Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/30/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/30/2009The big news story of the day concerns an alliance between Hezbollah and narco-traffickers in Latin America. Hezbollah invested money in the cocaine ring, and used the profits to buy weapons, also from Latin America.

See Fausta for more coverage of this story.

In other news, an 8-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia has been granted a divorce from her 58-year-old husband.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, CIS, CSP, Diana West, Fjordman, Insubria, islam o’phobe, Israel Matzav, JD, KGS, moderntemplar, Paul Green, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
Spain: 1 Million Families Without Earnings
CAIR “Commends” the Good Dhimmis at the ADL for Condemning Wilders
Did President Approve Buzzing New York?
Mark Steyn: Who Will Lead the ‘Post-American Era’?
Nashville: Hospital Pays $70,000 to Muslim After Denying Him Time Off for Trip to Mecca
Obama’s War on Free Speech
Obama Announces Fiat-Chrysler Deal
Swine Flu Smoking Gun? CDC Was Combining Flu Viruses in 2004
Europe and the EU
Greece-Cyprus Conditionally Support Turkey’s EU Bid
Muslim Failed Asylum Seeker Kills Girl & Walks Free
New Law Sees Swedish Web Traffic Plunge
Premier in ‘Starlet’ Election Row
Spain: Women; in Three Years 100,000 Gender Violence Cases
Sweden: Wheels of Justice Chase Balls of Steel
Sweden: Gang Rapists Jailed
Terrorism: Spain; TV Internet to Encourage ETA
UK: Bradford College Involved in Drugs Racket, Claim
UK: The Muslim Cleric Who Blames British Mosques for the 7/7 Bombings, Says Multiculturalism is a Disaster and Would Throw Islamic Fanatics Out
Mediterranean Union
Culture: Arts Caravan From Syracuse to Tunisia
North Africa
Egypt: Hezbollah Scheme to Attack Egypt Foiled
New Flu: Egypt; Breeders, Rocks Thrown at Veterinarians
Terrorism: Algeria, Imam Imprisoned for Defending Terrorism
Israel and the Palestinians
10 Ways Obama is a Direct Threat to Israel
Israel to EU: Criticism of Netanyahu Government Unacceptable
Israel: Intelligence Warns Israel is Now an ‘Obstacle to Obama’
Middle East
Emirates: Torture; Government Condemns Prince’s Actions
Jordan: Queen Rania Joins Crowd to Condemn Child Abuse
Lebanon: New Shiite Militia, Hezbollah Alternative
More Than a Coincidence: Minarets, Geography and Power
Saudi Arabia: Eight-Year-Old Girl Divorces 50-Year-Old Husband
The Unbearable Lightness of Wishful Thinking
Turkey: EU, Tackling Violence Against Women is Priority
What is Salafism, and Why Does Anybody Consider it Relevant Today?
Wiping Israel Off Brit Airline’s Map Stirs Furor
South Asia
Afghan Diary I: the Gates of Kabul
Pakistan: Taliban Seize Houses, Shops of Sikhs in Orakzai
Taliban Possibly Tapping Berlin’s Secrets
Australia — Pacific
Mice Attack Nursing Home War Veteran
Sub-Saharan Africa
New Pirate Attacks on Italian Ship
Latin America
Big Cocaine Gang Allied to Hezbollah Rounded Up
USA: Immigrant Unemployment at Record High
Culture Wars
Censors for Talk Radio Expected Within 90 Days
Fairness Doctrine ‘Unconstitutional’
House Agrees to Muzzle Pastors With ‘Hate Crimes’ Plan
Right-Wing College Group Riles Students on Campuses Nationwide
Billions of Dollars in Their Way to Pharmaceutical Firms
Brooke Goldstein & Aaron Eitan Meyer: How Islamist Lawfare Tactics Target Free Speech
Only 7 Swine Flu Deaths, Not 152, Says WHO
Professor Warns of Global Food Riots

Financial Crisis

Spain: 1 Million Families Without Earnings

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 24 — In the record low of 4 million registered unemployed people in Spain, the data that has caused the most concern is that of 1,068,400 families who are without a single working member in the household. The number sees last year’s figure more than doubled, according to a study by the country’s National Statistics Institute (INE) published today. The number of families without income has risen to 6.3%, an increase of 29.16% in comparison to the first quarter of 2008. At the same time, the rate of unemployment for immigrants in the third quarter reached 23%, compared to 21% in the previous quarter, and the 17.36% representing general unemployment. More than 278,000 immigrants have joined the ranks of the unemployed. The Minister for the Economy, Elena Salgado, announced to the media that the country’s economic situation “is negative, and worse than expected,” though she claimed she was confident that by April there would be a clear “reversal in the trend”, and the increase in unemployment would slow. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


CAIR “Commends” the Good Dhimmis at the ADL for Condemning Wilders

by Diana West

As the Left in Europe is increasingly characterized by its appeasement of Islam and an acidifying anti-Semitism, Dutch MP Geert Wilders (above, outside the US Senate), an opposition leader on the Right, rallies the Dutch people with his stalwart defense of Western civilization, his opposition to the encroachments of sharia law in his country and the wider West, and his always staunch defense of Jews and Israel, which he rightly sees as a nation on the front lines against the jihad in progress against the non-Muslim world.

So how come the Anti-Defamation League is condemning Wilders—and, in turn, being commended for doing so by Hamas-linked CAIR?…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Did President Approve Buzzing New York?

Air Force officer: ‘It shows a kind of arrogance’

An Air Force officer who served in the Clinton White House and for two years carried the “nuclear football” briefcase of codes says it’s almost certain that the “highest levels” of the Obama administration knew about and approved this week’s stunt in which Air Force One buzzed New York City.

During an interview on “The Andrea Shea King Show” last night, he said, “I can’t imagine that anyone who works in the Air Force thought that was a good idea. I have worked in the White House and having worked for the Military Office, with the guys at Andrews Air Force Base and the ground crews, that (decision) had to come down from on high.”

Among the procedures with which he became familiar during his work with Clinton were those involving the preparation of the president’s 747 jet for flight.

“It defies my belief that the White House staff did not know they were launching the 747 to go up and do this. So it had to come down from the White House. It wouldn’t have been done on behalf of the folks at Andrews (Air Force Base). It would have been done at the direction of the White House,” he said.

Patterson currently flies for a carrier on a route crossing the nation.

“I fly an airplane out of Los Angeles into New York City all the time. I fly a large airplane. In NYC airspace at any point in time, especially during the day during normal waking hours to fly over the city like at that low level, it’s almost impossible to coordinate with the FAA. So there was a lot of coordination done on this, a lot of advance legwork and groundwork done on this.”

“It boggles my mind because when I fly into New York City, we have to stay on this straight and narrow path that you cannot deviate virtually by feet, and here’s a 747 that’s got the approval to fly all over the city at low level and again, scare the people of New York. It just defies description,” he said.

“I can’t imagine as a pilot, and an Air Force officer and a former Clinton administration official, I can’t imagine who thought that was a good idea!”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Mark Steyn: Who Will Lead the ‘Post-American Era’?

Obama crew sees U.S. as just the same as 190 other countries.

According to an Earth Day survey, one-third of schoolchildren between the ages of 6 and 11 think the Earth will have been destroyed by the time they grow up. That’s great news, isn’t it? Not for the Earth, I mean, but for “environmental awareness.” Congratulations to Al Gore, the Sierra Club and the eco-propagandists of the public education system in doing such a terrific job of traumatizing America’s moppets. Traditionally, most of the folks you see wandering the streets proclaiming the end of the world is nigh tend to be getting up there in years. It’s quite something to have persuaded millions of first-graders that their best days are behind them.

Call me crazy, but I’ll bet that in 15-20 years the planet will still be here, along with most of the “environment” — your flora and fauna, your polar bears and three-toed tree sloths and whatnot. But geopolitically we’re in for a hell of a ride, and the world we end up with is unlikely to be as congenial as most Americans have gotten used to…

[Return to headlines]

Nashville: Hospital Pays $70,000 to Muslim After Denying Him Time Off for Trip to Mecca

Southern Hills Medical Center in Nashville has agreed to pay a former employee $70,000 in damages after denying him time off to make a pilgrimage to Mecca but admitted no wrongdoing when it settled the religious discrimination case on Monday.

In late 2007, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit on behalf of Wali Telwar, a Muslim former Southern Hills medical technician who lives in Nashville.

The hospital refused to allow Telwar to use just over 20 days of accumulated vacation time to take a trip to Mecca. Every Muslim is required to make the hajj — a pilgrimage to the Saudi Arabian birthplace of the Islamic religion and its prophet — in their lifetime.

Telwar, who had worked at the hospital for three years, also claimed he was told that if he insisted on attending the hajj he would have to quit his job and reapply when he returned.

Telwar resigned, according to the suit. When he returned, Southern Hills did not rehire him. The hospital hired three other medical technicians.

Southern Hills released a statement from CEO Tom Ozburn late Wednesday: “As noted in the consent decree, we deny that we discriminated in any way against Mr. Telwar,” Ozburn said in the statement. “We have reached a settlement with the EEOC to close this matter. “Southern Hills is committed to providing an inclusive work environment where everyone is treated with fairness, dignity, and respect.” At the time the suit was filed, Southern Hills Marketing Director Karen Baker declined to comment on the details but said the hospital did not discriminate against Telwar and intended to defend its position vigorously.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sought court costs, unspecified back pay and other damages from the hospital. When the case was settled Monday, the hospital denied any wrongdoing and did not agree to pay Telwar’s legal costs.

But the hospital did agree to pay Telwar $70,000 in damages, to eliminate any reference to the discrimination claim in Telwar’s personnel file and to offer a neutral reference to any future employers.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement the hospital is barred from refusing to reasonably accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of any employee. The prohibition extends to the scheduling of vacation time and retaliating against any employee who has requested accommodation for a religious belief.

The hospital is also required to alter its policy manual within 90 days to provide instructions to employees about accommodating religious beliefs and must educate its employees and management about what constitutes religious discrimination. The hospital must also generate two reports over the next 23 months detailing what requests for religious accommodation are made by employees, what accommodations were made and if no accommodation was made it must explain why.

           — Hat tip: moderntemplar [Return to headlines]

Obama’s War on Free Speech

Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are intent on nationalizing media in the U.S. much the same way they nationalized the U.S. auto industry and the nation’s banking and financial institutions.

This isn’t the so-called “Fairness Doctrine.”

It’s much worse.

Here’s what you can expect in the coming weeks and months:

  • a new appointment to the position of chairman of the Federal Communications Commission who will implement a plan to create “community advisory boards” of community activists to monitor the content of talk-radio programs, threatening stations that carry dissenting content with broadcast license challenges;
  • billions of additional dollars to be invested in so-called “public broadcasting” — those entities already funded and controlled by government;
  • bailouts of failing newspapers perceived as essential propaganda tools for the party.

It’s a program worthy of the old Soviet Union — where the old joke noted there was no truth in Pravda and no news in Izvestia.

But this is no joking matter. The First Amendment is at stake.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Obama Announces Fiat-Chrysler Deal

Accord offers chance for brilliant future, president says

(see related coverage) (ANSA) — Washington, April 30 — United States President Barack Obama announced on Thursday that Chrysler had reached an agreeement with Italian automaker Fiat.

“The agreement with Fiat offers Chrysler a chance for a brilliant future,” said Obama.

Chrysler will not only survive but will prosper in its alliance with Fiat, said the president, who announced that the American automaker would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy was the only option available for Chrysler after negotiations between the US Treasury and the automaker’s lenders failed to fully reduce Chrysler’s debt.

The US government is ready to give America’s No.3 carmaker up to 3.5 billion dollars in debtor financing to help Chrysler during its restructuring phase.

The Canadian government is also ready to do its bit, Obama administration sources said.

US officials are apparently in favour of letting Bob Nardelli retain his his job as Chrysler’s Chief Executive for a transition period, American media sources said.

Nardelli is expected to resign once the deal with Fiat becomes operative.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Swine Flu Smoking Gun? CDC Was Combining Flu Viruses in 2004

(NaturalNews) Last week, when what is now called a “swine flu” was first reported to be infecting and killing some people in Mexico, health officials noted it was a strain of flu never before seen. In fact, it is technically incorrect to call this simply a “swine” flu. Analyses showed it’s a mixture of swine, human and avian viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Moreover, it is genetically different from the fully human H1N1 seasonal influenza virus that has been circulating globally for the past few years. Bottom line: the new flu virus contains DNA from avian, swine viruses (including elements from European and Asian viruses) and human viruses.

But here’s the potential smoking gun, the facts that suggest a potential source of the pandemic could be CDC labs. And at the very least, this possibility deserves thoughtful examination and research.

The University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) is hardly a place most Americans have heard about and, apparently, the Center’s web site has news the MSM isn’t familiar with, either. But information they published years ago has now taken on an urgent importance. CIDRAP, along with the Canadian newspaper Canadian Press (CP), revealed back in 2004 that the CDC was launching experiments designed to mix the H5N1 (avian) virus and human flu viruses. The goal was to find out how likely it was such a “reassortant” virus would emerge and just how dangerous it might be. Of course, it’s logical to wonder if they also worked with the addition of a swine flu virus, too.

Here’s some background from the five-year-old report by the University of Minnesota research center: “One of the worst fears of infectious disease experts is that the H5N1 avian influenza virus now circulating in parts of Asia will combine with a human-adapted flu virus to create a deadly new flu virus that could spread around the world. That could happen, scientists predict, if someone who is already infected with an ordinary flu virus contracts the avian virus at the same time. The avian virus has already caused at least 48 confirmed human illness cases in Asia, of which 35 have been fatal. The virus has shown little ability to spread from person to person, but the fear is that a hybrid could combine the killing power of the avian virus with the transmissibility of human flu viruses. Now, rather than waiting to see if nature spawns such a hybrid, US scientists are planning to try to breed one themselves — in the name of preparedness.”

The CP’s report noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) had been “pleading” for laboratories to do this blending-of-viruses research. The reason? If successful, these flu mixes would back up WHO’s warnings about the possibility of a flu pandemic. In fact, Klaus Stohr, head of the WHO’s global flu program at the time, told the CP that if the experiments were successful in producing highly transmissible and pathogenic viruses, the agency would be even more worried — but if labs couldn’t create these mixed flu viruses, then the agency might have to ratchet down its level of concern.

The 2004 CIDRAP News report addressed the obvious risks of manufacturing viruses in labs that, if released, could potentially spark a pandemic. However, the CDC’s Daigle assured the Minnesota research group the virus melding would be done in a biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) laboratory. “We recognize that there is concern by some over this type of work. This concern may be heightened by reports of recent lab exposures in other lab facilities,” he told CIDRAP. “But CDC has an incredible record in lab safety and is taking very strict precautions.”

Five years later, we must ask more questions. Were those safety measures enough? Was the CDC creating or testing any of these virus mixes in or near Mexico? What other potentially deadly virus combinations has the US government created? Don’t US citizens, as taxpayers who funded these experiments, have a right to know? And for all the residents of planet earth faced with a potentially deadly global epidemic, isn’t it time for the truth?

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Greece-Cyprus Conditionally Support Turkey’s EU Bid

(ANSAmed) — NICOSIA, APRIL 23 — Greece and Cyprus said on Wednesday they support Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, but that Ankara must meet EU entry requirements. “We have fully supported the full entry of Turkey to the European Union. But it is not possible to give our consent unless the Cyprus problem is solved, and Turkey meets all its obligations towards the European Union,” Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said during a visit to Cyprus. “We believe that a Turkey which will adopt European rules of behaviour … will be a Turkey much better for its citizens and the whole of the EU”, Karamanlis noted. “There is no blank cheque,” Cypriot President Demetris Christofias said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Muslim Failed Asylum Seeker Kills Girl & Walks Free

A failed asylum seeker who left a young girl dying under the wheels of his car after a hit-and-run accident has been freed to the disgust of her family. Aso Mohammed Ibrahim was due to be deported after his applications for asylum and citizenship were kicked out. But the 31-year-old Iraqi Kurd has been released on bail from custody while he makes yet another appeal to stay in the UK. He says it is too dangerous for him to return to his homeland. The father of 12-year-old Amy Houston, who was mowed down by Ibrahim’s Rover car as she went to the shops more than five years ago, has spoken of his outrage.

Paul Houston, 39, an engineer, said: ‘It’s an insult to my daughter. I walk around the street and I’m looking over my shoulder every two minutes thinking, “Am I going to see this bloke?” ‘How many more appeals does he get? It is my duty as a father to see this through to the end. ‘If I didn’t fight then another person would find themselves in this position and I don’t want anybody else’s kid to get killed. He’s just laughing at the British justice system. It is so wrong.’“

           — Hat tip: moderntemplar [Return to headlines]

New Law Sees Swedish Web Traffic Plunge

A month into life under tougher anti-internet piracy measures, new statistics suggest that Swedes have abandoned their previous enthusiasm for internet file sharing.

Internet traffic in Sweden dropped nearly 40 percent immediately following the April 1st implementation of a new law which gave prosecutors and copyright holders increased powers to track down suspected file sharers.

After April 1st, broadband traffic in Sweden fell from an average of 160 gigabytes per second down to about 100 gigabytes per second, according to figures from Netnod, a company which operates internet exchanges in five cities in Sweden.

The company’s statistics serve as a generally accepted barometer for measuring Sweden’s internet traffic, and many viewed the initial dip as a temporary phenomenon due to uncertainty about the new law.

But more recent figures reveal that Swedish internet use in April has stayed 30 to 40 percent below levels recorded before the law went into effect.

“The huge reduction in traffic shows that ordinary users have cut down on illegal file sharing,” said Henrik Pontén, a lawyer for Sweden’s Anti-Piracy Agency (Antipiratbyrån — APB), in a statement.

While the Netnod figures don’t provide specific details about individual internet users’ specific web surfing or file sharing habits, other observers agree there is likely a connection between the drop in internet use and the new law.

“The easiest explanation is that many file sharers are in a wait and see period,” Erik Arnberg of website monitoring company Pingdom told The Local.

The Anti-Piracy Agency, however, has seized on the persistent drop to tout what it sees as the law’s chilling effect on Swedish file sharers.

The law which appears to have Sweden’s illegal file sharers on the run is based on the European Union’s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) and allows courts to order internet service providers (ISPs) to hand over details that identify suspected illegal file sharers.

The bill narrowly passed in a February Riksdag vote and two weeks before the IPRED law went into effect, a poll by the Sifo polling company revealed that only 32 percent of Swedes supported the measure.

According to Pontén, a major source for pirated movies in Sweden, the underground file sharing network The Scene (Scenen), had been “very careful” since the law came into effect and had shut down a number of its servers or moved them to other countries in the Nordic region.

“The month of April has seen a break in the trend of pirating movies in Sweden,” said Pontén, noting that the number of pirated movies released by The Scene has been cut in half during April compared with March.

In addition, the agency claims that every major Swedish bitTorrent tracker site with the exception of The Pirate Bay has been shut down.

But Arnberg contended that it wasn’t so easy to say exactly why Sweden’s internet traffic has remained so much lower in the wake of the IPRED law, or if that drop means that less illegal file sharing is taking place.

“Part of it may simply be that Swedes like to follow the rules,” he said.

Another possible explanation, according to Arnberg, is that Swedish internet piracy has moved off shore, with file sharers downloading more material from sites located outside of Sweden — activity which wouldn’t show up in the Netnod statistics.

“But I’m a bit skeptical, frankly,” he said, adding that it was “hard to believe” that nearly one third of Sweden’s internet traffic simply shifted overnight to sites overseas and stayed there.

Despite a month of consistently lower internet traffic, Arnberg said it’s still too early to assess the overall effects of the IPRED law or to know if or when Swedish internet traffic may eventually bounce back.

“Everyone is being very cautious right now,” he said.

In the eyes of Stockholm University IT-law expert Daniel Westman, however, the measure has failed to achieve its intended goal.

“I’d say that the law has been partially successful in that it appears to have stopped people from sharing files illegally,” he told The Local.

“But the point of the law was to get more people to use legal file sharing sites and if it had been truly successful, we wouldn’t see this drop in internet traffic, but simply a shifting of traffic from illegal file sharing sites to legal ones.”

Arnberg is also concerned about the long-term effects of a measure which appears to have so little support among the Swedish public.

“Maybe the music industry is happy for the moment, but the rule of law is based not on the risk of sanctions, but on the perception that laws are just,” he said

“There are a lot of people out there that don’t think the laws are just, and that’s not a good situation.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Premier in ‘Starlet’ Election Row

Berlusconi says wife misled by ‘left- wing media’

(ANSA) — Warsaw, April 29 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday that media claims of him putting starlets up for the European elections had been stage managed by the left and would blow up in their faces.

Berlusconi said his wife, Veronica Lario, was among those who had been misled by the media after the former actress wrote to ANSA slamming the alleged move to field showgirls at the elections as “against women”.

The premier said the media claims were “absolutely unfounded”.

“I will campaign with these so-called showgirls by my side,” he said, adding that the candidates would all reveal their educational qualifications and experience and that the media flap would turn into a “boomerang” that would come back to hit the opposition.

The premier, currently in Warsaw for a European People’s Party conference, said the candidates fielded by his People of Freedom (PDL) party would nevertheless be “cultured and equipped for the job”, not “smelly and poorly dressed” like some of those from other parties.

Lario on Tuesday night responded to her husband’s alleged plan as “shameless trash” and agreed with media accusations that it was to “help entertain the Emperor”.

“I want it to be quite clear that my children and I are victims and not accomplices in this situation. We have to endure it, and it makes us suffer,” she said.

Lario hit out at her husband’s “lack of discretion in his exercise of power which offends the credibility of all women”.

“Fortunately, for some time now there has been a future for women both in the business world and in politics, and this is already a global reality,” she said, citing former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo.

Lario did not mention her husband’s current Equal Opportunities Minister, former showgirl Mara Carfagna.

Centre-left Democratic Party (PD) Senate whip Anna Finocchiaro meanwhile said “considering beauty an indispensable accessory for a career in politics… frankly seems to me demeaning in the face of the extraordinary efforts of Italian women”.

The names of the PDL candidates will be announced later on Wednesday.

PDL spokesman Daniele Capezzone said the list would “belie” the “falsehoods and urban legends” about the candidates.

“Many people in politics and the media will have to confess to having told concocted stories,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Spain: Women; in Three Years 100,000 Gender Violence Cases

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 22 — Media in Spain reports today that the President of the ad-hoc observatory to the General Council of Judicial Power, Immaculada Montalban, has revealed that after three and a half years of the law against domestic and gender violence being in place in Spain, there have been around 100,000 convictions in gender violence cases, and over 140,000 trials have been held out of a total of almost 270,000 presented cases. The figures, which are accurate until December 2008, show a total of 95,284 convictions in cases of “chauvinistic” violence, resulting from a total of 140,705 trials and 268,418 reports lodged, an increase of 15.7% on cases reported between January 2007 and December 2008, of which 10.7% were withdrawn. The number of women reporting violence suffered at the hands of their husbands, partners or former partners continues to rise, although the trend has shown signs of reversal in the last quarter of 2008, with a 9% reduction in the number of cases presented, compared to the same period in the previous year. According to Montalban these figures show that in any case the establishment of special procedures to be followed in cases of domestic and gender violence “is the best way to fight the phenomenon,” which led to the death of 90 people in Spain last year, and 22 people since the beginning of 2009. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Wheels of Justice Chase Balls of Steel

A Swedish television programme based on the British Channel 4 show Balls of Steel has been reported to police for disorderly conduct and sexual harassment.

The state prosecutor J Nordin called Stockholm police earlier in April to report the entire programme, produced by Strix and broadcast on Kanal 5, which he considers habitually breaks the law.

The prosecutor has decided to report the entire programme and participants for “crimes up to and including Wednesday April 1st”.

Kanal 5 responded on Wednesday by arguing that there had never been any criminal intention with “Ballar av Stål” and that the programme should be seen as entertainment.

“But it is of course up to the authorities to decide for themselves if they want to waste tax revenue in 2009,” Kanal 5 press spokesperson Dan Panas told media website

The case will be considered by the Chancellor of Justice (JK) as it considers issues of freedom of speech and the press.

This is not the first time the controversial programme has been reported to police.

The Local reported in November 2007 that Hanna Wallenius, a presenter on the show then running a pilot for Sveriges Television, was convicted by Stockholm District Court for causing grievous offence after having squirted the prime minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, with water.

Wallenius was fined the equivalent of 100 days’ wages for harassment and Sveriges Television decide to pass on the programme.

Kanal 5 then took over the rights and and began recording last summer

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Gang Rapists Jailed

Six young men have been jailed for their parts in the group rape of several young girls in Södertälje, near Stockholm.

Three of the men were sentenced to four years imprisonment for aggravated child rape and other offences. A further man was jailed for three years and six months for aggravated child rape, a fifth to 18 months for the same offence, and a sixth man to eight months for aggravated sexual coercion.

The men were convicted for involvement in a series of group rapes of teenage girls whom they met at parties in the Södertälje area.

In addition to their prison sentences the men were ordered to pay significant compensation to the girls.

Three of the men were convicted for involvement in the repeated rapes of a 12-year-old girl in the attic of an apartment block in Södertälje over a period of 18 months.

Four of the men were convicted in connection with the violent assault of two teenage girls in an apartment in Hovsjö in Södertälje in February. The girls had gone to the apartment in the company of a couple of boys to find that a further group of young men were also there.

One of the girls was raped in the apartment by the men while the other was sexually assaulted.

Two of the men were convicted for this attack to four years imprisonment.

All of the defendants admitted to having had sex with the girls but claimed that the girls participated voluntarily.

District prosecutor Marie-Louise Pettersson is satisfied with the sentences.

“The district court in general followed my line of reasoning,” she told news agency TT.

Despite the young ages of the defendants, all are between 19 and 23-years-old, the court decided that the nature of the offences leave no reason not to impose custodial sentences.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Spain; TV Internet to Encourage ETA

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 24 — A new internet broadcast television channel, streaming 24 hours a day, is dedicated to the justification and praise of the members and actions of ETA. The web initiative was launched on the website of Apurtu Telebista, a television channel controlled by the Nation Basque Liberation Movement (MLNV), as quoted by the conservative newspaper ABC today. The site’s objective, according to anti-terrorists sources quoted by the paper, is that of placating the growing criticism by imprisoned members and their families of the organization’s leaders who caused the failure of the peace process started by the Zapatero government in 2006, as well as to stem demoralization caused by the “Parot doctrine”, which brought an increase in sentences and a decrease in benefits for those accused of committing acts of terrorism. On the basis of the provisions, nearly twenty members of ETA who had been due to be released in 2009 have seen their prison sentences extended to up to ten years. Bearing the slogan, “a new way to see reality”, Apurtu Telebista is presented as a conventional television network with continuous scheduled programming, offering reports centred around detained members and their families, including appeals to the imprisoned not to repent and to refuse all offers made by the state. The images display continuous messages of support for the detained and against the policy of dispersal within Spanish prisons. The site’s heading promises, “We will add weekly videos so as not to lose sight of the continued oppression of our land”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

UK: Bradford College Involved in Drugs Racket, Claim

Directors of a Bradford college were involved in a conspiracy to import heroin valued at more than £500,000, a court heard.

Husband and wife Mohammed Faisal and Patricia Malicka, who were said to be managing director and administration director of the Yorkshire College Ltd in Manningham Lane, Manningham, and Roohul Amin, listed as finance director, are accused of drug smuggling and money laundering.

Also accused are Faisal’s younger brother, Mohammed Alamgir, and Ali Iftikhar.

Prosecutor Peter Moulson told Bradford Crown Court some of the people involved with Yorkshire College were concerned in the importation of heroin from Pakistan.

The college was set up in November 2004 with the purpose appearing to be to assist overseas students to gain qualifications and college placements in England. Amin leased the Manningham Lane premises.

Mr Moulson said: “While some of that business may have been genuine, some of the people involved in it were responsible for the importation of heroin.”

He said almost 13kg of heroin, with a street value of nearly £650,000, was seized by the authorities.

He said the defendants, to a greater or lesser degree, ran facilities to try to ensure the safe receipt of heroin into the UK.

Addresses, and/or people were made available so the drug, secreted in parcels of clothing from Pakistan, could be received.

The enterprise ran from 2006 until the defendants’ arrest in June 2008, he told the jury.

He said parcels containing heroin from Pakistan were seized by British authorities at a Revenue and Customs and Parcel force depot in Coventry.

The drugs were removed and replaced with flour and water. Undercover police, posing as Parcelforce workers, then delivered some of the packages to relevant addresses in Bradford.

Faisal, 31, Malicka, 30, Alamgir, 25, all of Tyne Street, Wapping, Bradford, Amin, 35, of Raglan Terrace, Thornbury, Bradford, and Iftikhar, 39, of Thornbury Crescent, Thornbury, all plead not guilty to both charges.

The trial, expected to last four to five weeks, continues

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

UK: The Muslim Cleric Who Blames British Mosques for the 7/7 Bombings, Says Multiculturalism is a Disaster and Would Throw Islamic Fanatics Out

‘I will give £5 to anyone in Britain who wants to live under Sharia law,’ he declares. ‘It will help pay for their ticket to Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, or wherever it is customary to live under Sharia law.

‘Please, please go and leave us alone. This is Britain, not 10th century Arabia!’

We are indeed sitting in a bar, on a busy main road in Oxford.

But the man before me is no stereotypical Islamophobe.

For one, he is sipping a glass of water rather than something more inflammatory.

More importantly, though by no means obviously, Dr Taj Hargey is himself an Islamic cleric; perhaps the most controversial imam in Britain today.

In an age when the highest-profile Muslim preachers are bearded, anti-Western firebrands such as Abu Hamza or Omar Bakri Dr Hargey seems an anomaly.

He does not care much for male facial hair. He believes that women can be both seen and heard, even in a mosque at Friday prayers.

And don’t even get him started on the sort of fanatics who blow up London buses, or the poisonous teachings that inspired them.

After three men were cleared this week on charges of assisting the July 7 bombers, there have been calls for an inquiry into blunders made by the security services.

But Dr Hargey has little doubt who, and what, is truly to blame for unleashing such terrorism on our streets.

‘It is the extremist ideology present in many UK mosques which is the cement behind nihilistic plots such as this,’ he says. ‘They are twisting Islam.’ Muslim

He has little or no time for the Government’s ‘pussyfooting’ policy of encouraging multiculturalism.

‘That is the biggest disaster to happen to Britain since World War II,’ he says. ‘It has given the extremist mullahs the green light for radicalism and segregation. We have to, we must, adjust to British society. And we can do so without losing our faith.’

Hardly surprisingly, such statements have made him wildly unpopular among those who adhere to the brand of ultra-conservative Saudi-funded Wahhabi Islam which currently makes most noise in Britain and around the world.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Culture: Arts Caravan From Syracuse to Tunisia

(ANSAmed) — SYRACUSE — APRIL 17 — A delegation comprising musicians, photographers, painters and craftsmen from Syracuse will depart for Kairouan (Tunisia), the city appointed as Islam’s cultural capital for 2009, joining in the second arts caravan from Sicily to Tunisia that will run from April 25 to 28. The event, which was conceived with the aim of promoting cultural and religious dialogue between the two Mediterranean countries, will be presented next Monday at 11.30am in Syracuse Town Hall. It has been organised by Kairouan’s Junior chamber international association with the help of Syracuse’s International student coordination association. Approximately 30 “ambassadors” from Syracuse will be met by the mayor of Kairouan and by the University of Sousse. Participants will include a women’s and children’s choir directed by Mariuccia Cirinnà and a delegation of the Ancient drama national institute that will bear a cultural message on Greek tragedies. Tunisia will host musical performances, workshops, arts performances, arab and Sicilian traditions, and a visit to Kairouan’s prestigious mosque. Tunisia’s Ramzi Harrabi, who lives in Syracuse and is the event’s organiser, states that “there is a historical link between the city of Kairouan and Sicily. In fact, the Aghlabid dynasty that ruled Sicily for centuries came from Kairouan. This event hopes to revive this link between the two countries. In 1998 Kairouan was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO and it is a city much loved by Muslims because of the presence of the world’s oldest mosque that was built in the first century”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Hezbollah Scheme to Attack Egypt Foiled

Is conflict precursor to Iran-Saudi Arabia faceoff?

Egypt has uncovered an alleged attempt by Hezbollah to blow up a popular Egyptian tourist attraction in retaliation for the country’s assistance to Israel while it attacked Gaza Strip radicals in late 2008 and earlier this year, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

And observers say the episode may be only a symptom of a greater problem in which Hezbollah is the tip of the spear on behalf of Shiite Iran in its campaign to contain predominantly Sunni countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia — a dispute that if left to evolve fully could lead to a violent confrontation, especially with Saudi Arabia.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

New Flu: Egypt; Breeders, Rocks Thrown at Veterinarians

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, APRIL 30 — Veterinarians and police, sent to kill pigs at some Egyptian breeding facilities as a part of a measure to face the swine flu were greeted by flying rocks thrown by breeders and were forced to retreat. ‘The police and veterinary services were greeted at a pig breeding facility by rocks being thrown at them and they were forced to retreat without a single pig”, reported a security service source. The breeders also erected barricades and the rock attack also shattered some police car and veterinary van windows. The event happened in the Qalubiya area, some 25 km north of Cairo. In Egypt, with an Islamic majority, pigs are raised and consumed by the Coptic Christian minority, about 6-10% of the population. The Egyptian government, after being one of the countries most affected by the bird flu epidemic, decided to slaughter all of the pigs in the country after global alarm over the virus that has its origins in the animal, as Health Minister Hatem el-Gabali explained. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Algeria, Imam Imprisoned for Defending Terrorism

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, APRIL 30 — An Algerian imam has been sentenced to two years in prison for defending terrorist practices. The sentence was handed down by the court in Boumerdes, in Cabilia (50km east of Algiers), which is one of the areas worst-hit by attacks from Islamist armed groups. The Algerian press reports that the imam was arrested in 2008 as he tried to make contact with a member of the terrorist group, who had in fact been killed a week earlier by security forces. Mosques in the country — which in the 1990s formed a favourite pulpit for fundamentalists to incite revolt and violence against the state — are now under heavy surveillance. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

10 Ways Obama is a Direct Threat to Israel

Author offers emergency message for Jewish state’s supporters

In “The Late Great State of Israel”, author and WND Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein draws urgent attention to the unprecedented, mortal danger that Israel faces.

In a section of the work, Klein documents more than 10 ways President Obama’s policies are likely to cause grave harm to the Jewish state. Prominent among the list are Obama’s proposed talks with Iran, his approach toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his policy toward foes like Syria. Klein shows how these policies and actions may lead to disaster.

Klein also exposes some shocking revelations, such as specific ways the Obama White House is helping to physically divide Jerusalem and exclusive information the U.S. president may open dialogue with the Hamas terrorist organization.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Israel to EU: Criticism of Netanyahu Government Unacceptable

A Foreign Ministry official has been warning European countries that unless they curtail criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, Israel will block the European Union from participating in the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.

The main target of the offensive is EU External Affairs Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who recently called for a freeze in upgrading ties with Israel over its peace process policies.

Several days ago, the deputy director for Europe at the Foreign Ministry, Rafi Barak, began calling European ambassadors in Israel regarding the attitude toward the new government. The first conversations were with France’s Jean-Michel Casa, Britain’s Tom Phillips and the Charge d’Affaires of the German embassy.

Barak sharply protested the criticism by European ministers and senior EU officials about Israel’s government.

Barak singled out Ferrero-Waldner in his rebuke and said her statements were troubling in their form, style and timing.

“For some weeks now, we have been telling everyone in Europe that Israel’s government needs time to reformulate policies, and not to begin a war in the press,” Barak told the diplomats.

He also noted that the European Union had not made an official decision on freezing the upgrading of ties, and therefore it was unclear what gave Ferrero-Waldner the authority to make her statements.

“We want the European Union to be a partner [in the diplomatic process] but it is important to hold a mature and discreet dialogue and not to resort to public declarations,” Barak told the diplomats.

“A public confrontation was created that required Prime Minister Netanyahu, and even opposition head Tzipi Livni, to intervene. We have noted that the large European countries have respected our request and are granting the government time, but it is important that Europe be uniform in this matter,” Barak added.

Barak concluded by “warning” that Europe’s influence in the area would be undermined by such behavior. “Israel is asking Europe to lower the tone and conduct a discreet dialog,” he said. “However, if these declarations continue, Europe will not be able to be part of the diplomatic process, and both sides will lose.”

In a telegram to the Israeli missions in Europe, Barak briefed the Israeli diplomats on his conversations and noted that the sole ambassador in Israel who backed Ferrero-Waldner was the French. He was quoted as saying that her statements reflect the European public’s feelings.

A political source in Jerusalem noted that Ferrero-Waldner was sharply criticized by European officials, and one European foreign minister said in a private conversation that she “is causing damage to European foreign policy in her attacks on Israel.”

           — Hat tip: Israel Matzav [Return to headlines]

Israel: Intelligence Warns Israel is Now an ‘Obstacle to Obama’

( According to a classified intelligence assessment handed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama and his senior advisors wish to “incrementally diminish U.S. strategic cooperation with Israel.”

A report in World Tribune quoted an Israeli source familiar with the intelligence assessment who said that “Obama wants to make friends with our worst enemies and [those who were] until now the worst enemies of the United States. Under this policy,” the source added, “we are more than irrelevant. We have become an obstacle.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Emirates: Torture; Government Condemns Prince’s Actions

(ANSAmed) — ABU DHABI, APRIL 30 — The Abu Dhabi government has today condemned the actions of a prince, whose torturing of a man was captured on video. “The government unequivocally condemns the actions shown in the video”, runs a statement released through official press agency WAM. The statement does not mention the prince’s name but US television has made the video public, in which the face of Sheikh Issa Ben Zayed Al-Nahyane can be seen. The sheik is the brother of the Abu Dhabi monarch, Sheikh Khalifa Ben Zayed Al-Nahyane. The video shows the prince hit a man with a baton with nails sticking out of it and then cover the wounds in salt. According to ABC, the man tortured by the prince (and a policeman) is an Afghan trader who lost a consignment of grain worth 5,000 dollars. The Abu Dhabi government made confirmed that the acts shown in the footage “constitute a violation of human rights, which will be subject to a full enquiry”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Jordan: Queen Rania Joins Crowd to Condemn Child Abuse

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, APRIL 30 — Queen Rania joined in a demonstration to condemn the killing of 5 year old boy who was tortured to death by family members earlier in the week, official said today. The surprising participation of the queen, whose commitment for children rights is renowned, highlights challenges activists face to put a leash on the growing phenomena of child abuse in this conservative society. Queen Rania signed a wall painting by artists and children which calls for denouncing and eliminating child abuse and lit a candle for the souls of the dead boy. The boy, named Yazan, died after spending ten days in a coma following sever beating on the head by relatives, who took care of the child in the absence of parents. The father is behind bars pending criminal charges of unrelated offense, while the divorced mother lives with her family in a poor neighborhood in eastern Amman. Police investigation revealed Yazan was subject to frequent abuse, after finding traces of cigarette burns on his skin as well as lashes of electric wires. The killing of another boy, Qusa, by his parents was also highlighted by activists, who lit candles to remember the two victims. Experts in the field express concern over rising numbers of reported child abuse cases, from 661 in 2002 to 1,423 in 2004. According to Zina Khoury, development manager at the Dar al-Aman child -safety centre, this figure “is probably higher, as many cases go unreported”. The event was organized by Dar al Hanan foundation, an offshoot of family protection unit at Queen Rania Foundation.Dar al-Aman, which has been operational since 2002, offers psychological, medical, social and educational services for abused children and their families. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Lebanon: New Shiite Militia, Hezbollah Alternative

(by Lorenzo Trombetta) (ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 29 — Just like Hezbollah they are preaching armed “resistance” against the “zionist enemy”, and just like the same Shiite movement they are led by a man of faith wearing a black turban, beard and moustache. They are a new Islamic militia born in Lebanon that goes by the name of ‘Arab-Islamic council’ and which claims to own remote controlled missiles and tank busting weapons and which can count on the readiness of “at least 3,000 well-trained men”. Their young leader is the sayyid (descendent of the prophet Muhammad) Muhammad Ali Husseini, who from his offices in Beirut’s southern suburbs (a traditional Hezbollah stronghold) claims he is no way connected to the pro-Iranian Shiite movement. Husseni states that “there is no connection nor is there any coordination with Hezbollah or with other Lebanese forces”, but he does not rule out “coordination with all the patriotic forces which share the common goal of protecting Lebanon and defending it against aggression”. Son of a retired police officer, the young Shiite leader speaks with the rhetoric of The Party of God: “Lebanon has many enemies, first of all the Zionist entity that is violating UN resolution no. 1701”, which in 2006 put an end to hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah. He added that “the Zionist entity violates Lebanon’s sovereignty by sea, land and air, in addition to occupying the farms in Shebaa”, a small piece of land contended by Syria and Lebanon that was occupied 42 years ago by Israel. Established in the summer of 2008, the Arab-Islamic council is an organisation registered under the title ‘social and humanitarian association for relations of the prophet Muhammad’ and publicly boasts a “powerful” military wing. Husseini stated that “we have long range remote controlled missiles, medium range grad rockets and RPGs. But none of these devices are located in southern Lebanon because we comply with resolution no. 1701”, which also forbids the presence of weapons and armed personnel, except for Unifil (the UN mission) and the Lebanese army south of the Litani river. “Many of our fighters are well educated university students who have a national conscience and who are ready to be deployed, in the event of enemy aggression, in the south and in Bekaa”. Like the Hezbollah leadership, the leader of the Arab-Islamic council wanted to make it clear, in an interview to a weekly paper printed by the Nahar publishing group, that “our weapons are only for the defence of Lebanon and cannot be used for internal purposes”. Like the Shiite movement, Husseini claims that the main sources of finance come from “Islamic ritual begging (zakat), charities and private donations”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

More Than a Coincidence: Minarets, Geography and Power

The building of new mosques has become an issue throughout European cities, from Munich to London. In some places, such as Italy, Switzerland and Greece, governments have struggled to prevent their erection. Yet while there is controversy over their very construction, there is usually very little questioning about why they are built where they are built.

A survey of historical placement of mosques in important cities and newly conquered Muslim lands, as well as a survey of the placement of mosques in diverse neighborhoods, shows that their placement is anything but random and that strikingly often they are built next to the houses of prayer or the neighborhoods of non-Muslims.

Across the Middle East and the Muslim world the existence of the minaret is taken for granted. Sometimes square and stout as they are in North Africa, or tall, skinny and cylindrical as they are in Turkey and Eastern Europe, they are the symbol of the Muslim world. Yet their commonness leads people to take them for granted.

According to architecture historian Prof. Keppel A.C. Creswell, the minaret was first developed after the Umayyad dynasty (661-750) came in contact with church towers of the Syrian Orthodox Church. Photos of old Syriac churches show what appears to be a conical tower identical to a minaret. Creswell claimed that “having heard that the Jews used a horn and the Christians a naqus or clapper, [Muslims] wanted something equivalent for their own use.”

The Umayyads also were the first to construct mosques atop or next to famous Christian and Jewish holy sites. In Damascus they turned the Church of St. John the Baptist into a mosque between 705 and 715. In 638 when Caliph Omar prayed near, but not in, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, he noted; “If I had prayed in the church it would have been lost to you, for the believers [Muslims] would have taken it saying: Omar prayed here.” He was prescient, for the Mosque of Omar was eventually built directly opposite the 13th century entrance to the church. Also in Jerusalem construction was begun on the Aksa Mosque in 690. It was constructed over what had been the Church of Our Lady and before that, the Jewish Temple’s storehouse.

Further afield mosques were built atop the giant Hagia Sophia Church in Istanbul (then Constantinople) in the 15th century by the Ottomans and the Babri Mosque at Ayodhya was constructed over the Temple of the Hindu god Ram in the 16th century by the Mughals in India. The Great Mosque of Gaza was built first in the 7th century atop a Byzantine church and then rebuilt in the 13th century atop a Crusader church.

THE MOSQUE and its minaret are symbols of power. The giant brick tower of Qutb Minar in Delhi is 72 meters high and until recent times was the world’s tallest minaret. It was constructed by the sultans of Delhi to celebrate their victory and conquest of the city.

Even in more obscure locations, the building of minarets has served as an expression of power and influence. The center of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem has long been the Hurva Synagogue which was constructed and reconstructed several times between 1700 and the present. But attached to this great synagogue is a mosque whose minaret is intentionally taller than the Hurva’s dome.

The America Colony Hotel in Sheikh Jarrah has a mosque next door to it. The Western Wall of Jerusalem has a mosque perched atop its northern end. The Mount of Olives Jewish graveyard has a mosque which adjoins it. Jeremiah’s Grotto in east Jerusalem, which was for a long time a pilgrimage site, now obscured by the east Jerusalem central bus station, also has a mosque at its entrance. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has a large mosque just across from it on Manger Square, constructed in a town which at the time was 80 percent Christian. A controversy over Muslim attempts to build a mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth led to riots in 2002. In each of these cases the mosques were built after the non-Muslim building was constructed.

The building of mosques is not always an expression of power, but historically and today in mixed communities mosques are constructed with a view toward the non-Muslim other. This author is even familiar with a family of Palestinian communists in the West Bank where a mosque was, not coincidentally, constructed next door to their house.

It becomes blatantly obvious in a community like Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem, where almost every other mosque is situated next to a Christian building or former holy site. The next time one sees a mosque, he should not take it for granted. Many of them have a history and geographical placement that is not coincidental and which serves as an expression of political Islam and its aspirations.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Eight-Year-Old Wife Granted Divorce

(ANSAmed) — RIYADH, APRIL 30 — An eight-year-old Saudi Arabian child has been granted a divorce after her father forced her into marriage with a 58-year-old man. According to reports in today’s Saudi newspapers, the marriage has been annulled by a court in the city of Onaiza, which is presided over by a new judge. Another magistrate from the same court had refused to make a judgement, saying that the child had to reach puberty before being able to take the matter to court. The case has led to numerous criticisms from worldwide human rights organisations. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Eight-Year-Old Girl Divorces 50-Year-Old Husband

CAIRO — An 8-year-old Saudi girl has divorced her middle-aged husband after her father forced her to marry him last year in exchange for about $13,000, her lawyer said Thursday.

Saudi Arabia has come under increasing criticism at home and abroad for permitting child marriages. The United States, a close ally of the conservative Muslim kingdom, has called child marriage a “clear and unacceptable” violation of human rights.

The girl was allowed to divorce the 50-year-old man who she married in August after an out-of-court settlement had been reached in the case, said her lawyer, Abdulla al-Jeteli. The exact date of the divorce was not immediately known.

A court in the central Oneiza region previously rejected a request by the girl’s mother for a divorce and ruled that the girl would have to wait until she reached puberty to file a petition then.

There are no laws in Saudi Arabia defining the minimum age for marriage. Though a woman’s consent is legally required, some marriage officials don’t seek it.

But there has been a push by Saudi human rights groups to define the age of marriage and put an end to the phenomenon.

One Saudi human rights activist Sohaila Zain al-Abdeen was optimistic that the girl’s divorce would help efforts to get a law passed enforcing a minimum marriage age of 18.

“Unfortunately, some fathers trade their daughters,” she told The Associated Press. “They are weak people who are sometimes in need of money and forget their roles as parents.”

It was not clear if the man received money for the divorce settlement. The man had given the girl’s father 50,000 riyals, or about $13,350, as a marriage gift in return for his daughter, the lawyer said.

The 8-year-old girl’s marriage was not the only one in the kingdom to receive attention in recent months. Saudi newspapers have highlighted several cases in which young girls were married off to much older men or young boys including a 15-year-old girl whose father, a death-row inmate, married her off to a cell mate.

Saudi Arabia’s conservative Muslim clergy have opposed the drive to end child marriages. In January, the kingdom’s most senior cleric said it was permissible for 10-year-old girls to marry and those who believe they are too young are doing the girls an injustice.

But some in the government appear to support the movement to set a minimum age for marriage. The kingdom’s new justice minister was quoted in mid-April as saying the government was doing a study on underage marriage that would include regulations.

There are no statistics to show how many marriages involving children are performed in Saudi Arabia every year. Activists say the girls are given away in return for hefty marriage gifts or as a result of long-standing custom in which a father promises his infant daughters and sons to cousins out of a belief that marriage will protect them from illicit relationships.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

The Unbearable Lightness of Wishful Thinking

by Barry Rubin

Congratulations, the conflict is over! Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn’t a radical, aggressive Islamist and Holocaust denier but a peacenik! Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is against war and terrorism!

How do we know this? They told us?

Well, no, they didn’t actually tell us. What happened is that they told us they would go on being radical, aggressive, and terrorism-sponsoring. They just did it in a way that a lot of people engaged in wishful thinking-and who fervently believe that no one could actually be radical or luxuriate in political violence-heard something different.

Case Number 1: Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave an interview to George Stephanopoulos of ABC. He knew what he was saying but others want to insist on refusing to understand him.

First the relevant exchange…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Turkey: EU, Tackling Violence Against Women is Priority

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 30 — If Turkey wants to become part of the European Union, it must show its commitment to tackling violence against women, which remains widespread in the country. Today the Europarliamentary Commission for women’s rights made it clear that this was a phenomenon that Brussels keeps under constant observation and which has furthermore been defined as a priority for the Turkish government. “In Turkey, 39% of women have experienced violence from their husbands, whilst this figure rises to 43% in some rural areas,” stressed Nimet Cubukcu, the Turkish Minister for Equal Opportunities, who defined the issue as “no longer confined to within the family, but a matter of public health and the health of institutions.” It is for this reason, Cubucku went on, that “violence against women is one of our government’s priorities up until 2012”, defining the issue to be “currently a much talked-about phenomenon in Turkey, and so administrative and legal measures have been taken including special training for judges, police officers and imams.” Furthermore, “there is a clear political will to increase the number of centres for women who have suffered violence,” the minister said, “currently there are 52 centres altogether, which is not enough.” Christos Makridis, the principal administrator of Enlargement Directorate, explained that “women’s rights are of utmost concern amongst member states and for the EU Commission, and so we will continue to monitor the situation.” Makridis continued, “a recent study showed that violence against women is widespread and that victims are left alone and without the necessary information on their rights,” adding that this is “a fundamental problem, related to forced marriages and murders.” Besides the progress made in the legal context, Makridis argued that on the status of women in general, “Turkey must continue to make efforts to enforce these rights in practice,” since women are hugely under-represented in the workplace (25%, the lowest level in EU and OECD countries), and in politics. “Half of women suffer violence in silence,” Yakin Erturk, the UN special representative for violence against women said, “and so clearly the studies which have been released do not fully represent the situation.” According to the UN expert, “in Turkey, women’s independence is not properly recognised. Women should have more say, not only in civic society, but also within institutions.” 9% of members of the Turkish parliament are women, whilst just 3% of local administration is female. Despite the passing of many reforms and the institution of a parliamentary commission for equal opportunities, “the major obstacle is cultural change,” Cubucku said, “since what can be changed in 15 minutes in parliament requires 150 years to change in real life.” (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

What is Salafism, and Why Does Anybody Consider it Relevant Today?

