Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/8/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/8/2009Our Italian tipsters have gone on vacation, so the news from the Mediterranean is notably light.

However, there are plenty of other interesting news stories tonight. Just to name two, a cyber-attack was launched by North Korea against American and South Korean government sites, and the Pope has called for the establishment of a “world political authority”.

Thanks to Amil Imani, Barry Rubin, Diana West, Frontinus, Gaia, islam o’phobe, JD, Steen, TB, The Lurker from Tulsa, VH, Zonka, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Federal Web Sites Knocked Out by Cyber Attack
Oklahoma Couple Accused of Digging Up Dead Girl
Europe and the EU
BNP Fails to Find Allies to Form New Bloc in Europe
Britain ‘To Build £3m Jail in Nigeria’ For 400 Prisoners Serving Sentences Here
British Journalist Fishes for the Real Sweden
Sweden’s Good Intentions Must Avoid Raw Nerve in Moscow
UK: Ethical Storm Flares as Scientists Create Artificial Sperm From Human Stem Cells
UK: Is the State Guilty of Child Kidnap?
Karadzic Immunity Claim Rejected
North Africa
The Role of the Egyptian Security in Violence Against Christian Copts
Middle East
Analysis: Iranian Lobbying Failed
In Solidarity With the Iranian People
South Asia
Diana West: Is That Dar Al-Islam, Or Duh Al-Islam?
Pak Created and Nurtured Terrorists, Admits Zardari
Taliban Infiltrate Once-Peaceful Afghan North
Taliban Fighters Dress in Burqas to Slip Away From Marines in Afghan Village
Far East
Chinese Troops Flood Streets After Riots
More Bombs in South Philippines
Australia — Pacific
Aussie Court Cancels Friday Prayers for Muslims
Australia Considers Ban on People Climbing Ayers Rock
Sub-Saharan Africa
Turkish Ship Seized Off Somalia
US to Re-Settle 1,350 ‘PA Refugees’ From Iraq
Culture Wars
Lefties Can be Remarkably Prejudiced About Gays
Hysteria is the Real Threat, Not Global Warming
Pope Endorses “World Political Authority”


Federal Web Sites Knocked Out by Cyber Attack

WASHINGTON (AP) — A widespread and unusually resilient computer attack that began July 4 knocked out the Web sites of several government agencies, including some that are responsible for fighting cyber crime, The Associated Press has learned.

The Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department Web sites were all down at varying points over the holiday weekend and into this week, according to officials inside and outside the government. Some of the sites were still experiencing problems Tuesday evening. Cyber attacks on South Korea government and private sites also may be linked, officials there said.

U.S. officials refused to publicly discuss details of the cyber attack. But Amy Kudwa, spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Department, said the agency’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued a notice to federal departments and other partner organizations about the problems and “advised them of steps to take to help mitigate against such attacks.”

The U.S., she said, sees attacks on its networks every day, and measures have been put in place to minimize the impact on federal Web sites.

It was not clear whether other federal government sites also were attacked.

Others familiar with the U.S. outage, which is called a denial of service attack, said that the fact that the government Web sites were still being affected three days after it began signaled an unusually lengthy and sophisticated attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

Web sites of major South Korean government agencies, banks and Internet sites also were paralyzed in a suspected cyber attack Tuesday. Ahn Jeong-eun, a spokeswoman at the Korea Information Security Agency, said the U.S. and South Korean attacks appeared to be linked.

The South Korean sites included the presidential Blue House, the Defense Ministry, the National Assembly, Shinhan Bank, Korea Exchange Bank and top Internet portal Naver. They went down or had access problems since late Tuesday, Ahn said.

Kudwa had no comment on the South Korean attacks.

Two government officials acknowledged that the Treasury and Secret Service sites were brought down, and said the agencies were working with their Internet service provider to resolve the problem.

Ben Rushlo, director of Internet technologies at Keynote Systems, called it a “massive outage” and said problems with the Transportation Department site began Saturday and continued until Monday, while the FTC site was down Sunday and Monday.

Keynote Systems is a mobile and Web site monitoring company based in San Mateo, Calif. The company publishes data detailing outages on Web sites, including 40 government sites it watches.

According to Rushlo, the Transportation Web site was “100 percent down” for two days, so that no Internet users could get through to it. The FTC site, meanwhile, started to come back online late Sunday, but even on Tuesday Internet users still were unable to get to the site 70 percent of the time.

“This is very strange. You don’t see this,” he said. “Having something 100 percent down for a 24-hour-plus period is a pretty significant event.”

He added that, “The fact that it lasted for so long and that it was so significant in its ability to bring the site down says something about the site’s ability to fend off (an attack) or about the severity of the attack.”

Denial of service attacks against Web sites are not uncommon, and are usually caused when sites are deluged with Internet traffic so as to effectively take them off-line. Mounting such an attack can be relatively easy using widely available hacking programs, and they can be made far more serious if hackers infect and use thousands of computers tied together into “botnets.”

For instance, last summer, in the weeks leading up to the war between Russia and Georgia, Georgian government and corporate Web sites began to see “denial of service” attacks. The Kremlin denied involvement, but a group of independent Western computer experts traced domain names and Web site registration data to conclude that the Russian security and military intelligence agencies were involved.

Documenting cyber attacks against government sites is difficult, and depends heavily on how agencies characterize an incident and how successful or damaging it is.

Government officials routinely say their computers are probed millions of times a day, with many of those being scans that don’t trigger any problems. In a June report, the congressional Government Accountability Office said federal agencies reported more than 16,000 threats or incidents last year, roughly three times the amount in 2007. Most of those involved unauthorized access to the system, violations of computer use policies or investigations into potentially harmful incidents.

The Homeland Security Department, meanwhile, says there were 5,499 known breaches of U.S. government computers in 2008, up from 3,928 the previous year, and just 2,172 in 2006.

           — Hat tip: Frontinus [Return to headlines]

Oklahoma Couple Accused of Digging Up Dead Girl

HAVRE, Montana — An Oklahoma couple has been arrested after being accused of burying their 11-year-old daughter, digging her up and moving her at least a half dozen times.

Eleven-year-old Cheyenne Wolf died at a home near Durant in April 2008. Investigators said her father and step-mother, Abel and Denise Wolf stored the body in a shed. According to court documents, Cheyenne was put “into a sleeping bag and then into a large plastic tub.”

But, once the smell was too much, they buried the body in the front yard.

Four months later, Abel moved to northern Montana. Agents said he took Cheyenne with him and stored her body in a garage until January. Fearing word would get out, the body was moved to an old chicken house in Oregon where Denise was living at the time.

Shortly after the body was moved again to a storage facility.

“Milton-Freewater, Oregon Police served a search warrant and found remains there last week,” said Jessica Brown, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.

Brown said Denise and Abel are being help on charges of unlawfully moving a dead body. They’re both being held without bond in a Montana detention center.

Investigators are now trying to determine how Cheyenne Wolf died.

According to affidavits, a family member told investigators one of Cheyenne’s sisters may have beat her to death. Agents said it was another family member who called police last month because she was concerned she had not seen or heard from the Cheyenne for some time.

