Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/9/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/9/2009It turns out that billions of dollars of stimulus money have gone to — big surprise! — localities that supported Barack Obama in last fall’s election.

In other news, the Spanish branch of Burger King was forced to apologize to Hindus after it distributed advertising poster featuring the goddess Lakshmi and.. ahem… a beefburger. Yow!

Thanks to AA, Andy Bostom, Barry Rubin, islam o’phobe, JD, Nilk, RRW, Steen, TB, Zonka, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Billions in Aid Go to Areas That Backed Obama in ‘08
CAIR-Chicago Asks Library Group to Drop Islamophobe From Panel
Firefighters to Testify About Sotomayor
In Health Bill, Billions for Parks, Paths
Obama’s Ambitious U.N. Treaty Agenda
Ohio: 50 Black Teens Attack White Family
One Man’s Quest to Size Up the Tea Parties
Overrun With Snakes, Florida Looks to Bounty Hunters
Tremors at San Andreas Fault
Up to 10,000 Illinois Prisoners May be Released
US State Department Under Cyberattack for Fourth Day
Why I’m Thankful for George W. Bush
Europe and the EU
EU Parliament ‘Has Equal Power’ To Member States
EU Proposal to Give Greater Rights to Criminal Suspects
Good Riddance to Javier Solana
Municipal Posts Rife With 17,000 Former Stasi Workers
Netherlands: Moroccan Biscuits for Wilders — a Video Report
Spain: Burger King Apology to Hindus for Advert
Swine Flu: Death Toll in Britain is 14
UK: EU Steps Up Assault on City Ahead of Treasury White Paper
US: Engaging With Muslim Communities in Europe
Serbia Police Wounded Near Kosovo
Middle East
A True Iranian Reformer, And His Movement?
Barry Rubin: Fayyad and Syria’s Regime Lie, Americans Applaud
Turkey Military Court Law Passed
US ‘Frees’ Five Iranians in Iraq
Worst Violence Since US Pullback Hits Iraq
South Asia
Video: Inside the Brutal Afghan War Zone
Latin America
Crime Campaigner Killed in Mexico
It is Confirmed: 1350 Iraqi Palestinians Coming to the US
US Takes 1,350 Palestinian Refugees
Culture Wars
Episcopal Bishop Calls Individual Salvation ‘Heresy, ‘ ‘Idolatry’
El Nino’s Back

Financial Crisis

Billions in Aid Go to Areas That Backed Obama in ‘08

Billions of dollars in federal aid delivered directly to the local level to help revive the economy have gone overwhelmingly to places that supported President Obama in last year’s presidential election.

That aid — about $17 billion — is the first piece of the administration’s massive stimulus package that can be tracked locally. Much of it has followed a well-worn path to places that regularly collect a bigger share of federal grants and contracts, guided by formulas that have been in place for decades and leave little room for manipulation.

“There’s no politics at work when it comes to spending for the recovery,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says.

Counties that supported Obama last year have reaped twice as much money per person from the administration’s $787 billion economic stimulus package as those that voted for his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, a USA TODAY analysis of government disclosure and accounting records shows. That money includes aid to repair military bases, improve public housing and help students pay for college.

The reports show the 872 counties that supported Obama received about $69 per person, on average. The 2,234 that supported McCain received about $34.


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CAIR-Chicago Asks Library Group to Drop Islamophobe From Panel

CHICAGO, July 9, 2009 /PRNewswire-USNewswire via COMTEX/ ——The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today called on the American Library Association (ALA) to drop an “Islamophobe” from a panel discussion on dispelling stereotypes about Islam.

Robert Spencer, publisher of the anti-Islam Internet hate site “Jihad Watch,” is scheduled to speak July 12 on a panel, titled “Perspectives on Islam: Beyond the Stereotyping,” at the ALA annual conference in Chicago. One other panelist already withdrew in protest over Spencer’s participation.

           — Hat tip: Steen [Return to headlines]

Firefighters to Testify About Sotomayor

by Eric Zimmermann

Republicans will call two New Haven firefighters to testify in the confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor next week, making clear the GOP’s intent to place affirmative action at the center of the Senate battle over Sotomayor’s nomination.

A Judiciary Committee press release lists Frank Ricci and Ben Vargas as expected Republican witnesses. Ricci was the lead plaintiff in Ricci v. DeStefano, the controversial case in which Sotomayor ruled the New Haven fire department acted constitutionally when it discounted the results of a qualifying test for promotions after too few black firefighters scored as high as their white counterparts. Vargas, who is Hispanic, was the only non-white co-plaintiff in the racially charged case.

The Supreme Court later overturned that decision.

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In Health Bill, Billions for Parks, Paths

Supporters cite prevention, but add-ons’ critics see pork

Sweeping healthcare legislation working its way through Congress is more than an effort to provide insurance to millions of Americans without coverage. Tucked within is a provision that could provide billions of dollars for walking paths, streetlights, jungle gyms, and even farmers’ markets.

The add-ons — characterized as part of a broad effort to improve the nation’s health “infrastructure’’ — appear in House and Senate versions of the bill.

Critics argue the provision is a thinly disguised effort to insert pork-barrel spending into a bill that has been widely portrayed to the public as dealing with expanding health coverage and cutting medical costs. A leading critic, Senator Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican, ridicules the local projects, asking: “How can Democrats justify the wasteful spending in this bill?’’

But advocates, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, defend the proposed spending as a necessary way to promote healthier lives and, in the long run, cut medical costs. “These are not public works grants; they are community transformation grants,’’ said Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Kennedy, chairman of the Senate health committee whose healthcare bill includes the projects.

“If improving the lighting in a playground or clearing a walking path or a bike path or restoring a park are determined as needed by a community to create more opportunities for physical activity, we should not prohibit this from happening,’’ Coley said in a statement.

The Senate health panel’s bill does not specify how much would go to the community projects. A Senate staff member said the amount of spending will be left up to the Obama administration. A House version of the bill caps the projects at $1.6 billion per year and includes them in a section designed to save money in the long run by reducing obesity and other health problems.

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Obama’s Ambitious U.N. Treaty Agenda

With Al Franken replacing Norm Coleman, Senate Democrats have another vote for the U.N.’s Law of the Sea Treaty, and there are strong indications that they intend to bring this controversial document up for a vote within days or weeks. Those who favor the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) believe that U.S. security lies in passing a treaty and hiring more lawyers to defend America before an international tribunal, rather than building more ships for the Navy and Coast Guard.

The anticipated vote on the treaty follows a strong recent push for ratification from the Council on Foreign Relations and newspaper ads in favor of the treaty from the Pew Charitable Trusts, a $5 billion non-profit entity. Plus, the Obama State Department sent a document to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on May 11 that declared UNCLOS to be a top priority for the administration.

In fact, Obama’s submission to the Foreign Relations Committee names 17 treaties that he wants ratified. In addition to UNCLOS, they include the feminist Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the unverifiable Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the gun rights-destroying Inter-American Convention Against Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials.

President Reagan, who pursued development of a 600-ship Navy and believed in a policy of peace-through-strength, refused to sign UNCLOS. His Attorney General, Edwin Meese, now with the Heritage Foundation, says Reagan would continue to oppose it.

