) —- A grenade explosion occurred inside the compound of Iglesia ni Kristo church in Kabacan, North Cotabato Wednesday afternoon.

Senior Insp. Franklin Anito, Kabacan police chief, said the explosive went off at 2 p.m. Nobody was hurt.

The INK church in Kabacan had been subjected to bomb attacks in the past, along with another church, on Matalam Street.

But Anito said it was only now that the explosion occurred.

Police investigators remained clueless on the identities of the suspects and the possible motive.

It was the second explosion in town in two days.

On Tuesday night, a rifle grenade was fired by suspected extortionist group toward a newly-built 8th Avenue Lodging House on Rizal Avenue. Nobody was hurt in the attack.

Anito blamed the Red Spider extortion group as the attacker.

He said the hotel owner received extortion letter from the group demanding protection money and warned of grenade attack should the demand is ignored.

In Maguindanao, government security forces prevented what could be another bloody bomb attack in Maguindanao when they discovered a powerful improvised explosive device planted at a roadside.

Col. Julieto Ando, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said elements of the 64th Infantry Batalion conducting patrol in Barangay Labo-labo, Shariff Aguak town discovered the explosive at 10:30 a.m. fashioned from 81 mm mortar with 3310 Nokia mobile phone as trigger mechanism.

The bomb which was planted near Labo-Labo bridge could have destroyed the concrete bridge had it exploded, Ando said.

Ando said it was meant to kill passersby, including military vehicles.

Labo-Labo bridge connects the main highway linking Cotabato City and Gen. Santos City.

No one has claimed responsibility but Ando said the make of the explosive has the “signature” of rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Bomb experts deployed in Shariff Aguak defused the explosives about 30 minutes after it was discovered.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Navy Escorts 4 Vessels Off Somalia on Day One

ON BOARD HAIKOU — The Chinese navy joined its counterparts from other countries to fight Somali pirates and successfully escorted the first fleet of ships through the Gulf of Aden Tuesday.

Two navy destroyers and a large supply vessel escorted four Chinese merchant ships, one of which was from the Hong Kong special administrative region, off the coast of Somalia.

About 30 ships from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong have sought the navy’s help to sail past the horn of Africa, where Somali pirates have created terror, especially in the past year.

The three navy ships entered the waters off Somalia around 1 am yesterday after having set sail from Sanya, Hainan province, on Dec 26. The UN Security Council and Somalia’s transitional government both have approved of China’s mission: to primarily escort Chinese merchant ships off Somalia’s coast.

Yesterday’s escort mission started at 11 am. The destroyer and flagship, the Wuhan, led the fleet, with another destroyer, the Haikou, making up the rear. The ships maintained a distance of 1 nautical mile during the 550-nautical-mile escort journey.

Liu Jianzhong, political commissar of the Haikou, told China Daily that the navy fleet would fulfill its responsibility of safeguarding China’s civilian vessels.

Mission commander, Rear Admiral Du Jingchen, said: “We will earnestly follow UN resolutions and relevant international laws strengthen coordination and keep a close watch to ensure the security of the vessels and crew being escorted.”

The UN Security Council adopted four resolutions toward the end of last year, calling on all countries and regions to help patrol the Gulf of Aden and the eastern part of Somalia’s coast to thwart piracy in one of the world’s busiest shipping channels.

In the latest incident, a Sierra Leone cargo ship, with 32 Chinese on board, threw off the pursuit of four pirate boats in the Gulf of Aden on Monday, the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center said.

The ship carrying more than 10,000 tons of silicate and oil-drilling equipment from Singapore to Djibouti, ran into the pirates around 3:50 pm.

The Ministry of Transport contacted the International Maritime Bureau immediately to seek help from nearby warships. The cargo ship was found secure around 4:20 pm.

The ministries of agriculture and foreign affairs have warned Chinese civilian ships not to sail close to Somalia’s coast.