The Medical Examiner’s office in Portland, Oregon will perform the autopsy on the body to determine the exact cause of death.

Investigators are working to begin the extradition process of getting the Wolfs back to Oklahoma.

           — Hat tip: The Lurker from Tulsa [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

BNP Fails to Find Allies to Form New Bloc in Europe

Nick Griffin, the BNP’s leader, has shuttled to and from Brussels since European elections last month in a push to take a central role in a new grouping of far-Right MEPs.

But Mr Griffin accepted on Tuesday that there was “no possibility” of the BNP finding sufficient support.

“We have failed to form a formal group. It’s disappointing but not surprising,” he said.

As an “unattached” party outside a European political grouping, the BNP’s two MEPs will lose out on extra funding worth £1 million a year, will not get a party office or administrative staff, and will not possess the right to vote on the parliament’s main committees.

The parliament’s rules state that at least 25 MEPs from seven different member states are required to form a new bloc.

Mr Griffin, along with his colleague Andrew Brons, had been in talks with Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party; France’s National Front; Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and Ataka, the nationalist Bulgarian party.

Their plans to forge links with other parties, such as Italy’s Northern League, failed because other Right-wing groupings feared that the BNP’s controversial reputation would lead to isolation.

“We will remain in the unattached members working informally with some of the groups such as the Front National and Vlaams Belang,” said Mr Griffin.

“We held discussions with several others as well but haven’t had any joy.”

Sajjad Karim, a Conservative MEP for North West England, said: “The BNP being unable to form a new group is good news. This proves how ineffective the BNP will be in the European Parliament.”

The BNP won two seats in Britain’s European elections last month. Mr Griffin was elected in the North West of England region after winning eight per cent of the vote, while Mr Brons, a 61-year-old retired politics and law lecturer, picked up a seat in Yorkshire and the Humber with almost 10 per cent of the vote.

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

Britain ‘To Build £3m Jail in Nigeria’ For 400 Prisoners Serving Sentences Here

Hundreds of Nigerian prisoners in the UK could be sent home to serve the remainder of their terms in a jail built and paid for by British taxpayers, it emerged today.

The Government is negotiating with the West African country over an agreement to transfer many of the 400 Nigerian prisoners currently in jail here back home, a senior immigration official said.

The direct investment — likely to be around £3 million — is needed because conditions in existing Nigerian prisons are so poor that prisoners could oppose their deportation on human rights grounds.

Lin Homer, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency, told MPs the deal would save taxpayers’ money and speed up removals.

It would require Nigeria to change the law so prisoners could be sent back without their consent, and with the paperwork for their deportation already completed, Ms Homer said.

She told the Home Affairs Committee: ‘We are in negotiations with Nigeria to help them establish better prison conditions in Nigeria. It’s about helping them generate a structure that can cope with [the prisoners].

‘We are prepared to invest if that would enable us to send people home. We haven’t yet, we are in talks with Nigeria and it would be well worth the money to do so.’

She added: ‘They have to feel they have got capacity to take prisoners back to serve the remainder of their sentence.’

Human rights groups described conditions in Nigerian prisons as ‘appalling’.

Amnesty International said there was ‘severe overcrowding’, and more than half of prisoners are awaiting trial — some for up to 10 years.

The prisoner transfer agreement being discussed would allow Britons held in Nigerian jails to return to the UK, and Nigerian prisoners to go in the opposite direction, the Ministry of Justice said.

There are around 850 Nigerian nationals held in jails the UK, and around 400 could be eligible for enforced return.

The Home Office said the two governments were looking at equipping and upgrading existing jails, and training prison staff.

A spokesman said: ‘The United Kingdom and Nigeria are negotiating a prisoner transfer agreement and discussions are ongoing.

‘We believe that prisoners should normally serve their sentences in their own country — freeing up prison spaces and saving the taxpayer money on enforced removals.

‘This also helps prepare prisoners for their release to the community into which they will return at the end of their sentence.

‘In 2006 the Government announced its intention to negotiate prisoner transfer agreements that did not require a prisoner’s consent as a pre-requisite to transfer. The discussions with Nigeria are in line with this policy.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

British Journalist Fishes for the Real Sweden

British author Andrew Brown talks to James Savage about living in Sweden in the seventies, fishing, and how immigration has changed the country.

Sweden — the most successful society the world has ever seen. That was the startling view of one columnist on British paper the Guardian, impressed by Sweden’s high taxes, wealth redistribution and public services. Indeed, for many social democrats, this corner of Europe is as close to utopia as it is possible to come.

But as with all the other stereotypes — the blondes, the sexual permissiveness, the manic depression, the boozing and the darkness — the idea of Swedish perfection has often been due to people projecting their own agendas onto a country about which they know relatively little.

English journalist Andrew Brown is an exception. He lived in western Sweden in the 1970s and 1980s, and makes frequent trips back. His book, Fishing in Utopia, gives a more personal and nuanced account of the Swedish model, and this spring it won him the prestigious Orwell Prize for political writing.

Brown came to Sweden with his girlfriend in the late 1970s at the age of 22 — a love refugee, in the current vernacular. He settled first in Nödinge, a suburb of Gothenburg before moving to the rural town of Lilla Edet. Here he started a lifelong love-hate relationship with Sweden and its unique brand of social democracy.

When Brown moved to Sweden, he found the Swedish model at its zenith. Unions were strong and Olof Palme dominated the political scene. In one wonderful passage, Brown describes how Palme devoted his career in Swedish politics to ensuring that no Swede would ever need to experience the American combination of material poverty and boundless optimism.

“He succeeded so completely that when he died, he left a country where no one was poor and no one had room for optimism.”

Brown elegantly describes the perplexing, frustrating, enchanting and illuminating aspects of moving to Sweden, touching on his work in a timber yard, his marriage, his son and above all his love of fishing.

“I spent years not writing it because I wanted to get away from policy and make it more about people,” he says.

Sweden’s brand of politics and the deep social patterns that underpin it permeate even the most domestic chapters. Brown weaves together his experiences in the seventies and eighties with an account of a trip round modern Sweden. He reflects on how the country has changed due to globalisation, immigration and the slow wearing down of the Swedish model.

Brown’s first few months in Sweden were tough, not least because of his initial difficulties mastering the language.

“I was in hell, apart from Anita [his wife]. I wasn’t among people who spoke English. It drove me mad trying to work out the difference between ‘hans’ and ‘sin’ [Swedish for his and his/its].”

“Lots of my memories are of extreme loneliness. Fishing was a way to deal with that as well as to meet friends later.”

But loneliness, as he points out in the book, is at the heart of the Swedish experience.

“The idea of relating to strangers for pleasure did not figure largely,” he recalls in the book. It was not deliberate unfriendliness, but a society where people just didn’t know how to talk to each other.

Many aspects of the Sweden Brown describes remain recognisable today. Socialism, republicanism and tee-totalism were the foundations of society, and reminders of them were everywhere.

Like many foreigners today he was perplexed by the Systembolaget state alcohol monopoly, which in those days displayed graphic depictions of how alcohol could wreck your body.

