Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/7/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 5/7/2009Australian special forces have killed a top Taliban leader in Afghanistan. Also in Afghanistan, the Taliban have warned the Pope against Christians “proselytizing” — which seems to be mainly a reference to Evangelical Christians among Coalition soldiers, who bring Bibles and their faith with them on their tours of duty.

In other news, a report shows that in the last ten years Mafia organizations have made two billion euros trafficking illegal immigrants to Europe.

Thanks to Andy Bostom, C. Cantoni, CB, Fjordman, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, KGS, RRW, Steen, TB, The Frozen North, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Hackers Demand $10m Ransom After Hijacking Millions of Medical Records
Hawaii Lawmakers Back the Creation of ‘Islam Day’
Europe and the EU
Andrew Bostom: UN-Fortuyn-Ate Sons
EU Lawmakers to Obama: Lift Ban on Iranian Group
Opel Ideal Partner for Super-Fiat Says Montezemolo
Roger Scruton: Free Speech in Europe
Spain: Alicante Province, Jobs for Pregnant Women
Study: Ireland Biased Against Foreign Jobseekers
UK: Officers Stripped of Stop and Search Terror Powers Over Fears of Angering Muslims
UK: Raped Because I’m White
UK: Sikh Police Seek Bulletproof Turbans
UK: Town Hall Threatens Pensioner With ‘Mini-Asbo’… for Daring to Ask How it Spends Council Tax (Although He Did Call 200 Times)
Croatia: Student Protest Continues, But Not in All Faculties
North Africa
Death Penalty: Algeria, Member of Armed Group Sentenced
Egypt: Fatwa Approves Abortion From Rape, Controversy
Islam: Egypt; Fatwa Approves Abortion From Rape, Controversy
Terrorism: Algeria Sends Military Aid to Mali
Middle East
Defence: Turkey and Syria to Stage Joint Military Exercise
Here She Comes: Saudi’s Miss Beautiful Morals
Iran: EU Trade Increases Despite Sanctions
Stakelbeck: Israel and Egypt, 30 Years Later
Turkey: Family Feud; the Bloodiest Precedents
Moscow Upset as EU Woos Its Former States
Russian Court Convicts US Brothers on Spy Charges
South Asia
Australian Troops Kill Top Taliban Leader Mullah Noorullah in Afghanistan
Radical Muslims Are Closer to the Nuclear Bomb Than We’d Like: Only 60 Miles.
Taleban Warn Pope on ‘Proselytism’
‘Witness for Jesus’ in Afghanistan
Far East
Police Chief, 7 Others Killed in S Philippines Clash
Australia — Pacific
Rights Charter Will Not Lead to Vilification Law, Jesuit Says
Blasphemy Law Only Panders to the Deranged Instincts of an Intolerant Immigrant Minority
Italy Ships 200 Rescued Migrants Back to Libya
Malta ‘Must Respect Rescue Accords’
Migrants to Libya After Malta Row
Netherlands: International Approach to Abuse of Asylum Procedure
Spain: Trafficking Earns Mafia Billions
Sydney Migration Agent Raided Over Visa Documents


Hackers Demand $10m Ransom After Hijacking Millions of Medical Records

Hackers have demanded $10 million in ransom after hijacking nearly 8.3 million patient records.

The data was stolen from an a government website used to track drug prescriptions in the American state of Virginia.

Health officials called in the FBI after receiving a ransom demand which was posted on the Virginia Prescription Monitoring Program’s website.

A copy of the message has apparently been posted on website WikiLeaks.

‘Attention Virgina,’ the demand reads.’In my possession right now are 8,257,378 patient records and a total of 35,548,087 prescriptions.

‘Also, I made an encrypted backup and deleted the original. Unfortunately for Virginia, their backups seem to have gone missing, too. Uhoh.’

‘For $10 million, I will gladly send along the password. You have 7 days to decide. If by the end of 7 days, you decide not to pony up, I’ll go ahead and put this baby out on the market and accept the highest bid.’

The prescription monitoring website remained offline today as officials tried to hunt down the person behind the hijack.

‘This is a crime and it is being treated that way,’ Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine said..

Sandra Whitley Ryals, director of the Virginia Department of Health Professions, which runs the programme, said: ‘We can assure the public that all precautions are being taken for DHP operations to continue safely and securely.

‘The entire DHP system has been shut down since Thursday to protect the security of the programme data.

‘We are satisfied that all data was properly backed up and that these backup files have been secured.’

It is unclear what information is stored on the records but it is likely to include social security numbers as well as names and addresses.

The information would be invaluable for identity fraud though the hacker himself said he had no idea how much the information was worth in his ransom demand.

Michael Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of the NCX Group, a computer-security consulting firm told Fox News the data would probably be worth more than $10 million on the black market.

He claimed the Prescription Monitoring Program Web site would probably be easy to hack.

‘Many government sites don’t have the time or the money to fully check their code,’ he said.

‘And no offence, but the best security experts aren’t going to work for $60,000 for a state agency when they could make $200,000 in the private sector.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Hawaii Lawmakers Back the Creation of ‘Islam Day’

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday to celebrate “Islam Day” — over the objections of a few lawmakers who said they didn’t want to honor a religion connected to Sept. 11, 2001.

The Senate’s two Republicans argued that a minority of Islamic extremists have killed many innocents in terrorist attacks.

“I recall radical Islamists around the world cheering the horrors of 9/11. That is the day all civilized people of all religions should remember,” said Republican Sen.. Fred Hemmings to the applause of more than 100 people gathered in the Senate to oppose a separate issue — same-sex civil unions.

The resolution to proclaim Sept. 24, 2009, as Islam Day passed the Senate on a 22-3 vote. It had previously passed the House.

The bill seeks to recognize “the rich religious, scientific, cultural and artistic contributions” that Islam and the Islamic world have made. It does not call for any spending or organized celebration of Islam Day.

“We are a state of tolerance. We understand that people have different beliefs,” said Sen. Will Espero, a Democrat. “We may not all agree on every single item and issue out there, but to say and highlight the negativity of the Islamic people is an insult to the majority” of believers “who are good law-abiding citizens of the world.”

But Republican Sen. Sam Slom argued that the United States has become too sympathetic toward Islamic extremists.

“I don’t think there’s any country in the history of the world that has been more tolerant than the United States of America, and because of that tolerance, we’ve looked the other way a lot of times, and many thousands of our citizens have been killed by terrorists,” said Slom, a Republican.

The lone Democrat voting against the bill opposed it on church-state separation fears.

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

Europe and the EU

Andrew Bostom: UN-Fortuyn-Ate Sons

Three years ago (February, 2006) while attending a Memorial Conference for Pim Fortuyn, and delivering this speech (“Jihad In Europe: Past as Prologue”) I witnessed, sadly, what the “heirs of Fortuyn,” members of his “The Pim Fortuyn List” were about.

A major Fortuyn “heir” delivered an unalloyed Islamic apologetic speech, and had the temerity to claim Muslims in Europe suffered “far more” than non-Muslims—victims of the Malaysian dhimmitude, or “Bumiputra” system—in Sharia-ized Malaysia. (Shortly afterward, Ibn Warraq, during his eloquent address, referred appositely, to that statement by the “The Pim Fortuyn List” member as ahistorical, and “disgusting.”) This same Fortuyn heir moral and intellectual cretin also made Karen Armstrong-like claims about the “benign” nature of the brutal Islamic jihad conquests of Africa, Asia, and Europe.

Perhaps not surprisingly then, three years later, Fortuyn “supporter and friend,” lawyer Gerard Spoong — after persuading a Dutch appeals court to prosecute Wilders for his documentary film Fitna—made the this doubly appalling statement, which demonized Geert Wilders, while extolling Pym Fortuyn’s unfortunate libertinism:

“Geert Wilders incites hatred against Muslims, and Pim did not do that: he had sex with Moroccan boys in dark rooms.”

But Bruce Bawer’s highly selective memory recalls none of this in his recent apoplectic posting ( Thursday, May 6, 2009, 9:28 P.M) ostensibly referring to the same subject matter…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom [Return to headlines]

EU Lawmakers to Obama: Lift Ban on Iranian Group

BRUSSELS — More than 100 members of the European Parliament are urging President Barack Obama to remove an Iranian opposition group from the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The lawmakers say in a letter that the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran “has clearly demonstrated” it is a friend of the West and an enemy of religious fundamentalism.

The Mujahedeen were placed on Washington’s of banned organizations in 1997 in an apparent effort by Washington to appease Tehran’s theocratic government.

The European Union also banned the group, but removed it from the terrorist list in January after a string of court decisions in the group’s favor.