Salafism is a word that comes from the Arabic word salaf, which means “the ancestors,” and it is a means to sort of practice Islam the way the ancestors [did], by their forefathers. The first Muslims supposedly practiced it, so it is a means to deny history. There is no evolution. Evolution in itself is bad, if you wish. Hence, Salafism is tantamount to fundamentalism, if you wish, and it is a view of Islam which became particularly persuasive and relevant in the Arabian Peninsula and particularly in the Saudi kingdom.

Salafism is divided into, [so] to speak — grows into two branches. On the one hand, you had the conservative Salafists, people who backed the Saudi family, for instance, the Saudi ruling family, and who were opposed to anything revolutionary; who, for instance, considered that the Earth was flat, but on the same time [thought] it was not legitimate to revolt against the Muslim ruler.

But on the other hand, we have another brand of Salafism which is nicknamed jihadi Salafism, and those people who mixed this sort of very rigorous view of religion together with the desire to fight jihad. They considered that nowadays, in the late 20th and early 21st century, the main aim for Muslims to live their faith was to implement jihad; i.e., holy war, the holy war that was sort of all-pervasive, not only against the enemies of Islam — i.e., whoever was not Muslim — but also against bad Muslims. And this creates a sort of sectarian effect which leaves at the end of the day this feeling that there is only one group, one core group of pure blue or true green Muslims who are the members of the sects. All the others are likely to be killed, assassinated, or to be converted.

And this took place mainly during the war in Afghanistan, during the U.S.- and Saudi-backed jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, when people from the sort of traditional Salafi descent, on the one hand, and people were more interested in jihad, and the people who were called usually Islamists or people who were intellectual inheritors of the Muslim Brotherhood meld together in the training camps in Afghanistan and who were trained by Pakistani army under CIA sponsorship who were fed on Saudi petro dollars. And this sort of developed this new, very modern hybrid which is called Salafi jihadism. The U.S. was totally unawares at the time that it had given birth to a monster. …

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Wiping Israel Off Brit Airline’s Map Stirs Furor

Brit airline glitch takes Mideast conflict to new heights

Angry Israeli passengers complained to British BMI airline that the Jewish state was wiped off the inflight map, which showed flights bound for Israel were instead heading to Mecca.

But the airline denied any anti-Israel agenda and insisted there was a simple explanation: the planes were recently bought from a bankrupt charter company that flew mainly to Muslim countries.

“For this reason the inflight entertainment system in the two planes was made to adapt to the passengers flying to and from those destinations and therefore the map showed mainly places holy to Islam,” BMI said in a statement.

BMI, which started operating low-cost flights to Israel more than a year ago, denied it had any ulterior motive in showing the Israel-free maps.

“If BMI had any political agenda in order not to anger neighboring countries, it would not have invested so much in the Tel Aviv line,” it said.

But after furious passengers took up the issue with the authorities, an Israeli official made it clear that either the Jewish state appears on the maps or BMI disappears from its skies.

“Doing business with Israel has its advantages and disadvantages, but we will not agree to a situation where they hide the existence of Israel but want to do business with Israel,” transport ministry director-general Gideon Sitterman told army radio.

“I intend to contact BMI chairman Nigel Turner in London and ask for some clarifications… it is unacceptable that we are wiped off the map,” he said.

Foes of the Jewish state, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.”

This is not the first time Israel has come head-to-head with the technologies interfering in its version of geography. Last year the Israeli city of Kiryat Yam sued Google over references to the Palestinian Nakba, or Catastrophe, appeared when users scrolled over former Arab cities on the Google Earth application.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Diary I: the Gates of Kabul

In the first entry of his diary from Afghanistan’s Wardak province, the BBC’s Ian Pannell joins US troops as they pass through the gates of Kabul into Taleban land.

It takes just over half an hour to drive from the gates of Kabul into open “Taleban country”.

At least, that is how it would have seemed to some and how it was reported by many last summer — the Taleban were “at the Gates of Kabul”.

Wardak province had gone from being a sleepy, poor area, barely touched by the insurgency, to a new frontline in the battle against a resurgent and spreading Taleban.

Convoys were regularly attacked along the main supply route as the district came under Taleban influence and pictures emerged of large groups of armed insurgents operating at will.

‘Security nightmare’

Numerically speaking, the Taleban never posed an existential threat to Kabul or the Karzai government.

But their presence, just a few miles from the capital, was a security nightmare and a public relations disaster.

Even before US President Barack Obama was sworn into office, orders were given to send the first wave of new troops to Wardak and neighbouring Logar province to start the fight back.

The equation is pretty simple — the “surge” is designed to bring much needed security to Afghanistan and means making the areas around Kabul safe first of all.

The onus has fallen to “The Spartans” of the 10th Mountain Division. They have been encamped in the hills outside the provincial capital, Maydan Shah, since February.

The setting is as wild as it is dangerous. A rolling green plateau rises and falls for miles, giving way to brown chiselled peaks.

Maydan Shah sits at more than 7,000ft (2,130m) above sea level, where the air is crisp and thin.

It is now home to around 1,500 US troops who have already established a series of COPs (Combat Outposts) along the north-south road, known as Highway One.

COP Carwile, named after a US soldier killed in Wardak, is a base for just over 100 young men from the Second Battalion, 87 Infantry Regiment.

It is pretty basic. Made up of plywood sheds, camouflage tents and makeshift dirt walls, it has five toilets and no running water.

It is also where President Obama’s Afghanistan policy meets reality.

There has been much discussion about a “civilian surge” and regional diplomacy but in reality it is up to the military to first weaken the grip of the insurgency before any political process can begin — and that job in Wardak falls to The Spartans.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Taliban Seize Houses, Shops of Sikhs in Orakzai

HANGU: Taliban on Wednesday forcibly occupied three houses and 10 trade centres belonging to Sikhs in Orakzai Agency for not paying jizia, a tax levied on non-Muslims living under Islamic law. A few days ago, the local Taliban had asked Sikh families living in the agency to pay jizia amounting to Rs 50 million, which was later reduced to Rs 15 million after negotiations. They had set a deadline to pay the amount. Taliban occupied Sikhs houses and business centres in Samma Feroz Khel, Qasim Khel and Chirat areas after the deadline expired. Sources said the Taliban also burnt three trade centres belonging to the Sikh community. Around 15 Sikh families have left their ancestral villages and have taken refuge in Minni Khel area of the agency. staff report

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Taliban Possibly Tapping Berlin’s Secrets

Deadly attacks on the German military by the Taliban in Afghanistan this week have led intelligence experts to suspect the Islamist group may have access to German government information.

Supposedly the Taliban had specific details of what was supposed to be a secret visit by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to the country this week.

According to a western intelligence officer in Kabul, there are “clear signs” that the Taliban has access to secret information from the German government.

“In so-far unknown ways, the Taliban has their fingers in German posts,” the official told news agency DDP.

Three weeks ago, a secret visit to the country by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung was overshadowed by a rocket attack on German forces in the northern city of Kunduz. No one was injured in the attack, but a Taliban speaker at the time said that the group had known about her visit.

One 21-year-old soldier died and four were injured in a fire fight near Kunduz on Wednesday that came just hours after a suicide bomber injured four others in the same area. Two of the soldiers were flown back to Germany for medical treatment.

On Thursday morning Steinmeier met with one of the Bundeswehr soldiers injured in the two insurgent attacks.

The attacks on the Bundeswehr troops were meant to be a “sign for the Foreign Minister,” a Taliban member said after the attack.

The attacks show a new level of confidence from the Taliban, Bundeswehr General Inspector Wolfgang Schneiderhan said on Thursday.

“For the first time there is an aspect of military planning behind it,” he said, adding that they had changed their previous tactic of “shooting and running.”

Steinmeier’s visit takes place just a few weeks after a conference at The Hague where the international community discussed the state of the country.

Germany has around 3,500 troops in Afghanistan operating under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The soldiers are based in the relatively peaceful north of Afghanistan.

Last year the German parliament voted to increase to Bundeswehr troop numbers to 4,500, despite the fact that the mission, Germany’s first major overseas military operation since World War II, has been highly unpopular. Thirty-one German troops have died in Afghanistan since 2002.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Mice Attack Nursing Home War Veteran

A BEDRIDDEN war veteran was found on Anzac Day with bloody ears, hands, face and neck after being “severely chewed” by swarming mice at a southwest Queensland nursing home.

Opposition MP Ray Hopper said Queensland Health had been slow to respond to a mice plague at the Dalby Hospital, which includes a nursing home, leading to the attack on the 89-year-old man.

The man’s daughter said staff found her father bleeding from bites to his head, neck, ears and hands on Anzac Day, Mr Hopper said.

“The top of his ears were severely chewed and he had bites to his head and neck,” Mr Hopper said.

“His hands were covered in blood because he was trying to get the mice off him.

“We are talking about a health facility overrun by vermin. It’s atrocious.”

Mr Hopper said the man was so distressed that doctors had put him on morphine to calm him down.

He said it was normal to see an increase in mice in Dalby and the Darling Downs at the onset of winter, and the problem was handled with chemical sprays.

“But the bureaucrats said no sprays this year because it uses agricultural chemicals, and that’s not allowed to happen at a health facility,” he said.

“They are now baiting twice a day but it’s too late.”

Queensland Health has rostered on extra staff and pest control agents since the weekend to kill mice at the home.

Federal Ageing Minister Justine Elliott said she was disturbed by the report of the elderly man’s ordeal, but there was no need to evacuate residents at the home.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

New Pirate Attacks on Italian Ship

Assailants armed with bazookas fended off with water hose

(ANSA) — Rome, April 30 — An Italian merchant ship escaped two attacks by suspected Somali pirates on Thursday after successfully fending off another hijack attempt Wednesday.

On Thursday pirates armed with bazookas first approached the Jolly Smeraldo around 300 miles off the Somali coast at dawn in an attack that lasted for around an hour, according to Stefano Messina, the CEO of the company that owns the ship, Ignazio Messina & C Spa.

The 24-man crew, which includes 15 Italians, were able to ward off the pirates using diversionary manoeuvres and a high-pressure salt-water hose.

Pirates in two small boats launched a second attack two hours later but were again prevented from boarding by the crew, who were said to be unharmed.

The Jolly Smeraldo reported that the pirates continued to follow them at a distance after the second attack but have since disappeared off the radar.

The only military ship in the area is 100 miles away and there is no possibility of offering immediate assistance to the Italian ship, which left Mombasa in Kenya on Tuesday and is continuing on its way to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

“We’re in touch with the ship and we’re busy dealing with the emergency. The crew members are all well,” said Messina.

On Wednesday the ship’s crew fended off another attack 300 miles south-east of Mogadishu after a small boat with seven pirates approached it and opened fire.

Pirates have stepped up activity in Somali waters in recent weeks, capturing or attempting to capture dozens of foreign ships.

On Saturday the Italian-owned Melody cruise ship foiled an attack by suspected Somali pirates 200 miles north of the Seychelles using a salt-water hose to wash pirates off a ladder they were using to try to board the ship.

The Melody, with 1,500 people aboard, is now heading back to Italy after a 22-day cruise from Durban, South Africa, to Genoa.

A third Italian ship, the Buccaneer, was seized in the Gulf of Aden on April 11. The ship’s crew of 16, ten of whom are Italians, are still being held.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Latin America

Big Cocaine Gang Allied to Hezbollah Rounded Up

THE HAGUE, 30/04/09 — In cooperation with various other countries, Dutch authorities have rounded up a big cocaine gang that had links with Hezbollah. Seventeen suspects were arrested on Curacao, the biggest island of the Netherlands Antilles, the Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) has revealed.

International cooperation between police and judicial services of the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles, Belgium, Colombia, Venezuela and the US led to the arrest of the 17 suspects by the Curacao police. They are believed to be part of a drugs and money-laundering organisation with international branches, thought to be responsible for the import and export of at least 2,000 kilos of cocaine per year, according to the OM. “The organisation maintained international contacts with other criminal networks, which in the Middle East support Hezbollah financially”.

In this investigation, launched at the beginning of 2008, containers with cocaine were intercepted earlier in Rotterdam (300 kilos), the Spanish city of Valencia (20 kilos) and the Belgian city of Antwerp (140 kilos). Three Colombian suspects have for some time been in pre-trial custody for their involvement in the Rotterdam shipment, discovered in October 2008.

The 17 suspects now arrested are from Venezuela, Colombia, Lebanon and Cuba as well as Curacao. The organisation shipped containers with cocaine from Curacao to the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Jordan. From Venezuela, drugs containers went to West Africa and subsequently to the Netherlands, Lebanon and Spain. Couriers smuggled cocaine from Curacao and Aruba to the Netherlands as air passengers.

The suspects invested the drugs profits in property in Colombia, Venezuela, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic and in companies on Curacao. “Large sums of money from the drugs trade have become available in Lebanon via underground bankers. From Lebanon, orders are also placed for weapons, which had to be delivered by the drugs organisation from South America.”

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]


USA: Immigrant Unemployment at Record High

Rate now exceeds native-born, a change from recent past

WASHINGTON (April 30, 2009) — A new report from the Center for Immigration Studies finds that immigrants have been harder hit by the recession than natives. Unemployment among immigrants (legal and illegal) was higher in the first quarter of 2009 than at any time since 1994, when immigrant data was first collected separately. This represents a change from the recent past, when native-born Americans had the higher unemployment rate.

The report is entitled, ‘Trends in Immigrant and Native Employment.’ It is co-authored by Dr. Steven Camarota, the Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies, and Karen Jensenius, a Research Demographer at the Center.

Among the findings:

  • Immigrant unemployment in the first quarter of 2009 was 9.7 percent, the highest level since 1994, when data began to be collected for immigrants. The current figure for natives is 8.6 percent, also the highest since 1994.
  • The immigrant unemployment rate is now 5.6 percentage points higher than in the third quarter of 2007, before the recession began. Native unemployment has increased 3.8 percentage points over the same period.
  • Among immigrants who have arrived since the beginning of 2006 unemployment is 13.3 percent….

           — Hat tip: CIS [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Censors for Talk Radio Expected Within 90 Days

Leader of public awareness campaign warns of ‘Arctic blast’ against free speech

The leader of a newly formed public awareness campaign to alert U.S. citizens about an effort to stifle free speech says he expects local “boards” will be assembled within 90 days to begin censoring talk radio, a move that will come as an “Arctic blast” against the expression of opinion in the United States..


The announcement said the U.S. now is facing “an insidious attack on its First Amendment Rights that is being cloaked in legislation and regulation evidenced by the recently circulated draft FCC regulations … to impose ‘localism’ and ‘media ownership diversity’ on talk radio.”

“In addition, under the guise of ‘cyberspace security,’ Sens. Rockefeller, Snowe and Nelson have introduced S773 which would, critics say, give the federal government control over the Internet including, under emergency conditions, the right of the president to shut down the whole Internet or sites on it, including the interruption of e-mail,” the announcement said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Fairness Doctrine ‘Unconstitutional’

Clarence Thomas: Controversial policy ‘deep intrusion’ into broadcasters’ rights

For the first time, a U.S. Supreme Court justice is offering some legal insight about the so-called Fairness Doctrine, suggesting the off-the-books policy could be declared unconstitutional if it’s revived and brought before the bench.

In written discussion on yesterday’s ruling cracking down on indecent language on television, Justice Clarence Thomas called the policy “problematic” and a “deep intrusion into the First Amendment rights of broadcasters.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

House Agrees to Muzzle Pastors With ‘Hate Crimes’ Plan

‘This is first time protected status given to whatever sexual orientation one has’

Members of the U.S. House today approved a plan to create a federal “hate crimes” plan that will provide special protections to homosexuals and others with alternative sexual choices, but leave Christian ministers and pastors open to prosecution should their teachings be linked to any subsequent offense, by anyone, against a “gay.”

The vote was 249-175, and came despite intense Republican opposition to the creation of the privileged class.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

House Approves Federal Hate Crime Expansion Bill

Today, on a party-line vote, the House of Representatives approved the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a.k.a. the Matthew Shepard Act. The bill, which President Obama supports, would add offenses committed “because of” a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability to the list of “hate crimes” that can be prosecuted under federal law. It also would remove a provision limiting such prosecutions to cases where the victim was participating in a “federally protected” activity such as education or voting. The new federal nexus requirement is so laughably accommodating that it might as well have been left out. A violent crime against a victim selected for one of the mentioned reasons can be federalized if it “occurs during the course of, or as the result of, the travel of the defendant or the victim…across a State line or national border”; if the defendant “uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce”; if “the defendant employs a firearm, explosive or incendiary device, or other weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce”; if the crime “interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct”; or if the crime “otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce.”

Aside from the usual problems with hate crime laws, which punish people for their ideas by making sentences more severe when the offender harbors politically disfavored antipathies, this bill federalizes another huge swath of crimes that ought to be handled under state law, creating myriad opportunities for double jeopardy by another name. The changes would make it much easier for federal prosecutors who are displeased by an acquittal in state court to try, try again, as they did in the Rodney King and Crown Heights riot cases. They simply have to argue that the crime was committed “because of” the victim’s membership in one of the listed groups. As four members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission point out in a recent letter opposing the bill (noted by Hans Bader), that description could apply to a wide range of ordinary crimes…

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]

Right-Wing College Group Riles Students on Campuses Nationwide

A student group that bills itself as “America’s right wing youth movement” focused on countering radical multiculturism, socialism and mass immigration is causing a stir on a growing number of college campuses across the country.

The conservative political group Youth for Western Civilization is currently organized on at least seven university campuses. According to its Web site, the group hopes to inspire Western youth on the “basis of pride in their American and Western heritage,” counter and ultimately defeat “leftism on campus” and create a social movement in which a right-wing subculture is an alternative to what it calls a “poisonous and bigoted” campus climate.

“A great part of college is definitely meeting people of different backgrounds, but a multicultural ideology teaches that we should appreciate things just because they’re different from our culture with no regards to the quality of the culture and that all cultures are inherently equal,” said Trevor Williams, president of YWC’s Vanderbilt chapter. “I absolutely disagree.”

But students who lean left are not welcoming their new neighbor. Those opposed to YWC say its message teeters on hate speech and has no place at institutions of higher learning.

“‘Western’ is a veiled term that means ‘white,’“ University of North Carolina graduate student Tyler Oakley wrote in an e-mail to “I believe that our democracy is strong enough to allow extreme forms of speech, but YWC’s message is essentially a negative one, an assault on not being white or non-Western, and is therefore hateful, if not blatant hate speech.”

While its numbers are small, YWC members hope a well-publicized April 14 event featuring the group’s honorary chairman — former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo — at UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, will help mobilize conservative students and attract new members.

Tancredo’s speech opposing in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants was shut down after a window was smashed and a banner reading “No One Is Illegal” was unfurled across the former Republican lawmaker’s face. One UNC student, Helen Elizabeth Koch, was arrested for disorderly conduct in the incident, which was widely distributed on YouTube and is also featured on Youth for Western Civilization’s home page.

Officials at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which identifies and tracks hate groups in the U.S., told that the YWC is not currently on its list, but some of the group’s views are “suspect,” including the notion that Western civilization is somehow superior.

In February, following YWC’s debut at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, SPLC linked the group’s founder, Kevin DeAnna, to several posts on the Spartan Spectator, the Web site of Michigan State University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom.

SPLC identified MSU-YAF as a hate group in 2007; DeAnna vehemently denies posting the material attributed to him.

“We’re definitely monitoring them,” said SPLC spokewoman Heidi Beirich. “We will look at them for hate group status.”

DeAnna, a deputy field director for the Leadership Institute, a conservative education group that paid Tancredo $3,000 for his UNC appearance, said YWC has roughly 10 active members at each of its college chapters. Aside from UNC, DeAnna said YWC has a presence at Vanderbilt University, American University, Elon University, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Connecticut-Storrs and Bentley University.

“It’s kind of a loose thing right now,” said DeAnna, a 26-year-old graduate student in international relations at American University. “But we’re concerned with issues of mass immigration, curriculum, racial preferences and multiculturism on college campuses.”

The group will sponsor another speech by Tancredo on Wednesday just off campus from Providence College, where school officials recently denied a request from the still unsanctioned group to host the former congressman, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2008.

Tim Dionisopoulos, president of YWC’s unofficial Providence chapter, said Tancredo plans to speak “right in front of the gates” at the 4,000-student university and to head to a Veterans for Foreign War event. Providence officials say YWC has not sought formal recognition as a student group and thus cannot host an event at the Rhode Island college. But Dionisopoulos says the college is hiding behind protocol.

“We’ve been unfairly targeted,” the political science major told “The content scares administrators because this is a group that will stand up for what they believe in. I don’t think they’re opposed to our mission statement, I think they’re moreso afraid of what the opposition will do to us and have done to us elsewhere. Eventually, someone’s got to come out and say this has got to stop.”

Jesse Jones, a freshman at Vanderbilt, where YWC hosted former U.S. Treasurer Bay Buchanan last month, acknowledged the group’s right to organize and share its views.

“But their fascist-like logo, their name echoing ‘Hitler Youth,’ and Tom Tancredo’s call of ‘this is your country — take it back’ all quite frankly scare me,” Jones wrote in an e-mail to

Jones said he’s also disturbed by the group’s call to restore a “curriculum that focuses on Western history, not political correctness,” according to its Web site.

“They want to change the curriculum to emphasize ‘classical learning’ and get rid of ‘trendy multiculturalism,’“ Jones continued. “In practice this means firing professors with the wrong views and hiring those with the ‘right’ views.

“Even assuming there is a ‘right’ view on a given issue, the point is to get students to come to this opinion on their own, given the facts. In this way, YWC’s views on education are inherently anti-intellectual.”

Tancredo, meanwhile, says he’ll continue to appear at colleges as an invited guest of YWC. Its mission to “promote the survival of Western civilization and pride in Western heritage” is all about celebration, he says.

“It’s got nothing to do with racism, it’s got nothing to do with extremism,” Tancredo told “It has to do with celebrating the benefits Western civilization has brought to mankind, not the least of which is the concept of law. It’s designed to bring attention to the issues, discussions and points of view that aren’t readily available in the typical classroom on liberal colleges run by left-wing loonies.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]


Billions of Dollars in Their Way to Pharmaceutical Firms

Swine flu, plan to loot world wealth

AMMAN- The outbreak of swine flu in Mexico, the US and then to other Europn and Middle Eastern countries has led to a marked rise in pharmaceutical stocks in the world market.

Switzerland’s Roche Holding AG and Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline Plc are the two big pharmaceutical groups set to benefit most as governments and corporations step up orders for their drugs Tamiflu and Relenza. Shares in the two companies rose 4% and 3% respectively , while stock in Australia’s Biota Holdings Ltd, which licensed Relenza to Glaxo, soared 82%.The two companies said they may need to supply millions of vaccine doses to help protect against the new disease that has killed more than 100 people in Mexico.

During the panic about Asian bird flu in 2005 and 2006, airline, hotel groups, insurers and oil companies stocks fell heavily, while shares in drug, healthcare and cleaning product businesses soared. Roche shares rose by 4 per cent in Zurich bourse and 3 per cent for Glaxo Smith Kline in London stock market.

Vaccines from Roche, which sells Tamiflu, and GSK, maker of Relenza, have been shown to work against viral samples of the new disease. The drugs were also used to help protect against outbreaks of bird flu in Asia, providing windfall profits for the companies.

According to economic analysts and medical experts there are hidden objectives behind this overstated worldwide media campaign warning world countries of the dangers threatening human health as a result of this fatal disease. In 2006, Roche’s profits rose by 17 per cent, 9 billion Swiss franc, compared to 2005 because of its huge production of the avian flu antibiotic after the wide spread of fears and disarray that swept the world accompanied by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) dreadful warnings against the disease.

The marked increase in the company’s profits was disproportionate with the real cases of bird flu infections in the world countries. Official reports released by WHO in 2008 showed that there were 391 human infections of the disease of which 247 led to death in 15 countries out of 63 where the disease was detected. This means too much was wasted because of the lavish spending on purchasing vaccine to fight the disease.

Bird flu cost $2 trillion

In 2006, WHO convened its conference in Peking to garner financial support to drug companies. Delegates from around 90 countries and 25 international organizations took part in the conference and collected about $5.1 billion for these companies to help them meet the increasing demand on bird flu vaccine.

According to the World Bank estimates, the international community had spent $1.25-2 trillion (3.1%) of world gross domestic product on fighting bird flu.

However, analysts cautioned that the commercial impact would be muted by the fact that many governments had already placed substantial stockpile orders because of the previous threat posed by avian flu.

“There is certainly a perceived benefit and there probably will be some actual benefit, but not as much as the first time round with avian flu,” said Jeff Holford, an industry analyst at stockbroker Jefferies.

The media campaign launched with the outbreak of the avian flu and drove the world, with WHO mounting pressures, to spend billions of dollars is the same campaign taking place now with the swine flu. The only beneficiary is the multinational drug manufacturing firms, whose budgets are larger than those of a number of states together, and are working as an octopus taking control of economies of the developing and developed countries alike and very often act as the hidden driving force to direct world politics to serve their own interests.

The flu outbreak, which poses the biggest risk of a large-scale pandemic since avian flu surfaced in 1997, will also fuel demand for vaccines from major producers like Sanofi-Aventis SA SASY.PA, Glaxo, Novartis AG and Baxter International Inc, although making shots against the new strain will take months.


With the World Health Organization’s repeated warnings of the bird flu as lethal pandemic, many world countries were forced to buy vaccine and the necessary medicines needed to combat the disease. Jordan was not an exception. It spent around 6 million dinars and is expected to cash the same figure to fight the new flu strain. This has been confirmed by the Health Ministry sources.

Adel Belbesi, Director of Health Care at the ministry, said the ministry is ready to inject all money needed to prevent outbreak of the disease in the kingdom.

In remarks to FI, Belbesi, who is also spokesman of a committee formed recently by the ministry and tasked with combating the disease, said “ the Health Ministry has a surplus of money ; what matters more is the citizen’s health.”

We in the paper agree with Dr. Belbsi. Nobody can argue that in such emergency situation, the citizen’s health is the most important. Bu we would like to tell him that all the money paid to fight the avian flu has gone with the wind and thank God the vaccine we bought was not used and is still stockpiled in ministry’s stores. The only party which benefited was the foreign companies.

Belbesi noted that this same vaccine can be used for the swine flu so the 6 million dinars did not go for nothing. Jordan buys the drug from the Swiss company Roche which the main source of drugs to fight these pandemics.

He called upon Jordanians not to be scared from the disease and any one catches ordinary flu with cough does not necessarily mean he is infected with swine flu. No one can feel the symptoms of this disease unless he comes from an area where the disease has been detected for at least one week or he has mixed with a person suffering from the disease, Belbesi told FI.

The Health Ministry has taken all the precautionary measures and raised up preparedness of all health facilities in anticipation of any case of swine flu. This includes monitoring borders especially with countries proved to have cases of the disease, he added.

Parliamentary role

Head of the Lower House of Parliament Health Committee Asr Shurman said the house undertakes its monitoring role to make sure that the health departments were taking all the necessary procedures to face the pandemic.

In remarks to FI Shurman said the house will not allow importing any medicine unless it is proved to be necessary by the specialized scientific committees to encounter the disease. This is only to avoid squandering money, he said.

Preventive measures were taken at the border points, airports, health centers, and in areas with swine breeding farms to prevent outbreak in the country, Shurman added.

Preemptive measures

Economic expert Muneer Hamarneh stressed the necessity to take all the preemptive measures in face of this lethal pandemic without taking into account the financial cost.

This is because this disease is highly contagious and very dangerous to human health, Hamarneh said.

Yousef Mansour, another economic expert, said all countries should bear their responsibilities and work together to fight the disease. The idea that there is a common interest between drug manufacturers to raise the level of alertness against the diseases is not necessarily an accurate point due to the fact that many world countries already have large stockpiles of medicines used to fight swine flu, Mansour said.

What is swine flu?

The new swine flu cases are caused by an influenza strain called H1N1, which appears to be easily passed from person to person. The most common method of transmission is airborne, and it is also possible to become infected by touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching one’s mouth or nose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising people to wash their hands frequently, and also to avoid surfaces that might be contaminated.

Swine flu symptoms include high fever, body aches, headaches, coughing, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue and chills. The disease is transmitted directly between people, and not through animals, making it highly contagious. A single cough of an infected person can transmit the sickness to an entire room full of people.

Islamic perspective

Muslims are forbidden by God to eat the meat of the pig (pork).

Allah says in the Holy Qura’an “ He has only forbidden you dead meat, and blood, and the flesh of swine, and any (food) over which the name of other than Allah has been invoked. But if one is forced by necessity, without willful disobedience, nor transgressing due limits, then Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Al Baqarah 173)

Pig’s bodies contain many toxins, worms and latent diseases. Although some of these infestations are harbored in other animals, modern veterinarians say that pigs are far more predisposed to these illnesses than other animals. This could be because pigs like to scavenge and will eat any kind of food, including dead insects, worms, rotting carcasses, excreta (including their own), garbage, and other pigs.

Influenza (flu) is one of the most famous illnesses which pigs share with humans. This illness is harbored in the lungs of pigs during the summer months and tends to affect pigs and humans in the cooler months. Sausage contains bits of pigs’ lungs, so those who eat pork sausage tend to suffer more during epidemics of influenza. Pig meat contains excessive quantities of histamine and imidazole compounds, which can lead to itching and inflammation; growth hormone, which promotes inflammation and growth; sulphur-containing mesenchymal mucus, which leads to swelling and deposits of mucus in tendons and cartilage, resulting in arthritis, rheumatism, etc.

In folklore terms, eating the meat of the pig is said to contribute to lack of morality and shame, plus greed for wealth, laziness, indulgence, dirtiness and gluttony. We insult a person by calling him or her a “Pig” when they demonstrate these characteristics

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Brooke Goldstein & Aaron Eitan Meyer: How Islamist Lawfare Tactics Target Free Speech

Are American authors who write about terrorism and its sources of financing safe? Are counter-terrorist advisors to the New York City Police department safe? Are U.S. congressmen safe when they report terrorist front groups to the FBI and CIA? Are cartoonists who parody Mohammad safe from arrest?

Must a Dutch politician who produced a documentary film quoting the Koran stand trial for blasphemy of Islam in Jordan? Is anyone who speaks publicly on the threat of radical Islam safe from frivolous and malicious lawsuits designed to bankrupt, punish, and silence them? These days, the answer is no…

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Only 7 Swine Flu Deaths, Not 152, Says WHO

A member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dismissed claims that more than 150 people have died from swine flu, saying it has officially recorded only seven deaths around the world.

Vivienne Allan, from WHO’s patient safety program, said the body had confirmed that worldwide there had been just seven deaths — all in Mexico — and 79 confirmed cases of the disease.

“Unfortunately that [150-plus deaths] is incorrect information and it does happen, but that’s not information that’s come from the World Health Organisation,” Ms Allan told ABC Radio today.

“That figure is not a figure that’s come from the World Health Organisation and, I repeat, the death toll is seven and they are all from Mexico.”

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Professor Warns of Global Food Riots

There is a real threat of food riots around the world unless research into increasing crop yields is stepped up, a leading UK scientist said today.

Professor Douglas Kell, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is calling for an additional £100m a year to be spent on food research in the UK to help the world meet growing demand.

As well as seeing off unrest in developing countries and helping to feed the swelling world population, research will deliver economic benefits to the UK, he said.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

A Curfew in Rosengård?

I reported last night (and many times previously) on the situation in the Rosengård area of the Swedish city of Malmö. Every night immigrant gangs rampage freely there, setting fires and throwing rocks at police and emergency workers.

Now comes a proposal to implement a youth curfew in the Rosengård district. From a Swedish perspective, this is a radical move, and is bound to face opposition from the Multiculturally-minded Left.

Our Swedish correspondent CB has translated an article on the topic from Svenska Dagbladet:

Demands for a curfew in Rosengård

Malmö riotsThe situation in the housing area Herrgården, in Rosengård district of Malmö, is now so acute that it requires a curfew for youth at nighttime. That is the view of both M [conservative Moderates] and SD [Sweden Democrats] in Malmö.

Anja Sonesson, opposition councilor for the Moderates, want to see a curfew as a temporary emergency act and as a complement to other, more long-term measures.

“If I want effect tomorrow, then I think a curfew is necessary. I also think it’s necessary to implement a ban on visits by individuals that the police have noted to be moving around in the area and causing misery,” she says.

She talks about a ban on visits as a way to stop “individuals who are drawn to and flock around trouble spots”.

Sonesson believes that the situation at Herrgården — with continuous small fires, fights, and disturbances — demands tough answers from society. She thinks the municipality should consider engaging security companies. In proposing the curfew, she is drawing on a model in which where the Herrgården youth under 18 aren’t allowed to be outside after 9 in the evening.

“This is about giving the police more tools to act,” she says.

– – – – – – – –

So far Anja Sonesson has not gained any traction for this with the other non-socialist parties in Malmö. But the thoughts of a curfew have also been put forward by the Sweden Democrats [Sverigedemokraterna], through a petition from the party’s councilor Sten Andersson.

“Since none of the measures implemented so far has worked, it’s time to do something so society can resume control. A temporary curfew in times of unrest can be a solution,” says Andersson to TT [national news agency].

A search in TT’s archives shows that suggestions of curfews for youth have previously been put forward in several municipalities, but have been rejected.

In Växjö the petition was put forward by the Left-party in 2006, who wanted to prohibit youth under 15 from being outdoors without the company of grownups after 11 o’clock in the evening. The petition was overwhelmingly rejected by the majority.

In the beginning of the 21st century similar discussions were burning questions in Lidköping and Norrköping, but didn’t receive enough support to be implemented.

Wanted: A New Business Model

The wolf at the doorWell, the wolf is approaching our door again.

My current employer has been hit hard by the financial crisis, and after two and a half years of steady work, I will be unemployed again before midsummer.

This isn’t a fund-raising post. We’re due for one of those soon enough, and you’ll know it when it gets here, because I’ll haul out the tip jar and make a big fuss about it.

This is just an invitation to help me brainstorm a new business model for Gates of Vienna.

I’ve been fortunate with my latest job: the people I work with are easygoing and professional, the hours are flexible, and my boss is a right-wing extremist like me, so hiding my Islamophobic tendencies at work has not been required.

But all good things must come to an end.

If I have to face a long commute again, or take on a difficult and stressful job, or work long hours, then posting here will be likely to suffer.

I enjoy managing Gates of Vienna and its related activities, even though it takes virtually every waking moment when I’m not working at my real job. If I had my druthers, I’d earn my bread doing this job instead of computer programming.

Unfortunately, nobody makes a living at blogging, at least not this kind of blogging.

You all have been habitually generous, and your contributions meet the running costs of this blog and help finance a road trip now and again so that I can attend various Counterjihad functions. But there’s no way to expand this to a level that would eliminate the necessity of a real job, especially given the current recession, when everyone’s finances are under severe stress.

Still… I can’t help but wonder if there might be a better way to do this, one that could raise the level of financial support so that I could eke out the rest through part-time work.
– – – – – – – –
I have a recurring fantasy about a Gates of Vienna magazine. I can just see it now: a glossy cover like City Journal, with interior illustrations by Arnold Roth and Ismael Roldan and other accomplished artists. All your regular favorites would be featured in its pages — Fjordman, El Inglés, Paul Weston, etc., with material translated by the usual suspects from important European publications. Contributors would even get paid — what an idea!

Of course, readers would have to shell out a few bucks for each copy. Bummer!

But who in the world would advertise in such a xenophobic rag? Gun dealers, ammo manufacturers, and Christian bookstores — that would be about it.

Oh, well — I can dream, can’t I?

While I dream away this cold and dreary Thursday afternoon at the end of April, readers are invited to help me embellish my fantasy: what sort of business model would you suggest?

And while you’re thinking, I’ll leave you with a song by Robert Hunter. It describes what might be called “The Barack Hussein Obama Business Model”:

Talking Money Tree
by Robert Hunter

Late last night layin’ in bed
I found the answer to all my ills
A great big tree growing green and free
full of ten-thousand-dollar bills

Well, I went downtown to buy some wheels
Bought every car in town
Bought all the gas and all the oil
so we all could drive around

I bought the big department store
and everything inside
You could back up your truck and fill it up
The doors were open wide
          (It was company policy… we did it all the time)

I bought the park and I hired a band
to play every day for free
I bought the bars and the trolley cars
and the telephone company

You could call all day, say: How’s it goin?
and never have to pay
Send telegrams to your wife and friends
saying: You don’t have to work today!

But after a while I got so bored
I just gave the whole thing back
All I kept was a bar-and-grill
by the northbound railroad track

You can fall by here any time of night
or any time of day
The second cup of coffee’s free
but the first one, you got to pay!

Attempted Regicide in the Netherlands

In an apparent attempt at vehicular homicide directed at the Dutch Royal family, four people were killed today when a man drove a car at high speed through the crowd at a Queen’s Day celebration in the city of Apeldoorn.

Update: CNN reports that one of the injured has died, bringing the death total to five (hat tip Paul Green).

According to a report from Radio Netherlands:

Tragedy unfolds in Apeldoorn

Celebrations of Queen’s Day in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn took a tragic turn around midday on Thursday. Four people were killed and 13 injured when a car ploughed through a crowd of spectators watching the Queen’s Day parade.

The queen may have escaped an attack. The car broke through the barriers, hitting people and crashing into a monumental column as the open-topped coach carrying the Royal Family passed.

The public prosecutor confirmed at a press conference that the driver was acting intentionally, but that there is no terrorist connection. He is reported to have made two earlier attempts to cross safety barriers, driving at a speed of at least 80 kms/hr. The driver was injured in the crash and had to be cut from his vehicle, after which he was arrested and taken away for interrogation. At present no details have been released about the driver except that he is a 38-year old Dutch national.

– – – – – – – –

Police are meticulously searching the car wreck, assisted by the national demining squad and in the presence of the National Anti-terror Co-ordinator.

The Royal Family, waving to the crowd from their open-topped bus, witnessed the incident. Immediately afterwards the vehicle was driven to Het Loo palace, accompanied by security guards. The Government Information Service has announced the queen and her family are deeply shocked by the events.

There was some early speculation that the attack may have been an instance of “Sudden Jihad Syndrome”, but that seems unlikely now, based on the following summary by our Flemish correspondent VH of an article in Elsevier:

Attack on members of the royal family

The man who today drove his car in the crowd today (Queen’s day) and came to a halt a few meters from the bus with the royal family acted intentionally. He is a 38-year-old white man. He was in possession of a time schedule for the day’s program.

No explosives have been found.

The man is also suspected of murder or manslaughter: four spectators have died.

The offender is seriously injured and is undergoing surgery. He has still not been officially interrogated. The suspect is not known to the police. According to the weblog GeenStijl, the offender is the 38-year-old KR Tates from Huissen (near Arnhem).

It is clear that the military earlier in the day had contact with the man. What exactly happened then is not known.

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/29/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/29/2009Even though there are no cases of swine flu in Egypt, and the country’s pigs are not a vector for the disease, the Egyptian authorities have ordered that all 300,000 of the country’s pigs be slaughtered.

By coincidence, almost all the pigs in Egypt are used as food for the Coptic Christian population.

In other news, a study shows that Swedish men are not as masculine as they used to be.

Thanks to CB, El Inglés, Fjordman, heroyalwhyness, islam o’phobe, TB, Tuan Jim, VH, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
Lithuanian Economy Contracts by 12 Percent
The Bear Case for Gold
UK: Blears: Why the Recession Could Lead to Rioting
Boeing Faces Lawsuit Over Torture Assistance
Czech Officer Becomes Queen of Military Festival in U.S.
Holder Urges Allies to Take Share of Detainees
Peter Foster: Obama’s Old/New Socialism
Swine Flu Has Many L.A. Immigrants Reconsidering Mexico Travel Plans
To Close Gitmo, Holder to Make Appeal to Europe
National Post Editorial Board: Tamil Protesters Send the Wrong Message
Europe and the EU
Body of Polish Man Beheaded in Pakistan Returned
Britons Could be Forced to Return Properties in N Cyprus
Czech Rep: Duke Ready to Attend His Possible Trial in Prague — Press
Denmark: Bendtsen: No Full Membership for Turkey
Denmark: Shooters Target Drug Dealer
Europe’s Age Crisis Bites
France: Gang on Trial for Torturing French Jew to Death
France and Spain Set Up Joint Body to Fight Terrorism
Germany Readies for Fiery May Day Protests
Hungary’s Gypsies Targeted in Deadly Attacks
Ireland: Crime of Blasphemous Libel Proposed for Defamation Bill
Meet the Scot That Al-Qaeda Could Not Kill
MPs Vote to Give Gurkhas Right to Live in Britain
Netherlands: ‘Political Movements Should be Subsidised’
Netherlands: Public Prosecutions Chief Says Country Safer
NZ: Qualified Nurse Refused Residency Because of Weight
Robbery in First Class Train Thief Threatens Businessman and Escapes With Laptop and Cash
Sarkozy Unveils Sweeping New Vision for Paris
Sweden: Court Climax Premature for Madonna of Orgasm Church
Sweden: Charges Unlikely for Admitted Panty Pic Snapper
Sweden: ‘Allow Foreign Police in Sweden’: Minister
Swedish Men ‘Not as Masculine as They Used to be’: Study
Turkey Video Blocked!
UK Govt. ‘Committed’ to Expanding UN Security Council: Minister
UK: ‘Asylum’ Killer Wins Fight
UK: 7/7 Bombers’ Friends Jailed Over Terror Training Camp Plans
UK: Boris Wants Voters to Have Power Over Police and Buses
UK: Expert Who Stole Pages of Rare Texts Has Prison Term Halved
UK: Family Courts System Accused of Hiding Evidence From Parents
UK: Fuel Price ‘Bombshell’ as Budget 2009 Offers Motorists ‘Generous’ Scrappage Scheme
UK: MPs Call for Inquiry as Three Acquitted Over Tube Bombs
UK: Waltham Forest Pioneers Random Weapon Checks in All Schools
North Africa
Egypt Orders Slaughter of All Pigs Over Swine Flu
Mujahedeen Veteran Among Men Released for Diplomats: Sources
UK, Libya Ratify Prisoner Transfer Deal
Israel and the Palestinians
Israel: the World According to Lieberman
Middle East
100,000 Nepalis Get Working Visas for Saudi Arabia
80 Are Killed in 3 Suicide Bombings in Iraq
Abu Dhabi Torture Tape Elicits Global Shrug
Hariri Court Orders Generals’ Release
Jonathan Kay: Mommy Blows Up With Toddler — This Has Got to be a New Low for Militant Islam
‘Turkey Not Worried by Israeli Reaction’
Turkey ‘The Perfect Example, ‘ Says Albright
South Asia
Indonesia: Singapore Terrorist Jailed
Indonesia: Yudhoyono Wins Backing
Indonesia: Soldiers Mutiny in Jayapura
Malaysia: ‘Arab Cities’ in Malacca
Sri Lanka: Diplomatic Row Boils With Push for Sri Lanka Truce
Sri Lanka: Colombo’s Task
Sri Lanka: Tamil Plight in Lanka
Why the Mumbai Attacks Are Not a Poll Issue
Far East
John Tkacik on Taiwan : an Obama TPR: Too Little, Too Late?
Philippines: 3 NPAs Killed in N. Samar Encounter
S. Korea is Powerless to Ensure Safety of Its Own People
S. Korea: Anti-US Beef Protests: One Year Later
Australia — Pacific
Australia: Ministers Split Over Antarctic Ice Shelf Claims
NZ: Nursing Student Alleges Discrimination
Penalty Strike on Jobs
Universal Vaccine in Nasal Spray
Sub-Saharan Africa
Darfur Protest: 5 Congressmen Arrested Outside Sudanese Embassy in Washington
Kenyan Women Begin Week-Long Sex Strike
Nigerians Can Vote in EU Poll — Christian Party
Norwegian Tanker Received Assistance
Russian Navy Seizes 29 Pirates Off Somalia: Report
Australia: Surge Continues With Two More Boatloads of Asylum Seekers
Switzerland: Migration Drives Population Increase
UK: Number of Jobs Open to Skilled Migrants Cut by a Third
UK: We’ve Only Two Days to Stop a Cruel Deportation
Culture Wars
UK: Now Even Top Gear Could Fall Foul of Harman Sexism Law
Researchers Find First Common Autism Gene

Financial Crisis

Lithuanian Economy Contracts by 12 Percent

New data released by Lithuania’s statistics office on Tuesday (28 April) show the country’s economy shrunk by 12.6 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period in 2008.

The quarterly contraction is thought to be the largest experienced by any country since the start of the financial crisis and certainly the worst in the small Baltic state since recording began in 1995.

Falling exports and industrial output and also the global credit squeeze are at the root of the problem says the statistics office.

“We hope that next year, we shall have a much lower gross domestic product decrease or even stability in GDP, and then we are forecasting that we should return back to GDP growth in 2011,” said the country’s prime minister, Andrius Kubilius.

But the news adds to the woes of the new centre-right government, which has already faced protests over austerity measures and raises the prospect of a loan application being sent to the International Monetary Fund.

Neighbouring country Latvia negotiated a deal with the international lender for £7.5 billion towards the end of last year.

The new figures mark a huge turn around in Lithuania’s fortunes in recent times.

Growth figures for 2007 were 8.9 percent, but they slowed to thre percent last year on the back of diminishing construction and the retail activity.

The statistics office now predicts a contraction of 10.5 percent for 2009 as a whole.

Euro restrictions

The World Bank says eastern Europe is likely to have been the hardest hit region by the global recession, with Estonia and Latvia also predicting double-digit contractions for their economies this year.

The three countries, members of the EU since 2004, are also keen to join the eurozone in the future and have so far opted to maintain their currencies pegs with the euro.

This has denied policymakers a powerful tool to improve the economy’s competitiveness.

The Lithuanian government has also made great efforts to keep its budget deficit below three percent of GDP this year, a requirement for both applicant and member countries of the currency union.

Despite the substantial public spending cuts made this month, the government is set to announce a new package of cuts in June as it struggles to remain below the three percent mark.

More records in Ireland

On the other side of the EU, new figures released by the Irish government’s research institute also estimate historic falls in growth.

The institute predicts the gross national product will contract 9.2 percent this year.

“Our forecasts suggest that Ireland’s economy will contract by around 14 percent over the three years 2008 to 2010. By historic and international standards this is a truly dramatic development,” says the report published on Wednesday.

Like Lithuania, the small, open economy has suffered badly from the fall in global consumption and is set to see unemployment average 292,220 people this year or 13.2 per cent.

This figure could rise to 16.8 percent in 2010, restarting a tradition amongst Irish citizens of emigrating to other countries in search of work.

Some 30,000 people are predicted to leave this year alone.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

The Bear Case for Gold

The primary risk to the gold price ‘is a return of the Goldilocks economy’.

A Goldilocks economy — one that is neither too hot nor too cold, sustaining moderate economic growth, low inflation and low interest rates — would “completely remove the safe-haven investment case for gold as a form of insurance against inflation or as an alternative currency”, said the commodities and resources team at Investec Asset Management.

Real yields could once again be obtained in cash and bonds, and equities could begin discounting economic growth, the analysts added.

“Under the Goldilocks scenario the US Federal Reserve’s balance sheet will quickly adapt once economic activity begins to improve as the Fed reduces the money supply dramatically and curbs any major inflationary cycle,” Investec said.

“Furthermore, under this scenario all other central banks will do the same. Inflation would be averted, and economic growth could continue.”

The bank said the current high price of gold was driven by demand from investors putting their money into the classic safe-haven asset. But it added: “Should investment flows into gold cease or turn negative, we believe that this drying up of investor demand will have repercussions for the gold price.

“A return of risk appetite or improvements in other asset classes could result in an unwinding of investment buying and put considerable downward pressure on the gold price, particularly if global economic and financial conditions begin to show meaningful signs of improvement.”

Although Investec has identified factors that could push the gold price down, the bank’s overall stance on the precious metal remains bullish. It said: “We continue to believe that gold can perform well in either an inflationary or deflationary environment.

“This supports our positive outlook for the commodity and for gold equities. Quantitative easing programmes are also supportive for gold.”

The London afternoon gold fix was $891.00 an ounce.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Blears: Why the Recession Could Lead to Rioting

THE recession could spark riots on the streets of Britain, a minister warned yesterday.

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said an economic slump had led to the rioting of the 1980s and that the current crisis could see further unrest.

She said hard times could “drive people apart” and lead to distrust in communities. But she also said they could help bring the country together and unearth new “reserves of kindness”.

As part of a drive to boost community resources, she said she may consider forcing banks to hand over some of their profits.

Last year a leaked memo from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to Gordon Brown warned the recession could increase crime.

Official figures last week showed burglaries, knifepoint robberies and pickpocketing had surged although overall crime was down.

Speaking yesterday to community service volunteers, Ms Blears said: “Recession has the power to do one of two things to a society.

“It can drive people apart, with an increase in distrust between individuals, more naked competition for jobs, and a fracturing of community spirit.

“We witnessed this in the 1980s and early 1990s, and at its most extreme, it culminated in cars and buildings burning on the streets of Brixton, Birmingham, and Liverpool. In some wards in my own city of Salford, we had 50 per cent male unemployment, and it has taken a decade to repair the damage.

“Or economic recession can be the catalyst for communities to come together, for neighbours to construct new forms of collaboration, and for citizens to discover new reserves of courage and kindness.

“Which end of this spectrum we tilt towards will depend on the role of the Government in valuing volunteering, in creating space for local action, and in promoting innovation.” Humans’ essential instinct was to work together, she said.

“My conviction is that our route through this recession must be characterised by greater devolution of power, and more opportunities for communities to take control.” Government was moving to give communities more assets such as disused buildings, markets and leisure centres and the next stage was to ensure funding for local services.

She said the US Community Investment Act which requires financial institutions to plough some of their profits into communities “might serve as an interesting starting point”.

Ms Blears had asked officials to produce a package of measures “to give communities sustainable sources of income”.

Liz Atkins, of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, praised Mrs Blears. She added: “We will work with her department to ensure that the resources she has promised can be used to best effect.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Boeing Faces Lawsuit Over Torture Assistance

A US appeals court has ruled that a Boeing Co subsidiary could be sued for allegedly flying terrorism suspects to secret prisons around the world to be tortured as part of the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals said that a lower court judge wrongly tossed out the lawsuit after the US government asserted the case was a “state secret” that would harm national security if allowed to go forward.

The trial court judge dismissed the case before the prisoners could present evidence allegedly showing that the company’s participation in the program was illegal.

The Bush administration and then the Obama administration argued that the lawsuit should be thrown out before the government turned over any evidence because the nature of the legal action was itself a classified matter.

The US government inserted itself into the lawsuit on the company’s side because it said feared top-secret information would be disclosed.

The appeals court, however, said the five prisoners suing San Jose-based Jeppesen Dataplan Inc can try to prove their case without using top-secret information that legitimately needs protection from disclosure.

“Only if privileged evidence is indispensable to either party should it dismiss the complaint,” Judge Michael Hawkins wrote for the appeals court.

The prisoners’ lawyer, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the ruling will give his clients a chance to prove their case, which was filed in 2007 and alleged torture in the months after the Sept 11 attacks.