Senate Democrats may not listen to conservative objections to the pact, but they should pay some attention to the views of people like Newton B. Jones of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. “As recently as 1987,” he points out, “the Navy had 594 ships. At that time, we were not at war. Since then, despite growing threats from around the globe—the Middle East, Korea, China—we have built an average of only six ships a year, while decommissioning 20. The Navy’s fleet is now only 281 ships, less than half its size in 1987.”

He goes on to note that “…numerous reports recommend a fleet of 55-75 submarines, but the Navy is building only one a year. Our submarine fleet has shrunk from 100 in 1990 to 53 today. The American Shipbuilding Association estimates that at current rates, China will have twice as many submarines as the United States in only five years.”

In fact, the American Shipbuilding Association estimates that, if present trends continue, we will be down to a paltry 180 ships by 2024.

Rather than build more ships, which could produce jobs for the Boilermakers union (which endorsed Obama for president) and Americans in general, Obama and Senate liberals would prefer to facilitate the hiring of more international lawyers to handle competing claims for access and resources in the oceans of the world. The treaty comes with a financial price—a global fee or tax payable to a United Nations-sanctioned body.

Not coincidentally, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, wrote the foreword for the book, The International Judge, a favorable treatment of foreign law and foreign judges. Chapter Two, titled, “International Judges: Who Are They and How Do They Get on the Courts?,” examines such topics as “the job market.”

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Ohio: 50 Black Teens Attack White Family

Akron police say they aren’t ready to call it a hate crime or a gang initiation.

But to Marty Marshall, his wife and two kids, it seems pretty clear.

It came after a family night of celebrating America and freedom with a fireworks show at Firestone Stadium. Marshall, his family and two friends were gathered outside a friend’s home in South Akron.

Out of nowhere, the six were attacked by dozens of teenage boys, who shouted “This is our world” and “This is a black world” as they confronted Marshall and his family.

The Marshalls, who are white, say the crowd of teens who attacked them and two friends June 27 on Girard Street numbered close to 50. The teens were all black.

“This was almost like being a terrorist act,” Marshall said. “And we allow this to go on in our neighborhoods?”

They said it started when one teen, without any words or warning, blindsided and assaulted Marshall’s friend as he stood outside with the others.

When Marshall, 39, jumped in, he found himself being attacked by the growing group of teens.

His daughter, Rachel, 15, who weighs about 90 pounds, tried to come to his rescue. The teens pushed her to the ground.

His wife, Yvonne, pushed their son, Donald, 14, into bushes to keep him protected.

“My thing is,” Marshall said, “I didn’t want this, but I was in fear for my wife, my kids and my friends. I felt I had to stay out there to protect them, because those guys were just jumping, swinging fists and everything.

“I’m lucky. They didn’t break my ribs or bruise my ribs. I thank God, they concentrated on my thick head because I do have one. They were trying to take my head off my spine, basically.”

After several minutes of punches and kicks, the attack ended and the group ran off. The Marshalls’ two adult male friends were not seriously hurt.

           — Hat tip: JD [Return to headlines]

One Man’s Quest to Size Up the Tea Parties

How many Americans have participated this year in “Tea Party” events?

The scattered nature of the antitax protests makes it hard to know for sure — estimates run from less than half a million to close to a 1 million — but one unlikely enumerator thinks he has the answer.

Frank Ross Jr., a retired commercial fisherman on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, has spent the past six weeks contacting organizers and combing through hundreds of news accounts and blogs — in between tending his backyard turnip greens. Counting dozens of mini-protests in small towns such as Purvis, Miss., he estimates that total attendance at Tea Parties this year approaches 2 million, at least half at events held before July 4.

Mr. Ross is not a reporter or researcher, so why does he care? He says he’s a worried American with a mission: Quantify a movement he believes can change the country. “I think the people of this nation need to see how many people will stand up against excessive taxation,” he says.

The Tea Party concept grew out of libertarian Ron Paul’s electoral campaign last year, gaining traction after the passage of the $787 billion stimulus package in February. Tea Party organizers call it an electrified third rail of American politics. Critics say it represents a vocal but marginal section of the right wing, egged on by conservative think tanks and media talking heads.

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Overrun With Snakes, Florida Looks to Bounty Hunters

Unrolling the skin of a 17-foot Burmese python at a congressional hearing Wednesday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) of Florida focused America’s attention on the biggest invader on the continent, saying it’s only a matter of time until one of the 150,000 suspected pythons in south Florida nabs a tourist.

But of all the ideas floated to get a grip on pythons and other exotic imports creeping and crawling through America’s undergrowth, only one stands out to Florida snake experts as having a real impact: bounty hunters.

“Right now, the alligators are losing battles with exotic pythons, but python skins and meat aren’t worth anything. You’ve got to give incentives for guys to go hunt them. That’s what it’s going to take,” says Patrick Barry, owner of Wildlife Removal Services in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Two weeks before a toddler was killed in Florida on July 1 — the 12th known python casualty in US history — Mr. Barry was called to a scene where a nine-foot-long pet python had been on its way into a kiddie pool occupied by two toddlers before the parents spotted it.

“I don’t know if the snake escaped or some guy let it loose,” says Barry.

Among a variety of proposed measures, Congress is looking to create one port of entry for exotics, but it’s not clear if that will have a measurable impact on the trade. Pet smuggling, after all, is second only to drug smuggling in the international black market.


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Tremors at San Andreas Fault

Scientists have detected a spike in underground rumblings on a section of California’s San Andreas Fault that produced a magnitude-7.8 earthquake in 1857.

What these mysterious vibrations say about future earthquakes is far from certain. But some think the deep tremors suggest underground stress may be building up faster than expected and may indicate an increased risk of a major temblor.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, monitored seismic activity on the fault’s central section between July 2001 and February 2009 and recorded more than 2,000 tremors. The tremors lasted mere minutes to nearly half an hour.


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Up to 10,000 Illinois Prisoners May be Released

There are plans to layoff 1,000 corrections workers at Stateville Prison.

Up to 10,000 convicted criminals could soon be released early from prisons across Illinois. It’s all because of the state’s budget mess. Gov. Pat Quinn says cutting those prisoners loose could save more than $100 million.

CBS 2 Political Editor Mike Flannery reports that some people are worried. They don’t want to pay higher taxes. And they don’t want these prison reductions set for Sept. 30, either.

“Oh, my God. I don’t agree with that at all,” one woman said. “They can pull money out of some other things.”

The proposed prisoner release stems from plans to lay off more than 1,000 corrections workers at Stateville Prison and a half-dozen facilities downstate.

The state’s making a list of thousands of so-called non-violent inmates with less than one year left to serve who could be released early. The governor says it could save taxpayers $125 million.

But some don’t like the idea.

“I don’t like that at all,” a woman said. “You know, because I think people have been placed there for a reason.”

“If you cut the prison guards, that’s gonna just about give the prisoners control of the jails,” a man said. “Which will make that job very hazardous, more so than what it is.”

Critics say Pat Quinn does not have authority to release thousands of Illinois inmates early.

“I don’t like it. I threw a lot of those guys in prison back in the ‘90s, and they probably, a number of them, belong there,” said Ill. Rep. Jim Durkin. “Public safety? Not the place to cut…


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US State Department Under Cyberattack for Fourth Day

According to computer security experts, a dozen US government websites, including those of the White House, Pentagon and State Department, were targeted in a coordinated cyberattack which also struck sites in South Korea.

