Massachusetts is Heating Up

Well, everyone has been predicting an uptick in violence since the economy began to tank last year. It looks like those predictions are proving true, at least if these incidents reported by The Boston Herald are any indication of things to come:

From the bullet that smashed through a Lawrence City Hall window to stinking fishes flung at the Gloucester mayor’s home, city and state leaders are feeling the heat on the street from taxpayers and public sector workers fuming over impending layoffs and service cuts.

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Lawrence is much poorer than Gloucester. It has a large Hispanic population, the latest of a line of immigrants that began back when the textile mills were in operation in the 1800’s. As they shut down and moved south to cheaper labor and fewer union obstacles, the city began to die. Unfortunately, Lawrence razed many of its old buildings in an attempt to “modernize” and attract business. As a result, it’s not nearly as interesting architecturally as it used to be. In fact, some of the soviet-style architecture would depress anyone.

The per capita income in Lawrence (last census) is $11,360. More than a third of its residents live below the poverty line. This town has felt the pinch of poverty for a long time:

Authorities believe a bullet that slammed into the Lawrence city planner’s desk last weekend may be related the recent layoffs of 11 city employees and the firing of two others.

“If someone is giving a message that you’d better watch out, that’s disconcerting,” Lawrence Mayor Michael J. Sullivan told the Herald yesterday.

A bullet through the window is “disconcerting”? What would a bomb in City Hall be? “A cautionary warning”, maybe? I love political speak.

Gloucester is another story, at least on the surface. It’s a pretty seaside tourist village on Cape Anne. Gloucester claims that it was the first settlement of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, though that’s a bit of a stretch since it was abandoned because of the poor soil, and then later resettled – and only at this point was it named Gloucester.

Besides being a summer tourist attraction, the town is also home to Gorton’s seafood. Generations ago, Portuguese immigrants settled there and had fishing fleets. Some of these families still maintain the trade, but many have moved on. A citizen of the town once told me that the school system in Gloucester was designed to keep kids off the street until it was time for them to enter Gorton’s fish processing plants. She sent her kids to private schools.

I don’t know if things have improved, but a load of stinking fish slopped onto the front steps of the mayor’s house is certainly a symbolic act of frustration.

By the way, the rich owners of merchant fleets in the 18th and early 19th centuries were responsible for delivery of slaves to ports in Virginia and South Carolina. These slave ships brought great wealth to Gloucester; many of the homes of their captains, complete with widows’ walks, still remain.

Gloucester has a higher per capita income – $25,595 vs. $11,360 for Lawrence – because it attracts so many wealthy people who summer there or buy up historical properties as second homes. Where Lawrence once had textile mills, Gloucester still has Gorton’s fish mills, though the latter have long since been bought up by the Japanese, and the company is going through tough times with the Chinese fish exports as competition.

So even pretty Gloucester has its problems:

Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk, who receives plainclothes police protection on occasion, found a pile of fish on her front porch last month, and her secretary intercepts an almost daily stream of angry e-mails and letters, redirecting the most menacing to police.

“In this budget climate, we’re all faced with cutting jobs, people’s livelihoods,” Kirk said. “It makes a mayor a target.”

Hmmm…it makes you wonder when American small town mayors will start receiving hazardous duty pay.

The Boston Herald called a few towns and got further information:

State Rep. Brian Wallace (D-South Boston) got an earful from a man incensed about Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposed 19-cent gas tax hike.

“It’s gotten worse,” said Wallace, who also gets blistering e-mails from constituents. “It’s taken a different tone, an edge. People are stretched to the limit.”

Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, fears that the anger could morph into violence as the economic crisis deepens.

“Unfortunately, the decisions local officials have to make are personal ones, and people get upset at them,” Beckwith said. “When emotions run high and difficult decisions are made, there’s the potential for violence.”

Lynn Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy agreed. “Any time you tell someone no, people get very, very angry,” he explained.


“We know we’re the people who feel the heat,” said Brockton Mayor James Harrington, who’s considering laying off at least 100 cops and firefighters. “That’s the job we chose, and it’s a big part of the job.”

In Melrose, Mayor Robert Dolan blamed tough times for a spike in dime-dropping by anonymous tipsters targeting police, fire and public works employees believed to be cavorting about on city time.

Lynn’s Clancy said he’s steering clear of bars and other places where he might run into angry taxpayers.

“When they have a few in them,” Clancy said, “they get a little – how do you say – demonstrative.”

Yes, people are mad. They don’t call it “Taxachusetts” for nothing. A proposed 19 cents further tax on gasoline? The governor must be out of his mind.

I expected that the economic strain to show first in the northeast and in California, though for different reasons. It’s expensive to live in the Massachusetts, and morale is low as jobs have fled south to states with lower taxes and less restrictive business codes.

California has long been the destination for illegal immigrants seeeking farm work, and people from other states seeking “free” higher education. For the first time since the Dust Bowl exodus from the Midwest to California, the latter is starting to lose population and industry. California is too expensive, too lawless, and too regulated. I wonder if the mayors there feel as vulnerable as the ones in Massachusetts?

NOTE: I just heard recently that our little area is seeing a surge in crime. There was a meeting at the firehouse last night with the sheriff to discuss what to do about the increasing number of house robberies in our area in the last few weeks.

Even churches have been burglarized. The days of leaving even small country churches open so people could visit are disappearing.

This is going to be one heck of a bumpy ride. I hope the stimulus package has made provisions for seat belts.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/25/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/25/2009Lord Ahmed has been convicted of dangerous driving for his part in a fatal accident which occurred after he was texting while driving. He’s been sentenced to twelve weeks in chokey, but the Brits tell me he will likely serve only six.

I hope his toilet faces Mecca.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Gaia, Insubria, JD, Nilk, Steen, TB, The Frozen North, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
China: “Hostile Forces” Stirring Up Workers and the Jobless
LBJ’s Great Society on Steroids
Nearly 4,000 L.A. Inmates May be Freed
Senator Echoes Tea Party Rally Cry
Spending Bill Stuffed With Earmarks
UK: the People Say They’ll Keep Calm and Carry on. . . But for How Long?
White Backs Off ‘Credit Enhancement’ With Tax Dollars
2nd U.S. Soldier in Iraq Challenges Eligibility
Democrats Introduce Public National Service Bills
Domestic Terrorists in Our Midst
Home Mortgage Relief for Millions of Illegals
House Democrats Propose $410b Spending Bill
IRS Hounds Evangelist for Political Comments
Oklahoma House Passes Sovereignty Bill
Peak Oil Lie — US Has Utterly Giant Oil Reserves
The Deceits of Bridges TV
Canada Churches Open Arms to Gitmo Detainees
Europe and the EU
Italy: Security: Patrols May be Paid by Private Sector
Italy-France: Berlusconi-Sarkozy, Nuclear Energy Axis
Netherlands Nine Dead But Over 100 Alive After Plane Crashes and Breaks Into Three Pieces
Obama Copter ‘May be Frozen’
Polygamy UK: This Special Mail Investigation Reveals How Thousands of Men Are Milking the Benefits System to Support Several Wives
UK: Diversity Officers Are Fanning Racism and Acting as Recruiting Sergeants for the BNP
UK: Lord Ahmed Jailed for Dangerous Driving
UK: Will Labour Allow This Muslim Hardliner With Links to Hezbollah Into Britain?
Wilders a Prominent Guest in United States
Mediterranean Union
Italy-Tunisia: Guerrini Hails Old and Strong Relationship
North Africa
Algeria: for Gaza Aid Moroccan Borders to Open
Israel and the Palestinians
Hamas ‘Happy’ With Obama’s $900 Million Pledge
UN Agencies Give Millions of Dollars to Rebuild Gaza
Middle East
Auction: Pearl Carpet and Precious Items From Mohammed’s Tomb
Bahrain — Iran: Manama Suspends Negotiations With Tehran, Winning Arab Solidarity
Iran: First Russian-Built Nuclear Plant Complete
Italy Working for Iran at G8 Meet
Saudi Lingerie Trade in a Twist
South Asia
Exclusive: Army is Fighting British Jihadists in Afghanistan
India: for Muslim Clerics Conversion to Islam to Remarry is Unacceptable
No Place for Religious Freedom in the Maldives’ New Democratic Dispensation
Pakistan: Militants Receive Compensation for Peace Deal
Pakistan: Taliban Wants Amnesty for Militants in Exchange for Peace
Thailand: Soldiers Killed and Beheaded in Troubled South
Far East
Asia: the Late, Great State of Taiwan
Violent Crackdown by Chinese Authorities on Dissent Now a Daily Occurrence
European Council Appeals Over Lampedusa
Lampedusa Revolt Makes Tunisian Headlines
Malta: 230 Immigrants Arrive on Fishing Boat
Maltese Parliament to Discuss Emergency
Al Gore Yanks Slide of Disaster Trends
UN: FAII, Anti-Israeli Tones From Geneva Conference

Financial Crisis

China: “Hostile Forces” Stirring Up Workers and the Jobless

The deputy chairman of China’s main state-backed union federation calls for vigilance. The loss of 20 million jobs and the lack of justice for workers are however the real problems. Without independent trade unions there is a great danger that exasperated people might turn to violence.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Greater police control of unemployed workers and action against agitators are what is needed, this according to Sun Chunlan, deputy chairman of the state-backed All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU).

The authorities must guard against “hostile forces within and outside China using the difficulties of some enterprises to infiltrate and bring trouble to rural migrant workers,” Sun said during a teleconference with officials.

Some 87,000 incidents of mass protest or labour unrest were recorded last year, largely as a result of the economic crisis, often triggered by plant closures and unpaid wages.

The global economic crisis has cut deeply into China’s exports to the United States and Europe. As a result 20 million jobs have been officially lost just in Guangdong province, where one third of China’s total exports are manufactured.

It is also not uncommon for closing plants to default on the final wages and severance pay they owe their laid off workers.

The difficult situation is such that the authorities have delayed the implementation of a new law protecting labour rights that was supposed to come into effect on 1 January. Instead many workers have had to accept wages below the minimum wage just to keep their job.

Rising unemployment and growing social unrest are giving the government the jitters.

Deputy Chairman Sun said that the official trade unions will extend aid to more than 10 million migrant workers in the form of job training or “living assistance”.

Then again, the country has about 130 million migrant workers, and over the past few months, many of them have clashed with police because of companies going out of business failing to pay them their last wages.

Independent trade unions might mediate between workers and the authorities, moderate grievances and stave off protests which might otherwise turn violent if left unchecked, but not for someone like ACFTU Deputy Chairman Sun, whose silence on the matter says a lot about official attitudes.

By contrast, many experts are very concerned about the lack of such institutional channels to address social problems, a vacuum that leaves much of China at the mercy of those in power.

Case in point: dozens of shop tenants and workers protested outside a market in Beijing’s Russian district on Wednesday, as part of a dispute over rent with the building’s landlord, whose reaction to the protest was to simply shut down the shop owned by the group’s spokesman and throw all of his stock away.

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

LBJ’s Great Society on Steroids

Under the subterfuge of helping the economy, Barack Obama’s stimulus plan legislates vast new spending programs to finance liberal policy goals that are unnecessary and undesirable. The flow of taxpayers’ money will be so gargantuan as to make Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society expansion of the welfare state look puny.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Nearly 4,000 L.A. Inmates May be Freed

Nearly 4,000 jail inmates would be released early and about 600 deputy and professional positions would be eliminated to meet budget cuts, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Monday.

Owing to the current economic crisis, the Sheriff’s Department faces a $71 million cut to its $2.5 billion budget in the coming fiscal year.

Baca told The Associated Press it looks as if he’ll have to close two jails and eliminate the positions of the staff at those facilities.

“There’s no way around me cutting $71 million out of the budget that won’t affect having to close a jail or two,” Baca said. “To turn this battleship … I have to start cutting.”


A likely consequence would be an increase in crime, especially property crimes.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Senator Echoes Tea Party Rally Cry

‘People have to show that they’re not going to take it anymore’

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a staunch opponent of the federal government’s increase in size and spending legislated by President Obama’s stimulus package, has issued a call for Americans to stand up — literally — and take back their freedom.

“I would think it’s time to start thinking about peaceful demonstrations,” DeMint said in an interview with Georgia’s Augusta Chronicle. “The power of the people is there. Freedom is in the people’s hands right now, and it’s about to slip through.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Spending Bill Stuffed With Earmarks

[Comment from JD: Obama will cut defense spending drastically — another one of Communism’s goals — unilateral diarmament of US.]

President Obama on Monday vowed to reel in wasteful Washington spending and blasted deceptive “accounting tricks” used by the Bush administration to fund the Iraq war even as House Democrats released a $410 billion stopgap spending bill studded with thousands of pork-barrel projects.

Speaking at a summit called to review the nation’s teetering fiscal situation, Mr. Obama offered a stern warning to budgeting of the past and pledged to reinstate pay-as-you-go rules to cut the $1.3 trillion federal deficit in half by the end of his first term.

“The pay-go approach is based on a very simple concept. You don’t spend what you don’t have. So if we want to spend, we’ll need to find somewhere else to cut,” Mr. Obama told economists, union leaders, policy wonks and lawmakers from both parties.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: the People Say They’ll Keep Calm and Carry on. . . But for How Long?

Labour has failed us — and if the Tories can’t find a solution to our problems, the public mood could turn ugly, warns Simon Heffer.


The mood appears to be this. The Government, despite Mr Brown’s protestations, has already been found guilty in the court of public opinion of gross dereliction in the management of our economy. The public are not stupid. They know that Mr Brown, as chancellor, took the decisions to pump excess money into the economy during the boom years. They know he squandered money in the good times on his client state. They know there has been waste and profligacy on an almost criminal scale. They know he altered the regulation of financial services to the point where allowing bankers near this incontinent stream of money was like giving a child of five a hand grenade. They know that every initiative he has produced since the debacle became apparent last autumn has been pointless, wasteful and designed to avoid the real issue: excessive spending and excessive borrowing to fund it. And they know, above all, that they and their children are about to be beggared to pay for this serial insanity.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

White Backs Off ‘Credit Enhancement’ With Tax Dollars

Houston plan ‘hit a nerve across this country,’ councilwoman says

Mayor Bill White yanked a controversial plan Tuesday that called for the city to use taxpayer funds to pay off some personal debts for first-time homebuyers, following a flood of outrage and criticism from across the city and beyond.

“I don’t think we ought to be in the business of paying off someone’s debt so they can buy a house,” White conceded during an impassioned City Council meeting. “Paying off people’s credit cards is ridiculous.”

Many council members expressed “embarrassment” over the idea, which received national media attention after the Chronicle wrote about it in Tuesday’s editions. The story appeared to strike a nerve among taxpayers already angry over the recession, the housing meltdown, and federal bailouts of banks and automobile companies.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


2nd U.S. Soldier in Iraq Challenges Eligibility

Says issue could decide if ‘we are a Constitutional Republic’

Another U.S. soldier on active duty in Iraq is joining a challenge to President Obama’s eligibility to be commander-in-chief, citing WND’s report on 1st Lt. Scott Easterling, who has agreed to be a plaintiff in a lawsuit over the issue, as his inspiration.

“I was inspired by 1LT Easterling’s story and am writing you to inform you that I would like to be added as a plaintiff against Obama as well if you feel it would help your case,” the soldier, identified for this report only as a reservist now on active duty in Iraq.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Democrats Introduce Public National Service Bills

Comprehensive national service plan detailed; Corporation for National Service would be granted Cabinet-level status

A Democratic Senator from Connecticut has introduced four bills aimed at establishing a groundwork for a system of comprehensive national service.

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., says that the legislation will “create the architecture and the structure that will serve as the invitation for everyone to serve.”

The Senate bills, co-sponsored by Thad Cochran, R-Miss., are companion legislation to bills Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, introduced Tuesday in the House, calling for increases in federal spending for public service programs.

The legislation would target everyone from schoolchildren to the elderly and aim to create new bases of volunteers beyond the usual young-adult pool of service-program participants, reports The Day.

Two of the bills, named the Summer of Service Act and the Semester of Service Act, are particularly aimed at middle school and high school students and will offer “credits” in return for participation in community-service programs.

Some residents and education experts are concerned that such public service programs may become part of student graduation requirements.

A third bill, named The Encore Service Act, offers cash awards to people aged 55 and over who complete 250 or 500 hours of public service. In return for their service, participants would also receive an education award which could be transferred to their children or grandchildren.

A fourth bill, The ACTION Act, is aimed at increasing awards for AmeriCorps volunteers and reestablishing the Corporation’s connection with federal agencies. The bill would also grant the Corporation for National Service Cabinet-level status under the Obama administration.

Sen. Dodd is reintroducing the bills which he previously failed to bring to a vote.

Dodd told the media that the legislation is a response to President Obama’s call in his inaugural address for national service.

“People ask me why I joined — I joined because the president asked,” Dodd said. “We’ve got a president who’s asking.”

[Return to headlines]

Domestic Terrorists in Our Midst

The 2006 Justice Department document that exposes 35 terrorist training compounds in the U.S. was marked “Dissemination Restricted to Law Enforcement.” All the copies of Sheik Muburak Gilani’s terrorist training video, “Soldiers of Allah,” had been confiscated and sealed—all of them, except one…That one errant surviving copy landed with the Christian Action Network and became the foundation for the compelling documentary Homegrown Jihad: The Terrorist Camps Around the U.S

I too often say, it is not a question of WHO is right or wrong but WHAT is right or wrong that counts. The “Soldiers of Allah”/ Jamaat ul-Fuqra is flat out WRONG on multiple levels.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Home Mortgage Relief for Millions of Illegals

Obama’s program provides $275 billion to assist homeowners facing foreclosure

Illegal aliens can apply for mortgage relief under the Obama administration’s $275 billion plan, according to immigration experts and a group the government will use to help homeowners modify loans.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

House Democrats Propose $410b Spending Bill

House bill to keep govt. running totals $410 billion, features thousands of pet projects

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats unveiled a $410 billion spending bill on Monday to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year, setting up the second political struggle over federal funds in less than a month with Republicans.

The measure includes thousands of earmarks, the pet projects favored by lawmakers but often criticized by the public in opinion polls. There was no official total of the bill’s earmarks, which accounted for at least $3.8 billion.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

IRS Hounds Evangelist for Political Comments

Year-long investigation demands thousands of pages of paperwork

A Florida-based evangelist says the Internal Revenue Service is burying him in endless, pointless paperwork to intimidate him into being silent on political issues.

Bill Keller, host of the Live Prayer TV program and, told WND the IRS began investigating him more than a year ago to determine if comments he made about political figures during the presidential primary season violated the terms of his ministry’s tax-exempt status.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Oklahoma House Passes Sovereignty Bill

Path set for other states seeking to reassert constitutional rights

Oklahoma’s House of Representatives is the first legislative body to pass a state sovereignty resolution this year under the terms of the Tenth Amendment. The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 1003 Feb. 18 by a wide margin, 83 to 13, resolving, “That the State of Oklahoma hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Peak Oil Lie — US Has Utterly Giant Oil Reserves

Various Sources 2-25-9

The U.S. Geological Service issued a report in April (‘08) that only scientists and oil men knew was coming, but man was it big. It was a revised report (hadn’t been updated since ‘95) on how much oil was in this area of the western 2/3 of North Dakota, western South Dakota, and extreme eastern Montana…

The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since Alaska ‘s Prudhoe Bay, and has the potential to eliminate all American dependence on foreign oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates it at 503 billion barrels. Even if just 10% of the oil is recoverable…at $107 a barrel, we’re looking at a resource base worth more than $5.3 trillion.

“When I first briefed legislators on this, you could practically see their jaws hit the floor. They had no idea.” says Terry Johnson, the Montana Legislature’s financial analyst.

“This sizable find is now the highest-producing onshore oil field found in the past 56 years.” reports, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette. It’s a formation known as the Williston Basin, but is more commonly referred to as the ‘Bakken.’ And it stretches from Northern Montana, through North Dakota and into Canada. For years, U. S. oil exploration has been considered a dead end. Even the ‘Big Oil’ companies gave up searching for major oil wells decades ago. However, a recent technological breakthrough has opened up the Bakken’s massive reserves…. and we now have access of up to 500 billion barrels. And because this is light, sweet oil, those billions of barrels will cost Americans just $16 PER BARREL!

That’s enough crude to fully fuel the American economy for 41 years straight.

2. And if THAT didn’t throw you on the floor, then this next one should — because it’s from two YEARS ago!

U. S. Oil Discovery — Largest Reserve In The World!

Stansberry Report Online — 4-20-6

Hidden 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the Rocky Mountains lies the largest untapped oil reserve in the world. It is more than 2 TRILLION barrels. On August 8, 2005 President Bush mandated its extraction. In three and a half years of high oil prices none has been extracted. With this motherload of oil why are we still fighting over off-shore drilling?

They reported this stunning news: We have more oil inside our borders, than all the other proven reserves on earth. Here are the official estimates:

[Return to headlines]

The Deceits of Bridges TV

On the ideological level, Bridges TV was a fraud, pretending to be moderate when it was just another member of the “Wahhabi lobby.” Endorsed by some of the worst Islamist functionaries in the country (Nihad Awad, Ibrahim Hooper, Iqbal Yunus, Louay Safi), it was an extremist wolf disguised in moderate sheep’s clothing.

On the financial level, Bridges TV marketed itself to investors on the basis of an imaginary population of 7 million-7.4 million U.S. Muslims, or 2-3 times the actual total, making the station commercially unviable from day one.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Canada Churches Open Arms to Gitmo Detainees

‘There have been hostile comments and hate mail’

With President Obama deciding to close Guantánamo within a year, Canadian churches are joining a growing international campaign to resolve the cases of 60 men — of a total 240 at the prison — who cannot be returned to their homelands safely.

As members of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), various Christian denominations have taken up five cases, including those of three Uighurs, an Algerian, and a Kurd from Syria. The Catholic Diocese of Montreal is sponsoring two of the Uighurs, who remain nameless for fear of repercussions against their families in China.

Several Toronto congregations of the United Church of Canada, a Protestant denomination, hope to help Hassan build a new life. “Our commitment is to support him practically and financially for at least a year,” says Moira Mancer, a member of the churches’ refugee committee.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Italy: Security: Patrols May be Paid by Private Sector

(AGI) — Rome, 24 Feb — ‘Volunteers for security’ could receive money from the private sector. The bill on patrols, which will be in force from tomorrow and which was published today in the Official Gazette, says that mayors may use ‘‘the collaboration of associations for unarmed citizens’’ to ‘‘mark’’ events which could be damaging to security. The associations must be subscribed to a special list held by the Prefect. The mayor must use associations composed of personnel from the law enforcement authorities who are on leave as a priority.

Associations different from those made up of personnel from the law enforcement authorities ‘‘are only included on the list if they are not in receipt of economic resources from the Public finance’’. The bill does not forbid ‘‘volunteers for security’’ from being paid by private associations, individuals or companies.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Italy-France: Berlusconi-Sarkozy, Nuclear Energy Axis

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The Italian government will speed up its nuclear Energy programme and will make a pact with France for Italy over nuclear energy. Silvio Berlusconi met French President Nicolas Sarkozy and signed a major protocol at the end of the meeting which includes opening the way to French technology in the four reactors which Italy will use to return to using nuclear power after 21 years, since the 1987 referendum, as laid out in the Berlusconi government’s programme. The cooperation will mean that Enel will reinforce its relationship with Edf, its namesake in France, through a joint-venture in Italy and participation in a second new generation EPR reactor (European Pressurised Reactor) in Penly in Normandy. But the summit, which included bilateral meetings between many ministers from the two governments and between delegations from industry, is also the chance to deal with a whole set of other matters of international interest. Starting with the financial crisis: two days after the G4 summit in Berlin, and ahead of the G20 in London and the next G8 at La Maddalena under the Italian presidency, Berlusconi and Sarkozy could exchange a few ideas on the situation with the banks, in the light of the expected position of the EU which, rumour has it, will open the way to suggestions of nationalisation of credit institutions to relieve them of toxic assets. Also on the agenda are the matter of cooperation in Defence and the transport dossier with the High speed (TAV) Turin-Lyon train route which ‘‘will be done’’ according to Berlusconi. Also down for discussion are the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the stabilisation of Afghanistan and Lebanon, Iran, dialogue between Europe and the Russian Federation and the NATO summit at the beginning of April with the new American presidency, especially in the light of France’s declared intention of a full return to the military structures. Italy welcomed the proposal by Sarkozy to create joint Italian-French troops to work in the international mission in Lebanon. With France ‘‘we are together in Lebanon, our soldiers are working side by side’’ said Berlusconi. On the theme of international relations, the French President described the decision of the G8 led by Italy to invite Egypt to the July summit as ‘‘historical’’. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netherlands Nine Dead But Over 100 Alive After Plane Crashes and Breaks Into Three Pieces

Nine people died when a plane carrying 135 passengers crashed as it attempted to land at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport this morning.

The Turkish Airlines 737 broke into three pieces as it hit the ground near the runway, narrowly missing a main road and some houses.

Officials from the airline as well as Turkish government ministers had initially claimed that no one had been killed.

But at a press conference this afternoon, it was confirmed that nine were dead while another 50 were injured, 25 seriously.

It is believed that the number of fatalities could rise.

‘At this moment there are nine victims to mourn and more than 50 injured,’ Michel Bezuijen, acting mayor of Haarlemmermeer, said.

He said there was no immediate word on the cause of the crash.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Obama Copter ‘May be Frozen’

Procurement ‘gone amok, ‘ US president says

(ANSA) — London, February 17 — United States President Barack Obama may freeze a contract to buy presidential helicopters from a US-British-Italian consortium, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

Quizzed by CNN on whether Obama might suspend the new ‘Marine One’ because of cost overruns, Gibbs said: ‘‘That’s exactly the issue (Obama) addressed with the (Defense) Secretary (Robert M. Gates)’’.

In a meeting with Congressional representatives Monday, Obama called the Lockheed Martin-AgustaWestland project an example of military procurement ‘‘gone amok’’ and said he had spoken to Gates about it.

He said he had asked the defense secretary to conduct a ‘‘thorough review of the helicopter situation’’.

‘‘The helicopter I have now seems perfectly adequate to me,’’ Obama said at a White House summit on fiscal responsibility, adding in jest, ‘‘obviously I did not have a helicopter before’’.

The estimated price of the helicopter program has almost doubled over the last three years, from $6.1 billion to $11.2 billion.

Obama was responding to a call from his former presidential rival Senator John McCain, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services panel, to stem cost overruns in many military programs. ‘‘Your helicopter is going to cost as much as Air Force One,’’ McCain told the president.

The VH-71 is supposed to be developed in two phases. Five helicopters in the first phase are scheduled for delivery by September 2010. The second phase of the program would deliver 23 more high-tech helicopters, but that stage is likely to be overhauled due to the cost increase, according to Congressional newspaper The Hill.

The newspaper quoted a Lockheed Martin spokesman as saying: ‘‘We have made significant progress on the program’s first phase, delivering seven aircraft and completing other key milestones designed to give the president significantly better command, control and communication capabilities than exist today’’.

‘‘We are committed to the program’s success and are confident we can deliver the required number of helicopters compliant with the specifications that emerge from the ongoing review’’.

Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland have already said the contract has been placed ‘‘under review,’’ stressing that it was a ‘‘normal procedure’’ when costs rise by more than 25%.

The amenities on the new choppers would be closer to Air Force One than the 30-year-old helicopters they would replace. It would be equipped with a protected communications suite and advanced navigation systems, as well as a kitchen and a bathroom. Last week Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Italy would push to have the US government fulfill the contract.

‘‘The contract has already been finalised. Now it’s a question of fulfilling it and we’re working to have it implemented,’’ Frattini said.

‘‘Delaying it is possible but I don’t think we can give it up,’’ Frattini said.

The 2005 decision by the Pentagon, which is responsible for transporting the president, came at the end of an intense lobbying battle between the two groups.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi went to bat for the American-European consortium, in meetings with US President George Bush.

The new copter is a modified version of a helicopter already in use by the British Royal Navy and other European armed forces.

AugustaWestland, based in Italy and Britain, is a division of the Italian corporation Finmeccanica.

Other partners in the American-European consortium include Bell Helicopter and Northrop Grumman Corp.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Polygamy UK: This Special Mail Investigation Reveals How Thousands of Men Are Milking the Benefits System to Support Several Wives


A recent review by four Government departments — the Treasury, the Work and Pensions Department, the Inland Revenue and the Home Office — has concluded that 1,000 men in the United Kingdom are now polygamists, although some say the figure is higher.

What is more, the review found, a Muslim man can claim state support of more than £10,000 a year to keep his wives, if the wedding took place in one of those countries where polygamy is commonplace, such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia and across huge tracts of Africa.

For example, a man can receive &£92.80 a week in income support for wife number one, and a further £33.65p for each of his subsequent spouses.

Therefore, if he has four wives — the maximum permitted under Islamic teachings — he can claim nearly £800 a month from the British taxpayer.

Controversially, a polygamist is also entitled to more generous housing benefits and bigger council houses to reflect the large size of his family. He is also able to claim £1,000 a year in child benefit for each of his growing brood.

The Government insists that polygamy has declined in Britain since the 1988 Immigration Act, which made it harder for men to bring second, third or fourth wives to the UK.

However, it’s little wonder that critics claim our generosity simply encourages more Muslim men to keep several spouses. Supporters of polygamy claim the Koran states unequivocally that a Muslim man can marry up to four women so long as he treats them equally.

But the Taxpayers’ Alliance, a lobby group, has complained: ‘Polygamy is not officially condoned here, so why should British taxpayers have to pay for extra benefits for men to have two, three or four wives?’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Diversity Officers Are Fanning Racism and Acting as Recruiting Sergeants for the BNP

A useful piece of ammunition in the resistance struggle against Political Correctness emerges today. It comes from, of all places, the BBC.

They have commissioned an opinion poll from researchers ComRes on the role of religion in public life and the results are pretty emphatic.

62 per cent of those questioned want religion and the values derived from it to play an important role in British public life. Furthermore 63 per cent of those questioned agreed that laws should respect and be influenced by the UK’s traditional religious values…

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

UK: Lord Ahmed Jailed for Dangerous Driving

Labour peer admitting texting while driving on motorway just before being involved in a fatal crash

The Labour peer Lord Ahmed was today jailed for 12 weeks for dangerous driving after admitting he was texting while driving on a motorway just before being involved in a fatal crash.

The Labour life peer Lord Ahmed. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Sheffield crown court had previously heard how Ahmed sent and received five text messages while driving in the dark at speeds of 60mph and higher along a 17-mile stretch of the M1 on Christmas Day 2007.

Martyn Gombar, 28, a Slovakian man living in Leigh, Lancashire, died when the peer’s Jaguar hit an Audi car that had crashed into the central reservation and was stationary in the fast lane of the motorway near Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

Ahmed, 51, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving when he appeared at Sheffield magistrates court last year.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Will Labour Allow This Muslim Hardliner With Links to Hezbollah Into Britain?

Jacqui Smith was tonight warned against exercising ‘double standards’ as an Islamic extremist prepared to travel to the UK.

Ibrahim Moussawi, a known hardliner with links to Hezbollah, has been invited to speak at a London university.

But the Home Secretary is under pressure to refuse an entry visa to Moussawi, who has allegedly described Jews as ‘a lesion on the forehead of history’.

Earlier this month, she banned the far-Right Dutch MP Geert Wilders from coming to Britain to show his film about Islam as it would threaten ‘community harmony’.

But the Conservatives warned that to ban those who threaten community harmony, while letting in those who glorify terrorism or are part of terrorist groups, would send out the ‘wrong message’.

There must be ‘no double standards on extremists’, warned Tory security spokesman Baroness Neville-Jones.

Moussawi, who has already made at least two trips to the UK, has been invited to speak on political Islam at the School of Oriental and African Studies next month.

Editor for the newspaper of Lebanon-based terrorist organisation Hezbollah, he is a former political editor of the Iranian-backed group’s TV station, which is banned in many countries including France, Spain and the U.S, as its output is seen as anti-Semitic.

Despite his background he has twice been allowed to speak publicly in Britain by the Home Office, once in December 2007 and again in February 2008.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

Wilders a Prominent Guest in United States

THE HAGUE, 25/02/09 — MP Geert Wilders expects to show his anti-Islam film Fitna in the Senate of the United States on Thursday. In the runup to this event, he has given interviews to well-known TV programmes in recent days.

Wilders was interviewed twice by the conservative Fox News on Monday during his visit to the US. The Party for Freedom (PVV) leader was a guest on The O’Reilly Factor show of Bill O’Reilly and on the Glenn Beck show of the eponymous presenter.

In the interview with Beck, Wilders proposed the introduction of a ‘First Amendment’ in Europe. This part of the US Bill of Rights guarantees free speech. “I am here in America to learn from the freedom of speech that you have here,” said Wilders. All European laws against incitement to hatred should be abolished, he added, “because they are only being used against us.”

The United Kingdom refused to admit the MP to the country last week, thereby giving a boost to his popularity in the Netherlands and fame in the world. Italy subsequently allowed him in normally, and now also the US. Earlier, Wilders had already showed Fitna in Israel.