The European Parliament, elected by the EU’s 375 million eligible voters, has 785 members.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Opel Ideal Partner for Super-Fiat Says Montezemolo

Chairman says Chrysler is unique opportunity but hard work starts now

MILAN — Now Berlin? “It would close the circle”. Luca Cordero di Montezemolo is reluctant to say any more. The game is still up for grabs as Sergio Marchionne works hard to convince Angela Merkel about Opel after succeeding with Barack Obama and the Chrysler deal. The shutters have already come down in Germany. Fiat elicits trepidation, among other emotions, so “let’s leave Sergio to do what he knows best”. The Fiat chair of course agrees that the German auto manufacturer “would be an amazing opportunity for us, our ideal partner. It would create a very strong group”.

You’re not even taking time to celebrate Detroit? Aren’t you overdoing it a tad? “

It’s unavoidable. Look, we in Fiat are proud and satisfied at the Chrysler operation and at what the president of the United States had to say. As chairman, let me express my enormous gratitude to a management team that has unfailingly kept its promises, in terms of results and strategies. But our first feeling is humility. Humility and great determination. For the past month, since Obama first spoke about us, we have been under the world’s microscope. We are conscious of the fact and conscious above all that it will be a very difficult task. It gives you the shivers. We are tackling the job enthusiastically, redoubling our efforts and application to strengthen Fiat and put Chrysler back on its feet. It’s a unique opportunity but the hard work starts now”.

You must have opened the bubbly, though. Six years ago, Fiat went cap in hand to Arcore [Silvio Berlusconi’s private residence — Trans.]. Paolo Fresco and Gabriele Galateri had to bow the knee. Today, the White House is ringing you up to save the US auto industry.

“I always say that you have to look to the future. But yes, sometimes you have to remember where you came from. I have very clear memories of my first days in Turin. On the Thursday morning, I became president of Confindustria [the national employers’ confederation — Trans.]. That evening, Umberto Agnelli died. Sergio and I met thanks to him. He co-opted us onto the board. The day after his funeral, Sergio was running the company and I was chairing the board. According to the world press, Fiat was on the brink of bankruptcy”.

Well, it was.

“Those first nights, we didn’t sleep at all”.

What about today?

You have already said that Chrysler gives you the shivers. “But today, we’re starting out from the enormous job done by the management team…

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Roger Scruton: Free Speech in Europe

It is probably well known to our readers that the British government, on the advice of Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, recently prevented Geert Wilders, a member of the Dutch parliament, from visiting Britain, to which country he had been invited in order to show his short film Fitna to a group of peers in the House of Lords. Fitna means “turning away” or “temptation,” and denotes the sin to which young Muslims are exposed in Western societies. The film purports to demonstrate the terroristic nature of the Koran and to give a warning against the Islamization of Europe. It has not been banned in Holland, but it is clearly a no-holds-barred attack on Islam as a creed and a social force.

Prominent among those agitating to keep Mr. Wilders out of Britain was a certain Lord Ahmed, one of those cronies of Tony Blair who were shot into the House of Lords some 12 years ago in order to turn that venerable institution into the yes-machine favored by New Labour. Lord Ahmed, who claims to be a Muslim, announced that he could muster thousands of the faithful in order to make Mr. Wilders’s visit a serious problem for the government. Rather than test this insolent remark as it demanded, the government went along with what it took to be Muslim opinion, and made no effort to defend Mr. Wilders’s right, as a member of one European parliament, to explain his views to another.

A short while later Lord Ahmed was jailed for driving his car on the motorway while drunk and sending text messages—eventually running into the back of a stationary car and killing the driver. Whether his lordship’s reputation as a voice of the faithful will survive this particular episode is anybody’s guess, but no doubt some other self-appointed representative of the Muslim minority will step forward to dictate things the next time the Koran is threatened with a public examination.

I am fairly sure that Mr. Wilders’s exposition of the Koran and its doctrines is biased. Like many non-Muslim readers of the Holy Book, I have been struck by the way in which spurts of vindictive anger punctuate a narrative that is, in itself, a heartfelt invocation of the pious life, and a profoundly serious attempt to reconcile the belief in the one God, all-seeing, all-knowing, with the moral chaos of human communities. I regret the fact that Muslims take this text to be the word of God, rather than a particular person’s attempt to give human words to a revelation that he should have sat on a little bit longer before being sure he had got it right.

Like Mr. Wilders, I find parts of the Koran disturbing in their bloodthirsty and unforgiving anger.

But I find the book of Joshua similarly disturbing from beginning to end. So what? The book of Joshua emerged from a life-and-death struggle, in which God was conscripted to the winning side. The same is true of the Koran, which is as clearly marked by a great emergency as is the book of Joshua. This is normal: only in the Gospels does God appear (to His inestimable credit) on the losing side.

All this can be said and should be said. There is no way forward for Europe if it isn’t said. Whether it is right to say it in the tone of voice of Mr. Wilders is another matter. But free speech is not about permitting only those voices of which you approve…

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Spain: Alicante Province, Jobs for Pregnant Women

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID — Thanks to the Mater Dipu’ plan launched by the regional administration and which lays out the creation of ad-hoc jobs for pregnant women, it will now be easier to have children and balance work with maternity for workers in southern Spain. This is a highly innovative measure, even when compared to the forward-looking law on the prevention of working risks already in place in Spain. And as the councillor for Human Resources, Maria Carmen Jimenez pointed out, as she presented the plan on the World Day for the prevention of working risks, “the plan aims to improve the working situation for pregnant women, through the creation of a catalogue of 32 ‘white’ jobs, within provincial administration”, where, in case of necessity, workers would be able to carry out roles which bear no risk for their own health or for that of the child to be born. The head of the security and health council in the province of Alicante explained to ANSAmed that “the ad-hoc creation of jobs would be open to women who are pregnant or who are new mothers, and would be operated on shifts, exposed to biological risks themselves and for the foetus and for those who manage roles. The real innovation,” he observed, “ is that in Spain for the first time, we will receive new roles, adapted for pregnant women, with the same wage, with all the allowances for shifts, night shifts and holiday days, as exist before pregnancy.” The Alicante province is hoping that the initiative “will effectively make the working life compatible with family life,” councillor Jimenez announced. Workers who fulfil risk jobs (such as hospital nurses or those caring for the elderly or in psychiatric hospitals) will be able to transferred on request, and after a proper check of the risks they are open to, to administrative roles or auxiliary tasks in pharmacies, in one of the 32 “white jobs” that the administration has set out as entirely free from the risk of contagion or physical stress. And they will retain 100% of their previous wage for the entire duration of the pregnancy and in the first period of motherhood. But that’s not all. Canovas continued, “the other innovation in the new law, which was discussed for two years with union leaders and companies which report to the provincial administration, is the possibility for workers to count on a recent-mother hood maternity leave greater than the 12 months currently recognised by national law.” In other words, new mothers will be able to retain their jobs for the entire-time they are breast-feeding, even if this period lasts for two years.” The new ruling currently only affects the 500 workers of the Alicante regional administration, but union leaders are hoping that the scheme will be a trailblazer for “the establishment of a real culture of respect for women’s vital times in the workplace.” A culture that favours maternity, which doesn’t necessarily carry risks of pay reductions or, in some case, losing the job altogether. This is perhaps the only measure capable of reversing the trend of negative growth rate in the Spanish population, besides the “baby-bonus” of 2,500 euros per first-born or adopted child, which the Zapatero government agreed in 2007. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Study: Ireland Biased Against Foreign Jobseekers

DUBLIN — People applying for jobs in Ireland are twice as likely to get an interview if their name is Irish rather than foreign, according to groundbreaking field research published Thursday by the nation’s major think tank..

The Economic and Social Research Institute study — a first in Ireland, a country still coming to terms with its first wave of immigration — documented strong discrimination against job applicants with non-Irish names.

The report said the measured level of prejudice was much higher than international norms, and suggested that many Irish employers “may never have read past the names.”

The yearlong project involved sending two fictional resumes each in response to 240 advertised job openings. Each time one candidate’s name suggested Irish roots, the other a link to Germany, Africa or Asia.

In each case, the two applicants had skills and experience of equal value. All applicants identified themselves as Irish citizens with Irish high school degrees and other locally earned qualifications. This removed the risk that employers could reject applicants based on work-permit concerns or bias against foreign training and education standards.

“Essentially, applicants differed only in their ethnically distinctive names. The effectiveness of this field experiment depended on employers recognizing the ethnicity of job applicants,” the report said.

Despite this calculated equality on skills and experiences, two-thirds of the applicants who got callbacks for interviews came from the Irish-named pool of candidates.

The report said this bias was “consistent with the Irish situation of an existing strong, cohesive national identity, based on an almost exclusively white Irish population, and until very recently, no substantial non-Irish minority groups either to threaten or be included as part of that identity.”

The findings come as Ireland struggles in a deepening recession following more than a decade of Celtic Tiger economic boom. The good times attracted hundreds of thousands of immigrants, who today represent a disproportionately high percentage of the unemployed.