The Chinese naval fleet’s commanding center said it had divided the waters into seven patrolling regions, spanning 550 nautical miles.

Twenty Chinese mainland and six Hong Kong vessels likely to pass through the waters between Jan 6 and 10 approached the navy yesterday to seek escort service in the Somali waters, the Ministry of Transport said.

The ministry has begun receiving applications from ships planning to sail through the region after Jan 10, too, a water transport department official said.

The government values the safety of overseas Chinese, and the navy fleet will also protect ships from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regular press conference yesterday.

A spokesman for Hong Kong Marine Department said the agency will hand over escort applications from Hong Kong-flag vessels to the mainland authority. It has also informed 227 Hong Kong shipping companies about the naval fleet arrangement.

The Hong Kong Ship Owners Association said about 20 Hong Kong-flag vessels pass through the Gulf of Aden every month.

Gilbert Feng, assistant director of the association, said escort applications for ships sailing to the Gulf of Aden should be submitted to the Marine Department three to seven days before they reach the gulf.

Applications should include the name of the ship, the name of the owner, the expected date of arrival, a description of the cargo and the number of people aboard.

Taiwan shipping companies can apply to the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation, which handles Taiwan-related affairs, for the navy’s escort service.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Venezuela: Times of Low Oil Prices


The goal that the Venezuelan basket of crude oil and derivatives averages USD 60 in 2009 in order to balance public accounts somehow appears highly unlikely to meet in this fiscal year, when a new election, inflation rates spiraling up and the sacrifices typical of a lean period are expected.

After the weekly average price exceeded USD 126 per barrel last July, the Venezuelan crude oil has plummeted. This is a matter of concern for financial authorities, but particularly for Venezuelans in general, as they know that a belt-tightening period follows when oil prices starts to plummet.

Between December 15 and 19, the last weekly quote released by the Venezuelan Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the basket of crude oil averaged USD 32.14 per barrel, almost USD 100 below the peak recorded in mid-July. The 74.5 percent decrease provoked an unbalance in public accounts in the last quarter of the year, as well as a dramatic reduction in oil revenues from state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela.

This decline also resulted in removal, as of last November, of the so-called windfall tax, which fed the National Development Fund (Fonden), and suspension as of December of direct money transfers from Pdvsa to Fonden. Both mechanisms were in force as long as the crude oil price exceeded USD 35 per barrel, which was the crude oil price estimated in the country’s 2008 budget. However, a preliminary average price of USD 88.74 a barrel last year, it was possible to close 2008 somehow comfortably.

President Hugo Chávez’s government has announced new expropriations in 2009, despite the economic crisis. Additionally, yet another vote is expected to be held early this year and there are not public spending cuts on sight. In sum, the domestic finances are set to grow even more dependent on oil revenues, which at the end of 2008 accounted for 93 percent of total Venezuelan exports.

In its year-end message, the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) warned that “the planning of the development of the Venezuelan oil industry must take on the challenge caused by the fluctuation of oil prices.” “It is vital to set a strict order of priorities to maximize the return on investments, and delaying long-term projects or projects that are not urgent should not cause losses in assets.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


UK: The Ethnic Cleansing of London: Immigrants Pour in, White Brits Leave

While 1.8 million immigrants have moved to London from abroad over the last decade, native indigenous Brits have fled their capital city, making London the area with the largest internal migration of any area in the UK.

Research released by the Bank of Scotland showed that between 1998 and 2007 nearly 2 million people moved out of the capital to other parts of Britain, while 1.6 million moved to it — mostly from overseas. This 2 million was equivalent to more than a quarter (26 percent) of the city’s population in 2007.

London was the only region of the UK to experience a net population loss, which was 344,558. However, the capital’s population was boosted over the 10 years to 2007 by what the bank called “international immigration.”

The South East of England was the most popular region for people to move to from elsewhere in the UK, leading to a net increase of 550,889. More than 2.2 million people moved to the area, while almost 1.7 million left.