South Korean lawmakers were quoted as saying Wednesday that South Korea’s intelligence service believes North Korea or its sympathizers may have staged the attack.

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Why I’m Thankful for George W. Bush

By Ken Russell

On October 23, 1983 the Marine Corps Battalion Landing Team (BLT) building located at the Beirut International Airport was blown up. Two hundred twenty Marines, 18 Sailors and 3 Soldiers were killed in a split second by a suicide bomber. I wasn’t there at the time. I was participating in Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. I was a squadron CH-46E helicopter co-pilot in Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (HMM-261) and also the squadron classified materials officer. Being the one who set up the squadron classified messages, I read about it before most others. It was an unbelievable gut punch and breathtaking in a bad way.

I did arrive in Lebanon with the rest of HMM-261 about two weeks later to relieve the aviation combat element for the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit, HMM-162. My first day landing in LZ S-Bird, located directly besides the now destroyed BLT building was quite sobering. Twisted metal spikes of rebar jutted out of the concrete wreckage in no particular recognizable fashion. Bits of boot leather, t-shirts and camouflage utility shreds dangled from the several feet long ragged rebar. Indications of human occupation in the flattened mass demanded no comments about what happened and how. Silence and reverence was the only response we could muster every time we saw it, every day we landed there for the next few months.

We did all ask each other and comment with each other about this new and wildly evil enemy that knew no boundaries, no uniforms, no flags, no geographical limits and no respect whatsoever for human life. They were the new head of the food chain; the great white shark killing machine with no intentions of killing for survival. Theirs was to kill for ideology and for effect, terrifying effect.

How do you fight this enemy? How do you fight such a stealth and taunting ideology who uses all of your assets and all of your weaknesses against all of your decency and love for freedom? When was there an enemy in history like this, whose object of passionate faith was in a sick, self destructive ideology? What the hell is this thing and how do we meet and engage this enemy on the battlefields or locations on which we are trained?…

           — Hat tip: Zonka [Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

EU Parliament ‘Has Equal Power’ To Member States

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The European Parliament is on a level power footing with member states in the EU’s complex institutional triangle after years of being a mere afterthought for EU governments, its outgoing president has said.

Urging his successor to keep up the fight to “defend” parliament’s interests, German conservative Hans-Gert Poettering on Wednesday (8 July) said: “We are very successful now as European Parliament to be as equal partners of the council.”

He suggested that the parliament already has the upper hand over the commission, because it “only comes into office …once we have voted in favour.”

This “institutional link” for controlling the council is missing Mr Poetterig said, but parliament should be “ambitious” to increase MEPs’ powers towards member states.

Looking back to 30 years ago, when he was first elected, he noted that the assembly had “zero legislative competence” and now it is “responsible for 75 percent of legislation.”

His words come as the parliament stands to gain even more law-making power if the EU’s new institutional rules, the Lisbon Treaty, enters into force in the coming months.

In addition, the parliament has just thwarted member states’ plans to secure a quick vote on the nomination of the next European Commission president, arguing that it should not be treated as a “rubber stamp” institution. The vote is now set to take place in September and not July.

The move builds on an important parliament victory in 2004 when it forced the withdrawal of Italy’s commission candidate on the grounds that his personal views on social issues were unsuitable for the post which he was aiming for.

Since the 2004 move both the commission and the council are careful to pay public respect to the institution, and, unlike in previous years, no longer take it for granted or ignore it altogether.

Mr Poettering’s remarks were directed at Jerzy Buzek, a centre-right Pole, who is likely to be voted in as his successor next week.

New broom

For his part, Mr Buzek, a former prime minister, said that “streamlining the way parliament works is urgent” pointing to tightening up the way committees (where most of the legislative work is done) function and following through on questions posed by MEPs.

He said there should be “as few first reading agreements as possible,” noting that this does not allow enough “proper dialogue” on the issues.

Second reading agreements considerably prolong the length of time laws take to get through the Brussels system. Parliament has one reading on legislation that is not considered controversial or if it is under timetable pressure.

The Polish MEP, taking part in a presidential debate, also suggested that parliament should “meet with the European Commission president every month” so it can “influence” its work.

He also promised not to ignore the eurosceptics, who will have a stronger voice in this legislature. “Eurosceptics are very important to us because they pick up our failings,” he noted.

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

EU Proposal to Give Greater Rights to Criminal Suspects

THE EU has reintroduced a controversial plan to give more rights to criminal suspects, despite opposition from Ireland.

The plan, published yesterday by the European Commission, would give suspects held throughout the EU the right to quality interpretation and translation free of charge at all stages of criminal proceedings, including appeals. It would also force governments to offer training to judges, lawyers and other court staff to make sure that defendants can understand the proceedings.

Next year the European Commission will propose other rights for suspects in a step-by-step approach, such as the right to a lawyer, legal aid, contact with their embassy and family, a list of what they are entitled to and specific help for vulnerable suspects, such as minors and people who are illiterate or elderly.

Ireland, along with five other EU member states, blocked a 2004 plan that offered all of these rights at the same time.

The Irish Government argued the European Convention on Human Rights already provided these rights and that the EU proposal would overlap with them and cause confusion over which body was responsible.

Jacques Barrot, European commissioner for justice and security, yesterday rejected this argument. “That convention is not always properly implemented. When it is not properly implemented any appeals [to the European Court of Human Rights] are both complex and lengthy,” he said.

The commission hopes the step-by-step approach to introducing rights for suspects will make it more palatable for some countries. The UK, which also opposed the original plan, prefers this method since it would allow it to assess the impact of introducing such rights at EU level.

An Irish official said the Government would study the proposal and put forward a position “over the coming months”.

Human rights campaigners and defence lawyer associations say the move is vital given the various laws introduced by the EU to make it easier for police forces to co-operate.

Campaigners also point to the different ways rights are applied across the EU. A 2005 study shows that in Ireland, Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Scotland suspects do not have the right to a lawyer while being interviewed by the police.

Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Luxembourg and Spain recruit qualified translators to work with suspects, but no such recruitment exists in Ireland, Estonia, Finland or Sweden.

James MacGuill, a criminal lawyer, said Ireland should sign up to giving suspects across the EU the same standards of rights. “Ireland has shown no lack of willingness to introduce EU laws on the enforcement side, but things remain utterly blocked on the procedural safeguards for Irish citizens abroad and for citizens throughout the EU,” he said.

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

Good Riddance to Javier Solana

The 10-year term of the EU’s foreign policy chief has been marked by warmongering and lack of principle

Few sights and sounds can be more nauseating than those of politicians paying tribute to each other. I fear, then, that my stomach will not be able to cope this autumn when Javier Solana steps down as the European Union’s foreign policy chief. For it almost certain that his departure will be marked by an orgy of backslapping as dignitaries queue up to praise him for turning the EU into a serious player in international diplomacy..

With his avuncular air and his unerring ability to make people feel sorry for him (God knows how many times I’ve heard remarks about how tired he looks), the Spaniard has brilliantly camouflaged his true record as a warmonger. Before his decade working for the EU began, he had already been comfortably ensconced in Brussels as Nato’s secretary general. There, he literally left his old job with a (distant) bang by overseeing the bombing of Serbia in 1999, which left about 500 civilians dead, according to Human Rights Watch, and the use of cluster bombs by Britain and the US, which caused horrific injuries. By doing this without a UN mandate, he helped to create a precedent whereby a spurious definition of humanitarianism was used to resort to force. Less than four years later, George W Bush invoked the core tenets of the underlying doctrine to attack Iraq.