“It is now 2009 and no torture victim has achieved justice or compensation,” Wizner said. “This finally puts us at the starting line.”

The government or the company could appeal the decision to a bigger panel of the 9th Circuit or ask the Supreme Court to review the ruling.

The company referred comment to the government. US Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller said “the United States is reviewing the court’s decision”.

The Bush administration was widely criticised for its practice of extraordinary rendition — whereby the CIA transfers suspects overseas for interrogation.

Human rights advocates said renditions were the agency’s way to outsource torture of prisoners to countries where it is permitted practice. Some of the prisoners allege they were tortured.

The Bush White House had said the US does not engage in torture.

The Obama administration says it will continue to send foreign detainees to other countries for questioning but only if US officials are confident the prisoners will not be tortured.

The White House is reviewing the entire detention and rendition program.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Czech Officer Becomes Queen of Military Festival in U.S.

Norfolk — Czech military captain Magdalena Dvorakova was on Monday crowned the Queen of the Azalea festival, an annual event celebrating the presence of NATO armies’ soldiers in Norfolk and the largest festival of this kind in the USA.

Every year the festival focuses on one member of NATO. At the 56th festival this year, the country in focus is the Czech Republic as the first state of the former Eastern bloc.

Dvorakova, a graduate from the Military Academy in Vyskov, south Moravia, previously participated in a military mission in Kosovo. At present she works at the Czech President’s Military Office.

She is only the second queen of the Azalea festival chosen from the military ranks, after last year’s crowning of a Dutch officer. Before, the title always went to civilians, including the daughters of two U.S. presidents.

Dvorakova told journalists that her duties as the Azalea Queen will take her to schools, hospitals and to public meetings where she is expected to present her homeland.

Norfolk secondary school students will hold a festival discussion forum focusing on the 1968 Prague Spring communist reform movement and its suppression by the Warsaw Pact troops.

Military and political experts from NATO countries will hold a meeting as well.

During the festival opening ceremony, Admiral Luciano Zapata, allied deputy commander for transformation based in Norfolk, praised the Czechs’ pro-democracy efforts in 1968 and their non-violent switch to democracy after 1989.

He recalled that the Czech Republic has been an active member of NATO for ten years.

Czech deputy defence minister Frantisek Padelek said that by joining NATO the Czech Republic accepted its share of responsibility for the defence of allies and democratic principles.

In this connection he mentioned Czech participation in the allied missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and last year’s signature of the Czech-U.S. treaty on a U.S. missile defence radar installation on Czech soil.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Holder Urges Allies to Take Share of Detainees

BERLIN (AP) — The United States and its allies must make sacrifices to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday in a high-profile appeal for Europe’s help.

Holder spoke to the American Academy in Berlin, not long after telling reporters that the United States had approved the release of about 30 Guantanamo detainees.

“We must all make sacrifices and we must all be willing to make unpopular choices,” said Holder.

“The United States is ready to do its part, and we hope that Europe will join us — not out of a sense of responsibility, but from a commitment to work with one of its oldest allies to confront one of the world’s most pressing challenges,” he said.

There are currently 241 inmates at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Holder spent the past several days privately asking European leaders in London, Prague and Berlin for help relocating detainees the United States wants to set free.

Holder spoke before a select group of policy experts, academics and journalists in a crowded room of about 100.

In answer to a question about Bush administration officials’ decisions to authorize tough interrogation techniques, Holder said he believed that many of them would, privately, admit to having made some mistakes in the pressure and worry that followed the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I don’t suspect that would be true of Vice President Dick Cheney,” Holder added.

At another point, a questioner earnestly asked of those Guantanamo detainees who are believed to be innocent could be put in a hotel somewhere.

“Hotels might be a possibility, it depends on where the hotel is,” joked Holder.

Before the speech, Holder met with reporters, saying the United States has made decisions on a group of about 30 detainees, but has not yet decided where it wants to send them.

He said the United States is weeks away from asking certain countries to take detainees.

“We have about 30 or so where we’ve made the determination that they can be released. So we will, I think, relatively soon, be reaching out to specific countries with specific detainees and ask whether or not there might be a basis for the moving of those people from Guantanamo to those countries,” Holder said.

Germany’s former justice minister, Herta Daubler-Gmelin, a fierce critic of previous President George W. Bush, said Holder “made a very good impression. He’s very honest about this society in transformation in America.”

She said she expected Germany would eventually be one of the countries that accepts Guantanamo detainees.

The Bush administration had approved about 60 detainees for release, and Holder aides would not say if the 30 he was referring to were part of that group. Additionally, about 20 detainees have been ordered released by the courts, though those cases remain unresolved.

President Barack Obama has ordered the controversial detention site shuttered in the next nine months and assigned Holder to oversee that effort.

Holder said he has been telling European officials over the past week that “the problem that it created is best solved by a unified response.”

Closing Guantanamo is good for all nations, he argued, because anger over the prison has become a powerful global recruiting tool for terrorists.

Yet when it comes to the prospect of having former international terror suspects living free, the Obama administration is trying to overcome the not-in-my-backyard sentiment that exists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Several European nations, including Portugal and Lithuania, have said they will consider taking such detainees. Others, like Germany, are divided on the issue.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy already has made what was billed as a symbolic gesture of agreeing to take one Guantanamo detainee.

In speaking to reporters Wednesday, Holder also said it is possible the United States could cooperate with a foreign court’s investigation of Bush administration officials.

Holder spoke before the announcement that a Spanish magistrate had opened an investigation of Bush officials on harsh interrogation methods. Holder didn’t rule out cooperating in such a probe.

“Obviously, we would look at any request that would come from a court in any country and see how and whether we should comply with it,” Holder said.

“This is an administration that is determined to conduct itself by the rule of law and to the extent that we receive lawful requests from an appropriately created court, we would obviously respond to it,” he said.

Pressed on whether that meant the United States would cooperate with a foreign court prosecuting Bush administration officials, Holder said he was talking about evidentiary requests and would review any such request to see if the U.S. would comply.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Peter Foster: Obama’s Old/New Socialism

Those sympathetic to the charismatic Barack Obama — who today celebrates 100 days as President — often suggest that we have to “give him a chance” before judging his policies. Although one may acknowledge the mountain of toxic woe he has inherited, this seems similar to suggesting that a five-year-old boy who thinks he can fly should be “given a chance” to climb up on the roof. After all, it is not as if the President is suggesting policies that have never been tried before, or that do not have consequences as predictable as the law of gravity.

Mr. Obama has denied being a socialist, but given his reflexive belief in big government both to solve social problems and guide the economy, that is hardly an inappropriate term. Nor does the financial crisis make that orientation more “pragmatic.”

Some traditional socialist conceits have fallen by the wayside in the past 50 years (except, that is, in strange places such as Venezuela, CUPE headquarters, Naomi Klein’s cranium and the political science department at York University). One is that government ownership offers superior business performance.

From the Communist Manifesto through to post-war Britain, ownership of the “commanding heights” of the economy was considered a proud goal. The British experience in the iron, coal, steel and auto industries put paid to that notion, or at least it did for anybody who studies history. A White House spokesman this week stressed that the administration had no desire to own GM.

However, socialism is a protean beast and has changed since the 1970s, not to mention since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism. The new left is focused on the environment and much more concerned with regulation and setting the “right” market prices. It has also discovered how easily the corporate sector can be co-opted or threatened into supporting “corporate social responsibility” and “sustainable development.”

Governments intervene to set prices all the time via the tax system, but internationally co-ordinated carbon taxes and/or cap-and-trade systems as currently conceived are like nothing ever seen before. President Obama has linked the projected tax bounty from pricing carbon not merely to green spending, but also to funding his ambitious programs, in particular, comprehensive health care.

He is also a great believer in the ability of governments to guide R&D. On Monday he invoked the Moon Shot as a reference point for a grand new thrust to spend 3% of U.S. GDP on research, and to improve science teaching.

President Obama bemoaned the fact that government funding of the physical sciences had fallen by nearly a half over 25 years, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped U.S. private concerns from leading the world in computer, aerospace and medical technologies, among many others. “Other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation’s great discoveries,” declared the President, but he didn’t specify what those technologies were.

He nevertheless projected government-promoted wonders: “solar cells as cheap as paint; green buildings that produce all the energy they consume; learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again.”

But why not have prosthetics that would enable you to play the piano when you had never been able to play it before? That is an achievable goal. For governments to guide energy development successfully away from the fossil fuels that have driven global economic growth is not.

Typically, Mr. Obama had tame executives on hand this week to preach the need for more government. Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, said that it was important for government to focus on the “seed corn” to help research flourish. But while intuitively appealing, there is little or no support for such a role.

As British academic Terence Kealey pointed out in his book, Sex, Science & Profits, the notion that governments promote either scientific or technological advance is largely a myth. Indeed, Professor Kealey pointed out that the great expansion in U.S. science funding after the “Sputnik scare” in the 1950s — to which President Obama referred — may have put a man on the moon, but did very little for the average American taxpayer.

Another significant reference for President Obama is British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who promoted the “White Heat” of technological revolution (with the Soviet Union as its model). Whitehall subsequently boosted R&D, helping promote the development of nuclear reactors, jet and supersonic passenger aircraft and computers. All these ventures were commercial disasters.

Significantly, Mr. Wilson’s post-war predecessors had believed that nationalization would be the means by which industrial “modernization” would take place. So promoting “green” technology and boosting state-funded R&D has problematic precedents. Also, the immediate post-war Labour government of Clement Atlee neglected nationalized industries because it wanted to plough taxpayers’ funds into expanding the welfare state, in particular the National Health Service, just as Mr. Obama does.

So President Obama’s aim is social justice, white heat and green power. He claims he wants the United States to use beefed-up science to lead the world in “clean” technology. But his chief science advisor, John Holdren, is a radical environmentalist who has called for the “de-development” of the United States. That was a notion that even the British Labour party never countenanced, but President Obama may wind up bringing it about, whether he means to or not.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Swine Flu Has Many L.A. Immigrants Reconsidering Mexico Travel Plans

Many Southern California residents who have family or business interests in Mexico are canceling their trips, while others stock up on surgical masks and sanitizers before hopping on the plane.

If his future weren’t on the line, Cal State Fullerton student Carlos Reyes says, he wouldn’t be flying to Mexico. Not with swine flu loose and having killed nearly 150 people there.

Nothing short of becoming a legal resident — and eventually, an American citizen — could compel him to go right now. On Monday, Reyes went to the campus health center and asked if there were any shots he could take to protect himself. There aren’t. So tonight, Reyes, 27, will step onto a plane at LAX armed with surgical masks, sanitizers and two boxes of hand wipes that his even more anxious parents bought for him.

“I don’t want to get infected with that,” Reyes said. “I’m very concerned, to be honest with you. Tomorrow I’m going to take a few immunization shots. Even though they don’t work for what’s going on there, better stay on the safe side.”

As cases of swine flu and the number of deaths have swelled in Mexico — and begun to appear in other countries — Southern California’s vast Latino immigrant community has been increasingly on edge and questioning whether traveling there is a good idea. The U.S. government recommended that people not go to Mexico unless it is necessary.

The disease has been found in a milder form in several U.S. states including California and New York, but has been most concentrated — and deadly — in Mexico, particularly in the capital, where many L.A. residents came from and have family.

“I wouldn’t even go there as a joke,” Bertha Dominguez, a native of Mexico City, said as she took a break from shopping in Huntington Park. “I would maybe go if an emergency presented itself. Maybe.”

Dominguez said the epidemic was just the latest reason not to return her home country, on top of a flagging economy and a gruesome drug war.

“Here, poor or rich, they’ll take care of you if you get sick,” she said. “I’d rather get sick here.”

At El Mercado, a bazaar and indoor swap meet in Boyle Heights, Peruvian immigrant Armando Parodi, 50, said he canceled a trip this weekend to the state of Tlaxcala in Mexico, where swine flu has been reported. He had planned to go to a fair where vendors sell baby Jesus figures — like the ones clad in papal and Aztec outfits he peddles here — but changed his mind because of the swine flu.

“If this thing gets really bad and they close the border, you’re stuck over there,” said Parodi, who travels to Mexico once a month. “I don’t have the variety of [baby Jesus] figures I want, but why take a chance and get sick? There’s no way to protect yourself for sure against something like this.”

But Fernando Martinez, 26, owner of Antojitos Chilangos Mexican restaurant in Highland Park, said he wouldn’t hesitate to travel to his native Mexico City, or elsewhere in Mexico. “If someone gave me the money, I’d go there right now,” he said. “There’s nothing to worry about as long as you stay away from places you’re not supposed to be at.”

Reyes, the college student, said his flight would take him to Guadalajara, where he would meet with a cousin who would fly with him to Ciudad Juarez, where his legal resident interview would take place.

“This is my future. Otherwise, I swear I wouldn’t be going.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

To Close Gitmo, Holder to Make Appeal to Europe

BERLIN — After privately asking European officials to take some freed Guantanamo Bay inmates, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is making a public appeal for help in closing a detention facility for terrorism suspects that has been widely condemned abroad.

Holder arrived in Germany early Wednesday after visiting London and Prague to talk about Guantanamo, extradition agreements and international investigations.

The attorney general was to meet with reporters in Berlin before delivering a speech about Guantanamo at the private American Academy.

For years, European leaders have urged the United States to close the U.S. naval detention facility in Cuba, but they have been much cooler to appeals by the Bush and Obama administrations to take some of the detainees themselves.

Currently, about 240 inmates are still held at Guantanamo. By one measure, as many as 60 may not be sent back to their home countries because of concerns they could be mistreated.

On Tuesday, Holder received encouragement from Czech Interior Minister Ivan Langer, who told The Associated Press he believes some European nations will accept Guantanamo detainees. Langer was quick to say his own country would not.

“Yes, I expect Europe will take some, and there is a strong will do so among some countries,” Langer said.

His remarks followed a private meeting with Holder and a number of European justice officials, including EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot, Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask and Czech Justice Minister Jiri Pospisil.

The Obama administration maintains that a number of the remaining Guantanamo detainees can be set free safely and hopes to send some of them to Europe.

“We need to find places for these people to go, and we have asked for assistance from our partners in the EU in that regard,” Holder said after the meeting. “No promises were made.”

When it comes to the prospect of having former international terror suspects living free, the Obama administration is trying to overcome the not-in-my-backyard sentiment that exists on both sides of the Atlantic.

Several European nations, including Portugal and Lithuania, have said they will consider taking such detainees.

Others, like Germany, are divided on the issue.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy already has made what was billed as a symbolic gesture of agreeing to take one Guantanamo detainee.

Simon Koschut, an associate fellow with the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, said he was skeptical of Sarkozy’s offer and the ability of Europe to agree on a workable solution within the one-year time frame President Barack Obama has set for closing Guantanamo.

“The message coming from Europe is the familiar one of disunity, but in this case it’s essential to find a consensus,” Koschut said.

Langer, the Czech interior minister, said European leaders do need to agree on Guantanamo.

“No one can say, ‘You cannot take people,’ or ‘You have to take people,’“ he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


National Post Editorial Board: Tamil Protesters Send the Wrong Message

Torontonians rightly celebrate the multicultural nature of their city. But such sentiments were tested this week, as an ongoing cycle of Tamil protests besieged tens of thousands of workers in the city’s downtown core, adding idle time to core-bound commutes, and subjecting the country’s most expensive labour to the constant angry thrum of folk drumming. There is a fine line between accommodating spontaneous political action on behalf of a legitimately concerned ethnic group seeking to express solidarity with brethren overseas — and letting one’s city be taken over by a mob.

The protesters are demanding that Canada take action against Sri Lanka’s government, which is now in the final stages of a military campaign against the Tamil Tigers, a once-successful military insurgency that often has resorted to terrorist tactics in its bid to create an independent Tamil homeland. As noted in previous editorials, we are not unsympathetic with the protesters’ professed humanitarian concerns: Tens of thousands of ethnic Tamils remain trapped — alongside several hundred apparently suicidal Tamil Tiger fighters — in a small sliver of northeast Sri Lanka. But there is a reason that most informed Canadians regard the protesters more as a slightly sinister annoyance than as noisy humanitarians: They are caring flags designed by, and glorifying, a banned terrorist organization.

Moreover, many Tamil spokesmen here in Canada seem to live in a dreamworld — ignoring the plain fact that (as the United Nations and several blue-chip NGOs have pointed out) a primary threat to Tamils in Sri Lanka is posed by the Tigers themselves, who are holding trapped civilians as human shields. Given that the protesters seem curiously unperturbed by the Tigers’ own brutality toward Tamils, one is left to wonder what their real goal is: saving Tamils, or saving the remaining leadership of the Tigers.

Moreover, whatever the manner in which Tamils are treated in Sri Lanka, they are not persecuted here in Canada. Just the opposite: They have done notably well by our refugee system, and until recently carried heavy weight in Liberal ethno-politics. Where they have failed is in establishing a dedicated political outlet that is free from links to terror — a fact that casts a dark shadow over this week’s events: While staging non-violent protest marches is well within the Canadian political tradition, convening a mob to praise an illegal terrorist organization is not.

Indeed, this month’s protests raise questions about whether Tiger-friendly Tamil-Canadian ringleaders are committed Canadians who are sincerely concerned with the fate of their hyper-extended Tamil family — or exiles who have been biding their time on Canadian soil, waiting for the Tigers to win the war and build Tamiltopia; and who are now punishing their neighbours for the imminent collapse of their dreams.

For all our impatience at being held up on the streetcar, we know the question is complicated, and we hope it is being asked in Tamil circles. In Peter Kuitenbrouwer’s report on the protests for yesterday’s Post, he quoted a youth Tamil organizer as saying: “They ask us ‘Why are you blocking the street?’ And we tell them, ‘Because we are out of choices.’ “ In a way, that’s good news: Before Stephen Harper banned the Tigers in 2006, the “choices” for Canadian Tamils have included raising money for political assassinations and suicide bombings. But in a way, it’s also bad news, because supporting peaceful change in Sri Lanka does not appear to be one of the “choices” on this perceived menu.

Tamils in Canada could have spent recent decades building alternatives to the Tigers, yet they showed little interest when force seemed to have some chance of succeeding. Now that the tables have turned, and the Sri Lankan army has the Tigers trapped, their Canadian cheerleaders suddenly are left with nothing to do but pound out a dirge on Canadian streets, as uninterested Canadians file past on their way to work. Perhaps these protesters should have preached against violence when that message would have meant something.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Body of Polish Man Beheaded in Pakistan Returned

WARSAW, Poland — The remains of a Polish geologist beheaded by Islamic militants in Pakistan were returned Wednesday to Poland in a casket draped in the two countries’ flags and covered in flowers.

Piotr Stanczak’s body was flown to Warsaw’s military airport on a Pakistani air force plane. In a short ceremony on the tarmac, a Roman Catholic priest prayed over the white casket.

Dressed in black, Stanczak’s son and girlfriend stood briefly by the casket, their heads bowed.

The geologist was one of a handful of foreigners kidnapped in Pakistan in recent months as the country witnessed a deterioration in security along with a rise in al-Qaida and Taliban-led violence.

Stanczak was kidnapped Sept. 28 close to the Afghan border while he was carrying out a project for a Krakow-based geophysics company that surveys oil and gas fields.

He was held hostage for several months before his captors beheaded him in February, a killing that they videotaped.

On Sunday, a car dropped the casket near a paramilitary camp in Razmak, Pakistan. Officials then confirmed the remains were those of Stanczak.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Britons Could be Forced to Return Properties in N Cyprus

Linda and David Orams, from Hove in Sussex, lost a long legal battle against Meletios Apostolides, who owns the land their £160,000 holiday home stands on. Thousands of Greek Cypriots were forced out of Northern Cyprus when Turkish troops intervened in 1974 to prevent the island from being united with mainland Greece.

The European judges have ruled that British courts must enforce the judicial decisions made in Cyprus which uphold the property rights of Greek Cypriots who were forced out of the northern half of the island.

The judgment, on Tuesday, gives a green light to demolition orders and compensation claims against some 4,000 British property owners in Northern Cyprus. Marian Stokes, the founder of the Northern Cyprus Homebuyers’ pressure group, described the ruling as “absolutely gutting”. She said: “It’s so sad, because people stand to lose so much money. We did not think they would rule this way. We bought our land in good faith. It was usually marketed and sold in the UK, so you presume everything is ok. The implications for land ownership and conflict claims are staggering across Europe.”

In 2005 a court on the Greek Cypriot side of the green line in Nicosia, the divided capital, ordered the Orams to tear down their holiday home and return the land to Mr Apostolides, along with damanges. His family were forced out during the war 35 years ago.

Mr Apostolides went to the Court of Appeal in London in 2006 to have the Cypriot judgment recognised in Britain. British judges then turned for guidance to the European Court of Justice.

Lawyers for Mr Apostolides successfully argued that since both Britain and Cyprus are both European Union member states, the ruling in Nicosia was enforceable in British courts.

“I think people who have got property in the occupied north, which didn’t belong to those who gave it to them, should seek solid legal independent advice,” said Constantis Candounas, the lawyer who represented Mr Apostolides. “It opens the way for the judgment of the Cyprus court to be enforced in the UK. It means that eventually my client will have a means to enforce the decision.”

The case now returns to the Court of Appeal and one legal sources confirmed that British judges must “recognise and enforce the judgment”, adding: “How they do it is up to them, it could be by compensation”. In theory, the Orams could have their home in Britain seized.

Embargoed, a Turkish Cypriot human rights group, accused the European court of a “biased” and “politically charged judgment” which could complicate the peace talks designed to reunite the island.

“The decision could be a fatal blow for unification efforts,” said Ergin Balli, the group’s legal spokesman.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Czech Rep: Duke Ready to Attend His Possible Trial in Prague — Press

Prague — David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan leader whom the Czech police last weekend expelled from the country over his denial of the Holocaust, would reportedly return to Prague if a trial were launched against him, daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) writes today.

The paper cites Filip Vavra, the Czech organiser of Duke’s Prague visit, who is linked to the neo-Nazi National Resistance movement.

“On Monday I spoke with Mr Duke. He is determined to defend himself before Czech authorities if he is permitted to enter the country,” Vavra told MfD.

According to MfD’s information, Duke is staying in Italy. He came there from Austria where his Czech fans had taken him after his expulsion from the Czech Republic.

Last week the Czech police accused Duke, a U.S. citizen, of supporting and promoting movements aimed to suppress human rights.

The police arrested Duke in the centre of Prague on Friday afternoon and launched his prosecution.

Originally the police proposed that he be taken into custody but later in the night he was released as the state attorney decided that there were no reasons for his remanding in custody.

The foreigner police then said Duke is a persona no grata and has to leave the country.

His lawyers have challenged the police’s steps and lodged a complaint against his prosecution.

Nevertheless, Duke’s prosecution will continue in spite of his departure from the country, the police say.

According to the website focusing on Duke’s visit, he came to the Czech Republic to promote his book My Awakening.

The police say the book denies the Holocaust.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Bendtsen: No Full Membership for Turkey

The former leader of the coalition Conservative Party says Turkey should not be given full membership of the European Union.

The former deputy prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party Bendt Bendtsen says that the right solution for Turkey is a privileged partnership rather than full membership of the European Union, according to a report in Jyllands-Posten.

“We have to find a middle road for Turkey,” says Bendtsen, who is his party’s top candidate in the upcoming European elections on June 7.

Bendtsen’s statements come a month after Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller (Cons) confirmed the Danish government policy that lengthy negotiations with Turkey should lead to full membership.

Liberals: Full membership The Liberal Party top candidate Jens Rohde says that it is unlikely that Turkey will qualify for full membership of the EU for between 20 and 40 years. Nonetheless he says the target of full membership should be maintained.

“If we throw in the towel at the beginning, we won’t be able to negotiate the chapters we’re interested in — for example partnership and trade,” Rohde says.

SF: Turkey as other countries The Socialist People’s Party Chairman Villy Søvndal says that Turkey should be evaluated in the same way as other countries seeking membership.

“I think that Bendtsen has felt a need to say something popular,” says Søvndal.

Social Liberals: Garden path Social Liberal EU Candidate Sofie Carsten Nielsen says Bendtsen’s new view of Turkey is ‘dangerous’.

“Honestly this is leading the Turks up the garden path. They have been given the prospect of full membership — something we have supported. We are in the process of negotiating membership. I agree with Bendt Bendtsen that there are a lot of problems in connection with membership, and that it won’t happen tomorrow as Turkey is unable to fulfill the criteria. But we must maintain the perspective and the negotiations. We must keep Turkey at the negotiating table,” Nielsen tells Ritzau.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Shooters Target Drug Dealer

Police believe the most recent shooting in Nørrebro was a payback for two similar incidents earlier in the week

Police have identified the target of last night’s shooting in the city’s Nørrebro district as a 27-year-old Danish hash dealer, reports TV2 News.

At around 8:30 pm, witnesses claimed to have seen three young men of immigrant background riding on scooters shoot through the passage between Jægersborggade and Kronborggade streets — a known hangout for the Hell’s Angels and AK81 motorcycle gangs.

The man ran for cover and ducked behind a wall as the perpetrators opened fire and avoided injury. Police later found the weapon used in the shooting. Monday night’s shooting comes on the heels of two similar incidents in Nørrebro over the past week, where men believed to be affiliated with immigrant gangs were the targets.

Police say they are checking the gun, found not far from the scene in Nørrebro Park, for fingerprints and DNA. They are also still looking for the scooters and are asking for more witnesses to come forward with information.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Europe’s Age Crisis Bites

The EU’s working age population will peak next year before tipping into decline for half a century

This will cause a relentless rise in pension and health costs that risk asphyxiating the region’s economy.

A new report by the European Commission said this financial crisis could turn into a “permanent shock to growth” from which Europe never fully recovers unless it moves fast to bring its public debts under control.

The main danger is a “Lost Decade” akin to Japan’s deflation slump, with economies contracting by 0.9pc into the middle of the next decade, but there is also a risk of a deeper downward spiral.

Every country in the EU has a fertility rate below 2.1 births per woman, the minimum to keep the population stable. The average is 1.51, chiefly caused by women waiting late into their 20s or 30s before having children. This stretches out the generations.

While the fertility rate is expected to rise over time, demographic shifts tend to be glacial. An ageing crunch is already baked into the pie, hitting hardest from 2015 to 2035.

Britain fares relatively well, helped by immigrants and — some say — by its unwed teenage mothers, who lift the fertility rate at 1.8. The British working age cohort will be the biggest of any EU country by mid-century at 45m, followed closely by France.

If demographics is destiny, Britain and France may reclaim their mid-19th century status as the two dominant powers of Europe, but by then the Old World will be a much reduced force..

Germany’s working population will shrink by 29pc to just 39m. Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic states will all see drops of over 40pc.

No country will be spared the vaulting costs of ageing, an extra tax of 5pc on GDP, leaving aside the less visible tax on cultural dynamism that comes with lost youth.

The EU “dependency ratio” will soar: there will be two workers to support each person over 65, compared to four today. It will be worse if Europe fails to attract enough immigrants, all too likely given the catch-up under way in the developing world.

Faced with this future, Britain and Europe need to slash debt and salt away investment wealth in the rising East. Instead, public debt is exploding. Brussels has laid it bare: we will need hair-shirt discipline once we emerge from this recession. It may be our last chance.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

France: Gang on Trial for Torturing French Jew to Death

The trial opened today of a self-proclaimed “gang of barbarians” accused of kidnapping a young Jewish man, torturing him for 24 days and killing him, a crime that horrified France in 2006.

The death of Ilan Halimi, 23, came to symbolise violence in France’s troubled, multi-ethnic suburbs, which had just experienced a wave of riots. In particular the Jewish community denounces a rise in anti-Semitism among young people of Arab or African origin.

The leader of the “barbarians” was Youssouf Fofana, a young French man of Ivorian origin.. He has admitted all the charges against him except the accusation that he was the one who stabbed Halimi to death.

Fofana, 28, stands accused of kidnapping, sequestration, torture and assassination. The charge sheet also includes anti-Semitism, which French law considers an “aggravating circumstance” requiring the stiffest sentences.. Fofana faces life in jail.

The trial is scheduled to last two and a half months during which 162 witnesses and 50 experts will testify. It will take place behind closed doors at the request of two of the defendants who were minors at the time of the crime.

Halimi was kidnapped on 20 January, 2006 in the Paris suburb of Sceaux where he had been lured by a girl who acted as a “honey-trap”.

His kidnappers tried unsuccessfully to extort a ransom of €450,000 (£400,000) from his family.

They held Halimi in a cellar in another suburb, tortured him until he was close to death, then dumped him near a train station. He died in hospital shortly after he was found.

Jewish and anti-racist groups organised a march in Paris to honour Halimi on 26 February, 2006. It was marred by skirmishes between Jewish and Arab youths on the fringes of the march.

Many in France’s Jewish community say they have experienced a rise in anti-Semitism among disaffected youths of Arab and African origin since the second Palestinian uprising started in late 2000, because of feelings of solidarity with the Palestinians.

Those feelings have mingled in the minds of some of these youths with older anti-Semitic stereotypes.

Several members of the “barbarians gang” testified that Halimi was targeted because he was Jewish, which in their minds meant he had money and his community would pay to get him back.

After the murder, Fofana fled to Ivory Coast. From there he made death threats by telephone to Halimi’s father and girlfriend. He was extradited to France on 4 March, 2006.

During his time in detention, Fofana has bombarded the magistrates investigating the case with letters full of anti-Semitic insults.

Among the 26 other defendants, of whom 19 are also in detention, are the girl who was used as bait to capture Halimi, young men who took part in the abduction and who guarded the captive, and several people who knew but didn’t go to police.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

France and Spain Set Up Joint Body to Fight Terrorism

MADRID (AFP) — France and Spain signed a deal Tuesday to set up a joint security committee to fight terrorism, drug trafficking and illegal immigration, the two countries announced following a bilateral summit.

The deal will allow Paris and Madrid “to make a leap forward on security,” Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told a joint news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The heads of the security services of both countries will meet every six months to plan joint actions in the fight against terrorism and organised crime, a joint statement said.

The committee will seek to “prevent the Islamist threat,” in particular through “an alert procedure” on the use of the Internet by terrorists and on the “development of the jihadist threat in the regions at risk.”

It was also aimed at combating drug trafficking, money laundering and illegal immigration networks.

A Spanish government source said the body, led by police officials from the two countries, is an expansion of the five-year-old cooperation on security between France and Spain, which has led to the arrests of numerous members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA.

ETA is blamed for the deaths of 825 people in its 40-year campaign of bombings and shootings to carve a Basque homeland out of parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.

France is also particularly interested in the fight against drug trafficking as Spain has become the major European entry point for cocaine from South America and hashish from north Africa, the source said.

In an address to the Spanish parliament earlier, Sarkozy described the new body as “a real joint general staff headquarters on security.”

Sarkozy arrived on Monday on his first ever state visit to Spain, accompanied by his wife, the model-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.

The visit has also been a chance to highlight the common views of the two governments on a range of issues, in particular the future of the European Union, the planned Mediterranean Union and on ways to combat the global economic crisis.

Sarkozy reiterated his support for Spain’s push to have a permanent seat at the Group of 20 developed and developing nations.

And Zapatero announced that France and Spain would propose an international conference to seek a “wide response” to the problem of piracy off lawless Somalia.

“On all the issues, France and Spain speak with the same voice,” Sarkozy said on Monday.

But the French leader dismissed “as petty French politicking” a recent controversy sparked when he reportedly described the Spanish leader as “not very clever” at a lunch two weeks ago with French lawmakers.

The row is “a small ripple in a mediocre political debate in France,” he told Tuesday’s news conference.

On Monday, which was largely devoted to meetings with members of the Spanish royal family, it was Carla Bruni-Sarkozy who grabbed the spotlight.

The Spanish press Tuesday noted a “duel of elegance” between the 41-year-old French First Lady and Princess Letizia, 36, the wife of Spanish Crown Prince Felipe.

El Pais said Bruni-Sarkozy appeared to be on a “permanent catwalk” aimed at “conquering the world with her elegance which sometimes lacks any naturalness.”

But La Razon described her as “a marvel of nature who cannot be compared to anyone” and “the only interest of this visit.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Germany Readies for Fiery May Day Protests

BERLIN (AFP) — Germany is bracing for its biggest May Day protests in years amid fears of a rise in social unrest caused by the worst recession since World War II in Europe’s biggest economy.

An estimated 50,000 jobs are being lost every month in Germany, and the government is forecasting that output will slump by more than five percent this year, second only to Japan among major economies.

The last time that Germany’s economy suffered such a slump was in the Great Depression of the 1930s, a period that brought the Nazis to power and led to World War II.

Seventy years later, the situation is nowhere near so dramatic, with Germany spared the hyper-inflation that wiped out people’s savings overnight and the mass employment that turned desperate people to Hitler.

So far, a government scheme subsidising firms to cut working hours and the laying off of temporary workers has helped keep a lid on unemployment with the jobless rate only inching up in recent months.

But experts fear that the steady upwards creep of unemployment, which in March stood at 3.6 million, is in danger of turning into a flood as the recession here deepens.

Public disquiet is expected to grow — spicing up campaigning for general elections on September 27 — but what is uncertain is whether this will turn into massive street protests and even more militant action.

The head of Germany’s DGB federation of German trade unions, Michael Sommer, has warned that mass layoffs would be taken as a “declaration of war” by workers and unions.

“At that point, social unrest can no longer be ruled out,” Sommer said.

Gesine Schwan, the Social Democrat candidate for the largely ceremonial post of president, ruled out burning barricades but said the government “had to prevent the disappointment being felt by many turning into an explosive mood.”

“In the current crisis we should not dramatise things or fan fears, but neither should we mask the reality,” the centre-left Schwan said.

Oskar Lafontaine, the leader of Germany’s far-left Die Linke party, which is aiming to tap into public anger in September’s election, went further.

“When French workers are angry they lock up their managers. I would like to see that happen here too, so that they notice there is anger out there, that people are scared about their livelihoods,” Lafontaine said.

But for the most part, such comments have been the exception, and experts believe that the risk of unrest is low.

Heiner Ganssmann from Berlin’s Free University, for instance, thinks the rise in unemployment is more likely to be accompanied by “resignation and apathy” than militant action. He says the situation is different to France.

“The experience with unemployment is different, at least in Germany. People become more apathetic than rebellious,” Ganssmann told AFP.

“It is partly a cultural tradition. In France people are much quicker to take to the streets. Germans still trust the authorities.”

May Day will give a first taster of whether such predictions are right or if the government needs to do more to soothe public anger, with the financial crisis expected to result in an increase in numbers on the streets.

The international day of the worker has for the past two decades been accompanied in German cities by street violence and clashes between far-right skinheads, anti-fascist groups and police.

Dieter Ruch, a sociologist and expert on left-wing groups, expects more protesters this Friday because of the recession but that this will not necessarily lead to more violence.

“The crisis could simply push more people to demonstrate, but it will not mean more violence,” he told AFP.

Police in Berlin are taking no chances, and plan to deploy 5,000 officers to keep the protesters in line, who according to organisers will number 10,000 to 15,000.

Fears have been stoked further by an alarming spike in the number of arson attacks by presumed anarchists in Berlin in the run up to May 1.

According to Berlin police figures, over 70 cars — mainly upmarket models such as BMWs and Mercedes — have already been torched since the beginning of the year, compared to just over 100 for the whole of last year.

“Violence is a way of achieving our aims,” one militant giving his name just as Peter said menacingly. “We do not accept that the state has the monopoly on violence, and it is our aim for there to be social unrest.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Hungary’s Gypsies Targeted in Deadly Attacks

TISZALOK, Hungary — Thousands of mourners headed Wednesday to the funeral of Jeno Koka, the fifth Hungarian Gypsy shot to death in a series of crimes police say may have been committed by the same group.

There have been at least seven similar attacks since July 2008 against Roma — as Gypsies often preferred to be called. All involved shotguns and firebombs and were carried out at the edge of small villages near a major highway that provides a quick escape route.

Police are offering up to 50 million forints ($225,000, euro170,000) for information about the crimes and have boosted the number of officers working to solve the attacks from 70 to 100.

“These are professional killers,” said Justice Minister Tibor Draskovics. “But neither I nor the police will rest until we catch them.”

Police say they have found DNA samples believed to belong to the culprits at some of the crime scenes and have widened the circle of suspects to include the military and other security forces.

While they do not rule out racism, police so far have been unable to pinpoint a motive behind the strikes, a fact which irks many who say the reasons are obvious.

“This is the umpteenth such assassination and so far police have been unable to catch even one offender,” said the Roma Civil Rights Foundation, stressing that personal or business matters and any kind of revenge could be eliminated as the possible causes of Koka’s murder.

Roma make up about 6 percent of Hungary’s 10 million population and many are among its poorest and least educated citizens. Poverty among Roma has increased since the end of communism and the closure or privatization of the large state companies that guaranteed work.

But with unemployment and economic problems on the rise among all Hungarians and small but vocal extreme right-wing parties like Jobbik focusing on public security, Roma could be seen as the scapegoats for Hungary’s economic woes.

Even the ombudsman for civil rights, Mate Szabo, said Hungarians needed to be warned about “Gypsy crime,” petty thefts committed by Roma as a form of subsistence. Szabo later recanted his statements and was reprimanded by President Laszlo Solyom.

The rise of Jobbik and its militant Hungarian Guard and the increased attention on crimes committed both by and against Roma are said to stem partly from a 2006 incident in the eastern town of Olaszliszka in which a 45-year-old Hungarian teacher was beaten to death in front of his two young daughters after slightly injuring a Roma girl with his car.

Several men from the town, including some of the Roma girl’s relatives, are suspected of the murder.

While there are two Hungarian Roma in the European Parliament, domestically Roma parties and organizations have been plagued by fragmentization and charges of corruption, receiving far less than 1 percent of the vote in the 2006 parliamentary election.

Although their integration is always listed as one of the country’s most pressing issues, Roma remain mostly outside the Hungarian mainstream.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Ireland: Crime of Blasphemous Libel Proposed for Defamation Bill

[It is “impossible to say of what the offence of blasphemy consists” yet quite easy to guess on whose behalf the penalties for blasphemy will be enforced — io’p]

A NEW crime of blasphemous libel is to be proposed by the Minister for Justice in an amendment to the Defamation Bill, which will be discussed by the Oireachtas committee on justice today.

At the moment there is no crime of blasphemy on the statute books, though it is prohibited by the Constitution.

Article 40 of the Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech, qualifies it by stating: “The State shall endeavour to ensure that organs of public opinion, such as the radio, the press, the cinema, while preserving their rightful liberty of expression, including criticism of Government policy, shall not be used to undermine public order or morality or the authority of the State.

“The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent material is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.”

Last year the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, under the chairmanship of Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ardagh, recommended amending this Article to remove all references to sedition and blasphemy, and redrafting the Article along the lines of article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which deals with freedom of expression.

The prohibition on blasphemy dates back to English law aimed at protecting the established church, the Church of England, from attack. It has been used relatively recently to prosecute satirical publications in the UK.

In the only Irish case taken under this article, Corway -v- Independent Newspapers, in 1999, the Supreme Court concluded that it was impossible to say “of what the offence of blasphemy consists”..

It also stated that a special protection for Christianity was incompatible with the religious equality provisions of Article 44.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern proposes to insert a new section into the Defamation Bill, stating: “A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding £100,000.”

“Blasphemous matter” is defined as matter “that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”

Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section, the court may issue a warrant authorising the Garda SÃochána to enter, if necessary using reasonable force, a premises where the member of the force has reasonable grounds for believing there are copies of the blasphemous statements in order to seize them.

Labour spokesman on justice Pat Rabbitte is proposing an amendment to this section which would reduce the maximum fine to £1,000 and exclude from the definition of blasphemy any matter that had any literary, artistic, social or academic merit.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Meet the Scot That Al-Qaeda Could Not Kill

MUSLIM fanatics in Afghanistan and Iraq have twice tried to blow up Scots dad Paul Stitt.

And twice the Para turned private security guard has walked away unscathed.

Paul, 25, escaped a suicide bombing in Afghanistan in 2006, then cheated death in a terrifying roadside blast in Iraq just weeks ago.

His incrediblae gift for survival has seen him dubbed The Man al-Qaeda Couldn’t Kill.

But, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Record, Paul admitted: “It all comes down to luck.”

Paul, of Alexandria, Dunbartonshire, works as a security guard in the most deadly war zones on earth.

The skills he learned in the Parachute Regiment earn him thousands of pounds a month.

He loves his job but he knows that every time he goes out to work, he might not make it back to base.

Paul was working in Afghanistan three years ago when a suicide bomber on a motorbike drove up to his vehicle and blew himself to pieces.

The blast blew out the side of the 4×4. But although Paul ended up covered in the bomber’s blood, he and his two mates lived to tell the tale.

“Luckily, it was a poorly made device,” Paul recalled. “There was no shrapnel in the blast so it wasn’t enough to penetrate but I still got a face full of Afghan blood.

“The adrenalin was really going and we high-fived each other after surviving it.

“But the next day, what had happened actually hit us and we were definitely even more observant.”

Paul carried on working despite his narrow escape. And a few weeks ago, he stared death in the face for a second time, this time in Iraq..

He was travelling in an armoured 4×4 which drive through an infra-red beam, triggering a deadly explosion.

The terrorists had planted a sophisticated armour-piercing missile at the roadside. It slammed into the side of Paul’s truck but luckily the engine block took most of the force of the blast.

“The explosion blew the bonnet up in front of the windscreen,” Paul recalled.

“We had to keep rolling for about 500 metres until we got out of the killing area. These kind of attacks are usually followed by an ambush and, if you stop, you will get shot at straight away.

“There were three of us in the vehicle but no serious injuries. You don’t feel shock at the time — that only really kicks in the next day.

“The adrenalin keeps you going. I used to think it was rubbish when people said that but your training really does take over and you are on automatic pilot.

“I enjoy my work but it’s not something I’d want my friends or family to do because it’s so dangerous. I’ve seen some of my good friends killed.

“It all comes down to luck. You can be the best soldier in the world and still get killed.

“It’s pretty much down to chance and nothing to do ith your skills and drills.”

Paul served with the Paras in Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa and Northern Ireland before moving into the lucrative private security market.

He provides protection for ambassadors and other VIPs as well as escorting building materials and equipment for private firms.

“We use different pieces of kit depending on which firm we are working for,” he said.

“It could be anything from M4 assault rifles, AK47s, M16s but the most important things we have are our vehicles. They can make the difference between life and death.”

Paul, who has a three-year-old son, Josh, is in Scotland for a three-week break.

But he’ll soon be back in Iraq, where up to 40,000 private security guards are belived to be working.. And he knows his job there is more dangerous than ever before.

“The terrorists have developed their bombs,” Paul explained. “It used to be an old Pepsi bottle with wires sitting under a cardboard box which you could easily spot.

“Now they’re putting devices into the ground and they can sit on a hill, watch through binoculars and activate them using mobile phones.”

Despite the dangers he faces, Paul is looking forward to returning to the war zone.

He said: “I’m ready to get back. I’ve been out and about to pubs constantly since I got home and I feel totally knackered!

“We do 12 weeks at a time over there but you can get a lot of the comforts of home in places like Iraq nowadays.

“You don’t miss the food and stuff so much as you can get it all in stores in American bases.

“They even have Burger King now. Things have defintiely got better since 2003.

“But when I’m out there, I do miss the chance to go out socialising with my mates — and to meet women!”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

MPs Vote to Give Gurkhas Right to Live in Britain

PM suffers a humiliating Commons defeat over his refusal to allow Gurkha veterans to live in Britain.

MPs have voted for a parliamentary motion condemning the Government’s treatment of the Gurkhas and the Daily Telegraph has campaigned for the veterans to be admitted.

With the backing of Labour rebels and the Conservative Party, a Liberal Democrat motion criticising the Government was passed by 267 votes to 246.

The vote is not legally binding, but opposition leaders insisted that ministers must now abandon new rules on admitting Gurkhas and their families introduced last week.

Under the new rules, only Gurkhas with at least 10 years’ service are eligible to come to Britain. Other foreign nationals serving with the British Armed Forces can apply after only four years.

The High Court last year declared that preventing Gurkhas who had served in the British Army before 1997 from living in this country was unlawful.

In response, the Home Office last week issued fresh criteria for allowing Gurkhas into the UK, but set the bar for entry so high that campaigners say that only a few hundred veterans will ever qualify.

At an impromptu press conference outside the Commons after the vote, both Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, and David Cameron, the Tory leader, said the Prime Minister must now change his policy.

Mr Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader said: “This is the kind of thing that I think people want this country to do, that we pay back our obligations and our debt of gratitude to generations of Gurkhas who laid down their lives for this country.

“This was a cross-party effort and a great, great day for everyone who believes in fairness and decency in this country.”

Mr Cameron said: “Today is a historic day where Parliament took the right decision. The basic presumption that people who fight for our country should have a right to live in our country has been set out very clearly.

Gurkhas have served the British crown since 1815 and have amassed battle honours including 26 Victoria Crosses.

Deepening the embarrassment for the Government, the vote came despite 11th hour sweeteners to Labour rebels.

Hours before the vote, Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, had promised that 1,300 Gurkhas who had been threatened with deportation will be allowed to stay, and promised to review the rules on admitting other veterans.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: ‘Political Movements Should be Subsidised’

Political movements such as Geert Wilders’ one-man party PVV and Rita Verdonk’s TON should be eligible for state subsidies, a government advisory body said on Tuesday.

The public management council (ROB) said in its report that parties without members like the PVV and TON should qualify for subsidies based on the number of people donating cash — so long as the list of donations is made public.

In addition, donors would have to be able to exert influence on the party, the council said.

At the moment political parties are subsidised according to the size of their membership and how many seats they have in parliament.

Lack of funding

Wilders has always made a point of the party’s lack of funding. ‘The PVV is the only party in parliament to refuse subsidies and is thus entirely dependent on donations,’ Wilders’ own website states. According to the NRC, the party does get over €1m a year to fund its parliamentary operations.

Home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst has rejected the recommendation that parties without members also be entitled to extra subsidies, the Telegraaf reports. ‘I do not see what it would achieve,’ the paper quoted her as saying.

She is also opposed to removing the limit on financial donations to political parties. The minister is curently working on draft legislation which would impose a €25,000 ceiling for individual donations and €700 for anonymous gifts.

Political parties are currently required to make all donations over €4,500 public but as both TON and the PVV are not official parties, they do not have to comply.

Currently just 2.5% of the population is a member of a political party.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Public Prosecutions Chief Says Country Safer

The head of the Public Prosecutions Department, Harm Brower, says the figures show the Netherlands is becoming safer. He was speaking during the presentation of the annual report of the Board for the Procurators-General.

Last year, just over 233,000 cases were referred to his department, four percent fewer than in 2007. Mr Brouwer says one of the reasons for this is the targetted method of dealing with repeat offenders.

The figures also show the number of community service orders are up, with more than 90,000 people being handed down such punishments in 2008.

Whether this sort of sentence actually works has been the subject of much discussion recently. Mr Brouwer does not want to see community service orders go, but has undertaken to find out whether there is sufficient support for them.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

NZ: Qualified Nurse Refused Residency Because of Weight

A British nurse who weighed 134kg has been refused New Zealand residency because of her morbid obesity, despite the need for skilled nursing staff.

The 51-year-old, who was offered a job in a home and hospital for the elderly in a provincial city, met the qualifications for immigration under the skilled migrant category.

But her body mass index of 55.2 was considered unacceptable by the immigration service who declined her application, despite nursing being on a long-term skill shortage list.

Now the Residence Review Board has dismissed her appeal.

For a New Zealand European, a BMI score of 25 is considered overweight, 30 obese and 40 morbidly obese.

The woman, whose waist measured 131cm, wanted to emigrate with her crane driver husband and daughter, who has a degree, after holidaying in New Zealand in 2007.

Medical assessors said that the woman would probably cost the country $25,000 over four years in health treatment.

She argued that she was physically fit, there was no history of cancer or chronic diseases in her family, and her weight did not stop her working more than 60 hours a week.

A medical assessor said that apart from her morbid obesity, she was an otherwise “well lady” and could be reconsidered for immigration if she reduced her BMI to under 40.

The appeal board said that the woman scored relatively highly in the skilled migrant category.

It concluded: “While the appellant is currently healthy, the severity of her obesity meant that two medical assessors found her to be of too great a potential risk to the New Zealand health system to determine that she had an acceptable standard of health.”

Though the family would make a “sound” contribution to New Zealand, that did not weigh sufficiently for the board to decide that there were special circumstances in this case.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Robbery in First Class Train Thief Threatens Businessman and Escapes With Laptop and Cash

A businessman is robbed of his laptop, BlackBerry, cash and credit cards as he works in the first-class carriage of a train.

The 41-year-old was working on his laptop when he was threatened by the thief who sat opposite him on a Waterloo to Reading commuter train.

The suspect, pictured here, claimed he had a knife before calmly packing the items into the businessman’s suitcase and walking off.

The robbery took place on 12 January as the train was travelling between Staines and Egham. The thief left the train at Staines.

The suspect is 5ft 11in, aged 20-26 and wearing a dark jacket with a hood and dark trousers.

Anyone who recognises the man should call British Transport Police on 0800 405040.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Sarkozy Unveils Sweeping New Vision for Paris

PARIS — French President Nicolas Sarkozy has unveiled an ambitious, costly new plan to rethink the structure of Paris and its troubled suburbs.

Sarkozy says a key focus of the plan should be expanding the French capital’s links to the English Channel via more trade along the Seine River and a new high-speed rail line to Le Havre.

Sarkozy announced the plan Wednesday after several renowned architects presented blueprints aimed at adapting the Paris metropolitan area to modern needs.

A key aim is to better link layers of scattered suburbs around Paris, including isolated housing projects that exploded in riots in 2005 by largely minority youth frustrated over discrimination and unemployment.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Court Climax Premature for Madonna of Orgasm Church

The Madonna of Orgasm Church (Orgasmens Madonnas kyrka) has suffered a disappointing reversal following a Swedish court ruling that the church’s name is unacceptable and offensive.

The church’s founder, artist Carlos Bebeacua who resides in Lövestad in southern Sweden, has been fighting a lengthy legal battle in his bid to have the Madonna of Orgasm Church registered as a faith community in Sweden.

Founded by Bebeacua in the early 1990s, the Madonna of Orgasm Church is centered on a similarly named painting by Bebeacua which sparked protests during the 1992 World’s Fair in Seville, Spain.

“The orgasm is God, the orgasm should be worshiped,” Bebeacua once told the Kvällsposten newspaper.

“The orgasm is the ultimate feeling of lust, it shouldn’t be limited to ejaculation. You can reach it through art or by looking at a landscape and thinking ‘Wow!’“

Bebeacua hoped that registering the Madonna of Orgasm Church as a faith community in Sweden would encourage more people to consider the orgasm as God.

In November 2008, he achieved an important victory when the county administrative court overruled Sweden’s Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency (Kammarkollegiet), which had refused to register the Madonna of Orgasm Church because its name was offensive.

But Kammarkollegiet appealed the ruling to the Administrative Court of Appeal, which on Tuesday overturned the lower court’s decision.