The South West recorded the second highest level of net internal migration, gaining 514,511 people. Northern Ireland gained 10,681 residents through internal migration.

The North East and North West were the only UK regions to see an overall decline in their population, losing 26,000 and 27,000 respectively.

Internal migration has boosted Scotland’s population by 157,757. Between 1998 and 2007 the report showed that 542,524 people moved to Scotland from other regions of the UK, while only 384,767 left.

The report was based on data sourced from the 2008 Population Trends provided by the Office of National Statistics.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

America’s Identity Crisis

Americans who lack knowledge of our country’s history, Constitution and institutions really have no frame of reference to judge current politics and policies. Federal law requires public schools to teach about the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day, Sept. 17, but it looks like American adults need those lessons, too.

The 2006 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Civics Test revealed that the majority of eighth-graders could not explain the purpose of the Declaration of Independence. No wonder young voters are not shocked at those who talk about “interdependence,” globalism and becoming “citizens of the world.”

It’s not just that American citizens lack knowledge of historical and constitutional facts about our country, but they also show a declining appreciation of who we are. A survey by Harris Interactive reported that 84 percent of respondents believe we have a unique American identity, but 64 percent believe this identity is weakening, and 24 percent believe we are already so divided that a common national identity is impossible.

Political correctness in colleges and public schools over the last decade has gone a long way toward replacing patriotism with the trendy dicta of multiculturalism, diversity and global citizenship. Are we losing our identity as Americans?


A review of history textbooks used in public schools today reveals a big source of the problem. Textbooks now emphasize America’s faults and mistakes rather than our incredible achievements.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Atheist Buses Denying God’s Existence Take to Streets

Atheist adverts declaring that “there’s probably no God” [and “Now stop worrying and enjoy life”] have been placed on 800 buses around Britain after an unprecedented fundraising campaign.

Organisers originally hoped to put the message on just a handful of London buses, as an antidote to posters put up by religious groups which they claimed were “threatening eternal damnation” to non-believers..

But after the campaign received high-profile support from the prominent atheist Prof Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association, the modest £5,500 target was met within minutes and more than £140,000 has now been donated since the launch in October.

Enough money has now been raised to place the message — “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” — on 200 bendy buses in the capital for a month, with the first ones taking to the streets .

A further 600 buses carrying the adverts will be seen by passengers and passers-by in cities across England, Wales and Scotland, from Aberdeen and Dundee to York, Coventry, Swansea and Bristol.

In addition, two large LCD screens bearing the atheist message have been placed in Oxford Street, central London, while 1,000 posters containing quotes from well-known non-believers will be placed on Underground trains for two weeks starting on Monday.

They feature lines doubting the existence of God, and celebrating the natural world, written by Albert Einstein, Katharine Hepburn, Douglas Adams and Emily Dickinson.

It is the first ever atheist advertising campaign to take place in Britain, and similar adverts are now also running on public transport in America and Spain. […]

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]


Leading American Muslim Publicly Threatens U.S. for Supporting Israel

“One of these days, the U.S. will suffer more deaths than all those killed in this third Gaza holocaust. This will happen soon”

Not terribly surprising since he also once said that 9/11 was planned by America. As this report points out, however, Salah Sultan is not just another hate-preacher appearing on Arab TV; he also “holds U.S. permanent residency status and, according to one federal law enforcement official, travels regularly on a U.S. passport.” Moreover, he is on several prominent U.S. Muslim boards and committees — many of which (no doubt temporarily) removed his name from their websites and membership lists immediately after MEMRI translated and posted his tirade.