Wilders says he will be a guest of the Senate in Washington on Thursday for showing Fitna. The PVV leader was invited by the Republican Senator from Arizona, Jon Kyl.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Italy-Tunisia: Guerrini Hails Old and Strong Relationship

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 20 — At the forum in Tunis to relaunch the Euromediterranean relations, Natalino Guerrini — the national president of Confartigianato (General Italian Confederation of Artisans) — said that relations between Italy and Tunisia have been strong for many years thanks to the Tunisian government, which “encourages trade policies”. Guerrini spoke about the prospects a free trade zone that, starting in 2010, will create an enormous market of 37 countries and 700 million consumers. In his speech, Guerrini commented on the Barcelona Process of 1995 and admitted the difficulties regarding starting and definitively establishing economic cooperation.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: for Gaza Aid Moroccan Borders to Open

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 17 — Algerian authorities are thought to have authorised the exceptional opening of the border with Morocco, closed since 1994, so as to allow a British aid convoy to travel into Gaza. The news was reported today in Algerian press quoting sources in London, even though no official confirmation has yet been received from Algiers. The convoy which left Great Britain on February 14 is currently in Spain, and after passing through Morocco should cross into Algerian territory in the coming days. The lorries, which are loaded with aid, would then pass through Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, so as to reach Gaza by way of the Rafah crossing on March 2. ‘London is not surprised by the unusual decision that Algeria has taken to allow the passing of the Palestinian solidarity convoy across its borders from Moroccan territory,’’ said Abdelhamid Mehri, a member of the Palestinian support committee, as quoted in the newspaper Echorouk. The borders between Algeria and Morocco were closed in 1994 following an attack on a hotel in Marrakech. Moroccan authorities accused the Algerian secret services of being behind the attacks and decided to introduce a visa system for the entry of Algerians into the country. Algeria responded by closing the borders, a block which has been seen as a symbol of the pre-existing tension in the Western Saharan region, a former Spanish colony which was occupied by Morocco in 1975. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas ‘Happy’ With Obama’s $900 Million Pledge

Funds earmarked for U.N. agency that openly employs terrorists

TEL AVIV, Israel — Hamas is “very happy” with a pledge this week from the Obama administration to provide $900 million in aid for rebuilding the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, a spokesman from the Islamist organization told WND.

“We are very happy with this decision,” said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, speaking by cell phone from Gaza. “In the first place, this money will go toward reconstructing efforts.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UN Agencies Give Millions of Dollars to Rebuild Gaza

Gaza City, 25 Feb. (AKI) — Gazans whose homes were damaged or destroyed in the Israeli offensive that ended last month have, to date, received more than 7 million dollars in cash from United Nations agencies in a distribution that began last week.

Some 3,800 families have benefited so far from the distribution by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

To meet long-term shelter needs of the displaced, UNDP plans for 10,000 families to get between 1,000 and 5,000 dollars in cash aid, according to family size, current socio-economic status and level of home damage, the agency said last week.

It adds that major repair of damaged houses cannot be done until construction materials are permitted into the Gaza Strip, where, it estimates, over 14,000 homes were totally or partially damaged in three-weeks of fighting.

On Wednesday, Israeli media said that United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton has relayed messages to Israel in the past week, expressing anger at obstacles Israel is placing to the delivery of aid to the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.

Israeli authorities have not allowed construction materials to enter since last November, though the Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other UN top officials have repeatedly called on the country to fully open crossings into Gaza for humanitarian goods and reconstruction materials.

Israel, which launched its operation with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks by Hamas and other groups, says it has restricted access to the Strip both in response to attacks and for other security reasons.

Palestinian medical officials said more than 1,330 Palestinians were killed and more than 5,400 others were injured during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead launched in Gaza on 27 December.

Medical officials said the Palestinian dead included at least 700 civilians, many of them women and children.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians, hit by cross-border rocket fire, were killed in the conflict.

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

Middle East

Auction: Pearl Carpet and Precious Items From Mohammed’s Tomb

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, FEBRUARY 24 — A pearl carpet that according to tradition was created to adorn the tomb of Islamic prophet Mohammed, will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s in Doha in Qatar on March 19. To create this precious carpet, commissioned by the Maharaja Kande Rao Gaekwar’ of Baroda in the 19th century, 2 million basrà pearls gathered in the waters of the Gulf were used, among the world’s richest areas for the gathering of pearls of rare purity, explained a note from the New York auction house. The starting price for the masterpiece, which is further enriched by diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, is 5 million dollars, but organisers anticipate that the item will surely be sold at a much high value. On exhibition at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, the Baroda pearl carpet’ will be auctioned in Doha as the centerpiece of the event entitled: Art in the Islamic World’. (ANSAmed).

2009-02-24 12:05

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Bahrain — Iran: Manama Suspends Negotiations With Tehran, Winning Arab Solidarity

The decision was made after an official close to the Supreme Leader called the tiny country the 14th Iranian province. Mubarak was in Bahrain on Monday, and Abdullah II yesterday. Saudi Arabia is “strongly rejecting the Iranian statements.”

Manama (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Bahrain has suspended negotiations over the importing of Iranian gas. The decision, explained a “high official” cited by the Gulf Times, “was taken after the regretful remarks that touch on Bahrain’s sovereignty and do not support the relations between the two countries.” The reference is to a remark made last week by Ali Akbar Nateq Noori, a collaborator of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, according to whom Bahrain is the 14th Iranian province. Similar statements were made a few days earlier by a member of parliament, Daryush Qanbari.

Solidarity with the tiny country — with extensive oil resources, and the base of the United States Fifth Fleet — has been expressed in various ways by “moderate” Arab countries in the region. Monday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak went to Manama, and Jordanian King Abdullah II went yesterday. Also yesterday, the official Saudi news agency SPA reported the words of “an official,” according to whom “these irresponsible statements are only an attempt to defy historical and geographical facts.” A Saudi spokesman, cited by the same agency, said that the Iranian statement would block efforts to establish friendly relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council (editor’s note: which unites Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar) and Iran. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia while strongly rejecting the Iranian statements expresses its deep regret that such statements came from responsible officials close to the Iranian leadership.”

For its part, Bahrain, following an immediate protest by its foreign minister, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, is now following up with the decision to suspend negotiations over Iranian gas, justifying this, according to a source cited by the national news agency BNA, by the “flagrant transgression against the sovereignty, independence, and Arab identity of Bahrain. It says that “repetitive Iranian claims would shake stability and security in the region, and hamper Gulf Cooperation Council endeavors to engage in bilateral relations based on mutual respect with Tehran.” The reference to the past is to what happened less than two years ago, in July of 2007, when an Iranian newspaper stated that Bahrain belongs to Iran. At the time, it toook a visit to Manama from Tehran’s foreign minister to quell the protests of the tiny country.

Bahrain is a Shiite-majority country — like Iran — in a predominantly Sunni region. For a few decades, until 1783, it was under direct Iranian control.

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

Iran: First Russian-Built Nuclear Plant Complete

Tehran, 25 Feb. (AKI) — Iran said on Wednesday that it has begun tests on its first nuclear plant, in preparations for its launch. The Russian-built plant is located in the vicinity of the southern port city of Bushehr.

An Iranian official, Mohsen Shirazi, said the visiting head of Russia’s state nuclear company, Sergei Kiriyenko, and his Iranian counterpart were at the plant to inspect work that included injecting virtual fuel into rods.

“This process started 10 days ago. Lead is used instead of nuclear fuel,” Shirazi told the media at the site.

Kiriyenko echoed Shirazi’s claim, saying that the construction of the plant is complete.

“The construction stage of the nuclear power plant is over, we are now in the pre-commissioning stage, which is a combination of complex procedures,” Kiriyenko told the media in Bushehr.

However, the reactor’s physical start-up is expected by the end of the 2009, where it can begin generating electricity.

The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant has the capacity of producing 1,000 mega watts of electricity and its reactor uses light water, said Iran’s state news agency Irna.

The plant is located 15 kilometres south of the port city of Bushehr and its building started in 1974 by a German company but they did not continue the work after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979.

A Russian Company named ‘Atomstroyexport’ signed a 1 billion dollar contract to complete the project in 1995, but its completion was delayed for several reasons, one of them including western accusations that Iran’s nuclear programme is a cover for the production of nuclear weapons.

The US and other western powers suspect Iran may covertly be building atomic weapons. However, Iran has consistently claimed its uranium enrichment programme is entirely peaceful and aimed solely at civilian nuclear power, in line with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The international treaty is aimed at stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

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

Italy Working for Iran at G8 Meet

Tehran at parley on Afghanistan would be a ‘step forward’

(ANSA) — Rome, February 25 — Italy’s idea to involve Iran in the stabilisation of Afghanistan is gaining ground and could be on the agenda of talks with United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton later this week, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Wednesday.

‘‘The operation is under way,’’ Frattini said amid moves by Italy as duty head of the Group of Eight (G8) to invite Iran to a conference on Afghanistan and Pakistan in Trieste at the end of June.

The issue is expected to be on the agenda when Frattini meets Clinton for the first time in Washington Friday.

Iran’s participation in the G8 conference ‘‘would be a political step forward clear to all,’’ said Frattini, who will also have his first meeting with US President Barack Obama’s special envoy on Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke.

Frattini stressed that Iran would have to be ‘‘seriously committed to the stabilisation’’ (of Afghanistan and Pakistan) and would have to act ‘‘in a transparent way’’.

The Italian foreign ministry reiterated that contrary to an announcement by the Iranian foreign ministry earlier this week, ‘‘no formal invitation has so far been made’’ The idea is ‘‘a working hypothesis which we intend to analyse with our allies,’’ it said.

Frattini said: ‘‘I hope there is a positive evaluation of the proposal by the American side’’.

He said Britain and France had already expressed interest.

On Tuesday, at a Franco-Italian summit in Rome, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said he was sending an expert to Tehran ‘‘for consultations’’.

Frattini said he had already outlined the proposal to Holbrooke on the phone and his trip to Washington would be a chance ‘‘to speak better’’.

Italy is assessing the feasibility of its proposal with its allies and is also ‘‘weighing with the Iranians the characteristics, opportunities and conditions regarding Tehran’s participation’’ in the ministerial conference.

Frattini first publicly fielded the idea of inviting Iran to the Trieste conference when he visited Afghanistan last week and he later discussed it with Holbrooke.

He said Italy hoped that Iran would become a ‘‘talking partner’’ capable of helping to stabilise Afghanistan.

Iran’s nuclear programme may also be discussed during Frattini’s visit to Washington, which kicks off at the Italian ambassador’s residence Thursday night with talks with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitan and CIA chief Leon Panetta.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Lingerie Trade in a Twist

It would be bizarre in any country to find that its lingerie shops are staffed entirely by men.

But in Saudi Arabia — an ultra-conservative nation where unmarried men and women cannot even be alone in a room together if they are not related — it is strange in the extreme.

Women, forced to negotiate their most intimate of purchases with male strangers, call the situation appalling and are demanding the system be changed.

“The way that underwear is being sold in Saudi Arabia is simply not acceptable to any population living anywhere in the modern world,” says Reem Asaad, a finance lecturer at Dar al-Hikma Women’s College in Jeddah, who is leading a campaign to get women working in lingerie shops rather than men.

“This is a sensitive part of women’s bodies,” adds Ms Asaad. “You need to have some discussions regarding size, colour and attractive choices and you definitely don’t want to get into such a discussion with a stranger, let alone a male stranger. I mean this is something I wouldn’t even talk to my friends about.”

In theory, it should be easy enough to get women to staff lingerie shops, but parts of Saudi society are still very traditional and don’t like the idea of women working — even if it’s just to sell underwear to each other.

Rana Jad is a 20-year-old student at Dar al-Hikma Women’s College, and one of Reem Asaad’s pupils and campaign supporters.

“Girls don’t feel very comfortable when males are selling them lingerie, telling them what size they need, and saying ‘I think this is small on you, I think this is large on you’,” she says.

“He’s totally checking the girls out! It’s just not appropriate, especially here in our culture.”

Embarrassing experience

Nura, an administrative clerk at the same college, says she never buys lingerie in Saudi Arabia anymore.

“It’s really embarrassing. They try to give comments -’this might suit you better than that’ — it’s really not ethical.”

To be fair to the male shop workers, many of them find the experience just as embarrassing as their women customers.

They are torn, says Ms Asaad, between trying to do their job as salespeople and not stepping on any toes by doing something inappropriate, that could land them in hot water.

“Since we do have the option of replacing male salespeople with female salespeople I don’t see why this situation should continue.”

Because physical contact between unmarried men and women in Saudi Arabia is forbidden under strict segregation laws, women can also not be properly measured for their underwear.

Worse still, the kingdom’s religious police forbid lingerie shops even to have fitting rooms.

So if a customer wants to try an item on, she first has to pay for it, and then traipse to a public toilet to see if it fits.

If it doesn’t, she can easily get a refund, but most women find the experience so humiliating they buy items without trying them on, only to get them home and find they don’t fit and their money is wasted.


Ms Asaad’s campaign began on the social networking website Facebook and is gradually getting larger.

Even Saudi Arabia’s male-dominated press is starting to take note, with several newspapers reporting on her fight.

The situation is all the more frustrating because the relevant legislation is already in place.

In 2006, the Saudi government passed a law stating that women should be allowed to staff any shops that sell women’s items, be it clothing, accessories or underwear.

But the law has still not been properly implemented.

No official reason is given for this, but one probable cause is that hiring female staff would put a lot of men out of work — not a popular move in a country where 13% of men are unemployed.

There are also Saudi Arabia’s Muslim clerics to contend with.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Exclusive: Army is Fighting British Jihadists in Afghanistan

Top Army officers reveal surge in attacks by radicalised Britons

British soldiers are engaged in “a surreal mini civil war” with growing numbers of home-grown jihadists who have travelled to Afghanistan to support the Taliban, senior Army officers have told The Independent.

Interceptions of Taliban communications have shown that British jihadists — some “speaking with West Midlands accents” — are active in Helmand and other parts of southern Afghanistan, according to briefing papers prepared by an official security agency.

The document states that the numbers of young British Muslims, “seemingly committed jihadists”, travelling abroad to commit extremist violence has been rising, with Pakistan and Somalia the most frequent destinations.

MI5 has estimated that up to 4,000 British Muslims had travelled to Pakistan and, before the fall of the Taliban, to Afghanistan for military training. The main concern until now has been about the parts some of them had played in terrorist plots in the UK. Now there are signs that they are mounting missions against British and Western targets abroad. “We are now involved in a kind of surreal mini-British civil war a few thousand miles away,” said one Army officer.

Somalia is also becoming a destination for British Muslims of Somali extraction who have started fighting alongside al-Qa’ida-backed Islamist forces. A 21-year-old Briton of Somali extraction, who had been brought up in Ealing, west London, recently blew himself up in the town of Baidoa, killing 20 people. The head of MI5, Jonathan Evans, has raised the worrying issue of British citizens being indoctrinated in Somalia, and Michael Hayden, the outgoing head of the CIA, warned that the conflict in the Horn of Africa had “catalysed” expatriate Somalis in the West.

But it is in Afghanistan that British forces are now directly facing fellow Britons on the other side. RAF Nimrod aircraft flying over Afghanistan at up to 40,000ft have been picking up Taliban electronic “chatter” in which voices can be heard in West Midlands and Yorkshire accents. Worryingly for the military, this has increased in the past few months, with communications picked up by both ground and air surveillance, showing the presence of more British voices in the Taliban front line.

The men involved are said to try to hide their British connections but sometimes “fall back” into speaking English. One senior military source said: “We have been hearing a lot more Punjabi, Urdu and Kashmiri Urdu rather than just Pashtu, so there appears to be more men from other parts of Pakistan fighting with the Taliban than just the Pashtuns who have tribal allegiances with the Afghan Pashtuns. It is this second group, the Urdu, Punjabi speakers etc, who fall back into English in, for example, Brummie accents. You get the impression that they have been told not to talk in English but sometimes simply can’t help it.”

Some of the British Muslims had originally trained in Pakistan to commit attacks in Kashmir. But security sources say the rising threat of Indian retribution, especially after the Mumbai attacks, had led to the Pakistani government curbing the activities of the Kashmiri separatist groups, so the fighters are being switched to Afghanistan. The numbers involved in Afghanistan, the intelligence document shows, are relatively few, dozens rather than hundreds, but the pattern of involvement is described as a cause for concern.

Last week, during a visit to Helmand, the Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, was shown Taliban explosive devices containing British-made electronic components. An explosives officer said the devices had either been sent from Britain, or brought over to the country. They ranged from remote-control units used to fly model airplanes to advanced components which could detonates bombs at a range of more than a mile.

Evidence of British Muslims fighting inside Afghanistan and training in insurgent camps in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas has been provided to the UK authorities by the Americans. The US has significantly stepped up its surveillance inside Pakistan as part of a more aggressive policy including cross-border raids by unmanned Predator aircraft.

The Americans are said to have raised the issue of the Pakistan connection, complaining that the UK is not doing enough to curb radical Muslims. The US pointed out that this threatens their own security because UK passport holders can get into the US under the visa waiver programme. The Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, the chairman of the Commons’ sub-committee on anti-terrorism, which has been examining the activities of British Muslim extremists, said: “We know the problem we have with UK-based jihadists. We also know that a number of them have been arrested trying to leave the country. With the UK intelligence services at full stretch, it is not surprising some of these jihadists had ended up in Afghanistan.”

Brigadier Ed Butler, the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said British Muslims were fighting his forces. “There are British passport holders who live in the UK who are being found in places such as Kandahar,” he said. “There is a link between Kandahar and urban conurbations in the UK. This is something the military understands but the British public does not.”

Robert Emerson, a security analyst who has worked in South Asia, said: “There is ample evidence that British Muslims had trained in camps in Pakistan. What is emerging now is a picture of them being more active in Afghanistan, either providing support and logistics or in active service. The numbers are not particularly large, but it is worrying.”

Jonathan Evans, of MI5, said the number of extremists wanting to travel to Iraq had “tailed off significantly” as Britain begins the drawdown of its troops in the country. But there was “traffic” into Pakistan and Afghanistan. “What happens in Afghanistan is extremely important because what happens there has a direct impact on domestic security in the UK,” he said. “Pre-2001, they were able to establish terrorist facilities and to draw hardened extremists and vulnerable recruits to indoctrinate and teach techniques. If the Taliban is able to establish control over significant areas, there is a real danger that such facilities will be re-established.”

Last week, as Barack Obama ordered 17,000 extra US troops into Afghanistan, a confidential Nato report revealed that more than 30 per cent of the population believed the government of President Hamid Karzai had lost control of the areas in which they live and much of that has slipped back into Taliban control.

           — Hat tip: The Frozen North [Return to headlines]

India: for Muslim Clerics Conversion to Islam to Remarry is Unacceptable

Mullahs speak out after Haryana Chief Minister converts to marry again. The practice is widespread as people try to escape legal complications by converting to Islam.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Conversion to Islam to escape the legal complications of a second marriage as “un-Islamic” and “unacceptable,” this according to Muslim scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, who has waded straight into the controversial waters of conversions of convenience by people who want to bypass the law in order to remarry.

The practice is not new, but has acquired greater visibility after Haryana Deputy Chief Minister and Congress Party (I) leader Chander Mohan announced on 17 December 2008 his intention to marry former law officer Anuradha Bali after both convert to Islam.

Called the Chand and Fiza affair in the Indian press, the story generated so much controversy that the head of Haryana’s Panchkula district, home to the state capital, warned the wannabe second time groom not to show his face in his district for causing the scandal and bringing discredit to the Congress Party and the state government.

For Mullah Wahiduddin Khan, changing religion for utilitarian reasons is a no-no. Conversion can come “only after in-depth study and discussions about the religion.”

For him conversion on such grounds should be prevented through education “about the sanctity of the institution of marriage.” Would-be converts should “not take it as fun.”

Other Muslim scholars agree, including Mufti Muqarram Ahmad, leader of Delhi’s Muslim community, who slammed the practice. Islam “should not be used for hidden personal motives,” he said.

Qari Usman, an expert on hadith at the highly revered Darul Uloom or seminary in Deoband town in Uttar Pradesh, is equally critical of the practice.

“Adopting Islam with the intention to have a second wife is un-Islamic, incorrect and not justifiable,” he said.

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

No Place for Religious Freedom in the Maldives’ New Democratic Dispensation

President Nasheed had pledged freedom of expression and promised to uphold human rights. Instead under the Maldives’s constitution all Maldivians must still be Sunni Muslims. In order to keep his coalition together he has had to give the Ministry of Religious Affairs to the leader of one of the most intransigent Islamic parties. But voices of dissent are finding their way into the blogosphere.

Malé (AsiaNews/Agencies) — In reform-minded, pro-democracy President Mohamed Nasheed’s brave, new Maldives there is no place for religious freedom or Maldivians who are not Sunni Muslims.

Four months after historic elections marked the end of the 30-year unchallenged rein of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Maldives are still far off from the changes proposed by the new president who is currently visiting Italy to promote his country as a tourist destination.

“We are escaping from censorship of freedom of expression, and from barriers to human rights today. We are going to[wards] another Maldives,” Nasheed had said during the election campaign, but the first few months of his rule have seen anything but that.

Under the 41-year-old former political prisoner religious freedom remains a pipedream. Sunni Islam is the state religion and the constitution clearly states that no Maldivian citizen can hold any other creed.

Human rights organisation Forum 18 reports that not only has Nasheed not changed anything from what existed under his predecessor, but has in fact increased the powers of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, now under Sheikh Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari, head of the Islamic Scholars Council of the Adhaalath Party, one of the two Islamic parties that backed Nasheed in the 2008 presidential election.

According to Forum18, many Maldivians have begun using anonymous weblogs to voice their concern over the situation. Many are afraid that the president might have simply handed religion over to Sheikh Bari in exchange for his party support to the coalition government.

The place of religion in society and discrimination against non-Muslims played a significant role in the election. During the campaign former President Gayoom had accused Nasheed several time of being a “Christian”, one of the worst possible insults that can be levelled against anyone.

The country’s old despot, who ran the archipelago from 1978 till 2008, also accused the opposition of trying to introduce “foreigners and Jews” as well as non-Islamic religions into the country.

His political adversaries retorted accusing him of not being Sunni Muslim.

Forum18 also reports that religion was not used only by openly Islamic parties like Adhaalath and the Islamic Democratic Party (IDP). Nasheed himself had to drop Aminath Jameel, a woman who trained at the Christian Medical College in Vellore (India), as his running mate, yielding to pressures both within and outside his party.

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

Pakistan: Militants Receive Compensation for Peace Deal

Karachi, 23 Feb. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Pakistani militants in the country’s northwest are understood to have received 480 million rupees ( 6 million dollars) in compensation after agreeing to a cease conflict with government forces for an indefinite period. Well-placed security sources have told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the militants agreed to lay down their arms and endorse the deal between the government and local leader Sufi Mohammad to impose Sharia law in the region.

“The amount has been paid through a backchannel, “ a senior security official told AKI on condition of anonymity.

“It is compensation for those who were killed during military operations and compensation for the properties destroyed by the security forces. In fact, negotiations for this package were finalised well before Maulana Sufi Mohammad signed a peace deal.”

The security official said the amount was delivered from a special fund of president Asif Ari Zardari. All the tribal areas come under the president’s jurisdiction and a special aid package, including a donation from the US, was designated for the tribal area by the president’s office and distributed through the governor’s office in the North West Frontier Province.

“Some other smaller amounts are also under negotation which shall also be delivered soon,” the official confirmed.

An historic agreement endorsing Sharia law was reached between the government and local leader Sufi Mohammad a week ago. The deal ended two years of fierce conflict in which at least 1,700 government soldiers and hundreds of civilians were killed and 600,000 people were displaced.

The Taliban endorsed the deal after Sufi Mohammad, head of the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi discussed details of the government’s proposal with Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah and demanded that the Taliban lay down its arms.

The Taliban initially expressed its concerns and demanded guarantees regarding the withdrawal of around 10,000 Pakistani army soldiers deployed in the Swat Valley.

On Monday, the director-general of Inter- Services-Public Relations major general Athar Abbas officially announced the end of military operations in the province’s volatile Swat Valley on Monday. He was talking to journalists in Islamabad.

The Pakistan army said it had ceased all operations against Taliban militants in Swat, even though US officials have expressed concern about the deal.

“The state failed to control foreign elements in Swat,” said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas from Inter Services Public Relations said. “The militants were getting funds from state enemies.”

But Abbas also noted the failure of state machinery in Swat like police as the major reason for the government’s failure to defeat militants.

“It created a vaccum. Security forces just cannot operate without the help of state machinery,” he said.

“It is also essential to win the heart and minds of the people. Since militants blended with the civilian population, it was practically impossible to target them. In these circumstances, if the military continued its operations, innocent people would have been killed,” Abbas maintained.

Meanwhile leader of Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi Sufi Mohammad said in a media conference in Swat on Monday that the peace agreement would be implemented in phases and appealed to people to come back to their homes.

He asked the Taliban to immediately stop their armed opposition movement and avoid carrying guns in public.

He also demanded the government to release jailed militants and ordered the military to immediately leave all schools and mosques.

Meanwhile, a shura or tribal council of mujahadeen leaders namely including Baitullah Mehsud, Sirajuddin Haqqani, Moulvi Nazeer and Gul Bahadur formed an alliance and vowed to stop all hostilites against Pakistani security forces .

Instead they vowed to launch a joint struggle against NATO forces in Afghanistan next month.

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

Pakistan: Taliban Wants Amnesty for Militants in Exchange for Peace

Karachi, 20 Feb. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — The Pakistani Taliban is demanding an amnesty for jailed militants and the withdrawal of the armed forces from the Swat Valley in the country’s north-west before it endorses a peace agreement in the region. Taliban sources told Adnkronos International (AKI) that the Taliban’s shura, or tribal council, was expected to finalise its position late Friday and announce its response at the weekend.

Sources said that the leader of Sufi Mohammad, the leader of Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi, discussed details of the government’s proposal to Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, demanding that the Taliban lay down its arms.

But the Taliban expressed its concerns and demanded guarantees regarding the withdrawal of around 10,000 Pakistani army soldiers deployed in the Swat Valley.

The Taliban is also demanding the release of all prisoners including Maulana Abdul Aziz, a radical cleric linked to the Red Mosque seige that resulted in the deaths of more than 170 people in July 2007, as well as unconditional amnesty so that the Taliban can operate from its headquarters in Imam Dheri in Swat.

Leaders also want financial compensation for the families of members who were killed and for property damage caused by the Pakistani army.

After presenting the Taliban’s views, Fazlullah entrusted Mohamamad to negotiate with the government on the Taliban’s behalf.

Sources said that the Taliban and Mohammad had completed the third phase of their talks.

Fazlullah, the leader of the Taliban in Swat, is also said to be in contact with colleagues in North and South Waziristan and also consulted the head of the Tekrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud.

Meanwhile, a curfew was imposed and troops were deployed after a suicide attack in Dera Ismail Khan in North West Frontier Province killed at least 27 people and wounded more than 50 others on Friday.

Security forces have confirmed that the cities of Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore were also on high alert in case the Swat peace negotiations failed, as a Taliban backlash is expected in the bigger cities of the country.

The Pakistani government has dismissed growing criticism of a peace accord it endorsed with Mohammad’s Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi for the introduction of Islamic Sharia law in the Swat Valley.

The peace deal announced on Monday allows for the imposition of Islamic Sharia law in the former tourist region and surrounding districts, in exchange for an end to the Taliban insurgency which has killed hundreds and forced hundreds of thousands to flee.

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

Thailand: Soldiers Killed and Beheaded in Troubled South

Bangkok, 20 Feb. (AKI) — Two soldiers were killed and later beheaded on Friday in an ambush believed to have been carried out by Muslim separatists in southern Thailand. Police said the soldiers were shot dead on their motorcycles as they guarded teachers at a school in Yala, one of the three southern predominantly Muslim provinces at the centre of a long-running insurgency.

“At least 10 gunmen using army weapons ambushed the group, killing two soldiers,” a police official said. “Then they beheaded them and took away their guns and bullet-proof jackets.”

No-one claimed responsibility for the killings, the latest in a violent campaign which has killed more than 3,500 people since January 2004.

Earlier this month, two paramilitary police were shot dead and decapitated in the region and last week three policemen were killed in a bomb attack.

Yala is the southernmost province of Thailand and was part of a Muslim sultanate until annexed by predominantly Buddhist Thailand a century ago.

Tensions have simmered in the region since Thailand annexed the mainly Malay sultanate in 1902.

The sultanate includes Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, which have a Muslim majority in the Buddhist country.

Demands by Thai Muslims include the introduction of Islamic law and making ethnic Pattani Malay (Yawi) a working language in the region, as well as the improvement of the local economy and education system.

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

Far East

Asia: the Late, Great State of Taiwan

Obama dealing out island nation in playing his own China card

[Comment from JD: This was probably the price China demanded for not dumping their US dollars.]

It appears Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are about to play their China card, effectively selling Taiwan national security down the Yangtze River.

As far back as 1999, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair called Taiwan “the turd in the punch bowl.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Violent Crackdown by Chinese Authorities on Dissent Now a Daily Occurrence

More than 60 evangelical leaders are detained for meeting without authorisation. A Beijing law firm is shut for providing legal counsel to pro-rights activists. Anyone mentioning Charter 08 is persecuted. Ruling clique is steadfast in trying to impose its will, with violence if necessary.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Violence by Chinese authorities against people demanding religious freedom or opposed to the actions of the Communist government has become a daily occurrence. Examples abound. On 11 February police raided a private evangelical seminar in Nanyang’s Wolong district (central China) and detained more than 60 home Church leaders. In Beijing a law firm was shut down for providing legal counsel to human rights activists. Anyone stepping out of the official party line, getting together to pray or demanding Chinese law be enforced are feeling the authorities’ wrath.

Evangelical leaders who got together for a seminar after travelling far and wide to hear two South Korean pastors, were rounded them up, the China Aid Association reported. They were booked by police, forced to pay a fine and eventually released. The two Koreans were instead accused of “engaging in illegal religious activities” and expelled on 14 February, “banned from re-entering China for five years.”

Under the current system of government, Christians can only take part in activities organised Communist Party-run official groups. Even meeting to pray in private requires an authorisation and is banned.

In Beijing the Yitong Law Firm also felt the sting of the Haidian District Bureau of Justice when it was ordered closed for six months for “re-organisation.”

According to the China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), Yitong lawyers made the mistake of calling for direct elections to the Beijing Bar Association top leadership positions which are currently filled by appointees named by Communist Party bosses. What is more Yitong was providing legal counsel to well-known rights activists like Hu Jia and Chen Guangcheng and was employing as a legal aid worker Li Subin, a lawyer whose licence has been suspended for filing a suit against the Henan Bureau of Justice over abuses in the collection of lawyers’ registration fees.

The crackdown is also online where web encyclopaedia Weiku was blocked on 4 February for publishing articles and information about Charter 08. Only after the “offending” material was removed was it able to be back online.

Similarly, the authorities are not letting up in their threats and intimidations against people daring to speak about Charter 08, a document that calls on the Chinese government to better respect human rights and implement more democracy

According to CHRD figures at least 143 people have been interrogated so far by police with regard to Charter 08, but the number is likely higher.

And one signatory, Liu Xiaobo, has been in detention since 8 December 2008 for penning his name to the charter. His family has not yet been informed of the charges pending against him and his wife has been able to see only once since his arrest.

Even petitioners are not been spared; violence against them has become systematic. On 6 February Cao Shunli, Zhang Ming and other activists tried to present a petition to the State Council Information Office in Beijing. Not only was their submission refused but Cao and Zhang were detained by police till late that evening.

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


European Council Appeals Over Lampedusa

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, FEBRUARY 20 — Corien Jonker, the President of the Immigration Commission of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly has said that “an immediate end needs to be brought to the rapid deterioration of the situation for immigrants in Lampedusa”. Ms. Jonker was speaking at a seminar organised in Strasbourg the French Red Cross in collaboration with the Council of Europe. “We are profoundly worried about overcrowding and the worsening of conditions in the identification and deportation centre in Lampedusa”, added Ms. Jonker, who just two weeks ago signed a joint document with 20 other members of the Parliamentary Assembly in which they expressed “worry over the humanitarian situation” in the Lampedusa immigration centre. “Overcrowding has led to violent clashes among the detainees and security forces which have caused more than 60 injuries following the fire of last Wednesday”, said Ms. Jonker, urging Italian authorities to “revert to the procedure of sending immigrants to other centres for identification, so as to reduce the overcrowding on the island”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lampedusa Revolt Makes Tunisian Headlines

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 19 — “The revolt of immigrants in Lampedusa” was splashed across the French-language Tunisian newspapers Le Temps (with photos of immigrants facing off against police) and Le Quotidien. The more widely-read La Presse, on the other hand, made no mention of the incident. The two newspapers report agency news (ANSA in Le Quotidien, ANSA and AFP in Le Temps) and a statement made on SkyTg24 from the Agrigento prefect. Only Le Temps (quoting ANSA) made reference to the fact that “the fire was set by about twenty immigrants protesting against the announced repatriation of 107 illegal Tunisian immigrants”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Malta: 230 Immigrants Arrive on Fishing Boat

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, FEBRUARY 18 — Two hundred and thirty immigrants have arrived at the port of Birzebbugia, in the south of Malta. The group, which includes 22 women and children, were found on an old fishing boat a few kilometres off the coast. The immigrants told rescuers that they were heading to Italy, but that the boat’s engine had broken down. Two Maltese navy patrol boats towed the raft towards the port, where the immigrants were identified and transferred to detention centres in Safi and Hal Far. A further 260 migrants arrived in the same area on February 1, whist two groups of 150 were intercepted in Maltese waters in December and January.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Maltese Parliament to Discuss Emergency

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, FEBRUARY 19 — The latest landing of 230 immigrants on the Maltese coasts has set off yet another political confrontation on the island state, with the Labour opposition asking for the parliamentary agenda to be suspended in order to debate the urgent issue of illegal immigration. Though Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi did not agree to a suspension of the parliamentary agenda, he did accept the request for a debate but without setting a date. The head of the Labour party in the opposition, Joseph Muscat, has accused the government of remaining silent on the seriousness of the situation, despite the constant landings of immigrants. The premier denies all such charges. The government has said that it is involved with the European Union and Italy in efforts to find the best way to deal with illegal immigration, while the Labour party in the opposition has replied that the population and the structures in place cannot hold up under the situation any longer. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Al Gore Yanks Slide of Disaster Trends

After science group calls his information misleading

Two days after the talk, Mr. Gore was sharply criticized for using the data to make a point about global warming by Roger A. Pielke, Jr., a political scientist focused on disaster trends and climate policy at the University of Colorado. Mr. Pielke noted that the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters stressed in reports that a host of factors unrelated to climate caused the enormous rise in reported disasters (details below).