The pervasive power of Arbetarrörelsen, the labour movement, was much in evidence in the 1970s. You could run your entire life through the labour movement: in addition to being governed by Social Democrats and being a member of an affiliated union, you could bank at the Coop bank, shop at Konsum and live in a flat owned by the workers’ movement.

While elements of this system remain in place, Brown insists that the Sweden of today is greatly changed:

“You don’t really hear words like nykterhet or solidaritet” today, he says, referring to the Swedish words for temperance and solidarity.

“The Swedish model had right-wing components,” like deference and authoritarianism he argues. This, he thinks, is something that many international fans of the Swedish model fail to recognise.

“You had internally-imposed conformity. It was quite easy for the Social Democrats to tweak the definition of what was acceptable.” There was no real acceptance of pluralism, he says. There was only one socially acceptable view on matters such as women’s rights and immigration.

Brown admits to mixed feelings about Swedish conformity: “When you’re inside it you hate it — it’s oppressive, but when you move away you see the virtues of it. I’ve given up trying to decide whether it’s good.”

Brown’s descriptions show how little — and how much — Sweden has changed in the past few decades.

Returning to Sweden in 2007, Brown found one thing had transformed Sweden more than anything else: immigration. Indeed, the numbers involved are astonishing — Sweden received 96,000 people in 2006 and 99,485 in 2007, the highest numbers since records began in the 19th century.

“I know it’s changed Sweden. In some ways it has made Sweden worse — more dangerous, more criminal. But it has also made it broad-minded and more interesting, and the food’s better.”

“Really, though, I don’t know whether immigration has been good or bad.” What he does find problematic is that mainstream politicians don’t really know how to talk about the issue.

“There’s a significant undertow and I don’t think the political class knows what to do about that. The other thing is that it’s being talked up by the Eurabia crowd.”

Despite his ambivalence towards immigration, he insists Sweden’s a lot less distinctive than it was, due to internationalisation, even to American television.

“There has been a general coarsening of society and a huge growth of inequality.”

But couldn’t the same be said of everywhere?

“I’m talking specifically about Sweden, partly because it used to be so much more deferential.”

But if Sweden has changed, Brown’s beautiful descriptions of Sweden’s wilderness in his passages about fishing give a sense of constancy.

“It was a way of writing about Sweden that has nothing to do with policy. Go in this way and there’s no socialism, no blondes and no ABBA.”

Quite a thought.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Sweden’s Good Intentions Must Avoid Raw Nerve in Moscow

Sweden’s priorities for its six-month European Union presidency, which started on July 1, possess a welcome clarity. Top of its list are the fight against the financial crisis and recession, and the need for an international climate change accord at a Copenhagen conference in December.

Almost as important, if maddeningly tedious to average Europeans, is the matter of EU institutional reform. If Irish voters approve the bloc’s Lisbon treaty in October, Sweden will have to broker deals on who is to be the EU’s first full-time president and who is to replace Javier Solana as its foreign policy chief. The Swedes will also be busy with the practical steps needed to ensure the smooth enforcement of the Lisbon treaty in early 2010.

At the front of every Swedish official’s mind, however, is the awareness that nasty surprises often turn upside down the best-laid plans of an EU presidency. France, in the second half of 2008, had the war between Russia and Georgia. The Czech Republic, in the first half of this year, had the Gaza conflict and the Russian-Ukrainian dispute over gas prices, a quarrel that led to the suspension of Russian gas deliveries to the EU for two weeks in the middle of winter.

It is no accident that two of these three events involved Russia, the EU and a former Soviet republic. EU-Russian relations are at their most brittle in the politically uncertain, economically stricken zone of the former Soviet Union that separates the EU’s easternmost member states from Russia.

Moscow and Brussels conceive of this area in ever more different ways, with attendant risks for regional stability. The Kremlin sees a neighbourhood where it is entitled to a preponderant role for reasons of national security, economic interests, culture, tradition and prestige. European policymakers see a region where, without dangling any firm offers of EU membership, it is essential to strengthen democracy in states still under Russia’s shadow 18 years after the demise of the Soviet Union.

The interests of the two sides rub uneasily next to each other. Plausible scenarios during the Swedish presidency include a renewed outbreak of fighting in Georgia; an attempt to remove Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s president, from power; another Russian-Ukrainian gas crisis; trouble in the pro-Russian Ukrainian region of Crimea; a showdown between Russia and Belarus (whose leaders, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko, are at daggers drawn); and a crisis stemming from more political unrest in Moldova after last April’s post-election riots.

What makes these tensions more disturbing is that they might come to the boil precisely when Sweden is running the EU’s affairs. Put simply, Russia does not get on well with Sweden and, arguably, has not done so since the 18th-century Russian-Swedish wars of Peter the Great’s era.

Some Swedes have vivid memories of the “Whiskey on the rocks” episode of 1981, when a snooping Soviet Whiskey-class submarine ran aground near Karlskrona, a Swedish naval base. Carl Bildt, Sweden’s foreign minister, touched the rawest of Russian nerves last year when he compared alleged Russian provocations in Georgia with Nazi tactics in central and eastern Europe in the 1930s.

Together with Poland, Sweden took the lead this year in setting up the EU’s Eastern Partnership, a project aimed at supporting six ex-Soviet states: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The initiative went down poorly in Moscow, but no more than the announcement by Ikea, the giant Swedish furniture company, that it was suspending investments in Russia — implicitly, because it was sick and tired of pervasive corruption in Russian business.

As the EU presidency’s holder, Sweden would normally be expected to play host to a regular six-monthly EU-Russia summit later this year. So far, however, there is no agreed date or venue. Sweden’s leaders suspect their Russian counterparts of wanting to signal their disapproval of Sweden’s policies, either by not travelling to Stockholm for the summit, or by waiting until the last minute before confirming their attendance.

If, as in US-Russian ties, there is a “reset” button in EU-Russian relations, it appears to be either lost or unpressed.

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

UK: Ethical Storm Flares as Scientists Create Artificial Sperm From Human Stem Cells

In a world first, British scientists have grown human sperm in the laboratory.

The breakthrough in stem cell science offers a potential cure for male infertility and could be used in IVF clinics in as little as five years.

It would allow thousands of men to father children that are genetically their own, possibly from just a sliver of their skin.

But the cutting-edge work is fraught with medical and ethical problems.

It raises the possibility of babies being born entirely through artificial means, and even the macabre scenario of long-dead men ‘fathering’ children from beyond the grave.

The Newcastle University work centres on stem cells — ‘blank’ cells with the ability to turn into other cell types.

Biologist Karim Nayernia created a cocktail of chemicals and vitamins that turned human stem cells into sperm, the journal Stem Cells and Development reports today.

Viewed through a microscope, they have heads and tails and swim like normal sperm, and Professor Nayernia is ‘convinced’ they would be capable of fertilising eggs and creating babies.

He has more safety checks to carry out but plans to apply for permission to use some of the artificial sperm to fertilise eggs for research purposes.

The stem cells used were taken from embryos in the first days of life but the professor hopes to repeat his success with skin cells taken from a man’s arm. These would first be exposed to a mixture that wound back their biological clocks to embryonic stem cell state, before being transformed into sperm.