“Top American Islamic Cleric Threatens U.S. on Egyptian TV,” by Patrick Poole for Pajamas Media, January 7:

Islamic cleric Salah Sultan appeared on Egypt’s Al-Nas TV last week and delivered a warning of death and destruction for America. Not only did he attack the U.S. for its military support of Israel in its fight against the Hamas terrorist organization, but he vowed retaliation such that more Americans would be killed than those Palestinians (and, presumably, Hamas terrorists) killed in the present conflict in Gaza, emphasizing that this would take place “soon”:

“America, which gave [Israel] everything it needed in these battles, will suffer economic stagnation, ruin, destruction, and crime, which will surpass what is happening in Gaza. One of these days, the U.S. will suffer more deaths than all those killed in this third Gaza holocaust. This will happen soon.”

He also invoked a notorious Islamic hadith on the inevitable annihilation of the Jews by Muslims:

           — Hat tip: AA [Return to headlines]

Mr. Gore: Apology Accepted

You are probably wondering whether President-elect Obama owes the world an apology for his actions regarding global warming. The answer is, not yet.. There is one person, however, who does. You have probably guessed his name: Al Gore.

Mr. Gore has stated, regarding climate change, that “the science is in.” Well, he is absolutely right about that, except for one tiny thing. It is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind.

What is wrong with the statement? A brief list:

1. First, the expression “climate change” itself is a redundancy, and contains a lie. Climate has always changed, and always will. There has been no stable period of climate during the Holocene, our own climatic era, which began with the end of the last ice age 12,000 years ago. During the Holocene there have been numerous sub-periods with dramatically varied climate, such as the warm Holocene Optimum (7,000 B.C. to 3,000 B.C., during which humanity began to flourish, and advance technologically), the warm Roman Optimum (200 B.C. to 400 A.D., a time of abundant crops that promoted the empire), the cold Dark Ages (400 A.D. to 900 A.D., during which the Nile River froze, major cities were abandoned, the Roman Empire fell apart, and pestilence and famine were widespread), the Medieval Warm Period (900 A.D. to 1300 A.D., during which agriculture flourished, wealth increased, and dozens of lavish examples of Gothic architecture were created), the Little Ice Age (1300 to 1850, during much of which plague, crop failures, witch burnings, food riots — and even revolutions, including the French Revolution — were the rule of thumb), followed by our own time of relative warmth (1850 to present, during which population has increased, technology and medical advances have been astonishing, and agriculture has flourished).

So, no one needs to say the words “climate” and “change” in the same breath — it is assumed, by anyone with any level of knowledge, that climate changes. That is the redundancy to which I alluded. The lie is the suggestion that climate has ever been stable. Mr. Gore has used a famously inaccurate graph, known as the “Mann Hockey Stick,” created by the scientist Michael Mann, showing that the modern rise in temperatures is unprecedented, and that the dramatic changes in climate just described did not take place. They did. One last thought on the expression “climate change”: It is a retreat from the earlier expression used by alarmists, “manmade global warming,” which was more easily debunked. There are people in Mr. Gore’s camp who now use instances of cold temperatures to prove the existence of “climate change,” which is absurd, obscene, even.

2. Mr. Gore has gone so far to discourage debate on climate as to refer to those who question his simplistic view of the atmosphere as “flat-Earthers.” This, too, is right on target, except for one tiny detail. It is exactly the opposite of the truth.

Indeed, it is Mr. Gore and his brethren who are flat-Earthers. Mr. Gore states, ad nauseum, that carbon dioxide rules climate in frightening and unpredictable, and new, ways. When he shows the hockey stick graph of temperature and plots it against reconstructed C02 levels in An Inconvenient Truth, he says that the two clearly have an obvious correlation. “Their relationship is actually very complicated,” he says, “but there is one relationship that is far more powerful than all the others, and it is this: When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer.” The word “complicated” here is among the most significant Mr. Gore has uttered on the subject of climate and is, at best, a deliberate act of obfuscation. Why? Because it turns out that there is an 800-year lag between temperature and carbon dioxide, unlike the sense conveyed by Mr. Gore’s graph. You are probably wondering by now — and if you are not, you should be — which rises first, carbon dioxide or temperature. The answer? Temperature. In every case, the ice-core data shows that temperature rises precede rises in carbon dioxide by, on average, 800 years. In fact, the relationship is not “complicated.” When the ocean-atmosphere system warms, the oceans discharge vast quantities of carbon dioxide in a process known as de-gassing. For this reason, warm and cold years show up on the Mauna Loa C02 measurements even in the short term. For instance, the post-Pinatubo-eruption year of 1993 shows the lowest C02 increase since measurements have been kept. When did the highest C02 increase take place? During the super El Niño year of 1998.