In a widely quoted interview he gave to the Financial Times in early 2003, Solana appeared to vent his frustration at how the US had turned into a theocracy under Bush and Dick Cheney. Their religious fundamentalism was difficult for Europeans to deal with “because we are secular”, he noted.

By apparently creating some distance between himself and Washington, few noticed the level of support he gave for the US invasion of Iraq soon afterwards. When Colin Powell presented false evidence to the UN security council on Saddam Hussein’s alleged links weapons programme and link to al-Qaida, Solana declared himself completely satisfied with his American buddy. “Its content and also the way it was presented were very solid,” was how Solana lauded Powell’s work of fiction.

The full extent of Solana’s relationship with the arms industry has similarly escaped the spotlight. Occasionally, he has even sounded like the peace activist he once was (as a student, he marched against the Vietnam war). In 2007, he spoke of how western countries spend $1,000bn each year on the military and the arms industry, yet less than $100bn on fighting poverty. “Is there not a margin there for a certain rebalancing?” he asked.

That margin certainly exists but it is becoming increasingly slender thanks to the activities of the European defence agency, which Solana heads (in one of his several overlapping roles). Established following intense campaigning (pdf) by Europe’s three largest defence firms — BAE Systems, Thales and EADS — this official EU body has been given an explicit mandate by the Lisbon treaty to pressurise governments into raising their defence budgets at a time when they are slashing those for health and education. Determined to do its bit for the industry in these difficult economic circumstances, the agency’s website provides arms companies with all the information they need on how to win government contracts; its “long-term vision”, meanwhile, emphasises that if Europe is to sustain a “globally competitive” defence industry it must address how the US is outspending it “six to one” on inventing new weapons.

When he is not accumulating air miles, Solana regularly shoots the breeze with those characters who trade in instruments of death. He is a patron, for example, of Security and Defence Agenda, a thinktank funded by the arms industry with the aim of forging a consensus around the “need” for higher military spending.

Announcing his decision not to seek another term, Solana spoke of how “extraordinary things” had been achieved by his team over the past decade. The evolution of the EU from a purely civilian to a military power is indeed extraordinary. The views of those who have assisted him in this makeover are also repugnant; Robert Cooper, a former adviser to Tony Blair, has been one of the key intellectual figures that Solana has relied on. Cooper has written that the world is desperate for a “new form of imperialism” to sort out its ills (he displays an incomplete grasp of how the old form of imperialism created many of those problems in the first place).

In Solana’s case, the old cliche that if you carry a hammer, everything looks like a nail has rarely seemed more apt. A strategy paper (pdf) that he issued last year on the security implications of climate change recommended that the union should endeavour to safeguard its access to the Arctic. In the process this could remove any obstacles that western oil companies encountered in scooping up the Arctic’s natural resources. No more than lip-service was paid to the region’s ecological vulnerability.

“Make no enemies and never ask a question to which you do not know or like the answer.” That is how Solana has summarised his approach to diplomacy. “Make no enemies” is another way of saying “have no principles”, if the destructive agenda he has followed is anything to go by. Can someone tell me the Spanish for good riddance?

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

Municipal Posts Rife With 17,000 Former Stasi Workers

Some 17,000 former East German secret police workers are likely working in regional government authorities in eastern states despite background checks, daily Financial Times Deutschland reported on Thursday.

Experts and advocates for former East German citizens have demanded consequences for the scandal.

Stasi expert Klaus Schroeder from Berlin’s Free University estimates that more than 10,000 of those known as “unofficial employees” of the Stasi currently hold positions in ministries and administrative offices.

“These are dimensions that no on suspected before,” he told the paper, adding that background checks on employees are standardised and superficial.

State commissioner for Stasi files in the formerly eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, Gerhard Ruden, told the paper that a new test of potential employees was necessary.

“It’s a question of political hygiene,” he said, adding that many files remain closed, and that even in the mid 1990’s, three-quarters of the files had not yet been analysed.

Stephan Hilsberg, centre-left Social Democrat parliamentarian and civil rights advocate told daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that it’s not wrong to give those who worked with the feared Stasi jobs.

“Working in the public sphere is not the problem. The problem is which positions they land in,” Hilsberg told the paper.

Questions over where former Stasi workers had found new work emerged last week when German media alleged that two policemen assigned to guard Chancellor Angela Merkel’s weekend house in the Uckermark region of Brandenburg used to be in the GDR secret police. The government denied this.

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

Netherlands: Moroccan Biscuits for Wilders — a Video Report

[embedded video at link]

“In my opinion, you have nothing to fear,” Geert Wilders tells RNW journalist Mohamed Amezian, a Dutch Muslim of Moroccan descent. Mr Amezian has found himself interviewing the politician who makes The Hague nervous, who has declared war on Islam and who wants to deport ‘criminal foreigners’.

Just back from Morocco where I was following local elections, I hear from Danny — our hyperactive intern — that he is going to interview Mr Wilders for RNW’s Arabic department. “Well done,” I tell him. But an interview with Geert Wilders is asking perhaps too much of an intern.

“If I were to interview him, what would I want to ask?” I wonder. “Would I dare tell him that his crusade against Islam is counterproductive and only instigates more fundamentalism?

Mixed Feelings

I see Danny walking down the corridor with a broad smile on his face. Interim-editor-in-chief Chaalan Charif often walks with us. He wants to briefly consult with Danny and me. “You’re going to interview him,” Mr Charif tells me. “But I’m on-air tomorrow,” I respond with mixed emotions. “That’ll be arranged,” he says. “But do you want to do it?”

An interview with Geert Wilders calls for solid preparation. Questions race through my mind. I receive the necessary documentation via email — more than 30 pages.


I’ve forgotten who suggested it, but the idea to bring ‘something’ for Mr Wilders is brilliant. But what? Someone says Moroccan biscuits. I ring my wife to ask if she wouldn’t mind baking some biscuits for Geert Wilders. Yeah right. My wife wears a headscarf. And I’m well aware of her opinion of ‘that hate-monger’. Is she going to bake something for him?

It’s Thursday morning. I’m sitting at my computer, thinking of a suitable opening question. Preferably something personal. For example: do you have Moroccan friends? Are you even capable of making Moroccan friends? How do you get along with your bodyguards? More personal than just politics, in any case.

Finally, with the help of my colleagues, I’ve come up with a list of questions. On the way to The Hague I ask myself, will he really accept my offer of biscuits?

Last check

Black chairs and nailed-down tables furnish a room in the Dutch parliament building. “Mr Wilders is going to sit here,” one of his colleagues tells us. Danny does a last check. It’s already past four. “It’s a busy day today, it’s going to take awhile,” the press officer says.

At a quarter to five I wonder if he’s going to show. Stay calm. “Don’t let them get to you,” was my colleague’s advice. But I’m starting to wonder if the interview will still take place, especially when the press officer receives a phone call and quickly leaves the room. Silence.


A bodyguard opens the door and briefly inspects the room. Geert Wilders walks in. Smiling. We shake hands. Two bodyguards and a police officer take their places.