Using IVF techniques, the artificial sperm could be injected into eggs, allowing men who do not produce sperm to father children of their own.

However, British law forbids the use of lab-grown sperm or eggs in fertility treatment — a situation the researchers believe needs to change.

Lab-grown sperm could also shed light on the causes of infertility, leading to new treatments for the heartbreaking but little-understood condition that affects one in six couples.

Identification of a flaw in the sperm-making process could lead to the creation of a ‘miracle pill’ to boost fertility.

Professor Nayernia said: ‘This is an important development as it will allow researchers to study in detail how sperm forms and lead to a better understanding of infertility in men — why it happens and what is causing it.

‘Male infertility is a growing problem and no one knows why. We’ll be able to study the effects of pollution and nutrition in the lab.’

But the researcher also acknowledged that the technique could potentially be applied to skin cells taken from men who have been dead for many years, allowing them to ‘father’ children.

He said: ‘This is the Jurassic Park scenario. In theory this would be possible but human reproduction is not a purely biological process. We have to think of the psychological, social and ethical considerations.’

The Newcastle team tried to create sperm from stem cells from female embryos but failed — suggesting that men will always have an important role in the creation of life.

But, in time, it may be possible to create eggs from a woman’s stem cells, raising the possibility of artificial eggs and sperm being combined to create children through entirely artificial means.

Rival stem cell experts questioned whether the professor had created fully-functioning sperm and warned that similar experiments on mice had led to the birth of young with a host of health problems.

Opponents said it was wrong to meddle with the creation of human life. Josephine Quintavalle, of campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: ‘To take a viable human embryo and destroy it in a bid to create dodgy sperm to create a not-so-healthy embryo is experimentation for experimentation’s sake.

‘Infertility is an issue we have to address but this is not an ethical solution. If the solution involves the sacrifice of human life, then it should be apparent to anyone that it is unacceptable.’

Dr Trevor Stammers, a GP and lecturer in healthcare ethics, warned that the technology could be ‘used and abused’ to create children who did not know who their father was.

And he said there were easier ways of tackling fertility problems.

He said: ‘Obviously there are men who through no bad habits or indulgences find themselves with a fertility problem but alcohol, smoking and drug misuse don’t help.

‘Alcohol alone is a huge cause of infertility in men.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia [Return to headlines]

UK: Is the State Guilty of Child Kidnap?

One of the most disturbing features of life in modern Britain has been the extraordinary powers given to social workers to seize children from their parents, too often — when those powers are abused — supported by the police and family courts. What makes this still more alarming is the legal bar on reporting these episodes, supposedly to protect the children, which again too often works to protect the social workers themselves at the expense of the children.

Details of yet another shocking case, which comes to its climax in a county court in eastern England this week, have recently been placed in the House of Lords Library. This follows a comprehensive investigation carried out on behalf of the family by Lord Monckton of Brenchley, who, as a hereditary peer, does not sit in the Lords, but has passed his dossier both to an active life peer and to this column.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]


Karadzic Immunity Claim Rejected

The Hague tribunal has rejected the argument by former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic that he should not be prosecuted because of an immunity deal.

Mr Karadzic said the former US peace envoy Richard Holbrooke had promised him immunity from prosecution if he gave up politics.

Mr Holbrooke has repeatedly denied there was any such deal.

The UN court said even if there was, it did not have legal standing, and that Mr Karadzic’s trial should go ahead.

Mr Karadzic, 64, faces 11 charges including genocide.

He says Mr Holbrooke, then the US envoy to Bosnia, agreed to provide him with immunity at a meeting with his representatives in Belgrade on 18-19 July, 1996.

Mr Holbrooke — now the US envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan — has described the claim as “laughable” and “a lie”.

The court said on Wednesday that even if such a deal was struck, it would be irrelevant because Mr Holbrooke was not acting with the authority of the UN Security Council.

Mr Karadzic was arrested and brought to the tribunal last year, after more than a decade in hiding.

He is accused of genocide over the massacre of up to 8,000 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) at Srebrenica in 1995, and is also charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The court filed a not guilty plea on his behalf after he refused to offer a plea, saying the court lacked jurisdiction.

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

North Africa

The Role of the Egyptian Security in Violence Against Christian Copts

By Mary Abdelmassih

AINA) — In less than two weeks, Muslim mobs carried out collective punishment on Copts in three villages stretching from Upper Egypt to the Nile Delta. These attacks included assaults, torching, and looting of Coptic homes and shops, forcing the terrorized villagers to abandon their possessions and flee to safety.

In all three recent incidents the accounts of several eyewitnesses, including priests, directly implicated the Egyptian State Security of masterminding the assaults and instigating the mobs, and taking an active role in the violence against the Christians.

The reason for the attacks on the two Upper Egyptian villages of Ezbet Boushra-East on June 6 and the neighboring Ezbet Guirgis Bey on July 3 was one and the same: suspicion based on rumors spread by security that Christians are using or have the intention of using part of the church’s social services building for religious rites.

In the Nile Delta village of Meet El-Korashy, Meet Ghamr, a fight between a Coptic shopkeeper and a Muslim man led to the death of the latter. In spite of the presence of the security forces in the village after the death took place, they failed to take action against the Muslim mob ‘justice’ of carrying out collective punishment on innocent Copts, causing bodily harm, destruction and looting of their homes. The majority of the one thousand Coptic villagers were forced to flee for fear of more Muslim repercussions.

This phenomenon of the movement of sectarian incidents in Egypt from one province to another and from village to village until they reached estates and hamlets, is what political analyst and human rights activist Magdy Khalil calls the “sedation of the security.”

“These events are brought about by the security services in Egypt, particularly the State Security Investigation,” says Khalil.

Khalil implicates security of being behind incidents going back to the incident of El Zawya El Hamra, Cairo in June 1981 where eighty-one Copts were killed, over one hundred were seriously wounded, and their homes looted and destroyed, continuing up to that of Ezbet Guirgis Bey on 7/3/2009. “According to reports by credible Egyptian human rights organizations,” says Khalil, “the State Security played a dangerous and devastating role in these events, which varied between large and small incidents, but all had one common denominator: the security authorities’ role in igniting and inflaming these incidents.”

The second incident of Ezbet Guirgis Bey on 7/3/09 came only a few days after the Security authorities and the Governor of Beni Suef ‘forced’ the church once again into a ‘reconciliation meeting,’ were only promises were given to the church that problems would be solved, without any of the offenders being charged or compensation to Coptic villagers being discussed.

A spokesman for the Diocese of El-Fashn told Coptic Wave advocacy the State Security is totally responsible for the recent events and that the second incident of Guirgis Bey was meant to be a quick reply from security to “penalize the Coptic Church” for daring to take a firm stand and for staging a sit-in at El-Fashn. The source said that “Security has declared war on the Church.”

The strongest criticism came from Reverend Sama’an Shahata, the priest of Ezbet Guirgis Bey in which he implicated the State Security of staging this attack in order ‘to stop the Church from using the services building for religious rites’. In an interview on 7/6/09 with Raymon Youssef of Copts United he exposed the whole scenario carried out by security to bring about this incident.