According to the appeals court, the name of Bebeacua’s Madonna of Orgasm Church “violates what is considered acceptable praxis” and therefore can be denied registration as a faith community.

Specifically, the court took issue with juxtaposition of the words “Madonna”, “orgasm”, and “church”.

“In the opinion of the administrative court of appeal, the intention of such a combination of words, even in relation to the registration of a community for religious activities, must be to offend, not only for those within the wider circles of the general public who have Christian leanings, but also in society in general,” wrote the court.

           — Hat tip: CB [Return to headlines]

Sweden: Charges Unlikely for Admitted Panty Pic Snapper

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Following the story about rapes going unprosecuted and charges being dropped on other criminals (like the rapist whose victim committed suicide and [obviously] didn’t testify against him) — I’m starting to wonder about a general competence issue across law and order agencies in Sweden.]

A 46-year-old Swedish man who used a hidden camera to take pictures beneath the skirts of several young girls may escape prosecution because none of his victims can be positively identified.

The man was arrested was arrested last Friday after being caught photographing women using a camera hidden in a shoulder-bag.

While he has since admitted to taking panty pics of a number of young women, the 46-year-old may nevertheless escape punishment.

“The case is tricky because we can’t identify any plaintiffs,” Bengt Svensson of the Kristianstad police told the Metro newspaper.

Prosecutor Johan Eriksson, however, refused to tell the paper one way or the other whether he will pursue the case.

When police arrested the 46-year-old they confiscated several cameras, as well as digital memory cards filled with pictures taken from underneath young women’s skirts.

But the images aren’t enough to positively identify any of the man’s victims.

In one case, the man is alleged to have attempted to take pictures of girl who was six or seven-years-old.

“The man’s behaviour is sick, but it’s doubtful as to whether he actually harassed the girls. They weren’t aware they were being photographed,” Svensson told Metro.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sweden: ‘Allow Foreign Police in Sweden’: Minister

[TJ:…”it’s the only way we can effectively address crime” — she unfortunately failed to add.]

Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask wants foreign police to be able to operate in Sweden. A committee of inquiry will be set up to look into ways in which this might work.

Speaking at the Moderate party local government conference in Örebro, the minister yesterday aired her thoughts on how the inquiry should proceed. The committee will have until the end of next year to complete its assignment, which will include assessing situations in which foreign police officers would be permitted to act, i.e. exercise their official authority, vis-à-vis Swedish citizens. Operations could involve arrests or other police measures.

According to TT’s sources, the Government feels there is a need to allow foreign police operations in Sweden as a complement to the work of the Swedish police in areas such as human trafficking/smuggling or other forms of cross-border crime. Cooperation could also include support during major public events, such as international summit meetings, sporting events where crowd violence is likely, major accidents or other crises.

Ask noted that the opposition, including the chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and her predecessor in office, Thomas Bodström, are opposed to the idea of foreign police operating on Swedish soil.

“We will now draw up a background document and discuss it. I believe that with a good basis to build on we will reach an agreement acceptable to everyone. That’s how it usually works. I can’t imagine anyone opposing our proposal if we show that greater collaboration, subject to certain conditions and in certain contexts, would be good for crime prevention and our security,” the minister said at a press conference during the Moderate party local government conference in Örebro.

Ask maintained that citizens living in areas bordering on Norway, Finland and Denmark find it difficult to understand the current obstacles to cooperation and would regard it as unreasonable not to take advantage of the opportunity to move forward.

The inquiry will be chaired by the head of Ekobrottsmydigheten (Swedish Economic Crime Authority) Gudrun Antemar.

The head of Rikskriminalpolisen (Swedish National Criminal Police), Therese Mattsson, welcomed the minister’s decision to look into the feasibility of allowing foreign police to operate in Sweden.

“An excellent initiative. We have wanted this for a long time,” Mattsson said to TT. She referred to the need for clearly defined rules on issues such as how and when foreign police officers would be allowed to carry weapons and under what circumstances they would be permitted to intervene. She emphasised that overall responsibility lay with the Swedish police and that foreign contingents would ultimately be under Swedish command should joint operations become a reality.

As an example of the kind of cooperation that could be further developed, Therese Mattsson and Beatrice Ask cited the joint exercises held by the Swedish and Norwegian special task forces. However, they point out that it would be a major advantage if they could also collaborate in critical situations, especially as this would better enable them to endure protracted operations.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Swedish Men ‘Not as Masculine as They Used to be’: Study

Swedish men have become more metrosexual and less masculine in recent times, according to a new survey polling both sexes on their opinion of the Swedish male.

51 percent of respondents said Swedish men were more masculine in previous times, with men in particular (58 percent) agreeing with the statement. Only 13 percent of men and women felt today’s men were more masculine than their predecessors.

Asked whether Swedish men were more masculine than their counterparts in other countries only 9 percent of Swedish women felt this to be the case. 19 percent said Swedish chaps were less masculine, though the overwhelming majority (65 percent) said they were neither more nor less masculine than foreign fellows.

Swedish women also like their mates to stand up straight and be counted. Asked to choose between five alternatives, 33 percent of women found slouched shoulders and poor posture to be the least attractive physical qualities in a potential partner.

28 percent said overweight partners were a no-no, while 18 percent ruled out partners with feminine features, 8 percent disliked scrawniness and 0 percent found masculine features to be a turn-off. The ‘None of the above’ and ‘don’t know’ options made up the numbers.

For men (36 percent), the weight issue topped the list of least attractive physical features, followed by posture (18 percent), masculine features (18 percent), scrawniness (10 percent) and feminine features (3 percent).

Moving away from the physical side of things, both men (44 percent) and women (43 percent) listed ‘a good sense of humour’ as by far the most attractive quality in a partner.

Very few respondents considered job success to be the top draw in a partner: 2 percent of women and 1 percent of men.

Both women and men were also asked which type of man they found most attractive. A lot of men chose to skip this question but on the whole those who did answer agreed with the replies of their female compatriots, who responded as follows:

  • The normal “boy next door type, like TV show host Fredrik Wikingsson”: 26 percent.
  • The James Bond type in a tailored suit: 18 percent.
  • The metrosexual type, “like football player Fredrik Ljungberg”: 13 percent.
  • The slightly chilled out type, “like actor Rolf Lassgård”: 6 percent.
  • The tough muscle mountain, “like Sylvester Stallone in the Rambo movies”: 3 percent.
  • The lanky, musician type, “like musician Andreas Kleerup”: 3 percent.

7 percent of respondents had somebody else entirely in mind, while a further 7 percent couldn’t make up their minds.

The internet-based study was carried out by YouGov on behalf of MBT Shoes. The polling agency received responses from 1,003 people aged 15-64 and spread across the country.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Turkey Video Blocked!

17.04.2009 — The left-wing and the United States are allies when it comes to the Turkish entry into the European Union. Obama recently became president, but this does not cover up the fact that the left-wing blindly serves the American geo-political interests. A Turkish entry can be the end of the European Union. Vlaams Belang recently made a video in which the most important arguments against a Turkish EU entry are put together. YouTube reported us that this video has been blocked in several countries! You can watch it here and send it to your friends and relatives.

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

UK Govt. ‘Committed’ to Expanding UN Security Council: Minister

LONDON (AFP) — Britain said Tuesday it was “committed” to expanding the 15-member United Nations Security Council to make it more representative, ahead of talks on reform at the UN General Assembly.

“Britain is very, very clear indeed. We want to see the council enlarged, made more relevant to today’s world and made more representative and more authoritative as a result of that,” Foreign Office minister Lord Mark Malloch-Brown said during a parliamentary debate.

“We have pressed hard, most recently in partnership with France, to try to move this forward. We are very committed to it.”

He said it was up to the General Assembly to decide whether to agree to an immediate expansion to include countries such as Japan, “or some intermediate solution,” in a second round of negotiations due to begin next month.

The council’s make-up has remained largely unchanged since the UN was set up in 1945. Only China, the United States, France, Britain and Russia have permanent seats, but Germany, Brazil, India and Japan are pushing to join them.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Asylum’ Killer Wins Fight

A FAILED asylum seeker who left a 12-year-old girl dying under the wheels of his car after a hit-and-run accident has sparked fury by walking free from a deportation centre while he fights being kicked out of the country.

Iraqi Kurd Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, 30, was due to be deported after applications for asylum were kicked out.

Now he has won a court appeal against him being detained while his case is processed.

Ibrahim, who knocked down and killed Amy Houston while already on bail for driving while disqualified, was jailed for four months for driving while banned and failing to stop after the accident in November 2003 in Blackburn, Lancashire. He had never held a driving licence and had two previous driving bans.

Amy’s family have fought for his deportation and campaigned for an Amy’s Law that would introduce stiffer penalties for causing death while banned from driving.

Her father Paul Houston, 39, reacted with disgust to this latest court decision. He said: “I’m very disappointed. It’s very frustrating. Why should he walk free after what he has done? He’s just laughing at the justice system. It’s so wrong. Where’s the justice for my Amy?

“The immigration officials have an impossible job when judges knock them back.

“The politicians talk big but I see no action. This man has used up so many resources. How many appeals does he get?” Engineer Paul, from Darwen, who had shed tears of relief in October when Ibrahim was taken into the custody of the UK Border Agency, said: “This just makes me more determined.

“If I didn’t fight, then another person would find themselves in this position and I don’t want anybody else’s kid to get killed. It’s my duty as a father to see this through to the end.”

A spokeswoman for the UK Border Agency said: “We are extremely disappointed at the court’s decision. We vigorously opposed bail for this man. This is by no means an acceptance of his right to stay in the country.”

Since Amy’s death, Ibrahim has married a British woman and fathered two children in Blackburn. He claims it is too unsafe for him to return to Iraq.

His deportation had been ordered in November, 2002.

Blackburn MP and Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, said he would be taking up the issue of Ibrahim’s release from custody. He said: “I will speak to the family and also with the Home Secretary.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: 7/7 Bombers’ Friends Jailed Over Terror Training Camp Plans

Waheed Ali and Mohammed Shakil innocent of London bomb attacks but convicted of conspiracy to attend Pakistan training camp

Mohammed Shakil and Waheed Ali: jailed for seven years for planning to attend a terrorist training camp.

Two British Muslims cleared of helping the 7 July bombers choose their targets were today sentenced to seven years in jail each for planning to attend a terrorist training camp.

Waheed Ali, 25, and Mohammed Shakil, 32, were yesterday found not guilty at Kingston crown court of conspiring to cause explosions with the four men who carried out the attacks that killed 52 people in 2005.

The pair, who were arrested as they were about to board a flight to Pakistan in 2007, were found guilty of conspiracy to attend a terrorist training camp. They have already spent two years in jail on remand.

The judge, Mr Justice Gross, told Ali and Shakil they had committed an offence “at a serious level”.

“Your intention, but for your apprehension, was to attend a real camp and to use real guns in training at that camp,” he said. “This was not play acting and you were determined players, not naive dupes.”

He told the pair they had a “very real prospect of reoffending”.

Gross said the most important factor in his sentencing decision was to deter others attending such camps.

The trial heard that an estimated 1,000 young Muslims from the UK visited training camps in Pakistan between 1998 and 2003.

The judge said: “It must be made entirely clear, if necessary through sentences of an appropriate length, that such conduct is unacceptable.”

Referring to the acquittal of Ali, Shakil and co-accused Sadeer Saleem, 28, on the separate charge of conspiracy to cause explosions, Mr Justice Gross said the jury’s decision must be respected.

“Defendants must receive a fair trial and must not be convicted unless the jury has been made sure of their guilt,” he said. “That is a strength of our system. By its verdict, the jury in this case indicated the crown had not made it sure the defendants were party to the conspiracy to cause explosions that ended in the July 7 bombings. That verdict is to be respected.”

The head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John McDowall, said Ali and Shakil shared the same extremist beliefs as the London bombers, with whom they had grown up in Beeston, Leeds.

They were acquitted of carrying out a reconnaissance mission in London with two of the men, Hasib Hussain and Jermaine Lindsay, seven months before the explosions. They insisted the trip had been an innocent social outing for sightseeing and visiting family, and had nothing to do with the attacks. During their two-day trip to London in 2004 the three visited the London Eye, the Natural History Museum and the London Aquarium.

The men were retried after an earlier jury failed to reach verdicts. After eight days of deliberations the jury cleared them unanimously, along with Saleem.

The total cost of the two trials is likely to exceed £5m and the families of the 7 July victims say the verdicts mean no one is likely to ever be brought to justice for the attacks. They are demanding a full independent inquiry into the atrocity.

Bereaved families and survivors have called on the government to publish a second Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report into the bombings without delay.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Asylum Seeker Who Killed Girl, 12, in Hit and Run Walks Free Despite Judge Recommending Deportation

A failed asylum seeker who left a young girl dying under the wheels of his car after a horrific hit and run accident was freed today. Aso Mohammed Ibrahim was due to be deported after his applications for asylum and citizenship were kicked out. But the 31-year-old Iraqi Kurd has been released from custody while he makes yet another bid to stay in the UK. The family of Amy Houston, 12, who was mowed down by Ibrahim’s Rover car as she went to the shops have spoken of their outrage. Her father, Paul Houston, 39, an engineer, said: ‘The politicians talk big but I see no action. He’s used up so many resources. How many more appeals does he get? ‘This makes me more determined. If I didn’t fight then another person would find themselves in this position and I don’t want anybody else’s kid to get killed. He’s just laughing at the British justice system. It is so wrong.’ Just weeks before killing Amy, Ibrahim had been banned for nine months for driving while disqualified, without insurance and without a licence. Schoolgirl Amy, was outside her home in November 2003 when she was knocked down after running into the path of Ibrahim’s car. Amy, who lived with her mum Joanne Cocker, was trapped beneath the car but Ibrahim got out of the car and ran off. A police officer drove the ambulance to hospital so both paramedics could treat Amy but despite their efforts she died in hospital later that day. The Iraqi Kurd, who has never held a driving licence, was jailed for four months for driving while disqualified and failing to stop after an accident.

But while in the UK, Ibrahim of Blackburn married a British woman, Christina, and they have two young children. He exhausted all his applications to stay in the UK and was seized by the UK Borders Agency who said he would be deported ‘at the earliest opportunity’. Now the failed asylum seeker has won a court appeal against him being detained while his deportation case is being processed. He was freed by an immigration judge this week to the outrage of the family, Justice Secretary Jack Straw MP and the UK Border Agency. Mr Houston said: ‘I’m very disappointed that the court has let him go. It’s frustrating and the immigration officials have an impossible job when the judges do not back them.

‘I need some closure on this. It’s an insult to my daughter. I walk around the street and I’m looking over my shoulder every two minutes thinking: Am I going to see this bloke? It is my duty as a father to see this through to the end.’ Mr Straw, MP for Blackburn, said: ‘I am very concerned. I’m making arrangements to speak to Amy’s family and also with the Home Secretary.’ A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said: ‘We are extremely disappointed at the court’s decision — the UK Border Agency vigorously opposed bail for this man. ‘Individuals with no rights to remain in the UK will sometimes attempt to frustrate the removal process, but the public can be rest assured we will continue to work towards their removal as quickly as possible.’ The UK Border Agency said it could not estimate how long it would take before a decision was made on Ibrahim’s case. Ibrahim, who claims it is still too dangerous for him to return to his homeland, will have to report to a police station as part of his bail conditions. Road safety groups campaigned for years for stiffer penalties for killer drivers to be introduced. In 2007, the Government introduced longer prison sentences for people causing a death while driving a car while disqualified or without valid insurance.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Boris Wants Voters to Have Power Over Police and Buses

Mayor Boris Johnson today backed an extraordinary attempt by London councils to grab power for the people.

A new City Charter would give them the right to choose local police commanders and have a crucial say on health and transport policies.

Every borough leader has signed the charter to demand the powers, which would dramatically alter the role of Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson. Under the proposals, the councils would be able to:

  • Appoint borough commanders instead of the Met chief doing so.
  • Spend NHS money currently under the control of primary care trusts.
  • Decide on GPs’ opening hours.
  • Change bus routes and timetables, taking control of local services from Transport for London.
  • Take charge of the trunk roads run by TfL.

The charter gives a glimpse of the ‘devolution’ of powers to local authorities which could become Conservative policy.

It also propels Mr Johnson on to the national policy stage again, as the changes would require legislation which is only likely after a general election, and opens a rift between London local authorities and Whitehall, which has increasingly centralised power.

Scotland Yard is likely to oppose the charter’s proposal on the 32 borough commanders, who are directly responsible for day-to-day policing. The scheme echoes previous Tory suggestions of directly-elected chief constables, which were ditched as impracticable.

Primary care trusts are also likely to fight to prevent councils taking control of their budgets.

Council leaders and the Mayor today said the charter would be a major step forward for local democracy.

Merrick Cockell, chairman of London Councils, said: “As a world city, London faces many challenges alongside its many opportunities. With the City Charter, London Councils and the Mayor have committed to work closer together to meet those challenges, made all the tougher by the recession.

Mr Johnson said: “For far too long relations between City Hall and the boroughs have been confrontational rather than constructive, hindering the development of our great city.

“Today we have agreed the first ever City Charter which will lead to a far more productive relationship which will benefit millions of Londoners. The charter will address the most pressing issues for the capital, ensuring we emerge stronger from the economic downturn, cut crime and violence and improve our transport system.”

Professor Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the LSE, said: gIf the City Charter makes it possible to transfer power from Whitehall to London government that would be a good thing

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Expert Who Stole Pages of Rare Texts Has Prison Term Halved

An internationally-renowned scholar who was jailed for cutting out and stealing pages from rare and ancient literary texts had his sentence halved today.

Wealthy book collector Farhad Hakimzadeh, 61, of Knightsbridge, took pages from 10 books worth £71,000 at the British Library and carried out four raids on Oxford University’s Bodleian Library.

Hakimzadeh pleaded guilty to 14 counts of theft in May last year at Wood Green crown court and was jailed for two years in January, but today

London’s Criminal Appeal Court ruled that he should serve 12 months.

Sentencing judge Mr Justice Blake also overturned a deportation order after hearing that Hakimzadeh was a dedicated philanthropist and could have been suffering from an “acquisitive personality disorder”.

Hakimzadeh, an Iranian who has lived in Britain for more than 30 years, is an expert on cultural relations between Europe and Persia in the 15th and 16th centuries and is a former director of the Iran Heritage Foundation, which promotes Iran’s culture.

He was caught when a reader in the British Library noticed that one text had a page missing. The library examined all 842 books which Hakimzadeh, among others, looked at between 1997 and 2005. The texts were mainly from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

When police visited Hakimzadeh’s home they found matching copies of the British Library texts.

Experts inspected the gilt edging of pages, water stains and even worm holes to reveal that Hakimzadeh had taken pages.. Thefts from the Bodleian Library, Oxford University’s main research library, were found dating from 2003.

Mr Justice Blake said in his ruling: “Hakimzadeh has suffered a considerable humiliation and loss of reputation. This is a case in which there is exceptional mitigation.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Family Courts System Accused of Hiding Evidence From Parents

Parents fighting in the family courts for contact with their children are being denied access to their personal files by a corrupt system, a leading parental rights campaigner has said.

Alison Stevens, head of Parents Against Injustice, has called for Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, to force social services and individual courts to comply with the Data Protection Act.

She said: “Local authorities have to send the requested files within 40 days . . . but they are often not following public law guidelines. It’s corruption within the system. They are playing God, and there must be some reason why — perhaps to hide things they have got wrong in the cases.”

Evidence is gathered from a variety of sources before children are taken from their parents in family courts. Tracking down and obtaining these documents can be very difficult because they are held by various bodies and must be applied for in different ways.

Ms Stevens said: “Parents should be entitled to their files — not just social services files but all files: from health visitors, GPs, different hospitals, the ambulance trust, psychologist reports, paediatrician notes and so on.”

The Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has written to all MPs calling for a parliamentary review into the operation of the family courts. He said: “One of the ways legal practitioners prevent parents from fighting cases is by not giving them the paperwork. Often the paperwork doesn’t add up, so if parents got hold of it they would see what was going on.”

Many parents have welcomed the call for greater accountability. Roland Simpkin (not his real name) received his social services files seven years after his children were taken into care in 2001 amid allegations of abuse.

When the allegations were shown to be unfounded, he sought to obtain the evidence held on him by social services to find out why he was still not allowed to see his children.

He was sent his files last year, after pursuing his case through a series of letters, complaints and court orders, but he found that parts of the notes had been crossed through with black pen, words had been deleted and sections of paragraphs had been removed during photocopying.

Mr Simpkin said: “Despite being repeatedly found not to have harmed or posed a risk of harm to \ children or anybody else’s, the sheer amount of delay introduced by the sluggishness of the social services department to share information is likely to be a serious negative factor in any potential repeated contact \.”

In another case, Marc Tufano, an actor who has appeared in EastEnders and The Bill, has not seen his two sons for seven years because he cannot obtain the documents that he needs to bring his case to appeal.

His children were given residence with his partner in 2003 after their relationship broke down. Though he immediately tried to launch an appeal, he said that he had found it impossible to obtain transcripts of the original court hearings because the court authorities had been slow to reply to his requests and had since claimed to have destroyed the documents.

Mr Tufano said: “I have begged these government agents to leave me alone so as I can see my sons without being harassed by endless arguments over the paperwork they require. It is made impossible for parents to get hold of the documents they need.”

Case study: I fired six sets of solicitors

Sezgi Kapur’s two daughters were taken from her in 2003 amid allegations that her violent attitude towards care professionals could be harmful to her children, allegations she denies.

Before the hearings in the family court, her requests for her social services files were ignored or denied, and she was forced to apply for court orders to disclose the documents. Without them, Ms Kapur was unable to respond to the evidence gathered against her by social services and care workers, and so was unable to fight her case effectively.

After the files were provided, she discovered that the minutes from high-level social services meetings about her case had been withheld and that memos had been circulated to those who attended asking them to “destroy all previous copies” of notes from the meeting.

Ms Kapur said: “These meetings painted a picture of me as a volatile, aggressive, threatening individual who was alienating professionals, who might one day emotionally harm my children through this purported alienation. It was incredible to read this.

“I fired six sets of solicitors because they failed to get disclosure of all my documents. If the parents do not get a fair trial, the children do not either.”

Shaun O’Connell, a lay adviser working on behalf of Environmental Law Centre, said: “If you’re not familiar with the Data Protection Act and you don’t know the format and structure, it’s impossible.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Fuel Price ‘Bombshell’ as Budget 2009 Offers Motorists ‘Generous’ Scrappage Scheme

Motorists will face further rises in petrol prices after the Budget despite recent increases in the cost of fuel but a “cash for bangers” car-scrappage scheme was introduced to try to kick-start the motor industry.

Chancellor Alistair Darling said in his Budget statement that fuel duty would increase by 2p a litre in September and there would be further rises of 1p a litre for the next four Aprils.

The AA described the rises as “an unexpected bombshell”, while the RAC said the announcement was “a brutal blow for motorists” and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) said the increases “could be the death knell for parts of the logistics sector”.

Having slipped below 90p a litre at the pumps, petrol prices are now around 95p, with this month’s planned Government fuel duty rise adding 2.12p a litre on prices.

AA president Edmund King said: “No-one was expecting another rise in September. This is a bombshell. More money will be raised from this than will be paid out in the car-scrappage scheme.

“What this means is that the scrappage scheme will be paid for in a year by motorists at the pumps.”

Under the scrappage scheme anyone with a car registered before July 31 1999 will get a cash incentive of £2,000 to trade in their old vehicle for a brand new one.

A total of £1,000 will come from the Government and the remaining £1,000 from car companies, with participants being able to buy any new vehicle, including small vans, rather than just low-pollution models.

About £300 million has been put aside by the Government to fund the scheme, which is expected to come into effect as early as mid-May and will last until the grant runs out, thus enabling 300,000 consumers to benefit.

The AA immediately hailed the announcement, saying drivers would be pleased with a “generous scheme”.

But car companies had been hoping that the Government would foot the entire £2,000-per-vehicle bill, while environmental groups had reckoned that those participating would be limited to choosing only “green” cars.

Only too aware of plunging new car sales and car plant shutdowns in recent months, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson and Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon had been pushing for the scheme to go ahead in the face of some opposition from the Treasury.

The announcement smacks of compromise between the warring factions within Whitehall, with the scheme only costing the Government £300 million rather than the £580 million first envisaged.

AA president Edmund King said: “Drivers will be delighted that a generous scrappage scheme has been given the green light. The AA first raised this issue with Downing Street last September so are pleased that a scheme has finally been given the go-ahead.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: MPs Call for Inquiry as Three Acquitted Over Tube Bombs

A FOUR-YEAR investigation, two trials and £100 million ($207 million) have failed to convict anyone of the mass murder of 52 people in London’s 2005 Tube bombings, sparking calls from family and survivors for an urgent, independent review.

Security sources conceded the failure as three men, friends of the lead suicide bomber, Mohammad Sidique Khan, were acquitted of being part of a terrorist support cell by a jury.

The first man, Sadeer Saleem, 28, was allowed to leave the court a free man yesterday while two others, Waheed Ali, 25 and Mohamed Shakil, 32 were to be sentenced overnight for attending terrorist training camps.

Writing in The Times, Andy Hayman, then head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism arm, has conceded that this trial was “probably the last throw of the dice” for the investigations into the July 7, 2005, bombings. “It is extremely frustrating to reach this milestone knowing that people who aided and abetted the murders of 52 innocent people remain at large,” he wrote.

The Deputy Assistant Commissioner, John McDowell, issued another call for witnesses to come forward. Relatives of victims and survivors demanded the immediate publication of an Intelligence and Security Committee report, which is widely believed to reveal the details of MI5 surveillance of Khan in 2004, including a request to West Yorkshire police that he be monitored.

However, police failed to place him under surveillance and Khan was able to fly to Pakistan where he was trained to become a suicide bomber by al-Qaeda leaders. This led to claims that the West Yorkshire police either did not receive the MI5 fax or did not act on it.

The report’s release had been delayed in case it prejudiced the three men’s trial as it is also tipped to contain detail of what security and intelligence agencies knew about the training camps in Pakistan, the people connected to the so-called 7/7 bombers, who they visited and how many times.

The Guardian reported that the ISC report also contains forensic detail of four meetings between Khan and his fellow ringleader, Shehzad Tanweer, with Omar Khyam, who masterminded a plot to blow up shopping centres and nightclubs and who was jailed for life in 2007.

Survivors and relatives of victims have warned that if the ISC report fails to answer key questions, including whether M15 and Scotland Yard informed West Yorkshire police of everything they knew, they will push for a judicial review. So far, the British Government has refused to consider any independent investigation of the process.

“We want an inquiry which can get to the bottom of what went wrong and why Khan wasn’t stopped. We don’t want a witch-hunt, we just want the truth,” said Rachel North, who was injured in the blast at King’s Cross.

Robert Webb, the brother of Laura, 29, who died in the Edgware Road bombing said: “The trial … raises again the awful question of whether the bombings could have been prevented.”

Scotland Yard said the trials and investigations yielded more than 37,000 exhibits; 4700 telephones were seized, producing more than 90,000 numbers that required analysis; and about 24,000 people were traced and interviewed. “This investigation was conducted by counter-terrorism units that were stretched to their limit and ran alongside inquiries into 11 other high-profile terrorist cases. But at the end of that inquiry the evidence that could be put before the court was circumstantial,” Mr Hayman wrote.

“Perhaps that is the only evidence there was to be found … [and] a brave choice was made to put it before a jury and let justice take its course.”

Detectives believe the bombers were protected by their communities in Leeds who closed ranks and refused to co-operate with police. Police sources said several potential witnesses had been actively dissuaded from helping the investigation. The investigative failures occurred despite the finding of at least 10 sets of unidentified fingerprints in bomb factories used by Khan, 30, and three others who died.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: MPs Demand to See Report Into ‘Failure’ of MI5 to Stop 7/7 Bombers

Senior MPs today demanded the immediate publication of a secret report into possible MI5 failures linked to the 7/7 bombings.

The Intelligence and Security Committee has conducted a highly sensitive study into the security services’ handling of the run-up to the 2005 London terror strikes.

No publication date has been set for the report, but the ISC’s chairman, Kim Howells, today told the Evening Standard he was “very keen” to release it.

“We would publish it tomorrow if we felt we were absolutely certain it was not going to impact on any other legal action that may be taken,” said Mr Howells.

Senior figures today called for the release of the report, which was expected to be published next month but was held back until the completion of the trial of three men accused of helping the 7/7 suicide bombers.

One security expert today claimed that the ISC could publish within a few weeks once the “dust has settled” from the court case.

Waheed Ali, 25, Sadeer Saleem, 28, and Mohammed Shakil, 32, were acquitted at Kingston crown court yesterday of plotting the London bombings following a four-year investigation and two trials costing more than £100million.

The verdict is a huge setback for anti-terrorism officers, who have conceded that no one will be prosecuted for the 52 deaths. Families of those who died in the attack and survivors called for a public inquiry into perceived failings by the security forces.

The verdict opens the way for potentially damaging disclosures by the ISC about how MI5 and West Yorkshire police missed opportunities to follow two of the bombers.

The report, which is understood to describe in detail MI5 and West Yorkshire police’s failure to intercept the attackers, was withheld in case it prejudiced the trial. Campaigners said it had been described as “devastating”.

More details are believed to have emerged about what the security and intelligence agencies knew of training camps in Pakistan, the number of people connected with the 7/7 bombers, who visited them and how many times.

It was claimed today that the ISC report has details of MI5 officers monitoring four meetings in early 2004 between Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer — the 7/7 ringleaders — and Omar Khyam, who plotted to blow up shopping centres and nightclubs and was jailed for life in 2007. Ali was also at some meetings.

Andrew Mackinlay, a senior member of the foreign affairs select committee and long-standing critic of the ISC’s lack of Parliamentary accountability, said there was “no excuse for delay” of the report’s publication.

“This is a safe committee, whose chairman is chosen by the Prime Minister, not a parliamentary committee. Clearly there are some people in the security and intelligence services who are seriously embarrassed, but we need to debate this report,” he said.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said there was a strong case for a public inquiry: “The best course now would be to publish the report as soon as possible so we can understand what happened. There’s no point in any delay. The families deserve to know the full truth.”

Peter Clarke, former head of the Met Police’s anti-terrorism branch who led the inquiry until his resignation last year, said “every possible line” in the 7/7 investigation was exhausted — even though detectives found up to 10 sets of unidentified fingerprints in bomb factories used by Sidique Khan.

Andy Hayman, Scotland Yard’s head of terrorism in July 2005, said the trial was the “last throw of the dice”, which will intensify calls for an inquiry from survivors and victims’ families.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Waltham Forest Pioneers Random Weapon Checks in All Schools

Every pupil will be screened for weapons as part of a scheme to eradicate knife crime in one London borough.

Police will use metal detector arches at every secondary school in Waltham Forest, making it the first council to introduce the random checks throughout the authority area.

Chris Robbins, councillor for children and young people, said the scheme was to reassure youngsters who said they did not feel safe at school. “There’s no doubt that there is an issue of knife and weapon crime in London and it would be foolish to ignore that,” he said.

The initiative is part of a larger educational programme which involves the police talking to students in schools, Mr Robbins added.

Shona Ramsay, headteacher at Lammas School in Waltham Forest, said that she thought the programme was a good idea.

“It’s a preventative measure to deter our young people from carrying knives,” she said.

“We don’t have a problem here and I want to keep it that way. We’re really pressing home the message that schools are safe.”

From today, the arches will be used about once a term in each of the borough’s 22 secondary schools. Some schools in Britain are hiring bouncers in order to improve discipline, teachers’ unions said earlier this month.

Mike Hamer, head of the borough’s safer schools programme, said that about 12,000 pupils had been screened so far and no weapons had been found.

“We think that’s a success. What it means is that there have been no knives in schools and the students should feel safe.”

He said there had been an “overwhelmingly positive” response and denied that the arches would criminalise all young people.

Mischa Haynes, 12, said: “It makes you feel safe in school and it’s a place where you should feel safe.”

Some children go as far as wearing stab-vests to school for security, research by teachers’ unions has found.

The Government launched its “Tackling Knives” action programme last summer, which targeted ten knife-crime hotspots with searches, knife arches and increases in police patrols.

At the time, Frances Lawrence, widow of headteacher Philip Lawrence who was stabbed outside St George’s School in Maida Vale, North London, in 1995, called for more action to prevent stabbings but said knife arches amounted to “criminalisation of all young people”.

           — Hat tip: El Inglés [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Orders Slaughter of All Pigs Over Swine Flu

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Any excuse for a haram cull.]

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt began slaughtering the roughly 300,000 pigs in the country Wednesday as a precaution against swine flu even though no cases have been reported here, infuriating farmers who resisted the move and demanded compensation.

The measure was a stark expression of the panic the outbreak is spreading around the world, especially in poor countries with weak public health systems. Egypt responded similarly in recent years to an outbreak of bird flu, which is endemic to the country and has killed two dozen people.

At one large pig farming center just north of Cairo, farmers refused to cooperate with Health Ministry workers who came to slaughter the animals and the workers left without carrying out the government order.

“We remind Hosni Mubarak that we are all Egyptians. Where does he want us to go?” said Gergis Faris, a 46-year-old pig farmer in another part of Cairo who collects garbage to feed his animals. “We are uneducated people, just living day by day and trying to make a living, and now if our pigs are taken from us without compensation, how are we supposed to live?”

Most in the Muslim world consider pigs unclean animals and do not eat pork because of religious restrictions. They are banned entirely in some Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Libya.

However in other parts of the Muslim world, pigs are often raised by religious minorities who can eat pork.

In Jordan, the government decided Wednesday to shut down the country’s five pig farms, involving 800 animals, for violating public health safety regulations. Half the pigs will be killed and the rest will be relocated to areas away from the population, officials said.

In Egypt, pigs are raised and consumed mainly by the Christian minority, which some estimates put at 10 percent of the population. Health Ministry spokesman Abdel-Rahman Shaheen estimated there are between 300,000-350,000 pigs in Egypt.

“It has been decided to immediately start slaughtering all the pigs in Egypt using the full capacity of the country’s slaughterhouses,” Health Minister Hatem el-Gabaly told reporters after a Cabinet meeting with President Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt was among the countries hardest hit by bird flu. According to the World Health Organization, it has the world’s fourth highest death toll — after Indonesia, Vietnam and China — and the largest outside of Asia. WHO has confirmed 23 deaths in Egypt and Egyptian authorities have reported three more deaths in recent weeks.

Bird flu started sweeping through poultry populations across Asia in 2003 and then jumped to humans, killing more than 250 worldwide.

Chickens used to roam every dusty street in every village across Egypt, and many of its city alleys too. But when the disease first appeared here in February 2006, 25 million birds were killed within weeks, devastating the poultry sector and particularly the family farmers. Chickens nearly all vanished from sight, slaughtered, abandoned or locked away by a population increasingly aware of, and frightened by, the disease’s stubborn grip.

The latest measure appeared designed to avert a similar panic.

In the northern suburbs of Cairo Wednesday, health authorities killed 250 pigs and buried them. Angry farmers demanded compensation and provincial governors paid them around 1,000 Egyptian pounds (about $180) per head. The farmers asked for an official government decision to set a price for each pig slaughtered.

Agriculture Minister Amin Abaza told reporters that farmers would be allowed to sell the pork meat so there would be no need for compensation.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Ah yes, how could anyone not be able to make a profit if the market is flooded?]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Mujahedeen Veteran Among Men Released for Diplomats: Sources

UNITED NATIONS — An Algerian terror suspect, who has fought in Afghanistan, was among four jailed “mujahedeen” fighters released to al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch in exchange for two Canadian diplomats and two European women, Canwest News has been told.

Two of the other three terror suspects were Mauritanian, while the remaining one was either Jordanian or Syrian, sources in North Africa with some knowledge of the largely secret deal say.

The diplomats, former Canadian ambassador to the UN Robert Fowler, and Foreign Affairs Department official Louis Guay, arrived back in Canada Tuesday after spending several days undergoing medical check-ups and debriefing in Germany since al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) released them in Mali last week.

A faction of the group held the pair hostage in the land-locked Sahel state following their kidnapping Dec. 14 in neighbouring Niger, where they had been on a UN mission.

Fowler declined comment on his ordeal when reached at his Ottawa home Tuesday.

The released Algerian al-Qaida member, Oussama Alboumerdassi, fought with the then U.S.-backed mujahedeen resistance to the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, staying on until 1992, according to a North African al-Qaida observer with close links to people involved in the effort to free the Canadians.

The information is backed by a report published Tuesday in Ennahar, a daily newspaper based in the Algerian capital of Algiers. The paper promotes itself as being independent of government.

Regional security sources provided the nationalities of the other three, according to the al-Qaeda expert, while Ennahar says all four had been jailed in Mali since February 2008.

At the heart of the negotiations seeking the release of the hostages were Saif al-Islam Muammar al-Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and a relative of Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, identified as Mauritanian businessman Abdallah Chaffei, the newspaper reported.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper specifically thanked both Mali and Burkina Faso during a press conference last Wednesday in which he announced the Canadians’ release

Indeed, al-Qaida initially said it would release the pair and the European women — two of four tourists snatched in Mali by the terrorist group in January — in the Burkina Faso capital of Ouagadougou, a Western source close to the talks told Canwest News Service.

Insisting the Conservative government had stuck to its policy of neither paying a ransom nor freeing prisoners for hostages, Harper left open the possibility other countries had fronted a deal.

Saif al-Islam, who heads the Gaddafi Foundation charity, mediated last year in the case of two Austrians held by AQIM in Mali.

But insiders say Mr. Guay himself was also personally known to Libyan officials, having visited the country several times as he sought to get Canada invited to peace talks focused on the border between Chad and the Darfur region of neighbouring Sudan.

A ransom of $2 million was paid for the Austrians’ freedom, a source close to those talks told Canwest.

In talks seeking freedom for the Canadians and Europeans, Ennahar says Chaffei joined Saif al-Islam after Burkina Faso had “taken the initiative” to manage delivery of a cash ransom that had emerged as a demand.

Their presence would have enabled Canadian and UN investigators, who had been dispatched to the region, to maintain arm’s length from the talks, analysts believe.

A former U.S. ambassador to the region told Canwest News Service that the Burkina Faso president has, in recent years, gained a reputation for being “very helpful” to the West. But he has in the past been linked to diamond smuggling that benefited regional terrorists — hence his “likely connections” to AQIM, according to one regional source.

But the real sticking block was the al-Qaeda demand for a prisoner exchange, which Canwest News revealed several weeks after the Canadians had been kidnapped, basing the report on Western sources.

Helping solve that fell to Mali President Amadou Toure, according to Ennahar.

“AQIM declared in an unofficial manner that four of its members . . . have been delivered to the north of Mali as a result of a major transaction led by the Malian president,” it said.

An unnamed European country paid a ransom of five million Euros, the Algerian daily El Khabar reported last week, and Ennahar, citing its own sources, asserted the same Tuesday.

The women freed alongside Messrs. Fowler and Guay are a Swiss and a German.

The Swiss woman’s husband and a British man remain hostage. Al-Qaeda said in a statement Sunday it would give Britain 20 days to free a prominent al-Qaeda member currently held in a British jail, or it will kill the Briton.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK, Libya Ratify Prisoner Transfer Deal

LONDON — Britain’s government ratified a prisoner transfer deal with Libya Wednesday that could allow the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing to serve out the remainder of his sentence in the North African country.

The deal, signed in November, would allow Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, 57, to apply to be transferred to Libya, the Foreign Office said.

But al-Megrahi would have to agree to drop the appeal against his conviction before being eligible for transfer. Scottish government officials would also have to approve the move.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether al-Megrahi, who has repeatedly vowed to clear his name, would seek to take up the opportunity. The former Libyan secret agent is terminally ill with prostate cancer and has only just begun appealing his conviction in the Lockerbie case, a process expected to last a year.

A message left with al-Megrahi’s Edinburgh-based lawyer, Margaret Scott, was not immediately returned.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said ministers there would not comment on al-Megrahi’s case unless the Libyan applied to be sent home, which, so far, he had not.

“It’s a hypothetical situation,” the spokeswoman said, speaking anonymously in line with government policy. “We haven’t received anything yet.”

A court in The Hague, Netherlands found al-Megrahi guilty in 2001 of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. The Dec. 21, 1988 attack killed all 259 people aboard the London to New York flight and 11 people on the ground.

But al-Megrahi’s lawyers claim he was convicted on the basis of circumstantial evidence and have fought to overturn the conviction. Scottish judges turned down an appeal in 2002, but al-Megrahi was granted another chance two years ago following a major legal review. His appeal began Tuesday at the Court of Appeal in Edinburgh.

Relatives of the victims of Pan Am 103 are divided over al-Megrahi’s conviction. Some British families have said they think he is innocent, but relatives of U.S. victims have said he is guilty and should remain in jail.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel: the World According to Lieberman

He’s only been in the job for a month, but already the foreign minister is fed up with the ‘slogans’ he keeps hearing from his international counterparts: occupation, settlements, land-for-peace, two-state solutions… His favored key words? Security (for Israel). A stronger economy (for the Palestinians). And stability (for all). Bringing peace to our region is more complex than sloganeering would allow, he tells The Jerusalem Post in this interview, his first with an Israeli newspaper. And it’s time we all faced up to the inconvenient reality.

Last Thursday, just a few hours after The Jerusalem Post completed this interview with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, his American counterpart, Hillary Clinton, gave testimony on Capitol Hill that forcefully underlines the different emphases placed by the two allied governments on Middle East problem-solving.

If Israel wants the backing of moderate Arab nations in countering the profound threat posed by Iran, said the American secretary of state, then it needs to get deeply engaged in peace efforts with the Palestinians.

“For Israel to get the kind of strong support it is looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can’t stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts. They go hand in hand,” she told the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. Moderate Arab countries, she elaborated, “believe that Israel’s willingness to re-enter into discussions with the Palestinian Authority strengthens them in being able to deal with Iran.”

As Lieberman made crystal-clear in our interview, Israel has no desire to stall peace-making efforts with the Palestinians. Quite the contrary. The new government, he said, “intends to take the initiative.”

But rather than progress with the Palestinians holding the key to combating Iran, Lieberman emphatically sees combating Iran as the key to progress with the Palestinians.

As he put it, “It’s impossible to resolve any problem in our region without resolving the Iranian problem. This relates to Lebanon, to their influence in Syria, their deep involvement within Egypt, in the Gaza Strip, in Iraq. If the international community wants to resolve its Middle East problems, it’s impossible because the biggest obstacle to this solution is the Iranians.”

The new foreign minister, who insisted on conducting the conversation in his reasonable and improving English, was reluctant to go into the specifics of the new foreign policy strategy the coalition will be following. This is in part because it is still a work in progress, and in part because it is to be formally unveiled only on May 18, when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House.

And despite several attempts to draw him out, he wouldn’t rule in, or rule out, Palestinian statehood.

He did, however, sketch out some parameters. Among them: the contention that progress depends on improved security for Israel, a bolstered economy for the Palestinians, and stability for both; the refusal to so much as discuss a “right of return” to Israel for Palestinian refugees; the clarification that Palestinian recognition of the “Jewish state” is critical to “real peace” but is not a precondition for substantive talks, and the goal of “suffocating” Hamas.

He also all-but ridiculed the idea of further indirect negotiations with Syria for the time being, added some nuances to his position on the hugely controversial issue of a loyalty oath for Israeli citizenship, insisted he would not be forced out of his job by the corruption investigations surrounding him, but stressed that his own personal situation would not affect Israel Beiteinu’s presence in the coalition anyway.

Characteristically soft-spoken, puffing somewhat half-heartedly at a cigar along the way, Lieberman was carefully setting out what amounts to a call for his international colleagues to remake their thinking on Israel and the region — to “drop the slogans,” face up to a reality that is far more complex than it is convenient to acknowledge, and give this new Israeli government some credit and some time as it tries to formulate proposals that will succeed where past peace-making efforts have failed.

He said his impression, to date, was that his foreign counterparts were taking the new government seriously, and respected him for his straight-talking. Clinton’s remarks on Capitol Hill, however, make plain that it will be an uphill battle for Lieberman and the Netanyahu government, once they overhaul Israel’s approach to peace-making, to persuade the international community to do anything similar.

Can we start with the issue of two states for two peoples. Wasn’t the international basis for the establishment of Israel that there be a Jewish entity alongside an Arab entity? Is your government now departing from this paradigm or is the principle of two states still the applicable one?

First of all, we must understand why the Palestinian issue is deadlocked, because since 1993 we really made every effort. We had very dovish governments. We can start with Ehud Barak at Camp David, who made a very generous offer to [Yasser] Arafat and he rejected it. As for the Ariel Sharon government, we undertook an insane process called disengagement. We transferred thousands of Jews from the Gaza Strip. We evacuated tens of flowering settlements and we received in return Hamas and Kassam rockets. The last government of Ehud Olmert is the same. From what I saw in the papers, he really made a very very generous offer to Abu Mazen. And the same thing happened: Abu Mazen rejected it.

Were there elements that Olmert offered that were surprising to you?

Of course. I was shocked, as was everybody.

But more than this offer, more important at the end of the day: what was the final result? This was a very dovish government — without Lieberman, without Netanyahu. It was Olmert, Barak and Tzipi Livni. And the result? The Second Lebanon War, the operation in Gaza, severed diplomatic relations with Mauritania and Qatar, our soldier Gilad Schalit still in captivity…

[Comment from Tuan Jim: 6 pages long]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Middle East

100,000 Nepalis Get Working Visas for Saudi Arabia

KATHMANDU, April 29: At a time when other labor destinations are downsizing foreign workforce due to deepening financial meltdown, Saudi Arabia has approved 100,000 new visas for Nepali workers for the year 2009.

“Saudi officials assured us that there would not be any lay-offs of migrant workers including Nepalis this year as the financial downturn has nominal effect in the Saudi economy,” Sthaneswore Devkota, the executive director of Foreign Employment Promotion Board, told on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia had approved 80,000 visas for Nepali blue-collar workers for 2008.

Devkota is one of the members of Nepali delegation that visited three Gulf nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar. The six-member team led by Labor Minister Lekh Raj Bhatta spent 10 days in the countries and assessed the effects of global financial storm on Nepali laborers.

Qatar, which is battling worse effects of the global financial crisis, has lately approved new 112,000 visas and 164,000 visas for Nepali youths for the year 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Saudi Arabia has offered jobs to Nepali workers in construction, manufacturing, service and dairy sectors.

“They (Saudi officials) have also asked us to re-open work permit for house maids to Saudi Arabia. But we are not in position to send Nepali women there, given the growing cases of sexual abuse, financial exploitation and other misbehaviors against women migrant workers, said Devkota. Nepali embassies in Saudi Arabia and Qatar are providing shelter to 14 and 2 Nepali women respectively at safe houses set up inside the embassies.

About 500 Nepalis are languishing in different jails in the conservative Muslim nation for over-staying, breaching employment contracts and violating local laws among other things.

According to the Department of Foreign Employment, a total 38,064 Nepali jobseekers left for Saudi Arabia, the second most popular destination for Nepali youths, after Qatar — during first nine months of the fiscal year 2008/09. The number was 27,215 during the same period last year.

The Nepali delegation had held discussions with Saudi junior labor minister, office bearers of Saudi Arabia’s Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Nepali workers and embassy officials, among others.

According to Saudi government figures, altogether 207,500 Nepalis are working in the Saudi Arabia, which has the population of 23.9 million. However, Nepali embassy claims that over 500,000 Nepalis are working there.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

80 Are Killed in 3 Suicide Bombings in Iraq

BAGHDAD — At least 80 people died and 120 others were injured Thursday in three bombings, one by a female suicide bomber in Baghdad who, Iraqi officials said, held a young child’s hand as she set off her explosives among a group of women and children receiving emergency food aid.

The second suicide bombing struck a restaurant filled with Iranian tourists in a restive city north of the capital.

The number of people killed in the attacks is the largest single-day total since February 2008.

The overall level of violence in Iraq is at its lowest since the American invasion in 2003, and Iraqis have been venturing out to parks, restaurants and nightclubs. But a string of recent attacks, highly organized and carried out under tight security, has raised worries that Baathist and jihadi militants are regrouping into a smaller but still lethal insurgency seeking to reassert itself as the American troop presence on the ground is reduced before a full withdrawal in 2011.

“The government was treating the situation like they’d won a victory,” said Sheik Jalal al-Din Saghir, a member of Parliament from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shiite political party. “They relaxed. We can’t ignore that there were security successes, but that doesn’t mean the story is finished.”

           — Hat tip: CB [Return to headlines]

Abu Dhabi Torture Tape Elicits Global Shrug

Full Comment’s Araminta Wordsworth brings you a regular dose of international punditry at its finest. Today: One of the most shocking things about the Abu Dhabi torture tape has been the lack of official reaction. Imagine the furor if pictures of a British Royal, or American senator, had been filmed viciously attacking a bound, half-naked victim, and the images had been beamed round the world. But the images Sheik Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, half-brother of the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, have done just that, and resulted in nary a peep of outrage.

The videotape was smuggled out of Abu Dhabi, one of the kingdomlets that make up the United Arab Emirates. Bassam Nabulsi, a Texan businessman and former partner of Sheik Issa, says he was falsely arrested and tortured because he refused to hand over the tape after they fell out.

ABC News screened excerpts from the tape last week but deemed several portions too revolting to be aired.

The UAE is a key U.S. ally and anxious to present itself as a modern nation. It is also keen to keep up the flow of foreign investment and the tourists needed to fill the glittering playgrounds of Dubai. But all this is window-dressing. It remains a collection of feudal states ruled by royal families.

Its official response underlines this uncomfortable fact: The interior ministry, which is headed by another of Sheik Issa’s brothers, does not deny the incident took place but says the matter has now been sorted out “privately” between the sheik and the victim, identified as Mohammed Shah Poor, an Afghan grain dealer.

The ministry also maintains “all rules, policies and procedures were followed correctly by the police department” and “the incidents depicted in the video tapes were not part of a pattern of behaviour.”

“This is plainly not good enough,” writes Brian Whitaker in The Guardian, but argues it’s par for the course in the Middle East, where many rulers believe their countries are family businesses. Local newspapers, even supposedly independent ones, have remained mute.

“Silence in the UAE itself is only to be expected, especially with a new media law set to impose fines of more than $1.3-million for articles that ‘disparage’ members of the royal family or government officials. With penalties like that, there is no real hope for the kind of soul-searching seen in the U.S. over Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo — and consequently there is nothing to stop it happening again.

But whatever the interior ministry may say, there is a pattern of behaviour here — and it’s not just about torture or one sheik’s alleged fondness for making and watching sadistic videos. It’s about the abuse of state power for private purposes.”

One of the few Middle Eastern voices to be raised in condemnation has come from Iran, which has its own axe to grind. Writing for Press TV, Kian Mokhtari says the sheik’s barbarity “leaves one shaking with nausea and disbelief … We wonder what should be done to the Sheikdom princes who have been shortchanging their entire Arab populations for decades to pay for weapons they cannot even operate let alone service and maintain.

It has since transpired that the U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi has been fully aware of the torture tapes but has failed to take action. UAE is another one of the U.S.’s critical allies in its so-called ‘war on terror.’