Dr. Pielke quoted the Belgian center: “Indeed, justifying the upward trend in hydro-meteorological disaster occurrence and impacts essentially through climate change would be misleading. Climate change is probably an actor in this increase but not the major one — even if its impact on the figures will likely become more evident in the future.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UN: FAII, Anti-Israeli Tones From Geneva Conference

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 25 — At the end of its national congress, the Federation of Italian-Israeli Associations (FAII) expressed “serious concerns over the anti-Israeli tones contained in the preparatory document for the future conference on racism”, Durban 2, which is planned for April in Geneva. “Considering the anti-semitic nature of Durban 1”, a statement from the Federation read, “The Federation is asking the Italian government to express its condemnation of the preparatory document and not to participate in the Geneva Conference, as an expression of the European Union’s position”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

The Iran Lobby

Clare Lopez of the Center for Security Policy has published a study about the affinity of the Obama administration for the Islamic Republic of Iran, as demonstrated by the growing influence in Washington of radical Islamic lobbying groups:

Rise of the ‘Iran Lobby’: Teheran’s front groups move on — and into — the Obama Administration

By Clare M. Lopez

A complex network of individuals and organizations with ties to the clerical regime in Tehran is pressing forward in seeming synchrony to influence the new U.S. administration’s policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran. Spearheaded by a de facto partnership between the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other organizations serving as mouthpieces for the mullahs’ party line, the network includes well-known American diplomats, congressional representatives, figures from academia and the think tank world.

This report — documenting the rise of what can accurately be described as the “Iran Lobby” in Washington, D.C. — is derived entirely from unclassified open sources and describes in detail the activities, linkages, and objectives of this alarming alliance between NIAC, CAIR and others that is aimed at co-opting America’s foreign policy in the Middle East and specifically with Iran.

Understanding the involvement of the Tehran regime in the foundation and continuing activities of organizations like these and their allies will become increasingly important to understanding the extent of the regime’s influence on American foreign policy decisions regarding Iran.

– – – – – – – –

As these organizations expand, multiply and, in the process, intensify their efforts to promote a shared and ominous agenda, it is imperative to recognize the role being played by what amount to their interlocking (or at least overlapping) boards of directors, donations from the same foundations and growing access to some key members of Congress and top levels of US policymaking circles. Of special concern is the growing penetration of the Obama Administration by a number of individuals with such associations.

To be sure, efforts at influencing U.S. decision-making are common among a host of legitimate interest groups, including many foreign countries. But in this context, where the guiding force behind such influence operations emanate from the senior-most levels of a regime like Iran’s — which holds the top spot on the State Department list of state-sponsors of terror, makes no secret of its hatred and enmity for the United States and its ally, Israel, and acts in myriad ways to support those who have assassinated, held hostage, kidnapped, killed and tortured American civilians and military personnel over a 30-year period — such operations must be viewed with serious concern.

Specifically, the de facto alliance between CAIR, one of the Muslim Brotherhood affiliates named by the U.S. Department of Justice as an unindicted co- conspirator in the 2007 and 2008 Holy Land Foundation trials, and groups such as NIAC and its predecessor, the American-Iranian Council (AIC), which long have functioned openly as apologists for the Iranian regime, must arouse deep concern that U.S. national security policy is being successfully targeted by Jihadist entities hostile to American interests.

The full report document is available here in pdf format.

A Dream Boycott

The boycott movement against Israel is gaining strength. Our Swedish correspondent CB reports on the latest incident in his country, which involves the Taekwondo Association. First, here’s his explanatory note:

The source of this article is the blog of one editors of the conservative Svenska Dagbladet, Pär Gudmundsson (in turn a part quote from Skånska Dagbladet). It’s about a Taekwondo tournament where the sponsoring club in Trelleborg, Skåne (close to Malmö — who would have guessed?) have scared away the Israeli team with rumours about a 10,000(!)-strong Muslim group coming to settle the score with the Israelis about the Gaza war. Apparently they got their memo from Lord Ahmed in London on how to keep unwanted people away. Always mention 10,000 Muslims in the streets, in a unspecified manner, and Westerners cave in.

Now, one can raise the question about how Western Chalibat and Böö is, but their organisation certainly is part of Swedish society, which so far is part of the West. Look at the lame answer from Ferenc Böö explaining his letter to the Israelis “They have received a letter from me that I wrote on behalf of Chakir Chalibat”. What General Secretary with any self-respect writes a letter on somebody’s behalf to scare another team away? Who thinks he’s not in on it, but, hey, let’s throw the little leader under the bus and the MSM will get tired enough while sorting out who did what, and we don’t have to answer the hard questions. Questions about anti-Semitism in the highest ranks of the Swedish Taekwondo Association and what Muslims these presumably 10,000 actually are.

What group can put a 10,000-strong mob on Swedish streets and have the tenacity to make those threats? If it’s a figment to scare the Israelis away, shouldn’t that constitute a hate-crime on the part of the Taekwondo Association? Will the police pick up on this? The Public Prosecutor? The Government? I won’t hold my breath!

And now for CB’s translation of Gudmundsson:

In Trelleborg Reepalus a dream boycott is fulfilled

In Trelleborg there is no need for political decisions. There the mob takes care of the boycott of Jews themselves. Skånska Dagbladet tells about how the Israeli Taekwondo team was scared away:

According to the European Jewish Congress in Paris, representatives for the Swedish Taekwondo association informed the Israeli team leaders that “ten thousand members of a Muslim organisation threaten to settle the score with you on account of the war in Gaza”.

But the statements are denied by Chakir Chalibat, main coach in the sponsoring Trelleborg Taekwondo club.

– – – – – – – –


But when SkD phones Adi Davidov, the head coach of the Israeli taekwondo team, it sounds different:

“Unfortunately it is so. We have participated every year with a team of 40 people. But Chakir Chalibat warned us about a group so we decided not to come this time.”

The decision received criticism afterwards from the Israeli Olympic committee, says Adi Davidov, because the tournament was part of the team’s program for 2009. It was Ferenc Böö, General Secretary of the Swedish Taekwondo association, who wrote to the Israeli team.

“They have received a letter from me that I wrote on behalf of Chakir Chalibat.”

[Gudmundsson comments] Hmm. Chakir Chalibat has taken a beating before by the creature of dictatorship [and he gives a link to an article about the Cuban who kicked Chalibat in the Olympics and threatened his life for the game. In that article Chalibat explains that he was not afraid and is very zealous for justice — just not justice for Jews it seems…].

Hither, Thither and Yon: February 25th 2009

Hither Thither & Yon

In today’s edition, listed in no particular order:

  • Jews and Norwegians and Pakistanis and Turks
  • President Obama faces off against Sun Tzu
  • should faith-based charities to take government money?
  • Pakistani Muslims resemble Calvin’s nemesis, schoolyard bully, Moe
  • Dropping 900 million USD in the toilet
  • The courage to speak Kurdish in Turkey
  • Mumbai-style Attacks in America?
  • Another questionable appointment to the Messiah’s discipleship
  • My hope for a Republican ticket in 2012.

The Institute for Global Jewish Affairs has a book which has sold out its print copies, but is still available for downloading as a .pdf. Or you could read it on line:


From the Introduction:

In recent years the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has published several articles about the Nordic countries, Jews, and Israel in both the Jewish Political Studies Review and Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism. Gradually a picture has emerged of these countries that differs greatly from the often superficial friendliness the visiting tourist experiences…

…This volume aims to provide a more strategic picture of the Nordic countries’ attitudes toward Israel and the Jews than is available elsewhere in English.

Our research clarifies that in recent years part of the societal elites, particularly in Sweden and Norway, have been responsible for many pioneering efforts to demonize Israel. Prominent among the perpetrators are leading socialist and other leftist politicians, journalists, clergy, and employees of NGOs. This demonization is based on the classic motifs of anti-Semitism, which often also accompany its new mutation of anti-Israelism.

Darker Attitudes

Behind the Nordic countries’ righteous appearance and oft-proclaimed concern for human rights often lurk darker attitudes. This volume’s main purpose is to lift their humanitarian mask as far as Israel and Jews are concerned. This disguise hides many ugly characteristics, including the financing of demonizers of Israel, a false morality, invented moral superiority, and “humanitarian racism.” Such humanitarian racists think-usually without expressing it explicitly, sometimes not even being conscious of it-that only white people can be fully responsible for their actions while nonwhites cannot (or can but only to a limited extent).

A journalist for the Norwegian conservative daily Aftenposten reacted to the prepublication of this author’s essay on Norway in this volume, stating that its tone was “extraordinarily shrill.” This was a bizarre remark in view of the tone of the daily that employs him. Assuming that he was writing in good faith, it illustrates a major problem: being in denial about matters that occur in one’s own environment.

– – – – – – – –

In recent years Aftenposten has published a variety of extreme anti-Semitic cartoons, articles, and letters to the editor. Before World War II it also published anti-Semitic articles. No overview of twenty-first-century West European anti-Semitism can be complete without reference to this paper. The facts presented in this volume about this Norwegian “quality daily” demonstrate how hypocrisy and anti-Semitism converge.

[Here is] one example of [this convergence]. In Norway, Jewish ritual slaughter has been forbidden since well before World War II, under Nazi influence. On the other hand, except for Norway, Japan, and Iceland no countries allow whaling. The Norwegian quota for the 2008 season is the highest, with over one thousand whales to be killed. These mammals are harpooned and die in an exceptionally cruel way.

Meeting Israel’s Challenges?

Arrogance and double standards toward Israel often go together. Would Norway and Sweden have remained democracies if they had had to cope with the kinds of challenges Israel has faced in the past decades? There are several indications that they would not have.

In May 2008, Håkan Syrén, commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, warned that if security conditions were to deteriorate the country would not have the protection it needed. In the same month it became known that at the Oskarshamn nuclear plant safeguards were lacking “to ensure that security checks are performed on everybody entering the plant.” The facility’s operating company OKG reacted by saying it hoped to remedy the situation by October 2008.

In Norway General Robert Mood, inspector-general of the army, “has described the army’s current capability as only being able to defend perhaps one neighborhood in Oslo, much less the entire country.” In June, the Norwegian vice admiral Jan Reksten, commander of the country’s troops in Afghanistan said that the Norwegian base at Meymaneh is less secure than “similar bases” belonging to other NATO forces. Colonel Ivar Haisel, the base’s future commander said that if the Taliban attacked as they had in May the Norwegians would no longer have weapons superiority.

…[T]hese countries would not fare well if they had to face Israel’s challenges.

Indeed, they would not. I remember reading several years ago of some Jewish young men in Malmö who decided to emigrate to Israel in order to join the IDF. They felt safer there than in their own home town.

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Another tale of a Favorite Islamist Activity: Bullying young Christian girls

Two female Christian students of Fatima Memorial Hospital’s nursing school in the Pakistani city of Lahore, have been accused of desecrating verses of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, days after their Muslim roommates desecrated a picture of Jesus Christ which they had hung in a shared hostel room.

ANS has learnt that some days back the Muslim nursing students took a strong exception to the hanging of Jesus’ picture on the wall.

Islamic tradition explicitly prohibits images of Allah, Muhammad and all the major figures of the Christian and Jewish traditions.

Muslim students desecrated the picture by tearing it up and hurling it down after the Christian students refused to remove it voluntarily.

The administration of the Nursing School allegedly took no action against the Muslim students, who committed the alleged profanity.

Christian-Muslim tension among students of the nursing school escalated on Feb. 13 when the Muslim students, who still harbored acrimony against their Christian roommates, accused them of desecrating Quranic verses.

The National Director of Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), Mr. Joseph Francis, and Chief Coordinator of the Sharing Life Ministry Pakistan, Mr. Sohail Johnson, visited scene of the incident after a Christian woman Fouzia informed Sohail by phone about the incident on Saturday morning (Feb. 14).

Talking to ANS by phone, Mr. Sohail Johnson, pointed out a dichotomy between the versions of the Muslim Medical Superintendent, Ayesha Nouman, and the Christian hostel warden, Martha.

In an apparent bid to cover up the matter, Ayesha told the visiting activists that things had returned to normal and the Christian girls who were accused of blasphemy were at the hostel.

Martha, the Christian hostel warden, however, disputed her superior’s version, claiming that the Christian girls accused of blasphemy were not currently staying at the hostel, Sohail told ANS.

“She expressed ignorance about the whereabouts of the nursing students and would not speak any further on the subject for fear of getting into possible trouble herself,” said Sohail Johnson, whose ministry primarily works for Christian prisoners…

Something I fail to understand about Pakistani Christians is the need to hang Christian ikons where they are likely to offend the hyper-sensitive majority population. What gives with that??

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

US to donate ‘$900m in Gaza aid’

The United States is preparing to donate some $900m (£621m) for Gaza, an Obama administration official said the aid would not go to Hamas, the group that controls the territory, but it would help the Palestinian Authority, the official added.

Umm…isn’t this kind of like giving Calvin his lunch money only to have the school bully, Moe, take it from him? How long does the clueless US think that the Palestinian Authority will be permitted to keep their mitts on that money? Maybe 15 minutes?

Any US aid would have to be approved by Congress, where some are wary that funds could still end up with Hamas.

Well, duh…who are these “some” who are “wary”? Let’s all donate a clue bag to the rest of them. Couldn’t hurt – never can tell, they might stumble over a clue on their way to shake some lobbyist’s hand.

The donors’ conference in Egypt next week will discuss humanitarian and reconstruction needs in the Gaza Strip after Israel’s recent military offensive.

Two separate Palestinian surveys have put the cost of the damage at just under $2bn.

It will probably be more than that if the Palestinians continue lobbing rockets into Israel. Shouldn’t maybe they disarm the PA and Hamas first? Yeah, I know it can’t be done, so let’s just flush this 900 million down the nearest Congressman’s freezer and be done with it. Save everyone a trip, not to mention those endless hours of toxic jibber-jabber.

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

MP breaks language law in Turkey

This is one brave and crazy dude. Turkish Kurds are heavily suppressed by their government. Among many other restrictions, they may not give their children Kurdish names, nor is the Kurdish language is permitted to be uttered in public.

So now this MP shows up in Parliament and gives a speech…in Kurdish:

A prominent Kurdish politician has defied Turkish law by giving a speech to parliament in his native Kurdish.

Ahmet Turk was addressing his party in parliament when he suddenly switched language from Turkish to Kurdish.

The live broadcast on state TV was immediately cut, as the language is banned in parliament.

Some one-fifth of Turkey’s population are ethnic Kurds, but speaking Kurdish in public was banned until the 1990s, as it was seen as a threat to unity.

The Kurdish language is, however, still banned in all state institutions and official correspondence.

Fight for votes

When Mr Turk defied the law, party members gave him a standing ovation. There was praise from Kurds here in the south east too – where people described the speech as a brave move, long overdue. They also called for all restrictions on the use of Kurdish to be lifted.

Ahmet Turk’s party – the DTP – is already facing closure, accused of fuelling separatism, and his speech in Kurdish could well strengthen the case against it.

All this reflects the mounting fight for Kurdish votes in next month’s important local elections.

The governing AK party has set its sights on winning in this region – and points to a new state TV channel in Kurdish as proof of its good intentions.

But many Kurds insist there is little real change here yet.

While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently spoke Kurdish on the campaign trail to attract their votes, when ethnic Kurdish politicians use their mother tongue they are still prosecuted on a regular basis.

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

More Bully Boy Muslims in Pakistan

Muslims Murder Christian Employee for Requesting His Paycheck

The Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) has just learned (February 17) that three Pakistani Muslim men murdered one of their Christian milk collection employees who demanded his wages for the pay period.

The employee, Ashraf Masih, was 30 years old and had started the job two months ago in the village of Shajwal, Chak 172, GB. Two Muslim brothers, Muhammad Arfan and Muhammad Nadeem, and their nephew, Muhammad Imran, hired him to collect milk from various farms and houses.

In January, after working for a month, Ashraf came to collect his wages, but Arfan and Nadeem said that they would pay him two months’ wages in another month.

Desperate to support his family, Ashraf returned on February 1 and demanded his wages. This enraged the three Muslim men, who said, “You are Esai [a derogatory term for Christians] and you demanded your pay from Muslims, what courage you have. We will finish you right now. Then go to your Esa [Christ], He will give you everything.” After killing Ashraf, the three men fled.

Babu Victor, a Catechist of the Catholic Church in Pakistan, told ICC that a formal request for the police to investigate the case had been registered at the nearby police station of Dijkot, and police had started the investigation. At press time, the police had not found the murderers.

My heavens! How hard it must be to find three family members who run a dairy. Obviously it’s beyond the powers of the local keepers of the peace. I sure hope there is someone to look after his wife and children.

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Mumbai Fireworks Headed Your Way?

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III issued a new warning Monday that terrorists are prepared to conduct Mumbai-style attacks on U.S. soil.

In a speech before the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., Mueller said that small terror networks “with large agendas and little money can use rudimentary weapons to maximize their impact.”

The FBI director then added ominously: “And it again raises the question of whether a similar attack could happen in Seattle or San Diego, Miami, or Manhattan.”

Mueller said that terror groups could use homegrown radicals, rather than foreign terrorists, to infiltrate the country. He noted that there are “pockets of people around the world that identify with al-Qaida and its ideology” but act independently of its leadership.

He revealed that a 27-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, Shirwa Ahmed, engaged in a suicide bombing in Somalia last year.

“A man from Minneapolis became what we believe to be the first U.S. citizen to carry out a terrorist suicide bombing,” Mueller said.

“The attack occurred last October in northern Somalia, but it appears that this individual was radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota,” Mueller added. Authorities have said as many as 20 young Somali men reported missing in Minnesota may have returned to Somalia to take up arms.

Mueller warned that events in far-off places around the globe could have repercussions at home.

“World politics often shape terrorist and criminal threats against the United States,” he said. “A crisis in the Horn of Africa may well have a ripple effect in Minneapolis.”

You don’t say? Do you think perhaps this ripple effect is enhanced by permitting these very same terrorists to live in this country? Well, I guess if you’re from Minneapolis, it don’t make no nevermind. Minnesota is not the Land of Lakes. It is pre-eminently the Land of Loonies.

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Another Obama Appointee with a Murky Past

By: Ronald Kessler (and CNN material)

This joker, John Deutch, lost his security clearance the last time around. No, he wasn’t like Sandy Berger – he didn’t stuff archival material in his socks and underwear. In fact, he makes Berger look cute by comparison.

Here’s CNN’s take on the story:

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has appointed controversial former CIA Director John Deutch to serve on an advisory panel reviewing the intelligence community’s technical capabilities.

Ex-CIA director John Deutch lost his security clearance in the mid-1990s for mishandling top secret documents.

Deutch, who was President Clinton’s CIA director for a year and a half in the mid-1990s, lost his security clearance for mishandling classified information.

At the time Deutch left the agency in late 1996, CIA security officials discovered top secret documents on Deutch’s home computer, which was a violation of strict CIA policy.

The 74 classified documents included memos to the president and other cabinet officials as well as classified material from the time Deutch served as deputy defense secretary.

CIA Director George Tenet suspended Deutch’s security clearance, the toughest action he could take against the former official. Deutch voluntarily gave up his Pentagon clearance.

Yep…all he had to do was to wait for the Dems to regain power and he was back in business.

Kessler continues:

The appointment of John Deutch to an advisory panel on spy satellites violates President Obama’s pledge to hold everyone in his administration to the highest ethical standards.

Heh. Obama’s “highest ethical standards” were formed by his mentors back in Chicago. Mentors like Bill Ayers who bragged about getting away with his crimes, or his spiritual advisor who was overly fond of damning America. Not to mention all the tax-challenged members of his team. Sheesh. “High ethical standards” and Chicago politics don’t inhabit the same universe.

Deutch, who headed the CIA from May 1995 to December 1996, agreed in writing in January 2001 to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents. Just after that, President Clinton pardoned him and 175 others as Clinton was leaving office. Deutch’s infraction was thus more serious than Tim Geithner’s or Tom Daschle’s failure to pay income taxes.

So we have a Clinton re-tread with a criminal record -oops, a pardon – with access to sensitive intel.

“Deutch essentially walked away from what is one of the most egregious cases of mishandling of classified information that I have ever seen, short of espionage,” Sen. Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said after the pardon was announced.

Deutch placed 17,000 CIA files, including files classified TOP SECRET/CODEWORD and those referring to highly sensitive covert operations, on his unclassified home computers. One such file was a memo to Clinton and then-Vice President Al Gore. It noted that the information was so sensitive that Deutch was sending it to only a few other people, including FBI Director Louis Freeh and Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Because the computers connected to the Internet, and because Deutch often gave out his e-mail address, foreign intelligence services could easily have downloaded classified material from his computer.

Just a silly, innocent mistake. Anyone could have done it.

CIA technicians discovered the security breach in December 1996 when they visited Deutch’s house and asked to see his agency computers as he was preparing to leave office. The CIA had agreed to give him a no-fee consulting contract for one year allowing him to keep the three Macintosh computers.

What’s the deal? Any FOB is an FOO, right?

L. Britt Snider, the CIA’s inspector general, launched an investigation and gave a copy of his report to Congress and the Justice Department. Snider noted that the CIA initially conducted its own internal investigation of Deutch’s use of home computers, but he concluded the review was a sham. Actions taken by Deutch’s aides had the “effect of delaying a prompt investigation” of the matter, Snider’s report said.

“It was apparent from our investigation,” Snider told me for my book “The CIA at War: Inside the Secret Campaign Against Terror,” that Deutch “felt he could do pretty much as he pleased. What’s more, nobody really wanted to challenge him.”

In August 1999, George Tenet, Deutch’s successor as director of Central Intelligence, yanked Deutch’s security clearances. By then, Deutch had returned to MIT’s Chemistry Department, where he has continued as a professor. Because Deutch could no longer obtain a security clearance, he could not act as a consultant on classified matters. In 2007, CIA Director Michael Hayden reinstated Deutch’s clearances so he could consult with him, along with other former CIA directors.

But, remember, Bush is evil, Bush is evil, Bush is evil…repeat till it takes.

Aside from his security breaches, Deutch was instrumental in imposing a risk-averse atmosphere on the CIA. If a potential asset had been involved in so-called human rights violations – a euphemism for having knocked someone off or engaged in torture – or had had substantial criminal violations, top agency officials had to sign off on the recruitment, a process that could take a month or two.

Yet that kind of person was exactly what the CIA needed to penetrate organizations like al-Qaida. Placing restrictions of that sort on spy recruitment was like requiring FBI agents to obtain high-level approval to recruit Sammy Gravano, who murdered 19 people, before he could present evidence against John Gotti and the Mafia. Who else would know about a Mafia boss’ crimes besides another murderer?

In other words, Deutch was an obstacle to the security of the U.S. He knows this and Obama knows this. So why the appointment, hmm? Is this just the cloudy, ethically contaminated waters that Obama swims in? Maybe he can’t see it .

“The human rights violation rule had a chilling effect on recruitment,” former CIA official William Lofgren told me. “If faced with two possible recruitments, are you going to go after the one with a human rights violation or the one with no human rights violation?”

The result was that “people retired in place or left,” Lofgren said. “Our spirit was broken. At the CIA, you have to be able to inspire people to take outrageous risks. Deutch didn’t care about us at all.”

Clinton did not ask Deutch to continue at the CIA during his second term in office. When Deutch left the CIA, agency employees breathed a sigh of relief.

White House insiders say Obama was aware of most of the tax problems of his recent nominees but decided he could skate by and go ahead with them anyway. Deutch’s appointment is but another example of that hubris.

Well, they can take another deep breath and hold it, because Obama , via Blair, has invited him back into the magic circle.

I hope to do a feature on Dennis Blair tomorrow. Hint: he’s worse than his appointee, Douche.

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From the Acton Institute:

Charitable Choice and Secular Goods

by Hunter Baker

Charitable choice, the direct government funding of religious organizations for social service work, was designed to maintain the freedom of religious charities from excessive interference while allowing them to work for the public good. Yet the Obama administration is looking to draw sharper lines on church-state interaction and to eliminate the ability of faith-based groups to hire only those who believe as they do.

Erecting a higher barrier between church and state may satisfy some forces in the culture wars, but it is an unnecessary move that will prevent much good from being done.

In the early to mid 1990s, a book by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler titled “Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector,” briefly dominated American politics. The big idea behind this wonky manual for public policy reform was that government is competent at deciding what should be done, but is substantially less good at figuring out how to do it. So, the strategy should be to define outcomes and then be open to creative solutions for how to achieve them. Those creative solutions could include contracting out with corporations and charities. Government would provide the goal, but beyond that private entities would have the latitude to figure out the best way to achieve it.

Part of the logic of “Reinventing Government” was that monolithic government agencies and programs were of a piece with the industrial New Deal era and that we, as a budding information society, were ready to move on to faster, more flexible, less control-oriented solutions. The book was a hit. Just as soon as Bill Clinton took office, Vice-President Al Gore was given the assignment of applying the book’s principles to the federal bureaucracy.

When Congress included charitable choice provisions designed to smooth the path of government funding for religious social service providers in late 1990s welfare statutes, the move fit the spirit of the decade. Decentralization and openness to private approaches for public goals made sense. Acute observers might have noted the resemblance of the attitude to the notion of subsidiarity in Catholic social thought.

The potential fly in the ointment has been that religious entities (primarily Christian ones) conduct a large portion of the charitable activity in the United States. On the straight logic of decentralization and effectiveness, that should make little difference. But matters of church and state are flashpoints in the culture wars. Secularists worry that government funding will encourage the growth and persistence of religious institutions they wish would hurry up and fade away.

The key problem with the Obama administration’s intent to secularize the operation of religious charities is that there is no work from these charities without employees who share the spiritual and temporal mission. [iow, meaning matters. My emphasis – D] Neither will time-tested methods, which count on spiritual exhortation and reformation, be able to deliver their goods. The entire reason groups like Prison Fellowship can be more effective in preventing recidivism by offenders is that they address the spiritual person rather than the merely material person.

It is true that religious charities will continue to operate and do good for their communities without government assistance. Should the new Justice Department crack down on spiritual affinity and spiritual content, though, the scale of the benefit that can be achieved will be substantially reduced. The question is whether a particular view of church-state interaction should prevent the expansion of programs that may be more successful in helping Americans than their secular and/or governmental counterparts.

Part of the problem stems from the way we use the word “secular.” To us, “secular” means “without God” or “without reference to religion.” The word secular has taken on that meaning the same way liberalism has become synonymous with left-wing collectivism instead of carrying the word’s more classical association with freedom. The solution to the problem may be to reinvent secularism, or at least to rediscover another meaning for it.

If we look to earlier historical usage, then we discover a more helpful definition of the secular. Secular once meant “in the world.” Using this definition, we could then ask whether the work of a religious charity results in any good “in the world.” Thus, if a ministry like Prison Fellowship can demonstrate effectiveness in its purely voluntary program for prisoners at a state penitentiary, then it should qualify for government funding. Why should Prison Fellowship or another worthy ministry qualify for “secular” funding? Because these have proven they produce “secular” goods like reduced recidivism.

Deciding what is secular and what is not — using the above framework — should make the decision to fund faith-based charities easier for policymakers concerned with religio-political implications. They need not destroy the spiritual distinctiveness of religious institutions in order to sustain charitable operations and reap a public benefit. There are good, principled rationales for easing the barrier between public welfare and private charity, even when that charity operates on a religious basis. Whether religious organizations wish to court the danger of government influence by accepting such funds is another question.

If Americans realize that their favorite faith-based charity is going it alone, without the Uncle O’bama (he’s my black Irish uncle) wad o’ cash, then they will make up the difference. Even in hard times, people give to Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army, etc.

It was a devil’s bargain ever to accept the porkulus teat.

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From Michael Yon:

“The United States of America Does Not Torture”

President Barack Obama has spoken. His words beamed around the world. I am in Asia preparing for a long year in Afghanistan and other contended places, but stopped to listen closely to President Obama’s words. Most of the things that President Obama talked about will take years, or many years, to implement. But one thing can happen NOW. No more torture.

I believe we can beat the terrorists we face without torture. In fact, we can fight them better and more effectively from high ground than from low ground.

Thank you President Obama for moving to the high ground.

The President and the Reporter need to re-read their Sun Tzu, especially the part where he says:

There are three ways in which a ruler can bring misfortune upon his army:

1. By commanding the army to advance or to retreat, being ignorant of the fact that it cannot obey;

This is called hobbling the army.

2. By attempting to govern an army in the same way as he administers a kingdom, being ignorant of the conditions which obtain in an army;

This causes restlessness in the soldier’s minds.

3. By employing the officers of his army without discrimination, through ignorance of the military principle of adaptation to circumstances.

This shakes the confidence of the soldiers.

I suggest to you, dear reader, a perusal of the comments on Mr. Yon’s post, which you will find at the URL above. You will notice that for the most part, his military interlocutors disagreed most respectfully with Mr. Yon and his President. It wasn’t unanimous, but certainly a majority saw things somewhat differently, especially those who’d been exposed to any Muslim torture tactics.

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Bobby Jindal’s response to the President’s speech last night left something to be desired in the way of passion. Mr. Jindal is going to have to acquire some fire in the belly if he wants to go any further than the governorship of Louisiana.

Jindal is a man of intelligence and integrity. He has massive experience in bending dysfunctional bureaucratic messes to his will and making them operate in some semblance of order.

But in order to succeed, he has to be willing to stop playing “Mr. Nice Guy”. Surely his Hindu ancestry tells him that is a recipe for loss after loss after loss.

I have a solution: it is obvious that the current POTUS does not like General Petraeus. However, many of the rest of us do. He performed miracles of diplomacy and toe-to-toe negotiating with gangsters as he helped rebuild Iraq.

Given our Messiah’s view of the military, I predict that the good General will be resigning before the next election. Just in time to write his book (suggested working title: Less Hyped Hope and More Work, Please) and begin the process of campaigning for president.

Jindal would make the perfect running mate. They could work in tandem to rebuild what this greedy Congress and seemingly ineffectual president will destroy.

Petraeus and Jindal. Not a bad combination. Both are first generation Americans, too. They could revive our listless exceptionalism.

Where is the Middle Ground Between Tyranny and Freedom?

Europe DenmarkThe following article appeared in the February 18th print edition of the Danish newspaper Berlingske Tidende, and as far as I know is not available online. It has been translated into English by Rolf Krake.

The common sense displayed here by Mr. Aamund is all but unheard of today — except in Denmark.

The Danes really get it. Even the major MSM outlets in Denmark get it. After three years of immersion in Danish media, I’m still amazed by the difference between the Danish papers and those in the rest of the West.

What makes Denmark different? It must be all that røget sild — I can’t think of any other explanation…

By Asger Aamund, chief executive

When have we ever — we the Lutheran public-church Danes — burned a Hindu, flogged a Buddhist, or spat on a Catholic? When have we ever mobbed a Muslim because he prayed to Allah?

Have we mocked him because he is fasting? Have we teased him, because he gave to charity? Have we made him into a fool, because he went to Mecca on a pilgrimage? No, naturally we haven’t; Denmark is a friendly, tolerant, and hospitable land, permitting everyone to have his own belief.

That is the nice version. The reality is, we are not tolerant, but couldn’t give a damn about what others believe. That is entirely their own mess. But whether we are tolerant or just don’t give a damn, the result is fortunately the same, that being that all the people who live in Denmark can freely practice their religion, without someone ever dreaming about crumpling a hair on their head.

The Danes absolutely shouldn’t accept being accused of persecuting their Muslim minority, Islamophobia, fear of Islamic, and lack of understanding for religious and cultural co-existence.

Nonetheless we can expect that the accusations of religious discrimination against Muslims will take on force at an international level, with the Durban II conference approaching in Geneva and the conference on Freedom of Expression in Copenhagen.

All real democracies constitutionalize and protect religious freedom, and also practice it. If political Islamic forces can achieve protection by international law against mocking, ridicule, and making a laughingstock of Islam as a religion, they have thus achieved their main goal: a criminalization of criticism aimed at Islam as a political system. For a freedom-loving democracy there is plenty to approve of, when we compare Islam as a political system to Western democracies: In a democracy we stand for uncompromised human rights. In political Islam human rights are subordinate to Islamic law.

The Danish governing system stands for integration and a unified society. Political Islam demands apartheid and a parallel society.
– – – – – – – –
A democracy requires equality between men and women, and Islam dictates that the woman is inferior to the man. A democracy wants public schools, freedom of expression and of the press. In political Islam, gender-divided education and political censorship predominate. Individual freedom and responsibility are the founding pillars in a democratic society. Political Islam does not recognize individual freedom and responsibility, but is founded on a male dominated family structure and clan hierarchy as the social grounds for identity.

Before we get started and carried away into the debate leading towards the two upcoming conferences which concern freedom of expression, I would like to encourage the government and the parliament, chief editors, and commentators to stay on the case, which is about politics and not religion.

We must with a firm hand slam shut the lid on the religious coffin and affirm that Denmark practices religious freedom perfectly, so there is nothing to discuss any longer.

On the contrary we would very much like to discuss how we defend our freedom and the people’s democracy against oppression and tyranny.

The solution is not dialogue with anti-democratic political movements, which try to win footholds in the Western democracies, hidden behind the façade of religion and its protective shield. What compromise should the dialogue lead to? Where is the middle ground between tyranny and freedom? The solution is not the elastic retreat, which ends with the exact compromise that political Islam wants: “I respect your taboos, if you respect mine”. It is a bad bargain for us. Because a democracy has got no taboos. Political Islam is all about taboos.