“Where shall I sit?” Mr Wilders asks in a friendly tone. I give him a chair.

“May I offer you something, Mr Wilders? Moroccan biscuits?”

He hesitates but answers “Sure.”

“Can we film that?”

“No! Definitely not.”

“Okay. We won’t.”

“What’s in it?” he asks pointing to the tin.

“See for yourself.”

“Hmm. They look good.”

The man who dictates the Dutch political agenda, particularly when it comes to integration and immigration policies, is sitting right in front of me. He is known in the Arabic world as a ‘Muslim hater’, ‘hate monger’ and as a ‘racist’. His strong bond with Israel only confirms the ‘rumours’ in the Islamic world that a global conspiracy exists against Islam.

Muslim moderates

I must say that his viewpoints are more than clear. According to him there is no such thing as moderate Islam. “There are those who call themselves Muslim moderates. But I don’t believe in a moderate Islam. I think the Islamic belief is a totalitarian ideology,” he tirelessly repeats.

He doesn’t come across as hostile. On the contrary, he’s even friendly. He listens attentively to my questions and gives me ‘standard’ answers. It feels a bit like déjà vu.

There is one question, however, which I’m too afraid to ask. Why won’t he accept the biscuits — the ones my wife baked for him — on film?

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Spain: Burger King Apology to Hindus for Advert

Burger King has been forced to apologise to Hindus after it showed a revered Indian goddess with a ‘forbidden’ Whopper burger.

The fast food chain quickly withdrew the advertisement from its stores in Spain after Hindus across the world complained at the denigration of their religion.

The advertisement shows a picture of Lakshmi, the Indian goddess of wealth, above one of the burgers, which are forbidden under Hindu religion.

The ‘Texican Whopper’ is an affront to Hindu sensitivities in its own right — it includes an all-beef patty, a beef chilli-con-carne slice, egg-based Cajun mayonnaise, all forbidden by strict Hindus. Some devotees would even be offended by the inclusion of onions which they believe inflame passions.

But it is the depiction of Lakshmi which has provoked widespread anger with its suggestion that a Hindu deity eats beef.

The goddess and the burger were placed under a slogan claiming ‘La merienda es sagrada’ — the snack is sacred.

Burger King quickly withdrew the posters and issued an apology after world Hindu leaders condemned the chain for its insensitivity.

“We are apologising because it wasn’t our intent to offend anyone,” said spokeswoman Denise T Wilson. “Burger King Corporation values and respects all of its guests as well as the communities we serve. This in-store advertisement was running to support only local promotion for three restaurants in Spain and was not intended to offend anyone.

“Out of respect for the Hindu community, the limited-time advertisement has been removed from the restaurants,” she added.

Earlier this year, Burger King offended Mexican officials with another advertisement for the ‘Texican Whopper’ which depicted a dwarf dressed as a wrestler draped in the Mexican flag.

           — Hat tip: TB [Return to headlines]

Swine Flu: Death Toll in Britain is 14

Close to Epidemic Level

Fourteen Britons who had contracted H1N1 flu have died and the rapid spread of infection in two areas of the country is close to epidemic level, health officials said on Thursday.

The Department of Health said Britain now had 9,718 laboratory-confirmed cases, the third most in the world behind the United States and Mexico.

Britain’s Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson said the actual number of cases was likely to be higher.

All 14 who have died had underlying health issues and it was not clear in how many cases the patients had died as a direct result of the virus, known as swine flu.

“In London and the West Midlands we are getting pretty close to epidemic levels. We’ve seen big surges there,” Donaldson told BBC

[Return to headlines]

UK: EU Steps Up Assault on City Ahead of Treasury White Paper

EU leaders agreed in June to create three supra-national bodies with a full-time staff to oversee banking, insurance, and securities. These will have binding powers to impose rules for the first time, limiting the UK’s Financial Services Authority to “day-to-day” management.

It had been assumed that the three bodies would take decisions be by qualified majority voting (QMV), the standard procedure for single market issues.

However, EU sources say the Commission is mulling a simple majority system, making it far harder for the UK to mount a “blocking minority” with like-minded allies. Malta or Slovenia would have the same voting weight on financial regulation as Britain, the world’s banking capital.

Mark Hoban, Shadow City Minister, said the switch to binding powers changes the game profoundly for Britain’s financial services industry, which generates 7pc to 8pc of GDP.

“The City is very seriously concerned about this. At least qualified majority voting provides a checking mechanism, since we can build support from the Nordics and countries in Eastern Europe. Any move to a simple majority must be stopped,” he said.

“The Government took off its eye off the ball at the G20 summit. It needs to mount a rear-guard action to defend the interests of London,” he said.

Brussels has seized on the credit crisis to launch a raft of far-reaching measures that bring Britain’s services industry under EU control. The regulatory blitz overshadows the Treasury’s White Paper on Wednesday, and may explain why the Government is delaying the full overhaul of the industry until after the next election.

The Commission is racing to produce a draft law on the three new bodies by September, which will then go to Euro-MPs and EU ministers for approval. Sweden’s EU presidency hopes to complete the process by the end of the year.

Sources say their powers will be “tightly circumscribed” to avoid intruding on the fiscal sovereignty of member states, but say the British Government has definitively accepted “the philosophy of a single rule-book”.

“Whatever is done will be sound, safe, and proportionate,” said one senior figure. “It would be silly to put forward proposals that damage London. We’ve been hearing for 10 years that EU rules will drive financial services out of Europe, yet over that time London has grown into the biggest capital market in the world.”

Brussels is also advancing a directive on hedge funds and private equity that draws heavily from French law and has alarmed the City. The FSA was largely excluded from the process, even though it is the world’s premier regulator of hedge funds.

City Minister Lord Myners said the draft was “woefully short-sighted”, needs “major surgery”, and had been rushed through by countries with no financial industry to score political points.

“The UK has more skin in the game than other European countries,” he said at a breakfast with the fund lobby AIMA. Some 80pc of Europe’s hedge funds are in London.

Separately, the EU is drafting banking reforms that will adopt the Spanish system of “dynamic provisioning”, which makes banks build up a safety buffer during boom times.

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

US: Engaging With Muslim Communities in Europe

The AltMuslim site features an interview with Farah Pandith. Pandith was recently appointed Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the United States Department of State, and was the former Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, responsible for engaging with Muslim Communities in Europe.


When Farah Pandith prepared to leave her position as senior advisor on Muslim affairs covering the European region for the State Department, in advance of President Barack Obama’s inauguration, she wanted to be sure the new administration had a chance to hear about the way in which America engaged with European Muslims and why. Pandith had been leading the effort in Europe on Muslim engagement, one in which the US government facilitated rather than dictated to Muslim communities. Her success was so notable that incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.

Instead of departing government service as planned, where she was keen on writing a book and doing continued research on Muslims in Europe, a new position and budget was created for her — Representative to Muslim Communities — leaving Pandith with a new vehicle for expanding her thoughtful initiatives to Muslim communities outside Europe. Here, in her first official interview in her new role, Farah Pandith speaks to us about her plans for expanding her programs, the opportunities for lateral engagement between Muslim communities worldwide, and what it means to be an American Muslim representing the United States.