The collection of Western-backed royalties on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf or UAE, has been awash with allegations of cruelty to foreign workers for years. Tales of physical and sexual abuse committed against migrant workers have been rife But just as the U.S. chose to do nothing about images of Saddam Hussein’s generals kicking political prisoners to the ground and shooting them in the head — because the Baghdad regime at the time served as a strategic convenience — [it] has chosen to turn a blind eye about the on-going abuse in UAE.”

In the U.S. itself — where there has also been little comment — some lawmakers are expressing doubts about dealing with the Emiratis. Representative James McGovern, co-chairman of the House human rights commission, has called for a freeze on government aid to the UAE and wants “Mr. Nahyan” to be refused a U.S. visa, The Daily Telegraph reported.

In a letter to Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, he wrote, “I cannot describe the horror and revulsion I felt when witnessing what is on this video … I could not watch it without constantly flinching.” He also urged her to “express the outrage of our nation regarding these acts … After viewing that tape I’m uncomfortable doing any business with them quite frankly, never mind entering into some sort of nuclear cooperative agreement.”

He’s referring to a pending nuclear agreement between the U.S. and the UAE under which Washington agreed to transfer nuclear items to Abu Dhabi. Although the agreement was signed by the Bush administration, the new U.S. government under President Barack Obama should decide on whether to move the deal forward.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Hariri Court Orders Generals’ Release

LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands — A U.N.-backed tribunal on Wednesday ordered the immediate release of four pro-Syrian generals being held in a Beirut prison for the 2005 truck-bomb assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri.

Judge Daniel Fransen ordered the Lebanese generals freed after prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to justify their continued detention. They have been in custody in Lebanon since August 2005, six months after Hariri and 22 others were killed in a suicide bombing.

But prosecutor Daniel Bellemare said the generals could be arrested again if more evidence against them is uncovered.

Fireworks and scattered gunfire erupted across Beirut after the decision was beamed live to local television networks from the court’s headquarters in the Netherlands.

Fransen also demanded that Lebanese authorities protect the generals after their unconditional release and said they should no longer be considered suspects.

Interior Minister Ziad Baroud said Lebanese authorities were taking “immediate measures” to free the generals, taking into consideration measures for their security.

The four generals were the only suspects being held in the case. Three other suspects jailed for more than three years were set free on bail in Beirut in February, a few days before the tribunal began its work and jurisdiction of the case was transferred to the court.

The release could have an immediate political impact. Lebanon is heading into a crucial parliamentary election that pits a pro-Western faction headed by Hariri’s son Saad against an opposition dominated by the militant Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah.

Saad Hariri’s faction is struggling to hold onto its legislative majority while the opposition has taken up the cause of the four generals.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has opposed the continued detention of the four, saying they should be charged and put on trial if they were suspected of involvement or otherwise released.

Fransen said a key witnesses had retracted a statement that initially incriminated the generals, undermining the case against them.

Bellemare said in court he would not appeal. He said in a written submission this week that the “evidence available to him currently is not sufficiently credible” to keep detaining the four generals.

So far, Bellemare has not indicted anyone and has not identified any other suspects in the suicide bombing. But he vowed to continue his investigation.

“Not only should people understand that the investigation is bigger than the case of the four officers, they should also understand that should any of the investigative leads direct us back to them with sufficient credible evidence I will seek their detention and indictment,” he said in a statement.

Hariri’s assassination and accusations by his supporters of Syrian involvement sparked massive protests in Lebanon and together with international pressure forced Syria to withdraw its army from the country, ending 29 years of domination.

The four ordered freed were former General Security chief Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed; Maj. Gen. Ali Hajj, the ex-Internal Security Forces director general; Brig. Gen. Raymond Azar, the former military intelligence chief; and the former Presidential Guards commander, Brig. Gen. Mustafa Hamdan.

At Jamil Sayyed’s home in Beirut, relatives burst into tears of joy, hugging and kissing each other. Women relatives ululated in a traditional sign of jubilation.

His son, Malek al-Sayyed, said he had been confident that his father would be freed.

“The important thing is that they be released as soon as possible so that this continued unjustified detention comes to an end,” he said.

At the suburban Roumieh prison where the four generals are imprisoned, an unknown relative fell to his knees and kissed the ground.

Samar Hajj, wife of Ali Hajj, said from outside the prison that she was told they would be released within 24 hours.

“I’m too numb and too happy,” she said.

Hezbollah legislator Hassan Fadlallah offered his “congratulations for the officers on their freedom.”

“It is a joyful day for the Lebanese people and a day of mourning for Lebanese judiciary,” the lawmaker said, adding the decision discredited the Lebanese judiciary.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Jonathan Kay: Mommy Blows Up With Toddler — This Has Got to be a New Low for Militant Islam

Having spent this morning catching up on my weekend reading, I came across this Page 4 article from Friday’s New York Times. Here’s the lead paragraph: “BAGHDAD — At least 80 people died and 120 others were injured Thursday in three bombings, one by a female suicide bomber in Baghdad who, Iraqi officials said, held a young child’s hand as she set off her explosives among a group of women and children receiving emergency food aid.”

Even putting aside our baseline revulsion at terrorism, there are three especially hideous things that jump out from this:

1) A mother deliberately taking her (presumed) child with her as she immolates herself. For all the hundreds of suicide bombings that Iraq has already witnessed, this has got to be a first.

2) This was a line for food aid. Islamists have gone from attacking U.S. soldiers, to attacking Iraqi soldiers, to attacking police stations, to attacking the religious ceremonies of rival sects — on down the line of nihilism until, now, they are reduced to blowing up hungry people seeking sustenance.

3) This hideous crime was played on page four of The New York Times. And a quick scan of other media suggests it got similar B-rate treatment elsewhere. This sort of act would have been worth a worldwide banner headline a decade ago. But now, it’s just another demented Islamist senselessly slaughtering fellow Muslims. With her kid. Yawn.

Says a lot about the world we live in, doesn’t it?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

‘Turkey Not Worried by Israeli Reaction’

Turkish military chief Gen. Ilker Basbug said Wednesday that he is not concerned about Israel’s reaction to a joint drill involving Turkish and Syrian soldiers.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak called this week’s exercise a worrisome development.

Basbug told reporters Wednesday he was “not concerned by Israel’s reaction,” and Turkey was not seeking any other country’s consent.

The drill, the first-ever between Turkey and Syria, ends Wednesday and marks improvement in once strained ties between both countries.

On Monday, however, a senior Israeli strategic analyst told The Jerusalem Post that the Turkish military was “not happy” about the drill.

“It does not like Syria, and views it as a problematic state,” said Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

Inbar added that he was in touch with a number of Turkish army officers.

Tensions between the secular Turkish military and the ruling Islamist AKP party are high following the arrests of more than 200 people, including dozens of senior army officers, over an alleged coup plot to overthrow the government.

Last week, four additional army officers were arrested and an arms cache was seized by the Turkish authorities.

           — Hat tip: CB [Return to headlines]

Turkey ‘The Perfect Example, ‘ Says Albright

ISTANBUL — Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright — one of the authors of a recent report by the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project — has praised President Barack Obama’s efforts to engage the Muslim world, reported Voice of America. Albright said Turkey is a perfect example of both a Muslim and a democratic country.

At a meeting with ambassadors from the member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, Albright said that “There is no doubt in my mind that Muslim countries can be democracies,” Albright said. “Turkey is a perfect example of that. It is very evident, and, actually, in my study of religions, in many ways Islam is maybe the most democratic religion, because there is nobody between you and God. So I do not think that is something that can be used as a reason to not have Muslim democracies.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Singapore Terrorist Jailed

The defiant Jemaah Palembang founder has no plans for an appeal

JAKARTA — AN Indonesian court on Tuesday jailed Singaporean Mohammad Hassan Saynudin for 18 years for killing a Christian school teacher and planning terrorist attacks against Westerners in Indonesia.

His two Indonesian accomplices, Wahyudi and Ali Masyhudi, were sentenced to 12 years’ and 10 years’ jail respectively by the South Jakarta District Court.

Indonesian prosecutors had demanded that Hassan, 36, who also plotted to crash a plane into Changi airport in 2001, spend 20 years in prison.

Despite the shorter sentence, the terrorist was enraged and shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ — Arabic for ‘God is great’ — three times in the packed courtroom.

‘You can throw me in jail,’ he said as he was whisked out of the courtroom. ‘But my son will just follow in my path.’

The Singaporean has two sons from his marriage to an Indonesian woman from Central Java, and three other sons in Singapore from an earlier marriage.

He told The Straits Times that he preferred not to appeal against the sentence.

‘We don’t believe in the judicial system and we don’t recognise it because it is not according to the Quran and the Prophet’s teachings,’ he said.

The defiant Hassan appeared to have no remorse for his crimes.

‘Frankly, I have prepared myself for the verdict,’ he said. ‘This is the risk we have to take as mujahideen in fighting in the way of Allah.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Yudhoyono Wins Backing

JAKARTA: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party has secured the support of 14 minor parties which won a combined 12.5 per cent of votes in the legislative elections, The Jakarta Globe said on Tuesday.

This could strengthen the party’s lead for the July presidential election by reducing the possibility of a second round of voting.

The Democratic Party is leading with 20.6 per cent of the votes tallied so far in the April 7 legislative elections. Counting continues, with full results to be announced on May 9.

The Democratic Party’s secretary-general, Mr Marzuki Ali, said the coalition it is building aims to limit the number of candidates competing in the first round of voting to just two, The Jakarta Globe said.

‘The political costs are too high if the presidential election is conducted over two rounds. Voters could get tired of heading to polling stations to vote,’ he said.

In the July 8 presidential elections, a candidate must get at least 50 per cent of the valid votes to be declared the winner. There are 171 million registered voters in Indonesia.

If there are three or more presidential candidates, and none of them secures the minimum 50 per cent, a second round of voting will be held involving the top two.

Dr Yudhoyono is expected to retain his presidency after his party’s strong showing in the legislative elections. Parties that have agreed to support the Democratic Party include the Crescent Star Party [Islamic], Prosperous Peace Party [Islamic], Concern for the Nation Functional Party and Reform Star Party, the Jakarta newspaper said.

Combined with expected support from the Prosperous Justice Party [Islamic] and the National Awakening Party, the Democratic coalition could represent about 46.5 per cent of the popular vote.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Soldiers Mutiny in Jayapura

SENTANI (Indonesia) — ABOUT 200 Indonesian soldiers mutinied and fired shots into the air Indonesia’s politically sensitive eastern Papua region on Wednesday, an AFP correspondent witnessed. Soldiers from an army battalion based near Papua provincial capital Jayapura’s main airport stormed their commander’s office compound, smashing windows and stealing rifles in an apparent dispute over the costs transporting a dead comrade’s body.

Soldiers wielding sticks and rifles guarded the edges of the compound, firing into the air and turning away residents and journalists who tried to approach.

An adjutant to Papua military commander Armin Yusri Nasution refused to comment on the incident when contacted by AFP.

It was unclear if the battalion commander was being held by the soldiers or was somewhere else when the mutiny happened.

Papua police commander Bagus Eko Danto said police had not intervened to defuse the mutiny.

‘This is inside 751 Battalion, so if there is no invitation to handle this then I can’t go there,’ Danto said.

Papua, a vast, resource-rich region, sits on the western end of New Guinea island and has seen a low-level insurgency by armed rebels since its incorporation into Indonesia in the 1960s.

The region is off-limits to foreign journalists without rare government permission. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Malaysia: Arab Investors to Build ‘Arab Cities’

Arab tourists seek “halal tourism” instead of US, Europe

Arab investors will spend $303 million on building two “Arab Cities” to lure Arab tourists to the historic Malaysian town of Malacca, the Star daily said Wednesday.

The $1.1 billion ringgit project includes an Arabian bazaar, Middle Eastern restaurants, shopping complex, five-star hotel, water theme park, and a unisex Arabic health and beauty spa.

One of the “Arab Cities” will be built on a small island lying south of Malacca town, while the other will be located at a beachside resort just west of the historic port.

Halal tourism

Malacca chief minister Mohamad Ali Rustam reportedly said the project, due for completion by 2012, will attract more Middle Eastern tourists and give locals a chance to experience Arabic culture.

Arab tourists spend on average 10 times more than other tourists, according to recent reports on Malaysian tourism that showed an increasing number of Muslim Middle Eastern tourists are seeking “halal tourism” in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei while avoiding the U.S. and Europe because of post Sept. 11, 2001 stereotyping and racial profiling.

The country’s tourism industry has seen a sharp rise in the number of big-spending tourists from the Middle East in recent years, attracted by the tropical country’s Islamic image.

Muslim friendly services

Arab Muslim travelers prefer Muslim destinations where Muslim-friendly food ,halal, and hotel facilities with a copy of the Holy Qur’an and Makkah-prayer direction in each room are easily available.

Some 264,338 visitors from the region made their way to Malaysia last year, almost double the figure recorded in 2005.

The capital Kuala Lumpur has already seen the introduction of an “Arab

Street” to make tourists from the Middle East feel at home, while hotel and restaurants serve West Asian food and bring Arab cooks to work in the country.

Tourism was Malaysia’s second highest foreign exchange earner in 2007, raking in $14 billion in revenue from 21 million tourists arrivals.

The government however said it expected tourist numbers to fall 9 percent to 20 million this year as the global economic slowdown hits.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Malaysia: ‘Arab Cities’ in Malacca

KUALA LUMPUR — ARAB investors will spend US$303 million (S$452 million) on building two ‘Arab Cities’ to lure Middle Eastern tourists to the historic Malaysian town of Malacca, a report said on Wednesday. The 1.1 billion ringgit project includes an Arabian bazaar, Middle Eastern restaurants, shopping complex, five-star hotel, water theme park, and a unisex Arabic health and beauty spa, the Star daily said on Wednesday.

One of the ‘Arab Cities’ will be built on a small island lying south of Malacca town, while the other will be located at a beachside resort just west of the historic port, it said.

Malacca chief minister Mohamad Ali Rustam reportedly said the project, due for completion by 2012, will attract more Middle Eastern tourists and give locals a chance to experience Arabic culture.

Malaysia’s tourism industry has seen a sharp rise in the number of big-spending tourists from the Middle East in recent years, attracted by the tropical country’s Islamic image.

Some 264,338 visitors from the region made their way to Malaysia last year, almost double the figure recorded in 2005.

The capital Kuala Lumpur has already seen the introduction of an ‘Arab Street’ to make tourists from the Middle East feel at home, while hotel and restaurants serve West Asian food and bring Arab cooks to work in the country.

Tourism was Malaysia’s second highest foreign exchange earner in 2007, raking in US$14 billion in revenue from 21 million tourists arrivals.

The government however expects tourist numbers to fall 9.3 per cent to 20 million this year as the global economic slowdown hits. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: Diplomatic Row Boils With Push for Sri Lanka Truce

COLOMBO (AFP) — The foreign ministers of Britain and France, David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, have arrived in Sri Lanka, officials said, looking to negotiate a humanitarian ceasefire in the island’s civil war.

But Miliband and Kouchner are expected to get a frosty reception from the island’s hawkish leadership, which says it is on the cusp of victory and has so far brushed off global alarm over the humanitarian crisis.

Sri Lankan authorities on Tuesday denied Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt a visa to join the peace mission — prompting a major diplomatic row with the European Union.

A Sri Lankan foreign ministry official indicated that Colombo felt it had already done enough by letting in Miliband and Kouchner, who also want to see the government lift a ban on foreign aid staff working in the war-torn north.

“The Swedish minister also wanted to jump on that bandwagon and we said no,” the official said. “Some think they can land up at our airport and expect a red carpet treatment. We are not a colony.”

Bildt described the snub as “exceedingly strange behaviour” and said he had recalled the top Swedish diplomat to Colombo.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said Sri Lanka’s government had made a “grave mistake.”

The row is a symptom of Sri Lanka’s growing antipathy towards the West, with officials here regularly accusing the United Nations and aid groups of supporting or colluding with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

After months of heavy fighting, the Tamil Tigers have now been confined to a tiny strip of coastal jungle in the northeast and are said by the military to be down to their last few hundred fighters.

With Colombo sensing victory after three decades of battling the guerrillas and numerous failed peace efforts, a European diplomat admitted Miliband and Kouchner’s appeals for a truce will fall on deaf ears.

“There certainly won’t be a very good atmosphere in their meetings,” the Colombo-based diplomat told AFP.

According to the French foreign ministry, the two will also urge “respect for international humanitarian law and protection of civilians” — although here too the Sri Lankan government says it has done nothing wrong.

At the centre of international concern are tens of thousands of Tamil civilians caught up in the fighting.

A UN document circulated among diplomats in Colombo last week said as many as 6,500 civilians may have been killed and another 14,000 wounded in the government’s offensive so far this year.

The island’s government has for months blocked most aid agencies from working in the war-torn north, and has herded escaping civilians into overcrowded camps which are guarded by the military.

Aid workers who have visited the camps have testified to food shortages, woeful sanitation, a desperate medical situation and chronic overcrowding.

The UN also estimates that a further 50,000 non-combatants are still trapped in the conflict area.

Although the LTTE has been widely condemned for holding the civilians as human shields, the UN’s rights chief has said both sides in the long-running ethnic war may be guilty of war crimes.

Earlier this week the UN’s humanitarian chief, John Holmes, left the island empty handed after he tried to secure greater humanitarian access.

Although President Mahinda Rajapakse pledged Monday that air strikes and attacks using heavy-calibre weapons would stop, ground attacks have continued.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: Colombo’s Task

Bowing to international pressure, Colombo has agreed to suspend combat operations with heavy weapons in the no-fire zone (NFZ) in the Wanni region. For thousands of Tamils who are yet to move out of the NFZ, this is a welcome breather. UN agencies estimate that over 50,000 people are held up in the 10 sq km area, which according to the Sri Lankan army is also the hideout of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) including its leader Prabhakaran. The pursuit of Prabhakaran can’t be at the cost of the lives of civilians who want to flee the war zone.

Over a lakh people have already fled the NFZ. Most of them are in detention centres waiting to be screened by the armed forces before they are allowed to shift to refugee camps. Reports indicate that there is a shortage of food, medicines and other relief material. India has announced aid worth Rs 100 crore. Colombo must allow UN agencies to provide relief to refugees and involve them in rehabilitating the displaced Tamils.

However, the rehabilitation efforts must be matched by a political package that addresses the core concerns of the Tamils. Since Colombo is convinced that the three-decade-old war is coming to a close, it must not wait any longer to announce devolution of political powers and other steps that could begin a process of reconciliation between Sinhala and Tamil communities. The Tamil issue predates the LTTE and is unlikely to end with it unless the core issues that created the insurgency are settled. Colombo must convince Tamils that their political and cultural rights would be protected after the defeat of the LTTE. The LTTE, in any case, was hardly an upholder of democratic norms and was intolerant of Tamil politicians and intellectuals who disagreed with its militaristic vision of a Tamil homeland. Colombo now has the opportunity to dispel the notion that the LTTE alone can meet the aspirations of the Tamils.

Politicians in Tamil Nadu must now stop endorsing the LTTE’s claim to be the sole representative of Sri Lankan Tamils. The political goals of the LTTE and the concerns of Tamils must be separated. The former is a terrorist organisation that has used unbridled violence to promote its vision of a Tamil homeland. From recruiting children as soldiers to building a cult of suicide bombers, the LTTE has revealed itself as a ruthless military outfit with scant respect for democratic values. The world would be better off without it.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: Tamil Plight in Lanka

It serves no purpose for New Delhi to put a spin on Colombo’s decision to ‘conclude’ combat operations in the north and interpret it, as has been done by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, as “cessation of hostilities” by Sri Lanka under Indian pressure. Apart from the fact that the Sri Lankan President’s office, in a lengthy statement, has debunked any such claim, triumphalist assertions by the Congress and its southern ally, the DMK, can only raise hackles in Colombo and make life that much more difficult for the ethnic Tamil civilians who are trapped in the war zone and are being used as a human shield by what remains of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s bruised and battered leadership. It may not be entirely inconsequential that the Sri Lankan Army has been prompt in pointing out that “conclusion of combat operations” does not mean that it has declared a ceasefire with the LTTE. What it means is that President Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed the defence forces “to end the use of heavy calibre guns, combat aircraft and aerial weapons which could cause civilian casualties”. That, of course, is a step in the right direction, not least because Mr Rajapaksa cannot disown responsibility for the safety and security of the Tamil civilians. They are citizens of Sri Lanka and Colombo cannot abandon them at this crucial hour. In fact, the Government’s response will be indicative of how serious Mr Rajapaksa is of ensuring equal economic, social and political rights for his country’s ethnic Tamil minority population, and thus disprove the virulent propaganda that has sustained the LTTE’s murderous campaign for a quarter of a century. Seen in this context, it is encouraging to note that Mr Rajapaksa’s Government has declared that it will continue to rescue thousands of Tamil civilians trapped in the last five sq km held by the Tigers.

This should silence critics who have been more focussed on the inevitable collateral damage of the amazing military campaign that has destroyed a dreaded terrorist organisation; no other country can boast of a similar successful assault on terrorism. Given the fact that India has not remained untouched by LTTE terror — V Pirabhakaran plotted the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi — New Delhi should have been more circumspect in pleading for a ceasefire. That the Congress and its spokesmen have been rather unrestrained in their comments reflects the party’s inability to look ahead and factor in the repercussions of perceived interference by India in what is clearly Sri Lanka’s internal affair. In the past we have paid a terrible price for episodic responses, including the disastrous peace-keeping mission, dictated by domestic political ‘compulsions’. We seem to be on the verge of committing the same mistake all over again. Competitive chauvinism in Tamil Nadu, where the main contenders in the general election are tripping over each other to use the plight of Tamil civilians caught in Sri Lanka’s war on terror for electoral gains, should not impinge on India’s foreign policy. The DMK has never made an effort to hide its sympathies for Tamil separatists in Sri Lanka. Its bluster is in keeping with its identity politics. Nor is it surprising that the Congress, which is desperate to pick up seats and keep the DMK in good humour, should play the ‘Tamil card’. What is surprising is that Ms J Jayalalithaa should join the pro-Eelam chorus. She, among all, would understand that this is best avoided.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Why the Mumbai Attacks Are Not a Poll Issue

The view from Delhi is often blinkered. Pundits in India’s capital smugly pontificate on the country’s politics and the direction it is taking. Delhi is a bully pulpit for its politicians, journalists, NGOs and commentators alike; they tell us what is good and bad for the rest of the country. Very often, it makes for dodgy perception. Delhi’s take on India also leads to a lot of myth making, not unusual in a complex society like India.

I am reminded of this again when I go visiting Kumar Ketkar, Mumbai’s most respected journalist. Mr Ketkar edits a mass circulation Marathi newspaper and is a scholar. He sits in a small office in the shadow of the looming Oberoi hotel towers on the seafront. The hotel was one of the places targeted during last November’s attacks.

It is early evening and Mr Ketkar’s newsroom is buzzing with activity. Polls are a little more than a day away, and the editor is bemused by some of the reports emanating from Delhi. Maharashtra — of which Mumbai is the capital — is a politically important state; it sends 48 MPs to parliament.

Still, as Mr Ketkar says, the national (that is, Delhi) media is obsessed by Mumbai. It is speculating that a Maharashtra leader who also runs India’s cricket is a dark horse prime ministerial candidate. It is overflowing with stories on how the young in Mumbai are “rocking the vote” because they feel insecure after last November’s attacks.

“Sometimes it feels like Maharashtra doesn’t exist beyond Mumbai,” says Mr Ketkar, grinning. “Mumbai just dominates the perceptions about Maharashtra, it overshadows Maharashtra.”

It’s a compelling thought. No other city in India, I agree, dominates a state so much. It is the country’s financial capital and home to one of the world’s busiest film industries, its best-known, best-selling English pulp writer and many such “beautiful people”, as India’s media lovingly call them. The only city which comes close is Delhi. But the self-obsessed capital is only a boring city state.

It’s time for Mr Ketkar to burst some myths. We begin with last November’s attacks and how it will affect polling on Thursday.

“Not a soul is bothered about the November attacks outside Mumbai. Even in parts of Mumbai it is not an issue. I’d even say that outside south Mumbai (the posh part of the city where the attacks took place) it is not much of an election issue at all,” the genial editor says.

Mr Ketkar says that if the governing Congress party loses the vote in Maharashtra, it will be despite the November attacks. A few years ago, floods killed more than 600 people in Mumbai. People drowned in the filthy rising waters, and suffocated inside their stranded cars. Relatively rich farmers have taken their lives by the hundred — battered by debt, failed crops and low prices.. But in the dystopic world of breaking news, only the last big story matters.

Ordinary people I talk to here bemoan the “complete non-performance” of the lacklustre Congress party here for the past 10 years. “It is a lost decade for Maharashtra,” Mr Ketkar says. “Nothing much happened here. So the Mumbai attacks will not be a deciding factor.”

The killings, suggests Mr Ketkar, may be only a factor in upscale south Mumbai where the rich and “beautiful people” live. But the problem is that it is also the most politically alienated constituency in the country — not so long ago, it recorded a lowly 29% turnout in a general election. South Mumbai long ago seceded from the republic of India, in a manner of speaking. The rich here don’t really need the government. “They live,” as Mr Ketkar, says “with one foot in Mumbai, and the other in New York.” The poor need the government more, and Mumbai is overflowing with them.

So what does Mumbai’s 26/11 stand for then? I ask Mr Ketkar. Surely, it cannot but leave some imprint on the people and their lives?

“The attacks stand for the rejuvenation of Mumbai’s middle class. The city has always had an indifferent middle class. The attacks will possibly prod more middle class Mumbai residents to go out and vote this time. But that will not have any bearing on the final result. No way.”

Today’s morning papers echo Mr Ketkar’s sentiments. “Will Mumbai come out and vote?” asks a front page headline.. Last election, less than half of the registered voters cast their ballots.. “The Mumbai voter is in an aggressive mood, desperate for change. One hopes it translates into a record turnout on the 30th. I have my doubts,” a prominent citizen tells the newspaper.

Mr Ketkar says there is no use being obsessed with the Mumbai votes. And there is more to Mumbai than the attacks, he says, which will be engaging the voters. People are disillusioned with the Congress government, he says, because it is seen as lackadaisical and disinterested. After the siege of the Taj hotel ended last November, the former chief minister took his film actor son and a filmmaker friend to see the devastation at the hotel. The filmmaker was apparently scouring for ideas for his next film. The press dubbed it “disaster tourism”. The chief minister lost his job.

Then there is an anti-migrant workers movement whipped up by a local xenophobic party which wants jobs for locals — a “lot of political nuisance really”, Mr Ketkar says. The perceived marginalisation of the local Marathi people — who comprise more than 40% of the city’s population — is a real issue. The city is bursting at its seams, and constant mention of its fabled “resilience” by the national media irritates the locals no end.

So is Mumbai a curse for Maharashtra, in a sense? “In a sense, yes,” Mr Ketkar says, before rushing off to a meeting. “It is a curse.” I would say Mumbai is both a blessing and a curse.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Far East

John Tkacik on Taiwan : an Obama TPR: Too Little, Too Late?

While reports of an imminent Taiwan Policy Review (TPR) are premature, it would be a useful exercise as part of a global strategic review of China’s emerging pre-eminence.

China is now the second-most powerful nation on earth. Its economy has already surpassed Japan and Germany in terms of industrial output. It has massive financial clout with which it has bought incredible political patronage across the map. It has a rapidly modernizing military — as the celebrations last week of the Chinese navy’s 60th anniversary demonstrated.

There is no wisdom in confronting China head-on in Asia, and a TPR by the administration of US President Barack Obama must take this into account. But if the US is to balance China’s looming rise with a coalition of Asian democracies, Taiwan must be a key policy element.

With Kurt Campbell’s nomination as Obama’s — and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s — assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Obama’s national security appointments offer a prospect that his administration might actually salvage some of the Asia policy wreckage of the administration under former president George W. Bush. Campbell understands the looming crisis in Asia policy — the challenge of China’s rise — as does his fellow nominee at the Pentagon, retired Marine Lieutenant General Wallace “Chip” Gregson, for assistant secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs, and his deputy, Derek Mitchell.

Unfortunately, “geostrategic considerations,” when it comes to Taiwan (or China, for that matter) have long been absent in Washington policy circles. Former intelligence officer and White House Asia expert Robert Suettinger, in his book Beyond Tiananmen, admits that “the notion that American policy [toward China] is directly driven by strategic considerations … is grossly inaccurate.” It had been driven instead by business pressures — if not by sheer intellectual inertia — long after the US’ strategic imperatives with proudly authoritarian China evaporated in the 1992 collapse of the Soviet Union and the 1989 reversal of China’s political reforms at Tiananmen.

Former president Bill Clinton’s China policy quietly changed in August 1999 after spectacular increases in Chinese missile deployments and jet fighter sorties in the Taiwan Strait. Clinton’s defense department secretly began to build up military cooperation with Taiwan — a momentum that continued without publicity through the Bush years — and Campbell was at the center of that initiative. He was an advocate of strong alliances with Japan and Australia — alliances that Bush minimized in an unhealthy reliance on Beijing’s influence in Asia.

The cascade of Asia policy disasters in the last four Bush years stemmed from the president’s preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan and his chronic inattention to geopolitics or strategy anywhere else. The erosion of the US-Japan alliance; permitting North Korea to drive the US’ Asia policy; complete neglect of Southeast Asia; inattention to a strategic partnership with India; abandoning democratic Taiwan in the face of war threats from undemocratic Beijing — that was the Bush Asia policy.

All of these failures sprang from the miscalculation that China was an active, responsible stakeholder in East Asian security, trade, humanitarian relief, the environment and so on. The Bush administration also persuaded itself that Taiwan was of such existential urgency to Beijing that China’s viciousness was excusable. Beijing therefore was permitted to alter the “status quo” with its missile deployments and its 2005 “Anti-Secession Law,” but Taiwan could never react.

When it came to Japan’s security and its panic over China’s vast military buildup, Bush rebuffed Tokyo’s appeal for F-22s, fearing (it is said) it would “alter the strategic balance.” The default mode for Bush’s Asia policy was China-centric to the exclusion of all other considerations. It was a common affliction in Washington, one that author Jim Mann famously dubbed “the China Fantasy.”

“Fantasy” indeed. As my friend Yuan Peng, a think tank researcher for China’s intelligence services, has written: “In the world today, virtually all of America’s adversaries are China’s friends.” You name them: North Korea, Burma, Iran, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Syria, Hamas (through Syria) and Hezbollah, have I missed any? China gives them both weapons they use in the field and diplomatic cover they need in the UN. Why? As China’s foremost US expert, professor Wang Jisi (王緝思), has said: “Facts prove that it is beneficial for [China’s] international environment to have the United States — both militarily and diplomatically — deeply and inextricably sunk in the Middle East.” This has nothing to do with Taiwan, and everything to do with China’s freedom of action in Asia.

Even today, China’s poor record on issues of greatest concern to the US — nonproliferation, territorial pressures on US friends and allies (Japan, India and Taiwan, to name a few), supplying arms (via Iran and Syria) to insurgents in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Levant, consumer product safety, global warming, environmental despoliation, intellectual property, currency manipulation, locking up oil and mineral resources, dumping and cybersecurity, not to mention human rights and political freedoms — is embraced with a “what-me-worry” insouciance among Washington’s foreign policy, business and financial elites.

Taiwan’s significance in Asia is eclipsed in this China fantasy. Taiwanese now feel they have nowhere left to go but China. The rest of Asia watches US-Taiwan trends to see if the US might draw some line with China. All Asian governments understand Taiwan’s strategic importance to the US. I say this despite the comments of my good friend and former Chinese-language classmate, American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Ray Burghardt, who said on March 19 that “a geostrategic character to American policy toward Taiwan … isn’t really there.”

Taiwan’s strategic value was not discussed in the Condoleezza Rice State Department or in the Bush White House. However, Taiwan’s significance to US security is not dismissed by defense and intelligence officials who observe China’s expanding military power: They must plan for weapons systems 20 years into the future and China’s military, naval, missile and cyberspace modernization keeps them awake. Taiwan’s geographic location in Asia and its geopolitical disposition are essential to monitoring these developments.

Whether State Department or White House Asia policy aides often think of these things is beside the point. They are facts: Taiwan is positioned astride sea lanes plied by vast fleets of Asian shipping; Taiwan’s lofty mountains provide phased-array radar coverage of missile and aerospace activity 1,930km into continental East Asia; submarines moving from the East Asian coast into the Western Pacific go through Taiwan’s waters to avoid Japan’s extensive anti-submarine acoustic detection; Taiwan occupies the two largest islands in the South China Sea, Taiping and Pratas.

More important, Taiwan is the US’ poster-child for democracy in Asia; the US’ 10th-largest export market; and the world’s fourth-largest foreign exchange reserves holder. Taiwan’s GDP is bigger than any in Southeast Asia. Taiwan’s population is bigger than Australia’s. In short, US equanimity at the prospect of democratic Taiwan’s absorption by communist China is a clear signal to the rest of Asia that the US has bought on to the “Beijing Consensus” — Asia may as well go along, too.

Sooner or later there will be an Obama “Taiwan Policy Review.” But it won’t amount to much. An Obama TPR will judge that the powerful momentum in cross-strait dynamics is pushing Taiwan rapidly into full economic dependence on China. It will conclude that Taiwan’s inextricable economic dependence on China — absent counterbalancing action — will quickly drive the country beyond its “tipping point” toward political and, ultimately, security dependence on Beijing. At that point, Obama can dust off his hands and say: “Oh well, I really wanted to help Taiwan, but it was too late.” Some will say, “It’s not so bad, look at Hong Kong.” Others will say, “Oh well, it was Bush’s fault.”

It may already be too late. For, despite China’s resolute disruption of US “hegemonistic” human rights and nonproliferation goals in Asia (and Africa, too, for that matter), key Bush White House aides believed China was one of “Washington’s New Comrades” and foresaw (in the words of former White House Asia expert Victor Cha) a new Northeast Asian “regional architecture” in which “Washington looks forward to China assuming a major role as a real problem solver in the region.”

Obama is unlikely to be confrontational with China or anyone else. But democratic Asia needs US leadership if it is to balance China, and the test of the Obama administration’s Asia policy will be to provide that leadership. A Taiwan Policy Review will only be a small subset of that calculation. Now that Campbell has been nominated, Obama has an outline of an “Asia Team” that can begin to reassess the US’ erosion in the Western Pacific. If Campbell can’t stop the collapse of the US’ Asian interests in Taiwan, it’s hard to see where he can do it.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Philippines: 3 NPAs Killed in N. Samar Encounter

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—Three alleged New People’s Army rebels were killed while five others were wounded in an encounter with government troops in a village in Palapag, Northern Samar, on Tuesday.

The bodies of the three slain suspected NPA members were immediately turned over to the Palapag police, according to Maj. Armand Rico, information officer of the Samar-based Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division, in a text message on Wednesday.

No soldier was wounded in the clash.

Rico said the firefight between soldiers and the suspected rebels took place at around 9 a.m. in Barangay (Village) Magsaysay, a hinterland village about four kilometers from the Palapag town proper.

Rico said government troops from the 63rd Infantry Battalion based in Northern Samar’s Catubig town under Lt. Col. Raul Cestona went to the area after receiving information from villagers about the presence of rebels in Magsaysay village.

Government troops led by Sgt. Emilio Medelo were immediately engaged in a firefight by a group of suspected NPAs numbering about 40 the moment the soldiers entered the village, Rico said.

The retreating rebels left behind their fallen comrades and brought with them their wounded, Rico said.

An M-16 and a carbine were recovered from the slain rebels, he said.

Military officials in the region led by Maj. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero earlier declared that most of Eastern Visayas, except for Northern Samar and Eastern Samar provinces, were already “insurgency-free.”

The military has vowed to crush the insurgency in the region to an “insignificant level” by 2010.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

S. Korea is Powerless to Ensure Safety of Its Own People

It has been more than a month since a Hyundai Asan employee has been detained by North Korea authorities in the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Unification Minister Hyun In-taek in a press conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondent’s Club on Tuesday said North Korean officials have yet to inform the South of the reasons why the man, identified only by his surname Yoo, had been detained and why he was being investigated.

There has been no instance where the government has been unable to establish either direct or even indirect channels of contact with a detainee for more than a month, even in situations where citizens were abducted by terrorists or pirates who demanded a ransom. But our minister in charge of dealing with North Korea is only able to make such a defeatist confession while a South Korean national is held captive clearly shows the status of the Republic of Korea in the present state of inter-Korean relations.

This is also evidence of the fact that the government is unable to exercise its right under international law to protect its own citizens and is unable to fulfill that duty even while it engages in economic cooperation projects with North Korea. Just picture Yoo’s situation, confined for more than a month in a North Korean prison, reputed as being the harshest in the world, unable to meet an official with the South Korean government, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, or his family. For Yoo, what good is his own nation?

North Korea signed an agreement with South Korea in January of 2004 involving entry and visits to the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mt. Kumgang tourist resort. Under Article 10, clauses 2 and 4 of that agreement, if Yoo’s violations are deemed “grave” by North Korea, it must consult with South Korea over the handling of that issue or issue a warning or fine or deport him. North Korea simply tore up this agreement.

The Republic of Korea is the only country in the world that has left 1,000 to 1,500 of its citizens and around a hundred of its businesses to work and operate in a lawless region where the government has absolutely no way of guaranteeing their safety.

A council of South Korean businesses operating in the Kaesong Industrial Complex issued a statement on Tuesday saying the guarantee of personal safety for the South’s workers stationed in the factory complex is a basic prerequisite for the development of the zone. It said a failure to abide by this guarantee poses a serious obstacle to the continued development of the complex.

The government should pursue its next move based on the firm resolve that it is willing to shut down the business project if it is taking place, no matter how important it is deemed to be, in a place that offers no guarantee of the safety of its people. Inter-Korean cooperation is an oxymoron if it continues with the sacrifice of South Korean lives.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

S. Korea: Anti-US Beef Protests: One Year Later

A year ago today, the MBC investigative program “PD Notebook” called a downer cow a mad cow in an episode titled, “Breaking Coverage — Are U.S. Beef Imports Really Safe from Mad Cow Disease?” The program said Koreans are 94 percent more likely to contract a human form of mad cow disease amid scary background music. The next day, posts on the program flooded Internet sites related to mad cow disease and the Web portal site Daum. Girls and people scared by the program’s unfounded claims and from online posts flocked to Seoul’s downtown Cheonggye Plaza to hold candlelight vigils.

Some 1,000 anti-American and pro-North Korea groups formed the People’s Association for Measures against Mad Cow Disease. Led by the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the Korean Teachers’ and Educational Workers’ Union, the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, and the Federation to Implement the Inter-Korean Summit, a group ruled as illegal, led the oftentimes violent protests for about 100 days and demanded the resignation of the Lee Myung-bak administration.

This shows that if a group takes advantage of media, a common asset of the people, a nation can slip into chaos and its very foundation can be shaken. MBC reluctantly aired an apology under orders from the Korea Communications Commission, but seems unremorseful over what it did. On the probe into PD Notebook’s mad cow disease episode, the network said in a statement, “This was a program that criticized government policy in the interest of the public’s right to health. The criminal investigation is unprecedented oppression of the media in a civilized nation of the 21st century and the killing of democracy.”

U.S. beef imports were resumed in June last year and are second only to those from Australia in the country. Forty-eight million Koreans, 300 million Americans, one million Korean Americans, and people in 89 countries eat American beef with no problems. Korea suffered direct and indirect losses of 3.7 trillion won (2.7 billion dollars) due to the protests trigged by MBC’s “falsehood and fanaticism,” according to Korea Economic Research Institute.

The Lee administration was plagued by social instability and delayed reform of the public sector early in its term, and the global financial crisis has hit the country. Law enforcement authorities were overwhelmed by illegal protests and a lawless condition was left unattended for almost three months in Seoul. Malicious Internet users blackmailed companies advertising in newspapers that criticized the protests, including The Dong-A Ilbo, threatening free speech and the market economy.

Certain people who joined the candlelight protests were truly worried about public health and were disappointed by the government’s poor negotiations over U.S. beef. The instigators, however, disguised themselves as protesters holding candles to protect public health and took advantage of innocent citizens.

Dr. Ahn Se-yeong, a professor at the Graduate School of International Studies at Sogang University in Seoul, told a panel discussion on the protests last week, “We cannot make the same mistake again only when we find the truth.” Serious discussion and reflection on what happened a year ago are needed to prevent lying broadcasters and certain groups from instigating the public and fueling chaos.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia: Ministers Split Over Antarctic Ice Shelf Claims

A SPLIT over global warming has emerged in Kevin Rudd’s cabinet after it was revealed that a 13-month-old photograph was published this month to support the view that a catastrophic melting of Antarctic ice was imminent.

Federal government sources said Climate Change Minister Penny Wong was disappointed with the way her ministerial colleague, Peter Garrett, weighed into the debate about global warming, claiming sea levels could rise by 6m as a result of melting in Antarctica. Senator Wong yesterday pointedly refused to indicate whether she supported Mr Garrett’s view.

“The impacts of climate change are being seen in many ways, from sea level rise through to extreme weather events,” Senator Wong said yesterday.

“Climate change is a clear and present danger to our world that demands immediate attention.”

Senator Wong declined to nominate potential levels to which seas could rise.

At a time when the Rudd Government is battling to salvage its emissions trading scheme, some of Mr Garrett’s Labor colleagues were annoyed the Environment Minister used his responsibility for Australia’s Antarctic territory to weigh into the climate change debate with exaggerated claims.

Mr Garrett claimed the break-up of the Wilkins ice shelf in West Antarctica indicated sea level rises of 6m were possible by the end of the century, and that ice was melting across the continent.

The Environment Minister later sought to distance himself from his comments.

A study released last week by the British Antarctic Survey concluded that sea ice around Antarctica had been increasing at a rate of 100,000sqkm a decade since the 1970s. While the Antarctic Peninsula, which includes the Wilkins ice shelf and other parts of West Antarctica were experiencing warmer temperatures, ice had expanded in East Antarctica, which is four times the size of West Antarctica.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Read about this a few weeks ago…somehow ignored by most media outlets.]

British newspaper The Observer this month published prominently a story with a photograph of breaks in the Wilkins shelf.

“A huge ice shelf in the Antarctic is in the last stages of collapse and could break up within days in the latest sign of how global warming is thought to be changing the face of the planet,” the story began.

In March last year, US news agency msn published the same photograph with a similar story that began: “A vast ice shelf hanging on by a thin strip looks to be the next chunk to break off from the Antarctic Peninsula, the latest sign of global warming’s impact on Earth’s southernmost continent.” The photograph was published by numerous other outlets, including The Australian.

A spokeswoman for the British Antarctic Survey said the photograph in both stories was taken in March last year.

Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said the misuse of the photograph and the similar story lines 13 months apart reflected how the Wilkins ice shelf break-up was being recycled annually to fuel global warming concerns.

Senator Joyce said Mr Garrett’s entry into the debate demonstrated how it was being hijacked by misinformation.

“We are on the edge of a possible pandemic that could cause untold misery and people are running around tilting at windmills,” he said.

Opposition environment spokesman Greg Hunt said Senator Wong should distance herself from Mr Garrett’s comments.

Mr Garrett was defended by Australian Conservation Foundation director Don Henry.

“The minister is right to raise concerns that melting of our ice caps could lead to that kind of sea level rise,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

NZ: Nursing Student Alleges Discrimination

A Chinese nursing student is taking her tutors and university to the Human Rights Commission, accusing them of failing her in her final year of her bachelor of nursing course because of her accent.

“My tutors failed me because they said the way that I speak meant people couldn’t understand me, and they said it meant I will not be able to provide proper care to patients,” said Linda Tang, 42, who last week decided to drop out of her course at Unitec because she believed the tutors were making it impossible for her to pass.

“To say my English is not good enough is just an excuse. I feel that what they have done is discriminatory, especially to the Chinese, because we are penalised not for our lack of knowledge or ability, but simply because of how we talk.”

Ms Tang, who holds a bachelor of english degree and is a former English lecturer at a university in China, said she was confident of her written English ability. Before enrolling at Unitec, Ms Tang said she was a bilingual teacher at Kingsland Institute and taught English to other immigrants.

Ms Tang, who moved to New Zealand as a skilled migrant in 2002, said she scored 6.5 on the International English Language Testing System to qualify, and that was also the level required for admission to Unitec’s nursing degree course.

“Maybe I can’t speak English like a Kiwi, but I am bilingual and also speak Mandarin and surely that must be seen as a plus in nursing rather than something negative,” Ms Tang said.

“If Unitec fails Chinese students for not being able to communicate properly in English, Kiwi students should also not pass because they cannot communicate with hospital patients who speak other languages.”

A Unitec spokesman said its representatives will be co-operating with the commission and attending a meeting organised for Friday.

“Unitec has established internal policies and procedures to deal with student complaints, including those pertaining to racial discrimination,” he said.

Unitec has 180 nursing students, of which 31 per cent Asian and 12.7 per cent Chinese in the first year of its course.

Chinese students make up 17 per cent of second-year nursing students, and 19 per cent in the final year.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Penalty Strike on Jobs

WHAT madness would make it more expensive to hire those Australians traditionally hit twice as hard during recessions? Answer: that provided by the Industrial Relations Commission under instruction from Julia Gillard..

An extra 34,000 teenagers have become unemployed over the past year, lifting teenage joblessness to 141,400 or 16.4 per cent. The prospect it will rise well over 20 per cent underlines last week’s warning from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that rolling back John Howard’s Work Choices will make it harder for young Australians to get a foothold in the job market. This, warns the OECD, risks a “build up of a large pool of youth at risk of becoming long-term unemployed”.

But the danger is greater than the OECD’s Paris-based analysts recognise because they haven’t got their heads around the IRC’s award “modernisation” process ordered by Gillard. The OECD’s review of Australia’s school-to-work policies assumes that “modernising” the “tangled web of binding rules” known as the award system will unwind the red tape strangling the job market.

The OECD clearly hasn’t looked at the Fast Food Industry Award that the IRC will impose from the start of 2010.. It hasn’t picked up the threat to the youth-employment business model of the fast food industry, from franchise chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC, Domino’s, Subway and Eagle Boys Pizza to thousands of small business takeaway food outlets.

Since the 1970s this sector has evolved on the edges of the federal award system, based on casual employment and minimal or no evening or weekend penalty rates. But the IRC’s award “modernisation” would force it to pay part-time student workers the sort of high casual loadings and penalty rates that it seeks to standardise across the workforce.

This would reverse the labour market liberalisation that allowed the jobless rate for those aged under 25 to fall to three-decade lows of 8.7percent by the end of the latest boom. As the OECD notes, Howard’s individual work contracts — or Australian Workplace Agreements — are “likely to have increased the labour market competitiveness of low-skilled youth”.

But these individual contracts are being abolished just as the recession hits young Australians the hardest. Many will be seeking work for the first time just as business decides that the new unfair dismissal rules make it riskier to hire young people with no employment history. And those young people with jobs are likely to be the first to be laid off during the downturn. Firms typically have invested less in training juniors than their more senior staff, who are more expensive to retrench as redundancy pay standards have become more generous.

Such dynamics explain the OECD’s quantification of how young workers have been hit hardest in previous recessions. For every one percentage point softening of annual economic growth, the jobless rate for those aged 25 to 54 years has risen 0.87 percentage points. But at the same time, the jobless rate for those aged 15 to 24 years has increased 2.03 percentage points. That means the youth jobless rate rises 2.3 percentage points for every one percentage point increase in the adult rate.

The priority should be to retain the flexibility that allows young people to get a foothold in the job market. Most young Australians get their first job while at high school or university, often through the sort of evening and weekend casual work provided by fast food businesses. Some disparage such jobs as dead-end hamburger-flipping. Yet the OECD says casual and part-time work in Australia is typically a “stepping stone” to better-paid careers. Moreover, the frequent resort to part-time work does not mean that Australian uni students graduate any later.

Until now the fast food business has grown up under less onerous state awards or tailored enterprise deals for franchise chains, which even facilitate the direct payment of union dues. These are based on flexible rostering of a casual workforce mostly aged in its teens or early 20s with no, or minimal, penalty rates.

But the IRC’s new Fast Food Industry Award imposes a national 25 per cent penalty rate for casuals plus an extra 25 per cent for work on weekday evenings and Saturdays. An extra 75percent applies on Sundays. Casuals working public holidays will have to be paid a 275percent loading on their normal hourly rate.

And the IRC ropes store managers into the award penalty rates and work rules on the basis that managerial classifications are included in other “retail” awards. The IRC offers no reason why penalty rates should apply at all for student workers during the very times they are most available to work: in the evenings and on weekends.

Amid the argy-bargy, the increased costs may be phased in. But this merely concedes the breaking of Gillard’s undertaking that award modernisation would not impose extra costs on employing labour. It will still stifle the business model that is one of the biggest employers of young Australians.

Against the howls of the shop assistants’ union, Gillard has allowed franchise chains such as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC scope to have their own enterprise awards “modernised”. But not until Fair Work Australia — as the IRC is to be rebadged — determines whether such awards would “lessen the competitiveness” of rival fast food operators. So Fair Work Australia will consult with “other businesses in the same industry” to make sure one franchise doesn’t get a supposedly unfair competitive edge from the way it organises its workforce. Regrettably, some business lobbies even support such levelling of the playing field, as they term it, against competition.

Gillard is not deaf to the fast food sector’s complaints over its new award, but is limited by the IRC process she has unleashed. She retorts that no business person has ever told her that “this nation’s economic prosperity should be based on ripping off young Australians”.

That class warfare rhetoric would be more digestible if she allowed genuine scrutiny — say by the Productivity Commission — to ensure that Labor’s job market “modernisation” does not deny young Australians a work choice.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Universal Vaccine in Nasal Spray

AUSTRALIAN scientists have developed a way to make a universal influenza vaccine that can be delivered via nasal spray.

While not yet ready to be used to counter swine flu, the new approach could provide protection against future pandemics.

An Australian National University immunologist, Mohammed Alsharifi, said yesterday that the current way of making flu vaccines was “not good enough”.

New batches to boost immunity against seasonal flu have to be made each year, because flu viruses mutate so rapidly. It also takes months to develop a new vaccine if a new strain, such as the swine flu, suddenly emerges.

Dr Alsharifi said conventional vaccines also had the disadvantage of stimulating only one of the body’s two immune reactions — the production of antibodies that prevent a specific virus from infecting a cell.

They do not stimulate T-cells, which can fight many different strains of influenza by clearing cells of infection.

“We need a vaccine that induces both types of immune responses, otherwise we will not be able to cope well with new arriving strains of influenza,” he said.

His team’s universal vaccine, based on a human influenza A virus that has been inactivated using gamma radiation, can stimulate both types.

Tests in mice showed that a single dose, given as a nasal spray, protected the rodents against a different flu virus — the deadly strain of bird flu, H5N1.

This type of universal vaccine could buy time until more specific vaccines specific could be developed, said Dr Alsharifi, whose team’s study was published yesterday in the journal PLoS ONE. A nasal spray would also make its easier to distribute in developing countries.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Darfur Protest: 5 Congressmen Arrested Outside Sudanese Embassy in Washington

WASHINGTON — Five members of Congress and three humanitarian activists were arrested Monday on civil disobedience charges in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington for protesting “crimes against humanity.”