It is therefore the democracies’ task and responsibility to assure that international society understands and accepts that we will never permit Islamic totalitarian political dogmas — with or without belief — to take root in our free and democratic society.

The beard apart and snot apart, in the words of Viggo Hørup. Now with a modern addition: beliefs apart and tyranny apart.

(Berlingske Tidende 18.02.2009, ikke online)

Hat tip: TB.

Islamic Apartheid in the West

Back in 2007, El Inglés posted his debut essay here about the possibility of a Danish Civil War. Since then the future he imagined is a year and a half closer, and various European civil wars have come to seem more and more likely, as the lawless Muslim neighborhoods of major cities become larger and more ungovernable.

The situation is not confined to Europe, but is replicated in varying degrees across the entire West. Below is VH’s translation from Het Vrije Volk of an article about the creation of de facto apartheid areas for Muslims in Australia and various other countries. VH follows the translated article with additional material about similar situations in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe:

The return of apartheid: separate residential areas for Muslims cause a sensation in Australia

By E.J. Bron

The term apartheid is inseparably identified with South Africa. The racial segregation of whites and non-whites in South Africa was only abolished in the nineties of the last century. Until then, among other things, blacks were not allowed to live in the residential areas of whites.* All of this in South Africa is long past. In Australia, the clock is now being turned back: Muslims want to build residential areas to which non-Muslims have no access. And in Australia, non-Muslims are outraged and furious about this.

Rivervale is located about 6 kilometers from the Australian city of Perth. Until 1884 this suburb on the Swan River was also called Barndon Hill. According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in Rivervale currently about 44 persons speak Arabic and 239 persons are Islamic believers. That is 3.4% of residents of Riverdale. The Muslims of Rivervale now want to build a district to which non-Muslims will have no access. A pure Muslim neighborhood, where apartheid will exist and “unbelievers” must remain outside. A parking garage only for Muslims, housing only for Muslims, a hall only for Muslim weddings, an Islamic religious center — all that makes for a lot of turmoil in Australia at the moment. Islamic leaders find this all very normal. They emphasize that the strict separation of believers and “infidels” would have only advantages: “infidels” would thus not be harassed by the exotic odors coming from the Islamic [sic] cuisine.

– – – – – – – –

The required separation of residential areas in Rivervale is apartheid and racism in its purest form. At the same time, Muslim organizations claim that Islam would be non-racist. On the homepage of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany it says: “No Muslim who shows racist behavior may appeal to Islam and find in this any justification for any discriminatory act.” The Muslims in Australia, who want to separate themselves from the “unbelievers” by isolating themselves in their own residential areas, are thus no Muslims.

Meanwhile there are Muslim enclaves arising all over in Western countries. This is not new. The only novelty will be the first enclave that denies access to “infidels”. In Canada, for example, not so long ago the first Muslim town came to be. Canada is a multicultural country, where the followers of Islam enjoy all the Western freedoms. In 2007 in the vicinity of Toronto, the Muslims built the first purely Islamic city, called “Peace Village”. In a portion of the city are street names such as Mahmood Street, Nasir and Tahrir Street, Noor-ud-Dins Street, and Mosque Gate. And there is a mosque in which women and men pray separately.

It is the first purely Islamic city on the American continent. More will follow. The first language of the Muslims living there is not English, but Urdu (official language of Pakistan). There the Muslims are amongst themselves. In the area of the “peace city” at Lake Ontario there used to be a Christian church, the “Teston United Church”. This has been demolished and what was still left was sold at auction. Nobody is enraged about this. For in the end it was replaced by a Muslim “peace city”.

In the Netherlands there a Muslim city like this will also appear. In Rotterdam, where many Moroccans live anyway, they want to build in Rotterdam-West district a city that will be reminiscent of “Casablanca”. There the Moroccan citizens should feel more at home.

This article has been translated from German to Dutch for Het Vrije Volk by E.J. Bron. Source here and here.

VH includes this additional material:

Note on The Netherlands:

The Moroccan government suggested supplying Moroccan workers for the planned building of the neighborhood in Rotterdam, called Le Riad. The PVV asked the Minister of Housing and Integration not to respond to this crazy offer. Certainly not now; due to the economic circumstances many builders are without employment.

Another reason is that Morocco should not interfere with internal matters. The neighborhood is not openly planned to be a Muslim area, but it certainly will become one within a few years by threatening the infidels until they leave their area, like they do everywhere else where they feel unhindered by the government.

In the same context is the proposal of the Dutch disciple of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamofascist Ahmed Marcouch (PvdA, Socialists, Labour) to found a Muslim city very strategically, just outside the highway-ring around Amsterdam.

Note on a CIA “civil war” forecast:

Udo Ulfkotte reports that the CIA expects civil wars in German metropolitan areas [caveat from Baron Bodissey — this report has no cited source beyond Udo Ulfkotte, as far as we can tell]:

We should not spare you a CIA report on Europe. This one deals with population trends in European urban areas and also especially in many German cities.

In this study the “ungovernablilty” of many European metropolitan centers is forecast for “around the year 2020”. In Germany these allegedly include: parts of the Ruhr area (specifically mentioned are Dortmund and Duisburg), parts of the German capital Berlin, the Rhine-Main region, parts of Stuttgart, Ulm and districts of the suburbs of Hamburg.

The CIA predicts similar developments for the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Britain, Denmark, Sweden and Italy. The study speaks of a “civil war”, that will make parts of the aforementioned countries “ungovernable”.

The background to the study includes migration movements and the lack of integration of immigrants who are conquering “legally free and largely ethnically homogeneous spaces” and will defend these areas with force of arms if necessary. The CIA argues against this background that parts of Europe will “implode” and the European Union in its presently known form will probably fall apart.

Temporary Peace Trumps Freedom of Speech

In his latest guest-essay for Gates of Vienna, the British author Paul Weston addresses the current state of British politics in the face of Geert Wilders’ banishment from the country.

Temporary Peace Trumps Freedom of Speech
by Paul Weston

Gordon BrownShortly after Gordon Brown became the unelected Prime Minister of Great Britain in 2007, he made a speech outlining his views on liberty and freedom, which included the following phrase:

“The character of our country will be defined by how we write the next chapter of British liberty — by whether we do so in a way that respects and builds on our traditions, and progressively adds to and enlarges rather than reduces the sphere of freedom.”

If one can ignore the tortuous and robotic prose for a moment, let us fast forward to February 2009 in the aftermath of Geert Wilders banishment from Britain, to hear Labour MP Keith Vaz, the Minister For Europe, state on national television his own particular viewpoint on the sphere of freedom:
– – – – – – – –
“We don’t have absolute freedom of speech in the United Kingdom, because I myself have voted on laws preventing people inciting racial hatred and violence.”

Mr Vaz, an immigrant of Yemeni/Portuguese extraction, is clearly proud of the part he has played in restricting the ancient and bloodstained freedoms of Britain. No doubt Vaz is pleased the dark days of 1990 are now behind him, when he wrote to the Guardian to claimthere is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech“ as he attempted to ban the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses.

Unfortunately for Vaz, freedom of speech actually existed in 1990 and Rushdie’s book was duly published. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the subversion of British law carried out by Vaz and his ilk means it no longer exists in 2009 — witness the Wilders travesty — which rather damns Gordon Brown’s apparently admirable speech as typical socialist spin, if not deliberately disingenuous propaganda.

It is unsurprising that Keith Vaz should raise such words as “racial hatred and violence“ in relation to Geert Wilders, this being the default fallback for Muslims with a grievance (a body of people whose members far outnumber Scotsmen of a sunny disposition) but Wilders was not barred in order to prevent the incitement of racial hatred and violence, he was barred because his words and film would:

“…threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the UK.”

This leads to all sorts of questions. The first surely being the blind assumption of community harmony; the second asking which part of the allegedly harmonious community is threatened by the mere presence of Mr Wilders; the third wondering if “therefore public security” is just a more inclusive way of saying “therefore Muslim violence” whilst the not inconsequential fourth and final question can only be — is it actually legal?

Taking one at a time, let us look first at Britain’s harmonious community.

MI5 believe there are up to four thousand potential terrorists and thirteen thousand Al Qaeda sympathisers living in the UK, many of whom are earmarked for the export market (who says British manufacturing is dead) leading the CIA to devote an astonishing 40% of their anti-terrorist US homeland security operations against suspects not in Afghanistan, Pakistan or Waziristan, but in Britain itself — a country described by one CIA operative as “a swamp of Jihadis.”

It is rumoured that the terrorist attacks in Bombay (or Mumbai if you read the Guardian) involved a number of British Muslims operating under the banner of Lashkar-e-Taiba otherwise known as the Party of the Righteous or LET, who are ranked alongside Al-Qaeda in terms of a potential terrorist threat by Barack Obama’s counter-terrorist advisor Bruce Riedel, who has stated:

The British Pakistani community is recognised as probably al-Qaeda’s best mechanism for launching an attack against North America.”

British-born Muslims make an estimated four hundred thousand trips a year to Pakistan, where as many as thirty threats against Britain are being monitored at any given time. MI5 is struggling to keep track of them all, quite understandably, as is the newly formed UK Border Agency (motto: we are closed on weekends and bank holidays), so it is obvious that those who wish to destroy us can flit in and out of terrorist training camps in Pakistan to, say, the House of Lords in London, at the drop of a hat.

Despite the oft repeated insistence by British politicians that Islam is a peaceful religion, vast sums of money are thrown at Muslims in the UK in an attempt to stop them blowing the rest of us up.

In 2007 “communities” Minister Hazel Blears earmarked fifty million pounds to invest in “cohesion promotion and tackling community tensions.” Ah, those good old harmonious community tensions. Blears bent over backwards as she sprayed money at Muslim “experts” stating: “Nobody has a duty to assimilate themselves but I do think we need to understand how each other lives” prompting the bearded experts, who recognise fear, defeat and dhimmitude when they smell it, to swiftly trouser the money whilst opining it would do little good as Muslims are instinctively suspicious of any help from the British government, what with them being the infidel and all that.

In its overarching desire to be geographically inclusive, my government does not limit its financial largesse to the British mainland alone. When Gordon Brown visited Pakistan recently, he handed over a cheque for six million quid to promote love and peace, whilst the British Foreign Office — who once sent gunboats to troublesome countries — has bankrolled a series of TV adverts for broadcast in Pakistan in which famous Muslim personalities implore those who wish to colonise and convert us to cease forthwith, and to understand and respect us instead.

We dhimmi Brits can even look forward to a constructive debate “on the compatibility of liberal and Muslim values.” I know, I know, it sounds like something out of the Richard Littlejohn school of “you couldn’t make it up” but I am at a total loss for words here. One can only imagine how constructive the debate would remain if the liberal debatee attempted to date the Muslim debatee’s sister, or even better, attempted to roger the Muslim himself.

So I think we can safely say there is little or no community harmony in Britain.

In terms of who should feel threatened, it is unlikely to be any of Lord Ahmed’s 10,000 band of brothers, or any other member of Britain’s Muslim community, come to that. It is something of a giveaway really, look to the man surrounded by bodyguards with a price on his infidel head, Mr Geert Wilders himself, the lone surviving Dutchman of outspoken anti-Islamic sentiment.

And what of Public Security? A giveaway again. The British government did not really believe that Wilders was going to strip to the waist and engage in fisticuffs with his Allahu Akbar-ing adversaries. They know as well as the rest of us that a day in the House of Lords is more likely to consist of G&T’s with ice and a slice, than GBH with malice aforethought. I don’t really believe that Mr Wilders, a European parliamentarian, was planning on bringing his gang, or posse, to the House of Lords intent on bashing anyone who shows him “disrespect” unlike Lord Ahmed, the implausible new leader of Britain’s Muslim Street.

Was the banning of Geert Wilders legal? The law used was written specifically to counter Islamic terrorism, rather than countering a man warning us of Islamic terrorism. But as with most recent laws, many of which originate in Brussels, they are vague and catch-all in their character, and deliberately so, in order they may be used against anyone the government disapproves of.

It would have been so much more honest of the British government if it had said the following:

“We understand the content of the film Fitna to consist of the written words of Islam alone, the spoken words of Islam alone and the physical actions of Islam alone.

“Sections of these written and spoken words are in direct contravention of British and European laws pursuant to the incitement of racial or religious hatred.

“We appreciate that Mr Wilders is an elected European politician who does not possess a criminal record and is therefore entitled to visit any EU country he so wishes.

“We appreciate that Mr Wilders has never called for violence against the Muslim community and that even if faced with violence would seek lawful protection rather than unlawful retaliation.

“We acknowledge the threats of violence that would impinge upon the public security of Great Britain have come not from Mr Wilders, but from an unelected Muslim peer, Lord Ahmed.

“We tacitly acknowledge that allowing Mr Wilders the opportunity to argue that Islam is an inherently violent and intolerant faith will cause 10,000 violent and intolerant Muslims to take to the streets of London.

“We appreciate that the barring of Mr Wilders from Great Britain would necessitate the manipulation and distortion of laws passed to counter Islamic terrorism in order to silence a man warning us of Islamic terrorism.”

“We appreciate that bending British democracy in the face of Muslim threats will have dangerous and far-reaching consequences.

“However, after careful and considered discussion with a number of politicians who have not seen the film Fitna, notably Minister for Europe Keith Vaz and Foreign Secretary David Milliband, we would like to close with the following statement…

“…The British government is acutely aware of the 2 million plus Muslims within Great Britain, a percentage of whom are fanatical fundamentalists who, quite frankly, frighten the living daylights out of us. Were we to agree that Fitna contains Koranic verses which contravene our laws against inciting racial or religious hatred, then by default we would be forced to arrest 90% of British imams who quote exactly the same verses in mosques all over Britain. This would lead to civil unrest, or even civil war if we proscribed certain passages from the Koran itself. It is far easier therefore to distort and misrepresent existing anti-terrorism laws in order to preserve a temporary peace, even if it means shooting British democracy and freedom through the heart, ourselves in the foot, and missing Geert Wilders by a country mile.”

©2009 Paul Weston

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/24/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/24/2009My favorite news story of the day — because I’m in desperate need of a break from Obama, Gordon Brown, and the imminent collapse of the banking system — is the article about the Saudi man who just earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records by eating 22 live scorpions.

Whatever you do, don’t miss the video of this important event! Unless you’re a girl, that is — girls may want to steer clear.

Thanks to Aeneas, C. Cantoni, Dan Riehl, Fausta, Insubria, Islam in Action, JD, KGS, RH, RRW, TB, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
Bailout Solution? Soros-Promoted Bank Takeover
ECB Faces Mutiny From National Bank Governors as Recession Deepens
House Democrats Propose $410b Spending Bill
Obama Sells US to China Inc.
Racist in a Taxpayer-Paid Suit
The Usurpers Are Winning
Understanding the ‘Stimulus Bill’
Why States Are Shunning AKA’s “Stimulus” Money
A Brief for Whitey
AP Disconnect on Beheading Story
California’s Descent Into Mediocrity
In Defense of the White Man
Is Bill Lying in Wait to Ban Handguns?
New U.S. Intel Chief: Support of Israel Not a U.S. Interest
Obama and Hillary Funding Our Enemies
Report: Schwarzenegger Considered Leaving GOP
Soldier Doubts Eligibility, Defies President’s Orders
Was New York Wife Alive During Beheading?
Europe and the EU
A False Analogy
Dutch Anti-Muslim Politician Geert Wilders to Screen Fitna Film in Washington
Headscarf Award for Fighting Discrimination
Italy: Nuclear Power Tops Agenda at Top-Level Talks
UK to Imitate Saudi Terrorist Rehab Program
Why We Must Follow the Belgians
Wilders Against Bulgaria and Romania
North Africa
Algeria: Press Reports at Least 9 Victims in Attack
Egypt: Khan El Khalili the Day After the Attack in Cairo
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza: Florence, Funds From Israeli and Islamic Communities
Holland: Shoes Thrown at IDF Officer During Speech
Italy to Propose West Bank Airport
Music: Spain, Pro-Palestinians Against Noa Concerts
Middle East
Danish Children Poisoned in Saudi Arabia
Gaza: Gulf Countries Approve a Reconstruction Plan
Iraq: British Troops to Leave Basra at End of May
Saudi Arabia: Man to Receive 8, 000 Lashes for Daughter’s Rape
Saudi Man Sets World Record With Deadly ‘Hobby’
Tehran and Damascus Censured in Atomic Energy Agency Report
Turkey: Court Opposes Religious Teaching in Schools
United Arab Emirates: Dubai Exchange Rallies After a 20-Billion-Dollar Long-Term Bond Programme is Announced
Russia: Vladimir Putin Faces Rising Anger From Within Russian Army
South Asia
Indonesia: Porn Law ‘Endangers Country’S Pluralism’
Italy: Pakistani Money Agent Denies Link to Mumbai Attacks
Italy: Pakistani Leader Says ‘No Surprise’ in Link to Terror Attacks
Sub-Saharan Africa
Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe’s Secret Plan Against White Farmers
Clashes at Lampedusa Immigration Centre
FBI Praises Foreigners, Disses U.S.
Riot in Lampedusa, Fire in Centre
Survey: Enough Foreign Residents in Finland
UK: Brown’s Total Failure on Immigration

Financial Crisis

Bailout Solution? Soros-Promoted Bank Takeover

Plan calls for nationalization as end to TARP subsidies

The Obama administration, with the support of some top Republican senators, appears to be moving toward nationalizing U.S. banks, in a strategy known as the “Swedish Plan,” Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports. The strategy was heavily championed by George Soros at the Economic World Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year.

In the early 1990s, Sweden nationalized banks, but only after the banks had taken the losses writing down their own troubled losses.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

ECB Faces Mutiny From National Bank Governors as Recession Deepens

The European Central Bank is capitulating.

For months the ECB held sternly to the high ground of orthodoxy as the US, Japanese, British, Canadian, Swiss and Swedish central banks slashed rates towards zero and embraced quantitative easing, but a confluence of fast-moving events is now forcing it to move.

The credit default swaps that measure bankruptcy risk on the debts of Ireland, Austria and a clutch of Latin Bloc states have vaulted to dangerous levels. In the case of Ireland, the slump is spilling on to the streets. Some 120,000 marched through Dublin over the weekend to protest austerity measures.

The slow fuse on Eastern Europe’s banking crisis has detonated, leaving Austrian, Belgian, Italian and other West European banks with $1.5 trillion (£1 trillion) in exposure.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

House Democrats Propose $410b Spending Bill

House bill to keep govt. running totals $410 billion, features thousands of pet projects

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats unveiled a $410 billion spending bill on Monday to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year, setting up the second political struggle over federal funds in less than a month with Republicans.

The measure includes thousands of earmarks, the pet projects favored by lawmakers but often criticized by the public in opinion polls. There was no official total of the bill’s earmarks, which accounted for at least $3.8 billion.

The legislation, which includes an increase of roughly 8 percent over spending in the last fiscal year, is expected to clear the House later in the week.

Democrats defended the spending increases, saying they were needed to make up for cuts enacted in recent years or proposed a year ago by then-President George W. Bush in health, education, energy and other programs.

Republicans countered that the spending in the bill far outpaced inflation, and amounted to much higher increases when combined with spending in the stimulus legislation that President Barack Obama signed last week. In a letter to top Democratic leaders, the GOP leadership called for a spending freeze, a step they said would point toward a “new standard of fiscal discipline.”

Either way, the bill advanced less than one week after Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus bill that all Republicans in Congress opposed except for three moderate GOP senators.

Apart from spending, the legislation provides Democrats in Congress and Obama an opportunity to reverse Bush-era policy on selected issues.

It loosens restrictions on travel to Cuba, as well as the sale of food and medicine to the communist island-nation.

In another change, the legislation bans Mexican-licensed trucks from operating outside commercial zones along the border with the United States. The Teamsters Union, which supported Obama’s election last year, hailed the move.

The Bush administration backed a pilot program to permit up to 500 trucks from 100 Mexican motor carriers access to U.S. roads.

The legislation covers programs for numerous Cabinet-level and other agencies, and takes the place of regular annual spending bills that did not pass last year as a result of a deadlock between the Bush administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Congressional expenses are included. The bill provides $500,000 for what is described as a Senate “pilot program” that will defray the cost of mass mail postcards to households notifying them of a nearby town meeting to be attended by any senator.

           — Hat tip: Fausta [Return to headlines]

Obama Sells US to China Inc.

The truth is starting to seep out. Because of the need for more money to finance the latest bailout—the Obama economic stimulus plan—America is going further in debt to the Chinese Communists. Our country is officially being sold to the highest bidder. And we have striking confirmation of this fact from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The good news is that a correspondent for the mainstream media—Wyatt Andrews of CBS News—has figured this out and has managed to get on the air with his terrifying findings. Andrews’ report on the Friday CBS Evening News with Katie Couric was direct and to the point. Clinton is in China to beg for a handout.

“The truth is the Administration needs China’s help. America’s stimulus is very expensive and the U.S. wants China to help finance it,” Andrews reported. This is what America has become—a country that sends its Secretary of State abroad to beg for money from foreigners. In this case, it’s a communist dictatorship that forces women to have abortions, tortures Christians, and threatens the freedom and democratic government of Taiwan.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Racist in a Taxpayer-Paid Suit

The third-ranking member of the congressional leadership, who is himself black, as noted in a press release by the conservative black think tank Project 21-The National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives, has taken the detestable behavior of race-baiting to new depths.

Speaking to reporters Feb. 19, Clyburn called opposition to the so-called stimulus bill “a slap in the face of African-Americans.” He specifically targeted any opposition to the bill by southern governors. His injecting race into concerns for fiscal responsibility and a desire to prevent the expansion of government programs is shameful.

… The bottom line is the stimulus bill isn’t about stimulating anything — it is about restructuring the corporate/business climate, rewriting the Constitution by fiat juxtaposed to amendment; it is about eliminating any inclusion of “the people” from legislative directives, and it is about extracting, i.e., taking, our money to fund wasteful spending on a gargantuan level. It is about government intrusion on a heretofore never witnessed scale. […]

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Usurpers Are Winning

The usurpers probably want you to believe the “stimulus” bill was passed so quickly our legislators didn’t realize what was in it. That’s less damning than their willful passage of the indefensible mischief the bill contains. Have you seen just how specific it is in its allocations of money and who is benefiting? Please follow the money.

As our federal government marches ever closer to socialism and Marxism, we might remind ourselves that nearly every dictator in the world is an ardent proponent of those systems. Socialism and Marxism, by definition, cannot come about without major consolidations of power in the central government.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Understanding the ‘Stimulus Bill’

Question: So where does the money come from?

Answer: Since there’s not enough money currently in the treasury to cover the handouts, the government borrows the money with the hopes of getting it back through future taxation. You will be paying more. Your children will be paying more. Your grandchildren will be paying more. In all likelihood, your great-grandchildren will be paying more — just for what was signed by the president last week. And that doesn’t even include future commitments to new entitlement programs that this bill has put into place.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Why States Are Shunning AKA’s “Stimulus” Money

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has gone on record, stating his state will not be taking stimulus money that will force expansion of existing programs or the establishing of new programs. Joined by Governors Mark Sandford of South Carolina, Haley Barbour of Mississippi, Sarah Palin of Alaska, Butch Otter of Idaho, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, and Rick Perry of Texas, these governors are voicing concerns about the stimulus money being offered the states by the federal government under H.R. 1, better known as the Porkulus Package or the Piggy Package of Pork Barrel Spending.

In my last article, I stated that the total cost of the Porkulus Package would be $4.06 trillion broken down as follows: $789 billion for the Porkulus loan itself, money that would have to come from the already depressed economy; approximately $744 billion in debt service on that loan and $2.527 trillion in new programs and expansion of existing programs over the next decade.

It becomes apparent that the states are being offered stimulus money with strings attached; that the cost of getting that money is acceptance of federal regulation.

This phenomenon is nothing new; it has been going on, literally, for decades.

It is called federal discretionary grants.

This is how it works…

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


A Brief for Whitey

The “white community,” said Barack, must start “acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination — and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past — are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds … .”

And what deeds must we perform to heal ourselves and our country?

The “white community” must invest more money in black schools and communities, enforce civil rights laws, ensure fairness in the criminal justice system and provide this generation of blacks with “ladders of opportunity” that were “unavailable” to Barack’s and the Rev. Wright’s generations.

What is wrong with Barack’s prognosis and Barack’s cure?

Only this. It is the same old con, the same old shakedown that black hustlers have been running since the Kerner Commission blamed the riots in Harlem, Watts, Newark, Detroit and a hundred other cities on, as Nixon put it, “everybody but the rioters themselves.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

AP Disconnect on Beheading Story

Although it’s clear that the founder of a US-based Muslim TV station who beheaded his wife raised at least some if not most of his money in the Middle-east and not America, the AP paints him as the very image of modernity. That’s expected. But this other disconnect in the story is mind-boggling.

“What you have is a cultural problem our communities have been silent about too long,” said Wajahat Ali, a journalist and playwright who helped drive the effort. “What people with an agenda are trying to do is say this is an example of a barbaric religion. This is an example of barbaric misogyny and domestic violence.”

How can one characterize critics of Islam as per above as having an “agenda” when in the very same article it suggests that maybe one day Imams will stop asking the Mrs. what she did wrong when she reports physical abuse? Doesn’t that mostly prove that the critics are correct?…

           — Hat tip: Dan Riehl [Return to headlines]

California’s Descent Into Mediocrity

Virtually throughout its history, and certainly in the 20th century, California has been known as the place to go for dynamism and growth. It did not become the richest, most populous and most productive state solely because of its weather and natural resources.

So it takes a lot to turn California around from growth to contraction, from people moving into the state to a net exodus from the state, from business moving into California to businesses leaving California.

It takes some doing.

And the left has done it.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

In Defense of the White Man

While many believe that prejudice has diminished over time, it’s not really true. Prejudice is much like the wind: Its direction changes, and the sheltered and well-situated may not sense it, but it’s always blowing on some people somewhere. Put literally, every age has its fashionable biases — and unfashionable people.

This was obvious during the presidential inauguration benediction, given by the Reverend Joseph Lowery. While making a supplication to the Lord, he made the following anachronistic plea:

“. . . help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right [emphasis mine].”

Well, I wonder if the reverend has ever asked the Lord why He scourged the world with white people in the first place.

It isn’t surprising that caucaphobia is in fashion. You can demonize any person, group or place; all you need do is focus on the object’s failings to the exclusion of its/his accomplishments. It isn’t even hard to do. To bastardize one of Abraham Lincoln’s lines, if you look for the worst in a group, you’re sure to find it. It’s just as with a person. If I repeatedly disseminated your sins and mistakes among the town folk while downplaying your good points, how long would it be before they were chasing you with pitchforks?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Is Bill Lying in Wait to Ban Handguns?

Activists worry another Columbine will spark end of 2nd Amendment

Tucked away in committee on Capitol Hill is a firearm licensing bill that Second Amendment advocates worry may just be waiting for the right “Columbine moment” to emerge and effectively ban handguns in the U.S.

As WND reported, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., sponsored H.R. 45, an extensive licensure law that creates a national database of current firearm owners, requires psychiatric testing and fingerprinting to obtain a license and places new restrictions on gun use and storage.

Mike Hammond, legal advisor with Gun Owners of America, told WND that H.R. 45 gives the federal government so much power over gun ownership, that the wrong administration could use it to “bring gun ownership in America to an end.”

“It takes semi-automatic firearms and handguns — the guns people use for personal self-defense,” Hammond said, “and sets up a licensure system, that is, the government would have to give you permission to own a gun. The government can therefore also deny that permission, and it would mean an anti-gun administration could use it to effectively ban most guns from private ownership.

“Even if you are willing to undergo a psychiatric exam, be fingerprinted and do what the bill requires to obtain a license, the law still requires the guns be unloaded and locked up,” Hammond added. “It renders the gun practically unavailable for self-defense.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

New U.S. Intel Chief: Support of Israel Not a U.S. Interest

A flurry of reports over the weekend said that the former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, considered a sharp critic of Israel, is to be named to a top intelligence post in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

Charles W. Freeman Jr., who was U.S. ambassador in Riyadh from 1989-1992, is set to be named chairman of the National Intelligence Council, which has a strong influence on the content of the intelligence briefings presented to the President (and puts together the National Intelligence Estimate, or NIE, which in 2007 dissuaded the Bush regime from attacking Iran). The Council chairman is also often called on to give direct briefings to the President.

Typical of Freeman’s viewpoints is a statement he made in a speech before the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs in 2007, in which he more or less blames international terrorist acts on Israel: …

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama and Hillary Funding Our Enemies

Earlier this month I posted about how President Obama had pledged to send approximately $20 million to the Hamas controlled Gaza strip. This was just days after it was discovered that Hamas had been stealing blankets and food allocated for the people of Gaza…

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

Report: Schwarzenegger Considered Leaving GOP

California governor allegedly had discussions about party switch

[Comment from JD: A RINO considering switching…at least that’s more honest than staying in the GOP.]

How bad did things get between Der Governator and his fellow Republicans? Schwarzenegger’s biographer, Joe Mathews, reports that he recently considered dropping out of the party altogether. It’s the latest blast in a long-running war.

A few months ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger and a few close associates discussed whether he should leave the Republican Party, according to two people familiar with the conversation. His friend Mike Bloomberg, the New York mayor, had become an independent. Maybe Schwarzenegger should, too. But the governor and his people quickly concluded that Californians already saw him as independent of the Republican Party. So what would be the point of a switch? (A spokesman for the governor declined comment.)

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Soldier Doubts Eligibility, Defies President’s Orders

‘As an officer, my sworn oath to support and defend our Constitution requires this’

A U.S. soldier on active duty in Iraq has called President Obama an “impostor” in a statement in which he affirmed plans to join as plaintiff in a challenge to Obama’s eligibility to be commander in chief.

The statement was publicized by California attorney Orly Taitz who, along with her Defend Our Freedom Foundation, is working on a series of legal cases seeking to uncover Obama’s birth records and other documents that would reveal whether he meets the requirements of the U.S. Constitution.

“As an active-duty officer in the United States Army, I have grave concerns about the constitutional eligibility of Barack Hussein Obama to hold the office of president of the United States,” wrote Scott Easterling in a “to-whom-it-may-concern” letter.

Obama “has absolutely refused to provide to the American public his original birth certificate, as well as other documents which may prove or disprove his eligibility,” Easterling wrote. “In fact, he has fought every attempt made by concerned citizens in their effort to force him to do so.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Was New York Wife Alive During Beheading?

TV mogul accused of stabbing, decapitation won’t face 1st degree murder

Police revealed the decapitated wife of a Muslim TV network founder in New York was stabbed several times with hunting knives and may have been alive as her killer beheaded her — and, despite the brutal slaying, her husband will only face charges of second-degree murder.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A False Analogy

By Flemming Rose, Jyllands-Posten newspaper Culture Editor News

When British Foreign Minister David Miliband was asked earlier this month to explain why Dutch MP Geert Wilders was barred from entering Britain in order to show his film ‘Fitna’, which criticises Islam, to a group of British MPs, he declared:

‘We have a profound commitment to freedom of speech but there is no freedom to cry “fire” in a crowded theatre and there is no freedom to stir up hate, religious and racial hatred, according to the laws of the land.’

Milibrand’s analogy is misplaced. If you apply it to other public figures, there are scores of current and former Danish MPs and public voices that would never be permitted to enter Great Britain. Such people have for years incited hatred against critics of immigration by comparing them with Nazis in Germany in the 1930s.

The analogy comes from a 1919 US Supreme Court ruling, but the argument behind the ruling differs from Miliband’s application of it on a crucial point. What’s more is that many would agree that the statement Oliver Wendel Holmes was trying to criminalise with his analogy is now completely legal. The case involved Charles Schenck, secretary of the US Socialist Party in Philadelphia. Schenck was being tried for circulating flyers that compared the US military draft during the First World War with slavery, and called on Americans to oppose the war using legal means.

Who today would prosecute an American who had protested against the recruitment of soldiers to fight in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan? Holmes argued that Schenck’s actions were made while the country was at war, and that they created a ‘clear and present danger’ that would undermine the US Army’s efforts to win the war. Hundreds of Americans were taken to court. Holmes asserted:

‘The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting “fire” in a theatre and causing a panic.’

Drawing an analogy with socialist Schenck handing out flyers falls short in the Wilders case. What’s more, Holmes later used an opposing argument to defend freedom of speech. But note that in defending the move to keep Wilders out, Miliband forgot that Holmes said you weren’t allowed to yell ‘fire’ unless there actually was a fire. If there is a fire, or if there is smoke, then you have an obligation to draw everyone’s attention to it.

Wilders’s film is made up of documentary pictures, which makes it hard to reject them as false. What’s more, the issue the film takes up — violence carried out in the name of religion — is a part of the European reality, which makes it a subject of heated discussion. You can argue that Wilders’s depiction is one-sided and that it is propaganda, but Michael Moore does the same thing, and he wins film awards.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz has pointed out that a more precise analogy for the flyers would have been if someone were standing in front of a theatre, handing out flyers stating that the theatre was unsafe, and urging people to stay away. But that analogy would have made it impossible for Holmes to defend the decision, and it would have made it difficult for Miliband to use the analogy as an argument for keeping Wilders out.

Despite the obvious logical flaws, the false analogy continues to be invoked each time someone wants to forbid unpopular points of view from being expressed. Doing so is foolish, because it tells us nothing intelligent about where the limits of free speech are.

If there’s fire — or even just smoke — don’t we have an obligation to make others aware of it?

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Dutch Anti-Muslim Politician Geert Wilders to Screen Fitna Film in Washington

Republican Senator Jon Kyl is hosting a film screening at the Capitol building in Washington for a the controversial Right-wing Dutch politician who claims that Islam inspires terrorism.