The researchers pre-tested names to determine which ones would be widely recognized as Irish, German, Asian and African. They cited Patrick Byrne as one identifiably Irish name used in the study, while Albrecht Schroeder, Babatunde Okon and Mohinder Singh were names used for immigrant-sounding applicants.

Among their 480 phony applicants for real jobs, 32.5 percent of the Irish-named applicants received offers of a job interview. Just 15.8 percent of the foreign-sounding applicants did.

The report said this was among the highest rates of job-application discrimination ever detected internationally among a field of similar studies conducted in the United States, Europe and Australia.

It listed two previous studies — of French attitudes to job applicants from Africa in 2005-06, and of British attitudes to Indian, Pakistani and Caribbean jobseekers in 1977-78 — that registered higher levels of prejudice. But several other studies, including surveys of U.S. employer discrimination against black and Latino applicants, found less bias than in Ireland.

Ireland long suffered from exceptionally high unemployment and emigration until the mid-1990s, when hundreds of foreign multinationals began opening bases here in pursuit of European Union low business tax rates. For the first time, immigration took hold as the labor market expanded far beyond Ireland’s ability to fill the jobs.

Immigration accelerated sharply in 2004 when Ireland, unusually, opened its jobs market to people from the new EU members of Eastern Europe.

Today more than 10 percent of Ireland’s 2 million-strong labor force does not have Irish citizenship. The biggest immigrant groups are Poles, Chinese and Nigerians.

The researchers said they created fictional Germans, rather than Poles, for the study because they considered it implausible that many Polish applicants would be able to claim Irish citizenship and Irish high school degrees, given their recent arrival in Ireland.

The chief executive of Ireland’s Equality Authority, Richard Fallon, which commissioned the report, said it demonstrates “that a very old ghost of discrimination still haunts us.”

Fallon said employers were increasingly favoring “their own” as Irish unemployment soars to its current 12-year high of 11.4 percent, second-highest in the euro currency zone.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Officers Stripped of Stop and Search Terror Powers Over Fears of Angering Muslims

Scotland Yard is to scale down its controversial stop-and-search anti-terrorism powers over fears the ‘blanket’ weapon could be alienating Muslims.

The move was ordered by Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson after talks with groups, including the Muslim Safety Forum and Liberty.

He said: ‘We might need to be a little more discerning about how we use it.

‘Recently we’ve been using it as a blanket power. We should be more targeted about it.’

The Section 44 measure, which was introduced in the Terrorism Act 2000, has been in force across London since the 7/7 bombings and allows officers to stop and search without reasonable suspicion.

Anti-terrorism chiefs ordered an escalation of its use after the attempted bombing of the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket in June 2007.

But details of new tactics, to be brought in across the capital this summer, were being outlined by Assistant Commissioner John Yates to the Metropolitan Police Authority today.

Government figures released last week showed minority communities were disproportionately targeted by the tactic.

The number of black people stopped under the power rose by 322 per cent, compared with a rise of 277 per cent for Asians and 185 per cent for white people.

Police will keep it in force around terrorism targets such as Buckingham Palace and Downing Street, but officers will have to rely on other powers if they are to stop and search elsewhere.

Since October 2007, the Met has conducted 154,293 Section 44 stop and searches.

Civil rights group Liberty said just six in every 10,000 resulted in arrests. BBC figures found that a Londoner is stopped and searched every three minutes.

           — Hat tip: KGS [Return to headlines]

UK: Raped Because I’m White

Victim targeted by immigrant

A DEVASTATED young mum has told how she was raped by an illegal immigrant — because he enjoyed hurting white girls.

Brave Sarah Douglas waived her right to anonymity to relive her terrifying ordeal at the hands of Amos Moobeng and stormed: “This racist should be shipped back home to rot in jail.”

Sarah, 20, came forward after the South African was sentenced to nine years in prison for holding her hostage before raping her after she went to his flat with a pal.

The judge told the court Moobeng, 35, “deliberately targeted two white females”.

But Sarah believes the monster has not been punished enough. “It makes me sick to think that this evil man came over specifically to rape and assault white girls,” she said. “He should be booted out of the country.


“Instead, while he has shattered my life, he has the dream life he came here for — a comfy bed, a TV to watch whenever he likes and hot food three times a day. Where is the justice in that?”

Police figures have revealed that immigrants are carrying out one in six rapes in Britain — and an astonishing one in THREE in London. And last month it was revealed Romanian Ali Majlat attacked a British woman so he could go to jail because his rapist elder brother wrote to him saying how cushy life was in our prisons.

Moobeng was on the run after his visa ran out when he targeted Sarah and her pal at a hotel bar in Exeter…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

UK: Sikh Police Seek Bulletproof Turbans

British Police Sikh Association calls on Home Office to develop ballistic material to allow members to join firearms units

Sikh police officers want special bulletproof turbans to be developed so they can serve in firearms units, according to the new British Police Sikh Association.

The Sikh religion requires its male followers to wear the turban, but existing police safety helmets do not fit on top of them.

Insp Gian Singh Chahal, vice-chairman of the British Police Sikh Association, said the Home Office needed to make provision for Sikhs and recognise that they had a role to play.

He told Police Review: “Sikh officers have been prohibited from becoming firearms officers because our religion does not allow us to remove the turban.

“There has been some research done into producing a ballistic material [for turbans]. We would like to follow any opportunity where we could manufacture a ballistic product, made out of a synthetic fibre, that would ensure a certain degree of protection, so Sikh police officers could take part in these roles.

“I think there needs to be a recognition from the Home Office that would allow Sikh officers to carry out these roles. I think the will is there from chief constables but perhaps not yet from the Home Office.”

The association was launched last month to represent an estimated 2,000 Sikhs who serve in the police.

Sikhs do not have to wear crash helmets under the Motorcycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act 1976.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

UK: Town Hall Threatens Pensioner With ‘Mini-Asbo’… for Daring to Ask How it Spends Council Tax (Although He Did Call 200 Times)

A council has threatened a pensioner with an Asbo-like order to stop him asking tricky questions about the authority’s use of money.

John Hibbitt, 67, will be visited by the police and his council’s anti-social behaviour officer, who will try and stop him making further inquiries.

The pensioner said he wants to find out how much money North Dorset District Council spends on mobile phones.

While the council said it has answered all Mr Hibbitt’s questions, he claims it has not.

Now he is being asked to sign an Acceptable Behaviour Order, known as an ABC, more usually dished out to young yobs.

If he were to sign the document and then breach its terms, he could be issued with an actual Asbo.

Mr Hibbitt, a semi-retired borehole driller, does not think he gets value for money for the £1,300 council tax he pays out annually on his state pension of £5,000.

He has made repeated to calls to council officers who have become tired of his ‘vexatious’ inquiries.

Mr Hibbitt, from Kington Magna, said: ‘I think it’s ridiculous to threaten someone with an Asbo just for asking a few questions.

‘I survive on a state pension of around £5,000 a year but my council tax costs me nearly £1,300.

‘I just wanted to find out how much of my tax was being spent on mobile phone bills. The way I’ve been treated is disgusting.

‘I initially wrote to the council and they did write back but I never got a straight answer.

‘The language they used was evasive and unhelpful, so I wrote back and made some phone calls.

‘I don’t think I get good value for my council tax as I live in a small cottage in the middle of nowhere and hardly use my council services, but a large part of my income goes on the tax.

‘I want to make sure it is being spent properly. I would admit to being forceful with officers, but in order to get a straight answer you have to be.’

Derek Hardy, the council’s policy manager for housing and community safety, said: ‘Mr Hibbitt has been phoning the council day after day in the afternoons asking a response to a question which the council has already given answers in writing and verbally.

‘His calls are repetitive and vexatious and costing council tax-payers of North Dorset a considerable amount of money through officer time.

‘I can confirm that the council has written to Mr Hibbitt discussing the possibility of taking out an Acceptable Behaviour Contract.’