3. What the alarmists now state is that past episodes of warming were not caused by C02 but amplified by it, which is debatable, for many reasons, but, more important, is a far cry from the version of events sold to the public by Mr. Gore.

Meanwhile, the theory that carbon dioxide “drives” climate in any meaningful way is simply wrong and, again, evidence of a “flat-Earth” mentality. Carbon dioxide cannot absorb an unlimited amount of infrared radiation. Why not? Because it only absorbs heat along limited bandwidths, and is already absorbing just about everything it can. That is why plotted on a graph, C02’s ability to capture heat follows a logarithmic curve. We are already very near the maximum absorption level. Further, the IPCC Fourth Assessment, like all the ones before it, is based on computer models that presume a positive feedback of atmospheric warming via increased water vapor.

4. This mechanism has never been shown to exist. Indeed, increased temperature leads to increased evaporation of the oceans, which leads to increased cloud cover (one cooling effect) and increased precipitation (a bigger cooling effect). Within certain bounds, in other words, the ocean-atmosphere system has a very effective self-regulating tendency. By the way, water vapor is far more prevalent, and relevant, in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide — a trace gas. Water vapor’s absorption spectrum also overlays that of carbon dioxide. They cannot both absorb the same energy! The relative might of water vapor and relative weakness of carbon dioxide is exemplified by the extraordinary cooling experienced each night in desert regions, where water in the atmosphere is nearly non-existent.

If not carbon dioxide, what does “drive” climate? I am glad you are wondering about that. In the short term, it is ocean cycles, principally the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the “super cycle” of which cooling La Niñas and warming El Niños are parts. Having been in its warm phase, in which El Niños predominate, for the 30 years ending in late 2006, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation switched to its cool phase, in which La Niñas predominate.

Since that time, already, a number of interesting things have taken place. One La Niña lowered temperatures around the globe for about half of the year just ended, and another La Niña shows evidence of beginning in the equatorial Pacific waters. During the last twelve months, many interesting cold-weather events happened to occur: record snow in the European Alps, China, New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, the Rockies, the upper Midwest, Las Vegas, Houston, and New Orleans. There was also, for the first time in at least 100 years, snow in Baghdad.

Concurrent with the switchover of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation to its cool phase the Sun has entered a period of deep slumber. The number of sunspots for 2008 was the second lowest of any year since 1901. That matters less because of fluctuations in the amount of heat generated by the massive star in our near proximity (although there are some fluctuations that may have some measurable effect on global temperatures) and more because of a process best described by the Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark in his complex, but elegant, work The Chilling Stars. In the book, the modern Galileo, for he is nothing less, establishes that cosmic rays from deep space seed clouds over Earth’s oceans. Regulating the number of cosmic rays reaching Earth’s atmosphere is the solar wind; when it is strong, we get fewer cosmic rays. When it is weak, we get more. As NASA has corroborated, the number of cosmic rays passing through our atmosphere is at the maximum level since measurements have been taken, and show no signs of diminishing. The result: the seeding of what some have taken to calling “Svensmark clouds,” low dense clouds, principally over the oceans, that reflect sunlight back to space before it can have its warming effect on whatever is below.