In attempting to draw attention to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s handling of the Darfur region, the protesters called on Bashir to reinstate 16 aid organizations he expelled or shut down last month in response to the International Criminal Court issuing a warrant for his arrest.

Several also called on President Barack Obama to pressure the international community, including China, a major trading partner with Sudan, for a solution to the violence in Darfur.

After reading their statements, the representatives crossed a yellow police tape line and refused to leave.

The lawmakers — Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Donna Edwards (D-Md.) — were then handcuffed by Secret Service officers and taken to jail by local police officers. Each paid a $100 fine and was released within several hours.

“We implore all countries to demand that the government of Sudan respect and protect human rights and put an end to the acts of atrocities and crimes against humanity in Darfur,” Ellison said in a statement. “The crisis in Darfur remains dire and the humanitarian situation has worsened since the March 4 expulsion of aid agencies.”

Last week, UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said in a report to the UN Security Council that the expulsion of aid groups has put the lives of 1 million people at risk.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Kenyan Women Begin Week-Long Sex Strike

Thousands of Kenyan women vowed on Wednesday to begin a week-long sex strike to try to protest their country’s bickering leadership, which they say threatens to revive the bloody chaos that convulsed the African country last year.

Leaders from Kenya’s largest and oldest group dedicated to women’s rights, the Women’s Development Organisation, said they hope the boycott will persuade men to pressure the government to make peace.

Eleven women’s groups are participating in the strike..

The groups have also called on the wives of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to abstain. It was not clear how either wife responded to the request.

“We have looked at all issues which can bring people to talk and we have seen that sex is the answer,” said Rukia Subow, chairman of the Women’s Development Organisation.

“It does not know tribe, it does not have a (political) party and it happens in the lowest households.”

Many men in Kenya are polygamous, as is allowed by law.

Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said he was unaware of the strike.

The disputed election between Kibaki and then-challenger Odinga led to violence that killed more than 1000 people and left more than 600,000 homeless.

The two were installed after a month of mediation, but infighting has threatened to break apart the fragile coalition.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Nigerians Can Vote in EU Poll — Christian Party

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Found this story interesting on several different levels — not to mention a little ironic in parts.]

Nigerians with British passport can vote by proxy in the European Union parliamentary election due on June 4, the Christian Party said on Monday.

The disclosure came amid calls on the prospective voters to support the party as part of efforts at righting some of the perceived wrongs in the British society.

The Christian Party, also called “Scottish Christian Party” and “Welsh Christian Party”, is a minor Christian Rights political organisation in Great Britain, headed by the Reverend George Hargreaves, who claimed to be one of the first Afro-Caribbean leaders of a British political party.

Hargreaves told a press conference in Lagos that his party plans to build a voting bloc among British Nigerians and other Africans, who he lamented are the targets of bad policies by the country’s far right politicians, especially the British National Party (BNP).

He addressed the media alongside Abraham Usikaro, a one-time Nigerian journalist and the party’s International Campaign Manager.

Hargreaves said any Nigerian who had lived (legally) in Britain for 10 years are eligible to vote, provided he registers with the Electoral Commission before May 10, when registration closes. The party says it is fielding 70 candidates in London, Scotland, and Whales for the EU poll.

The party has, therefore, set up a registration centre each in Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt, where voters can fill all necessary forms and have them mailed free of charge to the electoral commission in the United Kingdom.

Hargreaves said it was time Africans vote in the country’s election for better bargaining power in its politics, saying “registration form can also be downloaded from the electoral commission’s website”.

He said the party is ready to open another registration centre elsewhere, on request from interested persons or communities, arguing that whatever votes is given the party is for Jesus and uprightness of the society.

According to him, the party, if elected, would fight against the British culture that denies parents the right to discipline their wards, and empowers the social service workers to take possession of such children.

Insisting that this practice is a racist policy targeted at Africans, Hargreaves identified it as major cause of delinquency among the adolescent and ungodly behaviours in British society.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Norwegian Tanker Received Assistance

The Norwegian-owned tanker “Stolt Strength”, which has been adrift off the coast of Somalia without fuel and with little food, after it was released by pirates, has now been given assistance.

The tanker has now received supplies and fuel from a US naval vessel, according to a spokesman for the ship’s owners.

The tanker was captured by pirates off the Horn of Africa on November 10th last year, and released on April 21st.

The vessel is owned by the Norwegian company Stolt-Nielsen and has a Philippine crew of 23.

The tanker is now on its way to Salalah in Oman, escorted by a Chinese frigate.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Russian Navy Seizes 29 Pirates Off Somalia: Report

MOSCOW (Reuters) — A Russian warship captured a suspected pirate vessel with 29 people on board off the coast of Somalia, Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday, citing defense ministry sources.

Russia’s Admiral Panteleyev anti-submarine ship seized the vessel 15 miles off the coast of Somalia at 1212 GMT on Tuesday, the Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies reported.

“Seven Kalashnikov rifles, various pistols and an aluminum ladder were discovered during a search of the ship,” RIA Novosti quoted the source as saying. Satellite navigation equipment and a large amount of ammunition was also seized.

“This allows us to assume that this group of pirates undertook two unsuccessful attempts to seize the TF Commander tanker with a Russian crew that was traveling through this region yesterday,” RIA quoted the source as saying.

Russia is among several naval powers with warships in the area to protect one of the world’s busiest sea lanes from spate of hijackings by Somali pirates.

(Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Matthew Jones)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Australia: Surge Continues With Two More Boatloads of Asylum Seekers

TWO boats carrying almost 80 suspected asylum seekers have been intercepted by Border Protection Command, bringing to 17 the number of vessels detected since August.

The interceptions occurred less than 24 hours after the mysterious discovery by Customs of four suspected asylum seekers on Deliverance Island, 30 nautical miles off the coast of Papua New Guinea.

As more of the injured from the fatal boat explosion of two weeks ago left hospital — for immigration detention — Afghanistan’s ambassador to Australia backed the Rudd Government’s argument that global instability was behind the surge in arrivals.

One of the boats stopped yesterday was carrying seven people and was intercepted one nautical mile north of Ashmore Reef.

Sources said the passengers, who included at least one child, appeared to be Indonesian. The second boat was carrying about 72 people and was stopped 27 nautical miles west of Bathurst Island, just north of Darwin.

Several women and three or four children were believed to be aboard.

The interceptions occurred hundreds of kilometres apart, suggesting the boats were not travelling together.

They came less than a day after four people, understood to be two Afghans, a Sri Lankan and an Indian, were detected by a surveillance flight by a Customs helicopter.

No boat was found with the men.

Yesterday, a government source speculated the find could be a new trend, with people-smugglers preferring to drop their cargo and go home rather than stay with their passengers and risk arrest and prosecution.

Afghanistan’s ambassador, Amanullah Jayhoon, told The Australian yesterday a recent crackdown by Pakistani and Iranian authorities on Afghan refugees was a major factor behind the spike in boat arrivals.

He stressed that the numbers coming to Australia were low compared with those of Afghan refugees opting for asylum in Greece, Turkey or Cyprus.

Two main “push factors” were driving Afghan asylum seekers, he said — continuing insecurity, particularly in the south of the country, and little or no economic opportunities at home.

Many of the Afghan asylum seekers had been long-term residents in camps in Iran and Pakistan, he said.

“The third factor is that Iran and Pakistan are trying to push the refugees back to Afghanistan, so when they are being pushed back to Afghanistan, they consider themselves refugees again,” Mr Jayhoon said.

“These are people (criminals) who thrive on the tragedy ofothers. But most of those (refugees) coming are not coming directly from Afghanistan, because most of these people (in Afghanistan) cannot afford to pay this $10,000 or $15,000.”

Two Afghan asylum seekers who were burnt in the boat blast off Ashmore Reef were taken to a secure immigration facility in a Perth suburb yesterday after being discharged from Royal Perth Hospital. The men are expected to be interviewed this morning by Northern Territory police who are investigating the cause of the explosion.

They will join four men who were placed in one of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s home detention facilities in Perth’s eastern suburbs on Tuesday.

The men will be under 24-hour supervision by guards.

They will have access to members of the Afghan community who have offered support by cooking meals and providing spiritual guidance.

A department spokeswoman said the men would have access to computers, television and a phone to contact their families.

She said hospital staff had already visited the men to provide medical assistance. Department officials were yet to interview the men to establish their identities, she said.

Seventeen other asylum seekers who were badly burnt in the blast remain at Royal Perth, with one of the men in intensive care, three in the trauma unit and 13 in the burns unit.

Four other victims from the blast remain at Royal Darwin Hospital and seven in Brisbane.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Migration Drives Population Increase

Small Switzerland — current population 7.7 million — could see the number of its inhabitants rise to 8.35 million by 2030, according to the latest figures. The population density will increase, but the country wouldn’t become as crowded as the Netherlands or Britain.

Immigrants will make up the bulk of the population increase, believes the Federal Statistics Office, which released the information. “We expect there to be more arrivals than departures,” the federal office’s Raymond Kohli told swissinfo.

Foreigners, especially Germans encouraged by a healthy economy and a labour accord with the European Union, already helped account for a rise in population to 7.7 million people in 2008, an increase of 1.7 per cent against 2007 and the largest since 1963.

“However, a flux in the other direction cannot be excluded due to the change in the economic situation,” noted the federal office in its recent statistics update.

Births should make up the rest. Last year the birth rate had risen in Switzerland contrary to predictions.

Nevertheless, at 1.48 children per woman, the rate is still insufficient to maintain the population at its current level. For this a rate of 2.1 would be needed.

More older people By 2050, however, the population will drop again to 8.33 million. Life expectancy is growing and the high numbers of baby boomers — born between 1945-1965 — will be dying out.

“The number of older people is going to rise but the number of younger people is going to stay the same or even get smaller, so that means we’ll have an ageing population with a higher proportion of older people,” Kohli said.

In 2008 there were almost 27 people of retirement age per 100 people of working age. By 2030 this could average at 40 workers per 100 retired people, and by 2050 it could be half and half.

But a larger population won’t make the country too crowded, experts say.

At the moment population density in Switzerland is still far below that of its more crowded European neighbours, the Netherlands and Britain, which have 393 inhabitants per square kilometre and 248 inhabitants per square kilometre respectively, according to United Nations data for 2005.

“In Switzerland it’s currently around 186 people per square kilometre and in 2050 it will be around 201 people per square kilometre, so only 15 people per square kilometre more,” said Kohli.

Populous middle plains Its mountainous nature means that certain parts of Switzerland are uninhabitable, and that the population is mainly concentrated on the middle plains.

Martin Schuler, professor at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, told swissinfo that in this part the population density is close to that of the Netherlands. But there are big differences.

“Geneva is a very densely populated agglomeration, Lausanne too, but Zurich is less so and Winterthur not at all, and the acceptance of density is very different,” said Schuler, who also heads Urban Regional Planning Community.

“People in Winterthur are astonished that it is possible to live in Geneva. For people in Geneva it’s no problem, and they even accept moves to intensify this density.”

Migrant urbanites New migrants are likely to head for the cities. This differs from the past, when Switzerland opened its doors to lower skilled, more rural people from countries like Spain and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“These new, more highly skilled migrants, people from Germany, the United States or even from Asia, are already urban and used to being in urban contexts,” explained Schuler.

There are no real social problems in Swiss cities, he adds. However, over the past 30 years young Swiss families have been moving out of the towns.

“This means that immigrants in suburban areas are becoming more homogenous, not by origin, but by status, and this is probably part of social injustice,” he said.

Education opportunities and social conditions are not the same, although the labour market still works because of low unemployment.

“This is probably something to take into account in such projects. It is not only a question of how many there are, but how they will live together,” said Schuler.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

UK: Number of Jobs Open to Skilled Migrants Cut by a Third

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) said 270,000 fewer posts should be on the so-called “shortage list” of jobs, which allows employers to bring in foreign workers without trying to fill them with British staff first.

In the review, construction workers and quantity surveyors were suspended from the list because unemployment among workers in those professions has risen by 500 per cent as a result of the downturn.

Social workers dealing with adults have also been taken off and it will be made harder to bring in care assistants and chefs.

However, orchestral musicians, computer animation specialists and contemporary dancers were added to the list because Britain is not producing enough talented candidates, the report revealed.

The ability to bring in foreign talent is needed to maintain Britain’s “global leadership”, MAC chairman Professor David Metcalf said.

The number of jobs shortage list was cut by a third from 800,000 on the last list and means the total has now dropped by almost half from one million just six months ago.

The figures do not breakdown how many non-EU migrants are employed in such jobs but the cut could affect up to 25,000 foreign workers if the national average is mirrored across the professions.

Prof Metcalf said: “We had to respond to the troubled times and the turmoil in the labour market.

“The main issue that we want to get across is we have responded to the downturn and we have immediately suspended two major occupations.”

There were 4,795 unemployed construction managers in January, compared to 835 a year earlier.

Unemployment among quantity surveyors went from 130 to 730 in the same period.

Prof Metcalf said not all labour market shortages would be eliminated by the recession, which last month pushed unemployment to 2.1 million.

The expert committee, which first reported last year, will complete a full review of all the occupations on its list by September.

It will look closely at seasonal workers such as chefs and engineers.

Maths and science teachers, currently on the list, are also likely to face scrutiny, to see if laid-off financial workers are taking those jobs.

Ministers will look at the list and announce their decision by the middle of next month.

They are likely to accept most, if not all, of the recommendations.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Slash Jobs for Immigrants: Curb Work Permits Say Aides

GORDON BROWN was last night warned by his own advisers to cut the number of jobs available to workers from outside Europe by 270,000.

In another blow to Labour’s open-door border controls, Ministers were told to curb the number of work permits available to those from outside the EU because of the recession.

The Migration Advisory Committee demanded that construction workers and quantity surveyors be struck off the list of so-called “shortage occupations” available to newcomers.

Its chairman David Metcalf said unemployment of workers in those occupations was up by 500 per cent.

Professor Metcalf said: “The main issue that we want to get across is we have responded to the downturn and we have immediately suspended two major occupations.” The revised list will still leave open 530,000 posts, down from 800,000 now.

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “Fiddling with the immigration numbers at this degree of detail will only create more uncertainty. A better overall way of controlling immigration is to set an annual limit on the number of work permits issued.”

According to the advisory committee, there were 4,795 unemployed construction managers in January compared with 835 a year earlier. Unemployment among quantity surveyors rose from 130 to 730.

Prof Metcalf said not all labour shortages would be eliminated by the recession, which last month pushed unemployment to 2.1 million. Specific skills shortages will remain, he said.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas welcomed the stricter skills shortage list. He said: “Only where there are shortages of local workers can employers recruit migrants to fill jobs through this route. The Government will now consider the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee before publishing the final list.”

The expert committee will complete a full review of the list by September.

Maths and science teachers, currently on the list, are likely to face scrutiny, to see if laid-off financial workers are taking those jobs, Prof Metcalf said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: We’ve Only Two Days to Stop a Cruel Deportation

The case of Anselme Noumbiwa illustrates a moral crisis in Britain

It’s 4.45 in the morning. Something is happening out on the street. Flashing blue lights, a car door, a woman’s voice, a child crying. The door slams, the car speeds off. “They” have picked someone up.

East Germany in the 1960s? No. England in 2009. From the people who brought you “extraordinary rendition”; from the Home Office that has produced more new laws in a decade than in the previous century: welcome to the brave new world of post-civilisation Britain. This is how we treat frightened people who have lost almost everything and now stand to lose the rest.

The treatment of refugees is about the obligation — which civilisations much older than ours have known in their bones — to care for the stranger in need. What’s the point of “human rights” becoming a mantra for every special-interest fad if we ignore the most basic human rights of deeply vulnerable people?

Anselme Noumbiwa is 32, and comes from Cameroon. His father was chief of the Bamileke. When he died, Anselme was chosen as chief, and taken away for initiation ceremonies. These involved having sex with several of his father’s wives, and taking further wives. Anselme, a devout Christian, refused. He was thereupon degraded and tortured. The Bamileke need a chief to embody their wellbeing; but, if Anselme will not comply with their traditions, another chief cannot be named until he is dead. There is no chance of him being safe in Cameroon.

Anselme escaped to England in 2006, and has been trying to make a new life. But in October he was seized for deportation via Paris. Fortunately, the other aircraft passengers, seeing his appalling treatment, refused to sit down, so he was returned to England. I and others appealed to Gordon Brown to halt the deportation of this gentle, wise soul. Mr Brown wrote to me promising that his case would be reviewed.

Now, the authorities are making another sudden attempt to send him back. He was “picked up” last week and is to be deported this Friday. It would be too cynical for a bishop to suggest that Anselme is simply the victim of bureaucrats determined to generate “favourable” statistics.

But all the signs are that the Home Office is simply waving away the piles of evidence and forcing through an injustice. A local immigration official has admitted that “the system” does not want a successful appeal. So an innocent, vulnerable man is being sacrificed to prevent a precedent being set. This is just one case among many, but if it’s a sign of where society is going then the economic crisis is matched by a moral crisis of similar proportions.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Now Even Top Gear Could Fall Foul of Harman Sexism Law

The BBC and Channel 4 could be forced to use more female and ethnic characters and presenters in TV shows under controversial reforms of equality laws. The change could hit programmes such as Top Gear, which has an all-male presenting team, and EastEnders, which has screened episodes featuring all-black, all-Asian and all-female casts. State-funded organisations are being ordered to boost the proportion of female, black and gay staff to reflect the make-up of the UK population under plans unveiled by Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman.

But there are fears that the decision not to exempt broadcasters from the proposals in the Government’s Equality Bill will compromise their editorial independence. Critics fear programmes will be forced to hire actors, presenters and producers on grounds of gender, ethnic background or sexuality, rather than suitability for the show.

Now Tory culture spokesman Jeremy Hunt has written to Miss Harman and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham highlighting the ‘very serious implications’ of the shake-up. Mr Hunt said: ‘Allowing broadcasters creative and intellectual freedom over the content of their programmes is vital in a free society. ‘Both the BBC and Channel 4 have an important role in focusing attention on important social issues, but editorial independence must be sacrosanct.’ He added: ‘In terms of their public functions, such as their employment and procurement practices, they should act as any other public authority. However, for the sake of editorial independence their content is another matter.’ The Equality Bill, which was unveiled on Monday, encourages employers to take ‘positive action’ to widen diversity in the public-sector workforce. Earlier this month a leading academic said the BBC should employ more women to help make shows such as Top Gear ‘female-friendly’. Dr Louise Livesey, tutor in sociology and women’s studies at Ruskin College, Oxford, accused the BBC2 motoring programme of ‘entrenched, institutional sexism’. As well as being hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, the Sunday night show has a ‘boys’ club’ production team and fewer female than male guests. But executive producer Andy Wilman claimed it was ‘utter drivel’ to suggest that Top Gear excluded women, saying: ‘If the show is allegedly female-unfriendly, why is almost half the audience female? ‘Secondly, if we are to have a female presenter just to represent the sexes, then by that logic Loose Women needs a bloke in the line-up pretty sharpish. ‘I actually believe these sorts of mandates are patronising to women viewers, because they assume that women can’t enjoy a show’s presenters on merit, but can only appreciate a programme if spoken to by one of their own sex.’ During the Government’s consultation on the ‘gender and class’ Bill in July last year, the BBC ‘made clear’ that new laws should not ‘compromise their journalistic, programme and broadcasting activities’. A BBC Trust spokesman said: ‘We agree it would be helpful to have clarification of the Government’s intentions and we are discussing that with them.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim [Return to headlines]


Researchers Find First Common Autism Gene

Researchers have found the first common genetic link to autism and said yesterday it could potentially account for 15 per cent of the disease’s cases.

Three studies, two in the journal Nature and one in Molecular Psychiatry, suggest changes in brain connections could underlie some cases.

While the findings do not immediately offer hope for a treatment, they do help explain the underlying causes of the condition, which affects as many as one in 150 children, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

“These findings establish that genetic factors play a strong role in autism spectrum disorder,” National Institutes of Health acting director Dr Raynard Kington said in a statement.

“Detailed analysis of the genes and how they affect brain development is likely to yield better strategies for diagnosing and treating children with autism.”

Autism refers to a spectrum of diseases, from severe and profound inability to communicate and mental retardation, to relatively mild symptoms called Asperger’s syndrome.

Doctors have been at a loss to explain it, although it has been clear autism can often run in families, suggesting a genetic cause.

“Previous studies have suggested that autism is a developmental disorder resulting from abnormal connections in the brain. These three studies suggest some of the genetic factors which might lead to abnormal connectivity,” Dr Thomas Insel, director of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, said in a statement.

The international team of researchers looked at DNA from more than 12,000 people, some from families affected by autism, and unaffected volunteers.

“We estimate that the variants we discovered may contribute to as many as 15 per cent of autism spectrum disorder cases in a population,” Dr Hakon Hakonarson of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

“Most of the genes that have been identified in these studies are involved in the connections between neurons called synapses,’ said Tony Monaco of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at Britain’s University of Oxford, who worked on the study, said in a statement.

“This does seem to fit with what we know from brain scans — that people with autism may show different or reduced connectivity between different parts of the brain.”

The mutations are not unique to people with autism.

“While this gene variant is common in the general population, we discovered that it occurs about 20 per cent more often in children with autism,” said Dr. Daniel Geschwind of the University of California Los Angeles, who worked on the study.

“Until now, no common genetic variant has been identified with such overwhelming evidence to support its role in autism spectrum disorders,” added Dr.. Margaret Pericak-Vance of the University of Miami.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

The Gangs That Rule Herrgården

Our Swedish correspondent CB has translated a long newspaper report about the violent gangs of “youths” in the Rosengård district of Malmö. He includes this introduction:

Malmö burning carsThis is a translation of an article from the newspaper Sydsvenska Dagbladet. It’s about a team of reporters who keep a running account of the disintegration of Rosengård in Malmö. One can but wonder when the reports will be about the disintegration of Malmö proper. I suppose that will follow in the near future, given the demographics of the town and the senseless Multiculturalism of the ruling leftists in the municipality.

I think the story is noteworthy, since it consists of the observations and experiences of the reporters from several occasions in Rosengård. Note the wish to take out a cop. The tactics used to lure the police into entering the yards around the houses to be able to pelt them with rocks. The enforced territorial lines, with the photographer being knocked down when he gets too close or crosses said lines.

Apparently the police have conceded those territories to the gangs, and in effect Swedish law no longer applies there during certain periods of the 24 hours. Perhaps that holds true for more than the nights in Herrgården and at Ramels väg. The man shouting at the police had a valid question: Why don’t they do anything?

Malmö gangIt would be tempting to let the “youths” burn the whole place to the ground, but that would be the final surrender. However, the currently applied nice-mister-policeman attitude is of no value. Someone from the authorities needs to tell these people: If you don’t change, if you don’t get your education and be a productive member of society, the gloves will come off!

An even more valid question to the man shouting at the police would be: Why don’t you, the people of Rosengård do anything? It’s your kids! It’s your neighborhood! You grown-ups have to be able to control your own kids. If not, you will not be treated as grown-ups anymore and you will lose a lot of your freedoms that we have given you as our guests in Sweden.

And now for his translation of the article in Sydsvenskan:

Youth gangs rule Herrgården

A rock flies close by. A bottle hits the asphalt in front of us. The police have abandoned Herrgården and the youth gang rules the residential area.

“I want to take out a cop,” says one of them before Sydsvenskan‘s reporters are attacked instead.

We escape across Amiralsgatan.

It’s Wednesday evening last week, just after 21.00, when we run towards quiet Kryddgården. It’s the fourth evening in a row that Sydsvenskan has been on location and sees the police not entering Ramels väg as long as they don’t deem it absolutely necessary.

And they usually just dare to approach the T-junction and the street leading up to the yards. The police don’t enter the yards without being prepared for riots.

– – – – – – – –

For four days the picture has been the same. Burning tires on the road, making it hard for cars to enter. The container that the garbage company placed there, instead of building a new garbage shed, is burning every day. Smoke from rubber and burning tires has enveloped the houses closest to the road.

As long as nobody protects the fire brigade, there is no one putting out the fires.

Earlier in the day, one of the rock-throwing youths is in Malmö district court. He wasn’t arrested in Herrgården, but at the Davis Cup protests March 7th.

Outside the court-room sits the 18-year-old’s younger brother and five six friends. At least two of them are members of Black Cobra or Black Scorpions.

“We don’t have any jobs. One doesn’t want to live on just 3,000 [kronor] on social welfare,” says one of them when Sydsvenskan asks why they are members in the gang.

But if you get money or cars, you have to grab that from somebody who might be working.

“Well, the thing with car extortion might not have been right. But if one sells, it’s not anybody who’s forced to buy. It’s their choice. Nobody is putting it in anybody’s mouth.”

Dressed in uniform, Andy Roberts comes out from the court room. There he has testified about how paving stones were hurled against the car he sat in until he went out, pulled his firearm and pointed it at the rock-throwers.

He works as outdoor commanding officer in Malmö, and mostly gives a calm impression. With a small smile he begins to talk with the youth, some of them about what they are doing outside the courtroom and who he has encountered on the streets before.

“When are you going to stop throwing rocks at us?”

Instead of answer he gets a lightning fast counter question:

“When will you stop calling us f****ing monkeys?”

“But you can’t pass a collective judgment because of three people’s bad judgment,” says Andy Roberts.

“You pass a collective judgment on us and say we throw rocks.”

“I haven’t said that you throw rocks; I said ‘when are the rocks being thrown at the police are going to stop?’“

In the evening darkness the German shepherd stands on its hind legs against those who approach the burning container or the food store behind it.

Youths in small groups of two or three mix with grownups, women and men. People engage in small talk with each other when they realize they can pass through the T-junction and get out of Herrgården.

In a pile in the middle of the road some car tires are burning.

“I’ve told you that you aren’t allowed to walk here,” the policewoman says sharply while at the same time she pulls in the leash so the barking dog won’t attack.

Nearly an hour earlier, at 20.20, the police received an alarm about fighting and something perceived as shots being fired. Several people called in alarms and the police judged that it might be for real and not just a ruse to lure them into the yards.

When they finally came to check that nobody was shot, the police were attacked with rocks. Shortly afterwards there was a fire in the area again.

“It’s a workday,” states the evening outdoor Officer Charlotte Svensson after she tells about what happened.

The youths have temporarily been dispersed. The police have called on loudspeakers that all who do not obey and go home can be apprehended according to the police law, 13th paragraph.

“You don’t stay here alone, do you, Lotta?” says one of the police when they bring their vehicles out of Ramels väg again.

Four youths come out of the yards. Wonder who remains so deep into Herrgården.

“Are you a civi?” [Plain-clothes cop]

“Nope, Sydsvenskan.”

Nobody is unfriendly and we start talking about rock-throwing and the police.

“I don’t have a job, therefore I throw rocks. I’ve applied for jobs for three years now, but you know how it is.”

“Where do you come from? Rosengård! Well, nice that you came. Bye!”

More youth join and their answers are like a pick from last year’s news articles.

Nothing to do. Nowhere to be. Cockroaches at home, so there you can’t stay there. The police harass us.

“I want to take out a cop,” says one of them.

Several laugh and nobody cares about the follow-up questions.

More and more join and it’s getting noisier. Their first questions are the same:

“Who are they? Are the civis?”

It’s difficult to estimate their age in the darkness, but most of them seem to be 16-17 years old. A few over 20.

One of the older ones acts as a leader and decisively steps forward.

“Do you have ID?” he demands.

“Sure, what’s your name?”

He illuminates the press IDs with the mobile. And says he want to make something clear:

“There are no children throwing rocks. Nobody’s under seventeen.”

Several shake hands, take our business cards, and want to talk. About the police. Media. Society.

Others are skeptical.

“Don’t talk with them. They’re not with us,” someone shouts from the group.

One of us walks away to make a phone call. Turns his back to the gang — and gets hit by a stone in the head. His skin in unbroken, and the stone doesn’t cause a bump, but we decide to vacate the area.

When we have taken a few steps onto Ramels väg, towards Amiralsgatan, several are arming themselves. We are running and a stone barely misses us. At least one bottle hits the ground close in front of us.

At midnight the night after we stay on the safe side of Amiralsgatan. At the Preem gas station, where the police stand and just watch. The youth gang at Ramels väg is loud. Single fireworks fly through the smoke from the container.

Two policemen stand leaning against a tree. They have a clear view at Ramels väg and can see how the youths first steal a trailer from the Shell gas station. And then another. The commanding officer stands close by.

The fiberglass cover burns with big flames. When the remains are a pile of embers someone in the gang knocks down a photographer who comes too close and steals his camera.

A young man is heaping his anger on one of the policemen at the Preem gas station. “Why don’t you do anything about the situation?”

“I will move away from Sweden because of this!”

“Do you understand? There is a war in my home country, but I would rather go there and die,” he says to the policeman.

The policeman looks towards the youths on the other side of the street and answers:

“Then you can take them with you.”

Use Your Brain!

A zealous local prosecutor in the Swiss canton of Wallis took offense on behalf of Muslims over an “Islamophobic” campaign poster and initiated a judicial action against the disgusting racist political party that created it. Even the local cantonal judge ruled against the prosecutor, and now the highest court in Switzerland has confirmed the verdict: the poster is harmless.

Our Flemish correspondent VH has translated a report from Politically Incorrect:

Controversial poster found innocent

Use your heads! An election poster for the SVP [Swiss People’s Party] in the Swiss canton of Wallis insulted Muslims and caused an outrage. It shows Muslims praying in front of the Federal Parliament in Bern (photo) and on the picture are printed the words: “Utilisez vos Têtes!” [“Use your heads!”], followed by “Votez UDC — Suisse, toujours libre” [“Vote SVP — Switzerland will always be free”]. The Swiss Federal Court has now reached a final decision that this poster was acceptable because it does not violate the prohibition of racial discrimination.

The public prosecutor of Wallis demanded a punishment for racial discrimination against the unknown designer and distributor of the poster. The Cantonal Judge did not agree with the accusations, and this was confirmed last July by the Wallis Cantonal Court.

– – – – – – – –

The Federal Court at its public session on Monday finally dismissed the appeal against the verdict by the public prosecutor of Wallis. Four of the five judges of the criminal department came to the conclusion that the poster does not infringe the ban on racial discrimination.

The image merely shows praying Muslims and calls for them to use their heads. The fact that people feel it is addressed to them and thereby feel insulted actually allows more conclusions about the insulted than about the poster itself.

That the Swiss Federal Court in Lausanne still prefer to use their brains for something other than giving in to Muslim outrage has been proven in previous cases.

Zakat and Sedition

As has often been noted, jihad — violence against the infidel for the purpose of spreading Islam — is just one of the tactics used by Muslims to Islamize the infidel world. Various forms of “stealth jihad” supplement and support terrorism as a means of extending Islam’s reach.

Zakat, the religiously-mandated giving of alms, is one such supporting function. Islamic scripture and tradition require that charitable giving be used for the support of violent jihad, in addition to the more mundane eleemosynary functions.

It’s hard to fight this process. Who, after all, objects to charitable organizations?

Every time a Western prosecutor goes up against a Muslim “charity”, the deck is stacked against him due to our intuitive misconception of what an Islamic charitable organization must be like. Add to this the routine dissimulation of Muslims (which is also required by scripture and tradition), and you arrive at the toxic situation we face today: large amounts of money used to fund terrorism flow through the world’s banking systems in accounts maintained by Islamic “charities”.

Our European correspondent Lexington was prompted by Zenster’s comment on the April 15th news feed to compose the following concise account of zakat and Islamic banking:

Zakat (alms, charity) is required of all Moslems, being one of the five pillars of Islam. These alms are to be paid in proportion to the wealth and property of the individual Moslem.

Those for whom this charity collection is intended, and the purposes to which the alms are to be put, are designated by the Koran (9:60):

1.   The poor
2.   Those who collect these alms
3.   To attract the hearts of those who have been inclined (towards Islam) (Da’wa)
4.   To free those in captivity
5.   For those in debt
6.   For “Allah’s Cause” (i.e. for Majahidun, those fighting in holy battle, Jihad)
7.   For the wayfarer

Thus, monies collected for alms in Islam (and this includes all Islamic “charities” and all Islamic institutions which must give a portion of their collections and/or profits to “zakat”) are, indeed, used to fund terrorism, and this is specifically required by the Koran (though stated as “holy battle” and not terrorism).

This fact further enlarges upon and strongly supports the contention of those who consider Islam to be primarily a political ideology, and not a theology.

It also helps to explain why any businesses and financial institutions that engage in and offer Sharia Compliant Finance run the risk of legal action as conduits and intermediaries in funding terrorism and sedition (There is also, of course, another issue: da’wa, by encouraging non-Moslems to acquiesce to Shariah, is a form of sedition, the aim of which, through the inequality of Sharia as a jurisprudence, is to overthrow a nation’s laws and government).

– – – – – – – –

For more information, see this Shariah Finance study (pdf) from the Center for Security Policy

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

Islam is essentially seditious, because it lays the groundwork within the “theological framework” of one of its “five pillars” for the violent overthrow of governments and societies.

Jihad is a tactic to achieve an Islamic world under Shariah. To deflect criticism, Moslems always fall back on that one weak hadith describing it as an “inner struggle”, but zakat, with its instruction to use some of the alms collected “in the cause of Allah” (a term which is always meant in the Koran and ahadith as waging war, jihad, etc) squarely implicates Islam as seditious, violent, and a danger to all non-Moslem societies.

Highlighting zakat is a way of hoisting Moslems with their own petard through one of their “five pillars”. It also exposes those Moslems who call themselves “moderate”, because Moslems are fully aware of the purposes to which zakat is to be put; they cannot plead ignorance.

Also, all Islamic charities, all financial institutions offering sharia banking services can be regarded as legally complicit in the destruction of their societies by virtue of deliberately intended use of zakat for seditious purposes.

I believe a good case can be made, especially after Geert Wilders’ speech in Florida, for pushing the contention that Islam is a political ideology that must be proscribed.

Kind regards,

Sweden Tops European Rape League — But Why?

The Fjordman Report

The noted blogger Fjordman is filing this report via Gates of Vienna.
For a complete Fjordman blogography, see The Fjordman Files. There is also a multi-index listing here.

As recently as a few weeks ago, the hostile Wikipedia entry on “Fjordman” claimed that my previous essays about the Swedish rape epidemic are false because the massive increase in rapes was caused by “a widening of the legal definition of rape.” I bet it was.

Now I notice that statement has now been quietly removed. This is probably why:

Sweden tops European rape league

Sweden has the highest incidence of reported rapes in Europe — twice as many as “runner up” the UK, a new study shows. Researchers behind the EU study, which will be presented on Tuesday, conclude that rape appears to be a more common occurrence in Sweden than in continental European countries. In Sweden, 46 incidents of rape are reported per 100,000 residents. This figure is double as many as in the UK which reports 23 cases, and four times that of the other Nordic countries, Germany and France. The figure is up to 20 times the figure for certain countries in southern and eastern Europe.

My comment: As I have explained in my book Defeating Eurabia, where I devote an entire chapter to explaining the appalling situation in Sweden, Ethnologist Maria Bäckman, in her study “Whiteness and gender,” has followed a group of Swedish girls in the suburb of Rinkeby outside Stockholm, where natives have been turned into a minority of the inhabitants due to immigration. The subjects “may encounter prejudices such as the idea that Swedish girls act and dress in a sexually provocative way or that blonde girls are easy.” Bäckman relates that several of the Swedish girls she interviewed stated that they had dyed their hair to avoid sexual harassment. They experienced that being blonde involves old men staring at you, cars honking their horns and boys calling you “whore.”
– – – – – – – –
A report from the organization Save the Children told that Swedish girls are scared of being raped, a possibility that appears very real to them. A survey carried out among ninth-grade boys in the immigrant-dominated suburb of Rinkeby showed that in the last year, 17% of the boys had forced someone to have sex, 31% had hurt someone so badly that the victim required medical care, and 24% had committed burglary or broken into a car. Sensational statistics, but they appear to have been published only in a daily newssheet that is distributed free on the subways.

“It is not as wrong raping a Swedish girl as raping an Arab girl,” says Hamid, in an interview about a gang rape involving a Swedish girl and immigrant perps. “The Swedish girl gets a lot of help afterwards, and she had probably f**ked before, anyway. But the Arab girl will get problems with her family. For her, being raped is a source of shame. It is important that she retains her virginity… It is far too easy to get a Swedish whore… girl, I mean;” says Hamid, and laughs over his own choice of words. “I don’t have too much respect for Swedish girls. I guess you can say they get f**ked to pieces.”

In an article from June 2007 with the title “Summertime — rape time,” Aftonbladet, one of the largest dailies in Scandinavia, linked the spike in rapes during the summer to the warm weather. The official number of rape charges in Sweden has more than quadrupled during one generation, even more for girls under the age of 15. If this is due to the warm weather, I suppose the Scandinavian rape wave is caused by global warming? The fact that a greatly disproportionate number of the suspects have an immigrant background according to statistics from neighboring Norway and Denmark is purely coincidental, no doubt.

According to journalist Karen Jespersen, Helle Klein, the political editor-in-chief of Aftonbladet from 2001 to 2007 and a former leading member of the Social Democratic Youth League, has stated that “If the debate is [about] that there are problems caused by refugees and immigrants, we don’t want it.” Opinion polls have revealed that two out of three Swedes doubt whether Islam can be combined with Swedish society, yet not one party in parliament has been genuinely critical of the immigration policies.

The rape numbers are being heavily manipulated by the authorities and the media, who claim that the massive increase in rapes is caused by:

A.     The warm weather
B.     Alcohol,
C.     Internet dating sites, and
D.     A technical increase due to the fact that women suddenly report rape more frequently than before.

These are the explanations that are mentioned. There is no other. Suggesting that it has something to do with mass immigration of alien and aggressive cultures is quite literally banned by law. In March 2007 during a rally supported by SSU, the Social Democratic Youth League, a man carried a sign reading, “While Swedish girls are being gang raped by immigrant gangs the SSU is fighting racism.” He was promptly arrested and later sentenced to a fine because he “expressed disrespect for a group of people with reference to their national or ethnic background.” The local court rejected the man’s free speech argument because even free speech has its limits, and he had clearly acted in a too provocative manner.

The Leftist, Multicultural organization Amnesty International will never say anything about the fact that this massive spike in rapes is caused by mass immigration, a mass immigration that it and other international organizations want to continue indefinitely, until the native population has been reduced to a persecuted minority in the lands where their ancestors have lived since prehistoric times, in a country that has no colonial history. Just like all problems according to Nazism were automatically blamed on Jews, so all problems according to Multiculturalism are automatically blamed on whites. We are now witnessing a wave of rape and violent crime in many European countries which is unprecedented in modern history. It’s not “crime,” but in fact resembles warfare. Yet we can’t say that non-white immigrants commit almost all of the gang rapes and the most brutal rapes, as is documented from neighboring Norway. Consequently, one must blame “ordinary Swedish men” (Read: white males). Whites, and white women in particular, are the victims of an accelerating wave of violence and abuse caused by mass immigration and Multiculturalism. The response of “human rights groups” such as Amnesty and the UN to this is to continue mass immigration and Multiculturalism as if nothing has happened and intensify the efforts to break down and destroy whites, white men in particular:

Swedish rapists ‘enjoy impunity’: Amnesty International

Sweden needs to do much more to clamp down on rapists, according to reports from Amnesty International and the United Nations. Jennifer Heape examines the disparity between the country’s high incidence of rape and its low conviction rate. In addition to challenging victim and crime stereotypes, perceptions surrounding ‘typical’ perpetrators must also be considered. The UN Special Report discusses how there is a widespread belief that the type of men who commit intimate-partner violence are not typical, ‘normal’ Swedes. They are usually imagined as somewhat ‘deviant’ — unemployed, uneducated, alcoholic or from non-Western backgrounds, and so on. However, as Ertürk challenges: “In absolute numbers, the vast majority of the perpetrators of intimate-partner violence are ‘ordinary’ Swedish men.” In its conclusion, Amnesty blames “deeply rooted patriarchal gender norms“ of Swedish family life and sexual relationships as a “major societal flaw” and a reason for the continued prevalence of violence against women in Sweden. [emphasis added]

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/28/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/28/2009The swine flu continues to spread all over the world, but is surprisingly non-lethal, with the most deadly effects seeming to be limited to Mexico.

Also, containers of a non-pandemic version of the swine flu exploded on a Swiss train.

In other news, a Swedish company has been fined 25,000 kronor because a robot attacked and nearly killed one of its factory workers.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, CSP, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, Paul Green, TB, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
– – – – – – – –

Financial Crisis
Finnish Unemployment Rate Rises to 8.3 Pct
Obama’s Muslim Advisor (Exclusive)
Bail Out Newspapers?
Swine Flu an Act of Biological Warfare?
U.S. Regulatory Czar Nominee Wants Net ‘Fairness Doctrine’
Uh Oh…Team Obama Claims Americans Use Too Much Health Care
US Lawmakers Urge President Obama to Back Turkey’s EU Bid
Europe and the EU
3 Men Acquitted of Helping 2005 London Bombers
Berlin Referendum Fails at the Polls
Britain Proposes Affirmative Action Bill
Cyprus: Greek Cypriots ‘Can Reclaim Land’
Daimler Renounces Stake, Forgives Chrysler Loans
Denmark: Politicians Unite Against Forced Teenage Weddings
Denmark: 55% of Muslims Think Criticizing Religion Should be Forbidden
EU Optimistic on Renewing Ties With Russia
Finland: Defence and Equality Ministers Do Not See Male Conscription as Equality Issue
Rise of Wilders Divides CDA and D66
Robot Attacked Swedish Factory Worker
Sweden: ‘Make Conscription Mandatory for Women’ Say Social Democrats
Swedish Rapists ‘Enjoy Impunity’: Amnesty International
Switzerland: Swine Flu Container Explodes on Train
UK Warns Against Mexico Travel After Swine Flu Confirmed
UK: Brown Touts Anti-Terrorism Strategy
UK: Mother Bored With Pregnancy ‘Killed Her Unborn Twins’ — Then Blamed the Midwife
UK: Tories, Unreliable as Ever on the EU
UK: Teenage Boy ‘Murdered After Being Tied to Tree, Forced to Drink Petrol and Then Set Alight in Recreation of Scene From Horror Film’
UK: Whitehall’s Dark Side
EU Police Disperse Serb Protest in Kosovo’s North
Israel and the Palestinians
Israel’s Arab Cheerleaders
Israel Already Forfeited Temple Mount, Divided Jerusalem
The Hamas Lobby
Middle East
Cabinet Denounces Racism
Iraqi Archbishop Decries Christian Slayings
Islam Calls for Professionalism, Says Scholar
Refugee Kids Build New Lives in Europe
Culture Wars
Distorting the Word ‘Hate’
Mexico Death Toll Stabilizes as Epidemic Spreads
OIC Expresses Concern Over ‘Faith Fighter’ Computer Game
Shariah in the West: a Discussion With Andy McCarthy

Financial Crisis

Finnish Unemployment Rate Rises to 8.3 Pct

HELSINKI (AFP) — Finland’s unemployment rate rose to 8.3 percent of the labour force in March from 7.6 percent a month earlier, the national statistics agency said Tuesday.

A year earlier the jobless rate for March was 6.8 percent, Statistics Finland said in a statement, noting that the number of people out of work last month rose by 42,000 year-on-year to 222,000.

Seasonally adjusted, Finland’s unemployment rate increased to 7.6 percent compared to 7.1 percent a month earlier.

Some 2.5 million Finns out of a population of 5.3 million had a job last month, down by 1.1 percent from March 2008, the agency said.

The figure for unemployment among people aged 15 to 24 rose last month to 17.5 percent up from 16.3 percent in February.

The global financial crisis has since late last year decreased the demand for Finnish products, which has been reflected in massive layoffs and fewer available jobs.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Obama’s Muslim Advisor (Exclusive)

WASHINGTON — Dalia Mogahed, a hijab-clad American Muslim, has made history being the first Muslim woman appointed to a position in President Barack Obama’s administration.

She sets on a newly-formed interfaith advisory board the administration hopes will improve relations with Muslims in the US and across the globe.

The Egyptian-born American heads the Gallup American Center for Muslim Studies, a research center that produces studies on Muslim public opinion worldwide.

In an exclusive interview, discussed with Egyptian-born Mogahed her new role, the challenges facing Muslims, Islamophobia in the US and her own success story.

– How do you feel about being the first Muslim appointed to the Obama administration?

I am not actually the first Muslim. There have been other Muslims appointed to Obama’s administration. I am also not the only Muslim on the White House advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. I join Dr. Eboo Patel as the second Muslim on the council. I am, however, the first Muslim woman in this council. I feel very honored for the privilege to serve in this way, but also recognize the responsibility that I’ve agreed to take on. I see my role much more in terms of what needs to get done rather than a historical accomplishment. I believe the accomplishments are yet to be fulfilled.

– What is the role of the Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership?

I am a member of a 25-person advisory council to the White House focused on offering solutions for societal problems sourced in the wisdom of faith communities. More specifically, I am on the Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation Task Force, a group of only 5. We will work on recommendations for our area of focus and these will be reviewed by the larger council and then included in an annual report with recommendations from the council to the President.

– What is your role as an advisor on Islam?

I would not say I am an advisor on Islam. I would say that it is my role to convey the facts about what Muslims think and feel. I see my role as offering the voices of the silenced majority of Muslims in America and around the world to the council so that our deliberations are informed by their ideas and wisdom. I believe that I was chosen because the administration cares about what Muslims think and wants to listen.

– What kind of advise would you be giving Obama to improve relations with US Muslims and the Muslim world?

I would advise him to listen first and foremost. Many have claimed that terrorists have ‘hijacked Islam’. I disagree. I think Islam is safe and thriving in the lives of Muslims around the world. What the terrorists have been allowed to take over are Muslim grievances. Muslim concerns over injustice have been largely dismissed by the previous administration leaving a vacuum exploited by extremists. This is a dangerous reality for all of us. Instead, the US must hear mainstream Muslim concerns even if America does not agree with their perceptions. These issues can no longer be ignored or left and the extremists to monopolize.

– What areas of domestic and foreign policies you think the administration should be introducing change in?

I would endorse the action plan outlined in the report “Changing Course” which recommends four areas of action: Respect, Reform (political and economic) and Resolution of conflict. When it comes to the US, I would recommend that a senior member of the administration go on a “listening tour” of the US and hear what Muslim Americans are concerned over. Like all Americans, they are worried about the economic crisis, their financial future and jobs. And like many other US citizens, Muslim Americans are also worried about racial profiling, discriminatory immigration policy and the erosion of civil liberties.

– What do you think of the rising Islamphobia in America?

Islamphobia in America is very real. Gallup finds that Muslims are among the most unfavorably viewed groups in the US and only a little over a third of Americans say they have no prejudice against Muslims. This presents a grave danger to America as a whole. The disease of racism, by definition, is a bias in judgment. This means that racism clouds sound judgment and leads people to make irrational decisions. It also divides a nation and prevents the full utilization of its intellectual and cultural resources. Racism is wasteful. Racism is a strategic disadvantage. I am very proud of the progress America has made in fighting this problem as it relates to the relationship between blacks and whites. In 1956 only 4% of Americans approved of a marriage between whites and blacks. The marriage that produced our president was illegal in Virginia when he was born. Today 80% of Americans approve of marriage between blacks and whites. Last year, Barack Obama became the first Democratic Presidential candidate in decades to carry Virginia. We are a stronger and smarter nation because of this growth. Our next growth spurt will be in ridding our society of anti-Muslim prejudice.

– What do you think US Muslims themselves need to do?

Muslim Americans lag behind other Americans in their political and civic participation according to our research (National Portrait). The best thing they can do to strengthen America is to become fully engaged in writing its next chapter by getting involved and feeling a strong sense of ownership for the future of their country.

– What are you hopes and aspirations for US Muslims?

I hope that they enrich America by becoming fully engaged in its growth and development, as well as its struggles.

– Tell us about your own journey of success as an American Muslim woman, with hijab. What challenges have you faced along the way?

I have been tremendously blessed, Alhamdulillah. I feel that mine is a uniquely American story. I grew up in an educated middle class home, but with no special connections or privilege. By excelling in school, I was able to attend a top university and helped pay my way by working during the summer as an engineering intern. My summer job was at a paper factory in a small Wisconsin town. I was only 19 years old. Managing technicians often reminded me that they’ve been working on the machine longer than I’ve been on Earth. Many also told me that I was the first Muslim they’d ever met. Very few women worked in the factory, so I was already a minority just as a female, but I was also the only hijab-wearing woman in the entire town and the only Muslim in the factory. All of this of course presented a challenge, but one that taught me a great deal. Once people got to know me I became a professional to them, not a woman in hijab. I took this experience with me to my permanent job after college and to my graduate work. These situations taught me that living according to your conscience was more important than comfortably conforming to your surroundings. I think this simple lesson of life is one that has helped me succeed and given me the courage to face the most difficult and daunting situations.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]


Bail Out Newspapers?

The good news for readers of the Los Angeles Times came April 9 when columnist Rosa Brooks announced she was writing her last column.

The bad news for the rest of us came when she announced she was going on to accept a job as an adviser to the undersecretary of defense for policy.

There was much to absorb in this column — especially for someone like me who has spent his entire adult life working in journalism, while people like Brooks have jumped back and forth seamlessly from media to government jobs without raising a cynical eyebrow.

The first question: What expertise does Rosa Brooks have to qualify her to advise the undersecretary of defense for policy?

This is mind-boggling to me. Has she ever served in the military? Has she ever worked in defense? Do you feel safer knowing a Los Angeles Times columnist is helping to craft defense policy?

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Swine Flu an Act of Biological Warfare?

Klayman questions whether virus is planned attack on U.S.

With 40 confirmed cases of swine flu in the U.S., an anti-terrorism expert is questioning whether the outbreak is an act of biological warfare.

Freedom Watch, a public interest watchdog, believes that there is a very good possibility that the precipitous outbreak of the virus in Mexico, which has now spread to the United States and other western countries, is not the result of happenstance — but terrorism.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

U.S. Regulatory Czar Nominee Wants Net ‘Fairness Doctrine’

Cass Sunstein sees Web as anti-democratic, proposed 24-hour delay on sending e-mail

WASHINGTON — Barack Obama’s nominee for “regulatory czar” has advocated a “Fairness Doctrine” for the Internet that would require opposing opinions be linked and also has suggested angry e-mails should be prevented from being sent by technology that would require a 24-hour cooling off period.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Uh Oh…Team Obama Claims Americans Use Too Much Health Care

Last Sunday on “Meet the Press,” Larry Summers, Obama’s chief economic adviser, let the cat out of the bag on health care. In explaining why universal health care wasn’t going to increase the deficit, Summers said that people are just getting too much unnecessary care. Summers claimed: “whether it’s tonsillectomies or hysterectomies . . . procedures are done three times as frequently [in some parts of the country than others] and there’s no benefit in terms of the health of the population. And by doing the right kind of cost-effectiveness, by making the right kinds of investments and protection, some experts that we — estimate that we could take as much as $700 billion a year out of our health care system.”