Mr Hibbert admitted calling the council up to 200 times over an eight-week period.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Croatia: Student Protest Continues, But Not in All Faculties

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, MAY 5 — Student occupations in Croatian universities, in protest against alleged commoditisation of education, today entered its seventeenth day, but many faculties are returning to regular teaching schedules. The Literature and Philosophy Faculty of Zagreb’s university, the University of Zara and several faculties in Fiume remain occupied, but they no longer have the full support of lecturers and university councils, as opposed to the last few days. Indeed, following a public letter from the Education Ministry which partly accepted the abolition of university fees — even if only until 2010 — some have urged students to “give back” university buildings and allow normal teaching activity to resume. The student initiative “for free education” in Zagreb says, however, that the ministry’s proposal is unacceptable “as it does not guarantee the total and immediate abolition of fees”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

North Africa

Death Penalty: Algeria, Member of Armed Group Sentenced

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 5 — A member of an armed Islamic group has been sentenced in his absence to death in Algeria. 30 year-old Hasbalaoui Khaled was sentenced by the court in Boumerdes for “setting up a terrorist organisation which threatens the security of the State, its national unity and the integrity of the territory by spreading terror among the population and creating a climate of insecurity”, reported the Aps news agency. Another 8 people have been sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment for “the use of explosives in public places” and “setting up an armed terrorist group”. Capital punishment is still in use in Algeria, but it was last used in 1993, when seven terrorists accused of the attack on the airport in Algiers, were shot by a firing squad. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Egypt: Fatwa Approves Abortion From Rape, Controversy

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MAY 5 — In a surprising decision, the grand Imam of Al Azhar — the Mosque-University in Cairo which is the highest theological authority on Sunni Islam — Sheikh Sayyed Mohamed Tantawi, has issued a fatwa authorising abortion for women who are victims of rape, on condition that they are women “of good reputation, chaste and pure”. Tantawi added that “Sharia (the law of the Koran) varies on this subject depending on the individual case”. In a speech at the close of the cultural season of the Superior Council for Islamic Affairs, at the popular Al Nur mosque, Tantawi said: “let us suppose that a young woman, known for her chasteness and purity, is raped while going to university or at work or anywhere else and becomes pregnant. There is nothing in Sharia law to stop her going to the doctor at the start of her pregnancy, seeing as every woman realises she is pregnant during the first weeks or months, to remove the traces of this aggression, and protect her honour and dignity.” The fatwa has caused controversy among the Islamic experts at Al Azhar, many of whom have expressed their strong opposition. One of the members of the commission for fatwas, Mohamed Crema, maintained in a debate on television programme ‘Al Hayat’ that this religious advice ‘will open the doors to abuses. Women of easy virtue or young sinners could say that they have been raped” said the indignant Crema “to get rid of a pregnancy which is the fruit of an unlawful sexual relationship”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Islam: Egypt; Fatwa Approves Abortion From Rape, Controversy

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MAY 5 — In a surprising decision, the grand Imam of Al Azhar — the Mosque-University in Cairo which is the highest theological authority on Sunni Islam — Sheikh Sayyed Mohamed Tantawi, has issued a fatwa authorising abortion for women who are victims of rape, on condition that they are women “of good reputation, chaste and pure”. Tantawi added that “Sharia (the law of the Koran) varies on this subject depending on the individual case”. In a speech at the close of the cultural season of the Superior Council for Islamic Affairs, at the popular Al Nur mosque, Tantawi said: “let us suppose that a young woman, known for her chasteness and purity, is raped while going to university or at work or anywhere else and becomes pregnant. There is nothing in Sharia law to stop her going to the doctor at the start of her pregnancy, seeing as every woman realises she is pregnant during the first weeks or months, to remove the traces of this aggression, and protect her honour and dignity.” The fatwa has caused controversy among the Islamic experts at Al Azhar, many of whom have expressed their strong opposition. One of the members of the commission for fatwas, Mohamed Crema, maintained in a debate on television programme ‘Al Hayat’ that this religious advice ‘will open the doors to abuses. Women of easy virtue or young sinners could say that they have been raped” said the indignant Crema “to get rid of a pregnancy which is the fruit of an unlawful sexual relationship”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Algeria Sends Military Aid to Mali

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, MAY 5 — A first consignment of Algerian military equipment has arrived at Bamako airport as part of Algeria’s programme of military support for the fight in the Sahel region against the Al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb. So reported today the Algerian press, which quoted diplomatic sources. El Watan, a newspaper, claims that there five plane-loads of Algerian military aid will arrive in Mali over the coming weeks. Apparently, the first consignment included heavy and light weapons, ammunition, vehicles, sleeping bags, binoculars, and infra-red and radio equipment. El Khabar, meanwhile, reports that Algeria, Niger, Mali and Mauritania are set to launch a large-scale military operation in the coming weeks in the area known in military circles as the “second Afghanistan” — the desert area spread across the borders of these four countries. The aim of the operation is to fight against the increasing number of kidnappings carried out by the terrorist organisation, the development of arms and drug-trafficking and illegal immigration. The north African branch of Al-Qaeda has held captive two tourists — one Swiss and one British — for three months now. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Defence: Turkey and Syria to Stage Joint Military Exercise

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 27 — Turkey and Syria will stage a joint military exercise, Anatolia news agency reports quoting the Turkish General Staff. The land forces of Turkey and Syria would perform a joint military exercise across the border today. The exercise aims to boost friendship, cooperation and confidence between Turkish and Syrian land forces, and to increase the capability of border troops to train and work together. This is the first time the two land forces will stage such an exercise that will end on April 29. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Here She Comes: Saudi’s Miss Beautiful Morals

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Sukaina al-Zayer is an unlikely beauty queen hopeful. She covers her face and body in black robes and an Islamic veil, so no one can tell what she looks like. She also admits she’s a little on the plump side.

But at Saudi Arabia’s only beauty pageant, the judges don’t care about a perfect figure or face. What they’re looking for in the quest for “Miss Beautiful Morals” is the contestant who shows the most devotion and respect for her parents.

“The idea of the pageant is to measure the contestants’ commitment to Islamic morals… It’s an alternative to the calls for decadence in the other beauty contests that only take into account a woman’s body and looks,” said pageant founder Khadra al-Mubarak.

“The winner won’t necessarily be pretty,” she added. “We care about the beauty of the soul and the morals.”

So after the pageant opens Saturday, the nearly 200 contestants will spend the next 10 weeks attending classes and being quizzed on themes including “Discovering your inner strength,” “The making of leaders” and “Mom, paradise is at your feet” — a saying attributed to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad to underline that respect for parents is among the faith’s most important tenets.

Pageant hopefuls will also spend a day at a country house with their mothers, where they will be observed by female judges and graded on how they interact with their mothers, al-Mubarak said. Since the pageant is not televised and no men are involved, contestants can take off the veils and black figure-hiding abayas they always wear in public.

The Miss Beautiful Morals pageant is the latest example of conservative Muslims co-opting Western-style formats to spread their message in the face of the onslaught of foreign influences flooding the region through the Internet and satellite television.

A newly created Islamic music channel owned by an Egyptian businessman aired an “American Idol”-style contest for religious-themed singers this month. And several Muslim preachers have become talk-show celebrities by adopting an informal, almost Oprah-like television style, in contrast to the solemn clerics who traditionally appear in the media.

Now in its second year, the number of pageant contestants has nearly tripled from the 75 women who participated in 2008. The pageant is open to women between 15 and 25. The winner and two runners up will be announced in July, with the queen taking home $2,600 and other prizes. The runners up get $1,300 each.

Last year’s winner, Zahra al-Shurafa, said the contest gives an incentive to young women and teens to show more consideration toward their parents.

“I tell this year’s contestants that winning is not important,” said al-Shurafa, a 21-year-old English major. “What is important is obeying your parents.”

There are few beauty pageants in the largely conservative Arab world. The most dazzling is in Lebanon, the region’s most liberal country, where contestants appear on TV in one-piece swimsuits and glamorous evening gowns and answer questions that test their confidence and general knowledge.

There are no such displays in ultra-strict Saudi Arabia, where until Miss Beautiful Morals was inaugurated last year, the only pageants were for goats, sheep, camels and other animals, aimed at encouraging livestock breeding.

This year’s event kicks off Saturday in the mainly Shiite Muslim town of Safwa, and mostly draws local Shiite contestants. But it’s open to anyone — and this year, 15 Sunni Muslims are participating, al-Mubarak said. “This is a beautiful thing,” she added.

There have long been tensions between the two sects in the kingdom. Hard-liners in the Sunni majority consider Shiites infidels, and the Shiites often complain of discrimination and greater levels of poverty.

Al-Zayer, a 24-year-old international management student, said she signed up because she is the “spitting image” of her mother. “I’m proud of my devotion to my parents,” she said.

What does she think of Lebanon’s beauty contests?

“It’s a matter of cultural differences,” she said. “In Saudi Arabia, they are Islamically unacceptable.”

Awsaf al-Mislim, another contestant, said if she does not win the crown, she will have won something more important.

“I will be proud to show everyone that I competed with the others over my devotion to my parents,” the 24-year-old said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Iran: EU Trade Increases Despite Sanctions

Tehran, 13 April (AKI) — Trade between Iran and the European Union rose by 10 percent last year, despite ongoing economic sanctions, an Iranian foreign ministry official said on Monday. Houshang Karimi, the ministry’s director-general in charge of Europe, told a university students in Shahrekord, in the Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province in the country’s southwest.

According to Iran’s state news agency IRNA, Karimi said the volume of trade between Iran and the 27 countries that make up the EU, reached 26 billion euros in 2008, despite sanctions imposed on Iran in opposition to its nuclear programme.