Reverend Shahata said the security guards in the village incited the villagers to imitate the violence in Ezbet Bouchra. He also criticized security for failing to take action when he informed them two days before the violence took place that he received a threat from the Muslim minority through the mosque’s imam not to relocate the religious rites to the services building, saying “if you pray in this building, we will burn down the whole village, and matters could escalate to the use of fire arms.”

According to Rev. Shahata, “I went to celebrate holy mass and when I was at police reporting the torching of a building at dawn in spite of the presence of the security guards, we received calls that the village police guards and the Muslims were in the street calling ‘come to jihad.’“ They broke windows and assaulted Copts in their homes with clubs and stones. “One police guard went to the neighboring village asking for reinforcement, saying the Copts demolished a mosque and killed two Muslims.” The security forces came to the village, and placed a curfew only on Copts. They arrested 11 Copts and 5 Muslims. “Our biggest loss is the emotional hurt,” said Rev. Shahata, “we lived all our life peacefully together, and now this happens from our Muslim neighbors.”

The Coptic issue was under the supervision of President Abdel Nasser. After his death, president Sadat insisted on handing out the Coptic issue to the state security service because he believed that the Copts were dangerous to Egypt’s security. “From this time onwards, the persecution and humiliation of the Copts took priority for the state security service,” says Medhat Kelada , Coptic activist and PR for Copts United advocacy.

“Currently Coptic affairs are, largely, the responsibility of the “Coptic division” of the State Security Intelligence, headed by a brigadier officer with a group of lesser rank officers. Is it logical to leave one of the most important national issues in the hands of a group of officers, and low-rank ones at that? Returning this issue completely to the president is a first step, if we seriously want to begin discussing this issue away from the abuse of the security agencies,” says Magdy Khalil.

According to Kelada “The Coptic persecution issue has become a permanent source of livelihood for them, especially with the flow of funds from the rich and extremist Wahhabis who try to Islamize the Egyptian Copts with the help of some of the security service officers, who also work for the Muslim Brotherhood.” On reasons for security igniting sectarian strife, Kelada gives among others the purpose of distracting public opinion from internal political, economic and social problems. Besides, “they want to win the mobs and criminals in the Egyptian street by campaigning for the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Magdy Khalil believes that passing the bill on the “unified law for building places of worship,” will not succeed in putting an end to these problems as long as the entire ‘Coptic issue’ is controlled by the State Security. “The State Security plays the most dangerous role in this issue, which is attempting to destroy the relatively stable relationship, at least in modern Egyptian times, between Muslims and Copts in Egypt.”

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Analysis: Iranian Lobbying Failed

By Jonathan Spyer

President Shimon Peres’s landmark visit to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan this week represents a significant advance for Israeli ambitions in Central Asia. In the wake of the recent decision to permit Israel to open an embassy in the Turkmen capital of Ashghabad, the visit reflects the importance Jerusalem attaches to this strategically significant part of what is sometimes known as the “greater Middle East.”

Israel’s stance reflects a series of hopes, interests and concerns. The most important of these are: the desire to contain Iranian influence, and joint opposition to radical Islam. Israeli technological expertise is of particular interest to energy-rich, rapidly developing Central Asian economies, forming the basis for growing economic relations. In turn, Azerbaijan has emerged as a major energy supplier. The country supplies just under 20 percent of Israel’s oil.

Israel’s desire to build strong connections with non-Arab Muslim countries in the region is of long standing and reflects an obvious strategic interest. Yet in the past, Central Asian states have preferred to keep their friendship with the Jewish state far from the spotlight…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

In Solidarity With the Iranian People

The anniversary of the 18 Tir, the Iranian Students National Uprising, is once again upon us. The 18th of Tir (July 9th) has become a symbolic struggle and resistance against the tyrannical, totalitarian and barbaric Islamic regime in Iran. The very brave and courageous freedom loving Iranians have been challenging the very fabric of the Islamofascists in Iran. In a show of solidarity, both in Iran and abroad, Iranian people have demanded a total annihilation of this totalitarian state of Islamic barbarity and terror, which lacks even the most basic human compassion and human rights.

The flowers of victory will once again blossom and the celebration of life over death will begin. But until then, we must struggle against fanaticism with all our strength. We must end poverty, ignorance, disease and the inequality of opportunity. At this crossroad in history, we must pledge our dedication to the service of Iran and freedom for all Iranians. Iranian people must become masters of their own destiny.

The Islamic Republic has been the major sponsor of domestic and global terrorism for the past 30 years. In addition, the Islamic Republic has been sponsoring terrorist groups in the Middle East such as Hezbollah and Hamas and those who have bombed Khobar Tower and Buenos Aires Jewish Center and most recently, fanning the flame of insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, causing many death to the American soldiers.

The Islamic Republic’s leaders have used a multitude of tactics to circumvent decisive international action. They have used everything in their power to silence the Iranian people at home and abroad. Inside Iran, they use executions, public hangings, torture, maiming and many more inhumane punishments. Abroad, they have assassinated hundreds of dissidents.

Today, Iran is perhaps the only nation in the world where the overwhelming majority of its citizens (more than ninety-percent, according to an unofficial poll) oppose the clerics. This explains why tens of thousands of Iranians have been imprisoned, tortured or executed by the current Islamic regime. Regrettably, for the past 30 years, the European countries have taken an appeasement policy, and Russia and China have directly supported the Islamists in Iran and have built its massive terror machines. This alone, has impeded the efforts by the Iranians in Iran to unseat the regime in Tehran.

Today, the Islamic Republic has absolutely no legitimacy whatsoever…

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Diana West: Is That Dar Al-Islam, Or Duh Al-Islam?

So the Marine “surge” into Helmand Provice, Afghanistan continues apace, but, according to the New York Times, mission commander Brig.Gen. Larry Nicholson is having initial problems implementing his “drink tea, eat goat, get to know these people” strategy to win the “trust” of the Afghan people. It’s not just that “we Muslims do not like them [US].” Now, it’s becoming apparent, in the the Emperor-has-no-clothes words of Capt. Brian Huysman, commander of Company C of the First Battalion, Fifth Marines in Nawa: “We can’t read these people; we’re different. They’re not going to tell us the truth….”

Whether he knows it, Captain Huysman has just launched a wrecking ball into the whole politically correct (multi-culti), self-censoring (Islam-free) underpinnings of the US misadventures in the Middle and Near East. While his orders should have him singing a different tune — I hear that “Getting to Know You” is the unofficial hymn for this mission** — his observations are clearly bringing out the never-never aspects of these emanations from La-La Land, I mean, the Pentagon. Basic problem: It is unrealistic to expect an Islamic culture to toe a Western line.

**Just kidding about the hymn. But back to the imminent problem of Captain Huysman, having implicity at least recognized the limitations of being an infidel among Muslims…

           — Hat tip: Diana West [Return to headlines]

Pak Created and Nurtured Terrorists, Admits Zardari

*Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Jul 8 (PTI)* For the first time, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari admitted that militants and extremists were “created and nurtured” in the country as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives.

But they began to haunt the country in the post-9/11 era, Zardari said in a candid admission during an interactive meeting with former senior civil servants at the presidency last night.