Q: So you’ve spent a lot of the last 18 months aggressively trying to get Muslim Americans involved in this effort…

A: I’m glad you brought that up because it’s one of many things that we did. Here’s what I heard when I was on the ground in Europe: How do we balance our identity? How can we be both Muslim and Western? How did American Muslims do this? And how can you not like the policies of your government and still be a proud American? What’s the real story about Muslim Americans? Why should government be telling that story? It should be American Muslims themselves telling that story.

So we created a tweaked tool to help get American Muslims out there in a way that was very effective — and fun. Over the course of 14 months, we hit 15 countries in Europe where we brought teams of American Muslims — teams of four where we had an American Muslim student, an imam, and two others — to a series of countries for 3 or 4 days and do all sorts of things. Round table discussions, town halls, interfaith, going to mosques and community centres.

And so these American Muslims had an exposure across Western Europe. It was fantastic. We want to expand that kind of thing. We want to bring American expertise and understanding. What I’ve heard from American Muslims also was, “How can we help with the global agenda of pluralism, understanding, innovation and discourse?” And I think we need to honor that.

How can Muslim Americans help? In many ways, is the answer. Let’s find ways which we can do that…

           — Hat tip: AA [Return to headlines]


Serbia Police Wounded Near Kosovo

Two Serbian policemen have been wounded in an attack in the south of the country, the interior ministry says.

The policemen, from a special unit, were lightly injured when a rocket-propelled grenade hit their vehicle.

The attack took place in the Presevo valley, which has an ethnic Albanian majority and borders Kosovo.

Ethnic Albanian militants based in the area have tried to link up with their compatriots in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia last year.

At the end of Belgrade’s war with Nato over Kosovo in 1999, the Serbian government had to agree not only to the withdrawal of its security forces from the province, but also to the establishment of a 5km (3 mile) demilitarised zone along the shared border.

The buffer zone provided the opportunity for ethnic Albanians in the Presevo valley to launch an armed campaign against Serbian rule, which peaked in 2001 before a peace plan granted them more rights.

Correspondents say the area remains tense with occasional incidents.

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

Middle East

A True Iranian Reformer, And His Movement?

By Andrew Bostom and Alyssa A. Lappen

Pooya Dayanim is an intrepid lawyer, writer, and human rights activist who served Muhammad Khatami a subpoena for his role in the torture and detention of innocent Iranian Jews, while the former Iranian President attended a Council on American Islamic Relations dinner in Arlington, VA on September 8, 2006. Late Sunday July 5, 2009 Pooya sent me an e-mail conveying a remarkable press release from the secular Iranian Marze Por Gohar (MPG) Party (The Glorious Frontiers Party-taken from the first line of the “O’ Iran” National Anthem. [O Iran, O Glorious Frontiers]).

The press release announced that Roozbeh Farahanipour, a prominent leader of the July, 1999 Iranian student uprising, and other leaders and members of the MPG were returning to Iran to organize demonstrations commemorating the tenth anniversary of July 9th. Arguing that competing Islamic Republic of Iran factions were, “…trying to confine the present movement within the tight Islamic and Constitutional limits, preventing cries for free elections and a democratic Iran being heard…,”the announcement released by the MPG-which advocates a secular, democratic republic-urged Iranian students and the general public to re-invigorate the suppressed June election protests with en masse demonstrations throughout Iran on July 9th.

Who is Roozbeh Farahanipour, and what is so striking about his apparent return to Iran?

Farahanipour, a trained lawyer, was the publisher and chief editor of a monthly journal dedicated to Iranian studies (emphasizing Zoroastrianism), from 1994 to 1998. Simultaneously, he also founded the “Roozbeh Publishing” to further disseminate research focusing on pre-Islamic Iran.

Soon after his monthly journal on Iranology was banned, Farahanipour became the chief editor of the weekly Nedayeh Ghomess (“The call of Ghomess,” Ghomess being one of the capitals of ancient Iran). Only five issues of Nedayeh Ghomess had been produced under his editorship when, upon attempting to publish the names of 57 serial murder victims, his efforts were prevented by the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of Iran and other affiliated elements of the Iranian government. Subsequently, Farahanipour, joined by some of his Nationalist peers organized the “Hezbeh Marzeh Por-Gohar” and “The National Society of Journalists,” in July of 1998, serving on the executive committees in both organizations. Defiantly independent from the Islamic government and its affiliates, these organizations encountered intense opposition, threats, and violent suppression from militias associated with the Islamic Republic.

Under Farahanipour’s leadership, the Marze Por Gohar Party spearheaded the pro-democracy movement of July, 1999. Shortly after The Ministry of Intelligence proclaimed the MPG an “illegal Party,” while denouncing Farahanipour as “one of the leaders of the unrest,”

Farahanipour was seized from his home during a raid by armed Islamic militias. Farahanipour spent 26 days in solitary confinement while being brutally interrogated by the Ministry of Intelligence and the revolutionary court. As recounted in a brief memoir of his imprisonment, while en route to the first interrogation, Farahanipour heard one of the Islamic regime interrogators utter, “, my, my this one is a goner, he’s turned into a Zoroastrian, is in contact with Zionists Jews, has indecent relations with the opposite sex, works with Afghans, even the Armenian saboteurs love him.” Thus Farahanipour concluded, “I thought I was about to be executed.” Ultimately spared, Farahanipour was temporarily released on bail. But following eleven months of additional interrogations and court proceedings, and considering the plight of other activists who without exception received unusually long prison sentences, he decided to flee Iran.

Farahanipour’s compelling personal biography, and uncompromised writings and public statements (examples here, here, and here), demonstrate his firm commitment to profound reforms-indeed a wrenching transformation of Iranian society-utterly rejecting both any strain of the Shi’ite theocratic rule (most notably its present incarnation), which has characterized Iran since 1502, and Iran’s more benevolent (if still brutal) and transient experiment with a Western leaning, secular-oriented but autocratic “constitutional” monarchy, from 1925 to 1979.

The July 5, 2009 MPG press release also encouraged journalists to contact MPG Advisor Faryar Nikbakht, and pursuant to that invitation, Alyssa Lappen interviewed Mr. Nikbakht, yesterday, July 8, 2009. During the interview, Nikbakht further elucidated the MPG’s ideals and goals, consistent with what Farahanipour has expounded previously. Nikbakht’s thoughtful responses about the prospects for reform in Iran contrast starkly with the unfettered emotionalism on display elsewhere by journalists, in particular. Odd, non-sequitur speculations about the murderous former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi somehow morphing into an acceptable post-Ku Klux Klan politician, are conspicuously absent from Nikbakht’s statements. Instead, although hopeful, and imbued with measured optimism, Nikbakht acknowledges the very inchoate nature of the contemporary Iranian reform movement, and openly professes having no idea about the extent to which MPG’s vision for a truly secular, democratic Iran is shared by the Iranian populace. However, one of Nikbakht’s most lucid responses demonstrates that he rejects the anti-women’s rights agenda of Mousavi’s equally odious wife (this erstwhile “Lady Byrd” Mousavi)-an ugly agenda which has been almost entirely ignored by conservative pundits. Alyssa Lappen’s interview is presented below:

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom [Return to headlines]

Barry Rubin: Fayyad and Syria’s Regime Lie, Americans Applaud

The Aspen Daily News, the publication of the affluent, conspicuous-consumption ski resort in Colorado, is not a major media outlet. Yet how beautifully this society sheet illustrates the spirit of an age in which self-described beautiful people applaud the ugly terrorists and dictatorships!