Karimi also told the students that Iran’s goal was to expand its ties with all the countries of the world except the “Zionist regime”, a common reference to Israel.

He reiterated that Iran had proved to the world that it followed an independent foreign policy.

The EU is Iran’s largest trading partner accounting for almost a third of its exports, however, the contentious issue of Iran’s alleged nuclear programme has strained relations.

“Trade with Iran is subject to certain restrictions derived from the sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council on Iran through UN security council resolution 1737 of 23 of December 2006 and 1747 of 24 of March 2007,” the European Commission said on its website.

The commission is the executive branch of the European Union.

“Trade restrictions with Iran are regulated by council regulations 423/2007 and 618/2007, which set out a list of products prohibited from export to Iran.”

Negotiations for a trade agreement between the EU and Iran initiated in 2002 have been on hold since August 2005, when Iran resumed its nuclear activities, the commission said.

The United States, the EU and other western powers suspect Iran may be using its nuclear development programme to covertly build atomic weapons.

However, Iran has consistently claimed its uranium enrichment programme is entirely peaceful and aimed solely at civilian nuclear power, in line with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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

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

Stakelbeck: Israel and Egypt, 30 Years Later

Dear friends,

It has been 30 years since Israel and Egypt signed an historic peace treaty that sent shockwaves throughout the Middle East.

While relations between Egypt and Israel are still far from perfect, that peace treaty still stands today. But in the time that has passed since it was signed, no Arab leader other than Jordan’s King Hussein has joined Egypt in extending the olive branch to Israel and recognizing its right to exist.

My latest story for CBN looks back at the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s decision to make peace with Israel and looks ahead to Israel’s future with hostile neighbors like Syria and Iran.

You can watch it at the linked page.

[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Family Feud; the Bloodiest Precedents

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, MAY 5 — Although in so-called “deep Turkey”, which does not always coincide with the south-eastern regions of the country, feuds between clans or families are not particularly rare, an attack of the scale seen on Monday night in the village of Bilge, in Mardin province, which left 44 people dead, has never previously been seen. Amongst the most bloody feuds in recent years, Turkish newspapers are drawing attention to the attack on December 25 1991 when a dispute between two members of the same family led to a shootout resulting in the death of 12 people and injury of a further six in the village of Kiziltepe, which is also in south east Turkey. On July 13 1992, 16 people (including three children) were killed in a clash between two tribes of the Kurdish clan Kuran, again in the south east of the country. Around 20 members of the Soskan tribe attacked the village of Canli, in the Sanliurfa province, where the rival Semerstan tribe lived. The attackers opened fire on villagers, killing 11 people. Five of the attackers were then killed in the villagers’ return fire. The feud had originally began over the division of a piece of land. The feud which has been most discussed in recent years is the attack in December 1996 which left 20 killed, not for money or honour, but for the right to watch TV. The dispute began three years earlier when Seydo Polat, a farmer in the village of Hatuni, near Diyarbakir, decided to buy a television set. It was the first television to been seen in the area. But Seydo’s joy was short-lived, since those living in the neighbouring village of Gulecoba told him that according to their interpretation of Islam, it was sinful to watch the TV and so he should get rid of the set. But Seydo did not agree, and after being threatened by others, he took a pistol and began to shoot, turning the disagreement into a bloodbath. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]


Moscow Upset as EU Woos Its Former States

THE European Union has angered Moscow with an unprecedented drive to forge a pact with former Soviet states.

Ignoring Russian condemnation during a summit in Prague yesterday, EU ministers have opened up a third front in an escalating East-West row by meeting former Soviet bloc leaders.

A summit on energy to be held today and attended by gas-rich countries of central Asia could reduce Moscow’s energy stranglehold over Europe and its political influence on its neighbours.

Kremlin anger with the West has grown in recent days, and on Wednesday it formally expelled two Canadian diplomats assigned to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation mission in Moscow. The ejections followed NATO’s withdrawal of accreditation for two Russian diplomats at its Brussels headquarters after accusing them of spying.

The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, condemned Moscow’s actions, and the Russian ambassador to Ottawa was summoned to explain. “We are concerned about Russia’s behaviour on a number of fronts,” Mr Harper said. “We would like Russia to behave in a more acceptable manner.”

Russia’s top diplomat brushed off the criticism. “These are the rules of the game,” the Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, told a news conference in Moscow. “Our NATO partners, at least those who initiated the expulsion of our diplomats, could not have expected something less.”

Further stoking tensions in what Moscow calls its “near abroad”, NATO began a military exercise in Georgia, a move denounced by the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, as “blatant provocation”.

Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war last year which some commentators said was partly triggered by the Kremlin’s opposition to Georgia and Ukraine’s ambitions for NATO membership.

More than 1000 soldiers from the US, Europe and elsewhere have gathered at a military base near Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, for several weeks of training and simulated peacekeeping exercises, just days after an abortive army mutiny in the country.

The war games, part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, had been planned before the war last year.

Western hopes for better relations with Russia were further dented by Kremlin objections to the EU’s summit with its recently created “Eastern Partnership”, a bloc incorporating Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Mr Medvedev, outlining his foreign policy doctrine last year, insisted Russia was entitled to a sphere of “privileged interest” in the former Soviet Union. Mr Lavrov said on Wednesday that the Prague meeting represented an encroachment into that sphere.

“Any processes leading to developments within the EU should ensure no overlap in the post-Soviet era,” he said.

Observers did not expect the partnership summit to achieve much, but believed Moscow was much more concerned about the energy summit..

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Russian Court Convicts US Brothers on Spy Charges

MOSCOW — A Moscow court convicted two brothers with dual Russian-U.S. citizenship of industrial espionage Thursday and gave them one-year suspended sentences, according Russia’s top domestic security agency.

The Federal Security Service said Ilya and Alexander Zaslavsky were convicted of attempting to acquire classified commercial data from state-owned Russian energy company Gazprom.

Ilya Zaslavsky was employed by TNK-BP, a major Russian-British energy concern, when he was detained in March 2008 with his brother, who worked for an alumni club set up by the British Embassy’s cultural arm in Moscow.

They were arrested after a series of police raids on TNK-BP, prompting speculation that they were victims of deteriorating relations between Britain and Russia, caused by a string of spying scandals. Russia’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the suggestion.

The Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor, said the Zaslavsky brothers were attempting to bribe Gazprom employees with the aim of gaining inside information and giving foreign companies an advantage over Russian ones.

Ilya Zaslavsky declined to comment on Thursday’s ruling when reached by telephone. Alexander Zaslavsky could not be reached.

Oil and gas have been crucial to reviving Russia’s economy after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Kremlin has put pressure on foreign energy companies in recent years as part of its effort to consolidate control over the country’s largest and most important hydrocarbon deposits.

TNK-BP came under massive official pressure in 2007, when government regulators said it was not meeting production targets at a giant Siberian gas field and threatened to withdraw its license.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Australian Troops Kill Top Taliban Leader Mullah Noorullah in Afghanistan

AUSTRALIAN special forces troops have killed a senior Taliban commander in Afghanistan in an operation expected to disrupt insurgent activity for some months.

Mullah Noorullah and one other insurgent were tracked moving into a tunnel system in the Oruzgan area, where Australian forces are based.

They were killed in a targeted operation, defence said.

Noorullah, classed as a senior insurgent commander, was involved in the use of improvised explosive devices and rocket attacks against coalition forces.

He was also understood to have been involved in the major battle with Afghan and Australian forces on April 12 in which up to four other insurgents were also killed by Australian soldiers.

The latest operation was expected to disrupt the effectiveness of insurgent activity in the Deh Rafshan region for a number of months to come, defence said.

Chief of joint operations, Lieutenant-General Mark Evans, said the counter-insurgency strategy being employed by the NATO-led coalition was having a degrading effect on Taliban leadership and their ability to conduct coherent operations.

“Coalition forces are disrupting the insurgents’ ability to command and control operations,” he said.

The result of this constant targeting is that the Taliban are not able to readily coordinate attacks on coalition forces until replacement leaders are recruited and they can rebuild their knowledge and skills.

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

Pressure Mounts as Another Taliban Leader is Killed

Coalition pressure on the Taliban leadership continues to intensify with the successful targeting of another senior insurgent leader operating in the Oruzgan area.

In a combined coalition operation involving Australian Special Forces troops, Mullah Noorullah and one other insurgent were tracked moving into a tunnel system. They were killed in a targeted operation. There were no civilian casualties resulting from the operation.

Classed as a senior insurgent commander, Noorullah was involved in the use of improvised explosive devices and rocket attacks against coalition forces.

Noorullah was also understood to have been involved in the major battle with Afghan, Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force (MRTF) and Special Operations Task Group elements on 12 April in which up to four other insurgents were also killed by Australian soldiers.

The latest operation is expected to disrupt the effectiveness of insurgent activity in the Deh Rafshan region for a number of months to come.

The Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General (LTGEN) Mark Evans said the counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy being employed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and actioned by Australian and coalition troops in Afghanistan was having a degrading effect on Taliban leadership and their ability to conduct coherent operations.

“Through our operations targeting the Taliban’s leadership and its networks, coalition forces are disrupting the insurgents’ ability to command and control operations,” LTGEN Evans said.

“The result of this constant targeting is that the Taliban are not able to readily coordinate attacks on coalition forces until replacement leaders are recruited and they can rebuild their knowledge and skills.”

LTGEN Evans said that coalition forces needed to continue applying pressure on the Taliban in order to create confidence in Afghan communities that there were viable alternatives to the Taliban.

LTGEN Evans said that while one Taliban leader removed from the insurgency network did not indicate success, it did point to incremental progress

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

Radical Muslims Are Closer to the Nuclear Bomb Than We’d Like: Only 60 Miles.

Pakistan is turning into the Iranian Revolution—plus nuclear weapons.

Like Iran in 1979, Islamist radicals are taking a weakly governed country by the throat and preparing to shape it according to their twisted spiritual vision.

The immediate danger is heightened exponentially by Pakistan being one of the world’s eight nuclear powers, possessing between 60 and 100 nukes, scattered throughout the country. Amid escalating chaos, some of those bombs are sure to slip into extremist Muslim hands.

Though the United States and others talk about preventing this scenario, they simply aren’t willing to take measures forceful enough. Signs are, in fact, that the Obama administration is beginning to realize this is a losing cause.

Brace yourself for the consequences. This situation threatens to change the world.

The Pakistani government certainly lacks the will to stop it from happening. It is plagued by infighting and conflicting loyalties. In fact, it has a history of supporting and exploiting Islamic militancy for its own purposes. Its military and intelligence services, besides being increasingly rife with individuals sympathetic to the Islamists, have, according to Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., always had “a strategic commitment to jihadi ideology”—particularly in order to mobilize Pakistanis as a hedge against arch-rival India.

Hopes of Pakistan policing its own extremists are quickly being smothered by reality. Having already taken over the border region with Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban are now violently expanding their control inward toward Pakistan’s heartland. After two years of fighting in the Swat Valley region, the outgunned government found it had little choice but to concede the area, forming a peace agreement with the Taliban in February. The Taliban promised to end the insurgency at the time—but that quickly proved a sham. Within a week of Islamabad putting its stamp of approval on the deal last month, the Taliban broke its promise and sent its army into Buner, a strategic area just 60 miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. It recruited local madrassa graduates to establish a new government there and began implementing its signature cruel sharia law system.

Pakistan’s army reacted by issuing a threat. The Taliban responded by announcing that it would soon sack Islamabad. “If a man or woman is working with the government, or they are supporters of the government or of the foreigners, we want to kill them,” the Globe and Mail quoted one Taliban organizer as saying. “And we want to dissolve the government.”

The Taliban’s ambitions and confidence are clearly growing along with the territory it governs.

The movement is gaining momentum among the populace. First it is tapping into the rich supply of young men who received free Islamic education at one of Pakistan’s 12,500 madrassas—men who view the Taliban as God’s army.

Second, it is intimidating others who are coming to recognize that the government can’t stop it. Since the insurgency is taking over, people don’t want to be seen as resisting it. The Taliban is notoriously brutal to its detractors. In this scenario, terrorism is a devastatingly effective tactic. When Islamists strike civilian targets, the people’s confidence in the government and in coalition forces drops.

Pakistan’s government launched an offensive in Buner that still continues. Observers expect it to dissolve into more deal-making soon. Critics contend—not without evidence—that Pakistan’s military strikes against the Taliban are meant more to preserve the flow of aid from America than to attain victory.

Thus, any hope for the situation to stabilize must come from outside. It’s not happening.

The Obama administration recently unveiled a new joint Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. The plan was misguided from the beginning: It seeks to solve Pakistan’s problems by throwing money at them—funding the nation’s hobbled economy and boosting its compromised military. But now to make matters worse, it is also out of date. The insurgency is expanding far faster than America’s planners are keeping up with.

President Obama would really like to bring Afghanistan under control. He’s about to send thousands more American troops to tamp down the uprising there. But they face long odds. With neighboring Pakistan descending into anarchy—providing safe haven to Afghanistan’s Taliban and endangering coalition supply lines—it turns an unmanageable war into an impossible one.

“The Obama administration is clearly alarmed about the developments in Pakistan, but also is beginning to understand its limits in the region,” wrote Stratfor yesterday. “Insurgencies have long lives, and this is a region that has seen countless occupiers. Most of the militants that U.S., nato, Pakistani and Afghan forces are battling today have the motivation and patience to fight to the end.”

That is not the case with the U.S., and the Islamists know it. As America plans a troop surge into Afghanistan, the Taliban are planning a bloody response. They are eager to send a hard message to the new American president, and to test his reputation for weakness. In the months ahead, expect ugly.

Another comparison with Iran in 1979 bears mentioning: America’s responsibility—not this president, but his predecessor. In 2007, U.S. officials inexplicably drove Pakistan’s military leader Pervez Musharraf from power, opening an enormous power void that radicals rushed to fill. Our own editor in chief warned this is just what would happen at the time. “American leaders are telling Musharraf to take off his military uniform and give real freedom to that country. However, the military is the only institution that gives stability to that extremely divided country! This is another example of how little our leaders know about Pakistan,” Gerald Flurry wrote. “America’s problem is even worse than a weak will. We even help push our allies into the hands of radical Islam. That is a dangerous kind of ignorance.

“We helped get rid of Iran’s ‘corrupt’ shah in 1979. He was replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini, who began state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East. Are we about to see another ayatollah rise to power? This time in nuclear Pakistan? And will America be mostly to blame?” (Read the whole article here. Also, watch the video at right to see some comments Mr. Flurry made at the time on the subject.)

These questions ring loudly today. We’re hearing a lot of official assurances not to worry. Last week President Obama said he was “confident that the nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands.” Considering Pakistan’s rickety government and the Taliban’s shocking gains, this is impossible to guarantee.

And these assurances are being drowned out by the chorus of intelligence, defense and diplomatic voices saying the devil has already slipped his leash.

Watch Islamabad. A coup is probable. Nuclear weapons escaping the government’s control is virtually assured. Where they go from there is the stuff of nightmares.

           — Hat tip: CB [Return to headlines]

Taleban Warn Pope on ‘Proselytism’

‘Reaction’ threat after US soldiers seen with Bibles

(ANSA) — Rome, May 7 — The Taleban have warned Pope Benedict XVI to help stop alleged attempts to convert Muslims in Afghanistan, in order to prevent “serious consequences”.

The apparent threat appeared on a Taleban-linked website Thursday after Arab-language network Al Jazeera showed US soldiers in Afghanistan holding copies of the Bible translated into local languages.

“The Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan asks Pope Benedict XVI to act to stop the foolish and irresponsible actions of the crusaders upsetting the feelings of Muslim rebels, without awaiting the consequences of a severe reaction,” said a Taleban message on the website,

“The Taleban forcefully exhort the mujaheddin, scholars and all religious circles to control the activities of the invaders and crusaders, and not allow anyone to preach religions except Islam,” the message said.

Al Jazeera showed US soldiers in Bagram, not far from Kabul, with a pile of Bibles translated into the two local languages.

The US army subsequently said that “any form of religious proselytism by troops is prohibited” and assured that the bibles had been “confiscated and destroyed”.

Trying to convert Muslims is a crime in Afghanistan and other Islamic countries.

The warning was issued amid mounting protests in Afghanistan against civilian deaths in recent US bombing raids.

It also came on the eve of the the pope’s week-long trip to the Holy Land.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

‘Witness for Jesus’ in Afghanistan

US soldiers have been encouraged to spread the message of their Christian faith among Afghanistan’s predominantly Muslim population, video footage obtained by Al Jazeera appears to show.

Military chaplains stationed in the US air base at Bagram were also filmed with bibles printed in the country’s main Pashto and Dari languages.

In one recorded sermon, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility “to be witnesses for him”.

“The special forces guys — they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down,” he says.

“Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That’s what we do, that’s our business.”

Local language Bibles

The footage, shot about a year ago by Brian Hughes, a documentary maker and former member of the US military who spent several days in Bagram, was obtained by Al Jazeera’s James Bays, who has covered Afghanistan extensively.

Bays also obtained from Hughes a Pashto-language copy of one of the books he picked up during a Bible study lesson he recorded at Bagram.

A Pashto speaker confirmed to Bays that it was a Bible.

In other footage captured at Bagram, Sergeant Jon Watt, a soldier who is set to become a military chaplain, is seen giving thanks for the work that his church in the US did in getting Bibles printed and sent to Afghanistan.

“I also want to praise God because my church collected some money to get Bibles for Afghanistan. They came and sent the money out,” he is heard saying during a Bible study class.