Militants and extremists emerged on the national scene and challenged the state not because the civil bureaucracy was weakened and demoralised, but because they “were deliberately created and nurtured as a policy to achieve some short-term tactical objectives,” he said.

“Let us be truthful to ourselves and make a candid admission of the realities,” Zardari said.

“The terrorists of today were the heroes of yesteryears until 9/11 occurred and they began to haunt us as well,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Zonka [Return to headlines]

Taliban Infiltrate Once-Peaceful Afghan North

The northern Afghan province of Kunduz is renowned for its mouth-watering melons, rice and almonds.

Kunduzis are likely to remember their province as “the bread basket of Afghanistan” — it was the country’s main source of cotton and fruit exports in more peaceful times.

But those memories might be fading fast. A recent spate of attacks by the Taliban and al-Qaeda has altered the face of Kunduz beyond all recognition.

“The Taliban have closed girls’ schools in the districts. They collect taxes from people and they have their own courts. The governor was attacked and the Taliban are in the villages. All because Kunduz is ignored by our president and ministers in Kabul,” said a group of elders over endless cups of green tea in the provincial capital.

As you drive from Kabul into Kunduz city, it is not long before motorists come across a colourful billboard with a powerful message:

“Last year explosives killed 1,700 and injured more than 2,393 people. That is enough.”

In this way, one fact becomes immediately clear to all those entering Kunduz: security is the most pressing concern in this far-flung northern province.

A senior interior ministry official in Kabul agrees the situation is volatile but rejects any accusations that the central government has turned a blind eye towards Kunduz.

“We know that the enemy is there in big numbers and there are also al-Qaeda fighters. We conducted a big operation in Goar Tepa and we will continue to kill and capture them. But we are waiting for people to collect their harvests,” said the official, who wished to remain anonymous.

In recent months, Kunduz has felt the consequences of the Taliban presence — a senior Afghan government official was shot dead while driving to the Tajikistan border and four US soldiers were recently killed by a roadside bomb.

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

Taliban Fighters Dress in Burqas to Slip Away From Marines in Afghan Village

Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan —Marines trapped Taliban fighters in a residential compound and persuaded the insurgents to allow women and children to leave.

The troops then moved in — only to discover that the militants had slipped out, dressed in women’s burqa robes.

The fighters, who may owe their lives to the new U.S. commander’s emphasis on limiting civilian casualties, were among hundreds of militants who have fled the offensive the Marines launched last week in southern Helmand province.

Marine officers say keeping the Taliban from returning so the Afghan government can establish a stable presence will be a bigger challenge.

“We have dislocated them while still protecting the people,” said Col. Eric Mellinger, the operations officer for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. “Now the key is to prevent militants from coming back in, and the way to do that is to earn their (Afghan villagers’) trust so that they don’t allow them to come back in.”

The offensive, which began Thursday when about 4,000 Marines and sailors stormed into the Helmand River valley, seeks to cut off a major Taliban supply route. The militants bring in weapons and fighters from Pakistan and ship out opium — one of their main sources of income.

Before the operation, their biggest of the Afghan war, Marine commanders believed up to 1,000 insurgents were operating in the fertile valley. But most of them fled without a major battle, instead launching scattered but ineffective attacks.

As a result, only one Marine has died so far in the mission, although several have been wounded. Others have collapsed from heat exhaustion after hiking for days with 50-100 pounds of food, water, weapons and ammunition in temperatures approaching 120 degrees.

Militants seemed keen to avoid an all-out fight with the better armed Marines.

On Monday, images from a Predator drone showed a dozen fighters and at least 15 to 20 civilians inside a mud-brick compound in the village of Khan Neshin, about 60 miles north of the Pakistani border.

Because of the civilians, the U.S. troops held their fire, and instead used a military translator and village elder to persuade the militants to free women and children.

Two groups — children and what appeared to be women in burqas — left the compound. When the Marines entered, they found no one. The fighters had clearly donned burqas and slipped away among the civilians, according to Marines who took part in the mission.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Far East

Chinese Troops Flood Streets After Riots

URUMQI, China — Thousands of Chinese troops flooded into this city Wednesday to separate feuding ethnic groups after three days of communal violence left 156 people dead, and a senior Communist Party official vowed to execute those guilty of murder in the rioting in western China.

Long convoys of armored cars and green troop trucks with riot police rumbled through Urumqi, a city of 2.3 million people. Other security forces carrying automatic rifles with bayonets formed cordons to defend Muslim neighborhoods from marauding groups of vigilantes with sticks.

Military helicopters buzzed over Xinjiang’s regional capital, dropping pamphlets urging people to stay in their homes and stop fighting. Special police from other provinces were called in to patrol the city.

The crisis was so severe that President Hu Jintao cut short a trip to Italy, where he was to participate in a Group of Eight summit. It was an embarrassing move for a leader who wants to show that China has a harmonious society as it prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Communist rule.

The heightened security came amid the worst spasm of ethnic violence in decades in Xinjiang — a sprawling, oil-rich territory that borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries. The region is home to the Uighur ethnic minority, who rioted Sunday and attacked the Han Chinese — the nation’s biggest ethnic group — after holding a protest that was ended by police.

Officials have said 156 people were killed as the Turkic-speaking Uighurs ran amok in the city, beating and stabbing the Han Chinese. The Uighurs allege that trigger-happy security forces gunned down many of the protesters, and officials have yet to give an ethnic breakdown of those killed.

In Rome, a Germany-based Uighur leader, Erkin Alptekin, told The Associated Press that “our countrymen in China” reported that 600-800 Uighurs were killed in the past few days and 3,000 were arrested.

“We were told (by fellow Uighurs) that 140 were dead on the spot” on Sunday and that their bodies were tossed into trucks and taken away by Chinese security forces, said Alptekin, who briefed the human rights commission in the Italian parliament.

“When the Uighurs heard the people were fired upon, parents all came out looking for their sons and daughters,” he said, adding that security forces started to “disperse them by force, then started to beat them, tear gas them and shoot them.”

His account could not be independently confirmed.

More than 1,100 people were wounded in the violence. Dr. Yuan Hong of Urumqi People’s Hospital said most of the people treated at his facility were clubbed, while others had been cut by knives.

Li Zhi, the highest-ranking Communist Party official in Urumqi, told reporters that some of the rioters were university students who were misled and didn’t understand what they were doing. They would be treated leniently, he said, as long as they weren’t involved in serious acts of violence and vandalism.

But Li added: “To those who committed crimes with cruel means, we will execute them.”

He also repeated allegations that the riot was whipped up by U.S.-exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer and her overseas supporters. “They’re afraid to see our economic prosperity. They’re afraid to see our ethnic unity and the people living a stable, prosperous life,” he said.

Kadeer has denied masterminding the violence, and many Uighurs laughed off the notion that they were puppets of groups abroad.

“Not even a 3-year-old would believe that Rebiya stirred this up. It’s ridiculous,” said a shopkeeper who only identified himself as Ahmet. Like other Uighurs, he declined to give his full name because he feared the police would detain him.