Svensmark has proven, in the minds of most who have given his work a full hearing, that it is this very process that produced the episodes of cooling (and, inversely, warming) of our own era and past eras. The clearest instance of the process, by far, is that of the Maunder Minimum, which refers to a period from 1650 to 1700, during which the Sun had not a single spot on its face. Temperatures around the globe plummeted, with quite adverse effects: crop failures (remember the witch burnings in Europe and Massachusetts?), famine, and societal stress.

Many solar physicists anticipate that the slumbering Sun of early 2009 is likely to continue for at least two solar cycles, or about the next 25 years. Whether the Grand Solar Minimum, if it comes to pass, is as serious as the Maunder Minimum is not knowable, at present. Major solar minima (and maxima, such as the one during the second half of the 20th century) have also been shown to correlate with significant volcanic eruptions. These are likely the result of solar magnetic flux affecting geomagnetic flux, which affects the distribution of magma in Earth’s molten iron core and under its thin mantle. So, let us say, just for the sake of argument, that such an eruption takes place over the course of the next two decades. Like all major eruptions, this one will have a temporary cooling effect on global temperatures, perhaps a large one. The larger the eruption, the greater the effect. History shows that periods of cold are far more stressful to humanity than periods of warm. Would the eruption and consequent cooling be a climate-modifier that exists outside of nature, somehow? Who is the “flat-Earther” now?

What about heat escaping from volcanic vents in the ocean floor? What about the destruction of warming, upper-atmosphere ozone by cosmic rays? I could go on, but space is short. Again, who is the “flat-Earther” here?

The ocean-atmosphere system is not a simple one that can be “ruled” by a trace atmospheric gas. It is a complex, chaotic system, largely modulated by solar effects (both direct and indirect), as shown by the Little Ice Age.

To be told, as I have been, by Mr. Gore, again and again, that carbon dioxide is a grave threat to humankind is not just annoying, by the way, although it is that! To re-tool our economies in an effort to suppress carbon dioxide and its imaginary effect on climate, when other, graver problems exist is, simply put, wrong. Particulate pollution, such as that causing the Asian brown cloud, is a real problem. Two billion people on Earth living without electricity, in darkened huts and hovels polluted by charcoal smoke, is a real problem.

So, let us indeed start a Manhattan Project-like mission to create alternative sources of energy. And, in the meantime, let us neither cripple our own economy by mislabeling carbon dioxide a pollutant nor discourage development in the Third World, where suffering continues unabated, day after day..

Again, Mr. Gore, I accept your apology.

And, Mr. Obama, though I voted for you for a thousand times a thousand reasons, I hope never to need one from you.

P.S. One of the last, desperate canards proposed by climate alarmists is that of the polar ice caps. Look at the “terrible,” “unprecedented” melting in the Arctic in the summer of 2007, they say. Well, the ice in the Arctic basin has always melted and refrozen, and always will.. Any researcher who wants to find a single molecule of ice that has been there longer than 30 years is going to have a hard job, because the ice has always been melted from above (by the midnight Sun of summer) and below (by relatively warm ocean currents, possibly amplified by volcanic venting) — and on the sides, again by warm currents. Scientists in the alarmist camp have taken to referring to “old ice,” but, again, this is a misrepresentation of what takes place in the Arctic.

More to the point, 2007 happened also to be the time of maximum historic sea ice in Antarctica. (There are many credible sources of this information, such as the following website maintained by the University of Illinois-Urbana: Why, I ask, has Mr. Gore not chosen to mention the record growth of sea ice around Antarctica? If the record melting in the Arctic is significant, then the record sea ice growth around Antarctica is, too, I say. If one is insignificant, then the other one is, too.

For failing to mention the 2007 Antarctic maximum sea ice record a single time, I also accept your apology, Mr. Gore. By the way, your contention that the Arctic basin will be “ice free” in summer within five years (which you said last month in Germany), is one of the most demonstrably false comments you have dared to make. Thank you for that!