“Palestinian prime minister: Jews would be welcome in future state,” reads the headline. Now, it is well-known that the Palestinian Authority, which the aforementioned prime minister Salam Fayyad sort of heads, has always taken the view that all Jews must be removed from any future Palestinian state. This was also known to the more informed members of the audience, but modern Western intellectuals and journalists are very polite people—if you fall into the right category.

One man at least had the courage to ask if the emperor’s clothes weren’t a bit scanty:

“At the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival on Saturday, former CIA director James Woolsey noted that there are a million Arabs in Israel, accounting for one-sixth of the Israeli population, and…then asked PA (Palestinian Authority) Prime Minister Salam Fayyad: ‘If there is to be the rule of law in a Palestinian state, and if Jews want to live in someplace like Hebron, or anyplace else in a Palestinian state, for whatever reasons or historical attachments, why should they not be treated the same way Israeli Arabs are?’”

“Fayyad responded: ‘The kind of state that we want to have, that we aspire to have, is one that would definitely espouse high values of tolerance, co-existence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions. No discrimination whatsoever, on any basis whatsoever. Jews to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the State of Israel.’”

There is much that one can say about these two paragraphs. The Western media and academia is replete with articles about the allegedly terrible lot of Arabs in Israel. They are noticeably empty about the really terrible lot of Christians in many Muslim-majority places…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin [Return to headlines]

Turkey Military Court Law Passed

Turkey’s president has approved a law giving civilian courts the power to try military personnel threatening national security or linked to organised crime.

The legislation was proposed by the ruling AK party in parliament despite concerns expressed by the military.

It also bars military courts from prosecuting civilians in peacetime.

President Abdullah Gul said the new law was necessary as part of Turkey’s move to join the EU, which requires military courts to try only military cases.

“In implementing these reforms, it would be beneficial for legal changes to be made to remove doubts likely to arise over discipline and legal guarantees from the perspective of military service,” Mr Gul said in a statement on Wednesday after signing the law.

Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said the president had recommended the government amend the legislation to include legal assurances concerning the duties of military personnel.

The main secularist opposition Republican People’s Party said it would attempt to get the law annulled by the Constitutional Court.

“The president’s approval was a wrong decision,” the party’s deputy chairman, Onur Oymen, told the Anatolia news agency.

There was no immediate reaction from the military, but last week senior officers told Turkish media they believed the law was unconstitutional and might cause clashes between the military and civilian prosecutors.

Turkey’s military, which has overthrown four governments since 1960, considers itself the guardian of the country’s secular constitution.

Dozens of people, including several retired generals, are currently on trial accused of being part of the shadowy ultra-nationalist Ergenekon network, which prosecutors believe plotted attacks to provoke a military coup.

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

US ‘Frees’ Five Iranians in Iraq

Five Iranian officials held by the US military in Iraq since January 2007 have been freed, according to Iranian state media.

Tehran’s ambassador to Baghdad was quoted as saying US forces had handed the five, whom he said were diplomats, to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

Hassan Kazemi-Qomi said they would soon be taken to the Iranian embassy.

US forces seized the five in the Kurdish city of Irbil on suspicion of arming and funding Shia militias.

There was no immediate comment from the US embassy on Thursday about the reported releases.

The Fars news agency quoted Mr Kazemi-Qomi as saying the five “kidnapped by American occupying forces have been handed over to Iraq’s prime minister.

“They will soon be handed over to Iran’s embassy in Iraq,” he said.

After the arrests, Washington said the five Iranians had no diplomatic status, but Tehran accused the US of breaching international diplomatic regulations.

The Iraqi authorities said at the time the five Iranians had been in Irbil with official approval, but that their office had not yet been granted full consulate status.

US authorities had said the five included a senior member of Iran’s Quds Force, an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards.

Washington has accused the force of helping arm and train some Iraqi militants, a claim Tehran denies.

The former US military commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, once accused Mr Kazemi-Qomi of belonging to the Quds Force.

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

Worst Violence Since US Pullback Hits Iraq

Bombs killed more than 50 people in Iraq on Thursday in the worst violence since U.S. combat troops withdrew from urban areas last week, and American forces released five Iranian officials suspected of aiding Shiite insurgents.

U.S. officials said they believe the Iranians, detained in northern Iraq in January 2007, had facilitated attacks on American-led forces but handed them over to the Iraqi government at its request because they were obliged to do so under a U.S.-Iraqi security agreement.

The U.S. State Department said it was concerned their release could present a security threat to American troops in Iraq.

Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, called the release a “good initiative” that could encourage dialogue between Washington and Tehran, which are longtime foes.

The Iranian Embassy said it expected to receive the Iranians, described by their government as diplomats. Washington believes they are associated with the Quds Force, part of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps, and that they trained Iraqi militants.

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Video: Inside the Brutal Afghan War Zone

The line between life and death has become dangerously thin in Afghanistan’s bloody war zone, writes BBC correspondent Ian Pannell, who reports exclusively from the front line where he is embedded with British soldiers.

Seven soldiers dead in seven days. It is a grim statistic, but it is also the reality of British losses in the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Six of the seven died in operation Panchai Palang, or Panther’s Claw, in Helmand in the last week.

We had been travelling on the front line with the troops from A Company, 2 Mercian, part of the Light Dragoon Battle Group.

This is a brutal, bloody struggle.

Up to 700 troops have spent the past week moving through the fields and alleyways of the “Green Zone”, chasing an enemy who has chosen to stand and fight.

The progress has been slow and painful. Almost every morning within a few metres of leaving our overnight camp, we were attacked.

Despite the Nato-led mission, the Taliban were able to attack and stall the British advance.

As the troops moved out of cover, heading over a field, the crackle of gunfire sent the soldiers scattering into ditches, streams and behind walls.

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

Latin America

Crime Campaigner Killed in Mexico

An anti-crime activist and his brother-in-law have been murdered in a village in northern Mexico.

Benjamin LeBaron, 32 and Luis Widmar, 29, were beaten and shot after armed men stormed into their house in Galeana in Chihuahua state on Tuesday.

Public safety groups said Mr LeBaron had been killed in retaliation for his stance against organised crime.

He led protests against the kidnapping in May of his brother Eric, who was released without a ransom being paid.

Mr LeBaron, who was a US citizen, continued to lead protests demanding more law enforcement in the rural area, and police and the army increased their presence.


Last month soldiers detained 25 suspected hitmen from a drug cartel in a neighbouring town.

Reports indicate that a message left with the bodies of the two men said the killings were retribution for the capture of those suspects.

The murdered men belonged to Colonia LeBaron, a community founded in the first half of the 20th Century by breakaway Mormons after the Church of the Latter Day Saints in the US starting cracking down on polygamy.

Nowadays few of the families still practice polygamy, and some are no longer active Mormons.

Mexico reacted to the killings with outrage. On Wednesday Congress called for a minute of silence, television commentators demanded justice and activists pledged to step up their fight against crime despite persistent threats.

“It is essential that those responsible… be punished,” the non-governmental group Mexico United Against Crime said in a statement.