Ahmet was quick to rattle off a long list of grievances commonly mentioned by Uighurs. He accused the Han Chinese of discrimination and alleged that government policies were forcing them to abandon their culture, language and Islamic faith.

“After all this rioting, I’m still filled with hatred. I’m not afraid of the Han Chinese,” Ahmet said.

His neighborhood in southern Urumqi was targeted by mobs of Han Chinese who roamed the capital Tuesday seeking revenge. Ahmet’s friends had video shot by mobile phones and cameras that showed the stick-wielding Han men beating Uighurs. He pointed to blood stains on a white concrete apartment wall, where he said a Uighur was severely stabbed.

A Uighur college student who called herself Parizat added, “The men were carrying a Chinese flag. I never thought something like this would happen. We’re all Chinese citizens.”

The Uighurs accused paramilitary police of allowing the Han Chinese to attack their neighbors. But in the video, the troops appeared to be trying to block or restrain the mobs.

On Wednesday, the government warned residents against carrying weapons on the street, and most people generally complied. But there were groups of Han Chinese who tried to find soft spots in police cordons and rush into Uighur neighborhoods.

One such failed attempt sent a wave of terror and panic through the biggest Uighur neighborhood, Er Dao Qiao.

When someone yelled, “The Han are coming!” children scampered indoors and women ran shrieking through a backstreet market with carts of watermelons, shops selling cold soft drinks and smoky grills with sizzling lamb kebabs.

Within seconds, the men armed themselves with spears stashed behind doors and under market stands. The weapons were long poles with knives and meat cleavers tied to the ends. Piles of rocks were placed across the street for ammunition.

One Uighur graduate student who called himself Memet greeted a foreign reporter in English by saying, “Welcome to the jungle!”

“I think the Uighur people lately are kind of happy. You can see it in their eyes, a bit of happiness. We’ve spoken up. People know we exist now,” he said.

The ethnic hatred in Xinjiang appears to run so deep that many Uighurs won’t express sorrow for the Han Chinese who were attacked Sunday.

One of them was Dong Yuanyuan, 24, a newlywed who said she was on a bus with her husband getting ready to leave on their honeymoon. She said Uighur attackers dragged them off the bus and beat them until they were unconscious. Her husband was still missing, said the woman, who had abrasions on her face, arms and knees.

“My aunts have been going to all the hospitals to search for him. He must still be unconscious,” she told reporters who joined a government tour at the People’s Hospital.

Abdul Rehim, a Uighur with his left arm in a sling, said he was walking with his brother when a group of Han Chinese “just came out and did this to me.”

Another victim was Ma Weihong, who said she was walking home from a park with her 10-year-old son when the riot started. The boy suffered minor injuries, but the mother had a broken arm and wrist, missing teeth and head wounds.

“The stores all closed up and we tried to run for home,” she said. “That is when they caught us. We couldn’t get away.”

           — Hat tip: VH [Return to headlines]

More Bombs in South Philippines

At least six people have been killed and many others wounded when a powerful bomb exploded on the island of Jolo in the southern Philippines.

Military officials said several of the wounded were in a critical condition and the death toll could rise.

Police said they had also defused another bomb near the Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo.

This latest attack follows a bomb blast outside a cathedral in the southern Mindanao province of Cotabato.

That explosion, on Sunday, killed five people and wounded 55.

The French news agency AFP has reported another bomb blast in Iligan, also in the south. The homemade bomb left in a parked car wounded seven people including two soldiers, AFP said.

Militant groups

The Jolo bomb was hidden on a motorbike and exploded outside a hardware store; the store owner was one of those killed.

“Many of the wounded are in critical condition so there is a possibility that there will be more than two deaths,” said Navy spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Edgard Arevalo.

The military is still investigating who might behind the Jolo blasts.

Jolo is the base for the Abu Sayyaf militant group. Once linked to regional Islamist networks, the gang has recently become better known for criminal brutality and high-profile kidnappings.

The group is thought to be holding a staff member of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Eugenio Vagni, who is aged 62 and in poor health.

The authorities have suspended school classes in Jolo for fear of more attacks.

The military has blamed another group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, for the attack in Cotabato on Sunday.

One of its leaders, Mohaqher Iqbal, has denied any involvement in the attack.

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

Australia — Pacific

Aussie Court Cancels Friday Prayers for Muslims

Muslim turnout for Friday prayers exceeds space limit: court

A Muslim center in Australia can no longer hold Friday prayers in Cannington, Perth, a court ordered Tuesday, citing complaints that the faithful jam the neighborhood on a weekly basis and exceed the center’s designated limit.

The court complained Muslims attending the congregational prayer, held once every week, exceed their numbers and take over all parking spots in the industrial neighborhood in Perth,western Australia,where the Daawah Association of Western Australia prayer center is located.

An investigation by Cannignton city officials following several complaints that Muslims were bombarding the city on Friday found that Daawah was exceeding its 20 percent person limit every week as Muslims flock to fulfill their obligatory prayers.

Following complaints that the Daawah building had turned into a mosque, the State Administrative Tribunal ruled that Friday prayers contradicted the city’s designated zoning of the area as a ‘Light Industry’ zone, turned it into a “Place of Public Worship.”

Battle over words

The Daawah Center contested the court’s reasoning on the city’s zoning policies and argued that its building was not a mosque, but a place where Muslims gathered to pray.

A witness named Ms. Rahman explained that while many public areas such as shopping malls and airports offer prayer space, these places did not become mosques simply because people pray in them.

“The mere fact that Friday prayer is being held at the premises does not make that place a mosque, Islamically,” Ms Rahman explained.

The center added that the city’s planning policies were not sensitive to the prayer space needs of Muslims in the area.

But city officials argued that the Daawah Center had plans to build a mosque, citing a document entitled “Masjid Project-Appeal for help’ which detailed a future plan to build ‘Masjid As-Sunnah’

Ms. Rahman however said that there was a need for building a mosque because of difficulties experienced in accommodating the growing number of worshippers.

The Daawah Center, which is allowed to use its building on Kent Street in Cannington, has put in an application to accommodate 100 people at any given time, but the request was refused.

Prayer space has been an issue in Australia for Muslim university students who in March rallied to protest lack of sufficient prayer space on campus which lead them to holding Friday prayers outdoors.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Australia Considers Ban on People Climbing Ayers Rock

The Australian government is considering banning people from climbing Ayers Rock in deference to the Aborigines who consider it sacred.

Around 350,000 people visit the site — known as Uluru by the native population — every year. Of those, around 100,000 climb the 1,142ft landmark.

It is world heritage-listed and is famed for its shifting red-ochre colours.

A draft management plan for the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park called for a ban on people climbing the rock.

The plan could be implemented within 18 months but must be approved by national Environment Minister Peter Garrett after a two-month public consultation, a spokesman for Garrett said.

‘Kevin Rudd must veto any plans by Peter Garrett to shut down Australia’s world-famous Uluru climb,’ said conservative politician and environment spokesman Greg Hunt.

Visitors from around Australia and the world would be stopped from completing the majestic and exhilarating journey,’ Hunt said.

‘You can’t go climb on top of the Vatican, you can’t go climb on top of the Buddhist temples and so on and so forth,’ local elder Vince Forrester from Mutitjulu township told state radio.