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

The Special Relationship

On January 13, in one of his last acts as President, George Bush will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Tony Blair in thanks for Britain’s unyielding support of the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr Blair will follow Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Nelson Mandela and Walt Disney as recipients of a medal that is, jointly, America’s most prestigious civil tribute.

But it is the medal with which it shares that status, the Congressional Gold Medal of Honour, that will dominate the coverage. Mr Blair was awarded the medal in July 2003, since when he has allowed almost 2,000 days to pass without collecting it. He really ought to do so as a matter of urgency. The award was made not by the President but by the Congress of the American people. And it was granted not to Mr Blair as a lone individual but to him in his capacity as Prime Minister of the British people. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which this newspaper supported, the American people have honoured their allies the British and it is uncharacteristically ungracious of the former Prime Minister not to turn up to receive it.

Mr Blair is the first Prime Minister since Winston Churchill to be awarded the Congressional Medal. It is intriguing to wonder whether he might be the last. Certainly, the election of Barack Obama presages serious changes to the relationship between Britain and the US.

This is, in part, a matter of personal history. President Obama will not share with some of his predecessors any emotional ties with this country. But it is also more than personal. The British Prime Minister is already vying with the French President to be the first official visitor to the new administration. There will be plenty of national leaders heading to Washington in the hope that some of the Obama glint will rub off. Suddenly, with a new president in the wings and with the Iraqi intervention in its latter stages, the relationships between America and the nations that dissented over war can begin afresh.

In the new circumstances of 2009 the first big test for the relationship of Britain and America will come in Afghanistan. If the new president increases the American presence he will surely look to Britain to do the same. This test of friendship will come as serious questions are being asked, in the highest command of the United States military, about the effectiveness of the British contribution to the war efforts. These doubts are very much to the point. They expose the central flaw in British thinking about the special relationship. The medals awarded to Mr Blair were for saying all the right things at the critical moment. That is no small matter. To be a staunch and vocal ally at an historical turning point is the first requirement of an enduring relationship.

But it is not enough. Britain has tried to extend its military reach without committing the required resources. For fifty yeas after the Second World War, defence spending, as a proportion of national income, declined. Since 1997, even with the extra spending specific to Iraq and Afghanistan, it has remained flat, at 2.5 per cent of GDP. Too often weapons and ammunition have been faulty, vehicles have been unreliable, living accommodation inadequate. Now, the £4 billion aircraft carrier project has been delayed.

The doctrine of liberal interventionism, famously set out by Mr Blair in his speech in Chicago in 1999, implies a far bigger military budget. The case that the security threat to the world is now of a qualitatively different type, which needs to be confronted rather than appeased, is a cogent one. It is a threat that the United States faces. If Britain wishes to win the medals that come with special status, it is no good willing the end without the means.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

3 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 1/7/2009

  1. There’s no word on what penalty the Russians will face if they fail to comply.

    Hah, I’m sure the EU will just continue to threaten with empty words…

  2. I would like to thank again this site and all the contributors to the news feed. This was a fantastic addition to the site!

    While I am at it, thank you again to the army of translators that take their free time to bring me, an English only speaker (well, OK, I can muddle my way through French), news I would not get in any other way.

    What an understatement! News I would not get? More properly stated as news that no one wants me to know…

    So, thank you again to all that contribute to this site.

    Oh, and send a pizza to the IDF or the people of Sderot. You’ll be happy you did. My husband wondered if it doesn’t get there in 30 minutes do I get my money back???

  3. Netherlands opposes Holy Koran swear in for Muslim police

    As is the case with civil servants, police officiers will only be able to use a Christian or a neutral oath.

    Netherlands will not allow Muslim police officers to swear their allegiance to the force on the Holy Koran, home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst told parliament on Tuesday, Dutch News reported.

    As is the case with civil servants, they will only be able to use a Christian or a neutral oath.

    Members of the armed forces and civilians working for the defence ministry are allowed to to swear on the Holy Koran.

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