It is not clear that the Bibles were distributed to Afghans, but Hughes said that none of the people he recorded in a series of sermons and Bible study classes appeared to able to speak Pashto or Dari.

“They weren’t talking about learning how to speak Dari or Pashto, by reading the Bible and using that as the tool for language lessons,” Hughes said.

“The only reason they would have these documents there was to distribute them to the Afghan people. And I knew it was wrong, and I knew that filming it … documenting it would be important.”

Pentagon officials have so far not responded to a copy of the footage provided to them, but the distribution of Bibles in a place as politically sensitive as Afghanistan is bound to cause deep concern in Washington, our correspondent says.


It is not clear if the presence of the Bibles and exhortations for soldiers to be “witnesses” for Jesus continues, but they were filmed a year ago despite regulations by the US military’s Central Command that expressly forbid “proselytising of any religion, faith or practice”.

But in another piece of footage taken by Hughes, the chaplains appear to have found a way around the regulation known as General Order Number One.

“Do we know what it means to proselytise?” Captain Emmit Furner, a military chaplain, says to the gathering.

“It is General Order Number One,” an unidentified soldier replies.

But Watt says “you can’t proselytise but you can give gifts”.

The footage also suggests US soldiers gave out Bibles in Iraq.

In his address to a Bible study group at Bagram, Afghanistan, Watt is recorded as saying: “I bought a carpet and then I gave the guy a Bible after I conducted my business.

“The Bible wasn’t to be ‘hey, I’ll give you this and I’ll give you a better deal because that would be wrong’, [but] the expressions that I got from the people in Iraq [were] just phenomenal, they were hungry for the word.”

The footage has surfaced as Barack Obama, the US president, prepares to host Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, at a summit focusing on how to tackle al-Qaeda and Taliban bases dotted along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, will also take part in the talks in Washington, scheduled for May 5 and 6.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Far East

Police Chief, 7 Others Killed in S Philippines Clash

MANILA, May 7 (Xinhua) — Nine people, including a provincial police chief, were killed Thursday afternoon during a clash in the southern Philippines, the authorities said.

Julasirim Kasim, police director of the Sulu province, and three of his companions died when they were waylaid by suspected members of the extremist Abu Sayyaf group at a remote village in Maimbung town. The three companions killed were identified as two policemen — Jammahari and Abdurajan — and civilian Rosalin Kasim, a brother of the police chief.

The authorities said Kasim and his men were in the area to verify reports of sighting of Abu Sayyaf terrorists at the Bulabug village when they were encountered by an undetermined number of Abu Sayyaf fighters. Four other policemen were wounded in the one-hour clash.

The gunfight resulted in the killing of five of the ambushers, including a Sahul Dahim who is tagged as a local Abu Sayyaf commander operating in the southern province.

Government troops recovered from the Dahim’s group an M203 grenade launcher, an M14 rifle, an M16 rifle, and a cal. 30 M1 Garand rifle.

Security forces have launched pursuit operations against the suspects.

Benzali Jabarani, police director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, confirmed with Xinhua that Kasim was killed in the encounter with Abu Sayyaf members, adding that the policemen were on a mission against the extremists that had kidnapped three workers of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“They were conducting operation against captors of ICRC staff when they encountered undetermined Abu Sayyaf kidnappers. He (Kasim) was killed in the firefight,” Jabarani said.

The 380-strong rebel group seized Italian national Eugenio Vagni, Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba and Swiss national Andreas Notter on Jan. 15 after the Red Cross workers inspected a water and sanitation project at a jail in Sulu.

Lacaba was released by the kidnappers on April 2 and Notter managed to escape from the kidnappers April 18 as the bandits were evading a potential clash with government forces. Till now, the 62-year-old Vagni is still in the hands of the kidnappers.

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Rights Charter Will Not Lead to Vilification Law, Jesuit Says

FRANK BRENNAN, the Jesuit lawyer who heads the Federal Government’s public consultations for a national human rights charter, will move today to dispel concerns by some church leaders that the charter could entail the introduction of federal religious vilification laws.

Father Brennan will tell the Australian College of Applied Psychology in a speech to be delivered this afternoon that there is a “credible argument” that religious vilification laws of the kind that already exist in Victoria “unduly interfere with the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of conscience, religion and belief”.

“There are some places the law should not tread,” he will say. Victoria’s laws resulted in the controversial prosecution of a member of the Pentecostal Catch the Fire Ministries for making negative comments about Islam.

Father Brennan will say the existence of a national human rights charter will probably prevent religious vilification laws from ever being introduced. This contradicts suggestions being put about by some senior church leaders that a bill or charter of rights would curtail religious freedom. “It is very doubtful that the broad Victorian religious vilification law permitting Catch the Fire-type litigation would be passed by a Parliament constrained by a legislative human rights act.”

Victoria’s religious vilification laws predate its bill of rights. Last month a number of senior religious leaders, including the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, formed a lobby group to fight what they said was the growing threat to religious freedom. The Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty said it was concerned religious vilification laws would be introduced nationally. Its members, notably Cardinal Pell and Dr Jensen, also oppose a national charter of rights.

Father Brennan’s speech is a shot across the bows of those attempting to link fears about religious vilification laws with a human rights charter. He decided to speak out after people, including church leaders, turned up at consultations his team was conducting around the country to express concern “that a national charter of rights might entail a national religious vilification law similar to that in Victoria”.

“The application of the Victorian religious vilification law has hindered rather than helped religious and social harmony,” he said. “These laws cannot be administered with sufficient transparency and neutrality.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]


Blasphemy Law Only Panders to the Deranged Instincts of an Intolerant Immigrant Minority

How very thoughtful of Dermot Ahern to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the proclamation of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie for blasphemy by introducing our very own blasphemy laws.

Not merely will this enable any group of nutters to claim their religion has been insulted — well, by whom? Kevin Myers? Ian O’Doherty? — but it will also enable our many Muslim immigrants to feel thoroughly at home.

Because that is a defining feature of every Islamic society throughout the world: an intrusive and punitive legal code which destroys the lives of those adjudged guilty of insulting the Prophet or Allah. In Afghanistan, it is the death penalty. Pakistan too. Egypt as well. And so on. Why not the same, sooner or later, in dear old Eirestan?

Christianity as a potent, political and legal force is dead in Europe. Islam is not. Christians do not expect their religion to be protected by law from religious insult. Muslims do. A blasphemy code will, in effect, turn out a new variant of a local shop for local people: but here in secular/Christian Ireland, it will become a Muslim law for non-Muslim people.

The minister’s proposed bill declares: “Blasphemous matter … is (that which) is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred to any religion thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of the religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”

We know what “causing outrage among a substantial number of adherents of the religion” means (and the minister’s term, “the religion” really does apply here). For we saw it in 1989, when the Ayatollah proclaimed his fatwa on Salman Rushdie for ‘Satanic Verses’. Over 40 people were killed in the violence that followed. We saw it with the Danish cartoons, which were so meaningless that they could have been of anybody: but label them “Mohammed”, and yet again, more people were killed.

Religious “outrage” is an almost unknown phenomenon in our culture: but it is so common on the Islamic street that one often wonders: do Muslims know any other public mood? And whereas I can ask this question today, might it not be blasphemous under Dermot Ahern’s new law? For some Muslims might hold that it is grossly abusive or insulting to things they hold sacred, to dispute their right to endless public anger.

Moreover, who decides whether Muslims get angry? Is it a spontaneous phenomenon, or does it depend on what they are told in morning prayers by the imam? And is that assembly, in effect, then the jury? For it clearly is a self-deciding issue, if the law says the something is an offence because enough members of the public consider it is so. The rule of law then passes from law-maker and lawyer to whatever rabble-rousing cleric is able to make enough people angry, and by their numbers alone they then decide whether an offence has been committed.

Dermot Ahern’s justification for his dangerously silly proposals is that successive attorneys general have told their ministers for justice that the Constitution obliges the State to have blasphemy laws. Good. So if so many ministers for justice have been able to ignore that advice in the past, why should he now seek to heed it? And worse still, why should he do so by allowing the interpretation of blasphemy — which is otherwise a piece of string of unknown length — to be defined by the mob? This merely reduces the courts to being instruments of Barabbas-type justice.

Yet in one sense, the minister’s proposals are irrelevant. For Europe already has an informal blasphemy law, which is enforced by Islamic cut-throats, with or without a fatwa.

We all know it. We just don’t say it. So I can call the Virgin Mary, who most Irish people believe to be the Mother of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of Mankind, a whore, and no-one will open my carotid. But were I to make any such remark about Mohammed’s wives, which is what Rushdie was accused of doing — and I wouldn’t: O believe me, I wouldn’t — then at best, I would be spending the rest of my life under armed guard, or at worst, I would be strumming my harp alongside Theo van Gogh. He was, remember, killed without fatwa, and his murderer, Mohammed Bouyeri, is now an Islamic hero.