Forrester said traditional owners of the rock, which is 5.8 miles in circumference, have wanted the climb closed since the park was placed in indigenous hands in 1985.

The monolith features strongly in indigenous creation myth.

‘Obviously you have to respect our religious attachment to the land too, so we’re saying please do not climb Uluru. We’ve said it in all languages,’ Forrester said.

But outback Northern Territory Tourism Minister Chris Burns said his government did not back the indigenous proposal.

Hunt said the national government should not contemplate the closure of the rock at a time when Australia’s tourism industry was under threat from the global financial crisis.

‘Big Brother is coming to Uluru to slam the gate closed on an Australian tourism icon, the climb,’ he said.

But people responding to the state ABC radio website were divided, with some saying it was a ‘denial of the rights,’ and others calling for more respect of sacred areas.

‘About time. We would be horrified if people were allowed to climb all over our churches or sacred sites,’ wrote Lily.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa

Turkish Ship Seized Off Somalia

A Turkish cargo ship with 23 crew on board has been seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Istanbul-based Horizon Shipping said pirates in speed boats had surrounded the Horizon I vessel in the Gulf of Aden at about 0530 GMT.

Three attackers managed to board the tanker, which was heading from Saudi Arabia to Jordan, the firm said.

Maritime officials believe pirates in Somalia are now holding 12 ships, with about 200 crew, for ransom.

The country has been without a functioning central government since 1991, allowing pirates to operate almost uninhibited in one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Omer Ozgur, from Horizon Shipping, said the Horizon I was continuing on its course despite the hijack.

The pirates have not yet issued any demands or contacted the firm.

Andrew Mwangura, of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Programme, which works to free ships, said the attack came as a surprise.

“In this season it is hard to take ships because monsoon winds make the seas rough. No-one expected attacks at this time,” he told Reuters news agency.

Earlier, Nato spokesman Commander Chris Davies told the BBC’s Network Africa programme that pirates in the Gulf of Aden were having less success this year compared with last year.

But he said Nato, which has an anti-piracy task force off the Horn of Africa, wanted the legal apparatus in place in Africa to deal with the pirates if they were caught.

“If we capture the pirates we’re not looking to take them all the way back to, say, America or Turkey,” he said.

Earlier in June the EU, which co-operates with Nato in the region, agreed to extend its anti-piracy operation there until the end of 2010.

Two dozen ships from European Union nations, including Britain, France, Germany and Italy, patrol an area of about two million square miles.

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


US to Re-Settle 1,350 ‘PA Refugees’ From Iraq

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it will grant asylum to 1,350 Arabs in Iraq who claim to have the right to live in Israel based on ancestry. The unprecedented numbers to be allowed to resettle in the United States may anger Israel, the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) reported.

Most of them lived well in Iraq under former dictator Saddam Hussein but then were thrown out of their homes after his downfall. They were targeted since the American invasion of the country and have been living near the border with Syria.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry told Israel National News that it would not comment on the new American policy. Granting asylum to the Arabs could be interpreted by the Palestinian Authority as official United States acceptance of them as Arabs with a right to live in Israel but who were granted special status because of the American war.

Their claim to Israel is based on their parents or grandparents having lived in Israel before the wars in 1948 and 1967, when Arab nations encouraged many of them to leave until after the expected annihilation of the Jewish State. A minority of the original 700,000 Arabs who claimed refugee status in the 1950s fled from Israeli army troops during the War of Independence.

Any person descended from at least one Arab whose primary residence was in pre-state Israel from mid-1946 to 1948 may claim refugee status.

The Bush administration rarely accepted Arabs defined as “Palestinian refugees” in order not to irritate Israel, one diplomat told CSM. He said the Arabs will be processed as refugees from Iraq. Todd Pierce, a spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, said that the Arabs in Iraq are not being equated with those from Judea, Samaria and Gaza.

Jordan is the only Arab country that grants citizenship to Arabs who claim ancestry in Israel but has not allowed Arabs to enter from Iraq, according to Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington.

He called the issue a “hot potato” and that the State Department announcement is “tossing their problems over their head into Harrisburg, Pennsylvania or Omaha, Nebraska” and making America “a dumping ground” for its problems. Most of the Iraqi Arabs will be settled in southern California.

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

Culture Wars

Lefties Can be Remarkably Prejudiced About Gays

Nick Herbert writes a coruscating piece in today’s Guardian, in which he explains why so many gay people have abandoned Labour for the Conservatives. He takes issue with Chris Bryant’s silly claim that “if gays vote Tory they will rue the day very soon”. Honestly, Chris, gay people are British citizens with a full portfolio of political interests. They are every bit as likely as straight people to be sick of Gordon Brown.

It is fascinating to see how these generalisations have shifted across the political spectrum. Not long ago, it was Rightists who were accused of lumping gay people together. Now, see how easily Lefties do it.

I suppose I ought to declare an interest. Nick is an old friend. He and his partner — a delightful and extraordinarily sound conservative — have been occasional holiday companions of ours since long before he entered Parliament. Nick is a man with broad interests: a countryman, a Eurosceptic, an oenophile, a localist, a horseman, a Thatcherite, a connoisseur of French ferias. The idea that he — or any other gay person — should define himself principally as a homosexual is too ludicrous for words.

The past decade has seen a broad acceptance of gay rights. No mainstream party now seriously questions civil partnerships, fiscal parity or equality of the age of consent. As someone who argued for these things long before the rest of my party — who, indeed, opposed Section 28 back when it was still called Section 27 — I am naturally delighted. It is disappointing, though, to see some Labour politicians trying to keep the issue alive by constantly demanding hate crimes, quotas and the like. Let’s try to be consistent: if gay people deserve equality under the law, so do people who dislike gays. In a truly liberal society, homophobes are as entitled to tolerance as homosexuals.Gay men and women have, at long last, won the right to be treated equally. What a pity to see some on the Left demanding their right to be treated differently.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]


Hysteria is the Real Threat, Not Global Warming

With Tony Blair launching his own plan to save the world (groans), and the G8 leaders also unveiling their thoughts about global warming, this is a big week for environmental fanaticism.

Whatever he or they offer, it will not be enough to quell the warmists’ semi-religious fervour.

They are like medieval preachers, proclaiming to baying crowds that the end of the word is nigh.


Those who worry about facts should look at the findings of NASA (see the website), whose up-to-date and sophisticated global surveys throw such doubt on the warmists’ claims.

They should also read Heaven And Earth by Ian Plimer, Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at The University of Melbourne and Professor of Mining Geology at The University of Adelaide.

It is the best book on science and scientists I have ever read. Piece by piece, he takes apart the work of the fanatics. Far from denying global warming, he stresses its regularity and occasional abruptness and how humans have had to adapt.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

Pope Endorses “World Political Authority”

In explicit and direct language, the Pope calls for a “true world political authority” to manage the affairs of the world. At the same time, however, the Pope also warns that such an international order could “produce a dangerous universal power of a tyrannical nature” and must be guarded against somehow.


But the document, which is more than 30,000 words long, is contradictory in that it pretends that a world government can co-exist with freedom and democracy.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]