Mr Kyl is sponsoring the Thursday event for Geert Wilders, who was denied entry to Britain earlier this month after British officials said he posed a threat to public order.

The Home Office refused him entry on the grounds he “would threaten community security and therefore public security”.

The elected Dutch MP had been invited to the House of Lords to show his 17-minute film, Fitna, which criticises the Koran as a “fascist book” and compares Islam to Nazism.

Mr Wilders’ 15-minute film, Fitna, juxtaposes verses from the Koran with images of violence and compares Islam to Nazism.

Mr Wilders has defended himself against accusations of “double standards” over his own demand for freedom of speech alongside his calls for the Koran to be banned.

“I want to ban the Koran,” he admitted.

“In the Netherlands we have banned Mein Kampf. I see a comparison between the two books. Not only are both books of totalitarian ideology but they both also incite violence.”

Mr Kyl agreed to facilitate the event because “all too often, people who have the courage to point out the dangers of militant Islamists find themselves vilified and endangered,” said Ryan Patmintra, his spokesman.

Thursday’s event was being sponsored by the International Free Press Society, headed by Lars Hedegaard, the Danish activist, and the Center for Security Policy, a think tank in Washington led by Republican Frank Gaffney.

The event is closed to the public and the media, but the film is being screened to members of Congress and their staff.

[Return to headlines]

Headscarf Award for Fighting Discrimination

Dutch supermarket chain Dirk van den Broek has been presented with the first Headscarf Award. According to the jury report the company has made the most effort to get the headscarf accepted in the workplace. Major Dutch companies like ABN Amro and Albert Heijn were among the nominees for the Award. It was presented on Saturday in the al-Kabir mosque in Amsterdam by the recently formed Polder Muslima Headscarf Brigade (Muslima is the Dutch term for a female Muslim) .

The brigade is an initiative of three Muslimas from the Ibnou Khaldoun Foundation in Amsterdam. The brigade intends to combat discrimination in the labour market. One of the three founders is Nora el-Jebil (pictured). She has worn a headscarf for five years now and has noticed that it made it more difficult for her to find work.

“My papers are in order. I am highly educated. I speak good Dutch but I still have a lot to prove. When I arrive for a job interview, it’s often clear that the people — who have talked to me on the phone or read my application and seen that the Dutch is correct — are not expecting someone with a headscarf. They regard it as a symbol of the oppression of women, as old-fashioned. When you walk in wearing a headscarf, they flinch. “Oh dear, this is not the kind of person we were expecting!”


Nora now works as an account manager for an American company, a job she obtained partly through her ability to convince others by means of dialogue. And dialogue is the strategy the Headscarf Brigade plans to employ. That’s the difference between the Polder Muslima Headscarf Brigade and organisations like the Equal Treatment Commission. Rather than going to court when they encounter a case of discrimination, the Headscarf Brigade will engage in dialogue with the employer in question.

In the future the Headscarf Brigade will also give courses for Muslimas, to make them less vulnerable during job interviews. Another plan is lessons for employers about taking the plunge and employing a Muslima. In this course the employer will learn how to look further than the headscarf alone.

Proving yourself

Fatima el-Atik (Labour), chair of Amsterdam’s Zeeburg district council is probably the most prominent Muslima with a headscarf. Despite everything she has achieved, she still has to prove herself. But, she says, it’s not because of the headscarf. She believes everyone should constantly have to prove themselves, to show their abilities and capacities and grow within society.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Italy: Nuclear Power Tops Agenda at Top-Level Talks

Rome, 24 Feb. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and French president Nicolas Sarkozy were meeting in Rome on Tuesday to endorse an historic agreement that could reintroduce nuclear power in Italy for the first time in two decades.

The agreement to be endorsed by the leaders of the two nations, was expected to include all aspects of nuclear power, from cooperation to security, technological cooperation, training, and industrial cooperation.

The accord is likely to pave the way for the reintroduction of nuclear power plants in Italy. The country shut down its four nuclear power plants after a referendum held the year after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

According to media reports, the bilateral deal will lead to the creation of a consortium involving Italian energy utility ENEL and French power giant EdF.

ENEL is set to acquire a 12.5 per cent share in France’s second European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), in addition to the 12.5 per cent stake it already has in the country’s first modern EPR nuclear reactor being built at Flamanville in northwest France.

EdF would also work with ENEL if the construction of new nuclear power plants were approved in Italy.

At the weekend Enel agreed to buy a 25 percent stake in Endesa, Spain’s largest hydropower generator.

EDF is the world’s biggest operator of nuclear power plants. It may propose a joint venture to build a nuclear plant with Enel in Italy.

Italy has been paying heavily for its referendum decision with energy costs higher than most other European nations. Italy also imports a substantial part of its electricity from France where nuclear power is one of the main sources of energy.

But Berlusconi’s government has indicated the country aims to begin constructing nuclear power stations by 2013.

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

UK to Imitate Saudi Terrorist Rehab Program

Britain’s High Court is looking into applying the Saudi rehabilitation program to give counseling to extremists, according to a press report Sunday.

The new program will be modeled after the munasaha (Arabic for “advice”) program in which the Saudi government enrolls repentant terrorists and returnees from Guantanamo or militant camps outside the kingdom, the London-based newspaper al-Hayat reported Sunday, said

The program would place an Islamic scholar or an imam in each prison to provide counseling to inmates with extremist ideologies According to High Court Judge Sir Christopher Pitchers, who headed a delegation that met with Saudi Minister of Justice Abdullah bin Mohammed Ibrahim Al Sheikh.

“ If a terrorist attack takes place in the U.K., we could benefit from the experience of Saudi Arabia in countering terrorism “

Christopher Pitchers”We will need the help of Saudi Arabia,” Pitchers was quoted as saying. “However, it is the British government that should decide, not the court.”

He referred to the positive results the Saudi program has yielded, especially with respect to terrorist operations..

“If a terrorist attack takes place in the U.K., we could benefit from the experience of Saudi Arabia in countering terrorism. We can also help them if we can. Mutual interest is the purpose of this visit to Riyadh,” he said.

The Saudi advisory program is supervised by the Saudi Ministry of Interior has garnered support and acclaim from the West, according to several reports in the Western media.

The advisory program is hailed by many countries as an extremely important step that precedes rehabilitation. Repentant extremists stay at hostels that have all the required medical, psychological, and cultural facilities to prepare them to re-integrate in society and switch to a moderate ideology.

Program officials continue to follow up with the prisoners after they are released, and Saudi officials have said their approach has been quote successful so far.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Why We Must Follow the Belgians

By Alkan Chaglar

Life goes on under a federation

BELGIUM IS often used as an argument by Cypriots opposed to the reunification of their island. It is hard to believe that the heart of the European Union and home to its Parliament, Commission, Presidency, NATO —and of course famous for its tranquillity and chocolates — can became ammunition for those hell-bent on ethnic segregation in Cyprus.

Yet, it is not the cheeky Manneken Pis that has offended them but Belgium’s internal affairs, which are frequently cited and exaggerated by those against a solution without looking at the whole picture.

Having lived in Belgium for a little over a year, I can say it is a country that I admire and that is excellent in many ways. As a student at the Centre for Federalism at Liege University and at the Law Faculty, I not only sat alongside Belgian students to learn about federalism but had many an opportunity to discuss and experience the advantages and disadvantages of their federation.

Belgium is not very often in the news but when it is, the British media often present it rather sensationally as a country about to be torn apart. The same scary headlines of Belgium’s discontented Flemish nationalists were echoed in 2001 when I was there warning of imminent separation. Yet Belgium still remains fully in tact.

What the media will not report is that the reality is not so sensational; the country is not on the verge of division and the internal problems actually require explanations that would long surpass their word-count limit.

While there have always been calls by Flemish nationalists for a separate state and a few calls by a very small minority of French speakers for reattachment to France, the vast majority of Belgians support parties committed to maintaining Belgium’s unity. The few separatist parties have never been able to find any coalition partners willing to work with them.

Belgium is home to a powerful federalist, many Belgians adore their Royal family, are fiercely proud of their little nation, are remorseful of its imperialist past and feel more Belgian than either Walloon/Francophone or Flemish.

You can hardly tell who is a Fleming or Walloon/Francophone, as it’s possible and quite normal to find a Fleming with the name Guy Le Bon or a French-speaking Belgian with the rather Germanic name, Zoe Heinesch. Like Cyprus, Belgium through centuries of co-existence and mixing is not that predictable.

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

Wilders Against Bulgaria and Romania

By Leigh Phillips

Geert Wilders, the Dutch leader of the xenophobic Freedom Party has announced his intention to stand for the European Parliament in the upcoming June elections.

He and his Freedom Party (Partij Voor de Vrijheid, or PVV) are to mount the EU hustings under the slogan “For the Netherlands.”

“You may not have noticed, but the campaign for the European parliamentary elections has begun. And you will not believe it, but it can even get exciting,” he said making the announcement on Monday (13 February).

Mr Wilders said the party would fight to reverse the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, calling the two countries “corrupt nations.”

The PVV also wants to head to Strasbourg to prevent Turkey from joining the bloc.

Turkey must not become a member “not now, not in a hundred years, not in a thousand years, entirely never,” the anti-Islam Mr Wilders said in a statement.

The party, arguing there must be “less Europe and more Netherlands” will also campaign to shrink the scope of EU governance to a minimum, restricting itself to nothing beyond economic co-operation — the European Union’s “original task.”

           — Hat tip: TV [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Press Reports at Least 9 Victims in Attack

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 23 — According to Algerian newspaper El Watan, at least 9 security agents of the Spas company, employed by Sonelgaz (state run Algerian electricity and gas company), are dead and 2 were injured in an attack last night in Ziama Mansouriah, in eastern Algeria, 500 metres from a construction site of the Italian company Astaldi. The field where the security agents live, continued the newspaper in its online version, was first attacked with mortar fire and then assaulted by a group of terrorists. “No Astaldi worker, neither Italian nor Algerian, was involved in the attack”, said the head of the group in Algeria to ANSA. “The construction site was not damaged”, he added underlining that “the attack was not directed at the site and should have hit the Sonelgaz station”. “There are reportedly various Algerian victims”, he specified. “As a precaution, Astaldi workers were transferred to the nearby city of Jijel (360km east of Algiers)”. The attack has not yet been confirmed by the Algerian authorities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Khan El Khalili the Day After the Attack in Cairo

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO — There are very few people in the lanes of Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili today, the most famous souk of the Middle East, and most of those few are undercover police. This is the scene in front of the Al Hussein mosque and the market streets the day after the attack in which a 17-year-old French girl, who had been part of a group of students on a field trip, was killed and other 14 were injured. The news of 24 injured has been confirmed, including four Egyptians, a German and three Saudi citizens. The bomb, stuffed with nails and other metallic objects, most likely exploded after being left under a stone bench in front of a much-frequented and crowed cafe’, and must have been very powerful. ‘‘There is nothing left where the bench once was, it’s just an empty space,’’ commented Jacques Goditiabois, a Belgian journalist on the scene, ‘‘and there are very few tourists around. In half an hour I have not seen more than about a dozen.’’ ‘‘We hesitated at length to come to the scene,’’ said an elderly couple on holiday. ‘‘Then we thought that it was very unlikely that there would be two attacks in the same place, one after the other, and so we decided to take the risk.’’ There has been no official report released yet by the authorities, who are questioning hundreds as witnesses, and the police are still holding two women and a man who were arrested on the scene immediately after the attack. ‘‘They are also witnesses,’’ said a security source, ‘‘we have no evidence against them, even though it seems they were likely to have been close to those who carried out the attack.’’ Egyptian authorities continue to express their utter condemnation of the incident — with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Sayyed Mohamed Tantaui, having spoken of the matter with the President of the Italian deputies Chambers, Gianfranco Fini, who is in Cairo on a visit — as do foreign authorities. Especially Saudi Arabia, which counts three of its citizens among the victims, and Syria and Iran. Teheran has said that ‘‘Iran condemns the act of terrorism’’, calling it ‘‘a suspicious act, which only serves the interests of the Zionist regime.’’ (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza: Florence, Funds From Israeli and Islamic Communities

(ANSAmed) — FLORENCE, FEBRUARY 24 — The regional government in Tuscany has announced the launch of a fund-raising programme in aid of children in Gaza affected by conflict in the Middle East, in tandem with the Israeli and Islamic Palestinian communities in Florence. The money will be used for health equipment for the pediatric hospital in Al Dorra in Gaza. Those wishing to contribute will be able to make a donation through their bank to the Red Cross as opened at the ‘Cassa di risparmio di Firenze’ savings bank (Fiesole branch). As he announced the initiative, the regional councilor for cooperation, Massimo Toschi, said that ‘the conflict has disappeared from the font pages of newspapers, but those caught up in the war, and especially the children involved, still need support.’’ Daniela Misul, the representative of the Israeli community, and Izzedin Elzir, the representative of the Islamic community, said that “children must always be offered supported wherever they are in the world, and moreover they should never be involved in wars.” It is thought that around 400 children died during the war, whilst some 2,000 were injured. Around two weeks ago, as part of its ‘Saving Children’ scheme, the Tuscan regional council hosted around fifteen infants suffering from serious illnesses that could not be treated in their own country. “Six of these,” Toschi said, ‘are now better, and will soon be able to return home, whilst the others are still being treated in Tuscan hospitals.’’ (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Holland: Shoes Thrown at IDF Officer During Speech

Captain (Res.) Ron Edelheit asked to speak to members of Jewish community on situation in Israel and Gaza, gets four shoes hurled at him by three pro-Palestinian protestors before even opening his mouth. Suspects detained; Edelheit tells Ynet, ‘Slander is just words — here they crossed the line’

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators threw shoes at an Israeli reserves officer while giving a speech on the Israel Defense Forces’ operation in the Gaza Strip in an Amsterdam hotel Sunday.

“This was an actual physical assault — past the limits of good taste,” the officer, Captain (Res.) Ron Edelheit told Ynet on Monday.

According to reports in Dutch media, three demonstrators — two men and one woman in their 20s — managed to get into the room where the lecture was being held and threw shoes at Edelheit, hitting him in the head. The three were arrested under suspicion of assault.

Edelheit, an Israeli of Dutch origin, is a reserves officer in the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit’s division, and is in constant contact with European media.

“I am also an Israeli citizen who loves his country. My mother lives in Holland, the Jewish organizations know me. WIZO-Holland heard I was coming, and asked me to tell the community about what’s going on in Israel, especially in light of the fact that I was in reserves during the operation in Gaza,” Edelheit told Ynet.

           — Hat tip: RH [Return to headlines]

Italy to Propose West Bank Airport

Tourism boost in plan to be unveiled at G8 summit

(ANSA) — Rome, February 23 — The Palestinian economy can be boosted by building an international airport and hotels catering to religious tourists in the West Bank, Group of Eight (G8) president Italy believes.

The Italian plan, to be unveiled at a G8 summit in Italy in July, also envisages the construction of major new industrial plants, Premier Silvio Berlusconi said in an interview that will appear in French daily Le Figaro Tuesday.

‘‘The plan foresees the construction of an international airport able to attract the many Catholic tourists interested in visiting the holy sites of Christianity starting with Bethlehem’’.

It will also see ‘‘the construction of hotel infrastructure by the main groups in the sector and a plan for major international groups to build plants,’’ the Italian premier said. Berlusconi, who ruled out talking to the Islamist group Hamas which governs Gaza, said ‘‘this would be the only way to give an effective incentive to the Palestinians to sit down at the negotiating table and ensure peaceful co-existence (with Israel)’’.

The Israeli-occupied West Bank is administered by Hamas’s rival, the more moderate Fatah, which heads the Palestinian National Authority.

Fatah was pushed out of Gaza after Hamas won elections there two years ago but there are ongoing efforts to reconcile the factions. Italy will present its plan ‘‘to pull Palestinians out of their present state of poverty’’ at the G8 summit on the island of La Maddalena off the northern coast of Sardinia in July, Berlusconi said.

There are no civilian airports within the West Bank, and the nearest major airport is in Tel Aviv.

AS well as Bethlehem, the West Bank has other sites of religious and historical interest such as Jericho, Hebron, Qumran and the Dead Sea.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Music: Spain, Pro-Palestinians Against Noa Concerts

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 24 — A campaign to boycott two concerts by the singer Noa due to take place tomorrow and Thursday in San Sebastian, which has been planned on the internet and supported by radical political anti-Israeli groups, risks becoming a full-blown demonstration. The INUNA groups against the war launched an appeal for people to demonstrate on the internet, outside and inside the Vittoria Eugenia theatre in the Basque city, at the times when the singer is due to perform, so as “to make it clear to Noa that she is not welcome”, since she is a ‘representative of the Zionist State.’’ Meanwhile, the Guipuzkoa Platform against the war defined the singer as a “representative of the state of Israel, since she justified Israel’s most recent offensive.” Commenting on the planned demonstrations, the San Sebastian city councillor for Culture, Ramon Etxezarreta, spoke in favour of the singer, adding that Noa “was not signed up as an Israeli, but as a prestigious artist in great public demand”, as shown by the fact that tickets for the two concerts in the Basque city sold out in just a few days. Noa was the target of activists’ criticism against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. In April, during a concert in a theatre in Tolosa, a demonstrator went onto the stage raising a Palestinian flag. Tension did not diminish following Noa’s performance with Palestinian singer Mira Awad in Seville two days ago, as part of the Festival of the Atlantic Andalusians in Essaouira. Both Awad and Noa are internationally recognised for their activism in favour of intercultural dialogue towards peace in the Middle East. The Israeli artist received a very warm welcome from the public during her two recent performances in Galicia. But in showing an open letter that Noa sent to Palestinians on January 8 at the height of the Israeli offensive in Gaza, in which the singer expressed her hope that Israel would manage to free inhabitants of the Gaza Strip “from the cancer of fanaticism known as Hamas. Through the words of Etxezarreta, the city council in San Sebastian defends “the freedom of all artists to express themselves as they wish.” In any case, the council is committed to informing the singer “of the controversy that her presence has created” and to present a letter from the groups who are criticising her. In Madrid the secretaries for Equal opportunities policy and for the Socialist party’s social movements, alongside the Platform of Women Artists against all forms of violence and the UGT union, have set up a concert for Friday February 27 entitled “Gaza en el corazon” (Gaza in our hearts), with more than thirty Spanish artists, actors and bands taking part; the proceeds will be set aside for the purchase of sanitary materials for hospitals in the Gaza Strip. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Danish Children Poisoned in Saudi Arabia

Two Danish children have died of poisoning in Saudi Arabia. Parents also ill.

A 10-year-old girl and her 2-year-old brother have died in the Saudi city of Jeddah after apparently being poisoned by a neigbour’s use of an anti-cockroach insecticide. The mother of two children remains seriously ill, while the father — who works for the Danish Arla dairy company — is in a stable condition.

According to reports in local media, neighbours to the family of four had used a particularly strong insecticide to kill cockroaches. The insecticide is banned for in-house use in Saudi Arabia.

While the neighbours went on holiday, the insecticide is said to have spread to the neighbouring house. When the family of four woke on Sunday morning, both children were ill and taken to hospital where they died.

The Saudi Gazette claims the family’s neighbours were also Danish, with both families living in apartments in the Al-Masarrah district in Jeddah.

“Police found traces at the apartment of aluminum phosphate, a chemical used in insecticides, although no insecticide was found in the apartment itself,” the Saudi Gazette said.

Criminal Evidence Director Saleh Zowaid told the Gazette that there had been six similar deaths this month. “Aluminum phosphate is banned from use in homes,” Zowaid said. “It is classified as a dangerous insecticide of the first class, and is only permitted to be used on farms and in open areas,” he said.

The General Director of Health Affairs in Jeddah, Sami Badawoud, said the insecticide had already been recalled from the market following reports of its dangers.

A friend of the family tells that the father’s condition is now improving, as is the mother’s, although she remains seriously ill.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Gaza: Gulf Countries Approve a Reconstruction Plan

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI — Foreign and finance ministers from countries belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) met in Riyadh to approve a reconstruction plan for Gaza and discuss ways to promote the peace process following the formation of the new Israeli government put together by Likud leader Benyamin Netanyahu. Adhesion to the plan for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, devastated by 23 days of Israeli attacks in January, is open to all Arab League member countries and has already been signed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar for 1.25 billion dollars, reported Arab News. The oil block — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman — also approved the institution of an office with the task of supervising the granting of licences, the transfer of materials and the effective application of the programme. The financial operations will be carried out by the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Iraq: British Troops to Leave Basra at End of May

Basra, 24 Feb. (AKI) — British troops will begin withdrawing from the southern Iraqi city of Basra by the end of May, a senior British defence official said on Tuesday. According to the news agency Voices of Iraq, the unnamed official, an undersecretary of the British defense ministry, announced the plan on a visit to the region.

“The forces will start their withdrawal from Basra by the end of next May as a preliminary withdrawal before the complete withdrawal from Basra by the end of next July,” the British official said during a visit with Basra governor Mohamed El Waeli.

El Waeli said he also discussed investment and economic development with the official in Basra.

“The meeting also discussed the British withdrawal from the city,” he added. “The British officials vowed to continue their support for the city and the new local government.”

British troops are due to leave Iraq by the end of July. In December last year, prime minister Gordon Brown announced that British military operations would end by 31 May and all remaining 4,100 service personnel would leave within two months.

Brown announced the withdrawal timetable after concluding talks with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“ I am proud of the contribution British forces have made. They are the pride of Britain and the best in the world,” Brown said at the time.

At a joint media conference, Maliki confirmed that the agreement included a provision for the Iraqi government to request an extension of the British military presence.

However, both leaders indicated it was not expected to occur.

Basra is almost 600 km south of Baghdad close to the border of Iran.

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

Saudi Arabia: Man to Receive 8, 000 Lashes for Daughter’s Rape

Riyadh, 18 Feb. (AKI) — A Saudi court has sentenced a man to ten years in prison and 8,000 lashes after he was found guilty of sexual violence against his daughter. According to a report in the Saudi newspaper, al-Shams, the 40-year-old man was arrested recently when he was allegedly found to be raping a young girl who later turned out to be his daughter.

The man was discovered during a routine police patrol on the streets of the city after they found a car parked in a hidden location close to where three children were playing with a balloon.

The police noticed there was something strange going on inside the vehicle and went towards it to check what was happening.

“I discovered the man while he was having sex with the girl,” a police officer said. “ Having realised what was going on, I arrested him and took him to the police station in the al-Azizia district.”

The man, who was reportedly separated from his wife, suffers from psychological problems and was immediately sent to a court in Mecca where he was sentenced.

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

Saudi Man Sets World Record With Deadly ‘Hobby’

Says he enjoys eating scorpions, snakes and lizards

A Saudi man set a new world record last month after he ate 22 live scorpions in 20 seconds at a show in Riyadh. The 39-year-old earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records but told that is not why he did it.

“It’s always been my hobby to eat scorpions,” Majid al-Maliki told, adding that he once ate 50 live scorpions in one meal.

“ I advise everyone to stay calm after being stung since it is fear that kills…Scorpion poison has many benefits and as long as there are no ulcers, it is ok if the poison reaches the stomach “

Majid al-Maliki When asked how he eats the scorpions, Maliki replied that he treats them like any other type of food, he chews and then swallows.

The Riyadh-based civil servant said he enjoys eating all types and sizes of scorpions, but especially relishes in the yellow species known as Palestinian.

Maliki said he has been eating scorpions for 22 years and said he also eats snakes, small crocodiles and lizards. “I can eat 10 snakes at a time,” he said.

Maliki says eating reptiles is a hobby of his

Maliki explained he has never been poisoned and said he cuts part of the scorpion’s spike so that the sting is mild.

“Even if it stings, the poison won’t affect me,” he said, adding that it is not the sting that kills but the person’s fear as people tend to panic causing the temperature to rapidly rise, which causes death.

“I advise everyone to stay calm after being stung since it is fear that kills,” he said. “Scorpion poison has many benefits and as long as there are no ulcers, it is ok if the poison reaches the stomach.”

The previous Guinness record holder was an American man, Dean Sheldon, who ate 21 deadly Chinese golden scorpions in 2004.

Maliki said he had a contract with an American program to perform his shows, but said he stopped after the September 11 attacks.

(To watch the video visit:

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Tehran and Damascus Censured in Atomic Energy Agency Report

The Iranians continue to enrich uranium, and have hidden 209 kilos of it. They now have a ton, enough to make a bomb. It seems increasingly probable that the Syrians were building a secret nuclear reactor.

Vienna (AsiaNews/Agencies) — In all likelihood, there was in fact a nuclear reactor on the Syrian site bombed by the Israelis in September of 2007, and Iran, in addition to having 209 kilos of uranium that it never declared, is continuing the process of enrichment. The concerns of those who are afraid of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East are being heightened by the report that the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will present early next month, but previews of which are already being released.

In spite of its traditional caution, the agency is highlighting the results of the investigations carried out over the course of the year. Starting with Iran, which “contrary to the decisions of the Security Council . . . has not suspended its enrichment related activities.” The IAEA also says it has been unable to achieve any “substantive” progress in the investigation intended to reveal whether Tehran’s nuclear program has military aspects. “Regrettably,” the report says, “as a result of the continued lack of cooperation by Iran in connection with the remaining isuses which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme, the agency has not been able to make substantive progress on these issues.”

Experts interviewed by the New York Times say that with the 209 kilos of uranium mentioned in the report, Tehran now has more than a ton of low-enriched material. With further refinement — which, however, Iran does not seem capable of doing at the moment — this would be enough to make an atomic bomb.

As for Syria, the IAEA has rejected the country’s claims that the uranium found on the site of Dair Alzour (or al-Kibar) came from the Israeli missiles used to bomb it. “There is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles,” the report states. The most delicate points concern the discovery of particles of enriched uranium and graphite. The former is a material that is not found in nature, but was processed, and the particles “are of a type not included in Syria’s declared inventory of nuclear material.” The latter is a fundamental material for the construction of nuclear reactors. “Syria,” the report concludes, “therefore needs to provide additional information and supporting documentation about the past use and nature of the building and information about the procurement activities. Syria needs to be transparent by providing additional access to other locations alleged to be related to Dair Alzour.”

For Syria, and even more so for Iran, one possible solution seems to be related to the Obama presidency. Several days ago, Syrian president Assad called the presence of the United States in the Middle East “essential,” and yesterday Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that his country is considering “the offer” of dialogue made by the United States. But he added, “We need to wait to see differences in Barack Obama’s policy compared to that of George Bush. If the United States makes steps towards Iran, counter-steps will be made by Iran as well.”

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

Turkey: Court Opposes Religious Teaching in Schools

Ankara, 24 Feb. (AKI) — A Turkish court on Tuesday reaffirmed an earlier ruling that religious education was not compulsory in schools. According to the Anatolian news agency, a court in the southern province of Antalya ruled in favour of a minority Alevi Muslim family who demanded that their daughter be exempt from participating in religious education at her primary school.

The local administration had said that only Christian and Jewish students should be exempt from participating in religious lessons under the law.

Turkish courts have ruled to stop compulsory religious education. The European Court of Justice also ruled against Turkey in a similar case.

“The ruling sets a precedent. Those wanting to be exempt from participating in compulsory religious lessons should file a suit,” the student’s lawyer Nusret Gurgoz told the Anatolian agency.

The role of religion remains a sensitive issue in Turkey after the military questioned the government’s commitment to secularism in the run-up to the presidential elections in 2007.

In March 2008 the Constitutional court narrowly rejected a petition by the chief prosecutor to ban the governing Justice and Development Party and its senior officials, including president Abdullah Gul and prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for allegedly seeking to establish an Islamic state.

A survey of almost 6,500 people conducted by Konda, one of Turkey’s most respected polling organisations, found that almost half — 53 percent — of those polled wanted judges, teachers and other civil servants to wear the Islamic headscarf.

Minority Alevis describe themselves as ‘followers of Ali’, bridegroom of the Prophet Mohammed. They are neither Sunnis nor mainstream Shias. They observe different religious practices from Sunni Islam, such as during prayer, pilgrimage and fasting.

Some Alevis emphasise Alevism is a separate religion and some that it is a belief-system, while others assert it is the ‘true Islam’.

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

United Arab Emirates: Dubai Exchange Rallies After a 20-Billion-Dollar Long-Term Bond Programme is Announced

The measure, first of its kind, will enable the emirate to raise the necessary liquidity to meet its financial obligations. Dubai has no oil and must rely on its real estate and financial sectors to develop; both have recently suffered huge losses.

Dubai (AsiaNews) — Dubai shares jumped 7.9 per cent yesterday after the emirate government launched a 20-billion-dollar long-term bond programme. The 5-year notes sold will pay annual interest of 4 per cent.

This “issuance will provide the Dubai government with the necessary liquidity to substitute the liquidity that has dried up globally in the last 12 months and accordingly meet all upcoming financial obligations” and also “continue its development programme,” a statement by the Dubai government said.

The first tranche of 10 billion dollars was fully subscribed by the central bank of the United Arab Emirates.

This is the first such step to help Dubai, part of the seven-member UAE, tackle a slowdown in its real estate sector. Unlike the other emirates Dubai has no oil and must rely on real estate and financial services for its development

A report issued earlier this month showed that US$ 582 billion worth of building projects in the United Arab Emirates, or 45 per cent of the total, had been put on hold due to the economic slowdown.

In order to pursue its own development in the past years the Dubai government went into debt to the tune of US$ 10 billion. For their part government-affiliated firms also accumulated US$ 70 billion in debt.

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


Russia: Vladimir Putin Faces Rising Anger From Within Russian Army

Vladimir Putin is facing an unprecedented military challenge to his authority as discontent over medieval conditions and personnel cuts mounts within the Russian armed forces.

A growing number of disgruntled servicemen, including senior officers, are making contact with Russian opposition groups for the first time since he came to power in 2000.

The prospect of losing the unwavering support of the 1.2 million-strong armed forces is causing alarm in the Kremlin at a time when the Russian prime minister is already looking vulnerable.

Simmering public anger over the government’s handling of Russia’s stalling economy has triggered the first ever protests demanding Mr Putin’s resignation.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Porn Law ‘Endangers Country’S Pluralism’

Jakarta, 24 Feb. (AKI/The Jakarta Post) — In Indonesia, plaintiffs have demanded a judicial review of the 2008 pornography law by the Constitutional Court, saying the law had turned the country’s cultural diversity into uniformity.

During the first hearing of the review Monday, the plaintiffs, comprising 11 people from Christian-majority Minahasa in North Sulawesi, asked the court to scrap three articles in the controversial law for “ruining the country’s pluralism and harmony”.

“All along, Indonesia has protected this diversity, until the endorsement of the pornography law, which turned our diversity into uniformity,” the plaintiffs told the panel of judges presided over by justice Maria Farida Indrati.

The three contentious articles are Article 1(1), which defines the term “pornography”; Article 4(1d), which bans the production, distribution and other activities related to the dissemination of pornography that displays nudity; and Article 10, which bans people from performing porn-related acts in the public.

“What about the use of the koteka (a traditional penis sheath) in Papua? What about the jaipongan dance in West Java, and women wearing kemben (traditional strapless top) in Central Java and East Java?” the plaintiffs said.

“Nobody considers these pornographic; they are part of Indonesia’s beautiful and rich culture that have attracted people from other countries.”

They asked the court to declare the three contentious articles in violation of the Constitution and scrap them.

However, the judges questioned the legal standing of the plaintiffs, who said they spoke for the Minahasa tribal community. They asked the plaintiffs to provide proof confirming they were representatives of the Minahasa community.

The 11 plaintiffs each said they represented NGOs in Minahasa, including the Minahasa Bible (Masehi) Church, the North Sulawesi branch of the National Committee for Indonesian Youths, the Manado Catholic Youths, the Alliance of Southern Minahasa Students and Youths, and the Minahasa Cultural Assembly.

Should they fail to prove their status as representative of Minahasan people, the plaintiffs were told to present themselves as individuals instead.

The judges also criticized the plaintiffs’ wrong citation of the contentious articles, and told them to name detrimental effects of the articles specific to the Minahasa community.

The plaintiffs were given 14 days to comply with the judges’ requests before a second hearing is held.

The controversial pornography law was passed by Indonesia’s House of Representatives in October last year.

The text of the new law has been strongly influenced by radical Islamist parties. It appears to be based on a vague definition of ‘pornography’ and its critics fear that it could lead to various interpretations and criminalise the practices of cultural and religious minorities throughout the archipelago.

Indonesia is an archipelago with more than 17,000 islands and 240 million people from 45 ethnic groups who practise all of the world’s major religions.

However, more than 85 percent of the country’s inhabitants are Muslim.

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

Italy: Pakistani Money Agent Denies Link to Mumbai Attacks

Rome, 24 Feb. (AKI) — A Pakistani money transfer agent in the northern Italian city of Brescia has denied any involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks which killed 173 people last November. Mohammed Yaqub Janjua is the owner of the Madina Trading telephone centre and Western Union branch which was allegedly used by a collaborator linked to the attacks.

“We, the Pakistani community are peace lovers, we have nothing to do with what happened. However, if someone is involved in something like the attacks in Mumbai, he should be punished,” said Mohammed Yaqub Janjua in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

Yaqub was referring to Javed Iqbal, a 46 year-old Pakistani national, who was recently arrested in Pakistan for allegedly being one of the main conspirators behind the Mumbai attacks.

According to media reports, Iqbal, a resident of the Spanish city of Barcelona, is alleged to have travelled to Brescia and transferred 238 dollars to a US address in the state of New Jersey, in the name of Nizar al-Sharif.

From there it was allegedly used to buy five telephones, three of which were used in the Mumbai bombings.

According to a report in The Times of India, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that the handlers used VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calling platforms registered in the US, as well as numbers with an Austrian prefix.

Reports also said the US number was used to route calls to terrorists in India.

The FBI said the US number was set up through a US telecom company called Callphonex, which facilitates Internet VOIP calls.