This sure seems like rationing.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

US Lawmakers Urge President Obama to Back Turkey’s EU Bid

ISTANBUL — U.S. lawmakers urged President Barack Obama on Wednesday to strongly support Turkey’s accession to the European Union and the NATO ally’s reconciliation with Armenia. (UPDATED)

“The United States must remain an iron clad supporter of Turkish membership in the EU,” AFP quoted 29 Democrats and Republicans from the House of Representatives as saying in a letter to Obama, who will visit Turkey on Sunday.

The U.S. lawmakers urged the president to help the Turkish government undertake the necessary political, economic and judicial reforms to join the 27-member bloc.

“We believe Turkey’s success as a secular democracy that fully respects the rule of law and guarantees freedoms, civil, religious and human rights are in the interest of the Turkish people, the European Union and the United States,” they said.

Turkey began EU accession talks in 2005, but it has so far opened discussions on only 10 of the 35 policy areas that candidates must successfully negotiate. One of the main stumbling blocks has been a trade row over Cyprus and opposition from some bloc members.

The U.S. lawmakers also thanked Turkey for its support in stabilizing Afghanistan, including hosting three-way talks with Pakistan, and for U.S.-led efforts to build democracy in Iraq, AFP reported.

Turkey-Armenia thaw

In the letter, the congressmen also urged “unequivocal” U.S. support for Turkey and Armenia’s efforts at normalizing their bilateral relations.

Representatives Robert Wexler, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ike Skelton, the chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, and Alcee Hastings, co-chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, were among the group who penned the letter, according to the Anatolia news agency.

A group of U.S. lawmakers, including Wexler, Skelton and Hastings, had expressed readiness to help Turkey and Armenia’s tie-boosting efforts in another letter they sent to the presidents of the two countries earlier this week.

Ankara and Yerevan have agreed on the major parameters of a historic reconciliation in secret talks to start diplomatic relations and re-open their shared border, which Turkey closed in 1993 after Armenia occupied the Nagorno-Karabakh region, sources have told Hurriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

The letter also praised Obama’s visit to Turkey, the Anatolia news agency reported.

“The visit will be a historic opportunity to improve one of the most strategic partnerships of the U.S. and to renew a 60 year-old friendship, mutual respect and ties based on common goals,” the letter was quoted by the agency as saying.

“We believe that Turkey will continue to be a leading partner in the future political, economic and security achievements of Iraq. Turkey can also play a role in a safe and effective withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq, provided that all sides agree,” the letter said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

3 Men Acquitted of Helping 2005 London Bombers

LONDON — Three men accused of helping plan the 2005 London transit bombings were acquitted Tuesday of playing any role in the plot, a blow to investigators’ hopes of convicting anyone over the worst attack on Britain since World War II.

A jury in London found Waheed Ali, Sadeer Saleem, and Mohammed Shakil not guilty of conspiring to cause explosions. They were accused of working with four suicide bombers who attacked three subway cars and a bus July 7, 2005, killing 52 passengers and themselves.

Prosecutors had alleged the accused took part in a test run for the attacks in December 2004, when they joined three of July 7 bombers on a trip to London.

The group visited subway stations and a host of popular tourist spots, such as the London Eye observation wheel and Natural History Museum, prosecutors said.

But the jury rejected claims the three men were involved in plotting the attacks. It was the second time they had been tried. A different jury failed to reach verdicts in August.

Ali and Shakil were convicted Tuesday of a lesser charge of conspiring to attend a terrorist training camp. They will be sentenced Wednesday..

Legal experts said the outcome has highlighted concerns about how Britain prosecutes alleged terrorists, following a series of high-profile acquittals in major trials.

Prosecutors must tackle increasing public skepticism about the extent of the terrorist threat to Britain, fueled by the failures of recent police raids against Muslim communities to result in charges.

“Many of these cases take months, and juries get to know and like the defendants,” said human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, who was not involved in the latest case. “They begin to think they’re not so bad and they doubt the strength of the evidence against them.”

Ali, Saleem and Shakil had been tried last year, when a different jury failed to reach verdicts.

In another major case, Jordanian neurologist Mohammed Asha was cleared last December of involvement in botched car 2007 bomb attacks on Glasgow and London. Last October, the trial of people alleged to have plotted to bring down airliners bound from Britain to the United States also collapsed.

Shakil, Ali and Saleem, who were close friends of the four suicide bombers, are the only people to have been tried in connection with the July 7 transit attacks.

Police said their inquiry — Britain’s largest police investigation ever — is continuing. But officers say their work has been hindered by the reluctance of witnesses in Britain’s Muslim communities to come forward.

Jacqui Putnam, who was injured in the blast in a subway car at London’s Edgware Road station, said the failure to bring anyone to justice has left survivors frustrated.

“It was painful to follow the trial, and it is equally painful to be here, nearly four years after 7/7 and still have so many unanswered questions,” Putnam said in a statement after the verdict.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Berlin Referendum Fails at the Polls

Berliners voted Sunday on whether students can take religion instead of compulsory ethics classes. In the end, the referendum failed to attract either enough voters or a majority of those who did vote. Now the proposal’s backers are saying Berlin’s mayor hasn’t been playing fair.

A campaign to allow students to choose between religion and ethics courses failed at the polls in Berlin Sunday.

It was a referendum that dominated discussion in Berlin for weeks: Should school students have a choice between ethics and religion classes, or should ethics continue to be compulsory and religion an optional extra course?

But after the streets had been plastered with posters and the radio waves full of ads, after all the workshops, discussion panels and street-level campaigning, after all the special newspaper sections and all the lining-up of supporters drawn from the world of politics, sports and television, in the end, not enough people showed up at the polls to push the referendum through.

“I’d been hoping for a different result,” said Christoph Lehmann, the lawyer who led the “Pro Reli” campaign, which was backed by the Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ruling center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the churches. Archbishop Robert Zollitch, the head of the Catholic German Bishops Conference, viewed it as a “painful outcome.”

If passed, the proposal would have allowed students to choose between ethics and religion courses, which would have seen Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism taught separately.

In the end, only 14.2 percent of all eligible voters in Berlin cast their ballots on Sunday in support of the “Pro Reli” proposal, which was well short of the 25 percent — or 611,422 votes — needed to effect the change. A total of 713,228 (29.2 percent) of Berlin’s 2.45 million eligible voters cast their ballot, 51.3 percent of which opposed and 48.5 percent of which supported the proposal.

Berlin has a long secular tradition, and 60 percent of Berliners are not members of any church. In 2006, ethics classes became a compulsory subject for Berlin students between grade 7 and grade 10, with religion being an optional extra class, after the “honor killing” of a Turkish woman murdered by her brother.

The proposal was opposed by Berlin’s ruling left-wing parties, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Left Party. The city-state’s government argues that all students, regardless of their cultural or ethnic background, should learn a common set of values.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit pronounced himself pleased with the results of the referendum, telling Reuters: “This shows that those in ‘Pro Reli’ who were portraying this as a ‘freedom’ issue — as if the Russians were about to invade — are out of touch with the real situation in Berlin.”

‘Pro Reli’ is responding to the loss by accusing the mayor of using his decision-making powers to favor the proposal’s opponents. For example, Lehmann is now criticizing city hall for allegedly directing more funding to groups campaigning against the proposal as well as for refusing to hold the referendum on June 7, when Germans would have already been going to the polls for the EU parliamentary vote.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Britain Proposes Affirmative Action Bill

LONDON — Is the end near for the English gentleman of privilege?

Britain has proposed an affirmative action bill meant to tackle thorny class divisions and encourage equal opportunities for women and minorities — a proposal already causing an uproar in some circles.

Under the proposed act, white male job applicants could lose out to women and minorities with equal qualifications, while private companies with 250 employees or more would be required to disclose salary discrepancies between male and female employees.

Although no date has been set for parliamentary debate, the Labour-led government hopes to push the bill through before next year’s general election. The bill, which would collect a raft of anti-discrimination provisions in a single act, would likely fail under a Conservative-led government.

“The economies of the future that will prosper are the ones which are not blinkered, held back by old-fashioned hierarchies, by a sense of women knowing their place, by overlooking the talents and abilities of people on the basis of the color of their skin,” Equalities Minister Harriet Harman said Monday when the bill was published.

Business leaders say the proposals are ill-timed, as industries grapple with the recession.

“This bill will discourage job creation and make employers fearful of the recruitment process,” said David Frost, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce. “Coupled with the 50 percent tax rate, this sends a poor message about doing business in the UK.”

The United States was one of the first countries to pass affirmative action legislation — measures originally designed encourage the hiring of blacks, who had been subject to large-scale discrimination. The programs were later extended to women and other minorities.

Britain’s bill takes that one step further by addressing long-standing inequalities between the classes — divisions that go back centuries.

Class divisions are entrenched in Britain, with many of the highly paid, prestigious jobs still going to an aristocracy of Cambridge or Oxford graduates. Eton College, an all-boys school that was once referred to as “the chief nurse of England’s statesmen,” still produces many of Britain’s top conservative politicians.

The government says parents in lower classes are often cheated of opportunities for their children. Government statistics show some more capable children from poor backgrounds are often eclipsed by wealthier children.

Under the bill, all-male clubs would still be allowed, but they could not discriminate against racial or ethnic minorities. Some private clubs that have both men and women as members would be required to treat both sexes the same — for example allowing women to play golf on the same days as men.

The Carlton Club — an elite gentleman’s club with ties to the Conservative Party — changed its rules to grant Margaret Thatcher membership when she became prime minister. White’s, the most traditional of the gentlemen’s clubs in London, still has a “no women” policy after 300 years.

“Our aristocracy is not fixed — it has been replaced to some extent with wealth and celebrity — but who you know still often means more than what you know,” said Patrick Cracroft-Brennan, editor of Cracroft’s Peerage, an electronic reference guide to Britain’s aristocracy.

A prominent part of the bill is devoted to closing pay gaps between men and women.

In Britain, women still earn about 22 percent less per hour than men, one of the largest discrepancies in Europe. In Sweden, the discrepancy is 16.3 percent; in Spain, 17 percent; and in Italy, about 20 percent.

Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission has reported pay gaps of up to 60 percent in the financial services sector. The gaps in annual bonuses were as high as 79 percent.

The bill will require companies with 250 or more employees to report gender pay discrepancies, but Harman said the requirement will only take effect in 2013 — and only if companies aren’t complying voluntarily. Public sector disclosures on pay gaps could be required before 2013.

“This bill needs to contain real action to actually clamp down on discrimination, rather than exercises in box-ticking without proper enforcement,” said Theresa May, a Conservative lawmaker.

Employers would also be allowed to give hiring preference to a member of a minority when they have a choice between candidates who are equally qualified. Minorities are still 13 percent less likely to find work than their white counterparts, government figures show, although the bill would not set quotas.

In Norway, which requires company boards and government agencies to have a certain number of women, salaries are public records. The same is true in Sweden.

Secrecy clauses on salaries would also be outlawed under Britain’s Equality Bill, and age discrimination would be banned in and outside the work place. Travel and motor insurance companies, for example, would be prohibited from denying insurance solely based on age.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Cyprus: Greek Cypriots ‘Can Reclaim Land’

The EU’s top court has backed the right of a Greek Cypriot to reclaim land in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus that has since been sold to a UK couple.

Meletis Apostolides was one of thousands of Greek Cypriots who fled his home when Turkish forces invaded in 1974, following a Greek-inspired coup.

The land was later sold to Linda and David Orams, who built a villa on it.

The European Court of Justice says a ruling in a Cypriot court that the villa must be demolished is applicable.

Even if the ECJ ruling cannot be enacted because the land is under Turkish Cypriot control, it means Mr Apostolides will be able to pursue a claim for compensation in a UK court.

It could also open the way for hundreds more Greek Cypriots to demand restitution for properties they were forced to flee.

Many Britons and other foreigners have invested in property in northern Cyprus, despite the legal ownership still being in some doubt.

Mr Apostolides said he was “very much” pleased with the EU court’s ruling, and that it was “what we expected”.

He added: “This is a difficult issue that has to be decided by the courts.”

Property boom

The European Court of Justice ruling on Tuesday said that the decision of a Cypriot court in Nicosia was applicable in the north, even though Cyprus does not exercise control there.

It also said that one EU country — in this case the UK — must recognise judgments made in the courts of another.

The Republic of Cyprus joined the EU in 2004.

EU law was suspended in northern Cyprus for the purposes of Cyprus’s accession, but lawyers argued successfully that the Orams’ civil case still falls within the scope of the EU regulation.

Northern Cyprus is self-governing and still occupied by the Turkish army, but is not recognised internationally.

Nevertheless, it has become a thriving tourist destination in recent years, and house-building has boomed.

Some of those houses have been sold by Turkish Cypriots to foreigners, even though the land they were built on was once owned by Greek Cypriots and its legal status remained uncertain.

Property disputes dating back to 1974 have been one of the main obstacles to efforts to reunify Cyprus.

Correspondents say dispossessed Greek Cypriots are now likely to launch more legal battles, which in turn may harden opposition to reunification among Turkish Cypriots.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Cyprus: Top EU Court Backs Return of Northern Cyprus Property

ISTANBUL — The European Court of Justice, or ECJ, on Tuesday backed the right of Greek Cypriots to reclaim property they abandoned in the north of the island when it was divided and which was then sold to foreigners. (UPDATED)

The ECJ supported the claim of a Greek Cypriot to receive restitution from a British couple who built a holiday home on land he left when Turkish military intervened on the island in 1974, following a Greek-inspired coup.

Cyprus was divided in 1964 when Turkish Cypriots were forced to withdraw into enclaves.

After the division, some 170,000 Greek Cypriots fled south, abandoning their properties. Many were distributed among Turkish Cypriots who subsequently sold them to foreigners, mainly Britons.

The legally complex ruling is likely to strengthen the Greek Cypriots’ legal claim on their former properties.

The decision revolves around a court case in Nicosia in 2005, in which Britons Linda and David Orams were ordered to demolish their villa, built on land they had bought from Turkish Cypriots, and to pay compensation.

The land’s former owner, Greek Cypriot Meledis Apostolides, took the case to a British appeals court so that the order would be enforced.

The British court sent the case to the EU court in Luxembourg for a ruling on the complicated issue of whether the decision by the court in Nicosia is applicable in the Turkish north.

“The recognition and enforcement of the judgments of the Cypriot court cannot be refused in the United Kingdom,” the court said in its ruling.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Daimler Renounces Stake, Forgives Chrysler Loans

NEW YORK (AFP) — German automaker Daimler said Monday it would giving up its 19.9 percent stake in its former US unit Chrysler and forgiving outstanding loans from the struggling Detroit firm.

A Daimler AG statement issued in Stuttgart said a deal signed with Chrysler LLC and US pension authorities marks a definitive separation of the German and US firms following a 2007 spin-off to the private equity firm Cerberus.

“Under this agreement, Daimler’s remaining 19.9 percent shareholding in Chrysler will be redeemed and Daimler will forgive repayment of the loans extended to Chrysler, which were already written off in the 2008 financial statements,” the statement said.

Daimler also agreed to pay 600 million dollars in three annual installments into Chrysler’s pension plans.

In exchange, Chrysler and Cerberus agreed to “waive any claims” against the German group “including the accusations made against Daimler in 2008 that Daimler allegedly improperly managed certain issues in the period between the signing of the agreement and the conclusion of the transaction.”

Daimler bought Chrysler for 36 billion dollars in one of the largest transatlantic mergers of all time, but the deal soured and failed to last a decade.

The new deal with Daimler comes as Chrysler is scrambling to get additional concessions to keep US government emergency aid flowing.

President Barack Obama’s task force has given the Detroit firm until the end of the week to come up with a viable plan to continue providing aid or face bankruptcy court.

Chrysler is seeking to seal an alliance with Fiat to provide new technology and small cars for the US market, which would give the Italian firm a stake in Chrysler without a cash investment.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Denmark: Politicians Unite Against Forced Teenage Weddings

The Social Democrats join the government coalition parties in condemning imams who perform forced weddings A majority in parliament is prepared to crack down on imams who perform forced and unregistered Muslim marriages — particularly those involving girls under 18….

A majority in parliament is prepared to crack down on imams who perform forced and unregistered Muslim marriages — particularly those involving girls under 18.

The Liberals, Social Democrats, Conservatives and Danish People’s Party are unified in their efforts to come up with an effective means of preventing the weddings from taking place and punishing the imams who perform them.

Several leading Muslim experts and counsellors have indicated to Jyllands-Posten newspaper that the number of forced marriages in the country is significant — also for teenage girls who have converted to Islam.

‘These marriages have to be identified and stopped,’ said Karsten Lauritzen, integration spokesman for the Liberal Party. ‘The imams who perform these weddings are contributing to the repression of women and there ought to be consequences for them.’

Experts say that girls forced into these marriages cannot escape them because they have no rights when the marriage is not recognised by Danish authorities. It is normally the imam who decides if a divorce is possible, and often this decision is made according to sharia law.

In addition to the forced marriages, many experts and Muslim women themselves have indicated that polygamy is also common within the Islamic community in Denmark. MP Naser Khader warned the authorities not to take the issue lightly.

‘It must be taken seriously and suppressed in all possible ways,’ said Khader. ‘You can’t just wave it off as a part of Muslim culture.’

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Denmark: 55% of Muslims Think Criticizing Religion Should be Forbidden

64% support curtailing freedom of speech

More from the big DR survey of Muslims in Denmark, titled “Your Muslim neighbor” (DA). h/t Peter. The data published in different papers is different by one or two percentage points, but the overall direction is clear.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

EU Optimistic on Renewing Ties With Russia

LUXEMBOURG — The European Union’s foreign policy chief says he is optimistic the European Union can follow the lead of the U.S. in rebuilding ties with Russia.

Javier Solana says recent cooperation between the 27-nation EU bloc and Russia “is much, much better” since President Barack Obama took office in January.

The U.S. and Russia have started negotiations on a new treaty to reduce nuclear weapon stockpiles.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is chairing EU talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday to put back on track talks to forge a closer partnership between the EU and Russia in fields of energy, trade, human rights and migration. The EU and Russia continue to disagree over last year’s war in Georgia.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Finland: Defence and Equality Ministers Do Not See Male Conscription as Equality Issue

Government ministers responsible for defence and equality do not see Finland’s system of universal male conscription as a violation of gender equality.

Kari Uotila (Left Alliance), the chairman of the mail division of the Consultative Committee for Equality Affairs, has voiced the opinion that compulsory military service for only one gender is discriminatory and therefore illegal. The issue has been raised recently by other male equality advocates.

Finland’s Minister for Equality Affairs Stefan Wallin (Swedish People’s Party) says that he does not want to change the current system, even though he understands “that not everyone feels that it is equal if an obligation applies to only one gender.”

“What would be the alternative? This requires a broad-based approach. I have pondered this as both the equality minister, and as a captain of the reserves, and the present system is the best that is available.”

According to Wallin, the number of conscripts, and the size of the reserves does not need to be expanded in both directions. He also feels that a professional army would not work for Finland, and it would be expensive. He also says that it would not be possible to arrange a credible defence on a volunteer basis.

“The country’s security, and the coverage of state expenditure can never be based on voluntary contributions. The state needs taxes to be paid by everyone, and military service from men.”

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

Rise of Wilders Divides CDA and D66

THE HAGUE, 28/04/09 — The rise of the Party for Freedom (VVD) is dividing centre-left D66 and the Christian democrats (CDA). The youth branch of D66 does not want the party to rule out partnership with Geert Wilders. Conversely, prominent CDA members actually complain that their party is distancing itself too little from Wilders.

The Young Democrats (JD) — the youth branch of D66 — have called on D66 leader Alexander Pechtold not to rule out partnership with the VVD in advance. The JD says this is not democratic. The youth branch is not saying that D66 must work with Wilders, but that debate should show the differences between the parties.

Pechtold called Wilders a “racist” last year. Recently he has not been using this term any more, but he does remain the most vehement opponent of the PVV in the Lower House. Pechthold said two weeks ago he would emigrate if the “extremist” Wilders landed up in government.

Also within the CDA, the rise of the PVV has led to disunity. Within the biggest government party, the opposition however comes from the veterans, including CDA ideologist Anton Zijderveld. He has cancelled his CDA membership because he says the party distances itself too little from Wilders.

Zijderveld urges rapprochement with Islam and considers the CDA deals frenetically with this religion. On IKON radio programme, he termed it “scary” that the party leader says the CDA would be open to partnership with the PVV after the next elections.

Last week, three other CDA dinosaurs, including former Premier Dries van Agt, had already emphatically distanced themselves from flirtations with the PVV. Zijderveld was for years one of the most important CDA thinkers. In recent years, he has been a columnist for TV debate programme Buitenhof.

Wilders extended his leading position this week in the weekly poll of Maurice de Hond. The PVV would win 33 seats in the Lower House, one more than last week. CDA is unchanged at 29 seats. PVV currently has just 9 seats and CDA, 41.

D66 would win 18 seats, one more than last week. The party currently has only three seats and along with the PVV, would thus be the big winner if elections were held now.

Labour (PvdA) loses two seats this week. De Hond attributes the drop from 24 to 22 to the debate on the purchase of a test F35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) plane. Last Wednesday, the PvdA first said it would block this but went back on this in 24 hours after a crisis compromise with CDA.

De Hond reports that 70 percent of all voters say the JSF compromise in fact means that a JSF test plane is being purchased. Around 23 percent say it does not. A majority (53 percent) of PvdA voters also consider the compromise in fact means a JSF test plane is being purchased. In total, 35 percent do and 54 percent do not think that the Netherlands can still decide against ordering a large number of JSF planes.

The Socialist Party (SP) is, like last week, at 14 seats. The conservatives (VVD) drop back from 14 to 13. The leftwing Greens (GroenLinks) are steady at 11 and small Christian party ChristenUnie, at 4. Proud of the Netherlands (Rita Verdonk) edges up from one to 2 seats, the same as the smallest Christian party SGP and the Party for the Animals (PvdD), according to De Hond.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Robot Attacked Swedish Factory Worker

A Swedish company has been fined 25,000 kronor ($3,000) after a malfunctioning robot attacked and almost killed one of its workers at a factory north of Stockholm.

Public prosecutor Leif Johansson mulled pressing charges against the firm but eventually opted to settle for a fine.

“I’ve never heard of a robot attacking somebody like this,” he told news agency TT.

The incident took place in June 2007 at a factory in Bålsta, north of Stockholm, when the industrial worker was trying to carry out maintenance on a defective machine generally used to lift heavy rocks. Thinking he had cut off the power supply, the man approached the robot with no sense of trepidation.

But the robot suddenly came to life and grabbed a tight hold of the victim’s head. The man succeeded in defending himself but not before suffering serious injuries.

“The man was very lucky. He broke four ribs and came close to losing his life,” said Leif Johansson.

The matter was subject to an investigation by both the Swedish Work Environment Authority (Arbetsmiljöverket) and the police.

Prosecutor Johansson chastised the company for its inadequate safety procedures but he also placed part of the blame on the injured worker.

[Return to headlines]

Sweden: ‘Make Conscription Mandatory for Women’ Say Social Democrats

The Social Democrats want make it mandatory for Swedish women to register for military conscription, rather than allowing them to do so voluntarily.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility in an egalitarian society,” said Social Democratic defence policy spokesperson Anders Karlsson to the TT news agency.

As the number of Swedes entering compulsory military service declines, the current government wants to scrap the current system altogether in favour of a volunteer fighting force made up of contracted employees.

Throughout all its years in power, the Social Democrats never made conscription compulsory for women.

The party last examined the issue in 2004, but according to Karlsson, who represents his party in the Riksdag’s committee on defence, the time wasn’t right.

But five years later, the Social Democrats believe attitudes have matured somewhat and in its recently presented defence policy bill, the party proposes not only that Sweden continue with mandatory military service, but also that it be made completely gender-neutral.

“It entails that everyone born in a given year, which is about 100,000 people, registers through a computer. Of those, approximately 30,000 people would be called to a two-day physical inspection and then 10,000 to 12,000 people are conscripted,” Karlsson explained.

“But it’s not about forcing women to join, but choosing those which are best suited and those are hardly people who do want to [join].”

But the political opposition is split on the issue, with the Left Party supporting the Social Democratic proposal, while the Green Party (Miljöpartiet) rejects the idea in favour of completely voluntary service.

A government commission examining conscription in Sweden, which is set to present its final recommendations on June 15th, is currently examining how the Armed Forces could be staffed voluntarily.

A Moderate Party representative on the commission, Rolf K. Nilsson, disagrees with the Social Democrats’ suggestion.

“It’s unfortunate that the Social Democrats are digging themselves a hole on the question of compulsory military service,” he said.

In the commission’s interim report, all the political parties were in agreement that the legislation should be gender neutral.

But now what separates the Social Democrats from the other parties is whether or not conscription should be voluntary.

“We said in our interim report that we want to have as broad an agreement as possible, so it’s too bad that they’ve now locked themselves in [to this position],” said Nilsson.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Swedish Rapists ‘Enjoy Impunity’: Amnesty International

Sweden needs to do much more to clamp down on rapists, according to reports from Amnesty International and the United Nations. Jennifer Heape examines the disparity between the country’s high incidence of rape and its low conviction rate.

Sweden’s image as an international forerunner in the fight for gender equality has been damaged by recent reports comparing rape statistics across various countries.

A recent study commissioned by the European Union (EU) found that Sweden has the highest incidence of reported rapes in Europe.

And an Amnesty International report on rape in the Nordic Countries took Sweden to task last autumn for what the human rights organization saw as an abysmally low conviction rate for rape cases.

Released in September 2008, the Amnesty report — Case Closed — examines issues surrounding rape and human rights in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.

Despite Sweden’s considerable emphasis on women’s rights, currently ranking an impressive 3rd place in the UN global gender-related development index, instances of reported violence against women are showing no signs of abating.

In fact, statistics published by the National Council of Crime Prevention (BRÅ) show that the number of sexual offences reported from January to August 2008 saw a 9 percent increase compared to the same period in 2007.

Amnesty’s most damning criticism of Sweden relates to the considerable disparity between the number of rapes reported and the conviction rate.

Case Closed highlights the damning evidence that, despite the number of rapes reported to the police quadrupling over the past 20 years, the percentage of reported rapes ending in conviction is markedly lower today than it was in 1965.

Sweden’s profile in terms of violence against women has also attracted concern from the United Nations.

As UN rapporteur Yakin Ertürk comments in a special report released in February 2007, there is a notable discrepancy “between the apparent progress in achieving gender equality and the reports of continued violence against women in the country.”

The statistics are certainly alarming. Results from the annual, government commissioned National Safety Survey (NTU), which is conducted by BRÅ, indicate that the actual number of rapes in Sweden in 2006 was estimated to be close to 30,000.

If this figure is correct, then it indicates that as few as 5-10 percent of all rapes are reported to the police.

Equally disturbing is the statistic from BRÅ stating that in 2007, less than 13 percent of the 3,535 rape crimes reported resulted in a decision to start legal proceedings.

Over the past ten years there has been a 58 percent increase in reported sex crimes and according to BRÅ, it is now statistically more likely for a person in Sweden to be sexually assaulted than robbed.

The phenomenon of alleged offences not formally being reported to the police or dropped before reaching court is termed ‘attrition’.

Amnesty slams the Swedish judicial system and the prevalence of attrition within it, concluding that, “in practice, many perpetrators enjoy impunity.”

In analyzing attrition and the failings of the police and judicial system, Case Closed draws attention to “discriminatory attitudes about female and male sexuality,” which may cause police investigators to “assume that women who report rape are lying or mistaken.”

This in turn brings up the notion of ‘real rape’ and the ‘ideal victim’. Researchers for Amnesty found that frequently:

“Young (drunk) women, in particular, have problems fulfilling the stereotypical role of the ‘ideal victim’, with the consequence that neither rapes within intimate relationships nor ‘date rapes’ involving teenage girls result in legal action.”

Helena Sutourius, an expert in legal proceedings in sexual offence cases concludes that, in Sweden, “the focus appears to be on the woman’s behaviour, rather than on the act that is the object of the investigation.”

In addition to challenging victim and crime stereotypes, perceptions surrounding ‘typical’ perpetrators must also be considered. The UN Special Report discusses how there is a widespread belief that the type of men who commit intimate-partner violence are not typical, ‘normal’ Swedes.

They are usually imagined as somewhat ‘deviant’ — unemployed, uneducated, alcoholic or from non-Western backgrounds, and so on. However, as Ertürk challenges: “In absolute numbers, the vast majority of the perpetrators of intimate-partner violence are ‘ordinary’ Swedish men.”

In a country where women’s rights feature high on the public agenda, there is a pervasive “fear of public shame — being regarded as a tragic failure in a country of supposed gender equality” especially among well-educated and successful Swedish women, which creates yet another obstacle for the victims of violence and rape, the UN report concludes.

Lina Plong from the National Centre for Knowledge on Men’s Violence against Women (NCK), based at Uppsala University, tells The Local:

“There is a real concern as to why the instances of rape and violence are not decreasing, despite the law becoming more strict and there being more public information available than ever. We need to concentrate on educating those professionals working in the area.”

Amnesty has also condemned the limited amount of scrutiny of and research into the quality of rape crime investigations in Sweden as, “a serious shortcoming that needs to be addressed immediately.”

The Case Closed report states that, “while an impressive level of gender equality has been achieved in the so-called public spheres [in Sweden]…this achievement seems to have halted at the doorsteps of private homes.”

In its conclusion, Amnesty blames “deeply rooted patriarchal gender norms” of Swedish family life and sexual relationships as a “major societal flaw” and a reason for the continued prevalence of violence against women in Sweden.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Swine Flu Container Explodes on Train

When a container holding swine flu exploded on a Swiss train on Monday, it could have led to a nightmare scenario. Luckily the virus was not the mutated swine flu that has killed around 150 people in Mexico and that has already spread to parts of Europe.

It has all the hallmarks of a disaster movie: A container filled with the swine flu virus explodes on a busy train. But that’s exactly the scenario that briefly caused the Swiss authorities some alarm on Monday evening. In the midst of global fears of a swine flu pandemic, a container with swine flu exploded on a train carrying over 60 people.

The Intercity train is seen in Lausanne station after it had been evacuated.

Luckily, however, it was not the mutated swine flu virus that has killed around 150 people in Mexico. The police quickly reassured the public that there was no danger of any infection.

According to the police, a lab technician with the Swiss National Center for Influenza in Geneva had travelled to Zurich to collect eight ampoules, five of which were filled with the H1N1 swine flu virus. The samples were to be used to develop a test for swine flu infections.

The containers were hermetically sealed and cooled with dry ice. However, it seems the dry ice was not packed correctly and it melted during the journey. The gas coming from the containers then built up too much pressure and the ampoules exploded, as the train was pulling into a station.

After consulting with a virologist, the police stopped the train just before Lausanne station and evacuated it, taking the precaution to isolate all those on board for one hour. A specialist for infectious diseases then reassured all those involved that the particular strain of swine flu on the train posed no risk for humans.

Taking no chances, the police took the contact details of all the passengers before allowing them to continue on their journey.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK Warns Against Mexico Travel After Swine Flu Confirmed

LONDON (AFP) — The government urged against all but essential travel to Mexico on Tuesday after a deadly outbreak of swine flu which officials confirmed has now spread to Scotland.

Two people admitted to a Scottish hospital after travelling to Mexico were confirmed as the first cases of the virus in Britain on Monday, although Scottish Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon said they were “recovering well”.

Hours later, the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised its flu pandemic alert level to mark a significant increase in a risk of a pandemic.

The WHO said there was no need for travel restrictions but the Foreign Office said: “We are now advising against all but essential travel to Mexico.”

A statement on its website said British nationals already there “may wish to consider whether they should remain.”

Earlier, Sturgeon announced two confirmed cases of swine flu and said seven other people who had been in contact with them, among 22 tested, had shown signs of similar illness.

“I can confirm that tests have demonstrated conclusively that the two Scottish cases of swine flu are positive,” she said.

“I am pleased to say that both individuals are recovering well in hospital.”

The other seven have developed “mild symptoms” which have not been confirmed as swine flu and are being treated with drugs at home, Sturgeon said.

She added: “I would reiterate that the threat to the public remains low and that the precautionary actions we have taken over the last two days have been important in allowing us to respond appropriately and give us the best prospect of disrupting the spread of the virus.”

The two infected patients, reportedly a man and woman who had been travelling together, were being treated at a hospital in Airdrie, east of Glasgow.

The likely death toll in Mexico from the flu is 149.

The health minister for the government in London, Alan Johnson, said earlier that Britain was implementing “enhanced” health checks at entry points across the British Isles to identify passengers arriving with symptoms of the illness.

Europe’s first confirmed case of swine flu was in Spain.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Brown Touts Anti-Terrorism Strategy

KABUL — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned yesterday the Afghan-Pakistan border was a “crucible of terrorism” as he touted a new strategy to tackle Islamist insurgency. Brown, who held talks in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said the new approach would treat both countries as “different but complementary..”

“These border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan are the breeding ground, the crucible of terrorism,” Brown told a news conference with Karzai. “A chain of terror links these areas to the streets of many of the capital cities of the world,” Brown added. “Our approach to those countries is different but must be complementary. Our strategy for dealing with this breeding ground of terrorism will mean more security on the streets of Britain,” Brown said. The new strategy is to be unveiled in a statement to parliament in London tomorrow.

After holding talks with Karzai, Brown flew into the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, where he faced questions about the botched arrest in Britain of 11 Pakistani students on terror charges. As Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review went to press yesterday, British Prime Minister was holding key talks with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

Karzai to run for re-election

Meanwhile, the Afghan leader Karzai told the news conference with Brown that he would run for re-election, saying he would shortly register his candidacy for the August vote that had been pushed back from April over security fears. “The election year will be a stern test for everyone, but we face a choice: confront extremism here and in Pakistan or let it come to us,” said Brown.

Britain is the second-biggest contributor of foreign troops to Afghanistan after the United States, deploying around 8,300 as part of a NATO-led force based mostly in the south, the heartland of a Taliban insurgency. A total of 152 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in October.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Mother Bored With Pregnancy ‘Killed Her Unborn Twins’ — Then Blamed the Midwife

A mother bored with waiting in hospital for her twins to be born killed them with an injection she thought would induce labour, a court heard.

Mother-of-five Faiso Sahil, 35, then blamed a midwife for the tragedy, it was claimed.

Sahil was fed up with being pregnant, and ‘impatient’ with hospital life because she disliked the food, the court was told.

So the Somalian, who herself had limited training as a midwife, injected herself with Syntometrine to bring on the birth, it is claimed.

Syntometrine is a drug used to reduce the risk of haemorrhaging from the placenta during the delivery.

The twins — a boy and a girl — were stillborn soon after and Sahil told doctors at Southmead Hospital in Bristol that Caroline Randall, a ‘senior and experienced’ midwife, had adminstered the jab, the jury was told.

Miss Randall was arrested, but when Sahil was interviewed by police she attempted to withdraw the accusation against her and was charged with perverting the course of justice.

Opening the case, prosecutor Martin Steen said: ‘Drugs are used in Somalia for assisting in delivery by encouraging contractions.

‘(Sahil) wanted to have those twins. She wanted them born alive and healthy. This was a woman who wanted those two children delivered as soon as possible.’

Bristol Crown Court heard that on March 27, 2007, Sahil, who was due to give birth on May 5, suggested her twins be induced but had her request turned down. On April 9 she was seen by a doctor who refused her second request to be induced or have a Caesarean section.

The next day she was admitted to the maternity ward under the care of Miss Randall.

It is alleged that, in an attempt to speed up the birth, Sahil, of Southmead, repeatedly claimed she was having painful contractions when she was not in labour, before injecting herself with the drug in the early hours of April 11.

Mr Steen said: ‘Sadly, it resulted in a tragic end. The twins had died inside her prior to 8am.’

Miss Randall told the court: ‘She wanted to be in labour. That was overriding everything else.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Tories, Unreliable as Ever on the EU

Now, that’s why I just can’t trust David Cameron on the European Union. Yesterday he gave a speech meant to warn the British that an incoming Tory government would make so many cuts to spending that it would preside over ‘an age of austerity.’ This apparently was all meant to sound fierce and determined about cutting costs. Yet if the Tory leader wants to start cutting costs, the obvious first place to look is at the costs the EU imposes on Britain. You have to wonder why he is happy to talk about cutting middle-class tax credits and pensions and the rest, but hesitates to mention cutting EU costs.

How much does membership cost this country? In the Lords last month, Lord Pearson of Rannock quoted figures put together by the TaxPayers’ Alliance from official statistics. The figures show that the cost per year to each UK citizen is £2,000 — that is, £300m a day for the country as a whole, or £120,000m a year. Over at the Open Europe thinktank, researchers have calculated that EU regulation alone between 1998 and 2008 cost the British economy £148.2bn: ‘Of the cumulative cost of regulations introduced over the past decade, £106.6bn, or nearly 72%, had its origin in EU regulation.’

I’ll believe Cameron is serious about cutting costs when he promises to start untangling Britain from this utterly unnecessary burden of euro-costs.

Meanwhile, William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, inspires no more trust than does Cameron. Yesterday, while his leader was promising cuts, Hague was promising that a Conservative government would hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty — but only if the treaty had not yet been ratified by all 27 member states.

What a weasel promise, and not least because Hague knows that the Irish and the others who have not yet completed the ratification of the treaty will be bludgeoned into saying ‘Yes’ months before the next election here.

What Hague is saying is that the freedom of the British people to vote on what is in fact a new Constitution must depend on what the Irish, and the Czechs, and even the German constitutional court, finally decide on Lisbon. If the Tories had any spine they would simply say the British will be allowed a vote to stay in the Lisbon Treaty, or withdraw from it, no matter what any other country decides.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

UK: Teenage Boy ‘Murdered After Being Tied to Tree, Forced to Drink Petrol and Then Set Alight in Recreation of Scene From Horror Film’

A teenager was set alight by jealous love rivals who copied a scene from a spoof horror movie, a court heard yesterday.

Simon Everitt, 17, died after being tied to a tree and having petrol poured down his throat, it was claimed.

The teenager had allegedly been lured to a meeting and attacked after beginning a relationship with Fiona Statham, 19.

Jimi- Lee Stewart, 25, and Jonathan Clarke, 19 — who had both been involved with Miss Statham — are said to have then bundled him into the boot of a car driven by a friend, Maria Chandler, 40.

The group drove to a wooded area near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk where their victim’s hands and ankles were bound and he was doused in petrol before a burning match was thrown at him.

The gang later allegedly returned to the spot and Clarke dragged the engineering student’s body to a shallow grave nearby.

Simon’s remains were not found until three weeks after he disappeared when Stewart confided in his mother and she reported him to police, the court was told.

Karim Khalil, QC, prosecuting, said that a year before the attack Clarke, a father of five, had been with a friend watching British horror spoof Severance, in which a group of Britons go on a teambuilding exercise in a remote part of Hungary and are slaughtered by masked soldiers.

In a scene shown at Norwich Crown Court yesterday, a woman is tied to a tree and covered in petrol while a man tries to ignite a lighter and throw it at her. When it fails to light, he uses a flame thrower.

Mr Khalil said: ‘When Clarke watched that DVD he made a comment to this effect, “Wouldn’t it be wicked if you could do that to someone in real life?” [The murder] reflects some of the worst aspects of the film clip — but it is for real.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Whitehall’s Dark Side

Two scandals reveal the nastiness of the British political class.

LONDON — Within a month of the G-20 circus leaving London, British politics is back to business as usual. As the protagonists in “The Godfather” would explain to their victims, “it’s not personal, it’s business.”

Over the Easter weekend, a political blog published a series of emails sent by one of Gordon Brown’s personal advisers, Damian McBride. The emails revealed that No. 10 was planning a campaign of false and scurrilous attacks in the media on the private lives of leading Conservatives

and their families.

Mr. McBride immediately resigned, and the prime minister was forced to write letters expressing his regret to the intended targets. An apology would come a week later. Too late. The world had seen what Mr. Brown’s opponents in the Labour Party had long maintained: that the Scripture-quoting prime minister has a Nixon-like need to destroy his political enemies, by whatever means come to hand.

Yet an even worse abuse of power — by both elected officials and civil servants — has also continued to play out in recent weeks. The McBride affair was nasty enough, but the latter case offers evidence of Whitehall’s violation of fundamental constitutional safeguards. Arresting an MP for doing his job is a line that should not be crossed in a democracy. In this case it was a line no one in Whitehall observed or respected.

Back in November, a Conservative member of Parliament named Damian Green and a junior official in the Home Office, Christopher Galley, were arrested and held by antiterrorist police on suspicion of “conspiring to commit misconduct in public office.” Specifically, Messrs. Green and Galley were accused of leaking confidential government documents which revealed embarrassing failures in the Home Office’s immigration policies. Mr. Galley was fired for his actions.

Yet on April 16, the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, announced that he would not press charges against either Mr. Green or Mr. Galley. The leaked information, Mr. Starmer said, was not secret and did not affect national security. In some cases, he noted, it “undoubtedly touched on matters of legitimate public interest.”

The scandal here is that it took so long for someone in the government hierarchy to state this plain truth.

While the majority of the politicians not aligned with Mr. Brown expressed their revulsion at Mr. McBride’s dirty tricks, and members of the Brown faction at least gave the impression of doing so, the arrest and questioning of an opposition MP is a serious abuse of public power. Whitehall prides itself on its probity and political neutrality, but Mr. Green’s detention illustrates its dark side.

Ministers and high-ranking civil servants had a shared interest in suppressing the leaks about the government’s immigration failures. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith and her department’s permanent secretary, Sir David Normington, were increasingly embarrassed by the leaks. The latter subsequently discussed the matter with an official at the Cabinet Office, who then asked the head of the antiterror branch of the Metropolitan Police to act. The alleged grounds, parroted by ministers in the media, were that the information was prejudicial to national security.

The desire of ministers and bureaucrats to suppress the leaks meant that, for the first time since Parliament established its supremacy in the English civil war, agents of the executive entered Parliament and searched a member’s office. Antiterror agents removed computers and a Blackberry from Mr. Green’s office for examination, and the MP later said police had threatened him with a life sentence on conviction.

But even before Mr. Starmer dropped the case, a House of Commons committee report published earlier this month dismissed the national-security claim as hyperbole. And as Mr. Starmer noted, even though the leaks might affect the proper functioning of the Home Office, that’s not a matter for the criminal courts. If it were, others surely would already have found themselves in the dock. One former Home secretary, John Reid, has described the department as not “fit for purpose,” and auditors have had to qualify the department’s accounts in the past.

The arrest of Damian Green and the absence so far of any sanction against those responsible bear out political philosopher Harvey Mansfield’s description, in his 1989 book “Taming the Prince,” of the “numbing careless bureaucracy” acting in the interests of the ruling party. And, he might have added, particularly when those interests coincide with its own.

The Green episode reveals a Whitehall that covers up poor performance and sees itself as operating outside the rule of law binding everyone else, using antiterror police as its own private security force to settle scores. Even after Mr. Starmer declined to prosecute, Home Office sources were still briefing against Mr. Green (“not whiter than white”) and the official (“a loser”). Evidently the Home Office didn’t need Mr. McBride to do its press briefings.

Richard Thaler, Barack Obama’s favorite economist, recently said he would like to clone Whitehall’s top civil servant and take him to Washington. Maybe the head, but not the system.

For Britain’s permanent civil service needs thorough reform similar to that in New Zealand, where an arm’s length relationship between ministers and departments formalizes what the former has a right to expect from the latter. Such an overhaul requires the separation of ministerial support, where politicization is legitimate, from those areas where it is not — especially the use of public powers, the spending of public money and the objective reporting of both. And it needs a much-strengthened freedom of information regime, so that performance failures and policy tradeoffs are automatically in the public domain rather than finding their way out through unauthorized leaks.

The arrest of an opposition politician for doing his job is a line that should not be crossed. Mr. Green’s arrest was provoked by the desire to suppress evidence of performance failure. The fact that it was permitted to happen brings shame on the mother of parliaments. In any self-respecting democracy, that alone should be sufficient cause to bring about the reform of Whitehall that Britain badly needs.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green [Return to headlines]


EU Police Disperse Serb Protest in Kosovo’s North

MITROVICA, Kosovo — Serbs protesting the building of homes for ethnic Albanians in Kosovo’s tense north threw two hand grenades and fired gunshots at European Union police officers, who responded with tear gas and stun grenades to drive the crowd away Monday.

It was the gravest incident since the EU took over policing Kosovo from the United Nations late last year, as part of an earlier peace plan that opened the way for the heavily Albanian region to declare independence from Serbia.

Dozens of NATO peacekeepers in riot gear and armored vehicles rushed to provide support after the protesters broke through Kosovo police lines and shots were fired in the direction of EU police officers.

Christophe Lamfalussy, spokesman for the EU police mission, said only minor injuries were reported.

A similar incident occurred Saturday at the same construction site in Mitrovica, a northern town bitterly divided into Serb and Albanian communities whose members often clash.

Serbs have said they will allow Albanians to return to northern Kosovo only if Serbs are permitted to go back to the Albanian-run south.

Kosovo’s drive for independence in early 2008 received strong backing from the United States and major European Union nations, and 58 countries have so far recognized it as an independent country.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel’s Arab Cheerleaders

By Caroline Glick

It is a strange situation when Egypt and Jordan feel it necessary to defend Israel against American criticism. But this is the situation in which we find ourselves today.

Last Friday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee that Arab support for Israel’s bid to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is contingent on its agreeing to support the rapid establishment of a Palestinian state. In her words, “For Israel to get the kind of strong support it’s looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can’t stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts.” As far as Clinton is concerned, the two, “go hand-in-hand.”

But just around the time that Clinton was making this statement, Jordan’s King Abdullah II was telling The Washington Post that he is satisfied with the Netanyahu government’s position on the Palestinians. In his words, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has “sent a message that he’s committed to peace with the Arabs. All the words I heard were the right words.”

As for Egypt, in spite of the media’s hysteria that Egypt won’t deal with the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration’s warning that Israel can only expect Egypt to support its position that Iran must be denied nuclear weapons if it gives Jerusalem to the PLO, last week’s visit by Egypt’s intelligence chief Omar Suleiman clearly demonstrated that Egypt wishes to work with the government on a whole host of issues. Coming as it did on the heels of Egypt’s revelation that Iranian-controlled Hizbullah agents were arrested for planning strategic attacks against it, Suleiman’s visit was a clear sign that Egypt is as keen as Israel to neutralize Iranian power in the region by preventing it from acquiring nuclear weapons.

And Egypt and Jordan are not alone in supporting Israel’s commitment to preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power. American and other Western sources who have visited the Persian Gulf in recent months report that leaders of the Gulf states from Bahrain — which Iran refers to as its 14th province — to Saudi Arabia to Kuwait and, of course, to Iraq — are praying for Israel to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities and only complain that it has waited so long to attack them.

As one American who recently met with Persian Gulf leaders explained last week, “As far as the Gulf leaders are concerned, Israel cannot attack Iran fast enough. They understand what the stakes are.”

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Israel Already Forfeited Temple Mount, Divided Jerusalem

New book by WND Jerusalem bureau chief warns of ‘The Late Great State of Israel’

JERUSALEM — With the aid of the U.S., sections of Jerusalem essentially have been forfeited on the ground to the Palestinian Authority, while the Temple Mount — Judaism’s holiest site — is quickly being consolidated by Islamic authorities who are erasing any vestiges of Jewish history and archaeology.

These and other shocking revelations are revealed in a blockbuster new book — “The Late Great State of Israel” — that hits bookstores nationwide today. In the urgent work, author and WND Jerusalem bureau chief Aaron Klein documents the unprecedented, mortal danger that Israel faces.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

The Hamas Lobby

By Jonathan Spyer*

A meeting was meant to take place on Wednesday, April 22nd, in the Grimond Room at Portcullis House, adjoining the House of Commons in London. The planned meeting was titled “Talk with Hamas” and was meant to feature a video link to Damascus.

Khaled Mashaal, leader of Hamas, was supposed to address members of Parliament and journalists via the link, but he failed, due to a technical glitch.

This planned meeting was the latest event in an ongoing and organized campaign to break the Western boycott of Hamas and transform policy toward the organization. Much energy is being expended in the UK. But London is only a way station, with the real prize being the transformation of the US stance.

This campaign is part of a larger effort to change the way that the West sees Islamist movements — and by doing so to bring many of the arguments made by such movements into the mainstream.

Who is behind this effort? The invitation to MPs to the Mashaal meeting came from the office of Independent MP Clare Short.

However, it was issued in the name of John, Lord Alderdice. This name immediately offers a pointer. Alderdice, a veteran Northern Irish politician, is head of the board of advisers of an organization called Conflicts Forum…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Cabinet Denounces Racism

DAMMAM: Saudi Arabia yesterday emphasized the significance of the recently concluded UN anti-racism conference in Geneva and voiced its concern over a number of phenomena that are considered the causes and sources of racism across the world.

“The Kingdom gives the utmost importance to the problem of racism and works to prevent racist practices, and in order to do that, it follows the regulations drawn from Shariah that emphasize humanity irrespective of sex, color and race,” the Council of Ministers said.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, who chaired the Cabinet meeting at Al-Aziziya Palace in Alkhobar, earlier briefed the ministers on the outcome of his talks with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Hasina Wajed in Riyadh last week.

King Abdullah is currently on an inspection tour of the Eastern Province. During the weeklong tour he is expected to launch a number of industrial and welfare projects worth SR54 billion in Jubail, including a SR12 billion water and electricity plant.

The just-concluded anti-racism conference in Geneva called for concerted efforts and a greater resolve and political will in fighting all forms of racism. The conference’s final document talked of a common aspiration to defy racism in all its manifestations and work to stamp it out wherever it may occur. The Untied States and a few other countries had boycotted the conference.

Popular writer and columnist Hatoon Al-Fassi said the Cabinet’s endorsement of the anti-racism conference was a huge step forward. “Let us be frank — racism does exist in our society as well and there is a need to weed it out,” she told Arab News. “The fact that the Cabinet discussed the issue of racism is quite significant. This is a sign that we are taking the issue seriously.”

Al-Fassi said there is tendency in the Kingdom to highlight such issues when they occur outside. “We are not very vocal in confronting it domestically,” she said. She felt the Human Rights Commission and National Society for Human Rights were doing a decent job of highlighting such cases and condemning them wherever possible.

According to Al-Fassi, discrimination against women is a form of racism too and should end. “This is gender apartheid. We need to acknowledge that there is discrimination against women … The Cabinet move against racism will help us move in that direction,” she said, adding: “Our endorsing the anti-racism conference document means we will now be accountable for what we do vis-à-vis cases of racism.”

Culture and Information Minister Abdul Aziz Khoja said the Cabinet meeting reviewed the recent launch of new projects by King Abdullah at the King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology as well as the opening of the Advanced Technologies Forum in Riyadh.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Iraqi Archbishop Decries Christian Slayings

KIRKUK, Iraq — At two Christian homes, the gunmen used the same methods: point-blank fire that claimed three lives in a 30-minute span. The attacks left another outpost of Iraq’s dwindling Christian community frightened Monday that it could become caught in the struggles over disputed Kirkuk.