“We cannot allow organized crime to intimidate, threaten and kill those brave enough to denounce them.”

The lower house of Congress held a minute of silence and proposed a resolution condemning the killings.

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


It is Confirmed: 1350 Iraqi Palestinians Coming to the US

It really is no surprise to hear, we have reported on many occasions* about the lobbying/public relations effort that groups like Refugees International** have been waging , that it has been confirmed by the US State Department—-Palestinians, who were in Iraq at Saddam Hussein’s invitation, would be coming to the US. About ten days ago we speculated that this might be in the works, here.

From the Christian Science Monitor (hat tip: three of our readers!):

Atlanta — The State Department confirmed today that as many as 1,350 Iraqi Palestinians — once the well-treated guests of Saddam Hussein and now at outs with much of Iraqi society — will be resettled in the US, mostly in southern California, starting this fall.

It will be the largest-ever resettlement of Palestinian refugees into the US — and welcome news to the Palestinians who fled to Iraq after 1948 but who have had a tough time since Mr. Hussein was deposed in 2003. Targeted by Iraqi Shiites, the mostly-Sunni Palestinians have spent recent years in one of the region’s roughest refugee camps, Al Waleed, near Iraq’s border with Syria.

“Really for the first time, the United States is recognizing a Palestinian refugee population that could be admitted to the US as part of a resettlement program,” says Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch in Washington.

Given the US’s past reluctance to resettle Palestinians — it accepted just seven Palestinians in 2007 and nine in 2008 — the effort could ruffle some diplomatic feathers.

I must say, if the State Department is sending them to California, they must be in on bringing down the economy of arguably the most financially-beleaguered state in the US. Maybe the Obama/Clinton State Department is following the Cloward-Piven principle on how one brings down a government by overwhelming the welfare system! (To learn more about the Cloward-Piven strategy start with Judy’s post, here. To those of us who cannot understand the idiocy of the Left’s drive to import more poverty, it is the explanation!)

Mark Krikorian at the Center for Immigration Studies charged that the State Department is dropping off its problems in a town near you, and not necessarily a California town…

           — Hat tip: RRW [Return to headlines]

US Takes 1,350 Palestinian Refugees

The State Department confirmed today that as many as 1,350 Iraqi Palestinians — once the well-treated guests of Saddam Hussein and now at outs with much of Iraqi society — will be resettled in the US, mostly in southern California, starting this fall.

It will be the largest-ever resettlement of Palestinian refugees into the US — and welcome news to the Palestinians who fled to Iraq after 1948 but who have had a tough time since Mr. Hussein was deposed in 2003. Targeted by Iraqi Shiites, the mostly-Sunni Palestinians have spent recent years in one of the region’s roughest refugee camps, Al Waleed, near Iraq’s border with Syria.

“Really for the first time, the United States is recognizing a Palestinian refugee population that could be admitted to the US as part of a resettlement program,” says Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch in Washington.

Given the US’s past reluctance to resettle Palestinians — it accepted just seven Palestinians in 2007 and nine in 2008 — the effort could ruffle some diplomatic feathers.

For many in the State Department and international community, the resettlement is part of a moral imperative the US has to clean up the refugee crisis created by invading Iraq. The US has already stepped up resettlement of Iraqis, some who have struggled to adjust to life in America.


[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Episcopal Bishop Calls Individual Salvation ‘Heresy, ‘ ‘Idolatry’

ANAHEIM, CA — Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori says it’s “heresy” to believe that an individual can be saved through a sinner’s prayer of repentance.

In her opening address to the church’s General Conference in California, Jefferts Schori called that “the great Western heresy: that we can be saved as individuals, that any of us alone can be in right relationship with God.”

The presiding bishop said that view is “caricatured in some quarters by insisting that salvation depends on reciting a specific verbal formula about Jesus.”

According to Schori, it is heresy to believe that an individual’s prayer can achieve a saving relationship with God. “That individualist focus is a form of idolatry, for it puts me and my words in the place that only God can occupy.”

Bishops want marriage rituals for homosexuals

Meanwhile, six Episcopal bishops are pushing for greater recognition of same-sex marriages at a national gathering of church officials in California. Bishop Thomas Ely of Vermont says he and other bishops from states recognizing same-sex marriage will offer a resolution urging the church to adapt marriage rituals to include homosexual couples.

Ely says the resolution will be introduced at the church’s General Convention, which started Wednesday in Anaheim. The convention is held every three years.

Besides Vermont, states that have legalized same-sex marriage are Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Connecticut.

           — Hat tip: Nilk [Return to headlines]


El Nino’s Back

El Nino’s back. Government scientists say the periodic warming of water in the tropical Pacific Ocean that can affect weather around the world has returned.

The Pacific had been in what is called a neutral state. But forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the sea surface temperature climbed to 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal along a narrow band in the eastern equatorial Pacific in June.

In addition, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said temperatures in other tropical regions are also above normal.

In general, El Nino conditions are associated with increased rainfall across the east-central and eastern Pacific and with drier than normal conditions over northern Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

[Return to headlines]

6 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 7/9/2009

  1. Spain: Burger King Apology
    to Hindus for Advert

    Burger King has been forced to apologise to Hindus after it showed a revered Indian goddess with a ‘forbidden’ Whopper burger.

    [Homer Simpson]

    Mmmmmm … forbidden Whopper burger.


    [/Homer Simpson]

    In other news, the Spanish branch of Burger King was forced to apologize to Hindus after it distributed advertising poster featuring the goddess Lakshmi and.. ahem… a beefburger. Yow!.

    As Mark Twain said, “sacred cows make the best hamburger.”

  2. US Takes 1,350 Palestinian Refugees.

    The State Department confirmed today that as many as 1,350 Iraqi Palestinians — once the well-treated guests of Saddam Hussein and now at outs with much of Iraqi society — will be resettled in the US, mostly in southern California, starting this fall.

    Someone in the State Department needs to lose their job and pension over this.

    The Iraqi Palestinians were Saddam Hussein’s most vicious henchmen. They were outsiders purposefully imported to do the sort of snuff jobs and torture that Iraqi hirelings refused to do do to their own people.

    These are the dregs of the Muslim dregs. The reason they were able to apply for asylum is because all the Iraqis are tring to kill them in retribution for their brutality.

  3. The Lebanese kept Palis roped off with guards to confine them to their refugee camp for this same reason, that they bring destruction to anyone who harbors them. No Arab nation in the mid-east wants them. When even Arabs can’t stand another group of Arabs, that should be a tip off to any thinking person, something in short supply in the Obama administration.

  4. Everyone wants to say that the Episocopal Church split in the US is all about gay marriage when that’s just one small aspect.

    The much larger concern is and will continue to be the complete disregard for Christian doctrine. Schiori’s been making comments like that for years – including denying the divinity of Christ, etc. – the new American Anglican Convention

  5. >> Up to 10,000 Illinois Prisoners to be Released

    And they will all move back to Chicago and East St. Louis. The problem is … ?

    Think of it this way: we will have a chance to right the wrong of keeping so many poor oppressed NAM men in jail at a single stroke of the governor’s pen.

    Interestingly, we will also have the perfect experimental conditions for determining if they should have been in jail in the first place. If, as I believe, they are not-so-innocent and not-so-oppressed, we should see Chicago crime increase substantially.

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