The account with Callphonex was allegedly set-up by a man called Kharak Singh, who claimed to be of Indian nationality. However, an individual named Mohammed Ashfaq is said to have activated the account after a moneygram was transferred under his name.

The payment was made from Yaqoub’s agency in Brescia.

When questioned about his security standards at his money transfer agency and how it was possible that Iqbal sent the money using a fake passport, Yaqub told AKI that the Pakistani suspect fulfilled the requirements to send money through his agency.

“At least 30 people come and go every day to send money, this is not a question of security,” Yaqub said.

“I don’t know how to tell the difference between a real or fake passport. I just saw a Pakistani passport, it was old because I know now they have new ones, and also, if the document is not valid, the system does not allow me to send the money.”

However, he also told AKI that in order to send money, the only thing that was required was an official document such as an Italian identity card, permit of stay, or foreign passport, and an address in Italy, which Iqbal provided.

“The man gave me an original passport as far as I’m concerned and provided me with an address here in Brescia, Via Milano 125. If an Englishman came to send money, and he gave me his passport and address of the hotel where he was staying, then he too could send money,” said Yaqub.

Yaqub, who has been running the agency for more than 10 years, said he would never have suspected that Iqbal was involved in the Mumbai bombings (Photo).

He also told AKI that his business was routinely checked by Italy’s finance police and they had never found any problems.

“There are so many Javid Iqbals in Pakistan and here in this country. If a person comes to send money, I only see this, but I don’t know his intentions, especially when he only sent such a small amount (229 dollars), we don’t ask him ‘What will you do with the money?” he said.

Yaqub also said the Pakistani community in Italy was peace-loving.

“If a person is involved in something like that, (Mumbai attacks), it is very,very bad, because Pakistanis came to this city because we had no life, no roof over our heads. We came to Italy to save our lives and to live as smoothly and easily as possible. I have all my family here,” he said.

Yaqub is a Pakistani citizen from a town outside the capital Islamabad. He is married with three children.

The Mumbai attacks targeted two luxury hotels and other city landmarks in November last year. A total of 173 people died and hundreds of others were injured.

One of the ten gunman survived the attacks and Islamabad later admitted he was a Pakistani citizen.

In January Pakistan bowed to international pressure and arrested 124 militants suspected of involvement in the deadly terrorist attacks.

The government said it had closed five training camps and 20 offices belonging to banned charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the outlawed Kashmiri separatist group, Lashkar-e-Toiba.

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

Italy: Pakistani Leader Says ‘No Surprise’ in Link to Terror Attacks

Rome, 24 Feb. (AKI) — A Pakistani community leader said on Tuesday he was not surprised to hear of a link between Pakistani immigrants in Italy and the deadly Mumbai terrorist attacks. Ejaz Ahmad, spoke to Adnkronos International (AKI), after media reports alleged that a man who collaborated with the Mumbai terrorists used a Western Union agent in the northern Italian city of Brescia to pay for telephone numbers used to make untraceable international calls via the Internet.

“I am not surprised that the telephone cards of the Mumbai terrorists were charged by a Brescia call centre,” said Ejaz Ahmad, director of the Urdu-language monthly, ‘Azad’.

“Italians do not know that here among the diverse immigrant communities, the Pakistanis are number one in the telecommunications sector.”

“I spoke about exactly this in the last issue of my magazine which is targeted at Pakistanis in Italy,” he said. “You have to understand that in Italy, like other European countries like Spain, the Pakistanis are the leaders of the telecommunications sector.”

“It all began years ago, when several Pakistanis were managing telephone networks for foreigners. It was because of this contact that Pakistanis became involved in the call centre business and all of them threw themselves into this work.

“Today there are around 4,000 Pakistanis that run call centres or shops in Italy from where you can send money abroad.”

Ahmad, who is also the Pakistani community representative on an Islamic consultation committee set up by the Italian interior ministry, said he was not surprised to learn that the Pakistani allegedly involved in the telephone registration scandal was a resident of the Spanish city of Barcelona.

“There is a strong rapport between Pakistanis in Italy and those in Spain, particularly in business,” he said.

Ahmad said many of the Pakistanis in Brescia had come from the Punjab region of Pakistan, and many had also migrated to Spain.

He also said several investigations carried out since 9/11 have spoken of the fund-raising inside the community for Laskar-e-Toiba, the Pakistani militant group linked to the November attacks in Mumbai.

In Italy there are several Islamic groups that control a large sector of the Pakistani community. The most important is the predominantly Sunni Minhaj al-Quran which controls 17 mosques in the northern regions of Lombardy and Emilia Romagna. There are also Muhammadiya members and Shias who have a strong following in certain areas such as Brescia.

Relations between between India and Pakistan have been tense since the November attacks, after it was discovered all 10 gunmen were Pakistani nationals.

At least 170 people were killed when terrorists targeted two luxury hotels and other locations in the heart of the city.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe’s Secret Plan Against White Farmers

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party has drawn up a secret plan to accelerate seizures of land owned by white farmers in Zimbabwe.

The Commercial Farmers’ Union estimates that at least 100 farmers have been targeted for eviction and invasion in the last two weeks.

They appear to be the first victims of a secret plan drawn up by Mr Mugabe’s allies to ensure that “everything in their power” is done to remove the white farming community from their land.

Details of the plan, seen by the Telegraph, make clear that a co-ordinated campaign against the farmers is underway despite the new power-sharing government with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The land grab, which began in 2000, precipitated the country’s collapse, as it destroyed commercial agriculture, the mainstay of the economy, while Mr Mugabe used gifts of farms to shore up loyalty in his divided party.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Clashes at Lampedusa Immigration Centre

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA, FEBRUARY 18 — A fire broke out today during scuffles between police and immigrants at an expulsion centre on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa. Police said the migrants used mattresses and waste paper to set the fire after failing to break down the centre’s gates. One of the buildings in the centre was destroyed, police said. Several migrants and police were wounded in the scuffles, police said. The riot broke out after around 300 Tunisians protested against the expulsion of some 100 compatriots. Most of the 863 migrants at the centre are Tunisians. The centre has repeatedly seen protests after going over its 850-bed capacity. It was recently transformed from a holding centre into an expulsion centre. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

FBI Praises Foreigners, Disses U.S.

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III on Monday praised the partnerships that the bureau has built with its overseas counterparts but said much more work remains in building the trust of ethnic communities in the U.S. whose help is needed to fight terrorism.

Mr. Mueller said during a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations that the bureau must “redouble our efforts” in building relationships with communities whose members may become radicalized.

“We understand the reluctance of some communities to sit down at the table with us. They come from countries where national police forces and security services engender fear and mistrust,” he said. “Oftentimes, the communities from which we need the most help are those who trust us the least.”

As an example, Mr. Mueller pointed to the case of Shirwa Ahmed, a 27-year-old Somali immigrant who returned to his home country and carried out a suicide bombing in October.

Ahmed, who lived in Minnesota, is thought to be the first American citizen to have carried out such an attack.

“I think it’s hard to say, but we certainly believe he was recruited here in the U.S. and we believe there may have been others that have been radicalized, as well,” Mr. Mueller said.

Mr. Mueller declined to offer any more specifics, citing an ongoing investigation. But about 20 young Somali men reportedly have left the U.S. to fight or train with Islamic extremists as part of Somalia’s ongoing civil war. Most of the young men were from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, where there is fear that terrorists are recruiting young men for suicide missions in Somalia, The Washington Times reported in December.

           — Hat tip: RRW [Return to headlines]

Riot in Lampedusa, Fire in Centre

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO) — A riot at Lampedusa’s identification and expulsion centre (CIE) today saw 24 immigrants and policemen get hurt. It all started around noon inside the CIE, where a group of Tunisians — who had started a hunger strike yesterday to protest against the transfer of 80 of them as a prelude to their expulsion — attacked some fellow countrymen who decided to have lunch. The police immediately intervened in an attempt to calm the situation, but the immigrants started throwing toilets, doors and pieces of sheet metal injuring several policemen. Police equipped with anti-riot gear responded using truncheons and tear gas. It was total chaos at the centre for several minutes. According to the reconstruction of the chief of police of Agrigento, Girolamo di Fazio, some immigrants tried to escape by forcing the entrance gate. Others reportedly started the fire which completely destroyed one of the three buildings, and caused breathing problems for fourteen persons including policemen, firefighters and migrants. Di Fazio said that the leaders of the rebellion (around 20 Tunisians) have already been arrested and that they will soon be transferred to the regional capital’s prison. Just before 3pm the situation returned to normal, though the police remained on the scene present. Italian politicians of the government and the opposition have commented on the incident. Isabella Bertolini (PdL — ‘People of Freedom’) has asked for zero-tolerance against those responsible for the incident. Angela Maraventano (Northern League) has asked for the dismissal of the mayor of Lampedusa, De Rubeis, who in turn had asked for the dismissal of Interior Minister Maroni. The Pd (Democratic Party) has asked the government to report to parliament, whilst Agnoletto and Russo Spena (Communist Refounding Party) have asked for the dismissal of Maroni. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Survey: Enough Foreign Residents in Finland

A survey by the news weekly Suomen Kuvalehti shows that a majority of Finns think there are already enough resident foreigners in the country, while nearly half would accept even fewer foreigners.

At less than 3% of the population, the number of foreign residents in Finland is among the lowest in Europe.

A majority of Finns polled by Suomen Kuvalehti expressed the view that this is a suitable number. One in ten would like to stop immigration for the purpose of seeking work.

Just over 40% responded that in general fewer immigrants should be accepted into the country. Around 10% were of the opinion that only increased numbers of asylum seekers and refugees should be accepted for settlement.

A policy of increasing the number of foreigners to fill jobs was backed by about one-fifth of those surveyed.

One in ten took the stand that there are too few resident foreigners in Finland, while one-fifth thinks there are already too many.

There were 1 006 people who responded to the poll, which was carried out for Suomen Kuvalehti by Taloustutkimus during the first week of February.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

UK: Brown’s Total Failure on Immigration

One in nine people in Britain were born overseas

GORDON BROWN’S complete failure on immigration was revealed today as it emerged that one in nine people living in Britain were born oversees.

The Government’s open-door policy on migrants was plunged into the spotlight again as official figures showed that the number of people born abroad who are now living in the UK rocketed last year by 290,000.

There are now 6.5 million foreigners living in the UK according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The Annual Population Survey showed 4.1m foreign nationals resident in the UK in the year to June 2008, compared with 3.8 million in the year to June 2007.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]

At What Price?

National Review is my favorite political magazine. I don’t agree with everything in it, but it has such a broad range of opinion — libertarians, social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, First and Second Amendment specialists, etc. — that full agreement would be unlikely.

The February 23rd issue features an article about the immigration issue. It’s by Richard Nadler, and is entitled “At What Cost?”. Mr. Nadler’s contention is that “[c]onservatives should rethink their opposition to ‘comprehensive’ immigration reform”.

This is not a new argument, and there are even certain subsets of conservatism — for example, at the Wall Street Journal — that flirt with an “open borders” philosophy. But it’s rare for National Review to feature such an opinion, and even rarer for me to feel compelled to comment.

Mr. Nadler’s contention is that the Republican Party is doing itself harm by allowing the “border enforcement” faction to set policy:

Conservatives should stop trying to remove 12 million illegal aliens from American soil, either by rounding them up or by inducing them to “self-deport.” In the Southwest, the West, the Northeast, and Florida, attempts to remove illegals have diminished the conservative movement, transforming a governing majority into a structural minority. To continue the effort will damage the conservative cause even more among Hispanics and entrepreneurs.

He then cites the three “permanent interests” that are involved in the issue: border security, employment demands, and immigrants’ rights lobbies. His assertion is that “enforcement first” conservatives emphasize the first of these and neglect the other two, to the electoral disadvantage of the Republican party.

The putative solution is to embrace “comprehensive immigration reform”:
– – – – – – – –

These interests are permanent, and formidable. “Comprehensive” immigration reform was premised on the assumption that any major legislative attempt to satisfy one of these interests must address all three. In 2006, and again in 2007, the Bush administration championed a version of comprehensive reform; Senate Republicans blocked it. Opponents, primarily conservatives, insisted that immigration reform address border security first or exclusively.

Partisans of cross-border labor and immigrant rights reciprocated in kind, rejecting full-spectrum conservative candidates who opposed comprehensive immigration reform in favor of full-spectrum liberals who supported it. In 2008, advocates of comprehensive immigration reform gained, on net, at least 14 partisans in the House and four in the Senate. All are Democrats.

The author goes on to outline the decline in the Republican share of the Hispanic vote that the party has experienced since 2004. He points out that conservative social values and devout Christian beliefs are embraced by a larger proportion of Hispanic Americans than the is true of the rest of the population.

Thus conservatives need to wake up and realize their mistake:

Conservatives have been obtuse to the depth of Hispanic resistance to the removal of illegals. Roughly 30 million resident Hispanics are American citizens — triple the number of Hispanic illegals. Eleven million Hispanics voted in 2008, a 38 percent increase from 2004. Among adult Hispanic citizens, the Pew Hispanic Center records that 41 percent fear a deportation action against a friend or family member. Roughly one Hispanic in four participated in a demonstration or rally in behalf of immigrants over the past year. [emphasis added]

This is where I part company with Mr. Nadler. One certainly has sympathy with people whose family members have violated the law and risk punishment as a result. But why is the proposed solution to abolish the law?

If a general amnesty for those who broke the law is warranted on principle, let him make the case. But the reason why such a draconian step is necessary is that…

…it would help more Republicans get elected.

Excuse me, sir, but that’s not a good enough reason. What other principles should be abandoned by Republicans in order to gain office? Should they support nationalization of the banks? Partial-birth abortion? A tax increase?

Is opposition to massive immigration of unassimilated foreigners a core conservative principle, or not?

If it’s not, then I’ll turn in my conservative card.

I’m already not a Republican, so I might as well stop being a conservative.

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

Mr. Nadler goes on to describe the numbers of illegal Hispanic immigrants who are already resident in the United States. Then he says:

The fear and the fury engendered in the broader Hispanic community by conservative efforts to remove illegals has destroyed conservative prospects in the Southwest, weakened them in the West, and wiped them out in New England.

This is not an expression of conservative principle, or a lament about the abandonment of the electorate, or a display of concern for the welfare of the citizens of the United States.

It’s about the declining fortunes of the Republican Party.

Is that really the most important concern of the nation right now?

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

Richard Nadler is not wrong about any specific fact. “Opponents of comprehensive immigration reform are sitting on a demographic time bomb”, “[e]mployers resisted mandates to revisit the immigration status of employees in whom they had invested time and training”, and “[p]ractical men of business knew that the availability of low-wage labor in the United States prevented the export of higher value-added tasks in an international workplace.”

These things are true. But drawing the conclusion from them that we should embrace “comprehensive immigration reform” is like saying, “Well, the rapist has already broken into the bedroom and has a knife at my throat, so I might as well offer him a beer and we’ll both enjoy it.”

The biggest problem with “comprehensive” reform is the suspension of disbelief that’s required concerning the “enforcement” portion of the deal.

We are being asked, just as we were in 1986, to trade an amnesty for a promise that from now on the immigration laws of our country will be enforced.

Why should we believe it? We got snookered in 1986, and that was under Reagan. Do we really, really believe that we will do better in 2009, when both houses of Congress and the Presidency are overwhelmingly controlled by Democrats? And not just any Democrats, not the Democrats of the 1980s, but a much more radical bunch, many of whom are in thrall both to corrupt business interests and the Multicultural lobby.

Why will things turn out any different this time?

Are we such fools that we will buy the exact same phony and expensive snake oil that we bought last time?

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

Here is Richard Nadler’s conclusion:

At some point, conservatives must reflect on how many allies, and how many issues, we are willing to sacrifice in a fey and futile attempt to get field workers, busboys, and nannies out of the country. The steady drumbeat of restrictionist defeat invites — no, requires — conservatives to revisit a concept we have glibly reviled: comprehensive immigration reform. The relevant question is no longer whether we want it, but what we want from it: what forms of border security, crime control, and employment verification. Every hour we postpone a border reform that respects the interests of employers and Hispanics, our entire agenda suffers.

I propose to reframe the issue in such a way that both the interests of the Republican Party and the interests of the American people will be served.

The essential problem lies in the concept of the United States as a “propositional nation”. This is all well and good, because that is what we are.

But we overlook the importance of tradition and culture at our peril. The proposition of the United States — that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, etc. — can only be realized within a polity that shares a language, a culture, and a set of basic values. It cannot be imposed successfully on a polyglot mishmash. We wish it could be, but it can’t.

The unpleasant truth is this: A propositional nation cannot exist in a multicultural society.

Mr. Nadler cites some statistics: “Arizona is 30 percent Hispanic; California, 36 percent; Texas, 36 percent; New Mexico, 44 percent.” To him, these are arguments that demonstrate the need for Republicans to cater to the interests of Hispanics.

But I’ll draw a different conclusion, and make my own modest proposal.

There is a synchronicity at work here, because the Tenth Amendment Revival movement among the Several States is just now picking up steam, thanks to the financial crisis and the extension of federal hubris. The States that historically consented to become United are belatedly recalling their God-given sovereignty, as recognized by the United States Constitution.

In order to form a more perfect Union, it’s time to consider the wisdom of forming new associations of States. It is our right to do so.

A collection of States in which the vast majority of citizens speak English as their native language would be most welcome. We already have our own customs and mores, and can adhere to those in a spirit of liberty within a framework of self-governance.

The same would be true in those areas which are now mostly under the sway of native Spanish-speakers. They, too, may have their own form of government — as is their God-given right — in the Aztlan Federation, or whatever they choose to call it. They may tax themselves, design their public programs, and form a government that is as virtuous or corrupt as seems appropriate to them.

The rest of the Nation Formerly Known as the United States of America will be a boon for the Republican Party. The GOP, in this new incarnation, might well be the majority party for decades to come in a prosperous, productive, and peaceful Republic.

But this, alas, is too sensible — and too politically incorrect — to happen. It’s just not possible.

But a man can dream, can’t he?

Hither, Thither and Yon: February 24th 2009

Hither Thither & Yon

There are lots of news stories and lots of websites out there. So many of them that are deserving of your attention and yet we never seem to get ‘round to putting them up on Gates of Vienna. That was why the news feed evolved and then proceeded to grow…and grow.

However, there are still a lot of loose ends remaining, items that may not fit the newsfeed mold exactly, but are interesting nonetheless. Often I will put some of these aside, hoping to blog on them. Usually my good intentions die abornin’; my energy level has continued to founder and so these items remain in their folders where they stale date eventually and fall into the oubliette.

Perhaps the advent of this feature will solve that problem. In order to avoid making work for myself, things won’t be in categories. Some of them defy categorization, anyway, and besides that I’m not going to build any obstacles between here and the place where I hit “publish”.

About the title: “hither, thither and yon” was a cliché my family used to describe hunting all over the place for a mislaid item. Somehow it seems to fit this grab bag of items, especially since I will be linking sometimes to Michael Yon, as least as long as he remains deployed in “the sand box” of Afghanistan.

Googling “hither, et al” led me to this song from 1960 by Brook Benton:

Oh, hither and thither and yon
Around the world I’ve gone
Searching for true love
As so many do
Hither and thither and yon

From Cairo to far off Calay
I traveled on and on
Seeking that someone
Who’s heart wouldn’t stray
Hither and thither and yon

Alas, I wondered
Through many a land
Too blind was I to see
True love was always close at hand
As close as you were to me
My journey is over
It’s good to be home
Your face, I gaze upon
And darling, I wonder
Oh, why did I roam
Hither and thither and yon

(Hither and yon)
Hither and thither and yon
(Thither and yon)
Hither and thither and yon

And that led me to the list of his works, and to the wiki on his career, here.

I was surprised at his use of an archaic phrase like “hither, etc.,” for a song, but then realized he’s from the rural south, where English archaisms have remained extant even as they die out in other places. Only in the American south do people say “yonder” with any frequency (though you can also hear it in Maine).

So much for the provenance of the title. On with the contents…

First, this place. I no longer remember how I ran across The Congressional Wealth Destruction Monitor …the idea seemed so novel I may even have posted on it, though I won’t sidetrack myself looking for it.

The emails are interesting but they never appear on the site. Thus, just before our email crashed last week we got the latest notice and so I scraped it out to save for future use.

Read it and see what you think. Then go over to see their delightful logo, which is a picture of…well, see for yourself:

Government to Wall Street Executives: “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose.”

Dear Congressional Wealth Destruction Followers,

There is so much happening that breaks precedent that it is difficult to keep up with the new government style and mandates. It is perhaps best to focus narrowly on one aspect of the new law to understand the depth of our plunge.

Recently, as part of the political fervor surrounding the “rescue” of the banks and brokerage firms, President Obama attacked the industry as a whole for paying out $18 billion in bonuses. (Never mind that the number was down almost half from the year before.) Congress, appalled that President Obama did not go far enough and would still allow bonuses based on performance, presented a bill — in final form of 1073 pages at 11 PM on Thursday night. There was no time to even read it. This, after promising to run the most transparent government in history. Towards the end of the day on Friday, as it became clear that Congress had imposed much stricter compensation limits on Wall Street firms that have received government bailout money, the President complained and the stock market had a late day swoon, with the bank stocks leading the way.

The law limits bonuses to 1/3 of salary for those firms that got assistance under the old TARP program, and allows ex post facto clawbacks [that one is a neologism to me: “clawbacks”? Perfect. — D ] of last year’s compensation. Finally, if firms take new money as “extraordinary assistance,” there is a hard cap of $500,000 on compensation. The government is now micro-managing the compensation structure of banking firms. At the bottom, minimum wage. At the top, maximum wage. This is inconsistent with how Congress treats itself. Congress, the primary cause of our current mess (see John Taylor’s “How Government Created the Financial Crisis” in the Wall Street Journal on February 9, 2009) did not block its own pay raise from going through for its lousy management of the country in 2008.

To put this all in perspective, senior finance executives had a course of dealing over many years at their firms that had consistently rewarded the profitable centers of the firms for which they were responsible. Even if the firm as a whole was not profitable, executives who delivered profits in their units were incentivized by giving them a portion of their unit’s profits. In order of magnitude, these bonuses were often 5x to 10x salary. Few senior Wall Street managers lived only on their salaries which were typically just a minor component of their pay. In the meritocracy of Wall Street, you grew up being paid on your production, and you counted on performing. The new law weakens the link between pay and performance. More importantly, the senior finance managers, the ones whose judgment in this time of crisis is so important, have often built up substantial assets as well, even with the collapse of finance company stocks.

So now, if you are a senior executive at one of the 350 firms that has accepted money in some form, your upside is largely taken away. On the downside, you can attend Congressional hearings, like the one last Tuesday, where second guessing Congressmen may call for you to be criminally indicted. If you can earn more than your capped wages from your existing assets, why would you take the risk of more visits to Congress? Why not scale down your life style, and get out of harm’s way?

It used to be understood if a firm broke its word with its best personnel, they would get a new job that same day at another firm. Under the new law, the damage is done. The principle is now law: if you receive any money from the government, the government is entitled to cap compensation and go back in time and undo compensation. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, “The administration is concerned the rules will prompt a wave of banks to return the government’s money and forgo future assistance.” Huh? The government is AFRAID it will get its money back? The smarter firms are trying to avoid the government’s “heads I win, tails you lose” bargain. Now, having excoriated the finance executives for taking money, some of them in October against their will for the sake of apparent unanimity, they are now being told they must keep the money so the government can keep the power.

It seems that the real purpose of this provision is to drive the best talent away from rescuing our important capital allocation industry-Wall Street. While I deplore the Wall Street excesses, particularly for firms where large bonuses were paid on earnings that were subsequently restated, I think the market should be the main punisher here, not the government. The unsuccessful firms should have been allowed to go under, taking their senior executive compensation with them. The Wall Street executives that successfully navigate through these times should make a fortune…they are preserving capitalism.

Right now we need the best and the brightest on Wall Street to guide us through a 100 year storm caused mostly by government. [See “Congress and The Housing Market”, Congressional Wealth Destruction Monitor, September 9, 2009.] I am worried the talent is already leaving. Today, the President of Goldman Sachs resigned. Driving away talent by capping compensation while exposing the same executives to serve as whipping boys at Congressional show trials is a recipe for continued panic over the ability of banks to recover. It is guaranteed to make our situation much worse than it already is, and all this with the Dow ever so slightly above its worst close since 2002.

It is the seed of Congressional Wealth Destruction on a massive scale. And it’s just a small piece of the giant new “Stimulus” package.

Seems to be a perennial problem with Democrats. They want to tar all entrepreneurs with the sticky brush of greed and corruption, when what they need to do, first and foremost, is a huge housecleaning themselves.

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Another Muslim fantasy about destroying the U.S. This, from the people who were literally kissing American soldiers for rescuing them from Saddam’s soldiers. Is there anything shorter than an Islamic fascist’s gratitude?

It’s difficult to pick a favorite section of this soft-spoken imam’s fantasy of hatred. Perhaps it is his discussion of American “racists”. Of course we all know that Arab Muslims are morally pure in this regard. They disdain all but Arab Muslim males.

And the audience eats this stuff up. No wonder their minds are toxic waste sites by now.

Hat tip: Gort

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From The Corner: Victor David Hanson

The Wages of Bias

I don’t understand why, after Obama’s brilliant campaign, some are surprised about his conduct in office.

– – – – – – – –

From the Wall Street panic instilled by Obama’s gloom and doom rhetoric and Europeanization proposals, to the sloppy nominations of serial tax dodgers, to the surprise that the Bush ‘shred the Constitution’ protocols – hope and change rhetoric aside – were mostly adopted by Obama, it is as if the professional on the campaign trail is mysteriously stumbling after assuming office.

Two observations: It is a lot easier to serially blame Bush than to conduct governance (raising taxes to new highs in recent memory while serially nominating to high office tax dodgers isn’t wise); and, more importantly, the media simply were advocates rather than disinterested journalists…thinking that trashing Bush was synonymous with offering a practical antithesis…

…we never really vetted our President.

As usual, Victor Davis Hanson gets it. Read the whole post to find out the buyer’s remorse afflicting journalists of late.

Hat tip: Larwyn

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Being a long-standing member of the Grammar Police, I find this essay from The City Journal most entertaining:

Obama and “Me”

The president’s adulators praise even his bad grammar.

It’s one thing for a supposedly combative press to fawn over a presidential candidate-and now a president. Who wants to devote precious column inches to Barack Obama’s ties to radical bomber Bill Ayers when Sarah Palin’s wardrobe demands investigation? Why shoot ordinary photographs of the president when you can portray him as a haloed Byzantine saint? But now the New York Times has gone too far: it is attempting to rewrite the history of English grammar in order to flatter the president.

Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman, writing in the paper’s op-ed section today, point out that Obama often makes a common grammatical error, using the word “I” when he should properly use “me”-as in the phrase “a very personal decision for Michelle and I.” But it turns out, the authors continue, that the president isn’t really guilty of grammar crimes. “For centuries, it was perfectly acceptable to use either ‘I’ or ‘me’ as the object of a verb or preposition, especially after ‘and,’“ they write. “It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that language mavens began kvetching about ‘I’ and ‘me.’“

O’Conner and Kellerman are utterly wrong, as you can confirm by taking a quick look at English primers a good deal older than the nineteenth century. To understand these early grammar guides, remember that scholars in England sometimes thought about their native language in terms of Latin, which they studied exhaustively. In Latin, all nouns are altered according to how they are used in a sentence; to use the word for “queen” as a subject, you would employ the nominative case and write regina, but to use it as a direct object, you would employ the accusative case and write reginam. In English, we don’t usually decline nouns into cases-a queen is a queen, whether “the queen is eating cake” or “the peasants are beheading the queen”-but we do, of course, decline pronouns: she eats cake, but the peasants behead her.


…Proper use of the language always specified that when you used the first-person pronoun as an object, you would say “me,” not “I.” It’s true, as O’Conner and Kellerman argue, that great writers sometimes got it wrong (their first example is Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice: “All debts are cleared between you and I”)…[but]there’s also the possibility that Shakespeare-whose feel for colloquial language was, like everything else about him, superb-was writing in the voice of a character whose grammar, like Obama’s, wasn’t perfect.

O’Conner’s and Kellerman’s motive for making so wild a grammatical claim is clear. Those who style themselves grammar experts are always tempted to deride the “kvetching” of pedantic “mavens.” How else, if you specialize in a subject as dry-sounding as grammar, can you make people think you’re not a bore yourself?…

Unfortunately, The New York Times‘ motive for printing the op-ed is also clear. How disappointing to hear that Barack Obama-just like his predecessor, whose linguistic slipups the media pounced on-doesn’t speak English perfectly! How delightful to find two experts willing to argue that Obama’s mistakes are actually remnants of a purer, more natural form of the language! And how sad, for those of us who love both America’s press and its language, that English itself has become the latest sacrifice to the cult of Obama.

Hey…never misunderestimate the mendacity of the press. It will forgive O’Bama everything and will continue to burn with a white hot hatred for Bush simply because he exists.

Read The New York Times at your own peril.

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ACORN is sooo corrupt. One of these days we’ll do a real report on these FOO-Friends of Obama. Meanwhile, here is a recent example of their shenanigans:

ACORN Foreclosure Victim Not So Innocent

Last week, consumer advocacy group ACORN broke into a foreclosed home in Baltimore to reclaim ownership for a past homeowner, leading to the arrest of one its members.

The incident gained widespread media attention because of the length ACORN has gone to fight foreclosures, displaying acts of so-called “civil disobedience,” but it also left the group exposed to some harsh realities.

It turns out the former owner, Donna Hanks, purchased the property in 2001 for $87,000, and later refinanced it for a whopping $270,000, according to records obtained by Michelle Malkin (she did a good write-up here).

Obviously, a substantial amount of cash-out was taken at the time, as the property value increased more than three-fold in five short years.

Now it’s unclear where that money went, but it does put into question her role as “victim.”

Hanks went into foreclosure proceedings in the spring of 2006, and filed for bankruptcy protection months later, agreeing to pay $10,500 in arrears to halt said foreclosure.

The court ordered Hanks’ employer to deduct $340 per month from her salary to pay down the debt, but she failed to comply, leading to a second notice of default.

The home was eventually foreclosed on in 2008 after failure to make good on missed payments, leading to the ACORN break-in last week.

The problem, of course, is Hanks painted herself as a victim at the hands of the merciless mortgage lenders, choosing to complain about her increased mortgage payments instead of owning up to her missteps that led to the foreclosure to begin with.


The break-in was part of ACORN’s latest campaign, which calls for a 90-day foreclosure moratorium on all mortgages so they can be modified into sustainable loans.

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Stimulus Watch

This site has everything about the Stimulus bomb Package you need, right in one place. The site says: was built to help the new administration keep its pledge to invest stimulus money smartly [surely they jest? – D ], and to hold public officials to account for the taxpayer money they spend [what does “hold accountable” mean? Run out of town on a rail? Hung in effigy? Lose their plushy perks? The government isn’t saying -D] We do this by allowing you, citizens around the country with local knowledge about the proposed “shovel-ready” projects [I love this term “shovel-ready”, don’t you? It connotes something we might be able to bury should it turn out to smell as bad as it looks. And believe me, once you see those charts…shovels will dance in your head – D] in your city, to find, discuss and rate those projects. These projects are not part of the stimulus bill. They are candidates for funding by federal grant programs once the bill passes. [This is known as the “but” factor]

How can you contribute? Find a project that interests you, or about which you have special knowledge, and let us know what you think. You can find projects by searching or by browsing by locality or program type. Once you find a program, there are three things you can do: 1) vote on whether you believe the project is critical or not; 2) edit the project’s description and points in favor or against, and 3) post a comment in the conversation about the project.

Go look at the tables they’ve set up. Especially notice the rating some of these porkulus projects get. Any lower and they’d be hanging out to coin a phrase) with Hussein – that’s Saddam, not Obama.

Be sure to read the FAQ’s.

Hat tip: No2Liberals

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Michael Yon:

The Fallen

24 February 2009

We may have a lot of problems at home — and we do — but our brothers and sisters are out there for us tonight. We lost eight just today. Four soldiers were killed in Iraq, and four in Afghanistan.

Please keep their families in your hearts and prayers, and please remember that many others are still there in the war. With all of our economic troubles, it’s easy to focus inward and forget about our people in uniform. If you only knew how much the people in uniform enjoy a simple postcard, you’d probably stop on your way home today and pick one up and address it to “Any Soldier” in Iraq, or “Any Soldier” in Afghanistan.

Please remember…

Four fallen in Northern Iraq.

Four fallen in Southern Afghanistan.

Both of those last sentences are linked. As a debt of gratitude go and read about them.

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Are We Lumberjacks says:

I’ve only been a Catholic for a couple of years, (quick, someone alert Charles Johnson that someone may believe something other than his flavor of creation) and I’m not sure I even noticed Shrove Tuesday before, but here it is, and I find myself unprepared: Does anyone know how to cook a Shrove?

Cooking shroves isn’t so bad. Pulling out the feathers and the insides is enough to make anyone a vegetarian, though…

Vaya con Dios, y’all…

[NOTE: in the future, this will go up earlier in the day so as not to step on the toes of the newsfeed. This is beginners behind.]

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/23/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/23/2009Our IV of email has been reconnected, and tips from the usual suspects are trickling back in. Check out the news stories from the UK — the behavioral sink, the financial crisis, fears of civil disorder, and the decline of the Labour Party, all mixed together.