“Innocent people who have no relation with politics and never harmed anyone were killed by terrorists in their homes just because they were Christians,” Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako told more than 600 mourners in this ethnically mixed city 180 miles north of the capital.

The motives behind the late Sunday attacks remained unclear, with suspicions mostly falling on Sunni insurgents linked to al-Qaida in Iraq.

But fear of reprisals and worries about vulnerability have become common themes for members of one of the world’s oldest Christian homelands.

Iraq’s Christians, who numbered about 1 million in the early 1980s, are now estimated at about half that as families flee warfare and extremist attacks that target their churches and homes.

The future of Kirkuk — an ethnic patchwork led by Kurds and Arabs — has become one of the most politically sensitive issues for Iraqi leaders and for U.S. military commanders preparing to withdraw their troops by the end of 2011.

The city is the hub of Iraq’s northern oil fields and a key prize for both Kurds and the central government in Baghdad. The showdown is so volatile that Kirkuk was excluded from regional elections in January and the United Nations has offered a proposal for compromise plans.

Caught in between are the smaller communities of ethnic Turks and Christians, including the ancient branches of Chaldean and Assyrian churches and smaller communities such as Roman Catholics and Orthodox.

Speaking to mourners at Kirkuk’s main Chaldean church, Sako blamed political leaders for failing to reach compromises on the many ethnic and political disputes.

“It seems that violence is coming back and they lost that chance,” he said.

Two of the victims were Chaldean Christians; the other was Assyrian. Family members said all would be buried in their home areas around Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city 225 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Kirkuk police Lt. Col. Anwar Qadir said the slayings appeared to be an attempt by al-Qaida to spark sectarian clashes or scare away the more than 10,000 Christians remaining around Kirkuk.

In the past, insurgents have described Iraq’s Christians as “crusaders” whose true loyalty lies with U.S. troops and the West.

On Monday, round-the-clock security patrols and checkpoints were increased around Christian areas..

Christians in the Mosul area have faced the brunt of attacks, including a string of bombings and execution-style slaying in late 2008 blamed on Sunni insurgents. An estimated 3,000 Christians fled the area in a single week.

In March 2008, the body of Mosul’s Chaldean Archbishop, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was found in a shallow grave — a month after he was kidnapped at gunpoint as he left a Mass.

Kirkuk, however, has not been spared. In January 2006, two churches here were bombed as part of a series of coordinated attacks that also targeted the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in Baghdad.

“If we can’t feel protected, then more Christians will leave Iraq,” said the Rev. Giorgos Alywa, an Assyrian Orthodox cleric at the burials in the Mosul area.

The first assault killed a woman and her daughter-in-law. About a half-hour later, gunmen killed a 27-year-old man in another part of the city, said Qadir.

Eman Latif, the sister of the younger woman killed, said the attacker stabbed the victims after they were gunned down.

“What have they done to be treated like this?” she said.

Last week, U.N. representatives gave Iraqi leaders a report outlining suggestions to ease sectarian tensions in Kirkuk, including a proposal to grant the area “special status” that would allow joint oversight by both the Kurdish region and the central government in Baghdad.

Kirkuk “should be solved through political, diplomatic channels and dialogue. There is a chance to solve it,” the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, said Monday in an interview with Iraq’s Al-Sharqiya television.

But a Christian university student in Kirkuk, Rudi Shammo, said there is a different reality on the streets: “We Christians in Kirkuk have no weapons or militias to protect us.”

Still, he plans to take a stand.

“Some groups may have plans to push us out of our own country, but I say we will not leave Iraq,” he said. “This will not happen.”

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe [Return to headlines]

Islam Calls for Professionalism, Says Scholar

JEDDAH: Islamic teachings emphasize the importance of professionalism, and Muslims should carry out their activities in a planned and professional manner, said Nabeel Al-Azami, HR adviser to Ford Motor Company in London.

“Honesty and trustworthiness are the first quality of a successful professional,” he said quoting a study on prominent business leaders. He added that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was known as Al-Ameen (trustworthy) and that this was one of the main reasons for his success.

Al-Azami made this comment while delivering a lecture on “Islam and Professionalism” organized by Al-Islam Group here recently. He urged Islamic movements to induct more professionals into their leadership in order to run them efficiently.

He advised Muslim organizations not to waste their time worrying about the huge obstacles they face. “Instead they should think about how to overcome such challenges and make their surroundings favorable,” he said.

Every Muslim should think what he or she can contribute to the progress of the Ummah. “We Muslims should be agents of change in our societies. We should have a plan for future and work hard to realize it,” he added.

Keeping time and following traffic regulations are some of the features of a decent and disciplined society. “The GMT is now elaborated as Generous Muslim Time,” he said, ridiculing Muslims for failure in time management.

Earlier, Abdul Mateen Osmani, director of Al-Islam Group, briefed the audience on the history and achievements of his organization in Islamic propagation. Mustafa Khan welcomed the guests. Those who wish to acquire DVDs of the presentation can do so by contacting 0508604182.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]


Refugee Kids Build New Lives in Europe

By Nicolas Büchse

Some come to escape the brutality and horror of war — others are sent by parents who hope they will one day send them money. The number of unaccompanied youth refugees from Africa and Iraq to Europe is increasing. They are part of a massive trend in global migration.

It was bombs that caused a young Iraqi to lose his home. It was an earthquake in the case of a Chinese teenager who is now no longer certain where he belongs. It was war in the case of a former child soldier from Sierra Leone who is plagued by recurrent nightmares.

Sudanese children at a camp in Chad: Between 3,000 and 5,000 youth from other countries are believed to have sought refuge in Germany.

This is the story of three boys who made it to Germany on their own in a physical sense but in many ways took longer to get here in mental and emotional terms.

Ibrahim*, 16, flew to Germany from Sierra Leone, armed with a fake passport. Jihua, 14, came by ship — a trip that took several weeks to complete and took him from his former home in China to a country he knew absolutely nothing about. Hassan, 15, from Iraq, was brought here in a truck by a band of human traffickers.

When Hassan finally arrived on German soil, he didn’t know whether his long and arduous journey would end in vain. He remembers being awakened at night by a sharp jab in the ribs. The smugglers shooed their human cargo off the bed of the truck they had used to transport them. Hassan and the other refugees in his group were left standing in the dark. The steady rattle of the truck’s diesel engine, a sound that had been pounded into their heads for days, gradually faded away in the distance. All Hassan knew was that he was somewhere in a forest in Germany. It was night, it was cold, and he had no choice but to wait there until it was light enough to continue his journey.

At dawn he and the other refugees made their way to a train station. He got on a train and rode it for two hours before the police came and asked for his papers. He didn’t have any.

Last year, the number of refugees below the age of 18 who came to Germany rose. The majority of these unaccompanied minors came from Iraq, but there are also others from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guinea and Afghanistan. No one can say for sure how many of these young refugees are currently living here, but refugee organizations estimate the number at somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000, including both legal and illegal arrivals.

Hassan ended up in a suburb of Munich, in a receiving center for child refugees where he was placed together with boys and girls from Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, China and a number of fellow Iraqis, the youngest of them just 10 years old.

Three months later, he is sitting here on the blue couch at Chevalier House, the home he is staying in together with a group of 11 youths who were brought together randomly by the vicissitudes of global refugee flows and others who were sent by their parents to find a better life in this far-away country.

One day, while still living in northern Iraq, Hassan was taken aside by his father, who told him he had something important to discuss. His tone of voice was serious. He said: “You’re my eldest son. You have to get out of here. There’s no work, only fear. You are going to leave Iraq.” His father didn’t ask him for his opinion. He gave him a clear order, and disobeying was out of the question.

Hassan is tall and slender. Under his cap he wears his hair in a carefully gelled fauxhawk — like the one David Beckham used to sport.

“Could you please translate so that the newcomers will understand what I just said,” a worker at the home asks him. Hassan pulls the bill of his baseball cap to one side, leans forward and begins to formulate the rules of this new and unfamiliar world in the more familiar sounds of the Kurdish language. The staff worker wants to remind them to adhere to the home’s rules about separating trash. The Kurdish kids look at each other a bit perplexed, but recycling is a part of everyday life in Germany they will have to get used to.

Hassan’s father had instructed him to “learn German and work hard.” The hopes of an entire family now rested on Hassan’s shoulders, a family whose existence was threatened in their homeland. Hassan was sent here with a mission to fulfill.

Fourteen-year-old Jihua, for his part, isn’t quite sure why he is in Germany. While the Iraqis play pool and chat inside, the Chinese boy prefers to stand outside in front of a glass door.

“The Iraqis are pretty noisy,” Jihua says, shrugging his shoulders. A quiet kid, Jihua smiles when he says something and tends to look away shyly when spoken to.

The first impressions he had when he arrived in Germany over three months ago were a bit frightening. The country was full of people who were either white or black, he recalls. They were very big, had long noses, spoke loudly, and what they said sounded threatening. Even worse for him was the fact that the moment he arrived here he was no longer able to communicate verbally with others.

In the first few weeks he slept a lot. After all, sleep meant not having to talk to anyone. Why, he asked himself, should he get up? For who? And for what?

One time he was sitting with the others, watching a live television broadcast of the Olympic Games from Beijing. The other boys in the home marveled at the colorful robes and cheerful people. “China is great,” they said. “Why in the world did you come here?”

Jihua’s story is confusing and tragic. But in contrast to that of most other refugees, it is not based on war, poverty or persecution. It is a tale of being caught in the maelstrom caused by a natural disaster and of a refugee flow that swept him up and carried him to Germany.

Like Hassan, he has been placed at Chevalier House. In the course of the average period of six months that these young people are kept here the facts behind their individual cases are examined and an application filed for asylum or at least for a temporary residency permit to allow them to stay. They are also provided with medical examinations. Some need treatment for intestinal parasites or tuberculosis. And, in the past, some have even tested HIV positive. Social workers are here to provide support for these youth, and they are given German language lessons starting the first day.

Young people under the age of 18 have a legal right to be cared for and provided with support in Germany. Ideally, this would be provided by an institution like Chevalier House, one of eight receiving centers for child refugees in Germany. Those who are 18 or older are sent to receiving centers for adult asylum seekers and are left to their own devices in dealing with their asylum applications.

Ibrahim, the boy from Sierra Leone, claims to be 16, but the authorities don’t believe him. He says he is plagued day and night by memories of the war and the victims he saw, victims of his own actions. His cheeks are hollow, his eyes directed towards the ground, his shoulders slumped. Ibrahim is present physically but not mentally.

He sits on his bed, wrapped in a thick jacket, slouching with his face buried in his hands. He has taken wool blankets, stuffed their edges under the mattress in the bunk above him so that they hang down and form a kind of tent he can withdraw into in the room he has been assigned to at the receiving center for adult asylum seekers in Munich. The room is filled with three bunk beds, six metal lockers, scribbled-on walls, a table and chairs. On the door there is a picture of the German national soccer team, an image of one of the country’s more positive aspects. Out in the corridor beyond the door there is a pervasive odor of stale urine. There’s trash in the stairwell.

“This boy is crying all the time, it’s a pity,” says one of his roommates. At night, he says, Ibrahim gets out of bed, sits at the table, and sobs incessantly, and that this has been going on for months now. It has gotten to the point, he says, that the others in the room want to grab him and give him a good shaking to make him come to his senses.

He says Ibrahim is struggling with the memories he has of his parents, his sister and his homeland, Sierra Leone. But first and foremost he is having to cope with memories of hands getting chopped off. Memories of a woman and her child, and memories of the weapon he carried in his hand.

He is also struggling to deal with the officials at the foreign resident registration office who don’t believe that he is 16 years old.

A Childhood Stolen

He has a backpack that always stays on his back, even when he is sitting down. In it he carries a sheaf of personal documents. “Ausweis,“ he says in German, pointing his bony index finger at two slips of paper. “Ausweis,” or identification, was the first German word he learned.

The first document, issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, officially recognizes him as having been a refugee in Guinea. The other document, a residence permit, was issued by the Guinean Interior Ministry in 2002. The information given in these two documents is consistent with his assertion that he is 16. However, foreign resident registration officials have thus far refused to believe this, saying that the documents could have been forged.

Two of the officials took a closer look at him in a procedure referred to in legal jargon as an “eyeball inspection” and decided that in their view he was 18 or older. As a consequence of their decision he must go through asylum proceedings on his own, live in a mass accommodation facility for adult asylum seekers — and all of this without getting any assistance in dealing with the situation.

The methods the authorities use to try to determine a refugee’s age are controversial. Children’s rights organizations claim that in most instances when the authorities try to guess the age of the youth in question, they settle on a number higher than that which the young person has provided. Consequently, support has been denied in numerous cases simply because the young people in question were declared to be 18 or older and thus legally no longer minors.

Ibrahim takes his hands away from his face and looks up. Albert has come into the room. As far as Ibrahim is concerned, Albert is one of the best things that has happened to him since coming to Germany, running a close second to the absence of war. Albert Riedelsheimer works for the Catholic youth welfare organization and for two weeks now has been Ibrahim’s legal guardian. Riedelsheimer is 42, has worked for 17 years as a guardian for child refugees, has written a number of books on the subject and knows the relevant sections of asylum law by heart. “Ibrahim needs someone who can help him, who can be there for him, who can listen to him,” Riedelsheimer says. “He needs to be taken out of this environment as quickly as possible.”

In Riedelsheimer’s view, as long as there is no proof that Ibrahim’s documents were faked he should be given the benefit of the doubt and the age he has given should be accepted as truth.

Ibrahim’s situation is symptomatic of some of the things Riedelsheimer sees as being out of kilter in the German system and which — working together with child rights organizations and related policy experts — he is striving to correct. These undesirable circumstances came under fire from the European Commission a year-and-a-half ago. The EU executive body pointed out that Germany, Portugal, and Sweden are the only EU countries in which unaccompanied refugees between the ages of 16 and 18 are frequently placed in housing facilities for adult asylum seekers rather than children’s homes or foster families.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which bestows the same rights upon unaccompanied refugee children as it does on orphan children who are citizens of the receiving country, is not fully observed in Germany. Indeed, Amnesty International holds the view that refugees here under the age of 18 are often treated like second-class citizens.

But that’s not the case at Munich’s Chevalier House. Here refugee children are put through an active program of teaching in which they learn all about the country they have come to. Hassan, the boy from Iraq, sits with the others in his group in their classroom. Outside, a fog bank has pushed up against the windows. To these boys Germany had until recently seemed something like a fairy tale, a far-away kingdom where peace and prosperity prevail.

“Hassan, we don’t say ‘Finger kaput’, that’s the way foreigners speak German, that’s not the way we talk here,” the teacher says.

Hassan corrects himself: “Yeah, I know, you’re supposed to say ‘My finger hurts’.” Having already worked his way through 11 lessons, he’s ahead of everyone else in his class. Some of the others are still working on lesson four. Many of them didn’t even know how to read and write before they came to Germany.

On Saturday, Hassan will speak to his parents again by phone. He will be able to report to them that he is making good progress in learning German and that they have every reason to be satisfied with him.

Germany. The word always had positive connotations in Hassan’s village near Mosul in Iraq. The people there spoke with admiration of one of their own, a young man who went to Germany, studied, earned a doctoral degree and managed to accumulate a certain amount of wealth. The man in question is one of Hassan’s uncles and lives in Dortmund.

The more insecure their region became, the more the people of the village tended to talk about this man. “We were always afraid. When we left the house to go somewhere we were afraid that we wouldn’t make it back alive and when we came back we were afraid we would find the house destroyed and everyone dead,” Hassan says. His family are Yazidi, members of an ancient monotheistic religion whose roots precede Islam. The Islamists regularly persecute the Yazidi.

Hassan’s father was a taxi driver. He sold his taxi for $7,500 and used the money to pay the smugglers for his son’s passage to Germany. He saw this as in investment in the future, with the hope being that his son would eventually make good and be able to send money back home to his family.

Hassan is not very willing to talk about the details of his trip from northern Iraq to Germany. Perhaps the traffickers threatened him to keep him quiet. At any rate he is unable to say how long he and the others who were with him remained huddled together in the back of the truck. All he was able to bring with him was a plastic bag with a sweater, t-shirts, and an extra pair of pants. In his pants pocket he had a slip of paper with the address of his uncle in Dortmund written on it, his ticket to a new life in Germany.

The first few days, he says, looking to one side in embarrassment, he just laid in bed and cried. The children and young people who come here are faced with the task of getting used to the country that is going to be their new home and, at the same time, coming to terms with the fact that they have lost their former homeland.

Jihua stares at the floor as he tells his story. Sometimes he gets the order of events mixed up a bit. It’s difficult to sort out all the things that happened, to put the horror in a sequence.

Jihua’s former life ended on May 12, 2008 at 2:28 p.m. He was at school in Wenchuan, where he was in the 8th grade. He had been looking forward to the end of the school day. He had planned to play ping pong with his friends. Then the building began to shake. They all ran out into the open. Within a very short period of time the world around them was reduced to rubble. Whole towns and villages, whole streets, and whole factory complexes were flattened. More than 80,000 people were killed and some 370,000 were injured. Jihua’s parents, both factory workers, were among the dead.

In the confusion that reigned after the earthquake, he says, friends took him in and promised they would get him out of the disaster area. But he had no idea the journey was going to take him outside of China.

He traveled twice by ship and spent a month at sea. The only things he was offered to eat or drink were bread and water. He said the smugglers had used him as a guinea pig. Every time they came to a border he was the one they would send across first to see if the coast was clear. Eventually he ended up in Munich.

Now he’s sitting here on a bench and asking himself whether China will continue to be his homeland or whether the time has come for him to open up to the idea of accepting Germany as his new home. He cried when the other kids at Chevalier House told him he was going to be deported because he doesn’t have a passport. He went to the counselors and asked them to send him away as soon as possible, before he had a chance to get accustomed to life in Germany.

Ibrahim, the former child soldier, sees in the foreign resident registration office an administrative authority that is doing everything it can to get him out of the country again. It is difficult to get it across to him that the officials there are not his enemies and that he needs to work with them.

Ibrahim was born in the midst of a civil war, and he was seven years old when his childhood was stolen from him. It was 1999. He and his father, his mother, and his 14-year-old sister were fleeing from the fighting when they were kidnapped by rebels. His mother was shot immediately.

Ibrahim speaks in a monotone, with no expression in his face that would reveal what he is feeling as he relates these horrors. They were taken to a rebel camp. There was very little to eat and hardly any water. “If you want to eat then you’re going to have to shoot,” the rebels told him.

Prisoners were brought into the camp a couple of times a week. They would be lined up in a row and their arms tied to a log. He was ordered to ask them if they wanted a “short sleeve” or a “long sleeve”. Then he would take a machete and either cut off their hand or a longer section their arm. With children this was fairly easy. With adults he sometimes had to apply the machete more than once.

It is memories like this that haunt him like evil spirits, he says.

He lived in the rebel camp for a year. His father was killed in the fighting. When one of the rebels got his sister pregnant the two of them were released. They moved from one refugee camp to the next, always on the run in a constant effort to get away from the rebels. They made it to Guinea where his sister had a miscarriage. She died soon afterwards. Ibrahim has a photo of her in his backpack. It shows a woman lying in a hospital bed and a doctor standing beside her. You can see in the woman’s face that she is in pain and making a great effort to smile.

Culture Shock in Munich

In his story Ibrahim talks about a diamond that his sister gave him and the man who helped him get to Germany in exchange for it, by getting him a forged passport and an airplane ticket. Ibrahim says he can’t remember most of the details. Many child refugees are afraid to speak openly about what they experienced for fear of being deported.

Riedelsheimer hopes to secure a residence permit for Ibrahim. Over half of the unaccompanied refugees under the age of 18 are given a time-limited residence permit. The others are granted temporary asylum for a period of six months but with the possibility of having this period extended. Very few of them are deported.

Four months have gone by and Ibrahim has to go back to the foreign resident registration office. He takes the relevant papers out of his backpack and lays them out on the linoleum-covered floor, his documents from Guinea and other papers from Germany with bureaucratic-sounding headings on them like “Instructions regarding your obligation to cooperate with the responsible authorities in connection with your application for asylum” or “Instructions with regard to the storage of your fingerprints”. Ibrahim is unable to understand what is written on these papers, but this fact fails to make any impression at all on the man at the local government registration authority.

An interpreter translates for Ibrahim into Krio, his native tongue. Ibrahim stares out the window into the fog. Riedelsheimer says he has never before seen such a traumatized young refugee and that this is the most difficult case he has ever had to deal with.

Two months later Ibrahim’s case has still not been decided.

Ibrahim, Hassan, and Jihua have been in Germany for six months now. Hassan and Jihua, who continue to live at Chevalier House, often go into the city together. Once they even went to the circus.

Jihua has become more outgoing and laughs a lot. He is holding a nine-month-old baby on his lap that belongs to a young woman who is also staying in the home. He tickles the child and makes it laugh. Another girl, from Vietnam, sits down next to him. He tells her in broken German about an experience he had two months ago. He had gone into a Chinese grocery store because he wanted to talk to someone who spoke his language. He greeted the Asian woman behind the counter.

“Nihao,” he said.

“Sorry, I don’t come from China. I’m from Vietnam,” she replied.

He says he is no longer very homesick for China. There is no one there he could go home to anyway. He has an appointment soon with the child welfare office and will probably be transferred to a group living facility.

Hassan has already had an appointment to discuss his future. He wears his hair a little longer in the back now, and his jacket has “US Air Force” written across it in big letters. He won’t be going to Dortmund to live with his uncle as his father wanted. He has been given a room in a group facility in Munich and is happy to be living there. One reason is that he has been reunited with two friends from a neighboring Kurdish village in Iraq.

His teacher told him that he will soon be able to start attending secondary school. When he finishes, he wants to go into training to become a barber or hairdresser so that he can start sending money back to his family.

Ibrahim is standing in a well-lit room. It’s been almost three months now since he moved out of his bunk bed tent at the adult receiving center. He is in a group living facility now, together with nine other young people his age — most of them Germans. He no longer looks down all the time. It’s as if he wants to see and absorb everything that’s going on around him. He speaks fairly good German, is eager to learn and asks the most questions in the German course offered for young refugees.

He excuses himself for the untidiness in his room, the first place he has ever been able to call his own. He doesn’t have many possessions. On his desk, he has a toy horse made of plastic. He says he found it in the garbage, adding that in Germany people throw away so much stuff that is still good.

At Christmas Albert Riedelsheimer sent him a picture — a group photo taken last fall of the kids who were in his care, including a rather downcast-looking Ibrahim. A girl living in the facility comes into the room and Ibrahim hides the photo behind his back. Yes, he’ll be glad to come down and help her cook dinner. He’ll be there in a few minutes.

When the girl has left he shows me the photo. “Oh, my God, I looked like I was about to die,” he says.

There are professional staff at his facility who comfort him at night when he cries after having nightmares. He’s not having bad dreams as often as he used to, he says. He’s soon going to start therapy to help him deal with his dreams.

Ibrahim is going to be able to stay in Germany for the time being.

He spoons the last bit of coffee out of his cup and confides that during the past several months he had always carried a pocketknife with him in his jacket. He say he would have tried to kill himself rather than get deported back to Sierra Leone.

* The names of the refugees referred to here have been changed to protect their identities.

Translated from the German by Larry Fischer

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Distorting the Word ‘Hate’

Homosexual activists aren’t easily deterred. Unable to persuade even the people of California to change the definition of marriage to legitimize their lifestyle, they’re resorting to a backdoor approach to accomplish the same thing: pushing federal hate crime legislation while few are paying attention.

Well, people better wake up, because the House Judiciary Committee has already approved Barney Frank’s bill, H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The full House is expected to vote on the bill April 29, and various liberal groups, from gay activists to liberal religious organizations, are engaged in a full-court press to get this bill passed.

The bill would make it a federal crime to willfully cause bodily injury to someone (or to attempt to do so with firearms or explosives) because of his or her actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

If states want to pass their own hate crime legislation, they are free to exercise such poor judgment. But they don’t need the long arm of the federal government cramming it down their throats.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Mexico Death Toll Stabilizes as Epidemic Spreads

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The toll from the swine flu epidemic appears to be stabilizing in Mexico, the health secretary said late Tuesday, with only 7 more suspected deaths. But an outbreak of the virus at a New York school showed it is capable of repeated jumps between humans — meaning it can keep spreading around the world.

The new virus suspected in 159 deaths and 2,498 illnesses across Mexico, said Health Secretary Jose Cordova, who called the death toll “more or less stable” even as hospitals are swamped with people who think they have swine flu. And he said only 1,311 suspected swine flu patients remain hospitalized, a sign that treatment works for people who get medical care quickly.

“You can see the total of new cases,” Cordova said. “In the last days there has been a drop.”

The positive news came hours after Mexico eliminated more reasons to visit the country Tuesday, putting its pyramids and all other archaeological sites off limits nationwide and closing restaurants in the capital for all but take-out food in an aggressive bid to stop gatherings where the virus can spread.

Other countries also took tough measures. The United States stepped up checks of people entering the country and warned Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico. Canada, Israel and France issued similar travel advisories. And Cuba became the first country to impose an outright ban on travel to the epicenter of the epidemic.

Argentina soon followed with its own ban, and ordered 60,000 visitors who arrrived from Canada, Mexico and the U.S. in the past 20 days to contact the Health Ministry.

Experts on epidemics said these kinds of government interventions are ineffective, since this flu — a never-before-seen blend of genetic material from pigs, birds and humans to which people have no natural immunity — is already showing up in too many places for containment efforts to make a difference.

Outside Mexico, confirmed cases were reported for the first time as far away as New Zealand and Israel, joining the United States, Canada, Britain and Spain. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the U.S. has 66 confirmed cases in five states, with 45 in New York, one in Ohio, one in Indiana, two in Kansas, six in Texas and 13 in California.

“Border controls do not work. Travel restrictions do not work,” said WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl, recalling the SARS epidemic earlier in the decade that killed 774 people, mostly in Asia, and slowed the global economy.

Instead, they say, governments should do more to provide medical help to people with swine flu symptoms, since the virus is proving to be treatable if diagnosed early.

U.S. officials stressed there is no need for panic, noting that flu outbreaks are quite common every year. The CDC estimates about 36,000 people in the U.S. alone died of flu-related causes each year, on average, in the 1990s.

Still, without a solid understanding of where the outbreak began or even how fast it is spreading in Mexico, authorities were focused on preventing people from gathering in groups where mass contagion could result.

Mexico City’s mayor ordered restaurants to limit service to takeouts and deliveries, and closed gyms and swimming pools and restricted access to many government buildings.

The economic toll also spread. Even before the restaurant closings, the capital has lost 777 million pesos ($56 million) a day since the outbreak began, said Arturo Mendicuti, president of the city’s Chamber of Trade, Services and Tourism.

“Of course we don’t like these measures,” he said. “We hope they don’t last.”

In the U.S., President Barack Obama asked Congress for $1.5 billion in emergency funds to fight the illness.

“I fully expect we will see deaths from this infection,” said Richard Besser, acting director of the CDC.

In New York, there were growing signs that the virus was moving beyond St. Francis Preparatory school, where sick students started lining up at the nurse’s office days after some students returned from Cancun.

At the 2,700-student school, the largest Roman Catholic high school in the nation, “many hundreds of students were ill with symptoms that are most likely swine flu,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. A teacher was one of 28 confirmed cases. And a nearby school with siblings at St. Francis was shut down as well after more than 80 students called in sick.

“It is here and it is spreading,” Frieden said.

Rachel Mele, a 16-year-old at the school, saw her fever break Tuesday for the first time in five days. It had been hovering around 101 since the terrifying night when her parents rushed her to the hospital.

“I could barely even catch my breath. I’ve never felt a pain like that before,” Mele said. “My throat, it was burning, like, it was the worst burning sensation I ever got before. I couldn’t even swallow. I couldn’t even let up air. I could barely breathe through my mouth.”

It is significant that some of confirmed New York cases passed swine flu to others who had not traveled — this suggests the virus can jump from human to human to human, spreading through other countries, said Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of the World Health Organization.

“There is definitely the possibility that this virus can establish that kind of community-wide outbreak capacity in multiple countries, and it’s something we’re looking for very closely,” Fukuda said. So-called “community” transmissions are a key test for gauging whether the spread of the virus has reached pandemic proportions.

Mexico opened its national naval hospital to civilians to deal with the still-mounting wave of suspected swine flu cases. Staffers wore goggles, masks and booties as they treated patients who had crowded the waiting rooms and reception areas for a chance to get in.

As Mexico’s caseload grew, complaints were heard throughout the capital of 20 million that the supply of surgical masks was running out.

Scientists hope to have a key ingredient for a vaccine ready in early May, but it still will take months before any shots are available for the first required safety testing. Using samples of the flu taken from people who fell ill in Mexico and the U.S., scientists are engineering a strain that could trigger the immune system without causing illness.

“We’re about a third of the way” to that goal, said Dr. Ruben Donis of the CDC.

U.S. officials said they may abandon the term “swine flu” since the virus blends genetic material from three species, and because many people mistakenly fear they can get it from meat. The outbreak has been a public relations nightmare for the pork industry, and China, Russia and Ukraine are among the countries who have banned imports from Mexico and parts of the U.S.

“It’s killing our markets,” said Francis Gilmore, 72, who runs a 600-hog operation in Perry, Iowa, outside Des Moines, and worries his small business could be ruined by the crisis. “Where they got the name, I just don’t know.”

[Return to headlines]

OIC Expresses Concern Over ‘Faith Fighter’ Computer Game

When his attention was brought to an internet report posted by on an online game depicting holy figures such as Prophet Jesus and Prophet Muhammad (PBUT) fighting each other to the death, a spokesman of the OIC Islamophobia Observatory in Jeddah today expressed his concern stating that the computer game was incendiary in its content and offensive to Muslims and Christians.

He said that the game would serve no other purpose than to incite intolerance. He called on the Internet service providers who are hosting the game to take immediate action by withdrawing it from the web.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Shariah in the West: a Discussion With Andy McCarthy


Last week, former Senator Rick Santorum and the Ethics & Public Policy Center’s Program to Protect America’s Freedom presented a symposium exploring the relationship between Shariah law and the West. The featured speaker was Andy McCarthy, author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad.

Mr. McCarthy famously served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where he was involved in the prosecution of both foreign and domestic terrorism— including Omar Abdul-Rahman, the ‘Blind Sheikh.’ After September 11, he supervised the U.S. Attorney’s Anti-Terrorism Command Post in New York City. Mr. McCarthy is a regular contributor at National Review Online and Commentary where he writes on a wide range of subjects including law, terrorism, and national security. Mr. McCarthy has long been a friend of the Center for Security Policy, and is the recipient of the 2008 Mightier Pen Award.

           — Hat tip: CSP [Return to headlines]

Too White, Too Jewish

As a follow-up to my previous post, here’s another example of Multiculturalism in action in the UK.

A Labour Party member who expected to be able to stand for election in a local race was denied the opportunity because she was too white — and too Jewish. Here’s the story from the The Daily Mail:

Labour Party Embroiled in Race Row After Candidate Told She Was ‘Too White and Jewish’ to be Selected

The Labour Party has become embroiled in a race row after a prospective female councillor was allegedly told she was ‘too white and Jewish’ to be selected.

Elaina Cohen claims that Labour councillor Mahmood Hussain said he would not support her application for an inner-city ward because ‘my Muslim members don’t want you because you are Jewish’.

Mrs Cohen, 50, has made an official complaint about the alleged remarks made by Mr Hussain, a Muslim and former lord mayor of Birmingham.

She said: ‘I am shocked and upset that a member of the Labour Party in this day and age could even think something like that, let alone say it.

People should not be allowed to make racist comments like that. If someone in the party feels I cannot represent them because of my colour or religion, that’s ridiculous.

‘I felt particularly aggrieved because I have worked across all sections of the community, particularly with the Muslim section, and have been on official visits to Pakistan.’ [emphasis added]

“People should not be allowed to make racist comments like that.”

I’ve got some news for you, Mrs. Cohen: they aren’t — if they’re white. That’s why you can’t say things like that.

But since you’re white, people of color can discriminate against you to their hearts’ content. Deal with it.

And if you expect a friendly quid pro quo from the “Muslim section” of your community, think again. That’s not the way Islam works: accommodation ratchets in one direction only, towards that which benefits the Ummah.

The article continues:
– – – – – – – –

Mrs Cohen had applied to stand as a Labour councillor for the Birmingham ward of East Handsworth and Lozells, which has a high Asian and Afro-Caribbean population.

As one of Labour’s safest seats on Tory-led Birmingham city council, the final candidate would be almost certain of victory at the June 4 by-election.

But when Mrs Cohen telephoned 57-year-old Mr Hussain for his support, she was astonished to be told that she was too ‘white and Jewish’ to be considered.


Mrs Cohen has now sent an official complaint to Labour Party general secretary Ray Collins and Birmingham city council accusing Mr Hussain of improper conduct.

Mr Hussain said yesterday: ‘I would not make those sort of comments. The allegations are not true.’

All indications are that this well-meaning woman is a whole-hearted supporter of Multiculturalism. Which means that she should have known the rules: political offices, like other spoils, are dealt out on a racial and religious basis. Whites and Jews are not part of the equation in her little corner of Multi-Land, so she had no business expecting things to be any different.

This incident is further evidence that the Socialist establishment had no idea what kind of monster it was creating a generation or two back when it invented the modern Multicultural state.

Hat tip: Vlad Tepes.

The Rules are Different for Palefaces

I’m going to yoke together two seemingly unrelated stories here, so bear with me for a minute.

Malmö riotsThe first article comes from Sweden, and concerns the resignation of the fire chief at a Rosengård fire station. As regular readers know, Rosengård is the scene of nightly arson and rioting by “youths” from the immigrant housing projects. After they set a school or a car ablaze, gangs of young punks wait around for the fire brigade to show up, and then pelt the firemen with stones, bottles, and the occasional fire bomb, all the while knowing that any significant punishment is unlikely to fall on them.

The local fire chief decided he had had enough of all this, and resigned. But you have to admire the guy: instead of quitting his job entirely, he simple gave up his administrative position and will continue as a rank-and-file firefighter.

According to The Local:

Rosengård Firefighters Call it Quits

After months of suffering through thrown rocks and threats directed at his squadron during numerous calls to the Rosengård neighbourhood in Malmö, local fire chief Henrik Persson said on Tuesday he is stepping down from his post.

“I’m not getting any support from our top management. They don’t listen to our requests for a secure working environment,” Persson told the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

Persson, who also sits in on the board of Sweden’s national firefighters’ union, said he will abandon his leadership role at the Jägersro fire station and instead continue work as a rank-and-file firefighter.

Three other firefighters, including another squadron leader from the Jägersro fire station, also said on Tuesday they were quitting in hopes of relocating to other stations, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports.

Firefighters and police officers have long been subject to thrown rocks and threats on calls to Malmö’s Rosengård neighbourhood, with fire fighters working to introduce measures to make their jobs safer.

But their efforts have been for naught, according to Persson, who feels that he can no longer guarantee the safety of his colleagues.

“At a recent meeting a police officer said we need to be ready to have Molotov cocktails thrown at us,” he said.

Moving from Sweden to Scotland, consider this story about a Muslim-owned jewelry store in Glasgow, as reported by The Telegraph:
– – – – – – – –

UK: Muslim-Owned Shop Bans Customers Wearing Veils

A Muslim-owned jewellery shop has decided to ban customers wearing veils after being targeted by robbers disguised as Islamic women.

Everyone entering ATAA Jewellers in Glasgow must reveal their faces under planned new rules to protect staff from further attacks.

The store owners decided to act after two Asian men wearing traditional Muslim women’s clothes — including niqab veils — made away with thousands of pounds worth of jewellery earlier this month.

The pair, who were also carrying handbags, pretended to be interested in buying some items but attacked staff with pepper spray when cabinets were unlocked.

Now the Sadiq family who run the shop are planning to put up a sign informing customers that they cannot wear any headgear that covers the face.

Any Muslim women who are more comfortable in a niqab will be encouraged to telephone in advance to ensure that a female member of staff is present during their visit, to confirm their identities.

“It is our safety that matters as well at the end of the day,” Rukhsana Sadiq told the BBC Asian Network. “God forbid anything like this happening to anyone else.”

The family said they accepted the policy may offend some Muslims, but expect other businesses to take a similar approach. Criminals wearing Islamic veils have carried out at least one other robbery in the city.

Local councillor Hanzala Malik backed the plan. “I know in Scotland that banks will not allow their customers coming in with motorbike helmets, I don’t see why it should be different for people wearing the Niqab. It is an issue about identifying people,” he said.

That’s a good question: why should the rules be any different for people wearing the niqab?

Actually, the rules themselves aren’t the issue; it’s who is allowed to apply and enforce them. If the owner of the shop were a red-headed fellow named Hamish MacDonald, what do you think would happen to him when he refused service to a Muslima in a burqa? Anyone want to bet against the likelihood that he’d be looking at the wrong end of a discrimination charge from the Crown Prosecution Service?

Any white store owner who did such a thing would be engaging in the heinous practice of racial profiling. The horror!

Let’s face it: the rules are different for white people. What would be called racism if I did it becomes perfectly acceptable when it is done by someone who has slightly more melanin in his skin or who bangs his head on the floor when he prays.

Malmö burning carsWhich brings us back to the Swedish fire chief. What if the rioting youths of Rosengård were “persons of Swedish background”? In the unlikely event that ethnic Swedish youngsters would engage in such destructive antisocial behavior, what would be the consequences?

Sweden is far too enlightened a place to dress the miscreants in striped pajamas and send them off to bust up rocks on a prison farm. But you can guarantee that they’d be in reform school or juvie, and not free to run around setting fires night after night.

It’s an unhappy fact, but the standards for white people are not the same as they are for ethnics. People from non-white cultures are expected to be more violent and criminally-inclined, and since we must respect cultural differences, the penalties for them are less harsh and less frequently applied.

Is this racism? You betcha!

But it’s not my racism. It’s the racism of the ruling Multicultural elite, who believe that black and brown people are not capable of civilized behavior, and thus refuse to hold them to the same standards that white people are expected to meet.

So if most of my friends are white, or if I hire mostly white employees to work for my business, then I’m a racist. Period. No court of appeal.

But nobody thinks anything of it if all of an African-American’s friends are black. And if an Iranian businessman has nothing but fellow Iranians as employees, what’s the big deal? It’s diversity at work — something to be celebrated.

This wonderful thing called Multiculturalism mandates that enclaves of foreign cultures be established in our countries, and that the new arrivals be allowed — nay, encouraged — to create an exact replica of their home culture in our midst. To expect assimilation is to be racist.

So everyone is invited to enjoy practicing his traditional customs and mores in this gorgeous rainbow patchwork quilt that is the modern Multicultural state.

Unless he’s white.

If you want to practice the traditions and customs of a white person, then you’re a racist.

Hat tips: Lexington and Vlad Tepes.

Report from The Center for Media and Public Affairs

For our American readers who have a TV without a window to throw it out of, the following report may be of interest.

It comes from the Center for Media and Public Affairs. Some background on the group:

This research was conducted jointly by researchers at George Mason University in Fairfax VA and Chapman University in Orange CA, and coordinated by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA)…


CMPA is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization which is affiliated with George Mason University. It has monitored every presidential election since 1988 using the same methodology, in which trained coders tally mentions of candidates and issues and evaluations of candidates.

For CMPA findings on the 2008 elections, see here.

This research was conducted jointly by researchers at George Mason University in Fairfax VA and Chapman University in Orange CA, and coordinated by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA). It covers all news about Barack Obama’s presidency that appeared on the ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox evening newscasts (the first half hour of Fox News Channel’s “Special Report”) as well as front page stories in the New York Times, during the first 50 days of his term in office (January 20 through March 10). We examined all evaluations made by reporters and non-partisan sources, i.e., those not affiliated with either political party.

Having established their credentials, let’s get on to the meat of their press release, which has lots of interesting nuggets.

There is probably nothing in the findings that you haven’t already intuited. The advantage of having this research, however, is that it crunches the numbers in your hunches:

The media have given President Obama more coverage than George W. Bush and Bill Clinton combined and more positive coverage than either received at this point in their presidencies…[however] the study also finds that Mr. Obama’s positive media image hasn’t precluded heavy criticism of his policies.

Well, I’ll be gosh darned. Who’da thunk it? Somehow I doubt the criticism is coming from those members of the press who claimed he made a thrill run down their leg.

During his first 50 days in office, the three broadcast network evening news shows devoted —

  • 1,021 stories lasting 27 hours 44 minutes to Barack Obama’s presidency.
  • The daily average of seven stories and over 11 minutes of airtime represents about half of the entire newscasts.
  • By contrast, at this point in their presidencies George W. Bush had received 7 hours 42 minutes, and
  • Bill Clinton garnered 15 hours 2 minutes of coverage, for a combined total airtime five hours less than Mr. Obama’s.

Sounds like it’s time for George Soros to fund a television network devoted exclusively to our president. I, for one, can’t wait, but then my house is without any television at all so I’m not concerned.

The breakdowns get interesting:

The networks varied in their attention to the Obama administration:

  • CBS led the coverage with 365 stories and 10 hours 46 minutes of airtime,
  • followed by NBC with 327 stories and 9 hours 38 minutes, and
  • ABC with 329 stories and 7 hours 20 minutes.

    (Thus, CBS has given more coverage to the Obama administration than all three networks combined gave to the first 50 days of George W. Bush’s presidency.)

  • The first half hour of Fox News “Special Report” (which most closely resembles the broadcast network newscasts) devoted 10 hours 24 minutes to the Obama administration, nearly as much airtime as CBS gave him.
  • And the New York Times devoted 115 front-page stories running 3385 column inches, the equivalent of over 28 full pages of text, to the Obama presidency.

See? Your sense that the news was “all Obama, all the time” was not far wrong. Do yourself a favor. Hit the power switch.

Mr. Obama has received not only more press but also better press than his immediate predecessors. On the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news, fifty-eight percent of all evaluations of the president and his policies have been favorable, and 42 percent were unfavorable. CMPA’s previous studies of network news found that George W. Bush received only 33 percent positive evaluations by sources and reporters during the first 50 days of his administration in 2001, and Bill Clinton received only 44 percent positive evaluations during his first ten weeks (70 days) in office in 1993. (As noted above, these figures are based on judgments by reporters and sources not affiliated with either political party.)

You begin to wonder if these overpaid media personalities are in cahoots. The three networks have evaluated Mr. Obama very similarly –

  • 57% positive comments on ABC,
  • 58% positive on CBS, and
  • 61% positive on NBC.

But he fared far better in New York Times stories, where nearly three out of four evaluative comments (73%) by sources and reporters were favorable.

Ah, yes, the same paper that loved Stalin. It’s good to know some things never change.

President Obama didn’t do so well on Fox News. Only one in eight reports were favorable.

The report has examples of network analysis:

Positive Example: “I was blown away by President Obama’s grasp of the subject. How he connected the dots. How he answered the questions without any script.” — George Stephanopoulos, ABC, March 5 [my emphasis – D. Obama does not veer from his script. Ever. Doing so leaves him stuttering and incoherent. Maybe George was hoping for an appointment of some sort?]

Positive Example: “President Obama has done more in one week to reduce oil dependence and global warming than George Bush did in eight years.” — Environmentalist, New York Times, Jan. 26

Sure he did. Him and his unicorn – they wiped out global warming, too.
From Fox, they have this:

Negative Example: “The [employment] numbers the Obama administration is throwing around are absolutely inaccurate… a gross exaggeration.” — Economist, Fox, Feb. 20

These are valuable comparisons. They give you a sense of what the networks like, and what scares them:

While Mr. Obama’s personal qualities and leadership abilities have drawn mostly praise from the mainstream media, his policies have not fared so well. On the broadcast networks fewer than two out of five evaluative soundbites (39%) praised his policies and proposals. ABC’s policy coverage was relatively balanced (48% positive), while source and reporter comments ran over two to one negative at both CBS (32% positive) and NBC (31% positive).

One has to ask: how do the MSM and the CMPA define “leadership abilities”? Do the criteria include some questionable and poorly vetted cabinet appointments, his failure to visit the ice-ravaged areas of Kentucky and Tennessee, his kissy-face games with South American tyrants, his inability to speak a sentence without the aid of his ever-present teleprompters?

Just askin’…
– – – – – – – –

TV news coverage of the president’s economic policies, which focused mainly on the economic stimulus and the various proposed and enacted industry bailouts, garnered support from only 37% of evaluative soundbites. He fared better on domestic issues other than the economy, where praise for his health care proposals and new stem cell research policy brought balanced coverage overall (50% positive). But only one out of four comments (24%) praised his foreign policy decisions, including the war on terror.

CBS pipes up here:

“The Obama administration is paying too much money to the wrong people.” – Economist, CBS, March 20

Now there’s media understatement for you.

The New York Times policy coverage, while less positive than its personal coverage of Mr. Obama, was about evenly divided between praise and criticism (48% positive). Although similar to the broadcast networks in its treatment of economic policy (40% positive), the Times portrayed other domestic policy areas relatively favorably (60% positive), and its 39% positive coverage of foreign policy domains was still more favorable than the networks’ 24% positive coverage.

Positive Example: Mr. Obama’s actions “reaffirmed American values and are a ray of light after eight long, dark years.” – ACLU executive, New York Times, Jan. 22

Uh…sure. “Reaffirming American values”, that’s our leader. Values about dialogue with despots, rumblings about abandoning Israel, lies about who exactly is going to bear his new tax burdens – the bar gets lower and lower on that one. If “reaffirming American values” means destroying the middle class, then Obama is your leader. He’s FDR without the smart advisors or sense of history. He does share Franklin’s personality traits, however.

By contrast, Fox News coverage was even more negative toward Mr. Obama’s policies than the Times was positive. Only one out of twelve evaluative soundbites (8%) praised any of the president’s policies, including six percent positive judgments on the economic matters, seven percent on other domestic issues, and 17% on foreign affairs.

Negative Example: “It’s easy to spend someone else’s money…. It’s not only irresponsible, it’s unethical.” President, Peterson Foundation, Fox, February 20

Fox: The Reality Network.

Across all outlets, the ten most frequently debated issues were:

1. Economic stimulus — 287 stories;
2. Industry bailouts – 114 stories;
3. Budget/deficit – 74 stories;
4. Terrorism — 64 stories;
5. Healthcare – 61 stories;
6. Taxes – 45 stories;
7. Economic conditions – 38 stories;
8. Afghanistan – 31 stories;
9. Defense – 16 stories;
10. Iraq – 12 stories.

Notice that foreign policy didn’t make it to the table, and that the deliberately induced heart attack known as the “Stimulus” led the pack of stories. This list is definitely an MSM-generated group. The vast right wing blogosphere would not have the same order – e.g., taxes would no doubt head the list.

For additional information on their methodology, go here.

For a dose of reality, get out your last pay stub. When Obama finishes with you, all those deductions you’re staring at will be even larger, and what he allows you to keep will be proportionately smaller.

He won. Suck it up.

Snafu in the Skies Over New York City

New York City dwellers went into shock today. I don’t think they will recover quickly, either.

Everyone from Mayor Bloomberg to construction workers was treated to the sudden and mysterious spectacle of a Boeing 747 circling the Statue of Liberty while being trailed by an F-16 fighter jet.

9/11 Redux, anyone?

People fled from buildings and began running down the same streets they’d taken in September 2001. One man described his experience:

“I work in 30 Hudson, which is the largest building in NJ and is right on the water facing the Statue of Liberty. I ran out of the building after a stampede of people began running out of the building as they saw the jumbo jet being followed by two fighter planes veer sharply towards our building and climb right over it. By the time I got outside, it was coming around for its THIRD pass, and I watched it level off below building height over the water and then once again veer sharply towards the building. Several hundred of us began to run away fearing for our lives before it climbed steeply and flew over our building…

Terrorists? Not this time.

Today was snafu time. Stupidity from the top down and resonating through the various levels of bureaucracy until two pilots on a mission to collect some scenic photo ops ended up scaring the bejeezus out of New York City.

Dumb, dumb, dumb:

The White House apologized late Monday after the U.S. military – without public warning – buzzed New York City with one of the presidential planes trailed by an F-16 fighter jet.

Flying in as low as 1,000 feet to 1,500 feet above New York City and taking photographs along the way, the planes circled the Statue of Liberty and flew over Manhattan, Staten Island, and New Jersey – then vanished.


“I approved a mission over New York,” Louis Caldera, director of the White House military office, said in a hastily-prepared statement. “I apologize and take responsibility for any distress that flight caused.”

Caldera, however, insisted that “federal authorities took the proper steps to notify state and local authorities in New York and New Jersey.”

Now why does that sound like a weasel-worded non-apology?? Because not even the mayor was told about this snipe hunt for scenic vistas from Air Force One. Not that there were any passengers, mind you.

Mayor Bloomberg put it this way:
– – – – – – – –

“First thing is I’m annoyed – furious is a better word – that I wasn’t told,” he said. “Why the Defense Department wanted to do a photo op right around the site of the World Trade Center catastrophe defies imagination. Poor judgment would be a nice ways to phrase.”

Bloomberg said federal officials notified the NYPD and another city official, whom he declined to identify, of the flight plan.

“Had I known about it I would have called them right away and asked them not to,” he said. “The good news is it was nothing more than an ill considered, badly conceived, insensitive photo op – with the taxpayers’ money.”

The bad news is that everyone involved appears to be stuck on expensively stupid.

There were lots of last minute prayers as people prepared to die:

Air force jet, New York City “I was crying and praying to God to forgive me my sins because I thought I was going to get killed,” said Kathleen Filandro, who fled from One New York Plaza when she spotted the planes. “We have that big space in the sky where the towers once stood. You can’t just do things like this down here.”

“I didn’t know what was going on,” said Eunice Davis, 41, of Brooklyn, who was evacuated from the New York Mercantile Exchange. “Some planes were circling the building. I was afraid. I was here when the World Trade Center went down.”

“We thought we were under attack again,” added a shaken Wall Street worker, who declined to give his name.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said the department was told of the “aerial photo mission” last Thursday but ordered to stay quiet about it. But they did alert 911 operators at 7 a.m. to tell callers it was an authorized military mission.

It sounds as though it might be a good idea to load the President and his Teleprompters into Air Force One for a flight to New York so he can personally apologize. As Harry Truman famously remarked, “the buck stops here” (at the President’s desk). If he has real political discernment (as opposed to clever campaigning), Mr. Obama will get on the plane, get off in New York, and say “I’m sorry”. Just those two words, without excuses or blaming. Oh, and he could promise them it won’t happen again on his watch.

Anyone want to bet how long it will take him to apologize? This is the man who claimed never to have heard anything about the three hundred or so tea parties around the country. So no doubt he will swear ignorance about this snafu.

Since the bust of Churchill is gone from the Oval Office I have a suggestion for its replacement: a brass replica of those three little monkeys, “Hear No Evil, See No Evil, and Speak No Evil”.

Never mind. He only needs the first two monkeys. Obama has delegated TOTUS for the third monkey’s job.

News reports used in this post:

New York Daily News
Wall Street Journal
New York Post