That doesn’t mean we should corrupt our legal code in order to propitiate Islamicists. Yet all media discussion on this and related topics is dominated by state-subsidised bodies — the intercultural this, and the multi-ethnic that. The primary function of these quangos is apparently to be gravely insulted whenever their quivering multicultural sensibilities are offended.

And then they can institute legal action to silence — or even imprison, which was the threat hanging over me last year — those whose voices they disapprove of. These arms of the State now constitute a cultural Fifth Column, possessing a clear and dangerous agenda. The minister’s proposed blasphemy law can thus only pander to the deranged instincts of an absolutist, intolerant immigrant minority, and its politically-correct, pseudo-liberal native allies: Lenin’s useful idiots, yet again.

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

Italy Ships 200 Rescued Migrants Back to Libya

ROME — Italy shipped more than 200 migrants who had been rescued in the Mediterranean Sea back to Libya on Thursday as Rome pressed its crackdown on illegal immigration.

Customs and border police Cmdr. Francesco Maugeri, based on the tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa, told The Associated Press that 227 migrants were sent back to Tripoli aboard two coast guard boats as well as a border police boat. “Some of the migrants were suffering symptoms probably caused by exhaustion and cold,” but none had serious health problems, he said.

Italy contends the clandestine migrants had set out in smugglers’ boats from Libyan shores.

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, speaking on private Italian Canale 5 TV, praised Libya’s acceptance of the migrants as a possible “turning point” in the crackdown on illegal immigration.

Tens of thousands of migrants leave Africa each year, some passing through Italy, others through Spain or other Mediterranean countries. In many cases, the migrants try to enter Italy’s long, largely unpatrolled coastline and head to northern Europe in search of jobs or to join family members already living there.

When sea conditions are calm, hundreds or even thousands of migrants turn up off the coasts of Sicily and tiny Sicilian islands, as well as the southern part of the mainland, chiefly Calabria.

On Wednesday, Italy and the island nation of Malta had appeared headed for their latest standoff over which nation should take in the migrants.

Authorities in Sicily received two calls early Wednesday from satellite phones aboard the smugglers’ vessels but relayed the pleas for help to Malta. The Maltese then contacted the closest ship, an Italian tanker.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees expressed “deep concern” over the fate of the migrants who were returned to Libya following their rescue at sea. The Geneva-based organization said the passengers were sent back “without proper assessment of their possible protection needs.”

It noted in a statement that last year an estimated 75 percent of sea arrivals in Italy applied for asylum and 50 percent of them were “granted some form of protection.”

Last month, a similar scenario triggered a four-day standoff between Italy and Malta after a Turkish ship rescued 140 migrants off Lampedusa. Malta had insisted the ship take those migrants to Lampedusa because that was the nearest port, while Italy contended Malta should accept them because the ship was in Malta’s search and rescue area.

Eventually Italy took the migrants in for humanitarian reasons.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]

Malta ‘Must Respect Rescue Accords’

But Maroni hints at ‘major news’ this week

(ANSA) — Rome, May 6 — Malta must respect international rescue accords, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said Wednesday after Valletta refused to pick up migrants near the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.

Maroni said Italy and Malta had “different interpretations” of international treaties.

“That’s why we’ve asked the EU to clear up what is meant by a safe port, whether it’s the nearest one or not” He explained that Lampedusa is, in fact, in the Maltese rescue zone and Malta was getting European Union money for this.

“We have asked Malta several times to cut its zone to no avail,” Maroni said.

The minister, who voiced “great esteem” for Maltese Premier Lawrence Gonzi, said European Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani would visit Valletta “to explain the situation”. He also said “there might be major news over the next two days”, taken as a reference to the implementation of a recent patrol deal with Libya.

Maroni said he couldn’t go into details “to be on the safe side” but “if this thing comes off it will also solve the Malta issue”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Migrants to Libya After Malta Row

Italy hails deal to take illegals straight back

(ANSA) — Palermo, May 7 — Italian motorboats took 227 African migrants back to Libya Thursday after a fresh row with Malta over rescue responsibilities.

“This is a historic day,” said Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, who worked overnight to firm up a “breakthrough” deal on the immediate return of migrants to Libya.

He said the deal, “if it continues to be implemented,” would put an end to rows between Italy and Malta over rescue operations.

The migrants were spotted on three separate boats Wednesday and picked up by an Italian tanker.

Amid the ensuing row over where they should go, Maroni started talks with Tripoli aimed at implementing an existing accord that has never been successfully put into effect.

It was the latest in a series of disputes with Valletta, which Maroni said “should now be over”. The minister added that long-promised joint coastal patrols off Libya by Italian and Libyan boats would start on May 15.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Netherlands: International Approach to Abuse of Asylum Procedure

Foreign nationals who come to the Netherlands with the intention to abuse the asylum procedures will also be dealt with outside the European Union. Experts from the Netherlands and the Ukraine have agreed to cooperate in identifying foreign nationals, in investigating travel routes, and in taking measures to combat human smuggling and human trafficking. Dutch State Secretary for Justice Albayrak made agreements about this with the Ukraine during the EU Migration Conference in Prague, which conference included the participation of countries to the east and southeast of the European Union.

Research has revealed, for instance, that Somali asylum seekers, currently the largest group of asylum seekers desiring admittance to the European Union, are being smuggled into the Netherlands through the Ukraine. About half the Somalis state to have received help during the journey, whether or not against payment. Afghans and Pakistanis are also entering the European Union through the eastern borders of the European Union.

Earlier this month, State Secretary Albayrak already announced that the admission procedure for Somali asylum seekers would be adjusted, as a result of abuse of the procedures. About 20 percent of the Somalis have mutilated their finger tips to prevent the IND from checking whether they have applied for asylum earlier in another country. In addition, there were large numbers of spurious ‘foster children’ included in the applications. When State Secretary Albayrak announced the new policy she also guaranteed that the refugees that require protection will receive this protection.

This autumn, the Netherlands will organise a meeting of experts from the Netherlands and the Ukraine and other potentially interested transit countries to the east and southeast of the European Union, to examine more possibilities of cooperation. ‘We must direct our focus towards the eastern borders without losing sight of the southern border’, said the State Secretary.

           — Hat tip: RRW [Return to headlines]

Spain: Trafficking Earns Mafia Billions

(ANSAmed)- MADRID, MAY 5 — Trafficking illegal immigrants to Europe has become a nine-figure business in the last decade for Mafia organisations, totalling 2 billion euros. The estimate comes from a survey carried out in Morocco and Senegal via the European Infomigra project, coordinated by the regional government of Valencia in collaboration with the Spanish Red Cross, and the results were released today by councillor for immigration and citizenship Rafael Blasco. The estimate is based on the cost of a “journey of hope” to Europe, which costs the illegal immigrants anything from 500 to 3,000 euros, according to the 35% and 26% respectively of immigrants surveyed. According to the report, the families of the migrants are, in the overwhelming majority of cases, poor or without the economic resources to cover basic needs, so they entrust their only hope of improving their status from an economic and social point of view to the illegal emigrant. The document, which was presented today during a seminar in Valencia which included the consuls of Morocco, Greece and Italy, shows that 90% of Senegalese consider emigration to be the solution to their problems, and more than half have family members who already live abroad. In Morocco the situation is not much different. The report, which was produced in Morocco in collaboration with the Valencia Association for Help for Refugees, notes that currently there are around 15,000 people from the Sub-Sahara in the main cities of Morocco waiting to continue their journey towards Europe. The main causes for migration include: extreme poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, the underground economy, and the exodus from the countryside. This means that migration by a family member is considered an investment in a common project. The study also reveals that 73% of Sub-Saharans present in Morocco intend to continue their journey towards Europe, and only 11% are considering returning to their country of origin, while a tiny 2% intend to stay in Morocco. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Sydney Migration Agent Raided Over Visa Documents

A RAID on a city office has uncovered a visa racket that had ensnared at least 30 people, the Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, said.

A Sydney migration agent was yesterday accused of falsifying documents to support applications for skilled-migrant visas.

Officers from the Immigration Department and the Australian Federal Police staged the raid after learning of doubtful documents attached to applications for skills tests required for visas.

The applicants had wanted work as cooks, mechanics and hairdressers.

The agent allegedly supplied fake documents to at least 30 people, mostly from China. Investigations into possible forgery and fraud are also under way.

“Illegal activity by migration agents attacks the heart of Australia’s visa programs and will not be tolerated,” Senator Evans said.

People who gain permanent visas based on false documents can have their visas cancelled.

The body representing migration agents, the Migration Institute of Australia, commended the raid. “The MIA does not tolerate this kind of behaviour,” the chief executive, Maurene Horder, said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness [Return to headlines]