Thanks to Aeneas, C. Cantoni, Craig Karpel, Fjordman, Gaia, Henrik, heroyalwhyness, JD, KGS, Samhaldsfestarin, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
Britain Faces Summer of Rage — Police
Brown: World Needs ‘Global New Deal’
Financial Fix? Abolish the Fed, Says Congressman
Germany to Ask for Opel Bailout
Obama’s Goal? Directed Chaos
Poll Highlights Fears Over Street Riots
The Foreclosure Five
UK: Desperate Gordon Brown Plans £500 Billion Bank Gamble
UK: This Slump is Stirring a Political Storm
Alan Keyes: Stop Obama or U.S. Will Cease to Exist
Collect a Rock, Lose Your Car
Heads Will Roll
Obama’s $300 Billion-a-Year Climate-Change Plan
Senator Questions Obama Eligibility
Europe and the EU
Denmark: Military Mary Makes Lieutenant
European MPs Earning £1 Million Profits in a Term, Report Finds
Invasion of £1-an-Hour Migrants
Sweden’s Air Force ‘Can’t Send Secret Messages’
Swiss to Vote on Controls That Would End Tradition of Keeping Army Guns in Private Homes
U.S. Says it Respects Danish PM
UK: Guantánamo Detainee Returns to Britain
UK: Brown Dragging Labour Vote Down, Poll Shows
UK: Muslim Peer Claims Politicians Are Scared of Discussing Polygamy
UK: Man Charged Over Terror Information
UK: Man ‘Waged Urine-Spray Campaign’
UK: NHS Blunders Are Behind a Spate of ‘Vaccine Overloads’
UK: Police Still Failing in Race Reforms
UK: Spy Planes That Track the Taliban May Soon Hover Over Your Home
UK: Two-Month-Old Baby Crushed to Death in His Pushchair After Gp’s Car Mounted Pavement
UK: White Schoolboy in Race Claim
North Africa
French Teen Killed by Cairo Bomb Was on Class Trip
Israel and the Palestinians
Congressman’s Aide Sneaks Secret Terrorist Rendezvous
Middle East
Iran’s Strategic Nuclear Deception
South Asia
India: Majority of Drugs Coming From Afghanistan, UN Says
Australia — Pacific
Do Not Target Foreigners in Hard Times, UN Envoy Says
Refugee Law to Embrace More
Sub-Saharan Africa
Fleeing From South Africa
Somali Suicide Bomber Who Attacked Peacekeeping Base Was Local With Regular Access
Families of Immigrant Workers Could be Banned From the UK Unless They Take Jobs
High Court to Rule Whether Immigrants Must be Told They Face Deportation if They Plead Guilty
Culture Wars
UK: Parents Told Avoid Morality in Sex Lessons
Arctic Sea Ice Underestimated Due to Faulty Sensor
Get Ready to Spot Comet Lulin
Going Wobbly in the West

Financial Crisis

Britain Faces Summer of Rage — Police

Middle-class anger at economic crisis could erupt into violence on streets

Police are preparing for a “summer of rage” as victims of the economic downturn take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions, the Guardian has learned.

Britain’s most senior police officer with responsibility for public order raised the spectre of a return of the riots of the 1980s, with people who have lost their jobs, homes or savings becoming “footsoldiers” in a wave of potentially violent mass protests.

Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan police’s public order branch, told the Guardian that middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year.

He said that banks, particularly those that still pay large bonuses despite receiving billions in taxpayer money, had become “viable targets”. So too had the headquarters of multinational companies and other financial institutions in the City which are being blamed for the financial crisis.

Hartshorn, who receives regular intelligence briefings on potential causes of civil unrest, said the mood at some demonstrations had changed recently, with activists increasingly “intent on coming on to the streets to create public disorder”.

The warning comes in the wake of often violent protests against the handling of the economy across Europe. In recent weeks Greek farmers have blocked roads over falling agricultural prices, a million workers in France joined demonstrations to demand greater protection for jobs and wages and Icelandic demonstrators have clashed with police in Reykjavik.

In the UK hundreds of oil refinery workers mounted wildcat strikes last month over the use of foreign workers.

Intelligence reports suggest that “known activists” are also returning to the streets, and police claim they will foment unrest. “Those people would be good at motivating people, but they haven’t had the ‘footsoldiers’ to actually carry out [protests],” Hartshorn said. “Obviously the downturn in the economy, unemployment, repossessions, changes that. Suddenly there is the opportunity for people to mass protest.

“It means that where we would possibly look at certain events and say, ‘yes there’ll be a lot of people there, there’ll be a lot of banner waving, but generally it will be peaceful’, [now] we have to make sure these elements don’t come out and hijack that event and turn that into disorder.”

Hartshorn identified April’s G20 meeting of the group of leading and developing nations in London as an event that could kick-start a challenging summer. “We’ve got G20 coming and I think that is being advertised on some of the sites as the highlight of what they see as a ‘summer of rage’,” he said.

His comments are likely to be met with disappointment by protest groups, who in recent weeks have complained that police are adopting a more confrontational approach at demonstrations. Officers have been accused of exaggerating the threat posed by activists to justify the use of resources spent on them.

Police were said to have been heavy-handed at Greek solidarity marches in London in December and, last month, at protests against Israel’s invasion of Gaza. In August 1,000 officers, helicopters and riot horses were drafted to Kent from 26 UK police forces to oversee the climate camp demonstration against the Kingsnorth power station. The massive operation to monitor the protesters cost £5.9m and resulted in 100 arrests. But in December the government was forced to apologise to parliament after the Guardian revealed that its claims that 70 officers had been hurt in violent clashes were wrong.

However, Hartshorn insisted: “Potentially there will be more industrial actions … History shows that some of those disputes — Wapping, the miners’ strike — have caused great tensions in the community and the police have had difficult times policing and maintaining law and order.”

Both “extreme rightwing and extreme leftwing” elements are looking to “use the fact that people are out of jobs” to galvanise support, he said.

A particularly worrying development was the re-emergence of individuals involved in the violent fascist organisation Combat 18, he said. “They are using the fact that there’s been lots of talk about eastern European people coming in and taking jobs on the Olympic sites,” he said. “They’re using those type of arguments to look at getting support.”

Hartshorn said he also expected large-scale demonstrations this year on environmental issues, with hardcore green activists “joining forces” with middle-class campaigners over issues such as airport expansion at Heathrow and Stansted. With the prospect of angry demonstrations against the economy, that could open the door to powerful coalitions.

“All you’ve got to do then is link in with the environmentalists, and look at the oil companies. They’re seen to be turning over billions of pounds profit in issues that are seen to be against the environment.”

           — Hat tip: Samhaldsfestarin [Return to headlines]

Brown: World Needs ‘Global New Deal’

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) — The world needs a “global New Deal” to haul it out of the economic crisis it faces, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom said Sunday.

“We need a global New Deal — a grand bargain between the countries and continents of this world — so that the world economy can not only recover but… so the banking system can be based on… best principles,” he said, referring to the 1930s American plan to fight the Great Depression.

Brown was speaking as the leaders of Europe’s biggest economies met to try to forge a common position on the global financial crisis ahead of a major summit in London in April.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the world’s response to the global financial meltdown had to be profound and long-lasting, not just tinkering around the edges.

“Europe wants to see an overhaul of the system. We all agree on that. We’re not talking about superficial measures now or transitional measures — we’re talking about structural measure, which need to be taken,” he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the host of the meeting, urged nations of the world to work together to fight the problem.

“Confidence can only be restored if people in our countries feel that we are pulling in the same direction and have understood that we really must learn lessons from this crisis,” she said.

And she proposed that a new institution grow out of the crisis, “which will take on more responsibility for global [financial] mechanisms.”

The Europeans say they have agreed international financial markets must be regulated more thoroughly. That also means stricter rules for hedge funds and credit-rating agencies.

European and world leaders have been holding frequent summits as they struggle to cope with a financial crisis that has affected banks, homeowners, businesses and employees around the world.

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]

Financial Fix? Abolish the Fed, Says Congressman

Paul: Constitution requires coin based on gold, silver

In just recent weeks, the federal government has designated billions of tax dollars for bank bailouts, including vast quantities to quasi-government agencies that helped create the economic crisis; billions more for automakers, and billions more for homeowners who default on their loans, so where will it end? Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas says he has at least part of the answer: abolish the Federal Reserve.

The congressman, a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, once again has introduced a bill that would get rid of the private organization that sets interest rates and establishes monetary priorities.

“Abolishing the Federal Reserve will allow Congress to reassert its constitutional authority over monetary policy,” Paul said in a statement at the time the proposal was introduced.

“The United States Constitution grants to Congress the authority to coin money and regulate the value of the currency,” Paul said. “The Constitution does not give Congress the authority to delegate control over monetary policy to a central bank. Furthermore, the Constitution certainly does not empower the federal government to erode the American standard of living via an inflationary monetary policy.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Germany to Ask for Opel Bailout

Berlin — Germany’s new economy minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said in remarks published on Sunday he would lobby for Washington to rescue struggling GM’s European unit Opel during a US visit in March.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Goal? Directed Chaos

When we think of the word “chaos,” normally we associate it with spontaneous acts of malcontents rebelling without a cause.

But most of the chaos in the world today is what I call “directed chaos” — usually government-directed and with one single-minded purpose: the consolidation of power.

That’s the way I interpret the so-called “economic stimulus” legislation approved by the Democrat-controlled Congress and signed by President Obama.

There is no way it will stimulate the economy. It will have the opposite effect — lengthening and deepening the economic crisis in which America finds itself.

Does anyone truly believe we’re in this mess because the U.S. government didn’t spend enough recently? Of course not. Congress and President Bush spent money like drunken sailors. They caused this calamity because of their irresponsibility and their disregard for the Constitution. Can the cure possibly more of the same? I don’t think so.

But take a look at how the money will be spent, for evidence of the “cure” is actually worse than the disease.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Poll Highlights Fears Over Street Riots

More than a third of voters believe the Army will have to be brought in to deal with riots on British streets as the recession bites, a poll showed today.

The widespread fear of serious unrest was disclosed as a senior police officer warned activists were planning a “summer of rage” and could find rioters easier to recruit because of the credit crunch.

Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan Police’s public order branch, said known activists were planning a return to the streets centred on April’s G20 summit of world leaders in London.

And intelligence shows they may be able to call on more “footsoldiers” than normal due to the unprecedented conditions — which have led to youth violence in Greece and mass protests elsewhere in Europe.

YouGov polling for Prospect magazine found 37 per cent thought such “serious social unrest in several British cities” was certain or likely — although a slim majority (51 per cent) disagreed.

Almost three quarters (73 per cent) said they feared a sustained return to mass unemployment.

And a clear majority (64 per cent) also favoured forcing the under-25s to do a year of full-time, modestly-paid community service such as working with the sick and elderly or helping with environmental projects.

Labour MP Frank Field told Prospect the main political parties should join forces to develop the idea.

“The time has come to look at this idea. A new bipartisan commission should be established to look into how it could be done, perhaps led by figures as respected as David Blunkett or David Davis,” he said.

Although the biggest support for a compulsory scheme was among the older generations, a majority of 18-30 year olds (52 per cent) also gave it their backing.

Talking about the prospect of disorder, Mr Hartshorn told the Guardian: “Those people would be good at motivating people, but they haven’t had the ‘footsoldiers’ to actually carry out [protests].

“Obviously the downturn in the economy, unemployment, repossessions, changes that. Suddenly there is the opportunity for people to mass protest.

“We’ve got G20 coming and I think that is being advertised on some of the sites as the highlight of what they see as a ‘summer of rage’,” he told the newspaper.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]

The Foreclosure Five

When President Obama discusses his $275 billion mortgage bailout, he talks as if it was a national problem, caused by a national decline in home prices. “We must stem the spread of foreclosures and falling home values for all Americans,” he says. But there is no national market for homes and no national price for homes. Instead, most of the United States will pay for the folly of few.

The beneficiaries of taxpayer charity will be highly concentrated in just five states — California, Nevada, Arizona, Florida and Michigan. That is not because the subsidized homeowners are poor (Californians with $700,000 mortgages are not poor), but because they took on too much debt, often by refinancing in risky ways to “cash out” thousands more than the original loan. Nearly all subprime loans were for refinancing, not buying a home.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Desperate Gordon Brown Plans £500 Billion Bank Gamble

A £500 billion banking bail-out will be at the centre of a rescue package announced by Gordon Brown this week amid desperation over the Government’s failure to save the economy.

The Prime Minister is to unveil a series of key measures that will see the Government insure the ‘toxic assets’ of major lenders and pump around £14 billion into the mortgage market through Northern Rock.

Five months after Mr Brown’s first bank bail-out, there is a growing acceptance in Downing Street that it has not worked — beyond stopping the total collapse of the banks.

Businesses are continuing to go bust and workers are losing their jobs as the financial crisis continues to deepen and banks refuse to start lending.

The Government has drawn up a new rescue package that will start today with an announcement that Northern Rock, which was nationalised last year, will increase mortgage lending by up to £14 billion over the next two years.

Ministers will this week also pave the way for “quantitative easing” — the so-called printing money option — with £150 billion being spent on buying bonds and gilts from banks.

On Thursday, the Treasury is expected to announce plans to form a “toxic bank”, using taxpayers’ money to insure £500 billion of bad debt.

In addition, Mr Brown has signalled that he wants a return to more ‘sober’ banking practices, with a possible ban on 100 per cent mortgages to ensure people must save a deposit before buying a house.

European leaders meeting in Berlin yesterday agreed that there also needed to be greater regulation of all financial markets, including hedge funds — a move that could adversley affect the city’s pre-eminence. The meeting was in advance of the G20 economic summit being held in London on 2 April.

Mr Brown said: “We have got to show together that we can restructure the banking system around sound banking principles that deliver the integrity and the trust and the openness and transparency that is essential for people to once again trust the banks.”

Next week Mr Brown will travel to Washington for a meeting with Barack Obama to discuss the agenda for the London summit which the Prime Minister has placed so much emphasis on.

This week’s package of measures represents Mr Brown’s third attempt to save the economy. Despite the £37 billion bail out in October and measures in January aimed at getting banks lending again, they have been stubbornly refusing to lend in anything like the volume necessary.

Labour has been sliding in the polls despite Mr Brown’s initial “bounce” after the first banking bail out. His party now stands 20 points behind the Tories.

Last week the Sir John Gieve, the outgoing deputy governor of the Bank of England, warned Britain is at “serious risk” of entering a decade-long recession similar to that experienced by Japan in the 1990s.

Figures showed that Britain’s national debt could more than double to almost £2 trillion later this year.

On Monday, Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, will outline the new business plan for Northern Rock to ensure it again becomes a big player in the mortgage market.

Under the plans, Northern Rock will undertake around £5 billion of new mortgage lending in 2009 and up to £9 billion from 2010 onwards. The new lending will be on commercial terms so it represents a good deal for the taxpayer, the Chancellor will say.

This week the Treasury is expected to announce it will take a step closer to allowing “quantitative easing”. This would see the Bank of England writing cheques to banks in exchange for gilts and bonds, effectively putting more money into circulation.

Stephen Timms, the Treasury Secretary, hinted that quantitative easing could happen “quite soon” and Treasury sources said the first steps towards it were likely to happen this week when officials meet with the Bank of England to discuss the necessary details of any buying up the assets.

The amount that was being suggested was £150 billion. Ministers deny that it is “printing money” and instead say it would encourage banks to lend to consumers again. Those customers would in turn have more money to spend, so stimulating the economy.

The removal of toxic assets from banks, under an “asset protection” scheme, expected to be announced by the Treasury on Thursday, will also have that effect, it is hoped. It will effectively be a “bad bank” with those bad assets underwritten by the Treasury.

The banks likely to use the scheme immediately include Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). It is understood that RBS will place at least £250 million of toxic assets in the scheme to protect it against future losses.

Lloyds and Barclays are also likely to put assets into the scheme with some estimating that the total then covered by the taxpayer in the form of guarantees will be pushed to more than £500 billion.

The move will mean that the banks do not have to be fully nationalised.

Mr Brown made a plea over the weekend for a return to more prudent banking and Downing Street briefed that the Prime Minister would ask the Financial Services Authority to look at whether 100 per cent mortgages should be banned.

Mr Brown said: “We do want to see the reinvention of the traditional savings and mortgage bank in Britain, for loans to be made on prudent and careful terms, not just to people with large deposits, but to those on middle and modest incomes who wish to buy their home but who have not been able to save a huge deposit,” the Prime Minister said.

“We have got to get the balance right between serving home owners better and encouraging responsibility in the housing market.”

But Philip Hammond, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury said the Government was acting too late.

He said: “Gordon Brown is trying to shut the stable door on irresponsible lending long after the horse has bolted. It was his regulatory system that failed to spot the boom and allowed 125 per cent mortgages from Northern Rock and HBOS.”

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, added: “Until very recently Gordon Brown was trying to justify 100 per cent mortgages. He was seriously behind the curve since even the industry is no longer making such products available.”

Lord Myners, the Banking Minister, said banks were “foolish” to offer 100 per cent mortgages.

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: This Slump is Stirring a Political Storm

From Japan and France to Swanley, the effects of recession will be felt not only in the economy

Fascism feeds on a sense of personal injustice. Swanley St Mary’s sounds like one of those quiet English villages in which Miss Marple might have detected a murder. In fact, it is a ward of Sevenoaks District Council that has usually been a comfortable Labour seat. In recent years, the number of black and Asian residents has increased and racial resentment has been rising.

The Independent interviewed Lesley Dyall, the retiring Labour councillor in last Thursday’s by-election. She was shocked to see voters chanting racial slogans as they went into and out of the polling station: “They were chanting ‘blacks out’ as they came out of the community centre… it was very distressing to witness something like that in a local election. I just feel sorry for any black people who might have heard or seen that — it was shocking and disgusting.”

The result was a victory for Paul Golding, an unemployed lorry driver who was the British National Party candidate. The votes cast were BNP 408, Labour 332 and the Conservatives 247.

Labour has to be worried about the Swanley result. The BNP tends to attract working-class voters who feel that their interests have been neglected by Labour. At the next general election, the loss of a few hundred votes to the BNP in a number of Labour marginals could be significant in what might still be a hung Parliament. More immediately, Labour would be embarrassed if the BNP were to win seats in the European elections next June. Labour already expects a very bad European result, as it had in the last European elections in 2004.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]


Alan Keyes: Stop Obama or U.S. Will Cease to Exist

Claims ‘communist usurper’ plunges country into chaos

Alan Keyes, a 2008 presidential candidate who is also a plaintiff in one of the many lawsuits challenging Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility to occupy the Oval Office, charged at a pro-life rally that unless Obama’s social and economic policies are stopped, the United States as we know it is over.


“I’m not sure he’s even president of the United States,” Keyes continued, “neither are many of our military people now who are now going to court to ask the question, ‘Do we have to obey a man who is not qualified under the constitution?’ We are in the midst of the greatest crisis this nation has ever seen, and if we don’t stop laughing about it and deal with it, we’re going to find ourselves in the midst of chaos, confusion and civil war.”


“We are claiming that a bankrupt government can save a bankrupt banking system,” Keyes said. “The fact that we have just elected an individual — who may or may not be qualified — and he presents silly ideas like this and says, ‘Let’s move forward now,’ and we’re all acting like the laws of economics have been repealed and we can actually afford to foot the bill with money nobody’s got, this is insane.

“It’s got to lead to the collapse of our economy,” Keys declared, “and it’s going to.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Collect a Rock, Lose Your Car

Ominous forfeiture provisions in new bill restricting use of federal land

WASHINGTON — A land management bill that swept through the U.S. Senate last month and is headed for a House vote this week punishes rock collectors and paleontologists with arrest and expropriation of their cars and other equipment for even unknowingly disturbing fossils on public land, say critics.

In the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009, a “forfeiture” provision would let the government confiscate “all vehicles and equipment of any person” who digs up or removes a rock or a bone from federal land that meets the bill’s broad definition of “paleontological resource,” says a report by Jon Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“The seizures could take place even before a person and even if the person didn’t know they were taking or digging up a ‘paleontological resource,” writes Berlau. “And the bill specifically allows the ‘transfer of seized resources’ to ‘federal or non-federal’ institutions, giving the government and some private actors great incentive to egg on the takings.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Heads Will Roll

Let’s see. We have a Muslim couple founding and operating a Muslim TV network out of New York with the ostensible purpose of promoting understanding between Muslim and Western cultures.


Only “Mo” and the police know, and they’re not talking. All officials say is that it was “domestic violence.”

Sure it was. Just a plain, ordinary, Western civilization domestic violence case, like all the others that cross police blotters.


The big problem is this isn’t the Middle East. This isn’t an Islamic nation, and we do not practice Shariah law. But despite that, multicultural political correctness has entered the picture. News media avoid calling it an “honor killing.” It’s just “domestic violence.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama’s $300 Billion-a-Year Climate-Change Plan

Budget to include taxes on emissions of ‘greenhouse gases’

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama plans to include in his 2010 budget the introduction of a massive energy cap-and-trade system designed to raise $300 billion a year for the federal government in a bid to get industry to curtail emissions of so-called “greenhouse gases.”

The plan would force companies to buy permits from the government for greenhouse gas emissions above a certain cap.

Acknowledging that businesses would have no choice but to pass their costs on to customers, resulting in skyrocketing utility bills for homeowners and offices, the administration is pledging to redistribute most of the revenue back to in the form of government relief.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Senator Questions Obama Eligibility

Shelby: ‘They said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate’

WASHINGTON — A U.S. senator has weighed in on the continuing controversy over Barack Obama’s eligibility for office by saying he has never seen proof the new president was actually born in Hawaii.

“Well, his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told constituents in Cullman County. “You have to be born in America to be president.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Denmark: Military Mary Makes Lieutenant

Whilst Mary is best known for her good looks, fashion sense and charity work, she is very much at home in the military

Crown Princess Mary was award the rank of lieutenant in the Danish Home Guard yesterday after completing additional training at officer school.

This is the second time within the space of a year that the crown princess has undertaken training with the Home Guard, the voluntary military unit concerned with domestic defence.

Mary has followed in the footsteps of other members of the royal family, including Queen Margrethe II, who achieved the rank of major in an earlier form of the Air Force Home Guard, and Prince Joachim, who remains active in the defence reserves as a major.

Her husband, Crown Prince Frederik has also completed extensive military training in the naval, armed and air forces, notably completely the arduous training required to be a member of the elite naval special forces Frogman Corps.

General Major Jan S. Norgaard heads the Home Guard and said Mary’s participation gave recognition for the work of all volunteer members.

A statement from the royal household said that Mary was trained in the art of command, primarily in the area of security and surveillance. The new lieutenant will now be attached to the Total Defence Region Copenhagen, which encompasses the Copenhagen area, North Zealand and the island of Bornholm.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

European MPs Earning £1 Million Profits in a Term, Report Finds

Members of the European Parliament are earning up to £1 million in profit in just one five-year term in office through expenses and allowances, a leaked report has revealed.

The report sparked calls for a police investigation into the systematic abuse of taxpayers’ money.

The internal report into the system of allowances — conducted by Robert Galvin, a European Union internal audit official — was kept secret when it was carried out last year.

But a leaked copy of the 92-page document details the full extent of “corruption, dodgy dealing and poor financial controls” in the European Parliament, according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance. It revealed that some MEPs claimed money for assistants that were neither accredited nor registered with the parliament.

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]

Invasion of £1-an-Hour Migrants

The European Commission launches a new ­agency which could see thousands of asylum seekers from Africa transferred directly to the UK. Brussels wants Britain to “share the burden” of dealing with 70,000 asylum seekers who cross the Mediterranean from Africa each year to countries such as Italy and Malta. “We know that Britain offers free ­accommodation and food, but we also want to work. We are certain we’ll get to Britain. It’s easy. All we have to do after that is start earning.” If they fail, they simply wait for their next chance. The scene is replicated in up to half-a-dozen ports, with 2,000 migrants sleeping rough in the Calais region alone. Another migrant calling himself Iqbar and claiming he was 19 and from Iraq said: “We just want to get started. We have great respect for the English, but believe that in the end it is the people who are prepared to work the hardest who should get the jobs. If the British can’t compete with £1 an hour then that’s their problem.” Few of the dozens of migrants spoken to by the Sunday Express have passports. While many will claim ­asylum when they get to Britain, ­others will simply disappear into the black economy. “We’ve all suffered persecution, so a low-paid job doesn’t bother us,” said Omhar, who said he was a 20-year-old Iranian. “Once we are established we will bring our families over. We know everybody is welcome and it’s easy to get over if you keep trying.” The European Commission has drawn up plans to create a European Asylum Support Office to “harmonise” asylum laws across the EU. Home Affairs Commissioner Jacques Barrot said the agency, to be set up next year, would also arrange “intra-community transfers”, shifting asylum seekers from hotspots like Italy to countries like the UK.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Sweden’s Air Force ‘Can’t Send Secret Messages’

A prominent Riksdag member has expressed outrage upon learning that Sweden’s new Jas Gripen fighter jets can’t receive encrypted communications.

As a consequence, an enemy would be able to hear any orders Swedish commanders sent to pilots in a time of war.

“This is extremely serious,” said Allan Widman, a Liberal Party member of the Riksdag’s defence committee, to Sveriges Radio (SR).

An earlier version of the Gripen used by Sweden, set to be taken out of service in 2011, has the capability to receive messages on Sweden’s own encryption system.

In 2007, the Riksdag authorized the military to purchase a newer version of the Swedish-made fighter jet outfitted with new technology to facilitate communication with Nato aircraft.

As a result of the upgrade, however, the new Gripens aren’t equipped to receive communications from Sweden’s encryption system, leaving open communications as the only way for Swedish commanders on the ground to give orders to pilots in the air.

“It’s obviously a very sad situation we find ourselves in when we can no longer securely and secretly command our combat aircraft,” said Widman.

“The big problem is that any future combatant would know in part what we’re thinking of doing and its also obviously much easier for him to disrupt our communications.”

According to Torgny Fälthammar, head of development for the Swedish Air Force, the military won’t be able to upgrade the new Gripen’s communications capability until 2015 because of cutbacks on defence spending.

Widman is especially upset that no one in the military informed the Riksdag of the new aircraft’s diminished capability at the time of the purchase.

“I’m saying we must demand responsibility from the people who managed this process without making it clear the costs involved with transitioning to only the latest version of the Gripen,” he told SR, adding that the generals involved ought to consider resigning.

“This this happened in any other country, that is exactly what the consequence would be,” he said.

Widman is now proposing that the earlier version of the Gripen be kept in service until the newer versions can be upgraded.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Swiss to Vote on Controls That Would End Tradition of Keeping Army Guns in Private Homes

GENEVA (AP) — Campaigners said Monday they have collected enough signatures to force a referendum in Switzerland on whether to confine army weapons to military compounds.

Service in the country’s militia army is compulsory for men, and conscripts have to take their guns home between call-ups.

“Almost every day a person commits suicide with a firearm in Switzerland,” said Josef Lang, a parliament member for the Green Party who is campaigning for the proposal alongside the Social Democrats, rights groups and others.

The referendum, a date for which has yet to be set, would also ask voters to decide whether to set up a countrywide firearms register and forbid citizens from buying particularly dangerous guns, such as pump-action rifles or automatic weapons, for personal use.It goes far beyond a 2007 law that requires military ammunition to be stored on base — a move that was seen by many as the first step to dismantling the guns-at-home tradition.

Anita Fetz, a lawmaker for the Social Democrat Party, said a register would lead to more security and was worth the cost, which opponents claim would be immense. “Every single car and every cow in Switzerland are registered. Of course that costs something,” she said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

U.S. Says it Respects Danish PM

The American defence minister Robert Gates says he has great respect for the Danish prime minister as indications grow that Fogh Rasmussen could be in the running for NATO’s secretary- generalship.

The American government has fanned the flames of conjecture that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is in the running for the post of Secretary-General of NATO, despite the prime minister’s denials.

Commenting on a question regarding Fogh Rasmussen’s possible candidacy, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Anders Fogh Rasmussen could be a good candidate.

“I have a lot of respect for your prime minister, and I have a lot of respect for your defence minister. But there, of course, are other names being mooted,” Gates said.

Gates added that it was hoped that a new secretary-general could be found before the NATO summit at the beginning of April.

“I hope that we can solve this issue in time for the summit. But the most important thing is that it is a person who has the broadest possible support from the countries in the Alliance, and that it is a person who has the necessary managerial experience to lead such a large and complex organization,” Gates said.

Denmark’s Defence Minister Søren Gade, who is also at the NATO defence ministers meeting in Krakow in Poland, suggested earlier today that Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen had been mentioned in informal discussions at the NATO dinner on Thursday evening.

“I would look silly if I didn’t admit that the prime minister was among the names mentioned,” Gade said.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

UK: Guantánamo Detainee Returns to Britain

LONDON: A Guantánamo detainee at the center of a long standoff between the United States and Britain was freed and returned to Britain on Monday after almost seven years in American custody.

The detainee, Binyam Mohamed, was captured in Pakistan in April 2002; American officials said that he was part of a conspiracy to detonate a dirty bomb on American soil. But all charges against him were eventually dismissed. He has said he was held for 18 months in Morocco, where he says he was tortured, then moved to Afghanistan and then to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The CIA has repeatedly declined to say if he was ever held in Morocco and has steadfastly denied that Mohamed, or anyone else in its custody, was ever tortured. Britain, where Mohamed established residence 15 years ago, has been seeking his release since August 2007. The United States and Britain have wrangled in court over what documents related to his case can be released. Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he was “pleased” that Mohamed had been released, and that it had come after “intense negotiations.”

Mohamed was greeted by his sister Zahram, who flew in from Virginia, where she has lived for many years. He also has a brother in Michigan and another sister in Georgia.

“I’m so excited, I don’t know what to say, I can’t put it in words,” Mohammed said in an interview before her brother arrived.

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Mohamed made no direct statement when he landed. But in remarks issued by Reprieve, the nongovernmental organization that has worked for his release and the release of other detainees, Mohamed said: “I hope you will understand that after everything I have been through I am neither physically nor mentally capable of facing the media.”

“I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares,” the statement said. “Before this ordeal, torture was an abstract word.” His lawyers said at a news conference 12 days ago that Mohamed had been on a hunger strike since Jan. 5 and was being fed through a tube.

Mohamed will eventually sit down for an interview with Britain’s intelligence agency, according to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith..

He will also eventually speak to the press, the lawyer said.

Mohamed has agreed to voluntary restrictions, including a lifetime prohibition on travel to the United States, according to people who have seen the restrictions. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the terms of Mohamed’s release had not been publicly disclosed.

           — Hat tip: Henrik [Return to headlines]

UK: Brown Dragging Labour Vote Down, Poll Shows

Gordon Brown’s leadership is dragging Labour’s vote down, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. By a majority of more than two to one, voters say that the party would do better at the next election if it was led by someone else.

The poll — which also shows the Conservatives maintaining a steady double-digit lead — is likely to increase pressure on the prime minister following a week of speculation over leadership manoeuvring by cabinet ministers and a succession of bleak headlines about the rapidly worsening state of the economy.

It finds that only 28% of voters think Brown is the leader most likely to attract support to Labour on polling day. Meanwhile, 63%, think the party would do better with another leader.

Even Labour supporters are not convinced. Among people who voted for the party in 2005, 45% pick Brown and 49% another leader. Among people who still stay they intend to vote Labour next time the split is 48% to 47%.

The breakdown of the Guardian/ICM poll

The results will come as a blow to Brown who has sought to present himself as the statesman best equipped to lead the world out of the financial crisis. Labour had hoped that the G20 in London in April would showcase his global role.

But nor are there signs of a Conservative breakthrough. Tory support stands at 42%, down two points on last month’s Guardian/ICM poll, although up two on another more recent poll from the same firm.

Labour, on 30%, are also down two on the Guardian’s January poll and up two on the more recent survey. The score is also better than several recent results from other pollsters putting the party below 30%.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat hopes are on hold. The party scores 18%, up two on the last Guardian poll but down four on a high recent ICM result. Support for other parties is 10%.

The Conservatives have led by 12 points in all three ICM polls so far this year — enough for a solid working majority. The party is picking up support from the Lib Dems, 23% of whose voters from 2005 say they are thinking of voting Tory, and from Labour, 15% of whose supporters have switched.

The latest poll figures and evidence of a strong public aversion to Brown are unlikely to trigger a leadership challenge since many in the party feel they flirted with the option last summer, and no credible alternative to Brown emerged. But the poll will intensify the calls for the PM to adopt a different approach.

Labour can draw comfort from the fact that public alarm about the economic crisis has levelled out. Asked about their personal financial circumstances, 51% say they are fairly or very confident — up from 43% in December. Only 48% say they are not confident.

Anxiety seems greatest among poorest voters who are most immediately exposed to the recession and least likely benefit from low interest rates: 62% of people in the DE economic category are worried.

The economy is the defining political issue. Today’s poll, which asks voters rank their concerns by importance, can be measured against similar Guardian/ICM findings from the 2005 election. Then, only 14% of voters said the economy was the issue that most affected their vote; now 35% say so.

Public services such as health, education and law and order have slipped down the agenda. In 2005, health was picked by 21% as the leading issue — now it has fallen to third place on 11%.

Fears that the recession would push issues such as immigration up the political agenda are backed by today’s figures. It lies fourth equal in importance, cited as a priority by 9%.

The poll records the Conservative advance across a range of policy areas. Asked to choose between the three main parties, Labour led on a majority of issues in 2005. Now it lags behind on most.

The shift has been dramatic on the general handling of the economy: in 2005 Labour was 22 points ahead of the Conservatives — now it is six points behind. Labour closes the gap on handling of the specific economic crisis, with the Tories only two points ahead.

On education, a 13-point Labour lead has become a one point deficit and on law and order the Conservative lead has grown from two points to seven.

Labour’s strength remains the health service, where a 13-point lead in 2005 has shrunk to eight points.

The Tories also lag behind on terrorism and the environment — where the Conservatives are third behind the Lib Dems.

Those weaknesses do not seem to be enough to stop the Conservatives in a contest where the economy is the overwhelming issue.

… ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,004 adults aged 18+ by telephone between 20 —22 February 2009. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Percentages may not add to 100 because of rounding. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Peer Claims Politicians Are Scared of Discussing Polygamy

Politicians are too scared to discuss multiple marriages in case they offend Muslims, shadow minister for Community Cohesion Baroness Warsi has claimed.

The Muslim peer blamed “cultural sensitivity” for the failure to tackle the problem of polygamy.

She wants the Government to consider ordering that all religious marriages must be registered, as civil ceremonies are, in order to stop men marrying more than one wife.

More than 1,000 British men are thought to have more than one wife. Although bigamy is illegal in the UK, those who have moved here after marrying more than one woman in Islamic countries are allowed to remain in polygamous partnerships — and can even claim benefits for their additional spouses.

Lady Warsi, the shadow minister for community cohesion, told the BBC: “There has been a failure on the part of policymakers to respond to this situation.

“Some of it has been done in the name of cultural sensitivity and we’ve just avoided either discussing or dealing with this matter head-on.

“There has to be a culture change and that has to brought about by policymakers taking a very clear stance on this issue, saying that in this country, one married man is allowed to marry one woman.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice insisted: “It is government policy to prevent the formation of polygamous households in the United Kingdom.

“Polygamous marriages that have been contracted in overseas countries are legally recognised, although immigration rules prevent a man from bringing more than one wife to settle with him in the UK.

“It is not the role of government to take a position on the rites, beliefs or practices of any particular religious faith, other than where these give rise to conflict with the common law.”

It is not the first time that British politicians have been accused of failing to tackle problems among Muslims for fear of causing offence.

Last year Ann Cryer, a veteran Labour MP, claimed those whose constituencies have high Muslim populations are afraid to speak out against forced marriage in case they lose votes.

           — Hat tip: Aeneas [Return to headlines]

UK: Man Charged Over Terror Information

A man has been charged with sending terrorist material by email, Scotland Yard said.

Mohammed Gul, 20, will appear at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday accused of two counts of transmitting of a terrorist publication in January.

He is also charged with possessing a document containing information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Mr Gul, of Elm Park Avenue, Hornchurch, east London was charged with the offences on Monday evening.

He was arrested by anti-terror police on February 10 at an address in Hornchurch, a Metropolitan Police spokesman said.

The force would not reveal details of the document allegedly found in Mr Gul’s possession.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Man ‘Waged Urine-Spray Campaign’

Mr Daifallah is accused of leaving a “trail of stench” with his actions

A man sprayed a mixture of urine and faeces in two supermarkets, a pub and a bookshop in Gloucestershire, a jury at Bristol Crown Court has heard.

Sahnoun Daifallah, 42, of Bibury Road, Gloucester, is alleged to have caused damage estimated at £700,000 last May.

Mr Daifallah pleaded not guilty to four charges of contaminating goods and two of damaging property.

He also denied possession of material to contaminate goods and possession of an offensive weapon.

The court heard he visited the Air Balloon pub near Cheltenham on 14 May 2008 where police were called after he asked a barmaid how much it would cost to rape her.

This was his little calling card because he did not like the way he had been treated

When officers arrived Mr Daifallah was longer there but he had left a “trail of stench” behind him, the court was told.

Stephen Dent, prosecuting, told the jury: “This was his little calling card because he did not like the way he had been treated.”

He then moved on to Waterstones bookstore in Cirencester where it is alleged he sprayed the substance from a spray container all over a toilet in the coffee shop. In total 706 books were contaminated.

Frozen chips

On 16 May 2008 Mr Daifallah is said to have visited Tesco in Quedgley where a shopper noticed him acting suspiciously with a laptop bag in the frozen food aisle.

The prosecution told the court a customer saw Mr Daifallah reach into his bag and produce a jet of fluid which smelt like urine over the frozen chips.

He then moved on to the wine section where a member of staff saw a fine vapour come out of his bag and on to the wine, leaving brown fluid over the shelves, the court heard.

The store was closed for two days for cleaning.

He is then alleged to have driven to Morrisons in Abbeydale.

An employee saw Mr Daifallah acting strangely in the wine section.

He said Mr Daifallah “absolutely stunk” and that he had to stop himself from gagging because of the strong smell of ammonia and urine.

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: NHS Blunders Are Behind a Spate of ‘Vaccine Overloads’

Children are being given the wrong vaccinations and repeat doses of jabs they have already had due to mix-ups at GPs’ surgeries.

Nearly 1,000 safety incidents involving child immunisations were reported in a single year.

Of those studied in detail, more than a third involved babies and children given a different vaccine to the one they were supposed to have.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

UK: Police Still Failing in Race Reforms

Sidiq Khan, minister for communities, launches report which highlights three key areas of reform still not met

The police have fallen short on three key areas of reform on race that were demanded a decade ago by the landmark Macpherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, the government conceded yesterday.

A government report published today admits that stop and search rates remain higher for African-Caribbean Britons than for whites, targets to recruit more ethnic minority police officers have been missed, and, if they do join, black and Asian officers are more likely to leave the service earlier than their white counterparts.

The new report, which maps how different racial groups are faring in Britain, was published to mark today’s 10th anniversary of the report by Lord Macpherson into the bungled investigation of the 18-year-old’s murder in south London in 1993. The inquiry found institutional racism had contributed to the killers of the black teenager not being caught.

Launching the report yesterday, Sadiq Khan, the minister for communities, race and faith, said the police had made much progress, but areas of concern remained: “We have not reached the stage where we can say ‘mission accomplished’. There are still huge challenges and we are determined to meet them.”

After the Macpherson report was published the police were given a decade to recruit many more ethnic minority officers, and set a target of 7%, which in 1999 was the proportion of black and Asian people in the British population. This has now risen to 10%, but they make up 5.3% of the police force. The government report said: “There has been steady progress, albeit slower than we would have liked …”

Khan said the target had been “ambitious”, and part of the problem had been the very low turnover of police staff.

Today’s report also found Asian and black officers who join are more likely to leave early or be dismissed, especially in their first six months. It also noted that when the Macpherson report came out, Asian and black citizens were six times more likely to be stopped and searched by police — it now stands at seven times.

Khan said he had seen “no evidence” this was due to police prejudice. A decade ago the Macpherson report said higher rates of stop and search for black people was in part because of police prejudice: “The majority of police officers who testified before us accepted that an element of disparity was the result of discrimination,” the 1999 report said.

Today’s anniversary of the report will be marked by a conference on British race relations in the past decade. Sir Paul Stephenson, the Metropolitan police commissioner, will speak, as will Stephen’s mother, Doreen Lawrence and the justice secretary Jack Straw, who ordered the Macpherson inquiry.

Today’s conference will also hear from the authors of two reports on the progress the police have made. A report from Portsmouth University says the Lawrence case has changed policing in Britain forever and had an “awesome” effect on the criminal justice system, altering the way in which race hate crimes are pursued. The report is written by the former top Met officer John Grieve, Nathan Hall and Stephen Savage.

“We suggest the legacy of Lawrence amounts to nothing less than a watershed in British policing — and beyond,” Grieve said. A report by Richard Stone, an advisor to Lord Macpherson, reaches a more critical conclusion: “Black citizens and police employees have been failed … almost nothing has changed in ten years.”

No fresh leads

The murder of Stephen Lawrence is no longer under active investigation, 10 years after Lord Macpherson’s report laid bare police failings. In late 2007 it was leaked that the Metropolitan police had made a breakthrough, with new forensic techniques. But sources with knowledge of the case say the development has not proved as conclusive as investigators want. Stephen’s mother Doreen told the Guardian she believes the five suspects will not face court again. Neil Acourt, 33, has changed his name and claims that he has been forced to live as a recluse because of the publicity surrounding the case. His brother, Jamie, 32, has moved to Sidcup with his partner and son. He is said to want to move to Spain. Dave Norris, 32, had to leave the £800,000 home owned by his drug-dealing father, Clifford, three years ago after a legal dispute with Revenue and Customs. Gary Dobson lives with his partner and son in Woolwich. Luke Knight, 32, asked unsuccessfully to be rehoused by Greenwich council a few years ago, claiming he had been harassed by anti-racists.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Spy Planes That Track the Taliban May Soon Hover Over Your Home

Remote-controlled drones are already used widely by the military. Now ministers believe they are likely to become ‘increasingly useful’ for police work.

Pilotless planes used to track the Taliban could soon be hovering over our streets, it has emerged.

Remote-controlled drones are already used widely by the military. Now ministers believe they are likely to become ‘increasingly useful’ for police work.

Armed with heat-seeking cameras, the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles would hover hundreds of feet in the air, gathering intelligence and watching suspects.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Two-Month-Old Baby Crushed to Death in His Pushchair After Gp’s Car Mounted Pavement

A doctor killed a two-month-old boy in a pushchair after his car swerved on to a pavement, a court heard yesterday.

Dr Mohammed Hussain, 63, was trying to overtake another car but changed his mind at the last moment when he saw an oncoming vehicle, it is alleged.

He swerved, mounting the pavement of a quiet residential street and hitting Sacha Mason, fatally injuring him, the court heard.

Witnesses heard Sacha’s mother, 33- year-old Miriana Weston, screaming.

‘The lady was crying and screaming, “my baby, my baby”,’ Sharifa Ahmed, who had been driving her son to football practice and stopped to help, told Harrow Crown Court, North-West London.

‘I telephoned the ambulance service and they told me to check if the baby was breathing and I could see the baby’s lips were blue.

‘I turned the baby’s head and the colour came back into his face and he was breathing.

‘His eyes were closed but he was gasping for air.’

Miss Ahmed was close to tears as she described how she saw blood running down Sacha’s neck from his ear.

The baby was taken to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, but he died shortly afterwards.

Dr Hussain, a GP from Pinner in North-West London, denies one charge of causing death by dangerous driving. The incident occurred in August 2007 as Miss Weston was pushing Sacha’s buggy along a street in Willesden Green.

Robert Whittaker, prosecuting, said: ‘This is a very sad case.

‘All cases of death by dangerous driving are tragic and sad but this is perhaps particularly so because the young man whose death, the prosecution say, is caused by dangerous driving of Dr Hussain was a very young child only two months old at the time of this incident.’

Mr Whittaker claimed that Dr Hussain said during a police interview-that a fault had caused the car to swerve on to the pavement and it had failed to stop when he pressed the brake.

But Mr Whittaker said that detectives had examined the Ford Fiesta after the incident and found that neither the brakes nor steering were defective.

PC Stephen Sayer told the jury it was likely that Dr Hussain had mistakenly pressed the clutch and the accelerator instead of the brake, as he could find no evidence of brake or skid marks.

Dr Hussain qualified at Dhaka University in his native Bangladesh in 1969 and later moved to Britain. Speaking outside his £700,000 four-bedroom home in Pinner before the trial, he expressed sympathy for Sacha’s parents, saying: ‘I do feel very bad for them.’

The case continues.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: White Schoolboy in Race Claim

A schoolboy left for dead after a playground hammer attack by a gang is fighting to prove the violence was racial and that he was failed by his school.

Henry Webster, 15, was assaulted by a group of 13 Asian boys, one armed with a claw hammer, at his school in Swindon in January 2007.

The attack at Ridgeway School was captured on mobile phone and described to a jury as resembling “something out of a Quentin Tarantino film”.

His attackers were given prison terms by a judge at Bristol Crown Court last year, but there was no racial element to the charges.

After a two-year battle by his family for an inquiry into the school’s behaviour, a Serious Case Review will now be held by the town’s Safeguarding Children Board.

Mr Webster, now 17, told Channel 4 news he believes the attack was racially motivated and the charges should have reflected that.

His mother Liz said she thought the school should have done more to prevent what she also sees as a racially motivated attack. No teachers were around to stop the violence.

A text message sent between the gang also suggested there was tension between Asians and whites, she said.

She added: “[The school] didn’t offer us any support or explanation. All we were met with was aggression.”

The jury heard last year that Mr Webster had had a disagreement with an single Asian youth in the school corridor. Mr Webster thought he was facing a fair “one on one fight”. Instead the gang descended upon him, fracturing his skull in three places and leaving him with permanent brain injury.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

North Africa

French Teen Killed by Cairo Bomb Was on Class Trip

CAIRO (AP) — The French teenagers had finished a day touring Cairo’s 650-year-old Khan el-Khalili bazaar, gathering in its main square to board a bus back to their hotel. Then the blast went off.

The explosion killed a 17-year-old girl with the group and wounded 24 other people, most of them fellow students. According to the government accounted released Monday, a bomb had been planted underneath a stone bench on which the girl was sitting.

The Sunday night blast was the first attack in three years targeting foreigners in Egypt, and it raised fears of a blow to the country’s vital tourism industry, which is already suffering from the global economic downturn.

The attack shocked the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, hometown of the more than 40 high school students who were on a tour of Egypt. “We are faced with a dreadful drama,” the suburb’s mayor Patrick Balkany told France’s RTL radio on Monday.

The teens had spent the day wandering Khan el-Khalili’s labyrinth of narrow alleys. The market is usually packed with tourists and Egyptians who buy trinkets from shops selling everything from belly dance outfits to pharaonic statues, or drink tea and smoke waterpipes at the numerous cafes.

At 6:45 p.m., the students gathered in the square in front of one of Cairo’s most revered shrines, the Hussein mosque, one of the students told The Associated Press.

“That was the last thing, that was our meeting point,” she said, her leg bandaged from shrapnel wounds. Then: “I have no idea, there was nothing but a boom and a light. I couldn’t see anything,” she said, speaking at the hotel Monday. She refused to give her name to avoid publicity.

The attack left blood splattered on the marble paving stones in front of the mosque. Government spokesman Magdy Radi said a second bomb was found soon after under a nearby bench and defused.

The wounded included 17 French, three Egyptians, three Saudis and a German tourist, Radi said, according to the state news agency MENA. At least 13 of the French students were injured, most of them lightly by shrapnel and flying glass. But three remained in intensive care in an Egyptian hospital Monday.

The rest of the French students returned home Monday, some of them suffering psychological shock from the “horror” of the experience, Balkany said.

Three people were detained for questioning in the attack, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Several experts on Islamic militants said the bombing may have been carried out by extremists angry at what some in the Arab world viewed as Egypt’s failure to help Palestinians during Israel’s devastating offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Congressman’s Aide Sneaks Secret Terrorist Rendezvous

Undercover meeting with Hamas called illegal by State Department

JERUSALEM — An aide to a member of the U.S. Congress held a secret meeting in the Gaza Strip with leaders of the Hamas terrorist organization, according to information obtained by WND.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iran’s Strategic Nuclear Deception

Tehran has lulled the West into believing that Iranian nukes will only threaten Israel. No way.

by Craig Karpel

Iran’s satellite launch earlier this month should have been a wake-up call. Instead, the West has reached over and hit the snooze button.

Swift, vigorous measures need to be taken to deal with the new reality that Iranians, who could possess a nuclear weapon by the end of next year, have demonstrated that their Safir 2 rocket, which was used as the launch vehicle, is able to deliver a warhead to southern Europe.

The New York Times reported…

           — Hat tip: Craig Karpel [Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Majority of Drugs Coming From Afghanistan, UN Says

New Delhi, 20 Feb. (AKI/Asian Age) — More than 55 percent of the heroin which is being smuggled into India is coming from Afghanistan through Pakistan, claims a report by the United Nations.

The UN said the Taliban is earning millions of dollars annually from a surcharge it levies on illegal trade in that country.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that “the Taliban have an annual revenue of between $200-300 million dollars from a surcharge levied on illicit drug trade”.

This was revealed by International Narcotics Control Board in its report for the year 2008. The report was released on Thursday.

The report said security is “weak” in southern provinces of Afghanistan and an “overwhelming” majority of villages are involved in illegal opium poppy cultivation. It, however, said the illegal opium cultivation has dropped by 19 percent from its record level of 193,000 hectares in 2007 to 157,000 hectares last year. Despite this, the country accounts for 90 percent of illegal opium in the world.

The eradication efforts in Afghanistan are being “hampered” by a lack of security, the report said.

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

Australia — Pacific

Do Not Target Foreigners in Hard Times, UN Envoy Says

INCREASING levels of xenophobia and more refugees seeking to come to Australia are inevitable consequences of the world financial meltdown, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.

At a media conference where the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, announced cuts to permanent skilled migration, Antonio Guterres warned against making foreigners a scapegoat when economic conditions deteriorated. “When things go wrong in a country, there are two potential targets. One is the government, the other is the foreigners,” he said.

Senator Evans yesterday confirmed speculation Australia would cut its skilled migration intake in the budget in May. “I expect the numbers of our program to drop next year … as a reaction to the economic circumstances,” he said.

In the next few weeks the Government will review occupations on the critical skills list, which gives priority to migrants willing to do jobs that are difficult to fill. Calls by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union to remove construction jobs from the list would be considered, he said.

Mr Guterres condemned Australia’s detention policies that continued offshore processing and incarceration at Christmas Island, but he praised resettlement programs as among the world’s best.

He said economic instability accelerated triggers such as war and political unrest that forced people to flee their homelands. Another consequence was a fortress mentality in countries that take refugees. Mr Guterres forecast refugee numbers to increase “dramatically” in 2009.

Senator Evans pledged to receiving a strong humanitarian intake in the next year. The number of refugees Australia accepts is determined separately from the quota on skilled migrants.

Amnesty International Australia’s refugee co-ordinator, Graham Thom, said the separation was important. “The distinction should be kept between people who are suffering and those arriving for family or financial reasons,” he said.

Australia’s humanitarian intake is expected to rise by 250 people to 13,750 in 2009-10.

This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Refugee Law to Embrace More

AUSTRALIA will extend protection to people who are threatened with torture and death in their homelands but do not fall under the definition of “refugee”.

The Government is to change the law to accommodate people not specifically included by regulations drafted to contend with the mass displacement of Europeans after World War II.

Under the United Nations Refugee Convention of 1951, refugees must demonstrate they are subject to persecution on the basis of their race, political alignment, religion or nationality.

This means that in Australia those persecuted for other reasons or who are stateless are not offered protection or are, at best, put in prolonged detention.

The Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, is considering offering such people what is known as complementary protection, which immigration lawyers say could save many lives.

“The Rudd Government is committed to humanity, fairness and integrity in its refugee policies,” Senator Evans told the Herald.

New laws would ensure Australia was meeting its human rights obligations, he said.

It is understood Australian laws would offer those owed complementary protection the same rights as those deemed refugees, avoiding a two-tiered system.

Yuko Narushima

This material is subject to copyright and any unauthorised use, copying or mirroring is prohibited.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Fleeing From South Africa

Another largely unnoticed problem is the growing number of attacks on South Africa’s white farmers. As in neighboring Zimbabwe, some of the attacks appear to be racially motivated. Others seem simply opportunistic, but the result is that white farmers’ numbers continue to decrease, leading to fears that despite the government’s good intentions, a Zimbabwe-style crisis—where the flight of skilled farmers led to an agricultural collapse—is possible here too.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Somali Suicide Bomber Who Attacked Peacekeeping Base Was Local With Regular Access

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — A suicide bomber who attacked an African Union peacekeeping base in the Somali capital was a local who regularly delivered supplies to the soldiers inside, an official said Monday.

Eleven Burundian soldiers were killed in the attack Sunday in Mogadishu, for which an extremist Islamic group called al-Shabab has claimed responsibility. It was the deadliest attack on African Union forces during the two-year deployment in Somalia, Geofrey Mugumya, director of the African Union’s Peace and Security Department, said Monday.

The suicide bomber was a Somali contractor who delivered supplies and had easy access to the base, Mugumya said.

“When soldiers converged to get the supplies as usual, then the bomb was detonated,” Mugumya said.

Mugumya, a Ugandan diplomat, said two Somalis were in the vehicle. He said the African Union will investigate the attack and the peacekeeping force will be more vigilant.

In Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, Nicolas Bwakira, the union’s envoy to Somalia, said 22 soldiers have been killed in Somalia to date.

The group’s Peace and Security Council met in the Ethiopian capital in an emergency session for three hours Monday but its deliberations were closed to reporters.

Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed “has requested us to continue to support his government and to increase the number of troops,” Bwakira told journalists in Nairobi. “And indeed we are in the process of doing that.”

Bwakira said the African Union will soon increase its troops to 8,000 from the current 3,500, though in the past such promises by officials have not always been borne out.

The peacekeeping force has a restricted mandate to guard key government installations in Mogadishu. It has not been involved in fighting Islamic militants in the capital, battles that have killed thousands of civilians over the past two years.

But hardline groups still view the peacekeepers as an occupying force.

Al-Shabab has threatened to focus attacks on African Union troops, now that Ethiopian forces have left Mogadishu after two years. The U.S. State Department considers al-Shabab a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaida, something the group has denied.

The Somali government controls virtually no territory.

In Somalia, a security official said gunmen released a Pakistani man Monday they had kidnapped a day earlier. No ransom was paid and the gunmen freed the man after elders talked to the kidnappers, said Abdullahi Said Samatar, security minister for the semiautonomous northeastern region of Puntland. Samatar said he did not have any details about the man who was kidnapped.


Associated Press writers Malkhadir M. Muhumed in Nairobi, Kenya and Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu, Somalia contributed to this report.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Families of Immigrant Workers Could be Banned From the UK Unless They Take Jobs

Jacqui Smith hinted yesterday at new curbs on the rights of immigrant workers to bring their families into Britain.

The Home Secretary suggested that families may be kept out unless wives and other dependants are prepared to work.

The prospect of restrictions on immigration by families came as Miss Smith launched her high-profile tightening of immigration rules, which she says will ‘raise the bar’ on immigration from outside the EU.

Miss Smith echoed Gordon Brown’s controversial promise of ‘British jobs for British workers’, saying the changes were based ‘on a judgment about what is best for the British economy, for British workers.’

Her new rules are expected to cut the number of migrants coming to Britain under the new points-based work permit system by more than 12 per cent. Last year a record number of work permits, 151,000, were handed out.

The latest move comes amid deepening tension over scarce jobs going to foreign workers and follows the wave of wildcat strikes over the employment of foreign workers at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire.

Miss Smith called for an inquiry by the Home Office’s Migration Advisory Committee into ‘the economic contribution made by the dependants of points-based system migrants and their role in the labour market’.

She told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: ‘There are all sorts of questions that we might want to ask here: their access to the labour market, the extent to which they as well as the people that they are coming with need to demonstrate the contribution that they are going to make to the UK economy.

‘I haven’t made a decision on that yet. It is important that we base that on evidence and that’s why I have asked the Migration Advisory Committee to do the work.’

The new rules will put fresh limits on highly-skilled workers who are not required to have a job before they come to Britain.

From April, they will have to have at least a master’s degree — rather than a bachelor’s degree — and a previous salary of at least £20,000 to qualify.

The Home Office estimates that it will almost halve the numbers coming in from 26,000 to 14,000.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

High Court to Rule Whether Immigrants Must be Told They Face Deportation if They Plead Guilty

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide a frequently recurring question involving immigrants: whether they must be told by their lawyers that they face deportation if they plead guilty to serious crimes.

The justices stepped into a case from Kentucky involving a Honduran national who pleaded guilty to trafficking in marijuana after his lawyer assured him he would not face deportation. Jose Padilla is a Vietnam-era veteran who has lived in the United States for decades, although he never became a U.S. citizen.

Padilla’s lawyer was mistaken and the federal government began proceedings to deport Padilla because trafficking is regarded as an “aggravated felony,” for which deportation is mandatory.

When he realized the consequences of his plea, Padilla sought to withdraw it. A Kentucky appeals court ruled in his favor, but the state Supreme Court said criminal lawyers have no duty to advise their clients about immigration issues. State and federal courts around the country have come to differing conclusions about immigrants’ rights under the Sixth Amendment to effective legal representation. But the issue arises often in U.S. courts, particularly since Congress tightened the rules in the mid-1990s to make deportation automatic for many crimes.

The U.S. high court will hear arguments in the fall.

The case is Padilla v. Kentucky, 08-651.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Parents Told Avoid Morality in Sex Lessons

PARENTS should avoid trying to convince their teenage children of the difference between right and wrong when talking to them about sex, a new government leaflet is to advise.

Instead, any discussion of values should be kept “light” to encourage teenagers to form their own views, according to the brochure, which one critic has called “amoral”.

Talking to Your Teenager About Sex and Relationships will be distributed in pharmacies from next month as part of an initiative led by Beverley Hughes, the children’s minister.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Arctic Sea Ice Underestimated Due to Faulty Sensor

Glitch causing California-size error goes undetected for weeks

A glitch in satellite sensors caused scientists to underestimate the extent of Arctic sea ice by 500,000 square kilometers (193,000 square miles), a California- size area, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center said.

The error, due to a problem called “sensor drift,” began in early January and caused a slowly growing underestimation of sea ice extent until mid-February. That’s when “puzzled readers” alerted the NSIDC about data showing ice-covered areas as stretches of open ocean, the Boulder, Colorado-based group said on its Web site.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Get Ready to Spot Comet Lulin

Get ready for the night of the comet.

Comet Lulin, a strange, backward-traveling, greenish-hued ball of ice and gas, will make its closest approach to Earth on the evening of Monday, Feb. 23.

It’ll still be 38 million miles away, but should be visible with the naked eye in dark locations, and with binoculars or a telescope in more lit-up locations.

Skygazers in North America should look to the west-southwest, where Lulin will be just a bit to the right of Saturn, between the constellations of Virgo and Leo.

This week will probably be humanity’s only chance to see Lulin, which was discovered in 2007 by Chinese and Taiwanese astronomers. The comet appears to be on its way out of the solar system for good.

[Return to headlines]

Going Wobbly in the West

By Mark Steyn

“It is hard to understand this deal,” said Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy. And, if the special envoy of the so-called smartest and most impressive administration in living memory can’t understand it, what chance do the rest of us have?

Nevertheless, let’s try. In the Swat Valley, where a young Winston Churchill once served with the Malakand Field Force battling Muslim insurgents, his successors have concluded the game isn’t worth the candle. In return for a temporary ceasefire, the Pakistani government agreed to let the local franchise of the Taliban impose its industrial strength version of sharia across the whole of Malakand Region. If “region” sounds a bit of an imprecise term, Malakand has over five million people, all of whom are now living under a murderous theocracy. Still, peace rallies have broken out all over the Swat Valley, and, at a Swat peace rally, it helps to stand well back: As one headline put it, “Journalist Killed While Covering Peace Rally.”

But don’t worry about Pakistani nukes falling into the hands of “extremists”: The Swat Valley is a good hundred miles from the “nation”‘s capital, Islamabad — or about as far as Northern Vermont is from Southern Vermont. And, of course, Islamabad is safely under the control of the famously moderate Ali Zardari. A few days before the Swat deal, Mr. Zardari marked the dawn of the Obama era by releasing from house arrest A. Q. Khan, the celebrated scientist and one-stop shop for all your Islamic nuclear needs, for whose generosity North Korea and Iran are especially grateful…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Pro-Köln Gets the Vlaams Belang Treatment

Under the suffocating strictures of politically correct Multiculturalism, any conservative nationalist party in Europe is certain to be demonized as “neo-Nazi”. In some countries it is all but impossible for a truly conservative party to emerge. Anyone who publicly admits to right-wing convictions is instantly vilified by the political establishment and set upon by the hounds of the media. For this reason, European electoral choices usually amount to Socialism, More Socialism, Extra-Strength Socialism, and — just for variety’s sake — Socialism With Added Environmentalism.

This is especially true of Germany. The legacy of the Third Reich — and the fallacious labeling of the Nazis as “extreme right-wing” — has guaranteed that any conservative movement in Germany will be anathematized as Nazi or fascist. There simply isn’t any other option.

The anti-Islamization movement Pro-Köln is no exception. Like Vlaams Belang in Belgium, they became “neo-Nazi” from the moment they appeared. The legions of Antifa have frequently been dispatched to their events to harass and beat up the “fascists” if they dare to assemble publicly.

The irony of all this is that the real neo-Nazis — the fellows who go in for brown shirts and swastikas and sell posters of Hitler on their websites — are opposed to Vlaams Belang and Pro-Köln. They’re not fond of immigrants, either, but those Muslim chappies hate the Jews, so they can’t be all that bad, now, can they?

Our Flemish correspondent VH has kindly translated an article about neo-Nazi opposition to Pro-Köln. But first he offers these observations:

The neo-Nazis are in general opposed to all such contemporary freedom-loving right-wing movements. The neo-Nazis are first of all Socialists (anti-capitalist, anti-Western society) and also anti-Semites. The overlap of the neo-Nazis with the anti-fascists is therefore substantial (aside from the issues of nationalism/globalism and immigrants).

They view Islamists in certain respects as like-minded in their opposition to Western society. The neo-Nazis, like the Antifa for instance, are heavily opposed to Geert Wilders and the PVV: they even demonstrated (video) against Fitna and Wilders on the evening the film was released. With this action the neo-Nazis actually were the very first to do so.

And now VH’s translation from the Pro-Köln website:

Neo-Nazis are standing against Pro-Köln

In addition to the old parties and the militant leftist extremists’ environment, now the publicly scrutinized German neo-Nazi scene has also found a new enemy: Pro-Köln and Pro-NRW!

On several internet forums that are mainly read by various government services’ inspectors, the neo-Nazi scene shows a dedicated interest in a new enemy: Pro-Köln and Pro-NRW. With foam raging from their mouths for several days now, the right-wing militants are lashing out at the law-abiding and rightist-democratic pro-movement.

The old parties apparently have in the defense of their power cartel found bizarre new allies. The verbal derailments of the General Secretary of Nordrhein Westphalen, Groschek (SPD) and the Cologne Mayor Fritz Schramma (CDU) are easily surpassed by the Nazis, although with some spelling errors.

– – – – – – – –

Both with the political class as well as along the edges of our political-party system, nerves are obviously laid bare. Our opponents apparently cannot accept that the pro-movement in North Rhine-Westphalia is successful in attacking the encrusted party system, with the goal of establishing a serious and democratic parliamentary platform of the Right.

On the failure of the far-right against Pro-Köln and Pro-NRW, the Pro-NRW-treasurer and Pro-Köln group chairman, the 30-year-old lawyer Judith Wolter says: “The various attacks by the established political groups, the leftist extremists, and now also by the neo-Nazi scene, show once again that we have positioned ourselves properly.”

Finally a serious, right-wing democratic platform in North Rhine-Westphalia manages to be successful, because all the collected chained dogs, whether state-controlled or not, are unleashed. In addition to the usual barrage of stigmatization by the old parties and the extreme Left, there are also direct attacks against our activists and our office premises. At the same time the political class in their desperate plight even enables the other — by various remote controlled people of the V-crowd [government-informants/agent-provocateurs] — extremist scene. At their dedicated stupid neo-Nazi forums they express a lot of hate towards the pro-movement. In that junk they even express personal threats against our officials.

Of course we are grateful for this unasked-for political clarification. The accusations of extremism against our liberal citizens’ movement become in the face of such campaigns against the pro-movement rather ridiculous and absurd. This will also play a not unimportant role in our case in the administrative court because of the appearance of Pro-Köln and Pro-NRW in the so-called NRW-Intelligence Service reports [North Rhine-Westphalia branch of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency].

On the other hand, the apparent government staging of this campaign makes me somewhat thoughtful. A bizarre coalition is mounted against us: extremist leftists, neo-Nazis, and Islamists, combined with the usual old parties [CDU, SPD, etc.]. Together they share a common enemy: Pro-Köln and Pro-NRW.

The motive for this offensive is described by the weekly Zur Zeit in its latest issue: in 2010 there will be state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia. The right-wing pro-movement will try to enter the state parliament. Once a moderate right-wing party is established there, there might be no more room left for other parties. Another reason to finally bring a freedom loving grassroots opposition to the parliament! Our credo [undogmatic, nonpartisan and without taboos], which makes us in the eyes of the apologists for the extremists of the left and the right really radical, proves all the more to be absolutely necessary.

We will keep on track, the bill will come due on election day, and we look forward to it in confidence.

VH adds this note:

Apart from the neo-Nazis, Al Qaeda is also concerning itself with the German elections: “Al Qaeda wants to use ‘massive violence’ to influence the German voters to push the next government to withdraw German troops from Afghanistan.”

Previous posts about Pro-Köln:

2008   Jan   20   Cities Against Islamization
        25   The European Initiative “Cities against Islamization”
    Aug   22   Elderly Anti-Islamization Activist Beaten Unconscious
    Sep   4   Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/4/2008
        14   Diana West on Pro-Köln
        19   More Violence Against Pro-Köln Supporters
        20   Chaos in Cologne
        20   Further First-Hand Reports from Cologne
        20   The Upstanding Citizens of Cologne Repudiate Islamophobia
        20   German News Report on the Events in Cologne
        21   The Post-Mortem on Cologne, Part 1
        21   The Post-Mortem on Cologne, Part 2
        21   The Post-Mortem on Cologne, Part 3
        21   The Post-Mortem on Cologne, Part 4
        21   The Post-Mortem on Cologne, Part 5
        22   More Reports from Cologne
        22   Reports from Dutch Visitors to Cologne
        23   Aviel’s Report from Cologne
        23   Fjordman on Freedom-Fighting “Fascists”
        26   My Impression of the Cologne Event
        26   The InterNazis
    Oct   8   The Aftermath of Cologne
    Dec   11   The Latest on Pro-Köln
        16   Pro-Köln 2009: Once More With Feeling
        17   “A Renewed Sense of Community”
2009   Jan   5   A Parallel Society in Germany
        9   Video of Assault on Pro-Köln Member
        10   Assault on Pro-Köln Member Now on YouTube
        12   Allahu Akhbar at the Cologne Cathedral
        18   Suppressing the Right Wing in Germany
        25   The Continuing Suppression of Pro-Köln
        27   Muslims Threaten the Citizens of Cologne
    Feb   18   Citizens’ Movements in Germany and the Rest of Europe